Two Centuries of Silence: An Account of Events and Conditions in Iran During the First Two Hundred Years of Islam, from the Arab Invasion to the Rise of the Tahirid Dynasty

Translated from the Persian by Paul Sprachman

Abdolhossein Zarrinkoub (1923-1999)

Availability: In stock
Published: 2017
Page #: xxviii + 316
Size: 6 x9
ISBN: 978-1-56859-260-2
bibliography, index, notes


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"Two Centuries of Silence" is an English translation of "Do Qarn Sokut," Dr. Zarrinkub’s celebrated work on the history of Iran in the lead-up to and after the Arab conquest in the mid 7th century. The author begins with a question that puzzles many: How was a world civilization with all of its achievements in art and architecture, religion and law, agriculture and engineering, and civil and military organization, overthrown by a nomadic people with limited literacy and few accomplishments? The title refers to the two-hundred-year period when Persian virtually went mute, when almost all traces of Iran’s rich literary heritage were erased, and when Zoroastrianism gave way to Islam. Zarrinkub’s history is not an unmitigated tale of draconian cultural change, however. He speaks of how Iranian identity went underground, occasionally surfacing in open rebellion against Arab and Muslim supremacy. Drawing on a variety of original sources, Zarrinkub looks into the “savage darkness” of nearly two hundred years and detects glimmers of Persian resurgence in various parts of Iran and Muslim Central Asia. In fits and starts forms of the indigenous language broke their long silence, and Iranians began to speak about and for themselves. Although written almost sixty years ago, "Two Centuries of Silence" is oddly topical. In delving into the long history of Arab domination it contextualizes attitudes commonly held today. Readers will understand, for example, why being called “Arab” can infuriate many Iranians. The book traces the deep roots of the current fashion of proclaiming Persian nationality with Zoroastrian imagery. Zarrinkub’s study tells the ways Iranians of the 8th and 9th centuries resisted the imposition of a “pure” Islam on every aspect of their lives. The parallels between the defiance of the sweeping cultural change and the imposed religious conformity of that era and the reactions to the return to Islam demanded by the Iranian Revolutionaries of today are striking. At the same time, Zarrinkub’s secular treatment of the sanctities of Islam—the belief in the oneness of God, the sacrosanct nature of Muhammad and the divine origin of his message, etc.—makes the book controversial today. Although "Do Qarn Sokut" gained a certificate of publication in 1999, the Iranian publisher (Sokhan) found it necessary to include in a preface excerpts from a book that refutes Zarrinkub (Khadamat-e Motaqabel-e Iran va Islam, “The Reciprocal Services of Islam and Iran”). The author of the refutation, the noted religious scholar Morteza Motahhari, asks: How could Zarrinkub call the period silent? After all, hadn’t the Persians had gained a new language, full of poetry, the medium of the clear and simple message God gave His Prophet? Rather than an age of silence it was a time of awakening to the sound of God’s very voice. Thus did Do Qarn-e Sokut become embroiled in the on-going dispute between those wishing to restore Islam in Iran and secularists who want to lessen the authority and power of the clergy.


Abdolhossein Zarrinkoub (1923-1999)

Abdolhossein Zarinkoub (also spelled Zarrinkoob) was born in Borujerd. He was a prominent scholar of Iranian literature, history of literature, Persian culture, and history. He received his Ph.D. from Tehran University in 1955 under the supervision of Badiozzaman Forouzanfar, and held faculty positions at prestigious universities such as Oxford University, Sorbonne, and Princeton University, among many others. Due to his pioneering works on Iranian literature, literary criticism and comparative literature, he is considered as the father of modern Persian literature. Zarrinkoub’s solid research works made him a world class Iranologist and undisputed master of Persian literature and poetry. He was known for his extreme precision and solid works. He was the author of many books in Persian, French, and English, and published hundreds of articles. Some of his more famous works in English are: “The Arab Conquest of Iran and its Aftermath” in Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 4, London, 1975; “Persian Sufism in its Historical Background,” in Iranian Studies III, 1970; and “Nezami, a Lifelong Quest for a Utopia,” 1977, Rome. One of his famous books entitled “Naghde Adabi” (Literary Criticism) is a classic book on Persian literary criticism. Zarrinkoub is also known for his profound research on revered Iranian poet Mowlana Jalaleddin Mohammad, aka “Rumi.” Zarrinkoub’s “Serr-e Ney” (Secret of the Reed) and “Bahr dar Koozeh” (Sea in a Jug) are critical and comparative analysis of Mowlana’s “Masnavi.” “Pelleh Pelleh ta Molaghate Khoda” (Step-by-Step until Visiting God) is also a work he carried out on the same theme. Zarrinkoub’s research works on Hafez and Persian mysticism resulted in several books: “Az Koucheh-ye Rendan” and “Arzesh-e Miras-e Soufi-yeh.” His classic history book, “Two Centuries of Silence” is one the most reliable sources on the history of Iran/Persia after fall of the Sasaninan Empire. This book is undergoing translation into English by Mazda Publishers and will be available in a near future.

Author’s Introduction to the Second Edition [Farvardin 1336/March 1957]

Author’s Introduction to the First Edition [Day 1330/ January 1951]

Chapter 1: The Rulers of the Desert

Chapter 2: Sand and Storm

Chapter 3: Silent Fire

Chapter 4: The Lost Tongue

Chapter 5: The Black Banner

Chapter 6: Beyond the Oxus

Chapter 7: The City of One Thousand and One Nights

Chapter 8: The Call of Resurrection

Chapter 9: The War of Ideologies

Chapter 10: The End of One Night
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