Sheikh Muslihu'd-Din, known as Saadi, was descended from Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed. Saadi's father apparently died when he was a boy. Although Saadi was born and died in Shiraz, Iran, during his life he traveled extensively. He is said to have traveled for thirty years throughout the Islamic world. Iran has filled the centuries with some of the world's finest poets, but Iranians consider Saadi to be one of the greatest.
Historians often divide his life into three parts. His first twenty-five years were spent studying in various countries, going to university at Baghdad. During the next thirty years he traveled widely, east to India and as far west as Syria. He made his pilgrimage to Mecca fourteen times. Finally, Saadi returned to Shiraz where he devoted himself to writing and to teaching.
Saadi was a disciple of the Sufi master Sheikh Shahabud-Din Sahrawardi.
Saadi's two best known works are the Bustan (The Garden), composed entirely in verse, and the Gulistan (The Rose Garden), in both prose and verse. He was particularly known for the wry wit he injected into his poems. Saadi is probably the first Persian poet to have been translated into European languages. A German version of the Gulistan appeared in 1654. Saadi's tomb can be seen in the town of Shiraz. Lines from Saadi's poems are still commonly used in conversations by Iranians today.
How could I ever thank my friend?
How could I ever thank my Friend?
No thanks could ever begin to be worthy.
Every hair of my body is a gift from Him;
How could I thank Him for each hair?
Praise that lavish Lord forever
Who from nothing conjures all living beings!
Who could ever describe His goodness?
His infinite glory lays all praise waste.
Look, He has graced you a robe of splendor
From childhood's first cries to old age!
He made you pure in His own image; stay pure.
It is horrible to die blackened by sin.
Never let dust settle on your mirror's shining;
Let it once grow dull and it will never polish.
When you work in the world to earn your living
Do not, for one moment, rely on your own strength.
Self-worshiper, don't you understand anything yet?
It is God alone that gives your arms their power.
If, by your striving, you achieve something good,
Don't claim the credit all for yourself;
It is fate that decides who wins and who loses
And all success streams only from the grace of God.
In this world you never stand by your own strength;
It is the Invisible that sustains you every moment.
All Adam's race are members of one frame
All Adam's race are members of one frame;
Since all, at first, from the same essence came.
When by hard fortune one limb is oppressed,
The other members lose their wonted rest:
If thou feels not for others' misery,
A son of Adam is no name for thee.
Have no doubts because of trouble nor be thou discomfited
Have no doubts because of trouble nor be thou discomfited;
For the water of life's fountain springth from a gloomy bed.
Ah! ye brothers of misfortune! be not ye with grief oppressed,
Many are the secret mercies which with the All-bounteous rest.
If one His praise of me would learn
If one His praise of me would learn,
What of the traceless can the tongueless tell?
Lovers are killed by those they love so well;
No voices from the slain return.
The world, my brother! will abide with none
The world, my brother! will abide with none,
By the world's Maker let thy heart be won.
Rely not, nor repose on this world's gain,
For many a son like thee she has reared and slain.
What matters, when the spirit seeks to fly,
If on a throne or on bare earth we die?
Sung poem in Persian