The Ezidi people are those who are an ethnic and tribal group following the religion of Ezidism, which is closed to anyone not born into it.
Yezidis refer to themselves as Şerfedîn — شرف Sharaf (honor) and دين Din (religion). They are a syncretic religion, and as such preserved roots stretching back thousands of years, but begin their current trajectory with Sheikh Adi.
Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir al-Umawi, 1070s - 1162,
Sakhr Abu al-Barakat, nephew of his predecessor, died childless,
Sheikh Adi ibn Sakhr, ? - 1221, executed by Mongols,
Al-Hasan ibn Adi — aka Şêx Hesen, Şêx Sin, ? - 1254, succeeded by his son
Sheikh Sharaf ad-Din ibn al-Hasan — aka Şêx Sherfeddin, ? - 1258, executed by Mongols, succeed by his uncle
Fakhr ad-Din ibn Adi — Şêx Fexreddin
Umayyad Caliph Marwan ibn al-Hakam, was born in the 1070s in the Beqaa Valley of present-day Lebanon. Adi is said to have been born in the village of Bait Far, near Baalbek, where the house of his birth was – and still is – a place of pious pilgrimage. The Yazidi consider him an Avatar of Tawûsê Melek, which means "Peacock Angel". His tomb at Lalish, Iraq is a focal point of Yazidi pilgrimage.
Shaykh ‘Adī spent much of his early life in Baghdad. To attain a sufi life and seclude himself he sought a quiet haven in Mespotamia. Adi was said to be very tanned and of middle stature. The Yazidis adopted him as their archetypal saint. Adi was celebrated on account of his saintly life. He founded a religious order named after himself, al-Adawiya. He resided in the mountains, alongside Hakkari Kurds in the region north of Mosul; and died at the age of 90 (1162 CE or 557 Hijra). According to others, he died in 1160 CE (555 Hijra) in the hermitage that he had built himself in the mountains, where his descendants lived after his demise.
Sakhr Abu l-Barakat
Sheikh Sakhr was the nephew and successor of ‘Adī ibn Musāfir al-Umawī, around whom an order of Ṣūfīs, the ‘Adawiyya, had formed. When ‘Adī died childless, Sakhr replaced him.
Sheikh Adi ibn Sakhr
Sheikh Adi ibn Sakhr was son and religious heir of Sakhr Abū l-Barakat and thus head of the ‘Adawiyya Ṣūfī Order. He was executed by the Mongols in 1221 but three of his sons survived to succeed him.
Sheikh Al-Hasan ibn Adi
By the time of Şêx Hesen, a significant cult of sainthood had grown around the leaders of the ‘Adawiyya, and under his term of office, indigenous Yezidi beliefs and myths began to be incorporated into the beliefs of those following the Order. More significantly, the growing military power of the followers of Şêx Hesen lead to Mongol unease. The result of this was a crackdown on the community, and under the direction of the Atabeg of Mosul, Badr al-Din Lu'lu' (r. 1222–1259), the main worship center of the ‘Adawiyya was attacked and destroyed in 1254 and the bones of Şêx Adi disinterred and burned. Two hundred ‘Adawī followers were killed, and among them was Şêx Hesen.
Şêx Fexreddin was the seventh and last known ‘Adawī shaykh, leaving the Lalish area (and the historical record) for the Yazidish-founded Ayyubid Egypt in 1276. Şêx Fexreddin's life was unusual for several reasons. Unlike his predecessors, he was on good standing with the Mongols, who had been responsible for the death of his two immediate predecessors. He also succeeded his nephew rather than his father. Additionally, he was the first ‘Adawī leader to face internecine rivalry: in 1275, Şêx Fexreddin's brother Shemseddin revolted and attempted to seize power from him. Şêx Fexreddin and his allies defeated Shemseddin, who fled to Syria.
Texts and hymns
Yezidism is not preoccupied with text, hymn, prayer, and whatnot in everyday life.
They have no forms of prayer, and it is shocking to any Christian mind to hear them allow with the utmost indifference that they never pray. I have frequently urged upon them the duty of acknowledging their dependence on God on the ground of common gratitude, natural instinct, and what they admit to be due to any earthly benefactor to whom they look for help, or from whom they had received any benefits. Their only answer has been: "Such is our way; as our forefathers did before us even so do we." Badger 1852, p 117-118
Regarding recorded knowledge, there may have once been many volumes, but they have since given way to a strictly oral tradition.
The so-called Eulogy of Sheikh Adi is perhaps their most significant single hymn.
"This is the Eulogy of Sheikh Adi; upon him be peace!
"My wisdom knoweth the truth of things,
And my truth hath mingled with me.
My real descent is from myself;
I have not known evil to be with me.
All creation is under my control;
Through me are the habitable parts and the deserts,
And every created thing is subservient to me.
And I am he that decreeth and causeth existence.
I am he that spake the true word,
And I am he that dispenseth power, and I am the ruler of the earth.
And I am he that guideth mankind to worship my majesty,
And they came unto me and kissed my feet.
And I am he that pervadeth the highest heavens;
And I am he that cried in the wilderness;
And I am the Sheikh, the one, the only one;
And I am he that by myself revealeth things;
And I am he to whom the book of glad tidings came down
From my Lord who cleaveth the mountains.
And I am he to whom all men came,
Obedient to me they kissed my feet.
I am the mouth, the moisture of whose spittle
Is as honey, wherewith I constitute my confidents.*
And by his light he hath lighted the lamp of the morning.
I guide him that seeketh my direction.
And I am he that placed Adam in my paradise.
Am I am he that made Nimrod a hot burning fire.
And I am he that guided Ahmet mine elect,
I gifted him with my way and guidance.
Men are all existences together,
They are my gift and under my direction.
And I am he that possesseth all majesty,
And beneficence and charity are from my grace.
And am he that entereth the heart in my zeal;
And I shine through the power of my awfulness and majesty.
And I am he to whom the lion of the desert came,
I rebuked him and he became like stone.
And I am he to whom the serpent came,**
And by my will I made him like dust.
And I am he that shook the rock and made it tremble,
And sweet water flowed therefrom on every side.
And I am he that enacted a powerful law,
And its promulgation was my gift.
And I am he that brought from the fountain water
Limpid and sweeter than all waters;
And I am he that disclosed it in my mercy,
And in my might I called it the white [fountain.]
And I am he to whom the Lord of heaven said:
Thou art the ruler and governor of the universe.
And I am he who manifested some of my wonders,
And some of my virtues are seen in the things that exist.
And I am he to whom the flinty mountains bow,
They are under me, and ask to do my pleasure.
And I am he before whose majesty the wild beasts wept;
They came and worshipped and kissed my feet.
I am Adi of the mark,† a wanderer —
The All-Merciful has distinguished me with names.
And my seat and throne are the wide-spread earth.
In the depth of my knowledge there is no God but me.
These things are subservient to my power.
How, then, can ye deny me, O mine enemies?
Do not deny me, O men, but yield,
That in the day of the resurrection you may be happy in meeting with me.
He who dies enraptured with me, I will cast him
In the midst of paradise, after my pleasure, and by my will;
But he who dies neglectful of me
Shall be punished with my contempt and rod,
And I declare that I am the essential one:
I create and provide for those who do my will.
Praise be to mine essence; for all things are by my will,
And the world is lighted with some of my gifts.
I am the great and majestic king;
It is I who provide for the wants of men.
I have made known to you, O congregation, some of my ways.
Who desireth me must forsake the world.
I am he that spake a true word;
The highest heavens are for those who obey me.
I sought out truth, and became the establisher of truth;
And with a similar truth shall they attain to the highest like me."
* Derwishes among the Mohammedans are inducted into office by drinking a bowl of milk into which a Sheikh has spat, which ceremony is called Half by the Arabs.
The original word which I have translated "Confidents" designates literally those learned men whom eastern monarchs used to entertain at their courts. The term as above applied seems to indicate the Kawwâls who are the sacred poets of the Yezeedees.
** The façade of the temple at Sheikh Adi bears the figure of a lion and serpent, as may be seen from the sketch already referred to.
† The original word is Esh-Shâmi, which the ignorant Yezeedees think to mean "the Damascene," and hence they frequently say that Sheikh Adi came from Damascus. The spirit of the passage has guided me in the rendering above given, which is supported by the context.
Badger 1852, p 113-115
This hymn above is the core of their sung worship to god.
Yezd, or Sheikh Adi, is held by the Yezeedees to be the good Deity, and to him they offer their worship ... [which] consists of a few hymns, which are handed down traditionally among the Kawwâls, who may be regarded as the sacred musicians and hierophants of the sect. I have heard several of these poems repeated, but they differ little in substance from that given above [Eulogy of Sheikh Adi], except that they are shorter, and much more unconnected. The hymns are chanted by the Kawwâls at their principal festivals to the sound of flutes and tambourines, which style of worship some among them have learned from the Christians to support by a quotation from the 150th Psalm. Their tunes are monotonous in the extreme, and the strain, though sometimes plaintive, is generally loud and harsh, and would be deemed anything but melodious to one accustomed to the solemn harmony of our church music. Badger 1852, p 115-116
Their voices are shrill and fierce, their manners brusque and unceremonious, their bodies are lithe, active, and wiry, and in stature they tend to be above the average. Their clothing is strange in the extreme. On the head, a tall brown conical cap, around which is wound a black or red turban; the body is swathed in a long flowing shirt of white, cut square at the neck; a short cloak of brown leather, and pointed curled-over shoes complete the costume. Sykes 1907, p 390
In physiognomy they resemble the Coords, whose language is in general use among them. Badger 1852, p 111
Name and etymology
The name 'Yezidi' was likely not used internally, or if so then only as a strategem. However, nowadays it is the de facto name used externally and internally.
The origins of the name of "Yezeedee" by which they are more commonly known, is referred by some among them to Yezeed ibn Moawiyah, but this is only a stratagem to secure their toleration by the Mohammedans. ... I think it can be doubted that the term "Yezeedee" is derived from Yezd, one of the titles applied by the ancient Persians to the Supreme Being. "We are Yezeedees," said Sheikh Nâsir to me on one occasion, "that is, we are worshippers of God." But a difficulty then arises as to the person of him whom they designate "Sheikh Adi," and who there is every reason to believe also represents the Deity in their theology. The conversation which I held with the guardians of the temple clearly leads to this conclusion, and the same has been declared to me again and again by many Yezeedees. In that case his tomb must be regarded as a myth, and the prefix "Sheikh" as another artifice to throw dust into the eyes of the Mohammedan persecutors. ... They may have assimilated the mode of expressing the title of their Deity in by-gone days to that of Adi, one of the descendants of the Merawiyan caliphs, with whom from fear of being persecuted by the Mohammedans, they sometimes identify him. ... Or it may be that "Adi" was a supposed incarnation of Yezd, who appeared on earth only for a season. This opinion receives support from the fact that several buildings are erected near his shrine to commemorate the places on which he is said to have sat. Badger 1852, p 112-113
There is a purely tribal name to refer to the Yezidi race, usually internally. It is not well-known externally.
The family name of the tribe is Dâseni [Dasinî] (pl. Duasen) by which they are frequently spoken of both by Christians and Mohammedans. They themselves also use the term, but can give no other account of its origin than that it is the ancient appellation of their race, which according to their account existed in these parts from time immemorial. Badger 1852, p 111
Baptism and death
Question. Where are you circumcised?
Elder Attendant At the villages where we are born.
Question. When are you dipped into the water?
Elder Attendant When we first come to Sheikh Adi, and every time afterwards. Badger 1852, p 108-109; of a trip in 1844
Question. What will become of you after death?
Nâzir. I do do not know.
Question. Do you believe in heaven and hell?
Nâzir. Yes. Badger 1852, p 108-109; of a trip in 1844
Twice a year they make the pilgrimage to Sheikh Adi, where they celebrate their religious rites with great rejoicing and festivity. Mr. Layard was present on one of these occasions, and describes the uncontrollable excitement which prevailed among those present during the performance of the Kawwâls [Nineveh and Its Remains, p 293]. Badger 1852, p 116
The basic gist of the universe is that it was created by god, and god is the supreme being.
They worship goodness: god, Sheikh Adi, and the sun are all expressions of their love for the divine. The focus on the sun is also part of a broader connection to nature. It is unclear if their love of nature is an expression of their love for god — e.g., if they love nature out of a profound reverence for god, but only from that — or if it is instead that their love of nature is grounded an earlier tradition which was incorporated, re-explained, and re-imagined through their current religion. Regardless, it is significant.
However, the progenitors of evil must be kept at bay through various superstitions and offerings of respect.
This notion in Yezidism of various forces being kept in check has earned them the misnomer of being Devil worshippers. They are not breathing in Satan and acting upon evil impulses. That is not the case at all, and judging by the behaviour of the surrounding people they are probably the furthest of them all from being conduits for evil.
Evil does not end, while the world exists.
Quqestion. Who is the author of good?
Elder Attendant. Khoodé (the Coordish for "God") or Sheikh Adi.
Question. Who is the author of evil?
Elder Attendant. Melek Taoos.
Question. Will evil have an end?
Elder Attendant and Nâzir. Will evil end while the world continues to exist?
Question. But will not the world have an end?
Question. How long will good reign?
Elder Attendant. Good will reign for seventy years.
Question. What will then become of Melek Taoos?
Elder Attendant. God will give him another place. Badger 1852, p 109; of a trip in 1844
Sun and fire
Yezidis worship the sun as an expression of god's goodness, as a sort of avatar of god
The adoration of the sun by the Yezeedees may be regarded as a sort of indirect homage paid to the Deity. That great luminary, as being one of the noblest productions, and most powerful agents of the divine power and goodness, is looked upon by them as the purest symbol of Yezd, and hence they worship its rising and setting by kissing the ground with their faces turned either to the east or west. This is done every morning and evening by the priestly castes; but the common people frequently omit the ceremony, and some neglect it altogether. I have been informed that the duty is only incumbent upon these latter on particular occasions, such as during the pilgrimage to Sheikh Add, when it is performed with more than common solemnity. Large parties frequently encamp a the foot of the mountain which hems in the sacred valley on the south, and begin the ascent at early dawn. As soon as the rays of the sun touch the ground beneath them, they bow down and reverently kiss a stone, which they then place upon some other close by. We crossed this mountain on our return from the shrine, and found its surface covered with these piles, which frequently consisted of eight or ten stones raised one above the other. Badger 1852, p 117
Fire and light, as being elements cognate with that of the sun, are received by the Yezeedees as symbols of the good Deity. They never spit into a fire, and will frequently pass their hands through the flames, and make as thought they kiss and wash their faces with them, just as the Christians do with the incense of their churches. Badger 1852, p 117
Water ... is held to by the to be a symbol of Yezd, it being a most powerful agent in communicating temporal blessings to mankind. Hence almost every fountain and spring is considered sacred, and when in their power, as those at Sheikh Adi, Ba-Sheaka, Ba-Hazâni, and others, they have a lamp burning nightly in some adjacent niche or nave, in token of their adoration. On this account bathing is looked upon by them more in the light of a sacred duty than as an ordinary purification; and their objection to frequent the Mohammedan baths of the country has, I have no doubt, some connexion with this superstition. For the same reason they consider fish moobârak, i.e. blessed, the term which they apply to every thing sacred, and which reminds one of the aghiasmata of the Greeks. I have been informed that only a few of the lowest classes among them ever eat any produce of the waters. Badger 1852, p 117
Sheikh Adi: God or Prophet
Yezidism seems unaffected by ideological schisms about the nature of their prophet, or the oneness of their prophet with god.
On the one hand there is the very temporal way that Sheikh Adi's shrine is physically present, and people have developed superstitions and traditions focused on this. Indeed, people seem quite certain that his sarcophagus in fact exists and is there. However, there is also the notion that Sheikh Adi is one with god. These two ideas contradict one another, but reflect both the esoteric outlet and the temporal outlet for Yezidi beliefs — if you view it esoterically then Sheikh Adi is directly of god and thus has no beginning nor end, but if you view it temporally then Sheikh Adi was a prophet who promulgated holy beliefs which are followed today. There is no need to reconcile conflicting ideas — both are connected to different parts of human superstition.
Question. Where is Sheikh Adi?
Nâzir Where is Jesus? Where is Mohammed? Where is Ali?
Question. Jesus is everywhere; but what has that to do with Sheikh Adi?
Nâzir. If Jesus is everywhere, so is Sheikh Adi.
Question. From whence is Sheikh Adi? Who was his father?
Nâzir. Sheikh Adi has no father.
On manifesting some surprise at this answer, the Nâzir added: "Why do you wonder? Had Jesus any father?" I answered "no," and then proceeded.
Question. Who was his mother?
Nâzir. He has no mother.
Question. Then you make him greater than Jesus, whose mother was the blessed Virgin Mary?
Nâzir. So it is; Sheikh Adi is greater than Jesus. He is without parentage, and is from the light.
Question. When did Sheikh Adi die?
Nâzir. He is not dead, neither can he die. Badger 1852, p 108-109; of a trip in 1844
Kurds and Ezidis
There's an Ezidi religious song that prophecies a war between Ezidis and Kurds that the Kurds will demand the Ezidis convert to Islam. Ezidis tend to categorically deny they are Kurds, but acknowledge that Kurds are descended from Ezidis (not the other way around).
Parry, Oswald Hutton. 1895. Six Months in a Syrian Monastery. Great information on Yazidi history. Google Books
Laurie, Thomas. 1848. Bibliotheca Sacra and Theological Review, Volume 5. More great information. Google Books
Laurie, Thomas. 1855. Dr. [A.] Grant and the mountain Nestorians. Great short info. Google Books
Sykes, Mark. 1907. Journeys in North Mesopotamia. jstor.orgr\n
Badger, George Percy. 1852. The Nestorians and their Rituals. Google Books
Question. What prayers do you use at the feast of the pilgrims?
Elder Attendant We don't pray; the Kaww\u00e2ls pray, but we do not know what they say.
Question. Don't you worship towards the sun?
Elder Attendant Yes, at sunrise and sunset. Badger 1852, p 108-109; of a trip in 1844
Question. Is it true that adultery is allowed among you?
Younger Attendant Yes; men and women are allowed to do as they please when within the precincts of Sheikh Adi.
Question. Did Sheikh Adi commit adultery?
Younger Attendant God forbid! Did Jesus do such things?
Question. No; neither does He permit His followers to do them; but according to your admission, that is lawful which Sheikh Adi is disallowed.
Here the elder attendant interposed, and contradicted his companion. He then pointed to a stone raised on the mountains above, and addressing me said: "Whenever the Yezeedees cross that limit, they are bound to forget all such things. Badger 1852, p 109; of a trip in 1844
Question. Are you married?
Elder Attendant No.
Question. Whose son is that following you about?
Elder Attendant My brother's.
Question. Are you permitted to marry?
Elder Attendant Yes, the N\u00e2zir alone is not allowed to have a wife. Badger 1852, p 109; of a trip in 1844
DEAD OF DAMASCUS DECLARED TO BE 1,000
Citizens Reaffirm Story of Bombardment Razing 1,600 Buildings, With $3,500,000 Loss.
HAIFA, June 1. – Bitte accounts of Damascenes of the bombardment of the Midan quarter explain the lack of success which attended the offer of most liberal terms by the French and the increased intransigeance [sic] of the revolutionaries.
Estimates from credible sources of the loss caused by the bombardment place it about 1,200 houses and 400 shops destroyed and 1,000 lives lost. The bodies of 600 persons are under the débris, which the authorities have not allowed to be cleared away. The damage is computed at $3,500,000.
The Midan, which comprises a fourth of the population of Damascus, is in the heart of the business section, and includes vast warehouses for the produce of the Hinterland. The area from Bawabatalla to Babmusalla has been razed and a third of the Midan destroyed.
All Damascene reports allege that the bombardment started at daybreak and there was hardly time to warn the inhabitants, who were mainly of the poorer classes, and the fugitive peasants from neighboring villages which had already been bombarded. The better class residents of the Midan had left weeks earlier as they suspected the imminence of danger.
All reports agree that no French took part, but only Armenian, Circassian ad Yezidi volunteers, who attacked, looted and then burned the houses. This explains the last manifesto of the revolutionaries demanding the expulsion of the Armenians and Circassians.
About 12,000 refugees from the Midan are now scattered in mosques, churches, schools, hospitals and private houses. Damascenes assert that the French were misled by exaggerated reports of danger. They deny the existence of improved arsenals and fortresses and many state that there were few regular Midanite rebels in Midan at the time of the bombardment, the majority being installed in the Ghuta beyond.