KĀŠEFI, KAMĀL-AL-DIN ḤOSAYN WĀʿEẒ, prolific prose-stylist of the Timurid era, religious scholar, Sufi figure, and influential preacher, known as Mawlānā Wāʿeẓ Kāšefi or simply Mollā Ḥosayn (b. Sabzavār, ca. 840/1436-37; d. Herat, 910/1504-5; Jaʿfariān, p. 168). Kāšefi was his pen name (taḵalloṣ), and Wāʿeẓ denoted his professional occupation as a preacher (Modarres, p. 29; Yousofi, p. 704).
After working for a while in his hometown as a preacher, Kāšefi moved to Nishapur and then to Mashad. In 860/1456, he allegedly had a dream vision in which he was summoned to Herat by the spirit of the recently deceased Naqšbandi Sufi master Saʿd-al-Din Kāšḡari. In Herat he came under the influence of Kāšḡari’s successor, the great Persian poet-mystic ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmi, and was initiated into the Naqšbandi order (q.v.). He returned to Sabzavār, where he was named chief judge (qāżi’l-qożāt) of the sub-province of Bayhaq by the new Timurid ruler of Khorasan, Solṭān-Abu Saʿid (863-73/1458-69; Herrmann, pp. 93-94, 98-99). After Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā (see ḤOSAYN BĀYQARĀ; r. 873-911/1469-1506) came to power, Kāšefi came to Herat in ca. 1470 (possibly at his invitation), where he remained until his death in 910/1504-5 (Alisher Navoii, p. 143; tr., pp. 93, 268; Herrmann, p. 90). He was buried in the ʿIdgāh of Herat, in the vicinity of the graves of Jāmi and Kāšḡari (Saljuqi, ed., p. 115; taʿliqāt, p. 48).
In Herat Kāšefi was patronized by Solṭān-Ḥosayn and various members of the Timurid court, chiefly Mir ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi (d. 906/1501), the celebrated Timurid political and literary figure, to whom he dedicated a number of his works (Ḵᵛāndamir, 1994, p. 222). Solṭān-Ḥosayn appointed him sheikh, or superior, of the ḵānaqāh, or Sufi lodge, which he apparently constructed expressly for him in the Čārsuq, or central market of Herat, and which was called Dār al-sayāda (Herrmann, pp. 96-99; Ḵᵛāndamir, 1994, pp. 174, 192). Kāšefi regularly held sessions of sermonizing (waʿẓ wa naṣiḥat) at various prestigious venues in Herat: at the above-mentioned Dār al-sayāda on Friday mornings; at the congregational mosque of ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi after the Friday prayer; at the royal madrasa-ḵānaqāh complex of Solṭān-Ḥosayn on Tuesdays; and at the shrine of Abu’l- Walid Aḥmad on Wednesdays. Towards the end of his life he also preached at the tomb of the Timurid prince Solṭān- Aḥmad Mirzā on Thursdays. The title wāʿeẓ denoted a free preacher as distinct from the ḵaṭib, who delivered the standardized sermon in the mosque at the Friday prayer. Although undoubtedly employing some of the storytelling techniques of the qoṣṣāṣ, or street preachers, the wāʿeẓ was a learned individual whose sermons were on a sophisticated theological level (Pedersen, pp. 226-51). Kāšefi’s preaching reportedly drew large, enthusiastic crowds on account of his beautiful voice, rhetorical skills, and ability to explain Qorʾānic verses and prophetic Traditions to his audience in a clear and accessible manner (Ḵᵛāndamir, 1984, IV, p. 345; idem, 1994, pp. 221-22). His son Faḵr-al-Din ʿAli Ṣafi (d. 939/1532-33), the author of the Rašaḥāt-e ʿayn al-ḥayāt, a hagiographical work devoted to the sheikhs of the Naqšbandi order, followed in his footsteps and preached at the congregational mosque of Herat on Friday mornings (Ḵᵛāndamir, 1984, IV, p. 346).
Kāšefi was a polymath and was recognized as such (ḏu fonun) by his contemporaries (e.g., Alisher Navoii, p. 143). Ḵᵛāndamir singled out his expertise in astrology (ʿelm-e nojum) and epistolography (enšāʾ) and added that, as a Qorʾān exegete (mofasser), he had no equal in Khorasan in his day (Ḵᵛāndamir, 1984, IV, p. 345; idem, 1994, p. 221). He was also a poet, writing under the pen name Kāšefi (“the Unveiler”; Alisher Navoii, p. 143, tr., pp. 93, 268). He composed roughly forty works, almost all in Persian, on subjects covering the entire spectrum of learning in medieval Iran in the second half of the 15th century. Often viewed as a mere compiler or popularizer, Kāšefi was in fact instrumental in codifying and transmitting the state of the art of knowledge in a wide variety of fields ranging from the Islamic religious sciences to magic and the occult. He was a Renaissance-type figure in a culture that had no direct experience of the Renaissance. In this respect he may be regarded as the Iranian counterpart of the well-known Egyptian polymath al-Soyuṭi (d. 911/1505), who was of Persian descent but wrote his works in Arabic.
It appears that Kāšefi consciously tried to create the equivalent of an “Everyman’s Library” of his time (Subtelny, 2003a, p. 463). The list of his works attests to the breadth of his intellectual range. The following works were considered by Ḵᵛāndamir (1984, IV, p. 345) and other contemporary authors to have been his most famous: Aḵlāq-e moḥseni, Anwār-e sohayli, Jawāher al-tafsir, Maḵzan al-enšāʾ, Mawāheb-e ʿaliya, Rawżat al-šohadāʾ, and Sabʿa-ye kāšefiya (for a list see also Yousofi, pp. 704- 5; Modarres, V, pp. 29-32; Nafisi, pp. 246-47). Many of his works have not been edited and are available only in manuscript form or, at best, in old lithograph editions. The dates of many of his works have not been determined. Some forty works by Kāšefi are presented here in alphabetical order in two categories: (A) the edited and published works; and (B) works mentioned in various biographies and bibliographies.
A. Edited and Published Works
Aḵlāq-e moḥseni, a treatise on ethics and statecraft in forty chapters, completed in 907/1501-2 and dedicated to Solṭān-Ḥosayn, although written for the benefit of his son Abu’l-Moḥsen Mirzā (d. 913/1507), to whom reference is made in the title (ed. Ḥ. Rabbānī, Tehran, 1979, and many lith. eds.; partial tr. Henry George Keene as The Morals of the Beneficent, Hertford, 1850; for a discussion of the dating of the work, see Subtelny, 2003b, pp. 602-4; Golombek, pp. 615-16).
Anwār-e sohayli, a prose recension of Abu’l-Maʿāli’s popular animal fables, Kalila wa Demna in fourteen chapters, commissioned by and dedicated to the Timurid amir Neẓām-al-Din Sheikh Aḥmad Sohayli, whose name is alluded to in the title (repr. ed., Tehran, 1983-84; tr. Edward B. Eastwick as Anvár-i Suhaili or The Lights of Canopus, Hertford, 1854; van Ruymbeke, pp. 571-78).
Asrār-e qāsemi, a treatise on letter magic and the occult sciences, composed in 907/1501-02 in honor of the Sufi master and poet Qāsem-e Anwār (d. 837/1433), hence the reference to his name in the title (Bombay lith., 1302/1885; Lory, pp. 531-41). His son wrote a commentary on it, called Kašf-e asrār-e qāsemi (Yousofi, p. 705).
Badāyeʿ al-afkār fi ṣanāyeʿ al-ašʿār, a treatise on Persian poetics and rhetorical devices, written for the Timurid amir Šojāʿ-al-Din Amir Sayyed Ḥosayn (ed. M. J. Kazzāzi, Tehran, 1990, p. 68; for the sources and contents of the work, see Simidchieva, pp. 509-30).
Fotowwat-nāma-ye solṭāni, a treatise on spiritual chivalry and its relationship to Sufism and medieval guild life in Iran (ed. M.‑J. Maḥjub, Tehran, 1971; tr. J. R. Crook as The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry (Futūwat nāmah-yi sulṭāni), Chicago, 2000; Ridgeon, 2010, pp. 99-108). The ascription of the work to Kašefi has sometimes been viewed as problematic (Loewen, p. 544, n. 6).
Jawāher al-tafsir le-toḥfat al-Amir, a lettrist Qorʾān commentary in twenty-two chapters written for the author’s patron ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi, only one volume of which was apparently completed in 890/1485, with volume two incomplete in 892/1487 (ed. J. ʿAbbāsi, Tehran, 2000; Alisher Navoii, p. 143, tr., p. 93; Āqā Bozorg Ṭehrāni, V, pp. 265-66).
Lobb-e lobāb-e Maṯnawi (read: maʿnawi), an abridged anthology of selections from the Maṯnawi of Jalālal- Din Moḥammad Rumi, compiled in 875/1470-71 (ed. N. Taqawi, Tehran, 1965). Lobāb-e maʿnawi fi enteḵāb-e Maṯnawi, an anthology of selections from the Maṯnawi of Jalāl-al-Din Moḥammad Rumi (unpublished).
Maḵzan al-enšāʾ, a treatise on Persian epistolography, completed in 907/1501-2 for ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi and dedicated to Solṭān-Ḥosayn (Mitchell, pp. 488-94).
Marṣad al-asnā fi esteḵrāj asmāʾ al-ḥosnā, a lettrist treatise on the divine Names (published lith. in India).
Mawāheb-e ʿaliya, or Tafsir-e ḥosayni, a popular Qorʾān commentary composed in 897-99/1491-94 for ʿAliŠir Navāʾi, whose name is alluded to in the title (ed. M-R. Jalāli Nāʾini, 4 vols., Tehran, 1938-50; Sands, pp. 469-83).
Rawżat al-šohadāʾ, an ʿAlid martyrology in ten chapters and a conclusion, which focuses largely on Imam Ḥosayn and the tragic events at Karbalāʾ, composed in 908/1502-3 (ed. Ayatollah Ḥājj Sheikh A. Šaʿrāni, repr. ed., Tehran, 2000-2001; Jaʿfariān, pp. 183-201; Amanat, pp. 258-69; Āqā Bozorg Ṭehrāni, XI, pp. 294-95). It was dedicated to Sayyed ʿAbd-Allāh Mirzā, known as Sayyed Mirzā, who appears to have been a sayyed and naqib, who married Solṭān-Ḥosayn’s daughter Maryam Solṭān Biki (Kāšefi, Rawżat al-šohadāʾ, pp. 12-13, 419). (Some sources [e.g., Nafisi, Yousofi] refer to him as Mirzā Moršed-al-Din ʿAbd-Allāh and as a nephew of Solṭān-Ḥosayn.) It was translated into Turkish as Ḥadiqat al-šoʿadāʾ by Moḥammad Fożuli.
al-Resāla al-ʿaliya fi’l-aḥādiṯ al-nabawiya, a commentary on forty prophetic Traditions in eight chapters, completed in 875/1470-71 and dedicated to the marshal (naqib) of sayyeds in Sabzavār, Šams-al-Din Abu’l- Maʿāli ʿAli, Moḵtār Nassāba ʿObaydi, whose name is alluded to in the title (ed. Sayyed J. Moḥaddeṯ, Tehran, 1966, p. 2; Āqā Bozorg Ṭehrāni, XI, p. 211; for the patron, see Ḵᵛāndamir, 1984, IV, p. 613).
Resāla-ye ḥātemiya, a treatise about the famous pre- Islamic figure Ḥātem al-Ṭāʾi, completed 891/1486 and dedicated to Solṭān-Ḥosayn (ed. M.‑R. Jalāli Nāʾini, Tehran, 1941; tr. Ridgeon, 2011, pp. 175-214).
Sabʿa-ye kāšefiya, a treatise on astrology and astronomy comprising seven books: Mawāheb Zoḥal; Mayāmen al-Moštari; Sawāṭeʿ al-Merriḵ; Lawāmeʿ al-Šams; Mabāhej al-Zohra; Manāhej ʿOṭāred; and Lawāyeḥ al-Qamar, or Eḵtiārāt al-nojum. In his list Ḵᵛāndamir (1984, IV, p. 345) mentions only the Eḵtiārāt, which was composed in 878/1473-74 for the Timurid vizier Majd-al-Din Moḥammad Ḵᵛāfi. In fact, it is the only book of Kāšefi’s septet that appears to have survived (Tourkin and Vesel, pp. 591-97).
Saḥifa-ye šāhi, an abridged version of Maḵzan al-enshāʾ, dedicated to Solṭān-Ḥosayn (published lith. in India.).
Šarḥ Ketāb al-sorur fi ʿelm al-ṣanʿa, on alchemy (published lith. in India).
Šarḥ-e Maṯnawi, a commentary on the Maṯnawi of Jalālal- Din Moḥammad Rumi.
Zād al-mosāferin, a versified treatse in maṯnawi form (lith. published in India).
B. Works Mentioned in Various Biographies and Bibliographies
Āʾina-ye sekandari, or Jām-e Jam, a treatise on computation. Divān-e Kāšefi, anthology of Kāšefi’s poems. Fayż al-nawāl fi bayān al-zawāl. Fażl al-ṣalāt ʿala’lnabi. Jāmeʿ al-settin, a commentary in Arabic on Sura Yusof. Mā lā bodda fi’l-maḏhab, a catechism. Maʿāref al-yaqin. Mafātiḥ al-konuz, a treatise on alchemy. Majāles al-waʿẓ, a compilation of sermons attributed to Kāšefi. Manāqeb al-awliāʾ, a Sufi hagiography. Mayāmen al-ektesāb fi qawāʿed al-eḥtesāb, a treatise on the duties of the moḥtaseb. Menhāj al-welāya. Merʾāt al-ṣafā fi ṣefāt al-Moṣṭafā, on the attributes of the prophet Moḥammad. Moḵtaṣar al-jawāher, an abridgement of the Qorʾān commentary Jawāher al-tafsir. al-Naqāwa fi adab al-telāwa, on the modes of recitation of the Qorʾān. Resāla dar ʿelm-e aʿdād, a treatise on numerology. Resāla dar awrād wa adʿeya, a pharmacopoeia. Resāla-ye ʿolwiya, written for the Naqšbandi sheikh ʿObayd-Allāh Aḥrār. Ṭabaqāt-e ḵᵛājagān-e Naqšbandiya, a spiritual genealogy of the sheikhs of the Naqšbandi Sufi order. al-Toḥfa al-ʿaliya fi ʿelm al-ḥoruf wa bayān asrārehā, on letter theory. Toḥfat al-ṣalāt, a treatise in eight chapters on ritual prayer, composed 899/1493-94.
Kāšefi’s writings very much reflected the ideas and trends current in literate and elite circles in his time in Timurid Khorasan. Kāšefi was not a trendsetter but a brilliant recorder and preserver of his society’s defining features and ideological concerns. These may be characterized as a proclivity for esotericism (in Qorʾān interpretation, literary taste, and the interest in Sufism and the occult sciences); an emphasis on ethics and ethical conduct (in the realm of politics, religion, and society as a whole, especially as evidenced by the notion of fotowwat, or spiritual chivalry; see JAVĀNMARDI); and an acceptance of functional theories of the hierarchical structuring of society. All of Kāšefi’s works may be viewed as falling into one or more of these broad categories.
It is difficult to find in Kāšefi’s works, all of which were composed well before the advent of the Safavids to Khorasan, convincing evidence of anything more than pious devotion to the ahl al-bayt, a characteristic feature of pre-Safavid Sunni religiosity in the eastern Islamic world (see Jaʿfariān, p. 178). The fact that he composed his Fotowwat-nāma-ye solṭāni for the administrators of the shrine of the eighth Shiʿite Imam, ʿAli b. Musā al-Reżā (q.v.), at Mashad (be-nām-e ḵoddām-e mazār-e . . . emām-e tamām . . . wa solṭān al-awliāʾ . . . ʿAli b. Musā; Fotowwatnāma, p. 4) should be understood in this light, and not as an indication of his adherence to Shiʿism as such (Amanat’s suggestion [p. 252] that the work was dedicated to the Imam is at odds with information in the work itself). In fact, in the introduction to the work, Kāšefi enumerates the names of the four Orthodox caliphs, Abu Bakr, ʿOmar, ʿOṯmān, and ʿAli (Fotowwat-nāma, p. 3). Moreover, Kāšefi was affiliated with the Naqšbandi Sufi order, which was known for its strictly Sunni orientation, particularly under the leadership of Ḵᵛāja ʿObayd-Allāh Aḥrār. Kāšefi even wrote a treatise on the spiritual genealogy of the Ḵᵛājagān, or masters of the Naqšbandi order. He also belonged to the fraternity of fotowwat, or spiritual chivalry, in which his spiritual master (šayḵ-e ṭariqat), Nur-al-Din Aḥmad b. Moḥammad Qāyeni, appears to have been the son of the well-known Hanafite jurist, preacher, and traditionist of Timurid Herat, Jalāl-al-Din Qāyeni (d. 838/1434-35; Kāšefi, Fotowwat-nāma, p. 123; Subtelny and Khalidov, 1995, pp. 218 ff., 228). Given that he was appointed chief judge of the Šariʿa for the sub-province of Bayhaq by the Timurid authorities, and later named superior of a Sufi lodge built for him by the Timurid ruler Solṭān-Ḥosayn in Herat, it is highly unlikely that Kāšefi could have been a Shiʿite. It is noteworthy that Ḥakim Šāh-Moḥammad Qazvini, one of the translators of ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi’s Majāles al-nafāʾes and a near-contemporary of his, stated emphatically that, even though Kāšefi came from Sabzavār, he was not a Shiʿite (Alisher Navoii, tr., p. 268).
Kāšefi’s religious orientation has always been brought into question, even in his own time (Jaʿfariān, pp. 175- 83; Kāšefi, Jawāher al-tafsir, introduction, pp. 83-93). Many scholars consider him to be a Shiʿite, largely on account of his authorship of the ʿAlid martyrology, Rawżat al-šohadāʾ, the work for which he is best known, but also because he came from Sabzavār, historically a Shiʿite center (Šuštari, I, pp. 113-14, 547-48; Amanat, pp. 250-54). Unfortunately, preoccupation with this question has eclipsed the important contribution Kāšefi made in researching older, chiefly Arabic, sources in writing Rawżat al-šohadāʾ in order to address a Persian-speaking audience.
In sum, it appears that Kāšefi was appropriated by the Safavids and presented as a Shiʿite in order to justify their adoption of the Rawżat al-šohadāʾ as a quasi-canonical text that served as the standard script used in the performance of the Shiʿite passion play (taʿzia; Babayan, p. 178). In fact, the term rawża-ḵᵛāni, which is still used today to denote the recitation of the tragedy of Karbalāʾ, is taken from the title of his work.
Alisher Navoii (ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi), Mazholisun nafois, ed. S. Ghanieva, Tashkent, 1961 (in Herāti and Ḥakim Šāh-Moḥammad Qazvini in Majāles al-nafāʾes, ed. ʿAli-Aṣḡar Ḥekmat, Tehran, 1945.
Abbas Amanat, “Meadow of the Martyrs: Kāshifī’s Persianization of the Shiʿi Martyrdom Narrative in the Later Tīmūrid Herat,” in Farhad Daftary and Josef W. Meri, eds., Culture and Memory in Medieval Islam: Essays in Honour of Wilferd Madelung, London and New York, 2003, pp. 250-75.
Āqā Bozorg Ṭehrāni, al-Ḏariʿa elā taṣānif al-šiʿa, 24 vols. in 27, Najaf and Tehran, 1936-78.
Kathryn Babayan, Mystics, Monarchs, and Messiahs: Cultural Landscapes of Early Modern Iran, Cambridge, Mass., 2002.
Moḥammad-Taqi Malek-al-Šoʿarāʾ Bahār, Sabk-šenāsi yā tāriḵ-e taṭawwor-e naṯr-e fārsi, 3 vols., Tehran, 1958, III, pp. 195-98.
Ebrāhim Borhān Āzād, “Āṯār-e Mollā Ḥosayn Kāšefi Wāʿeẓ,” Rāhnemā-ye ketāb 7, 1964, pp. 201-3.
Edward G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia III: The Tartar Dominion (1265-1502), Cambridge, 1969, pp. 441-44, 503-4.
Lisa Golombek, “Early Illustrated Manuscripts of Kashifi’s Akhlāq-i Muḥsinī,” Iranian Studies 36/4, 2003, pp. 615-43.
G. Herrmann, “Biographisches zu Ḥusain Wāʿiẓ Kāšifī,” in R. E. Emmerick and D. Weber, eds., Corolla Iranica: Papers in Honour of Prof. Dr. David Neil MacKenzie on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, Frankfurt and New York, 1991, pp. 90-100.
Rasul Jaʿfariān, “Mollā Ḥosayn Wāʿeẓ wa ketāb-e Rawżat al-šohadāʾ,” in idem, Maqālāt-e tāriḵi, Qom, 1997, pp. 167-210.
Ḡiāṯ-al-Din Moḥammad Ḵᵛāndamir, Tāriḵ-e ḥabib al-siar fi aḵbār afrād-e bašar, 4 vols., 3rd repr., Tehran, 1984.
Idem, Maʾāṯer al-moluk, be żamima-ye ḵātema-ye Ḵolāṣat al-aḵbār wa Qānun-e homāyuni, ed. M. H. Moḥaddeṯ, Tehran, 1994.
Arley Loewen, “Proper Conduct (Adab) Is Everything: The Futuwwat-nāmah-i Sulṭānī of Husayn Vaʿiz-i Kashifi,” Iranian Studies 36/4, 2003, pp. 543- 70.
Pierre Lory, “Kashifi’s Asrār-i Qāsimī and Timurid Magic,” Iranian Studies 36/4, 2003, pp. 531-41. Colin
Paul Mitchell, “To Preserve and Protect: Husayn Vaʿiz-i Kashifi and Perso-Islamic Chancellery Culture,” Iranian Studies 36/4, 2003, pp. 485-507.
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Idem, Jawanmardi: A Sufi Code of Honour, Edinburgh, 2011.
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Jan Rypka et al., History of Iranian Literature, ed. K. Jahn, Dordrecht, 1968, pp. 313, 426, 433-34, 450, 466, 661.
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Faḵr-al- Din ʿAli Ṣafi, Rašaḥāt-e ʿayn al-ḥayāt, ed. ʿAli-Aṣḡar Moʿiniān, 2 vols., Tehran, 1977.
Fekri Saljuqi, ed., Resāla-ye mazārāt-e Herāt, Kabul, 1967 (a collection of three treatises by Aṣil-al-Din Wāʿeẓ Heravi, ʿAbd- Allāh b. Abu Saʿid Heravi, and Mollā Moḥammad-Ṣādeq Heravi).
Kristin Z. Sands, “On the Popularity of Husayn Vaʿiz-i Kashifi’s Mavāhib-i ʿaliyya: A Persian Commentary on the Qurʾan,” Iranian Studies 36/4, 2003, pp. 469-83.
Marta Simidchieva, “Imitation and Innovation in Timurid Poetics: Kashifi’s Badāyiʿ al-afkār and Its Predecessors, al-Muʿjam and Ḥadāʾiq al-siḥr,” Iranian Studies 36/4, 2003, pp. 509-30.
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Maria E. Subtelny and Anas B. Khalidov, “The Curriculum of Islamic Higher Learning in Timurid Iran in the Light of the Sunni Revival under Shāh-Rukh,” JAOS 115/2, 1995, pp. 210-36.
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Gholam Hosein Yousofi, “Kāshifī,” in EI² IV, 1978, pp. 704-5.
(M. E . Subtelny)
Originally Published: December 15, 2011
Last Updated: September 10, 2012
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