YAZIDISM is a syncretic, monotheistic religion practiced by the Yazidis, an ethnoreligious group which resides primarily in northern Iraq, northern Syria, and southeastern Turkey. Yazidism is considered by its adherents to be the oldest religion in the world and the first truly monotheistic faith. The Yazidi calendar states that the religion, as well as the universe, is almost 7,000 years old, which is 5,000 years older than the Gregorian Calendar and 1,000 years older than the Jewish calendar. Yazidism has had a rich history of syncretic development. For thousands of years, Yazidism incorporated elements of Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and Islam, all of which coalesced from 1162 CE to the 15th century CE. Ultimately, this process created Yazidi culture and ethnic identity. However, to understand Yazidism, its history must first be explained.
Almost nothing is recorded about the history of the first Yazidis. The etymology of the word ‘Yazidi’ is uncertain. Scholars debate whether or not it comes from the Middle Persian and Kurdish Yazad, which means ‘God.’ Other scholars believe that the Yazidis originated in the Zoroastrian city of Yazd in Iran. Another theory is that the Yazidis are descended from the Umayyad caliph Yazid ibn Mu’awiya, who reigned from 680 to 683 CE and killed the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussein ibn ‘Ali. After the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate in 750 CE, descendants of the royal family and other Umayyad sympathizers fled into the Kurdish mountains from the rival Abbasid Caliphate. There, they were welcomed by the Kurds, who remained loyal to them. The theory concludes that the Umayyad refugees intermarried with the Yazidis, passing along their admiration for Yazid ibn Mua’wiyah, their ancestor and former ruler.