Adam’s children

Today’s issue of Haaretz offers a detailed report about the overcrowding of hospitals in northern Italy, and also reports on the great unexpected help that China is giving Italy in this difficult situation. “We, the Italian Red Cross, are not used to receiving donations,” they quote the head of the Red Cross, Francesco Rocca, “we usually donate.”

The Israeli newspaper also mentions in a paragraph that China is also providing assistance to Iran, the country most affected by the epidemic, with a fine local touch:

“China had also sent a medical team to Iran along with 250,000 masks and 5,000 test kits packed in boxes bearing a centuries-old verse by the Persian poet Saadi Shirazi: «The children of Adam are the limbs of one body, that share an origin in their creation.»”

Everyone in Iran knows this verse. This is the beginning of one of the most popular poems of one of the greatest Persian poets, Saʿdī Shīrâzī (1210-1291), the first poem taught in Iranian schools, which also figures in Persian and English (!) on the reverse of the 100,000 Rial banknote, depicting Saadi’s tomb in Shiraz:

بنی آدم اعضای یک پیکرند
که در آفرينش ز یک گوهرند
چو عضوى به درد آورد روزگار
دگر عضو ها را نماند قرار
تو کز محنت دیگران بی غمی
نشاید که نامت نهند آدمی
bani âdam aʿzâ-ye yek peykarand
ke dar âfarinaš ze yek gowharand
čo ʿozvi be dard âvarad ruzgâr
degar ʿozvhâ-râ na-mânad qarâr
to k’az mehnat-e digarân biqami
na-šâyad ke nâmat nahand âdami

Adam’s children are the limbs of one body,
of one essence since their creation,
and if one limb is hurt by a calamity,
the other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If the pain of others does not hurt you,
you do not deserve to be called human.

From the several recitations of the poem, let us hear the one read by Raha Mirzadegan before she sings the Persian song Dokhtare Boirahmadi, “Daughter of Boirahmad” in the concert of the early music ensemble Apollo’s Fire presenting the music of medieval Jerusalem.

It is understandable, that this poem is particularly suited to expressing solidarity between peoples. Just as China uses it to send a message to Iran, and the Iranian singer to the people of Jerusalem, so Obama used it to conclude his 2009 Persian New Year message. And the following classical Persian musical version, played by the Kermanshah musicologist, folk music collector and cultural center founder Yahya Ranaei and his family ensemble, was also performed across Iran to comfort and financially help the survivors of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami of Tōhoku.

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