Journal : Of Zoroastrian Past And Present

Today …

It was heartening to know of Uzbekistan Zoroastrian Anjuman from its announcement of their presence and their activities on the web.  

The Uzbekistan Zoroastrian Anjuman has been officially registered with a membership of 7,000 Zoroastrians.  The Amordad Newspaper refers to the website of this Anjuman and has reported that Mr. Rostam Abido Komiolof, the President of this Anjuman, informs of 400 members of this Anjuman who are students with the skill to read, write and speak the Avestan Language. The Majority of the Uzbek Zoroastrian’s medium of instruction is Russian & Tajik version of Persian. 

Mr. Rostam Abido Komiolof is hopeful that the Zoroastrians of Uzbekistan will pursue the Avestan Language and one day makes it the medium of instruction in Uzbekistan .  One of the Zoroastrian student member of this Anjuman, Ms. Anna Chankui, is a first class student of the Avestan Language and Mathematics in her school.  Another Zoroastrian student member of this Anjuman is the best student of the Avestan Language and has won the first prize in Uzbek language Olympiad. 

Mr. Rostam Abido Komiolof says that Uzbekistan has Zoroastrian cultural roots since thousands of years and this culture is alive and active till date.  He said that after the Arab invasion of ancient Iran which included Uzbekistan , Islam was forced upon the people of Uzbekistan 4 times.  The people of Uzbekistan resisted the imposed religion of Islam and have kept their Zoroastrian cultural roots alive. Famous Mathematicians, Astronomers and Physicians like Kharazmi, Birooni and others have safeguarded the Zoroastrian Principles and, based on them, have made important inventions and discoveries.  Famous poets like Roodaki, Daghighi & Ferdowsi have based their poems on the Bright Vision of Asho Zarathushtra.  

He further stated that the people of Uzbekistan have great faith in the Zoroastrian Religion; they love and have firm devotion in its ways.  The festivals of Norooz and Sadeh are very important for Uzbek people. During these festivals people visit the ancient Fire Temples and offer their Avestan prayers.  Now Norooz has been officially declared as a National Holiday. 

In Uzbekistan ’s capital city of Tashkent, reading of the Shahnameh has gained importance among the people.  The Avestan Gathas and Ferdowsi’s work have been translated in Uzbek, Russian and Tajik version of Persian language.

The Ministry of Education of Uzbekistan has chalked out a plan for teaching the Avestan Culture to 6 Million Uzbek students and it will recruit 800,000 teachers to implement the project. 

The Uzbekistan Zoroastrian Anjuman has invited Zoroastrians world wide to visit the site: www.avesta.org.ru  and get an in-depth view of Zoroastrians living in Uzbekistan .  If any one is interested in visiting Uzbekistan and obtaining a tourist visa should email to : info@avesta.org.ru

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In Past …

According to the Tarikh-i-Bukhara, a history of Bukhara written about 944 A.D., Islam had to be enforced on the reluctant inhabitants of Bukhara. The Bukharans reverted to their original beliefs no less than four times : “The residents of Bukhara became Muslims. But they renounced [Islam] each time the Arabs turned back. Qutayba b. Muslim made them Muslim three times, [but] they renounced [Islam] again and again, to become non-believers. The fourth time, Qutayba waged war, seized the city, and established Islam after considerable strife….But the people espoused Islam overtly and practiced idolatry in secret.”

Many Zoroastrians were induced to convert by bribes, and later, out of economic necessity. Many of these “economic converts” were later executed for having adopted Islam to avoid paying the poll tax and land tax. In Khurasan and Bukhara, Zoroastrian fire-temples were destroyed by Muslims, and mosques constructed their place. The Tarikh-i-Bukhara records that there was considerable outrage at these acts of sacrilege, and there was 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 inter-community contact, right from the initial Arab conquest of Transoxiana to 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, as for example, at Sarakh, only a hundred men were granted amnesty, 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 40000 Iranians were slaughtered. The Zoroastrians suffered sporadic persecution, as their fire-temples and priests were destroyed, as for example, at Kariyan, Kumm and Idhaj. In a deliberate act of provocation, Caliph al Mutawakkil had a tree, putatively planted by Zoroaster himself, cut down. 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 8th century. We might cite the revolts led by Bihafarid between 746 and 748; the rising of Sinbadh in 755.

Forced conversions were frequent and pressure for doing so often led to conflict and riots, as in Shiraz in 979. To escape persecution and forced conversion, many Zoroastrians emigrated to India, where, to this day, they form a much respected minority and are known as Parsis. Conditions for Zoroastrians became even worse from 17th Century onwards. In the 18th century, their numbers, to quote the Encyclopaedia of Islam (2 ed),”declined disastrously due to the combined effects of massacre, forced conversion and emigration.” By the 19th century they were living in total insecurity and poverty, and suffered increasing discrimination. Zoroastrian merchants were liable to extra taxes; houses were frequently looted; they had to wear distinctive clothing, and were forbidden to build new houses or repair old ones.


When Qutaibah bin Muslim, under the command of Al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf, was sent to Khwarazmia with a military expedition and conquered it for the second time, he…killed all their Zoroastrian priests and burned and wasted their books, until gradually the illiterate only remained, who knew nothing of writing, and hence their history was mostly forgotten.

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The following is the purported correspondence between the Arab Caliph and the last Sassanid King of Persia, 642 and 650 AD :

Letter From Arab Caliph Umar To Zoroastrian Shah Of Iran

Bism-ellah Ar’rahman Ar’rhim To the Shah of the Fars

I do not foresee a good future for you and your nation save your acceptance of my terms and your submission to me. There was a time when your country ruled half the world, but see how now your sun has set. On all fronts your armies have been defeated and your nation is condemned to extinction.

I point out to you the path whereby you might escape this fate. Namely, that you begin worshipping the one god, the unique deity, the only god who created all that is. I bring you his message. Order your nation to cease the false worship of fire and to join us, that they may join the truth.

Worship Allah, the creator of the world. Worship Allah and accept Islam as the path of salvation. End now your polytheistic ways and become Muslims that you may accept Allah-u-Akbar as your savior. This is the only way of securing your own survival and the peace of your Persians. You will do this if you know what is good for you and for your Persians. Submission is your only option.

Allah u Akbar.

The Calif of Muslims Omar Ibn-Khat’tab

*

Letter From Zoroastrian Shah Of Iran To Arab Caliph Umar

In the name of Ahura Mazda, the Creator of Life and Wisdom …

From Yazdgerd, the Shahan-Shah of Iran

to Omar Ibn Khat’tab, the Arab Caliph …

In your letter, you summon us Iranians to your god whom you call “Allah-u-Akbar”; and because of your barbarity and ignorance, without knowing who we are and whom we worship, you demand that we seek out your god and become worshippers of “Allah-u-Akbar”.

How strange that you occupy the seat of the Arab Calif but are as ignorant as any desert roaming Arab ! You admonish me to become monotheistic in faith. Ignorant man ! For thousands of years we Aryaee have, in this land of culture and art, been monotheistic and five times a day have we offered prayers to God’s Throne of Oneness. While we laid the foundations of philanthropy and righteousness, and kindness in this world, and held high the ensign of “Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds”, you and your ancestors were desert wanderers who ate snakes and lizards and buried your innocent daughters alive.

You Arabs, who have no regard for God’s creatures, who mercilessly put people to the sword, who mistreat your women and bury you daughters alive, who attack caravans and are highway robbers, who commit murder, who kidnap women and spouses ! How dare you presume to teach us, who are above these evils, to worship God ? You tell me to cease the worship of fire and to worship God instead ! To us Iranians, the light of Fire is reminiscent of the Light of God. The radiance and the sun-like warmth of fire exuberates our hearts, and the pleasant warmth of it brings our hearts and spirits closer together, that we may be philanthropic, kind and considerate, that gentleness and forgiveness may become our way of life, and that thereby the Light of God may keep shining in our hearts.

Our God is the Great Ahuramazda. Strange is this that you too have now decided to give Him a name, and you call Him by the name of “Allah-u-Akbar”. But we are not at all like you. We, in the name of Ahura Mazda, practice compassion and love and goodness and righteousness and forgiveness, and care for the dispossessed and the unfortunate. But you commit murder in the name of your “Allah-u-Akbar”, create misery and subject others to suffering ! Tell me, truly, who is to blame for your misdeeds ? Your god, who orders genocide, plunder and destruction ? Or you, who do these things in his name? Or both ?

You, who have spent all your days in brutality and barbarity, have now come out of your desolate deserts resolved to teach, by the blade and by conquest, the worship of God to a people who have for thousands of years been civilized and have relied on culture and knowledge and art as mighty supports. What have you, in the name of your “Allah-u-Akbar”, taught these armies of Islam, besides destruction and pillage and murder, that you now presume to summon others to your god ? Today, my people’s fortunes have changed. Their armies, who were subjects of Ahura Mazada, have now been defeated by the Arab armies of “Allah-u-Akbar”. And they are being forced, at the point of the sword, to convert to the god you’ve named as “Allah-u-Akbar”. And, they are forced to offer prayers to him five times a day, but now in Arabic; since your “Allah-u-Akbar” only understands Arabic.

I advise you to return to your lizard infested deserts. Do not let loose upon our cities your cruel barbarous Arabs who are like rabid animals. Refrain from the murder of my people. Refrain from pillaging my people. Refrain from kidnapping our daughters in the name of your “Allah-u-Akbar”. Refrain from these crimes and evils. We Aryaee are a forgiving people, a kind and well-meaning people. Wherever we go, we sow the seeds of goodness, amity and righteousness. And this is why we have the capacity to overlook the crimes and the misdeeds of your Arabs. Stay in your desert with your “Allah-u-Akbar”, and do not approach our cities; for horrid is your belief and brutish is your conduct.

Yazdgerd Saasaani

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