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 Ṣavāʿiq al-Yahūd

(607 words)

Author(s): Moreen, Vera B.
'Lightning bolts against the Jews' Muḥammad-Bāqir al-Majlisī Date: Unknown; before about 1700 Original Language: Persian Description Ṣavāʿiq al-Yahūd, one of Muḥammad-Bāqir al-Majlisī’s short Persian treatises, details the duties incumbent upon the  ahl-i kitāb (‘People of the Book’) living in a Muslim, in this case, Shīʿī, environment. It may have been inspired by his father Muḥammad Taqī al-Majlisī’s possibly less well-known treatise,  Rawḍat al-muttaqīn (‘The garden of the pious’), later known as  Lawāmeʿ -e ṣāḥeb-qerānī (‘The censure of the lord of the happy co…

Muḥammad-Bāqir al-Majlisī

(489 words)

Author(s): Moreen, Vera B.
Date of Birth: 1627 Place of Birth: Isfahan Date of Death: Between 1698 and 1700 Place of Death: Isfahan Biography Muḥammad-Bāqir al-Majlisī was a famous Twelver Shīʿī jurist and theologian in Safavid Iran (1501-1722), whose exact date of death continues to be disputed. Since he was the son of an important jurist and Hadith commentator with the same last name, Muḥammad Taqī al-Majlisī (1594/5-1659/60), Muḥammad-Bāqir is known as ‘Majlisī II’ (Arabic:  Majlisī thānī; Persian: Majlisī duvvum)  Father and son are both associated with Isfahan.  As Shīʿism became truly entrenche…

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…

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…

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…

Mysticism/Sufism (Iran)

(918 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
In addition to the creation of a Judeo-Persian literary tradition that recast Jewish themes in a classical Persian mold and illuminated manuscripts with Judeo-Persian miniature paintings in the Persian style, the acculturation of Iranian Jewry in the Middle Ages and the premodern era included an attraction to Ṣūfism, Islam’s most transcendental expression. This attraction manifested itself in literary topoi, explicit polemics, and occasional adherence of Jews to Ṣūfīsm.       Literary topoi. As is well known, classical Persian poetry, from the twelfth century on, is rep…

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…

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…


(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…

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…

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…

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…

Eleazar Ḥayyim ben Rabbi Mullah Elijah

(268 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Eleazar (Lālehzar) Ḥayyim ben Rabbi Mullah Elijah, the learned son of a great Iranian rabbi who was active in Hamadan between 1840 and 1860, was himself a rabbi and dayyan (Heb. religious judge), and apparently a haughty and controversial figure. Only one of his works has so far come to light, a short Judeo-Persian treatise (ca. 23 pages in ms. JTS 1455) entitled Ḥovot Rafa’el (Heb. The Duties of Raphael). The treatise is an introduction to Judah ben Eleazar’s philosophical work Ḥovot Yehuda (Heb. The Duties of Judah) and, in fact, is the only known source that refers to Ḥovot Yehuda. In it El…

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…

Muḥammad Beg

(511 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Non-Iranian sources agree that Muḥammad Beg (d. 1674), the grand vizier of Shah ʿAbbās II (r. 1642-1666), was largely responsible for the persecutions that culminated in the forced conversion of most of Iran’s Jews between 1656 and 1662. His baleful influence and the free hand he was given to oppress Jews and Armenian Christians are described in the Judeo-Persian chronicle Kitāb-i Anusī (The Book of a Forced Convert) by Bābāī b. Luṭf, the Armenian chronicle of Aṛakʿel of Tabriz, and the Chronicle of the Carmelites in Persia. The same events are recounted with a highly positive spin in Abbās …

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 …

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 …

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…

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…
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