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Ali Sher Navai

Mir Ali Sher Navai (also spelled Nevai) (Uzbek: Alisher Navoiy also known as Nizamidin Alsher Nawai - (9 February 1441 – 3 January 1501) was a Central Asian Turkic politician, mystic, linguist, painter, and poet. He was the greatest representative of Chagatai language (old Uzbek) literature. He significantly contributed to the development of the Uzbek language and is widely considered to be the founder of Uzbek literature.

Ali Shir Navai was born and lived in Herat. He is generally known by his pen name Navai- (meaning "melodic" or "melody maker"). Because of his distinguished Chagatai language poetry, he is considered by many throughout the Turkic-speaking world to be the founder of early Turkic literature. Many places and institutions in Uzbekistan and other Turkic countries are named after Ali Shir Navai. Navoiy Province, the city of Navoiy, the National Library of Uzbekistan named after Alisher Navoiy, the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre, and Navoiy Airport — all are named after him. Many of Navai's ghazals have become part of Uyghur 12 Muqam and popular Uzbek folk songs and, especially by Sherali Jorayev, and his works have been staged as plays by Uzbek playwrights.


Mir Ali Sher Navai was born in 1441 in Herat, which is now in northwestern Afghanistan. During Mir Ali Shir's lifetime, Herat was the capital of the Timurid Empire and became one of the leading cultural and intellectual centers in the Muslim world. Ali Shir belonged to the Chagatai amir (or Mir in Persian) class of the Timurid elite. His father, Ghiya-th ud-Din Kichkina ("the Little"), served as a high-ranking officer in the palace of Shahrukh Mirza, the ruler of Khorasan. Although all applications of modern Central Asian ethnonyms to people of Navai's time are anachronistic, some sources regard Mir Ali Shir as an ethnic Uzbek. Maria Subtelny has proposed that Ali Shir Nava'i was a descendant of Bakhshi scribes, which has led some sources to call Nava'i "Uyghur", but this view is refuted by Kazuyuki Kubo.

Ali Shir's mother served as a princes' governess in the palace. His father served as governor of Sabzawar at one time. He died while Mir Ali Sher was young, and the ruler of Khorasan, Babur Ibn-Baysunkur, adopted guardianship of the young man.

Mir Ali Sher was a schoolmate of Husayn Bayqarah, who would later become the sultan of Khorasan. Ali Sher's family was forced to flee Herat in 1447 after the death of Shahrukh created an unstable political situation. His family returned to Khurasan after order was restored in the 1450s. In 1456 Ali Sher and Bayqarah went to Mashhad with Ibn-Baysunkur. The following year Ibn-Baysunkur died and Ali Sher Bayqarah parted ways. While Bayqarah tried to establish political power, Ali Sher pursued his studies in Mashhad, Herat, and Samarkand. After the death of Abu Said in 1468, Husayn Bayqarah seized power in Herat. As a result Ali Sher left Samarkand to join his service. Bayqarah ruled Khurasan almost uninterruptedly for forty years. Ali Sher remained in the service of Bayqarah until his death on 3 January 1501. He was buried in Herat.

Ali Sher Navai - led an ascetic lifestyle, never marrying or having concubines or children.


Mir Ali Sher served as a public administrator and adviser to his sultan, Husayn Bayqarah. He was also a builder who is reported to have founded, restored, or endowed some 370 mosques, madrasas, libraries, hospitals, caravanserais, and other educational, pious, and charitable institutions in Khorasan. In Herat, he was responsible for 40 caravanserais, 17 mosques, 10 mansions, 9 bathhouses, 9 bridges, and 20 pools.

Among his most famous constructions were the mausoleum of the 13th-century mystical poet, Farid al-Din Attar, in Nishapur (northeastern Iran) and the Khalasiya madrasa in Herat. He was one of the instrumental contributors to the architecture of Herat, which became, in Rene' Grousset's words, "the Florence of what has justly been called the Timurid Renaissance". Moreover, he was a promoter and patron of scholarship and arts and letters, a musician, a composer, a calligrapher, a painter and sculptor, and such a celebrated writer that Bernard Lewis, the distinguished English historian of Islam, called him "the Chaucer of the Turks"

Literary works

Under the pen name Navai, Mir Ali Sher was among the key writers who revolutionized the literary use of the Turkic languages. Navai - himself wrote primarily in the Chagatai language and produced 30 works over a period of 30 years, during which Chagatai became accepted as a prestigious and well-respected literary language. Navai also wrote in Persian (under the pen name Fani), and to a much lesser degree in Arabic and Hindi.

Navai's best-known poems are found in his four divans, or poetry collections, which total roughly 50,000 verses. Each part of the work corresponds to a different period of a person's life:

To help other Turkic poets he wrote technical works such as Mizan al-Awzan ("The Measure of Meters"), and a detailed treatise on poetical meters. He also crafted the monumental Majalis al-Nafais ("Assemblies of Distinguished Men"), a collection of over 450 biographical sketches of mostly contemporary poets that is a gold mine of information for modern historians of Timurid culture.

Navai's other important works include the Khamsa (quintuple), which is composed of five epic poems and an imitation of Nizami Ganjavi's Khamsa:

He also wrote Lison ut-Tayr ("Language of Birds", following Attar's Manteq-ol-tayr or Speeches of Birds), in which he expressed his philosophical views and Sufi ideas. He translated Jami's Nafahat-ol-ons to Chagatai Turkic and called it Nasayim-ul-muhabbat. Hi Besh Hayrat (Five Wonders) also gives an in-depth look at his views on religion and Sufism. His book of Persian poetry contains 6000 lines (beit).

Navai's last work, Muhakamat al-Lughatayn ("The Trial of the Two Languages") is a comparison of Turkic and Persion and was completed in December 1499. He believed that the Turkic language was superior to Persian for literary purposes, and defended this belief in his work. Nava'i repeatedly emphasized his belief in the richness, precision and malleability of Turkic vocabulary as opposed to Persian. The Muhakamat acted as the author's last will and testament.

List of Works

Below is a list of Ali Sher Navai's works compiled by Suima Ganieva, a senior professor at the Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies.

Hamsa - The common name of five dastans (epic poem) by Navoi written in 1483-85. With this work Navoi established a precedent for quality literature in Chagatay. The dastans are:

a. "Hayrat ul-Abror", 64 chapters, 3988 couplets
b. "Farhad wa Shirin", 59 chapters, 5782 couplets, written in 1484
c. "Layli wa Majnun", 36 chapters, 3622 couplets
d. "Sab`ai Sayyor", 37 chapters, 8008 couplets, written in 1485
e. "Saddi Iskandari", 83 chapters, 7215 couplets, written in 1485

Ashraf, a poet from Khirat (died in 1450-51) wrote a "Hamsa" as well. His work included the dastans - "Minhaj ul-Abror", "Haft avrang", "Riyaz ul-oshiqin", "Ishqnama". The last dastan about Iskandar hadn't been completed.

Hamsat ul-Mutaxayyirin - Alisher Navoi's work about Abdurahmon Jomi written in 1494. It contains an introduction, three parts and a conclusion. In the introduction Jomi's genealogy, his birth, upbringing, studies, his becoming a scientist and poet is explained. The first part tells about Jomi's spiritual world, and his talks concerning creative works; the second part reveals the nearness between Navoi and Jomi in creative colloborations, talks and invitations to works relating to Sufism. The conclusion sheds light on Jomi's death. It includes Navoi's eulogy written in Persian that consists of seven sections of ten lines.

Gharoyib us-Sighar - The first diwan (complete collection of poems) of "Hazoin ul-Maoniy" by Navoi. It consists of 650 ghazals, one mustazod, three muhammas, one musaddas, one tarje`band, one masnaviy, 50 qit`as, 133 ruba'is. 840 poems - 5718,5 couplets (11.437 misra). It was compiled 1492-1498.

Hayrat ul-Abror - The first dastan (epic poem) of "Hamsa" by Navoi. It's divided into 64 chapters, and has 3988 couplets. Written in 1483.

Influence of Navai

Navai had a great influence in areas as distant as India to the east and the Ottoman Empire to the west.

Babur (1483-1530), founder of the Mughal Empire in India, wrote one of the first autobiographies among Islamic rulers, the epic "Baburnama". He was influenced heavily by Navai and even includes his respect for the writer in this famous book.

The Ottomans were highly conscious of their Central Asian heritage; Suleyman the Magnificent was impressed by Navai and had the Divani Nevai, Khamsa and Muhakamat added to his personal library.

The renowned Azerbaijani poet Fuzuli, who wrote under the auspices of both the Safavid and Ottoman empires, was heavily influenced by the style of Navai.

Further influence can be found in Kazan of Russia, Turkistan/Central Asia, modern day Turkey and all other areas which Turkic speakers inhabit.

He is considered the national poet of Uzbekistan in Uzbek culture.

Navai is one of the most beloved poets in the Turkic-speaking world. His mastery of the Chagatai language was such that that it became known as "the language of "Navai".