ANWARĪ, AWḤAD-AL-DĪN MOḤAMMAD (or ʿALĪ), poet at the court of the Saljuqs in the 6th/12th century. His first name and the name of his father vary even in the earliest sources: According to ʿAwfī (Lobāb II, p. 125) he was called Moḥammad b. Moḥammad; Moḥammad Ẓāher Samarqandī (author of the Sendbād-nāma), a contemporary of the poet, in his work AʿrāzÎʷ al-sīāsa fī aḡrāż al-rīāsa, gives the name as Moḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Esḥāq (see A. Ateş, İA IV, s.v. Enverî); in the colophon of a manuscript containing poems by Qaṭrān copied in 529/1134-35, the scribe calls himself “ʿAlī b. Esḥāq al-Abīvardī al-šāʿer” (see M. Bāyānī, Yaḡmā 3/11, 1329 Š./1960, pp. 440-74; Nafīsī, ed., Dīvān-e Anwarī, introd., pp. 27-28), however, it is possible that the scribe is not Anwarī himself but his father. Anwarī in fact mentions that the name of his grandfather (ǰadd) was Esḥāq (see Rażawī, ed., Dīvān-e Anwarī I, 2nd ed., introd., p. 18).

Anwarī was born at an unknown date in the Dašt-e Ḵāvarān near the small town of Abīvard which lies between Saraḵs and Nesā; some sources specify Bādana (Faṣīḥī, Moǰmal II, p. 267) or Badana (Dawlatšāh, ed. Browne, p. 83) as his ancestral village. He is said to have adopted Ḵāvarī as a pen name in his early career, but this may have been just a nesba added to his name in one of the sources used by Dawlatšāh (cf. Nafīsī, op. cit., p. 37). In his poems no other pen name can be found than Anwarī, a name which according to his own statement was given to him by others.

Details about his life are provided in a number of anecdotes handed down in the taḏkeras and other sources, but they are nearly all of them of little historical value. Additional information can be found in his poems, many of which are of a topical nature and mention persons who played a part in his career. Together these materials are either too uncertain or too fragmentary to provide a basis for a continuous biography. The beginning of his literary career is reported in different ways. He is said to have been forced to earn a living as a professional poet after he had dissipated the inheritance left to him by his father while he was still a young man. Another story depicts him as a student at a madrasa in Ṭūs, where he was enticed away from his studies by the sight of the splendid attire of a rich court poet who passed by his college one day. Anwarī states in a poem that his father was a courtier who attended a Saljuq princess (cf. Rażawī, op. cit., p. 19). This will certainly have eased his admission to the court of Sultan Sanǰar probably not long before 530/1135-36, the earliest date mentioned in any of the poems. The anecdote which relates how he gained access by outwitting Moʿezzī, the Sultan’s poet laureate, whose duty it was to put his talent to the test, must he dismissed as the latter had already died in 521/1127-28 (Nafīsī, op. cit., pp. 32-34, 39). Anwarī must have remained in the service of Sanǰar until the death of the latter in 552/1157-58. In 542/1147-48 he took part in a campaign against the Ḵᵛārazmšāh Atsïz and exchanged poetical invectives with the leading court poet of that ruler, Rašīd-al-dīn Vaṭvāṭ, during the siege of the fortress Hazārasp. When Sanǰar in 548/1153-54 became a prisoner of the Ḡozz tribes, Anwarī tried to obtain his release through a qaṣīda addressed to the Ḵāqān of Samarqand (Dīvān, ed. Rażawī, I, no. 82; this poem later became known in the West under the title “The Tears of Khorassan”).

As a successful poet of the court, Anwarī sang the praise of many courtiers and officials of the Saljuq state (cf. the lists of his mamdūḥs in M. Qazvīnī, Yāddāšthā I, Tehran, 1332 Š./1953, pp. 126-35; Nafīsī, op. cit., pp. 42-47; M. RazÎʷawī, op. cit., pp. 37-92). Only some of them can be identified with certainty; e.g., Nāṣer-al-dīn Abu’l-Fatḥ Ṭāher b. Moẓaffar (d. 548/1153-54), the last vizier of Sanǰar, and Maǰd-al-dīn Abu’l-Ḥasan Maǰd ʿEmrānī, one of the notables of Saraḵs who was put to death by Sanǰar in 545/1150-51. In Balḵ, where he seems to have lived during most of his life, Anwarī was in close contact with the qāżī al-qożāt Abū Bakr Ḥamīd-al-dīn ʿOmar whose Maqāmāt-e Ḥamīdī (comp. in 551/1156-57) he praised in a poem. Balḵ was also the scene of an incident caused by a satire on its citizens, known as the Ḵar-nāma, which its real author, the poet Fotūḥī, put to Anwarī’s name. This caused a popular fury against Anwarī, who was paraded through the streets with a woman’s veil on his head (see ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Navāʾī, in Yādḡar 2/9, 1325 Š./1946, pp. 70-80). The Dīvān also contains a few poems addressed to an Atabeg of Mawṣel , Qoṭb-al-dīn Mawdūd-Šāh (r. 558-99/11621203). These are related to a journey which Anwarī made to Baghdad, probably in connection with a ḥaǰǰ. There are also traces of his contacts with the Ghurid rulers in some poems. A story which is related for the first time by ʿAwfī tells how he escaped from a trap set for him by ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Ḡūrī who felt himself hurt by Anwarī’s satire.

The most celebrated anecdote about Anwarī is concerned with the prognostication of a devastating gale which was supposed to take place at the time of a conjunction of seven (or five) planets in the sign of the Scales (Mīzān). When at the predicted moment nothing of this kind occurred, the poet was put to shame and decided to exchange his career for a secluded life at Balḵ. The incident itself is undoubtedly historical as it has been recorded independently in several sources. It can be dated 582/1186-87 (see M. Mīnovī, “Eǰtemāʿ-e kawākeb dar sāl-e 582,” MDAT 2/4, 1334 Š./1955, pp. 16-53). It is less certain to what extent and at which date Anwarī was involved in the event. In a contemporary work, ʿEqd al-ʿolā le’l-mawqef al-aʿlā, written by the historian Afżal-al-dīn Aḥmad b. Ḥāmed Kermānī in 584/1188, mention is made of a refutation of the “aḥkām-e Anwarī” by Farīd-e Nasavī (Rażawī, op. cit., pp. 33-34). This confirms that the poet indeed practiced astrology, but Mīnovī did not accept it as sufficient proof of his actual involvement in the prognostication for 582 and concluded that Anwarī must have made these predictions at a much earlier date.

The problems attached to this incident are also relevant for the establishment of the date of the poet’s death. Zhukovskiĭ and most subsequent writers have concluded from the anecdote that the poet must have lived till some years after 582/1186. Mīnovī on the other hand proposed a much earlier date, namely 565/1169-70, which is mentioned in Kašf al-ẓonūn (ed. Istanbul, I, col. 777). M. Qazvīnī preferred an even earlier date, 556/1160-61 (“Wafāt-e Anwarī” in Bīst maqāla, Tehran, 1312 Š./1953, pp. 359-62). Many other dates occur in the sources but none of these can by any right be regarded as more likely.

An often quoted quatrain of Jāmī declares Anwarī one of the three or four “prophets” of Persian poetry (Bahārestān, Vienna, 1846, p. 100). His mastery of poetic panegyrics is indeed beyond any doubt. His language, which is often close to ordinary speech and is only moderately encumbered by rhetoric based on the forms of words, is in contrast with the semantic characteristics of his poetry. The merit of his verse lies especially in the skillful use of ingenious metaphors. Anwarī commanded an exceptionally rich vocabulary which included a larger stock of Arabic words and phrases than the one drawn upon by most other classical poets. In addition to this, he made use or several disciplines as sources of learned allusions. In one of his qeṭʿas he boasted knowledge of logic, music, astronomy, metaphysics and natural science (Dīvān, ed. Rażawī, II, pp. 686-87). The epithet ḥakīm “the sage” is frequently added to his name, as it was done in the case of other learned poets. Didacticism is however not a very conspicuous feature of his work, although it contains occasional words in praise of the virtue of contentment (qanāʿat) and reflections on the negative aspects of professional šāʿerī.

The qaṣīdas are nearly all panegyrics. In several poems the conventional nasīb is lacking, which means that the direct praise of the poet’s mamdūḥ begins in the opening line. Some of the longer qaṣīdas have been divided into two sections through the introduction of a second line with internal rhyme in the middle of the poem (cf. Dīvān, ed. Rażawī, I, nos. 69, 75, 83, 85). In the last-mentioned poem, which contains among other themes a description of Baghdad, Anwarī displays his art of working descriptive and narrative traits into the fabric of his lyrical poetry.

Prominent in his poetry are also the moqaṭṭaʿāt (op. cit., II, pp. 511-761), short pieces in a loose form which reflect various aspects of his career as a court poet. Among them are songs of wine, requests for presents, congratulations and laments as well as other references to the relationship between the poet and his patrons. There are many specimens of Anwarī’s biting and often obscene satire, which one also finds in a few short maṯnawīs (Dīvān, ed. Nafīsī, pp. 477-83; they have been omitted from the Rażawī edition).

As a writer of ḡazals (Dīvān, ed. Rażawī, II, pp. 765-943) Anwarī exerted a considerable influence on Saʿdī as ʿAlī Daštī has shown (see Qalamrow-e Saʿdī, Tehran, 1339 Š./1960, pp. 131-50). The Dīvān further contains a large collection of robāʿīyāt (II, pp. 946-1042).

Some sources attribute scholarly works on prosody, astrology and philosophy to Anwarī, but none of them is now extant. One is said to have been a commentary on the Ešārāt of Ebn Sīnā in whose philosophy the poet appears to have taken a special interest (cf. ʿA. Navāʾī, Yādḡar 2/6, 1324 Š./1946, pp. 45-49; Dīvān, ed., Nafīsī, pp. 41-42).

The influence of the older masters of the Persian qaṣīda can be noticed in many places. Anwarī inserted many quotations in his poems and often tried to emulate poems of his predecessors. He particularly admired Abu’l-Faraǰ Rūnī, a poet of the Ghaznavid court at Lahore in the late 5th/11th century, whose Dīvān Anwarī claims to have studied carefully (cf. Dīvān, ed. Rażawī, introd., pp. 104-07).

Later generations continued to appreciate Anwarī’s poems. In the 7th/13th century Šams-al-dīn Rāzī used them as one of the main sources of šawāhed for his handbook of Persian prosody, al-Moʿǰam. The poet Maǰd Hamgar wrote in the second half of the same century at the request of the people of Kāšān a poem pronouncing Anwarī a better poet than his contemporary Ẓahīr Fārīābī (quoted in Ḥamdallāh Mostawfī’s Tārīḵ-e gozīda; cf. E. G. Browne, JRAS, 1901, pp. 19-23 and, subsequently, in Ḵᵛāndamīr’s Ḥabīb al-sīar; cf. ʿA. Navāʾī, Reǰāl-e ketāb-e Ḥabīb al-sīar, Tehran, 1324 Š./1945, pp. 18-19). Verses by Anwarī appear frequently in the Persian dictionaries. The difficulties which many of his poems present to the reader were dealt with in a number of commentaries; the most important authors of such works are Moḥammad b. Dāʾūd ʿAlawī Šādīābādī (fl. early 10th/16th century in the Indian kingdom of Malva; cf. Rieu, Pers. Man. II, p. 556); Abu’l-Ḥasan Ḥosaynī Farāhānī who wrote his Šarḥ-e moškelāt-e Dīvān-e Anwarī (ed. Modarres Rażawī, Tehran, 1340 Š./1961) in Shiraz in about 1015/1606-07; Moḥammad b. ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Donbolī whose work was completed about 1240/1824-25 (see on these and other commentaries: A. Monzawī, pp. 3459-63; Sayyed Jaʿfar Šahīdī, Šarḥ-e loḡāt wa moškelāt-e Dīvān-e Anwarī Abīvardī, Tehran, 1357 Š./1978, pp. 575-601).

In Europe Anwarī became known for the first time through the English translation of “The Tears of Khorassan” by William Kirkpatrick, published in Asiatick Miscellany I, Calcutta, 1785, pp. 286-310. The same poem, together with a few more by Anwarī, was also translated by E. H. Palmer (Song of the Reed and Other Poems, London, 1877).



Sections on Anwarī can be found in ʿAwfī, Lobāb II, pp. 125-38; Tārīḵ-e gozīda, pp. 474, 488-89, 813-14 (= JRAS, 1900, pp. 726-30); Dawlatšāh, ed. Browne, pp. 83-86; Haft eqlīm II, pp. 25-28, and in most other taḏkeras.

The Russian monograph by V. A. Zhukovskiĭ, Ali Auhadeddin Enveri. Materialy dlya ego biografii i karakteristiki, Saint Petersburg, 1883 (partially transl. by W. Pertsch, Literatur-Blatt für orientalische Philologie II, Leipzig, 1884-85, and condensed by E. G. Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia II, pp. 365-91) is now superseded by the exhaustive introductions to the Dīvān editions by S. Nafīsī (Tehran, 1337 Š./1958, pp. 3-55; containing long excerpts from the primary sources) and Modarres Rażawī (Tehran, 1340 Š./1961, II, pp. 31-163 = I, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1147 Š./1968, pp. 18-158).

The manuscripts of the Dīvān, or Kollīyāt, are listed in A. Monzawī, Nosḵahā III, pp. 1847, 2235-42; for lithograph editions see Mošār, Fehrest, I, col. 1504.

The modern editions by Saʿīd Nafīsī, and Modarres Rażawī are both based on early manuscripts, but Rażawī offers a far more reliable text than Nafīsī. See also M. Ferté, “Notice sur Anwari,” JA, 9e série, 5, 1895, pp. 235-68 (with the French tr. of three qaṣīdas).

Geiger and Kuhn, Grund. Ir. Phil. II, pp. 261-63.

Šeblī Noʿmānī, Šeʿr al-ʿaǰam, Pers. tr. by S. M. T. Faḵr Dāʿī Gīlānī, Tehran, 1316 Š./1937, pp. 194-215.

Badīʿ-al-zamān Forūzānfar, Soḵan wa soḵanvarān, Tehran, 1308 Š./1929, I, pp. 356-86; 2nd ed., Tehran, 1350 Š./1971, pp. 332-57.

Ṣafā, Adabīyāt II, Tehran, 1339 Š./1960, pp. 656-81.

Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., pp. 197-99.

S. J. Šahīdī, “Moḥtawīyāt-e Dīvān-e Anwarī,” Našrīya-ye kongra-ye taḥqīqāt-e Īrānī 2, 1353 Š./1974, pp. 38-50.

Idem, “Šarḥ-i bar čand bayt-e moškel az Dīvān-e Anwarī,” Jašn-nāma-ye Modarres Rażawī, Tehran, 1356 Š./1977, pp. 345-53.

(J. T. P. de Bruijn)

Originally Published: December 15, 1986

Last Updated: August 5, 2011

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Vol. II, Fasc. 2, pp. 141-143

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J. T. P. de Bruijn, “ANWARI,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, II/2, pp. 141-143, available online at (accessed on 30 December 2012).