Today in Middle Eastern history: Iran becomes “Iran” (1935)

and that's the way it was

reza_shah_pahlavi Reza Shah

I don’t mean to seem obscure with that title, but it’s a historical oddity that the nation (kingdom, empire, whatever it was at any particular point in history) of Iran was never officially called “Iran” by anybody other than Iranians until 1935, even though most Iranians hadn’t ever called it anything but “Iran” for millennia. It took Reza Shah Pahlavi (d. 1944) to request, in December 1934, that as of the next Iranian New Year (Nowruz), all foreign governments should henceforth stop referring to his country as “Persia” and start calling it “Iran.” Sometimes you’ll see this related by Western writers as “Reza Shah changed the name of the country from Persia to Iran,” but that’s dumb and wrong, because, again, Iran was always the name of the country. “Persia” was what’s known as an “exonym,” which is the term used when a group, place, language…

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میلاد پیامبر اکرم

The Prophet Muhammad’s birthday only comes once a year…on the Islamic calendar, that is. Every so often, though, it comes twice a year on the solar Gregorian calendar. It just so happens that this is one of those years, and today is the second occurrence of میلاد پیامبر in 2015. Happy holiday to Muslims who observe it.

Persian Word a Day

The birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, called میلادِ پَیامبَرِ اکرَم (mīlād-i payāmbar-i akram) in Persian, is being observed today, the 12th of the Hijri monthربيع اول (if you want to be technical about it, the commemoration started at sundown last night, and I guess it’s ended by now in most of the world, but it’s still worth noting). Though not one of the major Islamic holidays, many Muslims do commemorate Muhammad’s birth with decorations and by exchanging small gifts or sweets.

Milad is not a universally celebrated holiday, for a couple of reasons. There’s no historical record of the earliest Muslims celebrating Muhammad’s birthday as a special event; the first widespread Milad celebration doesn’t appear in the record until the 12th century, though there are records of earlier, smaller observances. So for modern self-proclaimed “fundamentalists” the holiday is an innovation and therefore illegitimate. Honoring a historical figure’s birthday…

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رمضان ۱۴۳۶

Sundown tonight will be the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan for some people around the world (moon observations make it hard to pinpoint these things exactly), so if you’re interested please enjoy my past writing on the topic.

Persian Word a Day

There’s much more about the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins this evening for most Muslims around the world, over on the Arabic blog, if you’re so inclined.

My purpose here is only to give you some Persian greetings you can offer for the month. If you’ve read that Arabic entry then this will be pretty simple, because we’re just using the same Arabic greetings, رَمَضان مُبارَك (ramażān mubārak), “Blessed Ramadan!” and رَمَضان كَريم (ramażān karīm), “Generous Ramadan!” The only difference is in pronunciation, where you’ll notice that the Arabic ramaḍān, with a deep “d” sound, is in Persian pronounced ramażān, with a regular “z” sound. The letter ض, which has a deep “d” sound in Arabic, takes a “z” sound in Persian, which you already knew because you read our guide to Persian pronunciation, obviously.

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Persian Numbers III: 11-1000

For the numbers 1-10, see here.

Like English, Persian has slightly altered forms for the numbers 11-19 (though they all tack on the number ten, دَه, at the end, like the English “-teen” for ten) but then everything after that just takes the form “x and y” (in Persian, a number like twenty-four would read “twenty and four”), which is lucky for us because it means that after we get through 19 we just have to hit a few examples and we’ve got all the numbers covered to 1000 (really we could go past 1000, but numbers are infinite and our time here is not, so 1000 is where we’re stopping for now).

English name

Western Arabic numeral

Persian numeral

Persian name

Persian name transliterated

eleven

11

۱۱

یازده

yāzdah

twelve

12

۱۲

دوازده

davāzdah

thirteen

13

۱۳

سیزده

sīzdah

fourteen

14

۱۴

چهارده

chahārdah

fifteen

15

۱۵

پانزده

pānzdah

sixteen

16

۱۶

شانزده

shānzdah

seventeen

17

۱۷

هفده

hifdah

eighteen

18

۱۸

هجده

hijdah

nineteen

19

۱۹

نوزده

nūzdah

 

Now we can count by 10s or more:

  • 20 (twenty): ۲۰ (بیست, bīst)
  • 30 (thirty): ۳۰ (سی, )
  • 40 (forty): ۴۰ (چِهِل, chihil)
  • 50 (fifty): ۵۰ (پَنجاه, panjāh)
  • 60 (sixty): ۶۰ (شَصت, shaṣt)
  • 70 (seventy): ۷۰ (هَفتاد, haftād)
  • 80 (eighty): ۸۰ (هَشتاد, hashtād)
  • 90 (ninety): ۹۰ (نَوَد, navad)

And now by hundreds:

  • 100 (one hundred): ۱۰۰ (صَد, ṣad)
  • 200 (two hundred): ۲۰۰ (دِویست, divīst)
  • 300 (three hundred): ۳۰۰ (سیصد, sīṣad)
  • 400 (four hundred): ۴۰۰ (چَهارصد, chahārṣad)
  • 500 (five hundred): ۵۰۰ (پانصد, pānṣad)
  • 600 (six hundred): ۶۰۰ (شِشصد, shishṣad)
  • 700 (seven hundred): ۷۰۰ (هَفتصد, haftṣad)
  • 800 (eight hundred): ۸۰۰ (هَشتصد, hashtṣad)
  • 900 (nine hundred): ۹۰۰ (نُهصد, nuhṣad)
  • 1000 (one thousand): ۱۰۰۰ (هِزار, hizār)

Combining numbers is easy:

  • 21 (twenty-one): ۲۱ (بیست و یک, bīst-ū-yik, “beest-oh-yek”)
  • 84 (eighty-four): ۸۴ (هشتاد و چهار, hashtād-ū-chahār)
  • 562 (five hundred sixty-two): ۵۶۲ (پانصد و شصت و دو, pānṣad-ū-shaṣt-ū-du)
  • 1357 (one thousand three hundred fifty-seven): ۱۳۵۷ (هزار و سیصد و پنجاه و هفت, hizār-ū-sīṣad-ū-panjāh-ū-haft)

To somebody accustomed to a left-to-right writing system, it seems like Persian strangely writes its large numerals left-to-right (above, “562” is ۵۶۲), even though the rest of the language is written from right-to-left, and, frankly, this is strange in the case of Persian. However, this is how you write numbers in Arabic script because Arabic reads numbers from smallest to largest, not largest to smallest like us we do in English (or like they do in Persian). This is one case where the adopted script doesn’t completely map to the particulars of the language.

نوروز مبارک

Today marks the Iranian New Year, or نوروز, so I’m reblogging my Nowruz post from two years ago for your amusement/bemusement. Please enjoy!

Persian Word a Day

This is a day late for many Persian speakers, but right on time for many others. Nowruz (نوروز) is the first day of the new year on the Iranian calendar, also known as the Solar Hijri calendar. It is fixed to the vernal equinox as determined by astronomical observation for the Iranian Standard Time zone (GMT+3.5), and because it’s marked by astronomical observation rather than fixed date, it may fall on either March 20 or March 21 in any given year, and it is observed on different days in different places (March 21 in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, but March 20-24 in Iran where it is a week-long festival). It is a compound word combining نو (now, not pronounced like our “now,” but rather like the word “no” with a w tacked on the end), meaning “new”, and روز (rūz), which in modern Persian means “day,” but…

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عاشورا (Ashura)

The holiday of عاشورا began at sundown last night. Please enjoy the post I wrote about عاشورا last year.

Persian Word a Day

Sundown today marked the beginning of the Islamic holiday known as Ashura or عاشورا (ʿāshūrā). This is the tenth day of the month of Muharram (محرم), or in other words the tenth day of the new Islamic year, and it takes its name from the Arabic name of the numeral ۱۰ (our 10), عشر (ʿashr). Please read some of the general information about the holiday at my Arabic site, but then come back here for the story of why it is such an important day in Shiʿism.

Ashura is fundamentally important in Shiʿism because on this day, in the Hijri year 61 (680 for non-Muslims), Imam Husayn (حسین), the son of Ali (علی), was martyred in battle with the armies of the Umayyad Caliph Yazid I (یزید) at Karbala, in modern Iraq. Yazid was the son of the previous Caliph, Muʿawiyah (مُعاویه), who had promised…

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