Obeyd Zakani or Obayd Zakani, was a Persian poet and satirist of the 14th century (1300?-1371? CE) from the city of Qazvin (near Tehran). Obeyd, the greatest Iranian humorist, born seven hundred years ago in Qazvin, is well known among Iranians. His humorous anecdotes and jokes are especially popular. But lesser known among the general public is his ribald satire with explicit s-e-x-u-al references. He studied in Shiraz, but eventually moved back to his native town of Qazvin. He however preferred Shiraz to Qazvin, as he was a court poet in Shiraz for Shah Abu Ishaq, where a young Hafez was present as well . His work is noted for its satire and obscene verses, often political or bawdy, and often cited in debates involving gay practices. He wrote the Resaleh-ye Delgosha (Joyous Treatise), as well as Akhlaq al-Ashraf (“Ethics of the Aristocracy”) and the famous humorous fable Mush-O-Gorbeh (Mouse and Cat /Tom and Jerry!), which was a political satire. He is one of the most remarkable poets, satirists and social critics of Iran/Persia, whose works have not received proper attention in the past. His books are translated into Russian, Danish, Italian, English, etc. Some believe that the first Qazvini jokes and Qazvini icons have been made by Obeyd. Now, lets take a look at some Obeyd’s jokes and anecdotes:
“How can I become a great man?” a boy asked a Mullah. He answered: “In your childhood, don’t withhold your ass from friend, enemy, stranger, kin, etc, and in this way you can become a great man, a great
Mullah/politician/athlete/etc in the future.”
A gay, male prostitute, was asked about his business in Ramadan month (month of Islamic fast that Muslims should not have any intercourse). He said: “It’s OK. Gob bless Jews and Christians”.
A woman said to a gay man: “don’t sleep with many people, because in the afterlife you would have many problems and have to answer many questions.” the gay said: “Be worry about yourself. You should answer about two holes, and me about only one. ”
Once the governor of Khorasan was told that there was a certain man who looked much like him. He called the man and asked him, “Was your mother a saleswoman frequenting the houses of the nobility?” The man answered, “My mother was a shy woman who would not go out of the house, but my father worked as a gardener in the houses of the great men.”
A carpenter took a wife, and after three months she gave birth to a son. The father was asked, “What shall we call this boy?” He said, “Since it took him three instead of nine months to come to this world, he must be called the royal courier.”
The father of Mullah Nasereddin had a slave-girl with whom he would occasionally have intercourse. One night Mullah crept into her bed and embraced her. She asked, “Who are you?” He said, “Me, my father.”
A Qazvini man paid an Amrad (gay) for sodomizing him and promised: “I just penetrate half of it”. But when he did it, he penetrate the full, and when Amrad protested, Qazvini said: “yes, I promised a half, but I meant the second half of it !”
A Christian boy became Muslim. After some days, his friends asked him about becoming Muslim and he said: becoming Muslim means cutting the head of your d-i-c-k in the morning, and raping and sodomizing you at night.”
A woman asked Talkhak, “Where is the candy shop?” He said, “Inside a lady’s skirt.”
A grammarian was on board a ship. He asked a sailor, “Have you studied syntax?” He said, “No.” The grammarian said, “Half of your life is wasted.” The next day a strong storm hit the ship and it was on the verge of sinking. The sailor asked the grammarian, “Have you learned to swim?” He said, “No.” The answer was, “All of your life is wasted.”
A man from Qazvin went to fight the heretics carrying a large shield. A big stone from the fortress hit him on the head and badly hurt him. He was annoyed and said “You fools, are you blind? Why did you hit me on the head? What do you think this huge shield is for?”
Masud the astrologer saw Majd al-Din Shah working in his garden. He asked, “What are you planting?” “Nothing very useful,” was the answer. The other retorted, “Your father was the same. He too never sowed a useful seed.”
An Arab went to Mecca on a pilgrimage and his turban was stolen. He said, “O God, once in my life I came to Your house and You had my turban stolen. If you ever see me here again, have my teeth broken.”
Satan was asked, “Which class of people do you like the most?” He said, “Salesmen.” They asked the reason. He said, “I was content with lies from them, but they added false oaths as well.”
A preacher said from his pulpit, “Whenever a man dies drunk, he is buried drunk, and he will rise drunk from his grave.” A man from Khorasan who was at the foot of the pulpit said, “By God, one bottle of such a wine is worth a hundred gold coins”
A man said to an interpreter of dreams: “I dreamed that I was making eggplant casserole from the dung of a camel. What does this mean?” The dream interpreter answered: “Give me two gold coins first, and then I will tell you the meaning of it.” The man replied, “If I had two gold coins, I would buy eggplants to make casserole so that I would not have to dream about it.”
Caliph Mahdi got separated from his army one day on a hunting trip. At night came upon the house of a nomadic Arab and ate a humble meal there. The Arab brought out a jug of wine. After they had drunk a cup, Mahdi said: “I am in the retinue of Caliph Mahdi.” After the second cup was served, the caliph said: “I am one of the lieutenants of Mahdi.” After drinking a third cup, he said: “I am Mahdi himself.” The Arab took the jug away, saying: “You drank the first cup and claimed to be a servant; with the second you became an emir; and with the third you claimed to be the caliph himself. If you drink another cup you will certainly claim to be God.” The next day, when the army was once again united with Mahdi, the Arab fled in fear. Mahdi had him brought into his presence and rewarded him with some gold. The Arab said: “I swear that you were telling the truth, even if you claimed to be the fourth one”
Mullah Nasreddin’s father gave him two fish to sell. He went around the streets until he came to the house of a very beautiful woman. She said, “Give me one fish and I will make love with you.” Mullah gave her the fish and received what she had offered in exchange. Having enjoyed it tremendously, he gave her the other fish and made love to her a second time. Then he sat by the door of the house and said, “I would like to have a drink of water.” The woman gave him a pitcher of water; he drank it and then threw the pitcher to the ground and broke it. Mullah suddenly saw the lady’s husband coming, and he began to cry. The husband asked him, “Why are you crying?” Mullah said, “I was thirsty and asked for some water at this house. The pitcher slipped from my hands, fell, and broke. I had two fish and now this fine lady has taken them in exchange for the pitcher. Please give back my fishes, sir”
Some Definitions: WISE: One who lives free from the world and men. THOUGHT: What uselessly makes people ill. IGNORANT: Man of wealth and health. SAGE: One who has no health and wealth. JUDGE: One who is always cursed by people. DESERVEDLY MURDERED: An income tax collector
Obeyd Zakani is the greatest Persian humorist. He is the greatest global humorist of his time, i.e. seven hundred years ago. In Qazvin, Obeyd had the honor of being appointed to a judgeship and was chosen as the tutor and teacher of sundry young gentlemen. At that time the Turks in Persia had left no prohibited or vicious act undone, and the character of the Persian people, by reasons of association and intercourse with them, had become so changed and corrupted. Therefore, as an example of the corrupt morals of the age and its people, he composed the treatise known as Akhlaq-i-Ashraf (Ethics of the Aristocracy) , which was not intended as mere ribaldry, but as a satire containing serious reflections and wise warnings . So, likewise, in order to depict the level of intelligence and degree of knowledge of the leading men of Qazvin each one of whom was a mass of stupidity and ignorance, he included in his Risala-i-Dilqusha (Joyous Treatise) many anecdotes of which each contains a lesson for persons of discernment. As a measure of his accomplishments, experience, learning and worldly wisdom, his Risala-i-Sad (Tract of a Hundred Counsels) and his Ta’rifat (Definitions) are a sufficient proof. Moreover he composed a treatise ‘Ilm-i-Maani va Bayan” (Rhetoric) which he desired to present to the King. The courtiers and favorites, however, told him that the King had no need for such rubbish! Then he began recklessly to utter the most shameless sayings and the most unseemly and extravagant jests, whereby he obtained innumerable gifts and presents, which none dared to pose and contend with him. Thus Obeyd a serious writer, a moralist and a panegyrist was compelled by circumstances to become a ribald satirist.
Because of the ribald and often homoerotic quality of his verse, he has been widely censored. Anthony Shay said: “The majority of both the originals and the translations of the raunchy poetry of the bawdy bard, Obeyd Zakani … either bowdlerize or omit the “naughty” words with coy little dashes to indicate the lacunae which the knowledgeable reader may furnish by inference. This is held to be the result of Orientalist scholars attempting to glorify Eastern cultures, who refused to translate verse with homoerotic references or changed the s-e-x of the beloved to female “. He added: “Why is references to s-e-x and s-e-x-u-a-l-ity among Iranians (religious or non-religious) a taboo, except in countless jokes. We have magnificent love stories such as Laili & Majnun and Shirin & Farhad. But why is it that almost no one has taken that extra step to show the beauty of physical intimacy? … In such witty and pungent anecdotes Obeyd criticizes the social corruption of his age. Obeyd’s satirical works more than anything else in Persian literature illustrate the social conditions of this period . It is true that some other poets of his age vehemently attacked corruption and social injustice in their poems, but the wit and insight of ‘Obeyd give his works a special character. Seeing this scene of deceit, greed, lust, sycophancy, perversion, scorn of the old values and virtues, extremes of wealth and poverty, violence and bloodshed, he expresses his indignation in the form of scathing stories and sardonic maxims. ” Obeyd Zakani was a great man.