|Author||Zenaide A. Ragozin|
|Publication Date||March 1, 2012|
A NOTABLE RELIGIOUS SURVIVAL : THE PARSIS.— ANQUETIL DUPERRON.
I. Among the so-called heathen religions which still claim for their own more than one half of mankind, there is none of greater interest and importance than that of the Parsis, more generally known under the graphic but misleading name of " Fire-Worshippers." It is certainly not from their numbers this sect derive that interest and importance, for in that respect they form an almost imperceptible unit in the general sum. The entire number of Parsis now living scarcely, if at all, exceeds 100,000, which represents about one in fourteen thousand of the earth's population. But, small as that fragment of humanity is, it is a chip from one of the world's noblest and mightiest nations, the PERSIANS of old, a nation which, though not extinct, and still counted as one of the greater political powers of the East, has degenerated beyond recognition under the
influence of foreign conquest, enforced change of religion, and mixture of races. And the religion which these exiled descendants of the ancient Persians have preserved along with purity of race and time-honored customs, is that of ancient Eran, the old and widely spread faith, the prophet of which, Spitama Zarathushtra, was vaguely known and reverenced by the writers of Greek and Roman antiquity, as well as by the later scholars of Europe, under the name of ZOROASTER.
2. It is customary to sweep under the head " Heathen Religions" all except the three great Semitic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam-ism, or the religion of Mohammed. It is doubtful how far so comprehensive a designation may be correct in individual instances. In that of the Parsis, at least, it appears decidedly rash, since they earnestly, emphatically profess the worship of the one true God, and a horror of any kind of polytheism—a form of belief which, surely, should win them a place among monotheists, as must be shown by a brief review of their religious tenets and practices.
3. It was in the year 641 A.D. that the Arab invaders, in the heyday of their fervor for the faith of which their prophet Mohammed had taught them to consider themselves the heaven-sent bearers, won the battle, (on the field of Nehavend, fifty miles from ancient Ecbatana), which changed the destinies of Eran, and turned its people, dreaded and victorious for four centuries under their last national kings, the SasSANIAN dynasty, into a conquered, enslaved, and for a long time ruthlessly oppressed and ill-treated
population. Yezdegerd III., the last Sassanian king, was murdered on his flight, for plunder, and no effort was made to retrieve the lost fortunes of that terrible day, with which closed an heroic struggle of over eight years ; the country's energies were broken. 4. It was but natural that the religion of the vanquished should be the first object of persecution at the hands of victors whose wars and conquests were all prompted by religious fanaticism. The Persian clergy were persecuted, their temples desecrated and destroyed, their sacred books likewise, and the faithful followers of the ancient national creed subjected to so many indignities and extortions as to make existence not only burdensome, but wellnigh impossible. They were made to pay ruinous extra taxes, were excluded from all offices, frojrn all participation in public life, and, worst of all, very nearly deprived of the protection of the law, at all events systematically denied justice or redress whenever they applied for either against a Mussulman. Their property, their lives, their honor, thus were completely at the mercy of the insolent and grasping foreign rulers. From so many and unbearable ills, the only escape lay in embracing the faith of these rulers, doing homage to Mohammed, and abjuring all their own traditions, beliefs, and practices. By this one act they could step at once from the state of down-trodden slaves to a condition if not of equality with their masters, at least of ..