Literary Legacy of Medieval Persia

Literary Legacy of Medieval Persia... 22/09/2016 History

Keywords:#Aashiq_ul_Islam, #Asia, #Central_Asia, #Firdausi,, #Gulistan, #Hafiz, #Ibn, #India, #Iran, #Iranian, #Islam, #Islamic, #Legends, #Muslim, #Nizami, #Persia, #Persian, #Rudaki, #Rumi, #Shahnameh, #Shiraz, #Timurid, #Timurids

The history of Persia is that of the cradle of mankind and the study of literary ethos in this region is fundamentally the study of a historical process

Dr Aashiq ul Islam
Srinagar, Publish Date: Sep 21 2016 10:27PM
The history of Medieval Persia is full of secrets and mysteries. Legends, poems and anecdotes profoundly supplement rich archaeological findings and historical documents. During its long march of literary developments, the region produced scholars of eminence in almost all branches of knowledge and learning which left indelible mark on the history, culture, traditions and character of Persian society.
The region continuously maintained itself over the famous saying of Ibn Khaldun “undoubtedly non-Arabs have been the torchbearers of knowledge and learning” March of scholars in far off lands, dissemination of knowledge and learning, establishment of madrasas and maktabas, the process of migration, encouraging interconnectedness at doctrinal and practical levels are some of the salient attributes of Medieval Islamic heritage which inter alia greatly benefited the Persian civilization. This historical process of cultural interaction and assimilation gave birth to a significant development of acculturation and enculturation for, Islam exposed this region to the global process of literary and cultural growth and threw its corridors open for diverse socio-cultural activities.
The civilizational and cultural profile that emerged as a result of these developments could not confine itself to Persia alone but influenced and engaged the surrounding regions of Central Asia and India as well. Consequently contributions made by Central Asian, Iranian, and Indian Scholars to the enrichment of Asian culture and civilization reached its zenith. Persia thus emerged as a grand civilization owing to the innumerable developments in the literary landscape of the region. Since Persia has been both an imbiber of new influences and a vector of the most novel trends, it is rightly pointed out that out of the several strands which provided the warp and woof of Muslim civilization in Central Asia; the most dominant was the influence of Persia.
Medieval Persia forged its identity through cultures which have enriched them. Their sense of worth and personal dignity lies in the recognition of their celebrated scholars vis-a-vis their special contribution, they have made to weaving the rich tapestry of the world’s civilizations. The contribution of Persian litterateurs to language and literature as such played a prominent role in shaping the cultural diversity of Iran and made a significant and everlasting contribution to its originality. Having remained as a glittering star among the litterateurs of their times, Persian poets imbibed and incorporated the universalistic features of poetry in their compositions. Consequently this part of the globe became the torchbearer of the dissemination of knowledge, religious philosophy, and world view and value system.
It is an admitted fact that the history of Persia is that of the cradle of mankind and the study of literary ethos in this region is fundamentally the study of a historical process. The Persian literature in fact represents one of the high water marks of their cultural and civilizational history. The older forms of Persian poetry that had developed as a result of cultural assimilation in the Muslim era started receding with the passage of time and the genre developed in an entirely new direction and adopted a changed discourse, which though thematically Islamic, essentially represented Persian lore and local cultural ethos. The literary legacy of Persian language is highly colorful and complex in nature. Their literature in general and the genre of Mathnawi and Dastan in particular embodies the essence of the Persian poetic discourse during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries displaying its fullest range in the intimacy, intensity, and precision. It represents many aspects of social change, behavior patterns, hopes, repressed wishes, creative thoughts, unconscious yearnings and collective dreams. It analyses the social drama in the geographical frame and with reference to its beauty, diversity and complexity of interpretation, this literature received the attention of distinguished scholars of varied fields of learning. This poetic zeal was further promoted and encouraged by Timurids as rightly referred to by Losenski that poetry was a crucial part of the Timurid project “of cultural mastery and assimilation”. The genre of choice in composing poetry during this period was the lyric, especially the ghazal’ while the qasida was the genre of choice for the court poets and mathnawi was too lengthy for social gatherings. Ghazal was the favorite of the era because it provided more options for expressing emotions and philosophical or religious thought. Jāmi also regarded ghazal as the best kind of poetry and spent at least fifty years of his life, writing lyric poetry, which he compiled in three sections of a diwan.
The prominent literary figures like Rudaki, Firdausi, Hafiz, Nizami, Rumi, Sa’di and Jāmi became the torch bearers of Sufistic perspectives and literary ethos, the manifestation of which is found in their celebrated works. They set the stage upon which Firdausi (d.1021) was, in about 1980, to begin his long epic march by gathering together in some 60,000 couplets the legends of Iran, to form the Shahname, (the Book of Kings) which remained a reminder of the possibility of national unity and integrity. It has been the inspiration of all generations of Iranians down to the present day and has served to hold the nation together in the memory of shared legends about shared sufferings and glories. There was the zest for novelty, first in the language itself, then in the art of penning it; finally, the quest for novelty in striking off new and startling images whereby to move afresh the heart and titillate the mind in taking up perennial and basic human topics of love, separation, sorrow and joy. Shaikh Sa’id Shirazi, (b.1213), a versatile poet brought Persian prose of the high Islamic period to the apogee of perfection, albeit in an intricately stylized form of rhyming prose. In verse and prose, notably in his early middle age works, Bustan, (orchard) and Gulistan (the flower garden), he inculcated magnanimity’ especially in tyrants, repentance, tolerance and other virtues through the artifice of entertaining and easily memorized poems and prose anecdotes. His fellow- citizens of Shiraz, Hafiz (d.1390), used the instrument of the lyric, ghazal; he inherited from Sana’i (d.1130) which had been skillfully continued by Sa’di to carry much of the imagery and pointedness of which Rudaki and the earlier poets gave him the example. Hafiz’s ghazals, susceptible, like scripture, to interpretation of many different levels, also have the appeal of a song, to please their reader. While Sa’idi composed the great text of mysticism, tapestry of allegories about human deprivation of the greatest of human needs, apprehension of God and about how this aching separation and dissolution may be bridged, so that the contentment and freedom of living in God are achieved. Rumi (d.1273) having in his Mathnawi brought to fullness the spiritual and allegorical literature of which Sana’i and ‘Attar had earlier been exponents when social and political hardships had led the people of Iran increasingly to seek the solace of the inner life.
The lyrical and mystical traditions attained another flowering in the fifteenth century in the poetry of Jāmi who inherited both development of epic strain beyond the use to which Firdausi had put it, and the long episodic allegorical poem perfected by ‘Attar and woven into a vast corpus by Jalal ud -din Rumi. Nizami altered the epic from the’ factual’ narrative of legendary episodes which it is in the Shahnameh to make it present episodes as symbols, heroes as paragons, so that the whole mechanism of the epic was lifted on to a more abstract level, and a strong spiritual element introduced.
Author teaches at Department of Islamic Studies, Govt. Women’s College M.A Road, Srinagar.
---GreaterKashmir: The history of Medieval Persia is full of secrets and mysteries. Legends, poems and anecdotes profoundly supplement rich archaeological findings and historical documents. During its long march of ---...

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