NAWWĀB ŠIRĀZI, ʿALI-AKBAR b. Āqā ʿAli Naqib b. Esmāʿil (b. Shiraz, 1187/1773; d. Shiraz, 1263/1847, FIGURE 1), nicknamed Ṣadr; a scholar, author, and poet with mystical inclinations and the pen-name Besmel (Nawwāb, pp. 707-8; Modarres, I, pp. 267-68; Rastegār, 2006, pp. 265-68).
Born into an eminent wealthy family, Nawwāb Širāzi studied grammar, logic, literary sciences, Persian and Arabic, mathematics, and speculative and practical sciences at Ḥakim school in Shiraz, where his father and some other ancestors had taught (Nawwāb, p. 708; Rastegār, 2006, p. 270); hence they became known as Modarres (teacher). He made so much scholarly progress, both in Persian and Arabic, that his biographers have described him as “the Ḵᵛāja Naṣir-al-Din [Tusi] of his time, to whose comprehensive knowledge nobody had come even close for years” (Ḥosayni Fasāʾi, II, p. 938; Hedāyat, p. 423; Forṣat, I, p. 402). He devoted his entire life to learning and teaching, spending it in the company of men of art and science, especially mystics and wayfarers of the spiritual path (Nawwāb, pp. 708-9). His reputation grew to such an extent that not only did Ḥosayn-ʿAli Mirzā (1789-1836), governor of Fars Province, held him in high esteem, but also the Qajar king Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah, on his royal visit to Shiraz, called on him at his house out of respect (Rastegar, 1985-88, IV, p. 709). Moreover, such poets as Ḥabib-Allāh Qāʾāni, Ṣoḥbat Lāri, ʿAbd-al-Raḥim ʿEšrat Širāzi, Mirzā Ṭāher Nayyeri, Mir Morād Beig Mošfeq, as well as authors such as Ḥasan Ḥosayni Fasāʾi, author of Fārs-nāma-ye nāṣeri, the scholar Reżāqoli Khan Ḥedāyat, and Moḥammad-Naṣir (or Naṣir-al-Din) Forṣat-al-Dawla Širāzi would admire his breadth of knowledge, mastery of literature, and exalted personal and social position. Some of his contemporary poets admired him in their poetry and wrote elegies on the occasion of his death (Nawwāb, pp. 25-31, 528-29, 703-4; Rastegār, 2006, pp. 275-81). He was buried in Sayyed Mir Moḥammad’s graveyard, where his father and forefathers were buried. He had three sons, the youngest of whom, Ṣadrā, died in an earthquake (1824) while his father was still alive. The other two, Mirzā Abu-Ṭāleb (d. 1301/1883-34 and Mirzā ʿAli Ṣadr-al-ʿOlamāʾ (d. 1307/1889) were eminent scholars, both endowed with remarkable abilities in calligraphy. Mirzā ʿAli was also a poet, his earlier pen name was “ʿĀli,” but later he replaced it with “Nāṣeri” (Ḥosayni-Fasāʾi, II, pp. 939-41; Rastegār, 2006, pp. 271-73).
Apart from his mastery in writing various kinds of calligraphy, Nawwāb was a prolific author and fine poet, composing qaṣidas and mystical ḡazals. Although his poetic style is essentially ʿerāqi (a style in Persian poetry), some traces of the so-called “Indian style” (sabk-e hendi) can also be discerned in his poetry. In prose, he was a follower of his 13th-century fellow citizen, Šehāb-al-Din ʿAbd-Allāh Waṣṣāf, known as Waṣṣāf-al-Ḥażra (d. 719/1319; Rastegār, 2006, p. 283; idem, 1985-98, IV, pp. 2108-10; for Waṣṣāf’s literary style, see Ṣafā, Adabiyāt III, pp. 1259-62), showing great propensity for ornate (maṣnuʿ) and rhymed prose (sajʿ), although he does not employ obfuscated words and artificially involved expressions as much as Waṣṣāf did. Nawwāb’s admiration for Waṣṣāf is borne out by his devoting a substantial portion of Golbon II of his biographical work, Taḏkera-ye delgošā (pp. 199-224) to quotations from Waṣṣāf’s history (Tāriḵ-e Waṣṣāf). In his autobiography, Nawwāb gives the following list of his prose works: “A commentary on Ḵᵛāja Naṣir-al-Din’s Si faṣl, dedicated to Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah in 1815; Nur-al-hedāya fi eṯbāt al-resāla written at the request of a Christian scholar, a treatise on proving nobowwat-e ḵāṣṣa (prophecy specific to Moḥammad as opposed to that of other prophets); Ḍaḵirat al-nejāt fi mirāṯ al-amwāt, a Persian treatise on the law of inheritance, made up of an introduction, five sayings (qawl), ten articles, and one epilogue, dedicated to Ḥosayn Mirzā Qajar in 1832; Toḥfat al-safar le-nur al-baṣar, a short treatise on rhetoric, composed in Bushehr for his son and completed in 1829; and Andarz-nāma, containing brief pieces of advice. Not mentioned by Nawwāb himself is Baḥr al-laʾāli, apparently a muli-volume biographical work, of which volumes eight and nine are devoted to life stories of two Shiʿite Imams, Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq and Musā al-Kāẓem; the former was published in 1899 and the latter in 1903, both in Shiraz (Golčin-e Maʿāni, I, pp. 233-34; Mošār, I, col. 461; Rastegār, 2006, pp. 283-84). In addition, Nawwāb wrote glossaries and commentaries on a number of classic theological, philosophical, and jurisprudential texts, such as glosses (ḥāšia) to the Qorʾan commentary of Nāṣer-al-Din Bayżāwi (d. 716/1316?), and a commentary on Moḥaqqeq Ḥelli’s (d. 1277) Šarāʾeʿ al-eslām entitled Madārek (Nawwāb, p. 709; Forṣat, I, p. 403), which shows the vast scope of his intellectual and scientific pursuits.
Nawwāb’s major work arguably is Taḏkera-ye delgošā, mainly an anthology of the author’s contemporary poets besides short articles on other subjects related to Fārs Province at that time (for a full list of the headings in the Taḏkera, see Golčin-e Maʿāni, I, pp. 225-33). The inclusion in the Taḏkera of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah and a number of princes was, among other possible reasons, because they also wrote poetry. According to the author’s prelude to his Taḏkera, he had long entertained the idea of making a compilation of the poetry composed by his contemporary poets, for he was worried lest this poetry would be lost once the composers died. It so happened that Ḥosayn-ʿAli Mirzā Farmānfarmā (d. 1835), the governor of Fārs, learned about Nawwāb’s intention and, therefore, strongly encouraged him to compile an anthology and include therein “qaṣāʾed and qaṭaʿāt (odes and fragmentary poems) eulogizing us,” that is, the governor himself. Therefore, in 1822, Nawwāb set about realizing his plan (Nawwāb, pp. 46-48).
Taḏkera-ye delgošā consists of five chapters: one golzār (rose garden), two bustāns (Orchard), one ḵātema (epilogue), and one elḥāq (appendix). The golzār is, in turn, divided into six sections (golbon, ‘rose bush’), all devoted to Shiraz; its ruling governor, Ḥosayn-ʿAli Mirzā Farmānfarmā, Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah’s son; descriptions of the holy mausoleums, mosques, schools, and other well known buildings in Shiraz (pp. 51-267). The first Bustān presents biographies and specimens of poetical productions of the shah and a number of eminent members of the royal family and exalted governors (pp. 273-312). The second bustān is devoted to the author’s contemporary poets, where he gives a short biographical account of each poet together with a selection of their poetry. This second bustān forms about two-thirds of the entire Taḍkera, dealing with over 160 poets, arranged according to the final letter of the names of individual poets (pp. 313-738). Thus, the first poet introduced is Binavā and the last Yāri (the final letter representing /yā/, the last letter of Persian script). Since Nawwāb was himself a poet, well familiar with poetic niceties and refinements, his selections of other poets’ compositions are generally well chosen. In all the life stories, the author maintains his rather ornate “rhymed” prose, more verbosity than pure solid information and literary criticism. However, in the case of the poets he had personally met, his remarks can shed some light on their individual characteristics.
The second bustān ends with a 30-page epilogue (pp. 707-38), in which the author provides a biographical account of himself and a selection of his own poetry. Here, the reader gains some first-hand knowledge about Nawwāb’s family background, his breadth of studies, works, and social standing. The amount of his own poetry given in the epilogue is rather meager, and one wonders whether, apart from this selection and a number of other verses here and there, Nawwāb had written much other poetry. In the epilogue, he does refer to a Divān, which “he had gradually arranged,” and Forsạt, admiring his poetry, confirms his “compiled collection of poetry” (Nawwāb, p. 709; Forṣat, I, p. 403). Nonetheless, such a Divān does not seem to have been published yet.
The short final part of the Taḍkera, the elḥāq (pp. 738-53), which, according to the author, was added after the completion of the Taḏkera, is a description of two devastating earthquakes and the ensuing mild tremors that occurred in and around Shiraz in June and September 1824, causing a great deal of destruction and claiming some 2,000 lives. Initially (pp. 738-40), Nawwāb explains why and how an earthquake happens, revealing his profound knowledge of the astronomical scholarship of his time.
Numerous manuscripts of the Taḍkera are preserved at several libraries, including the Royal Library (Tehran); the National Library (Tehran); the Central Library of Tehran University; the Malek Library (Tehran); the Browne Collection (Cambridge University Library); and some private libraries (Golčin-e Maʿāni, I, p. 233; Rastegār 1985-98, IV, p. 2116). A critical edition of the Taḏkera, based on the manuscript at the Central Library of Tehran University, was published by Manṣur Rastegār Fasāʾi, with an informative introduction and indexes in 1992.
Moḥammad-Naṣir Forṣat Širāzi (Forṣat-al-Dawla), Āṯār-e ʿAjam, ed. Manṣur Rastegār Fasāʾi, 2 vols., Tehran, 1998.
Aḥmad Golčin-e Maʿāni, Tāriḵ-e taḏkerahā-ye fārsi, 2 vols., Tehran, 1969-71.
Reżā-Qoli Khan Hedāyat, Taḏkera-ye riāż-al-ʿārefin, ed. Mahdi-Qoli Hedāyat, Tehran, 1838.
Ḥasan Ḥosayni-Fasāʾi, Fārs-nāma-ye nāṣeri, ed. Manṣur Rastegār Fasāʾi, 2 vols., Tehran, 1988.
Moḥammad-ʿAli Modarres, Rayḥānat al-adab, 8 vols., 2nd ed., Tabriz, 1970.
Ḵānbābā Mošār, Fehrest-e ketābhā-ye čāpi-e fārsi, 3 vols., Tehran, 1973.
ʿAli-Akbar Nawwāb Širāzi (Besmel), Taḏkera-ye delgošā, ed. Manṣur Rastegār Fasāʾi, Shiraz, 1992.
Manṣur Rastegār Fasāʾi, “ʿAli-Akbar Nawwāb Besmel Širāzi,” in Iraj Afšār, ed., Nāmvāra-ye Doctor Maḥmud Afšār, 10 vols., Tehran, 1985-98, pp. 2098-116.
Idem, “Ḥājj ʿAli-Akbar Nawwāb Širāzi wa Resāla-ye delgošā,” in idem, Ḵāk-e Pārs, Shiraz, 2006, pp. 265-90.
Originally Published online: December 15, 1989
(Manṣur Rastegār Fasāʾi)
Originally Published: April 17, 2018
Last Updated: April 17, 2018Cite this entry:
Manṣur Rastegār Fasāʾi, “NAWWĀB ŠIRĀZI, ʿALI-AKBAR,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2018, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/nawwab-sirazi-ali-akbar (accessed on 17 April 2018).