Firdawsī, Ḥakīm Abū al-Qāsim d. 410/1019, 411/1020, or 416/1025


Little is known for certain about the life of the great Persian poet Ḥakim Abū al-Qāsim Firdawsī (his pen name) except for his authorship of the immensely popular and influential Iranian national epic the Šāh-nāmah (The Book of Kings), whose importance in Persian literature can scarcely be overstated. Consequently, the overwhelming fame accorded to Firdawsī and his masterpiece has made his life amenable to becoming shrouded in legend. The date of Firdawsī’s birth has been reliably placed ca. 329-30/940-1 from his own statement that he was 58 years of age in the year of the accession of Sulṭān Maḥmūd. Sources differ as to when Firdawsī began his writing of the Šāh-nāmah (some say no later than 370-1/980-1 while others as early as 367/977) but the completion of the epic is accepted to have occurred in 400/1010. However long Firdawsī spent in writing the Šāh-nāmah, it is clear that he devoted a large portion of his life to it and treated it as his life’s work. The dates generally accepted for the death of Firdawsī are 410/1019, 411/1020, or 416/1025.


Šāh-nāmah     The Book of Kings

Completed 400/1010.

Consisting of some 60,000 verses, the Šāh-nāmah is an epic tale between the Iranian Kingship and their Turanian enemies. It has been accurately described as “the last great work of pre-Islamic Iran, glorifying the memory of the heroes and the legitimate lines of succession of kings down to the “national catastrophe” of the Arab Invasion”. Throughout the tale Firdawsī is close at hand. One can sense pessimism in his view of the universe as the work of an implacable fate and his encouragement in a moral philosophy that “vehemently preaches action and the love of good, which uphold in man reason- his unique privilege and his true claim to superiority over all other beings”. In addition to an unequaled skill in depicting skirmishes, battles, or one-on-one combat, Firdawsī was easily able to shift his tone and style from the scene of battle to the romantic narrative, and thus contribute to the development of that genre within Persian poetry alongside his more noticeable contribution of the epic tale

Yūsuf va Zulayḫā     Yūsuf and Zulayḫā

Yūsuf va Zulayḫā is a manavī recounting the story of Joseph and the wife of Potiphar that appears in both the Bible and the Qurān. Firdawsī’s authorship of this work has been highly questioned in part due to the amount of Arabic words that appear in Yūsuf va Zulayḫā as compared to his Šāh-nāmah.