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Isfahan

(2,697 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
1. General Description and History The Jewish community of Isfahan is one of the oldest in Iran. Although its long history cannot be reconstructed in full, there are enough data to sketch some of it, at least after the Arab conquest, which is more than can be done with most Jewish settlements in Iran. Isfahan (Old Pers. Aspadana), located on the Iranian Plateau, is surrounded by the Zagros Mountains and its extensions. About 340 kilometers (211 miles) south of Tehran, Isfahan is the capital of the province of Isfahan and Iran's third-largest city a…

Faraḥābād

(479 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Faraḥābād (Pers. Abode of Joy) is a town on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, near the river Tijin. It was built by Shah ʿAbbās I (r. 1587–1629) between 1611 and 1612 on the site of the village Ṭāhān. Its new name reflected the shah's intention of making it a favored winter residence. He spent many winters in Faraḥābād and actually died there. According to various Christian travelers, the town was endowed with spacious roads, a brick mosque, an impressive, fortified palace, and was surrounded by a wall. It also functioned as a port. Shah ʿAbbās populated Faraḥābād with people of seve…

Ibrāhīm ibn Mullah Abū ʾl-Khayr

(169 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
The short Judeo-Persian masnavī (narrative poem in rhymed couplets) known as Khudāidād does not bear an author’s name. According to Carl Salemann, its author was Ibrāhīm b. Mullah Abū ʾl-Khayr, about whom we lack any biographical information beyond the fact that he also wrote several other poems known thus far only by their titles. Scholars believe that Khudāidād was most likely written toward the end of the eighteenth century, possibly during the reign of the Bukhārān chieftain Amīr Maʿṣūm (d. 1802), although the events it recounts are yet to be corroborated. Khudāidād describes the …

Bābāʾī ben Nūrīʾel

(291 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Bābāʾī ben Nūrīʾel, a rabbi from Isfahan, translated the Pentateuch and the Book of Psalms into Persian between 1740 and 1741 for Nādir Shah (r. 1736–1746). The shah’s religious convictions, which vacillated between the Shīʿī and Sunni versions of Islam, continue to be the subject of scholarly debate. His curiosity about religions induced him to commission Persian translations of the Gospels and the Qur’ān in addition to the Pentateuch and Psalms. The translators of the Gospels (three European and five Armenian pries…

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…

Khudāidād

(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…

Allahyār

(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…

Amīnā, Benjamin ben Mishaʾel

(307 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Benjamin ben Mishaʾel, known by the pen name Amīnā (Pers. the faithful), was one of the most important Jewish poets of premodern Iran. A native of Kashan, he was born in 1672/73 and was alive as late as 1732/33. The only biographical information about him is provided by the poet himself in various works, namely, that he had seven children and was unhappily married. He witnessed the Afghan invasion of Iran, including his hometown, as described in the Judeo-Persian chronicle Kitāb-i Sar-Guzasht-i Kāshān dar bāb-i ʿibrī va goyimi-yi sānī (The Book of Events in Kashan Concerning…

Rashīd al-Dīn Ṭabīb

(674 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Rashīd al-Dīn Ṭabīb (Physician) Faḍl Allāh ibn ʿImād al-Dawla, Abūʿl Khayr ibn Ghālī (ca. 1247–1318), was one of medieval Iran’s greatest statesmen and historians. Although once much debated by medieval and modern scholars, it is now accepted that Rashīd al-Dīn was born a Jew in Hamadan. A controversial figure in his lifetime, he was a physician from a family of apothecaries. Nothing is known of the early part of his life and career; he first served at the Īlkhānid court as the physician of Abāqā (r. 1265–1282). Around the age of thirty, and for reasons that were probab…

ʿAbbās I, Shāh

(752 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Shah ʿAbbās I (r. 1587–1629) is considered to have been the greatest monarch of the Ṣafavid dynasty. He ascended the throne of Iran at the age of sixteen during a turbulent political upheaval that included the murder of at least nine family members. Styled “the Great” for having consolidated the Iranian empire, ʿAbbās I enlarged and transformed his realm into one of the seventeenth century’s greatest powers, on a par with the Moghul empire under Akbar (r. 1556–1605), England under Elizabeth I (r. 1558–1603), a…

ʿĀmilī, Muḥammad ibn Bahāʾ al-Dīn Ḥusayn al-

(333 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Muḥammad ibn Ḥusayn Bahāʾ al-Dīn al-ʿĀmilī (ca. 1547–1621), also known as Shaykh Bahāʾī, was one of the most respected Imāmī (Twelver Shīʿī) Ṣafavid theologians during the reign of Shah ʿAbbās I (1581–1629). Originally from Jabal ʿĀmila, Syria, he migrated to Iran in his youth. Thoroughly educated in medicine, mathematics, and literature in addition to Islamic law and theology, and imbued with Ṣūfī leanings, al-ʿĀmilī became shaykh al-Islām (supreme religious judge) of Isfahan for a while. He traveled extensively throughout Iraq, Egypt, and Palestine on his way to perform the ḥājj.

Allāhverdī Khān [II]

(176 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Allāhverdī Khān [II] (d. 1662) was a high-ranking military officer of Armenian origin in the service of Shah Ṣafī I (r. 1629–1642) and Shāh ʿAbbās II (r. 1642–1666) of Iran. In 1654 he advanced from the post of amīr shikār bāshī (Pers./Turk. master of the royal hunts) to sardār-i lashkar (Pers. commander-in-chief) of the army, thereafter distinguishing himself in campaigns against the Ottomans, Mughals, Uzbeks, and Georgians. He was instrumental in bringing about the downfall of Muḥammad Beg, the grand vizier who, according to the Judeo-Persian chronicle of Bābāī ibn Luṭf, was resp…

Kitāb-i Anusī

(1,209 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Kitāb-i A nusī (The Book of a Forced Convert) by Bābāī ben Luṭf, the first known Judeo-Persian chronicle, recounts the periodic persecutions of Iranian Jews between 1617 and 1662, together with a few other events from the Ṣafavid era (1501–1736), specifically from the reigns of Shahs ʿAbbās I (1581–1629), Ṣafī I (1629–1642), and ʿAbbās II (1642–1666). The historicity of Kitāb-i Anusī is confirmed by its references to external events that can be corroborated by royal Iranian chronicles and other sources, but its emphasis is on the travails of Iranian Jewr…

Shīrvānī, Moses (Mūsā) ben Aaron ben Sheʾerit

(195 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Moses (Mūsā) ben Aaron ben Sheʾerit Shīrvānī compiled a Hebrew/Aramaic–Persian dictionary in 1459 in Shirvan (today in Azerbaijan). Shīrvānī’s dictionary is known as the Agron (Heb. glossary, lexicon), a title undoubtedly derived from Saʿadya Gaon’s (d. 942) famous double-dictionary of the same name. Intended as an aid to Bible study, the Agron includes vocabulary from the Bible and is largely organized according to Hebrew roots and nouns. It is known only from manuscripts, but all of the existing ones are incomplete, covering only the entries from the letter yod (tenth in the Hebr…

Bābāī ben Luṭf

(688 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Bābāī b. Luṭf, the author of Kitāb-i A nusī (The Book of a Forced Convert), the earliest known Judeo-Persian chronicle, lived in Kashan and was probably a native of that town. Most of what we know about him comes from his sketchy introduction to the chronicle. Clearly an educated man, Bābāī b. Luṭf believed that the major persecutions he witnessed, beginning in 1656 and ending in 1662, during the reign of the Ṣafavid Shah ʿAbbās II (1642-1666), constituted but another chapter in the long history of persecutions endured by the Jewish people. He therefore called his work a megillah (Heb. scrol…

Mashiaḥ ben ha-Mullah Rafa’el

(294 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Mashiaḥ ben ha-Mullah Rafa’el was the author of the twelfth chapter of the Judeo-Persian chronicle 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) by Bābāī ben Farhād. The chronicle recounts a number of events between 1721 and 1731 during which time the Jews of Iran, along with the rest of the population, suffered greatly from the downfall of the Ṣafavid dynasty and the Afghan and Russian invasions. It details in particular the forced conversion of the Jews of Kashan to Shīʿī Islam for a …

Eleazar

(252 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Eleazar, whose full name remains unknown, was the leader of the Jewish community of Faraḥābād (Pers. Abode of Joy) during the reign of Shah ʿAbbās I (1587–1629). The town, built by the shah as a winter retreat on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, was inhabited by people the shah forcibly relocated from elsewhere, primarily Georgia, which he invaded twice (1614–1615 and 1616–1617). Eleazar and his community were among the “colonists.” According to the Judeo-Persian chronicle Kitāb-i Anusī  (The Book of a Forced Convert) by Bābāī ibn Luṭf, they appear to have been favo…

Hājjī Riżā

(207 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Ḥājjī Riżā was a minor official during the reign of Shah ʿAbbās I (1571–1629), one of the most important monarchs of the Ṣafavid dynasty in Iran. As such, he is symbolic of a number of other such officials who took it upon themselves, not necessarily with court approval, to persecute Jews. According to the Judeo-Persian chronicle Kitāb-i Anusī (The Book of a Forced Convert) by Bābāī ibn Luṭf , sometime in 1625 a wave of persecutions struck the Jewish community of Isfahan. It had formerly paid a yearly jizya (see Taxation; Dhimma) of forty tūmāns, but Ḥājjī Riżā, one of the stewards of th…

Ismāʽīl I, Shāh

(405 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Shāh Ismāʽīl I (r. 1501–1524), the founder of the Ṣafavid dynasty in Iran, was a precocious warrior and Ṣūfī murshīd (Ar./Pers. spiritual guide) crowned king at the age of fourteen. Descended from a well-established Turcoman Ṣūfī brotherhood from Ardabīl (Azerbaijan), he managed to defeat powerful Turcoman and Uzbek tribes because of his personal bravery and, principally, the fanatical devotion of his Turcoman followers, derisively termed qizilbāsh (Turk. red head[s]) by the Ottomans because of the twelve-fold turban wrapped around a red baton that symbolized…

Muḥsin-i Fayḍ-i Kāshānī, Muḥammad b. Murtaḍā

(387 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Mullāh Muḥammad b. Murtaḍā Muḥsin-i Fayḍ-i Kāshānī, better known as Mullāh Muḥsin, was born in Kashan in 1598 into a family of ʿulamāʾ (Ar/Pers.) religious scholars). Educated in Kashan, Shiraz, and Isfahan, he studied with the famous Shīʿī scholars Bahāʾ al-Dīn ʿĀmilī (d. 1621), Mīr Dāmād (d. 1631), and Mullāh Ṣadrā (Ṣadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī; d. 1640). In addition to being learned in exegesis, ḥadīth, jurisprudence, and philosophy, Mullāh Muḥsin was a ṣūfī who strove to harmonize exoteric and esoteric learning. In 1653 Shah ʿAbbās II (r. 1642–1666) invited him to Isfahan to become…

Ezra-nāma ('The Book of Ezra')

(334 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Ezra-nāma (The Book of Ezra) is a short Judeo-Persian narrative poem by Mowlānā Shāhīn-i Shīrāzī (Our Master, the Royal Falcon of Shiraz), the earliest known and best of the Judeo-Persian poets who flourished in Iran in the fourteenth century. It is superficially based on the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and was usually appended to and copied with Ardashīr-nāma (The Book of Ardashīr [Ahasuerus]), an epic by the same poet based on the Book of Esther, with whose contents i t is connected. Numbering only five hundred distichs, Ezra-nāma is written in the same meter as Ardashīr-nāma. It…

Razim, Sefer ha-

(313 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Sefer ha-Razim (Heb. The Book of Secrets) is a collection of spells, incantations, angelology, and magical remedies intended to be used for such purposes as acquiring power over humans, spirits, and nature. The texts included in the collection originated in the fourth and fifth centuries C.E. Scholars continue to debate whether Sefer ha-Razim is an actual book; in its present form it is a scholarly compilation by Mordecai Margulies. Some of its contents come from Sefer Raziʾel ha-Malakh (Heb. The Book of the Angel Raziʾel), a conjuring book compiled in the thirteenth cen…

Yahūdī, Yūsuf (Yūsuf b. Isḥaq b. Mūsā)

(198 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Yūsuf Yahūdī, whose full name was Yūsuf ibn Isḥaq ibn Mūsā, is known in Judeo-Persian literature as Yūsuf Bukhārāʾī. Hailing from Bukhara, Yūsuf Yahūdī lived in the eighteenth century and probably died in 1788. Like the great Judeo-Persian poets Shāhīn and ʿImrani, he is known by the Persian honorific mowlānā (our master), attesting to the respect accorded him during his lifetime. Yūsūf Yahūdī was a prolific writer of shorter Judeo-Persian poetry, such as ghazals (love poems) and rubāʿiyāt (Ar./Pers. quatrains). One of his longer poems, a mukhamas (Ar./Pers. five-lined strophes),…

Bereshit-nāma ('The Book of Genesis')

(407 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
As far as is known, Judeo-Persian belles-lettres began with the works of Mowlānā Shāhīn-i Shīrāzī (Our Master, the Royal Falcon of Shiraz), who flourished in the fourteenth century in Iran. Only the pen name of the poet is known and the fact that he lived during the reign of the Ῑl-khānid ruler Abū Saʿīd (1316-1335), to whom he dedicated a panegyric. Shāhīn's surviving oeuvre consists of two major epic cycles, the first of which, known only as [ Bereshit-] n āma (The Book of Genesis), a name bestowed upon it by scholars, consists of versifications of selected narrative part…

Zaynab Begum

(204 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Zaynab Begum (d. 1641/42), the aunt of Shah ʿAbbās I (r. 1587–1629) of Iran, was an influential figure at his court. The fourth daughter of Shah Ṭahmāsp I (r. 1524–1576), she became head matron of the royal harem at Shah ʿAbbās’s court, thus wielding considerable power over him. Zaynab Begum was one of the shah’s close and trusted companions and sat in his councils. She was famous for her charitable works and architectural projects. The Judeo-Persian chronicle Kitāb-i Anusī (The Book of a Forced Convert) by Bābāī b. Luṭf recounts her crucial role in assuring the smooth su…

ʿAbbās-nāma

(258 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
ʿ Abbās-nāma (The Book [Chronicle] of ʿAbbās) by Muḥammad Ṭāhir Waḥīd Qazwīnī is the most important Iranian source for the history of the reign of the Ṣafavid Shah ʿAbbās II (1642–1666), covering events up to 1663. It is the only Iranian source, however brief, on the persecution of Iranian Jewry between 1656 and 1661. According to the ʿ Abbās-nāma, two Jews from Isfahan aroused the ire of the Shīʽī Muslim community by their failure to wear the badges indicating that they were Jews (see ghiyār ), thereby posing a threat for unknowing Muslims of contact with impurity ( najāsat ). The  Jewish com…

ʿAbdūʾl (or Abūʾl) Qāsim Kāshānī, Mīr (Mīrzā)

(415 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
The second known Judeo-Persian chronicle, 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) by Bābāī ben Farhād, relates events pertaining to some of the Jewish communities of Iran between 1721 and 1731, a decade that witnessed the disintegration of the Safavid dynasty and Afghan and Russian invasions. A native of Kāshān, Bābāī ibn Farhād provides a detailed account of events in his community. In 1729 Ṭahmāsp Khān, the future Nādir Shāh (r. 1736–1747), demanded a considerable sum of m…

Ardashīr-nāma

(443 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Ardashīr-nāma (The Book of Ardashīr/Ahasuerus) by Mowlānā Shāhīn-i Shīrāzī (Jud./Pers. Our Master, the Royal Falcon of Shiraz), the “father” of Judeo-Persian belles-lettres (fl. 14th century), is a versification of the biblical Book of Esther recast as a Persian epic romance that resembles the works of the classical Persian poet Niżāmī (d. 1209). It is a masnavī (epic in rhymed couplets) numbering nine thousand distichs written in the complex hazaj-i musaddas-i akhrab-i maqbuż-i maḥzūf meter. To date only the pen name of the poet has come to light. Shāhīn apparently…

ʿAbbās II, Shah

(515 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Shah ʿAbbās II (r. 1642–1666), the grandson of Shah ʿAbbās I (r. 1587-1620), was the most competent monarch of the Ṣafavid dynasty of Iran next to his illustrious ancestor. Only eight and a half years old when he ascended the throne, ʿAbbās II asserted himself early by curbing the Turcoman (Qizilbāsh) tribes, the early “power behind the throne” of the Ṣafavid dynasty. He continued the effort to increase and concentrate the power of the crown and to maintain the frontiers of his empire. Like his grandfather, but not on the same scale, ʿAbbās I, enhanced Isfahan with new palaces and repairs…

Mūsā-nāma

(351 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Mūsā-nāma (The Book of Moses) is the first and longest Judeo-Persian epic on biblical themes by Mowlānā Shāhīn-i Shīrāzī (Our Master, the Royal Falcon of Shiraz), the fourteenth-century poet considered the progenitor of Judeo-Persian literature. It sets to verse non-legal portions chiefly of the Book of Exodus, but also of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. A masnavī (epic in rhymed couplets) numbering some ten thousand distichs, Mūsā-nāma is written in the classical Persian meter hazaj mussadas makhzuf. Shāhīn’s major works include two epic cycles, one based on the Pentateuch, […

Kitāb-i Sar-Guzasht-i Kāshān dar bāb-i ʿibrī va goyimi-yi sānī

(1,220 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
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) by Bābāī b. Farhād is the second known Judeo-Persian chronicle in verse. The first, Kitāb-i Anusī (The Book of a Forced Convert), was written by Bābāī b. Luṭf, the grandfather of Bābāī b. Farhād. The events covered by the earlier chronicle end around 1662, whereas Kitāb-i Sar-Guzasht-i Kāshān begins with an incident in 1694, and then covers selected events over the decade from 1721 to 1731 during the reigns of the Safavid shahs Sulṭān Ḥusayn (r. 169…

Meliṣa, Sefer ha-

(250 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Sefer ha-Meliṣa (Heb. The Book of Rhetoric) is one of the only two surviving Hebrew-Persian lexicons (the other was penned by Moses Shīrvānī). Comprising some eighteen thousand entries, it translates Hebrew words gathered from the Bible, Talmud, and midrashim  into Hebrew and comments on them in Persian (and occasionally in Turkish); it also translates numerous Aramaic, Syriac, and Greek words. The lexicon is of enduring importance to linguists because the words are translated into the old Persian dialect of  Khwārizm, but it has not yet been critically studied. Because it…

Nasi, David

(313 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
In the period from 1721 to 1731, Iran was invaded by Afghans and Russians, and the Ṣafavid dynasty collapsed. During this turbulent decade the Jewish community of Kashan was internally divided and headed by weak leaders, foremost among them was David Nasi. In 1729, Ṭahmāsp Khān, fighting against the Afghans and attempting to install Ṭahmāsp II on the Ṣafavid throne, demanded money from the Jews of Kashan. They were willing to pay at first, but when the amount kept increasing, David Nasi and the other communal leaders declared that they would rather convert to Shīʿī Islam. Despite some …
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