GOLŠAN-E RĀZ (The Rose Garden of Mysteries), a concise didactic matnawi in a little over a thousand distichs on the key terms and concepts of Sufism, which has for long served as a principal text of theoretical mysticism in the Persian-speaking and Persian-influenced world. It was written in Šawwāl 717/December 1317 by Shaikh Maḥmud b. ʿAbd-al-Karim Šabestari (d. ca. 740/1339-40; see Mowaḥḥed’s intro. to his edition of Majmuʿa-ye ātār-e Šayḵ Maḥmud Šabestari, p. 3), of whose relatively meager corpus it constitutes by far the most influential portion. Written in a sober and economic style, the Golšan-e rāz is often reminiscent of the works of Shaikh Farid-al-Din ʿAṭṭār, for whom indeed Šabestari professes a reverential admiration and several of whose verses he consciously imitated (for a partial list of parallels between the Golšan-e rāz and the Asrār-nāma of ʿAṭṭār, see Mowaḥḥed’s intro., p. 11).
As Šabestari himself tells it at the beginning of the work, in the section entitled dar sabab-e naẓm-e ketāb wa tāriḵ (on the reason for composing the work and its date), a messenger coming from Herat in the winter of 717/1317 delivered to the circle of which he was a part in Tabriz a series of questions on Sufi doctrine, versified in the hazaj meter (see ʿARŪŻ). The one who had sent the questions, Amir Ḥosayn Ḥosayni (d. 718/1318 ), was himself a distinguished writer and Sufi of the Sohravardi order (Jāmi, pp. 602-3). It is therefore unlikely that he was in actual need of an answer, or that he should have breached Sufi etiquette with an attempt to test the credentials of his colleagues in Tabriz. His intention was most probably to initiate a scholarly interchange by eliciting the composition of precisely the type of work that did emerge in response to his questions. Šabestari claims, conventionally enough, that he set to work on answering Ḥosayni’s questions only because of the insistence of his friends, for he had only rarely tried his hand at poetry. He was able nonetheless “immediately” (dar dam) to write complete answers to the questions in the same meter in which they had been couched; these were conveyed back to Herat by the same anonymous messenger. Whether Ḥosayni had the opportunity to write back to Šabestari before his death almost exactly a year later is unknown. Not long after Šabestari had written the answers, one of his associates in Tabriz proposed that he expand on them, and despite initial reluctance, he complied and entitled the resulting work Golšan-e rāz (Majmuʿa-ye ātār, pp. 68-69). The supplementary sections, generally longer than the original answers, are set off from them by headings such as tamṯil and qāʿeda.
Ḥosayni’s questions, fifteen in number and all posed in a single distich, with one exception, deal with the definition of meditation(tafakkor); meritorious and sinful types of thought (fekr); the meaning of the self and travel within the self; the nature of the true wayfarer (mosāfer, rahrow) on the Sufi path; the unity of being (waḥdat); how the knower and the known (maʿruf o ʿāref) may both be identical with the divine essence; the sense, if any, of Ḥosayn b. Manṣur Ḥallāj’s famous utterance, ana’l-ḥaqq; how a created being can be described as having attained union (wāṣel); what is the union of Necessary (wājeb) and contingent (momken) beings; what is meant by closeness to God and distance from Him (qorb o boʿd); how speech (noṭq) may be described as the shore of the ocean of being; the relationship between partial (jozw) and universal (koll) being; the sense in which the uncreated (qadim) and the created (moḥdat) can be said to have separated from each other; and the various metaphors conventionally employed in Sufi poetry pertaining either to the beauteous person of the beloved, to wine and the tavern (ḵarābāt), or to unbelief (kofr) and its sumptuary indicator, the belt known as zonnār.
Most of Šabestari’s answers bear the clear mark of Ebn al-ʿArabi’s (q.v.) doctrines and formulations. This is hardly surprising, for in his second book of verse, the Saʿādat-nāma (in Majmuʿa-ye āṯār, p. 168), he boasts of having studied both the Foṣuṣ al-ḥekam and the Fotuḥāt al-makkiya in detail during prolonged travels in Egypt, Syria, and the Hijaz. The Golšan-e rāz is also replete with echoes of Jalāl-al-Din Moḥammad Rumi’s Matnawi, verses from which are often cited in commentaries on the work. Šabestari defines tafakkor as “moving from the false/unreal (bāṭel) to the Real (Ḥaqq) and seeing the Absolute Whole (koll-e moṭlaq) in the part (jozw)” (Golšan-e rāz, p. 70). Reflection should be focused on the divine attributes alone, not on the essence, for the light of the essence cannot be encompassed even by the entirety of the manifest realm, apart from which reason is inherently incapable of perceiving that light, just as the bat cannot endure the glare of the sun (Golšan-e rāz, pp. 71-72). Man’s journey within himself consists of first realizing that he is a microcosm that includes all levels of created being and then tracing out an arc of return to the immediate presence of the Creator: “Once the final point is joined to the first, a station is reached where there is no room for angel or prophet” (Golšan-e rāz, p. 80). The meaning of unity is the recognition that there is no existent other than the True Existent (hast-e ḥaqiqi). This recognition is attainable not by mental exertion but only by sweeping clean one’s abode with the broom of lā, i.e, negating all other than God: “When you have left, He will enter, and display His beauty to you in your absence” (Golšan-e rāz, p. 83). As for Ḥallāj’s exclamation, it was nothing other than an echo of the proclamation of God’s transcendence made by all creation, a proclamation audible to all who remove the wool from their ears. Union (woṣul) means the discarding of createdness, shaking oneself free of “the dust of contingency (gard-eemkān )” (Golšan-e rāz, p. 86). Closeness and distance, increase and decrease, all arise from the manifestation of being in the realm of non-being, i.e., man’s illusory separative self; once the light of that being shines forth, man is delivered from the self and from the pitiless alternation of hope and fear to which it is perpetually subject (Golšan-e rāz, pp. 88-89). Speech is the shore of the ocean of being in the sense that its waves unceasingly carry to the shore the pearls of revelation and inspired speech that are enclosed in the shells of letter and sound (Golšan-e rāz, p. 90). Partial being, with its visible multiplicity, is the means whereby universal being manifests itself; however, at the same time it bears an invisible imprint of the unity from which that multiplicity springs (Golšan-e rāz, p. 93). It is erroneous to suppose that the created and the Uncreated could ever have separated from each other, one becoming the world and the other God, because the world is only a suppositional affair (amr-e eʿtebāri; Golšan-e rāz, p. 96).
Šabestari’s explanation of the metaphors employed in Sufi poetry follows the established habit of transferring to divine attributes and manifestations the sense of the terms used. This, he declares, is justified because “everything that exists in the perceptible realm (ʿālam-e ʿeyān) is like a reflection of the sun in that other world [the world of the unseen].” He warns, however, that such affinities between the profane and the sacred, the metaphorical and the real, should not give rise to conduct censured by the šariʿa (Golšan-e rāz, p. 97).
The unusual combination of concision and comprehensiveness found in the Golšan-e rāz inspired the writing of as many as thirty-five commentaries in the Perso-Islamic world (Golčin-e Maʿāni, quoted by Mowaḥḥed, p. 58; for a partial list, see Tarbiat, pp. 337-38). Many of them were, like the text itself, replete with the terms and concepts associated with Ebn al-ʿArabi, and thus served as an important channel for the transmission of his influence. Best known among these commentaries is the Mafātiḥ al-eʿjāz of Šams-al-Din Moḥammad Lāhiji (d. 912/1506), who presided over a hospice of the Nurbaḵši order in Shiraz. Infinitely bulkier than the original work and massively repetitious on occasion, this commentary has nonetheless enjoyed continuous popularity in Persia because of the clarity of its style and its integration of specifically Shiʿite themes into the understanding of Šabestari’s work. A précis of Lāhiji’s commentary was prepared by a certain Moʿin-al-Din Dehdār Fāni (Ijāz Mafātiḥ al-eʿjāz) Noteworthy among other commentaries are those of Shah Neʿmat-Allāh Wali (d. 834/1437), eponym of the Neʿmat-Allāhi order, who was married to the granddaughter of Amir Ḥosayn Ḥosayni; a Naqšbandi, Bābā Neʿmat-Allāh Naḵjavāni (d. 920/1514); and the celebrated Kurdish historian, Edris Bedlisi (d. 939/1532: Šarḥ-e manżuma-ye Golšan-e rāz), who also wrote a commentary on Šabestari’s Ḥaqq al-yaqin (Ḥaqq al-mobin fi šarh Ḥaqq al-yaqin). A special case is presented by a partial commentary of Ismaʿili authorship, sometimes attributed to Šāh Ṭāher (d. ca. 956/1549), a claimant to the imamate in the Moḥammadšāhi line, who resided at Ahmadnagar in the Deccan (Baʿż-i az taʾwilāt-e Golšan-e rāz, see Corbin, text, pp. 131-61, tr., pp. 1-174). The belief reflected in this work that Šabestari himself was an Ismaʿili is unsupported by the text of the Golšan-e rāz and seems to be of a piece with similar Ismaʿili attempts to appropriate Sanāʾi, ʿAṭṭār, and Rumi (Daftary, pp. 453-54).
Beyond the Persian-speaking lands, the Golšan-e rāz was particularly influential in the Ottoman realm. It was first translated into Turkish by Alwān Š¦irazi (Elvân Şîrâzî) in 829/1426 in a somewhat expanded form that contributed greatly to the development of a Sufi vocabulary in the nascent poetry of the Ottomans. This version became the basis for Golzār-e maʿnawi, a work similar in content and meter by Ebrāhim Tennuri (d. 887/1482), a shaikh of the Bayrāmi order, which showed a lasting fondness for the Golšan-e rāz. Also inspired by Alvān Širazi’s version was the Golšan-e rāz-e ʿārefān of ʿAbd-Allāh Bosnawi (d. 1054/1644). A contemporary of Bosnawi, Jamāl-al-Din Ḥolwi (d. 1064/1654), a shaikh of the Ḵalwati order, prepared an abbreviated Turkish translation of Lāhiji’s commentary under the title Jām-e delnawāz.
Numerous poets incorporated lines of the Golšan-e rāz in their works by way of tażmin or conscious imitation. The earliest example may well have been provided by ʿEmād-al-Din Faqih Kermāni (q.v., d. 773/1371), who opens his Ṭariqat-nāma with a line clearly modeled on the first verse of the Golšan-e rāz (Ṭariqat-nāma, p. 29). Especially worthy of note is the use made of lines from the work by a Češti shaikh, ʿAbd-al-Qoddus Gangōhi (d. 944/1537), in a Hindi poem suggesting similarity between theoretical Sufism and certain forms of Yoga (Rizvi, I, p. 339).
A number of naẓiras have been written in close imitation of the Golšan-e rāz, the most recent being Golšan-e rāz-e jadid by the Indo-Persian poet and thinker, Moḥammad Eqbāl Lāhuri (d. 1938). He provides answers to nine of the original fifteen questions, in some cases expanding them with two or more verses of his own composition.
The text, translations, and commentaries. Shaikh Maḥmud Šabestari, Majmuʿa-ye ātār-e Šayḵ Maḥmud Šabestari, ed. Ṣamad Mowaḥḥed, Tehran, 1365 Š./1986 (Golšan-e Rāz on pp. 67-108); ed. Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall as Mahmud Schebisteri’s Rosenflor der Geheimnisse, Pest and Leipzig, 1880; ed. and tr. Edward Henry Whinfield as The Mystic Rose Garden, London, 1880, repr. Lahore, 1978; ed. and tr. E. A. Johnson as The Dialogue of the Golshan-i-Raz or Mystical Garden of Roses, London, 1887; ed. Gurbaneli Mehmedzade, Baku, 1972; ed. with commentaries Jawād Nurbaḵš, Tehran, 1375 Š./1996; tr. Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı as Gülşen-i Raz, Istanbul, 1944; tr. Florence Lederer as The Secret Rose Garden, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1985; tr. Robert Darr as The Garden of Mystery, Sausalito, Calif., 1998.
Ḥāfeẓ Ḥosayn Karbalāʾi Tabrizi (Ebn Karbalāʾi), Rawżāt al-jenān wa jannāt al-janān, ed. Jaʿfar Solṭān-al-Qorrāʾi, 2 vols., Tehran, 1349 Š./1970, II, pp. 88-91.
Shaikh Šams-al-Din Moḥammad b. Yaḥyā Lāhiji, Mafātiḥ al-eʿjāz fi šarḥ Golšan-e rāz, ed. Keyvān Samiʿi, Tehran, 1337 Š./1958; eds. Moḥammad-Reżā Barzegar-Ḵāleqi and ʿEffat Karbāsi, Tehran, 1371 Š./1992.
Ṣāʾen-al-Din ʿAli Torka Eṣfahāni, Šarḥ-e Golšan-e rāz, ed. Kāẓem Dezfuliān, Tehran, 1375 Š./1996.
Neẓām-al-Din Maḥmud Ḥosayni Dāʿi Širāzi, Nasāyem-e Golšan yā Šarḥ-e Golšan-e rāz, ed. Parviz ʿAbbāsi Dakani, Tehran, 1377 Š./1998.
Secondary sources: Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia III, pp. 146-50.
Henry Corbin, Trilogie Ismaélienne, Tehran and Paris, 1961.
Farhad Daftary, The Ismāʿilis: Their History and Doctrines, Cambridge, 1990.
J. T. P. De Bruin, “Maḥmud Shabistari,” in EI2 VI, pp. 72-73.
Moḥammad Eqbāl Lāhuri, Kolliyāt-e ašʿār-e fārsi, ed. Aḥmad Soruš, Tehran, 1343 Š./1964, pp. 159-77.
ʿEmād-al-Din Faqih Kermāni, Ṭariqat-nāma, ed. R. Homāyun Farroḵ, Tehran, 1374 Š./1995.
Aḥmad Golčin-e Maʿāni, “Golšan-e rāz wa šoruḥ-e moḵtalef-e ān,” Nosḵahā-ye ḵaṭṭi, no. 4, 1344 Š./1965, pp. 53-124.
Wladimir Ivanow, “An Ismaili Interpretation of the Gulshani Raz,” Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, N.S. 8, 1932, pp. 69-78.
ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmi, Nafaḥāt al-ons, ed. Maḥmud ʿĀbedi, Tehran, 1370 Š./1991, pp. 602-603.
Moḥammad b. Moḥammad Ḵānji Bosnawi, al-Jawhar al-asnā fi tarājem ʿolamāʾ wa šoʿarāʾ Bosna, Cairo, 1349/1930, p. 99.
Monzawi, Nosḵahā II, pp. 1248-1253; IV, pp. 3073-3079.
Mustafa Özkan, “Elvân-ı Şîrâzî,” Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı Islam Ansiklopedisi XI, pp. 67-68.
S. Athar Abbas Rizvi, A History of Sufism in India, 2 vols., Delhi, 1978.
Ṣafā, Adabiyāt III, pp. 763-66.
Šāh Ṭāher (attributed), Baʿż-i az taʾwilāt-e Golšan-e rāz, ed. and trans. Henry Corbin in idem, Trilogie Ismaélienne. Bahman Sayyed-Naẓari, “Šoruḥ-e Golšan-e rāz,” MDAT 27/3-4, 1368 Š./1988, pp. 258-79; 28/1-2, 1368 Š./1989, pp. 250-76.
H. Ahmet Sevgi, “Gülşen-i Raz,” Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı Islam Ansiklopedisi XIV, pp. 253-54.
Moḥammad-ʿAli Tarbiat, Dānešmandān-e Āḏarbāyjān, Tehran, 1314 Š./1935, pp. 334-38.
ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Zarrinkub, Jostoju dar Taṣawwof-e Irān, Tehran, 1357 Š./1978, pp. 313-26.
Idem, “Sayr-i dar Golšan-e rāz,” in idem, Naqš bar āb, Tehran, 1368 Š./1989, pp. 256-94.
Originally Published: December 15, 2001
Last Updated: February 14, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 1, pp. 109-111
Hamid Algar, “GOLŠAN-E RĀZ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, XI/1, pp. 109-111, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/golsan-e-raz (accessed on 30 December 2012).