An Alawite ethno-religious group founded by Isaac al-Barzanji in the late 14th century in western Iran and eastern Iraq are calling for music and songs for vengeance for the brutal killing of Al-Hussein, son of Prophet Mohamed’s cousin Ali Ibn Abi Taleb.
The adherents of Yarsanism, also known as or Ahl-e-Haqq (People of Truth), criticise the Shi’a bloody rituals, which mark Al-Hussein’s death in Karbala. In addition to their alleged soft power, music and songs, the Yaranis also exchange smiles during their exceptional celebrations marking the martyrdom of Al-Hussein.
Although Yarsanism is an officially recognised religion in Iraq, it is banned in Iran. Its leaders complained that that since the eruption of the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979, Yarsanis have been under pressure and religious persecution by the Shi’a regime in Iran. They are compelled to perform their religious rituals secretly in Iran. Yarsanism is barely mentioned in historical religious books as its doctrine and rituals are largely secret. But this has not relieved the harassment of many of the Yarsanis by Islamic or other governments over the centuries.
Yarsanis categorically deny disparaging allegations accusing them of worshiping Prophet Mohamed’s cousin Ali Bin Abi Taleb. They are mostly ethnic Kurds, though there are also smaller groups of Turk, Persian, Lori, Azeri and Arab adherents. Some Yarsanis in Iraq are called Kaka’i. Yarsanis are also found in some rural communities in southeastern Turkey.
The Yarsanis have a distinct religious literature primarily written in the Gorani language, which also is known as Hawrami dialects. However, few modern Yarsanis can read or write Gorani (a Northwestern Iranian language belonging to the branch Zaza-Gorani) as their mother tongues are Southern Kurdish and Sorani Kurdish, which belong to the other two branches of the Kurdish language family. The goal of Yarsanism is to teach humans to achieve ultimate truth. The Yarsanis believe sun and fire are holy things and follow the principles of equalization, purity, righteousness, and oneness.
Among other important pillars of their belief system are that the Divine Essence has successive manifestations in human form and the belief in transmigration of the soul. Yarsanis believe that every man needs to do what is written within their holy book, the Kalam-e-Saranjam, otherwise they are not part of Yarsanism. There is no compulsion or exclusion in Yarsan – anyone who chooses to follow its precepts is welcome.
Yarsanism’s overlapping culture and rituals with Sufism has led some researchers to identify them as a Sufi sect. This belief is substantiated by the fact that Yarsanis embrace—in addition to their doctrine The Ultimate Goal—teachings of the Qur’an and Prophet Mohamed’s Sunnah. Other researchers identify Yarsanism as an independent religion. They also believe in Ali-Ibn Abi Taleb’s advice in his Al-Bayan. Nonetheless, they refuse to condemn Iblis (the Satan). Also, unlike different faiths, Yarsanic holy book Kalam-e-Saranjam says that every man must follow Ali Ibn Abu-Taleb’s example and have a mustache to take part in Yarsanic religious rites.
Yarsanis perform their religious celebrations on January 15 by having bread and cock and cow meat.
Yarsanis in Iraq were vulnerable to ISIS atrocities. The terrorist group brutally killed several of the leaders of this religious sect, and thousands of the followers of Yarsanism in the Iraqi city of Nineveh were displaced and forced to migrate to safer areas. ISIS also destroyed Yarsanic shrines and mausoleums in different cities in Iraq. Despite their tragic sufferings at the hands of ISIS, Yarsanis refused to give in. They joined Nonetheless, Yarsinis decided to join the military forces, Peshmerga, in Iraq’s Kurdistan.