Introduction / History
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 Mussulman Tat still live in their rural ancestral villages among the mountains and valleys. The availability of well water determines the village location. Farmers living in the valleys raise wheat, barley, maize, and cattle. Those higher in the mountains raise sheep, bulls, and buffaloes.
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?
Islam is the official state religion of Iran. Nearly all of the Mussulman Tat are Shi'a (Shi'ite) Muslim and a small percentage are Sunni (orthodox) Muslim. Islam is a major world religion that is based on the teachings of Mohammed, the prophet. The Koran, or holy book of Islam, was said to have been given to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel.
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?
There has been little evangelization among the Mussulman Tat of Iran because they are such a small group within the Indo-European population. Plus, Iran is closed to Christian missionaries.
Very few of these needy people have ever heard a clear presentation of the Gospel.
* Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to break up the spiritual soil of Iran through worship and intercession.
* Pray that Christian radio broadcasts will be available to the Mussulman Tat.
* Pray that the doors of Iran will soon open to missionaries.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Mussulman Tat church for the glory of His name!