Yazdânism is a term introduced by Mehrdad Izady to denote a group of native Kurdish monotheistic religions: Alevism, Yarsan and Yazidism. Izady claims that the Yazdâni faiths were the primary religion of the Kurds until their Islamization in the 10th century[page # needed]. The three religions of Yazdanism are primarily practiced in relatively isolated communities. The adherents of Alevism, Ahl-e Haqq and Yezidi are estimated to constitute about 1/3 of the Kurds.
Ziba Mir-Hosseini evaluates Izady’s theory and states:
The most notable case is that of Izady (1992) who, in his eagerness to distance the Ahl-e Haqq from Islam and to give it a purely Kurdish pedigree, asserts that the sect is a denomination of a religion of great antiquity which he calls “the Cult of Angels”. This “Cult,” he sates, is “fundamentally a non-Semitic religion, with an Aryan superstructure overlaying a religious foundation indigenous to the Zagros. To identify the Cult or any of its denominations as Islamic is simply a mistake born of a lack of knowledge of the religion, which pre-dates Islam by millennia.” He fails, however, to produce any evidence at all in support of his theory, and some of his assertions can only be called preposterous. He states, for example, that “Hak or Haq” is a Kurdish word meaning “universal Spirit”, which has no connection with the Arabic Haqq; even more astonishingly, he claims that the founder of the Babi religion, which later evolved into Baha’ism, was among the three avatars of the “Cult” in this century. (Izady 1992: 137)
The name Yazdānism derives from Kurdish yazdān, literally meaning “worthy of worship” and referring to a belief in a great heptad (seven) of divine beings. The three Yazdani traditions are therefore also known as the Cult of Angels. Adherents themselves refer to the faith as rae haq, a reference to the primary deity or “universal spirit”.
The principal feature of the Yazdani faiths is the belief in seven benevolent divine beings that defend the world from an equal number of malign entities. Another important feature of the religions is a doctrine of reincarnation.
The adherents of the faith were referred to as the “Sabians of Harran” (of Carrhae) in Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed. The Sabians are also mentioned in the Qur’an and in Bahá’í writings.
The distribution of the three Yazdani religions follows geographic boundaries:
* the Alevi may be found in northwestern Iraq, Turkey and along the Syrian coast.
* the Ahl-e Haqq or Yārsāni are located in the southernmost part of Iraq and in western Iran.
* the Yazidi come from the Turkish-Iraqi border region.
Mutual exchange and contacts between these branches are infrequent.