World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Classical Literature: Epic and Moral Values (355) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: THU 22, 2.30-4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description:

Chair: Tamta Parulava (Tbilisi Theological Academy and Seminary)

Paper discussant: Salvador Peña (Dr., Universidad de Málaga, Spain)

Paper presenter: Tamta Parulava (PhD., Tbilisi Theological Academy and Seminary, Georgia), “Towards the Moral Virtues in Classical Persian Literature”
The paper analyses the moral virtues in Saadi’s (XIII c.) works Bustan and Gulistan. The sage from Shiraz in Gulistan speaks at length about the virtue of modesty, and in Bustan a whole chapter is devoted to this topic. One of the moral edification of these works is as follows: man’s worldly aggrandizement is temporary, transient and does not allow us to be self-satisfied and vainglorious; to treat those around us arrogantly; the genuine glory is exactly in modesty, in forgetting oneself and humbleness. A person who has the ability to see his own sins will accept the faults of others too with patience and composure. Man, formed of the dust of the ground, returns unto the ground. This philosophical postulate does not give a stimulus to hedonistic thought in Saadi’s work, but to seeking more active ways for liberating from the captivity of the confinement of the earthly existence. The poet teaches: Before man returns unto the ground, he should turn into the ground (abase himself). By means of this, he will be exalted above the earthly existence and win a victory over the ground (flesh).The virtue of modesty is one of the main human merits from the Christian viewpoint as well. The wisdom, which is the cornerstone of Christian life: And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted (Matthew 23, 12), is repeated almost word for word in the ethic-moral teaching of Saadi’s works. Saadi’s didactic epos partially follows the epic tradition of his native literature: the ideal character of his works, like the hero of old Persian epos, is a fighter; however, he is a hero fighting himself, his own vices. This time a new, higher purpose was set to this hero, he should see merit in humiliation, wisdom in keeping silent, wealth in charity, exaltation in modesty.

Paper presenter: Adel S. Gamal (Professor, University of Arizona, Tuscon), “The Moral Values of Pre-Islamic Arabia”
In their efforts to show how the teaching of Islam was drastically different from the practices of pre-Islamic Arabs are, Muslim scholars from different fields have done considerable disservices to Pre-Islamic Arabia. It entirely incorrect to think that this era was somehow nearing anarchy, as they portrayed it. Pre-Islamic Arabs adopted a number of moral values that transcended time, place and race. These values were not left up to the individual to embrace, but were regarded as hereditary possessions which individuals were expected to cherish and honor and pass them to their descendants as an inheritance from their ancestors. All these values except one, the Cult of Revenge, were honored, admired and adopted by Islam: Loyalty, moral and physical courage, and generosity. The men who embodied these values have become universal symbols of all time for the Arabic/Islamic culture. In order to put in proper perspectives the Cult of Revenge, one of the most cherished moral values of pre-Islamic Arabia which Islam stood firmly against, a more accurate and sympathetic understanding of the term Jahiliyya has to be made. This presentation attempts to explain the complex nature of this term, Jahiliyya, to understand to what extent Revenge was deeply rooted in their consciousness, and as a necessary prelude to appreciate the other moral values stated above.

Paper presenter: Akbar Irani Ghomi (Managing Director, The Written Heritage Research Centre), "A Shiite Religious Epic from the XI Century AD"
Newly found ‘Al-namah’ is the oldest Shiite Religious epic poem original in 11th century AD (5thAH); that is why we have heard of it in no books on history of Persian literature. Its author uses the pen name Rabi’. The book has been composed a century after Shahnamah. In his book, Rabi’ firstly criticized Ferdowsi on why he hasn’t spent his time on composing poems about Imam ''Ali (the first Imam of the Shiite) and his courage which is a real fact, and just composed non fact and fiction epic as Shahnamah. The fact that Ferdowsi was a Shiite could be obtained here without any doubt. This book will set the history of Shiite epic poetry 4 centuries back while ‘Khawaran-namah’ (8th AH) was believed to have been the oldest Shiite epic poem in the sources. The author has versified this work on the order of Ali B. Tahir, the Shiite ruler in Bayhaq (now called Sabzevar). However there is no account of it in ‘Abd al-Jalil Qazvini’’s al-Naqz which seems he may not have been aware of the book at that time unless he would have mentioned his name as a Shiite poet along with Ferdowsi.

Paper presenter: Mahmoud Jaafari-dehaghi and Shima Jaafari-Dehaghi (Professor of Ancient Iranian Languages and Culture and PhD Student of Ancient Iranian Languages and Culture, University of Tehran), “The Role of Women in V and VI Century Iran as Illustrated by Epics of Shahname and Avestan Vendidad”
It seems that the situation of women in Sasanian period is reported from two view points: One through Shahname, the legendary account of seventh century and the other the religious jurisprudencial text of Vendidad. The Shahname or "Book of Kings" is one of the greatest epical poems among the Persian literature. It was written by Abu 'l-Qasim Firdausi, from Tus in northern Iran. His work narrates the history of Iran since the first king, Kayumars, who established his rule at the beginning of time, down to the conquest of Persia by the Muslims in 7th century. This book contains three sections including mythical, legendary and historical elements. Many facts about the life of people around that time can be drawn from these verses. In addition, the legendary and mythical parts represent the Iranian idea of a perfect world and people. One of the main aspects reflected in this epic is the role that women played in the lives of the main heroes pictured in these tales or of course as heroines and queens themselves. The Pahlavi Vendidad is one of the most important texts which contain the laws and the judiprence concerning the life of Iranians over these centuries. From this text also, many information can be drawn about the role of women in the Iranian society. There are also other works from this period such as Sad-dar-e nasr which will be used in this paper.
The aim of this paper is to study these two traditions and to draw a conclusion about the role of women at that time according to these texts. Undoubtedly, the influence of such traditions can be seen in the later Islamic period and also up to the present time. The important aspect which will be the focus of this paper is the picture presented in Persian Literature of a role model woman and the idea of what a perfect woman should have been. Contrary to the above mentioned report of Shahname is the account of Vendidad which depicts the real miserable and dejected situation of Iranian women. The difference between these two will be discussed and analysed.

Paper presenter: Dr. Reza Satari and Dr. Mahmoud Azizi (Assistant Professors, State University of Mazandaran, Babolsar, Iran), “A Study of the Issue of Patriarchy and Exogamy in the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi Based on the Iranian Myth of Creation”
Researchers take Shahnameh of Ferdowsi as a full mirror to Iranian culture since this masterpiece is not merely a reflection of the struggles and battles of a nation in ancient times but a summary of what can be found in the culture of a people in the passage of centuries. What constitutes the stories of Shahnameh is a combination of Indo-European, Indo-European mythology and a part of the history of ancient Iran before the arrival of Islam to the land of Iran which in the next centuries has passed through the rites of ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. Therefore, Shahnameh is a poem that forms the basis of culture and though of a nation. One of the issues that is discussed in the stories of Shahnameh can be seen is the story of marriages of Iranian kings and heroes that Ferdowsi has left to us. In the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, the most common form of marriage of eminent Iranian kings and heroes is mostly with non-Iranian women, especially Tourani women. This is called exogamy or marriage outside of a specific group especially as required by custom or law. On the one hand, in the study of symbolism in Shahnameh, Iran is considered to be the sacred land of heavenly (Ahura'i) forces; Touran, on the contrary, is taken to be the land of impurities and satanic (Ahrimani) forces. On the other hand, in the study of ancient beliefs of Iran, women are the centers of union and relation with earth. Men, however, are holy and heavenly creatures who are free from earthly impurities. Since mythology has a patriarchic deep structure, the Iranian epic that emerged from the heart of mythology has in its formation this ancient insight. This article attempts to study the issue of exogamy relationships in Ferdowsi's Shahnameh based on the Iranian myth of creation. It also studies the deep structure of the constituting elements of the patriarchic influence in the formation of such stories.