On the Elegy of Syavosh

In his Soug-e Syavosh [Mourning for Syavosh], Meskoob differentiates between the ritual of mourning in Iran's mythology and laic tradition on the one hand, and its place in Iran's Shiite tradition. He believes that Syavosh accepted death as a rightful price to pay for his commitment to keep his promise. In Ferdowsi's vision, according to Meskoob, every Iranian too is honor-bound to keep his or her promise at any cost. Thus, in Meskoob's interpretation, the death of a human being who sacrifices his life to correct an injustice edifies the truth and consecrates life for others. In fact, he believes that martyrdom emerges only in unjust societies and therefore "in a free and ideal society there is no need for martyrs."

There is little doubt that the traditions built upon the narratives of Syavosh and his death have gradually been mingled with the rites of mourning for the second Shi'ite Imam, Hossein. In Meskoob's modernistic interpretation, Hossein's martyrdom symbolized the resistance of the meek and dispossessed against an unjust ruling class. It was in fact, according to Meskoob, the reflection of the Iranians' sense of justice and a symbol of the confrontation between the defenders of truth and the corrupt wielders of brute force. In his historical interpretation of the concept of martyrdom, bereft of any political or ideological strains, Meskoob simply relies on the literary and descriptive language of the narratives emerging from the early Islamic period in Iran. It is interesting to note that Meskoob's dispassionate discussion of the concept of Martyrdom was published when, Ali Shari'ati, fresh out of modern French universities, characterizes martyrs as "the heart of history" and begins his life long advocacy of the culture of martyrdom.

Ahmad Kazemi Mousavi
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