ABU MU'IN NASIR, the son of Khusrau, was born at a village in the neighbourhood of Balkh in the year 1003 A.D. (394 A.H.), and claimed to be descended, in the eighth degree, from Imam Ali ar Riza, whose tomb, at the present day is shown in the Shrine at Mash-had.
During the earlier years of his life, Nasir-i-Khusrau, it would appear, travelled through the northern provinces of India, and visited Multan, possibly in the service of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, or of his son, Mas'ud; for he alludes in one of his works to having attended the court of these princes. For a number of years, however, subsequent to these early travels, Nasir-i-Khusrau stayed at home, and occupied a post of some importance in the administration of Ja'afar, or Jughri Beg--elder brother of the celebrated Tughrul Beg, founder of the Saljuki dynasty--who was then governor of Khurasan.
From his own confession, Nasir-i-Khusrau had all his life been somewhat addicted to the pleasures of the wine-cup. One night, however, as he was travelling on a tour of inspection, connected with the affairs of his office, in the provinces lying between Balkh and Marv, there appeared to him in his sleep the vision of a holy personage,. who admonished him to repent of his iniquities while there was yet time; and, at his question, indicated the pilgrimage to Mecca as the path most likely to conduce to his spiritual regeneration. This was in the year 1045 A.D. (437 A.H.), when Nasir was aged forty-two. The vision made such an impression on his mind that he started immediately for Marv, made known his desire to set out on the pilgrimage, and after giving in his accounts, obtained his dismissal from the Beg's service. A few months later, in the spring of 1046, Nasir--accompanied by his brother, and attended by a young Indian slave--set out from Marv on his pilgrimage to the Holy Cities.
In the middle of the eleventh century A.D., the power of the Fatimite Khalifs at Cairo was at its height. Mustansir billah was master of all the land of Egypt, as well as westward along the north African coast, and in Sicily; while his lieutenants governed not only the Hijjaz, with the two Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina, but also the greater part of Syria and Palestine, with the third Holy City of Jerusalem.
At Baghdad the Abbaside Khalif ruled, but the government was entirely in the hands of the Buyide princes, whose authority was recognised throughout Mesopotamia and Southern Persia. In Khurasan and the East, the Saljuk power was on the rise. Tughrul Beg had already defeated the Sultan of Ghuzni, and was now turning his arms against the Bani Marwan, and other princes who held semi-independent state in the north-western provinces of Persia, and in Upper Mesopotamia.
Such, then, in brief outline, was the condition of things political when our Pilgrim set out on his journey west. From Marv, going by the highroad through Sarakhs, he reached Nishapur, at that time the seat of Tughrul Beg's government, and after a short stay set forth again, this time in company with the Sultan's secretary, who had business in the western provinces of the Saljuk Empire. They passed through Kumis to Damghan, and thence skirting the southern spurs of the great mountain-chain of the Elburz, and with the desert lying on the left hand, came to Ray (Rhages), the ruins of which may yet be seen a few miles south of the modern Tehran. From Ray the route lay still along the mountain-skirts to Kasvin, and thence crossing to Shemiran, the capital of the Tarim province, they went on to the great city of Tabriz, in Azerbaijan, the ancient Media. Toward the end of September, after spending some three weeks in the capital of Azerbaijan, Nasir set out again, and, travelling along the southern shore of the Van Lake, reacbed Bitlis, in Armenia, having experienced some trouble in the mountain passes on account of the heavy falls of snow that had recently occurred. From Bitlis they journeyed on, passing through the pine forests that clothe the mountain-slopes in these parts, and by the last days of November reached Miyafarikin, the chief town of the province of Diyar Bakr. Nine leagues from Miyafarikin lay the fortress of Amid, by which our Pilgrim went and thence took the caravan route across the fertile plains of Mesopotamia to Harran, the chief town. of Diyar Modhar, which was reached in the last days of December, 1016. A day's journey from Harran brought him to Saruj, and two days later, in the first days of January, 1047 A.D., he crossed the Euphrates to enter the province of Syria. The account Nasir-i-Khusrau gives of his travels through Syria and Palestine is translated in full in the following pages. He remained four months in Syria and Palestine, and in the first days of May left Jerusalem for Mecca to be present at the Arafat ceremonies. Two months later, however, by the end of the first week of July, he was back again in Jerusalem, and shortly after set out by the land route for Egypt, arriving there in the first week of August, 1047. Nasir-i-Khusrau's description of Egypt under the Fatimite Khalif, Al Mustansir, forms one of the most interesting sections of his work, but space forbids our entering into details. He stayed in Egypt eight months on his first visit, and in the middle of April, 1048, set out from Cairo at the season of the pilgrimage, and going down the Red Sea by boat, landed at Al Jar, whence, after four days' march, he reached Medina. Being pressed for time, he only halted here a couple of days, and then took the road south to Mecca, where he accomplished the pilgrim rites, and returned with least possible delay to Egypt, since the whole of the Hijjaz was at this time suffering from the scourge of pestilence and famine. Two years later, in April, 1050, he finally left Egypt on his return journey to Persia, and, going up the Nile to Asiut, took the road to Aidhab, where he stayed for three months before crossing the Red Sea to Jiddah: This time he journeyed so leisurely that it was only in September that he once more reached Mecca. His description of this city is detailed and most interesting, and he took part a second time in the pilgrim rites, sojourning there till May, 1051, when he set out across the great desert of Arabia for Lahsa, on the Persian Gulf. He was, however, detained during four months at Falaj, in Yamamah, and thence, passing hurriedly through Lahsa, went on to Basrah, which was reached in December, 1051. Here Nasir-i.Khusrau remained a couple of months to repose after the fatigues of his desert journey, and in the latter days of February, 1052, took ship for Mahruban, off the coast of Fars. Our Pilgrim's route, from the coast up to Isfahan, lay through Errajan and the mountain passes of Western Fars. Setting out from Ispahan (sic. [web editor]), in the last days of June, Nasir-i-Khusrau, despite the heat and the lack of water, took the desert route by Nain, Tabus, Tun, and Kain, reaching Sarakhs by the 1st of October, and Marv on the 15th of the same month.
Without stopping more than a couple of days at Marv, Nasir-i-Khusraw, accompanied by the brother who, it would appear, had kept with him during all the seven long years of his pilgrimage, set out hurriedly for Balkh, for he had heard that his third brother, Khajih 'Abd ul Jalil, of whom he had had no news during all these years, was now living there in the service of Jughri Beg, the Amir of Khurasan.
'It was Saturday, the 26th day of Jumadi al Akhir, of the year 444 (that is, the 23rd of October, 1052), that we three brothers found ourselves once again united, and rejoiced in the sight each of the other. Oft had we abandoned all hope, and from manifold dangers experienced had despaired of life. But now we gave thanks to God--be He praised and glorified!--for all that He had brought to pass; and that same day we all once again entered Balkh together.'
So ends the account of Nasir-i-Khusrau's pilgrimage. But little is really known of his subsequent history, and we need not here enter into the discussion of whether or no the erotic and pantheistic poetry that was current under his name was actually written by him, or by some different person bearing somewhat the same name.
The MSS. used by me for this translation are two, both in the British Museum. Add. 18,418 is a small and beautifully written MS. in a neat Shikastah handwriting, which, however, is not very easy to read on account of the lack of the diacritical points. This MS. was copied in A.D. 1691 (Ramadan, A.H. 1102). Or. 1991, the other MS., is only a very meagre epitome of the foregoing, taken from a copy in the library of Nawwab Ziya ad Din Khan, of Dehli; it has proved, however, useful for discovering the true reading of some of the proper names. The Persian text of the whole work, with a French translation, was published some years ago by the learned Orientalist, M. Ch. Schefer.['Sefer Nameh: Relation du Voyage de Nassiri Khosrau,' publie, traduit et annote par Ch. Schefer, Membre de l'Institut,' etc. Paris, 1881. An English translation of our Pilgrim's description of Jerusalem was published in Vol. vi., N.S., p. 142, of the J. R. A. S. For archaeological purposes, however, this translation is almost useless.]
I make no apology for having used his text (printed from one or two other: MSS.) for the emendation of that afforded by the British Museum copies. The English translation now published is my own, and differs in many important points from his French version. In translating into a Western tongue the description of buildings and places given us by a mediaeval and Oriental pilgrim, a knowledge of the language merely does not suffice, and the translator has need, if possible, to be intimately acquainted with the buildings and places described, in order, from his personal recollections, now and again to add (in brackets) the few words of explanation needful to make the ancient description comprehensible. Further, I have thought it well to add such notes as were sufficient to identify the various proper names, and call attention to matters of more particular importance.
A few words may be said, in conclusion, regarding the measures and weights used by the Pilgrim in his Diary. The day's march he estimates at so many Farsakhs, which is the Greek Parasang, and is a distance varying between three and four miles (according to the road and the country, being what a caravan. horse will walk in the hour. I have translated Farsakh by `league,' and as the day`s march is always reckoned by hours, this term is sufficiently exact for practical purposes. In his measurements of buildings our Pilgrim makes use of two units of length: namely, Gez and Arsh. The latter is the equivalent of the Arabic Dhira`, the cubit; while the Gez is generally reckoned to be longer than the cubit, and is given in the dictionaries as roughly equivalent to the English 'yard.' A careful comparison of the many passages in which our Pilgrim has used these terms has, however, shown me that with him they are synonymous terms, corresponding to a measure of somewhat under two English feet. I have been careful in my translation to keep to the word `cubit' for the Persian Arsh, while Gez is always rendered by our etymologically synonymous word `ell.' The only measure of weight used is the Mann, which is equivalent to about 3 1/2 lb. avoirdupois, and one hundred of them go to the Kharwar or Ass-load. The coin in which the Pilgrim notes the price of various articles he comes across is the Maghribi, or Fatimite gold Dinar, struck in Egypt, and current in all the western Muslim lands; its value may be roughly estimated at ten shillings.
In conclusion, I would express my grateful thanks to Col. Sir C. Wilson for the many valuable suggestions he has sent me, with permission to use them in the notes to the present Pilgrim. In Appendix C will be found a long note by him on the identification of the Gates of the Haram Area, in conformity with which I have written the notes to my translation.
G. LE S.
QC), CHARLES STREET, 'MAYFAIR, June, 1888.