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Books

Voices from Zoroastrian Iran: Yazd and Outlying Villages

Stewart, Sarah. Voices from Zoroastrian Iran: Oral texts and testimony (Part 2, urban and rural contexts: Yazd and outlying villages). Iranica, GOF III/NF 18. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2020.

Voices from Zoroastrian Iran is the result of an oral studies research project that maps the remaining Zoroastrian communities in Iran. Volume II covers the city of Yazd and surrounding villages where Zoroastrians continue to live. Most of the interviews recorded from this region are in Zoroastrian Dari and can be found at the SOAS ELAR website.
As in Volume I, interviews included in this book cover a range of topics including views about the religion, what it has been to like to live as a member of a religious minority in Iran since the Revolution of 1979, and accounts of religious education, festivals, and ceremonies surrounding rites of passage. Elderly residents in the villages are a rich source of memories from earlier times, before younger people left the rural areas for the cities and emigration abroad became commonplace. These have been illuminated by colourful descriptions of village life in the 1960’s contained in Mary Boyce’s Notebooks (held at the Ancient India and Iran Trust, Cambridge). Her portrayal of shrines and fire temples, the gardens, flowers, trees, fruit and vegetables that were grown, and the way in which the land was farmed and water distribution was managed informs the interview summaries contained in Appendices A, and B. These shorter interviews were conducted in the form of a verbal questionnaire and give a more general insight into what is left of Zoroastrian village life today. A demographic survey of the Zoroastrian population of the Yazd Mahalleh, as well as maps of this area drawn in 2007 are included. A general overview of the Zoroastrian religion and society, as well as an account of devotional life, is contained in Chapters 1–3 in Volume I and pertains to both books.

The full, unedited interviews have been made available online in digitised format in the Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR) at SOAS (https://www.elararchive.org/dk0460/).

For the table of the contents see here.

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Books

Qurʾānic allusions to Zoroastrian texts

Bitsch, Sebastian. 2020. Sengende Hitze, Eiseskälte oder Mond? Zum Echo zoroastrischer eschatologischer Vorstellungen am Beispiel des koranischen zamharīr. Der Islam 97(2). 313–366.

This article discusses eventual Qurʾānic allusions to Zoroastrian texts by using the example of zamharīr (Q 76:13). In the early tafsīr and ḥadīth-literature the term is most commonly understood as a piercing cold, which has frequently been interpreted as a punishment in hell. This idea, it is argued, has significant parallels to the concept of cold as a punishment in hell or to the absence of cold as a characteristic of paradise in the Avestan and Middle-Persian literature. In addition, Christian and Jewish texts that emphasize a similar idea and have not been discussed in research so far are brought into consideration. The article thus aims to contribute to the inclusion of Zoroastrian texts in locating the genesis of the Qurʾān – or early Islamic exegesis – in the “epistemic space ” of late antiquity.

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Books

Neo-Platonic Elements in the Zoroastrian Literature

König, Götz. 2020. On the Question of Neo-Platonic Elements in the Zoroastrian Literature of the Ninth Century. In Ana Echevarría Arsuaga & Dorothea Weltecke (eds.), Religious Plurality and Interreligious Contacts in the Middle Ages (Wolfenbütteler Forschungen 161), 65–79. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

In the ninth/tenth century, in the so-called golden era of Islam, we see not only the flourishing of an Islamic theology and an Arabic philosophy and science that originate in Greek antiquity and late antiquity. Zoroastrianism, the dominating religion in Iran under the Sasanians, also saw the emergence of a literature, particularly in the ninth century, that is today our main source for the reconstruction of the Zoroastrian Geistesgeschichte in the first millennium AD.1 This so-called ›Pahlavi literature‹, texts in Middle Persian language written in a script of Semitic origin, covers, on the one hand, a few narrative works with roots in the epic tradition of Iran, and on the other hand, a good number of religious writings of different content, form and style. These religious writings can be divided into three groups. The first group comprises texts that are closely related to the Sasanian Pahlavi translations of the Avesta (the so-called Zand ). The second group comprises texts that adapt the Zand literature and transform it within this process. The third group, finally, comprises texts that I would like to characterize as ›philosophical theology‹. The texts of this group introduce philosophical elements into the inherited theological materials and thinking.

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Books

When the dualists argued

Ruani, Flavia & Mihaela Timus (eds.). 2020. Quand les dualistes polémiquaient: Zoroastriens et manichéens (Orient & Méditerranée, 34). Leuven: Peeters.

The authors of this collected volume show that Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism, which share a dualist vision of the world and the primordial entities, have raised in a similar way to Judaism, Christianity and Islam the question of the relationship of their followers to truth and therefore the error made by others. The volume makes a fundamental contribution to the study of the phenomenon of religious controversy in Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. It allows us to better understand two Eastern systems of thought, both in what they have in common and in their irreducible individuality.

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Books

Zoroastrian family law

Forest, Nicolas. 2020. Successions et Libéralités Dans l’Iran Mazdéen: Droit zoroastrien de la famille. Paris: Editions L’Harmattan.

A l’instar du droit romain, le droit successoral mazdéen distinguait les présomptions simples et irréfragables, connaissait la représentation successorale, la théorie des comourants, le droit d’accession, le rapport des libéralités ; en matière de règlement du passif, il appliquait la règle nemo liberalis nisi liberatus, permettait aux créanciers successoraux de bénéficier du privilège de la séparation des patrimoines, soumettait les cohéritiers débiteurs à une obligation in solidum ; en matière de droit de la filiation, il distinguait l’adoption simple de l’adoption plénière. Tout en décrivant exhaustivement le droit successoral mazdéen, cet ouvrage établit de nombreux parallèles avec d’autres droits de l’Antiquité, ainsi qu’avec le droit français.

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Books

Sources of Indo-Iranian Liturgies

Redard, Céline, Juanjo Ferrer-Losilla, Hamid Moein & Philippe Swennen  (eds.). 2020. Aux sources des liturgies indo-iraniennes (Collection Religion 10). Liège: Presses universitaires de l’Université de Liège.

The volume is the proceeding of the international colloquium entitled Aux sources des liturgies indo-iraniennes, which was held on 9 and 10 June 2016 at the University of Liège.

Table of Contents

  • Philippe Swennen: “Introduction”
  • Joanna Jurewicz: “The God who fights with the Snake and Agni”
  • Toshifumi Gotō: “Bergung des gesunkenen Sonnenlichts im Rigveda und Avesta
  • Kyoko Amano: “What is ‘Knowledge’ Justifying a Ritual Action? Uses of yá eváṁ véda / yá eváṁ vidvā́n in the Maitrāyaṇī Sam̐hitā”
  • Naoko Nishimura: “On the first mantra section of the Yajurveda-Sam̐hitā: Preparation for milking, or grazing of cows?”
  • Philippe Swennen: “Archéologie d’un mantra védique”
  • Éric Pirart: “L’idée d’hospitalité”
  • Antonio Panaino: “aētāsә.tē ātarә zaoϑrā. On the Mazdean Animal and Symbolic Sacrifices: Their Problems, Timing and Restrictions”
  • Jean Kellens: “ahu, mainiiu, ratu
  • Eijirō Dōyama: “Reflections on YH 40.1 from the Perspective of Indo-Iranian Culture”
  • Alberto Cantera: “Litanies and rituals. The structure and position of the Long Liturgy within the Zoroastrian ritual system”
  • Céline Redard: “Les Āfrīnagāns: une diversité rituelle étonnante”
  • Götz König: “Daēnā and Xratu. Some considerations on Alberto Cantera’s essay Talking with god
  • Juanjo Ferrer-Losilla: “Les alphabets avestiques et leur récitation dans les rituels zoroastriens: innovation ou archaïsme”
  • Miguel Ángel Andrés-Toledo: “Socio-religious Division in the Indo-Iranian Investiture with the Sacred Girdle”
  • Hamid Moein: “Some remarks about the Zoroastrian ceremony of cutting a new kusti according to two Persian Rivāyat manuscripts and two of the oldest Avestan manuscripts”
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Books

Human History, Its Aims and Its End, according to the Zoroastrian Doctrine of Late Antiquity

Panaino, Antonio. 2020. Human History, Its Aims and Its End, according to the Zoroastrian Doctrine of Late Antiquity. In Tilo Schabert & John von Heyking (eds.), Wherefrom Does History Emerge?, 97–122. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Zoroastrianism offers a remarkable presentation of the origin of humankind, its present condition, and its final destiny. Human history is considered to be the result of a cosmological strategy enacted by god himself, Ohrmazd, in order to compel his direct and primordial antagonist, the evil Ahreman, to engage battle in our world. Eventually, the forces of darkness will be completely destroyed at the conclusion of a chiliadic temporal cycle. The most important battle in order to defeat Ahreman is fought by humankind. The importance of history in this teleology accounts for the emphasis put by it on the political dimension. We evoke the Sasanian period, in which the Persian kings assumed the status of a kosmokrátor, i.e. of a universal king, charged with achieving victory over evil. We offer in this article an overview of the intellectual contribution of the Pre-Islamic Iranian world to the idea of history.

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Books

Zoroastrian Laws of Ritual Purity

Moazami, Mahnaz. 2020. Laws of Ritual Purity. Zand ī Fragard ī Jud-Dēw-Dād (A Commentary on the Chapters of the Widēwdād) (Iran Studies 19). Leiden: Brill.

Laws of Ritual Purity: Zand ī Fragard ī Jud-Dēw-Dād (A Commentary on the Chapters of the Widēwdād) describes the various ways in which Zoroastrian authorities in the fifth-sixth centuries CE reinterpreted the purity laws of their community. Its redactor(s), conversant with the notions and practices of purity and impurity as developed by their predecessors, attempt(s) to determine the parameters of the various categories of pollution, the minimum measures of polluted substances, and the effect of the interaction of pollution with other substances that are important to humans. It is therefore in essence a technical legal corpus designed to provide a comprehensive picture of a central aspect of Zoroastrian ritual life: the extent of one’s liability contracting pollution and how atonement/purification can be achieved.

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Journal

Der Islam 97 (2)

Among other interesting papers published in the latest issue of Der Islam, 97 (2), two contributions fall in the scope of Iranian Studies:

  • Sebastian Bitsch: Sengende Hitze, Eiseskälte oder Mond? Zum Echo zoroastrischer eschatologischer Vorstellungen am Beispiel des koranischen zamharīr

Abstract: This article discusses eventual Qurʾānic allusions to Zoroastrian texts by using the example of zamharīr (Q 76:13). In the early tafsīr and ḥadīth-literature the term is most commonly understood as a piercing cold, which has frequently been interpreted as a punishment in hell. This idea, it is argued, has significant parallels to the concept of cold as a punishment in hell or to the absence of cold as a characteristic of paradise in the Avestan and Middle-Persian literature. In addition, Christian and Jewish texts that emphasize a similar idea and have not been discussed in research so far are brought into consideration. The article thus aims to contribute to the inclusion of Zoroastrian texts in locating the genesis of the Qurʾān – or early Islamic exegesis – in the “epistemic space ” of late antiquity.

  • Gregor Schoeler: The “National Amnesia” in the Traditional History of Iran

Abstract: It is well known that the pre-Islamic “national history” of Iran (i. e., the indigenous secular historical tradition, transmitted orally over many centuries) knows nothing at all, or as good as nothing, about the dynasties and empires of the Medes, Achaemenids, Seleucids, and Parthians (ca. 700 BCE–226 CE). It is first with the Sasanians (226‒651 CE) that Iran’s “national history” evinces more detailed knowledge. Instead of reports on the historical Medes and Achaemenid dynasties, accounts of mythical and legendary dynasties, the Pīšdādians and Kayānians, are found.

In this essay, an attempt will be made to explain this “gap” in the pre-Islamic historical tradition, this “strange historical (or national) amnesiaˮ (Ehsan Yarshater) in the cultural memory of the Iranians, with the help of a theory on the structure and modality of oral tradition, based on field research, by the Belgian historian and anthropologist Jan Vansina. The structure in question concerns a tripartite perception of the past: a wealth of information about antiquity (traditions of origin or creation and reports on culture heroes) – plenty of information, too, on the recent and most recent times – and lying between them, a “gap” in the accounts. Vansina described this phenomenon as the “hourglass effect.” This is exactly the narrative structure of Iranian national history; it is evident that the Achaemenids and the other pre-Christian dynasties fall into the “gap” described by Vansina.

The same phenomenon can also be detected on the level of Sasanian history. We find there a plethora of information on the founder of the dynasty, Ardašīr (reigned 226‒241 CE); meanwhile, very few details are known of the kings following Ardašīr, and it is only as of Kavād I (reigned 488‒496 and 499‒531 CE) that we have outstanding historical information.

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Books

The Sin of the Woman

Sadeghi, Fatemeh. 2020. The Sin of the Woman: Interrelations of Religious Judgments in Zoroastrianism and Islam (Islamkundliche Untersuchungen, 336). Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag.

Since the 1920s, the so-called “return to the roots”, has become a hegemonic discourse in Iran. Whereas the Pahlavi regimes (1925–1979) propagated the myth of the lost idyll of pre-Islamic Iran representing themselves as the true inheritors of those monarchies, the Islamists adopted a respective approach in regard to Islam. As a result, a similar fairytale was made about the early Islamic community. Such claims, as it were, are not so much about the past as they are about the present. So is this study. By delving into the past, it questions the widespread nostalgic notions considering the pre-Islamic era as a lost utopia, wherein women were free from the restrictions “imposed by Islam”. In point of fact such past is a fabrication. In the majority of cases, therefore, the revival projects invent traditions to legitimize current political agendas.

Table of Contents:

A Note on Persian and Arabic Transliteration and Translation
Preface
Introduction
Chapter I:
Women in the Sasanian Zoroastrianism
Chapter II:
Zoroastrian Dadestan: From Sasanian Era to Islam
Chapter III:
Purification
Chapter IV:
Islam and Menstruation
Chapter V:
Sexual Relations in Zoroastrianism and Islam
Epilogue
Bibliography
Glossary