JAZIRI, SHAIKH AḤMAD, or Malâ-ye Jizrî, early Kurdish poet. Even today, very little is known about the earliest Kurdish poets. The oldest source of information on Malâ-ye Jizrî is a chapter by the scholar Maḥmud Efendi Bâyazidi, written at the request of Alexandre Jaba, Russian Consul in Erzurum, who published it in his Recueil de Notices et Récits sur la langue kourmandji (1860). There we learn that his name was Shaykh Aḥmad and that he came from Jazira Bohtân (or Bukhtân), a prosperous river port which was situated on a former meander of the Tigris. Maḥmud Bâyazidi claimed that Malâ-ye Jizrî lived in the 6th century A.H. Subsequently, scholars proposed various dates until D. N. MacKenzie established (1969, p. 129) that the poet was born ca. 1570 and died ca. 1640.

The oral tradition gives his name as Aḥmad Nishâni. He is said to have begun his studies in Jazira, his native town, and continued in Irak (Baghdad), Syria, Egypt, and finally Persia, where he studied philosophy, astrology, and divination. There he also became familiar with the Persian poets and most particularly, with the great Hafez (q.v.), under whose influence he fell. He then returned to his own country, first establishing himself in Diyarbekir, where he taught, and later in Jazira, where he remained for the rest of his life. He is buried in the Madrasa Sor, which has since been destroyed by the Turkish military. According to Maḥmud Bâyazidi, Malâ fell in love with the sister of Prince ʿEzz-al-Din of Bukhtân, to whom he devoted many ghazals.

Malâ-ye Jizrî, like other learned men of the period, knew Arabic and Persian. However, he chose to express himself in Kurdish Kurmanji, the prince’s language. Indeed, the earliest masterpieces of Kurdish literature emerged at the same time as the consolidation of the Ottoman and Safavid empires, when the Kurds, in contrast, failed to establish their own state. Malâ left a diwān of nearly 2,000 verses, and, although the published manuscripts reveal many differences in the texts and in the order of the poems, Malâ’s poetry gives evidence of a well-established technique. The poet, adopting the basic forms of Arab-Persian poetry, had at his disposal a variety of genres and stylistic means. Knowledge of Arabic enabled Malâ to use the distich (bayt), in which the two hemistiches answer each other, as in Persian poetry. He also adopted the meter most frequently used by Hafez in his ghazals: – – o o – – – o – o – o o (to be read from right to left).

His lyric poetry and ghazals, imbued with a mystical spirit, were inspired by the Sufism of the Naqshbandiya Brotherhood (Order), which dominated the Muslim East at that time. Thus, following the example of his model, Malâ sang of pure love, the wine of ecstasy, metaphysical rapture, and the joys and sufferings of mystical love.

Though Malâ-ye Jizrî’s poetry is learned, his many borrowings from Arabic and Persian did nothing to make him popular. His work is still accessible only to men of letters—shaykhs and mullahs, who continue to comment on it in the increasingly rare madrasas of Kurdistan.


Publications of the Diwan of Malâ-ê Jizrî (in chronological order). Martin Hartmann, Der Kurdische Diwan des Schēch Aḥmed von Ğezīret ibn ʿOmar genannt Mäla’i Ğizri, Leipzig, 1904.

Diwan, in Kurdish-Latin transliteration, published by pieces in the famous magazine Hawar (The Call), nos. 35-57, Damascus, 1941-45; Qedrî Begê Jemîl Pasha is the author of the transcription; Foreword by Herekol Azîzan. Dīwān al-Shaykh al-Jizrī, by Ahmad ibn al-Mullā Muẖamad Buhtī al-Zivingī, Muftī of al-Qāmishlī, 1957, 2 vols., p. 843; comm. and critical analysis of the text in Arabic. Dîwanî Shêx Ahmadî Jizîrî, by Gîw Mukriyanî, 1st ed., Hewlêr (Irbil) 2576 kurdî/1964, p. 167.

Dîwana Melâ-yê Jizîrî, by Ṣṟādiq Bahāʾ-al-dīn Amēdī, printed by the Kurdish Academy Press, Baghdad, 1977, p. 639; transliteration into Arabic-Kurdish script, with comm. and critical analysis of the text in Kurdish-Kurmanji. Diwanî ‘arifî Ribbanî Shêx Ahmedî, mashhūr be Melay Jizîrî, ʿAbd-al-Rahman Sharafkandî “Hejar,” Tehran, 1982; transliteration into Arabic-Kurdish script, with comm. and critical analysis of the text in Kurdish-Sorani. Melayê Ciziri, Diwan, transliteration into Kurdish-Latin script by Zenelabidin Kaya and M. Emin Narozi, Stockholm, 1987, pp. 327, 233 (facsimile).

Melayê Cizîrî, dîwan, foreword by Zeynbidîn Zînar, Firat Yayinlari, without place (Istanbul?) and date (1987?) of publication; transliteration into Kurdish-Latin script with comm. and critical analysis of the text in Kurdish-Kurmanji.

Herekol Azîzan says he has seen a lithographed diwan, published in Saint Petersbourg without date, and another diwan published in Istanbul in 1919.

Studies. Herekol Azîzan (Jeladet Bedir Khan), “Klasîkên me” (Our classics), Hawar, no. 33, 9th year, Damascus, Oct. 1941, pp. 6-14.

Thomas Bois, “Coup d’šil sur la littérature kurde,” al-Machriq 49, 1955, pp. 201-39.

ʿIzedîn Mistefa Resûl, Melay Jizîrî, Shtêk derbarey jiyan ur berhemî (Malâ-ye Jizrî, some remarks on his life and work), Hewlêr (Irbil), 1990, p. 231.

Alexandre Jaba, Recueil de Notices et Récits en langue kourmanji, servant à la connaissance de la litterature et des tribus du Kurdistan, collected and translated into French by Alexandre Jaba, Consl of H.M. the Emperor of Russia, at Erzeroum: St. Petersbourg, 1860 (H. 1277), with a foreword by Peter J.A. Lerch; repr., Amsterdam, 1979.

Qanatê Kurdo, Tarixa Edebyeta kurdi (History of Kurdish literature) I, Stockholm, 1983, pp. 90-102.

Roger Lescot, “Littérature kurde,” in Histoire des Littératures I. Littératures anciennes, orientales et orales, Encyclopédie de la Pléiade 1, Paris, 1977, pp. 795-805.

D. N. Mackenzie, “Malâ-ê Jizrî and Faqî Tayrân,” in Yād-Nāme-ye Irāni-ye Minorsky, Tehran, 1969, pp. 125-30.

(Joyce Blau)

Originally Published: December 15, 2008

Last Updated: April 13, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XIV, Fasc. 6, pp. 615-616

Cite this entry:

Joyce Blau, “JAZIRI,” Encyclopædia Iranica, XIV/6, pp. 615-616, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/jaziri (accessed on 30 December 2012).