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Farsi, Persian, or Iranian? E-mail

By Ali Jafarey

Introduction: There are about 6,000 languages in the world. They are known either by the name of the original tribe, nation, country or cause. There is English originally spoken by the Angles, Turkish spoken by the original Turkic nation, Hindi spoken by the people of the country of India, and Urdu created in the camp (urdu) of the Mogul Emperors by the intermingling of Persian and Indic. It shows the diversity of naming the languages. The naming, however, has not confined any language to its native speakers or stopped it from spreading outside the original boundary. English, originally confined to England, and even today spoken by 54 million White ‘Englanders’, has reached 514 million speakers, out of whom 350 million speak it as their second language. It is the most widely spoken language of the world. Urdu, the ‘camp’ language of definitely less than 100,000 soldiers and servants, has, within 400 years, about 500 million speakers. It is the mother tongue of 275 million and the second language of 225 million.

Farsi: This brings us to Farsi, Persian or Iranian. Fârsi is but another form of Pârsi, and it means belonging to Fârs/Pârs, always a state or province of Iran. Although Darius the Great, Achaemenian King-of-Kings, and his descendents call themselves as Pârsa, Persian and also their land as Pârsa, their language is Ârya, Aryan (Iranian). If that was the case during the Achaemenian period (550-330 BCE), then why is it known by the name of Fârsi/Pârsi by its speakers today?


The Achaemenians were succeeded, after the overthrow of the Macedonian rule (330-250 BCE), by the Parthians, Iranians of the eastern flank of the Iranian Plateau. They, like other Iranian groups, had their language. It was called after their name, Parthian.It may be mentioned here that because of the early supremacy of the Middle Iranian group, called Mâda (literally ‘mid, midst, middle’), other groups were called ‘flank’, and that is Pârsava in Old Persian and Pârthava in Parthian. Mâda, the Medes, lived in the ‘middle’ and their ‘flanks’ (Pârsava and Pârthava) lived around them. Pârthava evolved into Pahlavik/Pahlavi later and we know that it is one of major Middle Iranian language. It may be noted that while Avesta has peresav and Sanskrit parshav for ‘flank’, the two have finally evolved in pahlu in Persian and pasly in Hindi/Urdu. The Sassanians succeeded the Parthians. Their empire, larger than the Parthian federation, lasted from 224 to 652 CE. They were Persians and their language, akin to Parthian, was Persian (Pârsik/Pârsi). Obviously and quite naturally, Pârsi spread fast throughout the empire, an empire which had its akin languages all over and it was easy to switch over to it. Arabic Arrives, Pârsi Persists: The Arabs came and they imposed and enforced their religion, Islam, and their language, Arabic, throughout their conquered lands, from the Chinese borders in the east to Morocco in the west. Islam became the dominant and dominating
religion, but linguistically, while the western part succumbed to the language, the eastern part, the Greater Iran, resisted and finally rose within 200 years, to revitalize Pârsi in the region. It slowly and surely became the formal and literary language of the eastern peoples—Iranians, Turks, Mongols and Indians. It was the common language of the Rulers of Bukhara in the east, the Moguls in the Indian sub-continent, Seljuks in the western part of Asia, the Ottomans in Euro-Asia, and their predecessors and successors. It was the most dominant language in the world of its time. In its thousand years of dominance, Pârsi has produced one of the best and finest literature from the ‘a’ of ‘anatomy’ to the ‘z’ of ‘zoology’ on animals, art, architecture, astrology, astronomy, drama, food, games, geography, government, history, humor, literature, magic, medicine, music, religion (Zoroastrian, Manichaeism, Mazdak Movement, Islam, Sufism, Christianity and Baha’ism), science, ‘translation and commentary’ (from Arabic,Greek, Pahlavi, Sanskrit, Turkish and other languages into Pârsi), and other fields of the human life. Phonetically, it sounds sweet to ears. Its articulated vowels make it much less guttural. Its poetry is, perhaps, the richest in language, expression, inspiration, narration, rhyme, tune, length, height and depth in the world languages. Well-known Pârsi authors, numbering around 400 persons, are not only writers, generally prolific, but simultaneously a combination of two or more as architects, artisans, astronomers, chemists, court flatterers, ecologists, fictionists, geographers, historians, linguists, litterateurs, mathematicians, musicians, mystics, philosophers, physicians, poets, politicians, rulers, scientists, teachers, technologists, theologians and zoologists.Among those known better in the Western World are: Abhari (Asir al-Din Abhari), Alpharabus (Abu Nasr Farabi), Avicenna (Abu Ali Sina), Biruni (Abu Reihan Biruni), Ferdowsi (Abol Ghassem Ferdowsi Tusi), Geber (Jaber Ibn Hayyan), Hafez (Khajeh Shams al-Din Hafez-e Shirazi), Haravi (Abu Mansur Movaffaq Heravi), Kashi (Ghyas al-Din Jamshid Kashi), Kharazmi (Mohammad Kharazmi), Khayyam (Omar Khayyam Nishapuri), Rhazes (Zakariya Razi), Rumi (Mowlana Jal al-Din Mohammad Balkhi), and Sa’di ( Sheikh Sharaf al-Din Mosleh Shirazi). Its Shâhnâmeh, the Book of Kings, composed 1,000 years ago by Ferdowsi Tusi, is unique in the World Literature. Consisting of 60,000 couplets, it begins in the name of ‘God of Life and Wisdom’, Who is higher than human conception and Who created the Universe and maintains and guides it. It praises Wisdom as the best Gift of God to humanity. God created the earth along with fire, air and water, and then the plants and animals. Mankind appeared in an erect posture. The human history begins from the days of cave-dwelling, vegetarian food, scanty covering and stone implements, through the discovery of kindling fire, turning to the ‘devilish’ meat eating, animal domestication, architecture, dress making, metal implements, medicine, commerce and navigation, to the invasion of Iran by the Arab Muslims and the end of the Sassanian Empire. That is where the Shahnameh ends. As a nationalist, Ferdowsi did not want to continue the History of Iran under alien occupation. Persian: Then, came the British, French, Spanish, Russian and other imperialists, who, basing it on the Latin Persianus, called it ‘Persian’ in English, ‘Persienne’ in French, ‘Persa’ in Spanish, ‘Persidskiy’ in Russian, and so on. The British and the Russians went a little further. They imposed their languages over their empires at the cost of Persian, the common language that bound the peoples in Turkey, Caucasia, Central Asia and British India to the reduced Iran (Persia) and the newly-created Afghanistan in a common culture. Although reduced in its proportion, Persian is still spoken in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as a major native language, and in Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan (Republic), Bahrain, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Iraq, Israel, Netherlands, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Southern Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Arab Emirate and the United States of America as a minor language. In total, there are 71 million Persian speaking natives and almost an equal number non-natives. And when speaking and writing in English, it should be called Persian, Persienne in French, Persa in Spanish, Persidskiy in Russian, and not Farsi, just as, in Persian, one calls English ‘Englisi’, French as ‘Faransavi’, Spanish as ‘Espaniyai’, and Russian as ‘Rûsi’. So do the English, French, Spanish, Russians and all others for the names of other languages in their respective languages. Persian-Pashtu Politics: Persian is Fârsi/Pârsi for all the Indo-Iranian peoples. Its classical
written and read style is called ‘Fârsi-ye Dari – Royal Persian’. Today, one hears of Farsi, Dari and Tajiki as if they are three different languages, spoken in three different countries. It has its political reasons. After the murder of Nader Shah Afshar (1746), Iran was caught in internal turmoil. One
of his top generals, Ahmad Durrani Abdali, an Afghan (Pashtun), took over the reign in what is Afghanistan today and a part of India. It became to be known as the ‘Kingdom of Kabul’. It paved the way for the superiority of Pashtuns, called Afghân in Persian. Later, as a result of the ‘Big Game’ between the British and Russian in the 19th Century,and two Afghan Wars and one Persian battle by the British, a buffer state was created to
have the British India immune from the Russian Imperialism. The name Afghânistan, applied to the land inhabited by the Afghans/Pashtuns in the southern part of the Kingdom overlapping into the Indian Sub-Continent, was extended to cover the entire Kingdom in 1919. Although Persian continues to be the major language of Afghanistan and about 70 percent speak it as their mother tongue or second language, the population which spoke it as its mother tongue were known as Fârsivân. That reminded the Pashtuns in the political fields of the affiliation to Persian and Persia. So a movement was started in the 1960s to alienate from Persian and Persia. Fârsi became formally to be called Dari, with a fake etymology of belonging to ‘darra – valley’ part of Afghanistan and the Fârsivâns became Tajiks! It was fanned that Dari was a different language from Farsi. Years passed and the events in Iran and Afghanistan brought many emigrants to the United States. The very hot ‘hostage’ issue, with the Islamic Republic of Iran, made most of the Iranian immigrants avoid their connection with Iran, Persia and Persian. They took the hint from their Afghan neighbors and began calling their language as Fârsi and not Persian. And this has made the Americans drop ‘Persian’ for Farsi! Iranian: Had the Iranians followed the Achaemenians and had they called their common language group as Iranian, today we would called it Iranian {Irani} just as the Arabs, both the original natives and the later ‘Arabicized’, called and call the group of the Arabian languages as ‘Arabic (arabi)’ and the Turks, both the original and ‘Turkized’, called and call the group of the Turkic languages as ‘Turkish (Turki)’. Why the term ‘group’, because just as among the Iranian group, Kurdish of the west is not fully understood by the Baluchis of the east and Bandari of the Persian Gulf by the Gilanis of the Caspian Sea, the language spoken by the Omanies is not fully understood by the Egyptians, and the language spoken by the Uzbeks falters on the ears of the Turks of Turkey. As a result, while not calling Persian (Fârsi) as Iranian (Irâni) has resulted in dividing the Iranians from the Pashtuns in the east to the Kurds in the west, it has united the Arabian and Turkic peoples so much so that some Iranian Azerbaijani consider themselves Turks and feel closer to Uzbeks and Turks of Turkey and some Khuzistanis feel more Arabian than Iranian. It is an irreparable mistake since the Parthian period. The term ‘Irani (Iranian)’ cannot replace Fârsi (Persian). The only solution lies in understanding that although originally English belonged to the Angles, today it is proudly owned by the peoples, who have far or no ethnic relations with the Angles. If Africans, Australians, Indians and North Americans call their language English, and the Central and South Americans call their language Spanish, and yet do not feel any alien ethnic pinch, why should Iranians, from ‘a’ of Azari to ‘y’ of Yazdi feel any inferiority acknowledging their mother or second language as Farsi/Parsi/Persian? Persian still binds the peoples from the eastern Mediterranean to the Pamirs heights in history, culture and art, and this is only and only because their ancestors promoted
Persian to its heights much more than the people of Fars/Pars. Acknowledging Persian as their inherit language, they would come closer and closer once again to the unity they enjoyed together.
Conclusion: It is Pârsi/Fârsi for the Indo-Iranian peoples, is only Persian in English and is one of the Irani (Iranian) languages across Eurasia.
Prosperous be Persian, Pâyandeh bâd Pârsi, Âbâd bâd Iran va shad bâd Irani!
 
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