Note: This article was originally published in Michael Ursinus, Raoul Motika, & Christoph Herzog (eds.), Presse und Öffentlichkeit im Nahen Östen (Istanbul: ISIS Yayinlari, 2000)

An Azerbaijani Poets' Duel over Iranian Constitutionalism

The Duel's Setting

The Iranian struggle for a constitution, which began in December 1905, stirred tremendous hopes that Iran would shake itself out of its centuries-long “sleep of negligence” and join “the fortunate civilized peoples.” This ferment extended into the Muslim Caucasus, where the heavily Shi`ite population identified closely with Iran. This was reflected in the Caucasian Muslim press. This paper examines how two of these journals, Mülla Näsr üd-Din and Tazä Häyat, came to different understandings of this movement and some of the polemics which resulted.

Mülla Näsr üd-Din

In discussing Mülla Näsr üd-Din, we must recall here that after conquering the Caucasus, the Tsars recruited a layer of administrators, educators, and military officers from among their Muslim subjects and these assimilated various currents of Russian thought with greater or lesser intensity. This led to a struggle for the hearts and minds of their brothers in faith, who tended to gravitate to the two Islamic powers across the border. Since Iran was a source of traditional Shi`ism, it came to be identified by many Muslim liberals with much of what they were fighting against.

This led some of these more assimilated Muslims to take a condescending view of the Iranian constitutionalist revolution, which was led by powerful elements of the old social classes and took the outward appearance of a mobilization of Islamic zeal. Among these were the circle around the famous Tbilisi satirical weekly, Mülla Näsr üd-Din, edited by Mirza Jälil Mohammadqolizadä, which sought to inculcate sturdy bourgeois Western values into Caucasian Muslims society by satirizing traditional Islamic norms. The author has addressed the issue of Molla Nasr od-Din and Iranian constitutionalist politics in a series of talks presented, in particular, at the Middle East Studies Association. He is preparing them for publication and so does not discuss the matter further here.

Tazä Häyat

At the opposite end of the spectrum of Muslim modernist thought was Tazä Häyat, edited by Hashem bey Väzirov and bankrolled by the Baku oil millionaire and philanthropist Zayn ol-`Abedin Täqiev. Hashem bey posed as a defender of Islamic tradition against the modern Muslims (yäni musälmänlar). As a colleague recalls, Tazä Häyat:

… adopted an attitude of exaggerated traditionalism due on the one hand to the mentality of its publisher and those associated with him, and on the other, to his desire for vengeance on Irshad, which had assumed leadership of the liberal and progressive Azeri youth movement.
… [A] newspaper which, instead of encouraging its readers in the search of new social aspirations, ridiculed the rush towards liberalism, drawing a line between the “old” and “young” Muhammadans, could not fail to call down the thunder of the latter on the head of its editor, Hashim bey, who was accused not only of defending retrograde and pedantic ideas, but of attempting to divide the Azeri people against itself and cause dissension among the élite. Jeyhoun bey Hajibeyli, “Origins of the National Press in Azerbaijan,” Asiatic Review, 27:90 (April 1931), p. 355.
Thus, one of Tazä Häyat's writers insisted that the Ottoman Sultan must be addressed with full respect because
400 million Muslims of different nations mention His Highness the Sultan with honor in the khütbä preached on Friday in their mosques. It is an obligation of prayer that one pray for Islam's sultans during the khütbä. Moreover, exalted God has required, according to the noble Koranic verse, “Obey God and obey the Prophet and those who rule over you,” Koran iv:59.
that we nowhere speak of kings insultingly and disrespectfully, especially the emperor of Islam. Jabbar Jiqayof, “Ershade Javab,” Tazä Häyat, April 11 [24], 1907, I:9.

The editor fully endorsed this view in a comment printed under the article.

In the first article of a series, “Islam, Progress, and Civilization,” Hashem bey raised the banner of belief in Islamic verities and declared that “aside from Islam and Islamism, there is no salvation, no hope, and all other faiths…, despite the respect we have for them, we consider all false and erroneous and hold that only Islam is the True Faith.” Hashem bey, “Islamiyät ila Täraqi vä Tämäddundan,” Tazä Häyat, May 10 [23], 1907, I:28.
He loudly bemoaned the fact that his enemies seized on such declarations to ridicule Tazä Häyat as “reactionary” and “religious fanatical” and “charlatan.”

Much of this, however, was bluster and served to cover the editor's own modernist beliefs. This is revealed in the very next article of the series, in which Hashem bey declared that

Islam holds that everyone must be his own mujtahid and a Muslim must not follow anyone. Nor can the Koran's commands and the Prophets' and Imams' traditions suffice for him; he must govern by his own reason, his own sense of fairness and conscience… May 11 [24], 1907, I:29.

He then described the Koranic laws as received as needing adjustment to the times, taking the laws of slavery as an example. This Islamic Protestantism, in which everyone must make his own interpretation of the Holy Writ, is surely closer to the thinking of Mirza Fäth `Äli Akhundzadä, the mid-nineteenth century free-thinker and pioneer of Westernization among the Caucasian Muslims, than traditional Islam! Indeed, Tazä Häyat prominently featured his ideas in its pages.

Moreover, when the Iranian Court tried to manipulate a faction of the clergy against the Constitution, Tazä Häyat 's correspondents in Iran had no trouble throwing their full support to the constitutionalist cause, rejecting the counterposed slogan of rule in accordance with the shariat. In the words of one of these correspondents, the latter was “an excuse of Iran's reactionaries and absolutists to ruin the foundations of freedom.” Mir Mühämmäd Shirazi, “Iran Ishläri,” Tazä Häyat June 10 [23], 1907, I:50.
This view was typical of the line taken by almost all of Tazä Häyat 's Iran coverage; indeed, such deviations from this line as occurred were to the left, as the journal gave prominence to various leftist and secular forces. To cite three striking examples: Tazä Häyat announced the formation of a Constitutionalist Party [Mäshrutä Ferqäsi] which proclaimed 1) the sovereignty of the Majlis, 2) universal male suffrage, 3) lands belonging to landlords were to be bought from the them by local branches of a National Bank at the value they had twenty years before and sold to the peasants, who would reimburse the bank which would then reimburse the landlord, 4) public lands were to be sold to the peasants at the value they had twenty years ago and the proceeds would be used to found schools for the peasants; 5) a 10% income tax; 6) free and compulsory education for boys and girls from the age of eight; 7) two years of compulsory military training for all able-bodied men age twenty; 8) freedom of the press and assembly. (Anonymous, “Mäshrutä Ferqäsi,” Tazä Häyat, May 30 [June 12], 1907, I:42.) Ten issues later, Tazä Häyat reported that a “land struggle” [tüpraq ightishashi] had broken out in which the peasants demanded that the landlords' land be given over the peasants and the government and the people elect their own village governors and officials. (Anonymous, “Iran” in the Foreign News column, Tazä Häyat, June 13 [26], 1907, I:52.) Not surprisingly, perhaps, this sensational news item disappeared as suddenly as it surfaced.
As a final example, Tazä Häyat published a manifesto of the Iranian Social Democrats in its issue of December 27, 1907 [January 9, 1908], I:206.

As opposed to Mülla Näsr üd-Din's radical skepticism about Iran, Tazä Häyat was, beneath its veneer of pan-Islamism, passionately pro-Iran (although it had no apparent Shi`ite tendencies). When the pro-Ottoman Füyuzat published an attack on ancient Iranian civilization, it inspired a number of furious responses in the pages of Tazä Häyat. The controversy was set off by an editorial in Füyuzat by Ähmäd Kämal attacking Häqayeq, a Persian magazine published in the Caucasus with close ties with the Iranian consulate in Baku, See Füyuzat #23. We have not had the opportunity to examine the article.
and the responses began in Tazä Häyat. In its issue of July 17 [30], 1907, I:76.
Hashem bey himself had close ties with the Iranian consuls in the Caucasus. He considered Iran's consul in Baku, Mirza `Äli Mühämmäd Khan “a close acquaintance” through whom, inter alia, he had developed a high regard for Iran's consul in Tbilisi, Mähmud Mofäkhkhäm os-Soltan. See his editorial postscript to Anonymous, “Tbilisi Jinral Qünsülünün Kaghäzi” (June 20 [July 3], 1907, I:57).
Tazä Häyat regularly published articles which flattered the Iranian consuls as philanthropists deeply concerned for their people.

This relationship persisted. Thus Hashem bey was said to have cooperated with the Iranian consulate's projects in order to extract financial gain in 1910. Älabbas Muznib, “Sabirdän Bir khatirä,” (Äbbas Zämänov (ed.), Sabir Khatirälärdä (Gänjlik, Baki, 1982) (hereafter, Sabir), p. 69. Mirza Jälil had a thing or two to say about Iran's consuls. (“Iran Konsullari,” Molla Nasr od-Din, July 14 [27], 1906, I:15.) He had not written about them, he said, “because we didn't want to make the consuls made at us. We never considered it proper to mock the influential…. To tell the truth, we were scared.” He then reported a number of abuses suffered by Iranian immigrants at the hands of the Iranian consulates in the Caucasus. Thus, an Iranian laborer reported that he had been shaken down by one of the Baku consul's retainers for a contribution to the Iranian Benevolent Association. Mirza Jälil closed with a quote from the Iranian liberal classic, Sayahätnameye Ebrahim Beg, which had been written only a few years before, and which had plenty more to say about these consuls in Baku and Tbilisi than even Mirza Jälil allowed, likening them to unscrupulous vultures. (Zain ol-`Abedin Märaghe'i, Sayahätnameye Ebrahim Beg (Äfsar, Tehran, 1364 [1985]), pp. 170-171.)
In this connection, it should be mentioned that although Tazä Häyat was sufficiently inclusive to include Panturkists as frequent contributors, they were the exception. `Ali Jälilof, “Pan Turanism,” June 10 [23], 1907, I:50. It might be significant that, although the author talks of panturanism as sweeping from Hungary to Japan, he has nothing to say about Iranian Azerbaijan.

Tazä Häyat 's Duma Politics and Mülla Näsr üd-Din‘s Anti-Politics

Another issue on which the two journals parted ways is on the relevance of political activity in general and the Russian Duma in particular. On the one hand, Tazä Häyat spent a great deal of energy on reporting the political struggles unfolding in the wake of the 1905 revolution and the political debates in the Duma. Its Duma politics were studiously centrist; its newspaper of choice for coverage of Russian politics in general and the Duma in particular was Rech, the voice of the Constitutional Democrats. Following the moderate parties, Hashem bey lumped the Right and Left together as foes of the Duma and pledged himself to defend it against both sides, See, e.g., Tazä Häyat May 9 [22], 1907, I:27.
although it (like the Constitutional Democrats) focused almost all its attacks on the Russian chauvinist parties.

On the other hand, Mirza Jälil and his comrades felt that political struggle was a diversion from a diversion from the task of educating and morally reviving the Caucasian Muslims, since they were at present too backward to understand politics. In particular, in the Muslim participation in the Duma Mirza Jälil saw reproduced on a political plane the moral vices infesting Caucasian Islam. Thus, in the second issue of Mülla Näsr üd-Din, the Muslim response to the elections to the First Duma is satirized as follows: Unsigned, “Molla Nasr od-Dinin Telegramlari (Däwlät Dumasina Baykot),” April 14 [27], 1906, I:2.

Warsaw--April 13. The Poles are “boycotting” the State Duma, i.e., they are not participating in the elections…. The campaigning around the elections (or, as the case may be, their boycott of them), was by now in full swing. Much of the liberal and leftist opposition was in favor of a boycott. “In Warsaw, virtually all workers stayed away from the polls.” Abraham Ascher, “The Revolution of 1905“ (Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1992), II:49.

Tbilisi--April 4. The Muslims are boycotting the State Duma like the Poles…. They have torn the ballot boxes from the walls saying, “Why are those fools making the people's walls impure?” A reference to the Shi`ite belief that contact with the moisture of an infidel and, by extension, anything which comes in contact with an infidel, renders a believer impure. The reference to a Muslim boycott is probably a satirical fiction; although Mühämmäd Ämin Räsulzadä called for a boycott in the pages of “Irshad“, the chief Muslim political leaders had decided to ally with the Constitutional Democrats by mid-January 1906, and six Caucasian Muslims were elected. Tadeusz Swietochowski, Russian Azerbaijan, 1905-1920, pp. 49-50.

As the weeks went by, the Duma was not covered for its own sake, but to satirize the vices he sees plaguing Muslim society. Thus, he takes a swipe at the Islamic clergy’s perceived reactionary attitude towards liberalism when he says the Islamic judge of Jämad presented “a very important epistle” in which he “expressed the hope that since freedom and the electoral principle are impermissible according to the Muslim shariat, they not allow themselves to look at the lying press and grant the Muslims freedom.” (“Telegramlari”, April 21 [May 4], 1906, I:3) or when he has the Muslim clergy praying for the defeat of the Duma just as they prayed for the defeat of “pagan” Japan during the Russo-Japanese war (Zalibeyov, “E`lamnamä”, June 23 [July 6], 1906, I:12. Similarly, under “Qafqaz Khäbärläri”, June 14 [27], 1906, I:15 on the occasion of the Duma’s dissolution.) Again, he uses the Duma elections to satirize what he sees as Muslim apathy, misogyny, pederasty, etc. (Laghlaghi, “Dovlät Dumasina Vakil Sechgisi”, May 12 [25], 1906, I:6) or obscurantism (“Dovri-Jädid”, May 19 [June 1], 1906, I:7) or deference to authority (“Näsihät”, June 16 [29], 1906, I:11).
The most political this journal gets is to satirize the worthlessness of the Duma deputies (see the two articles on Tiblisi’s `Äli Märdan bey Tupchibashi in June 9 [22], 1906.)
Finally, when the First Duma was dispersed, it provoked a yawn and a chuckle from Mirza Jälil. In an editorial on this occasion, he wrote, “Nä Ilämäk?,” July 21 [August 3], 1906, I:16. The Tsar dispersed the First Duma on July 8 [21], 1906.

So much for the Duma.

Now what is to be done?

The Duma was a way of keeping occupied [mäshghuliyät]. We would read one of our deputies' speeches in a telegram and so pass the day.

And now what has happened, happened.

After assembling his staff, he began deliberations in a mock-Duma of his own:

...Then there was Hophop. His idea was that the people go to Mozäffär üd-Din Shah and petition the Shahenshah to intervene in the Duma affair and protect his people. I replied, “My dear Hophop, I am afraid that if Iran's Shah were to intervene in this matter, he would, like the kings of Germany and Austria and take the Tsar's side and not the people's.” Hophop thought a bit and said, “You're right, Mullah Näsr üd-Din. I didn't think of that.”

One writer suggested that the people go back to sleep. Another responded by relating a traditional childrens' story of no relevance to the issue. Another declined to answer because he had not yet seen his horoscope. Another was participating in a drunken orgy and simply sent his best wishes. Mirza Jälil, for his part, declaimed,

We need to fight!

But whom?

Never mind the other peoples of Russia. I am talking about the Caucasus. I think it best that one day, all the Armenians of the Caucasus rise up and massacre all the Muslims. Then the Muslims should rise up and massacre the Armenians.

Only in this way will the Duma open. There's no other solution.

If the Georgians want to join in the fighting, fine. If they join in, let them; so much the better. If not, they don't have to, to hell with them.

Only this: There has to be fighting.

Mirza Jälil closed by relating an anecdote about a Russian who grew morose when Mirza Jälil denied that there would be a new outbreak of communal violence in the Caucasus. Seeing that his friend was downcast, he sought to cheer him up by relating a story of how the scantiness of Muslim and Armenian brains had been demonstrated in a French medical academy. This story cheered his Russian friend up immediately….

The point Mirza Jälil was making was that the political struggles in the far-off Duma were of no relevance; the real issues were the moral questions, in this case, the relationship between Muslims and Armenians, which had to be resolved to keep the Russians from manipulating them.

The elections to the Second Duma led to the following mock address to the Muslims by Mülla Näsr üd-Din's Mozalan (a pen name adopted by a number of the weekly's writers): “Sechgi,” November 10 [23], 1906, I:32.

Muslim brothers, I tell you that it is now time for elections, that is, all nationalities are struggling to have their men elected and sent to the [Second] Royal Duma, and we Muslims, too, must enter the struggle….

Muslim brothers,… you will say “Why should we elect deputies?”

I reply that we must elect deputies from among us so that they might speak for us in the Royal Duma.

Muslim brothers,… you will say, “Why is it necessary for those deputies to speak for us in the Duma?”

I reply that it is necessary for the deputies to speak for us so that it be known… that there are a few Muslims in Russia.

Muslim brothers,… you will say, “Why is it necessary that they know that… there are Muslims here? So what if they don't?”

I reply, “What if they don't? Nothing, to the frogs and snakes with it.”

This apolitical attitude earned Mülla Näsr üd-Din a revealing rebuke in the pages of Tazä Häyat. There, “A Mullah” argued: Bir Mülla, “Molla Nasr od-Din Mäjmu`äsindan 23mji nümräsinde Yazilan Hijablaräsindäki Süzlärä Jävab,” July 14 [27], 1907, I:74. This article was a polemic against Molla Nasr od-Din's advanced views on women's rights, this being what the author had termed divisive. Written after the Second Duma was dissolved and the Tsar proposed the convocation of a Third Duma from which non-Russians would be largely excluded and Russian chauvinists given a built-in advantage, the author was stressing the need to rally a united Muslim force to respond effectively. And so the issue of a conflict between the struggle against a native patriarchy versus a struggle against foreign, imperialist patriarchy was posed. It would not be the last time….

An editor who was a friend of the people would discuss how a people of thirty million is deprived of its rights every day and would get that people to win its rights…. While all of Russia has been turned into a battlefield in which different forces clash over political rights, you fill the columns of your magazine with meaningless articles and sow dissension among the people.

Dear editor, in June [July], the Second Duma was closed and in November, it was announced that the Third Duma was to be convened. But in the new electoral regulations, it was announced that the non-Russian nationalities [line partially illegible] would have their voting rights restricted. For this reason, the wise of each nationality and each party and the leaders of each nationality gathered to discuss the Third Duma and decide what to do about it and then call on that nationality or party to act as decided. But you wrote absolutely nothing about this and, thanks to friends of the people like yourselves, we Muslims know nothing and look on in bewilderment and do not know what to do about the Third Duma.

Mülla Näsr üd-Din and Tazä Häyat

Although, as we have seen, Hashem bey allowed his writers considerable latitude, his Tazä Häyat and Mirza Jälil's Mülla Näsr üd-Din were clearly on a collision course. As soon as Tazä Häyat was launched, Mülla Näsr üd-Din attacked it for raising to the level of policy an avoidance of offending anyone. Zäli, “Mäsläk,” April 14 [27], 1907, II:15. See also Här Däm Khiyal, “Millät Atalari,” April 28 [May 11], 1907, II:17.
By way of response, Tazä Häyat's humor columnist, who styled himself Birisi (Someone), wrote in his humor column,

Indeed, this Mullah Näsr üd-Din is very mischievous. He makes fun of us one after the other. Why does he make fun of someone? Because he must…. It isn't his idea, his guide [mürshid] orders him to!…. He tells him to make fun of the Sultan, of the Shah, of Zeyn ol-`Abedin, Taqiyev, the famous Muslim philanthropist. He was grossly satirized in Molla Nasr od-Din
of the Shaikh ol-Eslam, of the Mufti, of whomever, and he does…. Some say that it's not a good thing to be a tool in others' hands. So what?…. So you make fun of Haj Zain ol-`Abedin and he becomes scared of you and gives your guide some old broadcloth and your guide rewards you with a jacket, your guide tells you to make fun of the Shah [or] make the mullahs scowl and he will send you a Lion and Sun emblem. But don't make fun of Tazä Häyat! “Keyfim Gäländä,” April 18 [May 1], 1907, I:14.

Birisi continued that Tazä Häyat had never promised to offend no one; rather, it had promised to unmask before the people their enemies who pose as their friends. I am unable to confirm this because my collection of Tazä Häyat begins with the fourth issue.
“You're not, thank God, such a person,” he added, dripping irony. “You're a guy who draws pictures and makes the people happy and gets them to laugh.”

Mirza Jälil responded in kind; having been accused by Tazä Häyat of taking money from the rich by threatening to insult them in public, he accused Tazä Häyat of trying to achieve the same result by flattering them in public. Editors, “Ükhujularimiza,” April 28 [May 11], 1907, II:12.

Birisi crossed pens with Mülla Näsr üd-Din at other times. For example, he authored an article poking fun at prejudices against Muslims who sported papaqs, the tall lambskin hats traditionally worn by Caucasian men. “Gäni Papaq Müqässär Imish,” June 22 [July 5], 1907, I:59.
In the course of this article, he lamented that Russian girls were more alarmed than charmed by the men who wore them. Mülla Näsr üd-Din editor Mirza Jälil answered, “Papaq,” July 15 [28], 1907, II:26.

… Russian girls do not want to go out with papaq Muslims because the poor girls are certain that if a papaq Muslim were to keep telling the girl in a garden party, “Upon my life, let me kiss your face,” and the girl refused, the papaq Muslim would draw his dagger and slit her belly open.

And so Russian girls flee the papaq Muslim.

To this, Birisi July 24 [August 4], 1907, I:81.
replied in his column that when a gang of hooligans dishonored a Jewish girl, they were not wearing papaqs and that if they were wearing papaqs and had not brandished a pistol, she would not have allowed herself to be dishonored. He reminded his readers that a spokesmen for the right-wing Russian chauvinists in the Duma had declared that he could not bear the sight of a papaq in the Duma.

Birisi wielded a sharp pen in defense of Hashem bey, and continued to do so even after Tazä Häyat folded. When Hashem bey was disappointed in his expectations of benefiting from a school backed by the Iranian consulate in Baku, Birisi penned an attack on the school “criticizing it in impolite and humiliating terms” and “disgracing the students.” Sida, September 2 [15], 1910, cited by Älabbas Muznib, “Sabirdän Bir Khatirä,” Sabir, p. 69. Molla Nasr od-Din's star poet Sabir (discussed below) counterattacked in two different journals. Sabir, p 70.
However, many of Tazä Häyat's exchanges with Mülla Näsr üd-Din were in a lighter vein. Thus, a piece by one Därdmänd (a pen name used by one of Mülla Näsr üd-Din's own writers) wrote an “open letter” to Mülla Näsr üd-Din reporting that the local post office had abandoned the Muslims and taken refuge with the Armenians because the Muslims never wrote letters, but now the Muslims want it back because they were getting so many journals. Därdmänd, “Molla Nasr od-Dinä Achiq Mäktub,” May 6 [19], 1907, I:25.

Before proceeding to the duel of the poets, it is important to mention the most voluminous portion of Tazä Häyat's polemics with Mülla Näsr üd-Din, namely the attacks the latter published against a series of articles on veiling and on the Islamic prohibition of a man directly remarrying the wife after divorcing her. A striking feature of these polemics is that they generally avoided taking a threatening tone. This is discussed in a paper given by the author at the 1999 Middle East Studies Association conference.

`Äli Äkbär Tahirzadä Sabir

The poet's duel pitted `Äli Äkbär Tahirzadä Sabir on Mülla Näsr üd-Din's side against a number of poets for Tazä Häyat. Sabir was the member of Mülla Näsr üd-Din's circle of writers who was the most precariously caught between the classical Iranianized Islamic tradition and modernism. Having been exposed to the passions which divided Caucasian Islam (his father had converted to Shi`ism in a bitter break with his own father), he was then educated by a pioneer of Caucasian Islamic enlightenment, Haji Säyyid `Äzim Shirvani. A classmate of his from those days remembers Sabir as an assiduous composer of märsiyäs, or traditional Shi`ite passion-poems for the martyrs of Karbala, an enthusiasm which his classmates could not understand, given his Sunni lineage. Sultanmäjid Ghänizadä, “Sabir Haqqinda Kichik Bir Khatirä,” Sabir, p. 27.
Through the 1890's, he became a renown märsiyäkhan, i.e., reciter of märsiyäs, and it was there that he picked up his pen-name Sabir, the Patient One. Salman Mümtaz, “Sabir Haqqinda khatirälär,” Sabir, p. 46.
This aspect of his being he maintained even after being driven from his native Shämakhi by the “ignorant common people” whom he had satirized. Abdulla Sha’iq, “ Iki Dust,” Sabir, pp. 102-103.
As Mülla Näsr üd-Din editor Mirza Jälil commented, Sabir Baräsindä Khatiratim,” Sabir, p. 20.

Sabir was a pious poet's pen name, the name of someone who should bear the world's wrongs and humanity's sins, awaiting a better world, which will be the portion of the faithful believers.

Sabir in Tazä Häyat

Along these lines, it is interesting to note that Sabir contributed several poems to Tazä Häyat during its first year. These poems are signed `Ali Taherzadä Sabir Shirvani, raising two problems: First, Sabir was from Shämakhi, and second, his proper name was `Ali Äkbär. However, Sabir was styling himself Shirvani during this period (see Sültanmäjid Ghänizadä, “Sabir Häqq?ndä Kichik Bir Khatirä,” Sabir, pp. 33, 35.) As for the abbreviated personal name, we have in Tazä Häyat the same “double” in Mühämmäd Sä`id Ordubadi and Sä`id Ordubadi, both clearly referring to a single contributor to Tazä Häyat. These have been censored from Stalinist scholarship; thus, they are not included in, for instance, the 1962 edition of collected works of Sabir published in Baku. Mir Jälil, ä. Mirähmädov, K. Talibzadä (ed.), M. Ä. Sabir, Hophopname (Azärbayjan SSR Elmlär Akademiyas? Näshriyyati, Baki, 1962).
The religious nature of this material must also have given the Stalinist censors problems; none of Sabir's religious poetry has seen print in what is a major field of Soviet Azerbaijani scholarship, Sabir Studies.

The first poem published in Tazä Häyat celebrated the birth of the Prophet Mohammad, a particularly important occasion for this self-consciously pan-Islamic journal. “`Eid-e Mäwlud-e Näbi (`äläyhu Sälam), Füzulidan Täzmin,” April 13 [26], 1907, I:11.
It was written along purely traditional lines and had no political or satiric content which I have been able to discern. His next effort was a satire of dishonest and mercenary poets, a light, straightforward work. “Teraneye sha`erane,” June 6 [19], 1907, I:47.
Next, he wrote a defense against those who cast doubts on him, no doubt referring to those who questioned the purity of his religious beliefs which, his friends recall, were constantly under suspicion. Untitled, August 4 [17], 1907, I:89.
It is a poem in the style of Hafiz, full of classical Persian/Islamic and khärabati allusions:

The inebriation of the true and pure makes the people of the heart drunk.
The pure goblet is shattered by the rock of suspicion.

This is turned by the poet into a meditation on the ills afflicting his people:

The hand of the heartbreaker is bold, the foot of zeal has been made to flee.
The false have been made to rule, the truth-discerning eye is red with drink.
Fate is bleak, friends are fools, the stars intrigue against us.
'Tis the age of unmanliness, the people are ignorant, rule is difficult, learning is despised.
The arrow of suspicion is aimed at the righteous.
The flowering buds are stained by the liver's blood.

The poem closed as it opened, with an invocation of the name of the Prophet Mohammad. Here, the poet asks him to look down on the Muslims and see how their “glory has faded, their splendor has gone, and misery fills them.”

Another poem by Sabir appeared a few weeks later, modeled on a poem of Khaqani Shirvani. “Shäkiba'i” (Patience), August 16 [29], 1907, I:98.
Its theme is summed up in the lines

However much the waves of ridicule close in around me,
Let me be a tall mountain in the sea.

Like Khaqani, he pledged to stand like the alephs in ütä`na (the Arabic plural of mocker), tall and straight and surrounding the tä`n (mockery). One of Sabir's friends recalled him using this verse in reference to Ähmäd Kämal, the ill-tempered, räqi-drinking panturkist writer mentioned above who was now the principal in the school in which he was teaching; but since Sabir did not begin his teaching career until 1908, he could not have written the poem specifically against this particular antagonist. Sültanmäjid Qänizadä, “Sabir Haqqinda Kichik Bir Khatirä,” Sabir, p. 36.)

Sabir in Mülla Näsr üd-Din

In the meantime, Sabir had become an admirer of Mülla Näsr üd-Din. His initial contacts with the magazine were furtive. Its editor, Mirza Jälil, recalled that Sabir sent his first poems anonymously via a messenger, and he had to send one of his colleagues to tail this messenger to discover the poet's identity. “Out of concern for… poor Sabir's environment, he wanted to keep changing his pseudonyms.” “Sabir barasinda khatiratim,” Sabir, p. 19.
Sabir the believer was not ready to make the clean break with the believers which an open identification with Mülla Näsr üd-Din would have required. But he would have trouble maintaining his position in the camp of the pious anyway. As he remarked to a friend of his a few months after he began collaborating with Mülla Näsr üd-Din, “However I sign my name, they can tell it's me by my choice of words, my subject matter, or my style.” Älisgändär Jäfärzadä, “Sabir Haqqinda khatirälärdä,” Sabir, p. 81.

The Poet's Duel

Opening Shots

The opening shot in the duel of the poets was fired by Ibrahim Tahir Musayof of Shush. A frequent contributor to Tazä Häyat, he was an Iranian with close ties with the Iranian consulate in Baku and an ardent Iranian nationalist and foe of Panturkism. Thus, in the controversy with F?yuzat mentioned above, he wrote: In Persian. August 5 [18], 1907, I:90 For another attack by him on “Füyuzat", see his poem (in Azeri Turkish) in the issue of July 31 [August 12], 1907, I:86.

It was thanks to [Iran's] hero-nurturing powers that… after a short while, half the Seven Climes were conquered [by the Turks]. On the other hand, the Turks of these times, who are made up of a bunch of treacherous arrivistes dressed in absurd Frank-style clothes, ignorant of statecraft, would have cast all the gains of those mojahed raiders [ghaziyan] to the winds…. I do not call myself Iranian out of fairness, but out of passion [tä`ässob]. Musayof's answer to Mülla Näsr üd-Din's satirizing of Iranians was of another order: Molla Nasr od-Dinä,” May 1 [14], 1907, I:22.
See how the rose garden is woven through with hyacinths, oh Mullah.
Look how nightingales flutter from rose to rose, oh Mullah.
Such a reviving season is the Spring.
Look at the birds, how they're eloquent as people, oh Mullah.
Doff your turban, don a papaq,
Poke your head in the garden for a moment, oh Mullah.
How can you sit in your house like a coo-coo at such a time?
Arise, it's a spring day, go outside, oh Mullah.
The merry mystic must promenade in the Season of Roses;
Come, talk with your comrades, Mullah.
You talk too much about the people;
Don't spread such talk pointlessly, Mullah.

You might as well be talking to a corpse.
What can a puff of air do against all this ignorance, Mullah?
Don't pointlessly mock such a Muslim people.
A single man's strength can never outdo an elephant, Mullah.

You're a wise old man, be still, sir!
Why do you mock so much, Mullah?
In the end, mischievous things will be written about you.
Before your time you will come on bad days, Mullah.

The prejudiced look at the cartoons in your magazine
And compare you to the Angel of Death, Mullah.
Do not travel these waters, you will sink in the end.
Heed my words, cast your anchor on the shore, Mullah.

Your words agitated a with a word people which has been slumbering a thousand years.
What a terrible uproar you've cast Iran into, Mullah.
What need does this people have for a constitution?
Who has any patience there for freedom, Mullah?

The traitors will not learn a thing by sage counsel, by God,
Even if Loqman A man to whom God had given wisdom, according to the Koran (Sura 31), and hence a byword for wisdom in the Islamic world.
be invited to come to Iran, Mullah.
Let the khan gorge himself on his land's produce
And let the poor stay vagrant in the wilderness, Mullah.

Is there a hope that they can stay for a moment in their huts?
They must stay outside, in the wilderness, Mullah.
In Iran, it is the boss and the well-connected who get ahead;
This is what the people must learn, Mullah.
A vanishing, disappearing ancient regime.
Will surely awaken the negligent, come and see, Mullah!

To build any bridge over the Aji Chai, A river running between Tabriz to Urmia.

One builds the bridge over the river, not the river over the bridge, Mullah.
Do your task a stage at a time.
Is it necessary to go the whole route by train, Mullah?

The clergy has come out against liberty.
The sons of the homeland are now throwing them out, Mullah. The previous month, the Mojtahed of Tabriz, Mirza Häsän Aqa, was driven out of Tabriz by the constitutionalists after a brief power struggle. The city's Friday Imam had been driven out the previous year.

It was nice that they were fed for free, fattened for free.
Did they begrudge the beggar a dinar, Mullah?
For the clergyman, there are a hundred villages filled with barley. The clerics who had been driven out of Tabriz owned many village, and had reputations as hoarders.

His men work like slaves, Mullah.

In this country, there is neither medicine nor doctor.
A hundred laborers go without medicine, Mullah.
On every street corner, sir, you see a hundred blind men.
Iran has, so to say, been left to the blind and crippled, Mullah.

On the clay alleys there are no cobblestones.
One must bring a ladder by one's side, Mullah.
In every alley is a broken single shoe.
[Unreadable], Mullah.

I don't know when there will be progress in this land.
The rulers of this realm are sleeping, Mullah.
Under these circumstances live the poor subjects.
Who will make this people well, Mullah?

The people have no place to plant or harvest,
The khans have seized whatever land there is, Mullah.
In Iran, the Muslims suffer oppression. Weep
For all the problems they face, Mullah.

Taher, too, complains about his country
And will weep into a glass tears of blood over it, Mullah.

This poem sets the tone for the poet's duel: the poet agreed with Mullah Näsr üd-Din on the basics, i.e., that Iran's condition was hopeless, that the constitutionalist movement was superficial and touched nothing fundamental-Iran's social and cultural bases had been left intact. A bunch of worthless khans and notables had been catapulted into power and the people remained miserable. In the only bright spot---when the poet refers to the expulsion of the grain-hoarding clerics of Tabriz---the poet does not press his point, and the poem returns to its melancholy tone. The poet only objected to Mülla Näsr üd-Din's mocking of the Iranians, a mocking made all the more painful by its pointlessness. He seeks relief from it and recommends that the stern mullah lighten up.

A similar poem appeared two days later. Molla Mühämmäd Qärabaghi, “Molla Näsr üd-Din `Ämüyä,” May 3 [16], 1907, I:23.

Friend, will you see the people awaken?
Which of those who are negligent will become alert?
Will those who betrayed them ever be laid low?
Will God ever help us?
Let Fate change from course to course, Mullah.
Let it go well for us, Mullah.

If there come not a leader, how will the people fare?
How will the present condition be alleviated?
How will the worthless party be made cooperative?
If not, how will this people be united?
We need a custom of cooperation, Mullah.
All the disorder must be made orderly, Mullah.

In this world, a man's honor is in learning and culture.
Wherever the learned be, he is held in esteem.
Whoever is renown, it is because of perfect learning.
What ignoramus do you see held highly?
It's unlikely that the ignorant will win fame, Mullah.
Doubtless if he does, it will come very late, Mullah.

The truth must leave its mark on Islam.
May talk come to concord in council.
May our eyes not see confirmed what some people say.
That on the Resurrection, the turban on my head will testify against me.
God forbid that evil whispers should bring me under suspicion, Mullah.
How is it possible that what is apparent remain hidden, Mullah?

You're reveling, we're sleeping, the world is in tumult.
The heart of the wise is aflame with grief.
See how the world is in misery, there is so much discord.
You're enjoying yourself with a moon-faced beauty by each side.
Let one sashay over to your home every day, Mullah.
Go and take her in your arms, Mullah.

Take a soul-satisfying kiss from that tulip-faced girl.
Let your eyes find the light of her radiant stare.
Enjoy exchanging sweet words with her.
Let your pampered heart have its way with the Georgian girls of Tbilisi.
Draw to your chest their white breasts, Mullah.
Take another to your private quarters every moment, Mullah.

Is it possible for any nobody, O Näsr üd-Din,
To take a houri-like sweet lover to his side.
Sashaying as she flounces the pleats of her skirt,
That the hoary heart could find balm for its passion.
Strong as an ox and fair of form, Mullah.
… her lips until your mouth turns sweet as honey, Mullah.

Each flirtation gives the soul new life.
She speaks with words which would win over a corpse.
As one watches, she performs those lovely motions.
Well, she is exonerated from any fault and is pure!!
Every perfection is achieved through congress, white-haired Mullah.
Who would not buy goods like these locks, Mullah.

Pay no mind no matter how much I, too, poke fun at you.
It seems pointless that any comer would hold it against you.
A man loves a silver-bodied beauty anywhere she is.
It is a bird who faints to the ground with love.
ut a man is he who is a lover of a hundred ladies, Mullah.
Let no living soul refrain from this, Mullah.

Do you recall, sir, Sän`an and Tärsa?
Färhad and Shirin, a certain Vamäk and one `Äzra?
How Mäjnun wasted his life on Leyli?
How Zoleyfa's love tore Yusof's shirt? The references are to famous lovers in Iranian epic poetry and to Zoleifa's passion for Yusof in the Koranic version of Potapher's wife and Joseph.

God has driven out many such, Mullah.
There is no room to mention the rest, Mullah

. Let the people remain in the clutches of whomever.
Let them remember you a moment in the future.
May they learn from others and benefit from this.
From birth to grave a man should trumpet a tune:
Be a counselor, play the tune of counsel, Mullah.
Fill these heads of ours with a passion for affection, Mullah.

Again, the poet begins by agreeing with Mullah Näsr üd-Din about the condition of the Muslims in general, ridiculing the ascendancy of ignorance over wisdom. He briefly defends himself against (or ruefully accepts) Mülla Näsr üd-Din's broad-brush attacks on the clergy, and then launches an extended offense against Mullah Näsr üd-Din, depicting him, in an incredibly sensual and bold fashion, as someone who is enjoying the good life in Tbilisi while the objects of his ridicule suffer, only for the poet to back off, saying, in effect, boys will be boys. It should be noted that it was around this time that Mirza Jälil was to propose to his future wife, Hämide Khanum. Hämidä Mämmädquluzadä, Mirzä Jälil Haqqinda Hatirälärim (Gänjlik, 1981).)
He closed by advising “Uncle Mullah” to provide the people with useful counsel (instead of laughing at them) and strive for friendship (instead of sowing division), promising that then he will be remembered when the people awaken.

A week and a half later, Sabir published a poem in Mülla Näsr üd-Din "Ädäbi`at”, May 12 [25], 1907, II:19.
satirizing Tazä Häyat without naming it. The occasion was the arrival of Mirza `Äli Äsghär Khan Ämin os-Soltan Ätabäk in Iran. Associated with the most tyrannical excesses under Naser üd-Din Shah, Ätabäk was declared an infidel by leading members of the clergy and invited to taken an extended pilgrimage to Mecca by Naser üd-Din's milder successor, Mozäffär üd-Din Shah. His invitation back to Iran by Mozäffär üd-Din's more dictatorial successor, Mühämmäd `Äli Shah, struck many constitutionalists as an ill omen.

Say, my lad, let's see what has come of your presumption?!
Your cries have shaken the whole world to its foundation!
Perhaps now you'll see your faults and do what should be done.
And so, my friend, here's what I say:
Was it as I said or not?

Said you not, “I'm not ill, my body's fit and whole?”
Said I not, “Ambition and greed afflict your soul.”
Said you not to me, “Over me spite has no hold?”
'Till was put to the test one day!
Was it as I said or not?

Said you not, brave fellow, that none in the Anjoman The Tabriz Anjoman, or constitutionalist club, was composed of the pillars of Tabriz society---leading clerics, wealthy merchants---and constitutionalist politicians. We have found no mention in our (very incomplete) collection of its organ, Änjomän of any promise to keep Ätabäk out of Iran. As for Tazä Häyat, Ätabäk returned to Iran soon after it began publication; in any case, there is no mention there of any vow to keep him out of Iran. Once he was in Iran, occasional articles appeared denouncing him stridently, but more often his name was mentioned only in passing and with no particular rancor.

Would e'er consent that Ätabäk would come to our homeland?!
What is it that made hollow the fighting Anjoman?
Same old hinges, same gateway.
Was it as I said or not?

Did you not the Duma the font of our hopes proclaim?
Did I not this Duma the source of illusion blame?
Did the Baku deputy to the call for justice lend his name? Esma`il Täqiyef, the son of Tazä Häyat's sponsor, was the Duma deputy from Baku. His performance was reported in the pages of Tazä Häyat. It also earned him some ridicule in the pages of Molla Nasr od-Din:
Gentlemen, you know how much the people of Baku have spent to send me here to bring their weal and woe to your attention and do something for them. Now… [To be continued]
(“Däwlät Dumasinda: Qafqaz Väkillärinin Nitqi,” April 28 [May 11], 1907, II:17.) On the Muslims and the Duma, see Tadeusz Swietochowski, Russian Azerbaijan, 1905-1920 (Cambridge University, Cambridge, 1985.

You're still a kid, be on your way!
Was it as I said or not?

Did you not say that in the Duma, we'd be attended to?
Did I not say don't buy that, it will be the end of you?
The black clouds now gather, what are we then to do?
They have enveloped your Duma. The Tsarist government's tolerance for the Second Duma, always slight, had crumbled after a Social Democratic deputy launched into a provocative tirade against the army in late April (new style). By mid-May, the government was actively organizing the institution's dissolution. By May 18, the government was arresting a number of Duma deputies, despite their supposed immunity, after it had become clear that they were cooperating with socialist soldiers who were organizing against a military coup---charges whose criminality crumbled on further investigation. Alfred Levin, The Second Duma (Archon Books, Hamden, Connecticut, 1966), chapters XIII and XIV.

What it as I said or not?

Was it not you who said that we are united?
I for one recall I said, "Do not rely on it."
Our zealous toil has by fractious spite been requited.
The veil has been snatched away.
Was it as I said or not?

Tazä Häyat's Responses

Less then two weeks after Ätabäk was assassinated on August 31, 1907, Tazä Häyat's Mühämmäd Mühämmädzadä took the opportunity to respond to Mülla Näsr üd-Din: Molla Näsr üd-Dinin On Dokuzunju Nomresinä Jävab,” August 29 [September 11], 1907, I:107.
One Mäshhädi Mühämmäd `Äli Mäshhädi Mühämmädzadä of Daghestan appears in Tazä Häyat in another polemic with Mullah Näsr üd-Din, this time over the veil. (“Petrovsk Daghestanski,” Tazä Häyat, I:45 (June 4 (?) [17], 1907)) He takes the position that the veil is commanded by the Koran to prevent men and women from sinning when they meet, but that “[i]t can never be an excuse for Muslim women to remain ignorant. It is possible for them to learn at any time under these conditions…. [I]t is very necessary for women to learn, indeed, it is obligatory.” See my “A Debate on Women’s Rights in the Muslim Caucasus, 1907” presented at the Middle East Studies Association 1999 conference.

Hey, my lad, don't give the foreigners what is in your hand,
You talk day and night about the fighting Anjoman.
Now how do you see each member of the Anjoman?
So what do you think, was it as I said or not?

Where is that tongue of yours? Not a word comes from it.
Was the killing of one Ätabäk enough for it? None of the histories of the period indicate that the Tabriz Anjoman had anything to do with the assassination of Ätabäk.

Unlike you, they haven't stopped talking about it.
Too bad for you, was it as I said or not?

Nor is this a single deed: There is no end to it.
For the mojahed is but a child.
He who is sound will see what sort of unity this is.
Hold on, watch and wait; did you or I speak the truth?

Now, rival, take a look at us, are we not united?
Or are there among us any conflicting ideas?
Whoever sees what we have done, come and tell the world about us.
This was the first test, did you or I speak the truth?

What you said was not so, the color has changed.
The gate Reading qapi for qap = wine jug.
has opened up a bit, it has become beautiful.
The khans' and beys, my lad, are in a fix.
It's a new time, these times, was it as I said or not?

A second reply appeared a week later, “After Mühämmäd Mühämmädzadä,” “Mühämmäd Mohammadzadäye Näzirä,” September 6 [19], 1907, I:113.
by an anonymous poet:

See, Uncle Mullah, how all we claimed has taken place!
See how God answered our prayers in every case!
He answered all our pleas with complete and perfect grace.
Now how was it, Uncle Mullah, as I said or not?

The Anjoman's members wanted zeal is what you said.
Set aside your reckoning, Heaven's reckoned in your stead!
Said I not, “A scheme is hatching in Ätabäk's head?”
Now how was it, Uncle Mullah, as I said or not?

Just when the cry, “Woe, Homeland!” had set my soul to shaking,
A dandelion tuft lit 'pon my ear, the glad tidings breaking: An airborne dandelion shoot is considered a bearer of good news according to a folk believe in Iran and the Caucasus.

Ah such wonderful news, such food for my soul making!
Now how was it, Uncle Mullah, as I said or not?

With Ätabäk rid of and gone it is now seen where
We are all united, our enemy does disappear.
The schemes of a few from the roots we tear.
Now how was it, Uncle Mullah, as I said or not?

Said I not the Majlis was the shelter of our nation?
The world was filled by smoke and sparks of our sigh's generation.
Nor is there a drop of error in my proclamation.
Now how was it, Uncle Mullah, as I said or not?

That there's not a shred of zeal in the Anjoman was your claim.
Yet with such vigor it acted all the same!
Such a mojahed it was who beat the drum of fame!
Now how was it, Uncle Mullah, as I said or not?

Sabir's Rejoinder

These answers brought a rejoinder from Sabir two weeks later: “Iki Jävablari Bir Jävab,” October 2 [15], 1907, II:37.

You're boasting. Ah, he didn't see! Stop jumping up and down so!
Don't giggle pointlessly like a childish clown so!
You haven't pricked up your ears. Don't show yourself around so!
Hush, don't talk back, sleep, my boy!
Your claim has not yet been met.

Are you prospering even before you've set up shop?
Is it time for lunch before the sun is up?
Does a single rose blossom bring winter to a stop?
Hush, don't talk back, sleep, my boy!
Your claim has not yet been met.

You've killed Ätabäk, indeed, I don't contend it.
But haven't you a thousand more, or have I misapprehended?
I don't think the old gateway has been so quickly mended.
Hush, don't talk back, sleep, my boy!
Your claim has not yet been met.

Ätabäk 's dead, but where's your cannon, muskets? More,
In combat's deep ocean where is your ship of war?
Same old bath, same old washbowl, where's their new color?
Hush, don't talk back, sleep, my boy!
Your claim has not yet been met.

Say, is your Finance Ministry set up safe and sound?
Have you made your wide sleeves short, your tall hats short and round? It is an interesting commentary on Sabir's ambiguous position that he himself wore the traditional papaq, the wearing of which he here labels reactionary.

In your entire country is one railway to be found?
Hush, don't talk back, sleep, my boy!
Your claim has not yet been met.

Take a trip to the hospital located in Tehran.
See what kind of medicine practices Mirza Äbül-Häsän. Äbül-Häsän was a pioneer of modern Iranian medicine, a graduate of the Dar ol-Fonun under Naser üd-Din Shah. See, e.g., Mirza Mühämmäd `Ali Khan Tärbiyät and E. G. Browne, The Press and Poetry in Persia (Kalimát Press, Los Angeles, 1983), p. 157.
The Angel of Death was asked, “What city have you not visited.” He answered, “I have never set foot in Tabriz, since the doctors there have relieved me of my toil.” "Hekmät" (Azärbayjan, Säfär 8, 1325 [March 23, 1907], # 5). The good doctor was a Tabrizi and was in charge of the government hospital during Naser üd-Din Shah's last and Mozäffär üd-Din Shah's early years in power. (Khaterat-e `Abdollah Bährami (`Elmi, Tehran, 1363 [1984]), p. 18.)

His medicine is plain poison and has killed most of Iran.
Hush, don't talk back, sleep, my boy!
Your claim has not yet been met.

If I were to consider the realms of Iran one-by-one,
The reader would be bored, our discourse long would run.
I limit my self to this statement for precisely this reason.
Hush, don't talk back, sleep, my boy!
Your claim has not yet been met.
The water hasn't returned to the stream. A reference to the constitutionalist slogan, “The water which has flowed from the stream has returned,” a reference to the restoration of Iranian national grandeur which would come with the victory of the constitutionalist revolution. This slogan was used a number of times in the pages of Täzä Häyat.

Your old office is as it was.
Its paint's not even faded.

Täzä Häyat Sues for Peace

This reply brought the following responses, which closed the subject.

The first one, by Mühämmäd Mühämmädzadä, appeared a little over a week after Sabir’s piece was published: “Äsh`ar,” October 12 [15], 1907, I:144.

O bearer of fortune, spread your sorrow and woe's misery.
Imagine the uncouth kid to be better than he is.
What would be wrong if we, too, sampled some of your generosity?
May what I said might be come true,
May what you called impossible not be so.

Though we saw that we had not even begun many of these tasks,
We waxed proud and spun ourselves dizzy. It was did not become us.
One flower doesn't make it spring under Aries.
Let them make merry!
May what you called impossible not be so.

There was a plan for a new building; a wall was erected around it.
Its citadel's tower was in it and there was a gate to pass through.
The wayfarers must pass through the gate, by the thousand by the million, although
Once more the gate has been shut.
May what you called impossible not be so.

We let these words suffice: For all the people of the world,
Without patience, it is impossible to begin to fill the void with order.
One step at a time do the castle-dwellers climb the stairs.
It is not a ditch which can be jumped over.
May what you called impossible not be so.

What sort of sarcastic banner is it you raise so before the throne?
You array an army only to disperse it with abuse.
Don't throw the world into an uproar, but do something yourself.
The time for this sort of thing has passed.
May what you called impossible not be so.

I have taken your trip to your Tehran hospital.
I have paid your visit to your Mirza äb ül-Häsän Khan.
He will not be satisfied until a plague spreads.
Stop going on about him.
May what you called impossible not be so.

There is no need to enumerate the realms of Iran one by one.
If you enumerate them, go ahead, it will cure none of our ills.
In the dark of night, there remains neither candle nor lantern,
Nor is there in your hand a cane.
May what you called impossible not be so.

It only remains to remark again how the poet accepts Sabir's basic understanding of Iranian politics, which is quite a severe one. All he pleads is that one must be patient with these benighted Iranians and pitch in and help instead of standing on the sidelines and ridiculing.

Finally, an anonymous poem appeared a few weeks later: “Molla Nasr od-Dinä,” October 29 [November 11], 1907, I:157.

Oh, remove your insense from a thousand of our censers.
Come, cut the voice of counsel from our deaf ears.
Don't make us aware of what is good and bad for us.
Fear the wound which will be inflicted by our knife's blade.
To make a long story short, leave us alone.

You are making the people enraged, do not make them scowl.
If a dervish plays a trick, do not laugh at the rooster.
When you see the groom, do not look at the bride.
Don't present the cartoons you draw to Turk and Russian.
Enough! Won't you stop reaching out to foreigners?

Don't mock the masters of deceit who won't take advice.
Those who seek darkness will not desire light.
Let those who believe in the fortuneteller believe in the bibliomancer's prayer.
May your head not be troubled over the world's disasters.
Remove your voice of ridicule from our pulpit.

Your having related the good deeds of the nations,
Of course serves no purpose now.
This is how things have been for our people since untold eternity.
Don't waste your voice, it's like making noise with one hand.
We won't stop, even if the world calls us trouble-makers.

You praise others' guns and cannons
And place importance on the laws of warfare.
Why do you insult your own people's instruments of war?
In battle, one can break the foe's jaw with slingshots!
Let the world be in fear of our maces!

If the world be spanned by railroads,
It is no secret, rather the matter is quite plain.
Don't waste our money.
Is it permissible for Muslim and heathen to be alike?
Would you abandon our horse and camel and mule?

Let our people show Turk and Frank when they come
The instruments of war prepared for the battle.
See our maces and stout clubs!
Isn't among our army's legions opium and hashish?
Alas, you know nothing about our army officers!

This country has been ours for six millenia
And the realm has not been cleaned of its filth.
Why do you prattle pointlessly about automobiles?
Rather, speak of horses, camels, and even elephants.
We will repeat the same thing by rote.

If the world gets together and 'till the Resurrection
Makes our people all targets The author wrote the wrong “h” letter.
of scorn's arrows,
What tree of ignorance will bear repentance?
Let the enemy loot each and every one of us.
God forbid that the armor of ignorance be removed from our bodies!

If there be fear, make it not the standard for your comparison.
There are a few articles in the Constitution.
If one has no clothes on, what does their color matter?
Not a bit of what you fear has come to pass.
How is it that khan and bey do not molest our sons!

Don't waste your time with pointless words.
The foreigner is packed with industry.
Who will sell industry in Iran?
If you had sense, you would spread the word abroad:
That in Iran, the wool-spinner is our copper smith!

Don't talk a lot to the rich about the poor's plight.
Whatever you seen in the world is but God's will.
Perhaps the True God Himself wanted to pass such a judgement on them.
One cannot know a departed soul's portion.
But one can be sure about money, our silver and gold!

If you have sense, my dear friend, do not believe these words,
That there is a people who is our people's equal,
Heroes of wisdom, skill, and industry, in every field.
Who can we say is like us in this whole world?
Both young and old know the same amount!

Don't be as sharp as vinegar, my dear friend, don't boil over.
Take this advice and don't forget it:
Take opium, smoke hashish, until you pass out.
If you can, delight in a bowl of pure wine.
Drink yourself to sleep, don't learn about our affairs.

You insult the people to your Reading NZ for MZ=our, in which we would read “We” for “You;” this is also a possible reading.
fullest capacity.
God forbid there be among us someone with a bit of piety.
He would make us each true and trusty.
The traitors to the country would not commit treason.
There will be nothing but shame in the pages of our ledger.

Our nature is like that of a scorpion. As the Persian saying goes, “The scorpion doesn't sting out of malice; it is his nature.”

For no cause we sting each person with the sting of vexation.
It is our way, dear friend, don't think this is foolishness.
The point is, where ever we settle down,
We will surely wound the wolf with our stinger!

A hundred thanks, the Russians overcame us in battle
And cut off from us ties to the Caspian Sea. Of course, Iran retained the southern shores of the Caspian Sea.

There is not a single boat left us in our exile,
For the means of drowning are banned in the shariat.
God did not allow us to be ashamed before our Prophet. A simpler translation would be: God did not allow us to be ashamed of our Prophet, but this seems unlikely for other reasons.

Our people are such nobodies and nothings
That any fraud who stands up is considered learned.
People like Azär Father of the Prophet Ebrahim, a crude and phillistine character.
have entered among the poets.
This illness is burning us, even if you come with the cure:
The flames shoot forth from our coals each moment.

Postscript: Azärbayjan's Intervention from the Sidelines

Finally, we comment that the Tabriz-based weekly Azärbayjan participated in this debate. For further information on Azärbayjan, the reader is referred to Raoul Motika's unpublished thesis, Die Zeitung Azarbaygan (Täbris, 1907): Inhalt, Umfeld, Hintergrund (München, 1992). I am indebted to Mr. Motika for a number of the observations which follow.
A collaboration between enlightened merchants and men of the pen common in Iranian constitutionalist journalism, it was conceived of as a partner of Mülla Näsr üd-Din: the front cover of its first issue featured the incarnation of Azärbayjan shaking hands with Mullah Näsr üd-Din himself. It borrowed certain features of Mülla Näsr üd-Din (a cartoon on the cover and center spread, satirical telegrams, an incarnation of the magazine, certain pen-names. Compare Azärbayjan's Bi Khiyal and Bi Keyf with Molla Nasr od-Din's Har Dam Khiyal and Keyfsiz, etc
In particular, it borrowed wholesale from Mülla Näsr üd-Din's poems. Compare “ägär räft Iran be män chi, be män chi?” (Azärbayjan 15 Rabi' I, 1325 [April 29, 1907], # 10) with “Mellät neje taraj olur olsun, ne ishim var?!” (Molla Nasr od-Din April 28 [May 11], 1906, I:4).
On the other hand, Azärbayjan lacked Mülla Näsr üd-Din's sparkle and élan. Its articles alternated between earnest preaching and cries of despair. This is especially true of its cartoons. Even Mülla Näsr üd-Din's most horrifying cartoons are the work of a Westerner artfully depicting the Muslim world's afflictions. Azärbayjan's cartoons, however, are simple, direct, wrenching cries of pain. Finally, Azärbayjan was passionately Iranian nationalist and took Iran's struggle for a constitution dead seriously. It should also be said that there is no indication in the pages of Mülla Näsr üd-Din that its writers were aware of Azärbayjan's existence.

Azärbayjan's first intervention was to publish a slightly altered version of one of Tazä Häyat's answers to Mülla Näsr üd-Din. It is not credited to anyone. Molla Nasr od-Dinä Jävab,” Shä`ban 22, 1325 [September 30, 1907], # 16.

Hey, see how everything we said has taken place!
See how God answered our prayers in every case!
He answered all our pleas with complete and perfect grace
Now how was it, Uncle Mullah, as I said or not?

The Anjoman's members wanted in zeal is what you said.
"Set aside your reckoning, Heaven's reckoned in your stead." An Azerbaijani folk-saying.

Said I not, “A scheme is hatching in Ätabäk 's head?”
Now how was it, Uncle Mullah, as I said or not?

Just when the cry, “Woe homeland!” had set my soul to shaking,
A dandelion tuft lit `pon my ear, the glad tidings breaking:
“They've shot Ätabäk , an end to his mischief making.”
Now how was it, Uncle Mullah, as I said or not?

Now among us, Uncle Mullah, is not a particle of spite.
We stand united and are not afflicted worth a mite.
Recall you not I said that this illness can be made right?
Now how was it, Uncle Mullah, as I said or not?

With Ätabäk rid of and gone it is now seen where
Once more the people's opinions all as one cohere.
We are all united, our enemy does disappear.
Now how was it, Uncle Mullah, as I said or not?

That there's not a shred of zeal in the Anjoman was your claim.
Yet with such vigor it acted all the same.
Such a mojahed it was who beat the drum of fame!
Now how was it, Uncle Mullah, as I said or not?

We see we've done our duty in its proper sense.
Yet you would in mourning have our country dress.
Thank God for being granted such fitting recompense!
Now how was it, Uncle Mullah, as I said or not?

The reader will, I believe, find no significant difference between this poem and the version published in Tazä Häyat.

On the other hand, Azärbayjan's final reply to Mülla Näsr üd-Din was completely original. It was relatively more assertive, although it ultimately shared with Tazä Häyat a concession that yes, Uncle Mullah was right after all, but he should be less severe with his nephew, the inexperienced and naïve Iranian constitutionalist: Azärbayjan, Shäwwal 6, 1325 [November 12, 1907], # 20.

My merry man, were I to set off for the realm of Rey,
In just one step might one suppose I'd make it all the way?
The Turks, they say “yävash yävash,” the Arabs, “showay showay.”
You who are in such a rush!
Hush, don't speak, be patient.

You say that winter's day must be called springtide.
I say that we in winter cannot safely abide.
Let the heart be spared, leave deceptive words aside.
You who are in such a rush!
Hush, don't speak, be patient.

Many look at us from afar and giggle as they speak.
Like an old gate's hinges, they creak the same old creak.
They spin themselves dizzy, and don't the long term seek.
You who are in such a rush!
Hush, don't speak, be patient.

The weight of the enemy's rebukes give my heart such pain.
Our friend is far away, to whom should I my pain explain?
For on one side you pull, on the other pulls my chain.
You who are in such a rush!
Hush, don't speak, be patient.

Of scolding our precious we haven't a thought.
A suckling babe needs to be brought up and taught.
I am amazed that you're so overwrought.
You who are in such a rush!
Hush, don't speak, be patient.

A sleeping people for musket or cannon have no use.
The pure of heart have no need for guile and ruse.
Go, hit the road, no need to linger, silly goose!
You who are in such a rush!
Hush, don't speak, be patient.

It used to be the camel wheat to our land would bear.
We now have equality, Shah, beggar, and amir.
Indeed, we wake the sleeping with the royal trumpet's blare.
You who are in such a rush!
Hush, don't speak, be patient.

Do not think that no one has set our affairs to right.
The wise know a saying, and here's the point of it.
This railroad, truth to tell is useful not a bit.
You who are in such a rush!
Hush, don't speak, be patient.

We don't guide the foe down the faithful's lane but kick him out.
If an ass dozes in the creek, we'll take up the load, no doubt.
Any sleeping ass in a snap we'll get up and about.
You who are in such a rush!
Hush, don't speak, be patient.

Concluding Observations

In his history of the Iranian constitutionalist revolution, Ähmäd Käsrävi understood the poets' duel as being between Azärbayjan and Mülla Näsr üd-Din. Tarikh-e Mäshruteye Iran (Ämir Käbir, Tehran, 1354 [1976]), pp.271-272. This is why, for instance, in his reprinting of it, Käsrävi deleted the sections in Sabir's poems which refered to the Duma, since they made no sense in the context of the duel as he misunderstood it.
Käsrävi correctly perceived the exchange as a “humorous duel.” This humorous quality is peculiar, given the radically different world outlooks of the editors of Tazä Häyat and Mülla Näsr üd-Din, and it requires comment. After all, as mentioned above, Tazä Häyat was involved in an all-out war with the outspokenly modernist Irshad, a war in which Tazä Häyat effectively excommunicated Irshad and in which Irshad called on its readers to boycott Tazä Häyat---a boycott which eventually caused Tazä Häyat to fold.

Part of the explanation may be in the fact that, as we have seen, Hashim bey did not exercise tight control over his writers; Russian-educated writers in his time would have gravitated to positions to his left in any case.

We can also understand the soft line taken by Tazä Häyat's poets as a measure of Mülla Näsr üd-Din's prestige among educated and assimilated Caucasian Muslims. After all, the magazine was widely read and appreciated, a fact which can be gleaned from the pages of Tazä Häyat itself. Moreover, Mülla Näsr üd-Din never took Caucasian Muslim politics seriously enough to launch a sustained attack against its journalistic competitors. In the war between Tazä Häyat and Irshad, Mülla Näsr üd-Din took indiscriminate potshots at both sides, but these zingers never lost their jocular quality.

But on a deeper level, Mülla Näsr üd-Din's coverage of Iran expressed a melancholy shared by many Iranian liberals of that generation---that, in the words of the poet, “Dard-e Iran be davast,” Sayyed Äshräf od-Din Gilani.
that Iran was a hopeless case. This sensibility would be re-enforced by the experience of living in the borders of the mighty Russian Empire and having direct experience with life in a more or less Westernized society. An Iranian in the Caucasus could only look over his shoulders and sadly shake his head and say, with Haj Zain ol-`Abedin Märaghe'i, in whose footsteps they were treading, “Alive and yet dead, dead and yet alive.”

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