ḤOSAYNI BALḴI, ʿABD-ALLĀH MOḤMMAD B. MO-ḤAMMAD b. Abu’l-Qāsem Ḥosayni Balḵi, the translator into Persian of Wāʿeẓ-e Balḵi’s no longer extant Arabic work, the Fażāʾel-e Balḵ. In the beginning of his translation, his name appears as ʿAbd-Allāh b. Moḥammad b. al-Qāsem Ḥosayni (p. 1), while at the end it appears as Moḥammad b. Moḥammad b. Ḥosayn (p. 389). However, Moḥammad-Moʾmen Balḵi refers to him in the Tāriḵ-e Balḵ (p. 2) as ʿAbd-Allāh b. Abu’l-Qāsem Ḥosayni. The form of his name given in the title of this article takes into account these three recorded variants.

Ḥosayni was born into a prominent family from Balkh who had held positions of political authority and were considered to be the descendants of ʿAli b. Abi Ṭāleb, hence called “Ṭālebiya” Sayyeds. His ancestor Ḥosayn b. Jaʿfar al-Ḥojjat b. ʿObayd-Allāh Aʿraj was the first member of his family to come to Balkh (Ebn ʿEnāba, pp. 318-31). Once established in Balkh, the family became wealthy and were renowned for their generosity (Fażāʾel, p. 357; Samʿāni, I, p. 310; Zerekli, I, p. 306). His ances-tor Abu’l-Ḥasan Żiāʾ-al-Din Moḥammad b. Ḥosayn Ḥo-sayni (d. 537/1142) is said to have at one point been the ruler of Balkh, and he was also famed for his piety (Ḥosayni Balḵi, p. 357; Varseji, p. 201).

Ḥosayni Balḵi himself declares that he finished his translation of the Fażāʾel-e Balḵ on the first day of Ḏu’l-qaʿda 676/1277 in the Kafšgarān (shoemakers) district of Balkh, approximately 66 years after the Arabic original had been composed (Ḥosayni Balḵi, p. 390). His patron and mentor in this endeavor was the governor of Balkh Abu Bakr ʿAbd-Allāh b. ʿOṯmān b. Zawālwazir (or Abi’l-Wazir, or Abi’l-Farid), who was born and brought up in Balkh, where his ancestors had been the rulers.

The Persian translation of this book exhibits literary features typical of its age, which in the history of Persian prose is considered to be a turning point between the pre- and post-Mongol periods. The translator fulfilled his task of translation so well that the impact of the Arabic language is hardly evident. It does not contain long, multi-layered sentences, and he generally avoids the verbose and flowery formal language which is so typical of post-Mongol prose. The reader is informed that he worked directly from an Arabic text in Wāʿeẓ-e Balḵi’s own handwriting, and that he deliberately omitted the detailed documentation of sources, deeming it sufficient to mention only the name of the original narrator (Ḥosayni Balḵi, p. 107).

Since the Arabic text of the Fażāʾel-e Balḵ is now lost, Ḥosayni Balḵi’s Persian translation is in itself an important historical source for the political and intellectual history of the region. It describes Balkh during the five centuries before the Mongol invasion as one of the most important centers or the study of Hadith (q.v.), jurisprudence (see FEQH), and Sufism; and it contains the biographies of many of the prominent figures in these fields.

The complete text of Ḥosayni Balḵi’s translation, based on three manuscript copies of the text (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, and the two mss. at the library of the Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg), was published in Tehran as volume 107 of the Bonyād-e Farhang-e Irān Series (1971). In addition to the text, it includes a substantial introduction, notes, appendices, indices, as well as an explanation of the unusual grammatical features and vocabulary.



Wāʿeẓ-e Balḵi, Fażāʾel-e Balkò, tr. Ḥo-sayni Balḵi, ed. ʿA-Ḥ. Ḥabibi, Tehran, 1971.

Mo ḥammad-Moʾmen b. ʿAważ Bāqi Balḵi, Tāriḵ-e Balkò, Kabul ms. Ebn ʿEnāba, ʿOmdat al-ṭāleb fi ansāb āl Abi Ṭāleb, Najaf, 1961.

Samʿānī, ed. Margoliouth, p. 310.

Moḥammad-Ṣāleḥ b. ʿAbd-Allāh Varseji, Mazārāt-e Balḵ, Kabul ms. Zerekli, Aʿlām I, p. 306.

(ʿAbd-al-ḥayy Ḥabibi)

Originally Published: December 15, 2004

Last Updated: March 23, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XII, Fasc. 5, pp. 516-517