DĀNĪĀL-E NABĪ, the Old Testament prophet Daniel, in the Persian tradition.

i. In the biblical and popular traditions.

ii. In Sogdian literature.

iii. The tomb of Dānīāl.

iv. Dānīāl-nāma.

i. In the Biblical and Popular Traditions

The twenty-second book of the Hebrew Bible bears the name of the prophet Daniel (DNYʾL, lit., “God has judged”). It consists of twelve chapters written partly in Hebrew and partly in Aramaic. Daniel probably prophesied in the decade 545-35 b.c.e., but the final version of the book was revised and edited later (see below). The book may be divided into two parts. The first encompasses chapters 1-6, containing the story of Daniel, his three friends (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah), and their interaction with the Babylonian “kings” Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 b.c.e.) and Belshazzar (d. ca. 539 b.c.e.) and Darius the Mede (cf. Ṭabarī, I, pp. 647, 652-54, 665-68, 717). The historicity of some of the events narrated in this part is questionable. For example, in critical histories of the period “Darius the Mede” is not mentioned; further­more, Belshazzar the son of Nabonidus was never king of Babylon. This part of the text was probably revised and edited in the years 305-04 b.c.e. The second part consists of chapters 7-12, in which the apocalyptic revelations received by Daniel are described. The final version was apparently revised and edited in 167­-64 b.c.e., being completed immediately after the death of the Seleucid Antiochus IV (q.v.) in 164 (for the chronology, see, e.g., Rowley). Scholars have thus claimed more than one author for the book, the only one in the Hebrew Bible in which the idea of the resurrection of the dead is clearly stated (12:2-3). Four additional stories connected with Daniel, included in the Apocrypha, were annexed to the Septuagint: the story of Susanna, the prayers of Daniel’s friends, and two stories of Bel. Different versions of both the canonical and apocryphal books of Daniel are known in Armenian, Coptic, Greek, and Slavonic languages.

Dānīāl is not mentioned in the Koran but is venerated as a prophet in Muslim tradition. Eschatological statements and the prophecy recounted in Daniel 12:12 (supposedly concerning the year 1335) have been interpreted by Jews as referring to the coming of the Messiah (Bīrūnī, Āṯār, pp. 15-17). According to the Ardašīr-nāma of the 14th-century Judeo-Per­sian poet Šāhīn Šīrāzī, Dānīāl was an important func­tionary at the court of “Ardashir/Bahman” and, with Esther and Mordecai, instrumental in averting catastrophe for the Jews of the Persian empire (Ben Zvi Institute, Jerusalem, ms. no. 980, fols. 39b-42a).

According to Jerahmeel (pp. 74, 223-44), Daniel was born in Shushan (Susa); Josephus connected him with the city of Ecbatana in Media (Antiquitates 10.11.7). In the Muslim tradition, which is shared by the Jews of Persia, Dānīāl is said to have been buried between Šūštar and Dezfūl (see iii, below), close to the river Šāvūr), an affluent of the Kārūn, the latter sup­posedly to be identified as the biblical river Ulai (Daniel 8:2). Benjamin of Tudela, who visited the city of Šūš in about 562/1167, gave the following account (pp. 52-53): “In front of one of the synagogues is the sepulchre of Daniel of blessed memory. The river Tigris (Shavur) divides the city, and the bridge connects the two parts. On the one side where the Jews dwell is the sepulchre of Daniel. Here the market­places used to be, containing great stores of merchan­dise, by which the Jews became enriched. On the other side of the bridge they were poor, because they had no market-places nor merchants there, only gardens and plantations. And they became jealous, and said: "All this prosperity enjoyed by those on the other side is due to the merits of Daniel the prophet who lies buried there." Then the poor people asked those who dwelt on the other side to place the sepulchre of Daniel in their midst, but the others would not comply. So war prevailed between them for many days, and no one went forth or came in on account of the great strife between them. At length both parties growing tired of this state of things took a wise view of the matter, and made a compact, namely the coffin of Daniel be taken for one year to the one side and for another year to the other side. This they did, and both sides became rich.” Benjamin went on to report that the Saljuq sultan Sanjar (511-52/1118-57) had placed Daniel’s wooden coffin inside a crystal coffin and suspended it from the middle of the bridge by an iron chain. He forbade fishing within a mile of the coffin. The 14th-century author Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfī (Nozhat al-qolūb, ed. Le Strange, p. 109), who described the city of 809 as a flourishing place, located the tomb of the prophet Dānīāl west of the city and added that, in the prophet’s honor, none of the fish in the river was ever molested by men. According to one popular Muslim tradition, it was ʿUmar b. al-Ḵaṭṭāb, the second caliph (13­23/634-44), who ordered Mūsā Ašʿarī to bury Dānīāl’s body in the bed of the river (Mojmal, ed. Bahār, pp. 426ff.; Yāqūt, Boldān III, p. 189).

In the rabbinical sources, however, it was maintained that Daniel died in the Holy Land of Israel (Midrash Rabba, commentary on Song of Songs 5:5; Babylonian Talmud, “Sanhedrin,” 93b; for modern testimony about the tomb, see Dieulafoy, pp. 660-632; Layard, pp. 175, 352-54; Emimi, pp. 427-28). In Israel and in Iraq there are several tombs locally identified as belonging to Nabī Dānīāl (see Vilnaʾi, p. 1737). According to another popular tradition, Dānīāl’s three friends (see above) are buried in the Masjed-a anbiyāʾ in Qazvīn.



E. N. Adler, Jew in Many Lands, Philadelphia, 1905,p. 224.

Benjamin of Tudela, The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, ed. and tr. M. N. Adler, London, 1907.

Dehḵodā, s.v. Dānīāl. J. Dieulafoy, La Perse, la Chaldée et la Susiane, Paris, 1887.

N. Emāmi, “Esrāʾīlīyāt wa asāṭir-e Īrān,” Našrīya-ye Dāneškāda-ye adabīyāt wa ʿolūm-e Tabrīz 26 (1353 Š./1974), pp. 427-28.

L. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, 7 vols. Philadelphia, 1946-47.

B. Heller, “Récits et personnages bibliques dans la légende mahométane,” Revue des études juives 85, 1928, pp. 134-36.

Ebn al-Balḵī, Fārs-nāma, ed. ʿA.­N. Behrūzī, Shiraz, 1343 Š./1964, pp. 62-63.

M. Gaster, ed. and tr., The Chronicles of Jerahmeel, London, 1899; repr. New York, 1971.

Y. Kumlush, “Daniel,” Encyclopaedia Hebraica XII, Jerusalem, 1969, pp. 867-74 (in Hebrew).

H. Layard, Early Adventures in Persia, Susiana, and Babylonia, Lon­don, 1894.

A. Netzer, “Rastāḵiz-e Abu ʿIsā Eṣfahāni,” Rahāvard 8/30, 1371 Š./1992, pp. 32-38, esp. p. 34.

H. H. Rowley, Darius the Mede and the Four World Empires in the Book of Daniel, Cardiff, 1935.

M. Schreiner, “Beiträge zur Geschichte der theologischen Bewegungen im Islâm,” ZDMG 58, 1899, pp. 58-59.

G. Vajda, “Dāniyāl,” EI2II, pp. 112-13.

Z. Vilnaʾi, “Daniel,” in Encyclopaedia le-yediʿat eretz yisrael (A geographical encyclopedia of the land of Israel; in Hebrew), Tel-Aviv, 1974, pp. 1736-37.

(Amnon Netzer)


ii. In Sogdian Literature

Part of the story of Daniel survives in a fragmentary Sogdian version. It was presumably translated from Syriac, but the original has not been identified. The Sogdian text is known from one complete folio (published in Müller and Lentz, pp. 532-34) and from two unpublished fragments, both of which probably be­long to the immediately preceding folio. The Sogdian is not a translation of the text of the Bible but a free retelling of the biblical narrative. The surviving text contains three episodes, of which the first two—­Daniel’s refusal to eat food and drink wine from the royal table (cf. Daniel 1:8-16) and his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the image with feet of clay (cf. Daniel 2)—seem to follow the biblical accounts quite faithfully though in abbreviated form. In the third episode Daniel persuades King Belshazzar (here unnamed but identified as the son of Nebuchadnezzar; cf. Daniel 5; see i, above) to overthrow the idol Bel, leading to protests by the inhabitants of the city (i.e., Babylon). At this point the text breaks off. This episode appears to be a conflation of the two stories of Bel and of the snake, as found in one of the apocryphal additions to the book of Daniel, where, however, the king is named as “Cyrus the Persian” both in the standard Greek text of Theodotion (Ziegler, pp. 215­23) and in its Syriac translation (Lagarde, pp. 129-32). This Sogdian text forms part of the manuscript C22 found at Bulayïq, which is in the Turfan collec­tion in the Staatsbibliothek, Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Orientabteilung. Another folio from this manuscript (unpublished but mentioned by Hansen, p. 98 top) contains admonitions on the proper manner of observing a fast, and it is possible that the fragments concerning Daniel belong to the same text, the prophet being cited as an example of one who received divine favor as a result of his abstinence (cf. the first of the three episodes referred to above).



O. Hansen, “Die christliche Literatur der Sogdier,” in HO I/IV, 2/1, 1968, pp. 91-99.

P. A. de Lagarde, Libri Veteris Testamenti Apocryphi Syriace, Leipzig and London, 1861.

F. W. K. Müller and W. Lentz, Soghdische Texte II, SPAW, phil.­-hist. Kl., 1934/21.

J. Ziegler, Septuaginta, Vetus Testamentum Graecum 16/2, Göttingen, 1954.

(Nicholas Sims-Williams)


iii. The Tomb of Dānīāl

A domed shrine located on the banks of the Karḵā river in Šūš, Ḵūzestān, is, according to tradition, the tomb of the prophet Dānīāl (Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, ed. Minorsky, p. 131; Eṣṭaḵrī, p. 92; Ebn Ḥawqal, p. 255; Moqaddasī, p. 407; Mojmal, ed. Bahār, p. 444).

In 1287/1869 the medieval tomb, probably built in the 12th century (Herzfeld, p. 36 and fig. 69; see i, above), was destroyed by a flood, and the current dome was built in its place. Other units were subsequently added to the central core, and the buildings have been redecorated. According to the description by Sir Wil­liam Ouseley, who visited the building in 1816, the previous dome had been of the conical moqarnas (consisting of oversailing courses of dome segments; locally called zīnaʾī, lit. “staircase”) type. According to Sir Mark Aurel Stein (p. 141), who visited it in the 20th century, it was “a great place of pilgrimage for the Lūrs . . ., devoid of any relic of antiquity.”

The reconstructed tomb is a brick-domed structure with its entrance on the east (Plate LXII). The crypt, measuring 7 x 3 x 1.80 m, is located beneath the domed chamber; it houses a grave with no inscriptions. Two halls, on the north and south sides of the crypt respec­tively, lead to two stairways with lanterns at the top. The south hall gives access to the river. The domed chamber is 7 m2, with ayvāns opening on the north, east, and south. The north and south ayvāns are prayer halls, whereas the east ayvān functions as an antechamber. The dome is similar in construction to other mausoleums in Ḵūzestān, which rest on regular polygonal (in this instance octagonal) or star-shaped drums. In plan each of the twenty-five courses is a section of a prism spanning an area smaller than that spanned by the course below. On the exterior the dome is coated with white plaster, and the lateral faces of each course are slightly concave, in order to enliven the surface through the play of light and shadow. The portal is flanked by two semicircular engaged piers supporting short towers used as minarets. Both piers and towers are faced with tile mosaic.

On the interior the spandrels of the openings to the ayvāns are also faced with tile mosaic. The walls of the domed chamber itself are decorated with carved stucco, and both the dome and its moqarnas squinches are faced with mirrorwork (see Āīna Kārī). A row of windows around the base of the dome enhances the effect of light and space in the interior.

In many comparable mausoleums in the region, for example, Šīr-mard in Mamasaī, Mīr Moḥammad in Ḵārk, Emāmzāda Jaʿfar in Borūjerd, and Emāmzāda ʿAbd-Allāh in Šūštar, the sepulchers are not located beneath the domed chambers.



J. Dieulafoy, La Perse, la Chaldée et la Susiane, Paris, 1887, pp. 661-62.

A. Eqtedārī, Āṯār-e šahrhā-ye bāstānī-e sawāḥel wa jazāyer-e Ḵalīj-e Fārs, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969.

Idem, Dīār-e šahrīārān I, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974.

E. Herzfeld, “Damascus. Studies in Architecture I,” Ars Islamica 9, 1942, pp. 1-53.

W. Ouseley, Travels in Various Countries of the East, More Particularly Persia, 3 vols., London, 1819.

M. A. Stein, Old Routes of Western Iran, London, 1940.

(Parvīz Varjāvand)


iv. Dānīāl-Nāma

The Dānīāl-nāma is a 17th-century Judeo-Persian versification by “Ḵᵛāja Boḵārāʾī” of the main part of the Book of Daniel in the form of a maṯnawī of eighty-eight chapters in 2,175 distichs in the meter hazaj-e mosaddas-e maḥḏūf (v - - -/ v - - -/ v - -). Only one complete manuscript of the work is known (British Library, London, ms. no. Or. 4743). A fragment containing the first 234 distichs was recently discovered in the library of Hebrew University in Jerusalem (ms. no. H2680); it was copied in 1913 in the city of Oš in Central Asia.

The author followed the epic and mystical conven­tions of classical Persian literature established in Judeo-­Persian by the poet Šāhīn Šīrāzī at the beginning of the 14th century. Ḵᵛāja Boḵārāʾī was apparently the title by which he was known to his community. Rubin Levy and Walter Fischel ascribed the work to Amīnā Kāšānī on the basis of a reference to him in the last chapter (Or. 4743, fol. 65 l. 56) and an incorrect reading of the title of the first chapter (fol. 2b): Az gofta-ye baḵ[w]āja boḵārāʾī (composed by Ḵᵛāja of Bukhara). The first syllable of baḵ[w]āja (BḴ[W]JH) is not the preposition be, as assumed by Levy and Fischel, but part of the name and a title well known to Persian-speaking Jews; it generally means “grandfa­ther.” In addition, the reference to Amīnā is to his minor editing (dast-kārī) of the poem.

The Dānīāl-nāma, composed in 1606 c.e. (1918 Seleucid), was edited by Amīnā (b. 1672/3) in 1704 c.e. (2016 Seleucid; fol. 65b ll. 51, 56). It may be inferred from the text that Ḵᵛāja Boḵārāʾī had written other works, but no additional information about him or them is available. If he was indeed from Bukhara, and there is some linguistic support for this assump­tion, the Dānīāl-nāma must be one of the first literary works composed in Judeo-Persian in Central Asia.

The Dānīāl-nāma is an apocalyptic work, which was presumably influenced by such apocryphal and pseudoepigraphic works as The Song of the Three Children, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon and by unknown midrashic sources. The narrative about Cyrus the Great and Darius “king of Iraq” does not correspond to historical reality, The poet made reference to biblical and rabbinic literature and also mentioned the well-known Jewish philosopher and rabbi Saʿdīya ben Joseph (d. 942), the interpreter of the Bible Rabbi David Kimchi of France (d. 1235), Ferdowsī, and Šāhīn.



W. Fischel, “Israel in Iran,” in L. Finkelstein, ed., The Jews. Their History and Reli­gion, New York, 1960, pp. 817-57.

R. Levy, “Danial-­Nama. A Judaeo-Persian Apocalypse,” in S. Baron and A. Marx, eds., Jewish Studies in Memory of George A. Kohut, New York, 1935, pp. 423-28.

A. Netzer, “A Study of Kh(w)āje Bokhārāʾī’s Dāniyāl-­Nāme,” Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, New York, 1969.

Idem, “Dāniyāl-nāme. An Expositon of Judeo­-Persian,” in G. L. Tikku, ed., Islam and Its Cultural Divergence, Urbana, Ill., 1971, pp. 145-64.

Idem, “Dāniyāl-nāma and Its Linguistic Features,” Israel Oriental Studies 2, 1972, pp. 305-14.

Idem, Montaḵab-e ašʿār-e fārsī az āṯār-e Yahūdīān-e Īrān, Tehran, 1352 Š./1973, pp. 261-97.

(Amnon Netzer)


Plate LXII. The tomb of Dānīāl at Šūš, viewed from the east. Photograph courtesy Mīrāṯ-e farhangī-e Irān.

(Amnon Netzer, Nicholas Sims-Williams, Parvīz Varjāvand, Amnon Netzer)

Originally Published: December 15, 1993

Last Updated: November 14, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 6, pp. 657-660