Saʿdī Šīrāzī, Šayḫ Muṣliḥ al-Dīn d. ca. 690-1/1291-2


One of the greatest Persian poets, Šayḫ Muṣliḥ al-Dīn Saʿdī Šīrāzī was born in Shiraz in the early 7th/13th century. Saʿdī’s life may be divided into three periods: his study in Baghdad until ca. 623/1226, his extensive travels ca. 623/1226-654/1256, and his return to Shiraz ca. 654/1256 (when his literary activity chiefly took place). Saʿdī studied Sufi mysticism in the Niẓāmīyah Madrasah at Baghdad, where he was greatly influenced by the eminent Shihāb al-Dīn Suhrawardī (d. ca. 632/1234). Following his time in Baghdad, Saʿdī traveled widely throughout the Islamic world. “He made the pilgrimage to Mecca many times, traveled in Central Asia, India, the Seljuq territories in Anatolia, Syria, Egypt, Arabia, Yemen, Abyssinia and Morocco”. The many events and adventures that Saʿdī experienced during this period of his life are known with little certainty. One such story is that the Crusaders in Tripoli held him prisoner. However, more important than the particulars of his travels is that during this period of his life Saʿdī “saw and heard much of the world.” The experience and wisdom the great poet garnered throughout his travels were compressed into two works universally acknowledged as masterpieces: the Būstān (Garden), and the Gulistān (Rose Garden). These two collections of “moralizing anecdotes” were completed at Shiraz within a year or two of one another. Saʿdī’s mixture of prose and verse presented in the Gulistān elevated the genre to a level of great importance in Persian literary history. Saʿdī included many hints of Mysticism and its phraseology in his poetry, however, “it may be said without hesitation that worldly wisdom rather than mysticism is his chief characteristic”. “However, it is in the realm of the lyric, the ghazal, that Saʿdī’s major contribution to Persian poetry lies, for he was the first to popularize the ghazal as a vehicle for the treatment of human passion and to effect the transition away from the formal qasida. His ghazals are characterized by technical control, fluency of diction and a pleasing formality; and in the lyric ghazal he is judged to be excelled only by Ḥāfiẓ”. “Saʿdī’s influence on Persian, Turkish, and Indian literatures has been very considerable and his works have been often translated into European languages from the 18th century onwards”. Saʿdī died ca. 690-1/1291-2.


Badāʾiʿ     Garden

Būstān     Rose Garden

Completed 655/1257.

“The Būstān contains within its ten sections of facile and often beautiful verse, dissertations on justice, good government, beneficence, earthly and mystic love, humility, submissiveness, contentment and other excellences.”

Gulistān     Book of Advice

Completed ca. 656/1258.

“The Gulistān contains eight divisions, each with its own cluster of gay and somber stories, in that seductive intermixture of rhymed prose and verse which had…come to be regarded as the prerequisite of elegant composition.”

“With the exception of Rūmī’s Manavī and Firdawsī’s Šāh-nāmah, no book holds a place of importance equal to these; and, inasmuch as the Gulistān was used for centuries as a primer for the schoolchildren of greater Iran, India, and Turkey, it has certainly been read more widely than any other book in the entire Muslim world, save of course the Koran”.


Ḫavātīm     Ancient

Pand-nāmah     Signet Rings [Browne]

“Book of Counsels”

Ṭayyibāt     Cunning Odes [Browne]