When you travel to Iran, you will immediately encounter a kind of warmth of the Iranian people often expressed by their “hospitality”. This level of warmth in human connection and behavior is quite unique to Iran, and rather unlikely you will find it anywhere else.

The moment you step on the land of Persia, you will fall into an ocean of hospitality and kindness; its like magic! You feel as if you were part of a whole, suddenly you don’t feel alone anymore; you belong to a big see of goodness, faith, and loyalty.

You will be surrounded by a unique atmosphere which in English you might call ‘spirituality’ or ‘humanity’.In Persian there are different definitions for this, among them is the word ‘marefat’ معرفت.

There are many words in the Persian language that are not just words, but they represent a ‘concept’ or a way of life. It’s good to elaborate on such words (or concepts) because apart from being quite fascinating, they will help you understand the Iranian culture better.

See also: Words That Represent a Concept 2, “Pish-kesh” and “Taarof” تعارف  

What Does Marefat معرفت Mean In The Persian Culture?

The word marefat معرفت, originally an Arabic word meaning ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom,’ has an important social connotation in Persian culture. In Iran, the word marefat is used to describe goodness, kindness, generosity, and loyalty of a person.Therefore, marefat is more than just a word, it represents a concept, a value, and a worldview that is very unique to the Persian culture.

How Is The Word Marefat Used In Iran?

Here is an example:

You ask a friend a favor, and he goes out of his way to help you, without asking you anything in return. In this case, he is showing a lot of ‘marefat’; and you will call that friend ‘baa marefat’ بامعرفت (with marefat’)

On the contrary, let’s say you are struggling with resolving a problem or an issue, and ask a friend or a family member to help out. But he refuses, comes up with excuses, shows indifference, or doesn’t even call you back . In this case you friend doesn’t show much ‘marefat’ or you might call him ‘bi.marefat’ (without marefat).

Because kindness is a big value in the Persian culture, calling someone ‘bi.marefat’ can be quite offensive when told seriously. However, sometimes friends or family might call each other ‘bi.marefat’ as a way of joking around with each other. For example: 

‘Bi.marefat, digeh yeh tak zangi ham be ma ne.mizan.i! ‘(Bi.marefat, you never even make a single call!’)

‘Marefat’ معرفت as a concept

We know that marefat comes from the Arabic root, arafah عرف, which means “to know” or “to get acquainted”. But what kind of knowledge are we referring to when speaking of marefat? What does “knowledge” have to do with the concept of kindness, loyalty, or faith?

This could be referring to the knowledge of spiritual self and God with his infinite giving quality.

Because God is pure grace, the more you know god, the more you become like him. Therefore, you try to be kinder to people who surrond you. Who knows God, he will be kind in his actions as well. Thus offers his services to the world, without wanting anything in return.

This is where the concept “baa-marefat” بامعرفت  arises from. A person who has “marefat” has a good “knowledge” of God and spirituality, thus s/he is generous, kind, and giving.

Mustache And Marefat, What is The relation?

The mustache for an Iranian man was a symbol representing his ‘marefat’ (that is his wisdom, kindness, and loyalty). Still today we find men with big mustaches when we visit Iranian bazars, who follow this particular way of life and world view.

The bigger the mustache the more the man is marefat.i معرفتی (with marefat) ? Maybe! : )

As for the modern Iranian men; well, perhaps they don’t carry big mustaches anymore, but the concept that it represents, still persists as an important value in their minds.

The famous Iranian actor, Jamshid Mashayekhi جمشید مشایخی was known for carrying a big mustache in his many movie roles.

See also: Persian Words That Represent A Concept 2: Taarof تعارف