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Ahl al-Haqq

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Ahl al-Ḥaqq (Arabic: أهل الحق) refers to followers of a religious-mystical Tariqa (path of spiritual learning) with its particular religious etiquettes and texts who consider themselves as Shi'as, although some of their beliefs are inconsistent with Islam. The sect, which is popular among Kurdish, Luri, and Turkish people in Iran, grew within an Islamic context. It is similar to Ghali (exaggerating) sects of Shiism because it exaggerates about Imam 'Ali (a). However, its origins can be traced back to some beliefs, old intellectual traditions, and the folk culture of people of western Iran as well as Persian beliefs before the emergence of Islam.

Followers of this sect are also known as "Yarsan". Iranian Yarsan mostly live in Kermanshah, Lorestan, East Azerbaijan, Zanjan, Hamadan, Tehran and its suburbs, Khorasan, and other cities, and outside Iran, they live in countries such as Turkey, Iraq, Albania, Afghanistan, and Syria. Their works are written in Kurdish, Luri, and Turkish, but they only rely on Kurdhish works as the official language, and Luri and Turkish works are only referred to by Luri and Turkish people.

They believe in a kind of reincarnation and hold that God is incarnated in human beings. They take 'Ali (a) to be the manifestation of the Divine Essence, and Muhammad (s) to be the manifestation of Divine Attributes. Their holy place is Pardiwar which they believe to be equivalent to the Ka'ba. Their rulings and etiquettes include allegiance and setting up fire over a dead person’s grave on the first night after his or her death. Their four ethical principles are purity, righteousness, nothingness, and rida (generosity and tolerance).

Families of Ahl al-Haqq include Shah Ibrahimi, 'Āli Qalandari, Khamushi, Mirsuri, Sayyid Mustafa, Haji Bawisi, Zunuri, Atashbeygi, Baba Haydari, and Shah Hayasi.

Appellations

The sect is known as "A'in-i Haqq" (آیین حق; ritual of right), "A'in-i Haqiqat" (آیین حقیقت ;ritual of truth), or "Din-i Haqiqat" (دین حقیقت; religion of truth). Thus, its followers came to be known as "Ahl al-Haqq" (اهل الحق; followers or people of the right/truth). A follower of this path is also called "Yar" (یار; comrage/helper), and thus, Ahl al-Haqq are also called "Yaristan" (یارستان; place of helpers) or, as shortened, "Yarsan".

In some cases, the ritual is also referred to as "A'in-i Kurdan" (آیین کردان; ritual of the Kurds), because since the period of Sultan Ishaq, the Kurds have played the main role in the development of this sect and their most important religious book is in Kurdish (Gorani dialect). Many works under "Kalam" were later written in Turkish and some of their important works are written in Laki.

Geographical Distribution

Followers of Yarsan live in Kermanshah, Hamadan, Tehran, Roudehen, Jajrud, Shahriar, and Khorasan, and outside Iran, they live in countries such as Turkey, Iraq, Albania, Afghanistan, and Syria.

Rural purity and simplicity are obviously reflected in sacred poems of Ahl al-Haqq. The notions figuring in their poems reveal that the ritual was formed and developed in communities of farmers and ranchers, but their etiquettes and views are not restricted to these people today and are not limited to the above places. As "Khaksariyya" essays imply, Iranian Khaksariyya follow Ahl al-Haqq in some of their beliefs, terminologies, and practices, and they have thus propagated the views of Ahl al-Haqq in many parts of Iran.

Beliefs

Ahl al-Haqq believe in Twelver Shiism and their Twelve Imams. They believe in all past religions and in particular, Islam, but they believe that the core of all those religions is reflected in their religion. As Qushchi Ughli has claimed: "God has revealed 4 books, all 4 of which are with us". He also said: "Furqan is the truth and not a lie", but by "Furqan" they mean something other than what is standardly meant.

They believe that the Qur'an originally consisted of 32 parts, 30 of which are concerned with Ancillaries of the Religion and the other 2 parts are its core, containing unrevealed secrets kept by Muhammad (s). But the Imams preserved the two additional parts one after another, and transmitted it to Imam al-Mahdi (a) under "Furqan", and the Imam (a) expressed "Furqan" in Kurdish. Thus, they believe that Islam is like a seed, and the religion of Haqq is like the core of its fruit and the Sharia is its peel, or Islam is like a shell and Haqq is the pearl inside it.

Ahl al-Haqq take their religion to be very old and eternal. They believe that the religion is connected to the essence of Haqq (God) as its leaders and Imams are connected to the essence of God. Ahl al-Haqq agree with other Ghali (exaggerating) Shi'as in the fundamental view that God manifests in the form of human beings, but Ahl al-Haqq have developed the view further since they do not restrict the divine manifestation to 'Ali (a) and extend it to some other persons as well.

In some texts of Ahl al-Haqq, including in "Bargah Bargah", there is explicit evidence of belief in Unity of Existence, such as God being immanent or manifesting in the whole world—lands and seas. The most remarkable divine manifestation is, for them, the human being. Thus, the notion of Avatar, which expresses the base of the relation between God and human being in Hinduism and many other mystical paths, figures in the school of Haqq as well. However, in this school, divine manifestation and incarnation is intended to enable people to see Him. Perhaps the most prominent and important divine manifestation for Ahl al-Haqq is Sultan Ishaq (also written as Saḥāk/Suḥāk, Ṣaḥāk/Ṣuḥāk, and Sahāk/Suhāk), since they receive their religious identity as well as their social bond and ethnic and religious unity from him (although they highly honor and respect 'Ali (a) as well).

Reincarnation (Tanasukh)

Like other proponents of "Tanasukh" (reincarnation), Ahl al-Haqq do not take death to be the end of life or to involve the separation of the soul from its body and its migration to another world. They believe that the beginning of every life is to go towards death, and every death is the beginning of a new life, but consecutive lives and deaths are supposed to save the human being. This long path is part of God’s pledge to human beings. Every person, they maintain, should travel 1000 or 1001 "Duns" (each Dun is 50 years) in the world.

For Ahl al-Haqq, reincarnation is based on an intellectual, ethical foundation. Although they did not explicitly say so, some of their remarks imply that they believe in something like Karma in Hinduism.

Every person, they believe, should travel 1000 Duns in the world, where each Dun is 50 years, and if they are purified in this period, they will finally join the Haqq (God). Otherwise, they should travel other Duns. It is also alleged that if someone has committed wrong actions and ignored the rules of truth, they will transform into a dirty animal in their next lives and see the Hell.

Pardiwar

The tomb of Sultan Ishaq in the gardens of Shaykhan, near the Sirwan river in Uraman of Kurdistan, which is called "Pardiwar" and is a pilgrimage destination of the Yarsan.
Main article: Pardiwar

In the developmental path of the soul, Ahl al-Haqq have talked about "Pardiwar" (the Ka'ba of Ahl al-Haqq). Pardiwar (literally: this side of the bridge) is a construction made by Sultan Ishaq near the Sirwan or Diyala river. Ahl al-Haqq consider it as something like the Sirat bridge, since the soul will finally cross it after changing 1001 clothes, but only righteous people can cross the bridge, and evil-doers will fall into the Hell. Moreover, the city of Shahrizor has a mythical significance for Ahl al-Haqq and is tied with the fate of people who have survived. According to "Bargah Bargah", the soul of those who deserve salvation will join the "Sarmadi" in Shahrizor.

Genesis of the World

In religious texts of Ahl al-Haqq, the origination or genesis of the world is mostly referred to as "creation", but it probably does not imply ex-nihilo creation.

The First Account

The spirit of the Yarsan thought is the unity of existence, and thus, creation should have occurred in the form of emanation and manifestation. The world has been emanated from the divine essence in different consecutive stages, but the first realization or manifestation occurred in His own being, which is referred to as "Bargah Bargah".

The Second Account

In Tadhkira a'la, there is another account explaining how the world was originated. The old schema implies that the world rests on living things and this can be seen in another account of the structure of the world by Yarsan. In this schema, the structure of the world is elaborated.

The Third Account

There is another account of the process of the genesis of the world which corresponds to the talk of the "Period of the 40 People". "Heavenly Tablets" have a particular place in Ahl al-Haqq's cosmology. They usually refer to 7 such tablets. Ahl al-Haqq maintain that the forms of the universe are portrayed in the "Agate Tablet" (al-Lawh al-'Aqiq) which is located on top of the second heaven (or sky). For example, residents of the Heaven and the Hell are in the sky and celestial spheres. Moreover, Heavens and Hells are owned by 8 people (Sultan Ishaq and 7 others). In other words, Heavens and Hells are their kingdoms.

Ahl al-Haqq have a myth about the early phase of the genesis of the world concerning how devils and evil forces acted at the beginning of the creation of the world. It is obvious that these beliefs are influenced by ancient Persian views about the origination of the world. Ahl al-Haqq's views about the creation of the human being and the story of Adam and Eve are mostly consistent with Islamic teachings in this regard.

End Time (Akhir al-Zaman)

Jayhunabadi divides the motion of the world and its residents into 3 stages:

  • The stage of "spirit" (ruh) in which spiritual entities change 1001 clothes to arrive at the stage of "life" (Jan).
  • In the stage of "life", psychic entities change 1001 clothes to arrive at the stage of the descending or fall of the Children of Adam.
  • The stage of "End Time" (Akhir al-Zaman). When the Children of Adam descended, or fell (to this world), they have to travel 1001 clothes to arrive at the End Time. There will then be an eternal time, and then the motion of the world will stop.

Like Twelver Shi'as, the Yarsan believe that in the End Time, people around the globe will avenge for Imam al-Husayn (a)’s blood. According to Ahl al-Haqq, before the End Time, there will be big wars in the world which they refer as the "Stormy World".

In the "Stormy World", they hold, 'Ali (a) will be present as the supreme incarnation of God. According to Il Beygi, all the religions will turn into one and the same religion (that of Ahl al-Haqq) in the End Time, and Sultan Ishaq will be the master of everyone. In this period, they maintain, the survivors will be remorseless and will not need to eat. They have also claimed that God will manifest in the End Time as the statue of Haftvaneh, and Haftvaneh will dominate on the Last Day.

Influence from Other Religions

Some people have discussed the influence on the school of Ahl al-Haqq from other religions and denominations. For example, some people have claimed that the school of Haqq was influenced by Christianity or Isma'iliyya. The school does have similarities with Isma'ili beliefs, but the similarities seem to be rooted in their shared mystical tendency to "Batiniyya" and "Ta'wil". It seems that some doctrines of Ahl al-Haqq, such as reincarnation, are affiliated with Hinduism.

Adjustment of Views with Shiism

Some recent works of Ahl al-Haqq, such as those of Jayhunabadi and Nur 'Ali Ilahi, imply that there have for long been heads and leaders of Ahl al-Haqq who tried to adjust the school’s practical traditions and principles of beliefs with practices and beliefs of the Shi'as. The approach is more prominent today as reflected in recent works of Ahl al-Haqq.

The Written Language of their Work

Prominent figures of the Yarsan have collected the principles of their beliefs in the form of poems. They are usually considered as Holy Books to which their followers refer. Among these numerous works, "Dafatir" and "Dawra" in Kurdish (Gorani) are consulted by all the followers of the religion, but Turkish (the works under "Kalam" or "Kalamat") and Luri works are specifically consulted by people who speak these languages. An important holy book of Ahl al-Haqq is "Kalam Khazana" or "Saranjam".

Sultan Ishaq

The tomb of Sultan Ishaq in Kermanshah before reconstruction.
Main article: Sultan Ishaq

Sultan Ishaq is referred to as the founder of the religion of Ahl al-Haqq. He was born in the village, Burzja, in Halabja in Iraq. After learning some disciplines, such as wisdom, literature, philosophy, and fiqh (jurisprudence), he returned to his hometown and propagated Sufism. However, he was opposed by his own family. When his father died, some religious scholars forced him and some of his companions to flee and spend three days in a cave. He then migrated to Uraman and constructed Pardiwar, and then he claimed that he was the "manifestation of Haqq (God)". Ahl al-Haqq believe that he was the manifestation of Haqq.

He died in the Shaykhan village of Kermanshah and was buried there.

Spiritual Hierarchies

The hierarchies and spiritual positions of Ahl al-Haqq are:

  1. Haftanan (seven people),
  2. Haftvaneh (seven-wise),
  3. Haft Sardar (seven commanders),
  4. Qultasiyan.

So the total is 28 people.

They are considered as eternal essences which are thought to have been the first creatures which emanated from the divine essence and manifested in the form of human beings. These 28 people are taken to be superior to all other creatures. They are symbols of the 28 letters (of Arabic Alphabet) and the 28 letters express the whole being. After the 7 commanders, or in a lower stage than that of the 28 people, there are 40 people who are taken to be 40 "forty-people" because each of them is considered as equivalent to 40 people.

Muhammad (s) and 'Ali (a), Manifestations of Divine Attributes and Essence

Other than Sultan Ishaq, the most important divine manifestation on the Earth is taken by Ahl al-haqq to be 'Ali (a). In their works, Ahl al-Haqq have emphasized his divinity. According to the holy texts of Yarsan, 'Ali (a) is the second manifestation of Haqq (after God), and he is followed by other manifestations.

'Ali (a) is believed by Ahl al-haqq to be the divine manifestation in the circle of Muhammad (s). They hold that Muhammad (s) was aware of 'Ali’s (a) divinity, but did not reveal the secret at the request of 'Ali (a) himself. 'Ali (s) is, according to Ahl al-Haqq, the essence of God. In other words, he is the manifestation of the divine essence, and Muhammad (s) is the manifestation of the divine attributes, but they both have a single essence and origin.

Buhlul: A Reincarnation of 'Ali (a)

The next manifestation of divinity is, according to Ahl a-Haqq, Buhlul. They believe that Buhlul—who pretended to be a madman—was the reincarnation of 'Ali (a). This person might be other than the well-known Buhlul, and is referred to by Ahl al-Haqq as Buhlul Mahi. They believe that Baba Hatam, Baba Salih, Baba Rajab, Baba Nujum, and Baba Lura, all from Lorestan, visited Buhlul Mahi and traveled mystical paths with him. They count as close companions of Buhlul.

Shah Fadl

After Buhlul, Shah Fadl Allah is believed to be the reincarnation of the divine essence. Shah Fadl apparently lived late in the 3rd/9th century. Some people say that he was from India and spent a time with Ahl al-Haqq. Thus, it is probable that Shah Fadl Allah is the same person as Fadl Allah Na'imi Astarabadi, the leader of Hurufiyya who is believed to have traveled through time, or he might have been confused with another figure of Ahl al-Haqq. However, the Yarsan themselves do not take these two people to be the same.

Baba Sarhang

After Shah Fadl Allah, Baba Sarhang was the manifestation of the divine essence. He explicitly said that his previous "Dun" (period of life in this world) was Buhlul Mahi, and his next "Dun" is Sultan Ishaq, but the manifestation did not immediately transfer to Sultan Ishaq.

Baba Khushin

After Baba Sarhang, the manifestation transferred to Shah Khushin with two persons as media of the transfer. According to the texts of Ahl al-Haqq, Shah Khushin, whose original name was Mubarak, was believed to be born from a virgin girl in Lorestan. The girl is believed to be pregnant from a particle of the sun, which was the manifestation of the divine light.

Baba Na'uth

After Shah Khushin, Baba Na'uth (بابا ناعوث) or Na'us was the manifestation of the divine essence in human beings. Like Shah Khusin, he is also believed to be born from a virgin girl. His original name was Ibrahim, the son of Ahmad Jaf. He was born in 477/1084 in Uraman, traveled mystical paths, and propagated the Yarsan practices.

Others

After Baba Na'us the following people were respectively manifestations of the divine essence:

  • Sultan Ishaq
  • Shah Ways Quli (Qirmizi)
  • Muhammad Bayg (Loristani)
  • Khan Atash or Atash Bayg who lived early in the 11th/17th century.

Manifestations of divinity are not restricted to these people. Many religious and mystical figures of Ahl al-Haqq were also considered to be manifestations of divinity. For example, according to "Dawra chihil tan", Musa (a) the prophet was also a divine manifestation. In "Bargah Bargah", Baba Tahir the poet is also taken to be a manifestation of divinity, and Haji Bektash Veli is considered by Ahl al-Haqq as a home for the emanation of the divine essence.

The chain of manifestation does not end here, however. According to "Shahnama haqiqat", Mansur al-Hallaj was the manifestation of Dawud (from Haftan), and according to "Bargah Bargah", Hallaj is the same person as Dawud. According to verses 5028 to 5096 of "Shahnama haqiqat", Shmas Tabrizi was a reincarnation of Hallaj, but Ahl al-Haqq interestingly believe that Shams was born in the womb of Rumi’s virgin daughter, and then returned to Rumi who turned into his pure follower. According to the verse 5018 of "Shahnama haqiqat", Rumi was the manifestation of Muhammad (s).

Rulings and Practices

"Settlement of truth" (qarar-i haqiqat) or the condition for joining Ahl al-Haqq is, according to Sultan Ishaq, to "see Haqq as present and existing" and to see "God as omnipresent everywhere". Ahl al-Haqq are ordered to disdain the demon. The spiritual condition for joining the Yarsan is to tend to the truth and the right and to avoid evils and lies, and its formal, obligatory condition is allegiance which is done by attending the ceremony of allegiance with its specific practices. A person who volunteers for allegiance is required to have a "Pir" (a senior) and a "Dalil" (guide), each having their respective roles. The position of "Pir" is higher than that of "Dalil".

Ahl al-Haqq forbid lustful looking at non-Mahram women, even if she is not one of Ahl al-Haqq. It seems that the Yarsan are not allowed to smoke. Some people have reported that of Ahl al-Haqq, it is only the Atash Beygi Family who have forbidden smoking. But alcoholic drinks are undoubtedly forbidden for them.

According to their old tradition and habits, Ahl al-Haqq greet one another by "Ya 'Ali", instead of "Salam". On the eve of Nowruz, Ahl al-Haqq set up fire on their roofs, and on the first night after someone’s death, they also set up fire on the grave of the deceased. Ahl al-Haqq observe Tayammum, Ghusl, and Ghusl al-Mayyit.

Shaving the Moustache

It is forbidden, and indeed a major sin, for Ahl al-Haqq to shave their moustaches. The prohibition has been emphasized by Sultan Ishaq. Qalandar, a senior figure of the Yarsan, takes moustache to be a sign of Ahl al-Haqq. Since moustache is considered as sacred, its detached hair should be kept in a safe place.

In 1984, Dr. Bahram Ilahi, the son and the successor of Nur 'Ali Ilahi, who now lives in France, obliged his kin to shave their moustaches and declare themselves as Twelver Shi'as.

Jamkhana

A sacred ritual of Ahl al-Haqq is the membership of jam (جَم) or Jam' (جمع, literally: congregation). Jam and Jamkhana are the centers of the main religious practices of the Yarsan, including the naming of one’s baby, allegiance, and marriage.

Another ceremony which is held in Jam is to fulfil one’s vow. There are 6 types of vows among Ahl al-Haqq. Repentance should, in their view, be accompanied by endowing a "Niyaz" (literally: need) to Jam in order for Jam to forgive the sin. The Niyaz is also called "Sabz Kardan" (literally: to make green) which has a specific time. Calendar times are in the names of Sultan Ishaq, Haftanan, Qultasiyan, and others.

Fasting

Another ritual of Ahl al-Haqq is their specific fasting which is different from the fasting performed by other Muslims. In fact, it is forbidden for Ahl al-Haqq to fast in the Ramadan month. Qirmizi or Shah Ways Quli forbade the one-month fasting for Ahl al-Haqq, announcing that if a member of Ahl al-Haqq fasts for one month they will be excommunicated. On the contrary, every individual from the Yarsan has to practice the fasting of the cave for 3 consecutive days. It is practiced on the 12th day of a lunar month coincided with the Kurdish 40th day of winter. After 3 days of fasting, the 15th day of the lunar month is celebrated as "Eid Khudawandigari" (the celebration of divinity). The fasting is done as a reminder of the days spent by Sultan Ishaq and his companions in the cave.

Pardiwar: The Location for Ahl al-Haqq’s Praying

The most sacred place for Ahl al-Haqq, which they take as equivalent to the Ka'ba, is "Pardiwar". There is a big stone in the gardens of Shaykhan, near the Sirwan river in Uraman of Kurdistan, which specifies the place of Sultan Ishaq and his companions. It is called "Pardiwar" and is a pilgrimage destination of the Yarsan in which they pray.

The texts of Ahl al-Haqq explicitly talk about the equivalence of Pardiwar to the Ka'ba. In fact, Sultan Ishaq ordered the construction of Pardiwar on the mausoleum of Uyut as a Qibla for the Yarsan. According to "Bargah Bargah", Sultan Isahq made a pact with his companions in Pardiwar. Pardiwar is very respected by Ahl al-Haqq; they believe that the divinity was immanent in Pardiwar.

Ethical Principles

The Yarsan ethics is based on 4 main maxims attributed to Sultan Ishaq: purity, righteousness, nothingness, and "Rida" (generosity or tolerance). They are called "Arkan" (tenets) or "Charrukn" (the four tenets):

  • Purity (paki): it refers to general purity and cleanliness in one’s body and clothes as well as one’s language, thoughts, and behaviors.
  • Righteousness (rasti): it refers to the right path, truthfulness in one’s speech, and rightness of one’s behavior, and living in accordance to the divine will.
  • Nothingness: it refers to the annihilation of one’s pride, selfishness, desires, and lusts.
  • Rida or Radi: it refers to generosity, serving others, and helpfulness.

In addition to the Four Tenets, the school of Haqq has emphasized on other moral values as well. For example, the Yarsan "Kalam" points to the obligation of keeping the secrets of the ritual of Haqq from others and concealing its wisdom. They forbid doing any harms to creatures of God, since Ahl al-Haqq "should not suffer and should not cause suffer". "Dawra 'Abidin" and other books have emphasized on farming and agriculture. They do not believe in "Chillinishini" (a 40-day isolation). In fact, they regard it as a sin. Another moral requirement of Ahl al-Haqq is contentment with what one possesses. They say that one should not have an eye on, or encroach, other people’s possessions.

Families of Ahl al-Haqq

Although all Ahl al-Haqq comprise a unified group, they are divided into some families who differ over some beliefs or some practices. Some people have talked about 11 or 14 families, but it is widely believed that there are 12 such families. They are assimilated to the 12 constellations, 12 stars of the sky, 12 disciples of Jesus, as well as the Twelve Imams. However, there is a disagreement about whether the main families formed in the period of Ishaq and at his command are 7. The other families were later added.

The tomb of Baba Yadigar, one of the figures of Yarsan, in Kermanshah
  • Shah Family
  • Baba Yadigari Family
  • 'Ali Qalandari Family
  • Khamushi Family
  • Mirsuri Family
  • Sayyid Mustafa Family
  • Haji Bawisi Family
  • Zunuri or Dhu l-Nuri Family
  • Atash Beygi Family
  • Shah Hayasi Family
  • Baba Haydari Family

Ahl al-Haqq and Ancient Persia

Many remnants of the Ancient Persia—beliefs or practices—can be found in the Yarsan sect. The ancient signs are so wide among the Yarsan that it can safely be concluded that the Yarsan have preserved their connections with Ancient Persian views and practices. However, the signs are not of the kind that can be affiliated to a certain, specific school or sect or religion in Ancient Persia. What is remarkable, however, is the close connection made by the religion of Haqiqa between two historical and cultural stages of Iran. Thus, it might be thought that the religion of Haqq may as well be a remnant of an anonymous mystical school in Ancient Persia, of which we have no clue.

There are many signs in the religion of Ahl al-Haqq which are closely tied with Ancient Persia. Thus, Ahl al-Haqq might be remnants of an Ancient Persian mysticism which has lasted until now, and might last in the future.

References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from اهل حق in Farsi Wikishia.