KĀHI KĀBOLI, SAYYED NAJM-AL-DIN ABU-’L-QĀSEM MOḤAMMAD MIĀNKĀLI (d. Agra, Rabiʿ II 988/May 1580), one of the notable poets at the Mughal court of Nāṣer-al-Din Homāyun Pādešāh (r. 937-62/1530-55) and Jalāl-al-Din Akbar Pādešāh (r. 963-1014/1556-1605).  He was born to a Sayyed family in Miānkāl, a region between Bukhara and Samarqand, sometime between 868-78/1463-73, thus being also known as Miānkāli.  His pen name was Kāhi and he has also been referred to in some biograghical sources as Mawlāna or Mollā Qāsem Kāhi.  Reżāqoli Khan Hedāyat (p. 212) and, probably following him, Moḥammad-Ṭāher Naṣrābādi (p. 469) mention the poet’s name as “Gāhi,” which must be a typographical mistake possibly due to the close similarity between the written symbols for “k” and “g” in Persian script.

According to Amin-Aḥmad Rāzi (p. 376), Kāhi went to Herat at the age 15, where, after paying a visit to the Sufi poet and scholar ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmi (d. 888/1492), he apparently developed some interest in Sufi mysticism and became a stauch advocate of the Naqšbandi Ḵˇājagān, an influential Sufi order in Transoxiana.  He then traveled to Kabul and stayed there for a long time, which is why he came to be known as Kāboli (Nafisi, I, p. 415; Ṣafā, V/2, pp. 755-56; Hedāyat, p. 212).

Despite his uncomplimentary remarks about India and referring to himself as “the nightingale adorning Kabul meadow, not a kite or raven to go to India,” he made two long trips to India (Ṣafā, V/2, p. 756). In his first visit, which lasted 21 years (935-56/1528-49), he composed panegyrics for a number of eminent figures and governors of Gujarat. The second visit, which began in 961/1554 and lasted until his death in 988/1580, brought him to Agra and Delhi where he was ranked among the most respected poets at the courts of Homāyun and Akbar.  He even, acording to some report, was bestowed the position of poet-laureate (malek-al-šoʿarāʾ) at the latter’s court (Nafisi, II, p. 819).  He also spent some time at Jaunpur and Benares and wrote eulogies for Ḵānzamān ʿAliqoli and Bahādor Khan (Ṣafā, V/2, p. 756).  Apart from panegyrical qaṣidas in praise of men of power in his time, he also eulogised the Shiʿite Imam ʿAli b. Abi Ṭāleb (e.g., see Amin Rāzi, III, pp. 378-81).

Kāhi seems to have been a learned man, being aquainted with various sciences of his time, especially interpretation (tafsir) of the Qorʾan, scholastic philosophy (kalām), astronomy, history, and writing riddles (moʿammā).  Further, he had enough command of the science of music that he apparently composed some tunes (Nafisi, II, p. 415; Ṣafā, V/2, p. 757; Amin Rāzi, III, p. 378).  Neverthless, as ʿAbd-al-Qāder Badāʾuni (d. ca. 1024/1615) has pointed out, despite all these admirable merits, Kāhi “spent his life in infidelity and impiety” (I, p. 584).  Careless about his outward appearance, he lived a qalandar-like (unconventional in beavior and dress) life, arousing formalist Muslims to level various accusations against him.

Kāhi’s poetry, which followed the style of classical Persian poets, was admired by his contemporaries.  In addition to odes (qaṣida), his published divān (Calcutta, 1953) containing 1728 distiches, includes lyrics (ḡazals), mathnawis (maṯnawi), quatrains (robāʿi) and versified fragments (qeṭʿa).  Some of his ḡazals imply the poet’s interest in the two outsanding Shirazi masters of the genre, Saʿdi and Ḥāfeẓ. His mathnawi poem in motaqāreb meter, entitled Golafšān (literally, rose scattering), is a couplet-by-couplet imitation of Saʿdi’s Bustān.  He has also composed a poem in the same metric pattern as Sanāʾi’s Ḥadiqat al-ḥaqiqa, on the subject of anagrams, for each kind of which he has given a versified example (Nafisi, I, p. 415; Ṣafā, V/2, p. 758).


Amin Aḥmad Rāzi, Haft eqlim, ed. Jawād Fāżel, 3 vols., Tehran, n. d., III, pp. 376-83.

ʿAbd-al-Qāder Badāʾuni, Montaḵab al-tawāriḵ, ed. Aḥmad-ʿAli Mawlawi and William N. Lees, 3 vols., Calcutta, 1864-69; tr. George S. A. Ranking, William H. Lowe, and Wolseley Haig as Muntakhabu-t-tawārīkh, Bibliotheca Indica 97, 3 vols., Calcutta, 1898-1925, repr. Patna, 1973.

Reżāqoli Khan Hedāyat, Riāż al-ʿārefin, ed. Mehdiqoli Hedāyat, Tehran, 1937. 

Saʿid Nafisi, Tāriḵ-e naẓm o naṯr dar Irān va dar zabān-e fārsi, 2 vols., Tehran 1965, I, p. 415. 

Mirzā Moḥammad-Ṭāher Naṣrābādi, Taḏkera, ed. Waḥid Dastgerdi, Tehran, 1982. 

Ḏabiḥ-Allah Ṣafā, Tāriḵ-e adabiyāt dar Irān, 5 vols. in 8, Tehran, 1960-75, V/2, pp. 755-60.

(Majdoddin Keyvani)

Originally Published: September 15, 2017

Last Updated: September 15, 2017

Cite this entry:

Majdoddin Keyvani, “KĀHI KĀBOLI” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2017, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/kahi-kaboli-najmaldin (accessed on 15 September 2017).