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 Origins of Yezidis

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PostSubject: Origins of Yezidis   Sat Mar 24, 2007 6:24 am

The origins of Yazidism are ultimately shrouded in Middle Eastern prehistory. Although the Yazidis speak Kurdish, their religion shows strong influence from archaic Levantine and Islamic religions. Their principal holy site is in Mosul. The Yazidis own name for themselves is  zidÓ or  zÓdÓ or, in some areas, DasinÓ (the last, strictly speaking, a tribal name). Some scholars have derived the name Yazidi from Old Iranic yazata (divine being), while others say it is a derivation from Umayyad Caliph Yazid I (Yazid bin Muawiyah), revered by the Yazidis as an incarnation of the divine figure Sultan Ezi (this is no longer widely accepted). Yazidis, themselves, believe that their name is derived from the word Yezdan or  zid meaning God; however in ancient vernaculars of Kurdistan such as Urartian the term 'izid-u' (vb.) means 'command' or 'admonish'. The Yazidis' cultural practices are observably Kurdish, and almost all speak KurmanjÓ (Northern Kurdish), with the exception of the villages of Baiqa and Bahazane in Northern Iraq, where Arabic is spoken. KurmanjÓ is the language of almost all the orally transmitted religious traditions of the Yazidis. Thus, religious origins are somewhat complex.

The religion of the Yazidis is a highly syncretistic one: Sufi influence and imagery can be seen in their religious vocabulary, especially in the terminology of their esoteric literature, but much of the mythology is non-Islamic, and their cosmogonies apparently have many points in common with those of ancient Iranic religions. Early writers attempted to describe Yazidi origins, broadly speaking, in terms of Islam, or Iranic, or sometimes even pagan religions; however, publications since the 1990s have shown such an approach to be over-simplistic.[1]

The origin of the Yazidi religion is now usually seen by scholars as a complex process of syncretism, whereby the belief-system and practices of a local faith had a profound influence on the religiosity of adherents of the Adawiyya Sufi order living in the Kurdish mountains, and caused it to deviate from Islamic norms relatively soon after the death of its founder, Sheikh AdÓ ibn Mustafa who is said to be of Umayyad descent. He settled in the valley of Laliş (some thirty-six miles north-east of Mosul) in the early 12th century CE. Shaeikh AdÓ himself, a figure of undoubted orthodoxy, enjoyed widespread influence. He died in 1162, and his tomb at Lalish is a focal point of Yazidi pilgrimage. During the fourteenth century, important Kurdish tribes whose sphere of influence stretched well into what is now Turkey (including, for a period, the rulers of the principality of Jazira) are cited in historical sources as Yazidi.
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