Book of Wisdom


Khodzha Akhmed Iassavi (died 1166) was a philosopher, Sufi mystic, and the earliest known poet to write in a Turkic dialect. He was born in the city of Isfijab (present-day Sayram, in Kazakhstan) but lived most of his life in Turkestan (also in southern Kazakhstan). He was a student of Arslan Baba, a well-known preacher of Islam. At a time when Farsi dominated literature and public life, Khodzha Akhmed Iassavi wrote in his native Old Turkic (Chagatai) language. Iassavi’s Dīvān-i ikmet (Book of wisdom) is not just a religious relic of Sufi literature; it is also one of the oldest written works in the Turkic language. Iassavi begins with many elements of the shamanistic songs of Turkic nomads, then endows his poems, like all Sufi poetry, with many-layered meanings from the simple to the esoteric and infuses them with the spirit of Islam. Experts have suggested that the Divan has links to both the Chinese-influenced Karakhanid literary tradition and to the literature of the Kypchaks of the Eurasian steppe. Dīvān-i ikmet was long handed down by word of mouth. The printed edition presented here was published in 1904 by the Lithographic Printing House of the Kazan Imperial University. Kazan University was founded by Tsar Alexander I in 1804 and became the premier center for oriental studies in the Russian Empire.

Last updated: December 12, 2013