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Who are we the Persians?

By Roya Monajem, Tehran


This site, Payvand meaning 'connection and bond' is a site broadcasting everything about Persia. So naturally or expectedly, many of its visitors will be Persians. The rest are journalists or people interested in this land and/or people.


So let's go over this question of "Who we Persians are?" Please help me whenever you feel any "superiority complex", "prejudice", "vanity" anywhere, and in regard to my "ignorance" which has no limit or end, remind me if you are sure that what I write here is not found in any history books, or other reliable works and documents. I beseech you to do that because as you know it has been quite difficult for us in this country to have easy access to the outside sources and major 'cultural' centers of the world since - when would you like us to take our reference point? Let's say at least since the 'center of culture' was transferred away from this land after when? Islam (1400 years ago)? But even in Post-Islamic Persia we were still one of the major 'cradles' of civilization, particularly during the Safavid era in 17th century when Persia woke up from some 10-11 centuries of slumber, and with Shah Abbas's unremitting efforts the Persian Empire with its gorgeous capital Esfahan (Isfahan) became a voice in the affairs of the world. But many of us who blame everything on Arab invasion of Persia can not like this dynasty and Shah Abbas, because it was under his reign that Shiism became the official religion of Persia. Some of us can 'forgive' him because he was a great king. After all for 10-11 centuries we had fought to win our complete independence from the Rule of Caliphates sitting in Baghdad and elsewhere every now and then. So much blood was shed for what Shah Abbas finally re-established: Not only an independent empire, but an independent state.


But why? Why did Shah Abbas, and his major consultants all among greatest learned figures of this land - that is Mir-Emad (clergy philosopher), Mirfendresky (clergy philosopher), Sheikh Bahaee (mystic, alchemist), Reza Abbasi (artist), Mohammad Reza Esfahani (architect), Mullah Sadra (mystic philosopher), to enumerate only the best well-known of them - made such a decision? Surly, such great men could not be prejudiced about their religion or 'sect.' Mullah Sadra was even under the great threat of being executed by 'religious ecclesiastic' because of his belief on the origin of creation of the universe. He had already felt the coldness and sharpness of 'religious sword' over his throat. And Shah Abbas was so busy with wars and efficient running of the country that he does not appear to be a 'religious fanatic.' So what made them think that this is the best step to take at that time? That is to announce after 11 centuries Shiism as the official religion of the country. At the time many Persians were already Shiite, but there were still a great number of Zoroastrians, Armenians, Jews, Assyrians and of course Sunnis among the Persian population. Could it be that this was the only way that they could achieve their independence from Arab Caliphates? Were all those above great figures ignorant of what happened in Middle Ages Europe only some 3-4 centuries before their time when Christianity was in full power there and some 5 million people were executed because of their 'believes'? Couldn't they foresee the future consequences of this decision or should we take the unfavorable consequences continued to this day as the price we had to pay for regaining our independence from the Arab Caliphates at that time and under those circumstances? Alas that this independence did not last long and was soon lost to European and later American colonialists and neo-colonists as we fell back to sleep together with our kings.


Then came the revolution supported almost by the majority with the main slogan of independence and freedom, followed by a seemingly meaningless war with Baghdad, i.e. the former seat of Religious Caliphs. Ironical, is it not? The overall result of the revolution was the replacement of a dictatorial monarchy with a totalitarian religious republic.


How much more blood has to be shed for the attainment of simple human rights of national and personal 'independence' and 'freedom'? Will this blue planet of ours ever see a time when every one of its inhabitants would reach the conclusion that the world view of 'my believes are better than your believes' will not get us anywhere new both in our personal and national spheres of existence? When there is a potential 'Hitler' and 'Stalin' sitting in all of us, how can we expect our rulers to be other than the present men of power throughout the world?


Let's stop being carried away and go back to our main discussion. "Who are we Persians?"


We are from the ancient land of Persia, where one of most ancient organized cult-religions of the world, Mithraism or as Persians say the Cult of Mehr (Love) arose. And as everything in the world has its high and low days, once pushed back by the new religion "Zoroastrianism," Mithraism was preserved in parts in Free Masonry, Christianity and Persian Shiism. The cult or religion of Mehr was then replaced by Zoroastrianism with this unique characteristic that it is the only religion of the world that speaks of 'joy' as one of the best creations of God: "Thanks God (Ahuramazda) who created the Sky, the Earth, the Man, the Joy..."


Here is where my pride may come into play. To be one of the  - no matter how petty, yet direct - descendents of the people who were the first nation to discover that the most unifying force in the world can be nothing, but Mehr (Love) and regarded Joy in the life of humans a creation as great as the creation of the universe.


To me this is the only hope remaining for us Persians, as members of a third-world country so far "behind" advanced centers of modern civilization of the world which when looked at impartially are taking humanity to nowhere 'new.' It is enough to have a look at the history of any major ancient land to be sure that so far no 'centers of civilizations' brought about a life worthy of 'human beings.' And if human beings can not live 'joyfully' without the feeling of 'religiousness,' then does anybody know any 'religion' more 'human' than the religion of Mehr, Love? Isn't this the only force that can help us to overcome the destructive, murderous egoistic world outlook of 'my philosophy and views are superior to yours'? Isn't it the only force that can make life worth living both from individual and national point of view? Wasn't this the motivating force for Nelson Mandela to behave so uniquely after the fall of South American racist government?


Nelson Mandela proved to the world that it is possible to overcome the automatic non-human behavior of 'the response to hatred should be hatred.' Such a great hope he brought for us in this sense.


Apparently, love and hate - the latter arising from fear - are the same energy or the two sides of the same coin. Thus with a little bit of awareness and logical concentration which is the most important feature distinguishing us from animals we can transform hatred to love. The force created thus can become a transforming force which we all have experienced in our personal life when in-love. We are very different when we are in such a state of being, aren't we? It is as though all of sudden the world becomes a warm sunny promising place to be. Then if a significant number of us throughout the world succeed to maintain this awareness and transform our negative feelings to their counterparts, then perhaps we would be able to create a different world.


... Payvand News - 11/17/05 ... --

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