The Turkish Ottomans were fluent in Farsi (Persian)

May 25, 2014 Comments Off on The Turkish Ottomans were fluent in Farsi (Persian)


Did you know that many educated Ottoman Turks (just like Pakistanis a few decades ago) were fluent in Farsi? In fact Farsi was THE language when it came to poetry in the Ottoman empire, this is why basically every Ottoman ruler was raised from childhood on to learn Farsi and to write poems in Farsi.

A portray of Sultan Abdul Hamid II (may Allah have mercy upon him and forgive his sins) and a sample of his handwritten poetry in Persian language and scripts, which was taken from the book "My Father Abdul Hameed," written by his daughter Ayşe ('Aisha) Sultan.

A portray of Sultan Abdul Hamid II (may Allah have mercy upon him and forgive his sins) and a sample of his handwritten poetry in Persian language and scripts, which was taken from the book “My Father Abdul Hameed,” written by his daughter Ayşe (‘Aisha) Sultan.

Eighteen of 37 reigning Ottoman sultans were known for their poetry. And that doesn’t take into account any of the Ottoman extended family. For example, Süleyman the Magnificent under whom the Ottoman Empire reached its greatest extent, wrote poetry and so did five of his sons. And his father before him, one of the greatest Ottoman warrior-sultans, wrote poetry in Persian as well as Turkish, while the ruler of Persia (who ironically were Turks themselves i.e. the Safavid dynasty who forced the majority Sunni Persian population into Shi’ism), his great rival and enemy, wrote poetry in Turkish. In addition, many grand viziers and court officials wrote poetry and/or were patrons of various poets.


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 (Sunn) and Sa’adi (Sunni) and other great poets of Iran and considered it as a sign of culture and refinement.

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.

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 (today part of Afghanista, formely part of greater Persia/Khorassan) 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.

Attached is a picture of Sultan Abdul Hamid II (may Allah have mercy upon him and forgive his sins) and a sample of his handwritten poetry in Persian language and scripts, which was taken from the book “My Father Abdul Hameed,” written by his daughter Ayşe (‘Aisha) Sultan.

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