Abu ‘l-Hasan Mihyar Ibn Mirzawaih
” The travellers who have just set out,
From whom you are now separated,
Have left behind them
Hearts which shall ever refuse
To admit of consolation
For their loss. “
Thus wrote Abu ‘l-Hasan Mihyar Ibn Mirzawaih, or simply Mihyar, a native of Dailam who gained great reputation as a poet. He had been a Zoroastrian, a ” fire-worshipper ” as they were called, who later converted to Muslim ( Shia Islam ) faith.
In the aftermath of Arab victory over Persia in 7th Century, Zoroastrian places of worship were desecrated, fire temples were destroyed and mosques were built in their place. Many fire temples, with their four axial arch openings, were usually turned into mosques simply by setting a mihrab (prayer niche) on the place of the arch nearest to qibla (the direction of Mecca). Zoroastrian temples converted into mosques in such a manner could be found in Bukhara, as well as in and near Istakhr and other Persian cities. Urban cities, where Arab governors made their quarters, were most vulnerable to such religious persecution : the citizens were forced to conform or flee. Many libraries were burnt and much cultural heritage was lost.
Over time, persecution of Zoroastrians became more common and widespread, and the number of believers decreased significantly. Many converted, some superficially to escape the systematic abuse and discrimination by the law of the land. Others accepted Islam because their employment in industrial and artisan work would, according to Zoroastrian dogma, make them impure their work would involve defiling fire, which they held as sacred.
These factors continued to contribute to increasing rates of conversion from Zoroastrianism to Islam. A Persian scholar commented,
“ Why so many had to die or suffer ?
” Because one side was determined to impose his religion upon the other… “
The contempt for the Arabs that brought forth Islam on to the Persian populace was famously captured in the following verse from Firdausi’s Shahnameh, Iran’s national epic written around 1000 AD :
” Damn this world… damn this time… damn this fate…
That uncivilized Arabs have come to make me a Muslim.”
In the centuries that followed, Zoroastrians faced much religious discrimination and persecution, including forced conversions, harassment, as well as being identified as najis (polluted) and impure to Muslims, making them unfit to live alongside Muslims… therefore forcing them to evacuate from cities and face major sanctions in all spheres of life. Zoroastrians have been subject to public humiliation through dress regulations, to being labeled as najis and to exclusion in the fields of society, education and work.
Great Poet, Bad Muslim
It was around A. D. 1003-4, and Al-Kasim Ibn Burhan said to Mihyar :
” Mihyar, by becoming a musalman you have ( merely ) passed from one corner of hell to another.”
” How so ? ” asked Mihyar.
Al-Kasim replied :
” Because you were formerly a fire-worshipper and now you revile the companions of our blessed Prophet in your verses.”
The rebellion and critical assessment of his new found religion must have shown in Mihyar’s compositions.
He is often referred to as a ” bad Muslim ! “
Mihyar writes :
[ Once a Zoroastrian family converted to Islam, the children had to go to Muslim religion school and learn Arabic and the teachings of the Quran and these children lost their Zoroastrian identity. Those who had converted just for the convenience could not revert back to Zoroastrianism because the penalty for renouncing Islam was death.]
” May a persisting rain-cloud
whose waters bear the sand
even into people’s dwellings
refresh and reanimate with its contents
the abode which my mistress occupied
How can I renew
my intercourse with Omm Malik
now that the places in which we reside
are separated by ( the country of ) Zarud
and its two mountains ?
My heart, though far from her,
sees her with the eye of desire
and is happy;
but who will enable my eyes
to see her in reality ?
How pure, good God ! And yet
how troubled is our mutual love !
how far is she from me every morning
and yet how near ! “
And, again :
[ When persecution, suppression and oppression of dhimmis and najis reigned… ]
” O for the night I passed
at Zat cl-Athel ( the tamarisk grove ),
when her image came
( to visit me in a dream )
and rendered that night so short !
O, how dear that remembrance !
O, how dear ! The Fear ( of discovery )
treading in the foot-steps of love,
approached me in all its terrors;
May God not diminish
the length of their road !
They had nearly gone astray,
in the darkness of the night,
but they were directed ( towards us )
by the brilliant lustre of my beloved’s teeth. “
And yet, again :
[ While departing from his land of birth, to far off Baghdad… ]
” And my heart remained at the sand-hill,
in the reserved grounds of the tribe.
Turn, ( my friend ! )
towards those grounds
and say to my heart : “Fare well !”
Then pursue your journey
and relate a wondrous tale;
say, that a heart went away
and left the body standing up.
Say to neighbours
who dwell at al-Ghada :
“How sweet would be the life
one leads at al-Ghada,
were it to endure !”