A Mirror for Princes: The Qabus Nama


The Qābūs-nāma is described by its author as a guide intended to warn his favourite son and destined successor against the pitfalls on life's journey and to direct him in the path likely to lead to the greatest benefits. In essence it combines the functions of popular educator, manual of political conduct and text book of ethics, with expediency as its motto. The author declares at the outset that it contains the distilled essence of his own life's experience, set down when he was sixty-three years of age; if his advice does not receive the attention it deserves from the beloved son to whom it is addressed -- and the author is not sanguine that it will -- someone destined for felicity in this world and the next will doubtless be found to take advantage of it. In any event he himself will have fulfilled his duty as a father in proffering it. He gives the date of composition as the year 475 of the Hijra, corresponding to A.D. 1082.

Kai Kā'ūs ibn Iskandar ibn Qābūs ibn Washmgīr, the author, belonged to the princely dynasty of the Ziyārids, who held sway in the South Caspian provinces of Gīlān, Tabaristān (Māzandarān) and Jurjān (or Gurgān). The first member of the dynasty to gain power was a certain Mardāwīj ibn Ziyār, whose name is said to be an arabicised form of the Persian mard-āwīz, i.e. "The Man-hanger". The biographer Yāqūt (A.D. 1179-1229), a Greek by birth, who in his childhood was sold as slave to a Baghdad merchant, tells how Mardāwūj, on attaining to the kingship, had a throne of pure gold constructed for himself, upon which he seated himself with the declaration that he was another King Solomon and that his Turkish slaves, of whom he had . . .


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