Yezidi religion

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yezidi

See also Yezidism

The Yazidi or Yezidi (Kurdish: Êzidîtî or Êzidî) (Arabic,يزيدي or ايزيدي) are adherents of a pre-Islamic Middle Eastern religion with ancient origins. The Yazidi belong to the smallest of the three branches of Yazdânism. The other branches of Yazdânism, Alevism and Yarsanism, differ from Yazidism by recognizing the Shiite practice of taqiyya (dissimulation). The three branches are geographically split and mutual contacts are rare.

The denomination drew international attention in 2007 when news outlets carried cellphone video footage of the stoning murder of Du’a Khalil Aswad, a 17-year-old Yazidi girl whose boyfriend was not of the faith.[1] Yazidis are primarily ethnic Kurds, and most live near Mosul, Iraq with smaller communities in Armenia (some 40,000 according to 2001 census), Georgia, Iran, Russia (31,273 as per 2002 census), Syria, and Turkey. They number around 500,000 individuals in total, but estimates vary on their population size, partially due to the Yazidi tradition of secrecy when asked about one's religious beliefs. Yazidi refugees also live in Europe and the United States.[2]

Origins

The origins of Yazidism are ultimately shrouded in Middle Eastern prehistory. Although the Yazidis speak Kurdish, their religion shows strong influence from archaic Levantine and Islamic religions. Their principal holy site is in Mosul. The Yazidis' own name for themselves is Êzidî or Êzîdî or, in some areas, Dasinî (the last, strictly speaking, a tribal name).

Some scholars have derived the name Yazidi from Old Iranic yazata (divine being), while others say it is a derivation from Umayyad Caliph Yazid I (Yazid bin Muawiyah), revered by the Yazidis as an incarnation of the divine figure Sultan Ezi (this is no longer widely accepted). Yazidis, themselves, believe that their name is derived from the word Yezdan or Êzid meaning God; however in ancient vernaculars of Kurdistan such as Urartian the term 'izid-u' (vb.) means 'command' or 'admonish'. The Yazidis' cultural practices are observably Kurdish, and almost all speak Kurmanjî (Northern Kurdish), with the exception of the villages of Baiqa and Bahazane in Northern Iraq, where Arabic is spoken. Kurmanjî is the language of almost all the orally transmitted religious traditions of the Yazidis.

Thus, religious origins are somewhat complex. The religion of the Yazidis is a highly syncretistic one: Sufi influence and imagery can be seen in their religious vocabulary, especially in the terminology of their esoteric literature, but much of the mythology is non-Islamic, and their cosmogonies apparently have many points in common with those of ancient Persian religions.

Early writers attempted to describe Yazidi origins, broadly speaking, in terms of Islam, or Persian, or sometimes even pagan religions; however, publications since the 1990s have shown such an approach to be over-simplistic.[1] The origin of the Yazidi religion is now usually seen by scholars as a complex process of syncretism, whereby the belief-system and practices of a local faith had a profound influence on the religiosity of adherents of the Adawiyya Sufi order living in the Kurdish mountains, and caused it to deviate from Islamic norms relatively soon after the death of its founder, Sheikh Adî ibn Mustafa who is said to be of Umayyad descent. He settled in the valley of Laliş (some thirty-six miles north-east of Mosul) in the early 12th century AD.

Shaeikh Adî himself, a figure of undoubted orthodoxy, enjoyed widespread influence. He died in 1162, and his tomb at Lalish is a focal point of Yazidi pilgrimage. During the fourteenth century, important Kurdish tribes whose sphere of influence stretched well into what is now Turkey (including, for a period, the rulers of the principality of Jazira) are cited in historical sources as Yazidi.

Religious beliefs

In the Yazidi worldview, God created the world, which is now in the care of a Heptad of seven Holy Beings, often known as Angels or heft sirr (the Seven Mysteries). Pre-eminent among these is Melek Taus (Tawûsê Melek in Kurdish), the Peacock Angel, who is equated with Satan or Devil by some Muslims and Christians. According to the Encyclopedia of the Orient, "The reason for the Yazidis reputation of being devil worshipers, is connected to the other name of Melek Taus, Shaytan, the same name as the Koran's for Satan."[2] However, according to the Kurdish linguist Jamal Nebez, the word Taus is most probably derived from the Greek and is related to the words Zeus and Theos, alluding to the meaning of God. Accordingly, Malak Ta'us is God's Angel, and this is how Yezidis themselves see Melek Taus or Taus-e-Malak ([3], page 21).

Yazidis believe that Melek Ta’us is not a source of evil or wickedness. They consider him as the leader of the archangels, not a fallen angel. Also they say that the source of evil is in the heart and spirit of humans themselves, not in Melek Ta’us. The active forces in their religion are Melek Ta’us and Sheik Adî. The Kitêba Cilwe (Book of Illumination) which claims to be the words of Melek Ta’us, and which presumably represents Yazidi belief, 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 Adî believed that the spirit of Melek Ta’us is the same as his own, perhaps as a re-incarnation. 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 Melek Ta’us from his own illumination (Ronahî in Kurdish) and the other six archangels were created later on. God ordered Melek Ta’us 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. All archangels obeyed except Melek Ta’us. As God inquired, Malak Ta’us 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 Melek Ta’us is the representative of God on the face of the Earth, and comes down to the Earth on the first Wednesday of Nisan (March/April). Yezidis celebrate this day as the New Year's day. God created Melek Ta’us from his illumination (Ronahî ) on this day.

Yazidis argue that the order to bow to Adam was only a test for Melek Ta’us, since if God says something then it happens (Bibe, dibe). In other words, God could have made him submit to Adam, but gave Ta’us the choice as a test. They believe that their respect and praise for Melek Ta’us 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 Melek Ta’us and believed in him.[4] One of the key creationism beliefs of Yazidism is that all Yazidis are descendants of Adam rather than Eve. Yazidis believe that good and evil both exist in the mind and spirit of human beings.

It depends on the humans, themselves, which one they choose. In this process, their devotion to Melek Ta’us is essential, since it was he who was given the same choice between good and evil by God, and chose the good. 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 Melek Ta’us, members of the Heptad (the Seven), who were called into existence by God at the beginning of all things, include Sheikh Adî, his companion Shaikh Hasan, and a group known as the four Mysteries, Shamsadin, Fakhradin, Sajadin and Naserdin. The Yazidi holy books are the Kitêba Cilwe (Book of Revelation) and the Mishefa Reş (Black Book). Two key and interrelated features of Yazidism are: a) a preoccupation with religious purity and b) a belief in metempsychosis.

The first of these is expressed in the system of caste, the food laws, the traditional preferences for living in Yazidi communities, and the variety of taboos governing many aspects of life. The second is crucial; Yazidis traditionally believe that the Seven Holy Beings are periodically reincarnated in human form, called a koasasa. A belief in the reincarnation of lesser Yazidi souls also exists. Like the Ahl-e Haqq, the Yazidis use the metaphor of a change of garment to describe the process, which they call kiras guhorîn in Kurdish (changing the garment). Alongside this, Yazidi mythology also includes descriptions of heaven and hell, and other traditions incorporating these ideas into a belief-system that includes reincarnation.