Zoroastrianism and other religions

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In the field of comparative religion, many scholars, academics and religious figures have looked at the relationships between Zoroastrianism and other religions.


  • The historical importance of the Iranian religions lies in the great role they played in Iranian developments and in the significant influence Iranian types of religion exercised in the West, especially on postexilic Jewish religion; on Hellenistic mystery religions such as Mithraism; on Gnosticism; and on Islam, in which Iranian ideas are found both in Shi'ah, the most important medieval sect, and in popular eschatology [doctrines dealing with the last times].
    • Widengren art. Iranian Religions in EB, p. 867.in Ibn Warraq, Why I am not a Muslim
  • [Judaism] was strongly influenced by Zoroastrianism in views relating to angelology and demonology, and probably also in the doctrine of the resurrection.
    • Article "Zoroastrianism," in Jewish Encyclopedia, pp. 695-97.
  • The Muslim vision of paradise thus closely resembles both Indian and Iranian accounts. The Zoroastrian text, Hadhoxt Nask, describes the fate of a soul after death. The soul of the righteous spends three nights near the corpse, and at the end of the third night, the soul sees its own religion (daena) in the form of a beautiful damsel, a lovely fifteen- year-old virgin; thanks to good actions she has grown beautiful; they then ascend heaven together. This vision resembles the Hindu stories of the Apsarasas, described as "seductive celestial nymphs who dwell in Indra's paradise," and often are dancers of the gods, but who also welcome the soul into paradise. "They are the rewards in Indra's paradise held out to heroes who fall in battle." Thus, the Hindu account in many ways resembles the Muslim view of paradise, with its vivid and voluptuous scenes of houris and virgins that so scandalized early Christian commentators.
    • Ibn Warraq, Why I am not a Muslim
  • In Khurasan and Bukhara, the Muslims destroyed Zoroastrian fire temples and constructed mosques on these sites. The "Tarikh-i Bukhara" records that there was considerable outrage at these acts of sacrilege, and a concerted resistance to the spread of Islam. One scholar sums up the situation thus: "Indeed, coexistence between Muslims and Zoroastrians was rarely peaceful, cooperation was fleeting, and conflict remained the prime form of intercommunal contact from the initial Arab conquest of Transoxiana until the late thirteenth century A . D . " A similar situation existed in Khurasan: "The violent military conflicts between the forces of the Arab commander Abd Allah b. Amir and the local Iranian lords, combined later with the destruction of Zoroastrian religious institutions, produced lasting enmity between Muslims and Zoroastrians in Khurasan." The early conquests of Zoroastrian Iran were punctuated with the usual massacres, as in Raiy.
  • If the town put up brave resistance to the Muslims, then very few men were spared. For example, at Sarakh, only a hundred men were granted amnesty, and the women were taken into captivity; the children taken into captivity were brought up as Muslims. At Sus a similar situation emerged—about a hundred men were pardoned, the rest killed. At Manadhir, all the men were put to the sword, and the women and children enslaved. At the conquest of Istakhr, more than 40,000 Iranians were slaughtered. The Zoro- astrians suffered sporadic persecution, when their fire temples and priests were destroyed, for example, at Kariyan, K u m m , and at Idhaj. In a deliberate act of provocation the caliph al-Mutawakkil had cut down a tree putatively planted by Zoroaster himself. Sometimes the fire temples were converted into mosques. The fiscal oppression of the Zoroastrians led to a series of uprisings against the Muslims in the eighth century. We might cite the revolts led by Bihafarid between 746 and 748 and the rising of Sinbadh in 755.
  • Forced conversions were also frequent, and the pressures for conversion often led to conflict and riots, as in Shiraz in 979. To escape persecution and the forced conversions many Zoroastrians emigrated to India, where, to this day, they form a much respected minority known as Parsis. Conditions for the Zoroastrians became even worse from the seventeenth century onwards. In the eighteenth century, their numbers, to quote the Encyclopaedia of Islam (2d ed.), "declined disastrously due to the combined effects of massacre, forced conversion and emigration." By the nineteenth century they were living in total insecurity and poverty and suffered increasing discrimination. Zoroastrian merchants were liable for extra taxes; houses were frequently looted; they had to wear distinctive clothing; and were forbidden to build new houses or repair old ones.
    • Ibn Warraq, Why I am not a Muslim, 1995. p 235-6
  • Jamali relates that Shaikh ‘Usman so dearly loved Khwaja Mu‘inu’d-Din that he himself began a journey walking behind his disciple. After travelling some distance he reached a Zoroastrian fire temple. He sat under a tree and asked his servant to bring him some fire. The priests would not allow him to take it. The Shaikh went himself to the fire worshippers. Their leader was seated on a throne with his seven-year old son on his lap. Shaikh ‘Usman asked if their hands were put into the fire would they be burnt. At the feceipt of a negative reply the Shaikh snatched the boy and jumped into the fire with him. After some hours they both emerged unharmed. The head priest embraced Islam and the fire temple was demolished. Shaikh ‘Usman stayed there for about two and a half years.
    • Anectode involving the famous Sufi Khwaja Mu‘inu’d-Din. S.A.A.Rizvi, History of Sufism

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