25th of Ordibehesht in the Iranian calendar (May 15) is the day of commemoration of the great Iranian poet Ferdowsi. On this occasion we have prepared a special feature.
Iranians are very much indebted to Ferdowsi as he preserved Farsi language from annihilation and gave it an independent identity. Abulqasem Ferdowsi, who lived more than a millennium ago, made strenuous effort to keep this sweet language in the face of other languages and did his best to use as many Farsi words as possible in his magnum opus, Shahnameh (the Book of King).
But, despite the influence of Arabic language in Iran and the compilation of many books in this language by Iranians, why didn’t Arabic become the official language in Iran? History bears witness that Iranians have preserved and spread the Farsi language with the effort of their thinkers. The move began with Ya’qub Laith, the founder of Saffarid dynasty. Rudaki, Daqiqi and Onsori laid the foundation for expansion of Farsi and culminated with Ferdowsi and his everlasting masterpiece, Shahnameh.
The vast Iranian territory over the course of history has experienced a lot of ups and downs. To highlight the genuine Iranian culture, Ferdowsi revived the ethnic heroes and ancient Iranian civilization, and managed to revive the sense of defending the country in many people.
Ferdowsi should be considered as one of the Iranian national heroes, a great poet who breathed a new life in the body of Farsi language, and according to Dr. Abolfazl Khatibi, “through the past experience and Ferdowsi’s great endeavour, Farsi language was stabilized, and by writing Shahnameh, he succeeded to preserve Farsi language against the influence of foreign words and keep the syntax and norms of Farsi language from the harm of anomalies. Hence, Farsi language owes its development to Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh and that is why the name of Ferdowsi is interlinked to the durability of the Farsi language.” The author of the most valid version of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, Dr. Khaleqi Motlaq believes that: “Part of our nationality is indebted to the Farsi language, and Farsi language is largely owing to the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi.”
Ferdowsi’s magnum opus Shahnameh is one of the most important and richest treasures of Farsi language in terms of containing literary terms and expressions and it is undoubtedly the largest container of Farsi vocabulary. It is the first book that keeps real and beautiful Farsi vocabulary. By accepting the huge bulk of these words in his breast, Ferdowsi was successful to provide this precious gem to the future generations. Farsi language is the basis of unity and consistency of various ethnicities of Iran. Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh has bolstered the pillars of Farsi language so sturdily that there is no place for forgetting this language in history. Therefore, it is considered that Shahnameh is one of the foundations of the Iranian ethnic unity.
Years should pass to clarify the real significance of Ferdowsi’s work and his magnificent work should find the status it deserves in the history of Iran. Ferdowsi’s epic masterpiece is a work that has preserved the past culture and identity of Iranians to the present.
Shahnameh is the book of Iranian myths. If Ferdowsi had not written Shahnameh, today we wouldn’t have had access to many of these myths. Moreover, the book of ancient Farsi stories. It is the book of ancient customs and traditions of our ancestors. Ferdowsi worked ceaselessly for thirty years to finish the Shahnameh. Shahnameh is an illustrated calendar of the Iranian epic, history and culture. British Professor Charles Melville maintains that, “The great achievement of Ferdowsi was to preserve the history of Iranians including the history of the era of the empire and the peak of its glory. But the main point is that he wrote it in Farsi, the language of Iranians. This task of Ferdowsi is part of the great concept of being Iranian, being aware of his identity. This is a point which in my opinion has been manifested by Ferdowsi more than others.”
Researchers are of the opinion that one of the reasons for the significance of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh is the role that the great poet has played with his great book in the culture and destiny of a nation. Dr. Khaleqi Motlaq believes that there is no book in Farsi literature and even in the world literature that, like the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, to play such an effective role and influential status in the destiny and culture of a nation.
Researcher, Mohammad Ali Islami Nodushen, believes that Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh is the only book in the world literature that has changed the destiny of a nation. He said, “Shahnameh changed the fate of Iran, and had it not been created, we would have been a different country! If Shahnameh had not been written, what happened in some countries like Egypt, Syria and Jordan, would have been repeated for Iran. Survival of the history and culture of Iran and Farsi language is deeply indebted to Ferdowsi and his magnum opus Shahnameh.”
Ferdowsi cannot be called only a poet and writer of myths because, behind these lofty poems and with the rich and sweet Farsi language, he was effective in rebuilding a nation. Thus, in the imagination of Ferdowsi, it was not just Iranian myths that would find life in his poems, but it was the Iranians who got shape and grew up. Therefore, Shahnameh is part of the Iranian identity, and every Iranian needs a Shahnameh to identify himself and his old culture.
Iran in its history has been the land of the poems and hymns and has created the greatest literary masterpieces of the world. The poems of the great Iranian poets like Hafez, Sa’adi, Nezami, Sanai, Attar and Mowlana, and others are full of lessons not for Iranians but for the whole mankind. But Ferdowsi’s great masterpiece Shahnameh is considered as the mirror of the ancient Iranian culture and identity.
Some scholars have tried to introduce Ferdowsi in a way as if he had been an extremely nationalist figure with no religious bond; while he was a Muslim with deep belief in the Prophet of Islam and his progeny. Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei, once said, “I consider Ferdowsi as a sagacious man.”
Shahnameh is important not only for the Iranians, but also for the world, because it addresses the essence of humanity. Shahnameh has mentioned the main human point and it is the conflict between truth and falsehood, good and evil, light and darkness, loyalty and treason. The core of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh is wisdom and victory of good over evil.
Shahnameh is a treasure of wisdom. It teaches the lesson of humanity, morality and virtue. Freedom and non-submission to oppression are the basic virtues of all the heroes of Shahnameh.