The Mussulman Tat of Iran
The Mussulman Tat live in northwestern Iran, in the mountain valleys along the Azerbaijani border. 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 Mussulman Tat are part of the Muslim Tat.
The Turks originally coined the term "tats" to designate settled groups of non-Turkic origin. The term now applies to a Caucasian group that speaks a southern dialect of the Iranian language. Both the Muslim Tat and the Mussulman Tat speak a native language known as Tati.
Because the Muslim Tat do not have an alphabet for their language, 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 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.
Iran 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 of the village 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.
Iran has strictly enforced the "Islamic code of conduct" since the 1979 revolution. This code states that men are the leaders and women care for the children and home. The government's persecution of Christians has increased dramatically since the revolution.
What are their needs?
Today, there are no known believers among Iranian Mussulman Tat. No missions groups are currently working among them and no Christian radio broadcasts are being aired in their language. The lack of a written language means that no Scriptures or other written evangelistic materials are available to the Tat. Very few of these needy people have ever heard a clear presentation of the Gospel.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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