Category Archives: Sufism

Another Female Singer Killed in Pakistan’s Northwest

Here.

Via the despicable Radio Free Liars (I mean Radio Free Liberty), we get news that another female singer has been murdered in Pakistan’s northwest, this time in Peshawar. Most of them have been murdered by husbands or other male relatives who opposed their singing careers. However, a few have been killed by the Pakistani Taliban.

The Pakistani Taliban recently outlawed fun in Peshawar. All singing and dancing has been outlawed as anti-Islamic. Anti-Islamic means “fun.” If it’s fun, it’s anti-Islamic.

I am not sure what the Quranic basis is for outlawing singing and dancing. I thought this was an innovation that came from the austere Wahhabi movement that arose in the equally austere (and frankly no fun) deserts of Saudi Arabia in the 1800’s. I know that the Wahhabis consider singing and dancing to be haram, but I would like to see an official Islamic ruling on this, preferably out of Al-Azhar in Egypt or some other venerable institution.

A classic photo of a typical Pakistani music band.

A classic photo of a typical Pakistani music band.

As you can see, Pakistani music has a distinct Sufi feel about it. See those costumes, even on the woman? That screams Sufi. The headgear on the men broadcasts Sufism loud and clear also. I have also listened to this music and watched their performances and the whole thing from the sound of the music to the moves of the people on stage has a very Sufi feel about it.

I didn’t know that Sufism was so popular in Pakistan. However, Sufism has traditionally been very popular in Afghanistan and I think it has also long been popular in Shia Iran. It is also very big among Iraqi Sunnis, especially the more moderate type. Kurds are also deep into Sufism.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Asia, Crime, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Music, Pakistan, Radical Islam, Regional, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Shiism, South Asia, Sufism, Sunnism, Women

Al Qaeda Conquers Much of Northern Iraq

There are many news reports stating the ISIS, an acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Syria) has conquered much of northern Iraq in a huge offensive. ISIS is otherwise known as Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria. They seem to be lightly armed, traveling in convoys of pickup trucks. First in a spectacular blow, the captured the entire city of Mosul, the administration buildings, TV stations, federal police, prisons and airport. During the seizure of the prisons, they freed thousands of prisoners, including many jailed rebels.

The Iraqi Army reportedly did not put up much of a fight and instead fled their posts. The ISIS troops traveled through the city, telling people to not worry, that everyone would be safe, even Kurds and Shia, and that everyone should go back to work as if nothing had happened. However, about 150,000 people have already fled Mosul, forming vast traffic jams and encampments in the desert. The speed with which the city fell was shocking.

Shortly thereafter, the cities of Baiji, Dhuluiya, Tikrit, and Suleiman Beg fell. Rebels were at the gates of the shrine city of Samarra. Baiji is a Sunni oil town far up on the Tigris towards Mosul. Dhuluiya is south of Samarra on the Tigris. This is traditionally a heavily Sufi area. Sufism is sort of a mystical form of Sunnism and is very popular in Iraq. They tend to be peaceful most of the time (they are sort of like Islamic hippies in a sense), but after a while, the Sufis in Dhuluiya also took up arms against the Americans. Tikrit of course is a Sunni city that was Saddam Hussein’s hometown. minorities. Suleiman Beg is a Sunni city in the desert of northeastern Iraq south of Kirkuk.

The Iraqi Army may have also fled their posts quickly in Tikrit, Suleiman Beg, Baiji and Dhuluiya.

Ramadi and Fallujah were conquered by the ISIS earlier and remain under total control.

A battle for the control of the mixed Kurdish – Sunni – Turkmen city of Kirkuk is underway. Under withering attacks from the ISIS, the Iraqi Army abandoned Kirkuk. However, Kurdish forces quickly took over the city after the Army left and now claim to control Kirkuk. Kirkuk would be hard for the ISIS to conquer because of the large Kurdish population.

The mostly Kurdish city of Tuz Khurmatu to the northeast of Baghdad towards the Iranian border is also under siege.

Iraqi President Maliki is a Shia who has governed as a blatant sectarian, openly favoring Shia and persecuting any Sunni he can get his hands on. While the Americans were still in Iraq, US officers said that many times they had stood in front of Maliki and stopped him from implementing many of the sectarian projects that he was trying to prosecute.

Now that the Americans are gone, Maliki has been free to persecute Sunnis as much as he wishes. Although there is a lot of bad blood between the two, I think that if Maliki had reached out to the Sunnis instead of attacking them, he would not be in the mess he is in now. These Sunni cities are falling so rapidly probably because the Sunni population of these places is so sick of Maliki that they would rather be governed by the ISIS than him.

Maliki took to the microphone, denouncing the attacks and vowing to defend Baghdad to the last man. He also excoriated the Army forces who had fled their posts rather than fight, saying that they would be punished for their cowardice. The Iraqi Army recruitment center in Baghdad was flooded with young men, probably mostly Shia, after Maliki issued a call to defend the nation from the ISIS.

Apparently up to 40 Sunni officers in Maliki’s forces went over to the rebels.

The notion that Al Qaeda could have conquered all these cities so quickly is preposterous. The truth is that a large segment of Saddam’s former army, including the Republican Guard, the Saddam Fedayeen and the regular army, are now under the command of Saddam’s former vice president, a red-haired man named Izzat Ibrahim Al-Douri. He was never caught by the Americans, was thought to have fled to Syria, and was long rumored to be involved in the anti-US insurgency from that country. His present whereabouts are unknown.

Al-Douri is known to practice the Sufi form of Islam and he has named his army the The Men of the Naqshbani Army after the major Sufi order in the area. Recently, reports stated that Al-Douri had reached an agreement to form an alliance with the ISIS although Al-Douri is pretty secular ISIS are hardcore Islamists.

Al-Douri’s nephew, Sabr Abd al-Aziz Al-Douri was a high-ranking general in the Republican Guard who commanded a mechanized infantry and armored division during the Iran-Iraq War. He was also head of Iraqi Military Intelligence. If men like Sabr Abd Al-Aziz are leading this fight, it is no wonder these cities have fallen so quickly. Hat tip to Pat Lang, a friend of mine, military expert and frequent guest of TV talk and news shows, for this theory.

The only way that the rapid conquest of these cities by a masterful army makes any sense is if that army in the majority consists of former members of the Iraqi Army, especially the Republican Guard. So instead of seeing this as Al Qaeda conquering all this land, it is better to see it as the former Iraqi Army conquering these cities, which makes a lot more sense.

In addition, it hardly makes sense that Al Qaeda would drive through Mosul on trucks with loudspeakers telling everyone, even the Shia and Kurds, that they are safe, that there is nothing to worry about, and that they should all go back to work. Al Qaeda would probably be looking for the Shia so they could persecute them at best or kill them at worst. But the Iraqi Army was never ideologically anti-Shia. In fact, most of the soldiers were Shia and many of the officer class were as well. It is true that there was a war between the Saddam’s forces and Shia forces in southern Iraq after the Iraq War ended, but those Shia were being attacked because they had taken up arms against the state, not because they were Shia per se.

This army will have a hard time taking Baghdad because of the large Shia population.

Samarra will probably fall soon, although at the moment, the rebels are being fought off by a powerful Iraqi Army force backed by helicopter gunships.

US advisers are presently evacuating the major Iraqi Air Base at Balad on the Tigris north of Baghdad apparently because the rebels are nearby and the base may be threatened soon if it is not already.

Maliki is responding to the offensive with airstrikes in Mosul, as he does have a sizable air force.

The entire US War on Iraq is now looking more and more like a complete failure.

All in all, this is one of the more exciting chapters in warfare that has followed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which was probably the stupidest thing this county has ever done.

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Filed under Iraq, Iraq War, Islam, Kurds, Middle East, Near Easterners, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, Religion, Shiism, Sufism, Sunnism, USA, War

Wahhabis Versus Sufis in Iraq

Repost from the old site.

There is some misinformation going around stating that Iraqi Sufis are pacifists.

In fact, Sufis comprised a large part of the resistance around Balad about 6 1/2 years ago and also around Fallujah a while back. There hasn’t been much recent info on the extent of Sufi involvement in the guerrilla war.

Check out this fascinating photo gallery of a group of Kasnazani Sufi dervishes in Kurdistan. Wow, what a bunch of freaks. Let’s let the site speak for itself here:

“Dervishes are Muslim Sufis, both Sunni and Shia, who live in Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria and Iran. They eat blades, cut their tongues with poniards and swords and thrust skewers into their face and body after banging their heads for more than an hour in their ceremonies.”

Whoa, check out the self-mutilating, self-skewering, knife in the head freak show here – what a bunch of kooks! More headbanging , general tripping out and all around freaking than an Ozzy Osborne concert and a Navajo peyote ritual combined! In all fairness, it should be noted that most Sufis do not engage in this weird self-injury stuff.

You might wonder why Wahhabi Muslims would hate Sufi Muslims so much that they would kill them. Since most non-Muslims do not know a thing about Sufism or Wahhabism, a little background is in order.

Let’s start with Sufism. Although Sufism is difficult for a non-Muslim to understand, I will do my best. Going way back centuries in the history of Islam, some Muslims decided to use Islam to go the mystical route.

Their journey to mysticism is akin to Christians who speak in tongues or go off to join ascetic monasteries, Hindus who lie on beds of nails, go off in the wilderness, practice yoga or become yogis, Buddhists who chant, meditate or sequester themselves in monasteries, or hippies who drop LSD and mushrooms.

Indigenous peoples have a long history of seeking God by taking hallucinogenic drugs like the peyote cactus (American Indians), psilocybin mushrooms (Oaxaca Indians in Mexico), ayahausca from a jungle vine (Amazonian Indians), Amanita Muscaria mushrooms (Siberian natives) and DMT powder from a jungle plant (Venezuelan Indians).

The Sufis expanded the rigid definition of Islam by moving it beyond pure, rote Koranic practice. Sufis variously (depending on the Sufi order) sing songs, play music, chant verses, dance, mutilate themselves, go into trances, practice asceticism and self-denial, and generally seek religious enlightenment.

There is a tendency in Sufi practice to try to become one with the universe, to see oneself a part of everything, to merge one’s body into one’s surroundings, to go into meditative and yogic-type trances, in addition to practicing healthy living and to living a highly moral lifestyle. The Sufi initiate typically seeks out a Sufi master who is the head of the Sufi order. The Sufi master serves as instructor in the Sufi way.

Sufi initiates look up to the leader of the order and more or less follow him, similar to how the Shia follow an ayatollah.

Sufis also pray at the graves of famous Sufis (who are often characterized as saints) see these burial grounds and tombs as spiritually-charged locales, and feel that they can access Allah via intercessory prayers.

Wahhabism was founded by Sheik Abdullah al-Wahhab in the Najd Desert in what is now Central Saudi Arabia around 1800.

The Muslims in this part of Saudi Arabia have always been some of the densest, most ignorant, most bigoted, most xenophobic and most pleasure-despising of all the Muslims. Mohammad himself even remarked on this in his writings.

Sequestered away in the blazing deserts of Central Arabia, forced via the harsh climate to adopt a rigid, conservative, misogynistic, xenophobic and brutal form of tribalism, locked away from the rest of the world for centuries, it’s only logical that the Najd would give birth to such an ultra-ignorant and super-reactionary cult like Wahhabism.

The Muslims in the Najd chased away the first visitors who played music and sang songs for them (they thought it was evil and bizarre because they had never heard it before), and they have hated music and singing ever since. Wahhabism, the officially sanctioned Islamic sect of Saudi Arabia, holds the belief that the only real Islam is the pure Islam practiced by Mohammad in the 600’s.

This Islam consists of only the Quran and the Hadith (the often-dubious collections of supposed sayings of Mohammad). Wahhabism holds that outside of the Quran and the Hadith (or Sunnah – the practice of the Prophet – how Mohammad actually lived his life), all else is “innovation” and non-Islamic. All Islamic interpretations after the first 100-200 years post-Mohammad are rejected as deviations and “innovations”.

Wahhabis generally despise all other Muslims, and often refer to them as infidels (non-Muslims), polytheists (worshipers of more than one God) or apostates (those who have left Islam).

Wahhabis often proscribe death for the Muslims they do not approve of. A favorite accusation is one of “shirk” – associating other entities with God. Shirk is a grave accusation when coming from a Wahhabi – it can mean a death sentence. Wahhabis consider singing, dancing, graveyards, saints, and intercessory prayer as shirk.

Wahhabis despise the Shia, the Alawites (a very divergent Shia sect in Syria and Lebanon), the Druze (an extremely divergent Shia sect in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine), the Alevi (a very liberal, secular and humanistic Shia sect in central Turkey – sort of like Islamic Unitarians), the Sufis (described above) and probably a lot of other Muslim sects too.

Wahhabis hate Sufis for chanting non-Koranic verses, singing, growing their hair long, self-mutilation and self-injury, worshiping graves and tombs, praying to saints and the suggestion that, in seeing Allah as part of everything, Sufis are guilty of polytheism.

The Wahhabi sect exploded out from the Najd almost as soon as it was birthed. Around 1808, Wahhabi Bedouin warriors raced out of the Najd all the way up to Mesopotamia (presently Iraq), heading for the Shia shrines at Karbala and Najaf. They lay waste to the Shia city of Basra, and probably some other southern Mesopotamian cities along the way.

They destroyed much of Karbala and Najaf, including the sacred shrines, and slaughtered tens of thousands of Mesopotamians for no real good reason. They also attacked and slaughtered a lot of Mesopotamian Sunnis while they were at it. I’m not clear on the details, but obviously the Wahhabis were pushed out of Mesopotamia shortly afterward.

Many Iraqis, but clearly not enough, have never forgotten this mad Saudi raid 200 years ago. Antipathy for Wahhabis has traditionally been pretty high in most of Iraq since (though notably, not around Fallujah), especially amongst the Shia. It’s unfortunate that so many Iraqi Sunnis have forgotten their history and allowed themselves to get sucked into the Wahhabi death cult.

The Wahhabi sect just sat in the Arabian Desert for the next 110 years or so. Around 1920, charged-up Wahhabi jihadis blasted out from the desert again, this time to conquer the Hijaz, the region along the western Arabian coast where Mecca and Medina lie. Interestingly, the Muslims in Hijaz were never extremely pious and have tended to be more the tolerant Sufi type.

Further, Hijazis have never liked the Najdis, whom they consider to be something like the inbred hillbillies from the American movie Deliverance .

During the 1920’s, the Wahhabi warriors crashed through the Hijaz, conquering the entire land, and laying waste to much of the idiosyncratic architecture. Wahhabis consider only plain and austere architecture to be “Koranic”, especially for mosques.

The Wahhabis also killed many Hijazis, often for no real good reason. This pattern of destroying the cities of Muslim “backsliders” and putting many of the residents to the sword has become a typical Wahhabi pattern.

Many Hijazis are still resentful about this Wahhabi attack, especially the genocidal destruction of their Hijazi culture. Further, there is still significant resistance to Wahhabism in the Hijaz.

By 1932, Wahhabis had conquered much of Arabia. King Fahd cut a deal with the Wahhabi clergy that granted them tremendous power over the kingdom in religious affairs and even the running of the state itself.

Wahhabism was also made the official creed of Saudi Arabia. In return, the Wahhabi clergy allowed the King and his family to officially rule over Saudi Arabia. In other words, the King cut a deal with the devil.

It is essential to understand the power of the Wahhabi clergy in present-day Saudi Arabia. Though their power is not necessarily codified in law, it is de facto power nevertheless. The fact is, in Arabia, the Wahhabi clergy often have more power than the Royal Family themselves. You can’t really understand modern Arabia very well until you let this shocking fact really sink in.

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Do the Yezidis Worship the Devil?

Repost from the old site. This is a very, very long piece, so be warned. But the subject, the Yezidi religious group, is extraordinarily complex, as I found out as I delved deeper and deeper into them.

They are still very mysterious and there is a lot of scholarly controversy around them, mostly because they will not let outsiders read their holy books. However, a copy of their holiest book was stolen about 100 years ago and has been analyzed by scholars.

I feel that the analysis below of the Yezidis (there are various competing analyses of them) best summarizes what they are all about, to the extent that such an eclectic group can even be defined at all. The piece is hard to understand at first, but if you are into this sort of thing, after you study it for a while, you can start to put it together. There are also lots of cool pics of devil and pagan religious art below, for those who are interested in such arcana.

See also the companion piece, The Yezidis, a Mysterious Kurdish Religious Sect. This piece was written two years after that one when I realized that the prior piece had barely touched the surface of this very strange religious sect.

The Yezidis, a Kurdish religious group in Iraq practicing an ancient religion, have been accused of being devil worshipers by local Muslims and also by many non-Muslims. I wrote about the Yezidis in depth in a previous post; see them for more background on these interesting people.

The Yezidis appeared in Western media in 2007 due to the stoning death of a Yezidi teenage girl who ran off with a Muslim man. The stoning was done by eight men from her village while another 1000 men watched and cheered them on. Afterward, there has been a lot of conflict between Muslim and Yezidi Kurds.

As Western media turned to the Yezidis, there has been some discussion here about their odd religion. For instance, though the local Muslims condemn them as devil worshipers, the Yezidis strongly deny this. So what’s the truth? The truth, as usual, is much more complicated.

The Yezidis believe that a Creator, or God, created a set of deities that we can call gods, angels or demons, depending on how you want to look at them. So, if we say that the Yezidis worship the devil, we could as well say that they worship angels. It all depends on how you view these deities.

In the history of religion, the gods of one religion are often seen as the devils of another. This is seen even today in the anti-Islamic discourse common amongst US neoconservatives, where the Muslim God is said to be a demonic god, and their prophet is said to be a devilish man.

Christian anti-Semites refer to the Old Testament God of the Jews as being an evil god. Orthodox Jews say that Jesus Christ is being boiled alive in semen in Hell for eternity.

At any rate, to the Yezidis, the main deity created by God is Malak Taus, who is represented by a peacock. Although Yezidis dissimulate about this, anyone who studies the religion closely will learn that Malak Taus is actually the Devil.

On the other hand, the Yezidis do not worship evil as modern-day Satanists do, so the Satanist fascination with the Yezidis is irrational. The Yezidis are a primitive people; agriculturalists with a strict moral code that they tend to follow in life. Why do they worship the Devil then?

First of all, we need to understand that before the Abrahamic religions, many polytheistic peoples worshiped gods of both good and evil, worshiping the gods of good so that good things may happen, and worshiping the gods of evil so that bad things may not happen. The Yezidis see God as a source of pure good, who is so good that there is no point in even worshiping him.

In this, they resemble Gnosticism, in which God was pure good and the material world and man were seen as polluted with such evil that the world was essentially an evil place. Men had only a tiny spark of good in them amidst a sea of evil, and the Gnostics tried to cultivate this spark.

This also resembles the magical Judaism of the Middle Ages (Kabbalism). The Kabbalists said that God was “that which cannot be known” (compare to the Yezidi belief that one cannot even pray to God), in fact, the concept of God was so ethereal to the Kabbalists that mere men could not even comprehend the very concept. A Kabbalist book says that God is “endless pure white light”. This comes close to my own view of what God is.

Compare to the Yezidi view that God “pure goodness”. The Yezidi view of God is quite complex. It is clear that he is at the top of the totem pole, yet their view of him is not the same as the gods of Christianity, Islam, Judaism or of the Greeks, although it is similar to Plato’s conception of the absolute.

Instead, it is similar to the Deists. God merely created the world. As far as the day to day running of things, that is actually up to the intermediary angels. However, there is one exception. Once a year, on New Years Day, God calls his angels together and hands the power over to the angel who is to descend to Earth.

In some ways similar to the Christian Trinity of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost, the Yezidis believe that God is manifested in three forms.

An inscription of the Christian Trinity, the father, or God, as an old man with a beard; Jesus, a young man, and the Holy Ghost, here depicted as a winged creature similar to Malak Tus, the winged peacock angel. Compare to Yezidi reference for Šeiḫ ‘Adî, Yazid and Malak Tus (Father, Son and Holy Ghost)

The three forms are the peacock angel, Malak Tus; an old man, Šeiḫ ‘Adî (compare to the usual Christian portrayal in paintings of God as an old man with a long white beard); and a young man, Yazid (compare to the usual Christian paintings of Jesus as a healthy European-looking man with a beard and a beatific look – a similar look is seen in Shia portraits of Ali).

Since there is no way to talk to God, one must communicate with him through intermediaries (compare to intermediary saints like Mary in Catholicism and Ali in Shiism). The Devil is sort of a wall between the pure goodness of God and this admittedly imperfect world.

This is similar again to Gnosticism, where the pure good God created intermediaries called Aeons so that a world that includes evil (as our world does) could even exist in the first place. On the other hand, Malak Tus is seen my the Yezidis as neither an evil spirit nor a fallen angel, but as a divinity in his own right.

One wonders why the Malak Tus is represented by a bird. The answer is that worshiping birds is one of the oldest known forms of idol worship. It is even condemned in Deuteronomy 4: 16, 17: “Lest ye corrupt yourselves and make a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air.”

More likely, the peacock god is leftover from the ancient pagan bird-devil gods of the region. The ancient Babylonians, Assyrians both worshiped sacred devil-birds, and carvings of them can be seen on their temples. The Zoroastrians also worshiped a sort of devil-bird called a feroher.

A winged demon from ancient Assyria. Yezidism appears to have incorporated elements of ancient Babylonian and Assyrian religions, making it ultimately a very ancient religion. Note that devils often have wings like birds. Remember the flying monkey demons in the Wizard of Oz?

The pagan Phoenicians, Philistines and Samaritans worshiped a dove, and the early monotheistic Hebrews condemned the Samaritans for this idol-worship. The pagans of Mecca also worshiped a sacred dove. Pagan Arabian tribes also worshiped an eagle called Nasar.

What is truly odd is that peacocks are not native to the Yezidi region, but instead to the island of Sri Lanka. The Yezidis must have heard about this bird from travelers and incorporated it into their religion somehow.

In the Koran, both the Devil and the peacock were thrown out of Heaven down to Earth, with the Devil and the peacock both suffering similar punishments. So here we can see Islam associating the peacock with the Devil also.

In popular mythology, peacocks tend to represent pride. Note that the Koran says that the Devil was punished for excessive pride (compare with a similar Christian condemnation of excessive pride). Peacocks are problematic domestic fowl, and tend to tear up gardens, and so are associated with mischief.

The Yezidis revere Malak Tus to such a great extent that he is almost seen as one with God (compare the Catholic equation of Mary with Jesus, the Christian association of Jesus with God, and the Shia Muslim association of Ali with Mohammad).

Malak Tus was there from the start and will be there at the end, he has total control over the world, he is omniscient and omnipresent and he never changes. They do not allow anyone to say his name, as this seems to imply that he is degraded. Malak Tus is the King of the Angels, and he is ruling the Earth for a period of 10,000 years.

They also superstitiously avoid saying an word that resembles the word for Satan. When speaking Arabic, they refuse to use the Arabic shatt for river, as it sounds like the word for Satan. They substitute Kurdish ave instead. Compare this to the Kabbalist view of God as “that which can not even be comprehended (i.e., spoken) by man.

In addition to Malak Taus, there are six other angels: Izrafael, Jibrael, Michael, Nordael, Dardael, Shamnael, and Azazael. They were all at a meeting in Heaven when God told them that they would worship no one other than him. This worked for 40,000 years, until God mixed Earth, Air, Fire and Water to create Man, as Adam.

God told the seven angels to bow before Adam, and six agreed. Malak Taus refused, citing God’s order to obey only Him. Hence, Malak Taus was cast out of Heaven and became the Archangel of all the Angels. Compare this to the Christian and Muslim view of the Devil, the head of the angels, being thrown out of Heaven for the disobedience of excessive pride.

In the meantime, Malak Taus is said to have repented his sins and returned to God as an angel. So, yes, the Yezidis do worship the Devil, but in their religion, he is a good guy, not a bad guy. They are not a Satanic cult at all. In Sufism, the act of refusing to worship Adam (man) over God would be said to be a positive act, one of refusing to worship the created over the creator, as in Sufism, one is not to worship anything but God.

The Yezidis say that God created Adam and Eve, but when they were asked to produce their essences, Adam’s produced a boy, but Eve’s was full of insects and other unpleasant things. God decided that he would propagate humanity (the Yezidis) out of Adam alone, leaving Eve out of the picture. Specifically, he married Adam’s offspring to a houri.

We can see the traditional views of the Abrahamic religions of women as being sources of evil, tempters, sources of strife, conflict and other bad things. The Yezidis see themselves as different from all other humans. Whereas non-Yezidis are the products of Adam and Eve, Yezidis are the products of Adam alone.

Eve subsequently left the Garden of Eden, which allowed the world to be created. So, what the Abrahamic religions see as man’s greatest fall in the Garden, the Yezidis see as mankind’s greatest triumphs. The Yezidis feel that the rest of humanity of is descended from Ham, who mocked his father, God.

Compare this to the Abrahamic religions’ view of women as a source of corruption. Christians say that Eve tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden, causing them to be tossed out. In Islam, women are regarded as such a source of temptation and fitna (dissension) that they are covered and often kept out of sight at all times. In Judaism, women’s hair is so tempting to men that they must shave it all off and wear wigs.

The Yezidis say they are descended directly from Adam, hence they are the Chosen People (compare to the Jewish view of themselves as “Chosen People”).

Yezidism being quite possible the present-day remains of the original religion of the Kurds, we must acknowledge that for the last 2000 years, the Yezidis have been fighting off other major religions. First Christianity came to the region.

As would be expected, the Nestorian Christians of Northern Iraq, or “Nasara” Christian apostates, as an older tradition saw them, hold that the Yezidis were originally Christians who left the faith to form a new sect. The Nestorians and other ancient Christian sects deny the human or dual nature of Jesus – instead seeing him as purely divine.

This is in contrast to another group also called “Nasara” in Koran – these being the early Jewish Christian sects such as the Ebionites, Nazarenes and Gnostics, who followed Jesus but denied his divine nature, believe only in the Book of Matthew, and retained many Jewish traditions, including revering the Jewish Torah, refusing to eat pork, keeping the Sabbath and circumcision.

Mohammad apparently based his interpretation of Christianity on these sects. The divinity of Jesus was denied in the Koran under Ebionite influence. The Koran criticizes Christians for believing in three Gods – God, Jesus and Mary – perhaps under the influence of what is called the “Marianistic heresy”. At the same time, the Koran confused human and divine qualities in Jesus due to Nestorian influence.

Finally, the Koran denied the crucifixion due to Gnostic influence, especially the apocryphal Gospel of Peter. The local Muslims, similarly, hold that the Yezidis are apostates, having originally been Muslims who left Islam to form a new religion.

There is considerable evidence that many Yezidis were formerly Christians, as the Christian story holds. Šeiḫ ’Adî, one of the tripartite of angels worshiped by the Yezidis, was a Sufi Muslim mystic from Northern Iraq in the 1100’s. He attracted many followers, including many Christians and some Muslims who left their faith to become Yezidis. Yezidism existed before Šeiḫ ’Adî, but in a different form.

Šeiḫ ’Adî also attracted many Persian Zoroastrians, who were withering under the boot of Muslim dhimmitude and occasional massacre in Iran. Šeiḫ ‘Adî (full name Šeiḫ ‘Adî Ibn Masafir Al-Hakkari) was a Muslim originally from Bait Far, in the Baalbeck region of the Bekaa Valley of what is now Eastern Lebanon.

He came to Mosul for spiritual reasons. He was said to be a very learned man, and many people started to follow him. After he built up quite a following, he retired to the mountains above Mosul where he built a monastery and lived as a hermit, spending much of his time in caves and caverns in the mountains with wild animals as his only guests.

His followers were said to worship him as a God and believed that in the afterlife, they would be together with him. He died in 1162 in the Hakkari region near Mosul. At the site of his death, the Yezidis erected a shrine and it became one of the holiest sites in the religion. However, Šeiḫ ’Adî is not the founder of Yezidism, as many believe. His life and thought just added to the many strains in this most syncretistic of religions.

The third deity in the pseudo-“Trinity” of the Yezidis is a young man named Yezid. They say they are all descended from this man, whom they often refer to as God, as they sometimes refer to Šeiḫ ’Adî. In Šeiḫ ’Adî’s temple, there are inscriptions to both Šeiḫ ’Adî and Yezid, each on opposing walls of the temple. In a corner of this temple, a fire, or actually a lamp, is kept burning all night, reminiscent of Zoroastrianism.

There is a lot of controversy about what the word Yezid in Yezidi stands for. The religion itself, in its modern form, probably grew out of followers of Yazid Ibn Muawiyah Ibn Abu Sufyan, the 2nd Caliph in the Umayyad Dynasty of Caliphs. Yazid fought a battle against Mohammad’s grandson, Hussayn, in a battle for the succession of the Caliphate.

Hussayn’s followers were also the followers of Ali, the former caliph who was assassinated. The followers of Hussayn and Ali are today known as the Shia. The Sunni follow in the tradition of the Umayyads. In a battle in Karbala in 680, Hussayn and all his men were killed at Kufa and the women and children with them taken prisoner.

To the Shia, Yazid is the ultimate villain. Most Sunnis do not view him very favorably either, and regard the whole episode as emblematic of how badly the umma had fallen apart after Mohammad died.

Nevertheless, there had been groups of Sunnis who venerated Yazid Ibn Muawiyah Ibn Abu Sufyan and the Umayyads in general in northern Iraq for some time even before Šeiḫ ’Adî appeared on the scene. Šeiḫ ’Adî himself was descended from the Umayyads.

Reverence for Yazid Ibn Muawiyah mixed with the veneration of Šeiḫ ’Adî in the early Yezidis. It was this, mixed in with the earlier pagan beliefs of the Semites and Iranians discussed elsewhere, along with a dollop of Christianity, that formed the base of modern Yezidism. But its ultimate roots are far more ancient. Yezidism had a base, but it was not yet formed in its modern version.

Here we turn to the etymology of the word Yezidi. It is possible that the figure of “Yezid”, the young man-God in the Yezidi trinity, represents Yazid Ibn Muawiyah. By the mid-1200’s, the local Muslims were getting upset about the Yezidis excessive devotion to these two men. In the mid-1400’s the local Muslims fought a large battle against the Yezidis.

To this day, the top Yezidi mirs are all related to the Umayyads. Muslim scholars say that Yezid bin Unaisa was the founder of the modern-day Yezidis. Bin Unaisa was one of the early followers of the Kharijites, an early fanatical fundamentalist sect that resembled our modern-day Al Qaeda and other takfiri Salafi-jihadi terrorists. Bin Unaisa was said to be a follower of the earliest Kharijites.

These were the first Kharijites. Early split-offs from Ali’s army, they took part in the Battle of Nahrawan against Ali’s forces outside Madaen in what is now the Triangle of Death in Iraq. In 661, the Kharijites assassinated Ali, one of the penultimate moments in the Sunni-Shia split.

At some point, bin Unaisa split from the Kharijites, except for one of their early followers who were following a sect Al-Abaḍia, founded by ‘Abd-Allah Ibn Ibad. He said that any Muslim who committed a great sin was an infidel. Considering his fundamentalist past, he developed some very unorthodox views for a Muslim.

He said that God would send a new prophet to Persia (one more Iranian connection with the Yezidis), that God would send down a message to be written by this prophet in a book, and that this prophet would leave Islam and follow the religion of the Sabeans or Mandeans. Nevertheless, he continued to hold some Kharijite beliefs, including that God alone should be worshiped and that all sins were forms of idolatry.

In line with this analysis, the first Yezidis were a Kharijite subsect. The fact that bin Unaisa said that the new prophet would follow Sabeanism implies that he himself either followed this religion at one time or had a high opinion of it.

Muslim historians mention three main Sabean sects. They seemed to have derived in part from the ancient pagan religion of Mesopotamia. They were polytheists who worshiped the stars. After the Islamic conquest, they referred to themselves as Sabeans in order to receive protection as one of the People of the Book (the Quran mentions Jews, Christians and Sabeans and People of the Book).

One of the Sabean sects was called Al-Ḫarbâniyah. They believed that God dwelt within things that were good and rational. He had one essence but many appearances, in other words. God was pure good, and could not make anything evil. Evil was either accidental or necessary for life, or caused by an evil force. They also believed in the transmigration of souls (reincarnation).

It is interesting that the beliefs of this sect of Sabeans resemble the views of modern Yezidis. So Yezîd bn Unaisa believed in God and the Resurrection Day, he probably respected angels and the stars, yet he was neither polytheistic nor a true follower of Mohammad.

At the same time, he lined himself up with those People of the Book who said that Mohammad was a prophet, yet did not follow him (in this respect, he was similar to Western non-Muslims who acknowledge Mohammad as the prophet of the Arabs).

Although most orthodox histories of the Yezidis leave it out, it seems clear at this point that Yezîd bn Unaisa was the founder of the Yezidi religion in its modern form and that the Yezidis got their name from Yezîd bn Unaisa. This much may have been lost to time, for the Yezidis themselves say that Yezidi comes from the Kurdish word Yezdan or Êzid meaning God.

After naming their movement after Yezîd bn Unaisa, the Yezidis learned of Šeiḫ ‘Adî’s reputation, and become his followers, along with many Muslims, Christians and Iranians.

Like their founder, the Yezidis believe in God and the Resurrection, expect a prophet from Iran, revere angels and stars, regard every sin as idolatry, respect Mohammad as a prophet yet do not follow him and at the same time pay no attention to Ali (recall that the early Kharijites assassinated Ali). Being opposed to both Mohammad and Ali, bn Unaisa is logically despised by both the Sunni and the Shia.

The fact that the Yezidis renounced the prophet of the Arabs (Mohammad) while expecting a new one from Iran logically appealed to a lot of Persians at the time. Hence, many former Zoroastrians, or fire-worshipers, from Iran joined the new religion, surely injecting their strains into this most syncretistic of religions.

There is good evidence that many Yezidis are former Christians. The Yezidis around Mosul go by the surname of Daseni, of Dawasen in the plural. It so happens that there was a Nestorian diocese in Mosul called Daseni, or Dasaniyat. It disappeared around the time of Šeiḫ ’Adî. The implication is that so many of its members became Yezidis that the Diocese folded.

Furthermore, many names of Yezidi villages are actually names in the Syriac (Christian) language, more evidence that many Yezidis are former Christians.

Adding even more weight to this theory, the Yezidis retain two Christian customs – the baptism and the Eucharist.

The Yezidis must baptize their children at the earliest possible age and the priest puts his hand on the child’s head as her performs the rite. Both customs mirror the Christian baptism precisely.

When a Yezidi couple marries, they go to a local Nestorian Church to partake of the Eucharist. The cup of wine they drink is called the cup of Isa (Jesus). The Yezidi have great respect for Christian saints and houses of worship, and kiss the doors and walls of churches when they enter them.

When a Yezidi woman goes to the home of her bridegroom on wedding day, she is supposed to visit every every religious temple along the way, even the churches. On the other hand, Yezidis never enter a mosque. Sadly, the Yezidi reverence for Christianity is not returned by the Eastern Christians, who despise the Yezidis as devil-worshipers.

They revere both Jesus and Mohammad as religious teachers, not as prophets. They have also survived via a hefty dose of taqqiya, or dissimulation, in this case pretending outwardly to be some species of Shia Muslims.

This is common for minority faiths around the region, including the Alawi and Druze, who have both proclaimed at the top of their lungs that they are Muslims and have hidden to the aspects of their religion which would cause the Muslims to disown them at best or kill them at worst. The primary Islamic influence on the Yezidis is actually Sufism, not Shiism per se.

There are traces of other religions – Hinduism may possibly be seen in the five Yezidi castes, from top to bottom – Pir, Shaikh, Kawal, Murabby, and Mureed (followers). Mureeds are about on a par with Dalits or Untouchables in Hinduism. Marriage across castes is strictly forbidden, as it has been disapproved in India.

On the other hand, pre-Islamic Iran also had a caste system, and the base of the Yezidi religion seems to be derived from Persian Zoroastrianism. The Yezidi, like the Druze and the Zoroastrians, do not accept converts, and like the Druze, think that they will be reincarnated as their own kind (Druze think they will be reincarnated as Druze; Yezidis think they will be reincarnated as Yezidis).

The Yezidis can be considered fire-worshipers in a sense; they obviously got this from the Zoroastrians. The Yezidis say, “Without fire, there would be no life.” This is true even in our modern era, if we substitute “electrical power” for fire, our lives would surely diminish. Even today, when Kurdish Muslims swear on an oath, they say, “I swear by this fire…”

Many say there is a resemblance between Malak Taus and the Assyrian God Tammuz, though whether the name Malak Taus is actually derived from Tammuz is much more problematic. Tammuz was married to the Assyrian moon goddess, Ishtar. But this connection is not born out by serious inquiry.

Ishtar the Goddess of the Moon, here represented as a bird goddess. Worship of birds is one of the oldest forms of pagan idolatry known to man. What is it about birds that made them worthy of worship by the ancients? The miracle of flight?

Where do the Yezidis come from? The Yezidis themselves say that they came from the area around Basra and the lower Euphrates, then migrated to Syria and then to Sinjar, Mosul and Kurdistan.

In addition to worshiping a bird-god, there are other traces of the pre-Islamic pagan religions of the Arabs in Yezidism.

They hold the number 7 sacred, a concept that traces back to the ancient Mesopotamians. The Yezidis have seven sanjaks, and each one has seven burners of the flame, their God created seven angels and the sculpture carved on the temple of Šeiḫ ’Adî has seven branches.

The Sabeans, another ancient religion of Mesopotamia who are now called star-worshipers by their detractors, also worshiped seven angels who guided the courses of seven planets – it is from this formulation that our seven days of the week are derived. In the ancient religion of Assyria, Ishtar descended through seven gates to the land of no return. The ancient Hebrews likewise utilized the number seven in their religion.

An ancient seven-armed candelabra, a symbol nowadays used in the Jewish religion, with demonic sea monsters drawn on the base.

The Yezidis worship the sun and moon at their rising and setting, following the ancient Ḥarranians, a people who lived long ago somewhere in northern Iraq. Sun-worship and moon-worship are some of the oldest religious practices of Man. The ancient pagans of Canaan worshiped the Sun.

At the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, the religion practiced there had little in common with Talmudic Judaism of today. For instance, the horses of the Sun were worshiped at that temple (see II Kings 25: 5, 11). The ancient Judeans, who the modern-day Jews claim spiritual connection with, actually worshiped the “host of heaven” – the Sun, the Moon and the Planets. So much for “the original monotheists, eh?

In Babylonia, there were two temples to the Sun-God Shamas.

Another pre-Islamic Arab pagan belief is the belief in sacred wells and sanctuaries that contain them. The springs contain water that has curative powers. The holy water found at the Zamzam Well in Mecca is an example; even to this day, Muslims bottle the water and carry it off for this purpose. Often sacred clothes are used to make these pilgrimages, because ordinary clothes are thought to contaminate the holy site.

In pre-Islamic days, when the pagans circled the rock at the Kaaba, they were completely naked. In Islam, men and women are supposed to remove their clothing and wear a special garb as they circulate around the rock. In Mandeanism, both men and women go to the Mishkana, or tabernacle, take off their clothes, and bathe in the circular pool. Emerging, they put on the rasta, a ceremonial white garment.

At the temple of Šeiḫ ‘Adî, there is a sacred pool. The Yezidis throw coins, jewelry and other things into this pool as offerings. They think that Šeiḫ ‘Adî takes these things from time to time. And they must remove their clothes, bathe and wear a special garment when they visit the holy valley where this temple resides.

The ancient Arabs also worshiped trees. There were sacred trees at Nejran, Hadaibiya and Mecca. The pagans hung women’s ornaments, fine clothes, ostrich eggs, weapons and other items.

Similarly, the Yezidis also worship trees. They have their favorite trees, and sick people go to these trees and hang pieces of cloth on them, hoping to get well, and believe that whoever takes one of these down will get sick with whatever disease the person who hung the cloth had.

An inscription of a sacred tree from Ancient Babylonian civilization. Trees were worshiped not just in ancient Arabia; they were also worshiped in Mesopotamia.The Christian Trinity combined with the pagan Tree of Life, in an interesting ancient Chaldean inscription that combines pagan and Christian influences. The Tree of Life was also utilized in Kabbalism, Jewish mysticism from the Middle Ages. Nowadays the symbol is used by practitioners of both White and Black Magic. Radical Islam is committing genocide once again on the Christians of Iraq, including the Chaldeans.Yet another Tree of Life, this time from ancient Assyria, an ancient civilization in Mesopotamia. The concept of a tree of life is a pagan concept of ancient pedigree.

The ancient Meccans used to worship stones. At one point the population became so large that they had to move out of the valley where the Kaaba resided, so when they formed their new settlements, they took rocks from the holy place and piled them outside their settlements and made a sort of shrine out of these things, parading around the rock pile as they moved around the Kaaba.

In Palestine, there were sacred wells at Beersheba and Kadesh, a sacred tree at Shekem and a sacred rock at Bethel. As in animism, it was believed that divine powers or spirits inhabited these rocks, trees and springs. This tradition survives to this day in the folk religion of the Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.

The Yezidis also have certain stones that they worship. They kiss these stones in reverence.

When the Yezidis reach the goal of their pilgrimage or hajj, they become very excited and start shouting. After fasting all day, they have a big celebration in the evenings, with singing and dancing and gorging on fine dishes.

This hajj, where they worship a spring under Šeiḫ ‘Adî’s tomb called Zamzam and then climb a mountain and shoot off guns, is obviously taken from the Muslim hajj. Mecca has a Zamzam Spring, and pilgrims climb Mount ‘Arafat on hajj.

The shouting, feasting, singing, dancing and general excitement is typical of a pagan festival. The non-Yezidi neighbors of the Yezidis claim that Yezidis engage in immoral behavior on this hajj. No one knows if this is true or not, but if they do, it may be similar to the festivals of the Kadeshes discussed in the Old Testament, where people engaged in licentious behavior in their temples.

Although the Yezidis have a strict moral code, observers say that they allow adultery if both parties are willing. That’s pretty open-minded for that part of the world.

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