Let us all first enjoy a recently composed pictorial poem about life at https://toptopic.com/posts/live-persian-life-the-fullest-34062
As we once again approach the much hyped, hustle and bustle of the holiday season, one cannot help but pause and contemplate the diversity of faiths worldwide still revered by individuals versus the more exploitative and intrusive politicised religiosities that have, sadly, led to accumulation of power and wealth through subjugating the masses to violence, enslavement, injustice, and greed. In a more civilised and tolerant society, an individual’s “faith” should be safeguarded through embracing cultural diversities and beliefs, and adherence to civil discourse and civil laws. On the other hand, religiosity must remain wide open to scrutiny, critique, and rejection or reform when deemed necessary, as religiosity is not to be misconstrued as divinely sacrosanct, unilaterally descended by an unforeseen supreme almighty and thus absolved from all intelligent probing and discourse.
The examination of any ideology, be it capitalism, socialism, communism, fascism, anarchism, nihilism, pacifism, religionism, irreligionism, and even spiritualism is to remain wide open to cross examination, refinement or rejection based on assessing how positively or negatively each impacts society, humanity, and mother nature. In retrospect, if we had the opportunity, could we not have proactively prevent ed catastrophes inflicted on humanity by zealot Crusaders, holocaust criminal perpetrators or the criminal ISIS, by objectively scrutinising their ideologies as they emerged?
Engraving of Faravhar, the Zoroastrian symbol in Persepolis, circa 5thcentury BCE
Iran is an ancient nation on a vast diverse land with an advanced civilisation and a culture that has seminally contributed to humanity as a whole since at least pre-Neolithic antiquity. Iran has also played her pivotal role for conceiving, transmitting or propagating faiths across all continents, most of which later led to politicised religiosity by emerging elites, the self-righteous stakeholders acting as a God or as shadows to God. Zoroastrianism, the first monotheistic faith which morphed into religiosity anchored on four casts, as preceded only by Persian Mithraism and sols invictus; had been inspired by, or exchanged philosophies with certain Indian and Chinese rituals, the two latter evolved into Hinduism and Buddhism. The Zoroastrian central influence was the intense dualistic mode of conceptualising the whole of reality into competing spheres of good vs. evil, light vs. darkness, heaven vs. hell in believers’ inner consciousness. The Chinese Ying-Yang or Greek mythological dual gods are subsequently derived from this concept. In fact, there is more than sufficient evidence to trace Zoroastrian doctrine and its edicts and philosophies, to Judaism, Christianity and Islam that followed, especially as these traditions articulated their conceptions of a dualistic universe. Zoroastrianism which for almost a millennium after its inception remained a monastic faith, when adopted as the official state religion by the Sassanid Dynasty in Persia to exploit the masses through heavy taxes levied on the majority serfs as well as the non-Zoroastrians, led to a rapid and easy take over and conversion by Islam in the 7th century.
A reform reinterpretation of Zoroastrianism by two movements of Mazdakism and Manicheism, anchored on social justice, came too late. And all these religions have, at more than one time or another, inflicted much injustice, suffering, self-righteousness, violence, and catastrophe on innocent humans in the name of a certain “perfect” God or Goddess. The practice of self-flagellation and self-mutilation and mortal suffering with the promise of entering heaven after death, especially for those inflicted with poverty and injustice, has roots in more than one or two religions. However, the destructive tendencies of dualistic paradigms evolved over time to become more inclusive of diversity as increasingly diverse peoples and traditions became interrelated. In fact, one could in theory postulate that most principles are in common among all faiths; nonetheless, it is the ever widening (mis-)reinterpretations over time, that when exploited by the few self-righteous and self-serving power hungry culprits with ulterior motives, lead to inevitable catastrophes in every instance.
Hence, Iran has witnessed many intens e clashes of religiosities, as many were conceived or traversed through there. There are scholars (read Esther’s Children) who surmise that the ten missing Jewish tribes simply dissolved into Persia from as far back as three millennia ago, when the Jewish Kingdoms were southwesterly neighbours to the Iranian Elamites, Medes and later the Achaemenes Empire. This era occurred at a time when even Judaic thoughts were not formally organised into the written Torah that followed later, and so most Iranians have Mizrahim Jewish gene markers. And the same is also validated for a large number of Iranians with Armenian Christian lineages. The Zoroastrian lineage is of course broadly embedded in a few hundred million people from northern India and central Asia to Asia Minor, the Caucuses and Mesopotamian regions. Moving forward, the Arabs, the Moghuls, the Greeks, the Eastern Romans of Byzantium and a few other major invaders, have collectively enriched the Iranian gene pool! No wonder a person of Iranian/Persian heritage can be (mis-)taken for a dozen or more other distinct ethnicities from across the globe as s/he travels or resides anywhere worldwide. This becomes even more confusing to gullibly ignorant or uneducated observers, when a large number of Iranians, especially abroad, speak up to half a dozen languages. The two primary lingua franca for millions of Iranians in diaspora is Persian, and one or two other languages (English, French, German, Italian, Arabic, Turkish, Russian), as they have lived in many places oversees for the past five decades. The Persian psyche worldwide is intricately complex and their way of life is influenced by and transcends all cultures. In a real sense, the Persians have throughout history served as a context that nurtured the interrelationships among religious and philosophical traditions. This may account for the ecumenical catholicity of Iranians, in that they tend to have a spiritual humanistic and universalistic outlook on life. They are not however alone as the majority of humans on earth tend to lean toward such a simple way of life.
Back to religions and the above statistical pictograph, don’t we recognise the inverse relationship between faith and religiosity on the one hand and socio-economic affluence and higher education, on the other? Paradoxically, the vibrant Islamic caliphates that had by and large benefited immensely from the Zoroastrian faith, inspired Persian arts, architecture and culture, literature and life philosophies, governance and citizenry services; they collectively referred to such stellar contributions of the Persians as Arab or Islamic arts, science and technology, a ludicrously absurd nomenclature, indeed. At its zenith, Islam covered three continents for almost five hundred years but then went into darkness and inward mysticism which discounted mortal life when the European dark ages was surpassed by the Magna Carta in 1215; the latter was followed by five hundred years of renaissance and protesting (thus Protestant) post enlightenment, leading to a secular separation of religion and state.
Estimates are that Iran, with the lowest religiosity rate (not necessarily personal inner-faith) in her region, has a much higher number of Jewish prophets’ and saints’ (Daniel, Esther, Mordechai, Yaghoub, Yahiya et al) mausoleums and shrines, still revered by all citizens, than Israel does.
The 80 million Iranians still name their children with the second highest number of Jewish names, after Jews in Israel and the diaspora.
Historical townships named Fariman, Faridan, Natan-(z), Susa/Shoosh, Hemedan etc. have persisted throughout millennia.
That is why most Iranians are believers and practitioners of the single golden rule of treating others as you would expect to be treated, as articulated in a 13th century poem by Sa’adi:
All humans are members of one frame,
Since all at first, from the same essence, came.
When by hard fortune one limb is oppressed,
The other members lose their desired rest.
If thou feel‘st not for others‘ misery,
A human is no name for thee.
Had the above poem or its essence been closely followed by all in history, we humans would not have to be ashamed of, and/or endure the catastrophes of the Crusaders, the Holocaust, and genocidal acts committed by ISIS.