Jami’s biography of famous Sufis and saints


An imperial copy of Jami’s Nafaḥāt al-uns, copied for the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1604–1605.

Jami and the Nafaḥāt al-uns

The Nafaḥāt al-uns consists of 567 biographies of Muslim saints and mystics, dating from the 8th to the 15th century, followed by a section on Sufi poets and ending with accounts of female saints. The author was the celebrated Persian poet, scholar and Sufi, ʻAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī who died at Herat in 1492.

An imperial copy

This manuscript was copied at the Mughal capital Agra in 1604–1605 by the court scribe ʻAbd al-Raḥīm, known as ʻAnbarīn Qalam (‘Amber-pen’), for the emperor Akbar. It contains seventeen paintings out of an original thirty, many of them attributed to well-known artists of the imperial court.

What do we see here?

Displayed here we see a painting by the artist Madhu of the famous Sufi saint Najm al-Dīn Kubra, who had power over animals, giving a sparrow strength to defeat a hawk (f. 263r, digitised image 3). Another scene attributed to the artist Daulat depicts the 10th-century mystic Abu’l-Adyan, who is challenged by a Zoroastrian to sit on a mat over a fire without being harmed (f. 135v, digitised image 1). A painting possibly by the artist Govardhan shows the Sufi Abu Bakr al-Duqqi reading a book while watching his twin children, one asleep, the other sucking his toe (f. 142r, digitised image 2). Jalal al-Din Rumi visits the author Farid al-Din ʻAttar at Nishapur and is presented with a copy of his famous work the Asrarnāmah (f. 287r, digitised image 4), and in a painting by the artist Khem Karan, the founder of the Qadiriya order ʿAbd al-Qadir al-Jilani is depicted as being spared by the thieves who looted the caravan after he surrenders his money to them (f. 315r, digitised image 5).

View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.

Full title:
Nafaḥāt al-uns (‘Breaths of intimacy’)
1604–1605, India
"ʻAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī", Abd al-Raḥīm "ʻAnbarīn Qalam Akbarshāhī [calligrapher]"
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Or 1362

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Prayer in Islam

Article by:
Amjad M Hussain
Devotional texts, Islam

Prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam. This article by Dr Amjad Hussain explains common features of Islamic prayer, such as the call to prayer, daily timings and the direction of prayer. He also explores the linguistic, geographic and sectarian diversity of prayer in Islam.


Article by:
Alessandro Cancian

Dr Alessandro Cancian explores Sufism, Islamic mysticism. He charts its development as a historical phenomenon, its terminology and literature, as well as delving into the aim of the Sufi spiritual path and the importance of spiritual masters and the Qur’an.

Related collection items