1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sanā'ī

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SANĀ’Ī, the common name of Abulmajd Majdūd b. Ādam, the earliest among the great Ṣūfic poets of Persia, was a native of Ghazni (in Afghanistan). He flourished in the reigns of the Ghaznevid sultāns Ibrāhīm (1059-1099, 451-492 A.H.), his son Mas‛ūd (1099-1114), and his grandson Bahrām (1118-1152). Persian authorities are greatly at variance as to the dates of the poet's birth and death. At any rate, he must have been born in the beginning of the second half of the 11th century and have died between 1131 and 1150 (525 and 545 A.H.). He composed chiefly qaṣīdas in honour of his sovereign Ibrāhīm and the great men of the realm, but the ridicule of a half-mad jester is said to have caused him to abandon the career of a court panegyrist and to devote his poetical abilities to higher subjects. For forty years he led a life of retirement and poverty, and, although Bahrām offered him a high position at court and his own sister in marriage, he remained faithful to his austere and solitary life. But, partly to show his gratitude to the king, partly to leave a lasting monument of his genius behind him, he began to write his great double-rhymed poem on ethics and religious life, which served as model to the masterpieces of Farīd-uddīn ‛Attār and Jelāl ud-dīn Rūmī, the Ḥadīqat ul-ḥaqīqat, or “Garden of Truth” (also called Alkitāb alfakhrī), in ten cantos. This poem deals with such topics as: the unity of the Godhead, the divine word, the excellence of the prophet, reason, knowledge and faith, love, the soul, worldly occupation and inattention to higher duties, stars and spheres and their symbolic lore, friends and foes, separation from the world. One of Sanā’ī's earliest disciples, Mahommed b. ‘Ali Raqqām, generally known as Alī al-Raffā, who wrote a preface to this work, assigns to its composition the date 1131 (525 A.H.), and states besides that the poet died immediately after the completion of his task. Now, Sanā’ī cannot possibly have died in 1131, as another of his mathnawīs, the Ṭarīq-i-taḥqīq, or “Path to the Verification of Truth,” was composed, according to a chronogram in its last verses, in 1134 (528 A.H.), nor even in 1140, if he really wrote, as the Ātashkada says, an elegy on the death of Amīr Mu‛izzī; for this court-poet of Sultan Sinjar lived till 1147 or 1148 (542 A.H.). It seems, therefore, that Taqī Kāshī is right in fixing Sanā’ī's death in 1150 (545 A.H.), the more so as ‛Alī al-Raffā himself distinctly says in his preface that the poet breathed his last on the 11th of Sha‛bān, “which was a Sunday,” and it is only in 1150 that this day happened to be the first of the week. Sanā’ī left, besides the Ḥadīqah and the Ṭarīq-i-taḥqīq, several other Ṣūfic mathnawīs of similar purport: for instance, the Sair ul‛ibād ilā’lma‛ād, or “Man's Journey towards the Other World” (also called Kunūz-urrumūz, “The Treasures of Mysteries”); the ‛Ishqnāma, or “Book of Love”; the ‛Aqlnāma or “Book of Intellect”; the Kārnāma, or “Record of Stirring Deeds,” &c.; and an extensive dīwān or collection of lyrical poetry. His tomb, called the “Mecca” of Ghazni, is still visited by numerous pilgrims.

See Abdullatif al-‛Abbāsi's commentary (completed 1632 and preserved in a somewhat abridged form in several copies of the India Office Library); on the poet's life and works, Ouseley, Biogr. Notices, 184-187; Rieu's and Flügel's Catalogues, &c.; E. G. Browne, Literary History of Persia (1906), ii. 317-322; H. Ethé in W. Geiger's Grundriss der iranischen Philologie, ii. 282-284.