Kingship and Religion in a Mediaeval F√ɬľrstenspiegel

Nizami ‛Aruzi’s discussion on kingship and religion is characterized by a combination of ancient ethical and political elements, mainly of Persian origin, with materials drawn from the Islamic tradition. This type of intellectual endeavour is not unique to him, since the Persian conception of kingship and religion as comparable counterparts was repeatedly expressed in the mediaeval mirror-for-princes genre. It pervaded the major works closest to the Chahar Maqala, such as the Qabusnama and the Siyasatnama, and is an explicit testimony not only to the survival of Sasanid political culture in mediaeval times but also to the general Persian cultural renaissance of that period. Nizami ‛Aruzi represents a literary tradition which attempted to assimilate, although superficially, Islamic notions of political authority to the Sasanid model of good government. He freely adopts abstract concepts as well as anecdotal material drawn from both sources to substantiate and strengthen his arguments. Although he initially claims that religion is superior to kingship, in accordance with his interpretation of the Qur‛anic verse (4:52) on obedience, he concludes that kingship is an institution as important as (if not more important than) the prophetic function. In his view, religion depends on kingship since the ruler guarantees political order and stability.
In his attempt to establish a likeness between kingship and religion, Nizami ‛Aruzi’s pre-eminent orientation is towards Iranian political ideals. His ranking of prophets, caliphs, and kings in a divinely ordained hierarchy is only superficially synthesized with Persian political and ethical concepts. Since his emphasis is on the perfect state of parity and social harmony between kingship and religion, this incontrovertible ranking may suggest their extreme proximity and closeness. The king does not, for instance, have to meet any obligations in his dealings with the caliph, and the religious class (ʽulama) is completely omitted from Nizami ‛Aruzi’s discussion. The Chahar Maqala is fairly free from religious elaboration and stands in sharp contrast to other mirrors-for-princes, such as the Nasihat al-Muluk and the Bahr al-Fava’id, in its resolutely profane ethos and tone. In my view, this aspect of his discourse must be considered against the background of the contemporary situation and the growing influence of the ʽulama at the expense of the secretary class (dabiran) in the Saljuq period. Finally, it is also essential to take into account the religious constraints and restrictions that mediaeval authors had to conform to, which perhaps made Nizami ‛Aruzi appear a more genuine Muslim for the sake of appearances.


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Sa'di (1200-talet)