Authorship, Ownership and Rewriting. Va'iz Kashifi and Abu'l-Fazl B. Mubarak within the Hereditary Line of Kalila wa-Dimna Authors.

26 Jun 2018

In Tīmūrid Herāt, during the last decade of the fifteenth century, the elderly and renowned Vāʿiz Kāshifī (d. 910 AH/ 1504-05 CE) was at the zenith of a full career as judge and preacher, involved in Ṣūfism and celebrated as the author of multifarious works. This is when he produced a new version of the Kitāb-i Kalīla wa Dimna (henceforth KD). He acknowledges the source of his rewriting: a Persian twelfth-century version by Naṣr Allāh Munshī (d. ca. 582 AH/1187 CE), itself a translation of the famous and elusive mid-eighth-century Arabic KD by Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ (d. 140 AH/757 CE). Kāshifī composed his KD version in an arresting style and baptised it Anvār-i Suhaylī (the Lights of Canopus, henceforth AS), a title intriguing for the connotations it holds, as we shall examine below. Almost a hundred years later, Abū’l-Fazl (d. 1011 AH/1602 CE), vizier to the Mughal Akbar (r. 963-1013AH/1556-1605 AD) and statesman in his own right, was instructed to produce the ‘Iyār-i Dānish, (the Touchstone of Knowledge, henceforth ID). Abū’l Fazl’s preface, which Rieu considered “very diffuse,” explains that the work answers to a specific request by Akbar “to re-write in plain and easy language the version of Husain Vā‘iẓ.” He also informs us that he restored in his work the preliminary chapters omitted in the latter. ID was completed in the 33rd year of the reign of Akbar, or 996 AH/1588 AD. Neither the AS nor the ID had so far received an in-depth literary analysis. My 2016 monograph on the AS reintroduces this work into the field, while the ID still awaits detailed study; earlier mentions of this latter text are cursory and provide no useful information for the present essay.