More than a poet: life and death of Imadeddin Nasimi

More than a poet: life and death of Imadeddin Nasimi

From September 28 to October 1, the second Nasimi Poetry, Art and Spirituality Festival will be held in Azerbaijan with support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the Ministry of Culture.

How to free the mind, liberate feelings, find harmony with yourself and the world around you? Recently it became extremely popular to search for answers to these questions at various kinds of useless seminars. Only a few understants that the best means of psychological defense lie in oriental poetry. One of such poets, who considered man to be a true treasure of the world and was sure that the human mind is capable of creating miracles, is considered the founder of philosophical gazelle in Azerbaijani literature, was Imadeddin Nasimi. The basis of his poetry, and he works are published in three languages, is a person, spiritual wealth, world of beauty.

Imadeddin Nasimi was born in 1369 in Azerbaijani city of Shemakha, which was considered political, economic, cultural center for centuries and was famous for its high poetic traditions. Poetic schools, societies of scientists and musicians, most gifted people of their time gathered there. Unlike religious institutes at mosques, these institutions worked in a creative, discussion direction - those who gathered there spoke about literature, art, and philosophy.

That's the kind of athmosphere future great poet spent his childhood and youth in. He later played a crucial role in the history of development of Azerbaijani literary and artistic thought. Nasimi created many poetic masterpieces in Farsi, Arabic and native Azerbaijani, laying foundations of the Azerbaijani literary language and enriching it with new expressive means.

Nasimi lived in a time of civil strife in Azerbaijan, when there were constant wars with Timurid invaders. Under such conditions, in the 14th century, a branch of Sufism, socio-philosophical doctrine of Hurufism appeared. It's founder was Fazlullah Naimi from Tabriz. His philosophy, views of God and man, understanding of nature and celestial bodies were reflected in Nasimi's poetry.

Naimi himself was arrested and executed by the Timurids, but his legacy lived on - Hurufits promoted his teachings not only in Azerbaijan, which they called the "place of awakening", but also in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Nasimi spread ideas of Hurufism in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and other Arab countries.

His doctrine, philosophical in its content, along with presentation of humanistic outlook in religious-mystical form, was partly of political nature, since Hurufits advocated for just and free world order.

Nasimi was different from Sufis beecause of his active philanthropy, in that sense, he was a rebel poet. However, in his works poet used only those traits of Hurufism that were artistically advantageous.

According to researcher of Nasimi's works Abdul-Azal Demirchizade, Azerbaijani written literary language was formed in the 12th-13th centuries. Researchers believe that the greatest creative feat of Nasimi was the fact that during the second half of the 14th century, when Farsi was dominant in the region, he worked in his native Azerbaijani language. As a man of high erudition and brilliant talent, he gave a new direction to Azerbaijani poetry and literature of all Turkic-speaking nations.

At the initial phase of development of Azerbaijani literary language, poets and scholars wrote in Farsi, Arabic and Azerbaijani. Arabic words were mainly used to express scientific, philosophical, and religious concepts. Poets who wrote in Azerbaijani language weren't as beloved as the works of compatriots who worked in Farsi - Nizami, Hagani. That's why certain Arabisms and Farsisms were adopted into Azerbaijani literary language.

According to researcher Dzhangir Kagramanov, maturity and refinement of poetic forms of Nasimi poems written in Azerbaijani, depth of thought, laconicism and richness of their language testify to ancient linguistic traditions. Nasimi, continuing these traditions, laid foundation of classical poetic language, and opened a new stage in the history of Azerbaijani literature with his creations.

Many researchers are unanimous that Nasimi became a kind of teacher for Fizuli, who is considered a classic of Azerbaijani poetry. Poets are separated by two centuries. They worked in different eras, but managed to create lyrics of deep social and philosophical content that had huge influence, raising Azerbaijani poetry to a great height.

Interestingly, in the Middle Ages Nasimi was widely popular among Armenians to such extent that some Armenian sources speak of him as a poet who "accepted Christianity." Researcher Miraly Seyidov explains this by the fact that Nasimi didn't attach importance to difference between religions, judging people not by religious affiliation, but by spiritual qualities: whether he's a Christian or a Muslim, a person is already valuable because he is a person. Armenian poets were inspired by advanced ideas of Nasimi, in particular Miran, who lived and worked at the end of 17th and beginning of 18th centuries in Tabriz. Armenians there spoke Azerbaijani, and Miran wrote most of his poems in that language. Miran’s works are connected not only with Nasimi, but also with the entire Azerbaijani literature. 

Nasimi saw deaths of the best people of his era, his teachers, ignoramus persecuted him, and sometimes great poet, falling into despair, wrote about corruption of the world. But moments of weakness passed and he regained faith in man, in his mind and in justice.

Nasimi died a martyr - his skin was ripped off while he was still alive. There are many legends about how great poet acted during execution. Some said that he constantly repeated, "I am the truth, I am the god." Others said that when tormentors asked him the question: “If you're Allah, then why does your face turn pale?”, dying poet replied: “I am the sun that has risen above the horizon of great love. When the sun makes its final journey to the west, it turns pale” .

After his death, Nasimi left a rich poetic heritage in Azerbaijani, Farsi and Arabic languages. His poetry played a huge role in strengthening cultural ties and mutual understanding between the peoples.