A Zoroastrian Educational Institute



HomeArticlesAuthorsBook ReviewCommunityLibraryProminentsRegisterStoreArticle SubmissionAbout Us




by Jalaleddin Ashtiani

(Enlgish translation by Mamak Nourbaks) [ii]

















I fist ran across a comment on Mr. Ashtiani’s books, when I read Dr. Daryoush Jahanian’s Zoroastrian Doctrine and the Biblical Connections, several years ago. Ever since that day, I had wanted to read some of Mr. Ashtiani’s books. Sadly, due to the small numbers of our community, at present, and other, perhaps political, considerations, it is not easy to translate Persian Zoroastrian books into English,[iii] and I, alas, do not speak Persian.

Several years had elapsed and I was thrilled to hear that the book Mazdayasna and Governance by Mr. Ashtiani, has been translated into English, so I immediately rushed out and bought one. I honestly can say I was not disappointed, even though I am still waiting for some kind soul to translate Mr. Ashtiani’s other works.

But getting to the matter at hand, I had promise Feri Demehri, the nice spokes person for www.oshihan.org, who first introduced me to this translation. That I would write about the book, and promote it. Honestly, I did not do as much of this, specially, not amongst the Zoroastrian Mail list on the Net. Basically, I was swamped with my other interests, and though I did personally recommend the book to friends and Hamdins I did not do so over the ether ways to any mass audience.

Just about 10 or so months later, Feri was back, pushing the book over the mail lists. At that time, I did, recommend the book publicly and made some briefs comments about it.

First, may I say that there is a feeling among many Iranian Zartoshtis and even Parsis that Ashtiani, is to put it mildly, a little harsh on ‘born’ Zoroastrians.
[iv] However, while I do not personally know the man, I believe that this ‘feeling’ among some Zoroastrians is misplaced. You see, you have to understand the circumstances and times when Ashtiani is writing, and publishing; his books and you also have to understand, just who he is; before you accuse him of any harsh opinions on Zoroastrians.

I believe Mr. Ashtiani to be an extremely courageous man and I will state why. Being, officially, not a Zoroastrian Ashtiani has taken positions in favor of Zarathushtra’s philosophies over others, and made statements that makes unpopular with the crowds who are inclined to tarnish the records of Ancient Iran. He states, for example, on page 71 that … mullahs/kavis, priests … are so steeped in the inflexible doctrines of their beliefs, that they are unable to bring about change …”

Ashtiani also makes the following statements
1. On page 125; “ In the history of world religions, the greatest change was brought about by Zarathushtra … “
2. O n page 173: “ … It is fitting that in the study of … this enlightened message we rid our minds of … the Holy Spirit … Gabriel … Old Testament … “
3. On page 223: “ Three thousand years sago, Zarathushtra announced that … wisdom and understanding … were the gifts of God to man …that they may rise above the tyranny of religious traders and their evil customs and practices…”
4. On page 297: “ " ... the Gathas are the work of an enlightened thinker whose profound verses instructed their hearers through their message, thereby, far surpassing the religions of the day and those that have ensued in the following millennia. … “

Taken together, these statements and many others in the book show Ashtiani making statements, which, frankly, could have cost him, his freedom, if not his life. Yet he courageously makes them, because he believes in them.

He is a Zoroastrian in everything but formal conversion. Furthermore, when one understands that he was the son of an Ayatollah himself, and not any Ayatollah a prominent one, then one can understand if, in order to publish his books, he sometimes has to sound a little harsh.

Yet his harshness is directed to the clerical establishment and that harshness is in the context of all clerical establishments. This is indeed another courageous statement to make in the Iran of the Islamic Republic. And lest we forget, Ashtiani is known as having many Zoroastrian friends, one of them, he even consulted with before writing his books.

He goes on to outline the way scholars who mistakenly, based themselves on the Young Avesta have interpreted the Gathas in ways that have twisted Zarathushtra’s creed. He shows through the weight of scholarly evidence the way Zarathushtra’s successors also, either could not grasp his genius, or sought to aggrandize themselves and in the process, changed his sublime message to one full of contradictory and retarding doctrines and practices.

Whether, you agree with Ashtiani’s thesis, which I do, or you do not, this book is an extraordinary achievements, the conclusions it reaches and the support for such conclusions the book offers ought to lead every person seeking he truth in this most important area, to read this book. I urge you all to do so.

[i] This book review was posted on vohuman.org on July 6, 2005.

[ii] Published in 2002 by Enteshar Publication Co. Tehran, Iran, ISBN# 964-325-090-3

[iv] Jalaleddin Ashtiani has at times faulted the adherents of the religion of Zarathushtra for at times deviating from Zarathushtra’s path.