Abstracts Chicago

Hamid Algar: Jâmî and the Ottoman Sultans

The considerable fame and popularity that Jami enjoyed among the Ottomans began already in his lifetime. It is not without reason that in his biographical compendium, al-Shaqâ’iq al-Nu‘maniyya fî ‘Ulamâ’ al-Dawlat al-‘Uthmâniyya, Tașköprizade includes Jâmî among the scholars that flourished in the time of Fatih Sultan Mehmed. The process whereby Jâmî’s repute was established at so early a point is not entirely clear. His poetry came swiftly to enjoy broad circulation everywhere in the Persianate world, and he himself sent some of his works first to Fatih Sultan Mehmed and then to Bayezid II. But even before those manuscripts reached Istanbul, his fame seems to have been already secure. At least two poets who won the patronage of Fatih owed their success at his court to a period of association with Jâmî in Herat and their study of the art of Persian verse under his tutelage. Similarly, the polymath Ali Kușçi had once encountered Jâmî in Herat, and he may well have spoken of him to Fatih after entering his service in Istanbul.

Kușçi happened to be in the entourage of Fatih when he sent Jâmî, en route at the time through Syria on his way back from the Hajj, an invitation to Istanbul. He had moved on from Aleppo to Azerbayjan by the time Fatih’s delegation arrived in Damascus, but a correspondence soon ensued: Jâmî praised Fatih lavishly and he was lavishly rewarded. When Fatih sought to commission a work comparing the teachings of the philosophers, the theologians and the Sufis on key metaphysical questions, it was to Jâmî he turned. He set to work immediately, but Fatih died before he had completed his treatise, al-Durrat al-Fâkhira fî Tahqîq Madhâhib al-Sûfiyya wa al-Mutakallimîn wa al-Hukamâ’ al-Mutaqaddimîn. It was therefore Bayezid II who took delivery of the work. Like his predecessor, Bayezid is said to have invited Jâmî to Istanbul. This time, he supposedly accepted, travelling as far as Hamadan before turning back because of an outbreak of the plague in Anatolia. There is reason to doubt the whole episode, for it is not recorded by any of Jâmî’s contemporaries. As before, it was primarily the exchange of panegyric and prodigality that sustained the relationship between poet and sultan. These dealings of Jâmî with Fatih and Bayezid form nonetheless an important chapter in the history of his lasting influence on Ottoman culture.


Thibaut d’Hubert: Foundational Mahabbat-nāmas: The Reception of Jāmī’s Yūsuf u Zulaikhā in Bengal (16th-19th c. A.D.)

The vernacular literature written by the Muslims of Bengal is conveniently designated by the expression ‘Bengali Muslim literature’. This denomination hides a complex situation. The vernacular literature produced by Bengali Muslims may be divided into several trends organized around the use of distinct literary idioms and scripts, and it was circulating in limited geographical areas within Bengal.

If the streams were many, they sometime flowed from a common source. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Jāmī’s narrative poem Yūsuf u Zulaikhā, also known as Maabbatnāma, is one such source. In my paper, I propose to explore the instrumental role played by this text in the formation of Bengali Muslim literature between the sixteenth and the nineteenth century AD.

After a brief discussion on the general reception of Jāmī’s works in Bengal, I will speak about the significance of his Maabbatnāma in the various local contexts of its reception. I will analyze how the finely tuned mystic idiom of Jāmī was conveyed in the various Bengali versions. The four Bengali rendering I am drawing upon for my study represent three trends of Bengali Muslim literature: the eastern Sanskritized tradition of the Chittagongian poets, the hybrid western poetry of the dobhāṣī authors, and the north-eastern Sylheti Nagari literature. This also reflects the chronological development of those literary traditions in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Chittagong, the eighteenth century in western Bengal and the nineteenth century in Sylhet.

The inclusion of the story of Yūsuf and Zulaikhā in the repertoire of Bengali narrative poetry involved a relocation of Jāmī’s poetics in new intertextual landscapes that created new interpretative approaches, sometimes astray from what the polymath writer from Herat so meticulously elaborated.


Rebecca Gould: Vernacularizing a Cosmopolitan Tradition: The Persianate Aesthetics of King Teimuraz I of Georgia

During the years 1629-1634, King Teimuraz I of Georgia (1589-1663) transformed early modern Georgian literature by rendering a series of Persian narratives in distinctively Georgian form. The result was the first Georgian khamsa (quintet), a form that had earlier been pioneered by another Caucasus poet, Niẓāmī Ganjevī. Teimuraz’s khamsa included two narratives adapted from Persian: Yusuf Zuleikha and Layla Majnun. Teimuraz I was not the first Persianizing Georgian poet, but he was arguably the most significant, as well as the one most familiar with Persian literary conventions. Attending to Iosebzilixiani, the first text in Teimuraz’s khamsa, this paper compares Teimuraz’s vernacular aesthetic with that of his primary Persian source, Yusuf Zuleikha (1483) by cAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī. Concurrently, it considers the reasons for Jāmī’s astonishing popularity across early modern Eurasia, and in particular in the Caucasus, both as a Sufi thinker in Islamic Daghestan to the north, and as a Persian poet in Christian Georgia to the south.

Like many of his fellow adapters of Persian texts into local vernaculars (see D’Hubert 2007 for Bangla), Teimuraz approaches translation as an act of domestication. Characteristically of his vernacularizing style, Teimuraz’s prologue (shesavali) is taken up entirely with the task of situating the Yusuf-Zuleikha story within the Georgian literary tradition, and only acknowledges a Persian precedent at the very end. And yet as the Georgian tradition well before Teimuraz is itself embedded within a Persianate discourse—as evidenced by the frequent recurrence of variants on Persian idioms for love-madness (mijnuroba) in the Georgian text—Teimuraz’s turn to the vernacular is also an engagement with a cosmopolitan Persian tradition. Additionally, Teimuraz’s deliberate evasion of Persian in his prologue is more than compensated for by his invocation of an unnamed Persian narrator at key junctures throughout his text.

In concluding, I speculate on the paradoxes on Persianate literary influence in Georgian early modernity. Whereas modern European literary criticism perceives influence as a contestatory framework through which the poet asserts his originality against his predecessors, Teimuraz I reveled in the derivative nature of his poetics. He turned to Persian poets such as Jāmī not as to potential rivals, but rather as vehicles for establishing Georgia’s prominence in the seventeenth century Persianate literary ecumene. For Teimuraz, as for the fifteenth century Kashmiri-Sanskrit poet Śrīvara, appropriating Jāmī’s poetics was a way of raising the statures of literatures that were located outside the traditional networks of Islamic literary production. Inasmuch as the Georgian poet’s imitative aesthetic was broadly characteristic of vernacular production in the early modern Persianate world, I seek to understand how the poetic uses he made of derivation call on us to revise currently regnant conceptualizations of literary influence.


Ralph Kauz: The Significance of ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmi for Islam in China

After the decline of trans-Asian contact and communication along the Silk Road, Islam in China underwent a transformation, that Donald W. Leslie described with the apt phrase: “from Muslims in China to Chinese Muslims”. In the course of this development several specific features appeared in “Chinese Islam”.  Among these was the codification of a canon of thirteen or fourteen books which served as the foundation for Islamic education (jingtang jiaoyu 经堂教育) in China. Imitating the Confucian classics these books were denominated “Thirteen (or Fourteen) Classics” (“Shisanben jing” 十三本经).  Due to the immense importance of the “Iranianate World” in bringing Islam to China we find among the sometimes varying titles a number of Persian books, Thus the canon of Islamic books exists in either Arabic, Persian or their Chinese translations.

Jāmi’s significance in this process is reflected by the fact that two of his works were included in this canon: “Manliang” 满俩 which is the commentary to Ebn Ḥājeb’s al-Kāfiya fi’l-naḥw entiteled Fawāʾed Żiyāʾiya fi šarḥ al-Kāfiya, and the “Aishe’ertu laimai’ertai” 艾什尔图-来麦尔台 which was translated as “Zhaoyuan mijue” 昭元秘诀. The incorporation of these two titles into the Chinese Islamic canon reflects both the importance of Sufism and of the aforementioned ” Iranianate World” for the development of Islam in China.

While the latter field is illuminated by a number of studies the first one still lacks in-depth research. From Chinese texts we can conclude that Sufis (“dervishes”) were often members of embassies travelling from the Timurid Empire to China in the course of the 14th and 15th centuries. Even after the decline of these exchanges Sufis – mostly from the Bukhara area – continued to travel to China and influence the Muslims there.

On this background, this paper will focus on two aspects:

1) The probable spread of Sufism in China during the crucial periods from the 14th to the 17th centuries when Islam established itself in China with its specific features.

2) The role of Jāmi and his writings in this development.


Justine Landau: Jāmi’s Views on Poetics and the Avicennian Legacy 

If Jāmī’s poetics can be described, in Losensky’s words, as “a largely conservative project that might be best characterized as neo-classical” (EI), its most telling illustration has to be the Bahārestān (1487). Composed in mixed prose and verse, it is rightly considered a blazing tribute, in form and intend, to Sa‘dī’s Golestān (1258). At once a work of literature and a piece of scholarship, however, Jāmī’s prosimetron also drew on a number of other sources. Thus the seventh section of the book, devoted to the lives of poets, echoes early instances of literary theory. The section opens on a striking statement about the nature of poetry: “According to the ancient Sages,” Jāmī writes, “poetry is a discourse based on imaginary premises.” But this claim, we are told, has lost momentum among the “modern Sages.” As a result, the general public holds poetry to amount to no more than “meter and rhyme.” The debate can be traced back to the Avicennian account of poetry (Kitāb al-šifā’: fann al-ši‘r), and to its most prominent upholder in the Persian language, the 13th century philosopher and polymath Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī. The sole author to give a full rendition of the theory of taṣdīq and taxyīl in Persian, his theoretical works on poetry include a treatise on prosody (Me‘yār al-aš‘ār) and a chapter from his compendium on logic (Ketāb asās al-eqtebās). There is no doubt as to Jāmī’s reference in this case. Yet anyone familiar with the philosophical account of poetry will note that, narrativized as it is, the debate displayed in the Bahārestān is widely fictitious. Staging a quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns certainly enabled Jāmī to address the crucial question of the essence of poetry. But what does it tell us about the author’s views on the matter? In fact, as he reframed the discussion, Jāmī also displaced it fundamentally. This paper hopes to shed some light on – and raise more questions about – Jāmī’s rereading of the Avicennian account of poetry, and the implications thereof. Reference will be made to Jāmī’s own technical writings on prosody and rhyme (Resāle-ye qāfiya; Resāle-ye ʿaru) as well as to the reception of the falāsifa in Timurid times.


Franklin Lewis: To Round and Rondeau the Canon: Jâmi and Fâni’s Reception of the Persian Lyrical Tradition

The pre-modern reception history of Jâmi in the Dār al-Islām and beyond was shaped principally by his emulators, competitors, translators and illustrators; while critics and biographers played a confirmatory role, his popularity with creative artists provides is the most persuasive and concrete evidence of his influence.  That influence was, however, felt beyond his role as a producer of literary artifacts; his role in defining, some might say fixing or closing, a “classical” canon of Persian poetry may be more subtle, but no less significant. As a transmitter and arbiter of literary taste, Jâmi’s most direct influence may have been on his patron at Herat, ‛Ali-Šēr Navâ’i (himself an arbiter of taste and leading figure in shaping a literary tradition in Chagatay).  But the neo-classicist Persian critics of the 18th  and 19th century dubbed Jâmi “the Seal of the Poets” (xâtam al-šo‛arâ), seeing him as the last pillar in the colonnade of “Old World” Persian poetry, before the landscaped opened on to the nuovo stil (or a variety of stili nuovi), styles which the neo-classicists wanted mostly to forget.  Given the impact of this neo-classical revival (bâz-gašt) on 20th-century critical tastes and the school curriculum, Jâmi’s literary predilections continued to figure prominently in shaping the modern literary canon.

Jâmi’s status as imaginal terminus of the classical tradition has been challenged by the recent decades of scholarship as the periodization and stylistic categories identified by modern Persian literary histories began to fray at the edges, even unravel. This paper will attempt to isolate poems of Jâmi which can be characterized as imitations, emulations or adumbrations (esteqbâl, javâb– or naẓire-gu’i, tażmin, etc.) of the work of a particular predecessor poet.  Which poets or periods of the established canon received the most attention from Jâmi, a voracious reader? Was Jâmi qua poet attracted to the distant past, to the detriment of the poets of one or two generations earlier, or his own contemporaries?  Are there poets Jâmi particularly singles out for emulation, and if so, has he chosen them because they were already firmly established in the canon, or is he engaged in a project of culling, recovering or reviving authors who had fallen out of, or not yet made it into the pantheon?  Do his choices indicate an affinity for specific stylistic, structural, thematic or linguistic tendencies? Or do his allegiances seem to center on particular individual poets? If Navâ’i organized Jâmi’s Divân by a tri-partite chronology shortly before Jâmi’s death, will it reveal any trace of evolution in Jâmi’s own tastes as he ages, or of the influence from his various patron(s) and guides (Sa‛d al-Din Kâšġari, Xwâja ‛Obayd Allâh Aḥrâr)?  The paper will focus mainly on the Jâmi’s ghazals and proceed in part by comparing them to the ghazals in Navâ’i / Fâni’s Persian Divân.


Paul Losensky: Utterly Fluent, but Seldom Fresh: Jāmī’s Literary Reception among the Safavids

An outspoken Sunni with ties to the Timurid political establishment, the recently deceased Jāmī seemed to epitomize all the early Safavids opposed. Following the Uzbek flight from Herat, Jāmī’s tomb was burned down, and Shah Ismā’īl reportedly ordered the pointing of the letters of his name changed, to transform Jāmī into Khāmī, the Crude or Jejune. But this sectarian reaction does not tell the whole story of Jāmī’s complex literary reception among the Safavids. In the generation after Ismā‘īl, his son Sām Mīrzā, the sometime governor of Herat, lauded Jāmī’s literary accomplishments in the biographical compendium Tuḥfa-yi Sāmī. Ismā‘īl’s grand-daughter, Parī Khān Khānum, requested her master poet, Muḥtasham Kāshānī, to write responses to eighty of Jāmī’s ghazals. This anecdote provides the starting point for an examination of Jāmī’s reputation and influence among Safavid litterateurs. While the taẕkiras shows an appreciation for Jāmī’s literary accomplishments, there are also suggestions that his poetry was seldom germane to contemporary poetic practice. For different reasons, the two major schools of Safavid poetics, the maktab-i vuqū and the shiva-yi tāza, found little to emulate in Jāmī’s lyric poetry. The poets of the Realist School purposively turned away from the Sufi symbolism that was essential to Jāmī’s poetics, while the Fresh Style poets promoted an aesthetics of innovation that contrasted sharply with Jāmī’s neoclassicism. Though the absence of influence leaves few evidentiary traces, anthologies and reply poems to a few of Jāmī’s ghazals suggest the kinds of literary aims and norms that tended to discourage later Safavid poets from actively engaging with Jāmī’s literary legacy.


Luther Obrock: The Wonderful Story: Jāmī’s Yūsuf and Zuleikhā in Kashmiri Sanskrit

In April of 1505, Pandit Srivara presented his Sanskrit translation of Jami’s Yusuf and Zulaykha to Sultan Mohammad Shah of Kashmir.  Entitled the Kathakautuka or The Wonder of Story, Srivara’s text stands out in the landscape of Sanskrit works produced in early modern South Asia in its attempt to bring sources from outside the Indic cultural milieu as subjects of Sanskrit poetry.  The Kathakautuka was completed less than 20 years after its source text, attesting to the rapid circulation and valorization of Persian masnavi texts in the courts of South Asia. In the context of textual and intellectual transmission, the Kathakautuka strikingly reverses the direction of most early modern South Asian translation projects, exemplified most famously by the Persian renditions of Sanskrit texts in the courts of the Mughal emperors.  By bringing a Persian poem within the Indic and Sanskrit cultural imaginary, Srivara must make stylistic decisions that not only transform the Persian words of Yusuf and Zulaykha but also translate the aesthetic expectations of the text for a Sanskrit-acculturated audience.

Srivara’s Kathakautuka must be understood as a specific moment in the encounter between Persianate and Indic high culture.  Here I argue that Srivara’s translation is doubly inflected — firstly, he translates Persian poetic conventions into Sanskrit tropes and secondly, he places the translation in a style and register particular to Kashmiri Sanskrit literary culture.  Recognizing these two strands shows the way in which Srivara imagined translation and how translation was to be achieved in the context of the sultanate court in early sixteenth century Kashmir.  The Kathakautuka illustrates the transfer of texts embedded in the Persianate cosmopolitan aesthetic system into the Sanskritic, but this transformation is only realized in the context of a regional, specifically Kashmiri, literary form and style.  Srivara’s sanskritization of Jami’s text for the court of Mohammad Shah can begin to elucidate the mechanics of making an Indo-Persianate elite culture in sixteenth century Kashmir.


Alexandre Papas: The Legacy of Jāmī’s Nafahāt al-Uns in the Turkic Speaking World

The most famous of Jāmī’s prose work is the Nafahāt al-Uns min Hadarāt al-Quds, a collection of 618 biographies of Sufi saints. While the genesis of the compendium is relatively well-known, its legacy remains poorly studied. A first purpose of this paper is to identify the major stages of this heritage. Aside from the numerous manuscripts which circulated across the Muslim world a few decades after the completion of the Nafahāt around 883/1478-9, commentaries, translations (rarely literal) and addenda quickly proliferated, especially in the Turkic speaking world, that is, Central Asia and the Ottoman Empire. Jāmī’s disciple ‘Abd al-Ghafūr Lārī (d. 912/1506) wrote the Takmila-yi Hāshiya-yi Nafahāt, a commentary in Persian which has been copied frequently until the modern period, for instance by ākhūnds of Eastern Turkestan in the 19th century.  In 901/1495-6, Jāmī’s friend ‘Alī Shīr Nawā’ī (d. 906/1501) translated the hagiographical dictionary into Chaghatay and reorganized the contents, reaching the number of 770 biographies. Other Chaghatay versions exist which have not been explored yet: a translation by ‘Abd al-Rasūl b. Muhammad Amīn around 914/1508-9, an anonymous work completed in 1094/1682-3, a Chaghatay-“Uyghur” version by Mullā ‘Umar b. Mullā Hājī in 1231/1815-6 and a late translation by Rahmān Qulī al-Qārī in 1304/1886-7. On the other side of the Turkic speaking world, Lāmi‘ī Çelebī (d. 938/1531-2) surnamed “the Jāmī of Rūm”, translated in 927/1520-1 the Nafahāt into Ottoman Turkish and added about thirty biographies. Other Ottoman versions include Hācī ‘Alī Efendī’s Tuhfet al-Mücāhidīn (17th c.) and Köstendīllī Süleymān Şeyhī’s Bahr al-Velāya (18th c.). Based on this preliminary corpus of texts, our second purpose is to understand the authors’ motivations as well as their respective contribution to the spread of Naqshbandī ideas. More broadly, we will discuss the making of an intellectual and religious influence.


Ryan Perkins: Traversing Time and Space with Yusuf and Zulaikha in Pashto

Seeking to understand the importance of Jami’s work in the Persianate world and beyond, there are several areas of inquiry I will be exploring related to literary production, patronage and the relationship to orality at the turn of the 17th and 18th century up to the contemporary period.  One of the most beloved and widely circulated of Jami’s works was the maṡnavī, Yusuf and Zulaiḳha.  Examining the circulation of this work in Pashto, I have chosen to begin my research by focusing on the translation produced by Abdul Qadir Khan (b. c. 1651-2), the son of one of Pashto’s most famous poets, Khushal Khan Khattak (1613-1689), before moving onto an examination of more recent Pashto versions of the maṡnavī.  In addition to his translation of Yusuf and Zulaikha, Abdul Qadir Khan composed a dīwān of poetry in Pashto and translated Sa‘di’s Gulistān.  His translation of Jami’s work was thus one of his main literary accomplishments.  Completed in 1701-2, Abdul Qadir Khan’s translation into a language whose geographic reach overlapped significantly with that of Persian, raises several questions related to the production and translation of works within neighboring linguistic communities.  Was there a different process at work in translating a work from Persian into its neighbor tongue Pashto, as opposed to a language like Bangla?  How did Qadir Khan go about the task of making Jami’s work come alive to his patrons, readers and audiences?  In other words, how did the vernacularization of Persian take place in Pashto?  The choice to translate Jami’s work into the vernacular of Pashto was one significant early chapter in the making of a Pashto literary tradition, yet Qadir Khan’s renown was eclipsed by the popularity of his father and Rahman Baba (1650-1715).  In looking at the circulation of Yusuf and Zulaikha in Pashto, I suggest a reevaluation of not only the impact of Jami in the Pashto poetical tradition, but of Qadir Khan’s role in helping to shape a literary tradition.  On one hand Pashto literature attached itself to the Persian literary tradition and on the other, distanced itself from Persian through the creation of its own corpus of distinctive Pashto literature.


Sunil Sharma: Copying and Illustrating Jami’s Works in Persianate Societies

Jami’s narrative poems were copied and illustrated as part of the larger phenomenon of the dissemination of Persian texts and expansion of the Persianate world. The reception of the Haft aurang, which as a collective work competed for readership with the khamsas of Nizami and Amir Khusrau in post-Timurid societies, was primarily linked to royal patronage, and subsequently the singling out of the Yusuf and Zulaikha tale as an emblematic text was part of the complex process of translation and adapting the Perso-Islamic text to a localized environment. In the South Asian context, the Dakhni Urdu and Pashto translations of the latter work, produced in provincial contexts during the Mughal period, attest to the vernacularization of Persian literature, in contrast to the way Persian texts were used in more elite settings. Maintaining its position between “scripture and romance”, as Christopher Shackle describes the Yusuf-Zulaikha story, the parallel trajectories of Jami’s Persian work and translations even dispensed with the text at times, and a picture was sufficient to narrate the story. This paper will both survey important episodes in the copying and illustrating of Jami’s works in the early centuries, as well as scrutinize specific illustrated manuscripts in Persian, Dakhni and Pashto.


Marc Toutant: Evaluating Jāmī’s Influence on Nawā’ī’s Poetry. The Case Studies of the Khiradnāmah-i Iskandarī and the Sadd-i Iskandarī

The aim of this contribution is to show the way Jāmī may have influenced the famous Chagatai poet Mīr ‘Alī Shīr Nawā’ī (1441-1501) within the framework of the khamsanawīsī tradition, which was itself initiated by the imitation of Nizāmī Ganjawī’s (1141-1203) famous cycle of five narrative poets (Khamsah). In particular, our study will focus on the rewriting of the poem devoted to the life of Alexander The Great, and examine what kind of relationship might exist between the Persian version composed by Jāmī, the Khiradnāmah-i iskandarī (‘The Alexandrian Book of Wisdom’), and the Turkish response, the Sadd-i iskandarī (‘The Alexandrian Wall’), which forms the last part of Nawā’ī’s Quintet.

An argument for establishing this significant coherence between the two works can be first supported through historical and chronological data. It is well known that Jāmī and Nawā’ī who lived in Herat during the reign of the last great Timurid ruler Husain Bāyqarā (1469-1470 and 1470-1506) had a close relationship, particularly in terms of literary interests. They both wrote their Khamsah during the same period of time, and we learn in one of the introductory chapters of the Sadd-i iskandarī (VII, 33) that they composed their life of Alexander in roughly the same year (1485). In addition, as regards the epic tradition dedicated to the life of Alexander the Great in Persian literature, similarities are also evident in the way Jāmī and Nawā’ī tell the quest of the Macedonian king which indicate that the two epics could be somehow closely linked. Needless to say, the structure of the two masnawīs appears to be rather different: while Jāmī’s poem devotes only a few chapters to the adventures of the conqueror (keeping more space for sapiential matters), the stories of the various campaigns are much more developed in the Chagatai poem. Meanwhile, by comparison with Nizāmī’s Iskandarnāmah (‘Alexander’s Book’) and Amir Khusraw Dihlawī’s Ayna-yi sikandarī (‘The Alexandrian Mirror’), there are a certain number of common features which Nawā’ī and Jāmī’s poems share which make their narratives closer than one could initially expect. This similarity of approaches regarding the imitation of Nizāmī’s work is what we intend to investigate in order to characterise the nature of the influence that might have existed between the two poems.


Mikko Viitamäki: Poetics in Sufi Practice. Qawwali Music and Ghazals of Jami

My paper discusses poems written by Jami in the context of qawwali music. Qawwali developed originally for the Sufi practice of meditative listening (sama’) in India and the services of qawwals are still required in khanqahs and dargahs. However, during the twentieth century, the qawwals have made their presence felt in the commercial recording industry, on concert stages and the world music scene. The musical idiom varies greatly from one performance occasion to another. Yet they are all characterized by the emphasis laid on textual content on the expense of purely musical features and the performers’ utmost care in selecting the sung texts so as to ensure their effect on the listening audience. Discussing the poetry of Jami against this background helps mapping its significance in the formal Sufi practice as well as in the popular culture of South Asian Muslims.

My study corpus consists of three 20th century collections of qawwali poetry and various recordings. The poetic collections are prescriptive in the sense that they suggest what the qawwals should sing, but they also reflect the actual performances as they, for example, routinely record the poems in abridged forms that have become qawwali standards. The recordings – made in sama’ assemblies, concerts and recording studios – offer further prospects for analysing poetry in performance.

In this paper, I would like to reflect on what this material can tell us about the poetry of Jami in modern South Asia. What emerge as the criteria for selecting poems in diverse performance occasions? Is there a marked difference between sama’ assemblies and commercial recordings? How do the qawwals render Persian verses relevant to audiences not necessarily acquainted with the language and how do they utilize the technique of inserting verses from other poems into the main text in this process?


Paul Wormser: The Reception of Jami’s Works in the Malay World in the 16th and 17th Centuries

Jami is famous in Indonesia today for having inspired the first Malay mystical poet, Hamza Fansuri (d. 1527), whose poetry has remained quite popular to this day. Since Hamza Fansuri was until recently thought to have died at the turn of the 17th century, no one has realized how soon Jami became popular in the very distant malay world.

Turning to less known examples of Jami’s influence, we will show that Jami’s works are quoted by many other texts of early classical Malay literature in the 16th and 17th century. These include anonymous and unpublished manuscripts as well as famous authors such as Bukhari al-Jauhari and Nuruddin ar-Raniri.

This quick diffusion was not restricted to one single genre, since we find malay translations of his mystical treatises, such as the Lawa’ih, collections of didactic anecdotes, such as the Baharistan, and romances such as Yusuf and Zulaykha.

It also appears that Jami’s works were transmitted to the malay world through two distinct channels : an arabic and a persian tradition. The arabic tradition seems to have been more active in transmitting the theoretical aspects of Jami’s works, while the persian was apparently more concerned with poetry and literary merit.

Finally, we will reflect on the very unequal quality of Jami’s reception in the malay world. Although some malay works show a very deep understanding of Jami’s mystical thinking, others limit themselves to mere gimmicks or even forge false quotations.

We hope this survey will allow a better understanding of the speed and depth of Jami’s diffusion to the faraway lands below the winds.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *