Here is the English abstract of Dr. Reza Bayat's (Faculty Member, Department of Persian Literature, Shahid Rajaee Teacher Training University, Iran) speech at the third series of scientific lectures of the international conference on Theology of Pilgrimage titled "Theology of Pilgrimage and Persian Literature" which was held online on August 7, 2023.
Pilgrimage of Shiite Imams in Contemporary Persian Poetry and Prose
Throughout all historical periods, pilgrims have had different levels of understanding and have done pilgrimage and written travelogues and memoirs of their pilgrimage based on their understanding. In this article, we do not discuss the rare cases found in all periods and instead examine the main and general trends in terms of pilgrimage literature. The general approach in pre-modern pilgrimage poetry has been very close to court literature, just mentioning the grandeur of the shrines and the greatness of the holy souls in a courtly manner. However, a noticeable change has occurred in post-revolutionary (i.e. after the Islamic revolution of 1979 in Iran) pilgrimage poetry. In this era, the poet or pilgrim has a personal emotional connection with the divine soul, understands the spiritual position of the Prophet or Imam, and in his works -which can be considered a religious pilgrimage prayer in the form of the poem- he addresses social teachings similar to the themes of Ziyārat Jāmi'ah Kabirah (a very famous Shiite pilgrimage prayer).Additionally, in conjunction with praising the greatness of the divine soul, the poet openly expresses his own insignificance and brokenness, either explicitly or symbolically. In some works, the poet also has a socio-political understanding. For example, he speaks of the social phenomenon of the pilgrimage of Arba'een or considers this great phenomenon as the prelude to the reappearance of the twelfth Imam of Shia. The socio-political understanding in contemporary literary works is the direct result of the Islamic Revolution's effect on the culture. One interesting aspect of Arba'een poems is their significant difference from Ashura poems; they do not focus on mentioning calamities and events but rather solely on the pilgrimage itself, the emotional state of the pilgrim, and the pilgrim’s spiritual connection with the divine soul. Another aspect of pilgrimage poems is ethnography and the expression of pilgrimage customs and conditions and the lived experiences of pilgrims. In this article, a specific focus is given to the pilgrimage to Imam Reza (AS) and Arba'een.
Translator: Mahdi Qasemi