Persecution of Zoroastrians

Zoroastrians have faced much religious discrimination including forced conversions, harassments, as well as being identified as "najis" "ritually impure" to some groups of Muslims, while others long recognised them as People of the Book like Christians and Jews: they have a holy scripture (the Avesta), believe in one God (Persian Ahura Mazda) and follow a divinely-inspired prophet (Zoroaster, Persian "Zarathuštra" or "Zartosht").

Persistent persecutions resulted in the Zoroastrian community, which had much influence over the pre-Islamic era Persian empires, to become one of the smallest religious minorities in the world.

Islamic persecution of Zoroastrianism was rampant in the decades after the Muslim conquest of Sassanian Persia. Many were forced to convert to Islam mainly by force or by attritional methods. The goal was to establish an Islam-based, Arab-centric state in a what was once a Persian-speaking, Zoroastrian-dominated empire.

Persecution of Zoroastrians have mainly taken place in their own homeland Persia, modern-day Iran. [Malcolm Minoo Deboo (2002), [ Seth Maneckji Limji Hataria: The Martin Luther King of Zoroastrianism & The Struggle for Zoroastrian Civil Rights in Iran] ] The history of persecution of Zoroastrians started with the Islamic conquest of Persia and fall of the Sassanids.


Before the Arab conquest, Zoroastrianism was the state religion of Sassanid Persia. After the fall of the empire, Zoroastrians faced various forms of persecution leading to the decline of Zoroastrianism as Persians gradually converted to Islam.

After the Arab conquest, the Arabs took over the Sassanian tax system and introduced the "jizya", a special tax for People of the Book. Muslims are obliged to spend a certain amount of their wealth or money for the welfare of the society through zakat and khums, which are normally paid to the government or the religious leader. In Islamic theory, because non-Muslims do not contribute to the society through "khums" and "zakat", they should pay their share in the form of "jizya". By paying the "jizya", they acknowledge the Islamic state and its social system and the state is obligated to protect them as its citizens.Citation
last =Boyce
first =Mary
author-link =Mary Boyce
year =2001
publication date =1979
contribution =
title =Zoroastrians, their religious beliefs and practices
series =Library of religious beliefs and practices
publication-place =New York
publisher =Routledge
isbn =0415239036
] cquote|If a province or people receive you, make an agreement with them and keep your promise. Let them be governed by their laws and established customs, and take tribute from them as is agreed between you. Leave them in their religion and their land.Citation
last =Tritton
first =Arthur Stanley
author-link =Arthur Stanley Tritton
year =2002
date =
publication-date =1950
title =The Caliphs and their non-Muslim Subjects: a Critical Study of the Covenant of 'Umar
edition =
series =
place =
publication-place =Delhi
publisher =Idarah-i Adabiyat-i Delli
isbn =
, cit. 137] - Caliph Abu Bakr
The "jizya" was finally abolished in 1882, over 1200 years after it was first imposed on Zoroastrians in Iran. This came about after an effort by Maneckji Limji Hataria, who was sent by the Society for the Amelioration of the Conditions of the Zoroastrians in Persia, which was established in 1850s in Bombay by the son of an Iranian-Parsi couple.


In order to escape religious discrimination and save their religion and culture, there have been at least two major waves of migration of Persian Zoroastrians from their original homeland, Persia (modern day Iran) to India.

The first major wave of migration of Zoroastrians was in the seventh century. The migration by the founding fathers of the current Parsi community in India took place from Khorasan. They travelled to the port of Hormuzd on the Persian Gulf where, according to Parsi traditions, they traveled to Diu near the coast of Kathiawar, where they stayed for 19 years before continuing to Gujarat, where major Parsi communities are found today.

Refuge in India

According to the "Qissa-i Sanjan" "Story of Sanjan", the only existing account of the early years of Zoroastrian refugees in India, which was composed at least six centuries after the tentative date of arrival, the immigrants originated from Khorasan. After arrival, they were granted asylum by the local ruler, Jadi Rana, under the following conditions:
#They adopt the local language (the ancestor of modern Gujarati)
#Their women adopt local dress (the "sari")
#They henceforth cease to bear arms
#They only get married after sunsetCitation
last =Hodivala
first =Shahpurshah Hormasji
author-link =
last2 =
first2 =
author2-link =
publication-date =
date =
year =1920
title =Studies in Parsi History Bombay
edition =
volume =
series =
publication-place =Bombay
place =
publisher =Shahpurshah Hormasji Hodivala
pages =94-117
page =
id =
isbn =
doi =
oclc =
url =
accessdate =

The refugees accepted these conditions and founded the settlement of Sanjan, which is said to have been named after the city of their origin, (Sanjan, near Merv, in present day Turkmenistan).

In addition to the "Khorasani"s (or "Kohistani"s "mountain folk", as the Sanjan group was initially called), other groups also migrated to India, at least one of which is known to have come overland from Sari (in present-day Mazandaran). This latter group would subsequently found the Indian city of NavsariFact|date=March 2007.

Although the Sanjan group are believed to have been the first permanent settlers, the precise date of their arrival is a matter of conjecture. All estimates are based on the "Qissa", which is vague or contradictory with respect to some elapsed periods. Consequently, three possible dates - 936, 765 and 716 - have been proposed as the year of landing, and the disagreement has been the cause of "many an intense battle ... amongst Parsis".Citation
last =Taraporevala
first =Sooni
author-link =Sooni Taraporevala
publication-date =2000
date =
year =
title =Parsis, the Zoroastrians of India : a photographic journey, 1980-2000
edition =
volume =
series =
publication-place =Mumbai
place =
publisher =Good Books
pages =
page =
id =
isbn =819012160X
doi =
oclc =
url =
accessdate =

Mongol invasion

The Mongol invasion of Persia was devastating for all communities as the death toll was huge. A number of books, including every copy of the Sassanian Avesta, were destroyed. Most major fire temples were probably demolished at that time. Cities that escaped the worst of the destruction were the in the region of the oasis cities of Pars including Yazd and Kerman where even today the major Iranian Zoroastrian communities are found.Mary Boyce, "Zoroastrians, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices": "Under the Caliphs" (2001)]

ee also

*Zoroastrians in Iran
*Religious minorities in Iran
*Status of religious freedom in Iran


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