Nāṣir-i Khusraw was a major figure in medieval Persian culture. This Muslim philosopher, poet, traveller and Ismaili dāʿī, who lived a thousand years ago in the lands today known as Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan, is consistently ranked by Persian speakers as one of the finest poets in their language. Yet, in the West, where he is known largely for his Safar-nāma (travelogue), describing his seven-year journey from Khurāsān, in the eastern Islamic lands, to Cairo, the city of the Fatimid caliph-imams, his poetry and ideas are less familiar. Even among those who know the poet’s work, few understand the concepts he expounds, as the genre of philosophical poetry in Persian remains mostly unexplored. As the first Western study of Persian philosophical poetry, this volume seeks to redress the balance.

Written by authorities on Nāṣir-i Khusraw and Persian literature, and originally presented as papers at a conference at SOAS, University of London, the chapters here cover topics ranging from metaphysics, cosmology and ontology, to prophecy, rhythm and structure, the analysis of individual poems and the matter of authorship. Rigorous literary analysis of several complete major poems advances the field of Persian Studies beyond investigating what a poem means to how it is constructed and how poetic technique and philosophy can be combined to create masterpieces. This volume therefore represents the initiation of important studies in the genre of Persian philosophical poetry.