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Iranian Studies Pūr Bahā’ ye Jāmī George Lane

Pūr Bahā’ ye Jāmī & the Kār-nāmeh-ye Awqāf

Very little biographical detail is known of this poet, pun master, satirist, and oftime

scathing social commentator, known widely as, Pūr Bahā’-ye Jāmī or by his takhlūṣ,

Pūr Bahā’. The few recorded details of his life have been gleaned from dates and

references given in his work and from knowledge of his patrons the most exalted of

whom were the Juwaynī brothers.

In summary, Pūr Bahā’ was born into a family of administrators who had seen better

times and who instilled a pervasive sense of injustice in this often biting and

vindictive satirist. After a childhood education in Herat he became active in

government circles in Khorasan, the political training ground for those who aspired

for the highest offices. Pūr Bahā’ was ambitious and under the wing of the Juwaynī

family he was able to move to Isfahan, Baghdad and Tabriz. His ribald and cutting

satire was appreciated by his high ranking patrons whose protection enabled him to

attack his rivals viciously while continuing to avenge the perceived wrongs and

injustice that he felt had been borne by his family. However, when the mighty fell so

also their minions and after the accession of Arghun Khan as Ilkhan and the resulting

purges at the top which swept away his powerful patrons no more is heard of the poet

from Jam and it can be surmised that he perished along with his masters, socially if

not physically. Though his name fell into obscurity after the demise of the Ilkhanid

court, during his lifetime and during the later Ilkhanid period his work was well

known as attested to by Hamdullāh Mustawfī Qazvīnī in his history of Persian poets.

Strangely, Mustawfī does not quote any of his poems merely stating in the present

tense that his dīwān is famous.1

Mustawfī, [ed].’Adbul Husein Navā’ī, Tārīkh-i-Gozīdeh, Tehran, 1362/1981, p.724

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He was a native of Jām in Khorasan and his youth was spent in Herat. Since the time

of the 10th century Sāmānids, his family had held positions of local influence in the

province as qāṣīs and scholars though during the poet’s lifetime the post of qāṣī in

his family’s particular case had become a titular adornment carrying little if any legal

or political clout. In an ode addressed to Naṣīr al-Dīn ṣūsī the poet admits to his

own unsuitability for the post of qāṣī but pleads for a relative, ṣāṣib al-Dīn, to be

appointed nā’ib [deputy governor] of Jām. He claimed that the family’s decline had

been brought about by the arrival of a new-comer from Bākharz, Qāṣī ‘Imād al-Dīn,

who had been able to assume the role of governor.2

It is this same ‘Imād al-Dīn Mālīnī who earns the invective and ridicule in Pūr Bahā’s

often Rabelaisian verse, his mathnavī in particular where six lines are devoted to this

arch-enemy whom he labelled ‘Imād-i-Lang [the Lame].3

Inauspicious like an owl; hungry like a raven; a thief like a

magpie; ill-omened like a crow; Like a crane, all neck and
legs; a bat, all talons and claws; 4
In other poems ‘Imād al-Dīn’s reputation is made to pay a high price for

‘usurping’ the poet’s ancestral position as governor of Jām and Pūr Bahā’

even suggested that the governor’s harem was open to paying guests.

An interest in literature was evident from his youth and two poets, Mawlānā Rukn al-

Dīn Qubā’ī and Sa’id-i Harawī exerted an influence during these early years in Herat.

While in Khorasan as a panegyrist poet, he made an impression at the court with the

governor who at the time enjoyed the favour of the young Ilkhanid prince, Arghun

Khan [r.1284-91], and who had matrimonial links with the powerful Juwaynī

brothers. The governor, ‘Izz al-Dīn ṣāhir Faryūmadī (d. ca. 668/1270) who was

V.Minorsky, ‘Pūr-i-Bahā’ and his Poems’, Iranica, Tehran1964, p295.
Kārnāmeh-ye-Awqāf, pp.9-10, lines 79-84; Hoffman, pp.438-440, lines 98-103.
kārnāmeh …, p.10, lines 83-84; Hoffman, p.440, lines102-03.

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married to the daughter of Bahā’ al-Dīn Juwaynī, and his son Wajīh al-Dīn Zangī

appreciated his stinging satire and presumably approved of its content. During this

period the poet acted as maddāṣ, for a number of high Ilkhanid officials who served

under Abaqa Khan [r.1265-82] and this experience served him well when he moved

westward, to Isfahan and Tabriz. Often the target of his satire were those whom he

continued to perceive as having usurped the position of his family.

After leaving Khorasan, the poet is known to have spent most of his life in Tabriz,

Isfahan, and Baghdad where he achieved particular fame as the panegyrist for the

Juwaynī family, most noticeably for the historian and governor of Baghdad, cAṣā

Malik, the prime minister, Shams al-Dīn, and the notorious governor of Isfahan and

son of Shams al-Dīn, Bahā’ al-Dīn. Pūr Bahā’ was also favoured by the extremely

influential Naṣīr al-Dīn ṣūsī to whom he would allude in his work.

However, though the poet’s pen could sing sweetly the grating tones of his words

could be equally cruel, the mix of ecomium and rebuke being his trademark style. Pūr

Bahā’ often danced on a delicately balanced wire and though he undoubtedly had

powerful friends he just as assuredly had many powerful and patient enemies.

Mustawfī refers to him briefly in his list of eighty-nine of the most celebrated poets of

Persian and Pahlavi languages, describing him as a panegyrist of Shams al-Dīn

Juwaynī and other notables of the period.5 After his patrons met predictably bloody

ends, references to the poet cease and it is doubtful whether he survived the bloody

turmoil of the Ilkhanid court during the 1280s and ’90s.

Since Pūr Bahā’ was so closely identified with the Juwaynī family, it is likely that he

suffered a similar fate to his illustrious patrons and that if he did not lose his life he

Mustawfī, [ed].’Adbul Husein Navā’ī, Tārīkh-i-Gozīdeh, Tehran, 1362/1981, no.17, p.724; E.G. Browne, “Biographies of the
Persian Poets”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1900 & 1901, no17.

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most certainly would have lost his fortune. Tact was not a trait associated with the

poet and he was vicious with those who challenged or threatened his interests or those

of his patrons. As noted above, a distinctive characteristic of the poet was to combine

praise and vitriol in the same work, lauding his patron while later insulting someone

who had crossed him. He concluded most of his qaṣidas with the following words,

‘in praise [madṣ] of so-and-so and in mockery [hajv] of so-and-so.’ When Majd al-

Mulk of the powerful Qazwīnī family, and rival and enemy of the Juwaynī brothers,

finally lost the fight against his hated foes and met a particularly gruesome fate, Pūr-i

Bahā’ was there, ready with a clever ditty. ‘He [Majd al-Mulk] wanted his hand to

reach as far as Iraq; his grasp couldn’t reach but his hand did arrive.’6 Aware that

Majd al-Mulk had always hoped to extend his grip on power and influence as far as

Baghdad, the poet’s whimsical words refer to the fact that Majd al-Mulk was sliced up

in the course of his execution and his body parts were sent to various parts of the

kingdom. Pūr-i Bahā’ enjoyed the irony of Majd al-Mulk’s hand achieving this

ambition but presumably not the rest of his body or mind.

What is particularly noteworthy in Pūr-i Bahā’s work, is his use of Mongolian and

Turkish idioms many of which are rarely found in other literary works of the time.7

Though his usage is highly stylised in works such as the so-called Mongol Ode, the

frequency and ease of use of such Mongolian and Turkish terms suggest that such

language was in much more common employment than has generally been credited

despite the existence of other texts employing Turco-Mongol terminology. Naṣīr al-

Dīn ṣūsī’s ‘On Finance’ is just such a text using numerous Mongolian and Turkish

Waṣṣāf, 108-9, Āyatī, p.68-9. After his execution Majd al-Mulk was torn limb from limb, his blood drunk, limbs kebabed
and eaten, and the parts of his body sent to various parts of the kingdom for public display and sale.
see Martinez, A.P., ‘Changes in Chancellery Languages and Language Changes in General in the Middle-East, with Particular
Reference to Iran in the Arab and Mongol Period.’, Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi, 7. 1987-91. pp. 130-152

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terms which do not appear in later Persian writing.8 The text was targeted at as wide

an audience as possible though actually executed on the orders of the Ilkhan,

presumably Abaqa. It is likely that the language in most common usage amongst the

population of Iranzamin was a hybrid of Persian, Turkish and Mongolian. This would

support the view that in his work, Pūr Bahā’ often reflects the street lexicon prevalent

during the Mongol era.

Though Persian had become the lingua franca of the Toluid empire, employed in

commercial and government circles in China9 as well as Iran and Turkestan, it is

doubtful whether the Persian in common usage was the sophisticated language of

Juwaynī much less the excruciatingly obscure phraseology of Waṣṣāf. The

‘barbaric harmonies’ of Pūr Bahā’, as Minorsky has described them,10 are more likely

to have reflected the language which would have been heard from Dali, capital of

Yunnan, to Tabriz, and spoken in Kashgar and in Khanbaliq. His ‘Mongol Ode’, so

noticeably rich in Turco-Mongol idioms, was dedicated to Shams al-Dīn Juwaynī,

prime minister of the Ilkhanate and brother of the sophisticate and historian, cAṣā

Malik11 so it must be presumed that these quintessentially Persian brothers would

have had no problem following the clever inter-lingual word-play and Turco-Perso-

Mongol punning.

Whereas in poems such as his account of the earthquake in Nishapur where he refers

to the good-works of Abaqa Khan whom he describes as the ‘Nushirvan of our time,

Abaqa, the Lord of the World, the Sovereign of the Earth, the World Conqueror, foe-

Minovi & Minorsky, ‘Naṣīr al-Dīn ṣūsī’s ‘On Finance’, Iranica, Tehran1964
In preparation, David Morgan, “Persian as a lingua franca in the Mongol Empire”, in Persian and Comparative Diplomatics,
ed. B. Spooner and W.L. Hanaway.
V.Minorsky, ‘The Mongol Ode’, Iranica, Tehran1964, p275.
V.Minorsky, ‘The Mongol Ode’, Iranica, Tehran1964, p276.

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binder’,12 Pūr-i Bahā’ is suitably respectful of his superiors, he is elsewhere not afraid

to launch into vicious tirades against the government and their policies and to address

such words to the highest officials. In an address to his patron cAṣā Malik Juwaynī,

governor of Baghdad, he makes an impassioned and vitriolic attack on the excessive

taxes imposed by the Mongols and paid to the Il-khanate state.13 He complains that

“The census, that in thirty years was taken once, now (the government) imposes

qopchur [poll tax] twice at a time”14 Such is the zeal of the tax collectors that “A

chick has not yet put its head out of the shell, When qobchur has been fixed both on

the cock and the hen.”15 So great is the distress and lamentations of the victims of

Arghun Aqa’s tax regime that the qobchur itself feels the affliction of the people.

“Because of the burning prayer of the oppressed, Qobchur itself is raising its sighs

and cries to the (throne) of the Almighty.”16 Pūr-i Bahā’ was obviously very unhappy

at having to pay these taxes, but it is rare that eulogies and fulsome praises are

composed about tax collectors or about the pleasures of filling the state’s coffers with

the pecuniary sweat of one’s own labour. It is perfectly natural to resent parting with

hard-earned wages and to dislike an efficient and thorough system which evidently

did not allow or encourage shirking or evasion of payments due. That Pūr-i Bahā’

was allowed and felt confident enough to compose such satirical ditties and then to

present them to the high government officials who were responsible for the collection

and spending of much of those monies, says much for the indulgence and tolerance of

the regime under which he lived. One reason for the indulgence that the poet enjoyed

was his undisputed skill as a poet. Minorsky stresses Pūr-i Bahā’s competence and

Browne, E. G., Literary History …, III, p.114
see Vladimir Minorsky, ‘ Pūr-i Bahā’ and his Poems’, Iranica, pp. 299-305.
Iranica, pp.299 and 303 [4]
Iranica, pp. 301 and 304 [22]
Iranica, pp.301 and 305 [34]

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sensitivity as a wordsmith and notes that though he has become rather an obscure and

minor figure from this period, at the time the poet and his work were well known and

widely appreciated.17

Doubtless there was room and reason for complaint but Pūr-i Bahā’s words cannot be

taken as a serious assessment of the financial health of his times. Whether Pūr-i

Bahā’ is describing the absence of his patron who in the ‘Mongol Ode’ is addressed as

if he were a beauty luxuriating in confectionery [tuzghu] and surrounded by huris and

peris,18 indulging and improvising in the use of new and foreign terms, eulogising his

masters19, complaining of his harsh and unjust lot in life, attacking his enemies20, or

even composing panegyrics to his own penis21 and elaborating the advantages of

young boys over women, Pūr-i Bahā’ is invariably wildly extravagant and his words

cannot be taken at face value. His diatribe against the qobchur was addressed to
Aṣā Malik Juwaynī and his main aim must have been to amuse and humour his rich

and powerful patron and possibly at the same time to convey the message that the

taxes were not exactly popular. Disgruntled tax payers have been around as long as

rapacious tax collectors but it is not always that these malcontents are allowed the

luxury of giving public voice to their chagrin.

In one particular mathnavī, the Kār-nāmeh-ye Awqāf, Pūr Bahā’ demonstrates a

number of characteristics for which he has since become famous, such as his use of

non-Persian vocabulary, a close knowledge of the local administration and the

minutiae of waqfs and taxation, biting satire, ribald humour, and very lewd imagery.

At least two manuscripts of this work exist each attributed to different authors. The

See V. Minorsky, ‘Pūr-i Bahā’ and his Poems’ Iranica, Tehran, 1964,
Iranica, p.277
Iranica, pp.277-279 and 287-291
Iranica, p. 297
al-Jājarmī, vol. 2, pp. 897 and 902.

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13/14th century Tehran manuscript upon which Īraj-i Afshār bases his edition is

attributed to Tāj al-Dīn Nasā’ī while the second manuscript produced in 1620 and

housed in the British Museum names the author as Pūr Bahā’. No further information

or references to Tāj al-Dīn Nasā’ī have been established while two main factors

support the supposition that the Kārnāmeh is the work of Pūr Bahā’. Firstly, the

dedication of this work to cIzz al-Dīn ṣāhir al-Faryūmadī and his son is in keeping

with the dedications found in a number of other panegyric works in Pūr Bahā’’s

dīwān and secondly, the region with which the poem is concerned is closely

associated with Pūr Bahā’ and the target of much of the masnavī’s invective can

comfortably be identified with a known enemy of Pūr Bahā’, ‘Imād the lame. The

later British Museum manuscript contains lines not found in the earlier work and the

verse order also differs considerably. Birgitt Hoffmann has translated the mathnavī

into German and has provided an introduction and summary of the poem followed by

a clearly labeled transcription and translation to allow for an effortless comparison of

the manuscripts’ lines.

In the mathnawī, Kār-nāmeh-ye Awqāf, dated 24 Rajab 667, 29 March 1269, and

dedicated to cIzz al-Dīn ṣāhir al-Faryūmadī22 he lampoons the administrators of

waqfs and cruelly satirizes the hypocrisy found among mullahs and many members of

the religious classes. In this mathnawī in particular, he names names and refers to

actual places and to anyone acquainted with the area it must have been possible to

recognize actual people to whom the disgraceful deeds were attributable. The

intimacy of his knowledge of the region suggests personal acquaintance with both the

actors involved and the details of the administration cited. He also details the

‘Kār-nāmeh-ye Awqāf’, Farhang-e Iran Zamin, ed. ‘Irāj Afshār, 1339, pp. 5-22; Birgitt Hoffmann, Von falschen Asketen
und «unfrommen» Stiftungen, in Proceedings of the first European Conference of Iranian Studies, in Turin, 7-11 September
1987, Part 2, 409-85.

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technicalities of the financial abuses which he saw as prevalent in the administration

of the waqfs and such intimate understanding of the working and manipulation of the

system strongly suggests a personal acquaintance with the intricacies of waqf

collection and distribution at the deepest level. The poem is a prolonged attack on the

abuses and corruption which surrounded the administration of the waqf at every level

and the resultant tainting of the institution itself. His declaration that to bestow a waqf

is an act against religion23 is the shocking conclusion at which his twisting and

barbarous tale eventually arrives.

In this ‘epic’ poem, he recounts the ‘adventures’ of a local dignitary, a sheikh and

master of the waqfs for the province of Khwāf, a certain Qiwām al-Dīn. Though his

actual status is left ambiguous his job is to administer and collect waqf funds which

involves traveling around the region of his jurisdiction, Khwaf, Zawa and Bākharz.

The poem opens with a positive picture of the sheikh being painted but gradually the

reader is shown behind this façade through descriptions of various other unsavory

characters who inhabit the world of the waqf master and who ‘indulge in debauchery

and consider it ascetic, steal waqf [monies] and consider it salary.’24 Among this

group of prostitutes, pimps, and depraved hedonists he names five particular

miscreants including the much abused ‘Imād the Lame. The poet appears reluctant to

name the first of these corrupt pillars of the religious community. “I am not going to

disclose his name because of the shame” but “before you get to hear his name, I want

to give him 100,000 insults … this stupid, retarded person, this stinking donkey.”

Eventually after a sprinkling of obscenities, Pūr Bahā’ names Tāj al-Dīn Munshī ‘fart

under his beard’ and continues the abuse against this culprit and his family, ending in

‘Kār-nāmeh-ye Awqāf’, Farhang-e Iran Zamin, ed. Afshār, 1339, p.20, line 298. ‘waqf kardan khalāf-e dīn bāshad’.
Hoffmann, p.478, line 350.
‘Kār-nāmeh-ye Awqāf’, Farhang-e Iran Zamin, ed. Afshār, 1339, p.9 line 64; Hoffmann, p.434, line 74.

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the predictable insult to the unfortunate’s women, ‘[my] kīr in the kūn of his sister and

his wife.’25

Next it is the turn of the despised ‘Imād al-Dīn the Lame whose drubbing has already

been mentioned, followed by Fakhr Lanbeh the Beggar whom God created solely for

the purpose of begging and whose dog like hunger is not sated by his consumption of

all the income from the waqf of Khwāf. There is a certain Sa’if al-Dīn Bektamar

whose clothes form a nest for lice, and finally a Qur’an reader, Hājī Nasā’ī, whose

love for the young son of a local Qalandar comes to the notice of the sheikh. It is

this sheikh’s subsequent total infatuation with this young boy which becomes the

vehicle upon which rides Pūr Bahā’’s venomous revelations about corruption in high


The trials and tribulations of this corrupt sheikh form the main tale of the Kār-nāmeh-

ye Awqāf. Thwarted in his designs upon the son of a local ṣaydarī, the sheikh

concocts false charges against the dervish but his schemes are uncovered and he is

himself disgraced. In frustration the humbled dignitary seeks solace in the embraces

of a beautiful donkey but in the actual physical process, he is inadvertently knocked

unconscious and discovered in flagrante delicto. Hauled before the local Amir, the

disgraced master of the waqfs who as it turns out, is also a Qur’an reciter, a muezzin

and a Hājjī, is punished with public rape and a hundred and seventy-seven blows from

a wooden stick, a peculiarly Mongol form of punishment.26 Whether public rape was

an accepted form of punishment at this time is questionable.

[The Amir] said, ‘You horrible Sufi donkey-fucker,

Do you have no shame before people [nor] fear of God,

‘Kār-nāmeh-ye Awqāf’, p.9 lines 66, 67, 69, 72, 78; Hoffmann, pp.434-36, lines 76, 77, 79, 83, 97.
See Paul Heng-chao Ch’en, Chinese Legal Tradition under the Mongols, Princeton University Press, 1979. pp.41-67.

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Where do you come from and why do you attack me.

You have thrown my reputation and honour to the wind

…You have brought shame on the people

and made problems for myself,

You aimed at hurting a little wild donkey,

You probably have an exaggerated notion of your own

piousness, …

I will punish you in such a way that

Thoughts [yād] of copulation will never again visit you.

Then [the Amir] ordered him to be taken,

Four persons took his arms and legs.

They threw him in the middle of the road,

And immediately pulled his trousers down.

One hundred and seventy-seven strokes with a stick,

Justice for that ass-foal was extracted from him.

Just as a broken man receives slaps,

So the Hājjī accepted his beating.

When the Khwājeh Hājjī had suffered the stick as directed by

the yasa,

He was overcome with remorse.

The Sheikh did ‘that’ to his arse with a stick,

Which in Herat they do with a broomstick.

They stuck a pole between the cleft of his arse,

And then with cuffs they threw him out.27

Kārnāmeh …, p.15, lines 204-07; Hoffmann, p.462, lines 249, 251, 254, 255.

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Though individuals are sometimes named and were presumably identifiable, it is

difficult to discern exactly who the real target of the satirist’s invective is supposed to

be in his verses and who if anyone comes out well. In thirteenth century Iran haydaris

and Qalandars were generally regarded as disreputable characters and the wronged

father in Pūr Bahā’s mathnawī is certainly not presented as an overly sympathetic

figure with his head and chin shaved and a ring displayed in the ‘ear of his penis’.

A revealing anecdote concerning wandering dervishes is dated at about this time and

has the widely revered Naṣīr al-Dīn ṣūsī explaining to Hülegü the appearance of a

group of Qalandars in the plain of ṣarrān. The Philosopher/vizier arrogantly

dismisses the dervishes as ‘the uncounted [surplus] of the world’ to which comment

the Ilkhan responds by ordering their immediate execution. Though this tale is likely

apocryphal, the sentiment is credible. It is characteristic of Pūr Bahā’ that the

wronged victim of the story is a figure usually associated with contempt and

disapproval. It is this figure of contempt who is shocked and outraged when he

realizes that the sheikh is taking a less than reputable interest in his ‘nightingale-

voiced’, ‘partridge-gaited’ son whose speech is like a ‘sugar consuming parrot’, all

standard motifs of beauty in Persian poetry. The qalandar realizes that the sheikh’s

pleas for him to abandon his fellow wandering dervishes, the ‘companions of rogues’

and for him to ‘stay among us’ since his ‘son was our brother’ ‘were not free from

selfish motives’. ‘Getting the picture immediately’ [naqsh bar khwānd ṣaydarī

ṣālī], that same night the slighted ṣaydarī packed his bags and left. 28

The ṣaydarī and his son would have been forgotten if the sheikh, again abusing his

position of power and influence, had not then claimed that the ṣaydarī had stolen a

Kārnāmeh…, Afshār, p.12, lines 130-32; Hoffmann, p.448, lines 159-61.

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bag of gold dinars. ‘Just like the Turks, [the sheikh] was arrogant in his anger’29

wrote Pūr Bahā’ unafraid of the slight against his Mongol masters as he described

how the sheikh ordered five or six officers to pursue the ṣaydarī for ten farsang and

had him brought back before him. However, as the ṣaydarī continued to plead his

and his son’s innocence publicly and also refused to deliver his boy to the sheikh

despite the beating and torment he was forced to endure, word of the affair leaked out

and spread among the people. The affair ‘became a joke on the tongues of the people,

each person mocked [the sheikh] in different ways, nobody said anything good, just

bad.’30 People despaired for the reputation of the province of Khwāf where ‘there is a

Bū Nawāsī as master of the waqfs’. It was said that ‘relatives and strangers, male and

female, none will pass from his hands unfucked [nāgādeh]’ while others claimed that

he ‘eats property and waqfs, and tears the kuns of the people’s children’. Eventually

Shams al-Dīn ṣafī heard reports of the growing scandal and he expressed his outrage

which ‘boiled up like a pot’ that such incidents should be allowed to take place under

the jurisdiction and protection of the Khwājeh Faryāmadī and that as the Khwājeh’s

deputy he felt it his duty to ‘tear [the corrupt sheikh] up trunk and root and … throw

him from a minaret’ to which outburst he received all round approval. Whether this

tale is true or merely illustrative cannot be ascertained but the continuation of the

story is also accompanied by place names and actual named notables.31

The sheikh was suitably shamed and so repentant that ‘he wept blood like rain from

his eyes’ and abandoned all idea of union with the ṣaydarī’s son and desire for such

‘rare beauty’32 and instead he developed a passion for the beautiful foal of a wild ass.

Kārnāmeh…, Afshār, p.12, line 140; Hoffmann, p.450, line 169.
Kārnāmeh…, Afshār, p. 13, line 150; Hoffmann, p.452, line 179.
Kārnāmeh…, Afshār, p.13, lines 152-61; Hoffman, pp.452-54, lines 182-93.
Kārnāmeh…, Afshār, p.14, lines 170-71; Hoffmann, 456, lines 202-03.

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This long drawn out mathnawī allowed Pūr Bahā’ the opportunity to indulge his

passion for unveiling corruption and hypocrisy amongst the ‘ulamā and the waqf

controllers in particular. That these verses were then distributed at the highest courts

would suggest that his audience had sympathy with, if not approval of his views. He

has little faith in the clerics’ promises of rewards in heaven but he is cautious in his

attacks on religion. “Do not prefer ‘credit to cash’ [nasyah rā bar naqd] and strive

not to be divorced from pleasure for a moment.” 33 Even though the Mongol rulers

were still ‘infidels’ at this time the majority of courtiers and even many among the

Mongol elite would have been Muslim and would not have tolerated open attacks on

Islam itself. Indeed one explanation for Pūr Bahā’s possibly irreverent use of the

word ‘interregnum’ [fitrat]34 in1269 in reference to the fifty years of Mongol rule in

Iran, is that the poet is gently even jocularly suggesting that the Mongol rulers are

close to conversion to Islam. His attacks are very clearly directed at the hypocrisy

and un-Islamic behavior of many of the clergy and not necessarily at the religion


The continuation of the Kārnāmeh … which recounts the further trials and tribulations

of the corrupt sheikh and religious notable, who Pūr Bahā’ repeatedly reminds the

reader is also a hājjī, and performs the duties of a muezzin and also a Qur’an reciter

[muqri’], descends into pornographic detail in the depiction of this ‘alīm venting his

lust on the donkey foal which had been a gift from the Amir Tāj al-Dīn. He saw the

foal as his means of escape from the attentions of the judges and shahneh which his

affair with the haydar had brought upon him. He argued that intercourse with the ass

would liberate him from his ‘accused lust’ and indulging his ‘desire and lust’ [huwas

u huwā] on the donkey would ‘free [him] from [further] trouble and torment’. He

ṣūsī, Iranica, p.291, line 13
‘Kār-nāmeh-ye Awqāf’, Farhang-e Iran Zamin,

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plotted and meticulously planned and seized the opportunity when one night the

donkey-keeper fell unconscious from too much wine. However, his plans went awry

after his beard startled the ass and the donkey kicked him unconscious.35 The

conclusion of the story is as detailed above; public humiliation and the penalty of one

hundred and seventy-seven strokes and public rape.

The serious intent of this work becomes clear after the fate of the lecherous sheikh has

been dealt with and the mechanics of waqf manipulation and abuse are demonstrated.

Using three case studies to demonstrate how certain corrupt practices were

implemented, Pūr-i Bahā’ paints a depressing picture of Iranian life though

interestingly he does not cast blame on the Mongol elite who still presumably held

considerable financial and political clout over the country.

The sheikh in his capacity of waqf controller as a matter of course vastly over taxes

those who owe money to the religious foundations. He devises various means of

extracting and demanding ‘additional’ taxes [far’] which rather than being small

extras added to the original tax become demands for sums greater than the original

amount itself. His admirable expertise in such financial matters, originally portrayed

in an admirable light, is suddenly shown from a different angle and he reveals his

dexterity in defrauding both waqf beneficiaries such as madressehs, monasteries,

students and clerics and the waqf contributors, rich and poor alike. An illustrative

example is made of the Haydaris who resided in the grounds of the tomb of Sheikh

Qubt al-Dīn Haydar in Zuwa. When the corrupt sheikh demanded the excessive

‘additional’ taxes, the half-naked dervishes formed a line before him ‘penises in

hand’, laughing and grimacing and posturing ‘on their knees like work-camels’ and

claimed total ignorance of the waqf but indicated that they were very happy to pay

Kārnāmeh…, Afshār, p.14, lines 181-85; Hoffmann, p.458, lines 214-219.

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their dues in kind. ‘We have nothing to offer but this. If you want we are at your

service.’ In response the sheikh laughed out loud and proclaimed, ‘You have brought

a wonderful tribute and presented it to my ass’ and so exempted the dervishes from

payment, vowing to collect the shortfall from Khwāf.36 The conclusion drawn from

this episode is that it is the influence of Satan which fools people into financing such

madresseh. Only stupid people waste money on waqfs.37

A second case concerns the cheating of the water rights of some farmers with the

Waqf master eventually manipulating his words and knowledge, and their ignorance,

of waqf law to sell them irrigation rights for a canal which is rightfully theirs. Even

though it is illegal to sell waqf property, the corrupt master forces the farmers to buy

the water rights to which they are already entitled using every possible method of

cohesion. ‘He threatened them with violence, beating, promises, and threats. He put

them in jail for several days … with rogues as jailers. … he released them with their

teeth smashed by fists.’38

The third case revolves around a pious and charitable man, Khwājeh Majd al-Dīn,

who wished to establish a mosque and madresseh and expended time and money into

attempts to find both students and teachers for his religious establishment. But the

corrupt waqf-master, the Awqāf, thwarted him and hindered all his efforts, advancing

himself and his own interests at every turn. ‘He strung his bow of extraction and

sharpened the teeth of extraction.’39 Finally in exasperation and in disgust the pious

khwājeh puts his money into the lucrative business of a caravanserai, cursing waqfs

and waqf masters, and vowing never again to do Satan’s work and contribute to

waqfs. ‘Anyone who creates a waqf after [hearing about all] this, uselessly pushes his

Kārnāmeh, p.17, lines 245- 255; Hoffmann, pp.468-69, lines 290-300.
Kārnāmeh …, line 258; Hoffmann, line 307.
Kārnāmeh…, Afshār, pp.18-19, lines 261-81; Hoffmann, p.472-76, lines 310-30.
Kārnāmeh…, Afshār, p.19, line 291; Hoffman, p.478, line 343.

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property up his own arse.’40 ‘To make a madresseh with such people is to tempt the

devil.’41 He singles out the ṣāṣib Awqāf for his odium and as a sinner against

religion. Interestingly no reference is made to, nor blame implied, nor ill-feeling

expressed towards the Mongols, so often assumed to be the source of all evil.42

Though waqfnāmeh along with accounts of waqfs and their uses and descriptions of

both waqf contributors and beneficiaries are not uncommon, this kind of in-depth

study of the operation and manipulation of the these religious endowments is not

found elsewhere. This poem deserves a detailed examination and a full carefully

edited translation. The text needs critical analysis and a comparison with the poet’s

other work. The poem contains more questions and information than has been alluded

to here.

Like the satirist of the later and post Ilkhanid period, ‘Ubayd-i Zakānī, Pūr Bahā’

delighted in scornfully insulting the religious classes and their hypocrisy and abuse of

power. ‘Ubayd-i Zakānī obviously relished heaping scorn on respected members of


judges and their followers are well-known for their trickery,

deception, usury, sinfulness, injustice, calumny, and fault-finding, as
well as bearing false witness, the falsification of the rights of
Muslims, their greed and avidity, their working mischief amongst
the people, their being shameless and their accepting bribes.43

A similar pleasure was obviously present with the earlier poet. Names are scattered

throughout this particular mathnawī of Pūr Bahā’s and the ribald humour must have

been at the expense of some very angry local dignitaries. Even the revered Naṣīr al-

Kārnāmeh…, Afshār, p.20, line 296; Hoffman, p.478, line 352.
Kārnāmeh…, Afshār, p.20, line 297; Hoffman, p.478, line 349.
Kārnāmeh …, Afshār, pp.19-20, lines 281-94; Hoffmann, pp.476-78, lines 331-46
Hasan Javadi, p.55

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Dīn ṣūsī is mentioned perilously close to profanely, as when the verses refer to

‘favours from God or Khwājeh Naṣīr’.44 Whether the poet was working in the pay of

a rich and powerful benefactor with his own agenda, following instructions to attack

the reputations of local dignitaries or whether like the satirist ‘Ubayd al-Zākānī he

was writing from a personal sense of outrage cannot be known. It is known, however,

that Pūr Bahā’s palace connections were higher placed than were ‘Ubayd al-Zākānī’s

who spent much of his time in Shiraz and who suffered greatly from penury and debt.

Pūr Bahā’ was more personal than the later satirist who directed his venom more at

the manners of the aristocracy as a class and at stupidity in general, a trait which he

greatly despised.

‘Ubayd al-Zākānī records an incident involving Hülegü Khan after the fall of


It has been related in Mongol histories that when Hulegu Khan conquered
Baghdad he ordered all the inhabitants who had escaped the sword to
assemble in front of him. Then he asked each class about its circumstances
and after learning about them all, he said: “The artisans are Indispensable
and should be allowed to go to their work.” The merchants were provided
with capital so that they could trade for him. Considering the Jews as an
oppressed people, he was content with a poll-tax from them. He also sent
the eunuchs back to their jobs in order to look after their seraglios. Then
he separated the judges, sheikhs, Sufis, Hajis, preachers, noblemen,
Seyyids', beggars, religious mendicants, wrestlers, poets and story-tellers
from the rest, and said: “These are superfluous creatures who wrongfully
waste the bounty of God.” By ordering them all to be drowned in the
Tigris, he purified the earth of their vile existence.45
Zakānī made the observation that the descendants of Hülegü continued to rule for

ninety years but that the last of the line, Abū Sa’īd who ‘was obsessed with the idea of

justice’ died early without issue and brought the line to a close.

‘Kār-nāmeh-ye Awqāf’, Farhang-e Iran Zamin, ed. Afshār, 1339, p.16, line 215; Hoffmann, p.464, line 264.
Hasan Javani, Obeyd-e-Zakani:The Ethics of the Aristocrats and Other Satirical Works, Mage Publishers, 2008, p.47

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Pūr Bahā’ was also linked with Humām al-Dīn, the Sufi poet and boon companion of

the ṣāṣib Dīwān, whom he met while visiting Tabriz with Wajīh al-Dīn, the son of a

major patron, the Persian governor of Khorasan ṣāhir Faryūmadī.46 It is interesting

to speculate what such a lofty figure as Humām al-Dīn whose mind it could be

imagined would be preoccupied with weighty spiritual matters would make of this

popular poet’s discourse and advice on such matters as the relative advantages and

drawbacks of selecting women rather than young boys as sexual partners, a debate

expressed in crude and lewd language. The poet’s arguments suggest personal

experience of both sides of the debate.47

Pūr-i Bahā’ was a poet very closely associated with the Dīwān and with the Juwaynī

brothers in particular.48 His present fame rests in many ways on his diatribes against

the harsh taxation system imposed on the country by the ruling Il-Khanid regime.

Minorsky published a translation of one of his poems, Qopchur, in 1956 and

suggested that this work validated the criticisms that the ṣāṣib Dīwān Rashīd al-Dīn

was later to make concerning the pre-Ghazan Khan administration.

This poem is a vivid and unexpected confirmation of the

picture which the great historian Rashīd al-Dīn drew of the

confusion reigning in Mongol financial administration, before

some improvements were introduced into it by Ghazan-khan.49

Pūr-i Bahā’ like many others of his countrymen, resented paying taxes and no doubt

found it a great strain on his resources. However he appears to have been quite

Dawlatshāh. pp. 137.
Mohammad Badr al-Jājarmī, Mūnis al-Aṣrār , vol.II, Tehran, 1350/1971, p.902; tr.Paul Sprachman, Suppressed Persian,
Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, 1995, pp.28-39
see Minorsky, Iranica, ‘Pūr-i Bahā’ and his Poems’ ‘Pūr-e Bahā’ s Mongol Ode.’, Tehran, 1964; Browne, Literary History
…, vol.iii, pp.111-115; CAbbās Eghbāl, , Tārīkh-e Moghūl, p.536.; Dawlatshāh, Taṣkirat al-Shucarā’, pp. 136-38; Sayfī,
Tārīkhnāmeh …, pp.345-6; Encyclopedia of Islam.
V. Minorsky, Iranica : Twenty Articles, 1964, pp..298, 299-305.

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unafraid to address long poems of extravagant complaint to his exalted patrons. His

praise is spiked with impudence when in this poem deriding the severity and

unfairness of Il-Khanid taxation he notes that his patron is, ‘The Lord of the viziers,
Alā ad-Daula w’al-Dīn, Whose justice (has) levied qopchur on the whole world’.

Whereas Rashīd al-Dīn could be accused of self-interest and ulterior motives in his

stinging criticism, the poet Pūr-i Bahā’s only motive would appear to be to ease the

sting in his own pocket. Later he also notes that it was not only the Persians who

suffered from such tax burdens but that Mongol lords were also required to pay their

dues. ‘In thy time the kingdom has become such that, on the order of the sheep, The

shepherd’s dog collects qopchur from the wolf.’50 That Pūr-i Bahā’ felt confident

enough to write such hard hitting verse lacking in the usual panegyric filigree says as

much about the poet’s audaciousness as about his patrons’ liberality and tolerance.

Even irreverent references to Mongol rule as an ‘interregnum’51 appear to have gone

unchallenged. Pūr-i Bahā’ for all his poems of complaint and woe recognised

providence when he encountered it. He ends a poem, written in 1271 in praise of the

‘just Abaqa’ for his restorative work on the city of Nishapur, with the following lines:

Three things, I pray, may last for aye, while earth doth roll along:

The Khwāja’s life, the city’s luck, and Pūr-i Bahā’s song.52

Another poem uncharacteristically free from satire or attack summarises the poet’s

personal views on life. It may have been written after his fall from grace when he saw

the cruel face of fate finally beckoning but if he is the author, he reveals a much

hidden side to his personality.

Minorsky, Iranica, ‘Pūr-i Bahā’ and his Poems’, pp. 299- 305, [lines 36 and 41]
see Minorsky, Iranica, ‘Pūr-i Bahā’ and his Poems’, p.294
tr. Browne, Literary History III, p.115. Khwāfī, Mujmal-i Faṣīṣī, p.340

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He explains his view on life in this untypically bucolic verse, a view probably popular

at the Persian courts in the thirteenth century. The opening bayts claim that he has

never intended nor knowingly given any distress or grievance to anyone, a dubious

claim from one famed for his barbed pen and vitriolic phrase. He continues in images

reminiscent of an earlier poet.

I am content to sit quietly in a corner,

free from sorrow and exempt from blame and quarrel,
I am fond of a few small things in the world,

A cheerful place, new clothes, a pleasant smell,
A good face, a few books of wisdom, and a backgammon
A true friend, a sound of strings, a cup of wine,
A pot of fat meat, a hot loaf, and [a draught of] cold water.53

and concludes the verse with the following advice. “Do not prefer ‘credit to cash’

[nasyah rā bar naqd]54 and strive not to be divorced from pleasure for a moment.”

No one collection contains all Pūr Bahā’s work and his verses remain scattered.

However, the job of identifying his work is made easier by the very idiosyncratic style

that he employs in almost all his work. Even though his one long mathnavī, the

Kārnāmeh-ye-Awqāf, appears under another author’s name on the earliest extant

manuscript, the style, content, and personal references clearly indicate it as belonging

to Pūr-i Bahā’s dīwān, a subject expanded upon earlier. His work appears in

anthologies, biographical dictionaries, and historical chronicles among them

Dawlatshāh’s famous collection of Persian verse which contains the so-called Mongol

ṣūsī, Iranica, p.286, 291, lines 6-9.
ṣūsī, Iranica, p.291, line 13

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Ode,55 the historical chronology of Faṣiṣī,56 the Tazkere-ye Haft Eqlim of Rāzī57 and

the Munes al-Aṣrār of Ibn Badr al-Jājarmī.58

The largest collection of Pūr Bahā’s work can be found in the Kitāb-i-Pūr Bahā’

dated 1029/1619-20, which was compiled on the instruction of the Kuṣb Shāhīs of

Haydarabad. This manuscript comprises forty-one qaṣīdas, thirteen muqaṣṣa’āt,

one tarkīb-band, one mathnawī called Kār-nāma-yi awqāf, two ghazals and seventy-

three rubā’iyyāt, altogether totaling 25,216 verses. With the exception of the

rubā’iyyāt, his poetry is devoted to panegyrics, and satire (hadṣjṣw) or quite often a

mixture of both Sanā’ī and Sūzā’nī were his favourite poets and admired models.59

Modern studies of the poet are surprisingly few considering the detail descriptions he

gives of the workings of the waqf system and the widespread abuse which prevailed, a

practice hitherto only alluded to. E.G. Browne notes the association the poet

maintained with the upper echelons of the Ilkhanid court and alludes to the lewd

nature of his more popular verses. Minorsky’s studies and translations of the Mongol

ode and Pūr-i Bahā’s tirade against Mongol taxation put the poet firmly back centre

stage but only one other study, Birgit Hoffman’s analysis and German translation of

the Kārnāmeh …,60 has provided any kind of follow up.

Tadhkiratu ‘Sh-Shu’arā, ed. E.G. Browne, London, 1901, pp.181-85
Khwāfī, Mujmal-i Faṣīṣī, pp.337-340
Tehran, 1999, p.694
Tehran, 1350/1971, pp. 896-919
Birgit Hoffman
Birgitt Hoffmann, Von falschen Asketen und «unfrommen» Stiftungen, in Proceedings of the first European Conference of
Iranian Studies, in Turin, 7-11 September 1987, Part 2, 409-85.

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