The Surprising Presence of Jesus in Persian Poetry

The Surprising Presence of Jesus in Persian Poetry

As a Christian woman growing up in Iran, I was always fascinated by the fact that the name of Jesus Christ was mentioned in many poems by famous classical poets in Persia. At school, we used to study many of them as part of our Persian literature class and memorize the poems to be recited in front of the whole class. We used to get excited and anxious as we practiced hard to be able to recite them as correctly as possible. Our literature textbooks were full of poems and literary works of the most well-known poets in the history of Persia (Iran). After so many years, I can still recite many of those poems from memory.

My country, Iran (Persia), is a land rich with culture and traditions that date back to thousands of years ago. An ancient civilization with a long history of art, literature, and, of course, poetry is rooted in the very existence of its being.

Many Persian poets are well-known to the Western world. Their poems and literary work have been studied and translated into English and other languages. Famous Persian poets include Rumi, Ferdowsi, Saadi Shirazi, Hafiz Shirazi, Attar Neishaboori, Nezami Ganjavi, Nasser Khosrow, and Omar Khayyam. Their influence on literature has traveled far beyond Iran.

There is a book written in Farsi called “Jesus Christ in the Literary Works of Persian Poets,” by Rev. Allahiar Mirzaei. Rev. Mirzaei is one of my beloved pastors/teachers from our church in Iran, and a faithful minister/servant of God. His genuine love for our Lord, Jesus Christ, and Persian poetry inspired him to spend many years gathering the poems in this book. Rev. Mirzaei is now 103 and living in British Columbia. My hope and prayer is that one day his book might be translated into English.

He gathers 280 poems by the best-loved poets such as Hafiz Shirazi, Saadi Shirazi, Ohadeddin Maraghi, Attar Neyshaboori, Shabestari, Shams Tabrizi, and the world-renowned poet Mullana (Rumi); each poem reflects upon different aspects of Jesus’ life. They write of the miracle of his birth from the Virgin Mary, his miracles of healing the sick and bringing the dead back to life, his crucifixion and most significantly, his resurrection from the dead. The steadfast love of Jesus Christ, his compassion, humility and simplicity in his earthly life, and above all, his life-giving "breath" and the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit are woven throughout these poems

It is meaningful for me to describe the influence of Christianity reflected in Persian poetry, how the love and ministry of Jesus Christ have profoundly influenced the work of many Persian poets who have lived in an Islamic country. The living and powerful Word of God has influenced many cultures and, by the work of the Holy Spirit, will continue to touch many more hearts in the future.

About the Author

Sylvie Charliekaram was born in Tehran, Iran. An elder at Willowdale CRC in Toronto, Sylvie is a senior manager at a non-profit called Working Women Community Centre, where she manages educational initiatives for newcomers to Canada. She is the co-founder of Spiritual Growth Ministry ministering to Farsi speakers in Toronto and beyond.

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