What is certain about Sa’di’s life is that he flourished in the thirteenth century (7th century hijra), went to the Nezamiyeh College of Baghdad, travelled wide and lived long. It is clear from his love poetry that he was an ardent lover, and from much of his works that he was not a Sufi although he cherished the ideals of Sufism and admired the legendary classical Sufis. There is also a remarkable humanist tendency in his works two-and-a-half centuries before the emergence of Christian humanism in Europe. Not much else can be said about his life with the same degree of certainty.
In his introduction to Bustan, Sa’di writes that he had travelled far and wide and spent time with all manner of people. But none such as the people of Shiraz had he found in sincerity and generosity. Returning to his land, he thought that they normally brought sugar as gift from Egypt:
If I could not afford to bring sugar
I can offer words that are even sweeter1
Thus he offered Bustan as a homecoming present to his fellow citizens. It is clear from this introduction that Sa’di had spent many years seeing the world. In Golestan there are many tales and anecdotes which speak of the places the narrator had visited.