Tawûsî Melek

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Tawûsî Melek
Ruler of the World, Head of the Archangels
Member of the Heptad
Ezidi shrine of Sharaf al-Deen nestled into the Shingal mountains near Sinune village 06.jpg
Peacock statue on Sharfadin Temple in Sinjar, Iraq
Other namesMelek Tawûs, Tawûsî Mêran
Venerated inYazidism and Yarsanism
SymbolsPeacock, Rainbow, Sencaq
Ethnic groupKurds (Yazidis and Yarsanis)[2]
Melek Taûs, the Peacock Angel

Tawûsî Melek (Kurdish: تاوسی مەلەک, romanized: Tawisi Malak),[3][4][5][6] also spelled Melekê Tawûs and Tawûsê Melek, translated in English as Peacock Angel, is one of the central figures of the Yazidi religion.[7][3] In Yazidi creation stories, before the creation of this world, God created seven Divine Beings, of whom Tawûsî Melek was appointed as the leader. God assigned all of the world's affairs to these seven Divine Beings, also often referred to as the Seven Angels or heft sirr ("the Seven Mysteries").[7][8][9][10]

In Yazidi beliefs, there is one God, who created Seven Divine beings, the leader of whom is Tawûsî Melek, the Lord of this World, who is responsible for all that happens on this world, both good and bad.[11] According to religious tradition, the nature, with its phenomena of light and darkness, is from one source, which is the Lord of this World, Tawûsî Melek. Qewl passages emphasize Tawûsî Melek's power on the earth, in the sky, sea, on the mountains, and their residents, that is, his power exists in all parts of nature, whether celestial or terrestrial.[12]

Religious significance[edit]

Melek Taûs, the Peacock Angel. This emblem features Tawûsî Melek in the center, the Sumerian diĝir on the left, and the domes above Sheikh 'Adī's tomb on the right.
Tawûsî Melek depicted as a peacock inside the display case on the grave of a Yazidi believer, cemetery of the Yazidi community in Hannover.
Quba Mere Diwane is the largest temple of the Yazidis in the world, located in the Armenian village of Aknalich. The temple is dedicated to Melek Taûs and the Seven Angels of Yazidi theology.

The Yazidis consider Tawûsî Melek an emanation of God who is a good, benevolent angel and leader of the archangels, who was entrusted to take care of the world after he passed a test and created the cosmos from the Cosmic egg.[13] Yazidis believe that Tawûsî Melek is not a source of evil or wickedness.[7][8][9] They consider him to be the leader of the archangels, not a fallen nor a disgraced angel, but an emanation of God himself.[7][8][9] The Yazidis believe that the founder or reformer of their religion, Sheikh Adi Ibn Musafir, was an incarnation of Tawûsî Melek.

In Yazidi religious folk beliefs, Tawûsî Melek is described as eternal and an eternal light (Tawûsî Melek herhey ye û nûra baqî ye), and in Yazidi mythology, when Tawûsî Melek descended to earth, the seven colours of the rainbow transformed into a seven-coloured bird, the peacock, which flied around every part of earth to bless it, and its last resort was in Lalish. Hence, in Yazidi mythology, the rainbow is linked with Tawûsî Melek and it is believed that he shows his blessing with the sign of rainbow.[12]

Tawûsî Melek is sometimes transliterated Tawusi Malek, Malak Taûs, Malak Tāwūs, Malak Tawwus, or Malik Taws. Melek was borrowed from the Arabic term meaning "king" or "angel", while Tawûs is uncontroversially translated as "peacock" (in art and sculpture, Tawûsî Melek is almost always depicted as a peacock). However, peacocks are not native to the lands where Tawûsî Melek is worshipped. Among early Christians, the peacock represented immortality because of a folk belief that its flesh does not decay after death.[14] Consequently, peacock imagery adorns Yazidi shrines, gateways, graves, and houses of worship.

Yazidi accounts of the creation differ significantly from those of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), since they are derived from the Ancient Mesopotamian and Indo-Iranian traditions; therefore, Yazidi cosmogony is closer to those of Ancient Iranian religions, Yarsanism, and Zoroastrianism.[15][16] Yazidi people believe that God first created Tawûsî Melek from his own illumination (Ronahî) and the other six archangels were created later. God ordered Tawûsî 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 Tawûsî Melek. In answer to God, Tawûsî 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.

Hence, the Yazidis believe that Tawûsî 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 Tawûsî 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 Tawûsî 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 Tawûsî Melek the choice as a test. They believe that their respect and praise for Tawûsî Melek is a way to acknowledge his majestic and sublime nature. This idea is called Zanista Ciwaniyê (Knowledge of the Sublime). Sheikh Adî observed the story of Tawûsî Melek and believed in him.[17]

In Yarsanism[edit]

In Yarsanism, a religion that shares many similarities with Yazidism dating back to pre-Islam,[18][19] there is also a figure referred to as Malak Tawus, whose identification is tied to the names of angels during various dowres (cycles), which denotes range of concepts. Malak Tawus is believed to be "pure and without sin, above and free of any bad actions, obedient and devoted to God and consisting of light." According to Yarsani doctrine, during the dowre of Shari'at, in which one is being guided by Islamic Law, Malak Tawus was labelled as Sheytan, whereas in the dowre of Haqiqat (Truth), Malak Tawus is called Dawud, who is one of the seven holy Beings in Yarsanism that are referred to as the Haft Tan.[20]

The term dowre may refer to a period of time that started with the Essences (zāt) of the Divine and of members of the two Heptads manifesting or incarnating themselves as humans. It also refers to a stage in humanity's religious development. The first and initial dowre was the stage of Shari'at, where the Islamic Law was or is in charge and guiding everyone. This dowre is believed to have begun at creation and concluded with Muhammed, the Truth (Haqiqat) is thought to have existed during this stage, but had not yet been perceived. Following the dowre of Shari'at were the intermediate dowres of Tariqat, i.e the 'Path' of a mystical Order, and Ma'refat, i.e Esoteric Knowledge. The former was marked by the development of mystical brotherhoods that allowed people to start learning about esoteric truth. These stages were succeeded by the present dowre of Haqiqat, which is marked by Sultan Sahak's arrival. The dowre of Haqiqat is the phase of development in which the advanced mystic fully has perceived the esoteric Truth. Yarsanis are thought to be living in this dowre, however, the same is not true for all humans, and most outsiders are still believed to remain in the dowre of Shari'at or the intermediate dowres of Tariqat and Ma'refat.[20]

Accusations of alleged devil-worship[edit]

In the Yazidi myth of creation, Tawûsî Melek refused to bow before Adam, the first human, when God ordered the Seven Angels to do so.[7][8][9] The command was actually a test, meant to determine which of these angels was most loyal to God by not prostrating themselves to someone other than their creator.[7][9][21] This belief has been linked by some people to the Islamic mythological narrative on Iblis, who also refused to prostrate to Adam, despite God's express command to do so.[7][8][9] Because of this similarity to the Islamic tradition of Iblis, Muslims and followers of other Abrahamic religions have erroneously associated and identified the Peacock Angel with their own conception of the unredeemed evil spirit Satan,[7][8][9][22]: 29 [23] a misconception which has incited centuries of violent religious persecution of the Yazidis as "devil-worshippers".[8][9][7][24][25] Persecution of Yazidis has continued in their home communities within the borders of modern Iraq.[8][9][26]

Since the late 16th century,[27] Muslims have accused Yazidis of devil-worship due to the similarity between the Islamic mythological narrative on Iblis and the account of Tawûsî Melek's refusal to bow to Adam.[7][8][9] Whereas Muslims revile Iblis for refusing to submit to God and bow to Adam, believing that his defiance caused him to fall from God's grace,[28] Yazidis revere Tawûsî Melek for loyalty towards God and believe that God's command to Tawûsî Melek was a test to see who is truly devoted to God alone.[7][8][9] This narrative led to many misinterpretations, also made by Western scholars, who interpreted the Yazidi faith through their own cultural influences.[8][29] Further accusations derived from narratives attributed to Melek Taûs, which are actually foreign to Yazidism, probably introduced by either Muslims in the 9th century or Christian missionaries in the 20th century.[30] Accusations of devil-worship fueled centuries of violent religious persecution, which have led Yazidi communities to concentrate in remote mountainous regions of northwestern Iraq.[7][8][9][27] The Yazidi taboo against the Arabic word Shaitan (الشیطان) and on words containing the consonants š (sh) and t/ have been used to suggest a connection between Tawûsî Melek and Iblis,[2] although no evidence exists to suggest that Yazidis worship Tawûsî Melek as the same figure.[31]

Yazidis, however, believe Tawûsî Melek is not a source of evil or wickedness.[7][8][9] They consider him to be the leader of the archangels, not a fallen angel.[7][9][22][23] Yazidis argue that the order to bow to Adam was only a test for Tawûsî Melek, since if God commands anything then it must happen. In other words, God could have made him submit to Adam, but gave Tawûsî Melek the choice as a test: God had directed him not to bow to any other being, and his refusal of the later order to bow to Adam was thus obedience to God's original command.[21] In Mishefa Resh, Tawûsî Melek is equated with Ezrayil or Ezazil.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Leezenberg, Michiel (2021). "Religion in Kurdistan". 19 - Religion in Kurdistan. pp. 477–505. doi:10.1017/9781108623711.020. ISBN 9781108623711. S2CID 235526110. Retrieved 13 June 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Yazidis". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Sembolîzma teyran di Êzîdîtiyê de (1)" (in Kurdish). Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  4. ^ a b Omarkhali, Khanna (2017). The Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition : From Oral to Written Categories, Transmission, Scripturalisation and Canonisation of the Yezidi Oral Religious Texts. Harrassowitz. ISBN 978-3-447-10856-0. OCLC 1329211153.
  5. ^ Aysif, Rezan Shivan (2021). The Role of Nature in Yezidism: Poetic Texts and Living Tradition. Göttingen: Göttingen University Press. doi:10.17875/gup2021-1855. ISBN 978-3-86395-514-4.
  6. ^ "مەھدى حەسەن:جەژنا سەر سالێ‌ دمیتۆلۆژیا ئێزدیان دا". 2021-04-13. Retrieved 2022-11-18.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Asatrian, Garnik S.; Arakelova, Victoria (January 2003). Asatrian, Garnik S. (ed.). "Malak-Tāwūs: The Peacock Angel of the Yezidis". Iran and the Caucasus. Leiden: Brill Publishers in collaboration with the Caucasian Centre for Iranian Studies (Yerevan). 7 (1–2): 1–36. doi:10.1163/157338403X00015. eISSN 1573-384X. ISSN 1609-8498. JSTOR 4030968. LCCN 2001227055. OCLC 233145721.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Allison, Christine (25 January 2017). "The Yazidis". Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.013.254. ISBN 9780199340378. Archived from the original on 11 March 2019. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Asatrian, Garnik S.; Arakelova, Victoria (2014). "Part I: The One God - Malak-Tāwūs: The Leader of the Triad". The Religion of the Peacock Angel: The Yezidis and Their Spirit World. Gnostica. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge. pp. 1–28. doi:10.4324/9781315728896. ISBN 978-1-84465-761-2. OCLC 931029996.
  10. ^ Omarkhali, Khanna (2017). The Yezidi religious textual tradition : from oral to written categories, transmission, scripturalisation and canonisation of the Yezidi oral religious texts. p. 26. ISBN 978-3-447-10856-0. OCLC 1007841078.
  11. ^ Veli., Bozarslan, Hamit. Gunes, Cengiz. Yadirgi (2021). The Cambridge history of the Kurds. Cambridge University Press. p. 538. ISBN 978-1-108-47335-4. OCLC 1262669198.
  12. ^ a b Aysif, Rezan Shivan (2021). The Role of Nature in Yezidism. p. 66. doi:10.17875/gup2021-1855. ISBN 978-3-86395-514-4. S2CID 246596953.
  13. ^ Rodziewicz, Artur (December 2016). Asatrian, Garnik S. (ed.). "And the Pearl Became an Egg: The Yezidi Red Wednesday and Its Cosmogonic Background". Iran and the Caucasus. Leiden: Brill Publishers in collaboration with the Caucasian Centre for Iranian Studies (Yerevan). 20 (3–4): 347–367. doi:10.1163/1573384X-20160306. eISSN 1573-384X. ISSN 1609-8498. JSTOR 44631092. LCCN 2001227055. OCLC 233145721.
  14. ^ Who, What, Why: Who are the Yazidis? at BBC World News
  15. ^ Richard Foltz Religions of Iran: From Prehistory to the Present Oneworld Publications, 01.11.2013 ISBN 9781780743097 p. 221
  16. ^ Omarkhali, Khanna (2009–2010). "The status and role of the Yezidi legends and myths. To the question of comparative analysis of Yezidism, Yārisān (Ahl-e Haqq) and Zoroastrianism: a common substratum?". Folia Orientalia. 45–46.
  17. ^ "Yezidi Reformer: Sheikh Adi". The Truth about the Yezidis. YezidiTruth.org, A Humanitarian Organization, Sedona, Arizona. Archived from the original on 2008-03-20.
  18. ^ Bozarslan, Hamit; Gunes, Cengiz; Yadirgi, Veli (2021-04-22). The Cambridge History of the Kurds. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-108-58301-5.
  19. ^ Omarkhali, Khanna (January 2009). "The status and role of the Yezidi legends and myths. To the question of comparative analysis of Yezidism, Yārisān (Ahl-e Haqq) and Zoroastrianism: a common substratum?". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ a b Kanakis, Yiannis (2020). God first and last : religious traditions and music of the Yaresan of Guran. Volume 1, Religious traditions. Wiesbaden. pp. 44–45, 134. ISBN 978-3-447-19992-6. OCLC 1158495389.
  21. ^ a b Khalaf, Farida; Hoffmann, Andrea C. (2016-07-07). The Girl Who Escaped ISIS: Farida's Story. Random House. ISBN 9781473524163.
  22. ^ a b van Bruinessen, Martin (1992). "Chapter 2: Kurdish society, ethnicity, nationalism and refugee problems". In Kreyenbroek, Philip G.; Sperl, Stefan (eds.). The Kurds: A Contemporary Overview. London: Routledge. pp. 26–52. ISBN 978-0-415-07265-6. OCLC 919303390.
  23. ^ a b Açikyildiz, Birgül (2014). The Yezidis: The History of a Community, Culture and Religion. London: I.B. Tauris & Company. ISBN 978-1-784-53216-1. OCLC 888467694.
  24. ^ Li, Shirley (8 August 2014). "A Very Brief History of the Yazidi and What They're Up Against in Iraq". The Atlantic.
  25. ^ Jalabi, Raya (11 August 2014). "Who are the Yazidis and why is Isis hunting them?". The Guardian.
  26. ^ Thomas, Sean (19 August 2007). "The Devil worshippers of Iraq". The Daily Telegraph.
  27. ^ a b "Who Are the Yazidis, the Ancient, Persecuted Religious Minority Struggling to Survive in Iraq?". National Geographic. August 9, 2014. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  28. ^ Islam: Satan, sin, and repentance at Encyclopædia Britannica
  29. ^ D. N. MacKenzie Languages of Iran: Past and Present: Iranian Studies in Memoriam David Neil MacKenzie Otto Harrassowitz Verlag 2005ISBN 9783447052993 p. 78
  30. ^ Halil Savucu: Yeziden in Deutschland: Eine Religionsgemeinschaft zwischen Tradition, Integration und Assimilation Tectum Wissenschaftsverlag, Marburg 2016, ISBN 978-3-828-86547-1, Section 16
  31. ^ Morton, Michael Quentin (2006). "Strangers Within the Gates". In the Heart of the Desert: The Story of an Exploration Geologist and the Search for Oil in the Middle East. Aylesford: Green Mountain Press. pp. 130–131. ISBN 978-0-9552212-0-0. The Yazidis, renowned as devil-worshippers and shunned by their neighbors as a result. Their religion and tribal ways did not encourage mixing with outsiders: Yazidis were forbidden to talk to other Kurds and to marry outside the tribe. They believe that they were the only descendants of Adam, with the rest of humanity being descended from women and therefore inferior. [...] In reality, their reputation as devil-worshippers was ill-deserved. True, Yazidis believe that an angel symbolized in the form of a sacred peacock, Melek Taus, had fallen to earth and needed to be placated. But there was no hell in Yazidism, since Melek Taus had repented for his sins, having cried for 7.000 years and filled seven jars full of tears in the process, which, in turn, had been used to put out the fires of hell. They may have reserved a healthy respect for the devil, but the Yazidis never spoke his name 'Satan', and never worshipped him.

General bibliography[edit]

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