Teymur Karimli. Turkic Character in NIZAMI GANJAVI’S works

Nizami Ganjavi

Teymur Kərimli. Nizami Gəncəvinin əsərlərində türk xarakteri

Nizami Ganjavi, shiningh as a star in sky of poetry of the Middle East in 12-th century (1141-1209) has diffused light of his works being synthesis of progressive humanist thoughts and superior poetic mastery in next following works.

The genius of Nizami is now one of phenomenal patterns with its position in the world’s literary-cultural and social-philosophical thought and global importance. This is precisely why the interest of the world’s literary-scientific thought in Nizami’s literary power isn’t diminished thanks to the translation of his works into various languages of the East and the West, playing their outstanding role in the process of spiritual perfection of the humanity.

We regret to say that Nizami sometimes is represented as a Persian Poet by various scientific circles either because of lack of information or deliberately. The best way to prevent all these impracticable efforts is the regular and spread publication, popularization and translation of the works of genious Azerbaijani by his compatriots that are not made in any other countries in the field of Nizami study, including in Iran.

Besides, the ethnic identity of Nizami as an Azerbaijani is rested upon other actual parameters:
Both, the poet himself and all Middle Ages sources dealing with the great Azerbaijani poet’s life and works make sure that he was born in 1141 in Ganja, one of the Azerbaijani ancient cultural centres and one of the capital cities of the Azerbaijani Atabay’s state (1136-1225), where he remained until his death in about 1209.

The fact that the city of Ganja and precincts were populated mainly by Turk people both in the period of Nizami and early before this period who have played an exceptional role in the cultural, social and political life of Southern Caucasus, was proved by Roman historians and geographers since the second century CE, i.e. within a thousand year before Nizami and by the Byzantine, Georgian, Armenian and Arabic historians from the 5-th century.

The idea supposing that Ganja was a Persian city is erroneous too. It is disproved by the simple fact that in 12-th century Iran was an integral part of Saljug state within the period of Nizami. And Ganja was a capital city of Azerbaijani Turkic Atabay’s state.

It is generally admitted that Iran lost its statehood in 651, which was restored in 1300 years, when the Pahlavi dynasty came to power with the help of English politicians. The Turkic dynasties, being in power within many centuries manifested tolerance towards all people, even patronized the poetry written in Persian language.

Here, we can be satisfied with the fact that in the first epic works of Nizami – “Khosrow and Shirin” and “Seven Beauties”, his heroes Khosrow and Bahram, being at deadlock in Iran decided to run away to Azerbaijan. It is known from the Middle Ages history, any ruler or princess being lost their support in their native lands were taking refuge in other countries. If Azerbaijan (Ganca was situated here) was Persian land, it would be nonsense to escape from Iran to Iran.

According to the autobiographic materials provided by Nizami in his epic poem “Leyla and Majnun” the poet acknowledged that his mother was a Kurdish and in “Khosrow and Shirin”, he named himself “ikdish”, i.e.half-breed (a person whose parents are of different nationalities).

Nezami ikdishe xelvetneshinest
Ke nimi serke nimi engebinest (“Khosrow and Shirin“. Entesharate Tus, 1365, p. 100).

Nizami is a half-breed being in solitude
Which are half vinegar and half honey).

Here, “vinegar” means his Kurdish mother and honey – his Turkic father. If Nizami’s father was Persian, a child born from the marriage with a Kurdish girl, which was also the same ethnic group (Persian) wouldn’t be considered as half-breed (as, a child born from the marriage of Azerbaijani Turk and Anatoly or other Turkic ethnos isn’t named “half-breed”). Besides, the poet has used the Turkish word “ikidish” deliberately in order to emphasize his ethnic background.

I would like to acknowledge that the word “ikidish” in the original copy of the epic poem is written without the letter “elif”, which specifies the lengthening of “i” and cannot be read as “yekdesh”. For example, the word “ushaq” (a child in English) is also written without “elif” at the beginning used by Nziami in his epic poem “Seven Beuaties” and it cannot be read as “veshag” thanks to the lengthening of the sound “u”.

In other passage of the epic poem “Seven beauties”, Nizami says: “Torkiyemra der in Hebesh ne xarend” (i.e. my Turkic identity is neglected in Ethiopia); in this passage he has given a direct sign for his Turkic background.

Unlike Firdovsi, one of the greatest poets of Persian poetry, the peotic language of Nizami is rich with Turkic origine words. The words, such as: “alachuq”, “ushag”, “ikidish”, “chalish”, “sanjag”, “munjug”, “gilavuz”, “tutug”, “yaylag”, “toz”, “tapancha” etc. were used by Nizami willingly in his poems that prove once again the absence of Persian bias (partiality) as Firdovsi, just as, Firdovsi was at the pains not to use even Arabic origine words in his “Shahname”. So, he has expressed his will to write only in the pure Persian language. As to Nziami and other poets including to the same poetic school as Nizami, they have used widely both the Arabic and Turkish words.

The academician Hemid Arasli, in his article touching upon the comprehensive and detailed analysis of the language used by Nizami in his works reached to the conclusion that “despite Nizami wrote his works in the Persian, he thought always as an Azerbaijani and created his figurative expressions rested upon a live and dynamic folk style. It is notable that the Persian scientists have always treated Nizami and Khagani as “buye tork miayed” (Hamid Arasli, Azerbaijani literature: history and problems. “Ganjlik”, Baku, 1998, p. 139).

The world medieval history knows and supports the definition of “Azerbaijani poetry school” identifying the literature written in the Azerbaijani territory during 11 and 12-th centuries in the Deri language. And it’s also notable that the modern Persian literary criticism uses the definition of “sebke Azerbaijani” (Azerbaijani style) as a synonym of the aforementioned term. The matter specified above has been a subject of various international conferences. This school, known all over the world with its greatest representatives as Khagani Shirvani and Nizami Ganjavi, endowed the great Azerbaijani poets as Gatran Tabrizi, Falaki Shirvani, Mujireddin Beylagani and Izzeddin Shirvani to the world literature.

As to Khagani, one of the greatest representatives of this school was proud of his Turkic origin. The below explained couplet may serve as an example:

Torke ejemem, veli deriguy,
Yelvajshenas o tengrijuy.

Despite I am Turk, I sing in Deri language
I know my Prophet and God.

It is to be pointed out that Nasir Khosrow, the great Persian poet, in the comments provided by him in “Shahname” notes that he has seen a poet named Gatran in Tabriz, who wrote poems in Persian, which was not so perfect. And it enables us to say that Gatran’s native language was the Turkish.

We know that by some objective and subjective reasons, many poets didn’t write their works in their native language, but in the language, being used at that time widely in the region they resided. For example, the Chinese language has been used during the middle Ages in Korea, Japan and Vietnam as an official and standard language. Before the 11 and 12-th centuries, the sole literary language for the Western Europe people was the Latin.

As to the Middle East, some poets from Iran, as: Ibn-al-Mugaffa, as-Saalibi, at-Tabari wrote their works certainly in Arabic for the sole reason that within 7-10-th centuries it was the sole litterary language; the same situation may pertain to Khureymi, Mutevekkili and many other poets, residing in the territory of Iran (which was an integral part of the Arab caliphate) in the Palace of the states of Tahiri and Saffari during 9-10-th centuries. This argument cannot be a basis to separate these poets from the Persian literature. And within this period, the poets known by their pen-names of “al-Azerbaijani” have also written their works in Arabic.
We can draw an inference from this argument that it will be wrongful to call Nizami and other great representatives of the Azerbaijani poetry school as “Iranian or Persian poet” solely because of the language they have used in their works. Similarly, the above mentioned poets obliged to write their works in Arabic cannot be attribuated to the Arab literature.

The love for Turkic people and Turkic background includes distinct points in the works of Nziami. His love for his own ethnos is felt obviously. The scientific circle knows numerous researches about this matter based on his own works, whcih have already proved his ethnic identity as a Turk.

The love of Nizami for the Turks is manifested in the fact that the majority of the monumental characters created by the poet is described either as Turks or their positive humanistic features are compared with Turks.

And the character Shirin in the epic poem “Khosrow and Shirin” deserves attention from this point of view with its rich materials.

It is to be noted that some scholars engaging in Nizami studies have inaccurately named Shirin as “Armenian princess” that was related to the fact that her aunt Mahin Banu was a ruler in Arman country. The arguments specified below are related to this fact that Shirin and her aunt Mahin Banu had no relations with Armenian ethnos:

Mahun Banu was not only the ruler of the country of Arman, but those of Arran, Mugan and Barda, incorporating to the territory of the present Republic of Azerbaijan. As to Arman, it is an upland part of this country that was used as summer pasture.

In the epic poem, the separate regions of Mahin Banu’s country are described as follows:

(Mahin Banu) chooses places for herselve
in each climate and in each season.
In the season of flower her place is Mugan that
places where she takes a step will be greenness.
In summer she prefers to ascend a mountain,
In autumn she comes to Abkhaz.
In winter she takes interest in Barda (Khosrow and Shirin. Baku, 1981, p. 63).

The word “Arman” is only the name of a territory and is not directly related to the ethnicon of Armenian. This ethnos, named as “Armani”, i.e. people residing in Arman inhabited by them later, is “hay” and therefore their country is called “Hayastan”.

As to the word “Arman”, it is related to the words “rum” and “romen” arabized afterwards.
Nizami has continually named Leyli and Shrin the Turks in the epic poem “Leyli and Majnun” and “Khosrow and Shirin”. It is very interesting that in some passage of the epic poem, Mahin Banu compares Khosrow with Keykhosrow, the mythical ruler of Iran and them with Afrasiyab (Alp-er Tonga) that removes all doubts as regards the Turkic identity of Mahin Banu and Shirin.

Gar u mahest ma niz afitabim,
Ve ger Kheykhosrovest Afrasiyabim (Khsosrow and Shirin, p. 116)


if he (Khosrow – T.K.) is a moon, we are the sun
And if he is Keykhosrow, we are Afrasiyab.

At the end of the epic poem, Nizami, crying bitterly for the death of his beloved wife Afag, who was a Gipchag, implores the God to help their solely son Muhammad:

Agar Torkem shod ez khargah nehani,
Khodaya, torkzademra to dani.

If my Turk woman left the world,
I implore you to save my Turkic son.

It is known that the word “zade” is added as a rule to the words identifying a father. For example, “shahzade”, “khanzade”, “beyzade”, but they were not specified by the names of women, who have given birth to them, as “shahbanuzade”, “khanimzade” and “beyimzade”. And identifying his son as “turkzade”, Nziami didn’t mean his birth from the Turk woman, quite contrary, his Turkic origin.

The love for Turks, as well as, the praising of the Turkic characters with highest love (Fitna, Nushaba, the Chinese princess – in fact the Turkic princess) in “Seven beauties” and “Iskendername”, the last epic poems of the poet are displayed obviously. And he has named Iskandar as a “Turk with a Roman crown”.

It is noted that the story of “Bahram and Fitne” written by Nizami based on “Shahname” of Firdovsi (the story of Bahram and Azada in the latter) reminds of a love epic and in this fragment, the Iranian shah Bahram Gur is defeated to the intellect and courage of the Turkic girl Fitne; whereas, in the second story Bahram sentences Azada to death because she has shown herself ungrateful to him.

Nizami, giving much attention in his works to the social motives and political problems, presents the Middle Ages Turkic state structure as a model for his period’s rulers in his epic poem Makhzan al-Asrar “The Treasury of Mysteries” (1163) :

Doulate torkan ke bolandi gereft
Memleket az dad pesendi gereft

The state of Turks was loved as
They ruled their country with justice.

Nizami, who was not aware of xenophobia didn’t conceal his love for Turks, his own ethnos.
So, Ilyas Yusif oglu Nizami known all over the world with his pen-name of Ganjali (from Ganja) was born in Azerbaijan, was a son of Azerbaijani lands, named himself as “ikedish” (half-breed), because, his father was a Turk and mother Kurdish, reflected obviously his love for Turks about in all works written by him. He was proud of his ethnic origin.

For all these raisons, despite he has written his works in the Deri used as a written language in Azerbaijan within 12-th century, Nizami Ganjavi was a Turk by his ethnic identification and the Azerbaijani poet expressing perfectly the Turkic literary-philosophical thought and the love for Turks.

All these ideas are first of all a laconic summary of thoughts expressed by my predesessors – the famous Azerbaijani, Russian, European and American specialists of Nizami works regarding the ethnic identification of the great Azerbaijani poet Nizami from Ganja. The more detailed explanation of the dedicated problem will be reflected in my monograph “Nizami and Turkish identification”, which will be presented to the publication in some days.

I approach the alternative ideas, not going beyond the scientific objectivity with respect and I am ready to listen to any polemic and discussion on this problem. At this moment I remember an idea of a philosopher: “I don’t agree with your thoughts, but I am ready for any torture to hear them freely”.



About Çetin Bayramoğlu

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