Independent daily Newspaper


 Old Archive RSS Feed    Advertise



 What is Mem u Zin about? - Part II

 Opinion — Analysis 
  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


What is Mem u Zin about? - Part II ‎ 8.10.2012 
By Dr Kamal Mirawdeli
Special to

Share |


Dr Kamal Mirawdeli, a prominent Kurdish writer and Kurdistan Region Presidency Candidate 2009, he was the strongest rival of the incumbent president of the region and was the second winner in the elections.
  Read more by By Dr Kamal Mirawdeli
October 8, 2012

Read Part I | Part II

What is Mem u Zin about?*  Part II

Dr Kamal Mirawdeli. This is part of the Conclusions Chapter of Kamal Mirawdeli’s recent book Love and Existence: Analytical Study of Ahmadi Khani’s Tragedy of Mem u Zin published by Khani Academy.

The dramatic unity of Mem û Zîn

Mem û Zîn has a well-structured plot. The most miraculous aspect of the plot is the way Khani has embedded his various pretexts, subtexts and deep-texts in the characters, actions, words and processes of the drama in a way that he succeeds to establish it as both a philosophical as well as a national drama. The settings, the sceneries, the characters, the descriptions, the dramatic monologues and dialogues, the succession of events, the interaction of the physical and the spiritual, the historical and the metaphysical, all work to build up a marvelous drama of human existence as individuals in love and being entrapped in the socio-political mode of their existence.

The starting of the dramatic events with Newroz, and the scene of Newroz celebrations, is in itself a well-calculated brilliant choice. Newroz represents and responds to all Khani’s discursive philosophical, national, political and dramatic constructions. Newroz, for Khani, is sacred in three ways: as a universal divinely-ordered eternal point in the renewal cycle of nature, as an ancient sacred festival of the Kurds with its roots in Zoroastrian religion and as a sacred spiritual occasion of universal enjoyment and exchange of beauty and love. This variety-in-unity provides the ideal launch pad and context for all his discursive themes and strategies. To my knowledge, there is no any other drama which offers such a rich and varied world of event, incident, characterisation, subject matter, thought, culture and language. The miracle is that Khani has moulded all these in one text with the highest degree of dramatic unity of plot, action and character.

1. Setting: Mem û Zîn drama happens in the Kurdish principality of Botan. Through an old narrator Khani refers to more ancient roots of the folk love lore. The whole drama takes place inside and around the castle of al-Jezira, seat of the Kurdish Prince of Botan. The problems the drama explores, the scenery, natural and domestic, the characters, the customs, the culture are thoroughly Kurdish.

2. Atmosphere: The atmosphere of the drama is divine, spiritual, sacred, sophisticated, civilized, refined, noble, rational, intellectual, erudite, romantic and emotional. All characters are educated. The Nanny is familiar with Aristotle, Plato and Luqman. The sisters are well educated. Apart from the antagonistic role of Bekir and his evil plans, there is no trace of hatred, brutality, violence and indecency. The killing of Bekir by Tazhdin, which is the only act of violence, happens as an impulsive act of revenge after the death of Mem, on the one hand, and a necessary act of remedial justice. That is why God forgives him and gives him a place in paradise. The characters treat each other with greatest respect, care and refined etiquette and as equals. Even the Mir speaks of himself in the most modest terms even as the servant of Tazhdin. When Mem and Zîn are almost driven mad by melancholy, loneliness and suffering, they draw on their inner spiritual resources to transcend their suffering and attain higher stations of ‘Ishq and convince themselves of the superiority of the eternal world of the unity of God’s love. They endure their suffering with utmost patience, resilience, dignity and faith. It is astonishing that the strong bond of respect and honesty is so great and sacred in the drama, that Zîn, although impatiently wishing to die as soon as possible, in order to get rid of the earthly body and let her soul unite with that of Mem, she restrains herself and delays her ‘unity-in-death’ with Mem until her brother visits her in her room and gives her permission to go to the prison and embrace Mem as her lover. Then her soul makes an internal journey and unites with Mem’s. Zîn explains her satisfaction of her brother’s ‘permission to die’ in this highly-refined language:

O the reason of my happiness
Don’t you feel sad in my wedding!
O King: You gave permission to my soul
It found an opportunity in its death
Soul departed and joined soul
This soul assimilated in that soul
Until it heard the confession (or permission) by you
It had remained the prison of the body
The same as the depressed imprisoned Mem
In order to protect authority, honour and dignity
The soul would not leave until today
It remained firm waiting your permission for union
When your heart’s compassion gave us permission
Your words, my King, echoed in my heart
My helpless body became burdened
The soul of my debilitated being was free
At once it left the body
A light from Mem struck it
They abandoned Seray Fani (Realm of Death)
And moved to the World of Eternity

What guides the characters of Mem and Zîn is the Sufist ideals of beauty, love and union of God and Zoroastrian principles of good thought, good words and good deed. Women, in the personas of Zîn and Stê, are described in divine terms. Zîn speaks the longest and noblest discourses in the play. Her brother the Mir, compared with Zîn, is relegated to a subordinate character lacking strength of morality, rational understanding and enough compassion and sense of justice towards his people.

Language and style: Khani describes the form/material of his language as a mixture of three Kurdish dialects with fun-loving use of Arabic and Persian vocabulary to demonstrate his unique artisanship and mastery over languages and sciences of his time. Khani is highly original, cultured, erudite,

philosophical, imaginative and visionary. His language is mostly intellectual and metaphorical with abundant calculated Quranic, religious, and historical references. His dramatic monologues, odes, are romantic and lyrical. They penetrate deep into the inner world of the characters. Khani establishes a unique metaphorical world in which earth and sky, spirit and matter, body and soul, heart and nature are presented not as opposites but elements of empathic complementariness. However, the being that endeavours to give a meaning to all these is man. He is endowed with language to express his conscience and consciousness, with heart to love and with soul to suffer and surmise inwardly. Khani’s heroes create dialogue with nature, heart, Fortune and each other, in order to understand their experiences and give a meaning to their own being. Khani’s metaphors are extremely imaginative, architectural and complicated. Thoughts are given graphic expressions. Objects are idealized and spiritualized by thought. The sentences are saturated with layers of meanings. Khani expresses so much in a single expression that it entails not only linguistic competence, but also understanding and appreciating the depth of his knowledge to encompass it. You need long essays to unravel and explain his imagery, which is generally both intellectually compelling and aesthetically interesting. The language and imagery fit the character, mood, occasion and situation. His extended and sustainable metaphors bring together the worlds of science, crafts, logic, nature, and religion in highly aesthetic and erudite recreation of the world. More importantly, they are not just creative devices; they are integrated elements of his sophisticated philosophical worldview. On top of all this, passion, rhyme, rhythm and music make his world live, close and personal.

Aristotelian dramatic structure

I have dealt in some detail with aspects of the development of the dramatic structure of Mem û Zîn in various parts of this study. I revisit this to emphasize the centrality of dramatic plot not only in providing unifying lines and stations for Khani’s themes, thoughts, but also for bringing all these to life in words, melody, colour and imagery to enact a varied civilized existential drama of men’s and women’s life and love. As I have shown in my analysis of Aristotle’s definition of tragedy, he insists on the importance of action over character: "one can have tragedy without character, but no tragedy without action" (Poetics 1450a). Mem û Zîn is packed with dramatic actions, incidents and events. Although the characters have very special structural and even allegorical roles, it is their actions that express and enable the development of personal characterization. The structure of the action- how the plot develops from scene to scene and act to act - is determined by the way the characters react or respond to the problems they face and incidents and events they encounter or enact. The unifying and underlying theme for of the plot is love. Khani himself has established in the epilogue of his play that all the discourse, actions and activities of the drama are determined to express the sacredness of love and show the process of its perfection in the human sphere. Love is an all-encompassing theme. It brings together the material and spiritual worlds like mirror and image:

But the purpose of that conversation
The aim of that action activity and inquiry
Is the demonstration of the beauty of ‘Ishq
The establishment of the perfection of ‘Ishq
‘Ishq is a mirror that reflects God
Like the sun, it possesses light. (2485-2487)

It is the characters’ thoughts, conversations and actions that determine this process. Even Khani’s great lyrical dramatic monologues are not interruptions to the movement of the plot or artificial embellishments or irksome interludes, but arias expressing inner emotions and responses of the lovers to the actions that happen outside, and indicating spiritual developments of the characters towards ‘the perfection of ishq’ as Khani puts it. After the Mir’s foolish oath (tragic flaw) to deprive Zîn of marriage, both Zîn and Mem are in a virtual exile inside themselves. They have to reject the loveless world they are thrust into, and create their own inner world. Time, in its normal sense and function, for them comes to stand still. The world becomes an alienating space. They are not allowed to live and seek happiness in the social time and environment controlled by political power. The soliloquies are the space where the inner world and spiritual time of the lovers replace the outer time. They are moving on in this time, they are in a journey, they endure suffering, doubts, threats, fears, anxieties, the melting away of life, but eventually they climb the stations of love and arrive. They discover, they see, they know, they have revelations and at last they realize their self-transcendence. They transcend themselves spiritually. They succeed through their own suffering, toil and esoteric practices to release their souls from their bodies and have a spiritual rendezvous with each other and with the light of God (eternal happiness). Thus the soliloquies become existential melodies voicing Khani’s views of being and existence. They complete the events and actions of the outside world and give them a deeper meaning.

The first action of the four young men and women sets the stage for the nature, context and process all the subsequent actions, occurrences and events in the drama: The drama starts with an act of disguise or changing appearances. This launches the principal polarities in Mem û Zîn as those between appearance and reality or the seen and the unseen, the external and internal, the material and the spiritual, the temporal and the eternal. Hence the issue of ‘truth’, epistemologically and existentially, emerges as the most important philosophical issue of the drama.

In spite of their reversed and thus outwardly ‘false’ appearances, the four young men fall in love despite the immediate perceptive knowledge conveyed by the false appearances that they are from their own sex. The ‘truth’ of love transcends the façade of truth. But this initial conscious action with specific worldly aim, viz., to give themselves more freedom to enjoy the beauty of the opposite sex and perhaps meet a suitable spouse, works on another higher level of truth that is beyond human understanding. The changing of appearances achieves its intended result but in the most unexpected and strange way. But when the truth of the real identity of the four lovers are revealed, the act of falling in ‘love’ affects Mem in a away that is quite distinctive from Tazhdin’s. Mem’s love is immediately a spiritual experience that subjects his physical being to its own ordained modality and mechanisms. It is a Sufist experience. That is why even the Zîn’s ring for him has a deeper meaning than a signifier of the identity of Zîn as Stê’s ring has for Tazhdin. While Tazhdin readily sends back Stê’s ring to her, Mem finds himself unable to do that: the ring has become a spiritual extension of Zîn which has merged with his own existence and thus it is impossible to depart with. Tazhdin’s love is physical and it achieves its legitimate aim of the legitimate unity of man and woman in matrimony and the pleasure of flesh. The only fault with this is its worldliness in the sense of being temporal, illusionary and lacking the deeper meaning and thus happiness and eternity of spiritual love.

Thus from the very beginning Khani cleverly puts the plot on the two planes of deeper meaning and surface meaning of existence. The greatest contrast in the drama is between phenomenological truth: truth as immediately or worldly experienced by individuals, and rational reality; or between what actually happens and what it ultimately means. This is most powerfully demonstrated by, the two sisters’ insistence on their love despite the Nanny’s taunts and powerful rational reasoning about the absurdity of homosexual love, Zîn’s deeper understanding of the meaning of evil in human affairs and Mem’s realisation in prison that the Mir’s anger and action against him was not without reason and point after all.

Having established this philosophical context for his drama, Khani brilliantly manipulates the narrative structure provided by the Kurdish story of Memê Alan to skilfully enact a highly sophisticated coherent Aristotelian dramatic structure for his narrative. Khani’s drama contains all the elements mentioned by Aristotle which I have presented in detail in Chapter 3: action, character, plot, melody, and lyrical poetry. The main plot of the drama is the love story of Mem û Zîn which turns into tragedy after the intervention of evil. It is a complicated plot comprising a number of sub-plots related to this main conflict which constitutes the tragedy’s all-encompassing ‘completeness and magnitude’ in Aristotle’s terms. Completeness means it has beginning, middle and end. The structure is so compact that the dramatic progress in terms of complication, climax, recognition and reversal or resolution appears within all the major sub-plots of the drama. I will try to illustrate this important Aristotelian structure in Mme u Zîn’s main dramatic scenes.

By ‘complication’ I mean elements in the incident, event or phenomenon, which turn it into a ‘problem’ that needs certain expected or unexpected intervention to be solved.

By ‘climax’ or recognition: I mean the problem reaching a certain realised tense dramatic level creating suspense and uncertainty about its further direction.

By ‘reversal’ I mean the effect of certain interventions, changes or occurrences that pushes the problem back to a state that counteracts the elements which have problematized the action or state.

Resolution: This is the final resolution of the contradictions involved in the complication; reaching a result, an end.

The first part (or Act), the saga of the mysterious love of the four young people, stands as an independent whole connected through a sequence of interactive events.

Complication: the falling in love of the 4 young girls and boys, the exchange of the rings, the mystery of their identity. Unhappiness and disease of lovers as a result of their mysterious love.

Climax (Recognition/reversal): The Nanny’s discovery of the identity of the lovers and bringing back Stê’s ring as evidence and the girls’ consent to marry the male lovers.

Resolution: Tazhdin’s and Stê’s wedding.

While this reversal raises the expectation of possible happy ending for both couples, an unexpected intervention of evil creates the decisive element of tragedy in the story and paves the way for the continuation of the idea of love in another mode of existence as suffering, sacrifice, spiritual transcendence and martyrdom. In other words, the first Act while standing as a complete plot provides thematic and dramatic elements of the continuity of the second love story as a tragedy.

The most important plot in the second part of the drama, which is the conflict between love and evil, or existential truth and surface reality, is the chess game scene. This is a complete plot in itself comprising a number of logically-linked episodes. It brings together all the symbolic and thematic elements of the drama in one scene: genuine love, beauty, game of truth, politics, culture, polarity of loyalties, intrigue, courage, violence and force.

Complication: Mem is invited to a chess game aiming at his ‘bringing him out’ that is making him confess his love to Zîn. The game is an intrigue by Bekir and the Mir aiming at punishing Mem by death. Mem’s supporters Tazhdin and his brothers arrive. Mem wins the chess games.

Reversal: Zîn appears at her window. Bekir makes the player swap places. Mem loses his self-control. He loses the games.

Climax (recognition) and resolution: Bekir taunts Mem and Mem confesses his love to Zîn. The Mir’s soldiers attack Mem. Tazhdin and his brothers defend him. Mem is chained and put in prison.

This part also carries the tragic complication made buy this episode, putting Mem in jail, to another phase of the tragedy. How will this affect Mem. Zîn, Tazhdin and his brothers and the public?

Putting Mem in jail creates a more intense atmosphere for development of the main plot of the story in the form of the conflict between Truth and Appearance and Love and Evil to climax. The brilliance of Khani is that he portrays this climax in the most effective scenes of tragic recognition and reversal of the ‘tragic flaw’ of the drama in the following way:

Complication: Tazhdin and his brothers lose their patience over Mem withering in prison. They stage a powerful revolt asking for the liberation of Mem and Love. Bekir plans another intrigue to have Mem killed. He makes the Mir go to see her sister and ask her to visit Mem in prison so that he would die from the shock.

Recognition and reversal: The Mir visits her sister intending to implement Bekir’s plan verbatim by asking her with bad intentions first to visit Mem and take him as her legitimate husband. But the Mir is shocked to see her sister in such pathological state of misery and pain. On the other hand, contrary to

Bekir’s plan, it is Zîn who cannot stand the shock of meeting her brother. She weeps, cries, bleeds and becomes unconscious, In fact, it is her soul having been made ready by a long journey of suffering and Sufist stations and revelations, that leaves her body to unite with Mem’s soul, who at the same time undergoes a similar state of unconsciousness in his prison. Seeing her sister bleeding and unconscious, the Mir becomes deeply emotional and remorseful. He recognises his guilt and cruelty towards his sister. He weeps over her like a child. But in the morning, his own family and people seeing Zîn bleeding and unconscious, think that the Mir has killed her and accuse him of being a murderer. On the other hand, Zîn, when regaining her consciousness, considers her brother’s permission to be united with Mem, as permission to realise her death and achieve spiritual union with Mem. She explains that it is only because of her moral duty that she waited for her brother’s permission to die. She also explains her spiritual journey to unite with Mem’s soul and makes her long Will speech to her brother.

Resolution: This time the Mir genuinely expresses his remorse and swears that Zîn and Mem would be united whether in life or death. This paves the way for Zîn to visit Mem in prison.

This scene is the most powerful emotionally charged scene in the drama. It paves the way for the prison scene where the eventuality of the drama takes place and the conflict between the surface reality and ultimate reality is resolved.
This is what happens in the prison scene:

Complication: Following her brother’s permission, Zîn changes herself to a bride and with Stê and maids visits Mem in prison. When they arrive they find Mem lying unconscious and the prisoners tell of the ‘strange’ supernatural incident of scene a light striking at Mem’s head and a light coming out of her head. Stê and maids talk to Mem and give her the happy tidings of Zîn’s visit but he does not move.

Climax and reversal: Zîn arrives, holds Mem’s hand and speaks to her. Zîn by that time has perfected her love journey and united with God’s light that she is able to speak in the language and ‘love role’ of God. Her call to Mem means ‘breathing life’ into his body. Thus he restores his consciousness and the two lovers exchange a conversation re-affirming their spiritual union.

Second complication: This complication is in the form of the intervention of ‘worldly power’ again in the spiritual state of Mem. The Mir’s men ask Mem to go to the Mir and ask his forgiveness so that he and Zîn can get married. Mem scorns this suggestion. He says the Mir’s power is temporal and contingent, it s not a real power but illusion. The Mirs who will die or can be disposed, are not Rulers of the world. The real ruler is God whose love assures eternal bliss. Mem and Zîn have achieved this state. They are united as bride and bridegroom in paradise.

Resolution: Mem scornfully rejects any idea of going to the Mir. He prefers his own chosen course. Mem passes away while he is physically and spiritually with Zîn. He gives up his physical existence to enjoy eternal spiritual union with Zîn. This is affirmed by the dream seen by an old sage described by Khani in the epilogue of his story.

Mem û Zîn’s modernity

In What Happens in Hamlet, John Dover Wilson says: “Hamlet is Shakespeare’s most realistic, most modern tragedy; the play of all others in which we seem to come closest to the spirit and life of his time, and the closest to the spirit and life of ours.” (Wilson, 1986, p. 52). Wilson says this despite his recognition and discussion of the rational and structural doubts raised by the central role of ‘ghosts’ in the drama.(See Ibid. pp. 52-86) and some other serious issues regarding the play’s originality, plot and realism, which he has discussed in detail in his book. In Mem û Zîn, we do not have such doubts. As an erudite critic Khani has settled almost all potential issues regarding the text’s originality, modality and making. It is not only Khani’s nationalism that was ahead of his time by 300 hundred years, his work as a whole, as content and context, as thought and themes, as dramatic structure and architectonic construction, as vision and values and as method and style, I think, is and will remain ahead of human time. How many more centuries does humanity need to understand that all what men and women need is love? That love is the sole meaning of life and the sole panacea for his problems? Khani’s themes and thoughts are expressly modern. They are rational, realistic and, deeply existentialist. The issues he presents and propounds, the ideas he promotes and prizes, the monologues and dialogues he has contrived and constructed, all these are prospectively modernist and beyond.

Let’s first take Khani’s ideas on women’s beauty, body, nakedness and egotism. Is there any other text that equally exalts women’s body, in flesh and spirit, in such a divine way? That celebrates erotic love making as the most sacred divine right and ritual? Khani’s celebration of naked body (Zîn and Stê are totally naked after the Newroz saga) and his graphic desciption of the beauty and pleasures of lips, eyes, hair, ankles, breast, waist, and wedding-night love-making are not pornographic the way Western culture has abused and degarded woman’s body. They are in fact ‘pirozography’, the embodiment of sacredness (piroz is a Kurdish word meaning sacred, blessing or triumph). They are manifestations of the highest level of aesthetic indulgence, human passion, love and spirituality.

At the Newroz scene and scenery there are various forms of the expression of infatuation and intoxication by love. Some are obviously hippie-style. Then there is a real incident and discussion of homosexual love. Love, for Khani, transcends all the vulgar, prejudiced, phenomenological and traditionally-established social approaches. It is essentially a divine spiritual experience, which does not exclude total enjoyment of the pleasures of flesh, and the passion of heart. The social dimension of this established spiritual fact is that love must be free. Model leaders in society are the real lovers. Here Khani has astonishingly a liberal attitude to love. He espouses the freedom of young men and women to freely flirt, find and choose their equal spouses based merely on mutual consent, irrespective of class, status and race. The four lovers fall in love madly without knowing even whether the loved one is the right sex. Still more: for Khani love of beauty and desire for love are equal universal rights and natural pursuits shared by children, male and female, the young, the old, the disabled and all individuals whatever their status, profession and purposes are.

Khani’s deep psychological penetration into the inner world and thoughts of his heroes and their relationship with nature and soul is also miraculously modern. He anticipates the most subjective styles of romantic poetry.

Khani’s text is fiercely rational. There is strong rational reasoning in the dialogues and conversations of the characters. The Mir is pragmatically rational most of the times. Bekir uses Machiavellian logic to rationalize his evil intrigues. The Nanny uses strong informed rational arguments to dissuade Stê and Zîn of what appeared first to be a same-sex love. The sisters use rational argument to explain and justify their experience. Zîn uses powerful rational-spiritual arguments in her Will Speech and to persuade her brother to be compassionate and kind, and to accept Bekir as ‘evil’ partner of their life and death experience. Even at the highest moment of mourning Mem’s death, when she has to decide what to do with her own body before death, whether to tear it up to fulfill her pledge that her body belongs to Mem alone, or to leave the garden of her body pure, intact and untouchable, to give it back to his gardener Mem in grave, she uses strong systematic logical rationalization. The other important element of Khani’s rationalization is that even in the monologues and individual addresses there is always another partner present turning the monologues into dialogues with elements of two-way dialectical reasoning:

2230-2344 When Zîn exhausted all her energy and capacity
Her cries stopped, her strength drained
She sat beside poor Mem’s head
She addressed Mem with her words:
You the owner of my body and soul
I am the garden; you are my gardener
The orchard you nurtured is without owner
What is their use without your presence?
These lines, moles, hair locks, and flowers
This beauty and sweetness in the garden of complexion
Black almonds and hazel eyes
Pomegranates, pears, apples and tall trees
They are pleasant-looking, delicious and tasty
Without any doubt, forbidden from anyone other than you
I will shake the date palm of my body
To let all the fruit fall down
With those violets and red flowers
Basil, and fresh violet
I mean it is better to squander away
All these hair, moles and locks
And shed my leaves like flowers
And scatter sand over myself
I will pull out my hair one after one
An let every part of my body ache
These orchards, spring flowers, leaves and fruit
These buds and blooms, this constellation of flowers
I will offer them at once to a look of yours
I will entrust them to your sacred sight
I will ruin them altogether
So that no common people benefit from them

2345-2349 But sometimes I reason with myself
Perhaps you will change your perception of me
You will no longer approve this stature
I am afraid you will hold me responsible
The composition of my being is: body and soul
They both belong to you, and have no other owner
If a single hair is missing from my body
You may entertain a doubt about me
When you will blame me for it
I know I will have no answer

2350- 2353 Oh, I am about to get intoxicated like you
Oh, it is time to be united in your lap
I would rather wrap up this carpet
And remain immune from mixing
It is better that I maintain this beauty
And would not hurt my hair and mole
To return to you the right trusteeship
And surrender myself to you with my gems and beauty.

The supernatural elements in the drama, unlike Hamlet’s ghosts, for example, do not come from the outside. They are not separate from their soma-spiritual function of existence. They are extensions of the psychological and spiritual aims and experiences of the characters. The ‘death’ experience and ‘resurrection’ of Mem and Zîn after the Mir’s visit to Zîn, is placed in a very logical point in the development of the Sufist soma-psycho-spiritual journey (solitude, suffering, transcendence, faith) of the lovers. It is a possible death experience in the form of a Sufist-induced death experience. Zîn gives a very sophisticated description of this experience. However, the visibility of ‘a light’ seen by fellow-prisoners coming in and out of Mem’s head is truly ‘super-natural’ and is meant to be a miraculous manifestation of soul. Khani even justifies the Saint’s dream of Bekir as being induced by Sufist physical-mental-spiritual mediations:

The knower of the state of the rotation of time
Told me the outcome in this way:
There was a wise a’shiq Pîr (saint)
Whose words were as true as clear morning;
When he meditated things
His soul would take over his body
The secrets would be revealed to him transparently;
He would be able to hunt for them in the God’s Throne.
What was absent [knowledge] in the World of Sand
Would become obligatory [knowledge] in the World of Soul
His heart was part of the Protected Tablet
Receiving revelations every moment
He would see the Karamat
He would know all about Meqamat
This Pîr through ilham (intuition) or dream
Revealed the Truth in this way.

Rationalism and Truth go together in the dramatic process. The aim of rational reasoning and practical and spiritual experiences is to discover the true state of things: reality of politics, nature of love, man’s mode of existence and the true meaning of life. The contrast between lived reality (Appearance) and underlying reality (Truth) is a determining element of the dramatic structure of the story. In line with the uncompromising Zoroastrian adherence to truth, Khani does not allow any creeping of falsehood even as a technical tale to his narrative of truth. For example, when the Nanny visits the old fortune-teller to seek his help in finding the identity of Zîn and Stê’s lovers, she makes up a story, saying that her two young sons have returned from Newroz celebrations confused and ill as if they had been bedevilled by jinns. The sage immediately discovers this ‘untruth’ and strongly rebukes the old woman for resorting to that trick. Thus he does not allow untruth or irrational discourse even as a form of fabricated human pragmatism.

The ‘chess-game’, as I have analysed in detail, is ‘ a play within a play” for revealing the Truth of things. The Mir, in spite of the ironical intrigue involved in the game, does not hide its aim as a game for the revelation of secrets:

Gaining money is not our objective
Our aim is to reveal the state of things
The purpose of games, play and puzzles
Is nothing but to reveal secrets.

The Mir’s statement here applies to all Khani’s dramatic devices: the rings exchanged by the mysterious lovers become riddles and this with the old woman’s disguise as a hakim, work as means for finding the identity of the lovers. The chess game has a more challenging purpose: revealing the inner truth, or secrets of heart. For Khani ‘truth’ is sacred and in his prologue to this scene, which I have explained in detail, he establishes in complicated divine imagery represented by the miraculous journey of sunlight through layers of clouds, darkness and elements to reach the earth and declare its glory, in the same way ‘truth’, especially the truth of love, is a divine universal existential event that cannot be silenced or hidden. Even the suffering of seclusion, prison, exile and mourning are means by which the lovers reveal the inner truth of their being.

In terms of politics, Khani’s description of the politics of principalities and nature of princes is more realistic and objective than that of Machiavelli. Khani’s

aim, unlike Machiavelli’s, is the exposition of evil and positive advice and constructive criticism rather than expedient exploitation of deception for personal advantage. Khani’s political modernity is not restricted to his ideas of nationalism. Maybe he is the sole author in his time, to my knowledge, who so powerfully advocates the idea and legitimacy of using revolutionary violence not against a foreign power but against a local political power that is unjust and absurd. Arif is a real modern revolutionary. He does not believe in talks, negotiations and compromises with corrupt Kings and rulers. He sees that in certain circumstances force is the only language that can talk and walk. However, Khani’s realism is so engrossing that he even exposes the naivety and short-lividness of revolutionary fever. Tazhdin's rebellion is easily neutralized by a deceptive promise by the Mîr at the instigation of Bekir Mergewer who at the same time plots for murdering Mem.

Death is an important theme of the story. The preoccupation with death runs through much of the monologues of the drama. Mem and Zîn die in the story and Bekir Mergewer is killed. But death is something that is chosen willingly by Mem and Zîn. It is their final achievement of transcendence. It represents the final resolution of the contrast between appearance and ultimate reality, temporariness and eternity and the declining physical body and eternal soul. Zîn goes to see Mem in prison as ‘Death’s bride’ and considers her brother’s permission to see and marry Mem as the happy tidings of the fulfilment of the delayed permission to die and get spiritually united with Mem. Death for the lovers is not something to be afraid of but it is the ultimate event that gives human beings the real sense and scope of their life in relation to which all the world’s glories and joys, including the pomp of political power, appear as illusion. Mem refuses to go to the Mir because he refuses to be ‘a captive of the captives’ of death:

I will not meet any princes
I will not be a captive of captives
Those metaphorical princes and ministers
This deception and illusion
They are all without exception empty and transitory
They have no future; they are mortal
A prince who is mortal is not a prince
As long as he can be removed, he is a captive

Zîn chooses death willingly and dies the way she wishes and plans. She dies while she rationally determines the mode of her final relationship (truteeship) with Mem. She “voluntarily gave up her soul, like extinguishing a candle.” Death is nothing but soul’s liberation from the bond and irritation of the body.

Oh, I am about to get intoxicated like you
Oh, it is time to be united in your lap
I would rather wrap up this carpet
And remain immune from mixing
It is better that I maintain this beauty
And would not hurt my hair and mole
To return to you the right trusteeship
And surrender myself to you with my gems and beauty

In this way Zîn revealed the truths
And ended her relationships with the world
She embraced the tomb
The body’s irritation with the soul ended
She voluntarily gave up her soul
Like extinguishing a candle
She sent her soul to God
She entrusted her body to the grave.

What transcends death is love. At the end, Khani describes Zîn and Mem’s death as martyrdom. But it is not martyrdom just in a religious sense. It is not a jihad-style glorification of death. It is martyrdom for the love of God in Man and Man in God, its martyrdom for freedom of love, for social justice and for human ideals. It is the triumph of purity and beauty over tyranny, corruption and injustice.

Deep mourning, weeping, crying, shedding rivers of tears are part of the emotional mode of the characters. Tazhdin, representing worldly physical man of action, cries wildly and out of control when he hears of Mem’s death. He has to be chained to keep him under control.

Even the Mir cries like a child when he realises the tragic situation of his sister. Khani describes his emotional outburst in very tender figurative language:

Zîn, who had been resented by the Mîr,
Provoked her brother to bitter crying
Rose from his heart the smoke of kebebs of affection
Filled his eyes were with streams of tears of compassion
Mercy sparkled in waves
He burst into tears
The brother stayed with her in her khelwet (solitude)
Weeping until dawn
Zîn was immersed in her blood like a red rose
The Mîr was crying over her like a nightingale.

As soon as Mem û Zîn understand the worldly condition of their loneliness and suffering, they use sadness, internal monologues, and dialogues with nature and crying. In her Will speech to her brother Zîn proudly and triumphantly accepts her ‘ inheritance share “ of the Mir’s property and wealth. She willingly consents all the property, wealth and worldly glory for her brother and Mem and Sadness, for herself. But ‘sadness’ has become a great source of energy, endurance and understanding in comparison with which the Mir’s power looks weak and without inner meaning:

I hope you will not be sad
The day I chose for myself Mem
I accepted for myself all sadness
I have triumphed in the world of sadness
Sorrows have become musallam for us
Mem for me, and authority for you
Sadness for me, and power for you
My King to become a rival to us
I am content with my share.

In the process Zîn and Mem replace the initial state of melancholia with the power of suffering and work of mourning. They do not allow melancholia to fix them on what they have lost. In time, sadness and mourning would allow Zîn to replace abjection and despair with strength, just as it would allow Mem to get rid of his guilt, alienation and hatred towards the Mir. Mourning is closely associated with martyrdom, and this with shedding the ghost of the earthly life and enjoying a new life.

Khani describes Meme’s final burial in this way:

In short, the martyr of the killing love
The victim of tyranny, the casualty of injustice
The sufferer of the crime of innocence
In the custom of royal ceremonies
Was illuminated with the light of purity
And buried inside the earthly grave
They saved this pearl in the treasure
And hid the snake by his feet
They placed a sign by his head
Meaning: He is the sovereign of the end of time
The head of the group of the unblemished
The leader of all the victorious.

Another aspect of the modernity of Mem û Zîn is its great existential concern about human rights and human dignity, which extends to the respect of body and meaning of life after death. Zîn’s resurrection after her spiritual death union with Mem is solely to discharge her worldly moral and humanitarian responsibilities as a human being whose life and actions are engaged and involved with others: her political brother, her torturer Bekir, her lover Mem and even her country and society represented by the Principality of Botan and its institutions. Her death, though spiritually perfected and achieved, does not relieve her from her moral responsibilities and concerns. Thus although she perfects her life-love journey and only needs to die to meet the eternal union, she ‘postpones’ this dying indefinitely until her brother gives her permission to ‘die’ that is to get into spiritual union with Mem. This is the greatest degree of the realization and fulfillment of existential responsibility as a human being. Zîn’s resurrection has five essential worldly aims:

1. To protect the Mîr’s dignity and the principality’ s reputation.

In order to protect authority, honour and dignity
The soul would not leave until today
It remained firm waiting your permission for union

2. To prove hers and Mem’s purity and unblemished character and ask her brother to attend the burial:

Thus I have come back to satisfy you
And be content before the Judge
So that I say farewell to you
And you join the funeral with us

This is also affirmed in Mem’s ‘prison speech’ when he refuses to meet the Mir.

3. To make sure that Mem’s body after death is not insulted but respected and properly buried with hers without separation:

You will not do anything shameful against Mem and I
When the wounded Mem passes away
Allow me to go with his funeral
I will be with him until the graveyard
And when I die you will give an instruction
That I will be buried with him
Do not keep me away from him
Put me with him without a barrier

4. To educate her brother about his own responsibility about how to run the affairs of his country especially in relation to the poor and the oppressed. She wants her brother to be just, kind, compassionate and reasonable, to serve the poor, free captives and the oppressed and fight injustice:

As much as you please the gloomy
As much as you enrich the poor
As much as you liberate captives
And when you do the business of government
And release prisoners
All that you expend for yourself
All that you save in stores
The wrath that repels enemies
The force that removes injustice
The justice you cherish for God’s sake
When you save the oppressed from the oppressors

5. To fulfill the Zoroastrian faith in the power of love and goodness to affect hearts and minds and change characters and conducts.

I have detailed my Will in such a careful way
So that compassion and tenderness will permeate your heart

Later when Zîn sees the body of Bekir, she also pleads that his body too is buried in the same grave of hers and Mem. She also gives her strong defense of Bekir and his role as evil in their love and in the affairs of life and death.

In fact Khani’s metaphysics is more about life in this world than the afterlife. That is evident especially in his clear verdicts in the ‘afterworld’ epilogue of the drama. Even there, in the afterworld or paradise, the main revealed truth is about human actions in the world, their rightness and whether they were meant to serve people and do good for humanity.
Astonishingly even ‘killing’ to fight evil and protect people from it is justified and even rewarded with paradise. While Khani seeks a deeper meaning for the events and phenomena of the world, the ultimate meaning is whether these actions and incidents serve humanity and justice. That is what Bekir, in paradise, tells the Pir in his dream or revelation about the fate of Tazhdin who killed him in this world:

The shekh continued listening with interest
Said to him: O the evil man with good outcome
What happened to Tazhdin who killed you for no crime?
What care did God take of him?
He said: The Lord forgave him
He went to paradise; he did not go to hell
The Creator of good and evil
Forgave him and wrote paradise for him
For the world was suffering from my evil
It was troubled by my corruption
He killed me for the order of the world
For the comfort of the common people
Apparently although he did something bad
Internally, this bad action was for the good of people
There are actions, which externally seem bad
But they are right in their conception
One is right in the form of hostility
One is injustice in the form of fidelity
But the Concealer of the Symbols of Wisdom
Has not divided these treasures without a reason
Did not distribute them to the common people
He gave them specifically to acquaintances and companions
These secrets He did not reveal to us
There are those who are Entrusted
And those who are Excluded
Thank God I and Tazhdin
Just by our Association with Mem and Zîn
We were not excluded in spite of our big sins
But we became an aspect of Lord’s mercy.

Tazhdin apparently did something bad (in fact criminal) by killing Bekir, but internally, according to the hidden laws of God’s Wisdom, “this bad action was for the good of people”. For Tazhdin killed Bekir because ‘the world was suffering from (his) evil and trobled by his corruption” and he killed him “for the order of the world” and “For the comfort of the common people.”

We know Khani makes Bekir killed after a social insurrection against the power of the Mir and for the liberation of Mem and love. Khani writes for his people. Knowing that many religious Kurds maybe reluctant to kill for fear of God’s punishment, as Islamic theology theoretically advocates the sanctity of human life, Khani by giving this verdict direct from the God’s paradise and in the words of a very spiritual saint, aims to give a religious justification and a revolutionary message to the potential Kurdish revolutionaries that revolution and armed resistance are in certain cases legitimate and acceptable especially when they aim to protect common people from injustice and corruption.

Then there is Khani’s genius understanding of the significance of eternal symbolism for his national cause. At the beginning of his prologue Khani promises to idealize and ‘eternalize’ the two model Kurdish lovers. He does this through his dramatization and through the eternal signs provided by Mem û Zîn’s grave: their love survives as two tall green trees separated by a thorn-bush. Love lives on, but there will remain always the inevitable threat of evil.

* This is part of the Conclusions Chapter of Kamal Mirawdeli’s recent book Love and Existence: Analytical Study of Ahmadi Khani’s Tragedy of Mem u Zin published by Khani Academy in association with It is available for purchase online at

Kamal Rasul Mirawdeli (Dr), a prominent Kurdish writer and the former presidential candidate in 2009 Iraq's Kurdistan Region elections. He is a contributing writer to

Read Part I

Copyright © 2012 All rights reserved 



  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


Copyright © 1998-2016 Kurd Net® . All rights reserved
All documents and images on this website are copyrighted and may not be used without the express
permission of the copyright holder.