Amir Khusrau Dihlavi

Written by
Iraj Bashiri

Known as the "Tuti" (songbird) of India, Amir Nasir al-Din Abu al-Hassan Khusrau ibn Amir Saif al-Din Mahmud Dihlavi is India's foremost Sufi poet using the Persian language as the medium of his poetry. His father, Saif al-Din Mahmud was one of the chiefs of the Lachin tribe of the Karakhitais of Kush, Transoxania. During the Mongol invasion, Saif al-Din moved his family away from Kush and settled in India. There, he had married the daughter of Imad al-Mulk, an Indian nobleman. Amir Khusrau is the fruit of that marriage. He was born in Patiali, in the district of Etah, Uttar Pardesh, in 1253. Although he became an orphan at the age of seven, he managed, due to the high status of his family, to elevate himself and become a major figures at the courts of Indian sultans. Amir Khusrau died in 1325.

Originally a Turk, Amir Khusrau spoke Persian fluently and was familiar with Arabic, Hindi, and Sanskrit. From his early days, he was attracted to Persian literature, especially the poetry of the poet of Ganja, Nizami. Emulating the poetry of Nizami, he himself, over the years became one of the most celebrated Sufi poets of his day. Additionally, Amir Khusrau was a born musician. He mastered the art of Indian music at a very early age and went on to perfect it. His invention of the sitar, an instrument with three-strings, testifies to his dedication to the art.

Like musician poets Rudaki and Farrukhi before him, Amir Khusrau adapted to the life at court and distinguished himself in the circle of the dignitaries as a grand poet. His prestige became even more noticeable when Shaykh Muslih al-Din Sa'di recommended him as a worthy candidate for a position originally offered to himself at Prince Muhammad's court.

It is related that one day, Saif al-Din Mahmud took his three sons to the presence of the chief of Sufi poets Shaykh Nizam al-Din Muhammad ibn Ahmad Dihlavi popularly known as Nizam al-Din Auliya of the Chishtiyya order. Nizam al-Din took a particular interest in Amir Khusrau who himself, following the advice of the Shaykh became one of the major figures of the order. Nevertheless, Amir Khusrau never publicized his writings unless they had been read and sanctioned by the Shaykh. In fact, their lives mirror each others, both in mundane success and in spiritual ascension. Living in a milieu suffused with turmoil and intolerance, they shared the same tendency towards tolerance and struggle to rise above petty conflicts. And both rebelled against the confines of narrow orthodoxy to redefine the limits of philosophical profundity and devotional spirituality. Altogether Amir Khusrau has written several multi-volume works, a collection of lyrics, and three prose works. His multi-volume collection the Panj Ganj (five treasures), with the following specification:

His other multi-collection, referred to as Samaniyyah Khusraviyyah (eight khusravi mathnavis), includes:

The Goddess

Written by
Amir Khusrau (d. 1325)

Translated by
J. H. Hindley
*supplemented by Iraj Bashiri
O Thou whose face,
With envied grace,
the magi's Gods inflames!
Howe'er my verse
Thy praise rehearse,
Still more thy beauty claims.

Sprightly and gay
As fabled fay
Soft as the roseate leaf!
Say what I will--
Superior still!
Wonderous! beyond belief!

My vagrant eye
Did ne'er descry
A fairer form than thine:
Is it of earth?
Or heavenly birth?
Or Fairy's, half divine?

The world I rov'd,
And frequent lov'd
Those charms which all adore:
Maids who excell'd
I oft beheld--
But thou art something more.

Each soul thy prey,
Each heart thy sway
Avows with mad'ning pain;
Thy magic eyes
Idolatry maintain.

* Than jinis nimbler,
More delicate
Than rose's heart:
My praises
You surpass,
How wonderful thou art!

* Cypress statur'd
Art thou,
My soul's solace and comfort:
Don't abandon me
So abruptly,
And my heart transport.

* Intent to see
The show,
The desert your destination:
Our hearts and
Soul taking,
What custom's this fascination?

* I become you
You become me,
I become the soul, you the heart:
How can they
Now claim,
I am apart, you are apart?

Khoosro, fair maid,
entreats thine aid,
A stranger at the door;
Oh, in God's name,
Regard the claim
Of strangers who implore!

What Station Did I Cross that Night?

Written by
Amir Khusrau (d. 1325)

Translated by
Iraj Bashiri

What station was I at, pray tell me,
The station I think I passed;
Blood sacrifices abounded, I recall
And dance
At the station I crossed
That night.

Who was that Beauty,
The cyprus-statured one, I mean;
The tulip-cheeked ravisher
The Jewel that adorned the station,
And the night?

Rivals attentive, she a coquette
I, a fearful, trembling mute;
Words had turned into stone,
My being entirely afloat.
What was the station I crossed, pray tell me
The station that I crossed
That night?

You crossed the NO PLACE,
Where He holds assembly
Where the Prophet is the Light.
NO PLACE it was , Khusrau,
The station you crossed
That night.

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