FARĀHĪ, ABŪ NAṢR BADR-al-DĪN MASʿŪD (or Moḥammad/Maḥmūd) b. Abī Bakr b. Ḥosayn b. Jaʿfar Farāhī, poet and litterateur (fl. 7th/13th cent.). He hailed from the city of Farāh (q.v.) in the province of Sīstān in what is now Afghanistan.
Next to nothing is known of Farāhī’s life. Reportedly blind from birth, he is said to have been a man of great sagacity, intellectual dexterity, powers of intuition, and retentive ability. According to Kašf al-ẓonūn (ed. Yaltkaya and Bilge, II, p. 1954)he died in 640/1242. Ebn Ḥosām, in his Rīāż al-fetyān (a commentary on Neṣāb al-ṣebyān) mentions the village Raj near Farāh as the cite of Farāhī’s tomb (apud Neṣāb al-ṣebyān, ed. M.-J. Maškūr, Tehran, 1354 Š./1975, editor’s introduction, p. 1; see also Kašf al-żonūn, ed. Yaltkaya and Bilge, II, p. 601).
Farāhī is best-known for his Neṣāb al-ṣebyān, a versified Arabic-Persian vocabulary in 200 distiches made of 40 fragments in a variety of meters. The poem, an aide-mémoire composed mainly of Arabic terms with their Persian translations, was intended to facilitate the study of Arabic language and fundamentals of prosody by school children; it also served to acquaint them with some elementary general knowledge. According to the author, the poem is called Neṣāb al-ṣebyān because it is made of 200 verses. Commentators on the poem have explained that the poem was so entitled because the minimum amount of wealth (neṣāb) liable for payment of the zakāt tax is 200 dirhams, which corresponds to the number of verses in the poem. They further add that the children (al-ṣebyān) who have learned this poem by heart are supposed to have accumulated enough knowledge to be liable for paying alms (zakāt), which in this case is teaching others what they have already learned themselves.
The manual enjoyed great popularity up to some forty years ago when students of Arabic used to memorize it in its entirety. Its popularity is reflected in the number of commentaries as well as imitations that were made, among them Zohrat al-adab (comp 640/1242-43) by Šokr-Allāh b. Šams-al-Dīn Aḥmad and Rīāż al-fetyān by Ebn Ḥosām (fl. 14th cent.).
Farāhī is also the author of Lamaʿat al-badr, a versified commentary on the Jāmeʿ al-ṣaḡīrfi’l-forūʿ of Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Šaybānī Ḥanīfī, which he completed on 17 Jamādā II 617/17 August 1220. A gloss by ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Ḵojandī, entitled Żowʾ al-lomʿa, was later composed on Farāhī’s poem. The poem attributed to Farāhī in some sources (e.g., Ḥabīb al-sīār II, p. 628, Mīrḵᵛānd, IV, p. 658, Malekšāh Ḥosayn, p. 75), as pointed out by Moḥammad Qazvīnī (Lobāb, comm., pp. 352-53), is in fact by Emām Šaraf-al–Dīn Farāhī, a contemporary of Abū Naṣr.
Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):
ʿA. Eqbāl, “Neṣāb al-ṣebyān,” Majalla-ye amūzeš o parvareš 9/3, 1317 Š./1938, pp. 9-16; repr. in idem, Manmūʿa-ye maqālāt-e ʿAbbās Eqbāl Āštīānī, ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1350 Š./1971, pp. 493-500.
Malekšāh Ḥosayn Sīstānī, Eḥyāʾ al-molūk, ed. M. Sotūda, Tehran, 1344 Š./1965.
Naẓm o naṯr, I, pp. 90-91.
ʿA.-N. Monzawī, Farhanghā-ye ʿarabī be fārsī, Tehran, 1337 Š./1958, pp. 84-121.
M. Naḵjavānī, “Neṣāb al-ṣebyān,” Yaḡmā 10, pp. 218-20.
Nafīsī, Naẓm o naṯr, p. 90.
N. Pākdāman, “Neṣāb al-ṣebyān,” Alefbā 6, 1356, pp. 320-42.
Ṣafā, Adabīyāt III, pp. 284-85.
J. Salmāsīzāda, “Neṣāb al-ṣebyān wa taqlīd konandagān-e ān,” Waḥīd 10, 1351, pp. 397-404, 532-43.
Originally Published: December 15, 1999
Last Updated: December 15, 1999