Iranian Religions: Zoroastrianism, Yezidis and Bahaism

Hutter, Manfred. 2019. Iranische Religionen: Zoroastrismus, Yezidentum, Bahāʾītum. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Das Studienbuch ist aus Erfahrungen des Unterrichts zu den im Untertitel genannten Religionen erwachsen, wobei der methodische Zugang religionshistorisch (bis zur Gegenwart) und religionsvergleichend ist. Daher werden die drei Religionen der Zoroastrier, Yeziden und Baha’i in einer weitgehend parallelen Struktur beschrieben, um so das gemeinsame “iranische Erbe” sichtbar zu machen, ohne die jeweiligen Eigenheiten der drei Religionen zu nivellieren oder zu harmonisieren. Behandelt werden (bei jeder der drei Religionen) u.a. identitätsstiftende Faktoren für die Religion und die Religion als identitätsmarker, ferner “klassische” Themen zu Welt- und Menschenbild inklusive ethische Herausforderungen sowie das weite Feld der (rituellen) Praxis. Genauso kommen jeweils Organisationsstrukturen sowie die einbettung der Religion in den gesellschaftlichen und religionspolitischen Diskurs im iranischen Raum im 20. und 21. Jahrhundert sowie die Verbreitung im deutschsprachigen Raum seit zwei bis drei Generationen zur Sprache. Kap. 6 geht auch auf die Religionspolitik der Islamischen Republik Iran ein.


Persian Martyrs Mar Behnam and Sarah

Saint-Laurent, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon & Kyle Smith (eds.). 2018. The history of Mar Behnam and Sarah. Martyrdom and monasticism in medieval Iraq (Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 7). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press.

The History of Mar Behnam and Sarah tells the story of two siblings who convert to Christianity under the tutelage of Mar Mattai, a monastic leader and wonderworker from the Roman Empire. After the children refuse to worship pagan gods, they are killed by their own father, the Persian king. Strangely, he is identified as Sennacherib the Assyrian, a pre-Christian ruler better known from the biblical Book of Kings. This is not the only chronological oddity with the text. Although Behnam and Sarah is set in the fourth century, during the golden age of martyrdom in the Sasanian Empire, the text was not composed until hundreds of years later. The composition of the narrative about the two martyrs seems to have coincided with the construction of a twelfth-century shrine that was built in their honor by Syrian Orthodox monks on the Nineveh Plain, near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The beautiful martyrium, which housed intricate relief sculptures and inscriptions in several languages, was an important pilgrimage site for Christians, Muslims, and Yezidis until it was destroyed in 2015.

In this volume of the “Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac” series, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent and Kyle Smith provide the first critical edition and English translation of this fascinating martyrdom narrative, a text that was once widely popular among numerous communities throughout the Middle East.


Spiritual Elite Communities: Mandaeans, Yezidis, Ahl-e Haqq, Druze and Alawis

Jong, Albert de. 2018. Spiritual Elite Communities in the Contemporary Middle East. Sociology of Islam 6(2). 116–140.

This article claims that we are in need of alternative ways of modelling religious diversity in the Middle East. This region is characterized by a high level of religious diversity, which can only be partly explained by the persistence of religions that were already in existence when Islam arose. Many communities came into being since the Islamization of the area. The communities addressed in this article therefore include one pre-Islamic tradition, the Mandaeans, and five communities that crystallized (much) later: the Yezidis, the Ahl-e Haqq, the Druze, the Alawis, and the (Turkish) Alevis. These have often been discussed in conjunction with each other, in ways that are historically and conceptually problematic. A focus on two characteristics these communities share—endogamy and a “spiritual elite” structure—makes it possible to discuss the processes in which these communities have come into being, have crystallized, and relate to the wider Islamic setting in a new light. Three communities have continued to distance themselves from Islam, and three have been in a constant process of negotiating their relation with more mainstream versions of Islam. This has consequences for the maintenance, or gradual dissolution, of religious pluralism in the Middle East.


Journal of Persianate Studies – Volume 10, Issue 1

The Journal of Persianate Studies is a peer-reviewed publication of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies.

For a table of contents, see below:



Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition

Omarkhali, Khanna. 2017. The Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition: From Oral to Written. Categories, Transmission, Scripturalisation and Canonisation of the Yezidi Oral Religious Texts with Samples of Oral and Written Religious Texts and with Audio and Video Samples on CD-ROM. (Studies in Oriental Religions 72). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
Public and academic interest in the Yezidis, their religion and culture, has increased greatly in recent years. The study of Yezidism has also made considerable progress in recent decades. Still, several lacunae in our knowledge remain, notably concerning many concrete aspects of the textual tradition. This book is a comprehensive study of the Yezidi religious textual tradition, containing descriptions of many hitherto unknown aspects of the oral transmission of Yezidi religious knowledge. It presents a detailed account of the ‘mechanisms’ underlying various aspects of the tradition. It shows how the religious textual tradition functioned – and to a certain degree still does – in its pre-modern way, and also describes the transformations it is currently undergoing, including the issues and processes involved in the increasing trend to commit religious knowledge to writing, and indeed to create a written Canon. The work contains several hitherto unpublished texts and the most comprehensive survey to date of the extant Yezidi sacred texts. It includes four maps, a glossary of terms and a list of Yezidi lineages, and is accompanied by a CD with an extensive collection of recordings of texts (208 minutes).
See here the Table of the Contents of this volume.

Yezidism and Yezidi Studies

kurdish-studies-42-2016-yezidism-coverKreyenbroek, Philip G. & Khanna Omarkhali (eds.). 2016. Yezidism and Yezidi Studies in the early 21st century (Special Issue. Vol. 4, No 2, Kurdish Studies). London: Transnational Press.

The present volume deals with recent trends and developments in the Yezidi community, and analyses contemporary portrayals of the Yezidis. The initial focus is on the far-reaching consequences of ISIS’s (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria genocide of Yezidis in the Sinjar region of Iraq which began in August 2014, and its possible implications for the Yezidi religion generally. Further contributions discuss how the Yezidis have recently been described in Western media and academic literature.

Table of contents

  •  Martin van Bruinessen: “Editorial”
  • Philip Kreyenbroek, Khanna Omarkhali: “Introduction to Special Issue: Yezidism and Yezidi Studies in the early 21st Century”
  • Irene Dulz: “The displacement of the Yezidis after the rise of ISIS in Northern Iraq”
  • Eszter Spat: “Hola Hola Tawusi Melek, Hola Hola Şehidêt Şingalê: Persecution and the development of Yezidi ritual life”
  • Veronica Buffon, Christine Allison: “The gendering of victimhood: Western media and the Sinjar genocide”
  • Philip Kreyenbroek, Khanna Omarkhali: “Yezidi Spirits? On the question of Yezidi beliefs: A review article”
  • Khanna Omarkhali: “Transformations in the Yezidi tradition after the ISIS attacks. An interview with Ilhan Kizilhan”



Minorities in Iran and Beyond in Memory of Rudolf Macúch

Rudolf Macúch (1919-1993)
Rudolf Macúch (1919-1993)

Minorities and Majorities in the Middle East and Asia

In Memory of Rudolf Macúch (1919-1993)

The Department of Comparative Religion is honoured to invites to the conference titled “Minorities and Majorities in the Middle East and Asia” which will take place at the Faculty of Arts of Comenius University in Bratislava on the days of 14th and 15th of September. The conference is dedicated to the memory of the world-renowned scholar Professor Rudolf Macúch. The talks cover different aspects of the religions and cultures of minorities, especially in today Iran and Iraq, from Mandaeans, Christians, Yezidis, Yārsān (Ahl-e Haq) and Sufīs to Buddhists, ect.

Organizers: Department of Comparative Religion, Comenius University in Bratislava
Slovak Association for the Study of Religions
Venue: Comenius University in Bratislava, Faculty of Arts, 2 Gondova St.

Conference programme (PDF):

Wednesday, 14th September 2016

  • Maria Macuch: “Rudolf Macuch – A Life Dedicated to the Study of Minorities”
  • Eden Naby: “Modern Assyrian Culture and Prof Rudolf Macuch”
    Mahmoud Jaafari-Dehaghi: “Professor Rudolf Macúch at the University of Tehran”
  • Jiří Gebelt: “Rudolf Macúch’s Contributions to the Mandaean Studies in the Light of Current Research”

PANEL 1: The Mandaeans of Iran

  • Muhammad Allahdadi: “Are Mandaeans Men of the Book? A Study of the Evolution of Shi’a Jurists’ Ideas about Mandaeans As Men of the Book”
  • Mohsen Jafari: “The Mandaeans: The Lost Tribe of the Iranian Constitution”
  • Reza Yarinia: “The Mandaean Cosmological Structure and Its Manifestation in the Purity of Creatures”
  • Behnam Eskandari: “The Mandaeans’ Mythical and Religious Communications with Other Religions”

Thursday, 15th September 2016

PANEL 2: Diasporas

  • Martin Klapetek: “The Near Orient? The Transfer of “Otherness” to European Contexts”
  • Torsten Tschacher: “On Being a Multiple Minority: ‘Indian Muslims’ in Singapore between ‘Race’ and ‘Religion”
  • Katarína Šomodiová: “The Iraqi Christian Community in Slovakia”

PANEL 3: Multiplied and fragmented minorities

  • Alam Saleh: “The Fragmented Middle East: Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Religion”
  • Attila Kovács: “Minority-Majority Dynamics and the Public Space in the Old City of Jerusalem: A Visual Approach”
  • Dušan Deák: “Emplacing the Saintliness: Rural Muslim Religiosity between Vaishnavas Sufis and Demons”

PANEL 4: Minority policies

  • Luboš Bělka: “Minority Religion: The History of Russia´s Policy towards Tibetan Buddhism in Buryatia (1717-2016)”
  • Marko Jovanović: “Uyghur Separatism: A Fight for Cultural or Religious Identity?”
  • Eszter Spät: “Religion and Nation-Building among the Yezidis of Iraq”

PANEL 5:  Minorities and Religious Dogmatics

  • Alireza Bahrami: “Exploring Islam’s View about the Men of the Book”
  • Lukáš Větrovec: “Present-Day Reflections of the Viewpoints of Ibn Taymiyya on Non-Muslim Communities”
  • Qasem Muhammadi: “Religious Minorities ‘the Self’ or ‘the Other’ in the Islamic Government as Presented in the Shi‘a School of Thought”

PANEL 7: Religious fractions and groups

  • Seyedeh Behnaz Hosseini: “Yārsān-a religious minority in Iran”
  • Mahmoud Jafari-Dehaghi: “Buddhism in the East of Iran”
  • Abdolmajid Etesami: “Zayd Ibn Ali Ibn Husayn (a.s.) and the Imamate”
  • Matej Karásek: “Christian sannyasis and Christian ashram movement in India: minors amongst Hindus or Christians?”

PANEL 8: Minorities and majorities in literature & writing

  • Łukasz Byrski: “Writing Systems and the Minorities”
  • Deepra Dandekar: “Popular Islamic Literature and Muslim Minoritization in India”
  • Miklós Sárközy: “Wladimir Ivanow and his memoirs about Iranian Ismailis and Gypsies”
  • Estiphan Panoussi: “Hungarian Calvinist Church in Budapest Hungary Classifications of Difficulties of Some Verbal Roots and Homonyms the the Senaya Dialect of Neo-Aramaic”
Articles Journal

DABIR – Vol. 1, Issue 2

The latest issue of DABIR has been published and is available here: Issue 02 – Dabir Journal.

The Digital Archive of Brief notes & Iran Review (DABIR) is an open access, peer-reviewed online journal published by the Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture at the University of California, Irvine.

Table of Contents


Zoroastrianism: History, rituals, theology and tradition

Kreyenbroek, Philip G. 2013. Teachers and teachings in the Good Religion: Opera minora on Zoroastrianism (Göttinger Orientforschungen, Iranica, NF 10). Edited by Kianoosh Rezania. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

The volume edited by Kioanoosh Rezania brings together seventeen articles by Philip Kreyenbroek on the subject of Zoroastrianism. The collection represents the author’s most important short contributions on that subject, written over a period of more than 30 years. Although the papers are concerned with a range of different subjects, they are to some extent interconnected, and in several cases one may find lines of argument emerging in one article which the author develops in subsequent papers.
The papers cover six important aspects of Zoroastrianism: History; the Zoroastrian tradition and its oral transmission; Cosmology, Cosmogony and Eschatology; Priesthood; and Ritual. Topics discussed there include the history of the Zoroastrian tradition in various periods; the mainly oral nature of the Zoroastrian religious tradition until well into the Islamic period, and some of the implications of this for our understanding of that tradition; Kreyenbroek’s views and hypotheses on the nature and origin of the Indo-Iranian and Zoroastrian cosmogonies; the various developments in the structure of the priesthood, particularly during and after the Sasanian period; and lastly various questions concerning the Zoroastrian ritual, which are informed by the author’s extraordinary familiarity with the Zoroastrian ritual literature.


The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism

Stausberg, Michael & Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw Vevaina (eds.). 2015. The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism. John Wiley & Sons.

This is the first ever comprehensive English-language survey of Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest living religions

  • Evenly divided into five thematic sections beginning with an introduction to Zoroaster/Zarathustra and concluding with the intersections of Zoroastrianism and other religions
  • Reflects the global nature of Zoroastrian studies with contributions from 34 international authorities from 10 countries.
  • Presents Zoroastrianism as a cluster of dynamic historical and contextualized phenomena, reflecting the current trend to move away from textual essentialism in the study of religion.
The eBook version of the companion can be purchased here.