Saadi Shirazi was a Persian poet and prose writer from the city of Shiraz in the 13th century. Saadi was one of the greatest poets of the classical literary tradition. He was known as “Master of Speech” among Persian scholars and recognized for the depth of his social and moral thoughts. His deep understanding of the world transcends time and space and has influenced humans of all time in places.

Saadi appears to have received his early education from his father, who also instilled in him lifelong tolerance values. During adolescence Saadi left for Baghdad to continue his education at the Nizamiyyah school in Baghdad.

After completing his studies, Saadi spent 30 years traveling throughout Persia but then returned to Shiraz as a well-respected poet. Upon his return Saadi wrote and published his most famous works, Gulistan (The Rose Garden) and Bustan (The Orchard).

Bustan has been ranked as one of the 100 greatest books of all time. In his Bustan Saadi uses the mundane world as a springboard to propel himself beyond the earthly realms. The images in Bustan are delicate in nature and soothing.

In the Gulistan Saadi lowers the spiritual to touch the heart of his fellow wayfarers. The  poem Bani Adam from Gulistan appears on a carpet which was installed in a meeting room at the United Nations building in New York in 2005.

“Bani Adam” –  from the Gulistan

“The children of Adam are the members of each other,
Who are in their creation from the same essence.
When day and age hurt one of these members,
Other members will be left no serenity.
If you are unsympathetic to the misery of others,
It is not right that they should call you a human being.”

In addition to the Bustan and Gulistan, Saadi also wrote four books of love poems (ghazals), and number of longer mono-rhyme poems (qasidas) in both Persian and Arabic. There are also quatrains and short pieces, and some lesser works in prose and poetry.

Saadi’s prose style, described as “simple but impossible to imitate” flows quite naturally and effortlessly. Its simplicity, however, is grounded in a semantic web consisting of synonymy, homophony, and oxymoron buttressed by internal rhythm and external rhyme.

The works of Saadi have been revered and referenced in more modern times.

  • The French physicist Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot’s third given name is from Saadi’s name. It was chosen by his father, Lazare Carnot, because of his great interest in Saadi and his poems.
  • François-Marie Arouet )known by his pen name M. de Voltaire)  a French Enlightenment writer, philosopher satirist, and historian was thrilled with his works, especially Gulistan. Voltaire enjoyed being called “Saadi” as a nickname among his friends.
  • In his book “Parable on Persecution” Benjamin Franklin quotes one of Saadi’s parables from Bustan.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, who read Saadi only in translation, compared his writing to the Bible in terms of its wisdom and the beauty of its narrative.
  • In 1976, a crater on Mercury was named in his honor.
  • President Barack Obama quoted the first two lines of this poem in his New Year’s greeting to the people of Iran on March 20, 2009, “But let us remember the words that were written by the poet Saadi, so many years ago: ‘The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence.”

Together with Rumi and Hafez, he is considered one of the three greatest ghazal-writers of Persian poetry. Saadi is remembered as a panegyrist, lyricist, and most notably, the author of odes portraying human experience.

April 21st is recognized as Saadi Shirazi’s commemoration day. Each year, people from around the world gather at Saadi’s tomb to honor his life and work.