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Shāhīn-i Shīrāzī, Mowlānā

(369 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Mowlānā Shāhīn-i Shīrāzī (Our Master the Royal Falcon of Shiraz) was the earliest and most accomplished poet of the Judeo-Persian literary tradition. His name is most likely a takhalluṣ (Ar. pen name). In a panegyric dedicated to the Īl-khānid ruler Abū Saʿīd (1316–1335), Shāhīn reveals that he lived during the reign of this monarch. Thus he may have been a near-contemporary of Ḥafiż (d. 1389), Iran’s greatest lyrical poet, who also hailed from Shiraz. There is some doubt, however, about whether Shāhīn was originally from Shiraz. The seventeenth-century Judeo-Persian chronicler Bābāī…

Ṣafavid Dynasty

(177 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
see Iran/Persia Vera B. Moreen Bibliography Fischel, Walter J., Jews in the Economic and Political Life of Mediaeval Islam ( London: Royal Asiatic Society Monographs, no. 22, 1937). Gil, Moshe, Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages (Leiden: Brill, 2004), pp. 241-248, 520-532. Goitein, S. D,  A Mediterranean Society:  The Jewish Communities of the World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza.  6 vols.  (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978) [Reprint 1999]. Al-Iṣfahānī, Abū Nuʿaym,  Ḏikr aḵbari- Iṣfahān (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1931), 1: 22-23. Al-Iṣṭakhrī, I…

Yazdī, Abraham

(258 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
In 1729, as reported in chapter 12 of Kitāb-i Sar-Guzasht-i Kāshān dar Bāb-i ʿIbrī va Goyimi-yi Sānī (Jud.-Pers. The Book of Events in Kashan Concerning the Jews; Their Second Conversion), the Jews of Kāshān came under great pressure to pay a huge sum of money to the rapacious Ṭahmāsp Khān,  the future Nādir Shāh(r. 1736–1747). The community, including its leader,  David Nasi, opted to convert to Shīʿī Islam rather than pay the amount demanded.  Abraham Yazdī, a traveling merchant residing in Kāshān, staunchly opposed the decision to convert “voluntarily.” Maintaining…

Academic Study of Iranian (Persian) Jewry

(3,710 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Like the study of Ottoman Jewry, the academic study of Iranian (Persian) Jewry is a subfield of the study of the Jews in the Islamic and Mizraḥi (“eastern”) worlds. It originated in the study of Iranian linguistics in the late nineteenth century and began to grow in the late 1960s with the spread of the study of Judeo-Persian texts. It expanded considerably for the next three decades, but remains a neglected field of Jewish and Iranian studies, with hardly any younger scholars entering the field. Philology and Linguistics The study of the Judeo-Persian language began as a number of…

Lārī, Abū 'l Ḥasan

(428 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Abū ʾl Ḥasan Lārī was the central figure in an incident that occurred in the southwestern Iranian town of Lār sometime between 1616 and 1620, as recounted in the Judeo-Persian chronicle Kitāb-i Anusī (The Book of a Forced Convert) by Bābāī b. Luṭf. Its main element was an effort to make the Jews wear demeaning headgear that would distinguish them from Shīʿī Muslims, in keeping with the customs ostensibly initiated by the caliph ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb (r. 634-644). According to Ibn Luṭf, the Jews of Lār were concerned about the conflict of interest generated by the circumsta…

Nādir Shāh

(978 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Nādir ShāhAfshār (r. 1736–1747), born Nādir Qulī Beg, was a member of the Turkoman Afshār tribe in Khurāsān. He was chiefly responsible for bringing about the final disintegration of the Ṣafavid dynasty (1501–1736), briefly replacing it  with his own Afshārid dynasty (1736–1795). A victorious warrior from his youth, Nādir’s numerous military campaigns can only be highlighted here. He and his band rose to prominence during the Afghan occupation of Iran (1722–1730). Nādir came to the attention of the Ṣafavid prince  Ṭahmāsp II (r. 1722–1732) as a potential savior of his dynas…

ʽĀlamārā-yi Ἁbbāsi, Tārīkh-i

(315 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Tārīkh-i ʿ Ālamārā-yi Ἁbbāsī by Iskandar Beg Munshī (d. ca. 1632) is the most important work of Iranian historiography on the Ṣafavid era (1501–1722). While the introduction briefly discusses the reigns of Shahs Ismāʽīl I (1501–1524), Ṭahmāsp (1524–1576), Ismāʽīl II (1576–1578), and Muḥammad Khudābanda (1578–1587), it is mainly devoted to a detailed and spirited description of the reign of Shah ʽAbbās I (“the Great”; 1571–1629). As a royal secretary, Iskandar Beg Munshī observed many of the events he described and sought to acquire reliable information.…

Bābāī ben Farhād

(582 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Bābāī b. Farhād is the author of Kitāb-i Sar-Guzasht-i Kāshān dar bāb-i ʿIbrī va Goyimi-yi Sānī (The Book of Events in Kashan Concerning the Jews; Their Second Conversion), the second Judeo-Persian chronicle in verse known thus far. It covers selected events between 1721 and 1731 during the reigns of the Ṣafavid shahs (see Iran/Persia) Sultan Ḥusayn (1694-1722) and Ṭahmāsp II (1722-1731). Bābāī b. Farhād acknowledges that his inspiration to record mostly contemporary events, some of which he witnessed, came from Kitāb-i A nusī (The Book of a Forced Convert), the first …

Chronicle of the Carmelites

(230 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
The Chronicle of the Carmelites is an anonymous account of Carmelite and other Christian missionary activities in Iran between 1588 and 1722, including the fall of the Ṣafavid dynasty. The Carmelites (and also the Augustinians and the Capuchins) were tolerated by the Ṣafavids in the hope of establishing commercial and diplomatic ties with important European powers. The Chronicle is primarily concerned with the Carmelites’ promotion of Catholicism in Persia, especially among Armenians, and their diplomatic representation of the papacy at the Ṣafavid co…

Shiʽa and the Jews

(2,472 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
1. Historical Overview Jewish-Shīʽī interaction through history is still not well known despite significant advances in researching the subject. Scholars generally note that Shīʽī Muslims have tended to hold more severe attitudes than Sunnīs toward Jews and Judaism, but on closer investigation a considerable area of Judeo-Shīʽī “symbiosis” emerges. It sheds light on Jewish-Shīʽī relations especially during the first two centuries of Islam, the formative period of Shīʽism, supporting the view of tho…

Illuminated manuscripts (Judeo-Persian)

(984 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Iranian Jews strove to emulate the book arts of the Iranian tradition of illuminated manuscripts, which flourished in the Timurid and Ṣafavid eras (ca. 1400–1700) and constitute one of the most magnificent artistic achievements of the Islamic world. Only thirteen Judeo-Persian illuminated manuscripts are known, none earlier than the second half of the seventeenth century ( Mūsā-nāma . SPK or. oct. 2885), and they were clearly inspired by the Muslim Iranian book arts. Most of the surviving Judeo-Persian manuscripts, both illuminated and not, were produ…

Maḥmūd, Shah

(297 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Maḥmūd Shah was a Ghilzāy Afghan chieftain who invaded Iran in 1722, and besieged Isfahan, the capital, for seven months (March–October 1722).  The city was subjected to terrible famine and suffering that caused the death of approximately eighty thousand people,  many of starvation. The effect of the siege on the city’s Jewish community is described briefly but movingly in Kitāb-i Sar-Guzasht-i Kāshān dar Bāb-i ʿIbrī va Goyimi-yi Sānī (The Book of Events in Kashan Concerning the Jews; Their Second Conversion), the Judeo-Persian chronicle of Bābāī ibn Far…

Yazdī, Shihāb

(161 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Shihāb Yazdī was a Jewish Iranian poet known solely from one Judeo-Persian poem, Ay Qādir Qudrat Numā (Almighty Lord, Displaying Might), that appears in countless manuscripts. Shihāb (Pers. flame, bright star), was probably the poet’s pen name, and Yazdī indicates merely that he hailed from Yazd. There is no other information available about Shihāb Yazdī. As his famous poem makes its first appearance in Judeo-Persian manuscripts from the late eighteenth century, it has been assumed that Shihāb Yazdī flourished in that period. The poem itself is a superb paea…

Sulṭān Ḥusayn, Shah

(429 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Shāh Sulṭān Ḥusayn (r. 1694–1722), the ninth monarch of the Ṣafavid dynasty of Iran, succeeded his father, Shāh Sulaymān (r. 1666-1694), and like him was unprepared to rule, having been raised in the harem. Under the influence of Shīʿī clerics like Muḥammad Bāqir al-Majlisī (d. 1698), the new shah, in an effort to become devout, prohibited the production and drinking of wine along with gambling and pigeon flying. These prohibitions soon fell out of use, not least because of the debauched practices of the …

Maman, Joseph

(332 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Joseph Maman (1741–1825), the great spiritual leader of Bukharan Jewry, was born in Tetouan, Morocco. He went to Palestine in 1770 and settled in Safed. In 1792, he was sent as a rabbinical emissary (Heb. shaliaḥ de-rabbanan or shadar) to Iran to collect charitable funds. While there he spent a few months in Mashhad, where he met and developed cordial relations with  Siman Ṭov Melammed (d. 1800, 1823, or 1828),according the town’s learned spiritual leader. According to some sources, Maman learned about the deplorable religious state of the Jews of Bukhara …

Ḥayāt al-Rūḥ

(431 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Ḥayāt al-rūḥ (The Life of the Soul) was Siman Ṭov Melammed’s most important contribution to Judeo-Persian literature. A learned dayyan ( judge), communal leader, poet, mystic, and philosopher, Melammed died in either 1800, 1823, or 1828. His works have not yet been thoroughly studied.              The exact date of composition of Ḥayāt al-rūḥ is unknown, but 1778 is suggested by the fact that the printed edition (Jerusalem, 1898) mentions that it was in manuscript form for 120 years.  Thus it may have been written while Melammed was living in Herat (Afghanistan), as suggested by his…


(447 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Khudāidād, also known as Bā yād-i Khuydodcha ['To the Memory of Little Khuydod'], is the only text of historical import to have come to light out so far from the trove of Judeo-Persian texts produced in Bukhara. Named after its hero, Khudāidād (Persian for the Hebrew "Netanʾel" ['God gave']), this short masnavī (narrative poem in rhymed couplets), is only 279 verses long and it is written in the hazaj meter in the Bukharan dialect. Khudāidād is essentially an account of the martyrdom of a simple cloth merchant whose strong faith enabled him to withstand the persecution of…

Allāhverdī Khān [I]

(295 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Allāhverdī Khān, (d. 1613) was one of the most important courtiers of Shah 'Abbās I (r. 1581-1629). A Georgian or Armenian Christian by origin, he had been enslaved by the Safavids in his youth and became a trusted soldier. After converting to Islam, he rose to the rank of qullār āghāsī (Turk. general of the slave army) and was appointed governor of the provinces of Fars and Koghīluya. Having distinguished himself in battles against the Uzbeks with an army he had reorganized along European lines as suggested by Sir Robert Shirley. Allāhverdī Kh…

Sulaymān, Shah

(393 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Shah Sulaymān (r. 1666-1694), the eighth ruler of the Iranian Ṣafavid dynasty, was originally crowned as Ṣafī II. He was the eldest son of Shāh ʿAbbās II (r. 1642-1666) and had been raised in the harem. Unprepared to reign, Sulaymān devoted himself to a life of pleasure that rendered Iran virtually bankrupt by 1668 at a time when the kingdom suffered from Uzbek and Cossack raids, earthquakes, draughts, and famines. He then endeavored to reform himself, becoming highly abstemious, even as his own revenues grew through higher taxes imposed on a suffering population. It was during this rei…


(208 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
The arbitrary nature of the persecution of Jews in Iran during the reign of  Shah Sulṭān Ḥusayn (r. 1694–1722) is vividly described in the Judeo-Persian chronicle Kitāb-i Sar Guzasht-i Kāshān dar Bāb-i ʿĪbrī va Goyimi-yi Sānī (The Book of Events in Kashan Concerning the Jews; Their Second Conversion) by Bābāī ben Farhād. In 1694 the shah issued a decree prohibiting alcoholic beverages. Sometime after this, and possibly on the twenty-first of Ramaḍān (the Shīʿī commemoration of Imam ʿAlī’s martyrdom), a Jew in Kashan named Allahyār gave a feast for his friends that involved musi…
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