The Mussulman Tat of Azerbaijan
The Mussulman Tat of Azerbaijan live in the mountain valleys of the north and northeastern parts of the country along the Iranian border. A large number also live in the capital city of Baku. They are part of three distinct religious communities that fall into a category known as "tats." The three groups include the Jewish Tat (known as "mountain Jews"), the Christian Tat, and the Muslim Tat. The small group (about 22,000) of Mussulman Tat who live in Azerbaijan are part of the Muslim Tat. Most of the Tat groups live over the border in Iran.
The Turks originally coined the term "tats" to designate settled groups of non-Turkic origin. Both the Muslim Tat and the Mussulman Tat speak a native language known as Tati. Because no alphabet exists for Tati, they use Azeri (Azerbaijani) for their written and literary language. Depending on the area in which they live, the Tat speak other regional languages in addition to their own. There may be a Christian Tat dialect, but this cannot be confirmed.
What are their lives like?
The rural Mussulman Tat still live in their ancestral villages among the mountains and valleys. The availability of well water determines the village location. Each villages contains a mosque, a bath area, and a well, as well as family dwellings.
The Mussulman Tat in rural areas usually live in one- or two-story homes, which are constructed of rectangular-shaped natural stones cemented with clay mortar. The houses feature flat roofs and front porches supported by wooden pillars. Families living in two-story homes use the upper floor for living quarters and the lower floor for workspace.
Azerbaijan is an ethnically complex country where minority groups staunchly defend their traditional differences and struggle for local autonomy. The Tat are considered a closed society because they insist on maintaining ethnic purity by allowing marriage only within the tribe.
Although education is compulsory for children between the ages of six and eleven, many classroom facilities are inadequate. Classes are segregated by sex, and the major emphasis is on religion and traditional values.
What are their beliefs?
The Mussulman Tat adhere to the five essential "pillars" or duties in Islam: (1) A Muslim must affirm that "there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet." (2) Five times a day he must pray while facing Mecca. (3) He must give alms generously. (4) He must fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year. (5) He must try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca in his lifetime.
Most Muslims believe in the traditional form of marriage for life. However, some traditionalist Shi'ites still practice mutah, a form of temporary marriage that can be dissolved at any time stipulated in the premarital agreement.
What are their needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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