Translating the dilemma of the Iranian national mindset

The Populist Abdolhossein Zarrin: The first two centuries, when Islam entered Persia, have been described as centuries of total silence, ignorance and cultural oppression.

None of the Persians dared to criticize Islam openly, but they circumvented and replaced that criticism by reducing the Arab personality, attacking it, and accusing it of false things because, as they claimed, “Persian culture was swept, suppressed, and dried up .” The above is not a saying of an Arab thinker, but it is said by the Iranian Abdolhossein Zarrin.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the racist Persian fanatic eager for her “Zoroastrian” legacy, still permeates the Persian conscience, and perhaps the closest description of the intertwined “Persian-Iranian” situation in its current form is: There  are two countries in Iran, serving one another. Each of which has its own role to play without colliding with the other. And, they work in parallel to the interests of the Persian legacy.

The first state is: a reactionary doctrinal state, deeply soaked in myth. It mixes many ancient rituals and presents them as Islamic, with the aim of owning emotion, seizing feelings and moving loyalty towards Tehran.

The second state is : a racist Persian. It uses the results of the first to achieve and deepen Persian tendency in the Iranian soul and keep it alive, and works to restore the Persian Empire. The existence of the first state is only a phased existence, which ends completely with the culmination of the second Persian state.

This is not a fantasy. The last king of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, has done it. On October 12-14 (1971), the Shah has held a huge celebration on the anniversary of the  2,500th  anniversary of the Persian Empire. The ceremony has taken place amid the ruins of the ancient city of Persepolis near the mausoleum of the first Eminian Persian king, Cyrus, founder of the Persian Empire. It has been held in a time when the Persians have become ready to reclaim the empire’s dream, but the world was not ready to accept this Persian absurdity at the time.

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi wanted to get out of the Arab complex in (1971) through celebrating the anniversary of the first Persian Empire, which has existed 2,500 years ago, at the tomb of "Cyrus".

Subtle accusation of Arabs and Islam:

“The first two centuries of Islam’s entry into Persia has been considered to be centuries of silence, ignorance, and cultural oppression,” says the Iranian nationalist Iranian Abdolhossein Zarrin, in his book Two Centuries of Silence. What he has said is a way of viewing Arabs in Iran.  They perceive the Arab conquerors as backward with nothing to offer, and it is claimed that the Arabs have attempted to abolish the use of Persian languages, and, instead, have imposed Arabic. This, as claimed, has forced the Persians to lay low, and, hence, the seize of any literary work, during these two hundred years. And, they have linked the end of the first two centuries of Islam with Al-Ma’mun’s rule over the Abbasid state, during which they have become able to hold certain positions, which may serve them in recovering their alleged identity.

Describing the rise the Persian extremists to power, replacing the Arabs, and specifically at the end of the era of Harun al-Rashid, the Jordanian researcher Khalid Bashir comments: “The impact of the victory news of Al-Ma’mun, and his supporters from the Persians, on his brother, Al-Amin, together with the Persians reaching the highest positions in the army and in the Abbasid palace, have helped in the resurrection of Persian nationalism. Rather, Abdolhossein Zarrin has referred to the Abbasid civilization as a Persian civilization with excellence.” Besides, Bashir describes populism saying: “At the level of intellectual and literary movement, the new stage witnessed the emergence of the currently- known as the populism, which tried to argue and refute the saying of the Arabs’ superiority ‘. It is considered a reaction to the Arab nationalist theories, which were rhetorical and prevailed throughout the Amoric era. The Populist movement remained proud of the Persian heritage, and called for the precedence of other peoples over the Arabs. Moreover, as mentioned in the book of misers by Al-Jahiz, some of these populists may go even further, like the Azademrdiyah group, who believe in the Persian superiority over the Arabs. He points out that this group is the most ever bigoted group, to support the Persians.

The entanglement of the Arab-Persian relationship:

The novelist and writer Ahmed Fal analyzes Abdolhossein Zarrin’s book “Two Centuries of Silence,”stressing the entanglement of the Persian-Arab relationship and the Persian bias against it: “Whoever reads the book understands that it is set to get out of an annoying historical stalemate for the Iranian nationalist mentality. Persian myths exaggerate the scientific and cultural reality of Persia before Islam, but reality and careful study does not support this image, that prevailed in the national mind. Therefore, the author reintroduced the edition before us and modified great parts of the book, admitting that it was full of racism and mistakes. This is for his inability to acknowledge Iran’s mistakes or defeat. Although the copy in our hands is a modified version – admittedly by the author – it contains enough racism and avoids scientific honesty, and perhaps those, who read the book and see how its owner makes the dangerous fabricated judgments, will understand why the book has not been not translated into other languages, as it has not been translated into English, for example, until fifty years later. “

Reversal of the Arab persecution hypothesis of Persian culture:

In his attempt to refute the theory of Arabs; racism against the Persian culture, Ahmed Fall says: “Contemporary historical research does not support the existence of significant literary works in ancient Persian. Most scholars, who are even fond of Persia: its history, literature, and music, like Richard Fry, Harvard professor, have acknowledged this. He believes that it is difficult for the researcher to find any evidence of the existence of Iranian writings before Islam, especially compared to the Romans and the Greeks. Despite the large number of excavations and translations, and the existence of generous support for research, the people have not found any evidence of the existence of serious literary texts dating back to before Islam. What has been found is an  almost incidental pattern of dealing with a Khosrow, and his train, and other of Khosrow’s pagan- political traditions. As for the examples of poetry, and prose, they have only appeared under the shade of Islam because it is an Islamic product provoked by the new religious spirit, and fed by the spread of science and education brought by the new religion. Hence, the outcome is the linguistic ability combining with a new poetic language that has reached them from the Arab desert. In the face of this cognitive reality, the national mind has been caught in a dilemma resulting from two facts. ” The first is: the absence of literary or scientific texts written in ancient Persian, and the second is: the emergence of the Persian-Islamic language as one of the finest, sweetest,  which produced writers who lived under the Islamic State and produced great creative wroks such as Sinai, Hafiz, Saadi, Khiam and Rumi.

These two facts annoy the national mind that is anti-Islamic. To illustrate, they may be concluded by saying: Islam is the one that has given the Persian language its philosophical depth and stylistic sweetness, that is, after Islam has touched the passion of the Persian soul, mixed the Persian language with Arabic, the result is a great, poetic language that has amazed the whole world. And to get out of this stalemate, the Persian nationalists assumed the existence of sophisticated but lost literature. Yet, Fal quotes the Iranian historian’s saying on the Arabs and disparaging them: 

“At a time when the poems, dedicated for Barbar and Ngesa, filled the Sasanian palace with fresh sounds, the Arabs’s poetry has been deficient and poor. If a sound is heard in the desert, it is a thief’s terror! Their words carried no guidance, and no emotion. Their poetry is centered around Gambling, and the parts of camels. On the other hand, the Iranian languages are full of meaningful, philosophical and beautiful words. The Iranians keep reading religious books, singing heavenly songs, and writing stories about their kings. They appreciate the beautiful word. ”

  1. Ahmed Faluddin, “Two Centuries of Silence: The conquerors were generations, they fought Persian, and imposed Arabic by force”, published at the “site” (D.T.), on the link:
  2. Paddy Bedetti, Korsh Kabir (Tehran: Danshkah Spreads, 1335AH).
  3. Khalid Bashir, “How Does Persians perceive the Arabs?”, Fossils Website (2020), at:
  4. Mohammed Al-Salami, The Arab Other in Modern Iranian Thought (Riyadh: International Institute for Iranian Studies, 2018).
  5. Homa Katouzian, The Persians: Iran in the Ancient, Medieval and Modern Times, translated by: Ahmad Hassan Al-Ma’ini (Beirut: DarJadoul, 2014).