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The yellow sun with 21 rays. The number 21 holds great importance in the ancient religious practice of Yazdânism.
|Blessed persons in Yezidi faith|
|Yezidi holy scripture and worship|
|Blessed persons in Yâresân faith|
|Yâresân holy scripture and worship|
|History and culture|
Yazdânism is a neologism (derived from Kurdish yazdān "worthy of worship") introduced by Mehrdad Izady in 1992 to denote a group of native Kurdish monotheistic religions: Yazidi, Yâresân, and Chinarism/Ishikism (Ishik Alevism).
Izady states that the Yazdâni faiths were the primary religion of the inhabitants of the Zagros Mountains, including Kurds, until their progressive Islamization in the 10th century. The three traditions subsumed under the term Yazdânism are primarily practiced in relatively isolated communities, from Khurasan to Anatolia and southern Iran.
Izady supports this by referring to the title of one of the most original branches of Yazdanism, namely the Yezidi faith. Yazad is Iranic for angle, the plural of which being Yazdan. The paramount status of the holy Seven Angels in this religion is the source of the name for the religion of Yazdanism. But one of the few existing sources that mention the Yazdânis is the Dabestân-e Madâheb, which was written between 1645 and 1658. But according to this source, the Yazdânis, who were also called Sipâsîâns, were primarily Persians, as they are mentioned in the section regarding the "Parsian". The anonymous author of the source gives an account of their beliefs. It seems, therefore, that the term, at least in medieval times, was used for many other non-Islamic faiths whose ideologies revolved around angels and a luminous being.  And the fact that these Yazdânians existed at the same time as the Alevis, Ahl-e Haqq and the Yazidis, only fortifies this more general connotation of the term.
Yazdânism teaches the cyclic nature of the world with reincarnation of the deity and of people being a common feature, traversing incarnations of the soul of a man into human form or an animal or even a plant. There are seven cycles to the life of this universe. Six of these have already happened, while the seventh one is to yet unfold. In each cycle, there is a set of six reincarnated persons (one female, five male) who will herald the new cycle and preside over it (the seventh one in the set being the ever-lasting, the ever-present Almighty). The reincarnation of the deity could be in one of the three forms: a "reflection incarnation", a "guest incarnation", or the highest form, an "embodiment incarnation". Jesus, Ali and the three leaders of the three primary branches of Yazdânism are all embodiment incarnations, meaning Godhead actually born in a human body, not different from the Christian belief in the divine birth of Jesus as "God the Son."
The principal feature of Yazdânism is the belief in seven benevolent divine beings that defend the world from an equal number of malign entities. While this concept exist in its purest form in Yârsânism and Yazidism, it evolves into "seven saints"/spiritual persons, which are called "Yedi Ulu Ozan" in Chinarism (Ishik Alevism). Another important feature of the religions is a doctrine of reincarnation. The belief in reincarnation has been documented among the Nusayri (Shamsi Alawites) as well.
The Yazidis believe in a single God as creator of the world, which he has placed under the care of these seven "holy beings" or angels, the "chief" (archangel) of whom is Melek Taus, the "Peacock Angel." The Peacock Angel, as world-ruler, causes both good and bad to befall individuals, and this ambivalent character is reflected in myths of his own temporary fall from God's favor, before his remorseful tears extinguished the fires of his hellish prison and he was reconciled with God. This belief builds on Sufi mystical reflections on the angel Iblis, who proudly refused to violate monotheism by worshipping Adam and Eve despite God's express command to do so. Because of this connection to the Sufi Iblis tradition, some followers of other monotheistic religions of the region equate the Peacock Angel with their own unredeemed evil spirit Satan, which has incited centuries of persecution of the Yazidis as "devil worshippers." Persecution of Yazidis has continued in their home communities within the borders of modern Iraq, under both Saddam Hussein and fundamentalist Sunni Muslim revolutionaries. In August 2014 the Yazidis were targeted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS, in its campaign to "purify" Iraq and neighboring countries of non-Islamic influences.
Yazdânis do not maintain any of the requisite five pillars of Islam; nor do they have mosques or frequent them. The Quran to them is as respectable as is the Bible, and yet each denomination of this religion has its own scriptures that the adherents hold in a higher esteem than any one of the former or others.
From the Yarsani (sometimes also called Ahl-e Haqq or Yâresân) point of view, the universe is composed of two distinct yet interrelated worlds: the internal (batini) and the external (zahiri), each having its own order and rules. Although humans are only aware of the outer world, their lives are governed according to the rules of the inner world. Among other important pillars of their belief system are that the Divine Essence has successive manifestations in human form (mazhariyyat, derived from zahir) and the belief in transmigration of the soul (or dunaduni in Kurdish). The Yarsani do not observe Muslim rites and rituals.
The term haqq (as in Ahl-e Haqq) is often misrepresented and misinterpreted as the Arabic term for "Truth". Instead, its true meaning is clearly explained by the contemporary Avatar of the Spirit in the Yarsani branch of the religion - Nur Ali Elahi (died 1975) - as being "distinct from the Arabic term and in fact, should be written as "Hâq" ("Hâq-i wâqi'") instead of "Haqq" and should be understood to be different in meaning, connotation and essence."
There are also large communities of people of Yarsani in some regions of Iranian Azerbaijan. The town of Ilkhichi (İlxıçı), which is located 87 km south west of Tabriz is almost entirely populated by Yarsani. For political reasons, one of which was to create a distinct identity for these communities, they have not been called Goran Kurds since the early 20th century. They are called under the various names, such as Ali-Ilahis and Yarsani. Groups with similar beliefs also exist in Iranian Kurdistan. Interestingly, both the Dersim (Zazaki / Zaza) people and the Gorani, who are both considered to belong to the Hawramani branch of the North West Iranian languages, adhere to a form of "Kurdish Alawi faith" which resembles the religions of the Druze or Yazidi.
Yazidis, who have much in common with the followers of Ahl-e Haqq (in western Iran), state that the world created by God was at first a pearl. It remained in this very small and enclosed state for some time (often a magic number such as forty or forty thousand years) before being remade in its current state. During this period the Heptad were called into existence, God made a covenant with them and entrusted the world to them. Besides Tawûsê Melek, members of the Heptad (the Seven), who were called into existence by God at the beginning of all things, include Sheikh ‘Adī ibn Musāfir al-Umawī (Şêx Adî), his companion Şêx Hasan and a group known as the Four Mysteries: Shamsadin, Fakhradin, Sajadin and Naserdin.
The adherents of Chinarism/Ishikism (Ishik Alevism), Yârsânism and Yazidism are estimated to constitute about one-third of the Kurds. The main body of the followers of Chinarism/Ishikism, however, are the Anatolian Turkmens and Turks, while in Syria, Lebanon and Israel, they are Arabs. In Iran, the followers of the Yârsân can be as often the Azeris, Persians, and Mazandaranis as Kurds.
The adherents of these faiths were referred to as the Sabians of Harran (of Carrhae) in Maimonides Guide for the Perplexed. The Sabians are also mentioned in the Qur'an and in Bahá'í writings.
The distribution of these three beliefs follows geographic boundaries:
- The Ishik Alevis may be found in central and eastern Turkey and northwestern Syria.
- The Yârsâni or Ahl-e Haqq are located in the eastern (and northeastern) part of Iraq and in western Iran.
- The Yazidis come from the Turkish-Iraqi border region, and many of them reside in Armenia.
Mutual exchange and contacts between these branches are infrequent.
Recent attacks on Yazdanis
In 2014, the Islamic terrorists, ISIS unleashed a genocidal violence on the Yezidis of Syria and Iraq, killing thousands and causing the flight of hundreds of thousands in all directions. Mt. Sinjar Yezidis saw the brunt of this Islamic violence. The ISIS terrorists demanded immediate conversion to Islam--realizing the Yazdanis in general and Yezidis in particular are NOT Muslims--or face death. Most fled, some refused and were massacred.
Many Kurds insist that they are in fact Muslim, in spite of being classified as "Yazdanist" by Izady. But Izady, of course, does not suggest that the 'Muslim' Kurds are Yazdanis, rather that Yazdani Kurds are not Muslim, and would identify themselves as such only to avoid harm and discrimination. (Izady 1992, 172, passim)
The view on non-Islamic identity of the Yazdanis is shared by Mohammad Mokri, the well-known Kurdish folklorist and historian, who states this religion to be "less Islamic than Baha'ism", which had been emerged from Bábism as "a new non-Islamic religion".
Despite all these data and elements, the concept of Yazdanism as a distinct religion is disputed by Ziba Mir-Hosseini, evaluating Izady's work, states:
The most notable case is that of Izady (1992) who, in his eagerness to distance the Ahl-e Haqq from Islam and to give it a purely Kurdish pedigree, asserts their independence from Islam. He fails, however, to produce any evidence at all in support of his theory, and some of his assertions can only be called preposterous.
In defense of this, however, Mir-Hosseini provides no valid refutation of the statements by the avatars, Nematullah Jayhounabadi or Nur Ali Elahi, Mohammad Mokri or in fact Izady. Realizing how the Yazdanis have been faring in the hands of the ISIS in Iraq and other Muslims in Iran or Syria, it is unreasonable to expect fair treatment and scholarly evaluation of the Yazdanis by their non-Yazdani neighbors. From the Alawites in Syria to the Yezidis of Iraq and the Yarisan of Iran, the followers of Yazdanism are given to massacres, assassinations and imprisonment, simply because of their religion.
- Izady, Mehrdad R. (1992), The Kurds : a concise handbook, Washington & London: Taylor & Francis, pp. 170 passim, ISBN 0-8448-1727-9
- Azar Kayvan (1645–1658). "Dabestan-e Madaheb, section 1-2".
- Elahi, Nurali (1975), Buhan-i Haq (in Persian), Teheran, pp. anecdote 487
- Asatrian and Arakelova 2014, 26-29
- "Kurdish Society" by Martin Van Bruinessen, in The Kurds: A Contemporary Overview, ed. Philip G. Kreyenbroek, Stefan Sperl, Routledge, 17 Aug 2005, p. 29 "The Peacock Angel (Malak Tawus) whom they worship may be identified with Satan, but is to them not the lord of Evil as he is to Muslims and Christians."
- The Yezidis: The History of a Community, Culture and Religion, by Birgul Acikyildiz, I.B.Tauris, 30 Sep 2010, p. 2 "Muslim and Christian neighbors of the Yezidis in the Middle East consider the Peacock Angel as the embodiment of Satan and an evil, rebellious spirit."
- Berman, Russell (2014-08-08). "A Very Brief History of the Yazidi and What They're Up Against in Iraq". The Wire. Retrieved 2014-08-13.
- "Iraq crisis: who are the Yazidis and why is Isis hunting them?". The Guardian. August 8, 2014.
- The Devil worshippers, of Iraq. "The Devil worshippers of Iraq". The Telegraph. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
- "Who Are the Yazidi, and Why Is ISIS Targeting Them?".
- Elahi, Nurali (1975), Buhan-i Haq (in Persian), Teheran, pp. anecdote 1143
- Z. Mir-Hosseini, Inner Truth and Outer History: The Two Worlds of the Ahl-e Haqq of Kurdistan, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol.26, 1994, p.267-268
- Elahi, Nurali (1975), Buhan-i Haq (in Persian), Teheran, pp. anecdote 1098
- "a belief system of great antiquity that is fundamentally a non-Semitic religion, with an Aryan superstructure overlaying a religious foundation indigenous to the Zagros. To identify the Cult or any of its denominations as Islamic is simply a mistake born of a lack of knowledge of the religion, which pre-dates Islam by millennia." Izady, Mehrdad R. (1992), The Kurds : a concise handbook, Washington: Taylor & Francis, pp. 172 passim, ISBN 0-8448-1727-9
- See for example, Mir-Hosseini, Ziba (1992), "Kurdish costume", in Kreyenbroek, Philip G.; Allison, Christine, Kurdish culture and identity, London: Zed Books, ISBN 1-85649-330-X
- "A belief system of great antiquity that is fundamentally a non-Semitic religion, with an Aryan superstructure overlaying a religious foundation indigenous to the Zagros. To identify the Cult or any of its denominations as Islamic is simply a mistake born of a lack of knowledge of the religion, which pre-dates Islam by millennia." Mukri, Muhammad. (1966), L'Esotrérism kurde (2nd (20020 ed.), Paris, p. 92
- Kjeilen, Tore (2007), "Yazdanism", Encyclopaedia of the Orient, lexicorient.com