Introduction / History
By definition, Persians (also known as Iranians) are an ethnic group native to Iran. The Persian language, called Farsi, is part of the Indo-Iranian language family, and is the official language of Iran. Dari, the language of the elite in Afghanistan, is a dialect of modern Farsi. Around 1000 B. C. , Persian groups began to settle in the territory that is now Iran. Loosely associated Persian tribes became a more cohesive political unit under the Achaemenian dynasty. Their unity soon made them the dominant ethnic group in the region. For 1,200 years, Persia maintained a culture that became increasingly more complex and rigid. This laid the foundation for a successful Arabian conquest of Persia in the seventh century AD. It was not until the Islamic revolution of 1979 that massive changes came both to Iran and to the Persian people. Although the vast majority of Persians now live either in Iran or in one of the nearby Central Asian or Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, small Persian communities might also live in many other nations around the world, especially in the West.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Iranians in Arab countries like Saudi Arabia are described as a hybrid society, not fully Persian and not fully Arab. The production of oil has also provided numerous jobs for the Persians in these Gulf countries. In fact, many of the Persians who live abroad work in the oil industry. Urban Persians might be craftsmen, shop owners, merchants, real estate investors, and other commercial and industrial businessmen. However, the relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia are almost always strained. This might easily affect the Persians in Saudi Arabia adversely. The basic social and economic unit in Persian culture is the nuclear family; however, some families join together to make larger units. Families are traditionally patriarchal, patrilineal and patrilocal. This means that their society is strictly male-dominated. The line of descent is traced through the father; property and inheritances are passed down through the males; and family and political rule belong to the men. Persian women are submissive to their husbands in public; however, they often hold a considerable amount of decision-making power in private. Men are guardians and defenders of the family honor and are responsible for protecting the chastity of their daughters and sisters. Persians prefer cross cousin marriages.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Prior to the Arab invasions, the Persian religion was Zoroastrianism. This religion taught that there was an eternal struggle between the forces of good and evil. Shia Islam became the national religion of Iran in the sixteenth century, at which time the ulama (clergy) began playing an important role in both the social and political lives of the people. Today, most Persians are Shia Muslims of the Ithna Ashari branch, and are radical in their adherence to Islamic laws and principles. Thanks to the excess of the Iranian government, a high percentage of Persians are secularized and tired of forced religion. The Lord is growing his Church in Iran, and many have come to faith in recent years. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be affecting Persians in other countries, including Saudi Arabia where there are probably no Persian followers of Christ at this time.
What Are Their Needs?
Persians need their spiritual eyes will be opened. Some are staunch Shia Muslims while others are secularized. They need believers to take the glory of Christ to them.
Pray for Persian believers from Iran to take Christ to Persians in other countries including Saudi Arabia. Pray for a spiritual hunger among the Persian diaspora that will result in a movement to Christ in Saudi Arabia. Pray for the Lord to show himself powerful and loving to the Persians in Saudi Arabia.
Scripture Prayers for the Persian in Saudi Arabia.