by Zahida Aamir
The great Azerbaijani poet and philosopher Nizami Ganjavi (the real name is Mohammed Ilyas Yusif oqlu: 1141-1209) was born and lived his whole life in Ganja, the second largest city of Azerbaijan. His parents died when the poet was still young. Ilyas was brought up by his uncle, received education in madrasah, perfectly studied the medieval sciences on his own.
Nizami Ganjavi started his creation with lyric poems. He was a famous ghazal and gassida author and one of his famous divans was dedicated to Seljuk ruler Kizil Arslan.
Nizami was of singularly pious, understanding and a gentle nature, avoided the attractions of court life. His lyrics stand out with high professionalism, worldly attitude to love and humanist thoughts about a human’s destiny. But Nizami Ganjavi entered the world literature with ”Khamsa” a set of five poems:”Treasury of Mysteries”, ”Khosrov and Shirin”, ”Leili and Majnun”, ”Seven Beauties” and ”Iskander-name” written in masnavi form. Nizami’s creation was the primary top of the East Renaissance and consisted of bright artistic reflection of the most humane, socio-political and moral-ethic ideals of his epoch. The ”Treasury of Mysteries” is mainly devoted to philosophic matters and the ”Khosrov and Shirin” is a romantic tangle between Shah Khosrov, the princess Shirin and the architect Farhad, the latter dispatched by an ingenious trick. The poem the Iskandarnama or Book of Alexander the Great, also called Sharafnama or Iqbdlnama-i-Iskandari (The Fortunes of Alexander) is in two parts. The first depicts Alexander the Great as the conqueror of the world and the second portrays him as a prophet and philosopher, narrating a second set of adventures. Suffi allegories appear, and pantheism in the expedition of Alexander to the fountain of life in the land of darkness. Nizami’s fifth work is often regarded as his masterpiece. The Seven Beauties is about romantic story of seven wives of the king Bahram-Gur which also penetrated into the European art. The fourth, Russian princess of seven beauties was the model for Turandot, adapted afterwards by Schiller and Puccini. In general the poetry of Nizami set the pattern for later epic poetry in the Turkish, Persian, Chaghatay and Hindi languages. But the “Leyli and Majnun”, the third poem, is the most favorite. It reworks the famous love-story of Leyli and Majnun, a tale of thwarted passion that passed into European renaissance literature as “Romeo and Jullet” of Shakespeare. Majnun ( the real name is Qeys ) was a Bedouin poet who fell in love with Leyli Al- Aamiriya from his own tribe. He soon began composing poems about his love for her, mentioning her name often. When he asked for her hand in marriage, he was refused by Leyli’s farther. Soon after, Leyli married another man. When Qeys heard of her marriage, he fled the tribe camp and began wandering the surrounding desert. His family eventually gave up hope for his return and left food for him in the wilderness. He could sometimes be seen reciting poetry to himself or writing in the sand with a stick.
Every breeze that blows,
brings your scent to me;
Every bird that sings,
calls out your name to me;
Every dream that appears,
brings your face to me;
Every glance at your face,
has left its trace with me.
I am yours, I am yours,
whether near or far;
Your grief is mine, all mine,
wherever you are.
Leyli moved to present-day Iraq with her husband, where she became ill and eventually died. Qeys was later found dead near an unknown woman’s grave. He had carved three verses of poetry on a rock near the grave. The “Leyli and Majnun” with its philosophical and dramatic exploration of love in all its mystical and worldly forms was a particular source of inspiration to Ottoman poets. This year, marks the 104th Jubilee of the first staging of the “Leyli and Majnun”
opera by Azerbaijani composer Uzeir Hajibeyov. Its first performance was staged on January 25, 1908 at Taghiyev Theater in Baku and was the first work ever created in the Italian musical genre in the Muslim world.
The description of a man’s inner world, his feelings, thoughts along with the dynamic development of the main hero’s characters forms a main content of the Nizami’s literary school. Nizami Ganjevi’s poems greatly enriched the love theme which was widely spread in oriental literature. Nizami brought the highest humane ideals and new professional achievements into the literature of the Eastern nations and opened a new direction in literature. He always aspired to link the literature with the real life.
Being a great poet of humanity he sang of a man’s dignity. The ideas of philosophers and cultural heritage of humankind was skillfully introduced by Nizami as a model to make the dreams of people for the perfect life true.
Nizami was the first poet in the Eastern literature, who described a woman as possessing high human qualities: brave, valiant, highly-moral. He proves that a woman is capable to take an active part in different spheres of life on equal terms with men. Nizami was the first in the Eastern Literature who sang praises to the work, considering it as a human being’s main differ from other living creatures.
Nizami was a great patriot of his time. In each work he tried to link the described events with Azerbaijan and to magnify the great past of his Nation. The marvelous nature of Azerbaijan was portrayed by poet with a gentle love.Azerbaijani oral folk literature- legends, tales and proverbs are widely and skillfully used in Nizami’s creation. And in its turn magic poetry significantly affected Azerbaijani folk.
The unique manuscripts of Nizami Ganjavi are kept and guarded in the famous libraries, museums and funds of Paris, London, Moscow, St.Petersburg, Baku, Tashkend, Tehran, Cairo, Istanbul, New –Dehli and other cities of the world as valuable pearls. Nizami’s poetry played irreplaceable role in the development of the the Eastern Arts. The interest to Nizami Ganjevi’s heritage in Europe has risen since the end of 17th century: his works have been translated into English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanies and other world languages, his life and creation is being researched.
The legacy of Nizami is being cherished by people of Azerbaijan. The Institute of Literature, the metro station in Baku and the main streets in capital and other cities of the country are named after the great son of Azerbaijan. The monument of Nizami Ganjavi majestically dominated in the center of the Azerbaijani capital. The poet’s tomb decorated by verses of from his poems at the entry of his hometown Ganja is being visited by thousands tourists from all over the world.