As India Saffronises, 9 Questions on her Za’faran sister (IranZamin) with Professor Foltz-

A degree of uncertainty surrounds the origin of the English word “saffron“. It might stem from the 12th-century Old French term safran, which comes from the Latin word safranum, from the Arabic za’farān,[13] which comes from the Persian word zarparan meaning “flower with golden petals”.[14]
As an aside I pilfered this interesting piece from Kabir’s facebook

Even the word Islamicate triggers our commentariat and even though I am no fan of Islam; I do feel now like the Elves of LoTR it is time for Pakistan and our Urdu-speaking kin to sail to Persia (metaphorically).
India’s Islamicate battle and the fate of Urdu is now left to the Hindu majority who will decide their own cultural heritage. Good luck with Sanskritopolis, which is of course hemmed in all sides by Sino-Islam.
I felt after yesterday’s podcast on the Election I was being besieged by fact after fact and I’m sure they were all correct but something is now lost. Allahabad will become Prayawhatever (Allahabad is a far prettier name, say what you will about the Mughal overlords but they did love beauty in all forms), an even more garish version of Somnath 2 will spectacularly bestride the once elegant Babri Masjid and Urdu will constantly be pilfered to prop up Hindi.However this is not our problem anymore (it’s Vidhi’s and her co-nationals to deal with) and in fact I sense that India’s Muslim minority will hold on to Islam even more than before simply because they will become a beleaguered minority.  It is admirable and noble to constantly humiliate and mock Islam.
Though the Islam of the Quran is actually much gentler and nice than the Islam of the Hadith, which is downright evil. Thank the Lord that Abdul Baha had the good sense to tell us the Hadith is entirely fictional and to disregard it except as a source of storytelling.

I had no idea that 95% of Shariah stems from the Hadith, which makes a flawed assumption that the Prophet’s Life is the basis for religious law.

Hopefully one day the inhabitants of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan will stamp on this ugly religion but to deny it’s most beautiful expression is a travesty.I hope Modi and his Hindutva allies will have some intellectual consistently and do to the Taj Mahal what they did to Babri Masjid. The Taj will soon be alien to its land of birth (like the Mohajirs & Muslims who built it) and anything alien is of course anathema in this Brave, New & Pure India.
The full questions are after the jump but I’ve excerpted the answers to number 7 and number 9 as Pakistan’s destiny becomes ever so clearer.  We must embrace and revitalise this “degenerate literary form” that Iran mocks and India neglects; a National Destiny that steers clear of Islam but stays true to what the Founding Fathers felt but could not articulate (just as Prof Foltz asserts that Islam is, to a large extent, an Iranian phenomenon then that means that India’s historic Muslim population is a relic of Iran in India).
Of course even I’m not stupid enough to acknowledge the linguistic dexterity of the Arabic script and language and the extent to which it cultivated Iranian civilization.
(7.) How influential has the Sab-ki-Hindi (the Persian spoken in medieval) had on any Iranian culture?

The sabk-i hindi was typically seen in Iran as a degenerate literary form.

(9.) Is it possible to divorce the sense of Iran from Islam. Pan-Turanism, Pan-Iranism or even Pan-Arabism seem to take a back-step to Pan-Islamic sentiment.​
For many Iranians such a separation is possible, even desirable, whereas the official position of the current Iranian government is just the opposite. It is worth noting however that Iranians played a central role in the development of Islamic civilization, arguably to a much greater extent than the Arabs. So Islam is more an Iranian phenomenon than a lot of people on both sides of the debate would like to admit.

1.) Why are all the loans one way INTO Uralic and nothing from Uralic into Indic or Iranian languages? 

Not being a linguist, I am not aware whether or not that is in fact the case. I would be surprised if it were.

(2.) Why doesn’t the whole Aryan debate animate the Iranian society, as it does in India?

I don’t think there is a “debate” as such among Iranians, or among scholars in most parts of the world for that matter. That such a “debate” exists in India is due primarily to political, not scholarly reasons.

(3) What was the religious and ethnic demographic composition of the late Sassanid Empire [before the eve of the Arab invasion and conquest]?

a) In the overall Empire

The bulk of the population were Semitic and lived in Babylonia at the Western edge of the Empire, where Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism and other sects co-existed and interacted, sometimes peacefully and sometimes not.

b) In the proper Persian provinces

On the Iranian plateau the population were mainly various Iranian tribes. The Pahlavi sources would have us believe that they were mostly Zoroastrian, but the vigorous polemics found in these same sources demonstrate that there were in fact many rival sects in existence, most likely drawing their myths and traditions from the common proto-Iranian pool. Such modern-day Kurdish sects as the Yezidis and the Ahl-e Haqq may preserve some of these rival Iranian traditions.

(4) How did the [dualistic?] Zoroastrianism subsume or take over or absorb [not sure what’s the right term to use] the more polytheistic style Iranic religions [such as the worship of Anahita] ? What made the former successful , and when and how did this process take place? Are there any pointers to read up on this? 

It is highly unclear to what extent the Mazdaean priesthood exercised power or influence across Iranian societies prior to the Sasanian period. Their success from the late third century onwards would seem to be due principally to the fact that they had acquired state sponsorship.

(5.) What triggered the Turkification of most of Central Asia? Was it the destruction of the Qanat system?

The Persians, Khwarazmians and Sogdians all developed a policy of using Turkic soldiers for their respective armies. Eventually these Turks felt sufficiently empowered to assume power themselves.

(6.) Did the Medes, Achaemenids, and Parthians have a sense of “Iran” in a similar sense to the Sassanids or later people in the same area? I know the term pops up in the Avesta, but as far as I’m aware it was absent in a secular political or cultural context before the Sassanids, and I wonder if the people on the Iranian plateau would have had any name for the whole region. 

There is little evidence for a fixed geographical notion of “Iran” prior to the Sasanian period; it seems to have been more of an abstract concept.

(7.) How influential has the Sab-ki-Hindi (the Persian spoken in medieval) had on any Iranian culture?

The sabk-i hindi was typically seen in Iran as a degenerate literary form.

(8.) Who would you rate as having the most influence on Persian Culture/Iranian Civilisation (maybe top 3 individuals)?

Darius I (not Cyrus) probably deserves the credit for establishing the Persian Empire, with its roads, postal system, and bureaucracy. Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) might be a candidate, except that the Gathas are still poorly understood so we cannot say for certain exactly what his contribution was. A number of contemporary scholars (Jean Kellens, P.O. Skjærvø) even doubt that he existed. One would of course have to mention Ferdowsi since the Shah-nameh is widely considered to be the ultimate expression of Iranian identity.

(9.) Is it possible to divorce the sense of Iran from Islam. Pan-Turanism, Pan-Iranism or even Pan-Arabism seem to take a back-step to Pan-Islamic sentiment.​

For many Iranians such a separation is possible, even desirable, whereas the official position of the current Iranian government is just the opposite. It is worth noting however that Iranians played a central role in the development of Islamic civilization, arguably to a much greater extent than the Arabs. So Islam is more an Iranian phenomenon than a lot of people on both sides of the debate would like to admit.

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13 Replies to “As India Saffronises, 9 Questions on her Za’faran sister (IranZamin) with Professor Foltz-”

  1. Great answers!

    And the last line is fantastic. As I like to put it, Islam is the newest and thickest layer on the Iranian cake.

    1+
  2. Tbh, if you want India to appreciate “Islamicate” culture and architecture, paradoxically the only way to get there may be a full victory for the Saffron Squad. Humans hate outgroups, but don’t mind fargroups.

    Currently, the Islamic potentates in India are viewed as an “outgroup,” because a good chunk of our elites have decided to celebrate everything associated with Islam as part of their deathmatch with us. You see this in their articles extolling Urdu and people writing their names in Nastaliq on their Twitter profiles (this fad is lame btw). You see this in blinkered historiography that tries to paint the Mughals as a proto-secular state, which is utterly risible.

    “Islamicate” material is right now getting exploited as a prop in a culture war. As long as that happens, the other side is *never* going to have any appreciation for it, and nor should it!

    But if the Hindu side win the culture war, that opens up room for a renegotiation with the Islamic parts of our past. A Bahmani tomb would no longer be an emblem of a mendacious and disdainful elite, but cool architecture honoring a great warrior from long ago.

    12+
      1. Right. I’m just pointing out a way to resolve it. Cause if we keep doing what we’re doing (trying to foist a love for Islamicate history top-down), we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting (an intractable cultural backlash).

        8+
  3. Question: Talking of the “Turkification of most of Central Asia” , it is known that Muslim world expanded and maintained by large scale Slave Armies and slave dynasties like Mamuluk, Ottomon, Umayyads, Buyids, Ghaznavids, etc. Was this a carryover from Iranian civilization ?

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  4. “Tbh, if you want India to appreciate “Islamicate” culture and architecture, paradoxically the only way to get there may be a full victory for the Saffron Squad. ”

    LOL. It doesn’t work that way. The “Saffron” has no use of all this Islamicate culture or any of “Hindu” culture TBH. All aspects of Hindu culture itself will be used to galvanize the base for political reasons. Thats’ why you find little to no mention of aesthetic part of hinduism (forget Islamicate) within the Saffron. The stuff which animates the Saffron of today is current day issues not some long lost “culture”

    4+
  5. Professor Folz:

    “Not being a linguist, I am not aware whether or not that is in fact the case. I would be surprised if it were.”

    Who IS this guy/gal?

    1+
    1. MMK, having been disappointed that Magian ignored my question(s), I should agree with you. It seems that he could not provide neither linguistic nor re:Aryan answers. Why there is no ‘debate’ about Aryans not only in Iran than in other parts of the world as well? Is this issue resolved? Did they exist, who were they, what was their language, what was their mythology, what were their genes, who are their descendants, what’s happened with them at the end? Magian’ remark re: Scythians bellow my comment about Jatts just confirms the confusion and that we not only do not know than that we do not want to know the real facts.

      Only useful answer which confirmed my opinion is re the term ‘Iran’ which is frequently used for elusive ancient ‘Iranians’ and ‘Iranian’ languages (even spoken in Ukraine????).

      Can you answer why India’s Prime Minister tried to stop the World Jat Aryan Foundation Congress in Belgrade, 2003????

      2+
  6. From his answers, the professor doesn’t seem to be a particularly impressive individual. Thanks for asking my question though.
    BTW a great subject for the Browncast would be Hadith. I’ve always assumed they were just latter-day fabrications (or at least, that any valid traditions would be impossible to discern from fabrications), but I’m curious to hear learned arguments to the contrary.

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