Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Saadi Shirazi (1210-1291), better known by his pen-name as Saadi (سعدی), was one of the major Persian poets of the medieval period. He is not only famous in Persian-speaking countries, but has also been quoted in western sources. He is recognized for the quality of his writings and for the depth of his social and moral thoughts. Saadi is widely recognized as one of the greatest masters of the classical literary tradition.

A native of Shiraz, his father died when he was an infant. Saadi experienced a youth of poverty and hardship, and left his native town at a young age for Baghdad to pursue a better education. As a young man he was inducted to study at the famous Nezamiyeh Center of Knowledge, where he excelled in Islamic sciences, law, governance, history, Arabic literature, and Islamic theology.

The unsettled conditions following the Mongol invasion of Kharazm and Iran led him to wander for 30 years abroad through Anatolia, Syria, Egypt and Iraq. In his work he also refers to his travels in Pakistan, India and Central Asia. He also performed the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina and visited Jerusalem. It is believed that Saadi may have also visited Oman and other lands south of the Arabian Peninsula. Saadi traveled through war wrecked regions from 1271 to 1294. Due to Mongol invasions he lived in desolate areas and met caravans fearing for their lives on once lively silk trade routes. Saadi lived in isolated refugee camps where he met bandits, Imams, men who formerly owned great wealth or commanded armies, intellectuals, and ordinary people. He sat in remote teahouses late into the night and exchanged views with merchants, farmers, preachers, wayfarers, thieves, and Sufi mendicants. For twenty years or more, he continued the same schedule of preaching, advising, and learning, honing his sermons to reflect the wisdom and foibles of his people. Saadi was captured by Crusaders at Acre where he spent 7 years as a slave digging trenches outside its fortress. He was later released after the Mamluks paid ransom for Muslim prisoners being held in Crusader dungeons.

When he reappeared in his native Shiraz he was an elderly man. Saadi was not only welcomed to the city but was respected highly by the ruler and enumerated among the greats of the province. The remainder of Saadi's life seems to have been spent in Shiraz.

His best known works are Boostan (The Orchard) completed in 1257 and Golestan (The Rose Garden) in 1258. Boostan is entirely in verse and consists of stories aptly illustrating the standard virtues recommended to Muslims (justice, liberality, modesty, contentment) as well as of reflections on the behavior of dervishes and their ecstatic practices. Golestan is mainly in prose and contains stories and personal anecdotes. The text is interspersed with a variety of short poems, containing aphorisms, advice, and humorous reflections. Saadi demonstrates a profound awareness of the absurdity of human existence. The fate of those who depend on the changeable moods of kings is contrasted with the freedom of the dervishes.

Saadi is well known for his aphorisms, the most famous of which, Bani Adam, in a delicate way shows the essence of Ubuntu and calls for breaking all barriers between the human beings:

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you've no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.

Saadi is buried in Shiraz in a mausoleum with walls inscribed with his work in tile. Set in a pleasant garden, the present tomb was built in 1952 (with inspiration from Isfahan’s Chehel Sotoun) and replaces an earlier much simpler construction. It contains eight brown columns up front with the main structure made of white marble. Unlike the outer structure. the interior is octagonal in shape. Saadi’s tomb lies in the octagonal room whereof the walls are inscribed with snippets of Saadi’s work while the 8th provides information regarding the construction of the mausoleum. To the left is a separate room housing the tomb of a Safavid era poet. The complex contains an outdoor pool running parallel to the left wing where people can throw coins into the water and make a wish. There is also an octagonal indoor pool, covered by a windowed octagonal roof. Since 2009, 50 toman coins in Iran are adorned with Saadi’s Mausoleum on them.

April 21st marks the National Saadi Commemoration Day which is usually commemorated with ceremonies at his Mausoleum.  



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  2. Your blog is amazing, I wish I had discovered it when I was still in Iran. It has great information and beautiful pictures and it manages to show the world a part of the beauty of Iran. Keep up the good work!

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  4. Many important people in history have made remarkable changes to this world. Look at all these pictures, how beautifully they described importance of the great poet Saadi Shirazi.

  5. Imagine a City...

    Imagine a city where every home had on it's front lawn a piece of sculpture or an art installation.

    Imagine a city where each and every business invited artists to exhibit their work to the company's patrons.

    Imagine a city where instead of gifting clothing, electronics, chocolate, or cash, a work of art was given, and appreciated.

    Imagine a city where each and every home housed and preserved an art collection. Where insecurities over self-interests were dispensed with, and collections reflected those varied tastes.

    Imagine a city where glass, pottery, painting, photography. fibers, basketry, and even graffiti were embraced. Where the artists themselves were looked upon as a treasured resource. No matter their perspective.

    Imagine a city where any construction project involved multiple artists, in its' execution.

    Imagine a city which preserved its' creative heritage and embraced it.

    Imagine a city which understood, that capturing a slice of life had merit. But to alter a communities perspective to embrace all thought and belief, strengthened it, not weakened it.

    Imagine a city which led the World in cultural munificence which would then reap the reward of becoming a global mecca.

    Imagine a city which could step outside of what others were doing could walk the path of its' own making.

    Imagine a city where meetings to enact such change, needn't take place. Rather a spontaneous change came from its' citizenry itself.

    Imagine a city which artists flocked to; enabling them to create without fear of censorship or derision.

    Imagine a city not dependent upon their museums or art schools for their lead in any discussions of artistic merit, but rather the career artists themselves.

    I have imagined this city since childhood, as have most of my colleagues. Instead we've swum through muck, hoping such change would miraculously happen without distracting us from our labors. Or moved to the closest metropolis which appeared poised to take the plunge.

    Cleveland, like most cities, while not a blank canvas; is one, where the image it sports has faded beyond restoration. The time to paint over it has come. Shiny new unaesthetic buildings, are simply masking the rot.

    Marc Breed, Fine Artist

    "In the distant future, when America is a mere shadow of itself, who historically, shall be remembered? In sports, an argument can be made for Ruth, Chamberlain, Gretzky, Ali, et al. In Art, there is but one name, Breed."

    -Smithsonian Magazine