ẒOHURI TORŠIZI, Mollā Nur-al-Din Moḥammad (d. 1025/1616), Persian poet. Ẓohuri was born and raised in rural Khorasan. Ẓohuri himself states that he comes from the village of Qāyen (Sāqi-nāma, p. 203), but the earliest biographies associate him with the town of Toršiz, near today’s Kāšmar, where he perhaps went to study in his youth. Based on the statement of ʿAbd-al-Nabi Qazvini that Ẓohuri died at the age of 82 (Mayḵāna, p. 364), he was born around 943/1537-38. In his early thirties, Ẓohuri left Khorasan for Yazd, where he joined the court of Ğiā-al-Din Moḥammad Mir-e Mirān and the literary circle headed by Vaḥši Bāfqi. About five years later, Ẓohuri moved to Shiraz and struck up a friendship with the calligrapher, gilder, and poet Mowlānā Darviš Ḥoseyn (Awḥadi, II, p. 1325), who was also a literary mentor of ʿOrfi Širāzi (Nahāvandi, Maʾāer-e Raḥimi, quoted in Golčin-e Maʿāni, II, p. 825).

After spending seven years in Shiraz, Ẓohuri migrated to India in 1580. Settling in the Deccan, he entered the service of the Neẓāmšāhis in Ahmadnagar during the last years of the reign of Mortażā I (r. 1565-88). It was here that Ẓohuri first met his fellow émigré and lifelong friend Malek Qomi (d. 1616). Ẓohuri performed the pilgrimage to Mecca, probably sometime near the end of Mortażā’s reign (Ahmad, pp. 116-23). In addition to his patrons in Ahmadnagar, Ẓohuri was in contact with a number of officials of the Mughal court, especially the poet laureate Abu’l-Fayż Fayżi. They probably began a correspondence shortly after Ẓohuri arrived in India and met face to face when Fayżi visited Ahmadnagar on a diplomatic mission for the emperor Akbar in 1591-92. Fayżi mentions both Malek and Ẓohuri by name in one of his letters back to the court (Fayżi, pp. 135-36), praising their poetic talent and recommending them for imperial service. Ẓohuri nevertheless remained in Aḥmadnagar throughout the period of political unrest that followed the death of Mortażā. The ascension of Borhān II to the throne in 1591 promised a revival of Neẓāmšāhi fortunes, and Ẓohuri dedicated numerous poems to this ruler, including his Sāqi-nāma. This promise was cut short by Borhān’s unexpected death in 1594, and Ahmadnagar was besieged by the Mughal generalissimo ʿAbd-al-Raḥim Ḵān-e Ḵānān.

Ẓohuri briefly joined ʿAbd-al-Raḥim’s retinue, but again seems to have been reluctant to avail himself of Mughal patronage. He moved to Bijapur, the capital city of the ʿĀdelšāhis, in 1596, where he spent the last twenty years of his life. Here he enjoyed the generous patronage of the court, the vizier Šāhnavāz Khan Širāzi (d. 1611), and especially the ruler himself, the highly cultured Ebrāhim II (r. 1580-1627). The majority of Ẓohuri’s surviving works were probably composed during this final phase of his career. Ẓohuri continued his close friendship with Malek Qomi, marrying his daughter and working with him on joint literary projects. Though the dates given in the sources differ slightly, it is almost certain that Ẓohuri died in 1616, a few months after Malek (Ahmad, pp. 283-99).

Ẓohuri’s divān contains poems in all the conventional forms and genres. During his lifetime, he was especially renowned for his panegyric qaṣidas. In addition to poems in honor of the Shiʿi imams, Ẓohuri sang the praises of a wide range of patrons including Shah ʿAbbās and the Ḵān-e Ḵānān, but most especially Borhān Neẓāmšāh II and Ebrāhim ʿĀdelšāh II. Ẓohuri’s qaṣidas often include extended descriptions of his patron’s court, palace, weapons, and other royal accouterments. Ẓohuri’s strophic poems (tarkib- and tarjiʿ-bands) are similarly eulogistic in theme and dedicated to the same patrons. His collected works also contain some 1,300 ḡazals. Most of these poems are mystically tinged amorous laments and include few of the ethical-philosophical themes favored by some of his contemporaries.

Many of Ẓohuri’s robāʿi poems celebrate various aspects of courtly culture in Bijapur, with sets of poems on the court festival Nowras, Ebrāhim’s skill in calligraphy and music, his favorite lute (ṭanbur), and even his drug of choice. In addition to a smattering of short humorous and satirical poems, Ẓohuri’s divān also contains an untitled maṯnawi in rhymed couplets celebrating a palace constructed by Šāhnavāz Khan, which was also the subject of poems by the young Kalim Kāšāni (Losensky, pp. 55-61). Ẓohuri reportedly wrote a response to Neẓāmi’s Maḵzan al-asrār, but no trace of this work survives. Ẓohuri’s major maṯnawi, however, is his Sāqi-nāma, the most notable product of his stay in Aḥmadnagar. According to the poet himself, this work was written in two stages. Its first thousand or so verses follow the conventions of the genre established in the first decades of the 16th century, but Ẓohuri set it aside awaiting a worthy dedicatee. With the accession of Borhān II, Ẓohuri elaborated the final panegyric section of the Sāqi-nāma to an unprecedented three thousand verses. After apologizing for a long absence from court, Ẓohuri goes on to praise Borhān’s character, his prowess in battle, and the royal palace precinct before turning to a paean to the power of the word, a series of ethical admonitions, an account of his own life, and praise of the Prophet Moḥammad and Imam ʿAlī. This final portion of the work features numerous illustrative anecdotes, making Ẓohuri’s Sāqi-nāma one of the longest and most variegated representatives of this quintessentially Safavid-Mughal genre.

But it was Ẓohuri’s Se-naṯr that perhaps most influenced later writers. This work consists of three introductions dedicated to Ebrāhim II: Dibāča-ye Nowras prefaced a collection of song lyrics written by Ebrāhīm himself in the Deccani vernacular (Ebrāhim ʿĀdelšāh, pp. 55-82). Dibāča-ye Golzār-e Ebrāhim and Dibāča-ye Ḵvān-e Ḵalil introduced anthologies of panegyric verse by both Ẓohuri and Malek Qomi. These works were long regarded as models of rhymed prose, packed with rhetorical devices and studded with verses, and were frequently copied and published in lithograph prints (Ahmad, pp. 344-50). Two other prose works sometimes attributed to Ẓohuri—Panj roqʿa (a collection of love letters) and Minā Bāzār (a description of the Delhi glass market)—are probably the work of Erādat Khan Wāżiʿ, who died in 1716 (Ahmad, pp 337-52).

Ẓohori’s poetry was regarded highly by contemporary readers. Fayżi lauds his “colorful speech” (rangin kalām). According to Taqi-al-Din Kāšāni, Ẓohuri was able to invent “rare conceits and surprising metaphors” (mażāmin-e ḡariba va esteʿārāt-e ʿajiba) by imitating 12th-century masters of the qaṣida, such as Aṯir Aḵsikati and ʿEmādi Rāzi (see Kāšāni, pp. 305-6). Awḥadi similarly states that the “style of his words is fresh” (šiva-ye goftārash tāza), and Ẓohuri’s ḡazals in particular often utilize the metaphorical conceits and compound neologisms associated with the emergent “Fresh Style” (šiva-ye tāza; Awḥadi, IV, p. 2300). For Nahāvandi, Ẓohuri’s work renovated “the lofty foundations of poetry,” which had fallen into disrepair (Maʾāṯer-e Raḥimi, quoted in Golčin-e Maʿāni, II, p. 824). The modern literary historian Ḏabiḥ-Allāh Ṣafā has cast serious doubt on these assessments, judging that Ẓohuri’s qaṣidas are sometimes marred by slippages in usage, weak syntax, and unnecessary verbiage (Ṣafā, V/2, p. 981), though he holds Ẓohuri’s ḡazals in somewhat higher regard. The ongoing publication of Ẓohuri’s works in modern scholarly editions will perhaps allow for a more objective and balanced critical appraisal of this prolific Indo-Persian poet.


For a listing of the manuscripts of Ẓohuri’s poetic works, see A. Monzavi, Fehrest-e noskahā-ye ḵaṭṭi-e fārsi, 6 vols., Tehran, 1969-74, III, p. 1880 (kolliāt), pp. 2419-21 (divān); and IV, pp. 2875-77 (Sāqi-nāma).  His divān and Sāqi-nāma were frequently published in lithograph in India; see Ḵ. Mošār, Fehrest-e ketābhā-ye čāpi-e fārsi, 3 vols., Tehran, 1974, I, col. 1554, 1571; II, col. 1900. For a listing of the many manuscripts and lithographs of Ẓohuri’s authentic and putative prose works, see C. A. Storey, Persian Literature: A Bio-bibliographical Survey, vol. III/2, Oxford, 1990, III, pp. 281-285.  A full Persian text and English translation of Ẓohuri's Se-naṯr can be found in M. ‘Abdu’l Ghani, A History of Persian Language and Literature at the Mughal Court, Allahabad, 1929-30, III, pp. 305-467. Modern editions of much of Ẓohuri’s poetry have appeared in recent years: Divān-e ḡazaliāt, ed. A. Behdārvand, Tehran, 2010; Robāʿiāt, ed. A. Behdārvand, Tehran, 2010; Ẓohuri Toršizi, Divān (ḡazaliāt), ed. ʿA. A. Bābāsālār, Tehran, 2011; and Zohuri Toršiz, Sāqi-nāma, ed. ʿA. A. Bābāsālār and P. Daryābāri, Tehran, 2015. Ẓohuri’s substantial corpus of qaṣidas, however, has yet to be published in either lithograph or print.

ʿAbd al-Nabi Faḵr al-Zamāni Qazvini, Mayḵāna, ed. A. Golčin-e Maʿāni, Tehran, 1339 Š./1960.

M. ‘Abdu’l Ghani, A History of Persian Language and Literature at the Mughal Court, 3 vols. Allahabad, 1929-30.

N. Ahmad, Zuhuri: Life and Works, Allahabad, 1953.

Awḥadi Balyāni, ʿArafāt al-ʿāšeqin va ʿaraṣāt al-ʿārefin, ed. Moḥsen Nāji Naṣrābādi, 7 vols., Tehran, 2009.

Ebrāhim ʿĀdelšāh, Ketāb-e Nowras, ed. N. Ahmad, Lucknow, 1955.

Abu’l-Fayż Fayżi, Enšā-ye Fayżi, ed. M. Z. Khan, Lahore, 1973.

A. Golčin-e Maʿāni, Kārvān-e Hend, Mashhad, 1369 Š./1990.

Ḥ. Ḥojjati, “Malek Qomi,” Dānešnāma-ye adab-e fārsi, IV/3, 2001, pp. 2419-21.

Mir Taqi-al-Din Kāšāni, Ḵolāṣat al-ašʿār wa zobdat al-afkār (baḵš-e Ḵorāsān), ed. ͑A. Adib-Barumand and M. Ḥ. Naṣiri-Kahnamuʾi, Tehran, 2014.

P. Losensky, “‘Square Like a Bubble’: Architecture, Power, and Poetics in Two Inscriptions by Kalim Kāshāni,” Journal of Persianate Studies 8, 2015, pp. 42-70.

S. M. Ṣabāḥi, “Ẓohuri Toršizi,” Dānešnāma-ye zabān va adab-e fārsi, IV, 2012, pp. 520-21.

Ḏ. Ṣafā, Tāriḵ-e adabiyāt dar Irān, 5 vols., Tehran, 1369 Š/1990.

(Paul E. Losensky)

Originally Published: February 2, 2017

Last Updated: February 2, 2017

Cite this entry:

Paul E. Losensky, “ẒOHURI TORŠIZI,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2017, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/zohuri-torshizi (accessed on 2 February 2017).