1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sa‘dī
SAʽDĪ (c. 1184–1292). Muṣliḥ-uddīn, or more correctly Musharrif-uddīn b. Muṣliḥ-uddīn, the greatest didactic poet and the most popular writer of Persia, was born about 1184 (A.H. 580) in Shiraz. After the premature death of his father he was taken under the protection of Sa‘d b. Zengī, the atābeg of Fars, who sent him to pursue his studies in the famous medresseh of Baghdād, the Nizāmiyya, where he remained about thirty years (1196–1224). About 1210 (A.H. 606) his literary fame had spread as far as Kashgar in Turkistan, which the young poet (who in honour of his patron had assumed the name of Saʽdī) visited in his twenty-sixth or twenty-seventh year. After mastering all the dogmatic disciplines of the Islamitic faith he turned his attention first to practical philosophy, and later on to the more ideal tenets of Sufic pantheism, under the spiritual guidance of the famous sheikh Shihāb-uddīn Umar Suhrawardī (died 1234; A.H. 632). Between 1220 and 1225 he paid a visit to a friend in Isfahan, went from there to Damascus, and returned to Isfahan just at the time of the inroads of the Mongols, when the atābeg Sa‛d had been deposed by the victorious Khwarizm ruler of Ghiyāss-uddīn (1226). Sadly grieved by the misfortune of his patron and disgusted with the miserable condition of Persia, Sa‛dī quitted Shīrāz and entered upon the second period of his life—that of his wanderings (1226–1256). He proceeded via Balkh, Ghaznī and the Punjab to Gujarāt, on the western coast of which he visited the famous shrine of Sīva in Somnath. After a prolonged stay in Delhi, where he learnt Hindūstānī, he sailed for Yemen. Overcome with grief at the loss of a beloved child (when he had married is not known), he undertook an expedition into Abyssinia and a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. Thence he directed his steps towards Syria and lived as a renowned sheikh for a considerable time in Damascus, which he had once already visited. There and in Baalbek he added to his literary renown that of a first-rate pulpit orator. Specimens of his spiritual addresses are preserved in the five homilies (on the fugitiveness of human life, on faith and fear of God, on love towards God, on rest in God and on the search for God). At last, weary of Damascus, he withdrew into the desert near Jerusalem and led a solitary wandering life, till one day he was taken captive by a troop of Frankish soldiers, brought to Tripoli, and condemned to forced labour in the trenches of the fortress. After enduring countless hardships, he was eventually rescued by a rich friend in Aleppo, who paid his ransom, and gave him his daughter in marriage. But Sa‛dī, unable to live with his quarrelsome wife, set out on fresh travels, first to North Africa and then through the length and breadth of Asia Minor and the adjoining countries. Not until he had passed his seventieth year did he return to Shiraz (about 1256; A.H. 653). Finding the place of his birth tranquil and prosperous under the wise rule of Abūbakr b. Sa‛d, the son of his old patron (1226–1260; A.H. 623–658), the aged poet took up his permanent abode, interrupted only by repeated pilgrimages to Mecca, and devoted the remainder of his life to Ṩūfic contemplation and poetical composition. He died at Shīrāz in 1292 (A.H. 691) according to Ḥamdallāh Mustaufī (who wrote only forty years later), or in December 1291 (A.H. 690), at the age of 110 lunar years.
The experience of the world gained during his travels, his intimate acquaintance with the various countries he had visited, his insight into human character, together with an inborn loftiness of thought and the purest moral standard, made it easy for Sa‛dī to compose in the short space of three years his two masterpieces, which have immortalized his name, the Būstān or “Fruit-garden” (1257) and the Gulistān or “Rose-garden” (1258), both dedicated to the reigning atābeg Abū Bekr. The former, also called Sa‛dīnāma, is a kind of didactic epopee in ten chapters and double-rhymed verses, which passes in review the highest philosophical and religious questions, not seldom in the very spirit of Christianity, and abounds with sound ethical maxims and matchless gems, of transcendental speculation. The latter is a prose work of a similar tendency in eight chapters, interspersed with numerous verses and illustrated, like the Būstān, by a rich store of clever tales and charming anecdotes; it discusses more or less the same topics as the larger work, but has acquired a much greater popularity in both the East and the West, owing to its easier and more varied style, its attractive lessons of practical wisdom, and its numerous bons mots. But Sa‘dī’s Dīwān, or collection of lyrical poetry, far surpasses the Būstān and Gulistān, at any rate in quantity, whether in quality also is a matter of taste. Other minor works are the Arabic qaṣīdas, the first of which laments the destruction of the Arabian caliphate by the Mongols in 1258 (a.h. 656); the Persian qaṣīdas, partly panegyrical, partly didactical; the marāthī, or elegies, beginning with one on the death of Abū Bekr and ending with one on the defeat and demise of the last caliph, Mosta‘sim; the mulamma‘āt, or poems with alternate Persian and Arabic verses, of a rather artificial character; the tarjī‘āt, or refrain-poems; the ghazals, or odes; the ṣāhibiyyah and muḳatta‘āt, or moral aphorisms and epigrams; the rubā‘iyyāt, or quatrains; and the mufradāt, or distichs. Sa‘dī’s lyrical poems possess neither the easy grace and melodious charm of Ḥāfiż’s songs nor the overpowering grandeur of Jelālud-dīn Rūmī’s divine hymns, but they are nevertheless full of deep pathos and show such a fearless love of truth as is seldom met with in Eastern poetry. Even his panegyrics, although addressed in turn to almost all the rulers who in those days of continually changing dynasties presided over the fate of Persia, are free from that cringing servility so common in the effusions of Oriental encomiasts.
The first who collected and arranged his works was ‘Alī b. Ahmad b. Bīsutūn (1326–1334; a.h. 726–734). The most exact information about Sa‘dī’s life and works is found in the introduction to Dr W. Bacher’s Sa‘dī's Aphorismen und Sinngedichte (Sāhibiyyah) (Strassburg, 1879; a complete metrical translation of the epigrammatic poems), and in the same author’s “Sa‘dī Studien,” in Zeitschrift der morgenländischen Gesellschaft, xxx. pp. 81-106; see also H. Ethé in W. Geiger’s Grundriss der iranischen Philologie, ii. pp. 292-296, with full bibliography; and E. G. Browne, Literary History of Persia, pp. 525-539. Sa‘dī’s Kulliyyāt or complete works have been edited by Harrington (Calcutta, 1791–1795) (with an English translation of some of the prose treatises and of Daulat Shah’s notice on the poet, of which a German version is found in Graf’s Rosengarten (Leipzig, 1846, p. 229 sq.); for the numerous lithographed editions, see Rieu’s Pers. Cat. of the Brit. Mus. ii. p. 596. The Būstān has been printed in Calcutta (1810 and 1828), as well as in Lahore, Cawnpore, Tabriz, &c.; a critical edition with Persian commentary was published by K. H. Graf at Vienna in 1850 (German metrical translations by the same, Jena, 1850, and by Schlechta-Wssehrd, Vienna, 1852); English prose translations by H. W. Clarke (London, 1879); and Ziauddin Gulam Moheiddin (Bombay, 1889); verse by G. S. Davie (1882); French translation by Barbier de Meynard (Paris, 1880). The best editions of the Gulistān are by A. Sprenger (Calcutta, 1851) and by Platts (London, 1874); the best translations into English by Eastwick (1852) and by Platts (1873), the first four bābs in prose and verse by Sir Edwin Arnold (1899); into French by Defrémery (1858); into German by Graf (1846); see also S. Robinson’s Persian Poetry for English Readers (1883), pp. 245-366. The Pandnamah*, or book of wisdom (of doubtful genuineness) has been translated by A. N. Wollaston (1908), with Persian text. Select qaṣīdas, ghazals, elegies, quatrains and distichs have been edited, with a German metrical translation, by Graf, in the Z.D.M.G. ix. p. 92 sq., xii. p. 82 sq., xiii. p. 445 sq., xv. p. 541 sq. and xviii. p. 570 sq. On the Sūfic character of Sa‘dī in contrast to Ḥāfiż and Rūmī, comp. Ethé, “Der Sūfismus und seine drei Hauptvertreter,” in Morgenländische Studien (Leipzig, 1870), pp. 95-124. (H. E.)