Poetry /

Saadi's bani ādam

بنی آدم

In this poetry episode, we go over one of the most famous poems of the Persian language- bani ādam by the poet saadi. We will learn about Saadi and what made him such a unique voice. And then we'll go over this poem specifically. We're joined in this episode by Muhammad Ali of Persian Poetics. 

Listen to the full poem
bani ādam a'zāyé yek peykarand
The sons of Adam are limbs of a frame
بنی‌ آدم اعضای یک پیکرند
ké dar āfareenesh z'yek goharand
for in creation, from one soul they came.
که در آفرينش ز یک گوهرند
chō ozvee bé dard āvarad rooz'gār
If hard times cause one member to feel pain,
چو عضوى به‌ درد آورَد روزگار
degar ozvhā rā namānad gharār
at ease and rest, the others can’t remain.
دگر عضوها را نمانَد قرار
tō k'az mehnaté deegarān bee ghamee
If a limb’s in pain and you do not care,
تو کز محنت دیگران بی‌ غمی
nashāyad ké nāmat nahand ādamee
the title ‘human being’ you can’t share!
نشاید که نامت نهند آدمی


how are you?

Note: In Persian, as in many other languages, there is a formal and an informal way of speaking. We will be covering this in more detail in later lessons. For now, however, chetor-ee is the informal way of asking someone how they are, so it should only be used with people that you are familiar with. hālé shomā chetor-é is the formal expression for ‘how are you.’

Spelling note: In written Persian, words are not capitalized. For this reason, we do not capitalize Persian words written in phonetic English in the guides.


I’m well

Pronunciation tip: kh is one of two unique sounds in the Persian language that is not used in the English language. It should be repeated daily until mastered, as it is essential to successfully speak Persian. Listen to the podcast for more information on how to make the sound.

Persian English
salām hello
chetor-ee how are you?
khoobam I’m well
merci thank you
khayli very
khayli khoobam I’m very well
khoob neestam I’m not well
man me/I
bad neestam I’m not bad
ālee great
chetor-een? how are you? (formal)
hālé shomā chetor-é? how are you? (formal)
hālet chetor-é? how are you? (informal)
khoob-ee? are you well? (informal)
mamnoonam thank you
chetor peesh meeré? how’s it going?
ché khabar? what’s the news? (what’s up?)


Leyla: Learn Persian with Chai and Conversation, lesson ninety-five.

Leyla: Salām hamegee, and welcome to Learn Persian with Chai and Conversation. So for this lesson, we are talking to Muhammad Ali of Persian Poetics. Salām, Muhammad Ali. 

Muhammad Ali: Salām. How are you? 

Leyla: Good. So we're going over one of the most famous Iranian poems, bani ādam by Saadi. So I'd say this is one of the top five poems that every single Iranian has memorized. Do you agree, Muhammad Ali? 

Muhammad Ali: Definitely, without a doubt. I mean, it's so famous. 

Leyla: Okay, so we'll get why that is in a minute. But first, let's start with a little introduction to Saadi, who he was, the context surrounding his life. 

Muhammad Ali: Sure. Saadi is not his real name. It's actually a pen name. His name is Musharraf ud-Din, and he was born in the city of Shiraz, which is where he gets his second name from, Saadi Shirazi. And about 1210, although of course, you know, at that time, we can't know for sure, his pen name comes from his patron, so the sultan of the city at the time loved his poetry and paid him what we would call today a stipend.

Muhammad Ali: So in his honor, he chose a pen name Saadi. And he was very educated. He went to the Harvard of his day, the Nizamiya College in Baghdad. I think it's called in English, they call it the Islamic House of Wisdom. It was very famous. And it was destroyed by the Mongol invasions that happened to happen during his lifetime.

Muhammad Ali: And these invasions spurred his time spent, I think the best word to describe it would be as a refugee. It has parallels to our modern-day life. He basically traveled the region. He writes about going to North Africa or, as it's called in Persian, maghreb, and he also went to Syria, Lebanon, Anatolia, which is modern-day Turkey, and he even writes about traveling farther east, all the way up to the borders of China, so where modern Afghanistan meets China.

Muhammad Ali: So he was well traveled, and then slowly but surely as, you know, the, the region came to find peace under the new Mongol rulers who were slowly assimilated into the local culture, he returns to his native Shiraz after spending a long life traveling. And while he was traveling, he actually became quite famous, because he would write poems, and they would, you know, be spread by word of mouth or copied. 

Muhammad Ali: And by the time he returns to Shiraz, they were anticipating his return, because they knew that he had become this kind of famous poet. And through the...maybe in the future we can cover some of the stories of his life, but his life stories, let's just say it's crazy. I mean, so many incredible things that, that he writes. I mean, who knows to what extent he's exaggerated, but that he writes about having done. 

Muhammad Ali: And when he returns to Shiraz, he decides to pen some more serious works. So before then, he had written just love poetry, and he actually writes about it. And the poem that we're reading is from a book, and later in the book, at the end, he writes this particularly, that he was upset that he had a reputation as a jokester and like a lover boy.

Muhammad Ali: That he was a non...he wasn't a serious scholar, you know, because he was kind of a scholar of Islamic studies and all that. So he decided to write this book that was full of wisdom and, and lessons and, and good deeds and, you know, how you should live your life and things like that to kind of leave behind a legacy of more serious thought and more serious work as well.

Muhammad Ali: So this work that we're reading from is called the Golestān, which means the rose garden or the flower garden, but it has a counterpart called the Boostān, which is much longer. And the Boostān is entirely in poetry. It's called "The Orchard." The Golestān that we're reading from is in poetry, and in prose, although today we'll be looking at a poem. 

Muhammad Ali: And the Golestān is definitely the most famous singular work of his. So from all the way from the Bengal and India all the way to Bosnia and North Africa, we can find copies of this work. It was read and distributed. So it definitely earned him this fame, you know, worldwide.

Muhammad Ali: So you're going to go to, to India and to Bosnia and to Turkey. You can see local translations of this book on bookshelves still. It's incredible. You know, you go and see Golestāné Saadi written in Turkish or in Urdu. So he's left behind an incredible legacy, not only in Iran where his grave, his tomb is huge and well designed and full of tourists and all that, but also abroad in the region. He's kind of one of the great humanist thinkers, in a way, of this tradition. 

Leyla: Right. So can you tell us, so the last lesson that we recorded together was about Rumi. Can you kind of compare his legacy to Rumi? Like, what was the context of, of Saadi and, you know, why has he had such a lasting legacy? 

Muhammad Ali: Sure. It's interesting you mentioned Rumi, because Saadi and Rumi actually lived at the same time, but they had very different lives. So Rumi was more of a Sufi in the sense that he was more concerned with... Things that deal with spirituality and he was from Khorasan, of course, and fled the Mongols westward all the way until he reached Konya, which is in modern Turkey, and Saadi fled Baghdad, so he fled later. He was situated there when they came and sacked the city and destroyed what was, you know, then considered like the greatest city of the region, but they live very different lives.

Muhammad Ali: Saadi was more of a traditional scholar, so he was more concerned with things that we would study university today like logic and law and things like that. Kind of the traditional liberal arts education. He wasn't a Sufi in the sense that Rumi was, so he has Sufi poetry and Sufi themes, but he wasn't like a monk, he didn't dedicate his life and renounce the world and kind of live in seclusion and things like that and pray, you know, for hours and hours and chant and things like that.

Muhammad Ali: He actually writes about this very thing. He says that to be a Sufi, it doesn't mean that you have to, you know, wear particular clothing. Or act in a particular way. And he has a, he has a few poems that are very famous in this vein, so just as famous as this one is, there's another one that Iranians also love to quote.

Muhammad Ali: He says, "Ebādat bejoz khedmaté khalgh neest. Beh tasbeeh o sajjāde o dalgh neest," which is something like "worships not but service and good deeds. It's not about cloaks and prayer rugs and beads." So he had this, this worldview that, you know, you can be a good Muslim, a good Sufi, but still be engaged with the world, still be a fun person, still not be, you know, super serious, and that was kind of his personality.

Muhammad Ali: And in the Boostān, the work I mentioned, he writes about... I believe it's about meeting Rumi. I don't know. He didn't say Rumi by name, but he says, "We went to Room and there was, there was, he was famed that there was a very pious man. And, and Room," which is what they called it and that's why we have the name "Rumi," "and I went to meet him, and I reached his home at night, and he was so busy in his night prayers that yeah, he didn't have time to receive us, so he just slept. And then the next day, we woke up, and we talked a bit, and it seemed like the guy wasn't so interested in inside. He basically is just as far as I remember," which actually is how exactly how I would view it because they have such different personalities. 

Muhammad Ali: Rumi is very serious, somber, you know, yearning, sad, things like that, very reflective, but Saadi is, it's kind of like, he's kind of a jesting personality. He's always, he's got a pocket full of jokes, and you know, kind of like that Iranian uncle, that he's always poking and tickling you and telling you dumb jokes and, you know, letting you do things that you shouldn't do, you know, parents would get upset. Like, he's kind of that personality in a way, and Rumi is like this... 

Leyla: Got it. He's, he's shaytoon, I guess you could say. 

Muhammad Ali: Yes, he very much, he very much is, yeah. And Rumi's kind of like that older grandpa. 

Leyla: So shaytoon, for people that don't know, is our word for, literally it means like devilish, but it means mischievous and, and, you know, fun loving.

Muhammad Ali: Absolutely, and perhaps you could, on the page, include this picture. There's a very famous depiction of Saadi that's always used on his books. And it's kind of him looking at you from an angle. And I hope that I'm doing justice to the picture. Kind of with this like sly smirk in a way. Like he's got like a half wink and a smirk.

Muhammad Ali: And that's like the perfect description of his personality. It's exactly, they actually call him shaykhé shookhé sha'b, which means the shaykh, because it's an honorific term, it's like 'sir', you know. A shookh is a 'jokester', like shookhee. And then sha'b is an Arabic word, it means 'young, youthful'. So the youthful, joking sheikh. Yeah, the fun guy, basically. 

Leyla: That's great. And so then you said that he's a humanist, so what were the themes of his poems usually about? 

Muhammad Ali: Definitely. So when you read his Golestān and his Boostān, which are where you'll find these kinds of reflections, and his other poems are kind of like normal love poems, but the ones where he talks about traveling, there's always this theme that, you know, whether he's in China, or he's in North Africa, or in Lebanon, or Syria, or in modern-day, like, Arabia, there's this theme that, you know, humanity is all one.

Muhammad Ali: You know, the things he mentions, it kind of has a universalistic tone. So sometimes he mentions Turks or Arabs, and he writes even in their languages, like an Arab man advising his son. Like he was saying, I was in a caravan on the way to Mecca, and in the camel in front of me, the Bedouin man said, "Son, one day you'll be judged, not on who you have a nasab to," right, who you have a relationship to, because this is important for Bedouin, of course, "but what you have done, kasab," you know, what you've done, the deeds you've done, kasb o kāret, right? 

Muhammad Ali: So it's this very human element, especially then, I mean, even now we have so many divisions. But even then you could see a Persian reading that thinking, oh, you know, you know, so the Arabs, they have these sentiments as well. It's, I mean, now for us, maybe it seems like a joke, like, oh, of course they do, or maybe when he writes about China, you know, but for people then, that was like a bigger deal, you know, it was more groundbreaking, I guess. So you always sense this theme. 

Leyla: Well, that's funny. That's a good transition to this particular poem, and you're saying that, you know, this is kind of a universal truth, and... this poem in particular is written at the top of the UN. Is that right? 

Muhammad Ali: Yeah, so in the UN building in New York, there is, there's an area, I don't exactly know where, one day hopefully I should go see it. There's a place where various countries have basically installed things.

Muhammad Ali: And there is, there's a rug with this poem that's just like a Persian rug of this poem, basically, that's been, that's been featured prominently there. And this is one of the things that Iranians take pride in, is that this is like our legacy at the UN. And it's, it's fascinating that a poem from the 13th century, embodies the spirit of the UN so perfectly, like maybe better than their charter could, could ever state it.

Leyla: That's right. But also this poem, right now I'm seeing it quoted all the time because like you said, he was living in a time of great turmoil, turmoil. There was the Mongol invasion. There were a lot of refugees, and, you know, he would sit in coffee houses, in caravanserais, and talk to all these refugees and hear their pain and hear what was going on. And right now we're having, you know, a lot of big crises in the world. 

Muhammad Ali: Absolutely. 

Leyla: Most recently we're having the, like, Afghanistan refugee crisis. And so I'm hearing this poem quoted a lot when it comes to that as well. So although it might seem like it's, it's obvious to us now, I think it's something that we can still really learn from, and we can... You know, every time I hear this poem, it gives me chills and I, and I remember our common humanity. 

Muhammad Ali: No, absolutely. One thing, you know, we think now that we're so enlightened and we've reached this conclusion, but in so many things that we've invented recently have drawn us backwards. So before it used to be that you could travel freely across, there was no borders, really, people just travel.

Muhammad Ali: But now we've created this passport system and "illegal" and "legal." People, I talked to someone today who, not today, but I've gotten to know someone. I happen to also speak to them today, who, unfortunately, their immigration case to America was not approved, so they lived in America for like 15 years, and they just had to leave. And, I was so upset, it's like, you know, it's so unfair that you lived there for 15 years, you had family there, just because some person wearing a robe decided you had to leave now, that you have to leave. Right? 

Muhammad Ali: Or the people who have a certain document or a certain cousin, they can go. But if you don't, if you have an Iranian or Afghan passport or Iraqi passport, then you're not allowed to go. And it's so fundamentally unfair. It's like against the spirit of this poem, right? So we still have a lot to learn from it. 

Leyla: Right. Okay, so let's get right into the poem. So first, let's talk about kind of what is the structure of poem that he, that Saadi would write in? 

Muhammad Ali: Sure. So he would write in this text in two ways. So he has one thing that is called saj in Persian, which means poetic prose, basically. So it's, it's prose, but it has so many internal rhymes that it reads like it's a poem. But what we're reading today is a, is a proper poem, and it's called masnavee, kind of like what we read with Rumi, and it's called that because every line rhymes with itself. So we'll see that soon. And it's a, the lines are rather short, so it flows, it's a pretty smooth poem to read and it's very concise.

Leyla: Okay, perfect. So then let's get right into the poem. So Muhammad Ali is going to read the, the Persian and then I'm actually going to read his translation of the Persian line by line. So go ahead. 

Muhammad Ali: Sure. So to make it go by smoother, because it rhymes with every two lines, I'll read two lines at a time. All right. 

Muhammad Ali: bani ādam a'zāyé yek peykarand 

Muhammad Ali: ké dar āfareenesh z'yek goharand

Leyla: The sons of Adam are limbs of a frame 

Leyla: for in creation, from one soul they came.

Muhammad Ali: chō ozvee bé dard āvarad roozegār 

Muhammad Ali: degar ozvhā rā namānad gharār

Leyla: If hard times cause one member to feel pain, 

Leyla: at ease and rest, the others can't remain. 

Muhammad Ali: tō k'az mehnaté deegarān bee ghamee 

Muhammad Ali: nashāyad ké nāmat nahand ādamee! 

Leyla: If a limb's in pain and you do not care, 

Leyla: the title 'human being' you can't share! 

Leyla: All right!

Muhammad Ali: Great!

Leyla: So that was a, that was the poem and the translation. So it's a very short poem. 

Muhammad Ali: Right, but it's amazing how much meaning he's, he's managed to pack in, in just three, three couplets. So beautiful.

Leyla: Right, definitely. Okay, so let's go over it again; let's read the first two lines, and let's go over that. So again, if you wanna read the Farsi, I'll read the English. 

Muhammad Ali: Absolutely. 

Muhammad Ali: bani ādam a'zāyé yek peykarand 

Muhammad Ali: ké dar āfareenesh z'yek goharand

Muhammad Ali: There's a bit of debate on, on this first line. It's just like the, the last poem we read, actually; on the first line, there's debate. So in the last one there's debate between whether it's beshnō een nay or az nay. And if you don't know what I'm referring, go back and listen to our last podcast, we read over the poem.

Leyla: I think it was, let me check, it's Lesson 91. 

Muhammad Ali: Great. So this one, the last word is peykarand, in the edition that I have, which is 'they are of the same body'. And the other version is deegarand, which is 'they are of each other', 'they are parts of each other'. So it's just one letter, and the translation doesn't make a difference; they're parts of each other, parts of a body. The theme is the same. And then the first word... 

Leyla: Yeah, and I feel like I hear both of them equally often. 

Muhammad Ali: Exactly, exactly. It's about half and half, just like the Rumi one, actually. And then, it's interesting, the words that he chooses to use. So when he says bani ādam, 'the sons of Adam', I translated it 'sons' because I was constricted by the meter, so I decided to, to translate it in a very particular rhyme and meter in English. But bani is understood in a non gendered sense, and we know that Persian is generally not a gendered language. It just means 'children'. It's kind of the essence that he's getting at. Children of Adam, according to the Abrahamic worldview, or if you don't have an Abrahamic religion, humanity, all, all people, basically, is what he's getting at.

Muhammad Ali: And then it's interesting, the word he uses, a'zā, is a very archaic Persian word for 'limbs'. Like, they're literally limbs of each other. Right? Like we're one body of humanity, and all the different people, whether, I mean, in his world view, there was like a few ethnicities, like Chinese, Indian, Persian, Turkish. You know, things like that. So maybe we would need a multi limb, like a human. But anyway, like every limb, like an arm is the Arabs and the other arm is the Persians. And you know, the nose is Turks. And one foot is people from this place and that place. Like it's a very intimate analogy, right? 

Muhammad Ali: And then he says, "And in creation, they're from one soul." So gohar can mean 'essence', it can mean 'gem', it can mean 'soul', but what he's getting at, you know, regardless of the meaning, the particular meaning you take from that word, is that we're all coming from one thing. We all share the same source.

Leyla: Salām hamegee, I hope you're enjoying the lesson. Just a brief break here to let you know that this poetry lesson is part of the Chai and Conversation Poetry Course, in which we use different poems to advance our knowledge of the Persian language, and is intended for both beginner and more advanced Persian-speakers.

Leyla: This podcast audio lesson is only one part of the resources we offer to learn the Persian language. Check out our website at with "chai" spelled C-H-A-I to see everything we have to offer for your Persian language-learning journey. 

Leyla: And it's interesting. So the word ādam in Persian means 'human being', but it does come from, like, it is Adam, ādam.

Muhammad Ali: Exactly. Yeah. 

Leyla: Interesting parallel there, too. Okay. So then: 

Leyla: The sons of Adam are limbs of a frame 

Leyla: for in creation, from one soul they came. 

Leyla: So again, let's, let's go over that word goharand. So you're saying that that... is that something that we use still in conversation, gowhar

Muhammad Ali: Definitely, so gowhar can mean a jewel, although now, we actually, we use an Arabized version of this. So when the Arabs came to Persia, they realized that we had a lot of letters that they don't have, so they just changed it to the closest Arabic letter. So, for example, Esfahān used to be Espahān or Sepahān, and then they made it a fe because they don't have a pe.

Muhammad Ali: And they also don't have a G in classical Arabic, so they made it into a jeem. So gowhar became jowhar, which we use in modern Persian. It means 'ink' as well. Or you have javāher, which means 'jewelry', is the plural, right? But the, the, the essence of it is still present in our day-to-day speech. Right? And it's also a name. Gowhar is a feminine name. It's kind of considered old-fashioned now, but you can still meet people who are named, you know, Gowhar Khānom

Leyla: Okay, so then should we go over the next two lines? 

Muhammad Ali: Sure, sure, sure. So he says: 

Muhammad Ali: chō ozvee bé dard āvarad rooz'gār

Muhammad Ali: degar ozvhā rā namānad gharār

Muhammad Ali: So, he says, basically, if a, a limb is brought to pain by, by the times, right? Rooz'gār is, is an interesting word in Persian. It's similar to like 'the times' in English, you know. Hard times or, like, what he was going through, the Mongol invasions, happen to bring one group in pain. The other limbs- just like a human, you know, if your hand is in pain, your whole body is upset. It's not like your hand is independently upset, right?

Muhammad Ali: So this is the, his ideas that in theory, humans should strive to be like that. And the other people, they don't have gharār. So the word gharār is interesting because nowadays when we say gharār, it's like 'agreement', right? But if you think about the essence of the word "agreement," like "agreeable" in English, like "nice," you know, has similar connotations.

Muhammad Ali: It gives an idea of stability, of serenity, of calmness. So the other people cannot remain in a state of serenity or calm.

Leyla: This is funny. It's such a simple poem, like... It's the whole thing together that has a really beautiful meaning, right? 

Muhammad Ali: Absolutely, absolutely. 

Leyla: But each part of it, it seems like it's very simple, very straightforward.

Muhammad Ali: It's interesting you bring this up, actually, because in the context of this poem, so this poem is part of a story. And basically, Saadi is in Damascus, and he's at the grave of John the Baptist. So the grave of John the Baptist, the biblical and Quranic figure, is in Damascus. And he's there, and he's praying for John the Baptist.

Muhammad Ali: And he sees that a king, one of the kings of the Arabs, he says, and I think he says "one of" because he doesn't want to get himself in any trouble, comes in and he says, "This king was known for being a tyrant. He was famous for oppressing his people. And then the king sees me and..." something or other, there's, I'm sorry if I'm half remembering it, but basically the king understands that Saadi is like an important scholar, like he's a known person.

Muhammad Ali: So someone says something or something or another and he says, "Can you give me some advice?" or "tell me something," you know, "intelligent that you professors know," something like that. And then it's interesting because maybe the guy, it's... beautifully brought it up, was expecting something complicated, right?

Muhammad Ali: But Saadi gives him a very short, very simple poem. It's like the simplest poem in the whole book. Like, every line is like five words and it's like six lines. So it's a very basic, uh, poem. And I, and I feel like that was purposeful in the context. 

Leyla: Right, right. Well, let's, let's read the conclusion of the poem, the last few lines. 

Muhammad Ali: Sure, sure. 

Muhammad Ali: tō k'az mehnaté deegarān bee ghamee 

Muhammad Ali: nashāyad ké nāmat nahand ādamee! 

Muhammad Ali: So here, he's addressing us directly. So in the story, the king, so he's saying, "Oh, you!" and this is kind of like an accusative tone in Persian: ! You know, like if you say that to someone and describe them, usually it's like taking an offense. 

Muhammad Ali: You know, you who are careless or don't feel any sadness about other people's pain, you know, you're oppressive, you're, you're mean, you hurt others. It's not befitting, you know? Nashāyad is, like, from the... it's like the name Shāyān, you know, the, the, 'the deserving one'. It's a Persian name. So he's saying nashāyad, it's unbefitting, for you to be called a human being. So it's a kind of an intense ending to the poem.

Leyla: For sure. Yeah. So I think it was, it was very simple. It was like moving along and then all of a sudden he turns. And then it kind of gives a little bit of a twist, you know? It's, it's assuming, like you said, it's saying instead of shomā. There's two different ways to address someone, like with the formal and respectful way, or by saying , which is more like... You'd say that to someone who's your age and like you're, you know, or someone younger than you, so... So like you said, it's kind of an accusatory tone. 

Muhammad Ali: Exactly. Yeah. 

Leyla: tō k'az mehnaté deegarān bee ghamee

Leyla: So it's, it's assuming that you are not, that you have no qualms over the pain of others. 

Muhammad Ali: Exactly. 

Leyla: And then at the very, very end, we use that word ādam again.

Muhammad Ali: Exactly. 

Leyla: So we bring it back to the very first line of the poem. So, you're, you cannot be called ādam. You're not a human. 

Muhammad Ali: Right, right. 

Leyla: Or that you, you, you won't receive the respect of being called a human. 

Muhammad Ali: Exactly, exactly. And one of the reasons I think again, I think I said earlier that we think that we're enlightened now and we've, you know, achieved human rights declarations and we have the UN and we share things on social media, but we have, you know, in a weird way, we've, we've circled back around to what he's talking about where we have this point of view now where we worried about what happens in our country only.

Muhammad Ali: So a lot of times where when tragedies occur in other countries, I have friends from those countries. And they say, hey, how come no one in America posts about this? Like, this attack happened in Iraq or Afghanistan or in this country or another or in Sudan. And no one cares, like no one is sharing anything.

Muhammad Ali: You know, people wouldn't even, if you go to the grocery store, no one would even know. But if like, I don't know, someone hits someone with a car in your neighborhood, you would be worried like, oh my god, someone got hit by a car on our street. You know, we have such a localized sense of humanity, unfortunately, you know, whether it be in the West or the East or religious, non-religious, unfortunately, it's just universal.

Leyla: Right, right. Or I mean, even a lot of times now, if someone gets hit by a car in your neighborhood, you don't even notice. 

Muhammad Ali: Even that, yeah, even... again, something that localized. But, you know, I see this even on the streets of Tehran where, you know, where we all natively speak the language that this poem is in. If I say, "Oh, you know, the next-door neighbor country, something happened," people say, "Ah, forget that. Just go upon your day-to-day life," you know, "why would you care about that?" 

Leyla: Right.

Muhammad Ali: Unfortunately.

Leyla: Right. I do feel like saying this poem right now is very, it would be very political. It would be seen as very, very political. 

Muhammad Ali: Absolutely, yeah. 

Leyla: Even though it's such a simple message, it's such a, like, we cannot be at ease when our neighbors are hurting. We cannot be at ease if any member of, like, humanity is hurting. 

Muhammad Ali: Exactly. It reminds me of that, there's a very famous poem I, attributed to, I think, a reverend from World War II. It's like "first they came for the Jews, but I didn't do anything because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the atheists and the unionists and then etc. And then when they came for me, there was no one." 

Muhammad Ali: And that sentiment is, it's almost the same where if you don't do something about pain somewhere, then when it comes to another place, in humanity, then those people, if you didn't stand for them, well then, why should they do anything about you? If you don't care for others, why should another person care for you?

Muhammad Ali: And unfortunately, and as society like modernizes more, I think, like for example, the bystander effect is something that I've read about. Where if you're in your street or a small town and you fall down, people would help you. But then in major cities, when stuff happens, no one even cares. You know, people are like, so atomized and focused on their own thing.

Muhammad Ali: My friend was saying, the other day in Tehran, I was walking down the street, and apparently, like, something was on fire. Like, like a plot of land had caught on fire, and no one even, like everyone was just walking by this fire, not even like stopping to do anything about it. And, you know, it just goes to show we need the message of this poem more than ever.

Leyla: Yeah. And we're recording this in September of 2021, and I can't believe I'm saying the coronavirus is still going on. 

Muhammad Ali: Still, yeah. 

Leyla: And that's a, that's a great example of this poem as well. You know, we're having this whole vaccine issue, and some countries can get the vaccine; some countries can't get the vaccine. And this gets brought up a lot. It's saying, you know, we can't have a localized view of this. We can't just say, okay, our country's okay, because we're all connected. If one country is hurting in this, you know, we're still all in this together.

Muhammad Ali: No, I remember there was that controversial tweet where someone said, I don't want to bring up the name or the country, but someone said that we shouldn't allow countries that have issues with us to get this vaccine. And I... 

Leyla: Right! I remember that. 

Muhammad Ali: One thing that, yeah, one thing that really made me feel happy was the overwhelming outcry from all political angles of people saying, "Okay, we're all humans at the end of the day." And like Saadi is saying, you know, if in one place, corona is going on, then it'll come back to us. You know, we're, we're one unit at the end of the day.

Leyla: Exactly, exactly. Well, great. I'm super excited about memorizing this poem. I'm embarrassed to say I don't have it memorized yet, but that'll change very, very soon. And just as we do with all of our other poems, we're gonna now go through this poem, you know, word by word, line by line, in subsequent lessons, and learn all of these words, how to use them in a conversation.

Leyla: So like Muhammad Ali says, some of these words now have different contexts, like gharār. Gharār is a word that we use very often, to mean, like, a meeting or an appointment, but then in this poem, it has a totally different context, and it's really fun for me. It's like a little puzzle to, to figure out what those words are, how they've changed, and how they, they make you really understand a poem because, you know, learning a poem in the original language really changes things and really... 

Muhammad Ali: Definitely. 

Leyla: ...makes you understand the poem in a totally different way. So this was a lot of fun. Thank you. Thank you for analyzing this poem with me. 

Muhammad Ali: No worries. It's my pleasure. 

Leyla: Yeah, and I'm looking forward to, we ask that our students send us videos of them reciting poems, these poems in different beautiful locations. And I think this, I'm most excited about this poem than any poem that we've learned so far. Not that, I mean, the other ones have been amazing as well, but... again, this is just such a beautiful, simple message, and I think we can all relate to it. 

Muhammad Ali: It's needed now more than ever, especially at this moment in time.

Leyla: Definitely. So we look forward to getting your videos, and again, Muhammad Ali, thanks for joining us today.

Muhammad Ali: Thank you for having me. It's my pleasure and my honor. 

Leyla: Yeah, and we'll be back with more poetry soon. 

Leyla: Thank you, everyone, for listening. Don't forget to check out our website at, with "chai" spelled C-H-A-I, to sign up for a free 30 day trial to our Persian language learning courses. This lesson was hosted by me, Leyla Shams, and we were joined by Muhammad Ali of Persian Poetics. The episode has been edited by Chadwick Wood. Babak Rajabi wrote and performed our theme music. And until next time, ghorbāné shomā from Leyla.