This paper seeks to demonstrate that Nūr al-Dīn ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Jāmī’s (d. 1492) Salāmān va Absāl, an allegorical Persian romance about an incestuous relationship between a youth and his wet-nurse, is actually a sophisticated work of political advice for a medieval Islamic ruler. The work, which was dedicated to Sulṭān Ya‘qūb Beg (d. 1490), leader of the Turkmen Āq Qoyūnlū empire in western Iran in the fifteenth century contains two interrelated levels of meaning. First, Salāmān va Absāl functions as a book of advice on kingship. In order to substantiate this claim, the paper highlights key sections of Salāmān va Absāl which echo the political advice contained in such classic Perso-Islamic mirrors for princes as Qābūs-nāma, Siyar al-mulūk, Naṣīḥat al-mulūk, Akhlāq-i Nāṣirī, and Akhlāq-i Jalālī. Passages reflecting such perennial Iranian themes as justice (‘adl or ‘adālat), the idea that religion and kingship (dīn and daulat) are twin brothers and thus interdependent, and the indispensability of a good vazīr, will be offered to suggest that Jāmī’s intention was to impart wisdom about kingship and statecraft to his Āq Qoyūnlū addressee. In support of this claim, the paper will reference other ethico-didactic poetry Jāmī addressed to rulers and posit that he was a leading purveyor of Perso-Islamic wisdom in the late fifteenth century.
Second, Salāmān va Absāl serves as a guidebook for adepts of Sufi mysticism. In order to substantiate this claim, the symbolism of the tale, specifically its characters, who represent the rational soul and carnal pleasures, and thus an aspirant who repents (tauba) from his sins and annihilates his ego-self (nafs), will be presented as evidence of Salāmān va Absāl’s mystical significance. A case will then be made to suggest that the political and mystical levels of meaning in Salāmān va Absāl converge at the end of the tale and that Jāmī’s discussion of the perfect ruler, and thus the true vicegerent (khalīfat) or shadow of God (ẓill Allāh), is made in connection with the Sufi conception of the Perfect Man (insān-i kāmil). The paper therefore concludes that Salāmān va Absāl, which is typically regarded as one of Jāmī’s lesser achievements, is in fact a complex work of political and spiritual advice chiefly concerned with depicting allegorically the path by which a medieval Islamic ruler, i.e., Ya‘qūb, could become a Sufi saint and therefore a Sufi-king.