The al-‘Awfí’s unique position amongst Men of Letters. epoch in which al-‘Awfí flourished is important for two reasons. Firstly it coincides with the earliest invasions of the Mongols on Khurásán, and the destruction of the empire of Khwárazm, secondly it is rich in literary productions, both in Arabic and Persian prose. Thus from the literary point of view al-‘Awfí was an inheritor of the learning of the past, and a transmitter of that knowledge, which was soon to be lost, to the later generations. If we glance at the writers of the early Mongol period, we find that historians like Ibnu’l-Athír (who composed his Kámil in 628 A. H. = 1230/1), biographers like Ibn Khallikán (who finished his work the Wafayátu’l-A‘yán in 1274 A. D.) geographers like Yáqút (who completed his Mu‘jamu’l-Buldán in 1224 A. D.), Zakariyya al-Qazwíní (who composed the Átháru’l-Bilád and the ‘Ajá’ibu’l-Makhlúqát at a later date in 1263 A. D.), special historians and biographers like Ibnu’l-Qifṭí, (who composed his Ta’ríkhu’l-Ḥukamá’ after 1227 A. D.), Ibn Abí Uṣaybi‘a (d. 1270), the author of Ṭabaqátu’l-Aṭibbá’, are the dominant figures in Arabic prose. In Persian some of the most important works were written at this period. Shams-i-Qays wrote his important treatise on prosody the Mu‘jam fí Ma‘á’ír-i-Ash‘ári’l-‘Ajam, between 614-630 A. H. = 1217/8-1232/3 A. D., while Abu’sh-Sharaf Náṣiḥ of Jurbádhaqán translated the Kitábu’l-Yamíní of al-‘Utbí. Other mixed works were not wanting e. g. al-Fatḥ b. ‘Alí b. Muḥammad al-Bundárí re-edited ‘Imádu’d-Dín al-Kátib al-Iṣfahání’s history of the Saljúqs in 1226 A. D., and also epitomised The Sháhnáma of Firdawsí in Arabic prose, at about this time. Shihábu’d-Dín Muḥammad an-Nasawí compiled the Sírat-i-Jalálu’d-Dín Mankubirní in Arabic, in 639 A. H. = 1241/2 A.D.; Ibn Isfandiyár compiled his History of Ṭabaristán (613 A. H. = 1216/7 A. D. being the current year), Sa‘d of Waráwín, translated the Marzubán-náma from the dialect of Ṭabaristán into ordinary Persian prose about 1210-1215 A. D., and Farídu’d-Dín al-‘Aṭṭár composed the Tadhkiratu’l-Awliyá’ at about the same time as the Jawámi‘ was being composed.

All The only Col­lection of its kind written as early as 625 A. H. the above writers lived at one place or another, and al-‘Awfí had no direct connection with them, but they represent a wider group of contemporaries, who were engaged with their own works while al-‘Awfí was compiling his anecdotes. While others were writing systematic accounts of persons, places, periods and sciences, he selected the whole mass of recorded and unrecorded knowledge as his material, and drew upon it freely, and preserved it in detached anecdotes. The very title of the work as the Jawámi‘u’l-Ḥikáyát wa Lawámi‘u’r-Riwáyát (“Compendium of Anecdotes and Flashes of Traditions”) suggests the wide field it covers. Since most of the branches of Muslim learning either in Persian or Arabic are represented in one form or another in the Jawámi‘, we find here and there anecdotes common to the above works, and somewhat independent of each of other as regards their sources, method of treatment and illustration. It is really the comparison with the works of his predecessors, that shows the value of this collection and gives it a unique position in the literature of Persia. Hitherto different works had been written on different subjects, but there was not found one collection of this type written in the Persian language representing the history, civilisation, literature, and science known to the Muslim world.

And Its typical sources for his­torical and bio­graphical anec­dotes. again it is the remarkable range of sources that gives this work the historical value it enjoys. A few of them, which were once at the disposal of our author, and are now extremely rare or lost, are these works: aṣ-Ṣúlí’s Ta’ríkh-i-Khulafá-i-bani’l-‘Abbás, Muḥammad b. Kalbí’s Tafsír and his son’s Adyánu’l-‘Arab, Khaṭíb-i-Baghdádi’s Ta’ríkh-i-Baghdád, as-Sallámí’s Ta’ríkh-i-Wulát-i-Khurásán, Ibráhím aṣ-Ṣábi’s Ta’ríkh-i-Tájí, al-Marzubání’s Kitábu’sh-Shabáb-i-wa’sh-Shayb and Ibnu’l-Muqaffa‘’s Ta’ríkh-i-Mulúk-i-‘Ajam. A systematic classification of some of the sources of al-‘Awfí shows that he used such works as represent the subjects in a typical manner. Thus, for the history of the Caliphate, the Annals of at-Ṭabarí has constantly been utilised; for the history of the ancient kings of Persia, ath-Tha‘álibí’s Ghurar, the Sháhnáma of Firdawsí, and the Ta’ríkh-i-Mulúk-i-‘Ajam (probably the Khudáy-náma of Ibnu’l-Muqaffa‘) have been used; and for the anecdotes of the various dynastic rulers, special and typical sources have been employed. The accounts of the Ṭáhirids, the Ṣaffárids, and the Sámánids are taken partly from the Ta’ríkh-i-Wulát-i-Khurásán of as-Sallámí (as has been shown in the Conspectus of the Sources); for the Ghaznawids three important sources are mentioned — the Ta’ríkh-i-Náṣirí, the Yamíní of al-‘Utbí, and the Khalqu’l-Insán of Bayánu’l-Ḥaqq an-Níshápúrí; for the Buwayhids the Ta’ríkh-i-Tájí or the Ta’ríkh-i-Dayálima is the source; and the accounts of the Ílak Kháns of Máwará’u’n-Nahr, are based on the Ta’ríkh-i-Turkistán by Majdu’d-Dín b. ‘Adnán as-Surkhakatí, but unfortunately the last three works are also lost. This wide range of sources for the historical anecdotes covers almost all the important works written from the earliest times down to al-‘Awfí’s day. For politics and administration, there are traces of the utilisation of the Siyásat-nama of the Niẓámu’l-Mulk, the Qábús-náma of ‘Unṣuru’l-Ma‘álí, and the A‘rádhu’r-Riyása of aẓ-Ẓahírí as-Samarqandí, and a Siyaru’l-Mulúk. The accounts of the Prophet and his followers, and the lives of the saints and religious worthies, are based on the Kitábu’l-Maghází of Muḥammad b. Isḥáq, the Rabí‘u’l-Abrár of az-Zamakhsharí, the Risálatu’l-Qushayriyya, the Asráru’t-Tawḥíd, a Ta’ríkh-i-Mashá’ikh-i-Khurásán, a Rawdhatu’l-‘Ulamá’, a Siyaru’ṣ-Ṣáliḥín, and a Qiṣaṣu’l-Anbiyá’ respectively.

Biographical Other sources of varied nature. anecdotes of other eminent personalities, which also form an important portion of the compendium, are taken from various other works, e.g. the chapter on the ‘Heresiarchs’ is based on the Átháru’l-Báqiya of al-Bírúní, that on the ‘Poets’ is partly based on the Yatímatu’d-Dahr of ath-Tha‘álibí, that on the ‘Women’ is partly based on the works of a different nature, like the Sindbád-náma, the Bakhtiyár-náma and the Kalíla wa Dimna. The accounts of the ‘Longlived’ persons is taken from the lost work of al-Marzubání, called the Kitábu’sh-Shabáb-i-w’ash-Shayb, which ranks next to the Mu‘ammarín of Abú Ḥátim as-Sijistání. The two parts of the work on ‘Blameable’ and ‘Praiseworthy’ qualities also contain a wide range of historical illustration, the sources of which are diverse; and for the stories of encounter and adventure the Faraj of at-Tanúkhí is the constant and acknowledged source.

Besides Sources for semi-scientific subjects. the above-mentioned subjects, a few other chapters on semi-scientific topics are important on account of their typical sources. Thus the information about cosmography, ethnology, and antiquities is drawn from the works called the Masálik wa-Mamálik, which are so many in number, that it is difficult to say which particular work or works were actually utilised. The chapters on natural history and physical properties of natural objects are based on the Kitábu’l-Ḥayawán of al-Jáḥiẓ and that of Sharafu’z-Zamán Ṭáhir al-Marwazí, and on other treatises translated from the Greek authors, like Dioscorides, Aristotle, Galen, Ptolemy and Rufus Ephesius.

An Authenticity of its material. exact estimate of his debt to other important authors cannot be made; the information contained in this notice is chiefly based on the works utilised or mentioned in one form or another. There are many anecdotes in which al-‘Awfí, gives no clue to his sources; hence we can only conjecture that he had a wide store of infor­mation at hand which he utilised according to his own discretion, and occasionally acknowledged his indebtedness to his predecessors. One remarkable thing about the utilisation of his sources is his fidelity to them. This contributes immensely to the authenticity of the knowledge which he handed down to posterity in a plain and straightforward style, (very different to the florid style of the Lubáb) and in an abbreviated and anecdotal form. Much as we should have liked him to give us the entire details, and all his authorities and sources of information, it seems it was besides his main purpose, which was to make an anecdote interesting and readable and bring together scattered facts in a reasonable compass.

As Copious but less original. regards the copiousness of the contents of the Jawámi‘, a glance at the Comparative Index of the hundred chapters will show the wide range of subjects and its encyclopaedic nature. It is enough to point out here, that it is one of the largest books in Persian, containing 2,113 anecdotes interspersed with about 1,650 couplets which in a clear Naskhí hand cover 358 folios in G = [Suppl. persan 906]; but the material which is al-‘Awfí’s own, or cannot be found in other later works, is very limited. A considerable number of the anecdotes can be traced either in the extant original sources of al-‘Awfí or in other earlier or later works. In such cases it is interesting to note the transmigration of anecdotes and the various changes which they have undergone, till they have lost their historical accuracy and possess no more value than fiction. This phenomenon has been noticed under the account of the influence of the Jawámi‘, in the next few pages.

In Absence of contemporary events and dates in historical anecdotes. his attempt to preserve the traditions of the past and communicate them faithfully, he has ignored what passed around him, and has abstained from giving contemporary history. Of first-hand material, which would have been of immense value to us, there is practically nothing. Lack of dates in historical anecdotes is one of the serious defects of this collection. Besides this, the arbitrary arrangement of anecdotes about a particular individual in different chapters and under different headings, without any chronological sequence or systematic design, is a great hindrance to the utility of the work. In very few cases has al-‘Awfí challenged the authenticity of his material, hence some inconsistencies and inaccuracies have crept into the anecdotes.

Apart Valuable information in some chapters. from these defects, there are always found several anecdotes in each chapter that contain genuine facts, and are peculiar to the Jawámi‘. Most of the biographical anecdotes occur in part I, ch. vi-xxv, and some of these deserve special attention. The same is the case with part II and III: here and there one finds really valuable material. The fourth part derives special importance on account of the scientific information contained in it. The importance of all such anecdotes is either shown in the Complete Table of Contents or in the Conspectus of the Sources, as will be seen later on.