Šahrzād, or in our tongue Shahrazad, is the protagonist of the medival novel “1001 Nights”. She was a daughter of Shahryar’s vizier and was married to the same named King. This king( it is said to be a Sassanid, but considering the time this work was written, it is more likely to be a Turk ruler) was vowing a vendetta against all women by marrying each day a virgin woman, bedding her at the night, but beheading at the next morning. In order to survive, Šahrzād has to tell each night a neverending tale to keep the king curious and excited for the following night and thus sparing her.
In Sir Richard F. Burton’s translation of The Nights, Šahrzād was described in this way:
- “[Shahrazad] had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples and instances of by gone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred.”
- (source, Wikipedia)
For me Šahrzād became the allegory of Persia,enslaved by foreign rulers and staying at the verge of annuilation over 1400 years, but keep surviving under the Zahak’s rule by their own superiority.
Azādi Šahrzād, or in English “Rescue of Šahrzād” or in German “Befreiung der Šahrzād” is the title of one of my independent projects. My goal is to reinterprate Persian works, isolate them from their Islamic label and putting them also on political historical context.
For example, one of my main focus on that area will be Hafis. This great Persian poet, even the great Goethe was boasting about being his “half-brother”, has always been put in the corner of Islamic Mysticism in literature science. But are they really that mystical and religious?
One of the two only German translators of Hafis’ Diwan, Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall , wrote the following in his introduction:
“(…)Gleich nach seinem Tode hatten Neid und Gleißnerey ihm die Ehre
des Begräbnißes versagen wollen, weil er beschuldigt ward, das
Heiligste, nämlich den Koran entweihet, und wider den Sinn göttlicher
Schrift den Genuß des Weines durch Wort und Beyspiel gelehrt zu haben.
Einige Stunden hindurch blieb der Streit zwischen den Verläumdern und
den Vertheidigern des Dichters unentschieden.(…)
Damals, als Heucheley und Mißgunst Hafisen so schwer sinnlicher
Wollust und verbothener Lehre zeihten, mochte es noch Niemand in den
Sinn gekommen seyn, in den Dithyramben des Genußes von Wein und Liebe
nichts als mystische Allegorien göttlicher Liebe und himmlischer
Ekstase suchen zu wollen. Aber als später die wahre oder
Scheinfrömmigkeit der Muftis, Scheiche, Ulemas, Sofis, Imame, der
Derwische und Kalender die Unmöglichkeit sah, Hafisens Lieder aus dem
Munde des Volkes zu bringen, mußte sie wohl, um die Ortodoxie des
Dichters und die ihrige zu retten, die sinnlichen Bilder für
übersinnliche Allegorien, und die ganze Sprache Hafisens für mystische
Sprache erklären. (…)”
(source: “Der Diwan”- Südwestdeutsche Zeitung Edition)
For those who can’t read German here the short version:
Hafis was always a thorn in the eyes of the Islamic clerics, because his poetry about wine and love (to women and younger lads) ruined their reputation. And he was a threat to them, because his poetry was in common parlance, in the Turkish rulership, and even in the surpressed nations, especially in the Persian nation. The actual poetry could re-emancipate the Persians. So they just added religious mystificing commentaries in order to blank the actual meaning of the poet out. Most of the commentatories are coming from Turkish scholars ( and probably the Arabs since the Mullahs were involved aswel) and focused on spiritual meaning of Hafis’s works (like wine=god) which people even still quote to.
It’s called “starting a legend” (“Legende in die Welt setzen”) and it’s not really something unusual which you can see in literature history. The best example can be Berthold Brecht, the modern Goethe of Germany at the ’30s. There is the rumor (which gets even taught at school) about him being a convinced communist and alot of interprators are really believing it. But I can assure you, he was reading Marx, but that doesn’t make anyone a marxist already.
Anyway, today alot of people are still falling for this rumor. If you go to a (big) book store and look for the poet’s works, most times you end up finding him in the area for Islamic science or esoteric mysticism.
It is like having a Islam stick on everything related to Medival Persian science and literature as having Tikita sticks on bananas. But instead of the banana you see only the stick and interprate it as the stick wants you to.
So what I am doing is just to rip the stick out to have the world see it. Not the banana, the Persians.