In Islamic Iran where clerics rule, unofficial “prayer sellers,” who promise to intercede with the divine to solve all manner of life’s problems, are seeing their business boom. Backstreet spiritual guides like YaAli are tolerated by the authorities and increasingly sought after by Iranians seeking help from on high.
“People from all walks of life — mostly young women — come here asking for prayers that can solve their problems,” says YaAli sitting on a chair in a crumbly old alley in Tehran. “There are lots of methods depending on the problems. Some prayers (written on a piece of paper) should be burned and some should be put in a bowl of water. You should follow the instructions.”
Iran’s clerics believe in the power of prayer but they advise people against using prayers that lack a religious basis. One customer said she believed a lack of government support for women was one reason so many turn to the “prayer sellers.” (Photo: “Prayer seller” YaAli talks to a customer in an alley in northern Tehran, 27 June 2010/Morteza Nikoubazl)