What makes us
What is "ghessmat"?
By Mahyar Etminan
August 2, 2001
Imagine the following scenario: You finally meet a special person in
your life and when you think about the circumstances that led to finding
that person, you find that the chances of finding him or her are next to
When you explain the story to your mother she turns to you and says,
"Ghesmatet bood." Because you are Iranian and have heard this
type of response before, you agree and don't think about the issue any more.
You are happy that you have finally met that special someone and don't really
care how you met, whether through destiny or otherwise.
Well, I have thought about this issue quite extensively and would like
to share some of my views. Unlike many, I took the answer -- "It's
destiny" -- a step further and tried to see if I can come up with another
explanation, preferably a scientific one.
I have heard Iranians talk about ghessmat in many different situations.
When a rare event has a positive outcome and touches our lives, we automatically
say it had to be ghessmat. I can't be hundred per cent certain but
I have a feeling that if a European or an American has a similar event happen
to them, most likely they would say t it happened by chance, pure luck.
So I think Iranians rely on destiny more than Westerners. We for some
reason believe it had to be more than just chance -- it had to be
What amazes me is that we think that many positive outcomes that affect
our lives occur because of destiny. But for some reason if a bad or negative
event occurs, it is less likely that we blame it on destiny. I can't imagine
if a person had been in a car accident with eight broken limbs lying in
a hospital bed, the mother would turn and say "Ghesmatet bood."
It just wouldn't make sense.
A scientist may say there is not such thing as ghessmat, that we can
explain pretty much anything by using probability theories derived from
statistics. Specially in the twenty-first century, where super computers
can solve complicated equations that can actually calculate the probability
of any random event happening.
The science that we use in predicting different outcomes, such as whether
drug A works better than drug B or which presidential candidate is most
likely to win the elections, all rely on on the theory that events in this
universe occur by chance. Things happen at random. So why not just say any
event that happens to us happens due to chance?
Why is it that we use these scientific methods in our daily lives
for almost everything around us but try to rationalise positive events by
crediting destiny? Maybe it's what makes us Iranian. Maybe it is for the
same reason that Iranians like to have raw eggs on rice with their
Having said all that, there have been instances that have occurred in
my own life that I don't think even science could explain. In these circumstances,
many factors had to have worked together at a specific time to bring about
that certain event. After thinking about the situation over and over again,
I still could not explain it using any of the statistical theories I know.
So maybe there is some supernatural force that can affect all of us and
we have named it "ghessmat".
Iranians' belief in ghessmat is, in my opinion, at least in part the
reason what makes our culture unique. What I have concluded from my own
analysis of this topic is that there may be circumstances that affect our
lives that can be explained by science. On the other hand, there are others
that we simply can't and we just say "Ghewssmat bood." Why not.