به نام خداوند جان و خرد

کزین اندیشه برتر برنگذرد

A Study about the Persian Cultural Legacy and Background of the Sufi Mystics Shams Tabrizi and Jalal al-Din Rumi


By Rahgozari Minutalab


October 2009, Open Source.  The author is not associated with any modification of the current article but any author is free to use the materials within this article.

Note PDF version is recommended here:













منگر به هر گدایی که تو خاص از آن مایی

مفروش خویش ارزان که تو بس گران بهایی

به عصا شکاف دریا که تو موسی زمانی

بدران قبای مه را که ز نور مصطفایی

بشکن سبوی خوبان که تو یوسف جمالی

چو مسیح دم روان کن که تو نیز از آن هوایی

به صف اندرآی تنها که سفندیار وقتی

در خیبر است برکن که علی مرتضایی

بستان ز دیو خاتم که تویی به جان سلیمان

بشکن سپاه اختر که تو آفتاب رایی

چو خلیل رو در آتش که تو خالصی و دلخوش

چو خضر خور آب حیوان که تو جوهر بقایی

بسکل ز بی‌اصولان مشنو فریب غولان

که تو از شریف اصلی که تو از بلند جایی

تو به روح بی‌زوالی ز درونه باجمالی

تو از آن ذوالجلالی تو ز پرتو خدایی

تو هنوز ناپدیدی ز جمال خود چه دیدی

سحری چو آفتابی ز درون خود برآیی

تو چنین نهان دریغی که مهی به زیر میغی

بدران تو میغ تن را که مهی و خوش لقایی

چو تو لعل کان ندارد چو تو جان جهان ندارد

که جهان کاهش است این و تو جان جان فزایی

تو چو تیغ ذوالفقاری تن تو غلاف چوبین

اگر این غلاف بشکست تو شکسته دل چرایی

تو چو باز پای بسته تن تو چو کنده بر پا

تو به چنگ خویش باید که گره ز پا گشایی

چه خوش است زر خالص چو به آتش اندرآید

چو کند درون آتش هنر و گهرنمایی

مگریز ای برادر تو ز شعله‌های آذر

ز برای امتحان را چه شود اگر درآیی

به خدا تو را نسوزد رخ تو چو زر فروزد

که خلیل زاده‌ای تو ز قدیم آشنایی

تو ز خاک سر برآور که درخت سربلندی

تو بپر به قاف قربت که شریفتر همایی

ز غلاف خود برون آ که تو تیغ آبداری

ز کمین کان برون آ که تو نقد بس روایی

شکری شکرفشان کن که تو قند نوشقندی

بنواز نای دولت که عظیم خوش نوایی  (دیوان شمس)











Introduction and reason for this article. 4

On the Persianized Seljuqs. 11

Some distortions due to nationalistic reasons. 15

Shams Tabrizi and his background. 25

Tabriz in the pre-Mongol and Ilkhanid era. 25

The Tabrizi Iranian language as a special case. 30

Example of Shams Tabrizi speaking the North West Iranic dialect of Tabriz. 38

On the importance of Safinaye Tabriz. 39

On the name of Tabriz and its districts. 42

Shams Tabrizi’s work Maqalaat 44

Shams Tabrizi of Ismaili origin?  Conclusion. 45

Hesam al-Din Chelebi and other Rumi companions. 46

Baha al-Din Walad and Rumi’s parents. 50

Genealogy of Rumi’s parents. 50

On Vakhsh and Balkh and the languages of these areas. 54

Contribution to Persian culture and Baha al-Din Walad’s native language. 59

Conclusion on Baha al-Din Walad. 62

Rumi 63

The Persian lectures, letters and sermons of Rumi and his everyday language. 64

Response to couple of nationalistic statements with regards to Rumi’s prose and Rumi’s everyday language (not just literary language) 66

Rumi’s Persian poetry. 69

Response to an invalid arguments with regards to the Diwan. 73

Invalid Argument: “Rumi was a Turk because he has some verses in Turkish”. 73

Invalid Argument:  Rumi uses some Turkish words in his poetry. 76

Invalid argument: Rumi has traces of Central Asia Turkish in his poetry. 77

Invalid argument: Rumi’s usage of the word Turk shows he was a Turk. 79

Persian poetry images and symbols: Turk, Hindu, Rum, Zang/Habash. 83

Which Turks are described in Persian Poetry?. 144

Views on ethnicity  in the Mathnawi 150

Ethnicity in Aflaki 152

Sultan Walad, Rumi’s son. 165

Sultan Walad’s work. 165

Sultan Walad’s admits he does not know Turkish and Greek well 166

Sultan Valad’s view on the Turks. 169

Conclusion about Sultan Walad. 177

The Origin of Sama and a response to a false claim.. 178

On Rumi’s cultural predecessor and The Mawlawiya’s Spiritual lineage. 185

Conclusion of this article. 192

Bibliography. 203

Appendix A: Nick Nicholas: Greek Verses of Rumi & Sultan Walad. 208


Introduction and reason for this article


" If the Turk, the Roman, and the Arab are in love,
They all know the same language, the beautiful tune of Rabab "

Recently, UNESCO in the year 2007 declared the Persian poet Rumi as one of the world’s universal cultural icon.  The Afghanistani, Iranian, Turkish governments all laid claim to Rumi’s heritage and tried to maximize their association with the Persian poet Rumi.  Obviously such an association brings about a national prestige despite the fact that Rumi is a universal figure.  Also recently, especially with the demise of the USSR, there has been an increase in pan-Turkist nationalist activism in various Altaic-phone  regions and a many Persian cultural figures like Avicenna, Biruni, Nasir al-Din Tusi, Eyn al-Qodat Hamadani, Bayazid Bistami, Suhrawardi, Nizami Ganjavi and etc. have been falsely claimed to be Turkic without any serious argument.  Many of these like Biruni and Nezami lived in an era when the area they were born in was Iranian.  Due to penetration and incursions of Turkic nomads, eventually some of these Iranian speaking regions like Khwarizmia, Arran and Sherwan, Sogdiana, Marv and etc. became Turkified in speech the same as the Greek and Armenian  languages gaveaway to Turkic speakers in Anatolia, and Egypt gave away to Arabic.   At the time of the mentioned figures, which are claimed today for nationalistic reasons by some of the new countries, all of these men were of Iranian ancestry but more importantly, they all contributed to Iranian culture and have important Persian works.  Some of these extravagant claims are impossible (like Eyn ol-Qodat Hamadani, Suhrawardi, Bistami who was of Zoroastrian descent and Nasir al-Din Tusi) that there is no need to respond to them. 

On the other hand, figures like Nizami Ganjavi and Biruni were born in areas that are today Turkified or Turcophone.   This was not the case during the time of these authors, but many people who study these figures do not have correct information and background on the chronology of the linguistic Turkification in Central Asia, Caucasus and Azerbaijan region of Iran. 

For example, during the time of Biruni, the area of Khwarizm spoke the Iranian Chorasmian language. 

I refer to the short but very significant contribution of the late French Orientalist to the al-Biruni Commemoration Volume published in India(L. Massignon, "Al-Biruni et la valuer internationale de la science arabe" in Al-Biruni Commemoration Volume, (Calcutta, 1951).  pp 217-219.):

In a celebrated preface to the book of Drugs, Biruni states:

'' And if it is true that in all nations one likes to adorn oneself by using the language to which one has remained loyal, having become accustomed to using it with friends and companions according to need, I must judge for myself that in my native Chorasmian, science has as much as chance of becoming perpetuated as a camel has of facing Ka’aba. “

Indeed al-Biruni has recorded months and other names in the Iranian Chorasmian, Soghdian and Dari-Persian languages and he states equivalently:

و أما أهل خوارزم، و إن کانوا غصنا ً من دوحة الفُرس

Translation: And the people of Khwarizm, they are a branch of the Persian tree

(Abu Rahyan Biruni, "Athar al-Baqqiya 'an al-Qurun al-Xaliyyah"(Vestiges of the past : the chronology of ancient nations), Tehran, Miras-e-Maktub, 2001)

The late eminent philologist Professor David Mackenzie on the old Iranian Chorasmian Language(Encyclopedia Iranica, "The Chorasmian Language", D.N.Mackenzie) states:  

“The earliest examples have been left by the great Chorasmian scholar Abu Rayhan Biruni.  In his works on chronology and astronomy (ca. 390-418/1000-28) he recorded such calendrical and astronomical terms as some of the tradi­tional names of days, months, feasts, and signs of the zodiac.”

While showing perfect knowledge of the native Chorasmian calendar, as well as other Iranian calendars (Persian, Sogdian) and also Hebrew, Arabic, Greek calendars, Biruni is clear for example that he does not other calendars(like those of the Turks) as well:

"As to the months of other nations, Hindus, Chinese, Tibetians, Turks, Khazars, Ethiopians and Zangids, we do not intend, although we have managed to learn the names of some of them, to mention them here, postponing it till a time when we shall know them all, as it does not agree with the method which we have followed hitherto, to connect that which is doubtful and unknown with that which is certain and known "(Athar)

Biruni collected the months and calendars of many nations, which are recorded in his book.

On the order of the old-Turkic (old Uighur, which he calls toquz-oghuz) month names, which are just ordinals (readily recognizable in any variety) jumbled, he adds a note that:

“I have not been able to learn how long these months are, nor what they mean, nor of what kind they are”(Athar, pg 83).

However, a modern Western scholar whom we rather not name did not know about the East Chorasmian Iranian language and just based on modern geography, has mistaken Biruni’s Iranian Chorasmian language for Turkic.  She did not for example read about this Iranian language  in the Encyclopedia of Islam, Encyclopedia Iranica, Iranian language sources or other linguistic sources.  That is sometimes negligence of the history of the region produces mistakes and this is due to the fact that many scholars of literature do not have a grasp of the history of the region (Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia) during the medieval era.  So that mentioned Western author for example mistakenly thought that the Chorasmian Iranian language at the time of Biruni must be the same as the language spoken in Chorasmia (in modern Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan) today.

Another example is Avicenna.  For example, Avicenna whose father was a native of Balkh (the same place where Rumi’s father was possibly born) and his mother was from Bukhara (her name was Sitareh which is Persian for star and even today the majority of inhabitants of Bukhara are Iranian Persians(Tajiks)).

Avicenna in the book of “The Healing: (Ash-Shifa) in Chapter 5 (Concerning the caliph and Imam: the necessity of obeying them.  Remarks on politics, transactions and morals) states:

“…As for the enemies of those who oppose his laws, the legislator must  decree waging war against them and destroying them, after calling on them to accept the truth.  Their property and women must be declared free for the spoil.  For when such property and women are not administered according to the constitution of the virtuous city, they will not bring about the good for which the property and women are sought.  Rather, these would contribute to corruption and evil.  Since some men have to serve others, such people must be forced to serve the people of the just city.  The same applies to people not very capable of acquiring virtue.  For these are slaves by nature as, for example, the Turks and Zinjis and in general those who do not grow up in noble climes where the condition for the most part are such that nations of good temperament, innate intelligence and sound minds thrive(Chris Brown, Terry Nardin, Nicholas J. Rengger, “International Relations in Political Thought: Texts from the Ancient Greeks to the First World War”, Published by Cambridge University Press, 2002, pg 156-157).

Let us look at the original Arabic of this sentence as well:

و انه لابد من ناس یخدمون الناس، فیجب ان یك.ن هؤلا یجبرون علی خدمه اهل المدینه الفاضله، و كذلك من كان من الناس بعیداً عن تلقی الفاضیله فهم عبید‘’ بالطبع، نثل الترك والزنح، و بالجمله الذین نشأوا فی غیر اقالیم الشریفه التی اكثر احوالها ان ینشأفیها حسنه الامزجه صحیحه القرایح و العقول

In another phrase, Ibn Sina states: “In the languages we know…” and then he brings an example of Persian and Arabic.  Had he known any other languages, then he would have given examples as well.  Thus he did not even speak Turkish and all his works are in Persian and Arabic.

The statement of Avicenna with this regard is given here from his book Ishaarat (Dehkhoda dictionary):

لكن اللغات التى نعرفها قد خلت فى عاداتها عن استعمال النفى على هذه الصورة.... فیقولون بالعربیة لاشى‌ء من ح‍ ب... و كذلك ما یقال فى فصیح لغة‌الفرس هیچ ح‍ ب نیست

As per Nizami Ganjavi, there exists a detailed article on how USSR nation building and modern ethno-nationalism have forged the most baseless arguments (even false verses) in order to deprive of his Iranian heritage:

Doostzadeh, Ali. “Politicization of the background of Nizami Ganjavi: Attempted de-Iranization of a historical Iranian figure by the USSR", June 2008 (Updated 2009). 


(see PDF file)


 Sufficient to say, his mother was Iranic Kurdish(Iranic speaking), he was raised by a Kurdish uncle and his father-line goes back before the coming of the Seljuqs and is  of Iranian Anyhow, there is no doubt that culturally, mythological relics, poetry (he considered himself a successor of Ferdowsi) he was Iranian and his stories are rooted in Iranic/Persian folklore.  An important  manuscript that shows the Iranian culture of the Caucasus before its Turkification in language has come down to us by the Persian poet Jamal Khalil Shirvani:

Mohammad Amin Riyahi.  “Nozhat al-Majales” in Encyclopedia Iranica



This article attempts to address the background of Rumi as well as the fact that people have tried to deprive him of his Iranian heritage.  Note when we say Iranian, we mean it in the ethno-cultural-linguistic sense rather than citizenship of modern Iran. Thus this term covers the totality of Iranian speaking civilizations and those that have been greatly affected by it enough to be absorbed and melted in to it.

We start by quoting a Turkish scholar with this regard.

Even according to the Turkish scholar Talat. S. Halman:

Baha ad-din (Rumi’s Father) and his family eventually settled in Konya, ancient Iconium, in central Anatolia.  They brought with them their traditional Persian cultural and linguistic background and found in Konya a firmly entrenched penchant for Persian culture.  In terms of Rumi’s cultural orientation – including language, literary heritage, mythology, philosophy, and Sufi legacy –the Iranians  have indeed a strongly justifiable claim.  All of these are more than sufficient to characterize Rumi as a prominent figure of Persian cultural history”(Rapture and Revolution, page 266). 

Although Professor Talat S. Halman does not delve into ethnic genealogy of Rumi, he remarks:

The available documentary evidence is so flimsy that no nation(Iranian/Persian, Arabic, Turkish) can invoke jus sanguinis regarding the Rumi genealogy” and he also mentions: “Rumi is patently Persian on the basis of jus et norma loquendi”.  

Thus there is no dispute about Rumi’s culture, literary heritage.  And even his native language as mentioned was Persian.  However some people try to point to genealogy and we shall look at this issue in this article.   The problem with that approach is that the genealogies of many people are not known in the 13th century.   And if it is known, up to what ancestor is this genealogy known?  We will explore the genealogy issue in this article as well, but if genealogy was a concern, than majority of Anatolian Turks are not of Turkic genealogy but resemble Greeks, Armenians, Kurds and other natives of Anatolia.  DNA evidence thus far has established:

“Another important replacement occurred in Turkey at the end of the eleventh century, when Turks began attacking the Byzantine Empire.  They finally conquered Constantinople (modern Istanbul) in 1453.  The replacement of Greek with Turkish was especially significant because this language belongs to a different family—Altaic.  Again the genetic effects of invasion were modest in Turkey.  Their armies had few soldiers and even if they sometimes traveled with their families, the invading populations would be small relative to the subject populations that had  along civilization and history of economic development.  After many generations of protection by the Roman Empire, however, the old settles had become complacent and lost their ability to resist the dangerous invaders”(Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza , in “Genes, People and Languages”, 2000, pg 152).


So when speaks about the 13th century, one is clearly speaking about culture and native language.  If a person’s native language is Persian and their father’s native language is Persian, then that is sufficient to say they were genealogically Iranian.  The genealogy of Rumi is not really known well beyond his great  grandfather (Ahmad Khatibi) , although some later sources had claimed it went back to the Caliph Abu Bakr.  This point is discussed later on this article and we show that this is not accepted by modern scholars. 

This study is concerned with the cultural identity and ethnic background of Jalal al-Din Rumi.   Although there is no disagreement among serious Rumi scholars about his Persian cultural identity, there have been some groups within nationalist pan-Turkist circles trying to downplay his Persian cultural identity, language and ethnicity.  Their politicized theory rests on three or four invalid and false arguments which we shall respond to in detail in this article:

 A) Rumi wrote Persian because it was more poetic or common. 

B) Rumi was genealogically Turkish

C) Rumi has a few scattered Mual’ammas in Turkish and uses archaic Central Asian Turkish words so he was Turkish

D) Sama’ was Turkish phenomenon

Thus there have been some people from Turkey or Turkic language background who advocate a Turkic genealogy for Rumi.  We will show there is no proof of this and all indicators is that Rumi had an Iranic(Persian or other Iranian language group) background.  Note, as it is well known, cultural identity, ethnicity (defined by native language and culture) and genealogy are different issues.  For example many people in the non-Arabic Muslim world claim descent from the Prophet of Islam (SAW) but culturally they are no different than those who do not have such a background.   On the other hand, most Egyptians are descendant of ancient Egyptians rather than Arabs of Arabian peninsula, however culturally they identify themselves as Arabs.  Most Turkish speakers of Anatolia are closer genetically to their Greek neighbors than to the Turkic people of Central Asia.  In other words, their cultural identity defines their ethnicity and not their 20th ancestor.  Given there is hardly if any pure backgrounds in the Middle East, then cultural identity will supersede  genealogy when assigning a poet to a particular civilization.   Thus repeating for emphasis what the Turkish professor Talat Halman has stated: “Baha ad-din (Rumi’s Father) and his family eventually settled in Konya, ancient Iconium, in central Anatolia.  They brought with them their traditional Persian cultural and linguistic background and found in Konya a firmly entrenched penchant for Persian culture.  In terms of Rumi’s cultural orientation – including language, literary heritage, mythology, philosophy, and Sufi legacy –the Iranians  have indeed a strongly justifiable claim.  All of these are more than sufficient to characterize Rumi as a prominent figure of Persian cultural history”(Rapture and Revolution, page 266) and d he also mentions: “Rumi is patently Persian on the basis of jus et norma loquendi”.  

As per modern scholars, virtually all the Western sources we have looked at identify Rumi as a Persian poet and a native Persian speaker.  Few scholars however have taken the legendary claim that his father’s lineage goes back to the first Caliph Abu Bakr and we shall discuss this issue later.  However if this legendary claim was correct, Rumi would still be considered a native Persian since he was a native Persian speaker and of Iranian cultural orientation. 

Among the Western scholars, one  can quote Franklin who clearly states:

Franklin Lewis, Rumi Past and Present, East and West, Oneworld Publications, 2000.:

“How is it that a Persian boy born almost eight hundred years ago in Khorasan, the northeastern province of greater Iran, in a region that we identify today as Central Asia, but was considered in those days as part of the greater Persian cultural sphere, wound up in Central Anatolia on the receding edge of the Byzantine cultural sphere, in which is now Turkey, some 1500 miles to the west?” (p. 9)

Annemarie Schimmel  also remarks on Rumi’s native tongue in the “ The Triumphal Sun: A Study of the Works of Jalaloddin Rumi”, SUNY Press, 1993, p. 193:           

"Rumi's mother tongue was Persian, but he had learned during his stay in Konya, enough Turkish and Greek to use it, now and then, in his verse"

And even Halman agrees although he tries to provide justifications for Western scholars although Western scholars have looked at other reasons besides culture and background (for example sedentary population of Vakhsh or the Balkhi language and Aflaki’s Manaqib and its clear references to various ethnic groups and etc.).  Halman states(pg 266):

“In the West scholars have always accepted Rumi as a Persian on the basis of his exclusive use of the Persian language and because he remained in the mainstream of Persian cultural heritage.  No account seems to have been taken of the Turkish and Afghan claims, except some occasional references such as the one by William Hastie in his introduction to The Festival of Spring, featuring his translations from Rumi’s Divan:

The Turks claim Jelaleddin as their own, although a Persian of royal race, born of Balkh, old Bactra, on the ground of his having sung and died in Qoniya, in Asia Minor…Whence he was called Rumi “the Romans,” usually rendered “the Greek,” as wonning wihin the confies of old Oriental Rome.


Obviously the native language, exclusive use of Persian language and also mainstream Persian cultural heritage are sufficient to describe Rumi as a Persian poet.  This author (writer of this article) claims Iranian ethnicity and speaks Persian as a native language and lnows his ancestors up to three generations back who spoke Fahlavi-type Iranian dialect.  However we do not know our 20th ancestor.  Thus if genealogy is of concern, then it can have bearing on ethnicity only to the point where such a genealogy is known consciously to that person and that genealogy is different from the culture and language of the person who knows that genealogy.   In the case of Rumi, his father was a native Persian speaker (as shown later in the article) and one concludes that genealogically he is Persian up to the ancestors we know.  However as mentioned, ethnicity is defined by culture, mythological orientation and native language.

We should make a point on the Afghan claim here.  Rumi according to most up to date scholarly sources was born in Vakhsh Tajikistan, although Vakhsh itself was part of the greater province of Balkh at that time.  However, when we talk about Persian/Iranian in this article, we are not talking about modern nation-states or citizenships.  Rather we are taking the viewpoint of Persian culture, Persian native language and Persian background (which is mainly defined by native Persian language since today most Anatolian Turks are not genetically related to the Turkic groups of Central Asia and are closer genetically to Greeks and many native Persian speakers might not be descendants of the Achaemenids but rather various groups who adopted the Persian language and culture). 

In this sense, the term Iranian/Iranic/Persian covers the main groups of Afghanistan (Pashtuns, Tajiks, Nuristanis, and Baluchs) and the term “Turk” covers Oghuz Turks, Kipchak Turks and etc.  That is generally, despite the shared Islamic civilization, we can state that several majors groups existed (although by no means an exhaustive list):

 1) Iranians (‘Ajam, Tajiks, Tats, Persians, Kurds) which covers all Iranic speakers.  2) Turkic groups (to which we should add Islamicized Mongols who became Turcophones).  We should note some sources have mistaken the Soghdians and other Iranic speakers for Turks due to geographical proximity 3) Arab speaking Muslims, most of these whom lived in territories that was not Arabic speaking before Islam and hence many scholars consider them Arabicized 4) Indian Muslims covering all Indic languages  5) Berbers of Africa.  6) Caucasian groups such as Daghestanis, Lezgins and etc.  7) (and other groups of course in East Asia, Africa, China and etc.)  

So to say Rumi was an Afghan or Turkish based on where he lived is actually retroactively misplacing history and an anachronistic usage of modern boundaries for a time when such boundaries did not exist and there was no concept of nation-state or citizenship based on set borders.   At that time even, there was no Ottoman empire and so Rumi cannot be an Ottoman.  So from a geographic point of view, Rumi as shown by his culture was part of the Iranian zone of Islamicate culture. 

In this article, we examine more than cultural, linguistic, heritage and genealogical background of Rumi.  We also examine the background of close friends of Rumi, mainly Shams Tabrizi and Hesam al-Din Chelebi.  We provide an overview of the usage of the term “Turk” in three majors: Diwan Shams Tabrizi (where misinterpretations have taken place), the Mathnawi and finally the Manaqib al-‘Arifin.  We also overview Rumi ‘s father (Baha al-Din Walad) and Sultan Walad’s (Rumi’s son) literally output.   The study shows that Rumi’s everyday language (not just poetic language) was Persian and thus his native language was Persian.   His cultural heritage was Persian.  His genealogy is also discussed and based on the work of his father, we also show that his father’s native language was Persian and hence Rumi’s genealogy is also Persian.  On his particular genealogy, there have been some that have claimed he was a descendant of the Caliph Abu Bakr and we examine this claim as well.  However from our point of view since Rumi’s native language was Persian and his literary output was in Persian, then he is an Iranian cultural icon and eventually the genealogy of most figures in the 13th century Islamic world cannot be traced back to more than their great grandfather (Ahmad Khatibi in the case of Rumi).   And going back further, the genealogy of all humans go back to caveman and possibly a single man and women in Africa and the only firm statement is that the genealogy of Rumi which is through his father was  Persian as they were native speakers of Persian and Persian was their mothertongue.

On the Persianized Seljuqs


The Seljuqs and the Seljuqs of Rum (1077 to 1307) were the dynasty that controlled Konya  at the time of Rumi.  While the Seljuq’s father-line was Turkish (in the sense of Altaic tribes of Central Asia and specifically the Oghuz tribes), they were completely Persianized after they rose to power.  From the point of view of culture, identity and administration, the Seljuqs are Persian and one can see that Sultan Walad disparages Turks in one of his poems (see the section on Sultan Walad) while he praises the Seljuq ruler Sultan Mas’ud.  Similarly, Rumi disparages the Oghuz tribes but at the same time he was in favor with the Seljuqs.  Thus the Seljuqs despite their Altaic father-line were completely Persianized in language and culture by the time of Rumi and the Seljuq Sultanate of Rum.

With this regard, the eminent historian Rene Grousset states:

         "It is to be noted that the Seljuks, those Turkomans who became sultans of Persia, did not Turkify Persia-no doubt because they did not wish to do so. On the contrary, it was they who voluntarily became Persians and who, in the manner of the great old Sassanid kings, strove to protect the Iranian populations from the plundering of Ghuzz bands and save Iranian culture from the Turkoman menace"(Rene Grousset, The Empire of the Steppes, (Rutgers University Press, 1991), 161,164)

And many other authors and historians agree. 

Stephen P. Blake, "Shahjahanabad: The Sovereign City in Mughal India, 1639-1739". Cambridge University Press, 1991. pg 123:

"For the Seljuks and Il-Khanids in Iran it was the rulers rather than the conquered who were "Persianized and Islamicized".

Even their lineage was slowly changed according to some sources. 

M.A. Amir-Moezzi, "Shahrbanu", Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition:

"... here one might bear in mind that turco-Persian dynasties such as the Ghaznavids, Saljuqs and Ilkhanids were rapidly to adopt the Persian language and have their origins traced back to the ancient kings of Persia rather than to Turkish heroes or Muslim saints ..."


John Perry states:

“We should distinguish two complementary ways in which the advent of the Turks affected the language map of Iran. First, since the Turkish-speaking rulers of most Iranian polities from the Ghaznavids and Seljuks onward were already Iranized and patronized Persian literature in their domains, the expansion of Turk-ruled empires served to expand the territorial domain of written Persian into the conquered areas, notably Anatolia and Central and South Asia.  Secondly, the influx of massive Turkish-speaking populations (culminating with the rank and file of the Mongol armies) and their settlement in large areas of Iran (particularly in Azerbaijan and the northwest), progressively turkicized local speakers of Persian, Kurdish and other Iranian languages.  Although it is mainly the results of this latter process which will be illustrated here, it should be remembered that these developments were contemporaneous and complementary.

Both these processes peaked with the accession of the Safavid Shah Esma'il in 1501 CE.  He and his successors were Turkish-speakers, probably descended from Turkicized Iranian inhabitants of the northwest marches. While they accepted and promoted written Persian as the established language of bureaucracy and literature, the fact that they and their tribal supporters habitually spoke Turkish in court and camp lent this vernacular an unprecedented prestige.”
(John Perry. Iran & the Caucasus, Vol. 5, (2001), pp. 193-200. THE HISTORICAL ROLE OF TURKISH IN RELATION TO PERSIAN OF IRAN)


According to Professor Ehsan Yarshater (“Iran” in Encyclopedia Iranica):

       A Turkic nomadic people called Oghuz (Ghozz in Arabic and Persian sources) began to penetrate into the regions south of Oxus during the early Ghaznavid period. Their settlement in Khorasan led to confrontation with the Ghaznavid Masud, who could not stop their advance. They were led by the brothers Tögrel, Čaghri, and Yinal, the grandsons of Saljuq, whose clan had assumed the leadership of the incomers.

       Tögrel, an able general, who proclaimed himself Sultan in 1038, began a systematic conquest of the various provinces of Persia and Transoxiana, wrenching Chorasmia from its Ghaznavid governor and securing the submission of the Ziyarids in Gorgan. The Saljuqids, who had championed the cause of Sunnite Islam, thereby ingratiating themselves with the orthodox Muslims, were able to defeat the Deylamite Kakuyids, capturing Ray, Qazvin, and Hamadan, and bringing down the Kurdish rulers of the Jebal and advancing as far west as Holwan and Kanaqayn. A series of back and forth battles with the Buyids and rulers of Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia ensued; and, although the Saljuqids occasionally suffered reverses, in the end their ambition, tenacity, and ruthlessness secured for them all of Persia and Caucasus. By the time Tögrel triumphantly entered Baghdad on 18 December 1055, he was the master of nearly all of the lands of Sasanian Iran. He had his title of Sultan confirmed by the caliph, and he now became the caliph’s protector, freeing the caliphate from the bond of Shiite Buyids.

       After nearly 200 years since the rise of the Saffarids in 861, this was the first time that all of Persia and its dependencies came under a single and powerful rule which did not dissipate and disband after a single generation. Tögrel (1040-63) was followed by his nephew Alp Arslan (q.v.; 1063-73). He was a warrior king. In his lifetime the realm of the Saljuqids was extended from the Jaxartes in the east to the shores of the Black Sea in the west. He captured Kottalan in the upper Oxus valley, conquered Abkhazia, and made Georgia a tributary, and he secured Tokharestan and Čaghanian in the east. In 1069 he crowned his triumphs with his defeat of the eastern Roman emperor, Romanos Diogenes, by sheer bravery and skillful planning; after extracting a huge tribute of 1,500,000 dinars he signed a peace treaty with the emperor for 50 years. This victory ended the influence of Byzantine emperors in Armenia and the rest of Caucasus and Azerbaijan, and spread the fame of the Saljuqid king in the Muslim world.

       Alp Arslan was succeeded by his son Malekšah (1073-92). Both were capable rulers who were served by the illustrious vizier Nezam-al-Molk (d. 1092). Their rule brought peace and prosperity to a country torn for more than two centuries by the ravages of military claimants of different stripes. Military commands remained in the hands of the Turkish generals, while administration was carried out by Persians, a pattern that continued for many centuries. Under Malekšah the Saljuqid power was honored, through a number of successful campaigns, as far north as Kashgar and Khotan in eastern Central Asia, and as far west as Syria, Anatolia, and even the Yemen, with the caliph in Baghdad subservient to the wishes of the great Saljuqid sultans.

       The ascent of the Saljuqids also put an end to a period which Minorsky has called “the Persian intermezzo”(see Minorsky, 1932, p. 21), when Iranian dynasties, consisting mainly of the Saffarids, the Samanids, the Ziyarids, the Buyids, the Kakuyids, and the Bavandids of Tabarestan and Gilan, ruled most of Iran. By all accounts, weary of the miseries and devastations of never-ending conflicts and wars, Persians seemed to have sighed with relief and to have welcomed the stability of the Saljuqid rule, all the more so since the Saljuqids mitigated the effect of their foreignness, quickly adopting the Persian culture and court customs and procedures and leaving the civil administration in the hand of Persian personnel, headed by such capable and learned viziers as ‘Amid-al-Molk Kondori and Nezam-al-Molk.

       After Malekšah’s death, however, internal strife began to set in, and the Turkish tribal chiefs’tendencies to claim a share of the power, and the practice of the Saljuqid sultans to appoint the tutors (atabaks) of their children as provincial governors, who often became enamored of their power and independence, tended to create multiple power centers. Several Saljuqid lines gradually developed, including the Saljuqids of Kerman (1048-1188) and the Saljuqids of Rum in Anatolia (1081-1307); the latter survived the great Saljuqs by more than a century and were instrumental in spreading the Persian culture and language in Anatolia prior to the Ottoman conquest of the region.


According to the Encyclopedia of Islam:

         “Culturally, the constituting of the Seljuq Empire marked a further step in the dethronement of Arabic from being the sole lingua franca of educated and polite society in the Middle East. Coming as they did through a Transoxania which was still substantially Iranian and into Persia proper, the Seljuqs with no high-level Turkish cultural or literary heritage of their own – took over that of Persia, so that the Persian language became the administration and culture in their land of Persia and Anatolia. The Persian culture of the Rum Seljuqs was particularly splendid, and it was only gradually that Turkish emerged there as a parallel language in the field of government and adab; the Persian imprint in Ottoman civilization was to remain strong until the 19th century.”(“Saljuqids”in the Encyclopedia of Islam).


Jonathan Dewald, "Europe 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World", Charles Scribner's Sons, 2004, p. 24:

"Turcoman armies coming from the East had driven the Byzantines out of much of Asia Minor and established the Persianized sultanate of the Seljuks."

C.E. Bosworth, "Turkish Expansion towards the west" in UNESCO HISTORY OF HUMANITY, Volume IV, titled "From the Seventh to the Sixteenth Century", UNESCO Publishing / Routledge, 2000. p. 391:

"While the Arabic language retained its primacy in such spheres as law, theology and science, the culture of the Seljuk court and secular literature within the sultanate became largely Persianized; this is seen in the early adoption of Persian epic names by the Seljuk rulers (Qubād, Kay Khusraw and so on) and in the use of Persian as a literary language (Turkish must have been essentially a vehicle for everyday speech at this time). The process of Persianization accelerated in the thirteenth century with the presence in Konya of two of the most distinguished refugees fleeing before the Mongols, Bahā' al-Dīn Walad and his son Mawlānā Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, whose Mathnawī, composed in Konya, constitutes one of the crowning glories of classical Persian literature."


The Turkish scholar Halman also states:

“Bahaddin and his family eventually settled in Konya, ancient, Iconium, in central Anatolia.  They brought with them their traditional Persian cultural and linguistic background and found in Konya a firmly entrenched penchant for Persian culture. “ (Halman, 264)

Koprulu mentions:

Mean­while, the Mongol invasion, which caused a great number of scholars and artisans to flee from Turkistan, Iran, and Khwarazm and settle within the Empire of the Seljuks of Anatolia, resulted in a reinforcing of Persian influence on the Anatolian Turks. Indeed, despite all claims to the contrary, there is no question that Persian influence was paramount among the Seljuks of Anatolia. This is clearly revealed by the fact that the sultans who ascended the throne after Ghiyath al-Din Kai-Khusraw I assumed titles taken from ancient Persian mythology, like Kai-Khusraw, Kai-Ka us, and Kai-Qubad; and that. Ala’al-Din Kai-Qubad I had some passages from the Shahname inscribed on the walls of Konya and Sivas. When we take into consideration domestic life in the Konya courts and the sincerity of the favor and attachment of the rulers to Persian poets and Persian literature, then this fact {i.e. the importance of Persian influence} is undeniable. (Mehmed Fuad Koprulu , Early Mystics in Turkish Literature, Translated by Gary Leiser and Robert Dankoff , Routledge, 2006, pg 149)

In our opinion, to claim that Rumi grew up in a Turkish environment or in a Turkish state is a nationalistic point of view and is baseless.   What matters in the medieval Islamic period is that the concept of nation states did not exist.  So the concept of culture and self-identity is paramount.  Even Turkish scholars do agree that the Seljuqs lacked Turkish identity (how else can someone like Sultan Walad call Turks as world-burners and thank Sultan Masu’d for defeating them?  Or in another poem ask Sultan Masu’d to fight against the Turks?) and were Persianized. 

Without a doubt Konya and the Seljuq Sultanate of Rum was diverse and from numerical point of view, Iranian refugees were probably a minority relative to Armenians, Greeks, Turks, and etc.  However from a cultural point of view, Iranian culture and literature predominated and the Seljuqs themselves lacked a Turkish identity.   So Iranian culture was predominant in the Seljuq Sultanate and this was due to such refugees as Rumi’s father and the Persianization of the Seljuks.  In modern Turkey, Iran and etc. the majority of the population cannot trace their lineage more than their grand-father or great grand-father.  Of course DNA might help, but overall, it is culture that makes identity.  For example many “Turks” in Anatolia are descendants of Greeks, Albanians, Slavs and other diverse people of the Ottoman empire who have adopted Turkish identity.  The same can be said about other countries of the region.  With this regard, the Seljuqs from an ethnicity and identity point of view should be considered a Persianized group despite their Altaic lineage.  And the Seljuq Sultanate of Rum should be considered as a Persianate state and most of the administrators of this state were Persians and Persianized muslims.

Some distortions due to nationalistic reasons


According to C.E. Bosworth:“Similarly such great figures as al-Farabi, al-Biruni, and Ibn Sina have been attached by over enthusiastic Turkish scholars to their race”.  ) Clifford Edmond Bosworth, "Barbarian Incursions: The Coming of the Turks into the Islamic World." In Islamic Civilization, Edited by D. S. Richards. Oxford, 1973. Pg 2( and he references specifically :”See, for instance the arguments of A.Z. V. Togan regarding the putative Turkishness of al-Biruni, in his Umumi Turk Tarihine Giris (Istanbul, 1946), pp 88-9. “ (pg 2)

We should note that Farabi although described as a Persian(By Ibn Abi ‘Sayba and Al-Shahruz in the 13th century)  or Turk by Ibn Khalikan (13th century) was in all likelihood an Iranian Soghdian from central Asia and his usage of Soghdian words and even modified Soghdian-Arabic Alphabet in the Kitab al-Horuf  provides an elegant proof.

An article on his probable Sogdian origin can be found here:

G.  Lohrasp,” Some remarks on Farabi's background: Iranic (Soghdian/Persian) or (Altaic)?” (2009)



The other two scholars, Abu Rayhan Biruni and Avicenna were Iranians and their native language was Chorasmian and Persian respectively.

Unfortunately, one  scholar which we would rather not mention has based his knowledge on Rumi on the same author (Zekki Velid Togan)  and has claimed “Rumi was presumably” Turkish without writing a single article on Rumi himself.  It should be noted that the term “Turk” itself was a generic term and did not specifically refer to Altaic speakers of today.  However other scholars like C.E. Bosworth are erudite enough not to reference just any Turkish source and Togan’s viewpoint on Biruni shows that he is not unbiased when it comes to claiming medieval figures.

Here we provide examples of actual distortions in texts.

Example 1)

Mohammad Hossein Zadeyeh Sadiq (an advocate of pan-Turkist historiography who even claims that 70% of the Avesta language is Turkish and the ancient Sumerians, Elamites, Urartu, Iranian Medes were Turks and etc. and received his degree in Turkey) states in his book:  “Torki Saraayaan Maktab Shams o Mowlana”  (Publisher: Nedaayeh Shams, 1386 (Solar Calendar) (pg 122):


مولوی علاقه​ی خاصی به فرزندش داشت و همه جا او را به همراه خود به محافل و مجالس می​برد و او را فعل خود میدانست.  افلاکی درباره او میگوید:«حضرت ولد از نقل والد خود، سال​های بسیار به صفای تمام عمر می​راند و سه مجلد مثنویات و یک جلد دیوان ترکی انشاء فرموده از معارف و حقایق و غرایب اسرار عالم را پر کرد»(حسین محمدزاده صدیق، "ترکی​سرایان مکتب شمس و مولوی"، ندای شمس، تبریز، 1386. صفحه 122). 

Translation of the distortion:

“Mowlana had a special likeness for his son Sultan Walad and took him to all gatherings and places of discourse and considered him his “action”.  Aflaki says about Sultan Walad: “Meanwhile, after his father’s death Valad lived on in tranquility for many years and he composed three books of mathnaviyyat and one volume of Turkish collected poetry (Divan)”

We noted that on page 119, the author refers to the Manaqib Aflaki the Yazichi edition. 

We looked at the same book:

(شمس الدین احمد افلاکی العارفی، مناقب العارفین، سال 1362، به همت تحسین یزیچی، دنیانی کتاب)

And it said:

:«حضرت ولد از نقل والد خود، سال​های بسیار به صفای تمام عمر می​راند و سه مجلد مثنویات و یک جلد دیوان انشاء فرموده از معارف و حقایق و غرایب اسرار عالم را پر کرد»

Thus Mohammad Zadeh Sadiq has taken the liberty to distort the word of Aflaki and add the highlighted red word “Torki” (Turkish) to the above phrase!!

We looked at a recent English translation as well(Shams al-Din Aflaki, "The feats of the knower’s of God: Manāqeb al-ʻārefīn", translated by John O'Kane, Brill, 2002.)

[18] “Mowlana had a special likeness for his son Sultan Walad and took him to all gatherings and places of discourse and considered him his “action”.  Aflaki says about Sultan Walad: “Meanwhile, after his father’s death Valad lived on in tranqullity for many years and he composed three books of mathnaviyyat and one volume of collected poetry ” (pg 561)

So Hossein Mohammadzadeyeh Sadiq has brought a distortion to the work of Aflaki.  Aflaki does not use the term “Turkish Divan” but simply “Divan”.  Hence the words of Aflaki are distorted and the word “Turkish” was added as an adjective to the Divan in the book written by Hossein Mohammadzadeyeh Sadiq.  Such distortion of primary sources is unacceptable in academia and scholars should be careful when looking at Turkish sources (even by scholars as such as Togan who has some good works as well).

Example 2)

According to Dr. Firuz Mansuri, another distortion has occurred by Fereydun Nafiz Ozluk.  We will just list this distortion here (although we are reporting it and have not seen the original text of Nafiz Ozluk like the above example of distortion).

According to Dr. Mansuri:

از آثار مولانا و سلطان ولد و تمامی نویسندگان طریقت مولوی در نیمه​ی اول قرن چهاردم میلادی (مثلاً افلاکی) چنین بر​می​آید که آنان کلاً مخالف عصیان ترکمن​های آناطولی علیه سلجوقیان بودند.  در مکتوبات مولانا و دیوان سلطان ولد و مناقب افلاکی، پیروان مولویه نسبت به ترکمنان قرامان اغلو و اشرف اغلو دشمنی نشان داده و آثار مختلف به جای گذاشته​اند.

بعد از مرگ محمدبیک قرامانلو و شکست ترکمنان، سلطان غیاث الدین مسعود دوم به قونیه آمد و برخت نشست.  سلطان ولد سه منظومه درباره​ی جلوس و تهنیت او سروده و اضهار وجد و سرور کرده است.  او در یکی از منظومه​ها از سلطان درخواست میکند که نسبت به ترکانی که پیش سلطان فرار کرده  و از ترس جان به کوه​ها و غارها پناه برده​اند، ترحم نکند و جمله را به قصاص رسانیده و زنده نگذارند.

قسمتهایی از تهنیت​نامه​ی سلطان ولد نقل می​شود:

به دولت شاه شاهانی به صولت شیر شیرانی

همه ترکان ز بیم جان شده در غار و کُه پنهان

چو نبود شیر در بیشه رود از گرگ اندیشه

پلنگ اکنون بشد موشی، چو آمد شیر حق غٌران

چو ماران رفته در کُه‌ها در آن بیشه به انده‌ها

همه چون روز می‌دانند که خواهی کوفت سرهاشان

همه در گریۀ ناله، بخون در غرق چون لاله

گهی بر موت خود گریان، گهی بر خوف خان و مان

چو رنجوران بی‌درمان بشسته دستها از جان

به اومیدی طمع کرده که بوک از شه رسد غفران

گذشت از حد‌این زحمت مکن شاها توشان رحمت

حیات خلق اگر خواهی بکن آن جمله را قربان

لکم اندر قصاص خلق حیات و این شنو از حق

قصاص چشم چشم آمد به دندان هم بود دندان

حیات اندر قصاص آمد جهان ازاین خلاص آمد

نبودی هیچکس زنده برین گرد نامدی فرمان

خوارج را مهل زنده اگر میرست اگر بنده

که خونی کشتنی باشد سه شرع آیت قرآن

ولد کردست نفرین ها برون از چرخ و پروین-ها

که یارب زین سگان بد ببر هم جان و هم ایمان

در آن تاریخ نه تنها این قصیده، بلکه مندرجات سایر منابع تاریخی و ادبی هم دلالت بر این دارند که شهرنشینان، به ویژه اهالی قونیه، از ترکان کوچ رو که مُخل آسایش عمومی و مخالف نظامی اداری حکومت بودند، دل خوشی نداشتند و نسبت به آنها اظهار کینه و نفرت می​کردند.  فریدون نافذ اوزلوک مترجم دیوان سلطان ولد به ترکی، در نخستین بیت منظومه​ی فوق، به جای کلمه​ی «همه ترکان» لغت خوارج را گمارده است.  ایشان با این اقدام بی​مورد و تحریف آشکار، حس کینه و نفرت سلطان ولد را نسبت به ترکان پرده​پوشی کرده و از چشم خوانندگانی که فارسی نمی​دانند، پنهان داشته است.  سلطان ولد در منظومه​ی دیگر که از پیروزی سلطان مسعود بر ترکان سخن رانده آورده است.

ترکان عالم​سوز را از غار و کوه بیشه​ها

آورده در طاعت خدا چون شاه ما مسعود شد


(cited in Firuz Mansuri, “Mot’aleaati Darbaareyeh Tarkh, Zaban o Farhang Azarbaijan”, Nashr Hezar, Tehran, 1387 (Solar Hejri Calendar), volume 1.  Pp 71-72).

 According to Dr. Firuz Mansur, “It should be noted that Fereydun Nafidh ‘Ozluk, the translator of the Diwan of Sultan Walad,  has changed the word “Hameh Torkaan” to “Khawarij” in the poem above”.    

Of course the reason for this mistranslation and omission would be because the poem beseeches Sultan Masud Seljuqi  who defeated the Qaramanlou (we shall described this episode in the Sultan Walad) to not  let one Turk who had fled into mountains and caves escape alive.  Seeing the severity of the poem and the justice sought by Sultan Walad from Sultan Masu’d, the Turkish translator Fereydun Nafidh ‘Ozluk changed the word “Hameh Torkaan” (All the Turks) to Khwarij (an Islamic sect that developed during the time of Imam Ali (AS) which became disdained for its political miscalculations, cursing of the caliphate of Ali and political and literalist beliefs).   Since this author has not seen the translation of Fereydun Nafidh ‘Ozluk, we have just quoted Dr. Mansuri.  However, we doubt Dr. Mansuri would make such a thing up and it is unfortunate that such a mistranslation due to nationalistic reasons can occur.  The severity of this distortion is the same as the first distortion.  Especially since the Qaramanlou actually banned Persian from the Divan and employed Turkish and are seen in a positive light by Turkish nationalist and of course such a severe condemnation from Sultan Walad would not go well with nationalist type translators like Fereydun Nafidh ‘Ozluk.

Example 3)

We demonstrated two episodes about Mehmet Onder quoted in Franklin.  Obviously the site of the graveyard of Shams brings prestige and various places have been assumed.   However no sufficient evidence exists with this regard.

Let us quote Franklin here:

“One would not usually pose the question: “who is buried in Gowhartash’s tomb?”  Yet Mehmet Onder, the director of the Mevlana Museum in Konya, has done precisely this (see Chapter 13 below for example of this Turkish patriot’s polemical and uncritical evaluation of evidence.)  While repairs to the so-called ”Shrine of Shams” (torbat-e Shams), a site in Konya, were underway, Onder summoned Golpinarli to the shrine.  Onder had discovered a small wooden door raised up a few steps above the main structure.  This trapdoor led to a stone staircase, at the bottom of which Onder found a small crypt housing a single plaster-inlaid sarcophagus along the edge of the left wall, directly under the decorative wooden sarcophagus/cenotaph on the floor above.

Though there was no inscription on this hidden sarcophagus, Onder won Golpinarli over to the opinion that I must be the grave of Shams.  Across from this shrine traditionally associated with the name of Shams al-Din is a well, supposedly dug in the Seljuk era.  Somewhere nearby this site, Onder claims to have found a stone inscription from the madrase of Gowhartash.  Of course, this slab has been used in the rebuilding of a later minaret and therefore might not originally have been associated with this site.  Far more troubling, however, is the fact that there is only one sarcophagus in the crypt of the mausoleum.  Golpinarli assumes with Onder that the tomb belongs to Shams, leaving Gowhartash with no grave of his own.

Naturally, we might just as well reach one of several other conclusions: (a) this is the grave of Gowhartash and Aflaki is wrong about Shams being buried next to him; (b) this is not the site mentioned in Aflaki’s anecdote – Shams and Gowhartash are buried side by side at some other unknown locations; or (c) the account of Aflaki is entirely baseless from beginning to end.  Nevertheless, Schimmel has ratified the conclusions of Golpinarli and Onder, triumphantly concluding that “the truth of Aflaki’s statement has been proved” (ScT 22).  She even offers an imaginary reenactment of the crime.  Professor Mikail Bayram at the Seljuq University in Konya shares this opinion, even indicating that the bones of Shams have been found (personal interview with the author in Konya, May 15, 1999).”(Franklin, pg 189-190)


On the Turkish scholar Onder, Professor Franklin also mentions:

Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi(Ankara: Ministry of Culture, 1990), a translation by P.M. Butler of a Turkish work by Mehmet Onder of the same name (1986), was printed by a typesetter with an imperfect knowledge of English, as the many mistakes reflect.

This rather unsophisticated work has two principal goals – to assist tourists who want to know something more about Rumi than can be gleaned from the museum brochures, and to aggrandize Turkish culture.


This book published by the Turkish Ministry of Culture, displays an extremely exuberant ignorance, or an ethnocentric agenda.  In the introduction, Onder refers to Rumi as “the great Turkish mystic” and “a great Turkish intellectual.”.  He then turns Rumi into a Turkish prophet, calling Mevelana “the eternal gift of the Turkish people to all humanity” (210).  In fact, there is no reference to the minor detail that language spoken by Baha al-Din was Persian or ‘Attar wrote his Asrar Name in Persian, nor do we learn that Rumi composed the Masnavi in Persian until page 138, three pages after learning that the prose preface to each book are in Arabic (but then the book [101] even insinuates that the Koran is in Turkish!).  Throughout Onder deliberately leaves us to assume that Rumi’s other works are in Turkish, and indeed when he can no longer contain his misplaced patriotism, bursts out with the utterly ludicrous statement that “There is no doubt that Mevlana’s mother tongue was Turkish,  since Balkh, from which he migrated with his father, was the cultural centre of Turkestan and Khorasan,  both regions of predominantly Turkish population” (207).  Though Onder begrudgingly allows that Rumi was probably taught Arabic and Persian at a very early stage in his education (208), he insists that Rumi spoke Turkish throughout his life (whether the Kipchak or Oghuz dialect, Onder cannot tell), not only with his family, but also “when addressing people and in his sermons.”.  Rumi chose to write “most of his works in Persian and some in Arabic” only because it was the convention of the day (208).  Onder’s  “evidence” for this unsupported and insupportable theory consists of the assertion that Rumi uses an Anatolian Persian dialect (whatever that might be, it would still be Turkish, which is from an altogether different language family, and that his Divan and Masnavi are interspersed with “particularly high percentage” of couplets and passages in Turkish.  This is a very creative use of statistics, since a couple of dozen at most of the 35,000 lines of the Divan Shams are in Turkish and almost all of these lines occur in poems that are predominantly in Persian”(pg 548-549)

Note Baha al-Din Walad is Rumi’s father whom we have devoted a section to in this article.  We note that not even 0.1% of all the literary output (prose and poetry) of Rumi are in Greek/Turkish combined.  Furthermore, all the lectures and sermons of Rumi are in Persian not in Turkish (which negates the argument that Rumi composed in Persian because it was the convention) and the sermons/lectures/letters (Majales-i Sabe’, Maktubat and Fihi Ma Fih) are replete with Persian poetry of Attar, Sanai and etc.  The sermons and lectures, in an informal yet elegant tone were recorded by Rumi’s students and again provide a sufficient proof of his everyday language being Persian.  We shall examine these in another section.  Unlike what Onder claims, there is not a single sermon and lecture of Rumi in Turkish.  Thus “when addressing people and his sermon”, Rumi’s work is overwhelmingly Persian with the exception of two Arabic sermons in the Fihi ma Fihi (among the 69 Persian sermons).  This is an elegant proof of everyday language of Rumi and a self-evident refutation of Onder.  However, as shown Mehmet Onder has tried to downplay Rumi’s Persian heritage for tourists who visit Konya and has falsely claimed that Rumi’s sermons and letters are in Turkish (where-as none of them are in Turkish and they are overwhelmingly Persian with the exception of few in Arabic ).


Another outright falsification is seen in a recent manuscript circulating in the internet called “Soroodhaayeh Torki Mowlana” by Mehran Bahari (2005) which was updated in 2008.  The author trying to downplay Rumi’s Persian work claims on page 65:

با اینهمه در کنار آثار مولانا و فرزندش سلطان ولد به تاجیکی-فارسی، آثاری از ایشان به زبانهای عربی ادبی (فیه ما فیه)


The Turkish nationalist author tries to give the impression that Fihi Ma Fihi is in Arabic.  However out of the 71 discourses, only two are in Arabic and both the Persian and Arabic are vernacular everyday spoken language rather than formal and literary.  The reason this is not mentioned is of course due to the fact that it shows Rumi’s and the Mowlavi order’s everyday language was in Persian and these discourses were written down by his students of Rumi while Rumi was lecturing in Persian.  There is not a single discourse in Turkish.  The fact that there is not a single sermon or lecture of Rumi in Turkish has made some of these authors to downplay the overwhelming number of lectures, letters and sermons of Rumi which are in Persian.  Obviously, this provides an elegant proof of Rumi’s everyday interaction with his followers and also the native language of Rumi.

Elsewhere the Turkish nationalist author tries to claim that in the 12th century, the language of Balkh was Turkish (page 70) and this is responded to later when we discuss Baha al-Din Walad.  We demonstrate for example that actual works from Balkh at that time  use the term “Zaban-i Balkhi” which means the language of Balkh and this “zaban-i bakhli” is shown to be a Persian dialect.  There is a section in this article that proves this point conclusively. However, the Turkish nationalist author quotes a certain website (on page 70) to claim otherwise:


و مدتها قبل از آن صاحب فارسنامه ناصری در توجیه فارسی نویسی خود مینویسد: بنده را تربیت پارسی است اگر چه بلخی نژاد است (فارسنامه، ص ۲، چاپ جلال الدین تهرانی، ۱۳۱۲، تهران).

The Turkish nationalist writer is trying to reference the book Farsnaameyeh Nasseri  written in the Qajar era between 1821-1898!  In order to explain why the author of the Farsnaameyeh Nasseri wrote in Persian (the actual author of Farsnaameyeh Nasseri gives no such reason and the Turkish nationalist authors tries to put words in mouth and formulate a reason!), tThe Turkish nationalist writer claims that the author of  Nasseri explains this by:”My upbringing is Persian though I am Balkhi”. 

But in actuality, no where does the author of Farsnameyeh Nasseri  explains why he wrote in Persian.  Rather the correct reading of the sentence in the context of the book is “My upbringing is from Fars province although I am from Balkh”.  The book is called “Fars-nameh” because it is about Ostan-e-Fars (Far province in SW Iran) but the author of Farsnama is referencing that he is originality is from Balkh.  No where does the author of the Farsnama even explain in this work about why he is writing Persian (since it is obvious) and the addition “explanation of why the author wrote in Persian” has nothing to do with “Tarbiyat Parsi” (upbringing in Fars as opposed to Balkh).   Thus the nationalist writer tries to use such a sentence (without correct understanding) and then claim that the language of Balkh is not Persian!

Furthermore, we doubt Farsnaameyeh Nasseri has such a quote since the author of Farsnama claims Seyyed ancestry and according to Iranica:

“The Fārs-nāma-ye nāerī is itself the main source for the biography of ajj Mīrzā asan osaynī Fasāʾī and the history of his ancestors (ed. Rastgār, pp. 924-35, 1035-58). Fasāʾī belonged to the thirty-seventh generation of a family of sayyeds (claiming descent from the prophet Moammad). Members of the family, named Daštakī (q.v.) after the quarter of Shiraz (which later on became part of the quarter Sar-e Dezak) where they owned houses, were prominent scholars and civil servants, with branches in Persia (Shiraz and Fasā), Mecca, and Hyderabad (Deccan).”(AHMAD ASHRAF and ALI BANUAZIZI, “Fars-nameyeh Nasseri” in Encyclopedia Iranica)

Rather the Turkish nationalist author probably misplaced the Farsnaameh of Ibn Balkhi (written during the Seljuq era) with the Farsnaameh of Nasser!  And again the Farsnaameh of Ibn Balkhi is clear, because Ibn Balkhi himself was from Balkh  but the family took residence in Fars province during the time of his grandfather.  (C. EDMUND BOSWORTH, “Ebn al-Bakhli” in Encyclopedia Iranica). 

The Turkish nationalist author is trying to limit the word “Persian” to the province of Fars in Iran and this is a clear distortion.   So he is looking for a text that distinguishes Fars province from Balkh in order to separate these two Iranian cultural regions of that time.

It is true that Fars province means Persian/Persia, but the Persian(Iranian) people and the Persian language is prominent in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and other parts of Central Asia and Caucasus at that time. But the nationalistic author tries to limit the Persian language to “Fars province” and anyone that has said “I am from Fars not say province X” he tries to portray it as if the person is not Persian!  For example if the someone said: “My upbringing is from Fars not Khorasan”, the nationalistic author would claim that means the person is not Persian (for example Ferdowsi or Asadi Tusi among countless others)!

Then the nationalist author quotes Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) that “the city of Balkh was the capital of Turkish kingdom” and reaches the conclusion that Persians arrived there after Turks (since there is no Turkish Kingdom that had Balkh as its capital unlike the Samanids or Kiyanids but it was a major city under Turkish dynasties like Seljuqs and Khwarizmshahids).  This is like saying “Qonya was the capital of the Turkish Seljuqs”, so the Greeks came to Qonya after Turks!

Also anyone that looks at the book of Ibn Khaldun knows that Ibn Khaldun has counted Sogdians (mistakenly) as Turks.

در رابطه با سرزمین سغد و حتی بلخ، جایی ابن خلدون آن را از ممالک ترک میداند.« بلاد سغد در ممالک ترکان و ماوراءالنهر»(صفحه 18، مقدمه، گنابادی)

«در کرانه​​ی خاوری رود در اینجا سرزمین سغد و اسروشنه در ممالک ترکان دیده می​شود»(صفحه 118، مقدمه ابن خلدن، گنابادی)

And a look at Biruni states that Balkh was the capital of Keyanian Iranian dynasty (which is taken as equivalent of Achaemenids).  Also modern historians uniformly agree that the language of Balkh early in the Sassanid era was the Bacrtian Iranian language.  However, during the late Sassanid era and after Islam, it was only the capital of the Arabs and Samanids and Balkh is actually called the cradle of the Khorasani Parsi-Dari(Persian) language by classical sources.   Also many sources indicate Balkh was Persian speaking during the time of Rumi (as we shall see in the section of Baha al-Din Walad).  There is no doubt that the area of Balkh (today its major urban center Mazar-i Sharif is still Tajik speaking) was Iranian long before the Turks entered the region of Central Asia and the best proof of this is the Bactrian language (before the area switched to Parsi-Dari)

Strabo (1st century B.C.) states (Geography, 15.2.1-15.2.8):

The name of Ariana is further extended to a part of Persia, and of Media, as also to the Bactrians and Sogdians on the north; for these speak approximately the same language, with but slight variations.:

And even after the Arabs, according C.E. Bosworth, "The Appearance of the Arabs in Central Asia under the Umayyads and the establishment of Islam", in History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Vol. IV: The Age of Achievement: AD 750 to the End of the Fifteenth Century, Part One: The Historical, Social and Economic Setting, edited by M. S. Asimov and C. E. Bosworth. 1999. Excerpt from page 23: "Central Asia in the early seventh century was ethnically, still largely an Iranian land whose people used various Middle Iranian languages.

C. Edmund Bosworth: "In early Islamic times Persians tended to identify all the lands to the northeast of Khorasan and lying beyond the Oxus with the region of Turan, which in the Shahnama of Ferdowsi is regarded as the land allotted to Fereydun's son Tur. The denizens of Turan were held to include the Turks, in the first four centuries of Islam essentially those nomadizing beyond the Jaxartes, and behind them the Chinese (see Kowalski; Minorsky, "Turan"). Turan thus became both an ethnic and a geographical term, but always containing ambiguities and contradictions, arising from the fact that all through Islamic times the lands immediately beyond the Oxus and along its lower reaches were the homes not of Turks but of Iranian peoples, such as the Sogdians and Khwarezmians."( C.E. Bosworth, “Central Asia: The Islamic period up to the Mongols” in Encyclopedia Iranica).

We shall discuss more about Balkh later, however as shown, the Turkish national author has presented the Farsnama of Ibn Balkhi in a distorted fashion and has ignored many sources in order to claim that Balkh was inhabited by Turks before Iranians.  Where-as the name Balkh itself has an Iranian etymology and its old language was Iranian Bactrian.   We should also make clear by the term Turk, what is meant today is not necessarily the same as that of some Arabic writings.  Today it refers to Altaic speakers but in Islamic times especially the Abbasid era, the term was used for variety of Iranian groups as well.  Referring to the “Turkish” troops in Baghdad, M.A. Shaban states:

“These new troops were the so-called “Turks”.  It must be said without hesitation that this is the most misleading misnomer which has led some scholars to harp ad nauseam on utterly unfounded interpretation of the following era, during which they unreasonably ascribe all events to Turkish domination.  In fact the great majority of these troops were not Turks.  It has been frequently pointed out that Arabic sources use the term Turk in a very loose manner.  The Hephthalites are referred to as Turks, so are the peoples of Gurgan, Khwarizm and Sistan.  Indeed, with the exception of the Soghdians, Arabic sources refer to all peoples not subjects of the Sassanian empire as Turks.  In Samarra separate quarters were provided for new recruits from every locality.  The group from Farghana were called after their district, and the name continued in usage because it was easy to pronounce. But such groups as the Ishtakhanjiyya, the Isbijabbiya and groups from similar localities who were in small numbers at first, were lumped together under the general term Turks, because of the obvious difficulties the Arabs had in pronouncing such foreign names.  The Khazars who also came from small localities which could not even be identified, as they were mostly nomads, were perhaps the only group that deserved to be called Turks on the ground of racial affinity.  However, other groups from Transcaucasia were classed together with the Khazars under the general description.(M.A. Shaban, “Islamic History”, Cambridge University Press, v.2 1978.  Page 63)

However, even adding to what M.A. Shaban has stated, some further Arabic sources have mistaken even Soghdians with Turks.  And Ibn Khaldun’s mistake of Sogdians with Turks is exactly of this nature.  In Islamic sources, such groups as Sogdians, Khwarizmians, Hephtalites, Alans, and even Tibetians, Mongols and etc. have been called “Turk”, while none of these groups are Turkic speaking(except for the Mongols who according to some linguist speak a language that is part of the Altaic languages and can be said to be close to Turks according to those linguists).  Even the Avesta Turanians are today seen as an Iranian people.  However, the nationalist author thinks that just because someone lived under a Turkish kingdom, then they must be Turkish.  Like for example since Anatolian Greeks lived under the Seljuqs, then they must be Turks!

As per the etymology of Balkh,  Daniel Coit Gilman, Harry Thurston Peck, Frank Moore Colby, "The New international encyclopædia, Volume 2",Dodd, Mead and Company, 1902. pg 341: "The name of province or country appears in Old Persian inscriptions (B.h.i 16; Dar Pers e.16; Nr. a.23) as Bāxtri, i.e. Bakhtri.  It is written in the Avesta Bāxδi.  From this latter came the intermediate form Bāxli, Sanskrit Bahlīka, Balhika ‘Bactrian,’, Armenian Bahl, and by transposition, the modern Persian Balx, i.e. Balkh"

Shams Tabrizi and his background


Tabriz in the pre-Mongol and Ilkhanid era


Although today the inhabitants of Tabriz speak Azeri-Turkish and follow twelve Imami Shi’ism, this was not the case during the time of Shams Tabrizi (as shown below by many direct evidences).  In the time of Shams Tabrizi, the language was a Persian based language and the people were primarily Shafi’I Muslims (the sect followed today by Western Iranians such as the Sunni Kurds and Talysh).  Despite this wide difference of language and religion, some sources are not aware of this historical fact and have misplaced time/space in order to retroactively Turkify the background of Shams Tabrizi.  It is a shame that some scholars who write about literature do not take the time to research the area they are writing about during that era!

The process of Turkification of Azerbaijan as mentioned was long and complex and there are still remnants of Tati and other Iranian languages in Caucasia and NW Iran.  The language of Azerbaijan at the time of Shams Tabrizi was what scholars called “Fahlavi-Azari” (“Azerbaijanian Pahlavi”), which is an Iranian language.

Ebn al-Moqaffa’(d. 142/759) is quoted by Ibn Al-Nadim in his famous Al-Fihrist that the language of Azerbaijan is Fahlavi and Azerbaijan is part of the region of Fahlah (alongside Esfahan, Rayy, Hamadan and Maah-Nahavand):

ابن ندیم در الفهرست می‌نویسد:

فأما الفهلویة فمنسوب إلى فهله اسم یقع على خمسة بلدان وهی أصفهان والری وهمدان وماه نهاوند وأذربیجان وأما الدریة فلغة مدن المدائن وبها كان یتكلم من بباب الملك وهی منسوبة إلى حاضرة الباب والغالب علیها من لغة أهل خراسان والمشرق و اللغة أهل بلخ وأما الفارسیة فتكلم بها الموابدة والعلماء وأشباههم وهی لغة أهل فارس وأما الخوزیة فبها كان یتكلم الملوك والأشراف فی الخلوة ومواضع اللعب واللذة ومع الحاشیة وأما السریانیة فكان یتكلم بها أهل السواد والمكاتبة فی نوع من اللغة بالسریانی فارسی

(=اما فهلوی منسوب است به فهله كه نام نهاده شده است بر پنج شهر: اصفهان و ری و همدان و ماه نهاوند و آذربایجان. و دری لغت شهرهای مداین است و درباریان پادشاه بدان زبان سخن می‌گفتند و منسوب است به مردم دربار و لغت اهل خراسان و مشرق و لغت مردم بلخ بر آن زبان غالب است. اما فارسی كلامی است كه موبدان و علما و مانند ایشان بدان سخن گویند و آن زبان مردم اهل فارس باشد. اما خوزی زبانی است كه ملوك و اشراف در خلوت و مواضع لعب و لذت با ندیمان و حاشیت خود گفت‌وگو كنند. اما سریانی آن است كه مردم سواد بدان سخن رانند).


ابن ندیم، محمد بن اسحاق: «فهرست»، ترجمه‌ی رضا تجدد، انتشارات ابن سینا، 1346


Ibn Nadeem, “Fihrist”, Translated by Reza Tajaddod, Ibn Sina publishers, 1967.

A very similar explanation is given by the medieval historian Hamzeh Isfahani when talking about Sassanid Iran. Hamzeh Isfahani writes in the book Al-Tanbih ‘ala Hoduth al-Tashif that five “tongues”or dialects, were common in Sassanian Iran: Fahlavi, Dari, Farsi (Persian), Khuzi and Soryani. Hamzeh (893-961 A.D.) explains these dialects in the following way:

Fahlavi was a dialect which kings spoke in their assemblies and it is related to Fahleh. This name is used to designate five cities of Iran, Esfahan, Rey, Hamadan, Maah Nahavand, and Azerbaijan. Farsi (Persian) is a dialect which was spoken by the clergy (Zoroastrian) and those who associated with them and is the language of the cities of Fars. Dari is the dialect of the cities of Ctesiphon and was spoken in the kings’/darbariyan/ ‘courts’. The root of its name is related to its use; /darbar/ ‘court* is implied in /dar/. The vocabulary of the natives of Balkh was dominant in this language, which includes the dialects of the eastern peoples. Khuzi is associated with the cities of Khuzistan where kings and dignitaries used it in private conversation and during leisure time, in the bath houses for instance.

(Mehdi Marashi, Mohammad Ali Jazayery, Persian Studies in North America: Studies in Honor of Mohammad Ali Jazayery, Ibex Publishers, Inc, 1994. pg 255)


Ibn Hawqal, another 10th century Muslim traveller states:

the language of the people of Azerbaijan and most of the people of Armenia (sic; he probably means the Iranian Armenia) is Iranian (al-faressya), which binds them together, while Arabic is also used among them; among those who speak al-faressya (here he seemingly means Persian, spoken by the elite of the urban population), there are few who do not understand Arabic; and some merchants and landowners are even adept in it”.

(E. Yarshater, “Azeri: Iranian language of Azerbaijan”in Encyclopedia Iranica)

It should be noted that Ibn Hawqal mentions that some areas of Armenia are controlled by Muslims and others by Christians.  Of course the land denoted  as Armenia was much bigger than present Armenia.

 Reference: Ibn Hawqal, Surat al-Ardh. Translation and comments by: J. Shoar, Amir Kabir Publishers, Iran. 1981.

 Al-Muqaddasi (d. late 4th/10th cent.) considers Azerbaijan and Arran as part of the 8th division of lands. He states:

“The language of the 8th division is Iranian (al-’ajamyya). It is partly Dari and partly convoluted (monqaleq) and all of them are named Persian”


Al-Moqaddasi, Shams ad-Din Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Ahmad, Ahsan al-Taqasi fi Ma’rifa al-Aqalim, Translated by Ali Naqi Vaziri, Volume One, First Edition, Mu’alifan and Mutarjiman Publishers, Iran, 1981, pg 377


المقدسی، شمس‌الدین ابوعبدالله محمدبن احمد، احسن التقاسیم فی معرفه الاقالیم، ترجمه دكتر علینقی وزیری، جلد 1، چاپ اول، انتشارات مؤلفان و مترجمان ایران، 1361، ص 377.


Al-Muqaddasi also writes on the general region of Armenia, Arran and Azerbaijan and states:

“They have big beards, their speech is not attractive. In Arminya they speak Armenian, in al-Ran, Ranian (Aranian); Their Persian is understandable, and is close to Khurasanian (Dari Persian) in sound”

(Al-Muqaddasi, ‘The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions’, a translation of his Ahsan al-Taqasim fi Ma’rifat al-Aqalim by B.A. Collins, Centre for Muslim Contribution to Civilization, Garnet Publishing Limited,1994. pg 334).

Al-Mas’udi the Arab Historian States:

“The Persians are a people whose borders are the Mahat Mountains and Azarbaijan up to Armenia and Arran, and Bayleqan and Darband, and Ray and Tabaristan and Masqat and Shabaran and Jorjan and Abarshahr, and that is Nishabur, and Herat and Marv and other places in land of Khorasan, and Sejistan and Kerman and Fars and Ahvaz...All these lands were once one kingdom with one sovereign and one language...although the language differed slightly. The language, however, is one, in that its letters are written the same way and used the same way in composition. There are, then, different languages such as Pahlavi, Dari, Azari, as well as other Persian languages.”


Al -Mas’udi, Kitab al-Tanbih wa-l-Ishraf, De Goeje, M.J. (ed.), Leiden, Brill, 1894, pp. 77-8.  

Thus Al-Masu’di testifies to the Iranian presence in the Caucasus and Azerbaijan during the 10th century and even names a local Iranian dialect called Azari.   This Azari was an Iranian language and should not be confused with the Turkish language which is called Azeri or Azerbaijani Turkish.  Both names are derived from the geographical location Azerbaijan, however Azeri Turkish came in much later into the area and most likely became the predominant language of Azerbaijan in the Safavid era.

 Original Arabic of al-Masudi from www.alwaraq.net:


فالفرس أمة حد بلادها الجبال من الماهات و غیرها و آذربیجان إلى ما یلی بلاد أرمینیة و أران و البیلقان إلى دربند و هو الباب والأبواب و الری و طبرستن و المسقط و الشابران و جرجان و ابرشهر، و هی نیسابور، و هراة و مرو و غیر ذلك من بلاد خراسان و سجستان و كرمان و فارس و الأهواز، و ما اتصل بذلك من أرض الأعاجم فی هذا الوقت و كل هذه البلاد كانت مملكة واحدة ملكها ملك واحد و لسانها واحد، إلا أنهم كانوا یتباینون فی شیء یسیر من اللغات و ذلك أن اللغة إنما تكون واحدة بأن تكون حروفها التی تكتب واحدة و تألیف حروفها تألیف واحد، و إن اختلفت بعد ذلك فی سائر الأشیاء الأخر كالفهلویة و الدریة و الآذریة و غیرها من لغات الفرس.


Ahmad ibn Yaqubi mentions that the

People of Azerbaijan are a mixture of ‘Ajam-i Azari (Ajam is a term that developed to mean Iranian) of Azaris and old Javedanis (followers of Javidan the son of Shahrak who was the leader of Khurramites and succeeded by Babak Khorramdin).


Yaqubi, Ahmad ibn Abi, Tarikh-i Yaqubi tarjamah-i Muhammad Ibrahim Ayati, Intisharat Bungah-i Tarjomah o Nashr-i Kitab, 1969.

Finally a source on Tabriz itself:

“Zakarrya b. Mohammad Qazvini’s report in Athar al-Bilad, composed in 674/1275, that “no town has escaped being taken over by the Turks except Tabriz”(Beirut ed., 1960, p. 339) one may infer that at least Tabriz had remained aloof from the influence of Turkish until the time”.

(“Azari: The Iranian Language of Azerbaijan”in Encyclopedia Iranica by E. Yarshater http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/v3f3/v3f2a88b.html])

The linguistic Turkification of Iranian Azerbaijan was a complex multi-state process:

From the time of the Mongol invasion, most of whose armies were composed of Turkic tribes, the influence of Turkish increased in the region. On the other hand, the old Iranian dialects remained prevalent in major cities.

“Hamdallah Mostowafi writing in the 1340s calls the language of Maraqa as “modified Pahlavi”(Pahlavi-ye Mughayyar). Mostowafi calls the language of Zanjan (Pahlavi-ye Raast). The language of Gushtaspi covering the Caspian border region between Gilan to Shirvan is called a Pahlavi language close to the language of Gilan”.


(“Azari: The Iranian Language of Azerbaijan”in Encyclopedia Iranica by E. Yarshater http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/v3f3/v3f2a88b.html])


Professor.  John Perry states:

“We should distinguish two complementary ways in which the advent of the Turks affected the language map of Iran. First, since the Turkish-speaking rulers of most Iranian polities from the Ghaznavids and Seljuks onward were already Iranized and patronized Persian literature in their domains, the expansion of Turk-ruled empires served to expand the territorial domain of written Persian into the conquered areas, notably Anatolia and Central and South Asia. Secondly, the influx of massive Turkish-speaking populations (culminating with the rank and file of the Mongol armies) and their settlement in large areas of Iran (particularly in Azerbaijan and the northwest), progressively Turkicized local speakers of Persian, Kurdish and other Iranian languages. Although it is mainly the results of this latter process which will be illustrated here, it should be remembered that these developments were contemporaneous and complementary.

2. General Effects of the Safavid Accession

Both these processes peaked with the accession of the Safavid Shah Esma'il in 1501 CE He and his successors were Turkish-speakers, probably descended from turkicized Iranian inhabitants of the northwest marches. While they accepted and promoted written Persian as the established language of bureaucracy and literature, the fact that they and their tribal supporters habitually spoke Turkish in court and camp lent this vernacular an unprecedented prestige.”
(John Perry. Iran & the Caucasus, Vol. 5, (2001), pp. 193-200. THE HISTORICAL ROLE OF TURKISH IN RELATION TO PERSIAN OF IRAN)


According to Xavier Planhol, a well known scholar of historical geography (a branch that studies both history and geography and their interaction) and specialist on cultural history of Islam as well nomadicization of Iran, Central Asia and Turkey:“This unique aspect of Azerbaijan, the only area to have been almost entirely "Turkicized" within Iranian territory, is the result of a complex, progressive cultural and historical process, in which factors accumulated successively (Sümer; Planhol, 1995, pp. 510 -- 12) The process merits deeper analysis of the extent to which it illustrates the great resilience of the land of Iran. The first phase was the amassing of nomads, initially at the time of the Turkish invasions, following the route of penetration along the piedmont south of the Alborz, facing the Byzantine borders, then those of the Greek empire of Trebizond and Christian Georgia. The Mongol invasion in the 13th century led to an extensive renewal of tribal stock, and the Turkic groups of the region during this period had not yet become stable. In the 15th century, the assimilation of the indigenous Iranian population was far from being completed. The decisive episode, at the beginning of the 16th century, was the adoption of Shi ʿ ite Islam as the religion of the state by the Iran of the Safavids, whereas the Ottoman empire remained faithful to Sunnite orthodoxy. Shi ʿ ite propaganda spread among the nomadic Turkoman tribes of Anatolia, far from urban centers of orthodoxy. These Shi ʿ ite nomads returned en masse along their migratory route back to Safavid Iran. This movement was to extend up to southwest Anatolia, from where the Tekelu, originally from the Lycian peninsula, returned to Iran with 15,000 camels. These nomads returning from Ottoman territory naturally settled en masse in regions near the border, and it was from this period that the definitive "Turkicization" of Azerbaijan dates, along with the establishment of the present-day Azeri-Persian linguistic border-not far from Qazvin, only some 150 kilometers from Tehran. (in the 15 st century assimilation was still far from complete, has been the adoption of a decisive Shiism in the 16 st Century)”http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/unicode/v13f2/v13f2024i.html

The famous Sunni Shafi’I Muslims of the area like Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi, Shams Tabrizi, Shaykh Mahmud Shabistari and etc. lived in a time when Azerbaijan was far from Turkicized.  Indeed Shaf’ism today is followed by the Sunni Iranian speaking Kurds and Talysh (remnants of the once wider Iranian/Persian  speakers) of the area where-as the new incoming Turks were uniformly Hanafite Muslims until the region became Shi’ite.  As shown below, direct evidence clearly demonstrates Tabriz still had an Iranian language during the time of the Ilkhanids and words from the Old Fahlavi-Azari Iranian dialect are recorded by Rumi through the mouth of Shams.  The reader can learn more about the complex processes of Turkicization of the historical area of Arran, Sherwan and Azerbaijan in the article below:

Ali Doostzadeh, “Politicization of the background of Nizami Ganjavi: Attempted de-Iranization of a historical Iranian figure by the USSR", June 2008 (Updated 2009). 

http://sites.google.com/site/rakhshesh/articles-related-to-iranian-history or here:

http://www.archive.org/details/PoliticizationOfTheBackgroundOfNizamiGanjaviAttemptedDe-iranizationOf   accessed October 2009.


The Tabrizi Iranian language as a special case

As noted, even after the Mongol invasion (the bulk of its troop being Turkish),

“Zakarrya b. Mohammad Qazvini’s report in Athar al-Bilad, composed in 674/1275, that “no town has escaped being taken over by the Turks except Tabriz”(Beirut ed., 1960, p. 339) one may infer that at least Tabriz had remained aloof from the influence of Turkish until the time”.(“Azari: The Iranian Language of Azerbaijan”in Encyclopedia Iranica by E. Yarshater http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/v3f3/v3f2a88b.html])

 The language of Tabriz, being an Iranian language, was not the standard Khurasani Dari. Qatran Tabrizi has an interesting verse mentioning this in a couplet:


بلبل به سان مطرب بیدل فراز گل

گه پارسی نوازد، گاهی زند دری


The nightingale is on top of the flower like a minstrel who has lost it heart

It bemoans sometimes in Parsi (Persian) and sometimes in Dari (Khurasani Persian)



ریاحی خویی، محمدامین، «ملاحظاتی درباره‌ی زبان كهن آذربایجان»: اطلاعات سیاسی - اقتصادی، شماره‌ی 182-181


(Riyahi Khoi, Mohammad Amin. “Molehezati darbaareyeh Zabaan-i Kohan Azerbaijan”(Some comments on the ancient language of Azerbaijan), ‘Itilia’at Siyasi Magazine, volume 181-182)

This comprehensive article is also available below:



There are extant words, phrases and sentences attested in the old Iranic dialect of Tabriz in a variety of books and manuscripts. Here are some examples:


Hamdullah Mostowafi mentions a sentence in the language of Tabriz:


انگور خلوقی بی چه در، درّ سوه اندرین


یک جمله از زبان تبریزیان در نزهةالقلوب حمدالله مستوفی:" تبارزه اگر صاحب حُسنی را با لباس ناسزا یابند، گویند “انگور خلوقی بی چه در، درّ سوه اندرین”؛ یعنی انگور خلوقی(انگوری مرغوب) است در سبد دریده "pg 98



“The Tabrizians if they see a fortunate man in an uncouth clothes say: He is like a fresh grape in a ripped fruit basket.”



مستوفی، حمدالله: «نزهةالقلوب»، به كوشش محمد دبیرسیاقی، انتشارات طهوری، 1336


Mostowafi, Hamdallah. Nozhat al-Qolub. Edit by Muhammad Dabir Sayyaqi. Tahuri Publishing, 1957.


A mulama’poem (meaning ‘colourful’, which is popular in Persian poetry where some verses are in one language and others in another language) from Homam Tabrizi where some verses are in Khorasani (Dari) Persian and others are in the dialect of Tabriz:

بدیذم چشم مستت رفتم اژ دست

 كوام و آذر دلی كویا بتی مست

دل‌ام خود رفت و می‌دانم كه روژی

 به مهرت هم بشی خوش كیانم اژ دست

 به آب زندگی ای خوش عبارت

لوانت لاود جمن دیل و كیان بست

دمی بر عاشق خود مهربان شو

 كزی سر مهرورزی كست و نی كست

به عشق‌ات گر همام از جان برآیذ

 مواژش كان بوان بمرت وارست

 كرم خا و ابری بشم بوینی

به بویت خته بام ژاهنام



انصاف‌پور، غلام‌رضا: “تاریخ تبار و زبان آذربایجان”، انتشارات فكر روز، 1377


Gholam Reza Ensafpur, “Tarikh o Tabar Zaban-i Azarbaijan”(The history and roots of the language of Azarbaijan), Fekr-I Rooz Publishers, 1998 (1377).


Another ghazal from Homam Tabrizi where all the couplets except the last couplet is in Persian, the last couplet reads:


«وهار و ول و دیم یار خوش بی // اوی یاران مه ول بی مه وهاران»         


Wahar o wol o Dim yaar khwash Bi

Awi Yaaraan, mah wul Bi, Mah Wahaaraan



The Spring and Flowers and the face of the friend are all pleaseant

But without the friend, there are no flowers or any spring.



كارنگ، عبدالعلی: «تاتی و هرزنی، دو لهجه از زبان باستان آذربایجان»، تبریز، 1333


Karang, Abdul Ali. “Tati, Harzani, two dialects from the ancient language of Azerbaijan, Tabriz, 1333. 1952.



Another recent discovery by the name of Safina-yi Tabriz has given sentences from native of Tabriz in their peculiar Iranic dialect. A sample expression of from the mystic Baba Faraj Tabrizi in the Safina:


انانک قده‌ی فرجشون فعالم آندره اووارادا چاشمش نه پیف قدم کینستا نه پیف حدوث


Standard Persian (translated by the author of Safina himself):


چندانک فرج را در عالم آورده‌اند چشم او نه بر قدم افتاده است نه بر حدوث


Modern English:

They brought Faraj in this world in such a way that his eye is neither towards pre-eternity nor upon createdness.



منوچهر مرتضوی، زبان دیرین آذربایجان، بنیاد موقوفات دکتر افشار، 1384.


Mortazavi, Manuchehr. Zaban-e-Dirin Azerbaijan (On the Old language of Azerbaijan). Bonyad Moqufaat Dr. Afshar. 2005(1384).


Indeed the Safina is a bible of the culture of Tabriz which was compiled in the Il-khanid era and clearly shows the region at its height.  It is also a clear proof that the language of the people was Iranian at the time and had not transformed  Turkic.

A sample poem in which the author of the Safina writes “Zaban Tabrizi”(Language of Tabriz):

دَچَان چوچرخ نکویت مو ایر رهشه مهر دورش

چَو ِش دَ کارده شکویت ولَول ودَارد سَر ِ یَوه

پَری بقهر اره میر دون جو پور زون هنرمند

پروکری اَنزوتون منی که آن هزیوه

اکیژ بحتَ ورامرو کی چرخ هانزمَویتی

ژژور منشی چو بخت اهون قدریوه

نه چرخ استه نبوتی نه روزو ورو فوتی

زو ِم چو واش خللیوه زمم حو بورضی ربوه

Sadeqi, Ali Ashraf. “Chand She’r beh Zaban-e Karaji, Tabrizi wa Ghayreh”(Some poems in the language of Karaji and Tabrizi and others), Majalla-ye Zabanshenasi, 9, 1379./2000, pp.14-17.



A sentence in the dialect of Tabriz (the author calls Zaban-I Tabriz (dialect/language of Tabriz) recorded and also translated by Ibn Bazzaz Ardabili in the Safvat al-Safa:


«علیشاه چو در آمد گستاخ وار شیخ را در کنار گرفت و گفت حاضر باش بزبان تبریزی گو حریفر ژاته یعنی سخن بصرف بگو حریفت رسیده است. در این گفتن دست بر کتف مبارک شیخ زد شیخ را غیرت سر بر کرد»


The sentence “Gu Harif(a/e)r Zhaatah”is mentioned in Tabrizi dialect.



Rezazadeh, Rahim Malak. “The Azari Dialect”(Guyesh-I Azari), Anjuman Farhang Iran Bastan publishers, 1352(1973).



A sentence in the dialect of Tabriz by Pir Hassan Zehtab Tabrizi addressing the Qara-Qoyunlu ruler Eskandar:


یك جمله از «پیر حسن زهتاب تبریزی» خطاب به اسكندر قراقویونلو: «اسكندر! رودم كشتی، رودت كشاد!» (= اسكندر! فرزندم را كشتی. خدا فرزندت را بكشد) (ریاحی خویی، ص 31)


“Eskandar! Roodam Koshti, Roodat Koshaad”

(Eskandar! You killed my son, may your son perish”)



ریاحی خویی، محمدامین، «ملاحظاتی درباره‌ی زبان كهن آذربایجان»: اطلاعات سیاسی - اقتصادی، شماره‌ی 182-181


Riyahi, Mohammad Amin. “Molahezati darbaareyeh Zabaan-I Kohan Azerbaijan”(Some comments on the ancient language of Azerbaijan), ‘Itilia’at Siyasi Magazine, volume 181-182.


Also Available at:


The word Rood for son is still used in some Iranian dialects, specially the Larestani dialect and other dialects around Fars.



Four quatrains titled Fahlaviyat from Khwaja Muhammad Kojjani (d. 677/1278-79); born in Kojjan or Korjan, a village near Tabriz, recorded by Abd-al-Qader Maraghi


(Fahlaviyat in Encyclopedia Iranica by Dr. Ahmad Taffazoli, http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/v9f2/v9f232.html)

(Dr. A. A. Sadeqi, “Ash’ar-e mahalli-e Jame’al-Alhaann,”Majalla-ye zaban-shenasi 9, 1371./1992, pp. 54-64)

The actual quatrains are available here:


A sample of one of the four quatrains from Khwaja Muhammad Kojjani


همه کیژی نَهَند خُشتی بَخُشتی

بَنا اج چو کَه دستِ گیژی وَنیژه

همه پیغمبران خُو بی و چو کِی

محمدمصطفی کیژی وَنیژه






Two qet’as (poems) quoted by Abd-al-Qader Maraghi in the dialect of Tabriz (d. 838 A.H./1434-35 C.E.; II, p. 142)

(Fahlaviyat in Encyclopedia Iranica by Ahmad Taffazoli, http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/v9f2/v9f232.html)

(A. A. Sadeqi, “Ash’ar-e mahalli-e Jame’al-Alhaann,”Majalla-ye zaban-shenasi 9, 1371./1992, pp. 54-64.

http://www.archive.org/details/LocalPoemsInIranicDialectsOfTabrizHamadanMazandaranQazvinInThe )



رُورُم پَری بجولان


نو کُو بَمَن وُرارده


وی خَد شدیم بدامش


هیزا اَوُو وُرارده




A ghazal and fourteen quatrains under the title of Fahlaviyat by the poet Maghrebi Tabrizi (d. 809/1406-

(Fahlaviyat in Encyclopedia Iranica by Dr. Ahmad Taffazoli, http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/v9f2/v9f232.html)

(M.-A. Adib Tusi “Fahlavyat-e Magrebi Tabrizi,”NDA Tabriz 8, 1335/1956

Also available at:




A text probably by Mama Esmat Tabrizi, a mystical woman-poet of Tabriz (d. 9th/15th cent.), which occurs in a manuscript, preserved in Turkey, concerning the shrines of saints in Tabriz.

M.- A. Adib Tusi, “Fahlawiyat-e- Mama Esmat wa Kashfi be-zaban Azari estelaah-e raayi yaa shahri”, NDA, Tabriz 8/3, 1335/1957, pp 242-57.

Also availale at:



Example of Shams Tabrizi speaking the North West Iranic dialect of Tabriz


An interesting phrase “Buri Buri”(which in Persian means “Biya Biya”or in English “Come! Come!”) is mentioned by Rumi from the mouth of Shams Tabrizi in this poem:

«ولی ترجیع پنجم در نیایم جز به دستوری

که شمس الدین تبریزی بفرماید مرا بوری

مرا گوید بیا، بوری که من باغم تو زنبوری

که تا خونت عسل گردد که تا مومت شود نوری»

The word “Buri”is mentioned by Hussain Tabrizi Karbalai with regards to the Shaykh Khwajah Abdul-Rahim Azh-Abaadi:

«مرقد و مزار...خواجه عبدالرحیم اژابادی...در سرخاب مشخص و معین است...وی تبریزی اند منسوب به کوچۀ اچاباد(اژآباد) که کوچۀ معینی است در تبریز در حوالی درب اعلی...و از او چنین استماع افتاده که حضرت خواجه در اوایل به صنعت بافندگی ابریشم مشعوری می نموده اند و خالی از جمعیتی و ثروتی نبوده و بسیار اخلاص به درویشان داشته، روزی حضرت بابا مزید وی را دیده و به نظر حقیقت شناخته که درر معرف الهی در صدف سینه اش مختفی است، گفته: عبدالرحیم بوری بوری یعنی بیا بیا، که دیگران را نان از بازار است و تو را از خانه یعنی کلام تو از الهامات ربانی باشد.»

حافظ حسین کربلائی تبریزی، «روضات الجنان»، بنگاه ترجمه و نشر کتاب، 1344-1349 1965-1970.

Karbalai Tabrizi, Hussein. “Rawdat al-Jinan va Jannat al-Janan”, Bungah-I Tarjumah o Nashr-i Kitab, 1344-49 (1965-1970), 2 volumes.


 In the Harzandi Iranic dialect of Harzand in Azerbaijan as well as the Iranic Karingani dialect of Azerbaijan, both recorded in the 20th century, the two words “Biri”and “Burah”means to “come”and are of the same root.


كارنگ، عبدالعلی: «تاتی و هرزنی، دو لهجه از زبان باستان آذربایجان»، تبریز،چاپخانه-ی شفق، 1333


Karang, Abdul Ali. “Tati o Harzani, Do lahjeh az zabaan-i baastaan-i Azerbaijan”, Shafaq publishers, 1333(1955) (pg 91 and pg 112)

We note already that this phrase been used Baba Taher in his Fahlavi dialect poem and Baba Taher lived two centuries before Rumi and Shams:

بوره کز دیده جیحونی بسازیم

بوره لیلی و مجنونی بسازیم

فریدون عزیزم رفتی از دست

بوره کز تو فریدونی بسازیم


بوره بلبل بنالیم از سر سوز

بوره آه سحر از مو بیاموز

تو از بهر گلی ده روز نالی

مو از بهر دل آرامم شب و روز


On the importance of Safinaye Tabriz


Safīna-yi Tabriz (The Vessel of Tabriz or The Treasury of Tabriz, Persian: سفینه تبریز ) is an important encyclopedic manuscript from 14th century Ilkhanid Iran compiled by Abu'l Majd Muhammad b. Mas'ud Tabrizi between 1321 and 1323.  Based on the manuscript, the book has been published in facsimile by Tehran University Press.  As it constitutes a rare Islamic manuscript that has recently been discovered, it has generated a great deal of interest among Islamic, Western, Iranian and Middle Eastern scholars. It is almost perfectly preserved, and contains 209 works on a wide range of subjects, in Persian and Arabic as well as some poetry denoted by Fahlaviyat and the Iranian language of Tabriz. According to Professors A. A. Seyed-Gohrab and S. McGlinn:  The Safineh: is indeed a whole treasure-house, compressed between two covers. One of the important features of the Safinah is that it contains works of a number of philosophers who were not known until the discovery of the manuscript.”

The texts of the Safina-yi Tabrizi contain separate chapters covering Hadith (Prophetic(PBUH&HP) tradition), lexicography, ethics, mysticism, jurisprudence, theology, exegesis, history, grammar, linguistics, literature, literary criticism, philosophy, astronomy astrology, geomancy, mineralogy, mathematics, medicine, music, physiognomy, cosmography and geography. According to Professors A.A. Seyed-Gohrab and S. McGlinn, some of the best available texts of important works of Islamic culture and learning are contained in this work.

A sample poem in which the author of the Safina writes “Zaban Tabrizi”(Language of Tabriz):

دَچَان چوچرخ نکویت مو ایر رهشه مهر دورش

چَو ِش دَ کارده شکویت ولَول ودَارد سَر ِ یَوه

پَری بقهر اره میر دون جو پور زون هنرمند

پروکری اَنزوتون منی که آن هزیوه

اکیژ بحتَ ورامرو کی چرخ هانزمَویتی

ژژور منشی چو بخت اهون قدریوه

نه چرخ استه نبوتی نه روزو ورو فوتی

زو ِم چو واش خللیوه زمم حو بورضی ربوه


Sadeqi, Ali Ashraf. “Chand She’r beh Zaban-e Karaji, Tabrizi wa Ghayreh”(Some poems in the language of Karaji and Tabrizi and others), Majalla-ye Zabanshenasi, 9, 1379./2000, pp.14-17.

Available at:


We should also mention that an unfortunate error occurred in a recent overview of the book: A.A. Seyed-Gohrab & S. McGlinn, The Treasury of Tabriz The Great Il-Khanid Compendium, Iranian Studies Series, Rozenberg Publishers, 2007.  And it is understandable that the authors were not linguists, the mention a  Turkish dialect (Turki and Gurji).  However  the actual poem is here:


Here are the exchanges given by two Iranian authors with regards to this mistake (taken from another article):

Dear. Dr. Ghoraab,

I have the book you edited Safina Tabrizi and also your book on Nizami Ganjavi: Love, Madness and Mystic longing.  Both are excellent books.


I just wanted to make a correction on your article on Safina.  Pages 678-679 of the Safina are not about a Turkish dialect (Tabrizi and Gurji)(page 18 of your book), but they are both Iranian dialects that predate the Turkification of Tabriz.  For more information, please check these two articles by Dr. Ashraf Saadeghi





There are Karaji and Tabrizi languages.  Both are studied in detail by Dr. Sadeghi



Here was the response with this regard.

From: "Seyed, Gohrab A.A.

I would like to thank you very much for your kind email and your friendly words about my books. I deeply appreciate your constructive critical note and will surely correct this in a second edition of the book.


With kind regards and best wishes,

Asghar Seyed-Ghorab


Dr. A.A. Seyed-Gohrab

Chairman of the Department of Persian Studies

Fellow of the Young Academy of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)

Leiden University

Faculty of Arts

Thus the original Tabrizi language as mentioned in the Safinaye Tabriz is an Iranian dialect and here we quote again Baba Faraj Tabrizi in this dialect.

انانک قده‌ی فرجشون فعالم آندره اووارادا چاشمش نه پیف قدم کینستا نه پیف حدوث

Standard Persian (translated by the author of Safina himself):

چندانک فرج را در عالم آورده‌اند چشم او نه بر قدم افتاده است نه بر حدوث


Modern English:

They brought Faraj in this world in such a way that his eye is neither towards pre-eternity nor upon createdness.


منوچهر مرتضوی، زبان دیرین آذربایجان، بنیاد موقوفات دکتر افشار، 1384.


Mortazavi, Manuchehr. Zaban-e-Dirin Azerbaijan (On the Old language of Azerbaijan). Bonyad Moqufaat Dr. Afshar. 2005(1384).

We should note that based on Safinaye Tabrizi, Professor. Mortazavi also states that the language of Shams Tabrizi was the old Fahlavi dialect of Azerbaijan.  Thus the Safinaye Tabriz as well as other sources mentioned clearly reflects the fact that Tabriz was an ethnic Iranic speaking cultural town at that era.  This remarkable text (the actual manuscript) should be in the library of any serious Rumi scholar since it gives a complete mirror of the culture of Tabriz at that time and also helps explaining the figure of Shams Tabrizi.

On the name of Tabriz and its districts


The name of Tabriz in Armenian which has borrowed heavily from Middle Persian and Parthian is TavRezh.  In modern Persian this is Tabriz. 

According to Britannica 2009:

“The name Tabrīz is said to derive from tap-rīz (“causing heat to flow”), from the many  thermal springs in the area.” ("Tabrīz." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Oct. 2009 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/579865/Tabriz>.)


However, Britannica not always being the most reliable source, further confirmation is needed.  The Dehkhoda dictionary has explained this name well:

نوشته‌های ارمنی نیز تلفظ به فتح اول را تائید می‌کنند یعنی تَبریز. «فاوست» بیزانسی (در قرن چهارم م.) آن را «تَورژ» (
Thavrezh) و «تَورش» (Thavresh) نوشته است. «آسولیک» (در قرن یازدهم م) «تَورژ» (Thavrezh) نوشته است. «واردان» (در قرن چهاردهم م.) «تَورژ» (Thavrezh) و «دَورژ» (Davrezh) ذکر کرده است. منبع‌های ارمنی تائید می‌کند که نام شهر در قرن پنجم (بلکه چهارم) میلادی «تورژ» (Thavrezh) بود. خط ارمنی خصوصیات لهجهء پهلوی شمالی را نشان می‌دهد «تَپ = تَو» (tap به taw) و به خصوص «رژ» (rezh) بدل از «رچ» (rec) [=ریختن] و به نظر می‌رسد که بایستی این تسمیه بسیار قدیمی یعنی قبل از دورهء ساسانی و شاید قبل از اشکانی باشد


In the Kurdish language “rizh” is the same as Persian “riz” and “tav” is the same as Persian “tab”.  Thus both forms Tabriz/Tavrezh indeed means “heat flow” and could be related to the volcanic mountains of the area.  The name seems to be from the Parthian/Sassanid era as it is attested in the Armenian form.  The Parthian/Sassanids also had influence and control (through Marzabans) in the Caucasus and it is possible the name “Tiblis” in Georgia is of the same form, given that the Iranian origin Bagtariads (who were Christianized and possibly Armenicized in some areas but Armenian keeping a large number of Middle Persian) controlled for a long time.  According to some authors, the name Tafrish/Tabres in Central Iran could also be related. 

As it is well known, this name had existed well before the linguistic Turkification of Azerbaijan.  As the name Azerbaijan itself had existed well before its Turkification and goes back all the way to the Persian Atropat. 

An important fact is that the two districts of Tabriz mentioned by Shams Tabrizi.  They are called Surkhab and Charandaab.  Both names are Iranian of course.  Surkhab means the red water.  As per Charandaab,  the “aab” part is obvious but the “Charaan” part needs further examination.  Two possible theories are related to the Persian word “Charaan” which means to graze in greenery, and thus as an analogue to Surkhab, Charaandaab could mean Green water.  Another possibility is that the word is related to the Parthian chr which in Middle Persian is chrx (wheel, circle) and the name could mean “water circle”.   Be that it may, the etymology of both words Sorkhab and Charandaab are clearly Iranian.  It is significant that these two districts are also the oldest district of modern Tabriz and they both have Persian names.  The fact of the matter is that these two districts are the ones that mentioned in the old classical sources and provide another proof of the Iranian linguistic character of the area during the time of Shams Tabrizi.


Shams Tabrizi’s work Maqalaat


The Maqalaat is the main written legacy  that we have from Shams Tabrizi.  It is a book of Shams oral teaching which was written down by Rumi’s students, probably his son Sultan Walad.

According to Lewis:

“Rumi repeatedly refers to the asrar, or “secrets,” of Shams, which may of course refer to his oral teachings, but may also designate a written text.  If the latter, it represents the name which Rumi gave to the collection of Shams’ writings.  Some manuscripts of these discourses of Shams are entitled the Kalemat (“Sayings”) or Ma’aref (“Gnostic Wisdom”) of Shams.  By scholarly convention, however, these notes are now generally referred to as the Maqalat, or “Discourses”, of Shams.  This is the title given to them in one partial manuscript of the work, a copy in all likelihood written out in the hand of Rumi’s son, Sultan Valad; if so, the copy may date to the lifetime of Shams. 


A critical edition of Shams’ lectures with copious annotation and indices running to slightly over 1,000 pages was published by Mohammad-‘Ali Movahhed in 1990 as Maqalat-e Shams Tabrizi (Tehran: Khwarizmi). 


A reading of the Maqalat of Shams will go much further to dispel the myths about the man.  Shams’ writing reveal him to have been a man well versed in the philosophical and theological discourse of his day, though something of an iconoclast.  The Maqalat reveals Shams as an engaging speaker who expressed himself in a Persian both simple and profoundly moving.  Foruzanfar considered shams’ Maqalat one of the true treasures of Persian literature, with a depth that required several contemplative rereading.  In addition to its own intrinsic value, Shams’ Maqalat constitutes the single most important primary source (aide from Rumi’s own writings, of course) for understanding Rumi’s spiritual transformation and his teaching”(Franklin Lewis,Rumi Past and Present: pp 136-137).

The Maqalaat shows the everyday language of Shams Tabrizi was Persian and the work itself is in informal Persian.   Indeed, these lectures  were noted and written down by Shams’ students:

“Fortunately, Shams did leave behind a bod of writings or, more precisely, notes taken down by his own or Rumi’s disciples from lectures of Shams.”(Franklin, pg 135)

The Maqalaat is the main written legacy  that we have from Shams Tabrizi.  It is a book of Shams oral teaching which was written down by Rumi’s students, probably his son Sultan Walad.  Indeed Shams Tabrizi really loved the Persian language as he himself states:

زبان پارسی را چه شده است؟ بدین لطیفی و خوبی، که آن معانی و لطافت که در زبان پارسی آمده است و در تازی نیامده است.


Shams Tabrizi of Ismaili origin?  Conclusion


It is well known that Dowlatshah Samarqand (d. 1487) and then Nur Allah Shushtari (d. 1610) and several others have claimed that Shams Tabrizi was a descendant of the Persian Ismaili Imams of Alamut.  This point of view however is rejected by most modern scholars.  Early orientalist scholars including E.G. Browne have adopted this viewpoint.   It may have been possible for Ismailis to do Taqqiya after the capture of Alamut and pass themselves as  Shafi’ites,  but there is currently no conclusive proof with this regard. 

Another theory is that  Shams ad-din Muhammad was the son of ‘Ali who was the son of Malikdad (Persian word meaning given by the King were Malik is an Arabic loanword and Dad is Persian for given).   This theory is based on Aflaki (the author of Manaqib al’Arifin which will say more of later) who is also always not accepted by scholars in every genealogical detail. 

With regards to Shams Tabrizi we examined the two aspects: cultural and ethnic.  From the point of view of cultural contribution, the everyday language of Shams Tabrizi was Persian and his oral teaching is recorded in Persian.   With regards to his ethnic background, he was a speaker Fahlavi Persian dialect as mentioned by the word “Buri” in one poem and also the general picture given by the language of Tabriz at that time. 

As mentioned during the time of Shams Tabrizi, the people of Tabriz were Shafi’ite Sunnites and spoke the Tabrizi Persian dialect.  Turks as well as Khorasani and Eastern Iranians (like Pashtuns and Persians (Tajiks) of Afghanistan and Tajikistan today) were generally Hanafis.  That is while it is very rare for Turks to be Shafi’ites in history, Shafi’ism is the common rite in Western Iran and still all Iranian Sunni speakers of Western Iran such as Kurds and the Sunni Talysh follow this rite.  This however was not the case in say Khorasan and Balkh and Central Asia were Hanafism (founded by an Iranian Muslim) was the prevalent rite for Iranian and Turkish Muslims of that area.

The Iranian culture of Tabriz is also fully reflected in the grand manuscript of Safinaye Tabriz.  Also the fact that Shams Tabrizi is linked to the Ismaili Hassan Sabah or Malikdad shows that he was of Iranian background.   His pir has also been mentioned as “Seleh-Baaf” which again shows the usage of Persian in that area at that time.  Unfortunately, some modern scholars do not have enough information on Tabriz at that time, but the manuscript of Safinaye Tabriz provides a complete picture of the cultural activity and the Sufic mystism and Shafi’I Islam prevalent there.   So there is no more execuses (although unfortunately some of these scholars have written about the manuscripts without looking at its finepoints and confirming it with facts in the manuscript).

In passing, we would like to mention an interesting point with regards to Rumi and Shams Tabrizi.  Shams Tabrizi considered the Persian language even sweeter than Arabic:

زبان پارسی را چه شده است؟ بدین لطیفی و خوبی، که آن معانی و لطافت که در زبان پارسی آمده است و در تازی نیامده است.

Where-as Rumi considered Arabic sweeter than Persian:

پارسی گو گرچه تازی خوشتر است – عشق را صد زبان دیگر است

Hesam al-Din Chelebi and other Rumi companions


Hesam al-Din Chelebi was Rumi’s favorite student and Rumi designated him as his successor.  His background is clearly Kurdish as mentioned by several sources.

According to Franklin: “Rumi traces Hosam al-Din’s descent through a famous but uneducated mystic, Abu al-Vafa Kordi (d. 1107).  This would mean Hosam al-Din had some Kurdish blood, which makes perfect sense, since Rumi describes his family as hailing from Urmia in Northwestern Iran”(pg 215-216).

His full name is also given as Hosam al-Din Hasan the son of Muhammad the son of Hassan(Badi’ al-Zaman Foruzanfar, Sharh-e ahval va naqd va tahlil-e asar-e Shaykh Farid al-Din Mohammad-e ‘Attar-e Nayshaburi, Tehran, Tehran University Press, 1139-40, reprinted by Zavvar publisher,  1382. (FB))

Thus we note that Shaykh Abu al-Vafa Kordi was born even prior to the Seljuq takeover of Urmia from local Kurdish and Daylamite dynasties. 

This is also mentioned by Turkish authors:

“Husam al-Din Chelebi’s grandfather was a great saint, Shaykh Taj al-Din Abu al-Wafa, who was Kurdish and died in Baghdad in 1107.  Although this great saint was illiterate, he was a Gnostic.  Some members of the community who only valued education levels, high positions, wealth, and physical appearances asked him to preach to them in order to embarrass this great saint.  Shaykh Abu al-Wafa al-Kurdi replied: “God willing, I shall preach tomorrow.  Be present.”  The night he supplicated sincerely to God, performed the ritual prayer, and went to bed.  In his dream he saw the Prophet of Islam.  The Prophet gave good news to this illiterate Kurdish saint: “God manifested Himself to him through his name ‘Alim (All knowing) and Hakim (All-Wise).”.  The next day when he sat on the Kursi, or chair, to begin his sermon in the mosque, his first sentence was: “I slept as a Kurd at night and got up as an Arab in the morning”( Şefik Can, M. Fethullah Gulen, Zeki Saritoprak, "Fundamental of Rumi's Thought: A Mevlevi Sufi Perspective", Tughra; Second edition edition (December 1, 2005). Pp 78)


This is mentioned by Aflaki as well:

“The feats of the Bayazid of the age, the Jonayd of the era, key to the treasuries of the Celestial Throne (‘arsh), custodian of the treasure of the earth’s surface (farsh), Friend of God on earth (ard), performer of customary practices and religious duty (fard), intercessor for the supporters on the Day of Review (‘ard), Hosam al-Haqq va’l Din b. Hasan b. Mohammad b. al-Hasan b. Akhi Tork, who associated himself with the revered Shaykh [Mowlana], saying: “I went to bed a Kurd and I woke up an Arab”.  God be pleased with him and his ancestors and how excellent his descendants!(Shams al-Din Aflaki, "The feats of the knowers of God: Manāqeb al-ʻārefīn", translated by John O'Kane, Brill, 2002.) (hence forth referred to as Aflaki)

Note, the translator (John O’Kane)  has put [Mowlana] in brackets, where-as the revered Shaykh is probably Shaykh Abu al-Vafa Kordi and not Mowlana. 

And Rumi also calls him from Urmia and of Kurdish descent in the introduction of the Masnavi:

صدیق ابن الصدیق رضی الله عنه و عنوهم الارموی الاصل المنتسب الی اشیخ المکرم بما قال امسیت کردیا و اصحب عربیا

Some might point to the curious title “Akhi Tork” (mentioned by several scholar), for Mohammad, the actual name of Hosam al-Din’s father.   However, in Persian script, like in Arabic, the short vowels are not written and diacritic signs are used to clarify when required.

We should first mention that this is a title and not the actual name of Mohammad.   Nevertheless going with the opinion of scholars of Rumi, why was he given such a title? 

According to Şefik Can, M. Fethullah Gulen, Zeki Saritoprak, “Since Husam al-Din’s father was the head of Akhi group living in and around Konya, he was called “Akhi Turk”. (pg 78)

The Akhi groups were fraternal brotherhoods and it seems Hosam al-Din’s father was the head of one of these guilds in Konya.   Ibn Battuta (13th century) connects the word with Arabic “my brother” while other sources have connected the word with the Uighyur “generous”.  In our opinion, since the guilds were a sort of brotherhood, and since the members of these groups addressed their leader as “Akhi” (my brotherhood), probably the Arabic term makes more sense.   Such guilds are not seen at the time in Cenral Asia but they are in Iran and Anatolia.  Be that it may, accoring to Franklin: “These brotherhoods, with their code of civic virtue and mercantile morality, but which also exhibited features of a militia or a mafia-like gang, constituted a king of alternative to the Sufi orders and their focus on ascetic and Gnostic spirituality”.(pg 216).

Thus it is likely given the location of Konya, the title “Akhi Turk” (my brother Turk) was adopted by Mohammad (Hosam al-Din’s father) and thus Hosam al-Din was also given the title Ibn Akhi-Tork (the son of Akhi-Tork).  However as mentioned, a title cannot be used to resolve this matter.  A clear indicator of Hosam al-Din’s Kurdish background can be ascertained by the fact that Hosam al-Din was also a Shafi’ite Sunni.

According to Franklin: “Aflaki reports that Hosam al-Din, like Shams of Tabriz, followed the rites of the Shafe’I school of Islamic law.  One day Hosam al-Din said that he wished to convert to the Hanafi creed, “because our mster of the Hanafi creed”.  Rumi told him that it would better to keep his own creed and simply to follow the mystical teachins of Rumi and guide the people to his creed of love” (pg 226)

Overall, most of the Iranians from Central Asia and Khorasan were Hanafis however the majority of Iranians from Western Iran (like Shams Tabrizi, the city of Tabriz before Safavids,  Suhrawardi, Shaykh Mahmud Shabistari, , Kurds, Sunni Talysh and Hosam al-Din) were Shafi’ites.  However, when it comes to Turkic Sunni Muslims, they were uniformly and overwhelmingly (not just majority but overwhelmingly and uniformly) were Hanafis (an exception is in the Caucasus were in the Northern Caucasus some tribes were converted to Shafi’ism in a much later period than that of Rumi).  Here are some statements with this regard.

“The Turkmens who entered Anatolia no doubt brought with them vestiges of the pre-Islamic inner Asian shamanistic past but eventually became in considerable measure firm adherents of the near-universal Islamic madhab for the Turks, the Hanafi one”(Mohamed Taher, “Encyclopedic Survey of Islamic Culture”, Anmol Publication PVT, 1998. Turkey: Pg 983).

Another testament to this is from traveler Ibn Batuttah who lived in the 14th century. On Turks, he provides some description of their religion: “..After eating their food, they drink the yogurt/milk of mare called Qumiz. The Turks are followers of Hanafism and consider eating Nabidh (Alcoholic beverage) as Halal (lawful in Islam).”(Ibn Batuttah, translated by Dr. Ali Muvahid, Tehran, Bongaah Publishers, 1969).


“There have sometimes been forcible and wholesale removals from one “rite” to another, generally for political reasons; as when the Ottoman Turks, having gained power in Iraq and the Hijaz in the sixteenth century, compelled the Shafi’ite Qadis either to change to the Hanafi “rite” to which they (the Turks) belonged, or to relinquish office.”(Reuben Levy, “Social Structure of Islam”, Taylor and Francis, 2000. Pg 183).

“Hanafism was founded by a Persian, Imam Abu Hanifa, who was a student of Imam Ja’far Al-Sadeq, ... His school held great attraction from the beginning for Turks as well as Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. Today the Hanafi school has the largest number of follows in the Sunni world, including most Sunni Turks, the Turkic people of Caucasus, and Central Asia, European Muslims, and the Muslims of Indian subcontinent “(Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. “The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity”. HarperColins, 2004. Pg 68).


“On the other hand, because the Turkish rulers were so devoted to Islamic beliefs, they had accepted Hanafism with a great vigor and conviction”(Mehmed Fuad Koprulu’s , Early Mystics in Turkish Literature, Translated by Gary Leiser and Robert Dankoff , Routledge, 2006, pg 8).

This is still the case today in modern Turkey:

“Unlike the Sunni Turks, who follow the Hanafi school of Islamic law, the Sunni Kurds follow the Shafi’i school”(Federal Research Div Staff, Turkey: A Country Study, Kessinger Publishers, 2004. pg 141).

Thus we believe both the Shafi’ism whom all Sunni Kurds follow (where-as all Sunni Turks follow Hanafism like all Sunni Tajiks (Iranians) of Central Asia and Afghanistan) as well as the various testaments to the Kurdish ancestry of Hosam al-Din (whose ancestry goes back before the Seljuq era in the area) are sufficient that Hosam al-Din was also Kurdish (and hence Iranian in the ethno-linguistic sense).

On two other Rumi companions,for example  Fereydun Sepahsalar and Salah al-Din Zarkub, there is not enough information although we believe these were also among the Iranian refugees that fled to Konya.  Fereydun Sepahsalar is a pure Persian name and Sahal al-Din Zarkub has the title “Zarkub” as a trade.   However there is not sufficient detail with this regard.  Based on examination of Aflaki though, it is our opinion that for example Salah al-Din Zarkub was Persian (or possibly Kurdish).  This is illustrated by this anectode:

[23]  Likewise, it is a well-known story that one day Shaykh Salah al-Din happened to hire Turkish laborers to do building work in his garden.  Mowlana said: ‘Effendi’— that is to say lord—‘Salah al-Din, when it is time for building, one must engage Greek laborers and when it is time for destroying something, Turkish hirelings.  Indeed, the building of the world is assigned to the Greeks, whereas the world’s destruction is reserved for the Turks.  When God—He is sublime and exalted—ordered the creation of the world of sovereignty (‘alam-e molk’), first He created unaware-infidels, and He conferred on them long life and great strength so they would strive like hired laborers in building the terrestrial world.  And they built up many cities and fortresses on mountain peaks and places on top of a hill such that after generations had passed these constructions were a model for those who came later.  Then divine predestination saw to it that little by little these constructions would become completely destroyed and desolate, and be eradicated.  God created the group of Turks so that they would destroy every building they saw, mercilessly and ruthlessly, and cause it to be demolished.  And they are still doing so, and day by day until the Resurrection they will continue to destroy in this manner.  In the end, the destruction of the city of Konya will also be at the hands of wicked Turks devoid of mercy.’  And this being the case, it turned out just as Mowlana said.  (pg 503)

Now this anectode from Aflaki makes it fairly clear that neither Rumi nor Salah al-Din were Turks  and felt any Turkishness.  Such disparaging remarks would be unthinkable even assuming its hagiographic nature if any of these two characters were Turkish.  We shall examine Aflaki in this own section.

Baha al-Din Walad and Rumi’s parents

Genealogy of Rumi’s parents

Rumi’s father Baha al-Din Mohammad Walad was an important mystic and scholar in his own right.   The most widely acknowledged study on him is that of Fritz  Meier. 

According to Franklin:

“Among German scholars who have devoted their attention to Sufism, the systematic and exacting standards of Hellmut Ritter, Fritz Meier, Richard Gamlich and J.C. Burgel are truly admirable.  Consider, for example, the Swiss scholar Fritz Meier’s (1912-9) work on Baha al-Din Valad, Baha-I Walad: Gundzuge seins Lebens und seiner Mystic (Leiden: Brill, 1989), running to over 450 pages.  Meier has done more than any other single Person in the West to clarify the biographical details and theology of Rumi’s father and thereby, Rumi himself.  Meier’s thorough and precise study provides an amazing mine of carefully research and carefully considered information, as well as a wealth of insightful analysis about Rumi’s family and their area of operation” (Rumi: Past Present, east and West, pp 540-541).


According to Schimmel:

“In recent years, the most important publication concerning Rumi’s background is the voluminous book by the indefatigable Swiss scholar Fritz Meier, Bahad-I Walad (Leiden, 1989).  This book, the result of painstaking analysis of the life and work of Maulana’s father, finally offers reliable about Maulana’s early days.  Meier’s finding requires changes of the first pages of our book.  To sum up: Baha-I Walad did not live in Balkh itself but in a small place north of the Oxus (present-day Tajikistan) by the name of Wakhsh, which was the under the administration of Balkh.  (That his son stated to have come from Balkh would correspond to modern American’s claim to hail from New York while he might have been born and raised in a small town in upstate Ney York or in Long Island.” (Schimmel, Annemarie. “The Triumphal Sun. A Study of the Works of Jalaloddin Rumi”. Albany: SUNY Press, 1993. xiv)


According to Lewis:

“Baha al-Din’s father, Hosayn, had been a religious scholar with a bent for asceticism, occupied like his own father before him, Ahmad, with the family profession of preacher (khatib).  Of the four canonical schools of Sunni Islam, the family adhered to the relatively liberal Hanafi rite.  Hosayn-e Khatibi enjoyed such renown in his youth – so says Aflaki with characteristic exaggeration – that Razi al-Din Nayshapuri and other famous scholars came to study with him (Af 9; for the legend about Baha al-Din, see below, “The Mythical Baha al-Din”).  Another report indicates that Baha al-Din’s grandfather, Ahmad al-Khatibi, was born to Ferdows Khatun, a daughter of the reputed Hanafite jurist and author Shams al-A’emma Abu Bakr of Sarakhs, who died circa 1088 (Af 75; FB 6 n.4; Mei 74 n. 17).  This is far from implausible and , if true, would tend to suggest that Ahmad al-Khatabi had studied under Shams al-A’emma.  Prior to that the family could supposedly trace its roots back to Isfahan.  We do not learn the name of Baha al-Din’s mother in the sources, only that he referred to her as “Mama” (Mami), and that she lived to the 1200s.”(pg 44)

Finally according to Fritz Meyer himself (we did not have access to the German and have used the professional Persian translation by Maryam Musharraf):

بها حنفی بود و به عنوان یک خطیبی – لقب خانوادگیش – شاید از خطیبیون اصفهان به شمار می​رفت که در منازعات میان حنفی​های ماتریدی و شافعی​ها در قرن 5/11 و 6/12 سهم مهمی داشتند.  (صفحه 50)


خانواده بها "خطیبی" نام داشت که یادآور نام خانواده​ای از عالمان حنفی اهل اصفهان است.  خانواده بها نسب خود را به خلیفه ابوبکر میرساندند.  "ولد" به معنی پسر لقب بها بود زیرا مادرش تا سنین سالخوردگی نیز او را با همین نام می​نامید.  بها نیز مادر خورا "مامی" یا "مامی" می​خوانده است. (صفحه 448)

Thus Fritz Meier suggests that the family’s genealogy goes back to Isfahan and more specifically to the Khatibi scholars of the Hanafi rite.  At the same time, he states that the family claimed descent from Abu Bakr (although he does not specify in our Persian translation when such a claim was made?).  However the Encyclopedia Iranica article by H. Algar as well as the Encyclopedia of Islam on Rumi discounts this claim. 

According to the Encyclopedia of Islam

J̲alāl al- Dīn Rūmī b. Bahāʾ al-Dīn Sulān al-ʿulamāʾ Walad b. usayn b. Amad h̲aībī , known by the sobriquet Mawlānā (Mevlânâ), Persian poet and founder of the Mawlawiyya order of dervishes, which was named after him, was born on Rabīʿ I 604/30 September 1207 in Balk̲h̲, and died on 5 j̲umāda II 672/1273 in onya. The reasons put forward against the above-mentioned date of birth (Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı, Mevlânâ Celâleddîn 3, 44; idem, Mevlânâ Şams-i Tabrîzî ile altmış iki yaşında buluştu, in Şarkiyat Mecmuası, iii, 153-61; and Bir yazı üzerine, in Tarih Coǧrafya Dünyası, ii/12, 1959, 468) are not valid. His father, whose sermons have been preserved and printed ( Maʿārif . Mad̲j̲ʿa-i mawāʿi wa suk̲h̲anān-i Sulān al-ʿulamāʾ Bahāʾ Dīn Muammad b. usayn-i h̲aībī-i Balk̲h̲ī mas̲h̲hūr ba-Bahāʾ-i Walad , ed. Badīʿ al-Zamān Furūzānfarr, Tehran 1333), was a preacher in Balk̲h̲. The assertions that his family tree goes back to Abū Bakr, and that his mother was a daughter of the h̲wārizms̲h̲āh ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn Muammad (Aflākī, i, 8-9) do not hold on closer examination (B. Furūzānfarr, Mawlānā j̲alāl Dīn , Tehrān 1315, 7; ʿAlīnaī S̲h̲arīʿatmadārī, Nad-i matn-i mat̲h̲nawī , in Yag̲h̲mā , xii (1338), 164; Amad Aflākī, Ariflerin menkibeleri, trans. Tahsin Yazıcı, Ankara 1953, i, Önsöz, 44).

(Ritter, H.; Bausani, A. "J̲alāl al- Dīn Rūmī b. Bahāʾ al-Dīn Sulān al-ʿulamāʾ Walad b. usayn b. Amad h̲aībī ." Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2009. Brill Online. Excerpt: "known by the sobriquet Mawlānā (Mevlânâ), Persian poet and founder of the Mawlawiyya order of dervishes")

According to the Encyclopedia Iranica:

BAHĀʾ-AL-DĪN MOAMMAD WALAD B. OSAYN B. AMAD AĪB BALĪ (546-628/1151-1231), father of Mawlānā Jalāl-al-Dīn Rūmī (q.v.), the great Sufi poet and eponym of the Mevlevî order, with reference to whom he became posthumously known as Mawlānā-ye bozorg (the elder Mawlānā). In his lifetime he was generally known as Bahāʾ-e Walad, and often referred to in addition by the title solān al-ʿolamāʾ (king of the scholars). According to his grandson, Solān Walad (d. 632/1235), the title originated with a dream seen on the same night by all the muftis of Bal in which the Prophet himself designated Bahāʾ-al-Dīn as solān al-ʿolamāʾ ; when they awoke, they hastened to pay homage to him (Walad-nāma, ed. J. Homāʾī, Tehran, 1315 Š./1936, p. 188; see also Ferīdūn Sepahsālār, Resāla-ye Sepahsālār, Kanpur, 1319/1910, p. 7 and Šams-al-Dīn Amad Aflākī, Manāqeb al-ʿārefīn, ed. T. Yazıcı, Ankara, 1959, I, p. 7). Bahāʾ-e Walad himself records that the title solān al-ʿolamāʾ was given him in a dream by an old man of luminous visage, and thereafter he insisted on using the title when signing the fatwās he issued (Maʿāref, ed. B. Forūzānfar, Tehran, 1333 Š./1954, I, pp. 188-89).

Bahāʾ-e Walad says that he was approaching the age of 55 on 1 Ramażān 600/3 March 1203 (Maʿāref I, p. 354); he must therefore have been born in 546/1151-52. His father was a scholar and ascetic of great eminence in Balḵ, the offspring of a family that had been settled in Khorasan for many generations. According to many writers, they were descended from the caliph Abū Bakr (Resāla-ye Sepahsālār, p. 6; Manāqeb al-ʿārefīn I, p. 7; Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 457). Sepahsālār does not provide a complete genealogy and the six, seven, or eight generations mentioned by other authors are clearly too few to bridge the six centuries that elapsed between Abū Bakr and Bahāʾ-e Walad (see B. Forūzānfar, Resāla dar taḥqīq-e aḥwāl wa zendagānī-e Mawlānā Jalāl-al-Dīn Moḥammad, Tehran, 1315 Š./1936, p. 4). The two lines found in some copies of the Walad-nāma that attribute Bakri descent to Bahāʾ-e Walad were probably inserted in the text by a copyist (see A. Gölpınarlı’s footnote to his translation of Walad-nāma under the title İbtida-name, Ankara, 1976, p. 237). There is no reference to such descent in the works of Bahāʾ-e Walad and Mawlānā Jalāl-al-Dīn or in the inscriptions on their sarcophagi. The attribution may have arisen from confusion between the caliph and another Abū Bakr, Šams-al-Aʾemma Abū Bakr Saraḵsī (d. 483/1090), the well-known Hanafite jurist, whose daughter, Ferdows Ḵātūn, was the mother of Aḥmad Ḵaṭīb, Bahāʾ-e Walad’s grandfather (see Forūzānfar, Resāla, p. 6).

Tradition also links Bahāʾ-e Walad’s lineage to the Ḵᵛārazmšāh dynasty. His mother is said to have been the daughter of ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn Moḥammad Ḵᵛārazmšāh (d. 596/1200), but this appears to be excluded for chronological reasons (Forūzānfar, Resāla, p. 7). (H. Algar, “BAHĀʾ-AL-DĪN MOAMMAD WALAD “ , Encyclopedia Iranica)

Franklin touches upon this point in the section “The Mythical Baha al-Din” (pp 90-91) of his book:

“The persistence of a community of individuals residing physically in the shrine of a saint and the schools and hospices that sometimes grew up around them, as well as the spread of an order promulgating esoteric teachings and a reverential attitude towards its founding fathers, naturally tend to create a legendary even miraculous vita for them.  Sultan Valad himself already contributed to this super naturalizing tendency in his “Book of Beginnings” (Ebdeta Nama), in which he compares Baha al-Din to the famous Sufis of the past.  This naturally leads him to describe his grandfather’s life according to the expectations of the hagiographical genre.

Because his pupil, Borhan al-Din, and his son, Jalal al-Din Rumi, provide precious little information about Baha al-Din, the brief account by Sultan Valad (SVE 187-93) offers the earliest coherent portrait of him.  The halo of holiness which already obscures Baha al-Din the man in his grandson’s account shines even more blindingly in the chronicle of Sepahsalar (Sep 10-21) and in the “Acts of the Gnostics” by Ahmad Aflakii (Af 7-55).  Later writes, such as Jami, Dowlatshah and Amin Ahmad Razi, whether committed or not to the perpetuation of a mythic image of Baha al-Din and Jalal al-Din, effectively reinforced or enhanced the popular and miraculous reputation of their subjects by repeating the tale of the earlier “biographers.”  For decades scholars, relying rather too credulously on these accounts, have likewise repeated these legends, lending them an air of respectability.  

The outstanding feature in the hagiographer’s mythical portrait of Baha al-Din in his fame as a theologian and scholar of religious law.  Though Baha al-Din may indeed have achieved some reputation in Vakhsh or even Balkh or Samarqand, he did not enjoy wider renown as a religious scholar or public figure, as I have been at pains to show.  No mention of Baha al-Din Valad has turned up in the sources contemporary to him, such a biographical dictionaries or the works of other religious scholars such as Fakhr al-Din Razi.  Much later sources describe him only in relation to his famous son, not as an independent figure.  Baha al-Din’s own writing, Ma’rif, were never disseminated to a wider audience in the medieval period and he could not, therefore have been famous as an author.

Baha al-Din’s disciples also traced his family lineage to the first caliph, Abu Bakr (Sep 9; Af 7; JNO 457; Dow 213).  This probably stems from willful confusion over his paternal great grandmother, who was the daughter of Abu Bakr of Sarakhs, a noted jurist (d. 1090).  The most complete genealogy offered for family only stretches back six or seven generations and cannot possibly reach to Abu Bakr, the companion and first caliph of the Prophet, who died two years after the Prophet, in A.D. 634 (FB 5-6 n.3).  One would furthermore expect descent from Abu Bakr, were it part of the family lore during the lifetime of Baha al-Din, to be a source of pride and professional authority, yet there is no mention of this in the writings of Baha al-Din or Jalal al-Din Rumi, nor do the inscriptions on their sarcophagi mention it.  Mention of this supposed lineage does turn up in some manuscripts of our earliest biographical source, Sultan Valad’s Ebteda Name (SVE 187), but Golpinarli speculated that a later copyist interpolated these remarks on the basis of Aflaki (AF 8) or Sepahsalar (Sep 9).  Whether or not this is so, we have seen how Sultan Valad errs or ignores  a great many facts about his grandfather.

Ahmad Aflaki (Af 7-9) makes the claim that Baha al-Din’s mother was the daughter of ‘Ala al-Din Mohammad Khwarazmshah (r. 1200 – 1220), described as “the paternal uncle” of Jalal al-Din Khwarazmshah.  Jami repeats this (JNO 458), but the chronology is impossible (FB 7), and in any case , the portrait of her that emerges from Baha al-Din’s comments does not square with a royal lineage (Mei 45).  Furthermore, the association of religious figures with royalty in the Iranian hagiographical tradition (e.g., the intermarriage of the last Sassanian princess with the ‘Alid family) is typological and must therefore be viewed with extreme skepticism. 

The hagiographers likewise assert spiritual descent from famous Sufis for Baha al-Din.  Aflaki (998) and Sepahsalar (9) link him, through his grandfather, with Ahmad Ghazzali (d. 1126), younger brother of the more famous Abu Hamed Ghazzali, and Jami (JNO 457) relays the suggestion that Baha al-Din may have been a disciple of the great Najm al-Din Kobra (d. 1220).  Neither attribution is corroborated, explicitly or implicitly, in the writings of Baha al-Din, Rumi  or Sultan Valad; this fact, in itself, almost certainly negates the possibility.  The meeting with ‘Attar has been dealt with above, along with the miraculous dream about the title “Sultan al-ulama”.  Through the main contours of this legendary image of Baha al-Din disoolve like a mirage under close scrutiny, the picture which emerges from the Ma’aref, of a visionary, God-intoxicated mystic who achieved wider recognition only in his seventies, is no less remarkable.”  (Lewis, 90-92)

So what do we know from all these data?  We only know with certainty that Rumi’s great Grandfather was Ahmad Khatibi.   The claim descent from Abu Bakr the companion of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is dismissed by modern scholars and is seen as a later development in the history of the sect.  The claim descent of Rumi’s mother or Baha al-Din’s mother to the Khwarzmshah is also dismissed by scholars due to impossibility and chronological reasons.   Obviously to claim descent from royalty or the companion of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by later followers of the sect would be a cause of prestige.   Then also there is the claim of Baha al-Din Walad’s family going back to the Khatibun Hanafi scholars  of Isfahan. 

Thus we do not have the most exact account and are left clueless on Rumi’s father-line beyond Ahmad Khatibi.  However the native language of Baha al-Din Walad is sufficient to show that the family’s native language was Persian and hence they were Persian.  We did not expect in the beginning to be able to trace Baha al-Din Walad’s ancestry to Darius the Great.  However the native sedentary populations of towns such as Sarakhs, Isfahan, Balkh, Vakhsh and etc. were Persians and the incoming Turkish nomads were either Iranicized or had tribal associations, none of it seen in Rumi or Baha al-Din’s work.  Thus we must concentrate on culture again and in this case we examine the language of Balkh, Vakhsh and also the work of Baha al-Din Walad. 

On Vakhsh and Balkh and the languages of these areas

Annemarie Schimmel, "I Am Wind, You Are Fire," p. 11. She refers to an (1989) article by the German scholar, Fritz Meier: "Afghan and Persian admirers still prefer to call Jalaluddin 'Balkhi' because his family lived in Balkh before migrating westward. However, their home was not in the actual city of Balkh, since the mid-eighth century a center of Muslim culture in Khorasan (now Afghanistan). Rather, as the Swiss scholar Fritz Meier has shown, it was in the small town of Wakhsh north of the Oxus that Baha'uddin Walad, Jalaluddin's father, lived and worked as a jurist and preacher with mystical inclinations."

Franklin Lewis, "Rumi--Past and Present, East and West: The Life, Teachings, and Poetry of Jalâl al-Din Rumi," 2000, paperback 2003, pp. 47-49. Professor Lewis has devoted two full pages of his book to the topic of Wakhsh, which he states has been identified with the medieval town of Lêwkand (or Lâvakand) or Sangtude, which is about 65 kilometers southeast of Dushanbe, the capital of present-day Tajikistan. He says it is on the east bank of the Vakhshâb River, a major tributary that joins the Amu Daryâ River (also called Jayhun, and named the Oxus by the Greeks). He further states:

"Bahâ al-Din may have been born in Balkh, but at least between June 1204 and 1210 (Shavvâl 600 and 607), during which time Rumi was born, Bahâ al-Din resided in a house in Vaksh (Bah 2:143 [= Bahâ' uddîn Walad's book, "Ma`ârif." See translation below--note inserted here by Ibrahim Gamard]). Vakhsh, rather than Balkh, was the permanent base of Bahâ al-Din and his family until Rumi was around five years old (mei 16-35) [= from a book in German by the scholar Fritz Meier--note inserted here]. At that time, in about the year 1212 (A.H. 608-9), the Valads moved to Samarqand (Fih 333; Mei 29-30, 36) [= reference to Rumi's "Discourses" and to Fritz Meier's book--note inserted here], leaving behind Baâ al-Din's mother, who must have been at least seventy-five years old."

Thus modern scholarship is unsure of the birth place of Baha al-Din, but has very much agreed that the birth of Rumi in Vakhsh  (Tajikistan).  Traditional hagiography had indicated Balkh near Mazar-i Sharif in modern Afghanistan as the birth place of Rumi.  Two explanations that are given is that: 1) Balkh was province rather than a city and Wakhsh was under Balkh’s administration; 2) Baha al-Din was born in Balkh or was from Balkh, but he has moved to Vakhsh to be the local religious preacher of the area.

In general the two areas are close and the language of the urban centers was Persian and could not have been different.  And Vakhsh itself was considered as part of Balkh province at that time.  Before the advent of Islam, Eastern Iranian languages were dominant in Central Asia.

According C.E. Bosworth, "The Appearance of the Arabs in Central Asia under the Umayyads and the establishment of Islam", in History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Vol. IV: The Age of Achievement: AD 750 to the End of the Fifteenth Century, Part One: The Historical, Social and Economic Setting, edited by M. S. Asimov and C. E. Bosworth. Multiple History Series. Paris: UNESCO Publishing, 1998. Excerpt from page 23: "Central Asia in the early seventh century was ethnically, still largely an Iranian land whose people used various Middle Iranian languages.

C. Edmund Bosworth: "In early Islamic times Persians tended to identify all the lands to the northeast of Khorasan and lying beyond the Oxus with the region of Turan, which in the Shahnama of Ferdowsi is regarded as the land allotted to Fereydun's son Tur. The denizens of Turan were held to include the Turks, in the first four centuries of Islam essentially those nomadizing beyond the Jaxartes, and behind them the Chinese (see Kowalski; Minorsky, "Turan"). Turan thus became both an ethnic and a geographical term, but always containing ambiguities and contradictions, arising from the fact that all through Islamic times the lands immediately beyond the Oxus and along its lower reaches were the homes not of Turks but of Iranian peoples, such as the Sogdians and Khwarezmians."( C.E. Bosworth, “Central Asia: The Islamic period up to the Mongols” in Encyclopedia Iranica).

In addition to Sogdians and Khwarezmians, we may also add Hephtalites whom modern science considers Eastern Iranian (50-60 years ago various theories were floated around about Hephtalites) but modern has shown based on detailed etymological analysis that they were also Eastern Iranians.

Xavier Tremblay Pour une histore de la Sérinde. Le manichéisme parmi les peoples et religions d’Asie Centrale d’aprés les sources primaire, Vienna, 2001, Appendix D «Notes Sur L'Origine Des Hephtalites” 



B.A. Livinsky, "The Hephthalites" in History of Civilizations of Central Asia - Vol. 3. South Asia Books; 1 edition (March 1999). pg 135

We should note that Muslim writers have confused Altaic speaking Turks with some Iranian peoples like Sogdians, Hephtalites, Alans and also even Tibetians, Chinese and Mongols.

After the Arab invasion of Persia, large numbers of Persian speakers were brought to Central Asia and surprisingly, the Arab invasion strengthened Persian in Central Asia at the cost of other East Iranian languages.  According to FOUCHÉCOUR:

 “Another factor in the evolution of Middle Persian to Persian was the geographical spread of this language in the wake of the Arab conquest. Following the path of the Arab invasion, Persian spread from its own heartlands to Central Asia (Transoxania). For their conquests, the Arabs enlisted indigenous peoples in their armies. These local populations did not speak a standardized Persian and in many cases did not even use Persian among themselves. Nevertheless, the Persian of the time served as a lingua franca for these enlisted men. They were to spread this new version in the conquered provinces, from Azerbaijan to Central Asia, to the detriment of other Iranian languages or other dialects of Persian. Such was the case of Sogdian, a language belonging to an age-old culture that was largely engulfed by Persian. Thus Persian became, in due course, the court language of the first semi-independent Muslim principalities, most notably those founded in the Greater Khorasan.”(CHARLES-HENRI DE FOUCHÉCOUR, “Iran: Classical Persian literature” in Encyclopedia Iranica)

Thus, after Islam took hold, the new Persian language which was a continuation of Khorasani dialect of Middle Persian with admixture of Sogdian, Bactrian and other East Iranian languages and influenced by Arabic vocabulary became predominant in the region.  Especially after the rise of the Samanid dynasty, Persian slowly absorbed Soghdian and Chorasmian language regions.

During Baha al-Din’s time, Balkh was still a Persian speaking region.  For a clear example of this, we refer to the book Zhakhira Khwarizmshahi.  The Zakhira Khwarizmshahi ("Treasures dedicated to the king of Khwarazm") is a Persian medical Encyclopedia written by the Persian scholar Sayyid Zayn al-Din Isma'il al-Husayni al-Jurjani (Gorgani) (1040-1136 A.D.). 

The Dehkhoda dictionary under Balkh makes a reference to the Zakhira Khwarizmshahi and states:

مردم بلخ تا زمان مؤلف ذخیره ٔ خوارزمشاهی (نیمه ٔ اول قرن ششم هجری ) به فارسی تکلم می کرده اند. رجوع به ریش بلخی و پشه گزیدگی در ذخیره ٔ خوارزمشاهی شود.

Looking in the actual manuscript of Zakhira Khwarizmi(available in Tehran University library and University of Chicago among other major universities of the world), this was found:

«از ریش بلخی و علاج ان . ریش بلخی ریشی بود کی از سطح گوشت دور فرو نرود و پهن باز می شود و با خفقان بود و باشذ کی غشی ارد و باشذ کی با تب بود و باشذ کی بی تب بود و این ریش اندر نواحی بلخ بیشتر باشد و انرا بدین سبب ریش بلخی گویند و به رباط دهستان نیز بسیار بود و اهل بلخ ان را پشه گزیدگی گویند .»

Thus the book provides everyday usage of the Balkhi-Persian dialect in the region.

Other historical attestations clearly state that Balkh was a Persian speaking region and had the best form of Dari-Persian.  In the Darab Nama of Tartusi, it mentions that the language of Balkh Dari:

در مقابل  در کتاب داراب نامه طرطوسی (بکوشش ذبیح الله صفا،) آمده است:

«و آن مرد لفظ دری داشت و همۀ جهان خواهند تا لفظ دری گویند، ولیکن نتوانند مگر مردمان بلخ و هر که زبان اهل بلخ بیاموزد»

Translation: “And that man had the Dari language, and the entire world wants to know have the Dari language, however they cannot do this except the people of Balkh and whoever learns the language of the people of Balkh”.

Ibn Nadeem (d. 995 or 998 A.D.) also in his al-Fihrist mentions

ابن ندیم در الفهرست می‌نویسد:

فأما الفهلویة فمنسوب إلى فهله اسم یقع على خمسة بلدان وهی أصفهان والری وهمدان وماه نهاوند وأذربیجان وأما الدریة فلغة مدن المدائن وبها كان یتكلم من بباب الملك وهی منسوبة إلى حاضرة الباب والغالب علیها من لغة أهل خراسان والمشرق و اللغة أهل بلخ وأما الفارسیة فتكلم بها الموابدة والعلماء وأشباههم وهی لغة أهل فارس وأما الخوزیة فبها كان یتكلم الملوك والأشراف فی الخلوة ومواضع اللعب واللذة ومع الحاشیة وأما السریانیة فكان یتكلم بها أهل السواد والمكاتبة فی نوع من اللغة بالسریانی فارسی

(= اما فهلوی منسوب است به فهله كه نام نهاده شده است بر پنج شهر: اصفهان و ری و همدان و ماه نهاوند و آذربایجان. و دری لغت شهرهای مداین است و درباریان پادشاه بدان زبان سخن می‌گفتند و منسوب است به مردم دربار و لغت اهل خراسان و مشرق و لغت مردم بلخ بر آن زبان غالب است. اما فارسی كلامی است كه موبدان و علما و مانند ایشان بدان سخن گویند و آن زبان مردم اهل فارس باشد. اما خوزی زبانی است كه ملوك و اشراف در خلوت و مواضع لعب و لذت با ندیمان و حاشیت خود گفت‌وگو كنند. اما سریانی آن است كه مردم سواد بدان سخن رانند).

Translation: And Dari language is the language of Khorasan and the people of the East and the vocabulary of the natives of Balkh was dominant in this language, which includes the dialects of the eastern peoples.

Professor. Gilbert Lazard notes :

The language known as New Persian, which usually is called at this period (early Islamic times) by the name of Dari or Parsi-Dari, can be classified linguistically as a continuation of Middle Persian, the official religious and literary language of Sassanian Iran, itself a continuation of Old Persian, the language of the Achaemenids. Unlike the other languages and dialects, ancient and modern, of the Iranian group such as Avestan, Parthian, Soghdian, Kurdish, Balochi, Pashto, etc., Old Middle and New Persian represent one and the same language at three states of its history. It had its origin in Fars (the true Persian country from the historical point of view) and is differentiated by dialectical features, still easily recognizable from the dialect prevailing in north-western and eastern Iran in (Lazard, Gilbert 1975, “The Rise of the New Persian Language” in Frye, R. N., The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 4, pp. 595–632, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.)

Dari or Modern Persian is really the Khorasani dialect of the Middle Persian language.

Al-Masudi (d. 956 A.D.) also mentions Dari and states:

فالفرس أمة حد بلادها الجبال من الماهات وغیرها وآذربیجان إلى ما یلی بلاد أرمینیة وأران والبیلقان إلى دربند وهو الباب والأبواب والری وطبرستن والمسقط والشابران وجرجان وابرشهر، وهی نیسابور، وهراة ومرو وغیر ذلك من بلاد خراسان وسجستان وكرمان وفارس والأهواز، وما اتصل بذلك من أرض الأعاجم فی هذا الوقت وكل هذه البلاد كانت مملكة واحدة ملكها ملك واحد ولسانها واحد، إلا أنهم كانوا یتباینون فی شیء یسیر من اللغات وذلك أن اللغة إنما تكون واحدة بأن تكون حروفها التی تكتب واحدة وتألیف حروفها تألیف واحد، وإن اختلفت بعد ذلك فی سائر الأشیاء الأخر كالفهلویة والدریة والآذریة وغیرها من لغات الفرس.

(= پارسیان قومی بودند كه قلم‌روشان دیار جبال بود از ماهات و غیره و آذربایجان تا مجاور ارمنیه و اران و بیلقان تا دربند كه باب و ابواب است و ری و طبرستان و مسقط و شابران و گرگان و ابرشهر كه نیشابور است و هرات و مرو و دیگر ولایت‌های خراسان و سیستان و كرمان و فارس و اهواز با دیگر سرزمین عجمان كه در وقت حاضر به این ولایت‌ها پیوسته است، همه‌ی این ولایت‌ها یك مملكت بود، پادشاه‌اش یكی بود و زبان‌اش یكی بود، فقط در بعضی كلمات تفاوت داشتند، زیرا وقتی حروفی كه زبان را بدان می‌نویسند یكی باشد، زبان یكی است وگر چه در چیزهای دیگر تفاوت داشته باشد، چون پهلوی و دری و آذری و دیگر زبان‌های پارسی).


“The Persians are a people whose borders are the Mahat Mountains and Azarbaijan up to Armenia and Arran, and Bayleqan and Darband, and Ray and Tabaristan and Masqat and Shabaran and Jorjan and Abarshahr, and that is Nishabur, and Herat and Marv and other places in land of Khorasan, and Sejistan and Kerman and Fars and Ahvaz...All these lands were once one kingdom with one sovereign and one language...although the language differed slightly. The language, however, is one, in that its letters are written the same way and used the same way in composition. There are, then, different languages such as Pahlavi, Dari, Azari, as well as other Persian languages.”

Thus the Dhakhireyeh Khwarizmshahi and the exact phrase “Zaban-i Balkhi” (The Balkhi language) and also the fact that Dari language was associated with Balkh (even the time of Darabnama and al-Fihrist) are sufficient proof that the language of everyday people of Balkh was Persian.  Today also, the majority of the city of Mazar-i Sharif speaks Persian and are Tajiks(Persians).  The Turkic minority in the area are the Turkmens who were nomadic until recently and the Uzbeks who were not in the area until the Mongol invasion and both of these live mainly in the villages around Mazar Sharif (the actual city being mainly Tajik).  But during the time of Baha al-Din, books like Dhakhireyeh Khwarizmshahi provide sufficient proof of the language prevalent language in Balkh and the phrase “Zaban-i Balkhi” in the Dhakhireyeh Khwarizmshahi clearly points to the Balkhi languages.

However as noted, modern scholarship states Rumi was born in Vakhsh, but Vakhsh itself was considered part of Balkh at the time.  Vakhsh was just part of the regional administration of Balkh and thus when the Dhakhireyeh Khwarizmshahi is speaking of “Zaban-i Balkhi”, we can state that it is the dialect of the region of Balkh in the wider sense (which also includes Vakhsh).  Today the inhabitants of Vakhsh are also Tajik people and pre-Islamic time, they were likely Sogdians and Hephtalites.  The Turkic speakers in Tajikistan who make up 10-15% of the population (in 2009) are Uzbeks who were not formed as a group in the area until after the Mongol invasion.  During the time of Baha al-Din, Vakhsh had transitioned from Ghurid rule to that of the Khwarizmdshahi dynasty.  The name Vakhsh probably has a Sogdian etymology and is related to the word Oxus.   Minorsky and other scholars have connected the Greek word Oxus (which is pre-Christian) to the word Vakhsh (Hudud al-Alam).   At the pre-Christian time, the area of Central Asia was Iranian speaking (Eastern Iranian languages) and the fact the name Vakhsh and Vakhsab was kept during the time of Rumi shows that a linguistic shift in the area to Turkic had not occurred, since the Turkic name for the river is Qizil-Su.  The Hodud al-‘Alam states about Vakhsh (Dehkhoda):

از اعمال بلخ از ختلان و آن شهری پهناور است بر کنار جیحون ، بسیارنعمت و خوش هوا.   ناحیتی است آبادان و برکرانه ٔ وخشاب نهاده و قصبه ٔ آن هلاورد است و لیوکند نیز از این ناحیت است

That is its major cities were Halaward and Levkand (or Lawkand).  Both names are Soghdian/Fahlavi.

Although linguistic Turkification of Central Asia, parts of Caucasus and Azerbaijan were always favorable to Turks (due to political dominance), it is notable that both Vakhsh and Mazar-i Sharif  are still predominantly Iranian Tajik speaking even today.

We will examine Baha al-Din’s work (Ma’arif) and show that some rare words of probable East Iranian origin are prevalent in the everyday language.

Thus from this analysis of historical sources (especially Dhakhireyeh Khwarizmshahi and al-Fihrist), we can see that the language of Balkh was Persian.  The language of Vakhsh in Tajikistan was also Persian as shown by the colloquial everyday language of Ma’arif .

Contribution to Persian culture and Baha al-Din Walad’s native language

We note some very interesting colloquial Persian terms that are rarely used today and possibly have Soghdian origin are found in the Ma’rif.  The most outstanding of these (in our opinion) from the Ma’ari are bolded below:

پرتوز – آس کرده – آیان – انگله – باشش – بلگ (برگ) – پاشنه کوفته – پتیله –ترنجیده – تسترغیده (درهم فشرده)- تنهاگانه-تواره (دیوار-فاصله و واسطه)- چراغ وره (ظرفی که چراغ در آن نهند و برند)خاوند /خاونده (خداوند) – خدوک – در چغزیده (غم در دل گرفته) – دژماندن (خشمگین و آشفته) – دیوک زده (چیزی که آفت دیوان بدان رسد) – روژیدن (ظاهر شدن)سراغج (مجمعه گیسو پوش زنان) – سکلیدن (منقطع کردن) – سیب​غوله (سیب ناخام و نارسیده) –غیژیدن (خزیدن) – غریژک (لای و لجن) – کژپایک (خرچنگ) – فرخج (نامناسب) – ناوچه (کشتی کوچک) – خنور (کاسه و ظرف)


These words show the colloquial style of the text in many aspects and are example of rare Iranian words (some of them seem Soghdian) that have been encountered much less in standard Persian.  They require meticulous linguistic analysis from Iranian linguists.  For example “Balg” for Barg or Roozhidan clearly shows the influence of the native Persian or the Balkhi language. 

To ascertain Baha al-Din’s everyday language, some people might argue that this colloquial and informal jargon language of his is not sufficient.  However we believe there is a definitive proof that Baha al-Din’s native language was Persian and if he were not, he would write in a more formal language.  Another  proof beyond the everyday colloquial term and formal language has to do with the way Baha al-Din addresses his biological mother.  Obviously, a person from a specific ethnic background would call their mother a term that they have used since they were infants.  The Arabic word for mother is Umm, the Turkish word is aanaa and the Persian term is Maam. 

For example, the Khorasani Iranian poets Ferdowsi and Naser Khusraw:

سديگر بپرسيدش افراسياب
از ايران و از شهر و از مام و باب

وز باب و ز مام خويش بربودش
تا زو بربود باب و مامش
(ناصر خسرو(


What is clear is that Baha al-Din Walad calls his mother “Maami” in his informal everyday jargon (a non-native Persian speaker who learns formal Persian would not use such an informal term).  “Maam” is the Persian for mother (see Ferdowsi/Naser Khusraw above) and an Indo-European cognate with the similar English word.  The “i” is also similar and expresses deeper affection and everyday family language usage.  Baha al-Din Walad in his writing does not use his mother’s formal name but constantly refers to her as “Maami”. 

Thus closer examination of the colloquial language of the Ma’arif and its informal language reveals that the Persian used in that book is the everyday language of Baha al-Din Walad.  This Persian has been influenced by Soghdian and other Eastern Iranian languages and that is why rare terms like “Roozhidan” (interestingly modern Persian uses Rooz but Kurdish uses Roozh) are used.  It of course had Arabic loan words and even some Turkish and Greek loan words, since Persian civilization was bordered by Arabic and Turkic civilization and has been influenced by Greek civilization as well.  But the overall colloquial Persian language of Balkh contains many words that have now disappeared in modern Persian but some of these words can be glanced at the Ma’arif (as shown above).

“Maami” in itself indicates again that Baha al-Din Walad speaks Persian as his native language with his mother  and the term is something that he has used since he was a child.  Obviously had his language been Turkish or Arabic, then one would expect terms that are composed of “AAnaa” or “umm” rather than “Maami”.

Thus from an ethnic point of view, Baha al-Din Walad was a native Persian speaker.  We cannot trace his genealogy or virtually many other people (say Shakespeare) more than three generations back to Ahmad Khatibi (who was a preacher himself in native Persian speaking lands) and obviously culture and native language is the key matter that defined ethnicity.  From the viewpoint of culture, Baha al-Din Walad has also made a significant contribution to the Persian language and culture.

According to Franklin:

“For Baha al-Din, the ideal situation would undoubtedly have included a ruler predisposed to heed and foster his teachings, to abstain from wine and other impieties, and to uphold and spread poetry and religious learning, preferably of the Hanafi School and preferably in a Persian-speaking area.  He would have had few if any qualms of conscience in accepting princely patronage or cultivating influence for pious purposes under such ideal circumstances”(page 76)

And according to Bosworth, Baha al-Din brought Persian culture with him to Anatolia. 

C.E. Bosworth, "Turkish Expansion towards the west" in UNESCO HISTORY OF HUMANITY, Volume IV, titled "From the Seventh to the Sixteenth Century", UNESCO Publishing / Rutledge, p. 391:

"While the Arabic language retained its primacy in such spheres as law, theology and science, the culture of the Seljuk court and secular literature within the sultanate became largely Persianized; this is seen in the early adoption of Persian epic names by the Seljuq Rulers (Qubad, Kay Khusraw and so on) and in the use of Persian as a literary language (Turkish must have been essentially a vehicle for every days speech at this time). The process of Persianization accelerated in the thirteenth century with the presence in Konya of two of the most distinguished refugees fleeing before the Mongols, Baha al-din Walad and his son Mawlana Jalal al-din Rumi, whose Mathnawi, composed in Konya, constitutes one of the crowning glories of classical Persian literature."

Again, we like to go back to emphasizing culture.  Since although we demonstrated that Baha al-Din’s native language was Persian, what matters from a modern viewpoint is his impact on Persian language and culture.  That is we may never know that Baha al-Din’s ancestry goes back to say Darius the Great, Abraham, or Alexander the Great or etc.  Eventually it goes back to Adam.  Thus we assign to a civilization (in this case Persian civilization) based on his native language, and also his cultural contribution which are all in Persian. 

Baha al-Din’s Ma’arif is a religious, moral and spiritual text written in a colloquial Persian which has many deep spiritual insights.   The Masnavi indeed has also many of these insights and they go back to the traditional Persian Sufism of Khorasan.  Although, from the extant texts available,  one has to admit that Baha al-Din Walad from a scholarly and exoteric point of view cannot be compared to Fakhr ad-din Razi and we believe that he fled due to the Mongol invasion rather than any rivalry with Fakhr ad-din Razi or other people.  The comparison of him with Fakhr ad-din Razi was possibly done to bring him to same scholarly status as that of Razi.  Obvously, from a spiritual status, we cannot judge who had a higher rank (only God can) but from a purely scholarly status and output, Fakhr ad-din Razi is an unparalleled scholar of his own time. 

Nevertheless, the spiritual insights of Baha al-Din Walad are deeply rooted in traditional Khorasanian Islamic Sufism.  Here are some examples (taken from the translation of Franklin) among the many:

The kernel of worship is melting away the self and the rest of worship is merely the husk.

Until you pass away from this plane of being, you will not receive being from His being.

Die before death and bury yourself in the grave of desirelessness and rejoice.

Conclusion on Baha al-Din Walad


What do we know about Baha al-Din’s genealogy?  The claimed maternal royal descent from the Khawrizmshahs for Rumi or Baha al-Din Walad is dismissed by scholars and as seen as a later fabrication.  Indeed Baha al-Din Walad’s mother seems like a simple Woman.   The claim of descent from Abu Bakr is also not in his writing or that of Rumi’s.  Even if such a claim was true (since many sources have stated it after Rumi), we should note that Baha al-Din’s native language was Persian, his work is in Persian and he was thoroughly Persianized.  However, as mentioned, modern scholars have dismissed the lineage from Abu Bakr.  The claim might have been made according to one source because Bahal al-Din’s mother was related to a certain Abu Bakr Sarkhasi (a Hanafi scholar from Sarkhas).   Then there is the paternal claim descent from the Khatibun families of Isfahan put forward by Fritz .  The only firm knowledge we have of Baha al-Din’s genealogy is that he is a descendant of a certain Ahmad Khatibi who preached again in Persian speaking towns.   It seems that being a Islamic preacher ran through many generations of Rumi’s family, because Sultan Walad and Rumi themselves gave sermons and lectures to their followers (we shall say more about these later in the article).

Given this information, we next examined the Ma’arif and the languages of Vakhsh/Balkh.  The colloquial style of the Ma’arif with some very terms (many of them possibly Soghdian) show that the language of Vakhsh was Persian at that time.  We brought the Dhakhireyeh Khwarizmshahi where the Balkh Persian is again shown to be the language of Balkh.  Indeed, Balkh according to classical sources (Ibn Nadeem) and even the Darab-Nama (written around the time of Rumi) is the center for the Dari-Persian.   Also the informal and family vernacular reference to his mother as “Maami” rather than a phrase containing the Arabic “Umm” or Turkish “Anaa” is another indicator that Baha al-Din Walad was a native Persian speaker.  Indeed the only writing we have from him are in Persian in a colloquial/formal Persian (not informal Persian learned in non-Persian lands) and thus his contribution is directly to the Persian language and culture.  As shown later, among the notable figures mentioned for the order by Sultan Walad, all of them are either from Khorasanian Persian background (Attar, Sanai, Bayazid) or Iraqi Persian background (Junayd Baghdadi, Abu Bakr Shibli, Maru’f Karkhi) or Farsi (province) Persian background like Hallaj.   From a linguistic point of view, some of the rare Iranian terms used in the Ma’arif are also indicators of his native Iranian language.  These terms deserve more careful study.  Overall we can clearly state Persian was the native and everyday language of Baha al-Din Walad based on the informal and everyday style of the Ma’arif and also the native term of endearment used for his own mother “Maami”.


We already discussed the background of Baha al-Din Walad and his native Persian language. 

Obviously, Rumi’s native language was also Persian based on his father  As noted by Annemarie Schimmel, The Triumphal Sun: A Study of the Works of Jalaloddin Rumi, SUNY Press, 1993, p. 193: "Rumi's mother tongue was Persian, but he had learned during his stay in Konya, enough Turkish and Greek to use it, now and then, in his verse"

According to Franklin also:

“At some point Sultan ‘Ezz al-Din invited Rumi as his guest to Antalya, but Rumi hid from the messengers the Sultan had sent to escort him (Af 1020-21).  It seems the story is based on some real historical circumstance, as Rumi himself alludes to his reasons for not going to Antalya in Discourse 23 of his Fihi ma fih (Fih 97):

“One should go to Tokat, for it is a warm place.  Antalya is warm, too, but the people are mostly Greek (Rumian) there.  They do not understand our language, though there some even among the Greeks who understand us!”(Franklin, 126)

Obviously, given that all of Rumi’s work, speeches, letters and writings except a couple of dozen or so couplets attributed to him (mainly in mixed verses) are in Persian, and all of his sermons and discourses recorded by his students are in Persian, then this points to the fact that Rumi stayed in Konya at that time because Persian was an important language there and widely spread then.   A large number of Iranian refugees had taken refuge there.  For example in the Walad-nama (see the section on Sultan Walad), after several verses in Arabic, Rumi’s Son, Sultan Walad states:

فارسی گو که جمله دریابند

گرچه زین غافلند و درخوابند


Tell the tale in Persian so that all may understand it,

Even though they lack insight and are (spiritually) sleep

And Rumi after couple:

And he mentions this again after writing some Arabic in another Ghazal:

اخلایی اخلایی، زبان پارسی می گو                                

که نبود شرط در حلقه، شکر خوردن به تنهایی


And Rumi states the same thing with regards to Persian after some Arabic verses:

مسلمانان مسلمانان زبان پارسی گویم

که نبود شرط در جمعی شکر خوردن به تنهایی

Oh Muslims, Oh Muslims, Let me say it in Persian

Because is it not polite to eat all the sweets by myself in a gathering and not share it


This article is not intended to give a full biography of Rumi and scholars like Foruzanfar and Franklin have already done the latest research on this imatter.   Rather we just want to point to some points that have not been looked at detail by those who try to disclaim Rumi from Persian civilization and assign him to other civilizations.

Thus from the above examples, it is sufficient to state that when Rumi states “Greek (Rumian) there.  They do not understand out language,” he is explicitly stating that they do not understand Persian because as shown below, the everyday language of Rumi (his language) was Persian as well.  This is not surprising since his father’s native language was also Persian.

 The Persian lectures, letters and sermons of Rumi and his everyday language

Three major works of prose have come down from Rumi. Two of them were recorded by his students and disciples while the other one contains his letters.  All three works are in Persian except two discourses in Arabic out of 71 total discourses and three letters out of 150 letters.

The first Prose work of Rumi is called Fihi Ma Fih (“What in it is in it”)

“The discourses of Rumi or Fihi ma Fih, provides a record of seventy-one talks and lectures given by Rumi on various occasions, some of them formal and some of them rather informal.  Probably compiled from the notes made by various disciples, they were put together in an effort to preserve his teaching quite likely after his death.  As such, Rumi did not “author” the work and probably did not intend for it to be widely distributed (compare the genesis of de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics.).  As Safa points out (Saf 2:1206) the Discourse reflect the stylistics of oral speech and lack the sophisticated word plays, Arabic vocabulary and sound patterning that we would except from a consciously literary text of this period.  Once again, the style of Rumi as lecturer or orator in these discourses does not reflect an audience of great intellectual pretensions, but rather middle-class men and women, along with number of statesmen and rulers.


The notes probably reflect only a portion what was said on any given occasion.  Prayers, formal sermons and so forth have been left out and only the meaty instructions and elucidations that the disciples felt distinctive and worth noting were preserved.”(Franklin, pg 292)

The second prose work of Rumi is called the Majales-e Sabe’ (literally, “seven sermons or seven sessions”).  These sermons according to Franklin are:

““The Seven Sermons,” is, as its name suggests, a small compilation of seven sermons or formal lectures of a didactic nature (technically, “sittings” or majles) formal lectures of didactic nature (technically, “sitting” or majles) attributed to Rumi.  Unlike the Discourses, Rumi delivered these homilies on questions of ethnics and faith on ceremonial occasions, probably in a mosque, perhaps after Friday prayers.

We cannot fix the date of the most of these sermons, though one of them may have been delivered when Rumi’s parents were still alive.  …Some of these sermons could date from much later in life.  Rumi’s sermons typically began with an exordium in Arabic, followed by a prayer in Persian.  The sermon itself gives a commentary on the deeper meaning of a Koran verse or a hadith.  The style of the Persian is rather simple, but the quotation of Arabic and the knowledge of history and the Hadith display the preacher’s firm grounding in the Islamic sciences.  The sermons include quotations from poems of Sana’i, Attar, and other poets, including many lines from Rumi himself.  (Franklin, pg 293).

The best edition of the Majales was produced Towfiq Sobhani (1986), based on the oldest manuscript (in Konya, Turkey, dated 1352).  In actuality, we should mention that is I not surprising that Rumi gave Friday prayer sermons because his father and ancestors (Khatibi) were also preachers.

Finally, the Maktubat is the collected letters of Rumi.  There was an earlier edition by Fereydun Nafiz Uzluk (whom we mentioned also with regards to some unsound theories and possible distortions in the introduction). 

According to Franklin with regards to the edition of Uzluk:

“Unfortunately, the use of an inferior manuscript, faulty editorial decisions and printing mistakes virtually nullify the usefulness of this edition.  The seventeen pages of errata do include some manuscript variations, but primarily correct typographical errors; even so, Sharaf al-Din Yalet Qaya added an additional five pages of mistake to this” (pg 294).

The best edition has been produced again the Iranian scholar Towfiq Sobhani (1992).   According to Franklin: “Towfiq Sobhani has thankfully made these editions obsolete and readers should henceforth refer to his edition of Maktubat-e Mowlana Jalal al-Din Rumi (Tehran: Markaz-e Nashr-e Daneshgahi, 1371/1992)” (pg 294)

According to Franklin: “Rumi’s letters reveal that an extended community of disciples and family members looked to Rumi as an intercessor, not only with God, but also with men of state and influence.  He sought to help them in their economic and communal affairs, and wrote recommendation letters, introducing individuals to potential patrons and asking for assistance.  The letters testify that Rumi kept very busy helping family members and administering a community of disciples that had grown up around him.  It should dispel the notion foisted on us by Sultan Valad that he lived a reclusive life withdrawn from the affairs of the world after the disappearance of Shams.  In contrast with the prose of his Discourses and Sermons, the style of the letters is consciously sophisticated and epistolary, in conformity with the expectations of correspondence directed to nobles, statement and kings”.(pg 294-295)

Thus we have three prose works from Rumi with the major one being Fihi ma Fih.  All these works are in Persian except for: 1) The discourse 22 and 34 in Fihi Ma fih which are in Arabic, and the rest of the discourses are in Persian for a total of 71 discourses 2) The introductory short prayer in the seven sermons are Arabic before he switches to Persian  3) Out of the 150 letters of the Maktubat, about three are in Arabic, and four which consist of Arabic poems.  All the rest of these prose are in Persian.

What does this tell us about Rumi’s everyday language?  The informal and common folk prose of the Fihi ma Fih, and the seven sermons as opposed to the more informal and literary Maktubat clearly shows that Rumi used Persian language as his native language as well as his literary language.  If his literary language was separated from his native language, then one would expect that in formal and common folk gatherings where he is guiding his disciples or in the public sermons that he is giving, he would do it so in the more widely spoken languages of Anatolia (say Greek or Turkish) or in a language used more often for religious instructions (Arabic).  However, the fact that the common folk idiom of Fihi ma Fih are discourses in oral speech proves beyond any doubt that Rumi’s everyday language for himself and his followers was Persian, which was also his native language.

Response to couple of nationalistic statements with regards to Rumi’s prose and Rumi’s everyday language (not just literary language)


When confronted with the immense Persian poetry of Rumi, some nationalists who try to disclaim Rumi from his Persian heritage usually repeat the same argument.

Professor Talat S. Halman states:

“In Turkey, where language is the primary ethnic detriment and carries a forceful national mystique, the language question has been an emotional one.  In the introduction to his verse translation of Mesnevi, Abdullah Oztemiz Hacitahiroglu writes: “The fact that the Mesnevi was composed in Persian and consequently remained alien to the Turkish people has been a source of sorrow for all Turks in all eras.”   As a result, many Turkish authors and scholars offered various explanations and excuses.  Former senator Feyzi Halici of Konya, a well-known poet who has translated several hundred poems by Rumi and published many poems on him, has stated in the English postscript to his book entitled Dinle Neyden (Listen to the Reed):

It is wrongly believed in Europe that Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi was of Persian origin.  This was caused by the fact that the master wrote in Persian.  But we must bear in mind that in [the] Middle Ages in…most European countries the literary works were written in Latin, though each country had her own language.  So it was in the Middle Eastern countries… “Farsi” being the common language for…literary works, Mevlana had written his masterpieces in Persian.

Samiha Ayveri, a Turkish Specialist of Ottoman and Islamic culture summarily states:

“There are those who think of Rumi as the representative of Persian culture because he wrote his works in Persian.  But in that era the scholarly language was customarily Arabic and the literary language was Persian…As is known, Rumi was Turkish”(Halman, pg 267-268)

That Rumi belongs to the Persian cultural world is clear.  We shall discuss his relationship to the Persian cultural world briefly in a later section.  But for example, virtually all the Sufis that come up in Masnavi are Persians (Attar, Sanai, Kherqani, Shibli, Junayd, Hallaj, Bayazid, Abu Said..) except a few who are Arabic (Dhul-nun mesri).  From a cultural myth point of view, Rumi has referenced Persian heroes like Rustam, Esfandiyar and etc. and has nothing with regards to Turkish mythology.  These issues will be discussed later.

However, the best response to such nationalist nonsense that Rumi wrote in Persian because it was the literary language are these:

First of all Rumi did not like writing poetry as he has stated several times.  So naturally if he did not like writing poetry, he would not use the common literally language.   But if he wrote poetry, then he must have wrote it also for people that understood him.  That is his inner circles besides Rumi himself were native Persian speakers.

Second, the lectures  of Rumi are informal, vernacular and colloquial discussions which he gave in front of his students.  These are not literary Persians (like the official letters of his in the Maktubat), but provide the best proof of the everyday spoken language of Rumi.   These lectures (Fihi ma Fih) and Sermons (Majales Sabe’) establish clearly that Rumi’s everyday language was Persian and he was not just using Persian for literary value. 

For example, in Konya, he gives sermons in Persian not Turkish.  In the Fihi ma Fih (which were written down by his students), his lectures  to his students are in Persian not Turkish or Greek, which would have reached a wider audience.  As noted by Franklin and Safa: “As Safa points out (Saf 2:1206) the Discourse reflect the stylistics of oral speech and lack the sophisticated word plays, Arabic vocabulary and sound patterning that we would except from a consciously literary text of this period.  Once again, the style of Rumi as lecturer or orator in these discourses does not reflect an audience of great intellectual pretensions, but rather middle-class men and women, along with number of statesmen and rulers”” (Franklin,292).  Where as we note when it comes to literary Persian,  we can also see it in Rumi’s official letters.  As noted again by Franklin: “In contrast with the prose of his Discourses and sermons, the style of the letters is consciously sophisticated and epistolary, in conformity with the expectations of correspondence directed to nobles, statement and kings” .  Thus the fact that Rumi users oral Persian (and not just written language) in a common folk fashion in the Fihi ma Fih and the Seven Sermons while using literally sophisticated Persian in the Maktubat totally negates any sort of the nationalist arguments that are quoted in Halman’s book.   Indeed Rumi used Persian everyday not just as his literary language, but as a language to correspond with officials, as a language to guide his disciples and as a language of his Friday sermons.   Indeed Aflaki also always mentions him speaking in Persian and few times in Arabic.  We shall also show based on the book of Aflaki that Rumi’s everyday language was Persian as Rumi even curses in Persian and a person curses in his native language.  His dialogues in that book are also recorded in Persian.

Third, Turkish nationalist writer Fereydun Nafiz Uzluk has come up with the baseless  argument that the Seven Sermons were originally in Turkish but then translated in Persian.  However this argument falls flatly in its face, because the seven sermons are replete with poetry of Attar, Sanai and other Persian poets in their context, as well their style of Persian (although not literally) are highly poetic spiritual discussions.  For example let us just quote the introduction of the first sermon and let the average Persian reader be the judge:


ملکا و پادشاها!  آتشهای حرص ما در به آب رحمت خویش بنشان.  جان مشتاقان را شراب وحدت بچشان.  ضمیر دل ما را به انوار معرف و اسرار وحدت، منور و روشن دار.  دامهای امید ما را که در صحرای سعت رحمت تو باز گشاده​ایم به مرغان سعادت و شکارهای کرامت مشرف و مکرم گردان، آه سحرگاه سوختگان راه را به سمع قبول و عاطفت استماع کن.  دود دل بیدلان را که از سوز فراق آن مجمع ارواح، هر دم آن دود بر تابخانه​ی فلک برمی​آید، به عطر وصال معطر گردان.  قال و قیل ما را و گقت و شنود ما را که چون پاسبانان بر بام سلطنت عشق، چوبک می​زنند از اجرای «یوفیهم اجورهم بغیر حساب» نصیب مدام بخشش فرما.  قال ما را خلاصه​ی حال گردان.  حال ما را از شرفات قال درگذران.  ما را از دشمنکامی هر دو جهان نگاه​دار.  آنچه دشمنان می​خواهند بر ما، از ما دور دار.  آنچه دوستان می​خواهند و گمان می​برند، ما را عالیتر و بهتر از آن گردان.  ای خزانه​ی لطف تو بی​پایان و ای دریای با پهنای با کرم تو بیکران.




مثلت هست در سرای غرور

مثل یخ فروش نیشاپور

در تموز آن یخک نهاده به پیش

کس خریدار نی و او درویش

بخ گدازان شده ز گرمی و مرد

بادل درناک و بادم سرد

این همی گفت و اشک می​بارید

که بسی مان نماند و کس نخرید



This is highly sweet style of Persian and its clear it is given from the pulpit and then a piece of poetry from Sanai is embedded within the sermon.  Many times Rumi quotes Sanai, Attar and other Persian poets in these sermons and thus clearly establishes his Persian cultural heritage and orientation.  Also Fereydun Nafiz Ozluk and his like were not experts in the Persian language as exemplified by the faulty edition of the Maktubat they produced.   Thus Fereydun Nafiz Ozluk’s claim is also refuted by the fact that he must now claim that: Sanai and Attar also wrote in Turkish! and they were also translated to Persian !

Furthermore, as mentioned the Fihi ma Fih provides an example again of everyday colloquial but eloquent  Persian.  Both texts are not in a literary form of Persian but rather in a colloquial form and also the most important fact is their context.  The sermons from pulpit and the lectures given to his students were given by Rumi but not written by him.  They were written by his students and Rumi had no intention to produce literary work here.  Thus this clearly establishes the everyday language of Rumi, and the everyday language of the followers of Rumi and his father was Persian.  Why else would someone in Konya give sermons in Persian or instruct his students in Persian, both in a colloquial common language but eloquent and oratory fashion.  So again, the arguments of the proponents of the claim “Rumi wrote in Persian because it was the literary language” are totally negated by the fact that Rumi’s everyday spoken language as shown in the Fihi ma Fih and the Seven Sermons was in Persian and nothing else.  And from a cultural point of view, the sermons are replete with quotes from Persian poets like Attar, Sanai and etc. but nothing from any Turkic cultural item.  We will describe this cultural heritage of Rumi in another section.

Rumi’s Persian poetry


The two well known books of poetry by Rumi are the Mathnawi and the Diwan (also called Diwan-i Kabir).  These works are very different by the fact that the Mathnawi is a didactic poetical work full of wisdom and advices where-as the Diwan-i Shams is a mystical book of longing and passion.   Although hard to compare, the Mathnawi which was written after the Diwan is the seminal work of Rumi and responsible for his fame.  Both  books have come down to us in different manuscripts.

According to Franklin:

“The manuscripts versions differ greatly in the size of the text and orthography.  Nicholson’s text has 25,577 lines though the average medieval and early modern manuscripts contained around 27,000 lines, meaning the scribes added two thousand lines or about eight percent more to the poem composed by Rumi.  Some manuscripts give as many as 32000!”(Franklin, pg 306)

The Mathnawi is an immense contribution to Persian literature and culture and one of its crowning achievements.  The book is in Persian except for the occasional Quranic verses and Hadeeth sayings that are embedded in the poetry.  Franklin and other scholars have clearly shown that many of the stories are well rooted in the Perso-Islamic civilization, especially that of Khorasan.  Some themes have come from the Kalila-o Demna  which came to Iran via India during the Sassanid era and was popularized in the Perso-Arabic Islamic world through the Sassanid medium.  Overall, sources such as Attar, Kaila va Demna, Tha’labi, the four discourses of Nezami ‘Aruzi, Ghazzali, Sanai and other major themes, stories and figures of the Persian-Arabic Islamic world are mentioned.  Besides these, the Qur’an and Hadeeth also occupy the foremost place alongside Attar and Sanai for the sources of many of the stories and insights.

The other major work of Rumi is of course the Diwan (or Diwan-i Shams)

 According to Franklin:

The Foruzanfar’s edition of the Divan-e Shams compromises 3229 ghazals and qasidas making a total of almost 35000 lines, not including several hundred lines of stanzaic poems and nearly two thousand quatrains attributed to him” (pg 314). 

A large part of the Roba’is attributed to Rumi are not his, however the overwhelming majority of Ghazals and Qasidas are not in doubt.

“With respect to the roba’is, or quatrains, it is highly likely that many of the quatrains the manuscript tradition attributes to Rumi are not his.  We have already seen how Rumi quotes a quatrain of Najm al-Din Daye in his Discourses without mentioning the author’s name.  The Roba’i as a genre was early on associated with Sufi gatherings and music”(Franklin, 302)

“The number of Roba’is attributed to Rumi varies widely, even wildly, from manuscript to another.  Many of the larger collections contain quatrains attributed to earlier poets and can be discounted as false attributions to Rumi, but the short, pithy and essentially oral nature of the Roba’is have appeared separate from the Divan in several publications” (Franklin, 303)

Overall, according to Franklin:

 “The printing press was only introduced to the Muslim world two hundred years ago, and did not become the predominate mode of publication until the last quarter of the nineteenth century.  In a pre-print culture, book must, of course, be copied out by hand, and this provides ample opportunity for scribal and editorial errors – misreading of difficult words, deliberate “improvements” or interpolations added by scribes, erroneous or intentional misattribution of poems to other authors, etc.  In some cases, the manuscript tradition has amplified the corpus of various authors’ work by ten percent or more over the centuries.  Ferdowsi’s Shah name, for example, probably consisted of about 50,000 lines originally, but before modern text editors began working from the oldest manuscripts and sifting out the lines which can be with relative certainty be discarded as later accretions, the received text of Ferdowsi’s poem contained about 60,000 lines.  Like, the Masnavi of Rumi contains 25,577 lines in Nicholson’s critical edition (not 27,000 as Rypka says), but late pre-modern manuscripts and nineteenth-century printings contain anywhere from 27,700 to as many as 32,000 lines, an accretion of between two and seven thousand lines that do not come from the pen of Rumi.

Foruzanfar’s critical edition of the Divan-e Shams contains over 35,000 lines, and though some scholars have questioned the attribution of a large part of the Divan-e Shams to Rumi (especially the roba’is, many of which have been proven to be by other poets), radical skepticism seems unwarranted.  Franklin, pg 296).

The Divan is not a didactic text, but rather a book of poetry on mystical love.  The Dar al-Masnavi website has described it succinctly but very well:

“The "Divan" is the inspiration of Rumi's middle-aged years. It began with his meeting Shams-i Tabriz, becoming his disciple and spiritual friend, the stress of Shams' first disappearance, and the crisis of Shams' final disappearance. It is believed that he continued to compose poems for the Divan long after this final crisis-- during the composition of the Masnavi.  The Divan is filled with ecstatic verses in which Rumi expresses his mystical love for Shams as a symbol of his love for God. It is characteristic of Persian Sufi poetry for it to be ambiguous as to whether the human beloved or the Divine Beloved (= God) is being addressed. It is also an essential feature of the particular kind of Sufism Rumi practiced that mystical "annihilation in the spiritual master" [fanâ fi 'sh-shaykh] is considered a necessary first stage before mystical "annihilation in God" [fanâ fi 'llâh] can be attained. The Divan is filled with poems expressing this first stage in which Rumi sees Shams everywhere and in everything. Rumi's "annihilation" of his separate self was so intense that, instead of following the tradition of including his own name in the last line of odes/ghazals, he often uses the name of his beloved spiritual master and friend instead. Or he appeals to (mystical) Silence [khâmosh] which transcends the mind and its concepts.” (Dar al-Masnavi Website)

All the poetry of Rumi in the Mathnawi are in Persian (except for a small number of  Arabic Quranic and hadith phrases) and the Diwan Shams is 99% Persian, with the exception of some Arabic, and very small number of Turkish (about some couple of Dozen verses or so) and Greek. 

As noted by Annemarie Schimmel, The Triumphal Sun: A Study of the Works of Jalaloddin Rumi, SUNY Press, 1993, p. 193: "Rumi's mother tongue was Persian, but he had learned during his stay in Konya, enough Turkish and Greek to use it, now and then, in his verse"

And as noted by Franklin:”Living among Turks, Rumi also picked up some colloquial Turkish.”(pg 315)

The number of Greek verses according to http://www.tlg.uci.edu/~opoudjis/Play/rumiwalad.html

are 14 macaronic verses.  Since one does not know how long a website may last, we have included in the appendix the Greek verses of Rumi and his son Sultan Walad based on this website:

http://www.tlg.uci.edu/~opoudjis/Play/rumiwalad.html (accessed 2009)

The number of Turkish verses due to manuscript differences is unknown exactly.  But they are very small and do not make even half a percent of his output.

According to Mehmed Foud Kopurlu, the, Turkish work consists of about eight or ten lines of poetry( Mehmed Fuad Köprülü, Early Mystics in Turkish Literature, trans., ed., and with an introduction by Gary Leiser and Robert Dankoff (London: Routledge, 2006).  Pg 208)

According to Mecdut MensurOghlu: “The Divan of Jalal al-Din Rumi contains 35 couplets in Turkish and Turkish-Persian which have recently been published me” (Celal al-Din Rumi’s turkische Verse: UJb. XXIV (1952), pp 106-115)

According to Halman:

“The Iranian claim on the ground of language is incontrovertible, although some Turkish writers have tried to create the impression that Rumi composed a substantial body of verse in Turkish in addition to Persian.  The statistical record is clear: The Mesnevi (Persian: Mathnawi) consists of nearly 26,000 couplets: the Divan-I Kebir (Persian: Divan-e Kabir) probably has about 40,000 couplets, although the figure varies greatly.  Of this vast output, everything is in Persian except for a handful of poems, couplets, lines, and words in Turkish, Arabic, Greek and Hebrew.  Mecdut Mansuroglu, a mteticulous Turkish scholar, found only ten Turkish poems in all of Mevlana’s work.  Sherefdin Yaltkaya, in an earlier study, compiled a total of 103 words of Turkic origin in Mevlana’s Persian poetry.  This is infinitesimal compared with hous output in Persian.  Rumi is patently Persian on the basis of jus et normal loquendi.”(Halman, pg 267)

However as noted, the 1952 work of MensurOghlu mentions 35 couplets in Turkish and as far as we know, Rumi does not have any verses in Hebrew.  As per the number of Turkic words in Rumi’s words (assuming their etymology has been done correctly which is very hard to say since the noted scholar might not be aware that many words of Sogdian origin have entered Turkish like Khatun or some words like Tegin and etc. are not of Turkish origin but possibly Eastern Saka), we will say something about that in the next section.

According to Franklin:

“a couple of dozen at most of the 35,000 lines of the Divan-I Shams are in Turkish, and almost all of these lines occur in poems that are predominantly in Persian”(Franklin, pg, 549)

Be that it may, due to different manuscript edition, one can upper bound the number of Turkish verses at no more than 100 (this is an upper bound but probably couple of dozen or so is more correct).  If we assume this upper bound, then the number of Turkish verses are about 1/3 of one percent of the Diwan (not counting the quatrains which are all in Persian) and if we assume the number of MensurOghlu, it is about one tenth of one percent.  Clearly an insignificant number.  We will have something to say about the reliability of these verses in the next section.

The number of Greek verses are also insignificant.  The number of Arabic verses are slightly more although again insignificant compare to the number of Persian verses.  According to the Dar al-Masnavi website: “In Forûzânfar's edition of Rumi's Divan, there are 90 ghazals (Vol. 1, 29;Vol. 2, 1; Vol. 3, 6; Vol. 4, 8; Vol. 5, 19, Vol. 6, 0; Vol. 7, 27) and 19 quatrains entirely in Arabic. In addition, there are ghazals which are all Arabic except for the final line; many have one or two lines in Arabic within the body of the poem; some have as many as 9-13 consecutive lines in Arabic, with Persian verses preceding and following; some have alternating lines in Persian, then Arabic; some have the first half of the verse in Persian, the second half in Arabic.”

All together, these should not make more 1000 lines and thus an upper bound for the number of Arabic verses is 3%.  So overall, we can say at least 96.5% of the output of the Divan-i Kabir is in Persian.

Golpinarli and Vladimir Mir Mirughli make an important point about the Diwan: “Three poems have bits of demotic Greek; these have been identified and translated into French, along with some Greek verses of Sultan Valad.  Golpinarli (GM 416-417) indicates according to Vladimir Mir Mirughli, the Greek used in some of Rumi’s macaronic poems reflects the demotic Greek of the inhabitants of Anatolia.  Golpinarli then argues that Rumi knew classical Persian and Arabic with precision, but typically composes poems in a more popular or colloquial Persian and Arabic.”(Franklin, 316)

Both the Mathnawi and Diwan are crowning pieces of Persian literature and an immense contribution to Persian culture.  They are universal works, however one needs to know the Persian language and be familiar with the Sufic-Islamic culture to fully appreciate them.  Thus although universal, one can say there would be no Rumi in its current form without the Persian language and the Persian language would not have been rich without Rumi.

Thus we have three major prose works in Persian and two major books of poetry in Persian.  These are Rumi’s contribution to the Persian culture and language.  His contributions to Arabic is minor and his contribution to Greek and Turkish is negligible (assuming that these are not later attributions).


Response to an invalid arguments with regards to the Diwan


In Turkish nationalistic writings, the author has encountered several different arguments in order to claim a Turkish cultural background for Rumi.  We examine these arguments here.

Invalid Argument: “Rumi was a Turk because he has some verses in Turkish”

The first argument can be summarized as follows: “Rumi was a Turk because he has some verses in Turkish,”

As already pointed out:


As noted by Annemarie Schimmel, The Triumphal Sun: A Study of the Works of Jalaloddin Rumi, SUNY Press, 1993, p. 193: "Rumi's mother tongue was Persian, but he had learned during his stay in Konya, enough Turkish and Greek to use it, now and then, in his verse"

And as noted by Franklin:”Living among Turks, Rumi also picked up some colloquial Turkish.”(Franklin, pg 315)


Rumi’s Turkish verses are miniscule.  As noted, if we combine the literally output of Rumi’s Persian poetry (both Mathnawi and the Diwan) and take an upper bound, we do not even get one third of one percent of Turkish poetry from Rumi’s total output (35 verses are said out of 60,0000 verses of Diwan and Masnavi). 

Also Rumi has some Greek verses and even more Arabic verses.  Just because he has verses in Greek does not make him of Greek background.   These Greek verses  are appended to the appendix of this article.  Even his chosen pen-name was “Rumi” (Greek) and the word “Rumi” in Rumi’s poetry is used for Greek rather than Anatolian Muslim (for example the famous story of the Persian, Greek, Arab and Turk arguing over the same grape).




Assuming that the Greek and Turkish verses are reliable (in terms of manuscripts), what can we say about them?  Rumi himself had students from many backgrounds as well as his poetry in the Divan-i Shams were recorded by his students.  He might be walking the Bazar, town square, talking to his students and etc. and then all of the sudden in an impulsive nature compose poetry.  Given the colloquial language that he uses, and given the fact that Greek and Turkish were widely spoken in the region, this fact that he has some verses in Greek and Turkish is not surprising (assuming again that the manuscripts are valid and authentically verified).  However what is surprising is that despite coming to Anatolia at a very young age, these Greek and Turkish verses are miniscule and do not even make one tenth of all of Rumi’s literally output (prose and poems combined).  Also as shown, even Sultan Walad who had slightly more Greek and Turkish admits that his knowledge of these languages (Greek and Turkish) is relatively poor.  This is discussed in a later section but it provides a sufficient proof that the native language of Rumi’s son Sultan Walad was also Persian and not the more widespread Greek and Turkish.


All of the prose of Rumi and his ordinary demotic lectures in the Fihi ma Fih and Seven sermons are in Persian.  Hence the Persian language was Rumi’s native and everyday language.  It is the language he used to guide his followers and the language he used when conversing with Shams.  It was the native language of his father and Rumi’s everyday language. 


According to Halman: “A refutation of the Turkish claim may be found in historical fact evinced by Turkish sources.  No Ottoman Tezkire’ tush-shuara (poet’s live; Who’s Who in Poetry) lists biographical data on Rumi, thus indicating that he was not considered a Turkish poet by the Ottoman Turks themselves.  Also significant is the statement of Mehmed Fuad Kopruli, generally recognized as the greatest scholar of Turkish literary history in the twentiweth century: “Although one encounters several pieces of Greek and Turkish verse in the Divan-I Kebir, these could not be considered, on the basis of their nature and numbers, sufficient to presume that he was a Turkish poet”.  Golpinarli corrobates this view: “With Mevlana’s arrival from Balkh to Anatolia, a branch of Iranian literature was transported into Anatolia.  The Turkish couplets and the few Turkish words he used in Mulemmas [ compound verses in two or more languages] could never confer on him the status of a Turkish poet” (Halman, pg 268-269)

This is clear by itself and does not need additional commentary.


Finally, there have been Persians that have actually produced Turkish works in the courts of the Timurids and also in the Ottoman lands.  And their works are significant unlike the negligible (assuming the manuscripts are authentic) verses of Greek and Turkish poetry.  Two examples suffice

Or the Iranian author Mirza Habib Esfahani has written in Persian and Ottoman Turkish

(“Habib Esfahani Mirza”, Tahsin Yazici, “Encyclopedia Iranica”http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/v11f4/v11f4056.html).

Excerpt: “"HABIBESFAHANI, Mirzā, Iranian poet, grammarian and translator, who spent much of his life in exile in Ottoman Turkey (1835-93).   A prolific and versatile writer and translator in both Persian and Turkish, Mirzā abib is celebrated in particular for his Persian grammar, Dastur-e Soan. Mirzā abib’s most important work in Turkish is his aṭṭ va aṭṭāān (Istanbul, 1305/1888), a biographical dictionary of Persian and Turkish calligraphers. He also published a Turkish translation of Gil Blas as well as his Divān in Turkish and a versified history of the Ottomans."

Another is the Iranian author Sad al-Din Masud ibn Umar ibn Abd Allah al-Taftazani.

Elias John Wilkinson Gibb, History of Ottoman Poetry, Volume 1, London, 1900. excerpt from pg 202: "..the next work in Turkish poetry is versified translation of Sa'adi's Bustan or 'Orchard' made in 755 by the great and famous Persian schoolmen Sa'd-ud-Din Me'sud-i-Teftazani."

 Gerhard Endress, An Introduction to Islam, translated by Carole Hillenbrand, Columbia University Press, 1998. excerpt from pg 192: "Death of Sa'ad al-Din al-Taftazani, Persian historian and philosopher at the court of Timur"

And many other Iranian peoples, especially Kurds and also Persian immigrants to Anatolia who have written in Turkish languages.

Invalid Argument:  Rumi uses some Turkish words in his poetry


The second argument is: “Rumi uses some Turkish words in his Persian poetry”

One wonders if this needs a response even.  Rumi also uses Greek, and Arabic words in his poetry.  For example the following words (and many more) are of Greek origin and had entered Persian:

دیهیم , اقلیم, لغت, دفتر, زمرد, کلید, قلم, سمندر, ارغنون, اکسیر,موسیقی,فلسفه

And there are more Greek verses.  Also we should note that the Khorasani Persian used by Rumi (and later the Persian that was spoken by Iranians of Konya and Anatolia who had fled the Mongol invasion) was an area that was controlled and neighbored by Turks for a long time.   According to the Professor Xavier Planhol, an expert in Historical-Geography (an extensive field which requires expertise in both of these subjects) as well an expert on nomadism in the Middle East:

“The Turks, on the other hand, posed a formidable threat: their penetration into Iranian lands was considerable, to such an extent that vast regions adapted their language. This process was all the more remarkable since, in spite of their almost uninterrupted political domination for nearly 1,000 years, the cultural influence of these rough nomads on Iran’s refined civilization remained extremely tenuous. This is demonstrated by the mediocre linguistic contribution, for which exhaustive statistical studies have been made (Doerfer). The number of Turkish or Mongol words that entered Persian, though not negligible, remained limited to 2,135, i.e., 3 percent of the vocabulary at the most. These new words are confined on the one hand to the military and political sector (titles, administration, etc.) and, on the other hand, to technical pastoral terms. The contrast with Arab influence is striking. While cultural pressure of the Arabs on Iran had been intense, they in no way infringed upon the entire Iranian territory, whereas with the Turks, whose contributions to Iranian civilization were modest, vast regions of Iranian lands were assimilated, notwithstanding the fact that resistance by the latter was ultimately victorious. Several reasons may be offered.”

(Xavier Planhol, Land of Iran, Encyclopedia Iranica)

We should note that Halman mentions 103 Turkish words in Rumi’s poetry based on the Turkish scholar Yaltkaya (1934), but no reliable etymology has been offered of these (and the manuscripts are not clear).  For example many people are not aware that the word Khatun (see Encyclopedia of Islam) is considered Soghdian or many Turkic titles are actually from the Xiongnu language. 

Either way, due to centuries of Turkish rule, starting from the Ghaznavids, Turkish words had penetrated the Persian language, but their number as pointed out by Professor Planhol are no more than 3% of the total historical Persian vocabulary (many of them not used anymore in modern Persian but they reached their peak during the Safavid era).  This author has just picked the first 100 verses from the Mathnawi and the first 100 verses from the Ghazals.  Multiplying by 10, this is about 2000 words.  Not a single word among these was in Turkish.  Thus the frequency of these words is also very small.

Also, the argument is also invalid because Ottoman Turkish had at least 20% Persian vocabulary, but this does not make all the native writers of that language as Persians.  Overall modern Persian contains a considerable number of Arabic words, and to a lesser extent some Turkish and Greek words.  Also increasingly words of Indo-European European origin (French and English) have entered the language. 

Invalid argument: Rumi has traces of Central Asia Turkish in his poetry


The third argument is: “Rumi’s verses show some traces of Eastern Khorasani Turkish.  The linguist Doerfer claims some words are close to the Khorasani Turkic in his work  (Turkische Folklore-Texte aus Chorasan) and that language of Balkh was Khorasan Turkic.  For example Rumi uses the feature –GAy instead of jek to indicate future tense”

This argument is invalid also as Gerhard Doefer is a linguist but not a Rumi scholar nor has he written any article on Rumi.  However , this author had to search to find what Doerfer said exactly.  In his book Doerfer, Gerhard, "Türkische Folklore-Texte aus Chorasan" , Wolfram Hesche.  Wiesbaden : Harrassowitz, 1998.  Doerfer does not mention Rumi at all except in an incoheent footnote where he states on page 15 (footnote 30):”The language of Mowlana Jalal al-Din Rumi has in some important matters some similarities with the people of Langar (in Iranian Khorasan).  One should note that Rumi was from Balkh and the people of Langar were the same turban.  Does Marbili here mean Marvi?”

We already see that Doerfer does not make such a claim that the language of Balkh was Khorasan Turkic.  If indeed Doerfer made such a claim, he has relied on Togan to hypothesize about Rumi’s ancestry but has not stated anything firm (as mentioned in the introduction, Zekki Velid Togan was a major pan-Turkist and although some of his writings have been deemed scholarly, others have been criticized severely and we noted an example of severe criticism by Bosworth on Togan’s invalid claim of Abu Rayhan Biruni the Iranian Chorasmian).  We already note the Dhakhireyeh Khwarizmshahi were “Zaban-i Balkhi” is explicitly mentioned and it is Persian dialect and provides a direct proof on the language of Balkh.  Also Doerfer had not kept up to date with the most recent scholarship on Rumi and Rumi is from Wakhsh Tajikistan.  Furthermore, what does a similar turban (which is available in Khorasan) from modern day have to do with the 13th century? 

As per the word –gAy instead of jek, or other similar features, according  to the same linguist (and not Rumi scholar): “In three places in Southeast Khoran Turkic we find Uzbek or Oghuz Uzbek dative in –GA after vowels.  …The Un-Oghuz Uzbek feature suffix in –GAy has entered some areas, as has the southern Uzbek personal suffix of the first-person plural –bIz instead of –mIz, both occurring in Northeast Khorasan Turkic and Langar”( G.Doerfer, "The Turkic Languages of Iran" in  Lars Johanson, Éva Csató, "The Turkic languages", Taylor & Francis, 1998. pg 279.)

However, let us note that a linguist who has not studied Rumi’s work is working with hypothesis that are not provable and imaginative.  For example we just saw that Doerfer did not know that Rumi was born in Wakhsh.  Furthermore, we need to mention why such a methodology is invalid.

A)      There is not a single verse of Western Turkish from Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan before the Mongol era.  As mentioned the language of Balkh was zaban-i Balkhi which was the Persian dialect mentioned in Dakhireyeh Khwarizmshahi (see the section of Baha al-Din Walad in this article).  The language of Wakhsh is also the same colloquial and informal language that one sees in the Ma’arif and as demonstrated by careful examination, this was the native language of Baha al-Din Walad.

B)      So there is no really valid basis for comparison.   There was numerous Turkic dialects in Anatolia , undoubtedly  many which showed more Central Asian features in their every day speech relative to others.   After all, many Turkish groups and tribes were pushed to Anatolia from Central Asia.  They brought various Turkic dialects, many of them whom were merged or have died out.  However Rumi was neither of  tribal nor Turkish as demonstrated by his father’s work and his own work and came from a Persian cultural background. But he did come into contact with Turks of various dialects and backgrounds in Anatolia .

C)      There is not enough of information on all of these dialects, many of them which have transformed, merged, evolved or disappeared.   Rumi was in touch with speakers of some of these dialects through the cities he lived.  The Seljuqs themselves where from Khorasan or Central Asia and brought with them numerous  Turkic tribes who were part of their army.  Indeed all the Turks that migrated to Anatolia came from Central Asia either came through the Caucasus or Iran.  So naturally in their variety of dialects, some areas kept their Central Asian features longer than others.  That is their evolution occurred at various rates depending on the area and these dialects were present in Anatolia.  For example one would not expect the same Turkish dialect in Laranda (where Sultan Walad was born) be like  that of Konya (where Rumi was productive for most of his life).   Just like there was different dialects of Greek in Anatolia at the the time also.

D)     So we could not expect that in the 13th century, there was a unifying Turkish dialect.  Just like today there is not a unified Persian or Turkic dialect.  Indeed there was not a unified and standard Turkish language in the Turkey of the 20th century (we are not counting the Ottoman language and are concerned with widely a languages).  Typically, the migrant tribes showed more Central Asiatic features.  Even today for example, two villages 30 miles away can speak a great variety of Kurdish.  Or in Iran there is a variation between various Persian dialects spoken in different cities and also various Azeri-Turkish dialects (Tabriz and Urmia..) 

E)      From a linguistic aspect Iranica (once again Doerfer) mention:

Azeri belongs to the Oghuz branch of the Turkic language family. In the eleventh century the “Tūrān defeated Ērān” and a broad wave of Oghuz Turks flooded first Khorasan, then all the rest of Iran, and finally Anatolia, which they made a base for vast conquests.  But it is very difficult to draw a clear line between the East Anatolian dialects of Turkish and Azeri, on the one hand, and between Azeri and “Afsharoid” dialects or even Khorasan Turkic, on the other hand. There is a plethora of transitional phenomena among all Oghuz idioms.  (G. Doerfer, “Azeri Turkish” in Encyclopedia Iranica). Undoubtedly, this was even more true when there was a variety of Turkic tribes, without a lack of mass communications and divergences, evolutions, transformations of their dialects could have occurred even in a few generations.  Also more importantly, the Khorasan Turkic dialects are not present in Balkh nor Wakhsh.  In actuality, many theories are put forth on how this dialect came about, but given its close similarity to Azerbaijani Turkish, it is likely that the Turkoman tribes (Ghezelbash) of Eastern Anatolia who migrated to Iran during the Safavid era brought these dialects to both Azerbaijan and Khorasan.  Later these dialects had mutual correspondences with more archaic forms of Oghuz and Uzbek Turkic.  Indeed the Safavids moved these tribes to Khorasan (along with Kurds) to protect the frontier against Uzbeks. 

So overall finding various Central Asian Turkish features in different dialects of Turkish that were present in Anatolia is not surprising and Rumi himself had contact with different Greeks and Turks who spoke different dialects of Greek and Turkish.  After all this is the 13th century, were these dialects were transplanted into Anatolia recently and there was of course divergence among these dialects and languages, say even in places like Laranda and Konya. Just like there is divergence among the Tehrani Persian, Mashhadi Persian and Isfhanai Persian and this is true specially before the era of mass communication where just a short distance created divergence in dialects.  

Again we would like to emphasize that there is not a single verse of Western Turkish (Oghuz Turkish) before the Mongol invasion from Balkh or Wakhsh.   Neither does Rumi’s father have a single verse of Turkish but his colloquial and informal everyday Persian provides a sufficient proof of his native language (as well as other factors covered in the previous section).  Furthermore, the Ma’arif of Baha al-Din Walad clearly demonstrates the colloquial and informal language that was present in Wakhsh as he himself preaches there and lived there before coming to Anatolia.   To conclude, the usage of unsound methodology (trying to say find words that might exist in the 20th century Turkish dialects of Central Asia but have almost disappeared in the 20th century Turkish dialects of Turkey due to evolution of the language and dialects) in order to study the culture and

 background of Rumi only yields full of contradictions and hypothesis that cannot be proven.   Specially if one does not study the prose and poetic works of Rumi, Sultan Walad and Baha al-Din Walad nor studies the history of the region (for example not knowing about Dhakhireyeh Khwarizmshahi or Rumi was born in Wakhsh) and ignores all of his works and concentrates on a word that could have been used by some Turks in Anatolia at that time which is not present today.  

Invalid argument: Rumi’s usage of the word Turk shows he was a Turk

The fourth argument has to do with the usage of Turk in the Mathnawi and Diwan-i Shams.

The argument given is the following verses (listed by Halman):

بیگانه می​گویید مرا زین گویم

در شهر شما خانه​ی خود میجویم

دشمن نیم ار چند که دشمن رویم

اصلم ترک است اگر چه هندی گویم

 “I too belong  to this place, don’t think I’m a  freak;

I settled in these parts, a hearth is what I seek.

To you I might seem like a foe, but I am not.

I am Turkish though Hindi is what I speak”(Halman, 293)

And this verse:

چه رومی چهرگان دارم چه ترکان نهان دارم                   

چه عیب است ار هلاوو را نمی دانم نمی دانم

هلاوو را بپرس آخر از آن ترکان حیران کن                       

کز آن حیرت هلا او را نمی دانم نمی دانم

دلم چون تیر می پرد کمان تن همی غرد                      

اگر آن دست و بازو را نمی دانم نمی دانم

رها کن حرف هندو را ببین ترکان معنی را                      

من آن ترکم که هندو را نمی دانم نمی دانم

بیا ای شمس تبریزی مکن سنگین دلی با من               

که با تو سنگ و لولو را نمی دانم نمی دانم

What Roman face I have, what inner Turks I have

Why does it matter, that I do know Hulaku?

Ask Hulaku in the end, to not set forth those Turks

Because from that bewilderness, I do not know Hulaku

My heart like an arrow flies, the bow of my body roars

Even though I do not know, that hand and arm, I do not know

Let go of the Hindu words, look at the Turks of meaning

I am that Turk who does not know Hindu, who does not know.


If taken literally, then we must note Rumi says he knows Hindi one place and he does not know in another place.  However these verses are chosen selectively by those who try to detach Rumi from Persian civilization. 

Since in the Diwan there are also these verses by Rumi

تو ماه ِ ترکي و من اگر ترک نيستم،

دانم من اين قَدَر که به ترکي است، آب سُو

“You are a Turkish moon, and I, although I am not a Turk, know that much,

that much, that in Turkish the word for water is su”(Schimmel, Triumphal Sun, 196)


“Everyone in whose heart is the love for Tabriz

Becomes – even though he be a Hindu – a rose-cheeked inhabitant of Taraz (i.e. a Turk)

 (Schimmel, Triumphal Sun, 196)


گه ترکم و گه هندو گه رومی و گه زنگی                                          

از نقش تو است ای جان اقرارم و انکارم


“I am sometimes Turk and sometimes Hindu, sometimes Rumi and sometimes Negro”

O soul, from your image in my approval and my denial” (Schimmel, Triumphal Sun, 196)


Indeed not only these, but Rumi claims to be Rustam, Shah (King), or ask others to be like Jamshid and Kayghobad…

چو ز آفتاب زادم به خدا که کیقبادم

نه به شب طلوع سازم نه ز ماهتاب گویم

صیقل هر آینه‌ام رستم هر میمنه‌ام

قوت هر گرسنه‌ام انجم هر انجمنم


آدم مگس نزاید، تو هم مگس مباش

جمشید باش و خسرو و سلطان و کیقباد



Furthermore, Rumi in his Diwan points to the Ghuzz Turks as bringing misery:

غم مخور از دی و غز و غارت

وز در من بین کارگزاری

(دیوان شمس)

Do not be miserable because of yesterday, plunders and Oghuz

And look through my door for miracles


This is mentioned in the Mathnawi as well:

آن غزان ترک خون ریز آمدند

بهر یغما برو دهی ناگه زدند

دو کسی از عیان ده  یافتند

در هلاک آن یکی بشتافتند


Those blood-shedding Ghuzz Turks came

They entered a village for plunder

They saw two of the rich men of the village

They went swiftly to kill one of them



So where does this take us? 

According to Halman: “Reading Rumi’s ethnic and national references with an eye to finding clues about his identity or allegiance is both confusing and frustrating”(pg 292).

However, as should be noted the Divan-i Shams is a mystical text and the metaphor of Turk, Hindu, Rumi, Abyssian are part of this language without taking any national or ethnic meaning.  That is why in this article we have taken a comprehensive approach and we shall examine the Masnavi as well as Manaqib of Aflaki to show clearly that Rumi was not a Turk.  The language of the Divan-i Shams is not confusing for those who are aware of its metaphorical nature.    We need to explain this in an independent section (see the next section) so that confusion with this regard does not arise.


Persian poetry images and symbols: Turk, Hindu, Rum, Zang/Habash

چو کرسی نهاد از برچرخ شید

جهان گشت چون روی رومی سپید



The words “Turks”(Turks), “Hindus”(Hindus),”Rums”(Greeks, Romans), “Zang/Habash”(Blacks, Ethiopians) are favorite symbols of the earliest Persian poets in forming poetic images.  As we shall show, in the context of compare and contrast, as well as in other contexts, these words did not have an ethnic meaning but rather were used to contrast various moods, colors and feelings. It is very important to cross-reference the verses of various poets using such symbolic imagery for a better understanding of their usage in Persian poetry. In other words, just like one cannot study Rumi in depth without studying Sanai,Attar, Nezami and of course Ferdowsi, one cannot understand Persian poetry without proper understanding of its symbols and imagery.   We study the usage of these symbols in thePersian literature among Attar, Hafez, Khaqani, Nizami, Rumi, Amir Khusraw and Sanai. Poetic symbols in Persian poetry have been studied by various scholars who had a deep understanding of the Persian language.

According to Franklin:

The raids that conquered India in the name of Muslim rulers were carried out mostly by the Turkish dynasty of the Ghaznavids.  Turks earned  reputation as brave fighters, first as slaves, in which capacity they formed the royal guard of the caliph; then as the rulers of eastern Iran, under the Ghaznavids and Seljuqs.  The beloved is not infrequently compared to a young Turkish warrior-prince who slays suitors right and left with haughty charms.  ((Franklin D. Lewis, "Rumi: swallowing the sun : poems translated from the Persian", Publisher Oneworld, 2008. , pp 175-176)


Here is a poem also translated by Franklin which uses some of these imageries:


 who rose over us last year

 like the new moon

 has appeared this year

 in a rust-colored dervish coat


The Turk you saw that year

  busy with plunder

  is the same who came this year

  lîke an Arab

It's the very same love,

  though in différent garb:

   He changed clothes and appeared again

It's the same wîne, though the glass has changed

  See how happy he comes in his tipsiness!

The night's gone —

   Where are my morning partners in drunken revel

   now that the torch lights up the window of mysteries?

When the Abyssinian age began, the fair Greek disappeare

Today it emerges with great hosts of battle


  the Sun ofTruth ofTabriz has arrived!

  for thîs moon of many lights

  has climbed the wheeling skies of purity!(Franklin D. Lewis, "Rumi: swallowing the sun : poems translated from the Persian", Publisher Oneworld, 2008.  Pg 94)

Among Western scholars who has studied this subject in detail, the later Professor Annemarie Schimmel is noteworthy.  We will quote two of her articles here before giving more examples from Persian poetry as well as various Persian poets.

We quote her paper here:

Schimmel, Annemarie. “A Two-Colored Brocade: The Imagery of Persian Poetry”, the imagery of Persian poetry. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. (pg 137-144).


Turk and Hindu

“O Venus, from your Hindu-eyes notch the arrow on the bow like a Turk!”

Over the preceding chapters we have observed that Persian poetry is imbued to a certain extent with images that evoke the external interplay of Beauty and Love, or the tension between legalism and love, between intellect and inspired madness. As with Mahmud and Ayaz, we may also discern this tendency in another favorite combination that arose in historical and social reality but served mostly as a poetical image whose original context was soon forgotten: the contrast between Turk and Hindu.’Turks enjoyed an important role as soldiers in the Abbasid Empire beginning in the mid-ninth century, and former military slaves soon rose to become rulers (sultans) in their own right, especially on the eastern fringes of Iran and in their homeland, Transoxania.

Indeed the idea of the Turk as the beloved first emerged, it seems, in the days of Mahmud of Ghazna, whose love for Ayaz of the Oymaq tribe was a model for the delight one could take in one’s love for a Turk. The Turk was considered as beautiful as the moon, even though he might be cruel. Soon the Turkish type of beauty became prominent both in pictures and in poetical descriptions: a round face with narrow eyes and a minute mouth. The most famous expression of an Indo-Persian writer’s infatuation with a “Turk”is Amir Khusrau’s verse:

His tongue is Turkish, and I don’t know Turkish— how nice it would be if his tongue were in my mouth!

Turkish cities in Central Asia, such as Chigil and Taraz, became ciphers for the dwelling place of the beloved, where the lover directs his thoughts. Thus Hafiz asks, using a fitting tajnis:

That Turk with a fairy’s countenance went away from me yesterday — what mistake (khata) did he see, that he took the road to Khata [Cathay]?

As for the Hindu, he is the perfect contrast to the Turk. Like the Greeks, the peoples of Western and Central Asia regarded the Indians as black, and the Arabs were in contact with the dark-skinned inhabitants of southern India well before the advent of Islam. Thus the black Hindus came to be compared to devils, both in travelogues and in mystical visions—where the angles of course resembled Turks. Moreover, India was for the Muslims a country benighted in blackest heathendom:

Light up the candle of monotheism,

Set forth into infidel Hindustan:

says Sana’i. The term Hindu, then, meant in the first place “black,”but also “lowly slave”-- a slave who had to serve and obey the ruling Turkish princes, as the first Muslim dynasties in northern India were indeed Turks.

The beloved’s beauty mark, the black mole, the tresses, the eyes, could all be called “Hindu”because of their blackness, but the term also implied treacherous and faithless behavior. The “infidel tresses of Hindu origin”lurk like highway robbers, or else they stretch across the pale ear like a naked Hindu on a white bed. The Hindu tresses may even open a shop: “Give a life for every hair!”And the small mole may be a Hindu child that plucks roses from the cheek.

Images of this kind show that the apparently negative connotation of the “black”Hindu could be transformed into something quite lovable, and in somewhat later times Katibi Isfahani would give a delightful description of the beloved’s face, ridiculing the narrow-minded theologian who would rather not admit that a Hindu infidel can reach Paradise:

0 ascetic, if you deny that a Hindu finds the way toward Kauthar

And an infidel comes to the eternal garden,

Then look how those tresses and the mole came on his face and his

Ruby mouth: an infidel in the garden of Paradise, a Hindu at the well of


Hindustan is, then, logically, the country of blackness (and for some poets it was even the veritable Hell, as Khushhal Khan, the Pathan warrior, states).

A late poet, longing for his home in Iran, sighed during his stay in India:

Like a black hair that finally turns white

Draw myself from India to Iran.

And Hazin, in a comparable situation, saw his stay in Hindustan as proof of sad fact that the day of his life had ended in black night.

 More famous, however, is Talib-i Amuli’s remark, on his emigration from Iran to India, that now perhaps his bad luck (called in both Persian and Turkish “black fortune”) would finally leave him alone:

Nobody has ever brought a Hindu as gift to Hindustan— therefore leave your “black fortune”in Iran!

The darkness could, however, also gain a positive meaning—was not the Water of Life hidden in darkness? Therefore Molla Shakibi praised the Mughal Khankhanan ‘Abdur Rahim, the greatest benefactor of poets around 1600, with the verse:

Come, cupbearer, give the Water of Life!

Draw it from the Khankhanan’s fountain!

Alexander sought it but found it not,

For it was in India and he hastened into the darkness.

In astrology, Saturn, connected with black, is called “the Hindu of the sky”or else the Hindu doorkeeper, as it was the last planet known to medieval observers. Hence the chapter in Nizami’s Haft Paykar about Saturday, which is ruled, as its name says, by Saturn, takes its comparisons, images, and stories entirely from this sphere of blackness. The Indian princess whom Bahram Gor visits is a gazelle with Turkish—that is, dangerous—eyes, eyes of the kind that are often called “drunken Turks,”and the black tresses on her rosy cheeks resemble fire-worshiping Hindus.

The Muslims had a certain knowledge of the rites of cremation as practiced by the Hindus, and Amir Khusrau in particular, who lived in India, sometimes alludes to the custom of satti, the burning of widows.

Learn from the Hindu how to die of love—

It is not easy to enter the fire while alive.

He also describes sunrise with a related image:

The Hindu Night has died, and the sun

 Has kindled the fire to burn that Hindu.

The custom of satti formed on one occasion the topic of a Persian epic, Nau’i’s Suz u gudaz (Burning and Melting), which was composed for Akbar’s son Daniyal and was several times illustrated.

Cross-relations with the fire worship of the Zoroastrians occur now and then (see also chapter 6 above). A typical example, from the late sixteenth century, is by Yolquli Anisi, who tells his beloved:

My heart is a fire temple when I think of you,

And on it is your brand, like a black Hindu who tends the fire.

Such mixture of images is found as early as Nizami’s Haft Paykar.

The Hindu was the slave of the Turkish rulers, and for this reason poets liked the idea that they would lovingly become Hindu slaves if only their Turkish beloved would be kind to them—an idea paradoxically elaborated in Hafiz’s often-quoted Ghazal about the “Turk of Shiraz”(see below).

The word Turk came to designate, in India as in parts of Europe, the Muslim in general, and the positive picture of the moonlike Turkish beloved often also has a tinge of cruelty to it. Poets developed a large stock of metaphors about the pillaging, drunken “Turk”who gallops through the countryside, shooting arrows with his eyelashes to wound his admirers: perhaps he plays polo with the severed head of a victim who enjoys being treated like that, and he plunders (yaghma) every place. Such negative images—without the positive aspect—can be found, for instance, in satires by ‘Ubayd-i Zakani. But when reading these descriptions one must always keep in mind that the beloved in traditional Persian poetry is indeed cruel and does not care for his lover, and that the lover, in turn, seems to relish all the wounds inflicted on him—for the beloved’s cruelty is better than outright indifference.

The mystics too made use of the Turk-Hindu contrast. Rumi saw the whole world as a dark Hindustan that must be destroyed “in Turkish style”so that the soul may finally be freed from material fetters. And Turk and Hindu appear in “the Hindustan of clay and water and the Turkestan that is the spiritual world”.

As Saturn is the “Hindu of the sky,”Mars, the martial planet, is rightly called the “Turk of the sky.”But in the service of the beloved both are lowly slaves, as Bayram Khan, a Turcoman general in Mughal service, sings:

For your castle, old Saturn is the doorkeeper;

For your Hindu curls the Turk of the sky is a Circassian slave!

Much later another poet from India would complain:

From grieving for you I have black fortune and wet eyes—

I own [the whole area of] black [fertile) soil from India to the Oxus!

The contrast of Turk and Hindu was certainly strengthened by the realities of Muslim history at the turn of the first millenium, but the many possible interpretations of both terms made them a favorite for poets throughout the centuries. With these possibilities in mind one gets closer to

the secret of Hafiz’s famous (and often misinterpreted) verse:    

If that Turk of Shiraz would take my heart in his hand,  

I would give for his Hindu mole Bukhara and Samarqand.

The Shirazi Turk has a black—Hindu—mole, and for this mole, which is traditionally seen as a black slave, the poet is willing to sacrifice the most of beautiful cities of the Turkish empire. Besides this grand exaggeration in which all values seem to be reversed, the verse contains three names of cities (Shiraz, Bukhara, Samarqand), as well as three parts of the body (hand, mole, heart), and furthermore plays on the contrast of giving and taking, so that a whole chain of rhetorical figures is incorporated into these seemingly simple lines which express the poet’s hope for some kindness from his beloved. But the whole beauty of the verse is inevitably lost in translation, especially in translations by those unaware of the delightful wordplay which the poet—effortlessly, as it seems—puts before his readers.

The Turk also appears, though rarely, in other connections. On a few occasions the aggressive riders from the steppes are contrasted with the complacent, urban Tajiks, and sometimes a poet collects a veritable “league of nations”around his friend’s face:

“The Turk of your eye carries away the heart from the Arab and the

Soul from the Persian; the Abyssinian mole on your face makes the Hindu a slave!”

In the eighteenth century Qani’the historian of Sind, considered that Byzantines, Europeans, and Indians were all variously destroyed by his beloved’s face, his down, and his lip—each of which corresponds to a color: white, black, and red.

Besides the Turk and the Hindu one finds the juxtaposition of Rum and Habash-Byzantium and Ethiopia—to allude to white and black, but in this connection the meaningful symbolism that lies behind Turk and Hindu is lacking. The Ethiopian or Negro, Zangi, is usually remembered for his curly hair, as Sa’di says in the Gulistan:

The world is more confused than a Negro’s hair.

A similar combination of the Daylamites—mountain-dwellers near the Caspian Sea—with curly, “broken”hair occurs in early Persian poetry.

From the late sixteenth century onward the role of the Turk as dangerous beloved was taken over at least in part by the Firangs—the “Franks”—that is, the Europeans and in particular the Portuguese, who from 1498 had begun to settle on the southern and western coast of India and had plundered affluent ports, like Thatta in the Indus Delta, most cruelly. They thus could replace the pillaging Turk, and the “European prison”became a new image in Indo-Persian poetry. This prison sometimes seems rather colorful, and the Europeans are generally connected with colors and pictures, for European paintings were brought to Mughal India beginning in the days of emperor Akbar and were copied by indigenous artists with amazing skill: hence the new combinations in color imagery in later poetry. But the Turk and the Hindu still survive in folk poetry, even in lullabies.



Another article by Professor Schimmel also gives remarkable examples of these symbolic images in Persian poetry in addition to supplying the original Persian alongside the English translation.

Annemarie Schimme Turk And Hindu A Literary Symbol

(Schimmel, Annemarie. “Turk and Hindu; a literary symbol”. Acta Iranica, 1, III, 1974, pp.243-248)

A field which is still to be elaborated is the study of Persian symbolic language. Though scholars like Ruckert and Hammer-Purgstall, like Ritter and Rypka and, recently, Bausani in his Storia della letteratura Persiana (Motivi e Forme della poesia Persiana, cf. also his Persia Religiosa) have dealt with several symbols and topoi which are preferably used in Persian poetry — and therefore later on also in Turkish and Urdu poetry — there is still a large field for further investigation into the development of certain symbolic expressions.

We need not mention here the symbols taken from the Quran, starting with the ruz-i alast (روز الست) which is alluded to in poetry so frequently with dush / دوش «yesterday»; or the use of Quran personalities; or the old Iranian tradition which is interwoven in the fabric of lyrical poetry, the most famous example being the Jam-i Jam (جام جم). Others, like the Rose and the Nightingale, gul u bulbul (گل و بلبل) can, in their elementary meaning, be traced very far back in the history of religions, the complaining nightingale being only the poetical transformation of the primitive concept of the soul-bird.

Of special interest are, however, those symbols which stem from a certain historical person or a specific act in history — the classical example is the figure of Mansur — al-Husain ibn Mansur al-Hallaj (d. 922), the martyr mystic who has become, at least since ‘Attar’s time, a central symbol of mystical love, suffering, and, though by wrong interpretation of his cry ana’l-haqq (اناالحق), a representative of the essential unity of being not only in Persian poetry but as well in Turkish literature and even more in Muslim India where his name is well known to the Urdu, Sindhi and Punjabi poets, so that even the simple villagers of the Indus valley remember him in their songs.

Persian poetry has always liked the use of pairs of contrasting symbols, and the literatures under its influence share this predilection. A famous example of this style is Hafiz’s oft-quoted couplet:

اگرآن ترک شیرازی بدست آرد دل ما را

به خال هندویش بخشم سمرقند و بخارا را

«If this Turk from Shiraz would take my heart in his hand,

I would give for his Hindu-mole Samarqand and Bukhara”

with the confrontation of Turk and Hindu. It is interesting to follow the development of this contrast-pair in early Persian poetry.

Hammer-Purgstall has given, in the introduction of his Geschichte der schonen Redekunste Persiens (1818) some explanations of common Persian symbols; here we find f.i. that the eyelashes are the two battle arrays of the Indians; the eye, too, can be called a Hindu since it is black, whereas the beautiful white face is Turkistan; the down (khatt / خط) and the mole (Khal / خال) are likewise compared to India and Hindus — that means, Hindu has, in later time, become synonymous with black; Turk, Turkish is everything white and lovable, (cf. Steingass’dictionary s.v. هندو)

Turks are already mentioned in the poetry of the early Abbasid period — Abu Nuwas compares the bubbles of wine to Turks who shoot their arrows, and this connection of the word Turk with the young, dangerous but attractive hero is common in early Persian poetry too — thus, when Farrukhi addresses his friend

ترکش ای ترک به یک سو فکن و جامهء جنگ...

«Throw the quiver aside, oh Turk, and the dress of war...» The Hindus, on the other hand — mentioned in prophetic traditions as well as the Turks — have been mostly described in Arabic sources of old as blackish, and Hindustan was, at least from the time of Mahmud of Ghazna, the typical battlefield (cf. Asadi, in Shafaq, Tarikh 136 who, however, compares the night still to a negro, Zang, not to a Hindu) for the Muslims who were, in the Ghaznawid period, mostly of Turkish origin. Thus Sanai says in the Hadiqa:

شمع توحید را منور کن

قصد هندوستان کافر کن

Make the candle of tauhid shining,

Turn toward infidel Hindustan.

Sometimes the famous Indian swords are mentioned, and the Muslim knew about the strange customs of Hindu ascetics, who might even burn themselves (thus Naubakhti in the فرق الشیعه) — Biruni’s book on India then enlarged the knowledge of his coreligionists about Indian customs.

The slaves which were brought from India were considered ugly, mean, and blackish — in contrast to the Turkish slaves —, and in a poem by Mukhtar-i Gaznawi (quoted by Fritz Meier in Die schone Mahsati, p. 8) the poet says that he kept well an ugly Hindu slave until he became good so that one could kiss him.

It may be that the famous love story of Sultan Mahmud and Ayaz which has become a symbol in itself may have contributed to the development of the symbol Turk’for the beloved which is very common, it seems, in the Seljukid period. In Mahsati’s poetry (i.e. first quarter of the 12th century) the Turk-i Tir andaz (ترک تیر انداز) or the Turk who uses his club for beating people are common symbols for the friend (cf. Meier No. 5, No. 149, p. 362). At that time the theories of mystical love developed in Iran, theories which are reflected in the work of Ahmad Ghazzall and ‘Ain-ul-qudzat Hamadani.

The fact that here the beloved is not only beautiful but also extremely cruel — so that the lover finds his highest happiness in being wounded or even killed through him — seems to have made the Turk, who was already connected with the qualities of both beauty and cruelty, a fitting symbol of the Divine Beloved — a fact that is expressed verbally by Ruzbihan Baqli (d. 1209) who told that he had seen his Divine Beloved in the shape of a Turk wearing his silken headgear awry (i.e. the kajkuldh / کج کلاه of later Persian poetry). Ritter has drawn the attention of the reader to the fact that Abu Hamid Ghazzall has mentioned in his Mishkat ul-Anwar that Turks at the end of the earth are fond of perfect beauty that they prostrate before things of overwhelming beauty. (Ritter, Meer der Seele 454, Gairdner, mishkdt 92).

By the end of the 12th century, the symbol Hindu for black is used commonly by Nizami: — The Indian princess — described with the famous contrast-pair as

«Gazelle with Turkish (i.e. killing) eyes, from Hindu origin»

آهوی ترک چشم هندو زاد

is that of Saturday which is ruled by Saturn which is poetically called the هندوی باریک بین or هندوی سپهر and has, according to astrological tradition, black colour. But Nizami has also compared the crow to the Indian: 

زاغ جز هندوی نسب نباشد

دزدی از هندوان عجب نباشد

« The crow is surely of Hindu origin,

and to steal is not astonishing in Hindus » (HP 112)

And how beautifully has he, as Ritter has pointed out, used this symbolism in his description of the fire in winter:

مجوسی ملتی هندوستانی

چو زردشت آمده در زندخوانی

«A magician from Hindustan, like Zardusht starting with murmuring the zand». (Khosrow o Shirin) or,

آتش افروخته ز صندل و عود

دود گردش چون هندوان بسجود

« The fire lit from sandal and aloe-wood,

the smoke around it is like Hindus in prostration.»

ترکی از نسل رومیان نسبش

قرة العین هندوان لقبش

« A Turk from Byzantine origin,

whose surname is «the object of pleasure to the Hindus»», (cf. Ritter, Bildersprache 12 f.)

In ‘Attars work (d. 1220) we find again a number of allusions to Indian and Turkish subjects — the self-sacrifice of the Hindu ascetic is mentioned in the Ilahiname (6/9), the Hindu is several times shown as a seeker of religious truth (cf. Mantiq ut-tair 31/2, Musibatname 19/4 where he asks «What shall I do with the house without the Lord», i.e. the Kaeba, cf. Meer der Seele 262, 522, 533). Even Mahmud of Ghazna whose destruction of the temple of Somnath has become one of the famous symbols of the victory of faith over infidelity (MT 36/6) is said to have put a little Hindu boy besides him on the throne (A pious Hindu slave is also mentioned IN 176/13). The Hindu in the Ilahiname (79/9) is contrasted with the beautiful princess of China, not with a Turk. The Turk is depicted in ‘Attar’s epic in the usual way — cruel, but also an object of love (Mus. 32/1, 33/8, IN 10/7). The picture is, however, different when we turn to ‘Attar’s divan (ed. by Said Nafisi). Here the term Hindu is almost exclusively used for the meant and obedient slave: the poet often calls himself a Hindu, and tells his beloved that he would like to become «the Hindu of the Hindu of his curling locks (467). Though once he claims to be «not a Hindu-yi badkhu, of bad character, in the service of his beloved but an Abessinian who bears his mark»

در بندگیش نه هندویم بدخو

هستم حبشی که داغ او دارم

He mostly declares himself to be the Hindu slave of the Turkish beloved (465):

ترکتازی کن بتا بر جان و دل

تا ز جان و دل شوم هندوی تو

The classical locus is perhaps in 371:

بوسه چو داد ترک من

هندوی او شدم بجان

«Since my Turk gave me a kiss I became from the bottom of my heart his Hindu...»


The cruelty of the Turkish beloved is alluded to in the lines:

هست ترک و من بجان هندوی او

لاجرم با تیغ در کار آمدست

«He is a Turk and I from the bottom of my heart his Hindu, necessarily he has come to work with his sword.» (129)

Attar uses astrological symbolism in the words (466)

گشت هندوخان لقب برخان چرخ

ترک گردون تا که شد هندوی تو

« Hindukhan became the surname of the Lord of the Heaven

 since the Turk of the Heaven (i.e. Mars) became your Hindu(slave)»,

A verse which has probably influenced Maulana Rumi’s verse (Div.V2130)

ترک فلک چاکر شود

آن را که شود هندوی او

«The Turk of the Heaven (i.e. Mars) becomes the servant of Him,

who became His (i.e. the beloved’s) Hindu.»

Though Rumi has sometimes compared black and white, good and bad to Rumis and Abessinians (Div. Y 2428), the contrast-pair Hindu-Turk is completely developed in his poetry — thus when the Prophet says in the Mathnawi (I 2370)

گفته من آئینه ام مصقول دست

ترک و هندو در من آن بیند که هست

«I am the polished mirror, Turk and Hindu see in me that what exists.»

The day is compared to the beautiful Turk with fair face (Div. II 524):

روزی است اندر شب نهان

ترکی میان هندوان

«The day is hidden in the night, a Turk in the midst of Hindus,”

and just as the infidels shout when the Muslim Turks fight them

هندوی شب نعره زنان

کان ترک در خرگاه شد

«the Hindu night is uttering loud cries since the Turk entered the tent (Div. II 252)»

Maulavi Rumi compares, as most profane poets, the curls of the beloved to Hindustan (Div. V 2363) but gives the whole symbolism of Turk and Hindu a more metaphysical sense, since for him this world is the Hindustan of polluted earthly life, and thus he can say in a description of spring that (Div. II 570):

ز ترکستان آن دنیا بنهء ترکان زیبارو

به هندوستان آب و گل به امر شهریار آمد

«The baggage of the nice-looking Turks from the Turkistan of the other world

came to the Hindustan of clay and water by the order of that prince.»

And the comparison of Sanai — the Hindustani Kafir — is carried on further when Rumi says (Div. IV 1876):

هندویک هستی را ترکانه تو یغما کن

«Like a Turk (or in the Turkish way) pillage the little Hindu of existence...»

i.e. kill the natural worldly existence and reach the Turkistan-i ‘adam. It may be interesting to throw a look at the symbolism of a Persian-writing poet who lived in Hindu environment, Amir Khosrau. In his Divan (ed. M. Darwesh, introduction Said Nafisi) the symbol of the turk-i tir andaz is used very often (1416, 1081, 1104, 350, 243), the intoxicated Turk appears likewise (347, 848), the rose-cheeked (308) and coquettish (289), or white faced (1096) Turk are frequently mentioned. The Hindus are mentioned comparatively rarely (cf. 449 the .contrast Turk-Hindu); perhaps the most interesting example of the use of this symbol is the last verse of a Ghazal (186)

هندوان را زنده سوزند این چنین مرده مسوز

بنده خسرو را که ترک است آخر و هندوی تست

«They burn the Hindus alive; do not burn such a dead, (namely) the slave Khusrow who is a Turk, and yet your Hindu».

These few notes which should be elaborated by careful exegesis and collection of material from early Persian poetry show that the couplet in Hafiz’famous ghazal stands in a long literary tradition which reflects also some political and social features of the Islamic Empire in its contact with its neighbours — and the contrast pair Turk-Hindu has always remained popular, be it in the poetry of Sir Muhammad Iqbal, or even in a lullaby from Shiraz, which Zhukovsky noted down in 1886:

There came two Turks from Turkestan

 and carried me to Hindustan...


Before summarizing the relevant information provided by Professor Schimmel, we will provide more examples of the usage of the term, Turk, Rum, Hindu, Habash/Zang.

One of the earliest poets who considered Turks to be the ideal type of beauty is actually the Persian poet Ferdowsi:

که ترکان به دیدن پریچهره اند

به جنگ اندرون پاک بی بهره اند


Thus Ferdowsi says that Turks in the view are as beautiful as fairies.

Even before Ferdowsi, one of the first Persian poets (Rudaki) states:


ترک هزاران به پای پیش صف اندر

هر یک چو ماه بر دو هفته درفشان



And we also noted Qatran Tabrizi, who is one if not the first Persian poet from Azerbaijan who composed in Eastern Khorasanian Persian:


ای حور ترک پیکر و ای ترک حوروش

هم زینت بهشتی و هم زیور خزر


شکفته لاله در چمن چو روی ترک ده ساله

نشسته در چمن ژاله چو عکس ماه در پروین


Instead of listing about thousands of uses of Hindu, Turk, Rum, Zang and Habash amongst in Persian poetry, we take examples from the recent excellent book of Professor Rahim Afifi. The author of each of these couplets is given. We note that many times these imageries come together in the sense that all four (Turk, Hindu, Rum, Zang) can be used in a single verse.

Some examples of the symbolic meaning of Hindu as allusion and imagery:

Hindu=From India, Slave, Overseer, Watcher, the blackness of the hair of the beloved.


تیغ تو داند که چیست رمز و اشارت دین

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