Sunday, September 04, 2005 - 2005

Conference on Iranian poet Nasir Khusraw in UK

LONDON, September 4 (IranMania) - The University of London plans to hold a conference entitled ?The Philosophical Poetry of Nasir Khusraw? at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) on September 17 and 18, according to MNA.

A number of experts from Iran, Britain, the US, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Russia, Tajikistan, and Norway are slated to offer their latest researches on the Iranian poet during the conference.

Organizers of the conference believe that Nasir Khusraw has been introduced to the West over past few centuries, but no one has yet undertaken an in-depth study of the philosophical content of his poetry.

The Iran Heritage Foundation and the Institute of Ismaili Studies are other sponsors of the conference.

The conference also is scheduled to screen the documentary ?Safarnameh? which is directed by Dr. Reza Saberi. ?Safarnameh? (?Travelogue?) is about the historical journey of Nasir Khusraw to Mecca started on 1047 CE based on his book with the same title.

An introduction to Nasir Khusraw

In full name Abu Muin Nasir Khusraw al-Marvazi al-Qubadiani (1004-1077), was a theologian, religious propagandist, and one of the greatest writers in Persian literature.

Nasir Khusraw came of a family of government officials who belonged to the Shiite sect of Islam, and he attended school for only a short while. He went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and continued his journey to Palestine and then to Egypt, which was ruled at that time by the Fatimid dynasty. The Fatimids headed the Ismailiyah sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, and they were engaged in propagating that doctrine by missionaries throughout the Islamic world. Nasir Khusraw became such a missionary, though it is not certain whether he became an Ismaili before his trip to the Fatimid capital or after. He returned to his homeland in what is now Afghanistan, but his vigorous advocacy of the Ismailiyah ideology within Sunnite territory forced him to flee to Badakhshan, where he spent the rest of his days, lamenting in his poetry that he was unable to be an active missionary.

Nasir Khusraw?s poetry is of a didactic and devotional character and consists mainly of long odes that are considered to be of high literary quality. His philosophical poetry includes the Roshanaiinameh (Book of Lights). Nasir Khusraw?s most celebrated prose work is the Safarnameh. It is a valuable record of the scenes and events that he witnessed in his journey to Mecca. He also wrote more than a dozen treatises expounding the doctrines of the Ismailis, among them the Jami al-Hikmatayn (?Union of the Two Wisdoms?), in which he attempted to harmonize Ismaili theology and Greek philosophy. Nasir?s literary style is straightforward and vigorous. In his verse he displays great technical virtuosity, while his prose is remarkable for the richness of its philosophical vocabulary.

Today, both his prose and his poetry are studied by schoolchildren in Iran and Tajikistan. Still, Nasir Khusraw's impact in Persian-speaking societies goes much deeper, often in surprisingly various ways. For example, his name today has been used as the title to a cultural center in Kabul, a neighborhood in Tehran, and funeral rites in Tajikistan. The pervasiveness of his linguistic artistry appears in full evidence in Dehkhoda's three-volume compendium of memorable maxims and sayings of the Persian language (Amthal-o-Hikam), where citations from Nasir Khusraw outnumber those for numerous more popular poets, including Hafez, Nizami and Attar. In addition, legends about his piety and his supernatural powers abound, with some people still hailing him as a saint, others as a heretic, while others question the aesthetic, emotional or spiritual value of a poetry which extols the virtue of intellect (aql) rather than love (ishq).

For the past thousand years, Nasir Khusraw has ranked as a leading poet and intellectual in the Persian-speaking world. His verses appear in every major anthology of Persian poetry compiled since his death in 1077 CE.