Muhammed Fuzuli (1498-1556)
Fuzuli is one of the greatest Azeri-Turkish poets. His real name is Muhammed Suleiman oglu (poet’s name and patronymic). We know almost nothing of the childhood and early youth of Fuzuli. It is generally considered that he was born app. in 1498 in Kerbela (in the area presently known as Iraq).
Fuzuli belonged to the Turkic tribe of Bayat, one of the Turkoman tribes that was scattered in all over the Middle East, Anatolia and the Caucasus from X-XI cc. and which stands in the roots of the Azerbaijanian people. Although Fuzuli’s ancestors were of nomadic origin, Fuzuli’s family had long been town-dwellers. At that time the area where Fuzuli lived was a part of the Azerbaijanian Safavid State headed by the leader of the Turkoman Shiites Shah Ismayil Safavi. When young Fuzuli devoted a poem to Shah Ismayil named Bang-u-Badeh, where he praised his reigning.
Fuzuli was a versatile and learned man, and was both ambitious to possess these qualities, and proud in possessing them. He wrote: "…I am master of all the arts in discussing beauty of expression and in disputing agreeableness of style with those who are masters of one art only. Well, all this demonstrates the total "presumption" ("fuzuli" in Arabic), but also the perfection of Fuzuli". Thus, the poet explains his nom de plume, which literally means presumptuous, but which also brings to mind fuzul, the plural of fazl meaning "virtue". He chose this pseudonym in order not to be confused with others and be "unique". He was sure that because of its unpleasant meaning nobody else would adopt it.
Fuzuli had left us writings in Azeri (Turkish), Persian and Arabic. This trilingualism was not rare among the Turkic writers of the medieval period and is explainable by their cultural formulation, which was based, in fact, on Arabic religious and scientific tradition and on Persian literary tradition. In Fuzuli’s case the use of the three languages was conditioned also by his particular environment, because all three tongues were in use in Iraq, which as known from history was in XVI c. first a part of the Safavid State and later in 1534 became a part of the Ottoman Empire.
The ability to write in more than one language was one of the things of which Fuzuli was most proud and one of his favorite habits was to use two or three languages alternately in same of his poetry or prose. Fuzuli wrote in Azeri Turkish not only by the fact that it was his mother tongue but also by political circumstances.
Shah Ismayil Safavi, who conquered Baghdad in 1508, has left us a divan in Azeri Turkish. After the Ottoman conquest of Baghdad Turkish literature acquired even greater importance in this region. Fuzuli expressed Turkish prestige in words, which at that time was not exaggerated, "the high ranking of Turks constitute a large part of world order and a numerous category of the human species…".
Nevertheless, he complains that to write "delicate" verse in Turkish rather than in Persian is difficult because the Turkish language is hard to be put in lines, since the words are mostly without connection and lacking harmony. Therefore, the language of the Fuzuli’s poems are extremely persianized. Today a Turk in Azerbaijan or in Turkey could not read many of his works without the help of dictionary. However, Fuzuli’s fame rests mainly on his work in Azeri-Turkish and his masterpiece world-wide famous poem "Leili and Mejnun" is written in Azeri-Turkish too.
Fuzuli lived in constant need, which we know from his numerous poetic complaints. The great poet died of cholera in Kerbela in 1556.