Comparative typology of Persian and Arabic Biographies (Tazkere) in the Safavid and Ottoman period

The Safavid Period (1148-1906 AH.) and the Ottoman Period (923- 1213 AH.) can be called the "Biography Era" in the history of Persian and Arabic literature because of the variety of approaches to biography writing and high number of biographies written in the era. This tendency to biography writing has led authors to have even more than one biographic work during this period. The increasing development of this type of writing over the mentioned periods has resulted in the development of works with different writing styles, which is, in fact, the drafting stage of modern histories of literature.

Theoretical Framework

In the present study, we have attempted to classify this type of writing systematically by comparing the common features of Persian and Arabic biographies compiled during this period. In this segmentation we have tried to name the works in a way that Persian and Arabic biographies could be classified and introduced into distinct classes based on the following criteria: author motivations, collecting and editing approaches, including the time, place, and social origins of poets and writers, as well as the inner form (type of prose).

Results and Discussion

Persian and Arabic biographies of the period under study can be examined in three respects in terms of frequency, characteristics, causes and motivations of compilation. The remarkable increase in the number of Persian and Arabic biographies of this period is a result of the factors most importantly the increasing growth of poets and writers of every social class.

3-1- General biographies

Contain a variety of classes, including literati, scholars, Sufis, Shiites, political figures and etc. and often do not include a limited time frame. These Biographies can also be named "general" as they contain information about personality and works of the authors who existed before the biographer.

3-2- Dedicated biographies

They have specifically collected translations and works of one of the social classes of poets and writers, such as the biographies of scholars and grammarians; a description of the Iranian poets who have gone to India; a description of the works of the female poets and different classes of artists.

3- 3- Periodic Biographies

There are works that cover a specific time period, such as a century, the authors lifetime and the monarchy's history of one or more kings; Such as: Al-Nour al-Safer fi Tarajem al-Qarn al-asher by Abd al-Qadir Eidroos and the Tazkere-ye Nasrabadi, which mention the four classes of political figures, scholars, wise men, Sadat and noblemen and poets of the Safavid era.

3- 4- Personal (individual) Biographies

Biographies that only mention one person's life story, such as: The Tarikh-e Fakhr al-Din bin Ma'n of al-Khaledi and Ma'aser-e Rahimi by Mir Abd al-Baqi Nahavandi (d. 1042 AH), a detailed biography of Mirza Abd al-Rahim Khan Khanan.

3- 5- Focal biographies

Some Persian and Arabic biographies have been compiled based on the order of literary centers, so the latter can be called territorial and regional biographies. The first issue in identifying the literary centers is the criterion of being "focal". This criterion is a combination of three components of language, time and place; namely the prevalence of a language's literature in a specific geographical area and time range. Thus, there are three types of literary centers: national (territorial), regional, and urban. Biography of Nafhat al-Rayhana consists of eight chapters, each introducing poets and writers to one of the centers of Arabic literature. These centers include Damascus and its regions, Aleppo, Rome, Iraq and Bahrain, Yemen, Hejaz, Egypt and the Maghreb. Persian Examples: Jam’a al-Kheyir Mir Monshi Qomi is composed by the poets and writers of Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Khuzestan.

3- 6- Biography-History

This type is a subset of implicit biographies; that is to say, in addition to historiography, the author has also referred to biography. But there are other types of biographies whose biographic aspect overcomes historical records, that is, biographies that, in addition to translation, have also authored the expression of historical events of the period under study. Hence, it is more appropriate to name them "biography-history". In the history of Persian biographies, about seventy titles of such works date back from the 10th to the late 12th century AH. beginning with the Asar-e Ajam and ending with the Vaqeat-e Kashmir ,some of them being "history-biography" and others "biography-history".

3- 7- Summary Biographies

These works are excerpts provided by some authors from their own or others' works. In Arabic, Shahab al-Din Khafaji provided a summary of the khabya al-Zawaya and named it Rayhanat al-Alebba and Nazhat al-Hayat al-Donya, which is compiled for the poets. Ohadi Balyani provided an excerpt from Arafat al-Asheqin and named it Ka'be-ye Erfan, then Abd al-Wahhab al-Alamgiri in 1155 AH. has provided excerpt from the Ka'be-ye Erfan and named it Goldaste.

3- 8- Supplementary Biographies

Such biographies are in fact compiled as a complement or as a follow-up to a previous author's work and have attempted to complete the work. Among Arabic examples, Mohebbi, in the Kholasat al-asar biography, has mentioned the complementing and extending the works of earlier historians and biographers such as Bourini, Khafaji, Eidroos, and Ibn Ma'soom, as his intentions of the compilation of the biography.

3- 9- Rhymed Biographies

The Rhymed prose, which is found in the introduction and the text of some of the biographies, is one of the other common Persian and Arabic biographies of this period. Examples of these biographies in Arabic and Persian include: Tarajem al- a'yan and Tazkere-ye Bazmaray.


The results show that the remarkable increase of poets and writers and the wide range of literary centers of the era have led to the tendency of authors to use new approaches in the compilation and edition of this kind of writing.

Article Type:
Research/Original Article
17 - 36  
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