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The Mongol Period

This period in Persian literature began with the invasion of Changiz Khān in the year 616 AH/1219 AD and continued until the invasion of Teimur (Tamerlane) in 782 AH/1380 AD. The problems caused by the invasion of Changiz in the first half of the 7th Century AH/13th Century AD resulted in a decline in the production of new literary works, and in the second part of the century, brought in a decline in the field of education and training. However, an abundance in the number of poets as well as literary works in this period was due to various reasons. Firstly, the outstanding literati of this period had either fled to the neighboring countries or had continued their activities under the patronage of the local rulers. Secondly, like all other conquests or major changes, the consequences of the Mongol invasions only became evident much later after the event. Thirdly, during the Mongol invasion of Iran, a great number of the literary works of the earlier centuries were completely destroyed whereas no such fundamental changes took place in Iran following the Mongol invasion and, therefore, the literary works that came to be produced during this period have survived almost intact. And it is for this reason that it appears as if there was a major quantitative growth in the area of literature during the Mongol period.

Poetry: Two great and unique personalities emerged during the initial period of the Mongol Era, viz. Molavi (604-672 AH) and then Sa’di (606-691 AH). During this period there were also other poets living outside Iran who played a significant role in the spread of the Persian language. From among them, mention can be made of Amir Khosrow Dehlavi (651-725 AH/1253-1325 AD), the Indian poet of Iranian origin whose odes, ghazals, and mathnavis are world famous. The other famous Persian-speaking poet of India during this period was Amir Najm al-Din Hasan Sajzi (651-729 AH/1253-1329 AD) who was more popularly known as “Hasan Dehlavi”. 

During the 7th Century AH/13th Century AD there existed two different styles in Persian ghazals. One of these was the “romantic” style, the most outstanding examples of which ghazals were the ones composed by Sa’di while the other style which was, in fact, the evolution of the style introduced by Faridoddin Attār or the “Gnostic” style of ghazals that was perfected by Fakhr al-Din Arāqi and Molāna Jalaloddin Rumi, popularly known in Iran as “Molavi”.

Towards the end of the 7th Century AH/13th Century AD a new style of ghazal emerged that was a combination of the “Gnostic” and the “romantic” styles which presented lofty moral, philosophical and Gnostic thoughts in the form of poetry and in the delicate language characteristic of ghazals. The most prominent poets of this style included Ohadi Marāgheh’i, Khājavi Kermāni, Emād Faqih, and especially Khwājeh Shamsoddin Mohammad Shirāzi, popularly known as Hāfez.

Owing to the trend of religious politics that had begun during the 5th and the 6th Centuries AH, and following the Mongol invasion, all nationalistic literature tended to lose favor by the early 7th Century AH and was replaced by a kind of historical epic and, at times, the religious epical style. From among such epics produced during this period mention can be made of the “Shāhanshāhnāmeh” of Majd al-Din Pāizi Nasvi, no traces of which have survived today. This work was a prelude to a change in the trend of Persian epical literature from nationalistic and heroic to historical elements.

One of the significant features of the literature of this period was the emergence of literary criticism with a humorous flavor which reached its zenith with the rise of Obayd Zākāni (772 AH/1370 AD). From among the poets and writers of this period who were the pioneers of literary criticism, poets like Sayf Forghāni, Sa’di, Obayd Zākāni, and Hāfez have been the major contributors. Another group of poets from this period resorted to the dissemination of morals and ethics instead of focusing on the evils of their age, the most outstanding of which was Ibn Yamin Faryumadi.

Generally speaking, the literature of the Mongol period was dominated by Gnostic works. During this period, the subjects covered by Persian poetry mainly reveal a Gnostic color as a result of which even the social and ethical issues were presented in the form of Gnostic mathnavis, the most prominent examples of which are the “Mathnavi Ma’navi” of Jalāluddin Rumi (Molavi), the “Gulshan Rāz” of Shaykh Mahmud Shabestari, and the “Jām-e Jam” of Ohadi Marāgheh’i.

The Persian language that had already gained a consolidated and powerful form in the early 7th Century AH under the influence of its intermingling with the Arabic language began to include a number of Mongol and Turkish terms. On the other hand, with the migration of the Iranians to India, the Persian language also came to spread in that land.

Prose: Persian prose continued to flourish even during the Mongol domination of Iran and until the invasion of Teimur (Tamerlane). The most significant reason for this was the elimination of the political influence of the caliphs, the end of the rule from Baghdad as the center of the Islamic world, and the severing of relations between Iran and the Arab-speaking Islamic nations.

The outstanding characteristics of the prose of this period were, on the one hand, an extensive use of figures of speech, exaggeration, lengthy sentences, and hollow contents that were filled with Arabic terms and phrases, the most prominent example of which is the book, the “Tārikh-e Wasāf” (Wasāf’s History) written by Wasāf al-Hazrah Shirāzi, while, on the other hand, historians like Rashid al-Din Fazlollāh and some others adopted a simple style of writing.

Moreover, while some writers of this period like the authors of works like the “Tabaqāt-e Nāseri”, the “Tajārob al-Salaf” (Experiences of Past), and the “Tārikh-e Gozideh” (Select History) had adopted simple prose for writing their books, there were other writers like Atā al-Molk Joveyni and Nasvi who preferred to resort to the figurative style of prose writing and there were yet some other writers who had used both styles. For instance, Shams Qeys, the author of the book, the “Al-Mo’jam”, used figurative prose in the preface of his book while he wrote the main text of the book in simple prose.

From among the most prominent writers of the 7th and 8th Centuries AH/13th and 14th Centuries AD who wrote their books in the Persian language mention can be made of Khwājah Nasir al-Din Tusi (597-672 AH/1201-1273 AD) whose books like the “Asās al-Eqtebās”, written on logic; the “Me’yār al-Ash’ār”, written on prosody; the “Akhlāq-e Nāseri”, written on practical philosophy; and the “Awsāf al-Ashrāf, written on Tasawuff, were all in the simple style of prose writing. Similarly, the other writers of this period who had adopted the simple and fluent style of prose writing were Afzal al-Din Mohammad Kāshāni (707 AH/1307 AD), famous as “Bābā Afzal”, who wrote a number of treatises on philosophy and Allāmah Qotb al-Din Mas’ud Shirāzi (634-710 AH/1237-1310 AD), who had an excellent command over such subjects as medicine, philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy, and who was the author of the “Dorrah al-Tāj, which is an encyclopedia of philosophy.

Despite the fact that the Mongol invasion of Iran was one of the most important causes for the decline of cultural activities in Iran during the 7th and 8th Centuries AH/13th and 14th Centuries AD, historiography began to flourish in this period to such an extent that according to some scholars the historiography works that have survived from this period are considered to be the most excellent of such works of the Islamic world, since the Ilkhanids showed keen interest in charting historical records of their expansionist and military advancements.

The most outstanding historiography works of this period include the “Tārikh-e Jahāngoshāy” of Atā al-Molk Joveyni (written in 658 AH/1260 D), the “Jāme’ al-Tawārikh” written by Rashid al-Din Fazlollāh Hamadāni (645-717 AH/1247-1317 AD), and the “Tārikh-e Gozideh” of Hamdollāh Mostofi Qazvini which was completed in the year 730 AH/1330 AD.


* source: Ghamar, Aryan "Iran Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.10 ,pp.568 – 569

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