Poetic Dwelling of Jews in Persia

  March 12, 2022   Read time 2 min
Poetic Dwelling of Jews in Persia
It is interesting that the works of the Jewish poets of Bukhara were known by some Muslim scholars of their city.

Both Khwaja Bukhara'i and Yusuf Yahudi were mentioned in Muzakkir al-Ashab (The reminder of companions) written by Muhammad Badi b. Mawlana Muhammad Sharif Samarqandi.859 This demonstrates at least that in Bukhara Jewish and Muslim literary figures associated with each other, whereas in Iran at the same period we have no concrete proof that Muslim poets were interested in the poetry written by Jews.

Before closing this section, it is worth mentioning that, like Zoroastrians and dissident Iranians, there were Iranian Jews who migrated to India. One of them was the famous Jewish poet Sarmad, whose conversion to Islam has intrigued the scholars of Judeo-Persian. He was a successful merchant who while on a trade mission in India abandoned his possessions and became a dervish. He went to Delhi in 1654 during the reign of the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan (1627-1659).

He wrote many rubais (quatrains) in his new settlement. Amnon Netzer, unlike Fischel, believes that Sarmad should not be studied as a Jewish cultural figure as he had left Judaism. Asmussen says that he had not truly embraced Islam, and had his own concept of God and religion. He thus recited: I submit to Moses’s law, I am of thy religion, and the guardian of thy way. I am a Rabbi of the Yahuds, A Kafir (an infidel), a Muselman.

Seth is even more convinced of Sarmad’s non-adherence to Islam, and cites one of the verses he recited in front of Aurangzeb: O King of Kings, I am not a hermit like thee, I am not nude. I am frenzied, I am distracted, but I am not depressed. I am an idolater, I am an infidel, I am not of the people of faith, I go towards the mosque, but I am not a Muselman.

Sarmad’s knowledge of Judaism, as displayed in the Dabistan-i Mazhab (The School of Creeds), demonstrates that he was of Jewish background. As we will see later, this literary collection gathered many non-Muslim authors from Iran who had settled in India. The Iranian Armenians’ claim that Sarmad belonged to their community does not appear to be completely unfounded. It seems that he was an Iranian Armenian Jew. This would explain his involvement in the trade with India, which was dominated by Armenians and not by Iranian Jews.

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