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Portrait of Ali-Shir Nava'i

December 31, 1440
Mirza Firuz Shah
Sultan Husayn Bayqara 1470–1506

Portrait of Ali-Shir Nava'i



'Ali-Shir Nava'i (9 February 1441 – 3 January 1501), also known as Nizām-al-Din ʿAli-Shir Herawī (Persian: نظام‌الدین علی‌شیر نوایی‎, Uzbek: Alisher Navoiy) was a Turkic poet, writer, politician, linguist, Hanafi Maturidi mystic and painter who was the greatest representative of Chagatai literature. Nava'i believed that Chagatai and other Turkic languages were superior to Persian for literary purposes, an uncommon view at the time and defended this belief in his work titled Muhakamat al-Lughatayn (The Comparison of the Two Languages). He emphasized his belief in the richness, precision and malleability of Turkic vocabulary as opposed to Persian. Life Alisher Nava'i was born in 1441 at the city of Herat to a family of well-read Turkic chancery scribes. During Alisher's lifetime, Herat was ruled by the Timurid Empire and became one of the leading cultural and intellectual centres in the Muslim world. Alisher belonged to the Chagatai amir (or Mīr in Persian) class of the Timurid elite. Alisher's father, Ghiyāth ud-Din Kichkina (The Little), served as a high-ranking officer in the palace of Shāhrukh Mirzā, a ruler of Khorasan. His mother served as a prince's governess in the palace. Ghiyāth ud-Din Kichkina served as governor of Sabzawar at one time. He died while Alisher was young, and another ruler of Khorasan, Abul-Qasim Babur Mirza, adopted guardianship of the young man. Alisher was a schoolmate of Husayn Bayqarah, who would later become the sultan of Khorasan. Alisher's family was forced to flee Herat in 1447 after the death of Shāhrukh created an unstable political situation. His family returned to Khorasan after order was restored in the 1450s. In 1456, Alisher and Bayqarah went to Mashhad with Ibn-Baysunkur. The following year Ibn-Baysunkur died and Alisher and Bayqarah parted ways. While Bayqarah tried to establish political power, Alisher pursued his studies in Mashhad, Herat, and Samarkand. After the death of Abu Sa'id Mirza in 1469, Husayn Bayqarah seized power in Herat. Consequently, Alisher left Samarkand to join his service. In 1472, Alisher was appointed amir (commander) of the dīvān-i aʿlā (supreme council), which eventually led him into a conflict with the powerful Persian bureaucrat Majd al-Din Muhammad Khvafi, due to the latters centralising reforms, which posed a danger to the traditional privileges that the Turkic military elite (such as Alisher) enjoyed. Alisher remained in the service of Bayqarah until his death on 3 January 1501. He was buried in Herat. Alisher Nava'i led an ascetic lifestyle, "never marrying or having concubines or children. Work Alisher served as a public administrator and adviser to his sultan, Husayn Bayqarah. He was also a builder who is reported to have founded, restored, or endowed some 370 mosques, madrasas, libraries, hospitals, caravanserais, and other educational, pious, and charitable institutions in Khorasan. In Herat, he was responsible for 40 caravanserais, 17 mosques, 10 mansions, nine bathhouses, nine bridges, and 20 pools. Among Alisher's constructions were the mausoleum of the 13th-century mystical poet, Farid al-Din Attar, in Nishapur (north-eastern Iran) and the Khalasiya madrasa in Herat. He was one of the instrumental contributors to the architecture of Herat, which became, in René Grousset's words, "the Florence of what has justly been called the Timurid Renaissance". Moreover, he was a promoter and patron of scholarship and arts and letters, a musician, a composer, a calligrapher, a painter and sculptor, and such a celebrated writer that Bernard Lewis, a renowned historian of the Islamic world, called him "the Chaucer of the Turks" Legacy Nava'i is one of the most beloved poets among Central Asian Turkic peoples. He is generally regarded as the greatest representative of Chagatai language literature. His mastery of the Chagatai language was such that it became known as "the language of Nava'i". Although all applications of modern Central Asian ethnonyms to people of Nava'i's time are anachronistic, Soviet and Uzbek sources regard Nava'i as an ethnic Uzbek. Maria Subtelny has proposed that Alisher Nava'i was a descendant of Bakhshi scribes, which has led some sources to call Nava'i a descendant of Uyghurs. However, other scholars such as Kazuyuki Kubo disagree with this view. Soviet and Uzbek sources hold that Nava'i significantly contributed to the development of the Uzbek language and consider him to be the founder of Uzbek literature. In the early 20th century, Soviet linguistic policy renamed the Chagatai language "Old Uzbek", which, according to Edward A. Allworth, "badly distorted the literary history of the region" and was used to give authors such as Alisher Nava'i an Uzbek identity. In December 1941, the entire Soviet Union celebrated Nava'i's five-hundredth anniversary. In Nazi-blockaded Leningrad, Armenian orientalist Joseph Orbeli led a festival dedicated to Nava'i. Nikolai Lebedev, a young specialist in Eastern literature who suffered from acute dystrophy and could no longer walk, devoted his life's last moments to reading Nava'i's poem Seven Travelers. Many places and institutions in Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries are named after Alisher Nava'i. Navoiy Region, the city of Navoiy, the National Library of Uzbekistan named after Alisher Navoiy, the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre, Alisher Navoiy station of Tashkent Metro, and Navoi International Airport – all are named after him. Many of Nava'i's ghazals are performed in the Twelve Muqam, particularly in the introduction known as Muqäddimä. They also appear in popular Uzbek folk songs and in the works of many Uzbek singers, such as Sherali Jo‘rayev. Alisher Nava'i's works have also been staged as plays by Uzbek playwrights.


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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.


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