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Melek Taus (Arabic: مَلَك طَاوُوس), translated in English as Peacock Angel is the Yazidi name for the central figure of Yazidi religion. In Yazidi creation stories, God created the world and entrusted it to the care of a Heptad of seven Holy Beings, often known as Angels or heft sirr (the Seven Mysteries). Preeminent among them is Tawûsê Melek (frequently known as "Melek Taus" in English publications), the Peacock Angel.
Like many aspects of the secretive Yazidi religion, Tawûsê Melek is subject to varied and ambiguous interpretations. The Yazidi Book of Revelation (Ketēbā Jelwa), an early twentieth-century text written by non-Yazidis but based on Yazidi oral tradition, is purported to contain the words of Tawûsê Melek; it states that he allocates responsibilities, blessings and misfortunes upon humanity as he sees fit and that it is not for the race of Adam to question his choices.
Since the late 16th century, Muslims have accused Yazidis of devil worship due to the similarity between the Quranic story of Shaitan and the account of Tawûsê Melek's refusal to bow to Adam. Whereas Muslims revile Shaitan for refusing to submit to God and bow to Adam, believing that his defiance caused him to fall from God's grace, Yazidis revere Tawûsê Melek for his independence. Accusations of devil worship fueled centuries of violent persecution, which have led Yazidi communities to concentrate in remote mountainous regions of northwestern Iraq. The Yazidi taboo against the Arabic word Shaitan (الشیطان) and on words containing the consonants š (sh) and t/ṭ have been used to suggest a connection between this Tawûsê Melek and Shaitan, although no evidence exists to suggest Yazidis worship Tawûsê Melek as the same figure.
The Yazidi consider Tawûsê Melek an emanation of God and a good, benevolent angel who has redeemed himself from his fall and has become a demiurge who created the cosmos from the Cosmic egg. After he repented, he wept for 7,000 years, his tears filling seven jars, which then quenched the fires of hell. Yazidis believe Tawûsê Melek is not a source of evil or wickedness. They consider him to be the leader of the archangels, not a still fallen or still disgraced angel, but a forgiven one and an emanation of God himself. They also hold that the source of evil is in the heart and spirit of humans themselves, not in Tawûsê Melek. Yazidis believe that good and evil both exist in the mind and spirit of human beings. It depends on the humans, themselves, as to which they choose. In this process, their devotion to Tawûsê Melek is essential, since it was he who was given the same choice between good and evil by God, and chose the good.
Tawûsê Melek is sometimes transliterated Malak Ta'us, Malak Tawus, Malak Tawwus or Malik Taws. Melek was borrowed from the Arabic term "king" or "angel". Tawûs is uncontroversially translated "peacock"; in art and sculpture, Tawûsê Melek is depicted as peacock. However, peacocks are not native to the lands where Tawûsê Melek is worshipped. Among early Christians, the peacock represented immortality on account of the folk belief that its flesh does not decay after death, and this symbolism has passed into Yazidi beliefs. Consequently, peacock imagery adorns Yazidi shrines, gateways, graves, and houses of worship.
The Kitêba Cilwe "Book of Illumination", which claims to be the words of Tawûsê Melek, states that he allocates responsibilities, blessings and misfortunes as he sees fit and that it is not for the race of Adam to question him. Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir believed that the spirit of Tawûsê Melek is the same as his own, perhaps as a reincarnation. He is believed to have said:
I was present when Adam was living in Paradise, and also when Nemrud threw Abraham in fire. I was present when God said to me: 'You are the ruler and Lord on the Earth'. God, the compassionate, gave me seven earths and throne of the heaven.
Yazidi accounts of creation differ from that of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They believe that God first created Tawûsê Melek from his own illumination (Ronahî) and the other six archangels were created later. God ordered Tawûsê Melek not to bow to other beings. Then God created the other archangels and ordered them to bring him dust (Ax) from the Earth (Erd) and build the body of Adam. Then God gave life to Adam from his own breath and instructed all archangels to bow to Adam. The archangels obeyed except for Tawûsê Melek. In answer to God, Tawûsê Melek replied,
"How can I submit to another being! I am from your illumination while Adam is made of dust."
Then God praised him and made him the leader of all angels and his deputy on the Earth. (This likely furthers what some see as a connection to the Islamic Shaitan, as according to the Quran he too refused to bow to Adam at God's command, though in this case it is seen as being a sign of Shaitan's sinful pride.) Hence the Yazidis believe that Tawûsê Melek is the representative of God on the face of the Earth, and comes down to the Earth on the first Wednesday of Nisan (April). Yazidis hold that God created Tawûsê Melek on this day, and celebrate it as New Year's Day. Yazidis argue that the order to bow to Adam was only a test for Tawûsê Melek, since if God commands anything then it must happen. (Bibe, dibe). In other words, God could have made him submit to Adam, but gave Tawûsê Melek the choice as a test. They believe that their respect and praise for Tawûsê Melek is a way to acknowledge his majestic and sublime nature. This idea is called "Knowledge of the Sublime" (Zanista Ciwaniyê). Sheikh Adî has observed the story of Tawûsê Melek and believed in him.
"Neither is it permitted to us to pronounce the name of Shaitan because it is the name of our God, nor any name resembling this, such as Kitan, Sharr, Shatt; nor any vocable resembling mal'un, [cursed one], na'l, or the like".
- Encyclopaedia Iranica:Yazidis
- "Who Are the Yazidis, the Ancient, Persecuted Religious Minority Struggling to Survive in Iraq?". National Geographic. August 9, 2014. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
- Islam: Satan, sin, and repentance at Encyclopædia Britannica
- Kjeilen, Tore. "Yazidism". Encyclopaedia. LookLex. Retrieved 2008-03-31. "...there is little suggesting that the Yazidis worship Malak Ta'us as if he were equal to the Koran's or the Bible's devil. The Yazidis have never been regarded as Ahlu l-Kitab, people of the book, and they have suffered much hardship from their Muslim neighbours."
- Who, What, Why: Who are the Yazidis? at BBC World News
- "Yezidi Reformer: Sheikh Adi". The Truth about the Yezidis. YezidiTruth.org, A Humanitarian Organization, Sedona, Arizona.