Nizami Ganjavi was a genius of his craft who played an exceptional role in the cultural development of the Middle Eastern peoples. He completed his poem Khosrow and Shirin in 1180 and here the poet demonstrated the power and greatness of human love and interpreted its deep social significance. The story fascinates and is resonant with the history of the Azerbaijani people. As the first verse novel in the history of Azerbaijani literature, it tells the story of the love between the Sassanian king Khosrow Parviz and the beautiful Shirin, crown princess of Barda.
Nizami recalls Ferdowsi, whose poem was the first to introduce this theme into written literature, and states that he differs from his predecessor and develops this popular tale from a completely new angle.
Indeed, Ferdowsi wrote extensively in the Shahnameh about the period of Khosrow’s reign, his wealth and splendour, the wars he fought etc. and described his marriage to Shirin. Ferdowsi did not aspire to shed light on his heroes’ inner worlds, their natural inclinations and feelings, or the paths of their spiritual development. He did not even mention Farhad and he portrayed Shirin as the murderer of Maryam. Nizami, on the other hand, wrote from love. He described how purifying it can be, identified its importance to one’s life and constructed a number of vivid and deeply psychological images, thus illustrating the process of one’s spiritual evolution. He embroidered the legends based on history to fit his creative vision and put together an original work of art that differs from both folk literature and Ferdowsi’s version.
As we have already mentioned, the poet centred his poem mainly on love, which is why the tale has distinguished status within the world’s romantic literature. The poet also aspired to address pressing matters of his time, and he expressed crucial socio-political thoughts about just rule, government and care for the people. The ideal of a righteous king, reflected on by the poet throughout his career, is clearly apparent in this poem, too.
Shirin is a character fully and skilfully developed by Nizami and she too stands out in the history of world literature. Such sublime, intelligent and comprehensively positive images of women can be found in the Western European literature of later centuries, in Shakespeare’s work, for example. Shirin may also be compared in many respects with Dante’s Beatrice.
Khosrow, one of the main protagonists, is also a character who reflects the poet’s socio-political views. Nizami had developed the important humanistic idea of ‘the possibility and necessity of turning from evil’ in his first poem. Here, he tried to clarify the message against a backdrop of engaging events. Khosrow’s spiritual evolution is a characteristic example. Nizami offered an important lesson to the princes of his day and, with the character of the wise Khosrow, expressed his firm belief that people can evolve morally with proper education and upbringing.
It was the Atabey Muhammad Jahan Pahlavan who requested an epic about love from the poet, and the resulting Khosrow and Shirin was written to immortalize in poetry the image of Nizami’s own wife Afag, following her death.
Source: Nizami Ganjavi, Khosrow and Shirin. “Leader Publishing House”, Baku. 2004. pp. 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12.
Foreword by: Hamid Arasli
Scientific editor: Khalil Yusifli