FOŻŪLĪ, MOḤAMMAD, b. Solaymān (ca. 885-936/1480-1556), widely regarded as the greatest lyric poet in Azerbayjani Turkish, who also wrote extensively in Arabic and Persian. He adopted the pen name (taḵallosá) of Fożūlī (presumptuous) in order to be “unique,” as he reveals in the preface to his Persian dīvān (Karahan, in EI2 II, p. 937; Bombaci, 1970, p. 13).

Fożūlī had his roots in the Bayāt tribe, one of the Oḡuz (Turkman) tribes settled in Iraq (Ṣafā, Adabīyat V/2, p. 675; Bombaci, 1970, p. 12). He was born somewhere in ʿErāq-e ʿArab during the period of Aq Qoyunlu rule, probably in Najaf (Bombaci, 1971, pp. 98-99) or Karbalāʾ (Karahan, 1949, pp. 70 ff.), but Baghdad, Ḥella, Kerkūk and other towns have also been proposed as his birthplace (discussion in Bombaci, 1971, pp. 92 ff.). Fożūlī himself refers to his devoted studies of literature and poetry in the preface to his Turkish dīvān, and the contemporary biographer Aḥmad ʿAhdī Baḡdādī described him as very learned in mathematics and astronomy as well as languages, able to write with ease and elegance in Turkish, Persian, and Arabic (cited in Gibb, pp. 72-74; Mazıoğlu, 1956, discusses Fożūlī’s familiarity with the work of other poets). His poetic idiom had its roots in the work of Ḥasanoḡlū, Nasīmī, and Shah Esmāʿīl (on literary Aḏerī, see AZERBAIJAN vii-x).

A devout Twelver Shiʿite (Bombaci, 1970, p. 19, with references to the Dīvān), Fożūlī was for years employed at the mašhad of Imam ʿAlī at Najaf (see Karahan, in EI2 II, p. 937), but his pecuniary circumstances made him dependent on the bounty of successive patrons. The first recipient of a Persian qaṣīda by Fożūlī was Uzun Ḥasan’s grandson, Alvand Beg (Karahan, p. 937; see ĀQ QOYUNLŪ). When Shah Esmāʿīl I Ṣafawī (q.v.) captured Baghdad and made offerings to the mašhadayn of Karbalā and Najaf in 914/1508, the young Fożūlī praised him as the reigning monarch in his first Turkish maṯnawī, a discourse on the relative merits of hashish and wine entitled Bang o bāda (ed. K. Kürkçüoğlu as Beng-ü Bâde, Istanbul, 1956), without, as sometimes suggested, actually dedicating the work to him (see Bombaci, 1970, p. 14). After 920/1514 he enjoyed the patronage of the Safavid governor of Baghdad, Mawṣellū Ebrāhīm Khan, and deplored his loss in a Persian qaṣīda presumably addressed to Moḥammad Khan Tekelū, the last Safavid governor of Baghdad.

Fożūlī was in his fifties when, in Jomādā I 941/December 1534, the Ottoman sultan Solaymān the Magnificent entered Baghdad. He welcomed the sovereign’s arrival at the borj-e awlīāʾ (for interpretations of Fożūlī’s religious position at this time, see Bombaci, 1970, pp. 15-17) and wrote laudatory odes to the grand vizier Ebrāhīm Pasha, to the chief qāżī ʿAbd-al-Qāder Čalabī, and to Jalālzāda Moṣṭafā Čalabī. This latter official, who was appointed chancellor while at Baghdad, arranged a stipend for Fożūlī of nine aqčas a day from the surplus of the endowments of the Shiʿite sanctuaries. When the administrators withheld payment on the grounds that there was no such surplus, the poet’s disappointment found expression in a Šekāyat-nāma in Turkish prose addressed to Jalālzāda Moṣṭafā Čalabī, who had procured him the allowance (Karahan, p. 937; Bombaci, p. 20, citing the Persian dīvān). While his continued appeals to Sultan Solaymān and an ode he addressed to the grand vizier Rostam Pasha (Bombaci, pp. 17-18, 20) produced no substantial results, Fożūlī’s poetry was appreciated by Bāyazīd b. Solaymān, the Ottoman prince, who was himself a good poet and who had gathered a circle of poets and scholars at his court at Kütahya (Turan, pp. 46-47). They exchanged letters (for the one surviving letter of this correspondence see [Çatbas] Mazıoğlu), but Fożūlī’s ambition to attach himself to the prince’s court, or to any other one, remained unfulfilled. After a sojourn at Baghdad he seems to have lived at Karbalāʾ. Between 1546 and 1553 he wrote an ode to the Indian Shiʿite sovereign of Ahmadnagar (Bombaci, p. 19, identifies this ruler as Borhān Neẓāmšāh, who in 1537 had embraced Shiʿism). Fożūlī did not live to see Bāyazīd at war with his brother and father in 966/1559 and finally executed at Qazvīn in 969/1562. The poet died during a plague epidemic in 963/1555-56 and was reportedly buried at Karbalāʾ (Karahan, p. 937). He was survived by his son Fażlī Čalabī.

Fożūlī is credited with some fifteen works in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, both in verse and prose (complete listing in Karahan, 1996, pp. 244-46). Although his greatest significance is undoubtedly as a Turkish poet, he is also of importance to Persian literature thanks to his original works in that language (indeed, Persian was the language he preferred for his Shiʿite religious poetry); his Turkish adaptations or translations of Persian works; and the inspiration he derived from Persian models for his Turkish works.

While living in Karbalāʾ, Fożūlī wrote Ḥadīqat al-soʿadāʾ, adapted from Ḥosayn Wāʿeẓ-e Kāšefī’s Persian work on the martyrdom of the imams, Rawżat al-šohadāʾ, which he dedicated to Moḥammad Pasha (ed. Ş, Güngör as Hadîkatü’s-süadâ, Ankara, 1987; ed. S. Bayoglu as Erenler Bahçesi [Hadikatü’s-süeda], 2 vols., Ankara 1986-90). Another small work by Fożūlī, Ḥadīṯ-e arbaʿīn tarjamasī (translation of a collection of forty traditions of the Prophet; ed. K. E. Kürkçüoğlu as Kırk Hadis tercemesi, Istanbul, 1951), is drawn from a work by Jāmī (q.v.).

Fożūlī’s works in Persian include: (1) The Dīvān, arranged by the poet himself (ed. H. Mazıoğlu as Farsça Divan: Edisyon Kritik ,Ankara, 1962), begins with a prose introduction, in which the poet lauds the virtues of poetry, his lifelong interest in it, and how effective it is for distilling pleasure from pain. Hasibe Mazıoğlu (1956) has studied Fożūlī’s ḡazals, comparing them with those of Ḥāfez. (2) Rend o zāhed, a debate between an ascetic, who is trying to teach his son, Rend, a few things, and the son, who defends his avoidance of learning them (ed. K. Kürkçüoğlu, Ankara, 1956). (3) Ḥosn o ʿEšq, inspired by the Ḥosn o Del of Fattāḥī Nīšābūrī (q.v.) and also known as the Safar-nāma-ye rūḥ, ʿAql o ʿešq, or Ṣeḥḥat o marazµ (ed. M.-ʿA. Nāṣeḥ as “Safar-nāma-ye Rūḥ,” Armaḡān 11, 1309 Š./1930, pp. 418-24, 505-17; ed. with a Ger. tr. by N. H. Lugal and O. Reşer as Des türkischen Dichters Fuzûlî Poëm “Laylâ-Megnûn” und die gereimte Erzählung “Benk u Bâde” (Hasis und Wein.) Anhang: Der persische Text von Fuzûlî’s "Maraz u sihhat” (Gesundheit und Krankheit), Istanbul 1943; Tk. tr. with a Fr. summary by A. Gölpınarlı as Sıhhat ve Maraz, Istanbul, 1940. (4) Resâla-ye moʿammīyāt (ed. K. Kürkçüoğlu, “Risâle-i Muammeyât,” Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Dergisi 7/1, 1949, pp. 61-109). (5) Anīs al-qalb ,a qaṣīda written to be presented to Sultan Solaymān. It was inspired by Ḵāqānī’s Baḥr al-abrār and followed the manner of earlier emulations of Ḵāqānī’s poem by Amīr Ḵosrow Dehlavī’s Merʾāt al-ṣafā and ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmī’s Jalāʾ al-rūḥ (ed. with Tk. tr. by S. Erkılıç as Enîs-ül-kalb, Istanbul, 1944). (6) Haft jām, also known as Sāqī-nāma, is a seven-part maṯnawī of 327 couplets, each part focussing on a particular musical instrument.

Fożūlī’s fame, however, rests above all on two of his Turkish works, the Dīvān (containing several panegyrics, robāʿīs, and three hundred ḡazals; numerous editions, including A. Gölpınarlı, Istanbul, 1948, 2nd ed., 1961) and especially his Laylā wa Majnūn (ed. N. H. Onan as Leylâ vü Mecnûn, Istanbul, 1935; ed. H. Ayan, Istanbul, 1981; ed. M. Doğan, Istanbul, 1996; tr. S. Huri as Leyla and Mejnûn by Fuzûlî, London, 1970). Laylā wa Majnūn, a work in 3096 bayts, was dedicated to Oways Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Baghdad. The problem of establishing the date of its composition, 942/1536, can be regarded as solved (Sohrweide, p. 227, no. 248); as in many other cases, the date had to be reconstructed from internal evidence (the dedication) while those proposed on the basis of chronograms remain doubtful. The poem represents the culmination of the Turkish maṯnawī tradition in that it raised the personal and human love-tragedy to the plane of mystical longing and ethereal aspiration (Dankoff). Fożūlī’s avowed model for the poem is Neẓāmī’s Laylī o Majnūn; he picks up the thread of Neẓāmī’s narrative at the point where Majnūn makes the pilgrimage to Mecca, and from then on follows Neẓāmī using the same hazaj meter (Bombaci, 1970, pp. 86-87). Unlike Neẓāmī, however, Fożūlī inserts several lyric poems (twenty-two ḡazals, two morabbaʿs, and two monājāts) which, while integrated harmoniously into the narrative, at the same time take on a life of their own (Dankoff). Another, undisclosed, model for the poem is the popular narrative on the same theme by ʿAbd-Allāh Hātefī (q.v.; Bombaci, 1969, pp. 246-52; idem, 1970, pp. 84-114).

Fożūlī’s consummate artistry lies in the way in which he integrates the mystic and the erotic, in the combination of the conventionality of his topics with the sincerity of his style, and in his intense expression of feelings of passionate love, of pity for the unfortunate, and of patience in the face of adversity. The fundamental gesture of Fożūlī’s poetry is inclusiveness. It links Azeri, Turkmen and Ottoman (Rūmī) poetry, east and west; it also bridges the religious divide between Shiʿism and Sunnism. Generations of Ottoman poets admired and wrote responses to his poetry; no contemporary canon can bypass him.

For a music sample, see Chahārgāh


B. Ayvazoglu, ed., Fuzûlî Kitabı: 500. Yılında Fuzûlî Sempozyumu Bildirileri, Istanbul, 1996.

A. Bombaci, La letteratura turca, 2nd ed., Florence, 1969.

Idem, “The Life of Fuzûlî,” “The Works of Fuzûlî,” and “Fuzûlî’s Leylâ and Mejnûn,” tr. E. Davies in Leyla and Mejnûn by Fuzûlî, tr. S. Huri, London, 1970.

Idem, “The Place and Date of Birth of Fużūlī,” in C. E. Bosworth, ed., Iran and Islam: In Memory of the Late Vladmir Minorsky, London, 1971, pp. 91-105.

M. Cunbur, Fuzûlî Hakkında Bir Bibliyografya Denemesi, Istanbul, 1956.

R. Dankoff, “The Lyric in the Romance: The Use of Ghazals in Persian and Turkish Masnavīs,” JNES 43, 1984, pp. 9-25.

E. J. W. Gibb, A History of Ottoman Poetry, ed. E. G. Browne, 5 vols., London, 1904.

A. Karahan, “Fuḍūlī,” in EI2 II, pp. 937-39.

Idem, Fuzûlî: Muhiti, Hayatı ve Šahsiyeti, Istanbul, 1949.

Idem, Les poètes classiques à l’époque de Soliman le Magnifique, Ankara, 1991.

Idem, “Fuzûlî,” in Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı Islam Ansiklopedisi XIII, Istanbul, 1996, pp. 240-46.

M. F. Köprulu, “Fuzûlî,” IA IV, pp. 686-99.

H. [Çatbaş] Mazıoğlu, “Fuzûlî’nin Bir Mektubu,” Dil-Tarih ve Coğrafya Fakültesi Dergisi 6, 1949, pp. 139-46.

Idem, Fuzûlî ve Türkçe Divanı’ndan Seçmeler, Ankara, 1986 (includes five surviving letters from Fożūlī to various officials).

Idem, Fuzulî üzerine makaleler, Ankara, 1997 (full bibliography).

Ṣafā, Adabīyat V/2, pp. 674-79.

Ş. Turan, Kanunî’nin Oğlu Şehzade Bayezid Vak’ası, Ankara, 1961.


Originally Published: December 15, 2000

Last Updated: January 31, 2012

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