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Zoroastrian Heritage

Author: K. E. Eduljee



Post-Arab Iranian History

Fight & Flight c 650-750 CE

End of Zoroastrian Rule of Iran

Last Stands & Flight from Iran

Battles in the East

Flight of Piruz to China

The Last Sassanian Resistor

End of Zoroastrian Rule in Iran Shahr

Fight & Flight. c 650-750 CE

Related reading:

» Abu Muslim - Zoroastrian Enigma

» Zoroastrianism in Yazd

» Early Parsi History

» Conditions & Treatment of Zoroastrians. 650 CE to Late 1400s CE

End of Zoroastrian Rule of Iran

The rich trade routes the Aryans had created from the dawn of time were unique and like no other on this earth. The main trunk routes all ran through Iran Shahr, the traditional Iranian-Aryan lands, and they provided handsome revenues for the rulers of the land. The Arabs sought this prize and made all the lands of the ancient Persian empire from the borders of China to North Africa their target. First though they would need to take the heartland of Iran. They would use their religion as a political doctrine to impose and maintain control and loyalty to their central government, the caliphate. The Sassanian dynasty was in disarray and wrought with internal strife. The people of Iran were in turmoil and the Arabs took full advantage.

In 636 CE, the Arab engaged and defeated the Persian army in the battle of Qadisiyyah (now in South-Central Iraq). This event brought to an end Zoroastrian rule west of the Zagros mountains in Iranian Iraq. Next, in 642, the Arab armies crossed the Zagros mountains and invaded the Iranian plateau, the heartland of Iran, and defeated the Persian armies in the battle of Nahavand (near Hamadan). By 649 CE, Zoroastrian rule in Iran / Persia had effectively come to an end.

The last Zoroastrian dynasty to rule Iranian was the Sassanian dynasty (c.224 - c.649 CE) and the last of that dynasty's king was Yezdegird III (r. 633-649 CE).

Last Stands & Flight from Iran

Battles in the East

In the face of the advancing Arab armies that sought their heads, Persian royalty fled eastward and the royal queen and princess were trapped and killed in Yazd. Yezdegird himself fled to Merv where he was murdered in Merv 651 or 652 CE.

Kaikhusrou, a younger member of the Sassanian royal family together with a number of other family members and other followers, fled to Sistan, the legendary home of Sam, Zal and Rustam.

In an Arabic book Futuh-ul-Buldan by Ahmad Ibn Yahya Ibn Jabir Al Biladuri, a ninth century CE writer who died c 892, the author tell us about Zoroastrians who took a stand against the advancing Arabs at Hormuz on the southern Iranian coast. The Zoroastrians were over-powered and fled by sea to Makran, the coast of Baluchistan to the east of Hormuz. The text reads:

"He (Mujasa bin Masood) conquered Jeraft (Jiroft, Kerman) and having proceeded to Kerman (city), subjugated the city and made for Kafs (Hormozgan) where a number of Persians, who had emigrated, opposed him by at Hormuz (the port of Kerman). So he fought with and gained victory over them and many people of Kerman fled away by sea. Some of them joined the Persians at Makran and some went to Sagistan (Sistan)." (cf. Translation from the Arabic by Rustam Meheraban Aga as quoted in an article The Kissah-e-Sanjan by Dr. Jivanji Modi in the Journal of the Iranian Association Vol. VII, No. 3. June 1918.)

When the Arabs under Al-Rabi bin Ziyad had crossed the desert between Kerman and Sistan-Baluchistan, they attacked a district called Zalik, overcame determined resistance and plundered it's city on the feast of Mehergan.

Then they advanced towards Zarang (called Zaranj by the Arabs, a city that is now the capital of Afghanistan's south-eastern Nimruz province that is turn was part of old Sistan).

Zaranj / zarang border area with Iran
Zaranj / zarang border area with Iran

On the way the set upon the village of Rught whose inhabitants came out and fought a great battle inflicting heavy losses on the Arabs. Rabi, however, regrouped his forces and eventually overpowered the defenders. Then Rabi attacked Shirwad killing a large numbers of people. Finally, Rabi turned his forces on Zarang whose inhabitants led by Aparviz (Parviz?), the marzban of Zarang, resisted the Arab armies fiercely until the eventually succumbed. The story goes that when the Arab commander summoned the marzban to discuss the terms of conquest, he sat on the corpse of a dead defender. The terms included 1,000 slaves each with a golden goblet. Even after their defeat, the inhabitant's of Zarang mounted an insurgency and Rabi had to stay on in Zarang. Two years after their defeat, the inhabitants of Zarang rose up in open revolt and drove out the Muslim garrison. The Arab governor of Kerman, sent out yet another Muslim force to regain Zarang for the second time. They succeeded in 661 and also captured Zabol, a major city in the north of Sistan. However, Arab control of Zarang would, as we shall see, be challenged again.

Flight of Piruz to China

There is some further history of the Zoroastrian resistance to be gleamed from two Chinese histories known as the Old and New Book of Tang, as well as a purported diary written by Piruz's son Narseh / Narsieh (reported at CIAS is an article Pirooz in China by Henry Wong. The diary was written in formal and aristocratic old Chinese.

Persians in China?
Persians in China?

The Old Book of Tang was compiled by Liu Xu between 941 and 945 during the reign of Emperor Chudi. Xu's edition was revised during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and the revision came to be known as New Book of Tang. The Tang Dynasty (618-907) ruled China during the time of the Arab invasion of Iran and the following critical centuries. The two books do differ on some key aspects of how and who in The Sassanian royal family the Chinese assisted in resisting the advance of the Arab armies.

According to The Old Book of the Tang, in around 661 CE, Yazdegird III's son Piruz / Pirooz / Peroz / Firooz / Pinyin (Chinese) appealed to the Chinese court for help resisting the Arabs.

According to Wong citing Narsieh's diary, upon the death of his father Yezdegird III, Piruz wrote a letter to his sister - who was the wife of the Chinese emperor - requesting Chinese assistance which was slow in coming. With the Arab armies in sight, Piruz could no longer wait. Together with other Persian nobility, their families and accompanying soldiers, they decided to cross the Pamirs and arrived in China in the 660s CE. In the Chinese capital, he found long-established Persian, Sogdian, and Bactrian merchant communities who had settled in China. Escorted into the Chinese emperor's presence, Piruz prostrated before the emperor who embraced him and kissed him on the cheeks. The emperor reassured Piruz saying, "You've come a long way. Have no more fears. For you are my brother and this is your new home." With tears in his eyes, Piruz knelt and thanked the emperor. The emperor permitted Piruz and the Persians to settle in 38 villages and rebuild their communities. They were also allowed to set up a royal court in exile.

China c 700 CE
China c 700 CE

Piruz learned Kung Fu (martial arts) and became a general in the emperor's court. The Chinese had by this time established garrisons (apparently financed by Piruz) in what is today Tajikistan, eastern Afghanistan and parts of Uzbekistan and these eastern Iranian-Aryan lands became part of China for a while and contained the Arab advance.

Returning to The Old Book of the Tang, the Chinese made Piruz Commander of the Western Flank and eventually assisted Piruz in resisting the Arabs by giving him a battalion with which Piruz liberated Zarang in Sistan from the Arabs. It is not without significance that the present population of Zarang (Zaranj) consists of 44% Balochis, 34% Pashtuns and 22% Tajiks. From Zarang, Piruz governed what remained of Iranian-Aryan lands thirty years till his death in 709.

Wong's tells us in his translation of the Narsieh diary, that when Piruz was ailing, with his entire exiled court and the Chinese emperor in attendance, he requested a simple funeral. His request made the ailing Piruz turned to the west and said, "I have done what I could for my homeland (Persia) and I have no regrets." Turning to the east he said, "I am grateful to China, my new homeland." Then he turned towards the Persians and said, "Contribute your talents and devote them to the emperor. We are now Chinese." With those words said, he passed from this life. At his funeral, a magnificent stallion was led to gallop around the regent's body 33 times - that being the number of his military victories over the Arabs. For Prince Piruz had spent the last years of his life fighting the Arab invaders of Aryan lands.

Piruz's son Narsieh married a princess of the Tang Imperial Family and his descendants adopted the Tang Imperial Family Name Li. Narsieh's daughters and sons all married into Chinese royalty and aristocracy as did all the Persian nobility exiled in China. And so ended the Sassanian Dynasty.

The Last Sassanian Resistor

In 728 CE, a descendant of Yezdegird III named Khosro was mentioned fighting alongside Sogdians and Turks against the Islamic forces besieging Bokhara. This is, possibly, the last reference to any direct descendant of Yezdegird.

The fleeing Zoroastrians made their last stands against the Arabs in several places including Khorasan, Sistan and Hormuz. In these regions, insurrections and revolts against the Arabs continued for about a century. In these, their last stands, Persian patriots and Zoroastrians either died, were taken prisoner, finally submitted or fled further east into India and China. While their names are lost to history and they remain unknown, their spirit lives through these words. Aidun bad.

» Abu Muslim - Zoroastrian Enigma

» Zoroastrian Revolutionary Sects 650-850

» Conditions & Treatment of Zoroastrians 1500s-Late 1800s

» Irani Zoroastrian Renaissance. The Benefactors. Parsi Assistance

» Conditions & Treatment of Zoroastrians. 650 CE to Late 1400s CE

Related reading:

» Zoroastrianism in Yazd

» Early Parsi History

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Abu Muslim (c 700-755)

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