Yazidism is also known as Sharfadin
(from Sharaf ad-Din ibn al-Hasan, sixth leader of the Adawiyya Sufi order).
The first leader, Sheikh Adi Ibn Musafir Al-Hakkari was born in the 1070’s.
He grew up in the village of Bait Far in the Bekka valley.
It is likely he was ethnically an Arab, but that is only going from the fact that he and his family had Islamic Arab names.
As a young man he went to study in Baghdad and later Mosul.
He became a Sufi and moved to the Sinjara mountains for spiritual contemplation and the creation of his Sufi order, called the Adawiyya.
He died here in 1162. His tomb, Lalesh, is now the center of Yazadi worship.
There were seven leaders of this Sufi order.
From the 1070’s – 1220’s the Middle East came under the rule of the Seljuk Turks.
Though ostensibly Sunni Muslims, they actually had a heterodox idea of Islam.
In the art of that era can be seen Buddhist mandalas, dragons, peacocks and lions. Even the sun had a place in the art of that time. The father of Alp Arslan, the first Seljuk Sultan, was Jewish by religion, his name was Mikhael. They had originally lived in the Khazar Khanate. Even in the Seljuk army there must have been many Nestorian Christian Turks from the Ferghana region.
Seeing the people and history behind the establishment of the Adawiyya order helps to understand why it was so heterodox, how it could have come to exist and why the descendants of this order, the Yazadi, have this heterodox religion today.
Sheik Adi claimed descent from the Ummayad Caliph Marwan (623-85 AD).
The order had the calamity, as the world did, to suffer from Mongol attacks.
- In 1221 the Mongols executed the second leader of the order, Sheikh Adi ibn Shakr.
- In 1254 Sheik Hasan was executed along with 200 followrs, by the Atabeg of Mosul. Lalesh was pillaged, the remains of Sheikh Adi were thrown out and burned.
- In 1258 Sheik Sharaf ad-Din died fighting the Mongols.
- In 1275 Sheik Fakhr ad-Din had to fight for leadership of the Adawiyya with his brother, Shams ad-Din. Fakhr defeated Shams in battle. Shams escaped to Syria.
- Fakhr left the Sinjara region, and went to Egypt in 1276. At that time Egypt was rising in power under the Mamluks whilst Iraq had been destroyed by the Mongols.
Even after the loss of their spiritual leader it seems the Adawiyya followers remained in the Sinjara region. They were a heterogeneous society, already comprising of Islamic Arab influences, Kurdish influences and as we will read further on, Aramaic Christian influences…
There are five castes in their society; Pir (clergy), Sheikh, Kawal, Murabi, and Murid (layity).
The “Mir” (Emirs) is the secular leader of the Yazadis, he claims descent from the Ummayad Caliphs. The “Sheik” is the religious leader.
Also there are three classes of within the Pir: Kochaks, Fakirs, and Farashes.
None of them are permitted to intermarry.
Marriage to outsiders has been shown to be punishable by death.
Although we assume the caste system is something from India, it was also strictly followed in pre-Islamic Iran.
All Yazadi are given spiritual guidance by the Sheikh and Pir families. More esoterically they are also given a “brother” or a “sister of the after-world”.
This is similar to Manichean ideology. Mani's teachings are revealed to him through his spiritual companion and celestial twin (his syzygos).
The name Yazadi is said to derive from the Ummayad Caliph Yazid.
They say that a “Sultan Ezdi” preceded the Caliph, who was a reincarnation of “Ezki”.
The only historical person who bore a name such as “Ezdi” before the era of the Caliphs was the Persian Shah, Yazdigerd III. He was the last Zoroastrian king of Persia.
Also the year Yazdigerd was crowned, 632 AD, marks the base year of the modern Zoroastrian calendar.
Yazdi meant Godly in middle Persian.
Even today the Parsees of India, who are Zoroastrian by religion, call themselves “Yazdi”.
Yazadis, like Zoroastrians are both forbidden from desecrating fire even to speak rudely in front of it. Extinguishing fire by water is not allowed in any circumstance as this destroys two elements, water and fire, at the same time.
Sun worship is ancient, even in Iraq where the center of Yazidism is located.
The ancient temple of Hatra, south-east from Mosul, was dedicated to Shamash god of the Sun.
They main Yazadi tribe in north Iraq is called “Dasani”. There was once a Christian diocese called Dasaniyat in that area.
It is supposed that this name is a legacy of the Nestorian Christians who joined the Adawiyya Sufi order, either escaping persecution from the Sunni Muslims or joining by free choice.
The Bishop of Arbel (Erbil) lamented the loss of his flock to Sheik Adi:“Great misfortunes have fallen upon us; a formidable enemy came to torment us. He was a descendant of Hagar (mother of the Arabs), the slave of our mother (Sarah, mother of the Hebrews). This enemy who made our life unfortunate was a Muslim, called Adi. He deceived us by vile tricks, and has finished by taking possession of our riches and our convent, which he consecrated to things that are illicit. An innumerable multitude of Muslims have also attached themselves to him and vow submission.”
In the Sinjara region many Yazadi villages still have Syraic Christian names.
Baptism and the Eucharist, both Christian practices, are part of the Yazadi religion.
Being baptized with water, when children, the priest holding their head.
Children can also be circumcised, though it is not mandatory.
Also in the Sinjara area, when a Yazadi man and woman marry, they will go to a Nestorian Christian church and partake in the Eucharist, drinking from the cup of wine which they call “Isa” (Jesus).
A newly married Bride is expected to visit all temples and churches on her way to the Grooms home, but not a mosque.
The Yazadi also share similar beliefs as the pre-Islamic Arabs had, such as the reverence of stones, wells, springs and trees.
These are also Mithraic beliefs.
Sacred trees have ribbons of cloth tied to their branches in offer of prayer.
It was believed if someone untied these, the person would be cursed.
Also the site of Lalesh seems to be based on Mecca.
(The “Haj” to the Kabba was already a part the tradition of Mecca before Islam.)
At Lalesh there is a spring called “Zamzam” and the pilgrims must walk up the nearby mountain as part of theis Haj, just as in Mecca pilgrims must walk up mount Arafat.
The Yazadi have five daily prayers; dawn, sunrise, noon, afternoon and sunset. Yet most pray only at sunrise and sunset.
There was an Armenian sect in the time of the first crusade, 1099 AD, called the “Arevordik”.
They worshipped the Sun.
Just as the number 5 is special to them, so is the number seven. There are seven Angels (Izrafael, Jibrael, Michael, Nordael, Dardael, Shamnael, and Azazael), in the Sinjara area there are seven temples with eternal flames. Above the tomb of Sheikh Adi at Lalesh is engraved a seven branced candelabra. The number seven was revered by the Sabeans who are mentioned in the Koran as “people of the book”.
The first Wednesday of April marks their new year. Of note is the custom of painting eggs.
There is also the great seven day festival (23 September-1 October) for Sheik Adi called “Cejna Cemaya” or Feast of the Assembly, in which the seven Angels are believed to visit Lalesh. A bull is also sacrificed, which seems to hark back to Mithra/Mir, the pagan Iranian god of the Sun. The festival of Mithras was celebrated on September 21 in pre-Islamic Iran.
The famous “whirling Dervish” dance is also performed there at this festival.
Melek Taus (King Peacock) was made the Archangel by God to rule over earth.
This was his reward for NOT BOWING DOWN to Adam.
Adam was created by God from Earth, Water, Air and Fire. After which God ordered all seven Angels to bow to Adam.
Melek Taus said to God "why should I bow to something that is imperfect, I only bow to you who is perfect".
This “perfectness” meant that God was beyond the worship of man, and so Melek Taus would act as the intercessor and it is he who receives the prayers of Yazadi.
In Avestan theology, the Ahuras were beyond the prayers of men, but the Dev would act as intercessors.
In Yazidism it is forbidden to use the word “Satan” in reference to Melek Taus.
According to them both good and evil exists in man and he has the choice of which direction to go in life.
The Armenian writer, Yeznik of Goghb/Kolb wrote around 445 AD of the Zurvanist sect that they indulged in a triennial worship of the devil on the ground that he is evil by will not by nature, and that he may do good or even be converted.