Yazidi temple, Sinjar, northern Iraq

A few nice arabic music images I found:

Yazidi temple, Sinjar, northern Iraq
arabic music
Image by james_gordon_losangeles
The Yazidi (Kurdish: Êzidî) are a Kurdish ethnoreligious group with Indo-Iranian roots. They currently live primarily in the Nineveh Province of northern Iraq. Additional communities in Transcaucasia, Armenia, Turkey, and Syria have been in decline since the 1990s, their members having emigrated to Europe, especially to Germany. Their religion, Yazidism, is a branch of Yazdânism, and is seen as a highly syncretic complex of local Kurdish beliefs that contains Zoroastrian elements and Islamic Sufi doctrine introduced to the area by Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir in the 12th century. The Yazidi believe in God as creator of the world, which he placed under the care of seven holy beings or angels, the chief of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel.
Historically, the Yazidi lived primarily in communities in what are now Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, and also had significant numbers in Armenia and Georgia. However, events since the 20th century have resulted in considerable demographic shift in these areas as well as mass emigration. As a result population estimates are unclear in many regions, and estimates of the size of the total population vary.
The bulk of the Yazidi population lives in Iraq, where they make up an important Iraqi minority community. Estimates of the size of these communities vary significantly, between 70,000 and 500,000. They are particularly concentrated in northern Iraq in the Nineveh Province. The two biggest communities are in Shekhan, northeast of Mosul, and in Sinjar, at the Syrian border 80 kilometers west of Mosul. In Shekhan is the shrine of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir at Lalish. During the 20th century the Shekhan community struggled for dominance with the more conservative Sinjar community. The demographic profile is likely to have changed considerably since the start of the Iraq War in 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Yazidi in Syria live primarily in two communities, one in the Al-Jazira area and the other in the Kurd-Dagh. Population numbers for the Syrian Yazidi community are unclear. In 1963 the community was estimated at about 10,000, according to the national census, but numbers for 1987 were unavailable. It may be between about 12,000 and 15,000 Yazidi in Syria today, though more than half of the community may have emigrated from Syria since the 1980s. Estimates are further complicated by the arrival of as many as 50,000 Yazidi refugees from Iraq during the Iraq War.
The Turkish Yazidi community declined precipitously during the 20th century. By 1982 it had decreased to about 30,000, and in 2009 there were fewer than 500. Most Turkish Yazidi have emigrated to Europe, particularly Germany; those who remain reside primarily in their former heartland of Tur Abdin.[1] Population estimates for the communities in Georgia and Armenia vary, but they too have declined severely. In Georgia the community fell from around 30,000 people to fewer than 5,000 during the 1990s. The numbers in Armenia may have been somewhat more stable; there may be around 40,000 Yazidi still in Armenia. Most Georgian and Armenian Yazidi have relocated to Russia, which recorded a population of 31,273 Yazidis in the 2002 census.
This mass emigration has resulted in the establishment of large diaspora communities abroad. The most significant of these is in Germany, which now has a Yazidi community of over 40,000. Most are from Turkey and more recently Iraq, and live in the western states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony. Since 2008 Sweden has seen sizable growth in its Yazidi emigrant community, which had grown to around 4,000 by 2010, and a smaller community exists in the Netherlands. Other diaspora groups live in Belgium, Denmark, France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Australia; these have a total population of probably less than 5,000.
The Yazidi are a Kurdish -speaking people who adhere to a branch of Yazdanism that blends elements of Mithraism, pre-Islamic Mesopotamian religious traditions, Christianity and Islam. Their principal holy site is in Lalish, northeast of Mosul. The Yazidis’ own name for themselves is Êzidî or Êzîdî or, in some areas, Dasinî (the latter, strictly speaking, is a tribal name). Some scholars have derived the name Yazidi from Old Iranic yazata (divine being), but most say it is a derivation from Umayyad Caliph Yazid I (Yazid bin Muawiyah), revered by the Yazidis as an incarnation of the divine figure Sultan Ezi. Yazidis, themselves, believe that their name is derived from the word Yezdan or Êzid "God". The Yazidis’ cultural practices are observably Kurdish, and almost all speak Kurmanjî (Northern Kurdish), with the exception of the villages of Bashiqa and Bahazane, where Arabic is spoken. Kurmanjî is the language of almost all the orally transmitted religious traditions of the Yazidis. Thus, religious origins are somewhat complex.
The religion of the Yazidis is a highly syncretic one: Sufi influence and imagery can be seen in their religious vocabulary, especially in the terminology of their esoteric literature, but much of the mythology is non-Islamic. Their cosmogonies apparently have many points in common with those of ancient Persian religions. Early writers attempted to describe Yazidi origins, broadly speaking, in terms of Islam, or Persian, or sometimes even pagan religions; however, publications since the 1990s have shown such an approach to be overly simplistic.
The origin of the Yazidi religion is now usually seen by scholars as a complex process of syncretism, whereby the belief system and practices of a local faith had a profound influence on the religiosity of adherents of the ?Adawiyya Sufi order living in the Kurdish mountains, and caused it to deviate from Islamic norms relatively soon after the death of its founder, Shaykh ?Ad? ibn Musafir (Kurdish ?êx Adî), who is said to be of Umayyad descent. He settled in the valley of Lali? (some thirty-six miles north-east of Mosul) in the early 12th century. ?êx Adî himself, a figure of undoubted orthodoxy, enjoyed widespread influence. He died in 1162, and his tomb at Lali? is a focal point of Yazidi pilgrimage.
During the fourteenth century, important Kurdish tribes whose sphere of influence stretched well into what is now Turkey (including, for a period, the rulers of the principality of Jazira) are cited in historical sources as Yazidi.
According to Mo?ammed Aš-Šahrastani, “The Yezidis are the followers of Yezîd bn Unaisa, who [said that he] kept friendship with the first Muhakkama before the Azari?a” “It is clear, then, that Aš-Šahrastani finds the religious origin of this interesting people in the person of Yezîd bn Unaisa. … We are to understand, therefore, that to the knowledge of the writer, bn Unaisa is the founder of the Yezidi sect, which took its name from him.” “Now, the first Muhakkamah is an appellative applied to the Muslim schismatics called Al-?awarij … . … According to this it might be inferred that the Yezidis were originally a ?arijite sub-sect.” “Yezid moreover, is said to have been in sympathy with Al-Aba?iyah, a sect founded by ‘Abd-Allah Ibn Iba?.”; and the Iba?i sect is another ?arijite sub-sect.
Religious beliefs
Tawûsê Melek, the peacock angel
Mishefa Re?
Kitêba Cilwe
In the Yazidi belief system, God created the world and it is now in the care of a Heptad of seven Holy Beings, often known as Angels or heft sirr (the Seven Mysteries). Preeminent among these is Tawûsê Melek (frequently known as "Melek Taus" in English publications), the Peacock Angel. According to the Encyclopedia of the Orient,
The reason for the Yazidis reputation of being devil worshipers is connected to the other name of Melek Taus, Shaytan, the same name the Koran has for Satan.
Furthermore, the Yazidi story regarding Tawûsê Melek’s rise to favor with God is almost identical to the story of the jinn Iblis in Islam, except that Yazidis revere Tawûsê Melek for refusing to submit to Adam, while Muslims believe that Iblis’ refusal to submit caused him to fall out of Grace with God, and to later become Satan himself.
Tawûsê Melek is often identified by Muslims and Christians with Shaitan (Satan). Yazidis, however, believe Tawûsê Melek is not a source of evil or wickedness. They consider him to be the leader of the archangels, not a fallen angel. They are forbidden from speaking the name Shaitan. They also hold that the source of evil is in the heart and spirit of humans themselves, not in Tawûsê Melek. The active forces in their religion are Tawûsê Melek and Sheik Adî.
The Kitêba Cilwe "Book of Illumination", which claims to be the words of Tawûsê Melek, and which presumably represents Yazidi belief, states that he allocates responsibilities, blessings and misfortunes as he sees fit and that it is not for the race of Adam to question him. Sheikh Adî believed that the spirit of Tawûsê Melek was the same as his own, perhaps as a reincarnation. He is reported to have said:
I was present when Adam was living in Paradise, and also when Nemrud threw Abraham in fire. I was present when God said to me: ‘You are the ruler and Lord on the Earth’. God, the compassionate, gave me seven earths and throne of the heaven.
Yazidi accounts of creation differ from that of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They believe that God first created Tawûsê Melek from his own illumination (Ronahî) and the other six archangels were created later. God ordered Tawûsê Melek not to bow to other beings. Then God created the other archangels and ordered them to bring him dust (Ax) from the Earth (Erd) and build the body of Adam. Then God gave life to Adam from his own breath and instructed all archangels to bow to Adam. The archangels obeyed except for Tawûsê Melek. In answer to God, Tawûsê Melek replied, "How can I submit to another being! I am from your illumination while Adam is made of dust." Then God praised him and made him the leader of all angels and his deputy on the Earth. (This likely furthers what some see as a connection to the Islamic Shaytan, as according to the Quran he too refused to bow to Adam at God’s command, though in this case it is seen as being a sign of Shaytan’s sinful pride.) Hence the Yazidis believe that Tawûsê Melek is the representative of God on the face of the Earth, and comes down to the Earth on the first Wednesday of Nisan (April). Yazidis hold that God created Tawûsê Melek on this day, and celebrate it as New Year’s Day. Yazidis argue that the order to bow to Adam was only a test for Tawûsê Melek, since if God commands anything then it must happen. (Bibe, dibe). In other words, God could have made him submit to Adam, but gave Tawûsê Melek the choice as a test. They believe that their respect and praise for Tawûsê Melek is a way to acknowledge his majestic and sublime nature. This idea is called "Knowledge of the Sublime" (Zanista Ciwaniyê). ?êx Adî has observed the story of Tawûsê Melek and believed in him.
One of the key creation beliefs of Yazidism is that all Yazidis are descendants of Adam rather than Eve. Yazidis believe that good and evil both exist in the mind and spirit of human beings. It depends on the humans, themselves, as to which they choose. In this process, their devotion to Tawûsê Melek is essential, since it was he who was given the same choice between good and evil by God, and chose the good.
Yazidis, who have much in common with the followers of Ahl-e Haqq (in western Iran), state that the world created by God was at first a pearl. It remained in this very small and enclosed state for some time (often a magic number such as forty or forty thousand years) before being remade in its current state. During this period the Heptad were called into existence, God made a covenant with them and entrusted the world to them. Besides Tawûsê Melek, members of the Heptad (the Seven), who were called into existence by God at the beginning of all things, include ?êx Adî, his companion ?êx Hasan and a group known as the Four Mysteries: Shamsadin, Fakhradin, Sajadin and Naserdin.
The Yazidi holy books are claimed to be the Kitêba Cilwe (Book of Revelation) and the Mishefa Re? (Black Book). However, scholars generally agree that the manuscripts of both books published in 1911 and 1913 were forgeries written by non-Yazidis in response to Western travelers’ and scholars’ interest in the Yazidi religion; the material in them is consistent with authentic Yezidi traditions, however. True texts of those names may have existed, but remain obscure. The real core texts of the religion that exist today are the hymns known as qawls; they have also been orally transmitted during most of their history, but are now being collected with the assent of the community, effectively transforming Yazidism into a scriptural religion. The qawls are full of cryptic allusions and usually need to be accompanied by ?ir?ks or ‘stories’ that explain their context.
Two key and interrelated features of Yazidism are: a) a preoccupation with religious purity and b) a belief in metempsychosis. The first of these is expressed in the system of caste, the food laws, the traditional preferences for living in Yazidi communities, and the variety of taboos governing many aspects of life. The second is crucial; Yazidis traditionally believe that the Seven Holy Beings are periodically reincarnated in human form, called a koasasa.
A belief in the reincarnation of lesser Yazidi souls also exists. Like the Ahl-e Haqq, the Yazidis use the metaphor of a change of garment to describe the process, which they call kiras guhorîn in Kurdish (changing the garment). Alongside this, Yazidi mythology also includes descriptions of heaven and hell, with hell extinguished, and other traditions incorporating these ideas into a belief system that includes reincarnation.
Yazidi society is hierarchical. The secular leader is a hereditary emir or prince, whereas a chief sheikh heads the religious hierarchy. The Yazidi are strictly endogamous; members of the three Yazidi castes, the murids, sheikhs and pirs, married only within their group.
Religious practices
Yazidis have five daily prayers:
Nivêja berîspêdê (the Dawn Prayer), Nivêja rojhilatinê (the Sunrise Prayer), Nivêja nîvro (the Noon Prayer), Nivêja êvarî (the Afternoon Prayer), Nivêja rojavabûnê (the Sunset Prayer). However, most Yezidis observe only two of these, the sunrise and sunset prayers.
Worshipers should turn their face toward the sun, and for the noon prayer, they should face toward Lali?. Such prayer should be accompanied by certain gestures, including kissing the rounded neck (gerîvan) of the sacred shirt (kiras). The daily prayer services must not be performed in the presence of outsiders, and are always performed in the direction of the sun. Wednesday is the holy day but Saturday is the day of rest. There is also a three-day fast in December.
The Yazidi New Year falls in Spring (somewhat later than the Equinox). There is some lamentation by women in the cemeteries, to the accompaniment of the music of the Qewals, but the festival is generally characterized by joyous events: the music of dehol (drum) and zorna (shawm), communal dancing and meals, the decorating of eggs.
Similarly, the village Tawaf, a festival held in the spring in honor of the patron of the local shrine, has secular music, dance and meals in addition to the performance of sacred music.
Another important festival is the Tawûsgeran (circulation of the peacock) where Qewals and other religious dignitaries visit Yazidi villages, bringing the senjaq, sacred images of a peacock made from brass symbolising Tawûsê Melek. These are venerated, taxes are collected from the pious, sermons are preached and holy water distributed.
The greatest festival of the year for ordinary Yazidis is the Cejna Cemaiya "Feast of the Assembly" at Lalish, a seven-day occasion. A focus of widespread pilgrimage, this is an important time for social contact and affirmation of identity. The religious center of the event is the belief in an annual gathering of the Heptad in the holy place at this time. Rituals practiced include the sacrifice of a bull at the shrine of ?êx Shams and the practice of sema.
The most important ritual is the annual seven-day pilgrimage to the tomb of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir (?êx Adî) in Lalish, north of Mosul, Iraq.[24][26] A sacred microcosm of the world, as it were, it contains not only many shrines dedicated to the koasasa, but a number of other landmarks corresponding to other sites or symbols of significance in other faiths, including Pirra selat "Serat Bridge" and a mountain called Mt. Arafat. The two sacred springs are called Zamzam and Kaniya Sipî "The White Spring".
If possible, Yazidis make at least one pilgrimage to Lali? during their lifetime, and those living in the region try to attend at least once a year for the autumn Feast of the Assembly which is celebrated from 23 Ayl?l (September) to 1 Tashr?n (October). During the celebration, Yazidi bathe in the river, wash figures of Tawûsê Melek and light hundreds of lamps in the tombs of ?êx Adî and other saints. They also sacrifice an ox, which is one reason they have been connected to Mithraism, in addition to the presence of the dog and serpent in their iconography. The sacrifice of the ox is meant to declare the arrival of fall and to ask for precipitation during winter in order to bring back life to the Earth in the next Spring. Moreover, in astrology, the ox is the symbol of Tashr?n.
Purity and taboos
The Yazidis’ concern with religious purity, and their reluctance to mix elements perceived to be incompatible, is shown not only in their caste system, but also in various taboos affecting everyday life. Some of these, such as those on exogamy or on insulting or offending men of religion, are widely respected. Others are often ignored when men of religion are not present. Others still are less widely known and may be localized.
The purity of the four elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water is protected by a number of taboos, e.g. against spitting on earth, water or fire. Some discourage spitting or pouring hot water on the ground because they believe that spirits or souls that may be present would be harmed or offended by such actions if they happen to be hit by the discarded liquid. These may also reflect ancient Iranian preoccupations, as apparently do taboos concerning bodily waste, hair, and menstrual blood.
Too much contact with non-Yazidis is also considered polluting. In the past, Yazidis avoided military service which would have led them to live among Muslims, and were forbidden to share such items as cups or razors with outsiders. A resemblance to the external ear may lie behind the taboo against eating head lettuce, whose name koas resembles Kurdish pronunciations of koasasa. Additionally, lettuce grown near Mosul is thought by some Yazidi to be fertilized with human waste, which may contribute to the idea that it is unsuitable for consumption. However, in a BBC interview in April 2010, a senior Yazidi authority stated that ordinary Yazidis may eat what they want, but holy men refrain from certain vegetables (including cabbage) because "they cause gases".
Yazidis refrain from wearing the color blue (or possibly green as stated in Soldier Poet and Rebel by Miles Hudson). The origins of this prohibition are unknown, but may either be because blue represents Noah’s flood, or it was possibly the color worn by a conquering king sometime in the past. Alternatively, the prohibition may arise from their veneration of the Peacock Angel and an unwillingness to usurp His color.
Children are baptized at birth and circumcision is common but not required. Dead are buried in conical tombs immediately after death and buried with hands crossed.
Yazidi are dominantly monogamous but chiefs may be polygamous, having more than one wife. Yazidi are exclusively endogamous; clans do not intermarry even with other Kurds and accept no converts. They claim they are descended only from Adam and not from Eve.
A severe punishment is expulsion, which is also effectively excommunication because the soul of the exiled is forfeit.
In 2007, an incidence of honour killing—the stoning of Du’a Khalil Aswad—made world headlines.
The belief
The Chermera or "40 Men" Temple on the highest peak of the Sinjar Mountains in northern Iraq. The temple is so old that no one remembers how it came to have that name, but it is believed to derive from the burial of 40 men on the mountaintop site
The tale of the Yazidis’ origin found in the Black Book gives them a distinctive ancestry and expresses their feeling of difference from other races. Before the roles of the sexes were determined, Adam and Eve quarreled about which of them provided the creative element in the begetting of children. Each stored their seed in a jar which was then sealed. When Eve’s was opened it was full of insects and other unpleasant creatures, but inside Adam’s jar was a beautiful boychild. This lovely child, known as son of Jar grew up to marry a houri and became the ancestor of the Yazidis. Therefore, the Yazidi are regarded as descending from Adam alone, while other humans are descendants of both Adam and Eve.
Muslim antipathy
As a demiurge figure, Tawûsê Melek is often identified by orthodox Muslims as a Shaitan (Satan), a Muslim term denoting a devil or demon who deceives true believers. The Islamic tradition regarding the fall of "Shaitan" from Grace is in fact very similar to the Yazidi story of Malek Taus – that is, the Jinn who refused to submit to Adam is celebrated as Tawûsê Melek by Yazidis, but the Islamic version of the same story curses the same Jinn who refused to submit as becoming Satan. Thus, the Yazidi have been accused of devil worship. Because of this and due to their pre-Islamic beliefs, they have been oppressed by their Muslim neighbors. Treatment of Yazidis was exceptionally harsh during the rule of the Ottoman Empire during the 18th and the first half of 19th century and their numbers dwindled under Ottoman rule both in Syria and Iraq. Massacres at the hand of Ottoman Turks and Muslim Kurdish princes almost wiped out their community in the 19th century. Several punitive expeditions were organized against the Yazidis by the Turkish governors (W?li) of Diyarbakir, Mosul and Baghdad. These operations were legitimized by fat?wa from Islamic clerics. The objective of these persecutions was the forced conversion of Yazidis to the Sunni Hanafi Islam of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
Recent controversies
In 2007, a group of around 200 Yazidis beat and stoned to death a 17-year-old Yazidi girl named Du’a Khalil Aswad for falling in love with a Muslim boy. On April 23, 2007 masked gunmen abducted and shot 23 Yazidis near Mosul; this was speculated to be a reprisal attack for Aswad’s death.
On August 14, 2007, some 500 Yazidis were killed in a coordinated series of bombings that became the deadliest suicide attack since the Iraq War began.
On August 13, 2009, at least 20 people were killed and 30 wounded in a double suicide bombing in northern Iraq, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said. Two suicide bombers with explosive vests carried out the attack at a cafe in Sinjar, a town west of Mosul. In Sinjar, many townspeople are members of the Yazidi minority.

What if Aliens Listen to CDs and Not Records?
arabic music
Image by “Caveman Chuck” Coker
What if aliens listen to CDs and not records? Records are sooo 1970s! Do aliens listen to Jimi Hendrix and think the controlled feedback is just intergalactic noise? Do they like David Bowie’s Space Oddity?

This photo is from NASA. The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecrafts carry identical “gold” records, carrying the story of Earth far into deep space. The 12-inch gold-plated copper discs contain greetings in 55 languages[1], samples of music from different cultures and eras, and natural and man-made sounds from Earth. They also contain electronic information that an “advanced technological civilization” could convert into diagrams and photographs. The cover of each gold-plated aluminum jacket—designed to protect the record from micrometeorite bombardment—also serves a double purpose in providing the finder a key to playing the record. The explanatory diagram appears on both the inner and outer surfaces of the cover, as the outer diagram will be eroded in time. Currently, both Voyager probes are sailing adrift in the black sea of interplanetary space, having left our solar system years ago.

The Voyager 1 spacecraft was launched on September 5, 1977. It weighed 1,592 pounds (722 kilograms). Its original mission was to visit Jupiter and Saturn, but it is now far beyond Pluto and is studying the Kuiper belt and the outer boundaries of our Solar System. As of February 1, 2009, Voyager 1 was about 108.60 astronomical units[2] (10,095,000,000 miles or 16,247,000,000 kilometers) from the Sun. Voyager 1 is expected to keep transmitting until at least after 2025, over 48 years since launch.

The Voyager 2 spacecraft was launched on August 20, 1977. It weighed 1,592 pounds (722 kilograms). Its original mission was to visit Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, but it is now far beyond Pluto and is studying the Kuiper belt and the outer boundaries of our Solar System. As of September 2008, Voyager 2 was about 87.03 astronomical units[2] (8,077,000,000 miles or 13,019,000,000 kilometers or 0.0013761 light years) from the Sun. Voyager 2 is expected to keep transmitting until at least after 2025, over 48 years since launch.

NASA’s Voyager web site is at http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/.

[1] Mysteriously, NASA chose not to include Cahuilla’s wáa, Cherokee’s ??? (osiyo), Hualapai’s gamyu, Luiseño’s miiyu, Navajo’s yá’át’ééh, or Serrano’s haminat.

The 55 languages were, in alphabetical order, Akkadian, Amoy (Min dialect), Arabic, Aramaic, Armenian, Bengali, Burmese, Cantonese, Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hittite, Hungarian, Ila (Zambia), Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Kechua, Korean, Latin, Luganda, Mandarin Chinese, Marathi, Nepali, Nguni, Nyanja, Oriya, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sinhalese, Sotho, Spanish, Sumerian, Swedish, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh, and Wu.

[2] An astronomical unit is a unit of length roughly equal to the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun. It is approximately 93 million miles (150 million kilometers). Its exact value is about 92.956×10^6 miles, or 490.81×10^9 feet, or 149.60×10^6 kilometers, or 149.60×10^9 meters.


Hold Me Closer, Tiny Dancer
arabic music
Image by tj.blackwell
On this upper floor of a building close to the centre of Bekhal, some young Kurdish folk had turned up their music loud and were jigging to arabic beats. I got thrown into the mob and danced like a madman, which was warmly welcomed with many cheers. In Kurdistan there’s no undercurrent of homophobia about dudes dancing with dudes, and I was enthusiastically embraced by several male dance partners – a hilarious and memorable experience.

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