Religions among the Persians (Zoroastrianism)

The Persians, their upbringing and their connection to myths

The Persians were known in their ancient history as the peoples who inhabit present-day Iran, which is called Persia after them. According to narratives and stories, their history was mixed with legends in many of its details, especially before they established their state, which became a sprawling empire in ancient history that rivaled its counterpart, the Roman Empire in Its Western Roman and Eastern Roman (Byzantine) eras, and the Persians are a group of Aryan peoples who speak the language attributed to them and which linguists classify as part of the Indo-European group.

The first of those myths that shaped the beginnings of the Persians spoke about the Pashdad dynasty, which claimed that its founder was Kyumarth. As is the custom of the Persians in weaving fantasies, they linked Kyomerth and Adam, the father of humans, as one person. This is according to the Zoroastrian narrations that are considered a starting point for Persian myths, given that Zoroastrianism was the main guide.

Before entering into the beginnings of Persian history; We must be aware of the nature of the directions of this history, and as has been pointed out, Zoroastrianism is the true direction of Persian perceptions. Although Zoroastrianism as a Persian thought originated in the sixth century BC; However, it cast its shadow over what came before this history by formulating perceptions and influencing what came after it until the present day.

The beginning of Zoroastrianism in Persia

In order to be more aware of Zoroastrianism; It is the religion

embraced by the ancient Persians, and is attributed to Zoroaster, who most historians believe lived in the sixth century BC. It is noteworthy that his geographical homeland is in the region known in ancient times as the Media region, west of present-day Iran, and from here some indicate that the original language of the Holy Persian book “The Abstaq” was the ancient Median language from which Zoroaster began. Their holy book is also called “Avesta”.

And in reference to the Persian legend that spoke about Kyumarth the founder, which says that he was Adam, peace be upon him; They linked his wife Elda to Eve. Which means that the Persian culture monopolized the origin of humans in their culture, and they explained it through their myths.

Persian legends say that the Kyumruth dynasty continued until the kingship reached Jamshid, who is considered the largest king of this dynasty, although the kingdom declined and ended after his rule, after which the Kayan kingdom came with its first king, Kyobad.

The era of the Medes

As soon as ancient Persian history finishes referring to the Kayan kingdom, it begins with the Medes, whom history says came as Indo-European human groups at the end of the eighth century BC, and they are the ones referred to by the Assyrian antiquities. They are different and dispersed people who migrated from the Caspian Sea to Media, north of the Iranian plateau, and expanded and controlled what was around them until they were called the Medes.

Greek historical books spoke about the Medes, and perhaps the most famous of them was Herodotus, as it is noted that the mixed people of Media were the ones who destroyed the Assyrian state. But this stage took a long time, as it began with the Assyrians trying to expand at the expense of the Medes, who were living a nomadic life without a political unit, until they came to unite during a period of history under the leadership of Diakos, who made Hamedan his capital. He and his successors after him, including Hochshtara, entered into a bitter conflict with the Assyrians, who undermined the Kingdom of Assyria after allying with the Babylonian Kingdom.

The fall of the Assyrians had an impact on changing the demographic composition of their lands, as the Medes decided to displace the population in the Assyrian lands and settle the Medes in their place, especially in Erbil.

Philosophy of religion among the Persians

The Persians, and the Aryan race in general, were reputed to be disposed to the worship of natural appearances; The clear sky, light, fire, air, and water descend from the sky; It attracted their attention and made them worship it as divine beings, so much so that they called the sun “the eye of God” and the light “the son of God,” just as darkness, barrenness, and the like are divine, evil, and cursed beings.

From their beginning, they made man stand before the gods of goodness, seeking help from them, praying to them, praising them, and offering sacrifices to them.

They saw that the gods of goodness are in constant conflict with the gods of evil, and that human actions, such as prayer and the like, help the gods of goodness in their struggle with the gods of evil. They took fire as a symbol of light, in other words as a symbol of the gods of goodness. They kindled it in their temples and inflated it with their supply, so that it would be powerful over the gods of evil and triumph over them. This fire was a source for them of a fertile poetic imagination.  

Zoroaster: Then came after Zoroaster - the Prophet of the Persians - and called for new teachings based on the old religion after its reform. 

The existence of Zoroaster himself was a subject of doubt to many, and the subject of a long debate between deniers and those who prove it. The provers differed regarding the date of his existence over statements that were repeated between the years 6000 BC and 600 BC. Professor Jackson wrote a valuable book during his lifetime that had a great impact on The preference is in favor of those who prove his existence. In his research, he concluded that Zoroaster is a historical person, not a mythical one, and that he was from the Media tribe (in the western-northern part of Persia), and that his rule appeared around the middle of the seventh century BC, and he died around the year 583 BC, after he lived about 77 years old, and that his homeland was Azerbaijan, but the first success he achieved was in Balkh, and following the entry of King “Bishtasp” into his religion, and that his religion spread from Balkh to all of Persia.

However, some of these results that Jackson arrived at are still a field for research, and his religious people narrate a lot about the miracles, supernatural customs and signs that accompanied his birth, and that he strived to think since his youth, and tended to isolation, and that during that time he saw seven visions in his dreams, and then announced his message, and it was He says: He is the Messenger of God, sent by him to remove the misguidance that has attached itself to religion, and to guide him to the truth   

He continued to call people for many years, but only a few responded to his call. He was inspired to migrate to Balkh, so he spread his call in the king’s court. He was responded to first by the minister’s sons and then by the queen herself. The men of the court resisted him and argued with him, but he defeated them by entering the king himself while he was a convert to his religion. The king was enthusiastic .about this new religion, and he continued to enter it in droves

His teachings

We note from what we mentioned that the Persians before Zoroaster built their religion on two foundations:

1-This world has a law that follows it, and that it has fixed natural phenomena.

2- And that there is a conflict and clash between different forces, between light and darkness, fertility and barrenness...etc., so Zoroaster’s teachings were based on these two foundations as well, except that those before him worshiped good spirits, and they were many, so Zoroaster united them in one god, “Ahramazda,” and so he did in The forces of evil, he limited them to one thing called “the steps of Ahriman,” and thus he had only two forces: the force of good and the force of evil.

Zarathustra has a holy book called “Avesta” with a commentary on it called “Zindavest.” Al-Masoudi (an Arabic gistorian) said: “The name of this book is “Al-Aysta,” and if it is Arabic, a qāf is confirmed in it, so it is said “Al-Istaq.”3 The number of its surahs (chapters) is twenty-one, each surah containing two hundred pages... and that it was written in the first Persian language, and no one today knows the meaning of that language, but it was transmitted to them. To this Persian, there are some surahs in their hands that they recite in their prayers, some of which contain information about the beginning and end of the world, and some of which contain sermons.”

The origin of the Avesta and the authors of its surahs (chapters) are still a matter of debate among researchers, as is the case with Zarathustra itself. The “Parsians” say: “The Avesta was composed of twenty-one surahs during the Sasanian state, of which only a complete surah and some verses from different surahs have survived in our era.” This, which has reached us, contains only passages on religious rituals and laws for Zoroastrian temples.

In the conquest, the Muslims treated them as the People of the Book (Jews and Christians), and they considered their book as if it were a revealed book, and Omar Ibn Al-Khattab followed suit when the hadith was narrated to him: “Adopt to them the way of the People of the Book...” etc.

What is famous from his teachings is that he used to say: The world has two origins or gods: the origin of goodness, which is “Ahur” or Ahura Mazda, and the origin of evil, which is “Ahraman,” and they are in constant conflict, and each of these two origins has the ability to create, so the origin of goodness is light, and he created everything that is good. It is good and beneficial, so He created order, truth, light, the guard dog, the rooster, and other useful animals, and it is the duty of the believer to take care of them. The origin of evil is darkness, and He created everything that is evil in the world. He created predatory animals, serpents, snakes, insects, and vermin, and the believer must kill them. The war between these two spirits is a debate, but the final victory is for the spirit of goodness. In war, people side with the two spirits. Some of them support Ahura and some support Ahriman. The two spirits do not wage war themselves, but rather with their creatures..

The human being was the subject of a dispute between the two spirits. Because he was a created being, but He created him with free will, so it was possible for him to submit to evil forces, and man in his life is attracted by the two forces. If he embraced a true religion, did good deeds, and purified his body and soul, then he has shamed the spirit of evil, supported the spirit of goodness, and deserved the reward from “Mazda.” Otherwise, the evil spirit will become stronger and Mazda will become angry with him. 

Likewise, one of its most important principles is that the most honorable work for a human being is farming and caring for livestock, so he made people love to farm, to live with their livestock, and to find and work, to the point that he forbade his followers to fast. Because it makes them unable to work, and he wants them to be strong and hardworking. 

He taught that water, air, fire, and earth are pure elements that must not be impure. One of the manifestations of this was the sanctification of fire and taking it as a symbol, the prohibition of defilement of flowing water, the prohibition of burying the dead in the ground, and so on. 

A person has two lives: a first life in this world, and a second life after death, and his share in the afterlife is the result of his deeds in his first life. His deeds have been counted in a book, and his bad deeds are counted as debts on him. In the three days that follow death, a person’s soul hovers over his body, and is blessed or miserable according to his deeds. For this reason, religious rituals are performed on these days to comfort the soul. At the reckoning, the soul passes on an extended path on the brink of Hell. For the believer, it is wide and easy to pass, and for the disbeliever, it is thinner than hair; Whoever believes and does righteousness will pass the path in peace. He met Ahura and met him well, and gave him a noble abode. Otherwise, he would fall into hell and become a slave to Ahriman. If his bad deeds and good deeds were equal, the soul would go to Al-A’raf until the Day of Judgment. 

Man was absent from his worldly life what was prepared for him after his death, and he did not know good from evil, so it was from God’s mercy that He sent a messenger to guide people. In Zoroastrian mythology, the prophecy was first revealed to Jamshid, the king of the Persians, but he was unable to carry it, so Zoroaster carried it, and God spoke to him and revealed revelation to him. 

Zarathustra knows that the Day of Resurrection is near, and that the end of this life is not far away, and Mazda will gather his strength, strike the evil god with a fatal blow, and torture him and those who obey him in hell.

His philosophy

In addition to these religious teachings, we see that the Zoroastrian religion has research beyond matter, but their research into it was not comprehensive - like that of the Greeks - but rather it was partial and dispersed research.

We also see that they have a characteristic similar to that of the Arabs after Islam, which is that their research - beyond the material - was mixed with religion and reconciled between them, and they did not research it independently as for example the Greeks did. 

One of their philosophical researches is their research into the soul. The Zoroastrian religion believes that the human soul was created by God after it had not existed, and it can attain a happy eternal life if it fights the evils in the earthly world. God has granted it freedom of will, so it can choose good or evil, and for the human soul Different powers. 

Conscience - vital force - mental force - spiritual force - protective force...etc.

The Zoroastrian religion was the dominant religion in Persia and its environs during the era of the Achaemenians. When Alexander was victorious in the year 331 BC, this was a blow to this family and its religion. Then it revived during the era of the Sassanid dynasty, which began its rule in the year 226 AD, and it remained the religion of the Persians until the Islamic conquest, so many of them embraced Islam, some of them fled first to Algeria in the Persian Gulf and then to India, and a sect of them in Mumbai called the Parseec still adhere to this religion to this day. A sect remained in Persia to adhere to its religion after the conquest, and fire temples continued to exist in almost every state of Persia in the first three centuries after the conquest.

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