By Fariborz Rahnamoon
The history of the Zarathushtis after the fall of the Sassanian dynasty is nothing but a history of genocide and atrocities committed against them; a history of survival of a culture, a language, a belief. By preserving their language and culture, they hoped that some day the future generation of Iranians will realize the truth and revive their ancient way of life, rooted in the teachings of Zarathushtra. History is always written by the victors. The History of the Zarathushtis, that has come down to us is the one that has been written and rewritten by their adversaries in the last 2000 years. In the last 1400 years their own writers and scholars who attempted to write were either burnt in the pyre of their writings or their hands and fingers cut. Their ancient writings were collected in lieu of the Jizyah tax and burnt. Even today in the 21st century, the threat still exists. These historians have made the Iranian people and even Zarathushtis believe that the Sassanian dynasty and the mobeds were so bad, that the Iranians were waiting for the Arabs and welcomed them with open arms. THIS IS NOT TRUE.
It should be noted that during the Sassanian era there was religious freedom under most of the rulers to the extent that Mani and Mazdak both claimed to be prophets and started their version of religion which became wide spread. King Kai Ghobad (488-541CE) became the followers of Mazdak. Mazdak also influenced Zarathushti Deen (Zoroastrianism) to a great extent, and the dualism associated with it was introduced during this period. In the Gathas Zarathushtra does not mention Ahrimana, Zarathushtra’s dualism was about the use of the human mind, and not the dualism between Ahrimana & Ahura Mazda. To understand the Arab invasion of Iran and the atrocities committed by them we need to understand the history and philosophy of the Arabs. Since that is not the topic of this discussion, I will make a brief reference, just enough to be able to make my point. Neither the Arabs nor their culture was something that would be sought after by a civilized progressive culture like that of ancient Iran. In fact, it was despised by the Iranians. The Arabs were a group of desert tribes with no known industry or architecture. Farming was nonexistent or limited to tending to palm trees. The historian Tabari who was favorable to the Arab cause introduces them as a people known to survive on lizards, scorpions, beetles and snakes. They feasted on dead camel’s meat and that is why later Halal meat was made a religious requirement. They could not even distinguish between camphor and salt. The Arabs were a warring tribe who lived by fighting and looting each other. That is why they yelled “Salaam” before coming close to each other. “Salaam” means “Peace” and if they had no intention to fight they had to make their intention known before it was too late. The other party had also to respond his intention of peace for them to come close. That is why even today not responding to “Salaam” is considered a sign of hostility and offense. Neither was the Arabs newly formed religion Islam spiritually more advanced or better in any way than the other existing religions. In fact the Koran address a backward people, people with no knowledge, and forbids them from acquiring any knowledge for it says “God is all knowing and has planned the past and the future and your knowledge is limited to what he desires you to know.” Comparatively Zarathushtra in Gatha sees humans as creators, in Ha 28.11 he saysvi; “Everything that is created was first a thought, so let your thoughts be good۔ Good thoughts are those that are in tune with the Wisdom in Creation۔ Thoughts not converted into words will be lost, so let only your good thoughts be known, so that your deeds may also be good.” These were the beliefs of the Iranians and while God was dictating the Koran to the Arabs, Iran already had a century old University called Ghond e Shahpour. Scholars and seekers of knowledge from all over the know world gathered there to exchange views and learn from each other. Now should we believe the biased historians or our common sense? The Arabs were very successful in war because the Koran gave them the confidence and the purpose to kill or die. The Koran is very clear, any one who does not believe in Allah and his prophet Mohammad is an infidel and must either convert or be killed or if spared must pay the infidel tax.
The Koran gives its followers a superiority complex and a disregard for all knowledge except that which is in the Koran. This was the very cause of their victory over both the Roman and the Persian Army. That was also the reason why both Iran and Iraq fought for eight long years in recent history and, of course the source of inspiration of all the suicide bombers. The Arab economy was based on war and pillage. Now with all the Arab tribes united under the banner of Islam they looked beyond their borders to keep their people employed. Omar had made the Arabs believe that it was God’s intention that they should attack their neighboring countries and convert them to Islam. He had said, “Help will come from God according to the purity of intention, and reward will come according to what you sought. Know that God has made a promise to you, has taken the matter upon Himself, and will not break His promise. Be careful not to turn Him away from you, lest He put someone else in your place.”
Omar made sure to remind the Arabs that according to the Koran they were the chosen soldiers of God and if they did not do what God intended them to do, God would choose some other people to do it for Him.
There are some important points to be noted.
1۔ The Arabs started their adventure by first attacking the Romans and not the Persians.
2۔ They attacked the Romans at Ajnadayna in 634 and conquered it.
3۔ Then in 637 they conquered Syria, and in a haphazard way managed to conquer Egypt with a force of 3500 men.
4۔ Finally, in 637 they sent a letter to Yazdegard to convert to Islam or bear the consequences. Yazdegard sent Omar the now famous reply: “While the Arabs were eating lizards and burying their daughters alive, the Persians believed in a monotheistic God and have no need to follow a backward Arab religion.”
5۔ The Arabs finally attacked the Persians army at Ghadesiyeh in modern day Iraq and managed to kill the commander in chief of the army in guerilla type warfare. The loss demoralized the Persian army and led to its defeat. The Iranians under young Yazdegard mustered up an army and stood against the advancing Arabs at Nahavand; but seven years later, in 642 CE the Persians were defeated and the centralized Sassanian government lost control. Seventeen years after the start of the Arab invasion, in 652 CE Yazdegard was killed and thereafter, without a centralized leadership, the people resisted the Arabs in small pockets wherever they could.
The Arabs set up garrisons outside Persian towns and controlled the towns from there. Whenever they saw resistance, they captured and killed all able-bodied Iranians. As reported by Balkhi x in his book “Parsnameh”, when the people of Taleghan in Khorasan revolted and killed the Arab governor, Abdollah Ben Amir the Arab Khalifeh ordered that Iranians be hanged on both side of the road for a distance of 24 miles (4 farsang). Similarly, when the people of Estakhr in Pars revolted, 40,000 men were killed and with their blood, the water mill was made to run. Birunixi in his book “Asar al Baghiyeh” has recorded many such incidents, where as a punishment, the Arabs shed as much Iranian blood as was necessary to be able to run the water mills with it. There is a story that once so many were beheaded that the blood went thick and they had to add water to help it flow and turn the mills. Biruni also records how Kotaibeh the Arab ruler ordered the killing of all scholars and the learned people in province of Kharazm and had their books burnt. It was common practice to burn scholars in the pyre of their books or to cut or burn their fingers so they could no longer write. In the city of Ghom the Arabs on one day rounded up 70 of the leading citizens and beheaded them in the city square.
Discrimination by the Arabs continued against the Iranians even when they converted to Islam. Iranian Muslims were called Mavalis and were considered second grade to Arabs. They were not allowed to sit in the presence of an Arab and they had to walk one step behind an Arab. The Iranian Muslims were given unique Arabic names to distinguish them from Arabs. We still have among Iranian Muslims the name Gholam Reza, Gholam Ali, Abdul Reza etc. These names are not used among Arabs for they know the meaning. Gholam means a young slave who is used for homosexual purposes. Gholam Hussein means the boy who belongs to Hussein. Similarly, Abd means slave but a regular one. Among Arabs you will only find Abdallah meaning slave to Allah, but among Iranians it is Abdul Hamid, Abdul Reza etc, meaning the slave belonging to Hamid and Reza.
Persian resistance against the Arabs was a continuous affair. The people of Tabarestan, Gillan and Dailaman on the shores of the Caspian Sea resisted the Arabs forces, who were never able to conquer that part of Iran. In fact, they were forced to accept Islam long after the fall of the Arabs, by the Safavid dynasty in 1587. The Safavids made Shiaism the official religion of the Iranians. In 697 CE Arabic was made the official language of Iran. Any one found speaking Persian was hanged by the tongue, or their tongue was pulled out of their mouth. In the revolt against the Arabs there were many famous leaders who led the Iranians in their fight. The Behzadans sons of Vandad Hormoz also known as Abu Moslem Khorasani were among the early leaders. In 814 CE an Iranian by the name of Taheri killed Amin the Khalifa (the Arab ruler) of Bagdad. Later there were leaders like Babak-e-Khoramdin who engaged the Arabs in guerilla-warfare for 21 years from 816 to 837 CE but finally an Iranian by the name of Afshin, who in his own way was serving the resistance, betrayed him. Babak was taken as a prisoner to the Khalifa in Baghdad who ordered the Arab henchman cut his limbs. Babak is said to have drenched his own face with his bleeding arms to deprive the Arabs from seeing his face turn pale due to loss of blood. Other heroes were Yagub Lais an Iranian ruler who traced his ancestors to Garshasp the Zarathushti ruler. He revolted against the Arabs 240 years after the Arab invasion, in 879 CE. The Samanians, who traced their ancestors to Bahram Chobin the Sasanian vazir (minister), and the Dailamians were other Iranian rulers who fought the Arabs. Barsis, Behafarid, Sanbaad (Sinbad) and the Barmaki’s were some of the many Iranians who led revolts against the Arabs. According to the historian “Tabari” the people of Paars & Kerman stood up against the Arab governor and the representative of Ali the son in law of Prophet Mohammad, by not paying the infidel tax (Jazyeh). The governor fled out of fear for his life and Ali Abu Taleb who is worshipped by the Iranians today, dispatched “Ziyad” with a large army to put down the rebellion and extract the taxes from the Iranians.
For two hundred years, the Arabs terrorized the ancient civilized world (Persia, Egypt, Assyria, Armenia, Lydia and Philistine); they forced Islam and the Arabic language upon them. In these two hundred years, they reversed the clock of progress in the Middle East and the world. Once the center of civilization, where they measured the depth of oceans, who had calculated the meridian, who knew the earth was not the center of the universe, and who followed the solar calendar, were told all that is wrong and against the will of Allah. Their thesis was burnt and replaced by the Koran. Their solar calendar replaced by a lunar calendar and their medicines and science replaced by prayers. The people who did not know the difference between camphor and salt believed they knew everything that was to know, for God had given them all that was to know in the Koran.
Islam used non-spiritual methods to convert people. According to Allah in the Koran a non-Muslim was an infidel and had to pay a heavy tax called Jazyeh; the non-payment would lead to confiscation of not only their property but also their wife and children. To avoid such a catastrophe the easiest solution was conversion. Once converted, they had to attend public prayers and follow the religion publicly, usually the first generation would do it outwardly, but the second and third generation would be lost to Islam and gradually the population would know nothing better. Education was limited to the study of Koran and within a few generations, among the sons of the forced converts, Islamic fanaticism replaced nationalism.
ATROCITIES BY IRANIAN CONVERTS:
In society, there are always people who would take advantage of any situation and the Iranians did not lack such people. Seeing that the Arabs had the upper hand, some sided with them without thinking of the consequences. There also were some rich landlords who sided with the Arabs to save their land and avoid the heavy infidel tax. Then there were those who could not pay the infidel tax so they converted to save their wife and children from being taken into slavery in lieu of the infidel tax (jazyeh). There were also the followers of Mani and Mazdak who saw no advantage in siding with the loosing side. These initial waves of converts in the bordering towns gave the Arabs a better foothold. Once converted knowledge was limited to reading the Koran, which preached that God favored only the Muslims, this gave them a superiority complex and they mistreated even their nonconverted family members and neighbours. Again, since according to Islam God favors the Muslim, if in a family one of the brothers became a Muslim the family property would automatically belong to that brother who has converted to Islam. To avoid such situations the other brothers would also convert outwardly, but the Islamic system is based on fear and force and the parents out of fear would keep the children in the dark as to the real reason of their conversion, as such that the next generations would become born Muslims. On one hand there were such converts, on the other there were those who resisted conversion at all cost and underwent hardship to preserve their faith. A group of such Zarathushtis even left the country and sailed to India to preserve their religion and to this day they have preserved it and are know as Parsis in India. Others took refuge in China but after a few generations, they assimilated into the Chinese society. Those that did not convert and remained in the country suffered the most hardship. The sad part was that now their own compatriots victimized them. Within a few generations, the converts had no clue to their own history and greatness and looked upon the Arabs as their mentors. The Persian Empire was dismantled and since then outsiders have always ruled over Iran except for brief periods. Islam as a religion brings down the standard of living to the minimum. Science and industry is shunned and is limited to the bare necessities of life. Within a few centuries all the ancient civilization now under Islam were reduced to the like of backward desert cultures. Even today in the 21st century when we look at Afghanistan we cannot imagine that 3745 year ago the greatest sage of all times Zarathushtra lived and worked in northern Afghanistan and had an observatory in NimRouz from where he calculated the first Meridian and named Sistan the land of mid-day, Nim Rouz. People no longer had any clue to their own history and culture. Their mentors were Arabs and Arabic language was considered more sophisticated than their own.
The originators of the concept of a monotheistic God were considered infidels and untouchable and accused of worshiping fire instead of God. After two centuries, the tide turned against the Arab rulers but they had by then established Islam on a sound footing. Slowly Iranians scholars started to rise up but under the guise of Islam, for Islam had no mercy on anyone criticizing it. Daghigi, a known Zarathushti who had started writing the “Khodaenameh” and recounting the glory of Iran past was murdered; Ferdowsi who was born in a family of landlords, who had converted to save their land and property, was a Zarathushti at heart. He called his God the CREATOR OF LIFE AND WISDOM, not the merciful the compassionate. He took up the challenge and saved both the language and the culture. Iranians had become Muslims with no recourse; for it is the religious duty of a Muslim to kill any one who turns his back on Islam. The killer would not face any legal consequence for the murder, but be rewarded by God with a guaranteed place in heaven. Due to fear, many who were Zarathushti at heart preserved an outward appearance. Persian poetry is proof of that. We see Hafez surviving, though he wrote about Peer e Mogan (Zarathushtra) in his poetry. He survived because he had memorized the Koran as a child and was respected for it. No doubt, he was finally not buried in the Muslim cemetery for they had reservation of him being a Muslim. During this period the seed of Iranian nationalism was sown with a hope that some day the future generation would realize the truth and revive their ancient way of life, rooted in the teachings of Zarathushtra.
The Zarathushti population was still in millions when Taimur Lang (Timor lame) the Mogul emperor conquered Iran. He had appointed one of his sons as governor of Shiraz, who was attacked and killed by a group of people who lived in the mountains of Shiraz. When the news reached Taimur he came at the head of an army to punish the killers of his son. He led his army into the mountains where the freedom fighters lived. When he approached the narrow mountain pass, all of a sudden, every leaf of the trees became active and showered arrows on the Mogul army. After heavy losses, Taimur retreated but promised to wipe them out. He ordered gunpowder from China, reorganized his army and launched a second attack. This time he blasted his way through the pass with gunpowder. Taimur saw some of the warriors had something tied on their back while fighting and wanted very much to find out what they carried. When all of a sudden, one of them attacked Taimur, he was very quick and beheaded the Iranian warrior. He then went over to the body to see what was in the backpack and saw that the warrior was a lady and she carried her baby on her back. Here Taimur realized that all those with backpack who were fighting his army, were women with their child on their back. Later Taimur saw a building in the heart of the mountain from whose chimney smoke was coming out. On inquiry he found that it was a fire temple. He approaches it and found some old Mobeds (priests) tending to the fire and learned that these people were all Zarathushtis.
UNDER THE SAFAVIDS THE FINAL BLOW 1587 CE
Over four million Zarathushtis had survived up to the time of the Safavids. The Safavids embraced Shiaism and made it a state religion. During that turmoil when even Sunni Muslims were not spared, the rest of the Zarathushtis were forced into Islam. Shah Abbas Safavi dispatched his army to the last stronghold of the Zarathushtis ruled by the Zarathushti dynasty of “Padouspanian” in the Caspian Sea region and coerced them into Islam. Some that resisted were, under the guise of protection, moved along with the Armenians from the north of Iran to Esfahan the capital, to live in ghetto conditions where many died due to sickness and the rest were massacred and some fled to Yazd. The final blow came under Shah Sultan Hossein (1694 -1722). It is estimated that at least a million Zarathushtis had survived until then, when Shah Sultan Hossein ordered the massacre of those Zarathushtis who would not convert. Hundreds of thousands were massacred while many converted to save themselves. Even today, we notice in places like Abiyaneh, Naein, Kashan, Anarak and other villages between Yazd and Esfahan that, in spite of being Muslims, they have preserved the Dari language, the customs and dress. The Shiite clergy have always feared the Zarathushti religion, for they realize the potential for revival among the Iranians and so have done everything in their powers to stop this from happening. They have misinterpreted the religion and demonized it. They have distorted history and shown the Sassanian and the Mobeds as the cause of the downfall of the religion to the extent that even Zarathushtis are made to believe in it. They have blamed the so-called class system among the Sassanian and show Islam as a classless society.
In fact, among the Arabs there was a class system based on who became Muslim when. According to Tabari, the Muslims treated even the Arabs who converted at different periods in the history of Islam, differently. The Iranian converts were called Mavalis, designated as a lower class of Muslims, who could not sit in the presence of any Arabs and who had to walk behind the Arabs. They could not ride a horse but had to run behind the Arabs who were riding. Even today, the Arabs consider Iranian Muslims as ‘Ajam’ and Shi’ism to be against the principles of Islam. Therefore, the Iranians did not gain anything by being converted. In fact they lost their greatness and for the last 14 centuries have always been ruled by outsiders except for brief periods. During those brief periods, those nationalist rulers have tried to revive the ancient glory; but the clergy has always stepped in and brought about the downfall of the country.
The Iranian Zarathushtis of today come from either Yazd or Kerman, the rest of the country was forced into Islam. In Yazd there are about 20 villages all speaking different dialects of the Dari language. This shows that they had migrated from different parts of the country. These villages were initially established by the Zarathushtis and populated only by Zarathushtis. Today just a couple of villages have remained with a majority Zarathushti population. This is so, because the Muslims have stayed away on account of shortage of water in the village. In the rest of the villages Muslims have joined in and it can be seen in the way the villages have grown. With the Muslims settling in the villages, life was made more difficult. The Zarathushtis could not use the water flowing in the stream if a Muslim was using it, for Zarathushtis were considered untouchables, so to avoid trouble they had to make sure to always go down stream. The Muslims when they would notice Zarathushtis down stream they would paddle in the water and make it muddy or throw dirt in the water to make it unusable downstream. These Zarathushtis had learned to be self-sufficient and were in a way independent from the Muslim people and the rulers. So in order to harass the Zarathushtis, other means were envisaged. We have confirmation of these tactics from Napier Malcolm who lived in Yazd for five years and has recorded them in his book: ‘Five years in an Iranian city – Yazd’. He says in 1895 when he lived in Yazd the Zarathushtis were not allowed to wear eyeglasses or to use an umbrella or wear a ring on their fingers. They were not allowed to wear a belt unless it was made out of brown or khaki coloured cloth. They were not allowed to wear white socks and their shoes had to be torn. Their trousers had to be short little lower than their knees. They were not allowed to wear a hat or cap and if they ever did wear, it had to be a torn one. They were not allowed to ride on the back of a donkey in the presence of a Muslim and the height of their houses had to be lower than that of the Muslims. The door of their house had to be a single hinged small door. They were not allowed to trade nor do business in any form. The Zarathushti children were not allowed to go to school till 1870. He further writes that the Jazyeh tax collectors had the full power to use all and any means they thought fit to collect the full amount of the Jazyeh. Usually the sweeper (Farrash) was appointed as a Jazyeh collector; for Zarathushtis were considered so low that no one above a sweeper should be in contact with them. Napier reports an incident where a Zarathushti and a dog were tied to two ends of the same rope and beaten in turns. In Islam dog is considered an untouchable animal.
These factual narrations are long and never ending. You can find more information on : www.ancientiran.com
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