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Zarathushtra, Mazdayasna, and Governance
Jallal Ashtiyani

Book Review

1984 Farsi publication, distributed by
Ketab Corp,

Encino, CA

Jahanian, Dr. Daryoush

The Author
His Publications
The Book


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The Author
Jallal ul-Din Ashtiyani born in the first half of the twentieth century, and his family came from the town of Ashtiyan in Iran.  His family were Moslem clerics; his father had attained the rank of Ayatollah. It was the family’s desire that Jallal ul-Din would follow in the same tradition. Instead, Jallal ul-Din’s career interests soon took him in the direction of engineering and away from the clerical life.  Once he and his father came an understanding about Jallal’s choice, Jallal ul-Din pursued his engineering studies first in Iran, and then in Germany. He has been living and working there since his departure from
Iran. However, his interest for philosophy and religion has grown stronger as years have gone by, and he has studied Zarathusthrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism, along with the evolution of these religions and their gradual deviation from the original messages of their founders. His insightful findings and reflections have appeared in his numerous publications.

Ashtiyani analyzes the evolution of the Zarathushtrian and Judaic religions and the deviations from the original intent of their founders. He states that he had expected the followers of these two religions to turn against him because of his conclusions.  Instead he was pleasantly surprised at the cordial reception his message got from the Zarathushtrian and Jewish communities in Iran. Ashtiyani’s message continues to be well received by both these groups of Iranians.

His Publications
After the 1979 turmoil in
Iran, in order to enlighten and educate the nation, Jallal ul-Din Ashtiyani published the essence of his lifelong studies and research on the topics of Judaism, Christianity, and Zarathushtrianism.  He later authored another book entitled Management, Not Governance.

The Book
His book “Zarathushtra, Mazdayasna, and Governance”  shows his extensive knowledge of Zarathushtra’s era and his teachings. After discussing the contentious issues of the name, family lineage and the societal setting of Zarathushtra, the author tackles two unsettled issues, that of Zarathushtra’s birthplace, and that of his date. Both topics are obscure, and have been the subjects of ongoing contentious discussions for  a long time.

Based on comparative analysis of the Hindu Rigveda and the Gathas of Zarathushtra, Ashtiyani proposes how the teachings of the prophet caused the ideological rift among the Aryans that resulted in the great migration to the Sind Valley.  Since the migration took place from 1700 to 1500 B.C. and the estimated time of composition of the oldest Rigveda is between 2000 and 1700 B.C., the author persuades readers that the era of Zarathushtra falls between 2000 and 1500 B.C.  It is generally accepted that the migration took place from the area of the Northeastern Iranian Plateau covering parts of Khorassan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan.  Hence, Zarathushtra’s homeland should be Northeastern and not Northwestern Iran as had come to be accepted during the Sassanian times.

On the topic of Zarathushtra’s perception of God, the author predicates that Zarathushtra was a monotheist, introducing the concept of one universal God for the first time. Ahura Mazda (The Lord of Life and Wisdom) is present everywhere and has no particular place or location. The Wise Lord is conceived in the mind, and devoid of human characteristics such as anger, envy, rancor, and revenge. Ashtiyani discusses the subjects of the Divine attributes in detail and resolves this complex issue. The Divine attributes, which in the later Avesta were called Amesha Spenta, are the means of approaching God.  They apply to humans as virtues.  All men and women through the attainment of the virtues “Wisdom, Truth, Spiritual Strength, and Serenity-Love, Wholeness, and Immortality” can become Godlike, whole and immortal. Zarathushtra’s final goal is to produce perfect and flawless humans in the image of God, to establish the Divine dominion or ideal government of God.

The prophet’s campaign against corrupt rulers (Kavis) and religious leaders (Karapans) was a peaceful one.  He stood alone in defense of the oppressed, with only spiritual words as his weapons.  Despite his peacefulness, Zarathushtra encountered setbacks and was persecuted.  But even in his profound despondency he asked God for one favor, His Love, the same love that is granted by a lover to his beloved.  The prophet’s goal was not to replace one tyrant with another.  He had a broad vision to establish the Divine Dominion where virtuous men and women reside, the social and religious leaders are chosen for their honesty, justice prevails, and the meek and oppressed are rehabilitated.  The reward of this government is peace.

In the chapter of his book dealing with freedom of choice, Ashtiyani expounds that in the teachings of Zarathushtra the concept of liberty has been emphasized in all aspects of the life, from personal choices to the choice of religion and temporal rulers. Even the teachings of the prophet should not be followed blindly. People should also choose by free will to establish the Divine Dominion, and within this context even God is to be chosen by conduct of good deeds. Citing Yasnas 30 and 31, he summarizes Zarathushtra’s message of liberty as follows:

Wisdom, intelligence and liberty and intellectual capacity to make righteous choices are gifts of God to humans.  These bounties if used in a correct manner will differentiate humans from other creatures.  O’men, with your ears, by wisdom and bright mind, realize the truth in order to tread the path of true worship, and attain the divine light and serene abode of the Wise God.  That is the essence of the real heaven, which you establish in your inner self and within your society. O’ men awaken and discern the joyous breeze of humanity, and listen to the melody of freedom in order to attain the divine virtues.  As the progeny of humans, you are born free to choose your path with full freedom.  Adorn yourself with the ornaments of knowledge, righteousness, and good thinking, and choose your path and destiny. Negation of life, and existence (Un-life) constitutes ignorance and absence of wisdom.  It results in the victory of falsehood, deception, cruelty, and injustice.  Truthful living is based on liberty, knowledge, and wisdom.  A man living a fulfilling life is one who is free.  A man captivated by the shackles of ignorance, falsehood, and deception, is in fact deprived of life.  In essence lies and deceit denies life (un-life), and the spirit of righteousness breeds true life.  Those who tread the path of truth please God, and the ones that sacrifice man’s dignity by their wrong desire are actually demons disguised as humans who rule through evil thought.  By the power of the good mind, shatter the wrong and deliver falsehood into the hands of righteousness, so that society thrives and life becomes fresh. This message is not pleasant for those who have usurped power through falsehood and deception.

Ashtiyani concludes that the message of Zarathushtra, by emphasizing freedom and wisdom, leaves no room for despots to emerge in the form of rulers or corrupt priests.  Neither does it condone the violation of freedoms and individual rights under any pretext.  He contends, “It was not the teachings of Zarathushtra that brought about despotic rulers, rather deviation from it”.

To explain how the Zoroastrian religion deviated from the original teachings, the author first quotes Zarathushtra as saying, “A bad teacher distorts the religion, misleads the people, and distracts them from the real purpose of life: good thinking and righteousness.”  A religion becomes a world religion when a strong military, economical, or political force stands behind it.  It is not the world religion that produces the world government, but rather, as history proves, it is the world government that generates the world’s dominant religion.  These factors were absent during Zarathushtra’s era.  His patron was a local ruler.  Even the Achaemenian Dynasty, who came to power a thousand years later as Zoroastrians, allowed their subjects to follow their own religion and laws freely.  Also, the religious community that is essential for the dissemination of the original message was absent. Thus, soon after the prophet’s death, his teachings were mixed with the earlier and alien concepts that he had totally rejected.  But even the newly evolved Zoroastrianism left its positive effects, as a millennium later it generated great leaders as Cyrus and Darius who changed the trends of civilizations. Ashtiyani suggests that if the Zoroastrian religion had approached the nation in its original Gathic form, a much greater civilization could have evolved.

Studying this book provides a better insight into the teachings of Zarathushtra that although very old remain very fresh.  As one reader put it, “The Zoroastrian doctrine is the oldest and the newest religion in the world.”  In the field of religious studies it is very difficult to remain impartial. Jallal Ashtiyani, whose father and ancestors were Islamic savants, Mojtahed and Ayatollahs, proves to be an exceptional author and scholar of high standards who transcends the human shortcomings of bias and prejudice. His publications are the best proof of this quality, and they pass the test of impartiality.