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Khāqāni (Persian: خاقانی‎) (c. 1120 – July 1199), was a major Persiana poet and prose-writer.[3] He was born in Transcaucasia in the historical region known as Shirvan, where he served as an ode-writer to the Shirvanshahs.[2] His fame most securely rests upon the qasidas collected in his Divān, and his autobiographical travelogue Tohfat al-ʿErāqayn.[4][1] He is also notable for his exploration of the genre that later became known as habsiyāt ("prison poetry"). The genre has been described as the "medieval Islamic world's most aesthetically compelling corpus of texts dealing with incarceration".[5]

Nizami adına Ədəbiyyat Muzeyinin binasının pəncərəsində Əfzələddin Xaqani rəsmi (1).JPG
BornBetween 1120–1125[1]:572
Shirvan (present-day Azerbaijan)
DiedJuly 1199[2]:97
Tabriz (present-day Iran)
Literary movementHabsiyāt (prison poetry)
Notable worksDivān, Tuhfat al-‘Irāqayn


Afzāl al-dīn Ibrāhīm Khāqānī,[2][1]:551 more commonly Khaqani, was born circa 1120 into the family of a carpenter in Shirvan. Khaqani's mother was originally a slave-girl of Nestorian Christian faith who had converted to Islam. According to Khaqani, she was a descendant of "the great Philippus", which some scholars such as Minorsky (1945) have interpreted as meaning Marcus Julius Philippus.[1]:574 The poet himself had a remarkable knowledge of Christianity, and his poetry is profused with Christian imagery and symbols. Khaqani lost his father at an early age and was brought up by his uncle, Omar Uthmān, a doctor and astronomer at the Shirvanshah's court. Later in life, Khaqani wrote a poem in his praise, in which he used the similarity of his uncle's name and that of Omar Khayyam to compare their virtues.[6]:49 He was a pupil of the famed poet Abul-Ala Ganjavi who introduced him to the court of Manuchihr III. He married the daughter of Abul-Ala.

Khaqani in his youth decided to embark on a pilgrimage to Mecca, against the wishes of his ruler and patron. In his first attempt to depart Shirvan, he was captured by Manuchehr's henchmen in the nearby Beylagan. Charged with being insubordinate, he was imprisoned for a period of 5[5]:21 or 7[1]:561 months in an ancient fortress in Shabaran, near Darband. Khaqani was condemned to a number of subsequent imprisonments, until in 1156-7 he succeeded in escaping and setting out on a lengthy expedition through the Middle East.[1]:550 His travels gave him material for his famous work Tuhfat al-‘Irāqayn (A Gift from the Two Iraqs; in reference to western Iran ('Persian Iraq') and Mesopotamia ('Arabic Iraq')).[3] This book serves as an autobiography and also presents his impressions of the Middle East. The work contains his famous qasida The Portals at Madāʾen, in which the contemplation of the ruins of the Sassanid Palace near Ctesiphon, according to Beelaert (2010) "elicits a warning about the transience of royal courts".

Upon his return, Khaqani was immediately detained by Manuchihr's successor Akhsitan I. To memorialize his incarceration in verse, Khaqani composed some of his most powerful anti-feudal poems in a genre that will later become known as habsiyāt (prison poetry). In total, five of his poems describe his ordeal in prison. One of the poems, widely known as the "Christian" qasida, is considered by Gould (2016) to be "one of his boldest acts of literary rebellion".[5] Minorsky (1945) identified Andronicus Comnenus as the patron to whom Khaqani addressed this poem along with another one of the prison poems.[1]

Between 1173–1175, Khaqani composed odes in honor of the Shirvan victory over the Russians, in which he reports the locations and details of the operations including the destruction of 73 Russian ships.[1][2]:98 About the same time, Khaqani went on a second pilgrimage, after which he and his family settled at Tabriz, where his personal life was filled with tragedy. First his son died young, then his daughter and then his wife. Khaqani composed elegies lamenting the death of all three. According to the gravestone in Tabriz, Khaqani died in Shawwal 595, corresponding to July 1199.[2]:97

Work and legacyEdit

1997 Azerbaijani stamp of the Persian poet Khaqani

Khaqani's Divān contains qasidas (both panegyrics and non-panegyric odes), tarjiʿāt (strophic poems), ghazals (profane love poems), and rubaʿis (quatrains). His other famous work, Tohfat al-ʿErāqayn, is a mathnawi and was originally titled Khatm al-gharāʾeb ("Curious Rarities").[3] Beelaert notes that, although the work is a mathnawi, it exhibits more affinities with his other qasidas.[4] His surviving prose works include the prose introduction to the aforementioned mathnawi, and approximately sixty letters attributed to him.

It is often believed that Khaqani's complex mode of expression has often been an obstacle to a full appreciation of his poetical value.[4] Much of his poetry is considered to be abstruse, exhibiting a vast range of vocabulary and an abundance of play-on-words. According to Minorsky the poems "bristle with rare words, unusual similes and allusions to astrology, medicine, theology, history, to say nothing of the numerous hints concerning happenings of the poet's own life and time".[1]:550 Ali Dashti referred to him as "the inaccessible poet" and contrasted the difficulty of Khaqani's poems to the simplicity of Saadi's poetry.[4]

In his youth, Khaqani wrote under the pen-name Haqaiʿqi ("Seeker"). After he had been invited to the court of Manuchihr III, he assumed the pen-name of Khaqani ("regal").[3] The naʿtiyas (poetry in praise of Prophet Muhammad) written at the time when his literary talent had reached its peak, procured him the title Hassān'l-Aʿjam ("The Persian Hassān"). Hassan ibn Thabit being a famous Arabic poet who composed panegyrics in praise of Prophet Muhammad, Khaqani's title is reference to the fact that he was the Persian Hassan.[3] He claimed to become a speaker of Georgian language,[7] and produced an ode in which he praised King Demetrius I of Georgia.[8]

It is believed that the work of figures such as Omar Khayyam[6], al-Maʿarri, Unsuri, Masud Sa'd Salman, and Sanai were parts of Khaqani's literary background.[4] In turn, his work influenced such men as Nezami Ganjavi, Jami, and likely Saadi and Hafez. According to Jan Rypka: "A Master of the language, a poet possessing both intellect and heart, who fled from the outer world to the inner world, a personality who did not conform to type - all this places him in the front ranks of Persian literature".[3]

See alsoEdit


  • Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature. Reidel Publishing Company. 1968 OCLC 460598. ISBN 90-277-0143-1
  • Anna Livia Beelaert, "Khaqani Sherwani" in Encyclopوdia Iranica [3]
  • R. Saberi A Thousand Years of Persian Rubaiyat: An Anthology of Quatrains from the Tenth to the Twentieth Century Along With the Original Persian (Paperback) by Reza Saberi (Editor, Translator)
  • Anna Livia Beelaert, "Khaqani Sherwani" in Encyclopوdia Iranica [4]
  • Rebecca Ruth Gould, "The Political Cosmology of Prison Poetics: Khāqānī of Shirwān on Muslim–Christian Difference," Literature Compass 11.7 (2014): 496–515.


a.^ He is invariably described as a Persian poet by all scholarly sources such as: [9][10][11][4][12][13][14][1][2]
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Minorsky, V. (1945). Khāqānī and Andronicus Comnenus. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 11(3), 550-578.
  2. ^ a b c d e f O. L. Vil'èevskij, & Clinton, J. (1969). The Chronograms of Khaqani. Iranian Studies, 2(2/3), 97-105.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature. Reidel Publishing Company. 1968. pp 203-208.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Anna Livia Beelaert, "Khaqani Sherwani" in Encyclopedia Iranica: "ḴĀQĀNI ٹERVĀNI (or ٹarvāni), AF¯AL-AL-DIN BADIL B. ʿALI B. ʿOṮMĀN, a major Persian poet and prose writer (b. ٹervān, ca. 521/1127; d. Tabriz, between 582/1186-87 and 595/1199). " [1][2]
  5. ^ a b c Gould, Rebecca, Wearing the Belt of Oppression: Khāqāni's Christian Qasida and the Prison Poetry of Medieval Shirvān, Journal of Persianate Studies, June 2016, Vol.9(1), pp.19-44
  6. ^ a b Razavi, M. A. (2007). The wine of wisdom: The life, poetry and philosophy of Omar Khayyam. Oxford: Oneworld.
  7. ^ Rayfield, Donald (2012). Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia. London: Reaktion Books. p. 94. ISBN 1780230303.
  8. ^ Kazhdan, Alexander (1991). "Khāqānī". In Kazhdan, Alexander (ed.). The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. p. 1126. ISBN 0-19-504652-8.
  9. ^ Donzel, E. J. van (1 January 1994). Islamic Desk Reference. BRILL. p. 205. ISBN 90-04-09738-4. Khaqani, Afdal al-Din Ibrahim: outstanding Persian poet from Shirwan; 1126-1199. He is known for having created a new type of qasida* for his panegyrics, but above all for his ascetic Sufi poetry.
  10. ^ Robert T. Lambdin, Laura C. Lambdin, Encyclopedia of Medieval Literature, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000. pg 134: "The Twelfth century Persian Khaqani Sharvani wrote a poem entitled "The Language of the Birds" apparently related to the better-known work of his Persian contemporary Farid Ud-Din Attar, the Conference of the Birds
  11. ^ Reinert, B. "Ḵh̲āḳānī , afḍal al-dīn ibrāhīm (Badīl) b. ʿalī b. ʿut̲h̲mān." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2009. Brill Online. Excerpt: ", outstanding Persian poet, born about 520/1126, d. 595/1199, who left a diwan , the mathnawi called Tuhfat al-Irāqayn and sixty letters. "
  12. ^ Annemarie Schimmel, Burzine K. Waghmar , The empire of the great Mughals: history, art and culture, Reaktion Books, 2004. pg 260: "The poet call this portrayal 'Fragrant Bouquet,' Dastanbu, a word user by the Persian poet Khaqani (died 1199) in a poem of praise to spouse of his patron"
  13. ^ Lloyd V. J. Ridgeon, Islamic interpretations of Christianity, Palgrave Macmillan, 2001. pg 123: "Quatrain attributed to the Persian poet Khaqani (d. 1200)
  14. ^ Khaqani in Encyclopedia Britannica:"Persian poet, whose importance rests mainly on his brilliant court poems, satires, and epigrams."

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