The Garden of Mystery: The Third


Gulshan-i rāz (The garden of mystery) is a 20th century text on the Nizari Ismaʻili belief system, written by Nadir Shah Kayani (circa 1897‒circa 1971), a leader of the Ismaʻili community in Afghanistan. The title of this work deliberately echoes a celebrated Ismaʻili book of verse of the same name composed by Mahmud Shabistari in 1317. Nadir Shah’s work is organized in 14 sections, each of which discusses a philosophical or religious topic such as nafs (the soul) or namaz (prayer). The first section, on tafakkur (the faculty of thought), is written as a commentary on a verse from the original Gulshan-i rāz. Kayani’s leadership of the Ismaʻili community coincided with the reign of Muhammad Shah (Aga Khan III, 1877–1957). Much remains to be discovered about the Ismaʻili community of Afghanistan during this period. What is known is that Nadir Shah belonged to a family of Ismaʻili leaders based in the Kayan valley in northern Afghanistan. He was a prolific author who wrote both poetry and philosophical texts. The present work is a manuscript, most likely produced in Afghanistan. The script is nastaʻliq, written in black ink, 11 lines to the page, on a light-cream paper. The “third” in the title probably refers to Shabistari’s original work as the first Gulshan-i rāz. The identity of the second Gulshan-i rāz is not clear; it could be a reference to the well-known commentary by Shams al-Din Lahiji, written in 1472‒73.

Last updated: September 30, 2016