Nizami Ganjavi (Persian: نظامی گنجوی, romanized: Niẓāmī Ganjavī, lit. 'Niẓāmī of Ganja') (c. 1141–1209), Nizami Ganje'i, Nizami, or Nezāmi, whose formal name was Jamal ad-Dīn Abū Muḥammad Ilyās ibn-Yūsuf ibn-Zakkī, was a 12th-century PersianMuslim poet. Nezāmi is considered the greatest romantic epic poet in Persian literature, who brought a colloquial and realistic style to the Persian epic. His heritage is widely appreciated and shared by Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Iran, the Kurdistan region and
Nizami Ganjavi (Persian: نظامی گنجوی, romanized: Niẓāmī Ganjavī, lit. 'Niẓāmī of Ganja') (c. 1141–1209), Nizami Ganje'i, Nizami, or Nezāmi, whose formal name wasJamal ad-Dīn Abū Muḥammad Ilyās ibn-Yūsuf ibn-Zakkī, was a 12th-century PersianMuslim poet. Nezāmi is considered the greatest romantic epic poet in Persian literature, who brought a colloquial and realistic style to the Persian epic. His heritage is widely appreciated and shared by Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Iran, the Kurdistan region and Tajikistan.
His personal name was Ilyas and his chosen pen-name was Nezami (also spelled as Nizami and Neẓāmi). He was born of an urban background in Ganja (Seljuq empire, now Republic of Azerbaijan) and is believed to have spent his whole life in South Caucasus. According to De Blois, Ganja was a city which at that time had predominantly an Iranian population. The Armenian historian Kirakos Gandzaketsi (c. 1200 – 1271) mentions that: "This city was densely populated with Iranians and a small number of Christians". Because Nezami was not a court poet, he does not appear in the annals of the dynasties. Tazkerehs, which are the compilations of literary memoirs that include maxims of the great poets along with biographical information and commentary of styles refer to him briefly. Much of this material in these Tazkerehs are based on legends, anecdotes, and hearsays. Consequently, few facts are known about Nezami's life, the only source being his own work, which does not provide much information on his personal life.
Nezami was orphaned early and was raised by his maternal uncle Khwaja Umar who took responsibility for him and afforded him an excellent education. His mother, namedRa'isa, was of Kurdish origin. His father, whose name wasYusufis mentioned once by Nezami in his poetry. In the same verse, Nezami mentions his grandfather's name asZakki. In part of the same verse, some have taken the wordMu'ayyadas a title for Zakki while others have interpreted it as the name of his great grandfather. Some sources have stated that his father might be possibly from Qom. Nezami is variously mentioned as a Persian and/or Iranian.
Nezami was married three times. His first wife was a Kipchak slave girl which was sent to him by Fakhr al-Din Bahramshah, the ruler of Darband, as part of a larger gift. According to Iraj Bashiri she became Nezami's "most beloved" wife. His only sonMohammadwas from this wife. She died after "Khosrow and Shirin" was completed. Mohammad was seven at the time. Nezami mentions his son again in Layli and Majnun adding that now this son is 14 years old and "apple of my eyes". In "Haft Peykar" (Seven Beauties), he also mentions and advises his son about taking more responsibility as the father was growing more frail.
Some modern writers in the late 20th century have claimed that this wife was calledAfaq. Vahid Dastgerdi seems to be the first writer to propose this name for Nezami's first wife, but Saeed Nafisi (at the same time) and a recent source have challenged this interpretation of the corresponding verse in Nezami's work and the assumption thatAfaqwas the real name of his wife and have taken theAfaqin that verse to simply mean "horizon" rather than a proper name. Strangely enough, Nezami's two other wives, too, died prematurely – the death of each coinciding with the completion of an epic, prompting the poet to say, "God, why is it that for every mathnavi I must sacrifice a wife!".
Nezami was not a philosopher in the sense of Avicenna or an expositor of theoretical Sufism in the sense of Ibn 'Arabi. However, he is regarded as a philosopher and gnostic who mastered various fields of Islamic thoughts which he synthesized in a way that brings to mind the traditions of later Hakims such as Qutb al-Din Shirazi.
Often referred to by the honorific Hakim ("the Sage"), Nezami is both a learned poet and master of a lyrical and sensuous style. About Nezami's prodigious learning there is no doubt. Poets were expected to be well versed in many subjects; but Nezami seems to have been exceptionally so. His poems show that not only he was fully acquainted with Arabic and Persian literatures and with oral and written popular and local traditions, but was also familiar with such diverse fields as mathematics, astronomy, astrology, alchemy, medicine, botany, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic theory and law, Iranian myths and legends, history, ethics, philosophy and esoteric thought, music, and the visual arts. His strong character, social sensibility, and knowledge of oral and written historical records, as well as his rich Persian cultural heritage unite pre-Islamic and Islamic Iran into the creation of a new standard of literary achievement. Being a product of the Iranian culture of the time, he not only created a bridge between pre-Islamic and Islamic Iran, but also between Iran and the whole ancient world.
Influences and literary scene
The recent discovery and publication of the anthology titledNozhat al-Majalescontains Persian language quatrains from Nizami and 115 other poets from the northwestern Iran (Arrān, Šarvān, Azerbaijan; including 24 poets from Ganja alone) during the same era. Unlike other parts of Persia, where the poets mostly belonged to higher echelons of society such as scholars, bureaucrats, and secretaries, a good number of poets in the northwestern areas rose from among the common people with working-class backgrounds, and they frequently used colloquial expressions in their poetry. Accordingly, the book demonstrates the social conditions at the time, reflecting the full spread of Persian language and the culture in the region, which is evidenced by the common use of spoken idioms in poems and the professions of many of the poets. The influence of the northwestern Pahlavi language, for example, which had been the spoken dialect of the region, is clearly observed in the poems contained in this anthology. However, at the same time, the Caucasus region was entertaining a unique mixture of ethnic cultures. Khaqani's mother was a Nestorian Christian, Mojir Baylqani's mother was an Armenian, and Nezami's mother was a Kurd. Their works reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity of the region.
According to literary scholar Chelkowski,"it seems that Nezami's favorite pastime was reading Ferdawsi's monumental epic Shahnameh (The book of Kings). Nezami mentioned Ferdowsi as the Sage (Hakim) and Knower/Wise (daanaa) and the great master of discourse, "who has decorated words like new bride." Nezami advises the son of the Shirvanshah to read the Shah-nama and to remember the meaningful sayings of the wise. Nezami used theShahnamehas a source in his three epics ofHaft Peykar, Khosrow and ShirinandEskandar-Nameh.
The story ofVis and Raminalso had an immense influence on Nezami. Although Nezami takes the bases for most of his plots from Ferdowsi, but the basis for his rhetoric comes from Gorgani. This is especially noticeable inKhosrow and Shirin, which is of the same meter and imitates some scenes fromVis and Ramin. Nezami's concern with astrology also has a precedent in an elaborate astrological description of the night sky inVis and Ramin. Nezami had a paramount influence on the romantic tradition, and Gorgani can be said to have initiated much of the distinctive rhetoric and poetic atmosphere of this tradition, with the absence of the Sufi influences, which are seen in Nezami's epic poetry.
The first monumental work of Nezami, theMakhzan al-Asraris influenced by Sanai'sHadikat al-Hakika. Nezami acknowledges this, but considers his work to be superior. The main similarities between Sanai's poem and Nezami's are in its ethico-philosophical genre, although Nezami uses a different metre and organized the whole work in a different fashion. Khaqani Sherwani daring imagery, was to have a momentous influence on Nezami Ganjavi and through the latter on Persian poetry in general.
Nezami lived in an age of both political instability and intense intellectual activity, which his poems reflect; but little is known about his life, his relations with his patrons, or the precise dates of his works, as the many legends built up around the poet color the accounts of his later biographers. Nezami was a master of theMasnavistyle (double-rhymed verses).
- TheKhamsaorPanj Ganj,Nizami's main poetical work, for which he is best known, is a set of five long narrative poems known as theKhamsa(خمسه, 'Quintet or Quinary') orPanj Ganj(پنج گنج, 'Five Treasures'):
- Makhzan-ol-Asrâr (مخزنالاسرار, 'The Treasury or Storehouse of Mysteries'), 1163 (some date it 1176)
- Khosrow o Shirin (خسرو و شیرین, 'Khosrow and Shirin'), 1177–1180
- Leyli o Majnun (لیلی و مجنون, 'Layla and Majnun'), 1192
- Eskandar-Nâmeh (اسکندرنامه, 'The Book of Alexander'), 1194 or 1196–1202
- Haft Peykar (هفت پیکر, 'The Seven Beauties'), 1197
The first of these poems,Makhzan-ol-Asrâr, was influenced by Sanai's (d. 1131) monumentalGarden of Truth. The four other poems are medieval romances. Khosrow and Shirin, Bahram-e Gur, and Alexander the Great, who all have episodes devoted to them in Ferdowsi'sShahnameh, appear again here at the center of three of four of Nezami's narrative poems. The adventure of the paired lovers, Layla and Majnun, is the subject of the second of his four romances, and derived from Arabic sources. In all these cases, Nezami reworked the material from his sources in a substantial way.
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