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Nigāristān by Mu‘īn al-Dīn Mu‘īnī Juvainī: A Facsimile Edition.

Series: Bibliotheca Iranica: Literature Series 17
Availability: Forthcoming
Published: 2021
Page #: xii + 420
Size: 8.5 x 11
ISBN: 978-1565893609
index

Quick Overview

Nigāristān (compiled 1334-5) is a major work of Persian wisdom literature. Its author, Mu‘īn al-Dīn Juvainī, was in the employ of the Ilkhanate vizier and patron of Persian letters, Ġhiyāṡ al-Dīn Muḥammad at the court of the Ilkhan Abu Sa‘īd. The date of the text marks the
text’s historical importance. Nigāristān was compiled just a few months before the death of Abū Sa‘īd and the subsequent collapse of the Ilkhanate empire, and thus provides glimpses of the last moments of the flourishing Persian literary culture of the late Ilkhanate court.

Nigāristān is a rich source for the study of Persian ethics and literary history. It is historically significant as one of the first imitations of Sa‘dī’s Gulistān. Like its model, it weaves together prose and poetry to cover a wide range of topics in ethics, politics, and religion. It is also distinguished from Gulistān in several respects. It is much longer and follows a different system of organization. It also alludes much more extensively to historical and legendary figures, drawing on Sufi hagiographical stories, Arabic historical literature, historical persons and
events in the classical period of Islam, and so on. We find in Nigāristān stories about early Nigāristān hadith transmitters, the early Sunni caliphs, Umayyad and Abbasid generals and rulers, Sufis, the family of the Prophet of Islam, Greek physicians and philosophers, and rchetypal lovers of the Arabic literary tradition. But Nigāristān does not merely record Ilkhanate memories of the past. It also offers insight into medieval attitudes about friendship, love, sexuality, loyalty, power, religious devotion, and other themes of interest to readers interested in comparative ethics. It is also a beautifully-written text that, like Gulistān, interweaves Persian prose and poetry with occasional excerpts from Arabic.

Manuscript catalogues and biographical dictionaries suggest that Nigāristān was widely circulated and well-received in subsequent centuries. Archives in Europe, Iran, and South Asia record a considerable number of manuscripts. The present facsimile edition will be based on a manuscript produced for a courtier of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, providing further evidence of the importance of Nigāristān in South Asia. Daulatshāh Samarqandī seems to be the
first literary critic and historian to discuss the text. A handful of other tażkirah writers, mostly in the Indian subcontinent, also discuss the book. We know that Nigāristān was read at the Timurid court in Herat, since Ḥusain Vā‘iẓ Kāshifī names it as a source in his influential work
in the field of ethics, Akhlāq-e Muḥsinī. Since he was patronized at the same court as Jāmī, this provides further support for the argument that Nigāristān influenced Jāmī’s Bahāristān.

Nigāristān is a work that deserves to be studied by scholars and taught in Persian literature courses. It is also a work that will appeal to readers interested in classical Persian belles-lettres, Islam, and ethics.

The facsimile edition will publish the main manuscript on which the forthcoming English translation was based. The translation was completed in the 1880s, but never published. It was recently rediscovered by Dr. Gregory Maxwell Bruce in the archives of the Royal Asiatic Society. In tandem, the translation and edition will make the book available to English and Persian readers for the first time in print. No critical edition of Nigāristān is forthcoming.

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