Persia and Islamic Culture: Persian Share of Cultural Life of Islam

  May 30, 2021   Read time 2 min
Persia and Islamic Culture: Persian Share of Cultural Life of Islam
Muslim world is growing larger everyday. There are numerous nations participating in this world and here the role played by the Persians is exceptional.

The peoples who have embraced Islam form what the Armenian American scholar Vartan Gregorian has called a mosaic, not a monolith. They are widely various, inhabiting traditional lands, industrialized European cities, and every terrain in between. They practice business, plant crops, and herd cattle, and they speak a multitude of languages. Though they are unified by their belief in the Qur’an and the use of Arabic in worship, they also retain their distinct ethnic identities. This is a small but representative sample of groups whose populations are largely, if not wholly, Muslim.

The predominant ethnic group of Iran (formerly known as Persia) and a significant minority community in western Afghanistan are Persian. Although of diverse ancestry, the Persian people are united by their language, Persian (Farsi), which belongs to the Indo-Iranian group of the Indo-European language family The name Persia derives from Parsa, the name of the Indo-European nomadic people who migrated into southern Iran—to an area then called Persis—about 1000 BCE. As the Parsa expanded their sphere of political influence, the entire Iranian plateau became known to outsiders (such as the ancient Greeks) as Persia; its various peoples were designated (collectively) the Persians. Subsequent rulers—including Alexander the Great—fostered cultural consolidation. The vast majority of Persians practice Shi‘ite Islam. (This form of Islam is one of the two largest branches of the Islam faith, the other one being Sunni Islam.) Before the Muslim conquest of Persia in the 7th century CE, most Persians followed Zoroastrianism, based on the teachings of the ancient prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra), who lived during the first half of the 1st millennium BCE. In 21st century Iran there remain a small number of Zoroastrians; larger groups now live in South Asia. In addition to the Zoroastrians, Persian adherents of the Baha’i faith (which originated in Iran) constitute a tiny minority of the population, their religion having been strongly discouraged by the Muslim government. The Persian population is engaged in a broad array of occupations, in both urban and rural settings. The traditional handwoven cloth and carpet industries for which they are known have remained strong, despite competition from mechanized textile mills. Persian villages often pride themselves on the unique designs and high quality of their carpets, most of which display the typical geometric figures and floral designs of Muslim visual art. Products of the weaving industry are both used locally and exported. The Persians are known for their intricately inlaid metalwork as well as for their legacy of extraordinary architecture. Finely decorated pre-Islamic structures still stand in several ancient cities, as do spectacular mosques and shrines from the Muslim era. A number of these buildings—including those at Persepolis and Chogha Zanbil—and their surroundings have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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