Yezidi” redirects here. For other uses, see Yazid (disambiguation).
Yazidis on the mountain of Sinjar, Iraq/Syrian border, 1920s.
Regions with significant populations
20,843 (18,000 in Tbilisi)
Yazidi Book of Revelation (Kitêba Cilwe)
Yazidi Black Book (Mishefa Reş)
The Yazidi (also Yezidi, Êzidî, Yazdani, ایزدیان) are a Kurdish ethno-religious community, representing an ancient religion that is linked to Zoroastrianism. They live primarily in the Nineveh Province of northern Iraq. Additional communities in Armenia, Georgia and Syria have been in decline since the 1990s, their members having emigrated to Europe, especially to Germany. The Yazidi believe in God as creator of the world, which he placed under the care of seven holy beings or angels, the chief of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel, and bear striking similarities with Satan, like falling out of favour with God.
3 Religious beliefs
5 Religious practices 5.1 Prayers
5.4 Purity and taboos
6 In other cultures 6.1 Muslim antipathy 6.1.1 Persecution by Islamic State (ISIL)
6.2 In Europe
6.3 In Western theological references
6.4 In Western literature
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Yazidi leaders and Chaldean clergymen meeting in Mesopotamia, 19th century.
Historically, the Yazidi lived primarily in communities in locales that are in present-day Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, and also had significant numbers in Armenia and Georgia. However, events since the 20th century have resulted in considerable demographic shift in these areas as well as mass emigration. As a result population estimates are unclear in many regions, and estimates of the size of the total population vary.
The bulk of the Yazidi population lives in Iraq, where they make up an important Iraqi minority community. Estimates of the size of these communities vary significantly, between 70,000 and 500,000. They are particularly concentrated in northern Iraq in the Nineveh Province. The two biggest communities are in Shekhan, northeast of Mosul, and in Sinjar, at the Syrian border 80 kilometres (50 mi) west of Mosul. In Shekhan is the shrine of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir at Lalish. During the 20th century the Shekhan community struggled for dominance with the more conservative Sinjar community. The demographic profile has probably changed considerably since the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Yazidi in Syria live primarily in two communities, one in the Al-Jazira area and the other in the Kurd-Dagh. Population numbers for the Syrian Yazidi community are unclear. In 1963 the community was estimated at about 10,000, according to the national census, but numbers for 1987 were unavailable. There may be between about 12,000 and 15,000 Yazidi in Syria today, though more than half of the community may have emigrated from Syria since the 1980s. Estimates are further complicated by the arrival of as many as 50,000 Yazidi refugees from Iraq during the Iraq War.
The Turkish Yazidi community declined precipitously during the 20th century. By 1982 it had decreased to about 30,000, and in 2009 there were fewer than 500. Most Turkish Yazidi have emigrated to Europe, particularly Germany; those who remain reside primarily in their former heartland of Tur Abdin. Population estimates for the communities in Georgia and Armenia vary, but they too have declined severely. In Georgia the community fell from around 30,000 people to fewer than 5,000 during the 1990s. The numbers in Armenia may have been somewhat more stable; there may be around 40,000 Yazidi still in Armenia. Most Georgian and Armenian Yazidi have relocated to Russia, which recorded a population of 31,273 Yazidis in the 2002 census.
This mass emigration has resulted in the establishment of large diaspora communities abroad. The most significant of these is in Germany, which now has a Yazidi community of over 40,000. Most are from Turkey and more recently Iraq, and live in the western states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony. Since 2008 Sweden has seen sizable growth in its Yazidi emigrant community, which had grown to around 4,000 by 2010, and a smaller community exists in the Netherlands. Other diaspora groups live in Belgium, Denmark, France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Australia; these have a total population of probably less than 5,000.
Yazidi men in Mardin, late 19th century.
The Salafist group Islamic State took over the Sinjar mountain in 2014, forcing the population of Yazidis to flee.
In August 2007, some 500 Yazidis were killed in a coordinated series of bombings in Qahtaniya that became the deadliest suicide attack since the Iraq War began. In August 2009, at least 20 people were killed and 30 wounded in a double suicide bombing in northern Iraq, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said. Two suicide bombers with explosive vests carried out the attack at a cafe in Sinjar, a town west of Mosul. In Sinjar, many townspeople are members of the Yazidi minority.
This section may contain parts that are misleading. Please help clarify this article according to any suggestions provided on the talk page. (September 2013)
The Yazidi are Kurdish-speaking people who adhere to a branch of Iranian religions that blends elements of Mithraism, pre-Islamic Mesopotamian/Assyrian religious traditions, Christianity and Islam. In addition to Kurdish, there are significant Yazidi communities who speak Arabic as their native language. Their principal holy site is in Lalish, northeast of Mosul. The Yazidis’ own name for themselves is Êzidî or Êzîdî or, in some areas, Dasinî (the latter, strictly speaking, is a tribal name). Some scholars have derived the name Yazidi from Old Iranian yazata (divine being), but most 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. Yazidis, themselves, believe that their name is derived from the word Yezdan or Êzid “God”. The Yazidis’ cultural practices are observably in Kurdish, and almost all speak Kurmanjî with the exception of the villages of Bashiqa and Bahazane, where Arabic is spoken. Kurmanjî is the language of almost all the orally transmitted religious traditions of the Yazidis.
The religion of the Yazidis has many influences: Sufi influence and imagery can be seen in their religious vocabulary, especially in the terminology of their esoteric literature, but much of the theology is non-Islamic. Their cosmogonies apparently have many points in common with those of ancient Persian religions. Early writers attempted to describe Yazidi origins, broadly speaking, in terms of Islam, or Persian, or sometimes even pagan religions; however, publications since the 1990s have shown such an approach to be overly simplistic.
Yazidi man in traditional clothes
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 Yezidi mountains, and caused it to deviate from Islamic norms relatively soon after the death of its founder, Shaykh ‘Adī ibn Musafir, 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. Şêx Adî himself, a figure of undoubted orthodoxy, enjoyed widespread influence. He died in 1162, and his tomb at Laliş is a focal point of Yazidi pilgrimage.
According to the Yezidi calendar, April 2012 marked the beginning of their year 6,762 (thereby year 1 would have been in 4,750 BC in the Gregorian calendar).
During the fourteenth century, important Yezidi 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.
According to Moḥammed Aš-Šahrastani, “The Yezidis are the followers of Yezîd bn Unaisa, who [said that he] kept friendship with the first Muhakkama before the Azariḳa” “It is clear, then, that Aš-Šahrastani finds the religious origin of this interesting people in the person of Yezîd bn Unaisa. … We are to understand, therefore, that to the knowledge of the writer, bn Unaisa is the founder of the Yezidi sect, which took its name from him.” “Now, the first Muhakkamah is an appellative applied to the Muslim schismatics called Al-Ḫawarij. … According to this it might be inferred that the Yezidis were originally a Ḫarijite sub-sect.” “Yezid moreover, is said to have been in sympathy with Al-Abaḍiyah, a sect founded by ‘Abd-Allah Ibn Ibaḍ.”; and the Ibaḍi sect is another Ḫarijite sub-sect.
Part of a series on
The yellow sun with 21 rays. The number 21 holds great importance in the ancient religious practice of Yazdânism.
Ahl-e Haqq (Yarsanîtî)
Zoroastrian Yazdânism (Zerdeştîtî)
Blessed persons in Yezidi faith
Sheikh ‘Adī ibn Musāfir al-Umawī (Şêx Adî)
Blessed person Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljam (Kharijite assassin of Ali ibn Abi Talib)
Yezidi holy scripture and worship
Yazidi Book of Revelation (Kitêba Cilwe)
Yazidi Black Book (Mishefa Reş)
Melek Taus (Tawûsê Melek)
Blessed persons in Yâresân faith
Epochs of Khawandagar (God)
Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (Elî) · Shah Khoshin
Sultan Sahak (Siltan Sahak)
Yâresân holy scripture and worship
History and culture
Nowruz and Newroz in Kurdistan
Mehrdad Izady · Hajj Nematollah
Mullah Mustafa · Kurds · Nur Ali Elahi
Hawraman · Hewrami · Auramani · Sirwan
Zaza-Gorani · Soranî · Goranî · Goranîs
Kurdistan · Iranian Kurdistan Province
Iranian Kurdistan · Iraqi Kurdistan
Luristan · Lalish · Yezidis in Armenia
Portal icon Kurdistan portal
Yazidis are monotheists, believing in one God, who created the world and entrusted it into the care of a Heptad of seven Holy Beings, often known as Angels or heft sirr (the Seven Mysteries). Preeminent among these is Tawûsê Melek (frequently known as “Melek Taus” in English publications), the Peacock Angel.
Yazidism is not an offshoot of another religion (such as Christianity or Islam), but shows influence from the many religions of the middle-east. Core Yazidi cosmology has a pre-Zoroastrian Iranian origin, but Yazidism also includes elements of ancient nature-worship, as well as influences from Christianity, Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, Islam and Judaism. The heptad of angels are God’s emanations which are formed of the light of God. God delegates most of his action to the heptad and is therefore somewhat deistic in nature.
According to the Encyclopedia of the Orient,
The reason for the Yazidis’ reputation of being devil worshipers is connected to the other name of Melek Taus, Shaytan, the same name the Koran has for Satan.
Furthermore, the Yazidi story regarding Tawûsê Melek’s rise to favor with God is almost identical to the story of the jinn Iblis in Islam, except that Yazidis revere Tawûsê Melek for refusing to submit to God by bowing to Adam, while Muslims believe that Iblis’ refusal to submit caused him to fall out of Grace with God, and to later become Satan himself.
Tawûsê Melek is often identified by Muslims and Christians with Shaitan (Satan). Yazidis, however, believe Tawûsê Melek is not a source of evil or wickedness. They consider him to be the leader of the archangels, not a fallen angel. They are forbidden from speaking the name Shaitan. They also hold that the source of evil is in the heart and spirit of humans themselves, not in Tawûsê Melek. The active forces in their religion are Tawûsê Melek and Sheik Adî.
The Kitêba Cilwe “Book of Illumination”, which claims to be the words of Tawûsê Melek, and which presumably represents Yazidi belief, states that he allocates responsibilities, blessings and misfortunes as he sees fit and that it is not for the race of Adam to question him. Sheikh Adî believed that the spirit of Tawûsê Melek was the same as his own, perhaps as a reincarnation. He is reported to have said:
I was present when Adam was living in Paradise, and also when Nemrud threw Abraham in fire. I was present when God said to me: ‘You are the ruler and Lord on the Earth’. God, the compassionate, gave me seven earths and throne of the heaven.
Yazidi accounts of creation differ from that of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They believe that God first created Tawûsê Melek from his own illumination (Ronahî) and the other six archangels were created later. God ordered Tawûsê Melek not to bow to other beings. Then God created the other archangels and ordered them to bring him dust (Ax) from the Earth (Erd) and build the body of Adam. Then God gave life to Adam from his own breath and instructed all archangels to bow to Adam. The archangels obeyed except for Tawûsê Melek. In answer to God, Tawûsê Melek replied, “How can I submit to another being! I am from your illumination while Adam is made of dust.” Then God praised him and made him the leader of all angels and his deputy on the Earth. (This probably furthers what some see as a connection to the Islamic Shaytan, as according to the Quran he too refused to bow to Adam at God’s command, though in this case it is seen as being a sign of Shaytan’s sinful pride.) Hence the Yazidis believe that Tawûsê Melek is the representative of God on the face of the Earth and comes down to the Earth on the first Wednesday of Nisan (April). Yazidis hold that God created Tawûsê Melek on this day, and celebrate it as New Year’s Day. Yazidis argue that the order to bow to Adam was only a test for Tawûsê Melek, since if God commands anything then it must happen. (Bibe, dibe). In other words, God could have made him submit to Adam, but gave Tawûsê Melek the choice as a test. They believe that their respect and praise for Tawûsê Melek is a way to acknowledge his majestic and sublime nature. This idea is called “Knowledge of the Sublime” (Zanista Ciwaniyê). Şêx Adî has observed the story of Tawûsê Melek and believed in him.
One of the key creation beliefs held by Yazidis is that they are the descendants of Adam through his son Shehid bin Jer rather than Eve. Yazidis believe that good and evil both exist in the mind and spirit of human beings. It depends on the humans, themselves, as to which they choose. In this process, their devotion to Tawûsê Melek is essential, since it was he who was given the same choice between good and evil by God, and chose the good.
The Yazidi holy books are claimed to be the Kitêba Cilwe (Book of Revelation) and the Mishefa Reş (Black Book). However, scholars generally agree that the manuscripts of both books published in 1911 and 1913 were forgeries written by non-Yazidis in response to Western travelers’ and scholars’ interest in the Yazidi religion; the material in them is consistent with authentic Yezidi traditions, however. True texts of those names may have existed, but remain obscure. The real core texts of the religion that exist today are the hymns known as qawls; they have also been orally transmitted during most of their history, but are now being collected with the assent of the community, effectively transforming Yazidism into a scriptural religion. The qawls are full of cryptic allusions and usually need to be accompanied by čirōks or ‘stories’ that explain their context.
Two key and interrelated features of Yazidism are: a) a preoccupation with religious purity and b) a belief in metempsychosis. The first of these is expressed in the system of caste, the food laws, the traditional preferences for living in Yazidi communities, and the variety of taboos governing many aspects of life. The second is crucial; Yazidis traditionally believe that the Seven Holy Beings are periodically reincarnated in human form, called a koasasa.
A belief in the reincarnation of lesser Yazidi souls also exists. Like the Ahl-e Haqq, the Yazidis use the metaphor of a change of garment to describe the process, which they call kiras guhorîn in Kurmanji (changing the garment). Alongside this, Yazidi theology also includes descriptions of heaven and hell, with hell extinguished, and other traditions incorporating these ideas into a belief system that includes reincarnation.
Yazidi society is hierarchical. The secular leader is a hereditary emir or prince, whereas a chief sheikh heads the religious hierarchy. The Yazidi are strictly endogamous; members of the three Yazidi castes, the murids, sheikhs and pirs, marry only within their group, marriage outside the caste is considered as sin punishable by death to restore lost honour.
The current hereditary emir of the world’s Yazidi is Prince Tahseen Said.
The current religious leader of the Yazidi is Baba Sheikh.