Completed 593/1197.The most intricate of the masnavīs of the Ḫamsa, Niẓāmī’s Haft paykar (Seven Beauties) is a poem on the pleasures of love as experienced by the Sasanian Prince Bahram Gor in his love for seven princesses of the seven climes. Haft paykar also lends itself to a mystical interpretation.
Completed after 593/1197.The longest poem of Niẓāmī’s Ḫamsa, the Iskandar-nāmah (Book of Alexander) is an account on the adventures and exploits of Alexander the Great. It is divided into two parts, Šarafnāmah and Ḫiradnāmah.
Completed after 581/1184.Ḫusraw u Shīrīn, the first of Niẓāmī’s romantic epics, portrays the romance between the last great Sasanid monarch, Ḫusraw II (590-628), and his mistress Shīrīn. Though their love had been recorded by many writers and appears in Firdawsī’s Šāh-nāmah, there is no doubt that Niẓāmī’s intense portrayal of their affair is the romantic tale’s apogee. Niẓāmī’s rendition of the dramatic romance has been considered one of the great masterpieces of world literature and appropriately called “the best historical fable of love and chastity, the treasure of eloquence, counsel and wisdom”.
Completed 584/1188.Possibly the most popular romance of the Islamic world, Laylī u Majnūn is the story of the ill-fated love between Majnūn, traditionally associated with the poet Qays of 1st/7th century Najd, and Laylī (Laylā). Having sighted his beloved one time and never after, the broken-hearted poet becomes insane with intoxicated love, hence earning the epithet Majnūn (crazy). The often repeated tragic romance of Laylī and Majnūn appeared in numerous versions prior to Niẓāmī’s, both in prose and poetry. But it was Niẓāmī’s epic poem of Laylī u Majnūn that gave the story its highest expression as he displayed the utmost original talent in “his psychological portrayal of the richness and complexity of the human soul when confronted with intense and abiding love”.
Completed 582/1184-5.Maḫzan al-asrār is an ethico-philosophical poem comprised of over 2200 couplets. Niẓāmī’s utter mastery of the Persian language and his unconventional usage combine to make nearly each couplet enigmatic and often difficult to understand. The final interpretation is therefore left up to the reader. The poem’s mystical dimension is real but much more elusive than in later Sufi poetry.