Biography Hakim Abu al-Qasim Mansur Firdowsi
Hakim Abu al-Qasim Mansur Firdowsi
- Time Period941 - 1020
Firdowsi was born between the year 932 A. D. and 941 A. D. in a city of Khorasan called Tus (now part of Iran). He is regarded as one of the major poets of Khorasan and the author of the famous epic of Shah Namah (The Book of Kings).
Not much is known about his early life except that he was born in the city of Tus, Khorasan, and belonged to a family who traditionally was involved in agriculture (diqhani) and owned land. Some sources indicate that his real name is not known and Firdowsi is his pen name, derived from the word Firdows which mean paradise. Moreover, some other sources mentions his name to be Abul Qasem Mansur. It is assumed that he had a considerable degree of financial independence from the inheriting land and its incoming revenue.
Firdowsi remained almost all of his life in Khorasan except of a visit to Baghdad. He lived and traveled extensively in different cities of Khorasan, such as Balkh, Ghazna and cities of Northern Khorasan across the Amu Darya (Oxus River). Whether he was settled in a city or was in travel he would research and imbibe the pre- Arab values of Khorasanians particularly from the ordinary dihqan class and Samanid rulers who had great attachment to their own pre-Arab glories, greatness and independence.
By age thirty, he had developed a good understanding of the past history of Iran. Familiar with the consequences of the Arab conquest of his homeland, he sought to safeguard Iranian heritage against impending assaults by the Turks of Central Asia. Toward this end, he studied the chronicles of Mazandaran, Sistan, Balkh, Bukhara, and Khutan, as well as the oral traditions that had developed over centuries around the ancient culture. These included discussions of immortality, the divine right of kings, knowledge, justice, heroism, vengeance, deceit, and black magic. By age forty, Firdowsi was ready to versify the entire account made available to him by a friend.
Firdowsi began composing the epic of Shah Nameh in the year 975 A. D. and finally it was completed in the year 1010 A. D. after 35 years. It contains around sixty thousands couplets. While the chronicles and the documents that Firdowsi used have all but vanished, however, his rendition of them in verse remains.
Regarding the veracity of his stories, he cautions the reader not to relegate them to the realm of "lies and myths." Rather, he insists, his stories must be understood to contain both knowledge and mysteries:
"Deem not these legends lying fantasy,
As if the world were always in one stay,
For most accord with sense,"
The epic is based, Firdowsi states, on ancient accounts scattered in the hands of mu'bads in different regions of Iran. A champion dihqan, he continues, collected these stories by consulting aged mu'bads of various climes and compiled this book:
"In the days gone by
There was an Epic Cycle spread broadcast
Among the learned archmages, and at last
A certain paladin, of rustic birth,
A man of courage, wisdom, rank, and worth,
An antiquary, one who ransacked earth
For any legends of the ages past,
Intent on learning what might yet be known,
Called hoar archmages out of every clime,
To ask about the annals of the throne,
The famed successful heroes of old time"