The influence of the Zoroastrian religion on Hadiths and Islam

Published: 2021-07-07 00:05:07
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Abstract The purpose of this study is to evaluate the influence of the Zoroastrian religion on Hadiths and Islam that happened in the course of time during the political, religious and cultural disruption. This influence occurred during the conquest of Mesopotamia, present-day Iran and Khorasan by Muslims, and shows some similarities with the primary source, the Quran. The conversion to Islam of the indigenous people in Mesopotamia and Iran took many years, due to instability resulting from the collapse of the great Roman and Sassanid empires. It also happened because of the mix of cultures and faiths of the Arabs and the indigenous people. There are two main aspects of this influence to be considered. Firstly, the indigenous people were divided into three groups; some of them kept their faith but paid the Jizya (tax), while other people had no choice but to embrace Islam; the other group rebelled for at least 150 years after the conquest of their land. Secondly, due to instabilities caused by the conflict, it took many years to record Islamic history and traditions. Therefore, as writing the Hadiths and the biography of the Prophet relied on the memory of different mixed races of jurists, it is difficult to distinguish the pious from the impious (someone who hides their faith). The purpose of this study is not to distinguish the authenticity of Hadith but to bring forth the inherent similarities shared by the religions, as the contact between the Arabs and the Parsees is even older than Islam itself. It is the study of the cultural, political and religious amalgamation of people two different places merging over centuries.KeywordsZoroastrianism, Islam, Hadiths, influence of Zoroastrianism, manipulation of Hadith. . . ‘finality’ is as dangerous a thing in scholarship as in politics. (Max Müller [1867:137])IntroductionZoroastrianism is the pre-Islamic religion of Iran and Zarathustra (most widely known as Zoroaster outside Iran) is the founder of this religion and philosophy, it is also the first religion that proposed the idea of monotheism and unification under one God that later influenced Judaism, Christianity and most importantly Islam and Hadith. Friedrich Nietzsche the great 19th century philosopher used Zoroaster as his mouthpiece to dramatize the death of God. Hence, the influence of Zoroastrianism on these three major religions of the world is indisputable. However, the influence of Zoroastrianism on Islam and Hadith is remarkable as we’ll see in the course of this study. The commonalities and influence is far ranging as it includes the day to day practices borrowed from Zoroastrianism to Islam. It includes rituals, public holidays, prayers, clothing, and infrastructure. The prohibition of exhibiting too much grief is similar in Islam and Zoroastrianism, the prohibition to urinate in water and the prohibition to walk with one shoe is typically Zoroastrinian. Apart from day to day life it also affected their beliefs about after life, the judgment day, resurrection and the concept of dualism that differentiate good from evil. The ascent of the prophet to the heaven in Islamic literature is also an indication of the commonalities shared by the two religions. In Zoroastrian tradition Viraz (Arda Viraz the Zoroastrian Priest who wrote the book of Arda Viraz) is guided by Saraosh while in Islam Muhammad is guided by Gabriel through their journey of heavens. (Textual Sources for the Study of Zoroastrianism). Furthermore, the similarities between the founding figures of these to religions are startling. Along the way we’ll also see the fabrication done by the rebels as polemic to the Arab faith.Literature ReviewRichard C Foltz in his most insightful book says the following “the extraordinarily broad and profound influences of Iran on the world’s religions”, the Judaism and Christianity borrowed from Zoroastrianism and Islam borrowed from both Judaism and Zoroastrianism and one cannot turn a blind eye on the ‘profound influence’ as Richard Foltz put it in his dramatic expression about the profundity of the influence of Zoroastrianism on world religions. Another prominent scholar on Zoroastrian religion says the following:“Zoroastrianism is the oldest of the revealed world-religions, and it has probably had more influence on mankind, directly and indirectly, than any other single faith.”  (Boyce, Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices)Boyce is one of the leading figures regarding the philosophy and religion of Zoroastrianism put it quite accurately in the above statement. The influence can be direct as well as indirect in terms of our discussion as I have already asserted this gesture somewhere above that Judaism is influenced directly from Zoroastrianism and Islam is influenced by Zoroastrianism through Judaism and then directly from Zoroastrianism in Persia. To quote another proponent of the subject:‘With extensive and varied contacts between Arabs and Persians, particularly in the course of 6th century, it is hardly surprising that a number of Islamic concepts and practices should have been adopted from or influenced by the tenets of Iranian religions. A number of historians of religion have addressed the question, identifying the instances. Among these are the eschatological notions of resurrection, the bridge between heaven and hell that the resurrected bodies will have to cross, millenarian and Messianic beliefs, and the catastrophic end of the world.’ ( Richard G Hovannisian, The Persian presence in the Islamic world)There are many Persian phrases used in Hadiths apart from the borrowed words in Arabic language. Here is an example of such phrases uttered by prophet Mohammad; hrš b’yd bwd wa-huwa be’l-fāresiya tafsirohu koll šayʾen qoddera yakun, “harča bāyad bovad,that can be translated as ‘all that has been decreed will come about’ “ (Moḥammad b. Ḵa-laf, I, p. 345). Similarly, al-ʿenab do do wa’l-tamr yak yak which means “grapes are [eaten] two by two, dates are [eaten] one by one” (ʿAli Qāri, p. 248, no. 305). In Abu Ḥafṣ ʿOmar, p. 43, there are other Persian expressions quoted by the Prophet. (Encyclopedia Iranica)Many similarities in the writing of the biographies of both Prophets Muhammad and Zoroaster can be seen; the first declaration of new faith among their families, having few followers, then migrating to different places. Also, there are a few stories in their biographies, as proclaimed by followers, which are not mentioned in the primary sources, the Quran and Avesta, such as their childhood, ascent to heaven, and the accusation of being magicians. Besides, it is vibrant that Ibn Hisham wrote the biography of the Prophet Muhammad, it based on the Sira by Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Ishaq was born in 703 CE. Like many ancient manuscripts Ibn Ishaq’s work has lost, it is believable that his work reached us through Ibn Hisham that borrowed many aspects from Zoroastrianism.The doubts about the origins of Hadith has always baffled students of religious studies over the course of history. Ignác Goldziher the Hungarian Scholar of Islam argues that how these doubts spread in early Islam. The Hadith were composed over many years by Arab and non-Arabs jurists; their accounts were a collection based on the memories of people from different places. For example, they visited Iraq, Kufa, Basra and Egypt, which was originally a land of different nationalities and faiths. Here, we can see the influence that other cultures, and especially the Zoroastrian faith, had on the Hadith. For instance, there are two verses in the Quran that mention the word al-Dahr (Quran, 45: 2, & 76: 1), which refers to time. The given verses are indisputably literal that require no explanation whatsoever, both deal with the word al-dahr and it doesn’t indicate any attribution to god which means time. However, in one of Qudsi’s Hadiths, God calls himself time. The Hadith has been repeated and rephrased time and time again in different Isnad, but in all the Hadiths God repeats it as a mantra, exemplifying himself as time. As whole, in Sahih Sitta this mantra appears 12 times while 5 times in al-Bukhari and Muslim. Not merely Sahih Sitta al-Bukhari and Muslim but Malik and Abu Dawud also mentioned it once in their books. However, Musnad Ahmad referred it quite a few times in his book. More probably this concept of time attributed with God might have found its way in Islam through Zoroastrianism. Nonetheless, the time when the Sassanid Empire collapsed during the rule of Umsr Ibn Khatab the religious heresies did not vanished from those areas but flourished with time that gave rise to different sects. There is a possibility that this fabrication and manipulation occurred due to the constant interaction of Arabs with the people of Mesopotamia.Hence, the argument leads us to doubt whether all Hadiths that were passed to the Imams involved in collecting them can be believed. The study shall also illustrate the evidence based on historical records, the Hadiths were fabricated for political purposes. In order to use the fabricated versions of Hadith against their enemies Ali bin Abi Talib and Mu’awiyah b. Sufyan made it all up. It also seems that Abu Hurarya fabricated many Hadiths, as stated in the Sira of Umar Ibn Khatab. The rulers relied on Hadith to regulate the daily affairs of day to day life. Consequently, the scholars tried to fill the gaps (left by time as I have already mentioned that it was composed over years after the death of Muhammad) by other sources and none other than Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Thus, we can obtain an absolute view that Hadiths were written under the influence of other faiths, especially the Zoroastrian faith. It was hectic to trace down the original sources, particularly for Imam al-Bukhari as there was a gap of five generations between him and the prophet. Also, the project concentrates on the reasons why other traditions leaked into the Hadiths and the biography of the Prophet Muhammed. Another leading figure Salman Farsi the spiritual counsellor of Noshirwan-e-Adil was the only person with Mohammad from Iran, he was converted to Christianity due to the dualistic nature of the Zoroastrianism and then converted to Islam because even Christianity was about three Gods (the concept of Trinity). He remained one of the closest advisors and companions of Mohammad. And we know that Salman Farsi was the Zoroastrian high priest which was known as Dastur-e-Dinar, hence, it is probable that Mohammad was influenced by Zoroastrianism through him.Furthermore, one of the great pillars of Islam is to pray to Allah, but there is no indication in the Quran of how Muslims should practise prayer. However, biographies and Hadiths instructed Muslims on how to pray and how to perform ablutions. We can see in Zoroastrianism the same things as in Islam: prayer five times a day and at exactly the same times. In addition, the ablution is nearly the same: washing the face, forehead, palm to ankle and feet with clean water. If there is no water, they have to purify themselves by touching the ground three times then rubbing their face and the backs of their palms. This process is called ‘Yadab’, which in Islam is ‘Tayamum’. To emphasise the two major points: firstly, that Zoroastrian people start their prayer by saying, ‘By the name of the God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. My Ahura Mazda, Please me, I believe in the Zoroastrian Religion, which was sent by the Prophet Zoroaster. This faith is away from Dew (Devil) and pagan’, then they recite the mantra (Zoroastrian supplication). Here, we can see the similarity with Islam as they start with, ‘By the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful’. Also, the testimony in Islam is very similar, saying, ‘I testify that Muhammad is a Messenger of Allah’. Secondly, also in the Zoroastrian faith, they have another kind of prayer, which is the mass prayer, meaning that they pray in large or small groups.A strong disgust is seen among Muslims regarding dogs, it is said that Mohammad ordered to kill all the dogs in Madina, but there is an indication of conflicting arguments, because first, he ordered to kill all the dogs with black colour and then forbade to kill them out of affection that came from Zoroastrian tradition. (Boyce, Zoroastrianism)There is another parallel of commonalities that can be seen among these religions. Muslims believe in the unity of God and so are the Zoroastrians, they call their God Ahura Mazda. Like Quran thy have a book that they call Avesta, the word of God. The Sufi tradition in didn’t come with islam but it was there centuries ago even before the arrival of Islam, one can argue that just like Sufism in Islam, Zurvanism is an offshoot of Zoroastrianism.Research QuestionsHow did Zoroastrian faith influence Hadith and the day to day practices of present day Muslims?What are the major influences that Zoroastrian faith had on Islam and Hadith?What were the reasons behind the these influences? 

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