A Short History of the Iranian Nān (Bread)

The article below by Hélène Desmet-Grégoire on Nān (Bread) was originally published in the Encyclopedia Iranica on December 15, 1989. The article is available in print (Vol. IV, Fasc. 4, pp. 444-447).

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The Persian term for Bread is nān (for etymology, see Bailey, Dictionary, p. 179, s.v. nāṃji). In modern Iran bread is the dietary staple food for the population and accounts, on the average, for 70 percent of the daily caloric intake.

In the Iranian languages the words for “bread” inherited from old Iranian seem to reflect two different early methods of baking (Harmatta). Harmatta suggests that the practice of baking bread “covered,” that is, in ashes, is reflected in the word naγan, found especially in the eastern Iranian languages (Sogdian, Baluchi, Pashto, etc.) and Armenian nkan, a loanword from Iranian (Parthian), which must be derived from Old Iranian *nikana– (lit., that which is buried or covered), as well as in the form *bakand found in Choresmian, probably from Old Iranian *upakanta– “covered, buried” (for the Choresmian forms, see Benzing, pp. 170f. s.vv. bkn– “to fill,” bknd “bread,” p. 521 s.v. pknd). On the other hand, the practice of baking bread “uncovered,” in an oven, seems to be reflected in the common Persian word nān (Mid., NPers., and western Iranian dialects), probably derived from Old Iranian *naγna– “naked.” Modern Iranian languages and dialects possess a large variety of names for “bread,” both inherited from earlier Iranian languages and borrowed.

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Traditional Iranian baking oven in Dargaz, northeast Iran (Source: Dargaz.info).

Bread is mentioned in both the Sasanian inscriptions of the 3rd-4th centuries and in the 9th-century Pahlavi texts. Šāpūr I (a.d. 240-70) ordered that one lamb, one grīw and five hōfan of bread, and four pās of wine should be sacrificed daily at the fire temples for his own soul, the souls of the close family, and the members of his court (Back, pp. 337, 344, 367); bread was also given the souls of the righteous to eat in paradise (inscriptions of Kirdēr, ed. Back, p. 468). In the Draxt āsōrīg (The Babylonian tree), a poem about a contest between a date palm and a goat over precedence (see, e.g., Boyce, “Middle Persian Literature,” p. 55), the date palm maintains that those who do not have wine and bread can satiate themselves with dates instead (ed. Nawwābī, pp. 52-53). In the Bundahišn we are told that garden herbs such as rue, parsley, coriander, and leek are suitable for eating with bread (TD2, p. 117.14; tr. Anklesaria, 16.17, pp. 148-49). In the Ardā Wirāz-nāmag it is said that those who throw bread to dogs will themselves be torn by devils looking like dogs (Gi­gnoux, pp. 94, 188), and finally Ahriman himself taunts the evil that they accomplished his works though they ate the bread of Ohrmazd (Gignoux, pp. 136, 214).

In both Middle and New Persian the expression nān xwardan/ḵordan also signifies “to eat, have a meal” in general. In Middle Persian it is found in the inscription of Šāpūr Sakānšāh at Persepolis from the reign of Šāpūr II (Back, p. 493), in Manichean texts (see Boyce, Reader, p. 44 text n 1; Sundermann, p. 497), and in Pahlavi. For instance, in the Bundahišn it is said regarding the resurrection and the “final body” that just as Mašyē and Mašyānē, when they grew up from the earth, first drank water and then gradually added food, milk, and so on to their diet, men, when they die, will reverse the process, ceasing first to eat meat, then to drink milk, and then to eat at all (nān xwardan-iz) and will end by drinking only water.

In modern Iran bread is the dietary staple food for the population and accounts, on the average, for 70% of the daily caloric intake. Several studies conducted in rural and urban environments have shown variations in the proportion of proteins supplied by bread, from 60% among farmers to 34% among landowners (Bahadori and Klodian; Olszyna-Marzys; Hedayat and Sen Gupta).

In most of Iran bread consists of flat, thin cakes made from wheat flour. Only in the Caspian provinces is there a different tradition, baking bread from rice flour, nān-e berenjī, already mentioned by medieval writers (Ebn Ḥawqal, p. 381, tr. Kramers, p. 371; Moqaddasī, p. 354; Ebn Esfandīār, p. 76; see berenj); this type is, however, meeting increasing competition from com­mercially baked wheat bread (Bazin and Bromberger, p. 79). Rice bread is generally baked on a metal tray (sāj) or on the bottom of an inverted pottery bowl placed on a tripod. Among certain groups of pastoral nomads (e.g., Baḵtīārī and Boir-Aḥmad) varying pro­portions of acorn flour (balūṭ) are occasionally mixed with wheat flour, especially during periods of famine. The bread made this way is called kalg (Digard, pp. 191-92).

Selling bread Tehran qajar era

Shopkeepers at a bread outlet in a Tehran street in the early 20th century (Source: Poolnews.ir).

Several types of bread can be distinguished, depending on whether they are produced commercially or domestically and, particularly, on the baking method: oven or tray. In the towns the quality of the flour seems to be a determining element in distinguishing types of bread. Such distinctions are more vague in rural areas, where the flour is often ground without sifting and, thus, generally has a high percentage of extraction (90-95%).

Similar baking techniques are used throughout the country (Wulff, pp. 292-95), and utensils and ovens are perfectly adapted to the type of bread produced. The most common kind of oven (tanūr), used both in bakeries and village houses, where it constitutes one of the built-in features (Bromberger, 1974, p. 34; Martin, p. 28; Desmet-Grégoire; Bazin and Bromberger, p. 81), is a truncated cone made from dried or baked earth, with or without a flue, standing on the floor or sunk below it. The fire is in the bottom, so that bread may be pressed against the inner walls for baking. Among pastoral nomads, on the other hand, after the dough has been kneaded in a metal pan (mazama, majama), which is used because of its firmness, it is transferred to a tray or an iron baking sheet (sāj) placed over the fire, for baking. Many pastoral nomads, such as in the regions of Ṭāleš, Gāleš and Šāhsevan (Bazin and Bromberger, p. 80), also use a more rudimentary technique: the raw dough is baked on ashes (nān-e ātaš) or pressed against a hot stone.

In urban settings, where most of the bread is purchased from bakeries equipped with a tanūr, four main types of bread are found: tāftūn (taftān), lavāš (nān-e tīrī), nān-e sangak, and nān-e barbarī. The first two types are very similar, differentiated only by the types of flour used and the relative thickness of a slab. Tāftūn, probably the most popular bread in Iran, is made from a mixture of white and whole-wheat flours, lavāš (very similar to tāftūn) from white flour forming a more or less leavened dough. In the bakeries, after flour, water, and salt have been poured together in a trough (ṭaḡār, taštak) and leavening (ḵamīr-māya, āb-e torš, ājī ḵamīra) has been added (for lavāš), the dough is kneaded (varz dādan) by the dough maker (ḵamīrgīr, ḵalīfa) and an assistant (vardast), who usually does most of the work; it is then left to rise (var āmadan). A dough insufficiently kneaded or baked prematurely gives a kind of tough bread called nān-e čeḡer. When the dough is ready one person (čānagīr) rolls out pieces (čāna) with a rolling pin (vardana, čūba) on a board of wooden strips (ḵūna) or an inverted pottery basin, while another (šāṭer) places the rolled pieces on a cushion (nānband, nāvand, bāleštak, rafīda) stuffed with straw and covered with cotton, by means of which he can press them against the oven walls without burning his hands. After baking for a minute or so, the bread is picked off the oven wall by an assistant (nānvāssūn, i.e., nān-vā-estān) who uses a skewer or double-pronged fork (nāṇčīn, sīḵ, došāḵa) with a wooden handle. To make especially crisp bread (nān-e berešta, nān-e dandaʾī) bakers often make holes in the bread with a kind of comb (danda zadan) just before placing it in the oven. Lavāš, no more than 2 or 3 mm thick, is the thinnest bread found in Iran.

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Home made Nān-e tāftūn (taftān) (Source: Bartarinha).

Nān-e sangak is a flat, thin bread 3 to 5 mm thick and about 70 cm long; the leavened dough is made from especially milled flour. It is baked in an oven (tanūr-e sangakī, kūra) consisting of a sloping brick shelf covered with red-hot pebbles (sangak, hence the name), which leave their imprints on the bread, and traditionally heated by dry shrubs (ḵār) or firewood (hīzom). In recent years oil has become the major fuel used by urban bakers. At least two men, the ḵamīrgīr and šāṭer, are required to make sangak. The šāṭer stands in front of the oven and flattens the dough by hand on a slightly convex wooden slab (sarak) attached to a very long wooden handle (pārū); he then quickly thrusts the sarak into the oven, sliding the dough onto the pebbles. After a couple of minutes the šāṭer or the nūnvāssūn (also called ātašandāz) removes it with a skewer or double­-prong fork. The sarak rests in a cleft stick, which permits the šāṭer to slide it back and forth more easily; the broad end is set on a ledge next to the oven while the dough is being applied.

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The Nān-e Sangak (Source: Ensie & Matthias in Public Domain)

Nān-e sangak, often sprinkled with poppy seeds (ḵašḵāš) or black caraway seeds (sīāhdāna; Nigella sativa), is the bread commonly served with āb-gūšt: it is usually torn in pieces (tarīd, telīd), soaked in the āb-gūšt, and eaten with a spoon as an integral part of the dish. It is also the bread that usually accompanies gūšt-e kūbīda, the solid ingredients of āb-­gūšt mashed and eaten separately from the liquid.

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Servings of āb-gūšt (Iranian version of Bouillon) in Dizi containers (cruse or earthen pot) ready for patrons at a local eatery in Tehran’s Damavand district (Source: RezAzizi in Public Domain).

Nān-e barbarī (named after a “Barbar” community that settled south of Tehran during the Qajar period; see Dehḵodā s.v.) is a flat, oval bread 3 to 4 cm thick and about 70 cm long; it is made from pieces of leavened dough weighing about 900 grams each. The flour used has a rate of extraction of 70 to 75 %, and nān-e barbarī thus resembles European breads, though it is baked by the same method as nān-e sangak. It is more expensive than other breads but, where available, is commonly eaten for breakfast (often with cheese) by those who can afford it.

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The Nān-e Barbarī (Source:  Wayiran in Public Domain).

In rural areas, where bread is made at home, the making of bread is a strictly womanly task, and the frequency of baking (daily, weekly, etc.) varies according to the seasonal activities. Lavāš seems the most common. Since the primary ingredient (wheat) and the method of preparation are not standardized, the prod­uct can vary in thickness and in the amount of leavening added. It can be kept for several weeks wrapped in a napkin (sofra) and placed in a basket (sabad) or in a cupboard of dried earth (nāndān); for that reason it is very common in western Iran, especially in winter, when daily baking is difficult and the bread keeps longer because of the cold.

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The Nān-e Lavāš sold in a market in Yerevan, Armenia (Source: Wiquijote in Public Domain).

Another kind of bread, thicker than lavāš, is also made in the villages; the dough, made from a flour with high rates of extraction, salt, water, and leaven, is left to stand for a rather long time, or else it rises during baking. A single cook can flatten the pieces of dough by hand and press several at a time against the oven walls with a cushion; baking time is about 30 minutes. The name of this bread varies from region to region: It is called gerda around Hamadān, panjakeš around Ṭāleš, kūlas or kūlūs east of the Safīdrūd. It is a tasty bread made for special occasions, or when little time is available, for example when the women take part in the agricultural activities in summer (Desmet-Grégoire, pp. 271-73). Compared to the bread more common in villages or the bread specific to pastoral nomads, it seems to be an intermediate type of bread, which can be baked, for ten minutes, either on a tray (Digard, pp. 190-91) or in a tanūr. It keeps for no more than a day or two and thus is usually made every day.

Aside from breads baked for normal consumption, there are special kinds for the holidays; because the dough is enriched with milk, sugar, honey, eggs, shortening, or yogurt these breads (nān-e šīrī, faṭīr, nān-­e šīrīn, nān-e šīrmāl) are actually closer to pastry. Bread of European type (nān-e tōst, nān-e māšīnī) can also be found in Tehran and other large cities (Olszyna-Marzys: Tual, p. 10).

Bibliography

  1. Back, Die sassanidischen Staatsinschriften, Acta Iranica 18, Tehran and Liège, 1978.
  2. Bahadori and J. Klodian, “Enquêtes sur l’alimentation. Études des budgets familiaux de deux régions de l’Iran,” Bulletin de l’Institut National d’Hygiène, Paris, 1957, no. 3, pp. 593-631.
  3. W. Bailey, Dictionary of Khotanese Saka, Cambridge, 1979.
  4. Bazin, “Quelques données sur l’alimentation dans la région de Qôm,” Studia Iranica 2, 1973, pp. 248-50.
  5. Bazin and C. Bromberger, “Gilân et Azerbâyjân oriental, cartes et documents ethnographiques,” Institut Français d’Iranologie de Téhéran, Bibliothèque Iranienne 24, Paris, 1982, pp. 79-84.
  6. Benzing, Chwaresmischer Wortindex, ed. Z. Taraf, Wiesbaden, 1983.

Isabelle A. Bird Bishop, Journeys in Persia and Kurdistan, London, 1891, I, pp. 59-60.

ʿA. Bolūkbāšī, “Važa-ye sangak o pīšīna-ye sangakpazī dar Īrān,” Honar o mardom, N.S., 1347 Š./1968, 74-75, pp. 31-42; 76, pp. 47-51.

Idem, “Taftūnpazī dar Tehrān,” ibid., 1348 Š./1969, 81, pp. 45-54.

  1. Bromberger, “Habitations du Gilân,” Objets et mondes 14, 1974, pp. 3-56.

Idem, “Identité alimentaire et altérité cul­turelle dans le Nord de l’Iran: le froid, le chaud, le sexe et le reste,” Recherches et travaux de l’Institut d’Ethnologie (Neuchâtel) 6, 1985, pp. 5-34.

  1. Canard, “Le riz dans le Proche-Orient aux premiers siècles de l’Islam,” Arabica 6, 1959, pp. 113-31.
  2. Desmet-Grégoire, “Le pain dans la région d’Hamadân,” Studia Iranica 9, 1980, pp. 251-76.
  3. P. Digard, Techniques des nomades Baxtyâri d’Iran, Paris, 1981, pp. 187-92.

Ph. Gignoux, Le livre d’Ardā Vīrāz. Translittération, transcription et traduction du texte pehlevi, Paris, 1984.

  1. Harmatta, “Three Iranian Words for Bread,” AOASH 3/3, 1953, pp. 245-83.
  2. Hedayat and P. N. Sen Gupta, Nu­trition Survey in Iran 1962-1967, unpublished.
  3. Kouhestani et al., “Composition and Preparation of Iranian Flat Breads,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 55/3, 1969, pp. 24-28.
  4. Martin, “Pastoral Production. Milk and Firewood in the Ecology of Turan,” Expedition 22/4, 1980, pp. 24-28.
  5. E. Olszyna-Marzys, Food in Iran, Tehran, 1962.
  6. Ramazani, Persian Cooking, Charlottesville, 1982, pp. 11-19.
  7. G. Reinhold and D. Kamal, “Phytate Concentration of Iranian Flat Breads. Relationship of Bread-Making Method,” in Proceedings of the 6th Symposium on Nutrition in the Near East, Beirut, 1971, pp. 324-40.
  8. Sundermann, “Ein weiteres Fragment aus Manis Gigantenbuch,” in Orientalia Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin Emerito Oblata, Acta Iranica 23, Leiden, 1984, pp. 491-505.
  9. Tual, “Les changements de l’alimentation traditionnelle dans la région de Téhéran,” communication at the International Seminary of the First Festival of Popular Traditions, Isfahan, 1977 (unpublished).
  10. E. Wulff, The Traditional Crafts of Persia, Cambridge, Mass., 1966, pp. 291-95.

Farroukh Jorat: Iranian Elements in the Culture of the Ancient Slavs

The article below has been written by Farroukh Jorat and first appeared in Fravahr.org. Kindly note that the images and accompanying captions do not appear in the original posting in Fravahar.org. For readers interested in articles highlighting links between ancient Iranian civilizations and Europe, consult the link below:

Europa and Eire-An (ancient Persia or Iran)

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In the early Middle Ages (III-X centuries AD) Eastern Slavs contacted with Baltics in the north, with Germans in the west and with Eastern Iranians in the south-east. Interaction of the Eastern Slavs to the Iranians left their mark on the languages and in the religious culture of the East Slavic peoples (Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians). Let us consider some of the elements of the ancient culture of the Eastern Slavs with Iranian origin.

Semargl (Simurgh)

In 980 in the “Tale of Bygone Years” (Povest vremennykh let) in the list of gods, which were revered in Kiev, was noted deity Semargl. Researcher Vasily Abaev believed that the name of this deity origin from Zoroastrian Simurg. Word Semargl borrowed into the Old Russian language from the Scythian and had the original form Senmarγ [1].

Simurg is the mythological character, combining the traita of dog and bird (Old Iranian Saena mərəγo, “dog-bird”). Russian historian Boris Rybakov believed that the images of winged hounds in the art of ancient Russia represent the image of Semargl [2].

[LEFT] Coat of Arms of Semargl used by the ancient dukes and leaders of ancient Russia (Sarmatia) [RIGHT] Green and yellow Iranian silk decorated with the Sassanian Senmurv motif – this sample was once used for wrapping the relics of St Lupus of Troyes (Picture and caption from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division and were also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006; Simargl image also available in J.H. in Pinterest – Simurgh image from Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris). After the arrival of Christianity in Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine, the Simargl symbol and its cult was denounced as “evil” and “Satanic”.

In 1873 in Glazov county of Vyatka province was discovered a silver dish with the image of Simurg. It was manufactured in the VIII century AD in Iran or Central Asia. After the adoption of Christianity in Rus in 988 image of Semargl has been replaced and forgotten.

Irey

In the “Instructions” (Pouchenia) of Vladimir Monomakh (1053-1125) is a mention about mythical southern country Irey, where the birds fly away in winter and identified with paradise. The most convincing etymology of the word irey is from Old Iranian *airuā-(dahyu-) “Aryan land”. Apparently, this word was borrowed by the Eastern Slavs from Sarmatian tribes. A similar parallels also observed in the language of the Sami, one of the Finno-Ugric Peoples of Russia: Årjel “south”, år’jān “far to the south”, Old Sami *orja “South”.

A copper-engraved map printed in London (approximately in 1770, unknown publishers) based on ancient Greek sources displaying “Sarmatia Europæa” and “Sarmatia Asiatica” by the River Don (Source: Public domain). Colchis and Iberia are now approximatley in modern-day Georgia, with the region Albania renamed as “Azerbaijan” in May 1918. The historical Azerbaijan (Azarbaijan) has been located in northwest Iran below the Araxes River as seen partly in the region of Media at bottom right of the map.

Div

In the “The Tale of Igor’s Campaign” (Slovo o polku Igoreve) (end of XII century) mentioned div as demonic character, sitting on a tree and his whistle presaged the failure of the campaign of Prince Igor at Cumans. The image associated with the Devas — the servants of Ahriman from Zoroastrian mythology.

Dahl VI in his Explanatory dictionary … noted about one of the meanings of Russian word div: “ominous bird, probably an owl”. From this we can conclude that the prototype image of div in the Eastern Slavic culture is owl with a sinister reputation of foreboding.

A reconstruction by Cernenko and Gorelik of the north-Iranian Saka or Scythians in battle (Cernenko & Gorelik, 1989, Plate F). The ancient Iranians (those in ancient Persia and the ones in ancient Eastern Europe) often had women warriors and chieftains, a practice not unlike those of the contemporary ancient Celts in ancient Central and Western Europe. While this topic is often ignored in the media, news outlets, education and academic venues, Ancient Iran has had a profound influence on Europeans and their cultural development. For more on this, see the Dissertation of Dr. Sheda Vasseghi (2017), Positioning Of Iran And Iranians In Origins Of Western Civilization. PhD Dissertation, University of New England, Academic advising Team: Marylin Newell, Laura Bertonazzi, Kaveh Farrokh.

Footnotes

[1] Abayev VI. Scythian-European Isogloss. At the crossroads of East and West. (Skifo-evropeyskie izoglossy. Na styke Vostoka I Zapada). In Russian.

[2] BA Rybakov. Paganism of Old Slavs. (Yazichestvo drevnikh slavian). In Russian

The “Middle East”: An Invented Term from the 20th Century

The Persian Heritage journal recently published an article by Kaveh Farrokh and Sheda Vasseghi (click the link below in Academia.edu for downloading the entire article):

Farrokh, K., & Vasseghi, Sh. (2017). The “Middle East”: An Invented Term from the 20th Century. Persian Heritage, 88, pp.12-14.

Note that Sheda Vasseghi obtained her PhD recently from the University of new England (click the link below in Academia.edu for downloading her Dissertation):

Sheda Vasseghi (2017). Positioning Of Iran And Iranians In Origins Of Western Civilization. PhD Dissertation, University of New England, Academic advising Team: Marylin Newell, Laura Bertonazzi, Kaveh Farrokh.

As averred to in the initial parts of the Farrokh-Vasseghi article (page 12):

Among one of the 20th century’s most enduring legacies is the invention of the term “The Middle East”. A brief examination of the origins of the “Middle East” term will reveal it to be a contrived geopolitical expression of Anglo-British origin. Despite this the “Middle East” term is often used by scholars, the media and laypersons, as if it were a valid, logical and scientific concept. More specifically the terms “Middle East” and “Middle Eastern” are often assumed to portray a cultural, anthropological and historical unity like the terms “Europe” and “European” for example. In practice the “Middle East” terminology has served to create profound misconceptions with respect to the greater West Asia region. As a simplistic term, the “Middle East” invention has done little to ease growing geopolitical issues at the international level.

The term “Middle East” was first invented by Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914). Mahan’s invention first appeared in the September 1902 issue of London’s monthly “National review” in an article entitled “The Persian Gulf and International Relations”. Specifically, Mahan wrote: “The Middle East, if I may adopt the term which I have not seen…”.  The term – Middle East – when examined in cultural, anthropological and cultural terms makes very little sense. Iran and Turkey for example are not Arab countries and in fact share a long-standing Turco-Iranian or Persianate civilization distinct from the Arabo-Islamic dynamic. Instead, the Turks and Iranians have strong ties to the Caucasus and Central Asia (Image: Encyclopedia Brittanica).

The article discusses the history of how (and why) the “Middle East” term (or myth?) was invented. As noted in the above quote of the article the term [Middle East] is often used by scholars, the media and laypersons, as if it were a valid, logical and scientific concept.

Mahan’s invented term “Middle East” was popularized by Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (1852-1929), a journalist designated as “a special correspondent from Tehran” by The Times newspaper. Chirol’s seminal article “The Middle Eastern Question” expanded Mahan’s version of the “Middle East” to now include “Persia, Iraq, the east coast of Arabia, Afghanistan, and Tibet”. Surprised? Yes, you read correctly -Tibet! The term Middle East was (and is) a colonial construct used to delineate British (and now West European and US) geopolitical and economic interests. These same interests help promote the usage of terminology such as “Islamic arts and architecture”  (Image: Ria Press).

As expostulated in the article, the term “Middle East” is a geopolitical term. Western media outlets, political platforms and entertainment venues have been using the “Middle East” term since the early 20th century, however the term itself is neither scientific nor historical.

Mahan and Chirol’s invention (Middle East) provided the geopolitical terminology required to rationally organize the expansion of British political, military and economic interests into the Persian Gulf region. After the First World War, Winston Churchill (above –  1874-1965) became the head of the newly established “Middle East Department”.  Churchill’s department redefined Mahan’s original “The Middle East” invention to now include the Suez Canal, the Sinai, the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the newly created states of Iraq, Palestine, and Trans-Jordan. Tibet and Afghanistan were now excluded from London’s Middle East grouping. The decision to include non-Arab Iran as a member of the “Middle East” in 1942 was to rationalize the role of British political and Petroleum interests in the country (Image: Wikipedia).

As discussed towards the concluding sections of the Farrokh-Vasseghi article (page 14):

The first and foremost impact of the “Middle East” concept is in how Iranians continue to be classified by the majority of North Americans as an Arab country. Jack Shaheen for example had discovered as far back as the 1980s that over 80 percent of North Americans believe Iranians to be Arabs and Arabic-speaking. Again the term “Muslim” (pronounced /Moozlem/ in North American outlets) appears to be the catalyst for these misconceptions – the notion that if a region is Islamic in religion (regardless of sect or denomination, etc.) then all persons associated with that region must somehow be automatically Arabs and/or share the same language, culture and civilization. However not all Arabs are Islamic in faith as there are also Christian Arabs whose roots go back for centuries before the arrival of the Islamic religion. Thus even the Western conception of Arabs is simplistic and misleading.

Words and terminologies can have a significant impact, especially when these are applied erroneously with respect to the understanding of identity and culture. Put simply, politically invented terminologies such as “Middle East” and “Muslim World” often represent a colonialist-economic power viewpoint. “

The “Middle East” myth has in turn led to the rise of yet more politically-based terminologies. These in turn have entered the domains of scholarship, popular media outlets and political discourse. One such example is noted by Souren Malekian (see full article here …):

“Political bias often leads to absurd categorization. Even so, few among the arbitrary constructs adopted by the West as a result of 19th-century colonial attitudes can beat the meaningless concept of “Islamic art.” Its corrosive effect on academic thinking is matched by its counterproductive effect in the art market. By lumping together works of art that are not remotely related aesthetically or conceptually, it leads to a visual confusion that is unhelpful, to put it mildly. … Orientalism has barely changed its colors…”

The landmark textbook “Orientalism” by the late Edward Said (1935-2003) originally published in 1979 (for more information on this text see – Amazon.com). As noted in the Amazon.com link: This entrenched view [of the “Orient”] continues to dominate western ideas and, because it does not allow the East to represent itself, prevents true understanding.”

Professor Jalal Matini has been addressing concerns with respect to (politically motivated) terminology such as “Islamic Science” and “Islamic Arts” since the early 1980s. Matini was the chief editor of the peer-reviewed Iranshenasi journal which examined and published a review of Kaveh Farrokh’s second text Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایه‌های صحرا- (click the link below in Academia.edu for downloading a copy of the review of Farrokh’s text by Farhad mafie in the peer-reviewed Iranshenasi journal):

Mafie, Farhad (2010). Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War, by Dr. Kaveh Farrokh. Iranshenasi, Volume XXII, No.1, Spring 2010, pp.1-5.

Professor Jalal Matini (standing at podium), the Chief Editor of the Iranshenasi journal  flanked by the late Iranian poet and thinker, Nader Naderpour (seated at left) at UCLA.

The Farrokh-Vasseqhi article endeavors to provide an educational and dispassionate examination of the challenges posed by the invention and application of simplistic terminologies aimed at rationalizing geopolitical interests.