Kawal Yusuf informed Mr. Layard that before the great massacre of the sect by the Bey of Rawandiz, they possessed many books, which were either lost during the general panic, or destroyed by the Kurds. He admitted that the " Poem" was only a fragmentary composition, and by no means the " Book" which contained the theology and religious laws of the people. He even hinted that the" great work did still exist, and Mr. Layard says, " I am by no means certain that there is not a copy at Baasbaikhah or Baazani." The account given by the Kawal seems to be confirmed by the allusion made in the poem to the "Book of Glad Tidings," and the " Book that comforteth the oppressed," which could scarcely have been inserted for any particular purpose, such as to deceive their Muhammedan neighbours.
The actual religious as well as the political head of the Izedis, wherever they may reside, is Hussain Bey, who is called the Khalifa, and he holds this position by inheritance. On his first visit to Sheikh Adi, Mr. Layard described Hussain Bey as the political chief, and Sheikh* Nasr as the religious head; but he subsequently found that the religious duties were deputed to the Sheikh only on account of the youth of Hussain Bey. Another Sheikh, called Jindi, also officiated for the Bey at Sheikh Adi. Rich had before stated that the Khan of Sheikh Khan or Baadli was the Pope of the Yezids. He said he was descended from the family of the Ummiyad Khalifs, and was esteemed the Amir Hadji of the Yezids. Did the Izedis give a prince to the Khalifat, or are we to believe that this Izedi prince is really a descendant of the Ummiyads ? The latter is very unlikely, as their Muhammedanism would be then a matter of the deepest pride, instead of being altogether a matter of doubt, if not an assumed thing.
The Izedis have four orders of priesthood,-the Pirs, the Sheikhs, the Kawals or Cawals, and the Fakirs: and, what is very remarkable, these offices are hereditary and descend to females, who, whilst enjoying them, are treated with the same respect and consideration as the men.
The Pirs, or Saints, are most reverenced, after the great Sheikh or religious head of the sect. They do not appear so much to be an order of priesthood as to be Sheikhs who, in their superior sanctity, have been honoured with a kind of living canonization. They are believed to have the power of curing diseases^ and performing other miracles.
The Sheikhs are the only literate men among the Izedis, being expected to know something of Arabic, the language in which, as before observed, the hymns are written. Their dress should be entirely white, except the skull cap beneath their turbans, which is black. They also wear a band of red and yellow or red and orange plaid round their bodies, as the insignia of their office.
The Kawals, or Preachers, go from village to village as teachers of the doctrines of the sect. They perform on the flute and tambourine, both instruments being looked upon, to a certain extent, as sacred ; they also dance at festivals. They usually know a little Arabic, but barely more than is necessary to get through their chants and hymns. Their robes are generally white, although coloured stuffs are not forbidden. Their turbans, unlike those of the Sheikhs, are black, as are also their skull caps.
The Fakirs wear coarse dresses of black or dark brown cloth or canvas, descending to the knee, and fitting tightly to the person ; and a black turban, across or over which is tied a red handkerchief. They perform all menial offices connected with the mausoleum of Sheikh Adi, trim and light the votive lamps, and keep the sacred buildings clean.
Forbes says the chief Sheikh has an assessor or adviser, called Sheik Kutchuk, or lesser Sheik, who is supposed to receive the direct revelations of the devil, and, on payment of a sum of money, delivers his oracular counsel to those who consult him, after a pretended sleep, with sometimes a delay of two or three nights.
Layard could not ascertain any particulars regarding the great saint of the Izedis, Sheikh Adi or Hadi; even the epoch of his existence is doubtful. Sheikh Nasr merely asserted on one occasion that he lived before Muhammed.
The Izedis have some foolish traditions connected with him, chiefly relating to his interviews with celestial personages, and to a feat he performed in bringing the springs, now rising in the valley in which his tomb stands, from the well of Zemzem, at Mecca.
The tomb of this saint, so much venerated by the Izedis, stands in a courtyard, and is surrounded by a few buildings, inhabited by the guardians and servants of the sanctuary. The interior is divided into three principal compartments;- a large hall, partitioned in the centre by a row of columns and arches, and having at the upper end a reservoir filled by an. abundant spring issuing from the well; and two smaller apartments, in which are the tombs of the saint and of some inferior personage.
The coffin of Sheikh Adi is covered, as has been observed in the Chaldsean sanctuaries, by a large square case, made of clay and plastered, an embroidered green cloth being thrown over it.
The outer court is enclosed by low buildings with vecesses, similar to those in an Eastern bazaar; they are intended for the accommodation of pilgrims, and for the stalls of pedlars, during the celebration of the festival.
Around the mausoleum, and beneath the trees which grow on the sides of the mountain, are numerous rudely constructed edifices, each belonging to an Izedi district or tribe. The pilgrims, according to the place from which they come, reside in them during the time of the feast, so that each portion of the valley is known by the name of the country or tribe of those who resort there.
With regard to the religious belief and practices of the Izedis, Layard tells us that they recognize one Supreme Being; but he adds, " as far as I could learn, they do not offer up any direct prayer or sacrifice to Him. Sheikh Nasr endeavoured to evade my questions on this subject, and appeared to shun with superstitious awe every topic connected with the existence and attributes of the Deity."
They are said to hold the Old Testament in great reverence, and to believe in the cosmogony of Genesis, the Deluge, and other events recorded in the Bible. They are also said not to reject the New Testament nor the Kuran, but to consider them less entitled to their veneration.
In their religious services, they chaunt hymns in praise of the Deity, succeeded by others in honour of Malek Isa and Sheikh Adi.
The most remarkable fact in the religious creed and practices of the Izedis, that they worship Satan, or, at all events, reverence the Evil Spirit to a degree amounting to worship, is generally admitted by all those who dwell in the same countries with them, of all sects and persuasions, be they Jews, Christians, or Muhammedans. They are expressly designated by the latter as Shaitan purust, worshippers of the devil, and they are said to invoke Satan by the name of Chelib or Lord. (Eraser, Mesopotamia and Assyria, p. 321.)
Layard corroborates what has been so frequently alluded to by others, that the name of the Evil Spirit is never mentioned by the Izedis ; and he adds that any allusion to it by others so vexes and irritates them, that it is said they have put to death persons who have wantonly outraged their feelings by its use. So far is their dread of offending the evil principle carried, that they carefully avoid every expression which may resemble in sound the name of Satan, or the Arabic word for "accursed." Thus, in speaking of a river, they will not say Shat, because it is too nearly connected with the first syllable in Shaitan, the Devil, but they substitute Nahr. Nor, for the same reason, will they utter the word Kaitan, thread or fringe. Naal, a horse shoe, and Naal-hand, a farrier, are also forbidden words, because they approach to Laan, a curse, and Maalun, accursed.
The same writer tells us that they believe Satan to be the chief of the angelic host, now suffering punishment for his rebellion against the Divine will; but still all-powerful, and to be restored hereafter to his high estate in the celestial hierarchy. He must be conciliated and reverenced, they say; for, as he now has the means of doing evil to mankind, so will he hereafter have the power of rewarding them,
Forbes says, " The first and most important principles of the Izedis are to propitiate the devil and secure his favour, and to support and defend themselves by the sword. They consider the devil as the chief agent in executing the will of God, and reverence Moses, Christ, and Muhammed, as well as the saints and prophets held in veneration by Christians and Mussulmans, believing that all these were more or less perfect incarnations of Satan."
Table of contents
W. Francis Ainsworth, 1861
Primitive Christian Worship