Saturday, February 26, 2005


Devil Worshippers in Iraq?

With all the constant media coverage of the main sects in Iraq, other less known groups tend to be forgotten.

One such group are the Yazidis. Their faith is shrouded in mystery. They are believed by most Iraqis to worship the Devil but they vehemently deny it.

They inhabit an area north of Iraq at the Arab-Kurd, Muslim-Christian interface. The main town of their highest concentration is called Sinjar, a small town less than a 100 miles from Mosul. They are thought to number around 200,000.

There aren’t many of them but they used to be clearly distinguishable by their conspicuous, bushy untrimmed beards before the rise of religious fundamentalism brought unkempt beards into vogue! For a long time, they were the only sect allowed to keep their beards in the Iraqi army.

Their ethnic origin is not clearly known, Most say they are Kurds, some say they are Arabs. They are probably mixed. They believe that they are descendents of Adam alone while the rest of mankind come from Adam and Eve. They never marry outside their faith.

Some people believe that they are the remnants of ancient religions, but their main religious figure and the founder of the sect in its present form, is a man called Sheikh Addey who died in 1160. He is reported to have been a devout Muslim Sufi, a recluse and a holy man – reportedly with super-human powers. The valley where his tomb lies is sacred to them. It is forbidden to kill a bird or an insect or cut a tree there.

The details of their teachings are said to contain elements from most of the known religions in the region. They are clearly instructed to keep their beliefs and rituals hidden from ‘outsiders’. They have two holy books; one of them is called “The Black Book”.

They believe in God as the Supreme Being, but they also have seven other lesser gods / angels. A god has come down to earth every 1000 years since the Flood, 7,000 years ago. The most senior of those gods is called “Melek Ta’us” (Arabic for Peacock Angel) – a fallen angel believed (by most people) to be the Devil.

“After he repented he cried for 7,000 years, his tears filling 7 jars, which then quenched the fires of hell.”

The word for Satan in Arabic is Shaitan. They never utter that word. In fact, they avoid saying any word which has similar syllables - even common words such as ‘shat’ (wide river). They generally avoid saying any word of damnation. For some reason, they never eat lettuce. One well-known Iraqi historian, al Hasani, claims that for many centuries they were forbidden from learning to read and write, except for one family.

Because of all the mystery surrounding this faith, there have a number of in-depth studies by Iraqi and other scholars of their beliefs and rituals. The simplest summary of the philosophy ‘attributed’ to their belief is the following:

The basic premise is that God is good and benevolent. He does not harm you if you are a good person who does no evil. On the other hand, the Devil, who defied even God, may do just that. So, it makes sense to constantly show respect to him to avoid his wrath.

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