Influence of Iranian Literature on Turkish Literature
In 1037 Saljuq Turks invaded Iran and founded a dynasty which continued to reign in Iran till 1197 A.D. These Saljuq Turks, even prior to their invasion and conquest, were in touch with Iranian civilization and culture. When they came to power the Saljuqs accepted Farsi as their court language.
It was during their supremacy that great men of letters like Umar Khayyam, Khwajeh Nizam-al-Molk and Ghazali flourished. A branch of these Saljuqs went and occupied Turkey and they continued to reign in that country even after the conquest of Iran by the Mongols.
When Mowlana Jallaluddin, the great mystic poet of Iran left Balkh on the eve of Mongol invasion and went to reside in Quniyya in Antolia, he felt at home in his new place of residence because there, he could also converse in Farsi and could recite his mystic verses in Persian where everyone would understand and enjoy his verses.
Although various Turkish dialects as well as Persian were in use in the Saljukid domains, the court and literary language of the whole kingdom continued to be Farsi. As Mr. Rothfield (Davar, Iran and its culture, p. 331) points out, even here it was an Iranian poet who ushered the Turkish language into existence.
This Iranian poet, Baha’uddin, the son of the famous Mowlana Jallaluddin (1207 - 1272 A.D.), composed a poem entitled Rubab-Nameh in Farsi, in which he included 156 Turkish verses. This was the beginning of Turkish literature under Iranian inspiration. However, it needed another impetus. This time from an Iranian statesman Mir Ali Shir Nawai (+1561 A.D.) the Minister of State for Sultan Hussayn Bayqara, ruler of Herat.
He gathered round him a literary circle composing a new Turkish literature on the Persian model. This Turkish literary movement that was set in motion in Khorasan was artificial and ephemeral. It did not thrive in the ensuing political and religious upheavals to which Khorasan was exposed.
However, it had a permanent effect, in helping to stimulate the growth of the kindred Ottoman Turkish language in the Anatolian Peninsula. But, in the Turkish language that thus emerged in Anatolian Peninsula, Farsi and Arabic words were quite frequently used. Turkish poetry that was emerging was mainly based on Persian poetic forms and prosody and according to Mr. Gibb, even thoughts were absorbed from Persian literature.
They imitated the Iranian poets in their selection of notions and ideas along with the manner of their presentation. The influence of Iranian civilization and language was very pronounced in the Ottoman Empire.
As Professor Toynbee remarks:
From the remote domain which they had carved for themselves in the European provinces of Orthodox Christendom, the Ottoman "Ghazis of Rum," still looked to the heart of the "Iranic World" for intellectual light and leading. The Ottoman Sultan Bayazid II (1448- 1512), who was the father of Salim I and the son of Mehmet the conqueror, was in correspondence with the divines and the men of letters of Khorasan, including the poet Jami, and the Sunni doctor Farid-ad-Din Ahmad-i-Taftazani, the Shaykh-al-Islam of Herat who was put to death by Shah-Isma’il in A.D. 1510, for refusing to pay lip service to the Shia’ creed.
Toynbee shows that prior to the advent of Shah Isma’il the founder of Safavid dynasty, Iran was the real literary and cultural center through which the Saljuqs, Osmanlis, Transoxanians, and the Indian Muslims drew their inspiration and power.
In this vast area that Toynbee calls "Iranic World," the people had discarded Arabic in favor of Farsi as its secular literary vehicle.
The territories which were conquered from Orthodox Christendom by the Seljuqs and the Osmanlis were a kind of colonial extension of the Iranic World, and the representatives of the Iranic society in these partibus infidelim, like its representatives in Hindustan, depended for the maintenance of their culture upon a study flow of arts and ideas, and of immigrants to import them from the homelands of the Iranic civilization in Iran itself.
The last of these immigrant Kulture-Träger were the fugitive Timurid prince Badi-az-Zaman and the 700 families of indigenous skilled artisans whom the Ottoman Sultan Selim brought home with him from Tabriz in 1514.
At that point in time, there ensued a contest between Shah Ismai’l the Iranian King and the Ottoman Sultan Selim on the question of who should be the political and military leader of the Iranic society. Sultan Selim wanted to be the Caliph of Islam throughout the Islamic world. This was contrary to the wishes of Shah Isma’il who also had a similar plan in a different direction.
Shah Isma’il wished to reduce the religious dualism of the Islamic world to a unity by imposing the minority’s religion (i.e. Shi’ism) upon the majority of the Iranic Society by sheer military force; but this proved to be beyond his powers. As Toynbee puts it:
At the end of his career, as at the beginning both sects were still in being in the Iranic world side by side and although the Shi'ah had obtained a net numerical increase through the excess of Isma’il’s forcible conversions of Sunnis to Shi’ism over Selim’s forcible conversions of Shi’is to the Sunnah, the Shi’ah still remained in a minority on the whole.
The great change (a change for the worse) consisted first in the forcible sorting out and geographical segregation of the two sects by the violent means of massacre and deportation and compulsory conversion, while the second new feature was the fiery hatred between Sunnis and Shi’is which had flamed up on both sides owing to the introduction of these methods of barbarism.
This schism of the Iranic Society on the moral, religious as well as the political plane severed all the threads that had previously knit the Iranic Social fabric together and this sawing asunder took the life out of Iranic civilization and stopped its progress dead.
The Late Mirza Mohammed Khan Ghaznavi, the Iranian Scholar, in a letter addressed to Professor Edward Browne relates the main reason why the literature and poetry of Iran during the Safavid period sunk to a very low ebb:
The chief reason for this... seems to have been that these kings by reason of their political aims and strong antagonism to the Ottoman Empire, devoted the greater part of their energies to the propagation of the Shi’ah doctrine and the encouragement of divines learned in its principles and laws.
Now although these duties strove greatly to effect the religious unification of Persia (which resulted in its political unification), and laid the foundations of this present day Persia, whose inhabitants are, speaking generally, of one faith, one tongue and one race, yet on the other hand, from the point of view of literature, poetry and Sufi-ism and Mysticism and everything connected with the "Accomplishments" they not merely fell short in the promotion thereof but sought by every means to injure and annoy the representatives of these "Accomplishments" who were not too firmly established in the Religious Laws and its derivatives...
However, although this sudden impoverishment of culture in Iran played a part in dealing a deadly blow to the Iranic culture, the main reason for this sudden closure of the ancient channels of communication along which the vivifying streams of culture had been flowing into Anatolia from Iran, was due to the new frontiers that now were erected between the Shi’ah Iran and the Sunni Osmanlis whereby any exchange of ideas between the two parts of that society were completely stopped.
As nothing was there to replace the Iranian culture according to Professor Toynbee:
The Osmanlis lived a cultural life in death, until in our time, they have thrown off the remnants of their dead Iranic culture and have sought to adopt our Western culture, like a suit of ready-made clothes as a counsel of despair.
However, one should not forget that the Osmanlis did not completely broke their contact with Iranian literature. Jami’s works considerably influenced the Turkish literature for a century. In the 16th century the Indian Iranian poets Faizi or Urfi were recognized as ideals in Turkish poetry.
In the 17th century, Sa’eb Isfahani, influenced the Turkish poetry and later it was the turn of Shaukat to do the same. Of course, Sa’adi and Hafiz were also esteemed greatly. Then in 1879 Abdul Hag Hamid Bey and Shanasi Effendi made a break with the past and introduced the spirit and forms of Western literature into Turkey.
As Mr. Gibb observes:
there is found to be as profound a difference in form and spirit between a Turkish literary work of 1900 and that composed 50 years earlier as that between the works of Tennyson and Chaucer.
Sultan Salim used to compose Persian poetry and in his court Farsi (Persian) was used in profusion.
When Wilhelm II, German Kaiser, wished to touch the heart strings of Sultan Abdul-Hamid, the last Ottoman Emperor, he ordered the Diwan of Persian verses of Sultan Salim to be printed on the best paper in Berlin and offered it to him.
Up until the present Revolution in Turkey the study of Persian language was compulsory in all Turkish schools and most of the high dignitaries of Ottoman Court used to recite Persian verses of Hafiz and Sa’adi and other great poets of Iran and considered it as a sign of culture and refinement.
Most of the Ottoman Sultans including Sultan Abdul-Hamid used to consult Hafiz’s Divan prior to taking important decisions. Turks carried Iranian culture and literature to Europe. One notices many Farsi words in the vocabulary of many countries in Eastern Europe.
The Rumanians still today call an enemy dushman, curtain is pardeh, minced meat is Kufteh etc... We find the following slightly altered Persian words in Yugoslavian language, adigar, aferim, agush, aya, ayna, armagan, ashicare, avaz, bashca, bashowan, bazarjani, bazuvent, behar, behut.
In Egypt, Isma’il Pasha the father of Malik Fu’ad I, the King of Egypt, spoke Farsi and up to the advent of the last King Fu’ad of Egypt, Farsi was spoken by the kings and grandees who were of Turkish blood, because in order to speak Turkish well they had to study Farsi.
One can quite assuredly state that until the end of the 19th century Farsi was still a dominant language throughout Asia and, as we have already seen, until the middle of the last century Farsi was the official language of India.
Transoxania had depended almost as much as the Ottoman Empire upon the inflow of culture from Iran, and it suffered still more severely from the blocking of the channels and the drying-up of the springs; for at this moment Transoxania needed an additional cultural stimulus in order to leaven the barbarism of her Uzbeg conquerors who now sat on the thrones of the cultivated Timurids. When the stimulus, so far from being intensified, was removed altogether, the Iranic culture of Transoxania was doomed to decay.