This paper focuses on Vahshi Bāfqi (d. 991/1583), especially on the sources for the study of his biography and works. The various editions of his collected poems are assessed. Next, all of the known early sources on Vahshi’s biography are presented, including a very important one that has not been published or cited before. Laying out all of these sources allows us to construct a more authoritative biography of the poet than has appeared to date. On a broader level, we learn that the careers and works of poets of Vahshi’s era are best understood in connection to one another. The tremendous growth of the tazkera genre in the Safavid-Mughal period makes possible this kind of research, focused on interconnectivity and cosmopolitanism in literary culture. In fact, the sources not only permit such an approach; they demand it. The paper ends with a series of recommendations for future research on Vahshi, his contemporaries, and the tazkeras themselves.
This article explores the phenomenon of familiarity with Persian among Arabic literati of the early modern period, with a focus on the eleventh/seventeenth century. It has long been recognized, in a general sense, that some scholars from the Ottoman Arab world had knowledge of Persian literature. Only recently have we seen the beginnings of detailed research on this topic. In the current article, the works of four authors are examined with an eye toward their discussion of things Persian or Iranian: Muḥammad Amīn al-Muḥibbī (d. 1111/1699), Shihāb al-Dīn al-Khafājī (d. 1069/1659), Ḥasan al-Būrīnī (d. 1024/1615), and ʿAbd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī (d. 1143/1731). We find that, although familiarity with Persian was far from unheard-of in Arabic literary circles, the degree of interest varied widely. At one extreme is al-Muḥibbī, who goes out of his way to share samples of the work of prominent Persian poets that he has translated into Arabic. Closer to the opposite end of the spectrum is al-Khafājī, of whom it is not obvious whether he could read Persian. The remaining authors fall somewhere in between. One insight that becomes clearer through this study is that Ottoman Damascus was a place in which Persian could be learned. There were enough migrants and visitors from the Persianate realm, and sufficient circulation of texts, that a scholar like al-Būrīnī could attain fluency without traveling.
This article reviews an old debate in Persian literary history surrounding the judgment of early modern poetry and, in particular, the legacy of the Safavid dynasty, and argues that a few of the questions over which scholars once disagreed have not been resolved to the extent that might be suspected. The general narrative that prevailed for most of the twentieth century, in which Persian lyric poetry of the early modern era was criticized as decadent and the Safavids were denounced for having abandoned their traditional duty to promote arts and letters, is now rightly considered obsolete. As the field has developed a more mature approach to these issues, however, the question of patronage at the Safavid court has been set aside more than it has been settled. We still have not reached a comprehensive understanding of the transformations that took place in Persian literary culture from the tenth/sixteenth century onward. The migration of scores of Iranian poets to Mughal India is recognized as a key development, but the impact of the contemporary situation in Safavid lands – including, perhaps, a relative lack of patronage – merits reconsideration.