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Omar Khayyam is in the news – for the wrong reason!

October 22, 2012

Omar Khayyam has been the subject of a good deal of notoriety recently.  His name has been quoted in the Financial Times, The Times (London), and most of the other serious British papers, plus the New York Times.  Unfortunately this publicity has not been due to Khayyam’s own merits, but his role in the accusation of insulting Islam, levied against a well known Turkish pianist, Fazil Say. 

To quote the Guardian article: 

‘The charges against Say also cite other tweets he sent, including one – based on a verse by famous medieval poet and wine-lover Omar Khayyam – which questioned whether heaven was a tavern or a brothel, because of the promises that wine will flow and each believer will be greeted by virgins.’

There is more information on the accusations on

We are interested to know if anyone can identify the Khayyam verse that Say is said to be quoting?  Please comment if you have some ideas on this.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Garry Garrard permalink
    October 24, 2012 4:29 pm

    Re Fazil Say, I would be somewhat cautious. All I have seen is a single newspaper report written in Persian with an unverified translation into English. Did Fazil Say refer actually to a single verse? And did he read Fitz’s translation, or the Persian original – which seems far more likely. I don’t think any of us believe that OK didn’t promote wine etc, although its presence in paradise seems to be confirmed directly only in Fitz II, quatrain 65 (one of the few verses to be included only once in all the editions). The availability of virgins in paradise seems to be a matter of pious hope rather than doctrine, and doesn’t seem to be mentioned by Fitz at all (but perhaps he wasn’t interested). Nevertheless, if you read the history of the Assassins, deflowering virgins does seem to have been a paradisical perk for those who wielded the decapitating sword!.
    I think the real answer is to be found only in a Persian version of both the charges and the poems. Anything based on the unconfirmed input that we have at present can in effect be no better than speculation


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