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Sayyid Ja‘far Abu. تحفةالملوكفىالسيروالسلوک (The Gift of the Kings and Their Practices). Tabriz, Iran: Nasiri Publishing House, 1856–1857. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (012.00.00)
The religious works in the exhibition represent confessional and philosophical traditions of the various faiths practiced in the Persian-speaking world today. By 650 BCE, the Zoroastrian faith, a monotheistic religion founded on the ideas of the philosopher Zoroaster, had become the official religion of ancient Persia. Later Judaism and then Christianity came to Persia via Mesopotamia, with both developing vibrant faith communities in Persian lands. To the east of the Persian Empire, the regional kingdoms of what is now Afghanistan and Central Asia adopted Buddhism from India in the third century, blending it with Zoroastrianism and Greek traditions.
With the spread of Islam in the mid-seventh century, the Persian-speaking world became predominantly Muslim although vestiges of the earlier pre-Islamic religious and philosophical traditions remained. Sufism, a meditative and mystical path of Islam, evolved in the region in the tenth century, while the Ismaili Shi`ite doctrine became prominent in Persia by the eleventh century. Later, during the Safavid dynasty (1501–1722), much of present Iran and Azerbaijan converted to the Twelver Shi`ite sect of Islam. Newer faiths like the Baha’i Faith developed as late as the nineteenth century in Persia expanding to the Near East and beyond.
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The religious texts of the Zoroastrian faith of ancient Persia are referred to as the “Avesta.” The oldest part is the Gathas, which includes a collection of hymns and one of the oldest examples of religious poetry attributed to the prophet Zoroaster (ca. 630–550 BCE). Displayed is a page from the Gathas, in the Middle Persian language Pahlavi, and its translation into modern Persian. The Faravahar, a man and a winged disc that symbolizes the Zoroastrian faith adorns the opening of the page. The Zoroastrian faith has survived from ancient times with followers worldwide, mainly in Iran and India. The Zoroastrians who settled in India more than one thousand years ago, referred to as the Parsi (Persian) community, are very influential in Indian society today.
Pūr Davūd. سرودهاىمقدسگاتها (The Hymns of The Holy Gathas). Bombay: Fort Printing Press, 1927. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (005.00.00)
This unique illuminated book of psalms, alternating between Hebrew and Persian, is a modern work produced in Tehran to highlight the importance and value given in Iran to all Abrahamic faith traditions. The Persian translation written in the Nasta‘liq calligraphic style makes the Jewish holy book accessible to Persian speakers and celebrates the historic presence of Jewish religious communities in Iran. Persian Jews have been in the region since antiquity and along with the Zoroastrians constitute the most ancient faith communities that remain in Persian lands.
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کتابمزاميرحضرتداويد (The Psalms of David). Mahdī Bahman, calligrapher. Tehran, 2000. Manuscript. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (006.00.00)
A number of Christian communities, particularly Armenian and Syriac, maintained a strong presence in Persian lands. The Syriac or Aramaic-speaking people in western Persia constitute one of the oldest Christian communities of Persia and are referred to as the “Assyrians.” The language used for communication and liturgical writings is modern Aramaic. This rare Assyrian Christian gospel contains the first four books of the New Testament and is from the Urmia region of Iran.
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The Holy Qurʼān
Call to Morning Prayer
The Sources of Jurisprudence
The Gift of the Kings
The Jewel in the Crown
Shi`ite Prayer Manual
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