Nizari Kohistani

“Naimuddin bin Jalaluddin bin Muhammad Nizari Kohistani was born in Birjand in 645/1247. He got the rudiments of his formal education at home from his father, who was also a poet himself and a devout Ismaili. Nizari attended school in Birjand and Qain, and studied Persian and Arabic literature. His father was a land-lord in Birjand, but lost his estate during the Mongol onslaught in Kohistan and subsequently, Nizari had to serve at the court of Shamsuddin Muhammad I (643-684/1245-1285), the founder of the Kurt dynasty of Herat; and became a court-poet.

Nizari travelled excessively for supervising the revenue and expenditure of Azerbaijan and Arran. He set out from Khasp in Birjand on a long journey with a certain Tajuddin Amid in Shawal, 678/February, 1280. He fell ill in Tabriz, and resumed his journey in Safar, 679/June, 1280 with a certain Shamsuddin Juvaini, who was also travelling there for same purpose. Nizari visited Azerbaijan, Arran, Georgia, Armenia and Baku, which lasted for two years (678-679/1280-1281). Muqaddasi had reported earlier in Kitab al-Akalim (comp. in 375/985) that Azerbaijan, Arran and Armenia formed part of a single province, which he designated as Iklim ar-Rihab (the region of high plains). It was during this journey that Nizari did see Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad and his successor. He recounted the account of his journey in his Safar-nama in mathnawi form, comprised of 1200 verses. Nizari has termed the Ismailis significantly as Ikhwan as-Safa.

After his return, Nizari got married and entered the service of Kurt rulers, who had penetrated their influence in Afghanistan and Khorasan. His enemies aroused the Kurt ruler and was dismissed and his properties were confiscated. He composed Munazara-i Shab-i Rauz (conflict of day and night) wherein he described the troubles he had faced. Nizari took up agriculture during retiring life and died in Birjand in 720/1320 during the reign of Ghiasuddin (d. 729/1328). He also composed Mathnawi Azhar-u-Mazhar in 700/1300, narrating the terrible operations of the Mongols in Iran. His another famous work, Dastur-nama (book of rule), which he composed for his son, reflecting the doctrines of Sufism and Ismailism. According to Daulatshah (d. 900/1494) in Tazkertu’sh Shu’ara that, “This is a book to be treasured by gifted and intellectual minds.” In Mathnawi (verse 43), Nizari Kohistani writes eloquently in praise of Shamsuddin Muhammad that:-

“He is the prince of the universe, the crown of the faith. He is the son of Ali, who is the light of the eyes of the great king (Muhammad). He (Shamsuddin) Muhammad is the father of spiritualism, and the sweetest fruit of the eternal garden of creation.”