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Middle Eastern Literature: Persian  
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Of more literary significance is 'Obeid-e Zakani's parody of the Persian national epic poem, The Book of Kings, which was written by Ferdousi (Abu l-Qasem Mansur) in the second half of the tenth century. One of the main figures in this voluminous composition is Rostam, who performs numerous heroic deeds and becomes a national hero.

'Obeid-e Zakani gives an interesting twist to Rostam's duels with his opponent Human, turning one of them into an erotic tryst. This poem thereby provides one of the few examples of adult male reciprocal sex in which mutuality is emphasized. When the heroes put aside their martial weapons and attack each other with their impressive natural equipment, they alternate being top and bottom. The poet concludes: "Know that eternal bliss is in intercourse, but only he obtains bliss who also gives."

Pederasty in Turkish Courts

Under the Turkish Ghaznavid, Seljuq, and Khawarazmshah rulers of Iran in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, was quite common in courtly circles. Ayaz, a slave boy of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna achieved fame in literature as a model lover. Mahmud and Ayaz eventually gained a place among the favorite pairs of lovers in Persian literature, and Ayaz himself becomes a model of purity in Sufi literature.

Iradj Mirza

A modern poet who explores pederasty in his verse is Iradj Mirza (1874-1926), who was official court poet before becoming a civil servant. His poetry remains popular. Some of his poems describe his infatuation with young men. In one, he recounts sodomizing the son of one of his friends after getting him drunk. The upset boy eventually promises to keep quiet for ten packs of cigarettes.

The Absence of Lesbianism in Persian Literature

Descriptions of lesbians and lesbian love are absent from Persian literature though the seclusion of women from men fostered female relationships, as frequently observed by Western travelers in the East.

Prods Oktor Skjœrvø

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Despite religious prohibitions against same-sex sexual relationships, Islamic societies generally extend tolerance through a pattern of collective denial.

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The expression of male homoerotic sentiment is one of the dominant themes in classical Arabic literature from the ninth century to the nineteenth.

literature >> Dante Alighieri

In the Divine Comedy Dante treats male homosexuality first as violence against God and then more sympathetically as merely one of the kinds of love.

literature >> Hafiz

Much of the sexuality in the lyrics of the great Persian poet Hafiz is homoerotic and infused with a homosexual mysticism.

social sciences >> Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO)

The Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO) advocates for civil and human rights for Iranian glbtq people around the world.

literature >> Sa'di

The thirteenth-century Persian known as Sa'di wrote prose and poetry that included passages on the passionate love between men and boys.


Matini, J. "Ayaz." Encylopaedia Iranica. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987.

Müller, F. Max, ed. The Sacred Books of the East. Oxford: Oxford University Press, vols. 4 (1880) and 24 (1885).

Murray, Stephen O. And Will Roscoe, eds. Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History, and Literature. New York: New York University Press, 1997.

Southgate, M. S. "Men, Women, and Boys: Love and Sex in the Works of SA'DI." Iranian Studies 17.4 (1984): 413-452.

Wright, J. W. And Everett K. Rowson, eds. Homoeroticism in Classical Arabic Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.


    Citation Information
    Author: Skjœrvø, Prods Oktor  
    Entry Title: Middle Eastern Literature: Persian  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated March 2, 2004  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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