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Yarsanism is the syncretic religion founded by Sultan Sahak in the late 14th century in western Iran.[1] Its followers, known as the Yarsani, Ahl-e Haqq or Kaka'i (in Iraq) (Kurdish: یارسان‎, Yarsan,[2][3] Persian: اهل حق‎‎ Ahl-e Haqq "People of Truth") are an ethno-religious group primarily found in western Iran and eastern Iraq, and are mostly ethnic Goran Kurds,[4][5][6] though there are also smaller groups of Turk, Persian, Lori, Azeri and Arab adherents.[7] The total number of Yarsanis is about 5,000,000, of which an estimated 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 are in Iran.[8] Because many Yarsanis hide their religion due to fears of persecution by the Islamic Republic of Iran, there is no exact count of their population.[9]

The central religious book of Yarsanis is called the Kalâm-e Saranjâm, written in the 15th century based on the teachings of Sultan Sahak.

The goal of Sultan Sahak was to teach humans about how to achieve ultimate truth.[10] Yarsani believe sun and fire are holy things and follow the principles of equalization, purity, righteousness, and oneness, which leads some researchers to find Mithraic roots in this religion.[11]

Yarsanism is barely mentioned in historical religious books as its mysteries are to be protected as secrets.[12] The followers of Yarsanism perform their rituals and ceremonies in secret, but this has not relieved the harassment of many of the Yarsani by Islamic or other governments over the centuries. The followers of this religion say that after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, pressure on the Yarsani community has increased and they have been deprived and discriminated against for over 30 years[13]


The Tambur is a sacred symbol of Yarsanism and is played during religious ceremonies

The Yarsani follow the mystical teachings of Sultan Sahak. From the Yarsani point of view, the universe is composed of two distinct yet interrelated worlds: the internal (Bātinī) and the external (zāhirī), 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. This aspect of the Yarsani faith can be identified as Kurdish esoterism which emerged under the intense influence of Bātinī-Sufism during the last two centuries.

Among other important pillars of their belief system are that the Divine Essence has successive manifestations in human form (mazhariyyat) and the belief in transmigration of the soul (dunaduni in Kurdish). Yarsans believe that every man needs to do what is written within their holy book, the Kalâm-e Saranjâm, otherwise, they are not part of Yarsan. There is no compulsion or exclusion in Yarsan - anyone who chooses to follow its precepts is welcome.

The Yarsani faith's features include millenarism, Innatism, egalitarianism, metempsychosis, angelology, divine manifestation and dualism. Many of these features are found in Yazidism, and they also have many things in common with Zoroastrians and Christians. Unlike other indigenous Persian faiths, the Yarsanism explicitly reject class, caste and rank, which sets them apart from the Yezidis and Zoroastrians.[14]

Epochs of Evolution[edit]

According to Yarsani philosophy, the universe is evolving in through different Epochs[15][better source needed] and that these Epochs are:

1. First Epoch, or Shari'at, which includes the period from Adam and Eve until Muhammad, also known as the "Prophet" period.[16]

2. Second Epoch, or Tariqat, which includes the period from Ali ibn Abi Talib until Shah Khoshin, also known as the "Doctrine" period.[17]

3. Third Epoch, or Marefat, which includes the period from Shah Khoshin until Sultan Sahak, also known as the "Mystical" period.[18]

4. Fourth Epoch, or Haqiqat, which includes the period from Sultan Sahak until today, also known as the "Truth" period.[19]

Divine manifestations[edit]

The Yarsani are emanationists and incarnationists, believing that the Divine Essence has successive incarnations known as mazhariyyats (similar to the Hindu avatars). They believe God manifests one primary and seven secondary manifestations in each epoch of the world, in either angel or human form. These seven persons are known as "Haft tan" which means "The Seven Persons"[20]

The mazhariyyats of the First Epoch Shari'at closely matched by name the seven archangels of the Semitic religions. The "Haft Tan" (The Seven Archangels) are key figures in the Yarsani belief system and their history. These include the archangels Gabriel, Michael and Azrael. It also includes Jesus Christ.

The mazhariyyats of the Second Epoch Tariqat include Ali ibn Abi Talib and Bahlool. Ali is held to be the primary manifestation.

The mazhariyyats of the Third Epoch Marefat include Shah Khoshin Shah Fazlullah Veli, Baba Sarhang Dudani and Baba Naous. The primary manifestation is held to be Shah Khoshin.

In the Fourth Epoch Haqiqat, the primary mazhariyyat is held to be Sultan Sahak. It is said that he was given birth by Dayerak Rezbar or Khatun-e Rezbar, a Kurdish virgin, and as in the case of Mary, it was a virginal conception. While sleeping under a pomegranate tree a kernel of fruit fell into her mouth when a bird pecked the fruit directly over her.[21] Other mazhariyyats of this Epoch include Pir Musi, who recorded the sayings of Sultan Sahak, and Sayed Heidar Guran (Asayed Berake Guran).

Kurdish Yarsani men in Suleimaniyah, Kurdistan Region. The picture on the wall contains religious symbolism of the sacred Kurdish tanbur.

According to Yarsani legend [22] after Sultan Sahak, the last great Divine Manifestation, had completed the revelation of his esoteric teachings (haqiqat) to his first disciples among the Guran he took his leave of them. Disappearing from the Guran country without a trace, he reappeared in Anatolia in the form of Haji Bektash Veli. He taught mystical doctrines and techniques (tariqat) in those lands for almost a hundred years, and then returned to the Guran country. In the perception of his disciples there, he had been away for only an hour.[23]

The most important mazhariyyats are as follows. The only female among them is Khatun-e Rezbar, the mother of Sultan Sahak.

  1. Pir Benjamin, considered the incarnation of the archangel Gabriel;and he has the preceptor title to all Yarsanis (Monday)
  2. Pir Musi, the incarnation of the archangel Michael and known as Recording angel (Tuesday)
  3. Mustafā'Dawan, the incarnation of archangel Azrael (Wednesday)
  4. Sultan Sahak, the incarnation of Divine Essence (Tuesday)
  5. Baba Yadegar, Also known as "Ahmad" and "Reza" (Friday)
  6. Khatun-e Razbar. (Saturday)
  7. Dawud koswar (David) Notice slang called Daoo, He is known as "Dalil" (in Kurdish Language) to all Yarsanis[24]

Transmigration of the soul[edit]

Yarsanis also have a belief in transmigration of the soul (dunaduni in Kurdish). The Yarsani have a famous saying about death; "Men! Do not fear the punishment of death! The death of man is like the dive which the duck makes."[25] Human beings go through a cycle of 1001 incarnations. During this process, they may become more purified based on their actions.

Holy Texts[edit]

There is no sacred scripture of canonical rank. However, the Daftar-e ḵezāna-ye Perdīvarī (“Book of the Treasure of Perdīvar”), a collection of twenty-six mythological poems (kalāms), is highly esteemed in Gūrānī territory. [26] The traditions and history of the Yarsani are also preserved in poetry known as Kalam-e Saranjam (The Discourse of Conclusion), divinely revealed narratives passed down orally through the generations. These traditions are said to have been written down by Pir Musi, one of the seven companions of Sultan Sahak (also the angel in charge of recording human deeds).[27] The collection consists of the epochs of Khawandagar [God], ‘Alī, Shah Khoshin and Sultan Sahak, the different manifestations of divinity. The epoch of Shah Khoshin takes place in Luristan and the epoch of Sultan Sahak is placed in Hawraman near the Sirwan River, the land of the Goranî.

The communities in Azerbaijan have some kalāms in Āḏarī Turkish. The religious renovator Ḥāǰǰ Neʿmatallāh (d. 1920) composed his chief works in Persian, probably for the sake of a wider circulation: the didactic poem Šāh-nāma-ye ḥaqīqat, in 11,116 distiches, containing a summary of Ahl-e Ḥaqq doctrine and the Forqān al-aḵbār (“Revelation of tidings”), a prose work. Ḥāǰǰ Neʿmatallāh also wrote poems in Kurdish. [28]

The sayings attributed to Sultan Sahak are written in Gorani Kurdish, the sacred language of the Ahl-e Haqq, which also is known as Hawrami dialects. However, few modern Yarsani can read or write Gorani (a Northwestern Iranian language belonging to the branch Zaza-Gorani) as their mother tongues are Southern Kurdish and Sorani Kurdish, which belong to the other two branches of the Kurdish language family. Some Yarsani literature is written in the Persian language.[29]


Holy Sites[edit]

Rock carving at Dukkan-e Davood

Two important sanctuaries of the Yarsani are the tomb of Bābā Yādgār about 40km away from Sarpol-e Zahab in Kermanshah Province [30] and the tomb Dukkan-e Davood about three kilometres east of Sarpol-e Zahab. [31] Another important shrine is that of Sultan Suhak in Perdīvar. [32] Also important are the tombs of Pir Benjamin and Pir Musi in the town of Kerend in Kermanshah Province, Iran. [33]


One of Yarsani men's apparent signs is to have a full moustache, because in the holy book Kalâm-e Saranjâm it says that every man has to have a moustache to take part in their religious rites.[34] the concourse of Yarsanis is called the " jam khana", they gather there and they use "Tambour" for meditation[35]


The 12 families of the Ahl-e Haqq[edit]

The original seven families or Sadat-e Haqiqat established during the time of Sultan Sahak were Shah Ebrahim, Baba Yadegar, Ali Qalandar, Khamush, Mir Sur, Seyyed Mosaffa and Hajji Babu Isa. The 5 families established after Sultan Sahak are Atesh Bag, Baba Heydar, Zolnour, Shah Hayas and Sayed Darwishi


The heartlands of the Yarsani are Lorestan Province in Iran and, to the north of it, the regions of the Gūrānī-speaking population around Kermanshah province [36] There are also Yarsani in the adjacent regions of Iraqi Kurdistan, around Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah. Toward the north, they are dispersed in Iranian Azerbaijan around Lake Ormīa and as far as Mākū. Farther east, they are found in the mountains north of Tehran and on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea. There are also communities of Yarsani in most major cities in Iran.

In Iran[edit]

The Yarsani in Iran are mostly found in Lorestan and Kermanshah provinces [37] There are also large communities of Yarsanis 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 Yarsanis.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] They are called various names, such as Ali-Ilahis and Ahl-e Haqq. Interestingly, both the Dersim (Zazaki / Zaza) people and the Gorani, who speak a language that is 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 Yezidi,[38] Ali-Ilahians or Druze.

In Iraq[edit]

The Yarsani are known in Iraq as the Kaka'i. There are Yarsani in Iraqi Kurdistan, around Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah.[39] The speakers of Sarli, living near Eski Kalak in Iraq, are adherents, as Edmonds (1957: 195) surmised and Moosa (1988: 168) observed.

In Turkey[edit]

Yarsanis are also found in some rural communities in southeastern Turkey.[40]

Relationship with similar groups[edit]

The Holy Tomb of Dawoud is one of the sacred shrines of Yarsinism

A group of native, allegedly Iranian, but archaeologically Mesopotamian, monotheistic religions practiced by Kurds consisting of Yarsani and Êzidî along with Chinarism/Ishikism (Ishik Alevism) are claimed as "Yazdânism" by Mehrdad Izady.[41]

An excerpt from the French Review of the Muslim World[42] describes the difficulty in nomenclature for Yarsanism and related Shi'ite mysticism. The English translation reads:

First of all, we must clear up the confusion resulting from the variety of names given to the sect of "Ahlé-Haqq", which are liable to be misunderstood. Like any religion, the one we are dealing with considers itself to be the only true and orthodox one, and it is natural that its adherents give themselves the name of "People of Truth" (Ahlé-Haqq or Ahlé-Haqîqat). This term lacks precision, as other sects, for example the Horoufis, occasionally apply it to themselves. Still, the name Ahlé-Haqq to refer to the sect of our particular interest has every advantage over appellations such as "Gholat", "Alî-Allâhi", and "Noséïri" that the Muslims and most European travellers use in speaking of them. The first term, which encompasses all of the extremist Shi’ites, is too broad and too vague. The second term, "deifiers of Ali", has the same fault and emphasizes what is only a detail in the religious system under discussion. Finally, the name "Noséïri" belongs to that well-defined Syrian religion, which, despite some resemblances with the doctrines of the Ahlé-Haqq (the worship of Ali, the communion, etc.), appears to present a complex of quite different old beliefs.

Relations with Islam[edit]

Ahl-e Haqq view Islam as a product of a cycle of divine essence, which was made manifest in Ali, and established the stage of shai'at (Islamic law). This was followed by the cycle of tariqat (Sufi teachings), then ma'rifat (Sufi gnosis), and finally the current cycle of haqiqat (Ultimate Truth), which was made manifest in Sultan Sahak. The final stage supersedes the previous ones, which frees Ahl-e Haqq from observing the shari'a rules incumbent on Muslims. Ahl-i Haqq class other Muslims as either Ahl-i Tashayyu (followers of Shi'ism) or Ahl-i Tasannun (followers of Sunnism). The Ahl-i Haqq neither observe Muslim rites, such as daily prayers and fasting during the month of Ramadan, nor share Islamic theology and sacred space, such as belief in the day of resurrection and sanctity of the mosque.[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Elahi, Bahram (1987). The path of perfection, the spiritual teachings of Master Nur Ali Elahi. ISBN 0-7126-0200-3.
  2. ^ Hamzeh'ee, M. Reza Fariborz (1995). Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi; et al., eds. Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East. Leiden: Brill. pp. 101–117. ISBN 90-04-10861-0. 
  3. ^ P. G. Kreyenbroek (1992). Review of The Yaresan: A Sociological, Historical and Religio-Historical Study of a Kurdish Community, by M. Reza Hamzeh'ee, 1990, ISBN 3-922968-83-X. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol.55, No.3, pp.565-566.
  4. ^ Edmonds, Cecil. Kurds, Turks, and Arabs: politics, travel, and research in north-eastern Iraq, 1919-1925. Oxford University Press, 1957.
  5. ^ "Religion: Cult of Angels". Encyclopaedia Kurdistanica. Archived from the original on 2006-08-28. Retrieved 2006-09-01. 
  6. ^ "Yazdanism". Encyclopaedia of the Orient. Archived from the original on 21 October 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-25. 
  7. ^ "Ahl-e Haqq - Principle Beliefs and Convictions". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  8. ^ "Yarsan population". 
  9. ^ "Yarsan population". 
  10. ^ ""haghighat time"". 
  11. ^ "Mithraism's roots in Yarsani rituals". 
  12. ^ "why is there no name of Yarsanism in the old religious books?". 
  13. ^ ""discrimination over yarsan"". 
  14. ^ Hamzeh'ee, M Reza (1990). The Yaresan : a sociological, historical, and religio-historical study of a Kurdish community. Islamkundliche Untersuchungen. 138. Berlin: Schwartz. ISBN 3-922968-83-X. 
  15. ^ "levels of evolution In Yarsanism philosophy". 
  16. ^ {{Kalâm-e Saranjâm|title=yarsan holy book}}
  17. ^ {{Kalâm-e Saranjâm|title=yarsan holy book}}
  18. ^ {{Kalâm-e Saranjâm|title=yarsan holy book}}
  19. ^ {{Kalâm-e Saranjâm|title=yarsan holy book}}
  20. ^ {{Kalâm-e Saranjâm|title=yarsan holy book}}
  21. ^ Nebez, Jamal (1997-09-19). "The Kurds: History and Culture" (PDF). Western Kurdistan Association. p. 23. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-05-25. Retrieved 2006-09-01. 
  22. ^ http://www.hum.uu.nl/medewerkers/m.vanbruinessen/publications/Bruinessen_Haji_Bektash_Soltan_Sahak.pdf
  23. ^ Moosa, Matti. "Sultan Sahak: Founder of the Ahl-i Haqq". 
  24. ^ {{Kalâm-e Saranjâm|title=yarsan holy book}}
  25. ^ Milani, Milad (2013). Sufism in the Secret History of Persia. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-84465-677-6. 
  26. ^ http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ahl-e-haqq-people
  27. ^ Z. Mir-Hosseini (1994). "Inner Truth and Outer History: The Two Worlds of the Ahl-e Haqq of Kurdistan", International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol.26, pp.267-269.
  28. ^ http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ahl-e-haqq-people
  29. ^ Leezenberg, Michiel. "Gorani Influence on Central Kurdish: Substratum or Prestige Borrowing?" (RTF). 
  30. ^ http://historicaliran.blogspot.ie/2009/12/baba-yadegar-shrine.html
  31. ^ http://www.livius.org/articles/place/dukkan-e-daud/?
  32. ^ http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ahl-e-haqq-people
  33. ^ http://www.academia.edu/10772192/The_Cults_of_the_Angels_The_Indigenous_Religions_of_Kurdistan
  34. ^ Template:Yarsanism holy book Kalâm-e Saranjâm
  35. ^ ""tambour in yarsan"". 
  36. ^ http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ahl-e-haqq-people
  37. ^ http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ahl-e-haqq-people
  38. ^ Meho, Lokman I.; Maglaughlin, Kelly L. (2001). Kurdish Culture and Society, an Annotated Bibliography. p. 8. ISBN 0-313-31543-4. 
  39. ^ http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ahl-e-haqq-people
  40. ^ Tore Kjeilen. "Ahl-e Haqq - LookLex Encyclopaedia". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  41. ^ Izady, Mehrdad R. (1992), The Kurds : a concise handbook, Washington & London: Taylor & Francis, pp. 170 passim, ISBN 0-8448-1727-9 
  42. ^ Minorsky, Vladimir (1920). "Notes sur la sect des Ahlé-Haqq". Revue du Monde Musulman (in French). 40-41: 20. Retrieved 2017-03-25. 
  43. ^ 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

External links[edit]