NAḴŠABI, ŻIĀʾ-AL-DIN (d. 751/1350), 14th-century Češti mystic and author. Though originally from Naḵšab (or Nasaf, in Transoxiana), his family emigrated to India at the time of Mongol incursions (Rizvi, I, p. 132). A follower of the Češti Skaikh Farid-al-Din Nāguri (d. 752/1351), Żiāʾ-al-Din Naḵšabi lived a reclusive life in Badāʾun, disregarding whether or not people accepted or rejected him. He may have been practicing as a physician in this city (Moḥaddeṯ, p. 204; Badaḵši, p. 971; Ḡolām Sarvar, p. 351; Āryā’s introduction to Naḵšabi’s Selk al-soluk, p. xxi).

Being of Sunni persuasion, Naḵšabi may well have been a Hanafite, since he would describe Abu Ḥanifa as “the grand Imam” and “the founder of the foundations of the truth,” although he would not fail to pay respect to Shafiʿite imams and the Shiʿite Imams (Naḵšabi, Selk al-soluk, pp. 12, 86, 109, 116, 130, 141). Modarres (VI, p. 132) has counted Naḵšabi among the disciples of Neẓām-al-Din Awliāʾ (d. 725/1324), but sources contemporary with them (e.g., Kermāni’s Siar al-awliāʾ) are silent about such a relationship. This presumption of a connection might have been caused by the fact that Naḵšabi lived at the same time and had the same first name as Żiāʾ-al-Din Barni (d. 758/1356, see BARANI), a follower of Neẓām-al-Din Awliāʾ as well as of his opponent, Żiāʿ-al-Din Sanāmi (Moḥaddeṯ, p. 204; Dehlavi, p. 88; Badaḵši, p. 971). Besides, some sources have referred to his collaboration with India’s Ḵalaji sultans, including ʿAlāʾ-al-Din (Badaḵši, p. 970). Naḵšabi had apparently written some books for Qoṭb-al-Din  Mobārakšāh (r. 716-21/1317-21), who maintained a strained relationship with Neẓām-al-Din Awliāʾ (Ṣafā, III, p. 1294; Ḡolām Sarvar, p. 331; Hendušāh, p. 394; Āryā, 2004, p. 148). Naḵšabi died at Badāʾun in 1350. His tomb received visitors at least until the time of Mir Ḥosayn Dust of Sanbhal, who was still alive in 1788 (Sanbhali, p. 342).

Naḵšabi’s reputation is mainly due to the books he either wrote in Persian or translated from Sanskrit, masterfully expounding in them the basic Sufi teachings in a charming style. Generally classified, his works fall into: (1) mystical writings, including Selk al-soluk (Course of spiritual progression) and Šarḥ-e qaṣida-ye soryāni (A commentary on the Syriac ode); (2) religious works, including ʿAšara-ye mobaššara (The ten to whom Paradise was promised; Moḥaddeṯ, p. 204; Badaḵši, p. 970); (3) literary works, Ṭuṭi-nāma and the story of Golriz; and (4) medical writings, including Čehel nāmus (Forty sections) and Laḏḏat al-nesāʾ (Pleasure from women). His works are described below.

1. Selk al-soluk can be regarded as Naḵšabi’s most important work; its reputation can be understood from the remarkable number of its manuscripts (over 40) copied posthumously (see Blochet, I/71; Bašir, II, p. 228; Monzawi, 1984, III, pp. 1153-56; idem, 2003, p. 488) and from the references and citations made by the well known Indian and Persian mystics (e.g., Moḥaddeṯ, pp. 204 ff.; Badaḵši, pp. 971 ff.; Kāšefi, p. 68). The book consists of an introduction and 151 selks. In writing it, the author, among other things, uses the language of “direct intuition” (zabān-e ḥāl; see Pourjawādi, 2006, pp. 772 f.). The first few selks deal with mystical terminology, then with some moral issues. The final selks present the life stories and sayings of a number of Sufi sheikhs. Selk al-soluk has a didactic tone, each selk ending with two verses of the author. Naḵšabi’s most important sources in writing this book were Hojviri’s Kašf al-maḥjub, Ḡazāli’s Kimiā-ye saʿādat, and Persian translations of Ḡazāli’s Eḥya’ ‘olum al-Din, Meybodi’s Kašf al-asrār, Mobārakšāh’s Raḥiq al-taḥqiq, ʿAṭṭār’s Taḏkerat al-awliāʾ, and Sohravardi’s Loḡat-e murān (Āryā, p. xxxiii; Purjawādi, 2006, p. 773; idem, 2007, p. 52; Karimi, p. 22). Moreover, certain resemblances can be seen between some of the selks and Sejzi’s Fawāʾed al-foʾād, which point to their common sources (cf. i.a. Selk al-soluk, pp. 18-19, 70-71, 76-78, with Fawāʾed, pp. 26, 60, 93).

2. Šarḥ-e qaṣida-ye soryāni, a Persian commentary on a prayer that apparently Ebn ʿAbbās had selected from Psalms and translated into Arabic poetry. The commentary begins with eleven distiches by Naḵšabi followed by a short introductory note. The author then provides a syntactic analysis for each distich, translates it into three Persian distiches, and finally writes a mystical explanation about it (see Šarḥ-e qaṣida, MS fols. 13a-20b; for other MSS, see Bašir, III/446; Monzawi, 1980, III, p. 1713).

3. ʿAšara-ye mobaššara, a treatise on ten of the Prophet’s associates to whom he had promised entry into Paradise. No manuscript of this treatise has been found as yet (Baḡdādi, I, p. 429; Ṣafā, III, p. 1296).

4. Ṭuṭi-nāma, Naḵšabi’s most celebrated work, of Indian origin, and styled in Sanskrit as Šuka-saptatī (The parrot’s seventy tales), a title used as such by Hema Čandra in the important Jain book Yogaśastra, in 1160 CE. This book is a collection of Buddhist Jatakas of an unknown author. However, we do know that Hema Čandra made some changes in the original structure of the book, including in it some stories of his own. Of this collection there are two versions available, the more detailed one having been compiled by a Brahman named Çintamani-Bhāṭṭa (Mojtabāʾi, pp. 482 f.). The two versions have 52 stories in common. It is these two versions that are contained in the two classical Persian translations of Šuka-saptati: Jawāher al-asmār and Ṭuṭi-nāma.

Ṭuṭi-nāma was translated into Persian and designated Jawāher al-asmār by ʿEmād b. Moḥammad Ṯaḡri, a secretary at ʿAlāʾ-al-Din Ḵalaji’s court, around 1213-18 (Āl-e Aḥmad’s introduction to Ṯaḡri’s Jawāher al-asmār, pp. 32 f.). Ṯaḡri omitted some of the stories that did not appeal to him, or stories with similar versions already in the Persian Kalila wa Demna and Sandbād-nāma “The book of Sinbad,” drawing on other Sanskrit sources as well (Ṯaḡri, pp. 17 f.). As Ṯaḡri’s prose was exceedingly ornate and too difficult to comprehend, in 1330, at the request of a certain eminent person (Naḵšabi, Ṭuṭi-nāma, p. 4), Naḵšabi produced a simpler version of the book, adding to it a number of stories from Sendbād-nāma and Vetalapančavimšati (Mojtabāʾi, p. 484). Of course, he had modified the end of the story, giving it an Islamic tone. In the original Sanskrit, the story is concluded by the account of a man returning from a journey, listening to his wife’s confession regarding to her decision to be disloyal to him, and their eventual reconciliation, while in Naḵšabi’s account, upon its lord’s return, the parrot informs him of his wife’s decision; the husband kills his wife and then puts on Sufi clothing. In Bürgel’s opinion (p. 161), Ṭuṭi-nāma, while written in epic prose, has also a romantic characteristic.

Naḵṣabi’s version of Ṭuṭi-nāma soon was translated into Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu. In 1660, Ṣari ʿAbdallāh Efendi turned Naḵšabi’s work into Turkish, and later on, via Ḥamid Lāhuri’s versified translation, its stories were included in the Mongolian collection Ardeshi Bordeshi. In 1858, L. Rosen translated the Turkish translation into German. Available are also several epitomes of the book, including that made by Abu’l-Fażl ʿAllāmi in the time of the emperor Akbar I (r. 1542-1605; Rieu, p. 753b) and Moḥammad Qāderi’s abridgement in the 18th century, which contained only 35 stories and was the basis of Gladwin’s English translation in 1801 and C. I. L. Iken’s German rendition in 1822. It was after reading Iken’s translation that Goethe persuaded Kosegarten to translate the book from its Sanskrit original. V. Zhukovskiǐ also quoted the introduction and five stories of this work in the book Mabdaʾ al-lesān (Petersburg, 1901). It has also been translated into French and Russian.

5. Golriz, is the story of Maʿṣumšāh and a girl called Nušāba. Lacking in charming variety of theme and written in an affected prose, the book has drawn on some Koranic verses, traditions (aḵbār), ḥadith, and poetry (for its manuscripts, see Monzawi, 1974, VI/961-963). Golriz was published with an English introduction in Calcutta (1912).

6. Čehel nāmus or Nāmus-e Akbar, also called, in its introduction, Jozʾiyāt o kolliyāt, is a very exceptional work in Persian literature, dealing, in prose and poetry, with the human body as the best and most beautiful among God’s creatures and a sign of his greatness. Written in 1317-21 for Qoṭb al-Din Mobārakšāh  (Naḵšabi, Jozʾiyāt o kolliyāt, p. 4), the book consists of 40 nāmus or sections, each dealing with one part of the human body. Precision in the use of medical terminology, from the very first line of the treatise, demonstrates the author’s familiarity with the science of medicine. The author begins each nāmus with a few lines in ornate, formalist prose and then continues in a simple but poetical prose style. His main sources include some mystical works, such as Najm-al-Din Rāzi’s Merṣād al-ʿebād, Saʿdi’s Golestān, and Rumi’s Maṯnawi, also a number of Islamic as well as Indian medical books (Moʾaḏḏeni’s introduction, pp. xxxi-xxxv).

7. Laḏḏat al-nesāʿ, a Persian illustrated book composed of ten chapters, on the outward physical features of women and how to benefit by sexual enjoyment. Its Indian origin is assumed to have been Koka-śāstra, whereas Naḵšabi’s original source was Rati-rasīh by Koka-pandīta, translated into Persian on the orders of the then sultan (Rizvi, p. 133); Monzawi, 1983, I, pp. 704-6).



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(Mohammad Karimi Zanjani Asl)

Originally Published: January 1, 2000

Last Updated: April 19, 2012