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The Rise of Mazdak

Another interesting development from that religious viewpoint in the Sassanid period is the rise of Mazdak. In the time of Qubad, father of Anushiravan, a man named Mazdak rose with a new religion. In Mazdak's faith a new aspect of faith is discernible that did not exist in the former religions. In Zoroastrianism attention was paid to moral aspects such as truth and honesty and spiritual matters and worship of God, and sacrifice etc., but it did not deal with rights and social problems, and not only accepted class divisions but also supported it.

The Manichaean faith, too, despite proposing reforms in religious matters, introduced no social changes. But Mazdak dealt with both religious and social matters. On the one hand with its inclinations towards Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Christianity, namely towards asceticism, abandonment of carnal desires, and isolation from worldly affairs by leading an ascetic life, and with such views about social matters, Mazdak threatened the social order of the time. About his philosophy and religion, Mazdak used to say "True bliss for human beings lies in a peaceful environment free from rancour and enmity. But the disputes and wars which occur among people are either over wealth and enjoyment of affluence, property, water, trade, capital, luxuries or over women. In order to remove these disputes altogether, wealth and women should be commonly shared. 45

This creed threatened the system of social class structure and quite naturally, it found numerous followers among the deprived classes. Qubad, too, as a young ruler who was opposed to the influence of priests, nobles and upper classes, and felt that their influence would hinder the proper administration of the country, supported Mazdak faith, and patronised Mazdak very strongly. In this way about the year 484 A.D. that is about 125 years before the advent of Islam, a revolutionary religious fervour governed under which the deprived masses tore up the former bonds of class life and formalities and adopted to an extreme extent the ideas of communal sharing of everything including women and abolition of family and marriage and proprietorship, with the result that chaos and disorder reigned everywhere, since such ideas both from the viewpoint of religion and social rights and internal politics were not acceptable to the people of that time, even though Qubad supported Mazdak to diminish the deep influence of the ecclesiastical organisation.

However, the clergy's influence succeeded in rousing people to revolt. On the other hand Mazdak's ideas, too, about family and wealth sharing were so extremist that they shook the foundations of the existing system since they were contrary to human nature. Therefore they could not endure for long, and when Anushirvan assumed power in the year 531 A.D. Mazdak was executed. His followers were scattered or destroyed, and once more the Zoroastrian faith and its priests gained dominance over the situation. 46

45. Of course this communistic idea of sharing wealth and women has a Platonic root, a matter which is questionable.

46. Khosrow I Anushirvan became king in 53 1 A.D. When the question of whether Anushirvan or Kavous should succeed Qubad was being decided in a religious session, the Mazdakis were defeated and the soldiers who had encircled them, killed them all including Mazdak and his leading priests - Rise of Mazdak by Nasrollah Falsafm, and History of Iranians and Arabs in Sassanid time, by Abass Zaryab, p. 688 onward.

Adapted from the book: "Background of the Birth of Islam" by: "S. T. H. Khwarazmi"

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