In Iran and many countries around the world, the famous Iranian poet Shaikh Mosslehedin Saadi Shirazi (1184-1283) is annually commemorated on Saadi Day, which coincides with either 20 or 21 April.
Saadi was born in Shiraz, the capital city of Fars province. When Saadi was about twelve years old, his father passed away and the family came under the protection of Saadi’s uncle who had a small shop in Shiraz. With the help of his uncle, Saadi completed his early education in Shiraz. The end of his elementary education coincides roughly with the invasion of Central Asia by Mogolian Chingiz Khan. At a young age, he left Shiraz for Baghdad to study literature and sciences at the Academy of Nezaameyyeh. It is recorded that he was in the Academy between 1195 and 1226. Saadi liked to travel, and lived much of his life as a wandering dervish. After Baghdad he traveled the region for nearly thirty years. He went to Shaam (Syria), Phelesteen (Palestine), Hejaz (Arabia), Yaman (Yemen), Messr (Egypt) and Rum (Roman Anatolia or Turkey), which was in Byzantine control at the time.
He wrote the Orchard (Boostan) in 1257 and the Rose Garden (Gollestan) in 1258. Boostan is an exquisite piece of didactic, which is comprised of ten sections of verse, each a dissertation on wisdom, justice, compassion, good government, beneficence, earthly and mystic love, resignation, contentment, and humility. Gollestan consists of a cycle of eight rhymed-prose partitions each interspersed with poetry. The themes discussed include the manners of kings, the morals of dervishes, the preference of contentment, the advantages of keeping silent, and so on. He wrote short stories and poems about his adventurous life in both his major works. There is also a Divan, or collection of his poetry. His famous poem on Humanity focuses on the empathy of all humans. That poem has been used to grace the entrance to the Hall of Nations of the UN building in New York City, NY. The Persian Text and the English Version of Saadi’s poem on Humanity can be viewed online.
Saadi died in his hometown of Shiraz. Even from the very early days after the poet’s death, the tomb of Saadi in Shiraz became a place of pilgrimage to lovers of poetry and literature. “The tomb of Saadi of Shiraz will scent of love, even a thousand years after his death”. That line of poetry composed by Saadi, inscribed on the gate leading into the garden surrounding the tomb, welcomes all those who enter to pay homage to this master of the Persian Poetry and Literature.
Happy Saadi Day!
Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD