3. Bayāni, vol. 4, p. 103.
4. Although both Bayāni and Minorsky state that `Alā'oddin was a pupil of Shamsoddin Mohammad, several signatures by `Alā'oddin indicate he was actually the latter's son; see ibid., pp. 103-4.
5. V. Minorsky, trans., Calligraphers and Painters: A Treatise by Qadi Ahmad, Son of Mir Munshi (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, Freer Gallery Publications, 1959), pp. 79-80. A recently sold Qorān (Sotheby's, London, April 26, 1991, lot 251) was signed by Hāji Maqsud of Tabriz and dated 1555.
6. Bayāni, vol. 4, pp. 19-31.
[SH1]Persian as an Administrative Language
[GT]The Arab conquerors of the seventh century did not have the administrative capabilities or traditions to handle their greatly expanded territories and therefore relied on local personnel, languages, and practices to effectively govern the new empire. For more than half a century after the Arab invasion, Iran's fiscal registers and official correspondence continued to be written in Pahlavi, a script derived from Aramaic and adapted for use under the Sasanians, until the reforms introduced about 698 by the caliph `Abdol-Malek banned Pahlavi and promoted Arabic for such purposes. Arabic--the language of the Qorān--came to dominate official documents, theological essays, and scientific treatises, while the spoken language underwent a transition that evolved into Persian.
By the tenth century, enriched by the assimilation of Arabic words, Persian began to emerge as a powerful poetic language. The tongue of the tenth-century poet Rudaki and the contemporary historian Bal'ami, it is still very much the same a millennium later.
Beginning with the invasions of the Iranian lands by the Turkish Saljuq dynasty in the eleventh century, a reverse phenomenon took place. Lacking a literary and administrative tradition, the Saljuqs, followed by Turco-Mongol invaders of the thirteenth century, adopted Persian as their court and administrative language, thus carrying it into all their conquered territories, including Anatolia and India. A selection of official documents written in Persian from Anatolia, Transoxiana, and India follows.
[GT]The Persian language penetrated Anatolia with the victory of the Saljugs over the Byzantines in 1071 and remained as the administrative tongue of the early Ottoman soltāns. By the sixteenth century, although still the language of literature and religious institutions, Persian was replaced by Turkish for official correspondence.
This certificate confirms the descent from the Prophet Mohammad of Sayyed Eshāq b. Sayyed Mohammad al-Qodsi. Such certificates allowed one to benefit from the privileges accorded to sayyeds, including tax exemptions. The document was drawn and copied by Mohammad Mohtaram b. Tajoddin `Ali al-Hosayni, the naqib of Constantinople under the reign of Soleymān the Magnificent (the naqib being the doyen of the sayyeds). The naqib's statement is at the top followed by his seal. To the right is the confirmation of a higher authority, that of `Abdorrahmān b. Ahmad al-Hosayni, who calls himself the naqib over the "nobles" (i.e., sayyeds) of the Ottoman empire. In consideration of his rank, his confirmation is highlighted by a surrounding gold field. A third confirmation, which seems by its position to be of later date, is inscribed above the others by a Shaykh Mohammad al-Hosayni, who also calls himself the naqib over the nobles of the Ottoman empire; perhaps he succeeded the previous one and was asked to reconfirm the document. The names of a number of witnesses appear at the bottom.
The first five lines, as typical of an Islamic document, are written in Arabic, praising God in terms appropriate to a genealogical document, but the basic text is in Persian, an indication of the deep-rooted acceptance of the language in traditional institutions such as the sayyeds.
Mohammad Mohtaram's calligraphic ability is attested by the strength of the mohaqqaq script he used for the besmellāh at the top and the sols of the body of the text.
Cat. No. 177.
[CPT]FARMŽN OF ABOL-FAYZ MOHAMMAD BAHŽDOR KHŽN
[CPB]Transoxiana, dated A.H. 1140/1727
Ink and gold on paper
Page 91 x 49 cm
[GT]Persian persisted as the official language in Transoxiana, its birthplace, under successive Turco-Mongol dynasties and despite a massive assimilation of Turkish culture by the population. Farmāns (decrees) and official documents were issued in Persian until the Russian annexations in the nineteenth centuries. Today Persian remains the official language of the republic of Tājikestān but is all but forgotten in other Central Asian republics.
In 1705 Abol-Fayz Mohammad Bahādor Khān (r. 1705-47) ascended the throne of Transoxiana as a scion of the Jānid dynasty (1599-1785), which claimed descent from Orda, the son of Changiz's son Juchi.
This decree concerns the appointment of a certain Qāzi Mir Hosayn as the governor of Bokhārā and the district of Chahār-Sadé. On the top, God's name is invoked: "He is bountiful (fayyāz)." Next is the ruler's name: "The victorious sayyed Abol-Fayz Mohammad Bahādor Khān." On the right is his seal imprint, encircled by golden arabesques; it reads: "Abol-Fayz Mohammad son of Sobhān-Qoli Mohammad Bahādor Khān, 1124." The seal was engraved in 1712.
[PP]Published: Drouot (Boisgirard), Dec. 19, 1979, lot 150
Cat. No. 178.
[CPT]FARMŽN OF DŽRŽ SHOKUH
[CPB]Signed by the vizier Vazir Khān
India, dated A.H. 1067/1657
Ink on paper
Page 73.5 x 40.5 cm
[GT]Persian was introduced into India as early as the eleventh century, during the time of the Ghaznavid incursions. By the fourteenth century Persian became the official language of the Delhi court, used for all administrative purposes.
This rare farmān (decree) of Dārā Shokuh is beautiful in its simplicity. Following the besmellāh or invocation (In the name of God . . . ) at the top are two toghrās (calligraphic monograms), of Shāh Jahān and Dārā Shokuh, with Dārā's seal affixed to their right. The first toghrā reads: "By the order of the victorious Shahāboddin Mohammad, Sāheb Qerān II, the warrior king." The second reads: "The imperial signet of the lofty fortunate king, Dārā Shokuh Mohammad. The seal reads: "God, the lofty fortunate king, Mohammad Dārā Shokuh, son of Shāh Jahān, the warrior king, 1066." The following text, addressed to the controllers of the districts of Motahaveré and Bandrabon, deals with a claim for a piece of land that had been given by a certain Kisaindamur Dardas to a Brahman called Kishdas. The text concludes: "Written on 27 Jomada II, 1067 [April 13, 1657]." On the back of the farmān the scribe wrote: "It is the writing of the master-loving disciple ("morid-e morshed parast"), Vazir Khān."
The farmān's most interesting feature is Dārā's use, in both his toghrā and seal, of the title conferred on him by Shāh Jahān in 1642, Shāh-e Boland Eqbāl, the Lofty Fortunate King. His first seal as heir to the throne bears no such title (see cat. no. 42), nor does a seal dated 1644. Its adoption in the seal of 1655 was clearly an indication of Dārā's intention to manifest his rank and authority as the aging Shāh Jahān's heir.
Cat. No. 179.
[CPT]FARMŽN OF MOHAMMAD-`ALI SHŽH
[CPB]Lucknow, dated A.H. 1253/1837
Reyhān and nasta`liq script
Ink on paper
Page 85 x 56 cm
[GT]This farmān (decree) grants permanent tax exemptions to a certain Omid-Ray. At the top the besmellāh is written in gold in an elegant reyhān script. The red seal in the center reads: "The victorious, the helper of the religion, the soltān of the age, Anushiravān the Just, Mohammad-`Ali Shāh, the warrior king." The seal, which invokes the epithet of the Sāsānian king Anushiravān (r. 531-79), is dated 1836, the date of the shāh's accession (r. 1836-42). The inscriptions in the circles on the contour of the seal invoke first God's help, then the Prophet Mohammad's, his daughter Fatemé's, and the Twelve Imams of the Shi`a. The use of a red seal, the āl-tamghā, was perhaps to invoke its imperial prestige; it was first used by the Mongols in Islamic territory, following a Chinese tradition (see cat. no. 28). British influence is apparent in the design of the coat of arms at the top. Two elegantly drawn toghrās (calligraphic monograms) are on each side of the seal. The one on the right is a Qorānic verse (sura 4, āya 59), often quoted by Islamic rulers to justify their heavenly mandate. The toghrā to the left essentially repeats the content of the seal, stating the soltān's names and titles.
Cat. No. 180a-f.
[CPB]India, late 18th-early 20th century
Silver or jade with engraved nasta`liq
Diam. cat. nos. 180a-180c, 180e, 6.3-10.5 cm; base: cat. no. 180d, 4 x 3 cm, cat. no. 180f, 4.1 x 4.1 cm
[GT]All administrative instruments such as seals, whether for maharajas or British officials serving in India, were engraved in Persian, the court language of the Mughals. Only with the exile of the last of the Mughal emperors to Burma and the annexation of India to the British empire in 1858 was Persian replaced by English as the official language.
The sumptuous seal of Henry John Chandler (cat. no. 180, upper left) is dated 1777. It reads: "State-counselor Henry John Chandler, the valiant navvāb, the one who risks his life for the Warrior King Shāh `Žlam. 18th regnal year." Only the base of the seal of Maharaja Dowlat Rāo survives (cat. no. 180b, upper center), with an inscription that reads: "The important warlord, my honorable son, Maharaja Dowlat Rāo Sindhiya Bahādor Sri Nabhé, the victorious of the age, the independent governor, the supreme commander, the privileged son of the prominent Pandit Purdhon Maharaja Dahraj Savay Bāji Rāo Gehnathé Bahādor, the one who risks his life for the warrior king Shāh `Žlam. Year 1210 . 38th regnal year." A seal of William Harwood (upper right, cat. no. 180c), is inscribed: "19[th regnal year of Shāh `Žlam II, r. 1760-88]. The strengthener of the state, Mr. William Harwood, the valiant warrior, the loyal servant of the warrior king Shāh `Žlam, 1192 ."
The four-fish emblems mounted on the back of Mirzā Mohammad's seal (cat. no. 180d, lower left) indicate a provenance from the state of Lucknow. The inscription reads: "The one with the dignity of Jamshid and the splendor of Solomon, Mirzā Mohammad; year 1256 ." Another seal, whose owner is tentatively identified as John Monkton, is dated 1818 and adorned with an exquisite floral arabesque (cat. no. 180e, lower center).
David Ochterlony was appointed in 1803 as the first British Resident in Delhi. His seal (cat. no. 180f, lower right) is of jade and inscribed: "The support of the state and the fortifier of the empire, the distinguished and loyal commander, Khān-General Sir David Ochterlony, Baronet Bahādor, the victorious, 1239 ." Sir David's Latin initials are engraved at the top. The seal, which is dated after his resignation, attests that he was still honored at the Mughal court.
[PP]Published: Christie's, Oct. 15, 1980, lot 168 (cat. no. 180a); Sotheby's, April 26, 1982, lot 65 (cat. no. 180b)
1. Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1991), p. 87. [AS: I've added this citation.]
2. Bakhshish Singh Nijjar, Panjab under the Sultans, 1000-1526 A.D. (Lahore: Book Traders, 1979), p. 171.
3. The vizier addressed Dārā in the same terminology as a Sufi disciple would use for his religious master, suggesting that not only Dārā but his whole entourage were Sufi devotees.
4. See The Indian Heritage: Court Life and Arts under Mughal Rule, exh. cat. (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982), no. 75.
The Divine Glory: A study in continuity
In the introduction to this book, I describe a pattern of behavior used throughout history by Persians to reconcile the fact of foreign conquest, a strategy of assimilation and adaptation to the most manifest social, political, and cultural attributes of the invader. Even when a conquering force lost its political dominance, these acquired traits were not cast off. Instead they were amalgamated with indigenous traits to create a genuinely Persian synthesis.
The purpose of this essay is to suggest the relevance of the ancient Persian concept of the khvarenah, the Divine Glory, to this behavioral pattern. I will further discuss how the Divine Glory was perceived, how its possessor obtained legitimacy, and how he attracted obedience and allegiance.
The Concept of the Divine Glory
Writing in 1596, Abol-Fazl-e `Allāmi (1551-1602), a minister to the Mughal emperor Akbar, defined the Divine Glory in the following terms:
Kingship is a light emanating from God, and a ray from the sun, the illuminator of the universe; it is the argument of the book of perfection, the receptacle of all virtues. Modern language calls this light farr-e izadi [Divine Glory] and the tongue of antiquity called it kiyān kharré [Kingly Glory]. It is communicated by God to kings without the intermediate assistance of anyone, and men in the presence of it bend the forehead of praise toward the ground of submission.
Those who possessed the Divine Glory were to rule and be obeyed. The Il-Khānid historian Rashiddodin, asserting his patron's predestined kingship, recounts that when the young prince Ghāzān (r. 1295-1304) met his uncle, the Il-Khān Ahmad Tegudār (r. 1282-84), "Ahmad perceived the Kingly Glory in him." Kāshāni, chronicler to Ghāzān's brother Uljāytu (r. 1304-17), used the same term to characterize his own patron: "Kingly Glory radiated from his [Uljāytu's] blessed face." In Mughal India, the Divine Glory of the emperor was depicted as an aura radiating behind his head (see cat. nos. 129a, 129b), which was described by Abol-Fazl as: "the sunburst (shamsé) [that adorns] the royal throne is the Divine Glory itself."
The Divine Glory was called khvarenah in the ancient Avestā texts of Zoroastrianism; it was called kharré in Middle Persian and farr or farré in modern Persian. It continuously has been perceived in Iran as a main attribute of kingship. The seventh-century Pahlavi text Kārnāmag-i Artakhshir Pāpakān (Chronicles of Ardeshir-e Bābakān) recounts the flight of Ardeshir I (r. 224-41), founder of the Sāsānian dynasty, together with a beautiful maiden, from the court of Ardavān IV (r. 216-24), the last Pārthian ruler:
Thereupon Ardawan equipped an army of 4,000 men and took the road towards Pars after Artakhshir [Ardeshir I]. When it was mid-day he came to a place by which the road to Pars passed, and asked, "At what time did those two riders whose faces were set in this direction pass by here?" Then said the people, "Early in the morning, when the sun rose, they passed by swiftly . . . and a very large ram ran after them, than which finer could not be found. We know that already 'ere now he will put behind him a distance of many parasangs, and that it will be impossible for you to catch him." So Ardawan tarried not there, but hastened on. When he came to another place, he asked the people, "When did those two riders pass by?" They answered, "To-day at noon did they go by . . . and a ram ran after them." Then Ardawan was astonished and said, "Consider: the two riders we know, but what can the ram be?" Then he asked the Dastur [vizier], who replied, "That is the Kingly Splendour: it hath not yet overtaken him, but we must make haste; it is possible that we may catch them before it overtakes them."
The next day the ram, the manifestation of the Divine Glory, had already joined Ardeshir. Consequently the vizier advised Ardavān to abandon his pursuit, as Ardeshir had been blessed with the Divine Glory. Ardavān was eventually defeated by Ardeshir, and the Pārthian dynasty brought to an end.
Perception of the Divine Glory
The Divine Glory grew in power as the victories of a king accrued, sanctioning his authority and rule. A series of decisive triumphs could so strengthen his Divine Glory that it reflected favorably upon his progeny and legitimized their succession. Thus the Sāsānians, who inherited the Divine Glory of Ardeshir, "claimed both descent and kingship from all the earlier, divinely chosen royal families of Iran." When the king held both the spiritual and temporal leadership of his community, as did Ardeshir, his authority and the rights of his heirs were uncontested.
By virtue of his Divine Glory, the king was expected to spread justice, uphold good religion, and care for his subjects. The king himself was never considered divine; he was human and fallible. If he failed in his duties, his Divine Glory would depart and chaos would ensue. Therefore kingship required the advice of wise viziers to ensure righteous rule, and it was incumbent on sage men to advance temporal stability with benevolent advice to the ruler who possessed the Divine Glory.
A crucial aspect of the concept of Divine Glory was that its possessor need not be Persian. A foreign conqueror could embody the Divine Glory by the sheer magnitude of his accomplishments. Alexander the Great, who invaded Iran and burned the Achaemenid capital of Persepolis, entered Persian literature, alongside the Sāsānians and earlier Iranian heroes, as a legendary figure, and his numerous feats were recounted in the great collection of Persian epics, the Shāhnāmé (see cat. nos. 27i, 95, 100).
The cultural characteristics of the conqueror attracted Persians for two reasons: a desire to affiliate themselves to the new ruling power, and a curiosity about the qualities that ensured such success. Although adoption of foreign traits facilitated integration with the ruling elite, there was a genuine quest to excel within the foreign conqueror's regime. Persian administrators who reached positions of power and wealth did not attempt to usurp the conqueror, but instead offered their services and advice to further consolidate the conqueror's power while simultaneously advancing their own careers and enriching themselves.
`Abdollāh Ebn-e Moqaffa`
A characteristic demonstration of the Persian reaction to foreign occupation is that of Ruzbeh of Jur, better known as `Abdollāh Ebn-e Moqaffa` (720-56), one of the great literary figures of the early Islamic period and a founder of Arabic literary prose. His father, Dāduyé, was a resourceful Persian administrator serving the `Omayyad caliphs as a tax collector. Accused of embezzlement, Dāduyé was tortured and sentenced to death but managed to escape the sentence by bribing the executioner. The tortures left him impaired and earned him the name al-Moqaffa`, the crippled, an epithet that would be immortalized by his son. Dāduyé did not seek revenge against his Arab masters; instead he sought the best possible education in Arabic for `Abdollāh by appointing two eloquent (fasih) Arab scholars, Abol-Jāmus and Abol-Ghul, as his tutors. Ebn-e Moqaffa` proved to be talented in Arabic, and he was appointed secretary to successive Arab officials, first `Omayyad, then `Abbāsid, when the caliphate changed hands in 749. He rose to prominence among the literati of Kufa, Basra, and the newly founded capital city of Baghdad.
Ebn-e Moqaffa`'s remarkable production of Arabic literary works included a number of translations from Middle Persian (Pahlavi) into Arabic, the most famous of which is Kalilé va Demné, the fables originally brought to Iran from India in Sāsānian times. Ebn-e Moqaffa`, perhaps with his son Mohammad, reputedly translated into Arabic many Greek philosophical works that became known to the Persians after the Greek conquests of the fourth century B.C. Classical philosophy long forgotten in the West was thus kept alive in the Islamic world, where for four centuries it sparked intense philosophical and theological debate.
The most interesting of Ebn-e Moqaffa`'s literary works for this discussion is perhaps a political pamphlet addressed to the second `Abbāsid caliph, al-Mansur (r. 754-775), generally referred to as Resāla fes-sahāba (Treatise on the retinue of the caliph). In it Ebn-e Moqaffa` analyzed social, religious, and political problems facing the caliphate, including the choice of officials and companions to the caliph, and offered suggestions and advice for the consolidation of `Abbāsid power. His devotion to the caliphate is best revealed when he addresses the issue of his fellow Persians, the Khorāsānian army stationed in Iraq: "These are troops that have had no equal in the armies of Islam, and that have qualities that, by God's will, shall elevate them to perfection." He continues by praising their honesty and obedience, "not encountered in any other group," and emphasizes the need for proper education in a unified language. He goes on to advise:
Now then, if the Commander of the Faithful would issue a clear and succinct code of conduct, including what the troops must practice and what they should abstain from, a convincing and easy document that the officers could learn by heart in order to apply it in their commands, and that their subordinates would undertake to respect, such initiative--by God's will--shall be excellent for the morale of the army and a decisive reference for those who concur with it. And God is aware of shortcomings.
The Khorāsānian army led by General Abu-Moslem had spearheaded the `Abbāsid revolution against the `Omayyads, yet fearful of Abu-Moslem's growing popularuty, al-Mansur ordered the general's assassination in 755. Ebn-e Moqaffa`'s respectful tone in addressing the caliph does not indicate fear of further reprisal against the Persian community. His objective seems to have been to reassure the caliph of Khorāsānian loyalty and to encourage a better integration of Persians into his administration, thereby consolidating the caliphate's position.
Ebn-e Moqaffa` apparently sought to serve the caliphate and to be recognized as a loyal servant. He addressed the caliph as Commander of the Faithful and as imam, recognizing him as the spiritual and temporal leader of the community. Such treatment indicates that the caliph was perceived as possessing the Divine Glory.
During his career Ebn-e Moqaffa` not only impressed his Arab masters and peers with his facility in Arabic but dazzled them with the refined lifestyle characteristic of the Persian nobility. He freely spent the fortune he had accumulated during an earlier appointment in Kermān, and his largess was proverbial. At a reception given by an Arab official, he bestowed "a thousand jewelry boxes" on a woman singer, and on another occasion, when Ebn-e Moqaffa` offered a choice piece of land to the same singer, an Arab military chieftain exclaimed, "Well done, Persian, you have surpassed us all!"
Ebn-e Moqaffa` became famous for his eloquence in Arabic, and his example would be followed by many other Persians who contributed to the development of the language, including Sibuyé (Sibawaih), the greatest of Arabic grammarians. The result of this Persian role in the development of the Arabic language was a new Persian language enriched by an influx of Arabic words and style.
Caliphal Authority and the Transposition of the Divine Glory
The caliphs, successors of the Prophet Mohammad as leaders of the Islamic community, were addressed as Commander of the Faithful. Like the Sāsānian kings, the caliph was both the secular and religious leader of his community. In the eyes of Persians, the caliph possessed the Divine Glory, which was magnified with each expansion of the Islamic empire.
The first four caliphs were elected from the companions of the Prophet, until Mo`āviyyé, an `Omayyad, usurped the caliphal seat in 659 (see cat. no. 23), and made it hereditary in his own family. Under the `Omayyads the simple decentralized form of early Islamic government gave way to imperial tendencies, resulting in an administration that in large part followed the Sāsānian model. Influenced by Persian administrators, architects, and artists, caliphal institutions began to reflect the concept of the Divine Glory. This concept, represented in the form of a sunburst mosaic surrounding the throne, is still visible in the ruins of the `Omayyad palace of Kherbātol-Mafjar in Jordan.