About this text
‘Urfi Shirāzi (1555-1591) was the son of a prominent provincial administrator from Shiraz, whose work with customary law (ʿurf) led to his son’s choice of ʿUrfi as his penname (taḵalluṣ). The young poet soon became a leading figure in the literary life of Shiraz, but like many of his contemporaries, ʿUrfi was drawn to India due to the prospect of more lavish patronage in the Mughal courts. Arriving in the Deccan (c.1584), ʿUrfi joined the literary salons of Ahmadnagar, where his arrogance made him unpopular; so he moved on to the imperial capital of Fathepur Sikri. He befriended Faiżi, the leading poet at Akbar’s court, and accompanied him on the campaign to Punjab in 1585. Around 1589, ʿUrfi gained patronage from the Mughal statesman Mirzā ʿAbd-ul-Rahim Khān-e Khānān, who introduced him into the service of Akbar, and his son Salim (Jahāngir). ʿUrfi accompanied Akbar on his retreat to Kashmir in 1588. He died of dysentery in Lahore in 1591. The contemporary historian ʿAbd-ul-Qādir Badāʾuni reported that “there is no street or bazaar where booksellers do not stand with copies of the divāns of ʿUrfi... prominently on display”, and the poet’s contemporary popularity is also suggested by the existence of more than 100 extant manuscripts of his works.