SANAI, the common name of ABULMAJD MAPUD B. ADAM, the earliest among the great Sufic poets of Persia, was a native of Ghazni (in Afghanistan). He flourished in the reigns of the Ghaznevid sultans Ibrahim (1050-1099, 451-492 A.H.), his son Mas'ud (1099-1114), and his grandson Bahrain (1118-1152). Persian authorities are greatly at variance as to the dates of the poet's birth and death. At any rate, he must have been born in the beginning of the second half of the 11th century and have died between 1131 and 1150 (525 and 545 A.H.). He composed chiefly qa$idas in honour of his sovereign Ibrahim and the great men of the realm, but the ridicule of a half-mad jester is said to have caused him to abandon the career of a court panegyrist and to devote his poetical abilities to higher subjects. For forty years he led a life of retirement and poverty, and, although Bahrain offered him a high position at court and his own sister in marriage, he remained faithful to his austere and solitary life. But, partly to show his gratitude to the king, partly to leave a lasting monument of his genius behind him, he began to write his great double-rhymed poem on ethics and religious life, which served as model to the masterpieces of Farid-uddin ' Attar and Jelal ud-din Rumi, the Ifadiqat ul-haqlqat, or " Garden of Truth " (also called Alkitab alfakhri), in ten cantos. This poem deals with such topics as : the unity of the Godhead, the divine word, the excellence of the prophet, reason, knowledge and faith, love, the soul, worldly occupation and inattention to higher duties, stars and spheres and their symbolic lore, friends and foes, separation from the world. One of Sana'i's earliest disciples, Mahommed b. 'All Raqqam, generally known as 'All al-Raffa, who wrote a preface to this work, assigns to its composition the date 1131 (525 A.H.), and states besides that the poet died immediately after the completion of his task. Now, Sana*! cannot possibly have died in 1131, as another of his mathnawis, the Tariq-i-tahqiq, or " Path to the Verification of Truth," was composed, according to a chronogram in its last verses, in 1134 (528 A.H.), nor even in 1140, if he really wrote, as the Atashkada says, an elegy on the death of Amir Mu'izzi; for this court-poet of Sultan Sinjar h'ved till 1147 or 1148 (542 A.H.). It seems, therefore, that Taqi Kashi is right in fixing Sana'i's death in 1150 (545 A.H.), the more so as 'Ali al-Raffa himself distinctly says in his preface that the poet breathed his last on the nth of Sha'ban, " which was a Sunday," and it is only in 1 1 50 that this day happened to be the first of the week. Sana"! left, besides the ftadlqah and the Tariq-i-tahqiq, several other ufic mathnawis of similar purport: for instance, the Sair uTibdd ila'lma'ad, or " Man's Journey towards the Other World " (also called Kunuz-urrumuz, " The Treasures of Mysteries "); the 'Ishqndma,OT " Book of Love "; the 'Aqlnama 01 " Book of Intellect "; the Kdrndma, or " Record of Stirring Deeds," etc.; and an extensive diwan or collection of lyrical poetry. His tomb, called the " Mecca " of Ghazni, is still visited by numerous pilgrims.
See Abdullatif al-'Abbasi's commentary (completed 1632 and preserved in a somewhat abridged form in several copies of the India Office Library); on the poet's life and works, Ouseley, Biogr. Notices, 184-187; Rieu's and Flugel's Catalogues, etc.; E. G. Browne, Literary History of Persia (1906), ii. 317-322; H. Eth6 in W. Geiger's Grundriss der iranischen Philologie, ii. 282-284.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)