Treasure of Thousand Gold Coins: Gulshan-i Rāz (Rose Garden of Secrets) Its Significance, Main Themes and Related Secondary Literature


A leitmotif of Islamic mystical writing employs the pedagogic literary techniques found in storytelling. Rūmī’s Masnawi as well as the works of ‘Attār, Sanāī and other notable sūfīs represent prominent examples of this kind of didactic writing. Mahmūd Shabistarī’s (1288-1340) Gulshan-i Raz however, departs from this approach and consciously avoids storytelling. Its formal thematic structure includes a preface, introduction, discussion and conclusion with its main aim being the disclosure of mystical secrets as the title of the book suggests. The origin of Gulshan-i Raz goes back to Amīr Husaynī (a Suhrawardī Shaykh), who sent 15 questions composed in verse to the Sūfīs of Tabriz in 1317. When his messenger read these questions in Tabriz, many people immediately learnt the verses by heart and searched for someone to answer them. Shabistarī accepted the challenge with encouragement from his master Amīn al-Dīn and with inspiration coming at that moment. He provided the answers without long contemplation and in the same poetic meters as the questions. The Gulshan-i Raz supplies its reader with the necessary conceptual framework as an inevitable instrument to understand the sufi literature. One can find the influence of Ibn ‘Arabī in Gulshan-i Raz on the one hand and the influence of Rūmī and other other poets of Persian mystical literature such as ‘Attār, Sanāī, Hallaj and Bayazīd on the other hand. This can easily be proved with a quick look at the most famous commentary of the Gulshan-i Raz i.e. Muhammad Lāhījī’s Mafatih al-‘I’jaz fi Sharh-i Gulshan-i Raz.

Keywords: Mahmūd Shabistarī, Gulshan-i Raz, unity of existence, Mafatih al-‘I’jaz, mystic symbols.

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