By Vexen Crabtree 2014
|Links: Pages on Yezidism, Other Religions|
|Texts||Yezidi Book of Revelation & Black Book|
|Heritage||Zoroastrianism and ancient Mesopotamian culture|
|Area of Origin||Assyria (now Iraq)|
|Founder||By Abi ibn Musafir|
“A Kurdish sect, originating with the Muslim mystic Shaikh Abi ibn Musafir (d. 1162 CE). [They] offended orthodox Muslims, who branded the movement heretical. In the 14th and 15th centuries the Kurdish Yezidi tribes were large and influential, but their power and numbers declined [because the] Yezidis have been the object of persecution and intense hostility [from Muslims].”
“A historically misunderstood group, the Yazidis are predominantly ethnically Kurdish, and have kept alive their syncretic religion for centuries, despite many years of oppression and threatened extermination.
The ancient religion is rumoured to have been founded by an 11th century Ummayyad sheikh, and is derived from Zoroastrianism (an ancient Persian faith founded by a philosopher), Christianity and Islam. The religion has taken elements from each, ranging from baptism (Christianity) to circumcision (Islam) to reverence of fire as a manifestation from God (derived from Zoroastrianism) and yet remains distinctly non-Abrahamic.”
The Yezidis have become increasingly persecuted since the 15th century, at the hands of the Islamic communities that have always surrounded them, too frequently rising to intense violence being done against them. "Under Ottoman rule in the 18th and 19th centuries alone, the Yazidis were subject to 72 genocidal massacres"5. And in the 1980s, almost every Yezidi in Turkey was forced to migrate to Germany because of Muslim persecution3.
Iraq was once host to a great and blooming culture, which produced a variety of long-lasting religious movements. But the rise of Islam saw most indigenous cultures wiped out. The Yezidis are one of the few remainders, huddled together in the north. In 2007, hundreds died as a result of an organized car bombing campaign against the Yezidis - the Iraqi Red Cross said 800 of them were murdered at that time5.
In 2014 July and August a new wave of violence erupted against them, this time under the banner of ISIS, an organisation sometimes called "The Islamic State".
“Islamic militants have trapped up to 40,000 members of Iraq's minority communities [... mostly] members of the Yazidi religion, one of Iraq's oldest minorities. They were forced to flee to Mount Sinjar in the Iraqi north-west region, or face slaughter by an encircling group of Islamic State (Isis) jihadists. The UN has said that roughly 40,000 people - many women and children - have taken refuge in nine locations on the mountain. [...] Local officials say that at least 500 Yazidis, including 40 children, have been killed, and many more have been threatened with death. Roughly 130,000 residents of the Yazidi stronghold of Sinjar have fled to Dohuk, in Iraqi Kurdistan to the north, or to Irbil. [...] On Thursday [7th Aug, 2014], the UNSC condemned the Isis attacks on the Yazidi community, saying those responsible could face trial for crimes against humanity. [...]
The Yazidis had been denounced as infidels by Al-Qaida in Iraq, a predecessor of Isis, which sanctioned their indiscriminate killing.”
It normally falls to Western powers to enforce basic human rights and to undertake humanitarian action in many Muslim countries, because human rights are a concept rejected in Islamic cultures. A relief operation has been conducted by the USA, the UK and France6. The USA has also stepped in with air strikes against Islamic State military units.
God first created seven ruling angels (a heptad), whose leader is called Malek Tawus, Malek Taus or Melek Tawwus, depending on how the word is transliterated into English. This angel is also referred to as the "Peacock Angel". When the world was created, these 7 angels were given responsibility for it3 and God itself then takes a back seat. When mankind were created, however, Malek Taus refused to bow down to mankind. He is banished, but, is later forgiven and restored. The Yazidis honour Malek Taus for the principles which he employed in refusing to worship mankind. But they get them into trouble with Muslims, because in the Qur'an, this same story is told but it is Shaitan (Satan) who refuses to bow. And, unfortunately for the Yezidis, their own alternative name for Malek Taus is actually Shaitan. Therefore, Muslims often think that the Yezidis are devil-worshippers. Also, in Yezidi holy texts, the basic Islamic prayer is disclaimed against, specifically the bit at which Shaitan is denounced. In addition to this, Malek Taus is associated both with the colour black (one of their two holy books is called The Black Book) and with fire5.
“Malak Tawus is the originator of both good and evil in the world, and has sometimes been identified with the devil. The Yezidis, however, think of him as a wholly venerable being, claiming that evil has no objective existence.”
Satan in Islamic theology is very similar:
“The Islamic theology of Satan runs like this: After creating Adam, God commands all to bow before Adam. Satan, one of the Jinn (genies) (Qur'an 18:50) refuses because he was made from fire, while humans are only made from clay (7:10-18, 15:26-39, 17:61-63, 18:50, 20:115-123). The argument doesn't make any sense, but, rather than re-educate Satan, God decides that a more useful course of action is to condemn Satan forever. Satan asks permission to cause evil for others and to lead them astray (e.g., 15:39), and rather than keep peace in the Universe and protect humanity from this powerful foe, God goes for it. The whole story is stated in 7:10-27, again in 15:26-46 and again in 20:115-124; and a shorter version in 17:61-63. In a world where many have been killed people 'following orders', we have all learnt to question instructions, but Satan and the Jinn were treated remorselessly, punished for an infinite period of time for an action that was not even a moral concern (the same happens to Adam and Eve in the Bible). In the modern world where we expect justice and morality to be embodied by the divine, the Quranic story of Shaitan is very difficult to accept and it portrays God as the enabler of arbitrary evil rather than as a protector of humankind.”
Malek Taus is listed amongst the Infernal Names in "The Satanic Bible" by Anton LaVey (1969)7 as the "Yezidi devil". The idea that the Yezidi are devil-worshippers has clearly travelled far and wide, as Anton LaVey also had this to say about them:
“The Yezidis, a sect of Devil worshippers, take a different viewpoint. They believe that God is all-powerful, but also all-forgiving, and so accordingly feel that it is the Devil whom they must please, as he is the one who rules their lives while here on earth. They believe so strongly that God will forgive all of their sins once they have been given the last rites, that they feel no need to concern themselves with the opinion God may hold of them while they live.”
All #tags used on this page - click for more:
The Guardian. UK newspaper. See Which are the Best and Worst Newspapers in the UK?. Respectable and generally well researched UK broadsheet newspaper.
Hinnells, John R.. Currently professor of theology at Liverpool Hope University.
(1997, Ed.) The Penguin Dictionary of Religions. Originally published 1984. Current version published by Penguin Books, London, UK. References to this book simply state the title of the entry used. A paperback book.
(2014) The World. Subtitled: "A Traveller's Guide to the Planet". Published by Lonely Planet, London, UK. Each chapter is devoted to a specific country and includes a list of the most interesting places to visit and a few other cultural notes.