Ferdowsi: Standard-Bearer of Iranian Identity in Globalization Age

Sunday, March 30, 2008


What is identity?

Identity explains “who you are” and stems from natural need of human beings to be identified or be introduced to something or somewhere. This “sense of belonging” is inherent to human beings. Meeting this sense will cause personal “self-consciousness” and the sense of belonging among a group of humans will give result to collective self-consciousness or ethnic, tribal or national “identity” of that human group. This self-consciousness becomes a national phenomenon when it is compared to group identities of other nations.

Dr. Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh, a university lecturer, notes that customs, traditions, literature, culture and civilization of every nation constitute its national identity. “Therefore, to understand national identity, we must first define culture: culture is religion, language, history, arts, literature, customs, traditions, and ancient rites of a nation which evolve over a very long time. A mixture of such cultural phenomena is the origin of a national identity which is evolved in the course of many centuries before taking on a lasting shape in order to fulfill its mission, which is to differentiate between peoples and nations.” He continues his explanation about identity by saying, “Identity of a nation, in the first place, is an issue of political geography and is related to creation and survival of a nation being an important component of spiritual being of human beings. The same is true about sense of belonging to a specific geographical location and the need to be known by cultural and environmental features of that specific geographical location. Therefore, an independent nation is one which enjoys an independent national character. National character and identity of a nation is manifested when various phenomena constituting it – like cultural and spiritual institutions special to that nation or state – are extant.”

The point which should be mentioned here is that definitions of identity are relative and it is not a fixed characteristic, but changes in time. For example, Iranians have changed identity before and after Islam. What was a cause of honor for Iranians greatly differed before and after Islam. When Islam entered Iran, its people were faced with an identity crisis. Some of them yearned for an Iran without Islam and took pride in their past while others liked to have Islam without Iran and maintained that Iran and Islam cannot coexist. They were facing an identity crisis. In the meantime, Ferdowsi created his masterpiece, Shah Nameh, to present Iranians with the concept of the “Islamic Iran”. As put by Jalal Khaleqi Motlaq: “Shah Nameh was a bridge between pre-Islamic and post-Islamic Iran.”

Language and literature, flag of the Iranian identity

If not one of the most ancient and oldest cultures and civilizations of the world, Iran is undoubtedly, one of their most ancient. Identity is not something to be earned overnight and it took many centuries before Iran gained its independent and cultural identity. As put by Dr. Mohammad Ali Eslami Nadoushan, “Iran has been burned in fire like Phoenix many times and has reborn out of its own ashes.” National identity should be considered a common and positive feature which is a cause of pride for people who sometimes put down their lives to defend it. Ancient people have preserved their identities and transferred it to next generations through various means including language, literature, painting, and music. One of the most important means of preserving identity in Iran is “language” and “literature”, especially “poetry” and one of the most prominent examples of poetry in Iran is Ferdowsi’s Shah Nameh.

Aidin Aghdashlou, the contemporary poet, also believes that “the most important commonalties of Iranians are language and literature. Iranian language and literature have remained almost intact through centuries and no other thing like language has been constant in the Iranian identity. Now language can be considered the main context of identity with other arts like architecture, painting, and so on, standing on its side.” When talking about Persian language and literature as the main pillar of the Iranian identity, the first book which occurs to mind is Ferdowsi’s Shah Nameh, as one of the purest literary works in Persian and a good means for transferring original culture and history of Iran from one generation to the next. Dr. Jalal Khaleqi Motlaq, who has spent 40 years of his life on correcting and reviewing Shah Nameh, says, “There are many works in the field of the Iranian literature which transfer the Iranian identity from one generation to the next. Ferdowsi’s Shah Nameh is one of the most prominent of those works.”

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم