I’ve often wondered how Iran held on to its language and culture after the Arab invasion in 633 AD. Arabic is the dominant language throughout the Middle East, yet somehow Iran still speaks Farsi and held fast to its culture.
Well, I learned how this was possible last night. I was on Cambly talking to a student from Iran and he told me the story. He said that while Iran did adopt the Arabic writing system they kept Farsi as their primary language because of a poem called the Shahnameh.
The Shahnameh, which took Persian poet Ferdowsi 30 years to write, is the longest epic poem written by a single author in the world. It details the history of the great Iranian kings. It is written entirely in Farsi and is held with such national pride, that after the Arab invasion, the Persian people clung to this poem as a part of their national identity and some say it is the sole reason that the Farsi language is still in existence today. While they did adopt the Arabic writing system, they were not letting go of Farsi because of the Shahnameh.
Children are taught to read and write using the Shahnameh. Older students memorize passages from it.
Power to the poets y’all. Power to the poets!