Conferences : World Congress of KURDISH STUDIES : Khalil Jindy RASHOW


Section PRESSE
World Congress of

Irbil, 6-9 September 2006

Organized by the Kurdish Institute of Paris in partnership with
Salahadin University (Irbil) and with the support of the
Kurdistan Regional Government and of the
French Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Keys to a wider understanding of the Yezidi Religion

By Khalil Jindy RASHOW (*)


The Yezidi Religion doesn’t represent any more a non-resolvable mystery, which faces writers and researchers, as it was the case in the past. If the access to the Yezidi society was closed for foreigners (outsiders) tens of years ago, today this is not the case. Since the fifties of the last century, some Yezidis in Iraq has started attending schools and their numbers began to increase especially in the sixties and the seventies as three or four Yezidis[1] from Baghdad University at the beginning of the seventies destroyed the barriers of deprivation and fear and began to write about the Yezidi religion and to publish some of its secrets in Kurdish and Arabic news papers in Baghdad. With publishing the first book (Ezidiyati)[2] , The intellectual activity reached its climax. Publishing of this book represented at that time a political and a religious challenge. The political challenge was against the ruling baath regime in Iraq, which used to regard Yezidis Arabs. The release of the book including religious texts in Kurdish language was, on one hand, a clear challenge to the regimes policy, on the other hand, the religious challenge was directed against some of the strict (rigid) religious Yezidis who were refusing to write down and to release religious texts and who were denying foreigners access to the secrets of the Yezidi religion.

The release of the book (Ezidiyati) encouraged another number of Yezidi youth in the eighties to collect religious texts and to start to writing about customs and ceremonies and publishing them in the Kurdish news papers and magazines ( Hawkari news paper and in the magazines Karwan, Roji Kurdistan, Bayan, Roji Nwê, and publishing a number of books later on written by some young Yezidi writers[3] .

The uprising of the people of Kurdistan against the Baath regime in Iraq on March 1991, the creation of the safe heaven by the United Nations and the set up of the Kurdish government opened a new page for the rights of religious and national minorities. The government of Kurdistan has allowed the Cultural and social Lalesh Centre to be opened in Dohuk ( on May 12, 1993) this was a great cultural and scientific achievement for the Yezidi religion. The centre has been able, from the day it has established until now, to release 24 issues of Lalesh magazine with enormous number of Yezidi religious texts and a number of essays and valuable researches about the history, ceremonies and traditions of the Yezidis. We shouldn’t  forget the fact that the Yezidi intellectuals and following the liberation of Iraq and the removal of the Baath regime on April 9, 2003 have started in the rest of the liberated Yezidi areas ( AL- Shekhan, Bashiqa and Bahsani, Shingal and Khtare) establishing cultural centres and issuing  bulletins about different aspects of the Yezidis life.

in addition to what have been mentioned about the Yezidis in Iraq,  in exile living Yezidis have, especially in Germany, at the beginning of the nineties established their centres and societies, some of them are issuing magazines and news papers about issues related to Yezidi affairs besides essays and researches related to the history and the philosophy of this religion. In addition to all what we have said, we shouldn’t forget the efforts and the works of the Yezidis of the ex-soviet union in keeping and writing down many of the Yezidi religious texts and Yezidi heritage since late twenties of the twentieth century such as the works of Arab Shamo, Qanatê Kurdo, Hajji Jindi, Ordikhan and Jalilê Jalil, and many others.

During his scholarly (academic) visit to Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991 and 1992, professor Phillip became aware of the importance of the book (Al-Ezidiyati) of Khidir Suleiman and Khalil Jundi, which contains religious texts and other issues. Later on, He wrote after 1995 a book called : BACKGROUND, OBSERVATION AND TEXTUAL TRADITION YEZIDISIM – IST: his book contained eighteen religious texts from the book (Ezidiyati) translated by him into English  along with his comments[4] .

During my joint work with professor Greinburg, head of the Iranian Department at the University of Gottingen (1999-2005 ), a great scholarly (academic) work has been done as two books published; the first book in Kurdish language and in two volumes under the title ( Pages from the Yezidi religious literature) including[5]   (157) one hundred fifty seven religious texts (Say-Verse-Poem-Khazemok-Bayzok-Robarin-Prayers)  in addition to  a collection of stories and myths. Later on one joint book has been published by both of us.  ( Professor Greinburg and me) In English Language: God and Sheikh Adi are Perfect

Sacred and Religious Narratives from the Yezidi Tradition.[6]

Contained (54) fifty-four sacred religious texts. It is essential  to mention that two other Yezidi writers have composed another two books, in the same period.[7]

So, following this quick summery, we can say that orientalists and researchers who were travelling in the past thousands of kilometres to come to the Yezidis to get  a religious text, prayer or to get closely acquainted with a religious ritual or to get a tiny information to base their studies on, the doors are no more closed in their faces and the secrets of the Yezidi religion are not hidden and are not only stored in the hearts of the religious men, on the contrary, 70% of the Yezidi religious literature has been written down and are accessible. This is an important key, which will open a wide horizon in the field of the Kurdish studies and facilitate the task of the researchers in the field of Yezidi studies.

This religious literature embraces many symbols, signs, idioms, and ideas. Analysing it could help to know a lot about many significant aspects of the history, the philosophy and the essence of this ancient Kurdish religion; taking into consideration that the history of religions and nations exists not only in books, moreover, we could also get acquainted with them through the heritage, the traditions and the rituals  these human groups and religion had which still need to be studied and analysed. 


The Yezidi religion is an ancient religion and it doesn’t come out from the womb of another religion

History is normally written down mostly in favour of the powerful parties; whether this party is  religious, racial or an oppressing class party. From this point of view, the Yezidi religion suffered from a great deal of unfair treatment and distortion when it has been regarded by most of Arab writers, some Kurdish writers and by a number of Orientalists that it has come out from the womb of Islam and that the Yezidis aren’t but an Islamic group that went astray[8] .  Furthermore, some of them claim that it has been influenced by Christianity, Judaism or by Zoroastrianism[9] . Islamic influence and similarities between Yezidi religion and the above mentioned religions, or similarity with other beliefs that are older than the Yezidi religion, is a natural issue and comes to existence through neighbourhood relationships, contacts, immigration, the movements of people and invasions but all these influences and similarities between religions need to be studied and analysed scholarly before coming to a predetermined judgment, whether a religion belongs to another one or not.

In this regard, and in order to ensure the ancientness of the Yezidi religion, I would like to mention three evidences, or through three idioms three other religions used to identify the Yezidi religion with; which are: (dasny-jalko-shamsy or shamsany). The Christians in Iraq are still calling the Yezidis ( Disnaya – Disnaye) in their national Chaldean  and Assyrian languages. The Christians of Turkey calling them ( Chalko), even the Moslem Kurds were calling the Yezidis (Dasny). Now the question: where do these Idioms and their meanings come from and why are they used to identify the Yezidis with?

Thus it’s necessary to go back and summarise the opinions of some scholars and orientalsits. We start with the opinion of professor Mar and his analysis of the word (Chalb-Chalby-Chalko) which he takes as a starting point for his new theory and stresses the ancientness of the Yezidi religion and its essence as a part of the older  Kurdish people when he says: the use of the word ( Chalaby) has emerged at the beginning of the 14th century among the Seljuq Turks, which they took from the Kurds.

And the Kurds took from the Aramaeans ( Taslim-Taslama), which means ( Picture-Statue).

Chalab Chalaby-Chalko = Allah ; the origin and the root is from the southern Japhetic language. Some of the meanings of the word Chalaby: God - the Lord - the glorious - the generous-head of the family, the noble the master – poet – intellectual – educator – honest – well-behaved - well-dressed – the little master.

Mar says: without resorting to any evidence, appears to us, through the word Chalaby the remains and the traces of a dangerous part of the history of a people who produced this word.

He adds: the Japhetic consists of ( the khalti, the manye, Ilamy-Armenian and the kurj)these tribes are related to minor Asia and we cannot claim that they are Indo-Europeans or Semitic people.

Following the study and the research he carried out on the origin of (Chalaby) as a Kurdish people comes Mar forward and says: “ the Kurdish religious heritage is historically older than Islam. He adds: after the successes achieved by Islam and Christianity, although they were not absolute and complete successes against the old beliefs in Asia, the religion of the Kurdish people didn’t recognise the defeat and started to hit the new religions which were dominating it (Christianity and Islam) internally through agitating social and atheistic movements such as (Offspring of the sun movement)  and the Sufism movement which doesn’t follow the sunne like Hussein AL- Hallaj, Sheikh Abdul - Kadir Al – Geilany and Shamsaddin AL- Tabrisi …etc.

  With reference to (Mar) and according to his researches, the Yezidi religion was Kurds special religion prior to Islam in which they believed. He says: on one hand, there is no doubt that the current Yezidi religion is one of the popular beliefs of some people with its own characteristic, thus it is close to the Sabaean and the Mandean, on the other hand[10] , it is close to the beliefs emerging later in Armenia and Georgia. Mar summarises his theory in a few lines and says: ( The word Chalaby embraces the history of the Kurdish people,  but because of not having written sources at our disposal, we are obliged, in order to analyse this history, to rediscover painted stones or to apply methods of excavation and examination of old remains as these items reflect the remnants of departed ages of popular phenomenon  relating to language, old religions and they are a reflection of occurrences that we regard immortal [11] .

Dasin-Dasinay: the best I red was that what the scholar Tawfiq Wahby in Kurdish language wrote under ( Kurds ancient religion) which was published by Galawej magazine (1941-1942)[12] . The same essay about the Yezidis has been published in English language under :  Yazidees are the remnants of Mithraism 1965. Therefore I would like to refer to the following paragraphs:

Zaroaster regarded (Deva) in his sacred book ( Avesta) as Satan and kept people from worshiping him. In the Pehlawi language was Deva  pronounced as (Dew) which means at present Jinn (demon). The main God Devas of the Indo-European is called  Heavens Diyus , and he was a well doer. The term Diyus stems from the word (Dev) which is a verbal noun (infinitive), thus the current Indian God (Diyvuh Pitar), the Greek (Zeus Pitar), the Roman ( Jupiter) and of the Yezidis ( Tauus) are all the same ( father Dyvas).

The Gods in the ancient Indo-Iranian religion were put in the following groups:

1-     the greatest God, the well-doer ( Diyvuh Pitar-the Father Heaven =God Heaven) 

2-     the Devas (painted natural powers in sensed material images)

And they are divided in two groups: the power of evil and the power of goodness. The criteria to differentiate between the two were their natural power. The Iranians and the Indians had another name for God: (Ahora-Assora) the great creation, Dyaus, Mithra, Sun God. Fire God was one of the Ahoras, means the great God. These people used to worship the souls of their fathers and their grandfathers and glorified the souls of their dead. Following the arrival of Zoroaster and after spreading his philosophy, he kept (God Ahoramzad) and abolished the rest such as the (Divas) , and abolished glorification of the souls of the dead. Deva, which was a God in the past, turned in the point of view of the followers of Zoroastrianism to Satan. Moreover,  painting and imaging of statues , whether representing good souls or good souls, Sacrificing animals, alcohol and fasting were prohibited. Zoroaster called every one who didn’t follow the teachings of his religion Jinn (demon) worshipers. Although this name didn’t represent a bad notion for them.[13] Thus, large groups kept their old beliefs in glorifying natural phenomenon. Accordingly, and according to the scholar Tawfiq Wahby and later to Massoud Mohammad, the word Dasny, which used to identify the Yezidis with, was only a diversion of the word (Denva ysne) which Zoroaster identified the non followers of his religion with. In case this theory is correct, the Yezidi religion is simply not an Islamic division went astray but an ancient Indo-Iranian or Indo-European religion existed prior to Zoroastrianism.

Third: Traces of the Indo-Iranian religious prayers in the Yezidi religion


The Yezidis, in addition to the only and one God, called King Tauus in their Kurdish dialect, worship (adore ) the Angles and their head (King Tauus = (Diyvuh) heavens God or the father God or maybe the God Tammuz and the sun and the moon and many other natural phenomenon such as rain, air and fire…etc. They were showing a high degree of respect to spirits of the ancestors ( the Khudan and Ojakh phenomena). As to Yezidi Festivals and the rituals related to the circle of life and the rotation of the seasons of the year and to the sun, moon and the climate changes and their influence on agricultural process[14] . The existence of a hierarchical system and the religious tasks in the Yezidi religion should be taken into consideration during the study of this religion.

Fourth: in the field and being in touch with reality

Is it just a coincidence that Yezidis, Gorans, the Shabak, the Sarliyee, Shekhan begi Tribes, the kakayea and the Aleviten (the Zazakis and the Domliye ) are all living side by side, or almost on a connected line of land? This line stretches from Shekhan and Aqrah passing through Baashiqa and Bahzany and the Sarley villages located prior to Esky-Kelek to the Kakayeen in Erbil and Kerkuk from there on reaching Kermanshah region. 

In a number of Goran villages to the east of the Yezidi areas north of Maqlub mountain / Shekhan province and berderash district which is part of Akrah province, live people who believe in the Ahl-Al-Haq. To the south of the Maqlub Mountain north of the city of Moussol, the Yezidis, the Shabak and the Sarleys sharing the land, neighbourhood, and some common rituals and traditions. In Turkish Kurdistan live the Yezidis and the Zazas in more than one area especially in Diyarbaker province and Dersim areas and Merash to the Urmia and Shikak who believed in Yezidi religion in times of Sheikh Adi according to an old manuscript[15]

This presence and the interconnection between the religions, beliefs and the non-Islamic Kurdish faiths in Kurdistan represent a serious and an important task for the scholars of the Kurdish studies who should consider this phenomena carefully to reach a common point at which these religions and beliefs come together and to find out:  which was the primal religion from which they were getting their ideas and how far they got from the central mother?

We wish all the teachers, knowledge and fact-seekers and the respectful audience success and good luck and the field of the Kurdish studies advancement in serving the just case of our Kurdish people.


22 August 2006

[1] The early university students who wrote about the Religious Yezidi texts in Baghdad were: late Haider Nizam, Khidir Suleiman, Khalil Jindy and Mamo Ferman.

[2] Ezidiyati / in the light of some Yezidi religious texts, Khidir Suleiman and Khalil Jindi, the printing establishment of the Kurdish Academic institute, Baghdad 1979.

[3] Among them: Eido Baba Sheikh, Ezeddin Selim and Bedel Feqir Haji. The Book Gundiyati by Mr. Haider Suleiman 1985

[4] Prof. Dr. G. Kreyenbroek, Prof. Dr. G. Kreyenbroek, YEZIDISM-IST BACKGROUND; OBSERVANCES AND TEXTUAL TRADITION; The Edwin Mellen Press Lewiston / Queenston Lampeter 1995.

[5] Dr. Khalil Jindy, Pages from the Yezidi Religious Literature, two volumes, Spirez – Duhok 2004

[6] Philip G. Kreyenbroek-Khalil Jindy Rashow, God and Sheikh Adi are Perfect

Sacred Poems and Religious Narratives from the Yezidi Tradition, Harraussowitz

Printing establishment 2005.

[7] Bedel Feqir Haji, Book, Yezidis beliefs and Mythology, printing establishment of Hawar- Dohouk, 2002, and Ezeddin Selims Book (Merke) in Arabic language, Khebat printing establishment –Kurdistan 2003.

[8] To be looked up, for example, Abdulrazaq Al-Hassani, Saddiq Al –Damluji, Saaid Al- Diweji, Hashim Albanna, Ahmed Teimur, Mohammad Abdulhamid, Abas Alizawi, and among the Kurds: Azad Saaid Sammo, Hamdi Abdulmajid Alselefi, and Tehsin Ibrahim Aldoski and among the orientalist, for example: R. Leskocut.

[9] R.H. Empson, The Cult of Peacock Angel, London 1928, p. 30

[10] Basily Neketin, The Kurds: A social and historical study, forward Luis Masinion, translation: Dr. Nuri Altalabani, Alsaqi printing establishment, 2001 and 362-363

[11] The same source, p. 318

[12] To be looked up, Booklet: two historical works about the Kurds, Mohammad Jamil Rojbeyani examined the first one and translated the second one into Arabic language, the printing establishment of the Iraqi academic institute. Baghdad 1995, p. 65 and the following pages, and the book: the complete works of Tawfiq Wahbi Beg, preparation: Rafiq Salih, the first volume Shiwan printing establishment/ Suleimany 2006, p. 39and the following pages.

[13] To be looked up, The same source: the complete works, p. 40-43

[14] For Further information about this subject you could go back to my book: towards a real knowledge of the Yezidi religion, Rabin printing establishment, Sweden 1998, p. 79-115

[15] To be looked up, book, Khidiri Suleiman and Saadullah Shekhani, Shekhan and Shekhayeti, Alfunun printing establishment, Baghadad 1988, Manshour Khatib bissi. 

(*) Assistant-Professor at Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen