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Sacred Books and Traditions of the Yezidiz, by Isya Joseph, [1919], at

2. Šeiḫ ‘Adî

Next to the devil in rank comes Šeiḫ ‘Adî. But he is not the historical person whose biography is given by the Mohammedan authors. He is identified with deity and looked upon as a second person in a divine trinity. He is sent by Melek Ṭâ’ûs to teach and to warn his chosen people lest they go astray. He is conceived to be everywhere, to be greater than Christ; and, like Melek-Ṣedek, has neither father nor mother. He has not died and will never die. In verse ten of the poems in his praise, he is distinctly said to be the only God. His name is associated with all the myth that human imagination can possibly create about a deity. To express the Yezidi dogma in terms of Christian formula, Šeiḫ ‘Adî is the Holy Spirit, who dwells in their prophets, who are called

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kochaks. He also reveals to them truth and the mysteries of heaven.

The entertaining of such views has led some modern critics to think ‘Adî the good and Melek Ṭâ’ûs the evil principle. In the poem (30-32) he is represented as the good deity and the source of all good. Others identify him with Adde or Adi, a disciple of Manes or Mani. Still others regard his name as one of the names of the deity. In this case, his tomb is a myth and the prefix "Šeiḫ" is added to deceive the Mohammedans, and thus to prevent them from desecrating the sacred shrine, just as the Christians call Mar Mattie, Sheikh Mattie, and the convent of Mar Behrian, ḫuder Elias. 15 But the most ingenious theory is that advanced by the Rev. G. p. Badger. He queries whether "the Yezidi ‘Adî be not cognate with the Hebrew Ad, the two first letters in the original of Adonai, the Lord, and its compounds, Adonijah, Adonibezek. The writer is aware, however, that "This derivative is open to objection on the ground that the Yezidis write the word with ‘ain and not with alif." But he explains: "They write so only in Arabic, of which they know but very little, and not in their own language (Kurdish) in which they do not write it at all. Moreover, they may have assimilated the mode of expressing the title of their deity in bygone days to that of ‘Adî, one of the descendants of the Merawian Califs, with whom, from fear of being persecuted by the Mohammedans, they sometimes identified him." Having thus expounded his own

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view, this English scholar proceeds to repudiate the suggestion that Šeiḫ ‘Adî "is the same Adi," one of the disciples of Mani, Since there is no proof, according to him, that Mani himself was deified by his followers.

So far as the application of the method of comparative philology is concerned, Badger's theory is more reasonable and tenable than that of Lidzbarski, who, by the same method, attempts to identify Melek Ṭâ’ûs with Tammuz. Nevertheless, the inference of the former is beyond any possible justification. For such a starting-point is misleading when it is not supported by historical proof. A failure to support it thus cannot be regarded as other than deficiency in treatment Now, while one may be misguided by the Yezidi myth surrounding the personality of Šeiḫ ‘Adî, the critical mind can find much in it to aid him in his efforts to discover the true identity of the man. In verse fifty of his poem, for our critic draws his conclusions in the light of this poem, the Šeiḫ receives his authority from God who is his lord; in verse fifty-seven he is a man, ‘Adî of Damascus, son of Musafir; in verse eighty he declares that the high place which he had attained is attainable by all who, like him, shall find the truth. To justify my criticism, I need only ask the reader to recall the description by the Mohammedan biographers of the person in question.

The Yezidis offer their worship to Šeiḫ ‘Adî, usually when they assemble at his shrine. This is his tomb within a temple. The latter lies in a narrow

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valley which has only one outlet, as the rock rises on all sides except where a small stream forces its way into a large valley beyond. The tomb stands in a courtyard, and is surrounded by a few buildings in which the guardians and the servants of the sanctuary live. In the vicinity are scattered a number of shacks, each named after a šeiḫ, and supposed to be his tomb. Toward sunset these sacred places are illuminated by burning sesame oil lamps, putting one at the entrance to each tomb in token of their respect, the light lasts but a short time. There are also a few edifices, each belonging to a Yezidi district, in which the pilgrims reside during the time of the feast; so that each portion of the valley is known by the name of the country of those who resort thither. On the lintel of the doorway of the temple, various symbols are engraved,---a lion, a snake, a hatchet, a man and a comb. 16 Their mystical meaning is unknown. They are regarded as mere ornaments placed there at the request of those who furnished money for building the temple. The interior of the temple is made up of an oblong apartment which is divided into three compartments, and a large hall in the centre which is divided by a row of columns; and arches support the roof. To the right of the entrance are a platform, and a spring of water coming from the rock. The latter is regarded with great veneration, and is believed to be derived from the holy well of Zamzam at Mecca. It is used for the baptism of children and for other sacred purposes. Close by there are two

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small apartments in which are tombs of the saints and of some inferior personage. In the principal halls a few lamps are usually burning, and at sunset lights are scattered over the walls.

The tomb of Šeiḫ ‘Adî lies in the inner room, which is dimly lighted. The tomb has a large square cover, upon which is written Ayat al-Kursi, that is, the verse of the throne, which is the 256th verse of surat-al-Baḳarah, or Chapter II of the Koran.

"God. There is no God but He, the Living, the Abiding. Neither slumber nor sleep seizeth Him. To Him belongeth whatsoever is in heaven and whatsoever is on earth. Who is he that can intercede with Him but by His own permission? He knoweth what has been before them and what shall be after them; yet naught of His knowledge do they comprehend, save what he willeth to reveal. His throne reacheth over the heavens and the earth, and the upholding of both burdeneth Him not. He is the High, the Great."

It is related (in the Mishkat, Book IV, 1. 19, Part III) that ‘Ali heard Mohammed say in the pulpit, "That person who repeats the Ayat al-Kursi after every prayer shall in no wise be prevented from entering into Paradise, except by life; and whoever says it when he goes to his bedchamber will be kept by God in safety together with his house and the house of his neighbor." Šeiḫ ‘Adî might have been in the habit of repeating this verse; and this, perhaps, led to its inscription on the tomb.

In the center of the inner, room, close by the tomb,

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there is a square plaster case, in which are small balls of clay taken from the tomb. These are sold or distributed to the pilgrims, and regarded as sacred relics, useful against disease and evil spirits. It is said that there are three hundred and sixty lamps in the shrine of ‘Adi, which are lit every night. The whole valley in which the shrine lies is held sacred. No impure thing is permitted within its holy bounds. No other than the high priest and the chiefs of the sect are buried near the tomb. Many pilgrims take off their shoes on approaching it, . and go barefooted as long as they remain in its vicinity.

Such is the sanctuary of ‘Adî, where they offer him their homage. Their worship may be divided into two kinds, direct and indirect. The former consists of traditional hymns sung by the ḳawwals, the sacred musicians of the sect. They are chanted to the sound of flutes and tambourines. The tunes are monotonous and generally loud and harsh. The latter kind consists in celebrating their religious rites with great rejoicing on the feast day of their great saint. And their Ḳubla, the place to which they look while performing their holy ceremonies, is that part of the heaven in which the sun rises.

The great feast of Šeiḫ ‘Adî is held yearly on April fifteenth to twentieth, Roman calendar, when the Yezidis from all their districts come to attend the festival celebration. Before entering the valley, men and women perform their ablutions, for no one can enter the sacred valley without having first purified

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his body and his clothes. The people of the villages are gathered and start together, forming a long procession, preceded by musicians, who play the tambourine and the pipe. They load the donkeys with necessary carpets and domestic utensils. While marching they discharge their guns into the air and sing their war cry. As soon as they see the tower of the tomb, they all together discharge their arms.

The šeiḫs and the principal members of the priesthood are dressed in pure white linen, and all are venerable men with long beards. Only the chief and the ḳawwals and two of the order of the priesthood enter the inner court of the temple, and they always go in barefooted. They start an hour after sunset. 17 The ceremony begins with the exhibition of the holy symbol of Melek Ṭâ’ûs to the priests. No stranger is allowed to witness this ceremony or to know the nature of it. This being done, they begin the rite. The ḳawwals stand against the wall on one side of the court and commences a chant. Some play on the flute, others on the tambourine; and they follow the measure with their voices. The šeiḫs and the chiefs form a procession, walking two by two; the chief priest walks ahead. A faḳir holds in one hand a lighted torch, and in another a large vessel of oil, from which he pours into the lamp from time to time. All are in white apparel except the fakirs, who are dressed in black. As they walk in a circle, they sing in honor of Šeiḫ ‘Adî. Afterward, they sing in honor of 'Isa (Jesus). As they proceed the excitement

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increases, the chants quicken, the tambourines are beaten more frequently, the faḳirs move faster, the women make tahlil with a great shouting, and the ceremony comes to an end with great noise and excitement. When the chanting is ended, those who were marching in procession kiss, as they pass by, the right side of the temple entrance, where the serpent is figured on the wall. Then the emir stands at this entrance to receive the homage of the šeiḫs and elders who kiss his hand. Afterward all that are present give one another the kiss of peace. 18 After the ceremony the young men and women dance in the outer court until early in the morning.

In the morning the šeiḫs and the ḳawwals offer a short prayer in the temple without any ceremony and some kiss the holy places in the vicinity. When they end, they take the green 19 cover of the tomb of Šeiḫ ‘Adî and march with it around the outer court with music. The people rush to them and reverently kiss the corner of the cloth, offering money.

After taking the cover back to its place, the chiefs and priests sit around the inner court. Kochaks at this time bring food and call the people to eat of the hospitality of Šeiḫ ‘Adî. 20 After they have finished their meal, a collection is taken for the support of the temple and tomb of their saint. All people that come to the annual festival bring dishes as offerings to their living šeiḫ. After he has indicated his acceptance of them by tasting, these are given to the servants of

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the sanctuary. When the feast comes to an end, the people return to their several abodes.


159:15 Badger: Ibid, p. 247. (137) Ibid, p. 112.

Mr. Badger seems to contend that the Kurdish-speaking people do not pronounce the letter ‘ain. This is not true, the Kurds pronounce this letter as well as other gutterals. They sometimes even change the Arabic Alif to ain. This is to be said, however, that in some localities the ‘ain is pronounced alif, just as the kaf is changed to alif, but this is not confined to the Kurds, such changes are made by the Arabic- and the Syriac-speaking people also.

161:16 The figures of the bull and of the serpent, or of the bull and of the lion were placed at the right and left of the palaces of the Assyrian kings to protect their path. Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, p. 162; Nineveh, Vol. II, p. 315; B. F. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Literature, pp. 139, 148, 153. The lion was both an ornament and support in the throne of Solomon, Layard, Nineveh, Vol. II, p. 301. The hatchet was among the weapons of those who fought in chariots, and carried in the quiver, with the arrows and short angular bow, Nineveh, Vol. II, p. 343.

164:17 The Mandeans, the star-worshippers, also begin their rasta ceremony after the sunset, and continue it through the night.--London Standard, October 19, 1994, Al-Mutaḳtataf, 23, 88.

165:18 The kiss of the peace is a regular part of the church service in the East.

165:19 In Mohammedanism, green is the color of šeiḫs.

165:20 This is a communal meal.

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