Iranian Religions: Zoroastrianism
An Introduction to Daenā Vanuhi
The Good Religion of Asho Zarathushtra
Edited by Shapour Suren-Pahlav
"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."
- Mary Boyce
Spitama' was the first prophet to teach monotheism, the belief in one
God. With his Divine revelation he preached the doctrine of goodness and
retribution - and gave the world the triple motto of "Good Thoughts,
Good Words and Good Deeds".
PROCLAMATION AND DIVINE TEACHINGS
"I, with my appreciation and convictions choose for myself to be a worshipper of Omniscient God and a Zarathushtrian. I appreciate Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds. I appreciate the Good Religion of worshipping Omniscient God, which overthrow yokes yet sheaths swords, teaches self-reliance and is righteous."
This declaration, which is part of a larger creed, provides an outline of what a Zarathushtrian is; Men and women enjoy truly equal status. A person is free to choose for him or herself, after sufficient learning and reasoning, the religion he or she considers the best. Therefore a Zarathushtrian does not abhor or denounce other religions. In his or her eyes, other religions, too, are great, good and beautiful.
Zarathushtrian religion is a revealed faith and rejects polytheistic or
many-god cults, magic rites, mysterious rituals and irrational
ceremonies and superstitions. It condemns violent crime and treachery;
upholds freedom of thoughts, speech and action in a healthy society; and
protects and promotes the environment in which we live. Zarathushtrian
religion strives to be precise and righteous in every act of life. Such
conduct, however, requires a fair knowledge of past and present beliefs,
religions, societies and above all, nature. A follower of Zarathushtra
should be wise, vigilant, self-reliant, active, creative, progressive,
peaceful, honourable, tolerant and above all, kind and loving. A
Zarathushtrian loves God and God's creation.
Sasanian dynasty in 224 CE succeeded the Parthians. The Sasanians,
themselves of the priestly class made the Zarathushtrian religion their
state religion. Yet Jews, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus found a place
in their realm, which rivalled the Roman Empire.
Today there are only about 120,000 Zarathushtrians left in the world - 30,000 are in Iran, and 80,000 are in India, where they are known as Parsis, or people from Pars/Persia, and 10,000 in North America, Europe and other countries.
 The Zoroastrians of Iran based on studying Manichean texts found in Turfan have calculated and accepted the dates 1767 BCE as the year of birth, 1738 BCE as the year of Divine Revelation, and 1690 BCE as the year of passing away of Prophet Zarathushtra.
 See the Book of Esther for the story of Ahasuerus and Mordecai. Also see the Books of Chronicles II, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel for further references on Medes and Persians.
 After the defeat of Sasanian imperial forces by Arabs at Nahavand in 641-42, Iran left open to the invaders. The Arab invaders gave Iranians three options: convert to Islam; keep the faith and pay the poll; or death.
 Force conversion was rapid among the urban population, than the peasantry and the dihqān class.
 By some accounts not more than 25,000 -- 6,000 of whom are in Yazd province. Since 1979 revolution in Iran, and the rise of the totalitarian-theocratic regime to power, large number of Zoroastrians have sought refugee in West, especially in the US, under an officially backed programme to help Iranian religious minorities. There are currently more Zoroastrians settled in Los Angeles since 1979, than in Iran. -- Officially, Zoroastrians - along with Jews, Armenian and Assyrian Christians - are a constitutionally protected religious minority with guaranteed parliamentary representation. In practice, complaints of discrimination are widespread. Access to high-level posts in the government and armed forces is blocked. Some Zoroastrians say they are pressured to change their religion. Members of religious minorities are generally barred from becoming school principals. Applicants for public sector employment are screened for their adherence to Islam. Despite legislation decreeing that all religions are entitled to equal blood money (compensation) awards, Zoroastrians say that, in reality, they still receive only half the sums given to Muslims, and their lives considered worth half of their Muslim compatriots. Nor do they feel wholly free in a land where their faith was the majority denomination until the forced mass conversions to Islam that followed the seventh century Arab invasion. Muslim men are free to marry non-Muslim women, but the opposite does not apply. Marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men are not recognized. A law awarding Zoroastrians who convert to Islam their entire families' inheritance at the expense of non-converted relatives has caused misery and bitter resentment.
 A small band of Zarathushtrians migrated from Iran to India in the 9th century to escape Muslim persecution.
'Shapour Suren-Pahlav' is an Iranian Archaeologists, Iranologist and historian. He has studied his B.A. in Art and Archaeology, combined with ancient Iranian languages (Avestan and Middle Persian/Pahlavi), at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University of London, under supervision of renowned British linguist, Professor Nicholas Sims-Williams. He then completed his M.A. in the Art and Archaeology, at the same university. He is specialized in the art and archaeology of pre-Islamic Iran.
Suren-Pahlav, except his native tongues Persian and Zoroastrian-Dari, also speaks English, Italian and a working understanding of Arabic, Turkish and German.
Suren-Pahlav is the co-founder of 'The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies' (CAIS), and currently is the programme director of CAIS.