By  Majid Naficy

This is the English translation of the third chapter of my book In Search of Joy: A Critique of Death-Oriented, Male-Dominated Culture in Iran (Baran publisher, Sweden, 1991). Preface - Chapter 1 - Chapter 2


What always consumes Khayyam's soul is his apprehension concerning death and life after it.  He mocks the usual religious responses, that is resurrection and reincarnation, and to release his mind from the insurmountability of death, he takes refuge in wine and love and, forgetting himself in happy-headedness and hedonism.  As a result, in spite of criticising resurrection, worship of God, and religious duties, Khayyam is not able to reject the religious point of departure, that is shadowing of death over life, and follows the path toward appreciation of life.

In Khayyam's hedonism, only the earthly tavern replaces the heavenly tavern and the ceremonies of drinking that of religious worship.  Moreover, although Khayyam is saddened by the existence of injustice and ignorance in society, and speaks out against the clergy, yet he preaches seclusion and escape.  Therefore, it is not improper to call Khayyamian happiness: the bitter joy, that is, the happy drinking of a lonely person to whom life tastes like death.

Khayyam, in addition to poetry, was interested in mathematics and astrology.  Scientific work helps him to think of philosophical problems beyond the usual religious biases.  The following quatrain, while showing the impact of astrology in his philosophical thought, reveals to us his main obsession, that is, death:

From the mass of black clay to the heights of Saturn
I solved abstract problems one by one
I untied the knots of problems with skill
All knots were untied except that of death*

Death is a force from which no human being can escape:

No one wins over the wheel of time
And the earth is not full of eating men and women
You are proud that you are not eaten yet
Why hurry, it's not late, you'll be eaten too

In spite of the fact that being and not being are unbreakably connected, the problem of death is more important and appealing to Khayyam than the emergence of life.  Whether the world is created or timeless, death inevitably knocks at our door:

I'm not immortal in this universe
So it's a big mistake to be without wine and love
How much longer on "created" or "timeless", oh wiseman
We will be gone, whether the world is created or timeless

People after death turn into dust, therefore, each handful of dust is reminiscent of a person in the past:

The Wheel will not pick up any clay from the earth
Until it is shattered, returning to clay again
If the cloud lifts the soil just as water
It will rain the blood of our loves until the resurrection

Man cannot escape death in reality, but he is not deprived of wishful thinking and three imaginary escape routes smile at him: First, if man can drink from the spring of life ,he will be able to remain evergreen like Khezr(Elias, the prophet of Israel?). Alexander, the double-horned, returned unsuccessfully from this path, and Achilles and Esfandyar who took ablution in holy water, each unintentionally left a vulnerable spot for himself from which death won. Therefore, gods and semi-gods remain immortal and humanity cannot reach it.  Second, based on the principle of reincarnation, Hindus believe that people after death, measured by their behavior in this world, will be reborn in a new form and through this process, they are able to overcome death.  Third, acording to Islamic and Judeo-Christian traditions, the human soul after death has to wait for the day of reckoning.  At that time, all the dead will be raised; those who had done wrong will go to hell, and the righteous to paradise:

What if there was a place for resting in peace
Or there was a destination for this far path
What if after one hundred thousand years, within the earth
Like greenery, there was hope of growing back again

Although Khayyam considers each of three utopian forms of victory over death absurd, he is influenced by the Hindu reincarnation.  After death parts of a dead body remain in other existing forms.  Thus, there is a material unity between the living and the dead:

Every leaf of grass grown at a brook
Looks like the new fuzz on the upper lip of an angelic face
Behold, do not step on greenery with contempt
Because it has grown out of the tomb of a tulip-faced youth

Khayyam feels deep emotional connections between himself and others as well as among past, present and future.  A connection which can create happiness as well as sorrow:

Last night I hit the porcelain jar
I was tipsy, and so I did wrong
The jar was telling me in a mystical language
I was like you, and you,too, will be like me

The material unity of the world is caused by the identity of its component parts:

When humers were composed by the Omniscient
I don't know why He made them defective
If they came out well, why does He break them into pieces
If these forms were not made well, who should be blamed

In the following quatrain he mentions four material elements of nature:

We are in this ruined corner with wine and our loves
Not bothered by hope of paradise or fear of torment
We have pledged our souls, bodies, cups and clothes for wine
Free from wind, earth, fire and water

Among four elements, for people who live in an environment with vast deserts earth seems more important.  It is said in all holy books of monistic religion of the Middle East, including the Koran, that God created man from the special soil used for pottery, and then, blew spirit into it.  Khayyam, also, is influenced by this myth.  With this difference, the system of creation consists of two departments: one the pottery workshop and the other, the tavern.  In the first place, human bodies are made and in the second, divine spirit is poured into the bodies.  From the soil of each clay jar which shatters, another clay jar is made, and this process goes on to eternity:

Last night I went to the workshop of a potter
I saw two thousands clay jars, talking and quiet
Suddenly one clay jar wailed loudly:
"Where is the potter and the seller or buyer of pottery?"

But the master of the workshop is no other than the pottter of the universe (dahr):

It is a cup praised by wisdom
Kindly kissing its face one hundred times
The potter of the universe makes such a delicate cup
Then throws it on the ground, time after time

Sometimes, the potter of the universe is changed to the painter of the garden of the universe:

True, I have beautiful hair and visage
A face like a tulip and height like a fir tree
Yet it's not clear why, in the garden of the universe,
The eternal painter has thus drawn me

In addition, sometimes instead of the word "dahr" time, words such as "charkh" wheel, "gardoon" spin and "falak" firmament are used which remind us of the potter's wheel as well as heavenly spheres and stars:

Oh Wheel, how come you make a miserly person  wealthy
And you give him a bathhouse, mill and a mansion
But a freeman is in debt for his daily bread
No doubt one must fart on such a firmament

The dahrian interpretation of the Creator was not begun with Khayyam.  For example, in pre-Islamic Iran Zarvanians, a faction of Zoroastrianism held that position.  Dahr suggests the passage of time; it has determined in advance the lot and the time of everything and everybody in the tablet of fortune :

Bewildered like a ball in the polo of fortune
Go left, go right and say nothing
Because one who dropped you in this feverish running
Only he knows, only he knows, only he

Nevertheless, it seems that in some cases Khayyam by using fatalism, intended to justify his religious non-observance.  If everybody's fate is predetermined, he neither benefits from religious worship in this world, nor can he hope for salvation on the day of judgment:

Because God ordained your daily bread
Neither will he diminish it nor increase it
One should feel free regarding what there is
And be carefree about what there is not

And also in this quatrain :

Oh Lord, you have moulded my clay, what should I do?
You have strung my jasper and pearl, what should I do?
Whatever I do, either evil or good
You have written for me in advance, what should I do?

Contrary to the fatalism and irresponsibility thus caused in the above-mentioned pieces, we encounter a completely new thought in the following quatrain:

Every good or evil inherent in human nature
Every joy or sorrow within the predetermined fate
Should not be left to the Wheel, because viewed by wisdom
The Wheel is more miserable than you a thousand times

If from the above-mentioned poem, one can understand the necessity of human freedom only by negative reasoning, in the following quatrain the argument will be self-evident:

We are the end of all creation
In view of wisdom, spirit or vision
The circle of the world looks like a ring
And we are the only design on its stone

Therefore, man is the center of the universe.  He is autonomous in his deeds and God has no influence on him.  Khayyam both in the forms of fatalism and voluntarism attempts to loose the principle of resurrection   He does not accept the words of the Koran and the Prophet about the day of judgment and wants to think with his own head.  In order to reject resurrection, he uses four arguments:

Firstly, Khayyam according to the classical, is a Naturalist philosopher, or as the contemporaneous say adheres to the scientific method.  In his investigation, he instead of reaching the conclusion at the outset and then finding examples in reality, begins with the observation of the world around him, and like Francis Bacon, after observing nature, contemplates, analyzes and finally reaches a conclusion.  In the following quatrain, he after observing the growth and death of a tulip, concludes that human resurrection has no basis:

Drink wine, you will sleep a long time in the earth
Without companion, comrade, friend or mate
Behold, do not reveal this hidden secret:
That tulip which withered, will not blossom

Secondly, Khayyam does not limit himself to observation, but is ready to accept the correct ideas of others.  Unfortunately, so far no dead had returned from the grave, upon which his words can be based:

From all those gone on this long path
Who has returned to reveal to us the secret?
Behold, at this dilemma of greed and need
Do not leave anything, because you won't come back

Thirdly, After observation and fact, it is time for analytical reasoning.  Provided everything is written in the tablet of fortune in advance, then, the duties of worship in this world and resurrection hereafter are both senseless:

How much longer light from the mosque and smoke from the synagogue
How much more "loss" in hell and "profit" in paradise
Look at the tablet of fortune, where from primordial time
The master wrote whatever was ordained to happen

And fourthly, if through observation of nature, investigation of facts and philosophical contemplation we cannot find a basis for resurrection, what would be the need for its invention?  Neither are people in nature lovers of vanity, nor is the blade of absurdity always sharp.  As a result, belief in the day of reckoning originates from social and psychological needs.  In a world filled with sorrows, where oppression and ignorance rule, the suffering and hopeless, have to take refuge in utopia and find a way out in dreams.  Therefore, we find concepts such as paradise, inferno and even God:

The Wheel is a belt around our worn-out body
The river of Oxus is a mark of our refined tears
Hell is a spark from our unheeded sighs
And paradise is a moment of our peaceful time

Not only belief in the day of resurrection is a reflection of our joy and sorrow in this world, but also even the concept of God is caused by the feeling of the passage of time on the world and our bodies.  Khayyam, in some other quatrains shows a tendency towards complete atheism:

This sea of being has appeared from hiding
There is no one who can pierce the jewel of its knowledge
Everybody has said words in caprice
What is on the other side, No one can say

In spite of all fact and reasoning even if there will be a day of resurrection with its paradise and hell, it would be better for us not to lose the cash for a credit.  Khayyam leaves the promised paradise to the faithful and inspires others to build a paradise in this world:

They say paradise will be fun for you with its beautiful women Instead, I'd say that the juice of grapes is good for you
Take this cash and wash your hand of that credit
The sound of a kettledrum is only fun from afar

If what the Koran says about the beautiful women and men is true, so enjoying wine and love in this world should not be considered an abomination:

They say that there will be a paradise with beautiful women
There you will have pure wine and honey
If we worshipped wine and love it would be right
Because the outcome of our world will be the same

The inferno cannot be a place for lovers and drunks:

They say that the drunken people will go to hell
This is incorrect and one should not have faith in it
If lovers and drunks will inhabit inferno
You will find paradise tomorrow like the palm of a hand

Even different arguments within those who believe in resurrection gives Khayyam an opportunity to preach his gospel of joy:

They say whoever fears God
Will be raised as when he died
That's why we always enjoy wine and love
So that in resurrection we will be so raised

Because we might be raised in our present bodily form, Khayyam gives the address of his grave in advance, so that the functionaries of the day of judgment will not make a mistake:

When I pass away, use wine for my ablution
Instead of holy words, fill my mouth with pure wine
If you want to find me on the day of resurrection
Seek me at the threshold of the tavern

Sunni Moslems were not the only enemy of Khayyam.  In addition to Sunni governments of Malekshah and Sanjar belonging to the House of Saljooq, there were Isma'ili partisans, (or Sevener Shiis).  They made a distinction between the literal and the hidden meaning of words of the Koran, and instead of relying on words and deeds attributed to Mohammad, the prophet,as Sunnis did,  they advocated a rational interpretation of religion. The beautiful legend of three schoolmates: Khawjeh Nezam Oa-Molk (the powerful vizir of Saljooq's kingdom), Hasan Sabbah (the leader of the Isma'ili partisans in Iran) and Omar Khayyam, thoroughly illustrates the battle of three ways of thought: reactionary orthodox Suniism, revolutionary rationalist Isma'ilism and agnostic hedonism of Khayyam in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.  Khayyam was suspicious of both trends because they misled people with the mirage of the day of resurrection, and he looked for his paradise in this world:

I will kill sorrow with a huge jug of wine
And enrich myself with two large goblets of it
First I will divorce reason and religion forever
Then I will marry the daughter of grapevines

In the following quatrain, he mocks Isma'ili concepts, such as knowledge, the literal (appearance) and hidden (inside) meanings of the Koranic verses:

I know the surface of being and not being
I know the depth of each up and down
Yet, I should be ashamed of my knowledge
If I know a place above drinking

The Isma'ili movement had created a new fever among people, but Khayyam knew that they work in vain, as a Persian saying suggests: they were milking a bull:

They who work hard for reason
Are milking a bull in vain
It would be better for them to wear a fool's costume
Because today no one swaps cabbage for reason

They consider themselves a knowledgable elite, however in reality they are a handful of ignorant donkeys:

With these few ignorant who foolishly
Consider themselves the intelligent of the world
Be a donkey, because they are so deep in donkeyness
Who name blasphemous whomever is not a donkey

Khayyam mocked the Isma'ili's "reason", not because he did not believe in rational reasoning. He was himself a mathematician and astrologer, and in order to reject revelation and prophet's tradition, he relied on observation and reasoning.  Reason ('aql) in Isma'ili's hands was only a banner by which they tried to cover their religious dogmas.  Therefore, the object of Khayyam's criticism was their dogmatism and not reason in and of itself.  Two factions of Sunni and Isma'ili, although different in their slogans, methods, leaders and epics, both preached religious dogmatism:

A group of people contemplates for the sake of religion
Another group presumes they have found truth
I am afraid that it will be announced one day:
Oh you misinformed, the path is neither that nor this

Mysticism also opposed reason, just to replace it with intuition or personal revelation.  Khayyam's criticism, on the contrary, aimed at Isma'ili dogmatism in disguise as rationalism.  Nevertheless, one cannot consider Khayyam a "rationalist", neither in terms of ancient Greek philosophy nor modern European thought.  In the following piece, he absolves himself of being a Greekophile:

The enemy said wrongly that I am "philosophical"
God knows what he said I’m not
Since I have come to this vale of sorrow
Am I less than that knowing who I am?

He does not despise knowledge and contemplation, but finds no certainty in their results:

My heart has never been deprived of knowledge
And there are few secrets which are not revealed to me
I contemplated seventy-two years, days and nights 
It became known to me that nothing has been known

He does not want to look humble, rather he presents his philosophical skepticism.  Khayyam does not hope that riddles of eternity or the relation between being and not being will ever be disclosed to humanity:

The primordial secrets will not be known either to you or me
This gibberish will not be read either by you or me
We are talking to each other against the curtain
When the curtain is dropped, there remains neither you nor me

Those who think they have the truth in their hands, are in fact mythologizing:

Those who encircled knowledge and letters
And set a candle for apostles to reveal knowledge
At last they did not find a way out of this dark night
Only told stories and then went to sleep

Khayyam turns his philosophical doubt into a weapon in order to reach his philosophy of joy:

Since truth and certainty are not at hand
One cannot sit hypothesizing for one's whole life
It would be better for us not to set down cups of wine
Drink and become tipsy, neither drunk nor sober

As a result, by leaving the religious responses, Khayyam finds the doors of human victory over death closed.  What remains is a borrowed life which should be considered as a loan and repaid.  One should enjoy the moment.  Neither have a desire for the future, nor envy yesterday:

Today, you cannot reach tomorrow
And thinking of tomorrow is but a fantasy
Don't waste this moment, if you are not senseless
Since the rest of your life will not last forever

And also in the following, in which Khayyam puns on one hand "new day" with "New Day", that is the Persian celebration for the beginning of Spring, and on the other hand "yesterday" and "January", that is the beginning of Winter:

How good is New Day's dew on the face of a flower
How good is a charming visage on the expanse of a lawn
When January passes, whatever comes is not good
Be happy and forget yesterday, only today is good

Immersing himself in hedonism for Khayyam is not merely escaping death.  Moreover, in this world there is no justice.  A miserly person is wealthy and a freeman needy.  So, in order to forget oppression and ignorance, he takes refuge in wine:

Oh time, you confess to your injustice
And you hide behind the walls of oppression
You bless the trash and torment the good
It's one of these: you're a fool or a donkey

The god of Khayyam is not just:

If the universe runs on justice
Conditions of the world were all sound
If the wheel spins justly
When would the men of knowledge be troubled?

Nevertheless, he knows that he should not be ungrateful.  So, he writes sarcastically:

The one who gave to jujubes smiling lips
Gave also a bleeding liver to those in pain
If he didn't give us joy, we shouldn't be sad
We are happy because he's given us so much sorrow

He wishes he could eliminate the unjust Wheel, and replace sorrow with happiness:

If I had access to the Tablet of Fortune
I would write it just as I wish
I would eliminate sorrow from the world
And joyfully, raise my head high as the Wheel

The main motif of Khayyamian hedonism is drinking.  One can only wash off the sorrow of the world through wine:

Through the coming of Spring and going of Winter
The pages of our book are slowly passing
Have wine, don't have sorrow, the philosopher said:
Sorrows of the world are like poison, its antidote wine

For happy drinking, one must be alive.  A dead person cannot feeljoy.  Life is an investment whose interest is joy. To acquire interest one should save the principle:

If there is only one breath left in your life
Do not let it pass unless joyfully
Behold, the capital of the kingdom in this world
Is life, it will be spent the way you spend it

Prohibition of wine by religion especially in the holy month of fasting, only adds to the diabolic desire of Khayyam to drink:

They say do not drink wine in Sha'ban, it is not lawful
Not also in Rajab, which is God's special month
Sha'ban and Rajab are the months of God and his prophet
We will drink in Ramazan which belongs to us

If blowing of God's spirit into the  human body resembles the pouring of wine into a cup, then, it might follow if God drinks, that He might break Khayyam's cup:

You broke my jug of wine, my Lord
You shut the door of the feast on me, my Lord
You spilled my red rosy wine on the ground
Forgive me! Are you drunk? My Lord

Lucifer also has to follow God and drink, so that he can overcome his arrogance and prostrate himself to Adam:

Wine reduces arrogance from heads
And it unties the strong knots
If Lucifer had wine for a moment
He would bow to Adam two thousand times

Drinking has its own rituals and one should drink in moderation:

If you drink wine, have it with wisemen
Or drink it with a laughing, tulip-faced boy
Don't drink too much, don't brag or tell secrets
Drink a little, on occasions and surreptitiously

Sometimes his drunkenness becomes so moderate that it changes to a mood between drunkenness and sobriety:

As long as I am sober, joy is unrevealed to me
When I become drunk, my reason diminishes
There is a mood between sobriety and drunkenness
I am its slave, all of life is that moment

Sometimes moderation in drinking ends in repentance:

Alas, my whole life passed in vain
I am both an unlawful eater and an unclean breather
Disobedience to the ordained, made me a sinner
Woe unto me, because of my unlawful deeds

Perhaps, the above-mentioned cheap and phony quatrain has been added to Khayyam's Divan by the religious censors.  Perhaps the poet himself has done this in order to remove his footprints.  But no one knows for sure.  It is possible that Khayyam, like many others, had different phases in his intellectual life or sometimes vacillated between different tendencies:

We have on one hand the Book, and on the other the cup
We are sometimes unlawful men and sometimes men of faith
We are under this raw turquoise-colored dome
Not absolutely blasphemous not thoroughly Moslem

The propagandists of the cruel God on earth are the clergy who hypocritically fool the people.  But they keep the promised paradise for themselves here:

One sip of wine is better than the kingdom of Kavous
And it is better than the throne of Qobad and the seat of Toos
Each sigh that a lover takes in the early morning
Is better than the whining of the hypocritical faithful

The clergy is not only hypocritical but also blood-thirsty:

Oh holder of holy decrees, are we more blood-thirsty than you
In spite of all this drunkenness, we are more sober than you
We drink the blood of vines and you the blood of people
Be fair, which of us is more blood-thirsty?

Khayyam does not even want to hide his belief, putting the clay jug of wine on his head in public:

Those who place the basis of asceticism on deceit
In fact separate the soul and the body
From now on I will put the jug of wine on my head
Even if they slash my neck like a rooster

And finally he proclaims war against the religious leaders:

Do not spill the tears of a new bride of vine
Or shed blood except of the uncleansed worshipper's heart
Shed the blood of two thousand rotten hypocrites
But do not pour your sip of wine on the ground

Suppression ravages Khayyam's society:

One has to be sober in the world of the living
One has to keep quiet in re affairs of the world
In order to save one's eyes, tongue and ears
One has to be without eyes, tongue and ears

Social suppression not only obliged him to silence, but also made him preach seclusion:

It would be better for you to seek fewer friends now
Friendship with people at present is best at a distance
The person you rely on in your life as a friend
When you open the eye of your wisdom, is your enemy

The feeling of social inability in Khayyam stems from his philosophical determinism and, in turn, influences it. That human individual who in a couple of Khayyam's quatrains is called the end of the whole creation, now in the following poem is equated with a fly:

It was a drop of water, joined the sea
It was a speck of dust, returned to the earth
What is the reason for your coming and going in this world?
A fly appeared and then vanished

One cannot find a phrase more burning than this nor a wine more bitter.  He finds no difference between being and not being or sorrow and joy.  What he has, indeed, is a death-like being or a bitter joy:

Since to whatever is, there is not but wind at hand
Since to whatever is there is but flaw and defeat
Imagine that whatever is in the world does not exist
Or whatever is not in the world does exist

In spite of denial of resurrection and reincarnation, Khayyam is not able to leave the religious point of departure, that is the dominance of death over life.  Religion considers this world as a farm which will be harvested hereafter, that is in the world after death.  Of course, the ratio of death-worship differs from religion to religion,.  For example, one should compare the cult of martyrdom in Islamic Shiism with the peaceful society of Quakers in the U S.  Nevertheless, in all religions, the other world is the basis for our behavior in this world.  All religious duties, such as prayer, fasting, charity, pilgrimage and holy war, as well as all of the social networks and temples of religion are aimed at the other world, and only find meaning there.  A religious man plans his life in terms of the life hereafter and permanently carries its anxiety.  Khayyam also, like the faithful, considers this world a farm for the other world.  With this difference, they irrigate their farms with a liquid mixed with the soil of their martyrs'tombs, whereas Khayyam with the bitter wine of forgetfulness.

Anxiety about death is so dominant on the soul and mind of Khayyam, that he spends his whole life trying to forget this nightmare.  Of course, sorrow for those who have gone, and anxiety about one's own death, are painful feelings.  But if we accept that death is part of life, sorrow for it will disappear in the cracks of the joys of life.  That day will come inevitably.  But, as long as one is alive, why one should live with this nightmare?  Love toward other people, mixing with nature, passion for knowledge, and endless energy for creation-- these are the desirable motivations for living, and not a sickly effort to forget death.  In fact, the religious wine of eternity and the bitter wine of Khayyam both follow the same goal, which is escaping life to forget death.  Therefore, both are death-oriented.

A religious man and Khayyam are both permanently living in a nightmare, the former caused by the existence of the world after death, and the latter because of its absence.  One spends his life doing the absurd and death-creating religious duties, and the other in drinking and destroying body and soul.  Both see man as a tool in the hands of a metaphysical force beyond being and humanity.  One kneels toward this superbeing seeking its blessings, and the other turns his back and insults it, but both are captured in its labyrinth. 

As a result, if determinism is the philosophical root of death-worship, any other kind of thought which conceives man as a dead pawn in the hand of a super being, may tend toward death-worship  even if one would call that force "epoch-making" and "life-provoking".  A contemporaneous example is the school of evolutionism, which perceives life as a battleground, and man as the foot soldier, of the forces of evolution.  From the point of view of this school, an invisible force dominates nature and society, which evolves, slowly but regularly, from simple to complex and from lower to higher.  In spite of their disruptive behavior, the forces hindering evolution in nature and society, sooner or later will disappear and the army of evolution will triumphantly continue to march. 

Therefore, the end of being, including that of man is only helping this evolutionary finalism.  The more one puts oneself under the control of this mystical force, the more one deserves respect and appreciation. 

Evolutionism in accordance with capitalism is widespread, and under its influence considers the economic rate of growth as the only standard for measuring the level of evolution.  Nature and society both resemble a capitalist market.  In capitalism, the more the rate of profit and productivity of labor-power and production increases in an enterprise, the more the possibility of victory over its competitors.  Based on this economic model, that society is considered higher on the ladder of evolution, where economy and productive forces are more progressive. Also in nature, that animal or plant is more evolutionary where due to the complexity of its organism, it can create more productive energy.

Thus, it is not accidental that an economic oriented society such as capitalism considers the same mission for itself as the early Moslems felt in Arabia, or Isma'ilis in Khayyam's time.  In these societies, man sees himself captured by forces which are not under his control.  In one, religious verses, and in the other, scientific laws grant the necessary pride to the carriers of the mission, and assuage their conscience for destroying their enemies.  The mission must be carried on.  The righteous religion has to prevail, and the machine of progress and evolution ought to open triumphantly the gates of "barbarism". 

It is interesting when the mission of determinists is carried on, signs of despair and disillusion gradually appear in the mission-stricken society, and it becomes clear that the mystical mission has been but a mirrage, and has accomplished nothing but mutilation of life.  Khayyam lived in such an epoch, when both Sunni and Isma'ili society were suffering from a hang-over, which appeared after their holy drinking.  In the second half of the nineteenth century, the bourgeois society of England, too, was gradually showing the disappointing symptoms caused by its mission of industrial progress.  At this time, the translation of Omar Khayyam's quatrains by Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883) spread the name of Kayyam in the West. 

The above-mentioned epochs are the time of defying dogmas, disillusionment and falling of idols, as well as a period of defeat, despair and isolation.  The bitter joy of Kayyam contains both of these characteristics.  On one hand, he mocks missions, messengers and mission-stricken people, and on the other hand, he extends his mockery to humanity as a whole, and foresees human fate as only defeat and destruction.

Today, our Iranian society faces a period of defeat and disillusionment, and as of now, one can taste the bitterness of Khayyamian joy in one's mouth.  Who will be the next Sadeq Hedayat?*

*- I have translated Khayyam’s quatrains from Persian into English from this version: Robae'yat-e Omar Khayyam, Volume II, 1955, Moscow .*- This text was first published in the magazine of Akhtar, No. 7, 1989, Paris.

*- Sadeq Hedayat (1902-51)The most prominant Iranian novelist.  Among other things, he edited a version of Omar Khayyam's quatrains in Persian, and committed suicide in Paris.

*- In recent years, at least three Iranian poets and novelists have killed themselves: Nooshin Amani (1994 Los Angeles), Ghazaleh Alizadeh (1996 Iran(and Islam Kazemieh )1997 Paris(.