April 11, 2021
A monument to Nizami Ganjavi. “File:Villa Borghese – Monumento a Nizami Ganjavi – panoramio.jpg” by Mister No is licensed under CC BY 3.0
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Republic Underground will soon launch a series exploring the life and times of 12th century Azerbaijani poet and cultural icon Nizam Ganjavi. This will be our English language series in follow up to our cultural event on Facebook Livestream that explored the history of Nizami Ganjavi in the Russian language.
Access that event at the link below:
Nizami Ganjavi, a poet for the ages
The English translation of Nizami’s Haft Paykar or “The Seven Beauties” gives an introduction describing the unique beauty of Nizami of Ganja’s work in the twelfth century. Nizami lived in a period with a large social disconnect between the idealism of kings and actual politics. The translation describes the day as one where “rule was based on power” and in which political instability was “endemic.” Nizami lived when the Abbasid caliphate, an empire that once stretched from India to North Africa, had fallen in power and had been occupied by the Seljuk Dynasty of Turkey. The Seljuk sultans were towering figures of Sunni Islam. Yet, by the time of Nizami, even the great Seljuk sultans had fallen into “disarray” with succession disputes tearing the core of the dynasty.
Nizami was himself a powerful prince of the Arran and Azerbaijan region, which were the scene of clashes between the Muslim princes and their Christian neighbors. Nizami was numbered among the Atabegs who were the teachers of the young Seljuk princes. Seljuk princes and their atabegs were known for their Islamic zeal in those days, as power struggles and political overthrow dominated societies shaping.
Nizami himself was a mystic, believed to have been associated with a futuwwa brotherhood known as the Akhis. The Akhis drew their members from an “artisan class”, says the author of the Haft Paykar English translation, Julie Scott Meisami.
Nizami was believed to have received his education from one of the Akhis masters. His brotherhood shared beliefs with the Ismailis and the Sufis.
Nizami poetically recounts the history of the Sassanian ruler Bahram V Gur in the Haft Paykar. It is a “biographical narrative” that showcases Nizami’s understanding of history, his intellectualism, and his poetic skill all in one narrative.
The history of Nizami Ganjavi has lessons for modern Azerbaijan as well as international diplomacy and education today. Our new series breaks down the relevance of Nizami Ganjavi as a poet for the ages.