Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Introducing the Heritage of Omar Khayyam
By Kourosh Ziabari
Al-Jazeera, ccun.org, May 24, 2010
May 18 is dedicated to the commemoration of Omar Khayyam in the
Iranian solar calendar; the calendar which Khayyam has invented himself. To
the Western world which has always been enchanted by the magnificence and
glory of oriental culture, Omar Khayyam is a venerable and honored figure
who brings to mind the delicacy and gracefulness of ancient Persian
civilization. The Iranian polymath, astronomer, philosopher and poet is
internationally known for his insightful rubaiyyat (quatrains) which the
influential British poet Edward FitzGerland translated from Persian into
English 150 years ago.
Omar Khayyam constitutes an inseparable part
of Iran's impressive history of literature and science. He is associated
with the development of the most accurate solar calendar of the world,
namely the Jalali calendar, which, according to the astronomers and
mathematicians is far more exact and precise than the Gregorian calendar.
It's said that the solar calendar which Omar Khayyam devised shows an error
in the calculation of days and months only once in each 10,000 years.
Khayyam was born in 1048 in the Neyshapur city of the Greater Iran. The
literary potency of Khayyam was so significant that made him the best
composer of quatrains among the Persian poets; however, he is also known for
his contributions to astronomy and one of his most major breakthroughs was
the reformation of Persian calendar under the Seljuk King Sultan Jalal
al-Din Malekshah Saljuqi after whom the Persian solar calendar was named.
Khayyam was a prominent figure of mathematics, literature, philosophy and
astronomy in his age. Some of the orientalist historians believe that
Khayyam was the student of Avicenna, the distinguished Persian physician,
theologian and paleontologist of the 10th century. In one of his poems,
Khayyam introduces himself as a follower of Avicenna's ideological path;
however, this studentship seems to be a mystical and spiritual affinity
rather than a direct mentor – student relationship.
The quatrains of
Khayyam which have given him an international prominence are a collection of
poems with philosophical essence and ontological nature in which Khayyam
reveals his skeptical standpoints regarding the modality of material world
and the existence of human being. It's widely believed that Khayyam had a
pessimistic, cynical viewpoint regarding the material world as he typically
tried to direct criticism against the hypocritical, insincere man and
portray his crave for a utopian world which is practically impossible to
Yesterday This Day's Madness did prepare;
Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
Drink! for you know not whence you came,
Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.
Contextually, Khayyam's quatrains can be divided into five main categories:
1- the mysteries of universe 2- the inevitabilities of life such as destiny
and the disloyalty of the world 3- questions 4- the modality of social life
5- the cheerful moments of life
There are several translations of
Khayyam's quatrains available in various languages including English,
German, Dutch, French, Italian, Danish and Arabic. Edward FitzGeraldn's
translation is considered to be the most authentic and complete version of
Khahyam's quatrains in English; however, the versions of Edward Henry
Whinfield, John Leslie Garner and John Leslie Garner are the other
acceptable and widely-read translations of Rubayiat.
of Khayyam are available in more than 25 languages. One of the most
remarkable translations of Khayyam's poetry into languages other than
English belongs to Friedrich Martin von Bodenstedt. He was a 19th century
German author who published a consistent Deutsch translation comprised of
395 quatrains in 1881. He was a tutor in the family of Russian aristocrat
and priest Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin and had the opportunity to learn
Persian by the virtue of Russia's proximity to the Greater Iran. The success
of Bodenstedt's translation of Rubayiat in German can be compared to that of
FitzGerald in English.
The other notable translation belongs to the
prolific Swedish writer Eric Axel Hermelin who competently translated the
quatrains into Swedish. Hermelin who passed away in 1944 is known for his
contribution to the translation of Persian poetry into Swedish. He
translated several works by the distinguished Iranian poets including Attar,
Rumi and Nezami and paved the ground for the translation of other
masterpieces of Persian literature into European languages, including, among
Despite being literarily less momentous and
significant than Ferdowsi's 60,000-couplet poetic opus "Shahnameh" which
revived the Persian language in the crucial epoch of Arabs' conquest of
Persia, Rubayiat has received enormous attention in different countries and
the international community has glorified Khayyam and exalted his artistic
Tunisia has constructed a set of hotels
named after Khayyam. One of the lunar craters has been named in honor of
Omar Khayyam. The Omar Khayyam crater is located at 58.0N latitude and
102.1W longitude on the surface of moon. The Outer Main-belt Asteroid 1980
RT2 is also named in honor of Omar Khayyam. The Argentine Marxist
revolutionary and guerrilla leader named his son in honor of Khayyam and his
work. Omar Pérez López is a Cuban writer and poet.
clergyman and activist Martin Luther King Jr. quoted Khayyam in his speech
Why I oppose war in Vietnam: "It is time for all people of conscience to
call upon America to come back home. Come home America. Omar Khayyam is
right 'The moving finger writes and having writ, moves on."
American novelist Kurt Vonnegut refers to Khayyam's "moving finger writes"
quatrain in his novel "Breakfast of Champions" when the protagonist Dwayne
Hoover reveals that he had been forced to memorize it in high school.
Anyway, Khayyam has been given so much international attention that even the
primary school students in the United States know him well. He is only one
out of hundreds of figures who constructed the pedestals of Persian
civilization. He was a pioneer in science and literature and now reminds the
world the matchless and unparalleled civilization of Iranian people; the
people whom the U.S. President threatens with a nuclear strike on the roofs
of their homes.