If you are a Muslim, especially from Shei sect, you most likely have heard of Zolfaghar. You know imam Ali’s legendary sword with V-shaped point (tip) by which he would kill at least 10 infidels with every strike. We all have heard stories about imam Ali’s bravery in battel fields and how skillful he was with his Zolfaghar, and how much infidels feared him and his divinely powered sword. The sword Shei believers have no doubt its divine power came directly from Allah.
But have you ever sat down and pondered about how a curved-blade sword with a V-shaped tip could be any more effective, i.e. deadlier, than a normal sword with only one tip? Well I have!
I remember the first time that question went through my mind was when I saw for the first time the movie called “Message” about Islam’s creation with Anthony Quinn playing as Hamzah, Mohammad’s uncle. Of course no one could play the role of Mohammad or Ali for that matter, because in Islam such depictions are forbidden. So came the scene about one of Ali’s battle with “koffars” in which all you could see on the movie screen was V-shaped-tip Zolfaghar raised in the air as a gesture for start of the battle. Granted I had seen imam Ali’s picture (shamael) before lots of times, you know the one that shows him sitting/ kneeling with a lion behind and Zolfaghar laying on the ground before him. But never paid any attention to the sword or it’s V-shaped tip until that day in the movie theater when that scene came up on the screen. And that’s when the “burning” question popped in my head: how a sword with a curved blade and a V for it’s tip could be more effective than any other swords out there?
So I made it my mission to find out as much as I could about Zolfaghar. I went through public libraries and checked out as many historical books about early islam as possible. But aside from finding out more sad truths about Ghadesieh and Nahavand wars, I could not find anything substantive about Zolfaghar. Any time i came across references to Zolfaghar, they were made in praise of Ali and his bravery in battlefields using his sword. I was getting nowhere with my research, so a friend suggested for me to talk to Mr. Shams. Mr. Shams was a retired history and Persian literature teacher. In his little library in his modest home in Tehran, he had literally hundreds of books in literature and history, some in French and English. He was a true history buff.
So I went to see him one day and after a couple of hot tea with sugar cubes I brought up the question about Zolfaghar. ” I am so glad someone finally has asked this question”, Mr. Shams said with a smile. He then went on to tell me the story of legendary Zolfaghar.
You see, after the Arab conquest of Persia, Iranians went from nation of superiority to nation of inferiority almost overnight. Arabs who up until a few months earlier lived in tents and caves, now looking down at Iranians and calling them derogatory names. Everything Arab became superior to anything Persian. Swords were no exceptions. Arab sword with its curved blade and only one effective edge on the convex side of the curve, was considered superior to straight blade double-edged sword of Persians. No Arab leaders, Omar in particular, would even consider using inferior persian style sword. Ali, on the other hand, did like lots of things Iranian, including the Persians double-edged sword (maybe that’s why Iranians like Ali better than Omar). He must have realized the superiority of Persians double-edged to Arab’s single edged sword. So Ali commissioned the town’s blacksmith to make him a double-edged sword persians style, with straight blade and a sigle point, no V at the tip. The word Zolfaghar after all, means double-edged, not V-tip.
And that’s the true story of Zolfaghar!