Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Forerunners of Islam

By Saeed Qureshi

Zoroaster who is believed as a prophet by his followers founded the Zoroastrian religion around 600 B.C. Zoroastrianism as this relgion is called venerates fire to be a medium for attainment of wisdom. Water is believed to be the source of wisdom. Ahura Mazda is the name of the Zoroastrian god or supreme divine authority.

Zoroaster (Zartasht) was an extremely intelligent person who conceived the concept of a rival of God. It was Satan who according to him was responsible for the evil deeds in this world. Since both good and evil are prevalent in human society, he espoused that while God was a force of goodness, Satan was the perpetrator and force of evil. Thus the concept of duality came into being. The Zoroastrian who worshipped fire were themselves the successors of the Saibeen, a generation of pious people mentioned in the holy Quran also.

The belief in God as the source of all good things has been in vogue from the known religious history of mankind. According to the scriptures Satan was there when Adam was being crafted by God. Satan tried to induce Abraham on a rebellious course against God. It was again Satan that misled Cain the son of Adam to kill his brother Able. Also in case of prophet Noah, he instigated his son not to align himself with his pious father.

So Satan was all the time there in the religious mythology. However, we cannot find the activities of Satan when Moses was fighting either against the Egyptian powerful Pharaohs or in case of Jesus who was braced against the Jewish religious zealots. These established cults or relgions opposed those revolutionary pious people like Jesus, Moses and Prophet Muhammad. The Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity, Jewish) postulate that since God alone was the master of the universe, nothing happens without his will and command. This could also mean that the evil acts of humans were also directed by God.

But at the same time since God was all good, how come that he has allowed the evil to exist. And since it exists then should we hold God responsible for that. So to absolve God from the evil acts of man, Zoroaster espoused the concept of Satan as the force of evil, darkness and negativity.

Interestingly the cardinal body of Zoroastrian beliefs bears very close resemblance to those of early Saibeen and later of Muslims. It means that Zoroastrianism was the link with Saibeen as their forerunners and with Muslims as their successors for common and shared beliefs. Some of these common beliefs are given below.

Like Muslims they pray five times a day according to the position of the sun.
Like Muslims and Christians they believe that before the end of time a mighty hero named Shah Behram (a prototype of Jesus Christ) would come and establish the rule of the Parsis(fire worshippers) on the earth.
Like Muslims they believe that the souls of dead humans sojourn in a limbo or purgatory till the final Day of Judgment when reward and punishment would be handed out by God. This is exactly what the Islamic belief is that the human soul
will be kept to wait in “Barzakh” till the resurrection day.

Like Muslims, they believe in the bridge (Pul-e-Sarat) to be crossed before entering paradise or hell.

They believe in beautiful women (Houris for Muslim) in paradise to serve the faithful.
They believe in seven grades of paradise while the Muslims believe in eight.
Ablution and cleanliness of body and garments and format of prayers are almost similar between the Judaism, Islam and Zoroastrian relgions.

The Zoroastrian imbibed their relgion primarily from their forerunners know as Saibeen ( 2000 years B.C. and 1400 years before Zoroaster) who practiced the mankind’s oldest known relgion. The Saibeen were influenced by the religion, culture and traditions of their forebears called Samis. Sami race comprised of Babli and Ashuri races. Babuli and Ashuri built cities of Babul, Nainva, and Ashuwar. City of Babul was on the both sides of river Farat.

The main difference between the Zoroastrian and Muslims is with regard to the divinity of fire. Muslims don’t believe fire as a symbol of God or the Sun God as the Zoroastrian believe The Zoroastrian don’t worship fire but treat it as the symbol of God’s pure and radiant light which in Islamic terminology is called ‘Nur’ or holy or divine light. Muslims’ divine light called Nur has nothing to do with the fire or heat of the Sun.

Saibeen and Majoos (fire-worshippers) have been favorably mentioned in the holy Quran as borne out by the following ayahs. It clearly demonstrates that Saibeen, Majoos particularly and Christians and Jews genenraly are not the relgions totally rejected or condemned in Islam. In the light of these Ayahs it surmises that Saibeen and Fire worshippers are partly co-believers of Islam. There is a possibility that during his commercial journeys to the North, prophet Mohammad (PBUH) had learnt about these relgions which actually belonged to those areas around river Farat (Iraq) and of Cannan (present day Palestine, Syria and Lebanon).

Since Abraham (Ibrahim for Muslims), was a cotemporary of Saibeen, he must have been aware of the Saibeen’s religion. It is possible that he himself must have been one of the Saibeen. But Abraham on his own did not spell out the clear contours of Islam as was done by Prophet Muhammad almost 4000 years later. Abraham merely spoke about the monotheism of God and the covenants in shape of circumcision and sacrifice. He never uttered the word Islam. May be the Saibeen had another name of their religious practices.

The relevant Quranic Ayahs about Saibeen and Majoos (fire worshippers) are given below:

“Verily, those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Saibeen [wa’l-saabi’een ], whoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day and does righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve”[Al-Baqarah 2:62]

“Surely, those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah, in His Messenger Muhammad and all that was revealed to him from Allah), and those who are the Jews and the Saibeen [wa’l-saabi’oon] and the Christians, — whosoever believed in Allaah and the Last Day, and worked righteousness, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve”[Al-Maa’idah 5:69]”

“Verily, those who believe (in Allaah and in His Messenger Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and the Saibeen [wa’l-saabi’een], and the Christians, and the Majoos, and those who worship others besides Allah; truly, Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection. Verily, Allah is over all things a Witness” [Al-Hajj 22:17]”

We can also find a great deal of resemblance and sharing of beliefs between Muslims and Saibeen (Col. Mushtaq’s paper “Truth about evolution of religions”)

Saibeen believed that sun god Bual created universe in Six days and on seventh day he rested. They believed that Bual after creating universe mixed his blood with earth to make shape of man. He then blew his spirit to give life to Adam.

They believed that Adam lived in a garden very happily. He was taught many crafts in the paradise. There was an apple tree in the garden whose fruit was forbidden for him. His wife persuaded him to eat the fruit. On this he was expelled from the garden. This very story with slight changes was believed by fire worshippers and Jews.
Saibeen apart from believing and worshipping statue of Sun god used to circle around sacred stones and used to cover their gods with cloth. They made worship places for sacred stones in Mecca and Hamas.
They used to worship them by circling around them seven times.
Before the advent of Islam some Arabs followed Saibeen. One faction called Naji believed in God, Last day and believed in Punishment and reward on the day of judgement. On arrival of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) when Quresh saw Muslims praying they called them Saibeen and later named them Mughtislah (those who take bath frequently). Saibeen’s centre at that time was city of Harran.
Saibeen used to worship sun god by offering 7 Prayers every day, at a time related to the sun position. Two of them in middle of night were particularly to beseech god Sun to rise again so that fertility and life of the world is preserved.
They used to bend forward and prostrate during prayers.

They used to ensure cleanliness of person and garments before prayers.
They used to take bath when in ceremonial impurity.
They used to offer prayer for the dead without prostration.
Saibeen talked about 12 Burj (Zodiac) in sky. On this are based Jew’s 12 clans, Greek’s 12 gods and 12 Aulia of Muslims.
Alms, Zakat and Ushar were taken from them by Jews. These were used for sustenance of priests.
They used to fast the whole lunar month.
They used to pray with their face towards Kabaa/Mecca.
They would not eat dead animals and blood of the meat.
The women of close relations were forbidden to be married with men, as in Islam
They had similar concepts of Paradise and Hell like Muslims.

There is also a sharing of beliefs between the Fire worshippers and the Christians. Mithra was a cult that was practiced both by fire worshippers and Saibeen. It was a religion that remained in vogue for 600 years in Iran and later moved to Roman Empire in 70 AD. Following their conquest of Iran, the Romans practiced Mithra faith for about 300 years but was set aside after Roman emperor Constantine adopted Christianity as the empire’s relgions in 313 C.E. But despite that Mithra had become a part of Christian faith in matters of rituals and forms.

For instance, in Mithra, December 25 is celebrated as the birthday of Sun God. This was adopted by Roman Catholic Pope Laibris as the birthday of Jesus Christ to please Mithra’s followers although the actual birthday of Jesus Christ is January 6.

However, the common beliefs between Jews and Muslims inter-alia, are: offering sacrifices, saying main prayers once in a week, circumcision, Nikah (relgious ritual of wedlock); divorce, abstention from prayers during ceremonial impurity, not to eat pork and drink alcohol.

1 comment:

  1. Regrettably, much of the information in your piece is incorrect. Zoroastrians do not worship fire, and it was the invading Arabs that used the derogatory term "fire worshippers" to humiliate the pre-islamic inhabitants of Iran, who initially refused to abandon their ancient monotheistic religion (Zoroastrianism) in favor of the newly founded religion of Islam. Unfortunately, death threats and coercive tactics led to forced mass-conversions to Islam. Zoroastrians are no more worshippers of fire than Muslims are worshippers of stones. The symbolic presence of fire is analogous to the Islamic "Kaaba", constructed out of stone. Also, the commonly accepted date of the Prophet Zarathushtra (Zoroaster), is at least around 1750 B.C., which places him much before the Sabeans and even Moses. Prophet Zoroaster is also the first to preach monotheism. In the Qoran, Zoroastrians are referred to as "Majusi" or the magi (wise men) in English, and thus considered "people of the book", which itself is a meaningless term.
    Ali Makki