Zoroaster was Prophet?


Salam wa aleykum

My family before being Shiite was Zoroastrian, today, I am Sunni, but so far raises something I doubt. Zoroaster was or was not a Prophet of Islam? I know there are references that he was, according to the Ayatollahs he was a prophet, but to us Sunnis? Much of what I read about him is much like the story of many prophets. I would therefore like to know more about.


wa `alaykum salam,

Even with the Qur’anic designation Majus, Zoroastrian communities have for the most part been accorded the legal status of “People of the Book.” This is not, apparently, equivalent to recognizing Zoroaster as a prophet; the religion of the Majus is understood to have preceded him.

In his Tarikh ur-rusul wal-muluk, the great historian at-Tabari accomplished a very remarkable synthesis between the stories of the prophets of Islam and the accounts of the Persian kings. In at least two separate instances, at-Tabari refuses to recognize Zoroaster as a prophet; however, in both instances he is recognized as a transmitter of the teachings of a prophet to the Persian court. Yet even here, with Persia dependent upon the line of prophets recognized by Islam, the special genius of Persian civilization is never in doubt, namely its royal glory.

Royalty, as well as the knighthood under its command, depends upon spiritual guidance to serve in accordance with justice. Nevertheless, royal power has its distinct customs, and the Persian emphasis on the element of fire may in some measure be understood in this context; on the other hand, water – with its manifest dominance over fire – is the foremost element in the religion of Islam. Given such distinctions, it should not be overlooked that Islam was founded upon an ideal at the source of both spiritual authority and royal power, an ideal followed at least until the end of the age of the Rightly-guided Caliphs.

With the blossoming of Islamic civilization, cermonial deriving from the Persian court became widespread and the Persian penchant for chivalry was renewed. It is certainly suggestive that the same letters in Arabic may spell either “Persia” or “horseman.” Indeed, the importance of chivalry in Persian culture probably contributed to Shi`ism’s popularity, given the Shi`ite focus on the Imam `Ali, a paragon of Islamic chivalry (may Allah ennoble his face). Further afield, there is a marked Persian presence in the Grail legends of Western chivalry, as was first elaborated upon by the Zoroastrian scholar Jehangir Coyagee. It is perhaps worth noting here that the Norsemen of Europe, whose warrior traditions also flowed into the Age of Chivalry, were likewise called Majus by the Muslims.

Comparable to the regard for Persia’s royal past is the Islamic incorporation of the philosophy of Persia’s ancient priest-kings. The Ishraqi school sought to synthesize this legacy with that of the Classical philosophers in light of the teachings of Sufism. A master of this school related a dream in which he asked Aristotle about the real masters of wisdom; Aristotle answered that “the Sufis Bistami and Tustari are the real philosophers.”

According to the commentator `Abdur-Razzaq al-Kashani, the first Ishraqis were the followers of the Prophet Seth. This is a significant designation, since with the Prophet Seth – peace be upon him –  the traditions of Sufism and chivalry were not yet distinct. The real significance of this term, then, is to identify a light – since Ishraq is literally a “rising sun” – at once spiritual and royal that is a source of knowledge. It is therefore not without interest to find among the ranks of sainthood a group known as the Rijal ul-ishraqiyyun, whose function relates especially to the end of time.

Mahmoud Shelton

About Ustadh Mahmoud Shelton

Mahmoud Shelton studied at the University of Edinburgh before taking a degree in Medieval Studies at Stanford University. Shelton is the author of Alchemy in Middle Earth: The Significance of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, The Balance of George Lucas' Star Wars, and numerous articles. He is also a contributor to The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry and The Sufi Science of Self-Realization. Contributions by Mahmoud Shelton * Chivalry of the Night and Day * Alchemy in Middle Earth * contributor, The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry
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