Tazkirah-i Khayr al-bayan: The Earliest Source on the Career and Poetry of Sa’ib Tabrizi (d. ca. 1087/1676)


In this article, I describe a source which represents by far our earliest documentation of the career and poetry of Sa’ib Tabrizi (d. ca. 1087/1676), and which has gone largely unaddressed in scholarship. It occurs in a still-unpublished biographical dictionary (tazkirah) of poets titled Khayr al-bayan, written by Malik Shah Husayn Sistani and known to survive in several manuscripts. The oldest, and possibly the only complete copy, is MS Or. 3397 at the British Library. Shah Husayn wrote this tazkirah between 1017/1608–9 and 1036/1627; the section containing the notice on Sa’ib was added in 1035/1625–6. Significantly, Or. 3397 was copied in 1041/1631 by a scribe named Muhammad Mirak ibn Khwajah Mir Farahi. This means that the text of the passage on Sa’ib dates to shortly after his emigration to Kabul (thence to India) in 1034/1624–5, while our manuscript dates to shortly before he left Kashmir to return to Iran in 1042/1632. The source thus falls entirely within the period of young Sa’ib’s seven-year adventure on the Indian Subcontinent, and represents a rare vignette of the beginning of an illustrious career.

Al-‘Usur al-Wusta 24 (Middle East Medievalists)

The copy of this article posted on Academia.edu has a list of errata appended. Please let me know if you find any new problems that should be included.