C.Introduction: The Origin of the Work

As has already been mentioned in the Preface, the work seems to be
exceptionally rare. It is not impossible that the Leningrad copy is unique.
With the little information that is available about the Badakshani Ismaili
literature ther is hardly much chance of finding additional information
concerning this opuscule. All that we can expect to know about it must be
derived from an analysis of its contents.

The name of the author is not mentioned. Even a superficial acquaintance with
the the text shows that, even allowing much for the "rough handling" of the
text by generations of Badakshani scribes, who are generally people of little
education, and to whom Persian is a foreign language, it would be possible
only to infer that he was a man of no great theological erudition. His style is
crude and heavy and he plainly has much difficulty in expressing his thoughts.
At the end of his work he says that he composed it in "simple langauge which
even the uneducated could understand, so that even they would not be
deprived of the spiritual advantages which perusal of the book may bestow".
Such a charitable disposition rarely manifests itself in Persian authors as
"smoke without fire". Had the author been really learned, he would not
hesitate to make his pamphlet a gem of theological learning. We may be fairly
safe in imagining him as a country squire, a well-to-do peasant, devout to his
religion, and keen on reading, despite not having had much schooling in the
past.

Although the manuscript comes from Shughnan, it is difficult to think that it
was compiled there. As is well known, Badakshan, several centuries ago,
became the centre of the cult of Nasir-I Khusraw, to whose influence, -even
what may be called a "school," -many works belong. This opuscule, however,
does not exhibit the typical features of that line. Quotations from Nizari, an
Ismaili poet of Birjand and Khusp (d. ca. 720-721/1320-1321) whose works
are entirely unknown in Badakshan, or from another Ismaili poet of still earlier
time, Ra'is Hasan (end of vi/xii c.), whose poems have been apparently
preserved only in the province of Kirman, or from Thana'I, a Khorasani poet
who went to India under Akbar, may be treated as indications of the ties with
Persia rather than Upper Oxus. In addition to this it is possible also to recall
the same postscript in which he refers to the composing of his work "in plaim,
simple language, intelligible to the uneducated". This, of course, may refer to
the Badakshanis whose Persian is generally of a very elementary nature, but it
seems more probable that the author meant his less educated Persian-speaking
fellow countrymen in Persia.

The question of the date of compositon appears to be simpler. The author
refers to many poets and other persons, quoting poems by some of them,
Sana'I, Attar, Jalalu'd-din Rumi, Nasiru'd-din Tusi (probably), Nasir-I
Khusraw, Nizari, Ra'is Hasan, all belong to that period. The latest are
probably Amir Sayyid Ali-yi Wa'iz (f. 8) and Thana'i. The former is
obviously the son of Husayn-I Wa'iz Kashifi, the author of the famous Anwar-I
Suhayli and Tafsir-I Husayni. His son, Ali, was a third-rate poet, with the
takhallus Safi; he died in 939/1532-3.[1] Thana'I's name inspires some doubts
as there is often a tendency to confound him with Sana'i. However, the
mention of his work, Iskandar-nama, is an additional indication. Thana'I really
wrote a mathnawi of that title, dedicated to Akbar, but the quotation here
cannot belong to a mathnawi, and the author himself calls it a qasida. Thus we
cannot build much on the name of Thana'i. There is, however, an allusion
which also points to the same period.

While discussing the dawrs, periods of the domination of the systems of
shari'at founded by various prophets, f. 13v, the author mentions the "dawr of
Muhammad, in which we are still living". As is known, such dawrs are
supposed to be of millennial duration each. If there were only about six
hundred years between Jesus and Muhammad, the authors pay little attention
to such a trifling discrepancy. Therefore we may, almost with full right, believe
that when the author of this pamphlet wrote it, the date was still under 1000
A.H. Hence it is quite possible that the treatise was compiled somewhere in
Khorasan in the middle, or towards the end of the sixteenth century.
This conjecture tallies well with what little we know of the history of the
Badakshani community. The whole, or a substantial part of it, followed the
branch of the Nizari Imams to which belonged Shah Tahir Dakkani who was
driven by the rise of the Safawids to India ca. 926/1520.[1] At the same time,
the main line, probably also apprehending troubles, apparently intensified
relations with their own followers in Badakshan. In all probability this evoked
the revival of literary activity of which there are indications. It was possibly
during this period that the work was compiled and brought by someone to
Badakshan in view of the outspokenness which it shows.

[1] See my note, "A Forgotten Branch of the Ismailis." J.R.A.S., 1938,p.61.