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Apostasy and repentance in early medieval Zoroastrianism.

The Middle Persian (Pahlavi) literature from the early Islamic centuries frequently deals with practical theological issues faced by the Zoroastrian communities under foreign domination. Here, we present a number of questions regarding a Zoroastrian's conversion to Islam and his subsequent repentance and desire to return to Zoroastrianism and answers given by ninth- and tenth-century Zoroastrian priestly authorities. It is shown how the priests cite ancient traditions found in the Pahlavi versions of Avestan texts to justify their answers, and then apply them to the contemporary social reality.


The main problem facing scholars of Pahlavi literature of the ninth-tenth centuries is the dearth of reliable text editions and translations. Such as exist are often outdated and tend to differ considerably in the manner of transcribing the texts and in the terminology used for Pahlavi terms in the translations. Several important texts are found only in a single manuscript, others in only two, some in manuscripts that are obviously quite corrupt, and some in quite recent ones (eighteenth--nineteenth century). The texts involved are also among the most difficult in the entire Pahlavi corpus (notably the Dadestan I denig and the Pahlavi Videvdad). The study and comparison of texts must therefore always be accompanied by manuscript criticism and critical new translations, so texts and translations need to be included in any discussion of them. (1)

The present article is an example of this methodology adopted for the study of apostasy and repentance across several Pahlavi texts and of what can be gained by comparison with contemporary religions.


The conversion of Zoroastrians to Islam during the first few centuries after the Muslim conquest (2) is, in some respects, part of a broader cultural phenomenon, one that has been referred to as the "age of conversions." (3) Since direct historical and biographical evidence elucidating the experience of individual conversions during this period, especially of Zoroastrians, is relatively scarce, in order to shed some light on the legal attitudes toward conversion at that time, we shall explore literature in Middle Persian produced by the leaders of the Zoroastrian clergy during the ninth and tenth centuries in the form of questions-and-answers, among them inquiries regarding religious-legal issues and answers containing decisions by legal scholars. (4) In particular, we will address legal responsa devoted to various aspects of apostasy and conversion, while focusing on questions 52 and 53 ascribed to Adurfarnbay (Adurfarrbay) son of Farroxzad, high priest of the Zoroastrian community in Iran during the first half of the ninth century, who dedicated several responsa to the legal and religious ramifications of apostasy and conversion of Zoroastrians to Islam and who is said to have participated in interreligious disputations with Muslims in the presence of the 'Abbasid Caliph al-Ma'mun (815-833). (5) In the Pahlavi texts, he is also known as hudenan pesobay "leader of the hu-dens (Zoroastrians)." (6)

Although Muslims are not explicitly mentioned in these texts, the historical situation makes it certain that, at least in the majority of cases, we are dealing with conversions to Islam, rather than to Christianity or Judaism.

The legal status of Zoroastrians under Islam was subject to some controversy among Muslim jurists, but the majority of Islamic authorities appear to have held that the Zoroastrians were to be tolerated and protected under the legal umbrella of ahl al-dhimma. (7) That said, according to most Islamic jurists, Zoroastrians were not considered ahl al-kitab "people of the book" (8) in the strict legal sense, like the Jews and

Christians; thus Muslims were not permitted to eat from their slaughter or marry their women. (9) It is difficult to determine whether this distinct attitude exhibited by Islamic jurists toward Zoroastrians had any impact on the patterns of conversion of Zoroastrians to Islam beyond the general patterns attested among other minorities in this period.

The texts we will examine in this context reflect, in part, the legal concerns of Zoroastrians as a religious minority. (10) In addition to the issues discussed here, the responsa from the early ninth century onward address questions such as the marital status of the wife of an apostate, the legal status of his ayogen "levirate" sister, (11) the inheritance privileges of the apostate, and concerns pertaining to members of the clergy who apostatized.

The legal concerns pertaining to apostasy and conversion did not, however, first originate as a reaction to the large-scale conversions in the early Islamic period. Parts of the medieval discussion derive directly from the Pahlavi translations and commentaries (zand) in the Nirangestan, which deals with the correct performance of rituals, and especially the Videvdad, (12) which deals with pollution and contamination, both of them redacted from oral traditions and written down, perhaps, already in the late Sasanian period. Dissent from Zoroastrian norms is discussed in some detail in the Pahlavi Nirangestan and sporadically in the Pahlavi Videvdad. (13) The extensive medieval discussion of apostasy and conversion is, therefore, not only a reflection of the religious and legal encounters of Zoroastrianism with Islam, but also represents earlier Zoroastrian traditions, in which apostasy is expressed by the phrases "standing back from the den," as well as "praising back the den." (14) This terminology of denial of the den ultimately goes back to the positive statement in the Zoroastrian so-called "profession of faith" in Yasna 12.9: "I assign myself by my praise to the Mazdayasnian daena... which is that of Ahura Mazda and Zarathustra... This is how I assign myself by my praise to the Mazdayasnian daena." (15)

Here we shall attempt to locate the traditions pertaining to apostasy that were utilized by Adurfarnbay and his colleagues and thereby show how these traditions were repackaged by the medieval jurists by adapting and adjusting them so as to be applicable to the reality of large-scale conversions. In this context, we shall examine not only the Zoroastrian literature, but also adduce parallel discussions from Islamic, Geonic, and Christian sources, so as to contextualize the Zoroastrian responsa and place their legal concerns in a broader cultural framework.

The Zoroastrian discussions are based on the concepts of sins and good deeds. A person's good and evil thoughts, words, and deeds are entered into his/her account and, at "the third dawn" (sidos) (16) of "the fourth day" after death, counted and weighed at the Bridge of the Accountant (Avestan cinuuato [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Pahlavi Cinwad-puhl). (17) If the good deeds weigh more than the sins, the soul is "righteous" (ahlaw) and proceeds to heaven; if not, it is "wicked" (druwand) and is led to hell. During "the three nights," the soul was also believed to suffer punishments for its sins.

The main themes that come up in these discussions are the following:

What counts as apostasy/conversion: removal of the kustig, the sacred girdle, which Zoroastrians are enjoined to wear at all times; (18) standing away from, i.e., denying, the good den, the den of the Mazdayasnians; (19) going from the good den to an evil den.

Sins and the weight of sins: sins were classified as "light" (xwar), "heavy" (garari), or "heavier" (gray), the heaviest of them all being the tanabuhl (20) and margarzan "deathdeserving" sins, the latter calling for the death penalty. (21)

Sins committed by others, for which the convert was, in some way, responsible: sins committed on his body, mainly after death, and sins committed by those he caused to convert.

Repentance, atonement (also confession) by the sinner in words or thought; within a year (the grace period) or after a year; repentance by someone else on the convert's behalf (by agency).

The need for performing good deeds in addition to repentance. (22)

The status of good deeds performed before the conversion.

Punishments for not repenting, in this world and the next; ways to avoid punishment until the end of the world (fraskerd, the Resurrection, the Final Body). (23)

Mitigating circumstances: ability and inability to repent.

The case of someone born outside the good den.

The rituals performed at "the third dawn."



Adurfarnbay's fifty-second question-and-answer concerns a Zoroastrian convert to Islam who seeks to repent and revert to Zoroastrianism, but is discouraged by his fear of the (Muslim) authorities, since apostasy was regarded as a capital offense in Islamic law. (24) The question and answer consider two different situations, of which this is the first:
mard ew ke kustig be wisayed andar sal pad-petit hawed bim i tan ray
kustlg ray bastan ne sdyed pas az an winah kam kuned ud abdrig kar ud
kerbag tuxsldar ud xwedodahih kuned ud abdrig kar ud kerbag harw ce
sayed kuned an kar ud kerbag xwes bowed ayab ne
kar ud kerbag i kuned oh bawed u-s windh i wtsad-dwarisnih o bun
(Rivayat of Adurfarnbay 52 (1) (25) [TD2, 348])

Question. A man who unties the kustlg, (if) within a year he becomes repentant, (but) fearing for his body (i.e., his life), it is no (longer) possible to tie on the kustig. (26)

After that, he commits little sin, is diligent in the other activities and good deeds, performs acts of xwedodah, and performs any other activity and good deed he can.

Do those activities and good deeds become his own or not?


The activities and good deeds he performs will be "in the usual way." (27) But he will have the sin of "running about ungirded."

Note that a person's den is also the totality of his/her good thoughts, words, and deeds, thus performing good deeds, in particular the xwedodah, which is one of the most meritorious deeds of all, (28) serves to counterbalance the weight of the very heavy sin of apostasy.

According to question 52 (1), a Zoroastrian can convert (to Islam) by removing his kustig, which, because of the symbolic significance of the kustig as identical with the Mazdayasnian den, must have had a particular significance for Zoroastrians. It appears as a reprehensible act already in the Avestan Videvdad: (29)
paiti.[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ainim [for aniio] baraiti
Another wears apadam (30) without having tied on the daena (= kustig)
(Videvdad 18.1)
padam aniy bard anaibydst pad den ku-s yast ne kerd ested
ast ke edon gowed ay pad den ne menisnig ested
Another wears a paddm "ungirded" with the den, i.e., he has performed
no ritual. (31)
There is one who says: the meaning is: he does not stand by the den
"in thought." (32)

We see here that the stark Avestan statement was interpreted, already in the Sasanian period, as a reference to failure to adhere to the den in words and deeds (the ritual) and in thought (the three constituents of a person's den), and may well have become emblematic of conversion in the Islamic period.

The trend of converting to Islam and ultimately returning to one's original faith is well documented for the early Islamic period and is known from Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Zoroastrian sources. (33) The attempts of recently converted individuals to revert to their original denominations did, however, raise a twofold problem. As far as the Muslim authorities were concerned, converts who converted to Islam of their own will (i.e., not under duress) were regarded as full-fledged Muslims and could face capital punishment for apostasy should they decide to return to their original beliefs. Additionally, the converts often encountered reluctance or hesitation on the part of their former co-religionists to readmit them into the community, as the latter tended to question their sincerity (see the Geonic response below) and salvational status. Both types of hardship are reflected in question 52 (2) and will be considered below.

To return to Adurfarnbay: the convert in our case repents within a year of his conversion (on the significance of a year, see below) and seeks to return to Zoroastrianism. "For fear of his body," however, he cannot simply retie his kustig and publicly return to Zoroastrianism as he would face the death penalty (see below).

The penitential process in Zoroastrianism consisted mainly of remorse, acknowledgement of sin, and verbal confession in the presence of a religious authority, as well as a commitment not to relapse into sin in the future. In addition, the sinner was expected to make amends for his or her crimes by means of satisfaction, restitution, or penance. (34) Thus, our convert now has to be diligent in performing good deeds and his religious obligations, that is, presumably, the ones that he is able to carry out in private, without drawing too much attention.

A similar case is seen in rabbinic sources contemporary with the Pahlavi ones. A legal inquiry addressed to Rav Paltoi Ga'on, head of the Geonic school of Pumbeditha, and Rav "Amram bar Sheshna Ga'on, who headed a section of the Geonic school of Sura, concerns the status of a rabbinic Jew who had converted to Islam and wished to revert to Judaism and move to a different town, being embarrassed or afraid to do so in the same town in which he had converted and professed Islamic doctrines. (35)

While the inquiry addressed to the Geonim is mainly concerned with determining the sincerity of the convert, the inquiry addressed to Adurfarnbay is implicitly concerned with the salvation of the soul of the repentant convert, who is prevented from publicly professing his adherence to Zoroastrianism by wearing the kustig: will the good deeds performed by him when repentant go to his "account"? Adurfarnbay's answer is that the good deeds performed by the remorseful apostate do indeed accrue to his account, presumably because he has attempted to atone for his sins to the best of his ability, as stated in 52 (3) at the end of his answer (see below): "(But) he should (still) perform the other activities and good deeds 'to the best of his ability"'! He is liable, however, for the sin of "running about ungirded," that is, without the kustig, (36) since the fact that he is now prevented from wearing the kustig was, after all, a result of his voluntary conversion.

Below, we shall see that, according to Adurfarnbay's question 53, the good deeds performed before the conversion to Islam and those performed after the repentant expressed his remorse would go back to his account; however, the good deeds he performed after his conversion to Islam but before he repented would not accrue to his account, as they were performed in a state of grievous sinfulness.


In Adurfarnbay's question 52 (1), the inquirer emphasizes the fact that the convert's change of heart occurred within a year of his conversion. This information is crucial to the legal decision in this case, since, according to Nlrangestan 23.4, for the duration of one year, the act of apostasy by denial of the Zoroastrian den is regarded only as a tanabuhl sin, leaving the convert a grace period in which he can repent and return to Zoroastrianism. After a year has passed, however, the apostate becomes margarzan:
ed [mss. <'y>] gowisn i tan i xwes wizir had Abe stag an gowed
[not HJ]
bawed ka pad ed gowisn menisn gowed had den nest pad gyag
tanabuhl sal-drahnay margarzan
tanabuhl az en gyag paydag 3 gowisn
sal-drahnay oh [mss. <'w>] margarzan az an gyag paydag
yd haca daenaiiat mazdaiiasnoit apastoit Oris vayzibis
 (Nirangestan 23.4 [Kotwal and Kreyenbroek 2003: 30-31];
 cf. 23.7, below) (37)
This speech is a decision (about) his own body. That is, that is
what the Avesta says.
(This) happens when he utters (this) in this (38) utterance and
thought: "No, there is no den" (then)
 he is tanabuhl on the spot and, after a year, margarzan.
(His being) tanabuhl is manifest from this place: "three utterances";
 after a year, (his being) margarzan "in the usual way" is manifest
 from that (other) place [Avestan:] he who "stands back" from the
 Mazdayasnian daena with three words and just once with * remorse. (39)

The degree of sinfulness for "standing back" from the den, here interpreted in terms of verbal or mental denial of the den, is twofold: in itself, it amounts to a tanabuhl sin, but if the crime is not "resolved" (40) within a year, the sinner becomes a margarzan, as was the rule for tanabuhl sinners.

The inquiry addressed to Adurfarnbay thus implicitly assumes that repentance performed within a year of the conversion should be regarded more leniently than when performed after a year. Other medieval jurists, among them the tenth-century Emed son of Aswahist, (41) reaffirmed the decision of the Pahlavi Nirangestan and applied it to the case of apostasy by conversion:
mard ke az weh-denih o ag-denih sawed ud pad ag-denih be rased pad
gyag tanabuhl ew winah ka andar sal-drahnay pad rah i weh-denih
histan margarzan
(Rivayat of Emed son of Aswahist 4.2 [TD2, 246]; continues with
4.3, below)
A man who goes from belonging to the good den to belonging to the
evil den, and (actually) comes to belonging to the evil den, (42)
has, on the spot, a sin of one tanabuhl.
When (he has remained) for a (full) year on the path of leaving the
good den (he is) margarzan. (43)

Not all Zoroastrian jurists, however, were in agreement that a grace period of one year should be extended to an apostate who converted to Islam. The anonymous redactor of the Pahlavi Rivayat was stricter: (44)
ke az dad i-s andar ested be o dad i didigar Sawed margarzan ed ray ku
dad i weh-denih be hame hiled ud en dad i wad hame gired
dad I wattar grift ray ed ray margarzan hame bawend
(Pahlavi Rivayat 7.2 [Williams 1990, vol. I: 46-48, vol. II: 9])
(When) one goes from the (religious) law that one "stands in" to
another law, (one is) margarzan, for the reason that one is leaving
(hil-) the law of those of the good den and is seizing this bad
law. (45)
On account of seizing (gir-) the worse law, for this reason they will
be margarzan.

The Pahlavi terminology goes back to the third century and, ultimately, to the Pahlavi version of Yasna 11.17, which is worth citing in full, as it contains several of the themes we are dealing with:
fraz stayem humad ud huxt ud huwarst pad menisn ud gowisn ud kunisn
be-girisnih daham harwisp humad ud huxt ud huwarst ku kerbag kunam
be-hilisnih daham harwisp dusmad ud dushuxt ud dushuwarst ku winah
ne kunam
I praise forth good thoughts, good speech, and good deeds in thought,
speech, and deed.
I lay down that all good thoughts, good speech, and good deeds are
something to be seized (gir-), (46) i.e., I do good deeds.
I lay down that all bad thoughts, bad speech, and bad deeds are
something to be left (hil-), i.e.,
I commit no sins.

While the redactor of the response in Pahlavi Rivayat 7.2 may be referring to the ultimate margarzan that takes effect only after a year, in conformity with the Nlrangestan passage, it is also possible that he simply did not believe that the grace period should be extended in this case.

The opinion of the high priest Manuscihr (second half of the ninth century) (47) is more nuanced. According to him, an apostate essentially deserves the death penalty: (48)
40-om pursisn an i pursid ku
awesan ke-san dad ed ku pad den i mazdesnan astawanih ne abayed bud en
pad dad be gowihed den i mazdesnan be hiled ud den abaz stayed ud be o
an-erih sawed
eg-is ce ewen u-s winah ce
u-s winah i ham-denan i an-er abar oh sawed ayab ciyon bawed
ud grayih i az en winah ciyon ast
eg-iman rosniha awis framayed guft
(Dadestan i denig 40.1 [Jaafari-Dehaghi 1998: 168-71])
The fortieth question was the one he asked:
Those whose law is this that one should not be "professing the
Mazdayasnian den" (and) this that is said in (their) law: leave
the Mazdayasnian den and "praise it back" and go (over) to being
a non-Iranian!
Then, what is the custom (applying to him), and what is his sin?
And do the sins of his non-Iranian co-religionists accrue to him in
the usual way, or how will it be?
And how much "heavier" (is the weight resulting) from this sin?
So, please, tell us clearly!

We see that Manuscihr's discourse features the same terminology as we have already encountered, but he also introduces the notion that the sins of the co-religionists (ham-denan)--i.e., acts that count as sins in Islam, but not in Zoroastrianism, as well as the sins of those incurred by those he induces to convert with him (see below)--might accrue to his own account. Manuscihr's interpretation of the tradition is that all kinds of apostasy result in margarzan sins:
pasox ed ku
pornay den i weh be histan ray marg-arzan dad i an-erih-iz grift ray
margarzan i-s andar estisn pad an i abaron dad
winah-iz i awesan pad dad darend warzend ud pad ham-dadih ray
abag-isan ham-winah
ud ka-iz kas pad an rah ud kam i oy ham-panahih i oy hangosidag
srayisnih i oy dad i weh hiled ud an i wattar gired pad-iz an
abaronih ham-winah
(Dadestan i denig 40.2-3)
The answer is as follows:
For an adult to leave the good den, (he incurs a) margarzan (sin).
For seizing the law of nonIranianhood, as well, he (incurs a)
margarzan (sin) for "standing" in that wicked law.
And (when) they commit a sin that they too consider to be according
to (their) law and for obeying the same law as they do, they share
the same sins.
And, also, when somebody leaves the good law on that road wishing
to have the same refuge and similar protection as him (who converts)
and seizes the worse (law), for that wickedness, too, (he) shares
the sin.

He further elaborates on the punishments in the other world for those who die without having repented, as well as for following non-Zoroastrian laws and beliefs (cf. Pahlavi Rivayat 15a. 11-12, below):
ka a-petitigiha ud a-pasemaniha andar an abaron-dadih frod mired eg-is
ruwan gah andar an i wattom axwan
u-s padifrah an i was margarzanan u-s az dewan garaniha dast-pad-dast
rased dard... ud wasewenag gand ud gazisn darrisn darrenisn hamist
anagih ud dus-xwarih
u-s pad awesan dad ud wurroyisn andar an i wattom axwan anagih edon
ta an i abdom axwan wardisn ka fraskerd pad kamag andar axwan dahihed
(Dadestan i denig 40.4)
When he dies without repentance and without remorse in that wicked
law, then the place of his soul will be in the Worst Existence.
And his punishment will be that of the many margarzans. From the hands
of the demons he will receive pain... and various stench, biting,
rending, and rending of others, together with much suffering and
And for (following) their laws and beliefs, he will suffer thus in
the Worst Existence until the last turn (= cycle) of the Existence,
when the Renovation will be established at will in the (two)
Existences (this world and the beyond). (49)

In contrast to those who postulated an absolute limit of one year for repentance, however, Manuscihr takes an--apparently--more lenient view: a convert can repent for his crime as long as he is alive, and thereby at least save his soul, by offsetting the various sins incurred against deeds that will literally wipe away all the sins committed during his conversion period:
be agar-is andar zindagih az an gray petit bawed
awesan ke-s o an dus-dadih frebenid o weh-dadih hazened
ud an i-s abaroniha pad dad nihad az rawagih kaned
ud rawag-winahiha abaz banded ud ce raft abaz wirayed
ud nog pad den i mazdesnan menisnig ud abar-estisnig ud astawan bawed
winah i-s rawagenid bandened
ud pad xij ud ran] ud tuwan ud kar-framan tozed
ed ce pad tan pad sidos padifrah widared eg amurzisn winded u-s ruwan
(Dadestan i denig 40.5)
But, if he, during his lifetime, repents that "heavier" (sin),
brings those whom he had deceivingly brought to following that evil
law (back) to following the good law,
and eradicates from currency that which he has wickedly laid down as
and "ties back" the sins in currency and redresses what is gone,
and "stands" firmly and "in thought" in the den of the Mazdayasnians,
and becomes astawan anew,
and makes (people) "tie up" the sins that he has made current
and atones for (them) by things (i.e., property), toil, ability, and
in practice,
(then) he finds forgiveness for this (for) which he suffers bodily
punishment during the sidos, and his soul will be saved. (50)

We see that Manuscihr's requirements go far beyond those of Adurfarnbay, and one may wonder if his apparent leniency counted for anything at all! According to Adurfarnbay's de facto more lenient view, the convert who seeks to revert to Zoroastrianism is, therefore, in this response, still within the limits of his grace period, as he has not yet incurred the death penalty. Since the convert is merely in a state of "regular" sin, Adurfarnbay sees no reason why he cannot repent for his sins and regain the merit for his good deeds, which may then enable him to go on to paradise.

Some medieval Islamic jurists, as well, argued that an apostate must be immediately executed, while others recommended various periods of grace, giving the apostate the opportunity to renounce his sins and return to Islam. (51) It must be stressed, however, that, while the ninth- and tenth-century Zoroastrian responsa agree in many details with contemporary Islamic decisions, the Pahlavi Nirangestan probably reflects an earlier layer of tradition, which was here adapted by the medieval jurists so as to apply to the case of conversion to Islam.


The second matter addressed by Adurfarnbay in question 52 concerns the liability of the apostate for grievous sins perpetrated on his corpse after his death:
ud ka be mired an nasay i oy o ab ud ataxs barend (pad) stahmb a-s
dadestan ce
ka ne soyend ud nigan ne kunend ka be mired petitigiha ested padifrah
i 3-sabag kunend ud o dosox ne kunend
ud ka-s be soyend ud nigan kunend bud ke [ms. <MN>] guft ku pad
winahgarih andar ested
ud pad atuwanig(ih) abaz ne ested bud ke guft ku petitig kar
man edon danam ku-m [ms. <AYK MN>] an-ciyonih margarzan pas az
marg o bun harne bowed
(Rivayat of Adurfarnbay 52 (2) [TD2, 348])
And, when he dies (and) they carry that dead body of his (by) force
onto water and fire: then,
what is his legal position?
When they do not wash and bury (the corpse) and he, when he dies, is
in repentance, they will perform the three-night punishment (in the
beyond), (52) but not put him in hell. (53)
When they do wash and bury it, there was one who said: he is in a
state of sinfulness.
And, (when) he does not "stand back" (54) (from the non-Zoroastrian
den) because he is "unable" to, there was one who said that being
penitent will work.
I know as follows, that a margarzan (sin) incurred in such a way will
always go to my account after death.

The problem considered here is that, since the Muslims do not observe the Zoroastrian rules for avoiding corpse contamination, they are likely to bury the corpse and may also bring it to water, thus contaminating two of the three sacred elements--earth, water, and fire. Adurfarnbay replies that, when (the Muslims) do not bury or wash the corpse (55) (in which case no margarzan sin is incurred), the repentant convert will be punished for his sins (in the beyond) during "the three nights," but he will not go to hell.

For the case, however, that the body has been used to contaminate water and earth (for which he would become margarzan), he cites two opinions. According to the first, the soul would be liable for these sins and so would go to hell (unless he had atoned for it beforehand by way of intercessory confession, see below). The second, however, invokes the general principle of "inability" to leave the foreign den, presumably "out of fear" (see question 52 (1), above), in which case repentance would work and the convert would still have a chance to be saved. In the end, Adurfarnbay--regretfully, it seems--concludes that a margarzan (sin) incurred in such a way would always accrue to his account.

The status of a margarzan apostate in the hereafter and the effects of his (or her; see Pahlavi rivayat 53.1, below) repentance are discussed in several passages throughout the Pahlavi literature, for instance, by Manuscihr in Dadestan i denig and in the anonymous Pahlavi Rivayat and Sayist ne sayist "What is appropriate and what is not appropriate."

Manuscihr invokes the authority of the Teachers of Old and cites Videvdad 5.61 = 7.17 to stress the necessity of repentance to avoid going to hell: (56)
ud pad ham gugayih gufi ku poryotkes hamag pad en ham-dadestan be bud
hend ku az wehdenih be [for az?] petltigiha be ran i be o dosox nest
be an petitlglh andar zlndagih bawed ce gufi ested ku
ke zindag ne bawed ahlaw ku winah be ne wizared a-s murd ne baxsand an
i pasom axwan winah ne kardan weh az tozisn ud petitigih
(Dadestan i denig 40.7-9)
And, by the same testimony it is said that all the Teachers of Old
were agreed on this: (coming) from being of the good den, there is
no road other than to hell except by repenting.
"He who while alive does not become 'righteous,' (57) i.e., he does
not 'resolve' (his) sins--then, when dead, they will not give him his
share of the Best Existence."
(But) not committing any sins (at all) is better than atonement and

The redactor of the Pahlavi Rivayat elaborates on the punishments of those margarzans (not necessarily converts) who repented while alive and those who did not, He also introduces the need for beheading and death rituals: (58)
ud mardom ka be mired pad winah i-s kerd ested pad-petit bawed pad os
i sidlgar be o cagad i daytiy nayend u-s be o wahist nayend
ke-s margarzan-ew kerd ested ud getiyiha pad-petit bawed u-s sar be
brinend a-s pad gyag sidos abayed saxtan ud yastan ud ahlaw
ud ka (pad-)petit u-s getiyiha sar ne sayed brid u-s menoyiha sab
i sidigar pad bun i puhl sar be brinend a-iz 4-om roz sidos abayed
yastan ud ahlaw
ud ka pad-petit ne bud be o dosox sawed ta tan i pasen pad dosox bawed
(Pahlavi Rivayat 15a.4-6 [Williams 1990, vol. I: 80-81, vol. II:
And, when a man dies (and) he is repentant for the sins he has
committed, at the third dawn, they lead him to the Ridge of the Law,
and they lead him to heaven.
He who has committed a margarzan sin, and he is repentant while in
this world, and they cut off his head, then, on the spot, a sidos
should be prepared and performed (for the salvation of his
soul), and he is "righteous."
And, when (he is) repentant and it is not possible to cut off his
head in this world and they cut off his head in the other world at
the entry of the bridge during the third night, then too a sidos
(ritual) should be performed, and he is "righteous."
And when he was not repentant, he goes to hell. He will remain in
hell until the Final Body.

The result of dying unrepentant is the same as in Dadestan i denig 40.4 (above): suffering in hell until the end of this world. The redactor then also invokes the authority of the Teachers of Old to the effect that beheading need not take place before death:
ud poryotkes hamag pad en abar estad hend ku ka-s petitigih kerd be o
dosox ne sawed ed (ray) ce ka sar i ruwan brinend ruwan was bar
sar brid sayed
ka-s margarzan was kerd ested pad-petit ne bawed be dosox sawed
u-s pad tan i pasen tanomandih abaz kunend u-s harw ek-ew ray ek
bar sar be brinend u-s padifrah dosox be nimayend ud ahlaw
(Pahlavi Rivayat 15a.11-12 [Williams 1990, vol. I: 80-81,
vol. II: 28]) (59)
And all the Teachers of Old have stood by this: When he has performed
repentance, he does not
go to hell, because, when they cut off the soul's head(!), one can cut
off the head many times.
When he has performed many margarzan sins (and) is not repentant, he
goes to hell.
And, at the Final Body, they again make "bodiliness" for him (i.e.,
give him a body), and for each single (margarzan sin) they cut off
(his) head once and show him the punishments of hell, and (then) he is

Similarly the redactor of the Sayist ne sayist on the various acts of repenting and beheading:
margarzan ka-s tan ud xwastag ewaz o radan abespard udpad winah i
jastag menisnig pad-petit bawed u-s radan pad kar ud kerbag dastwarih
dahend a-s kar ud kerbag i pes kerd abaz rased
ud ka andar 3-sabag padifrah kunend o dosox ne rased
ud agar rad sar bridan framayed pad gyag ahlaw ud sidos oh yazisn u-s
amar i sidos abar ne bawed
ud agar ne pad-petit ta tan i pasen pad dosox
(Sayist ne sayist 8.5-7 [Tavadia 1930: 105-6])
A person who is margarzan, when he has only given up his body and
property to the rads (60) and is repentant in thought for the sin that
occurred to him and the rads give him (authoritative) guidance
regarding work and good deeds, then the work and good deeds he has
done before come back to him.
And, when they punish him during "the three nights," he will not come
to hell.
And, when the rad orders his head to be cut off, he is righteous on
the spot, and a sidos should be celebrated, and the counting of the
sidos does not come upon him.
And, if he is not repentant, (he will be) in hell until the Final Body.

The Zoroastrian jurists are thus agreed that a margarzan sinner who had the opportunity to repent, but did not, would go to hell, but also that repentance alone was not necessarily sufficient.

As for Adurfarnbay's original question 52 (2), Emed son of Aswahist takes a step further, also considering other acts perpetrated on the body of a convert, but while alive:
agar-is pad hannam dros i ciyon ag-denan pad kerdag darend kunend ud
an i-s az hannam brin i o ab ud ataxs andar zamig-niganih rased eg
*kemist margarzanlg winah bawed
(Rivayat of Emed son of Aswahist 4.3 [TD2, 246]; continuing 4.2,
cited above)
If they put a mark on his member, in the way those of the evil den
practice, and that which they cut from his member gets into water
and fire (or) is buried in the earth, then it becomes at a minimum
a margarzan sin. (61)

In this case too, the convert is considered liable for the margarzan sin perpetrated on a part of his body (here the foreskin) if it is caused to contaminate the three sacred elements. (62)

Yet another element, however, was introduced into the discussion of repentance and forgiveness by the Zoroastrian priests, namely the ability or inability to perform repentance. Compare the following tradition recorded in the Pahlavi Rivayat (see also Adurfarnbay's question 52 (3), below):
harw an i tuwanig a-s be abayed wizardan ka tuwanig ne wizared a-s
petit kar nest ce petit tisew i atuwanig bawed
(Pahlavi Rivayat 15b.4 [Williams 1990, vol. I: 82-83, vol. II: 29])
Everyone who is "able"--he should "resolve" (the sin). If a man is
"able" and does not "resolve" (it), then his repentance does not work,
for repentance (with no "resolution") is the one thing (that works?)
for one who is "unable" (to "resolve" the sin otherwise?).

While this passage asserts the importance of atonement in deeds alongside repentance, the author submits that, at least for one who is unable, repentance may work, but there was apparently no general agreement on this rule either among the Zoroastrian authorities. According to the redactor of the Sayist ne sayist, Neryosang, a fifth- or sixth-century Zoroastrian authority known only from quotations, was reported to have expressed amazement that repentance should be according to one's "ability." The redactor (rather than Neryosang?) then goes on to cite a common opinion that repentance in deeds and words should not be viewed as an absolute prerequisite for salvation for those who were "unable." Rather, as long as some of the repentance was "in thought," that would suffice to render the sinner "righteous" and close the road to hell for him:
Neryosang guft ay skofttom sahe ku petitlgih pad tuwanigih a-s kar
ce had.
edon ham-dadestan bud hend ku
petitigih harne ka kunend harw ciyon kunend ud pes i harw ke kunend
harne ka-s menisnig hambun-iz ast a-s petitih kerd bawed.
ud ka-s margarzan aber was kerd ested ud az harw ek menisnig jud jud
pad-petit bawed a-s az petitigih rah i o dosox nest.
ud agar ek ast i azis ne pad-petit a-s rah i o dosox ne bast bawed ce
ne pad sud i Ohrmazd ested.
(Sayist ne sayist 8.13 [Tavadia 1930: 104-15])
Neryosang said: "Yes, it would seem most amazing that being repentant
is according to 'ability.' Then, what purpose will it have?"
They have agreed as follows:
As long as they perform repentance, however they do it and before
whomever they do it, as long as it is at all "in thought" for him,
then he will have performed repentance (thereby).
And, when he has committed very many margarzan (sins) and he has
repented "in thought" for each of them, then, because of (his)
repentance, there is no road to hell (for him).
And, if there is one for which he is not repentant, the road to hell
is not closed for him, because it is not for the benefit of Ohrmazd.

During the 'Abbasid period, Geonic and Muslim authors too grappled with the question of a penitent who, for some reason, was unable to atone for his sin by the proper means of penance and atonement. (63)

Rav Shmuel ben Hofni (died 1034), who headed the Geonic school of Sura, argued that in certain cases, for instance, when there is a difficulty involved in returning a stolen object, the act of restitution is not to be regarded as an essential element of penitence. (64)

The very same position was held by 'Abd al-Djabbar b. Ahmad (tenth century), a Mu'tazilite theologian and follower of the Shafi' i school of law, who, interestingly, also used the example of the return of a stolen object. (65)

The underlying theology of all these rulings is, in essence, that repentance and a genuine change of heart are sufficient to render a sinner righteous in the eyes of God, and, in the case of difficulty or inability to atone, the inward manifestation "in thought" of repentance also suffices. (66)



Although Adurfarnbay sides with the more stringent position that a sin incurred after the death of a convert as a result of his willful conversion will indeed accrue to his account (despite prospective manifestation of repentance), still he provides a way out for the repentant convert via the legal mechanism of repentance through agency, "by message," although further good deeds, according to ability, are also required:
pad paygain be o kas ew guft ku agar-im soyend ud nigan kunend pad pay
gam az man pad jadag pes i dastwaran pad-petit bas
ud ka pad en ewenag pad paygam i az jadag i oy pad-petit bawed [ms.
bas] petitig(ih) xub
u-s pas az se-sabag sidos oh yazisn
abarig kar ud kerbag cand tuwan oh kunisn
(Rivayat of Adurfarnbay 52 (3) [TD2, 349])
(But), when he has informed somebody by message: "If they wash and
bury me, express my repentance before the dastwars (61) as my
intercessor with my message!"
And, when he is repentant by a message from an intercessor on his
behalf in this manner, his repentance is "good."
And, after "the three nights" one should perform the sidos ritual in
the usual way.
(But) he should (still while alive) perform the other activities and
good deeds to the best of his "ability"!

Thus, if the convert informs someone prior to his death that he should express his repentance in the presence of a religious authority for the sins perpetrated on his corpse, then his repentance suffices and he will not go to hell, provided his sins be offset by good deeds.

The validity of repentance performed through an agent or an intercessor is also discussed in the Pahlavi rivayat: (68)
petitlgih ka zan atuwanig ka soy padixsay mard ray sayed
pid i aburnayig i 8-salag ta 15-salag ka be kuned sayed
ud abarig kas pad rah i paygambarih ka mard-ew be o mard-ew gowed ku
saw man ray padpetit bas sayed
(Pahlavi Rivayat 53.1 [Williams 1990, vol. I: 194-95, vol. II: 91])
When a woman is unable to repent, when the husband is of padixsay (69)
status, it is proper for the man (to repent on her behalf).
The father of an underage child of eight years until fifteen years:
when he does it, it is proper.
And the other (cases) by way of "messaging" (is) when a man says to
another man: "Go! Be repentant on my behalf," (then) it is proper.

A related Avestan phrase is preserved in the Frahang i oim, an Avestan-Pahlavi glossary gleaned from the Pahlavi versions of Avestan texts and containing remnants of now lost texts: (70)
yo *naire aoxte fra me cici
(Frahang i oim 4d; Klingenschmitt no. 238)
He who says to a man: "Atone for me!"
ke o mardan gowed kufraz-it man tozisn
He who says to men: "You must atone for me."

Thus, in this case, too, it turns out that Adurfarnbay has recourse to an older tradition, which he applies to a contemporary case.


Adurfarnbay's concern is not purely theological-theoretical, but also has practical ramifications for the salvation of the convert. His question 52 (3) shows that the repentant convert can safeguard himself and have someone else (most often probably his relatives) perform the rituals for his soul after death. This appears to be the question raised in Pahlavi Rivayat 15a, from which we quoted at length above: "which rituals, when one performs them, 'go to the bridge,'" that is, which rituals produce merits that go to be counted at the Cinwad Bridge and so help the soul of the departed across. (71)

The issue of services for the soul was discussed at length by Emed son of Aswahist, who also stressed the "ability" factor, but also introduced issues caused by someone born in the evil den:
mard ew ke pad o ag-denih rased pas paseman bawed pad petitig bawed
kerbag-warzidarih ew kuned pas [az] widerdagan ruwan abayed yastan
ayab ne
ud agar xwad pad ag-denih zayed kerbag-warzidar ud pad weh den ested
u-s dadestan ce ud dasn ahlawdad abayed dad ayab ne
(Rivayat of Emed son of Aswahist 26.1 [TD2, 294])
A man who comes to an evil den, then regrets and becomes repentant
(and) performs good deeds: afterward, should one offer (for him)
the rituals for the souls of the departed or not?
And, if he is himself born into an evil den (but) performs good deeds
and "stands" in the good en, what is his legal position?
And should one give gifts (and) alms? (72)
agar-is tis andar nest an ray juttar
ke andar sal-drahnay paseman pad-petit ew hawed kerbag (i) andar weh
den kerbag tuwansamaniha waned az winah (i) andar weh den pad winah
tuwan-samaniha pahrezed ka wideran bawed eg-is ruwan ciyon an i
weh-denan yastan abayed
agar pas az sal-drahnay pad-petit bawed kerbag-warzidar ud az winah
pahrextar pad an ewenag ke azabar nibist andar-estisnih ham-ewenag
petitigih widered eg-is petitigih ray ruwan az dosox bozihed.
ce (az) petitigih be rah i o dosox nest
(Rivayat of Emed son of Aswahist 26.2-3 [TD2, 294])
If there is nothing in it differing from that (and so requiring a
Anyone who regrets and becomes repentant within a year and performs
good deeds that are good deeds in the good den and performs them "to
the limit of his ability" and, "to the limit of his ability," guards
against (any) sin that is a sin in the good den, when he passes away,
then one should perform rituals for his soul just as (for the souls)
of those of the good den.
If he is (still) repentant after a whole year, performs good deeds,
and stays away from sins, persisting in the way described above,
(then) passes away repentant in the same way, then, for being
repentant, his soul is saved from hell.
For, because of repentance, there is no way to hell (for him). (73)
u-s roz i tasom sidos bun kunisn oh yazisn abarig ciyon an i weh-denan
hame ka pad petitigih az awam sawed kerbag winah i-s kerd ested hamag
pad sidos amar padis bawed
ka-s pad sidos tozisn ud padifrah wizard gyag i-s ruwan pad menoyan
ciyon-is az kerbagwarzisnih xwesenid ested pad hammistagan payag ayab
ud an i ham-gonag ka andar sidos be o saxtih rased eg-is tisn ud suy
ud sarmag garmag az-is abaz dastan frezwanig.
ud ka ne kuned winah
(Rivayat of Emed son of Aswahist 26.4-7 [TD2, 294-95])
And on the fourth day, a sidos should be begun for him, and the ritual
(should be performed) in the usual way. Everything else is just as in
the case of those of the good den.
As long as he leaves (this) age (of the world) while he is in
repentance, the good deeds and sins he has performed and committed,
the count for all of them will be at the sidos.
When he has resolved the atonements and punishments at the sidos, the
lace of his soul will be among those in the other world according as
he has made it his own (place) from his performance of good deeds: on
the level of hammistagan (74) or higher.
And similar to that, when he comes into hardship at the sidos, then it
is (the survivors') duty to keep thirst and hunger, cold and heat away
from him (in the beyond).
And when one does not do it, (one incurs) a sin.
ud abaz-iz ag-denan ke-san ag-denih az abarmand ne az xwadih <'sylk>
ag-denan kerd wisud hend
ud hame ka er-barisn az winah i andar weh-den winah pahrezed kerbag
i pad weh-den kerbag tuwan-samaniha warzed pad-iz dasn ahlawdad
cimig ne winah
(Rivayat of Emed son of Aswahist 26.8 [TD2, 295])
And, again, even in the case of people of evil den for whom being of
an evil den is inherited and who are not *born from the... selfness
that those of evil den made. (75)
And as long as someone acting like an Iranian (76) abstains from a sin
that is a sin in the good den and performs a good deed that is a good
deed in the good den to "the limit of his ability," also by gifts
(and) alms (given on his behalf), it makes sense and is not sin.

In this way, every possibility has been accounted for and taken into consideration, leaving no room for doubt.


We have already seen that, according to the redactor of the Sayist ne sayist (8.5-7), a person could, under certain conditions, recover the merit of the good deeds he had performed prior to becoming margarzan. In his fifty-third question-and-answer, Adurfarnbay elaborates on this point, applying it explicitly to an apostate:
mard ew ke kustig be wisayed andar sal be mired ud az an winah
pad-petit bawed an winah be sawed ayab ne
ka andar sal pad-petit bawed kar ud kerbag (i) pes az an kerd
abaz rased ud an i pas az an i petit kuned oh bawed
ud an i pas az kustlg-wlsadaglh ud pes az petltlglh kuned ne bawed
(Rivayat of Adurfarnbay 53 [TD2, 349])
A man who unties the kustig and dies within a year, but repents that
sin: does that sin go away or not?
When he repents within a year, the works and good deeds done before
that come back, and those he does after he repents will be in the
usual way.
But those he does after untying the kustlg and before his repentance
will not.

This classification of recoverable good deeds is derived from the same tradition as a passage in the Pahlavi Nirangestan:
ka sal pad petitig bowed {bawed} u-s yast i nog-naywar abag kunisn u-s
tanabuhl i ruwanig be wizarisn
u-s kar kerbag (i) pes az an kerd *abaz (77) rased
an i andar an ew [mss. <'y>] xwes ne bawed
(Pahlavi Nirangestan 23.7 [Kotwal and Kreyenbroek 2003: 32-33])
(cf. 23.4, above)
When he remains in repentance for a year, he should perform a
nog-naywar ritual together with (it) and (thereby?) "resolve"
the tanabuhl (sin) to his soul.
And the work and good deeds he has done before that come back.
What (happened) during that period (78) does not become his own
(= does not accrue to his account).

According to this text, if a person is in repentance for a year after leaving the good den, he is authorized to perform rituals and thereby atone for his tanabuhl sin. While a tanabuhl sinner cannot be credited at the final judgment for good deeds performed previously, upon "resolving" the sin, all the good deeds performed before the sinful act will go back to his account. Good deeds performed while tanabuhl, however, and before atoning for the crime do not go to the sinner's account. This decision is in turn informed by the Pahlavi Videvdad:
ay harw an gyag ku abestag [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] u vaco
uruuaitis u yauuaeca gowed en az garzisn winah tanabuhl-ew be kaned
ud kerbag oh ested
(Pahlavi Videvdad 7.52 (79))
That is, in every place one utters the Avesta: "repented, a word (of)
vow(?), and for ever"--this
(is) from the "complaint" (80)-- it cancels one tanabuhl, and the good
deeds "stand" in the usual way.

We see that the traditional theology expressed in the Pahlavi Nirangestan and Videvdad was here, too, applied by Adurfarnbay to the contemporary case of someone who had converted, but then sought to revert to Zoroastrianism.


In this study we have examined philological, historical, legal, and cultural aspects of responsa issued by Adurfarnbay in the first half of the ninth century concerning apostasy and conversion to Islam, supplementing and comparing them with responsa by other authorities, named and unnamed, from the same or later periods, who expressed similar legal concerns: mainly Zoroastrian, but also Muslim, Christian, and rabbinic. Beyond the synchronic analysis of Adurfarnbay's responsa against the backdrop of medieval attitudes to conversion and apostasy, we have also explored how the Zoroastrian attitudes had evolved from pre-Islamic Zoroastrian works.

As we set out to do, we have shown that the extensive medieval discussion of this issue reflects not only new concerns brought on by the confrontation of Zoroastrianism with Islam, but also demonstrates how the Zoroastrian jurists applied and adjusted earlier Zoroastrian oral traditions based on exegesis of the sacred texts, the Avesta, to contemporary reality. We exemplified the adaptation of earlier Zoroastrian traditions to contemporary reality in ninthcentury Iran by the attempts of Adurfarnbay and some of his contemporaries to apply to the case of a convert to Islam who seeks to revert to Zoroastrianism the construct of a one year "grace period" granted to tanabuhl offenders, the mechanism of intercessory confession or repentance through "agency," and the classification of recoverable and irrecoverable good deeds performed before, during, and after a state of grievous sinfulness.


B, ms. of the Denkard, ed. Dresden 1966.

Dadestan i denig, ed. Jaafari-Dehaghi 1998.

Frahang i oim, ed. Klingenschmitt.

Madayan i hazar dadestan, ed. Macuch 1993.

Nirangestan (also Nerangistan, etc.), ed. Kotwal and Kreyenbroek 2003; mss. in Sanjana 1894, Kotwal and Boyd 1980.

Pahlavi Rivayat, ed. Williams 1990.

Persian Rivayats of Hormazyar Framarz, Dhabhar 1932.

Rivayat of Adurfarnbay, ms. facs. in JamaspAsa and Nawabi 1978; ed. Anklesaria 1969.

Rivayat of Emed son of Aswahist, ms. facs. in JamaspAsa and Nawabi 1978; ed. Safa-Isfehani 1980.

Sayist ne sayist, ed. Tavadia 1930.

Supplementary Texts to Sayist ne sayist, ed. Kotwal 1969.

TD2, see JamaspAsa and Nawabi 1978.

Videvdad (also Vendidad), Pahlavi, ed. Jamasp 1907 (text), Anklesaria 1949 (transl.), Moazami 2014

(text and transl.); see the mss. at the Avestan Digital Archive ( Yasna, Pahlavi, ed. Dhabhar 1949 and the mss. at the Avestan Digital Archive.


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(1.) All the texts cited here have been checked against the available mss, and all references are to standard chapter and paragraph divisions in available editions. We do not pretend that our own editions and translations are perfect. Problems still linger that may not have been addressed here.

(2.) The first major battle was fought in June 637, and the last Sasanian king, Yazdegerd III, died in 651. See, e.g., Morony 1986.

(3.) Morony 1990. The scholarship on conversion of minorities under Islamic dominance is vast. In addition to Morony, see Wasserstein 2010 for a general orientation and de Menasce 1967 and Hoyland 1997: 336-42 on various aspects of Zoroastrian conversion.

(4.) These Pahlavi texts refer to themselves as pursisniha "questions," but, in the later Zoroastrian Persian literature, they are referred to as rivayats, and this term has been applied in Western scholarship to the Pahlavi texts as well. Responsa relating to apostasy and conversion include Rivayat of Emed son of Aswahist 4, 26 (ms facs. in JamaspAsa and Nawabi 1978: 324, 338-39; cf. Safa-Isfehani 1980: 19-24, 183-88); Rivayat of Adurfarnbay 2-3, 5, 52-53 (ms facs. in JamaspAsa and Nawabi 1978: 323-25, 348-49; cf. Anklesaria 1969, vol. I: 47-49, 70-71); Pahlavi Rivayat, question 7 (cf. Williams 1990, vol. I: 46-48, vol. II: 9); Dadestan i denig, question 40 (cf. JaafariDehaghi 1998: 168-71); and Persian Rivayats of Hormazyar Framarz (tr. Dhabhar 1932: 197-98).

(5.) See especially Anklesaria 1969, vol. II: 1-25; Tafazzoli 1982; Cereti 2001: 188-89; Secunda 2010a: 32122; Macuch 2008: 136. He is also remembered as one of the first redactors of a large compilation of Zoroastrian traditions that the redactors referred to as Denkard nibeg "writing containing what was done (by/in) the den"; see, e.g., Skjaervo 2011: 39-40.

(6.) Anklesaria, citing the Arabic title amir al-mu'minin, suggested the Pahlavi title was used "first after the advent of the 'Abbasids" (1969, vol. II: 3; on the word, see also MacKenzie 1967). We do know, however, that Emed was called mowbedan mowbed in Arabic sources (Modi 1931).

(7.) Friedman 2003: 72-76.

(8.) The refusal to view Zoroastrianism as a "scriptural religion" was primarily the result of the oral nature of the Zoroastrian scriptures; see, e.g., Bailey 1943: 149-76; Kreyenbroek 1996; Huyse 2008; Skjaervo 2005-2006 and 2012; Secunda 2010b.

(9.) See Friedman 2003: 72-76.

(10.) Some of these concerns were, of course, shared by Jewish, Christian, and Islamic contemporaries. For comparative discussions of apostasy in Islamic, Christian, and Jewish law during this period, see, e.g., Simonsohn 2013; Irshai 1984-1986.

(11.) On the ayogen see, e.g., Persian Rivayats ofHormazyar Framarz (tr. Dhabhar 1932: 195-202); Rivayat of Emed son of Aswahist 44 (cf. Safa-Isfehani 1980: 289-90); Madayan i hazar dadestan 25 (cf. Macuch 1993: 170-91).

(12.) These include statements explicitly attributed to named authorities and legal schools dating back to the Sasanian period. See, in general, Secunda 2010b.

(13.) See Nirangestan 23 (cf. Kotwal and Kreyenbroek 2003: 30-35); Kiel and Skjaervo forthcoming. See also below. For a discussion on conversion to Zoroastrianism according to the Pahlavi Videvdad see Elman 2009; Cantera 2010; Kiel 2014.

(14.) In the Pahlavi literature, the term den refers to the Zoroastrian (oral) tradition (Skjaervo 2012: 20-25). The wehlwattar den is "the better/worse den" (i.e., Zoroastrianism vs. Islam or another religion) and hu-den or weh-den vs. dus-den or ag-den someone "having/following the good/better vs. evil den." (Safa-Isfehani [1980] consistently renders the terms as "Zoroastrianism, Zoroastrian" and "Islam, Moslem.") Already in the third century, however, Mani referred to "my den" and, later, the term was used in expressions such as din-e Zardost "Zarathustra's din" and din-e manavi "the Manichean din"; hence, today, it is commonly translated as "religion"; BeDuhn 2015. The problems with imposing our modern concept of "religion" on ancient faiths have been discussed by many authors (see, e.g., Smith 1982, introduction and p. 1; 1998: 269-71; Nongbri 2013: 39-45, on the Qur'anic use of din).

(15.) Avestan: astuiie daenatn mazdaiiasnim... ya ahuiris zara[thita]ustris... aesa asti daenaiia mazdaiiasnois astuitis. Note mazdaiiasni- from mazdaiiasna-, literally "one who sacrifices to (Ahura) Mazda." The exact implications of the verb astuiie from stu- "praise" are not clear; the preverb a- expresses motion "to" and the middle voice relates the action to the speaker. The Pahlavi of the concluding sentence is ed-is ast den i mazdesnan astawanih bowandag "this is his complete astawanih of the den of the Mazdayasnians," where astawanih means approximately "profession" and the adjective astawan "professing." We shall encounter the term again below (see n. 46). See also Camera 2010: 54 with n. 1, 56-59.

(16.) From Old Persian *cita usa. On the ritual for the dead at "the third dawn," see Modi 1937: 76-80; in addition to the texts below, see also, e.g., Dadestan i denig 13.2 (Jaafari-Dehaghi 1998: 60-61); Pahlavi Rivayat 15a.5 (Williams 1990, vol. 1: 80-81, vol. II: 27); Rivayat of Emed son of Aswahist 26.6 (Safa-Isfehani 1980: 183-88); Skjaervo 2011l: 185.

(17.) See, e.g., the texts in Skjaervo 2011: 180-89.

(18.) On the kustig, see, e.g., Stausberg 2004; Shaked 2010; Kiel 2012. On the sin of untying the kustig, "running about ungirded," see Adurfarnbay's question 52 (1), below, and Skjaervo 2011: 197 text no. 35. The removal of the girdle was considered a symbolic act of apostasy not only in Zoroastrian sources, but also in roughly contemporaneous Christian documents; see Hoyland 1997: 337-38 on the removal of the girdle as an act of apostasy in Christian martyrologies. On the significance of the girdle for other religious denominations, see Herman 2014.

(19.) In the Avesta, Avestan daena mazdaiiasni, Pahlavi den mazdesn is also a constellation, identified as the celestial kustig; in Yasna 9.26, Haoma is said to be girded with it on the high mountains. As such it fought the powers of darkness and evil together with Mi6ra and other stellar deities in the night sky (cf. Skjaervo 2011: 51-52); hence, in Yasna 12.9, she "throws off her harness and lays down her weapons." The identity between the kustig and the den (mazdesn) is further explored in the Pahlavi literature (cf. Skjaerv0 2011: 208-13), and each element of its weaving and texture has a specific symbolic meaning.

(20.) Pahlavi tanabuhl is from Avestan *[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] "whose body is forfeit"; cf. tanum piriieiti "he forfeits his body" in Nirangestan 23.1 (Kotwal and Kreyenbroek 2003: 30-31).

(21.) At least at some times, and in this period--at least in theory--the punishment for a margarzan involved execution by beheading as part of the sinner's penance. See Kiel 2008 and the texts cited below. We do not know how old the term is, as it does not appear in the extant Avesta. On the classification of sins in Pahlavi literature, see Sayist ne sayist 1.1-2 (Tavadia 1930: 28); Supplementary Texts to Sayist ne sayist 11:1-2, 16:1-4 (Kotwal 1969: 22-23, 68-69); Rivayat of Adurfarnbay 72 (Anklesaria 1969, vol. II: 81); Jany 2007; and Macuch 2003.

(22.) Normally, a person who is in a state of grievous sinfulness does not gain religious merit for the good deeds he performs. See below for details.

(23.) See Dadestan i denig 40.4 below.

(24.) See Friedmann 2003: 126-27.

(25.) The text and translation presented here are based on a new critical edition of the Questions of Adurfarnbay by the authors. Note: * = slight amendments to the text, uncertain translations; t = corrupt Avestan form; (...) = editorial additions; (...) to be deleted; '...'= technical terms. Anklesaria's (very reliable) edition of the text is based on ms TD2 and another ms (his "G" = Gobedsah, a scribe), the whereabouts of which are unknown. Anklesaria's translation, however, is mostly quite unreliable.

(26.) Anklesaria suggested one should read kustig ne bastan ne sdyed "it is not possible not to tie on the kustig" since the use of ray (spelled <l'y>) to denote the direct object is unusual and may be an error for ne (spelled <1'>), repeating the immediately preceding ray. The resulting meaning is not convincing, however, and the second ray may be just an erroneous repetition.

(27.) On the use of the particle oh as referring to "unmarked" cases, "in the usual way," see Skjaervo 2010: 194-99.

(28.) Next-of-kin marriages between relatives in the first-degree; see, e.g., Skjaervo 2011: 202-7 and 2013; Keil 2016: 149-81.

(29.) Composed probably in the first half of the first millennium B.C.E; see Skjaervo 2007: 112-16.

(30.) Face cloth protecting the fire and ritual implements from pollution by spittle or the like; see Modi 1937: 116.

(31.) Pahlavi yast refers in general to any religious ritual, not only the yasna "sacrifice" ceremony. In Nirangestan 23.7 (below) it refers to the nog-naywar ritual, part of the initiation into priesthood, on which see Modi 1937: 205, 208. See also Kotwal 1969: 109 (on the yazisn of Sros performed during the three days after death) and 1988.

(32.) Cf. Dadestan i denig 40.5 (below).

(33.) See, e.g., Friedman 2003: 143-44; Cook 2006: 256; Simonsohn 2013: 343-49. The phenomenon of converts returning to their former beliefs is already mentioned in the Qur'an. Thus, Sura 2:109: "Many People of the Book wish they could restore you as unbelievers, after you have believed"; Sura 3:86: "How shall God guide a people who have disbelieved after they believed"; and Sura 4:137: "Those who believe, and then disbelieve, and then believe, and then disbelieve, and then increase in unbelief--God is not likely to forgive them, neither to guide them on any way." We are indebted to Uriel Simonsohn for these references.

(34.) See especially Asmussen 1965: 26-90; Kiel 2008 and 2014.

(35.) The responsa are quoted and discussed in Brody 1998: 63-65.

(36.) This was clearly not the only obligation he could not perform, but probably the most important, since it was a prerequisite for the others.

(37.) The Nirangestan is known from two undated, but not very old, mss., HJ and TD1.

(38.) Mss. <HNA> e(d), but, in view of the Avestan quote, perhaps for <'d> e = <3> "three."

(39.) The passage is summarized in book eight of the Denkard, which contains a summary of the Sasanian Avesta in the ninth century: Denkard 8.29.7 (ms B, [559-60]) abar wizir i abar oy ke az den mazdest abdz stayid bawed "about the decision passed upon him who has been 'praised back' from the Mazdayasnian den." The expression "praised back from the Mazdayasnian den" seems to be a slight distortion of "praise back the den," seen below in Dadestan i denig 40.1. On the problem of apastoit, see Kiel and Skjaervo forthcoming. Cf. Cantera 2010: 54.

(40.) On the relationship between mental repentance and "resolving" a sin (by atonement, expiation) in Zoroastrian law and theology, see Kiel 2014.

(41.) On this sage, see Modi 1931; Safa-Isfehani 1980: vi-viii.

(42.) Nouns in -ih denote the fact of being a wehlag-den or the communities of the weh/ag-dens. Similarly weh/dus-dadih "the fact of following or the communities of those who follow a good/bad law" in Dadestan i denig 40.5 (below). Any literal translation is bound to be awkward.

(43.) Cf. Safa-Isfehani 1980: 21-22, who has "remains Moslem" for our "comes to belonging to the evil den." A similar position is advocated in the Persian Rivayats of Hormazyar Framarz; see tr. Dhabhar 1932: 197-98.

(44.) This text has been edited several times from several manuscripts, most recently by Williams 1990. Collation of TD4c, since then available in facsimile, and the first part of the same ms. in the British Library can still improve many readings. Williams's translation is reliable.

(45.) Cf. from Kerdlr's inscriptions (ca. 270 C.E): was mardom anastawan bud an astawan bud ud was an bud ke kes i dewan dast u-s az man kerd an kes i dewan hist ud kes i yazdan grift "there were many people who were not astawan, (but) they (are now) astawan; and there was one who held the kes (= beliefs, teaching) in the evil gods, but by my doing he left (hil-) that kes of the evil gods and seized (gir-) the kes of the (good) gods" (see, e.g., Skjaervo 2011: 238-39). On astawan, see n. 15.

(46.) The Avestan has aibigairiia "are to be welcomed."

(47.) On Manuscihr, see Jaafari-Dehaghi 1998: 23-26.

(48.) See also Camera 2010: 63-64.

(49.) Standard phraseology for the events at the end of time derived from the Avesta (Yasna 51.6, 55.6). In Pahlavi Rivayat 15a.4-6 (below), the same state is referred to as "the Final Body," the perfect existence, produced, after the resurrection, by Zarathustra and Ohrmazd's sacrifices at end of this world; see Skjaervo 2011: 29-30, 166-67, 170-71.

(50.) That is, once he has suffered the appropriate punishments for his sins during "the three nights," his repentance will earn him forgiveness after the sidos and he will not be punished until the end of time. See on question 52 (2).

(51.) See Friedman 2003: 121-33.

(52.) See, e.g., Dadestan i denig 27 (Jaafari-Dehaghi 1998: 88-89); Supplementary Texts to Sayist ne sayist 17.2-6 (Kotwal 1969: 70-72); Modi 1937: 76-79.

(53.) For the connection between repentance and not going to hell, cf. also Qur'an 40:7: "So forgive those who have repented and followed Your way and protect them from the punishment of Hellfire."

(54.) On this technical term, see Kiel and Skjaervo forthcoming and Nirangestan 23.A (below).

(55.) Adurfarnbay omits the fire, presumably because he knew that Muslims did not burn their corpses.

(56.) The Avestan passage deals with the contamination of a dead body by a menstruant, but the exact nature of the contamination escapes us.

(57.) That is, he will not become (permanently) "righteous" (ahlaw) and go to paradise; cf. Avestan asauuan, Old Persian artavan "Orderly, at one with (god's) Order." The concept is from the Avesta: Yasna 71.16 "O Orderly one (asauuan), you will be Orderly here, you will convey your soul across the Ford of the Accountant to the Best Existence, arriving Orderly"; cf. in the Old Persian inscriptions: Xerxes at Persepolis 46-50 "If you who come hereafter should think 'May I be blessed (siyata) while alive and at one with Order (artavan) when dead!' then behave according to the law which Ahuramazda set down. You should sacrifice to Ahuramazda... The man who behaves according to the law which Ahuramazda set down and sacrifices to Ahuramazda..., he will both be blessed while alive and at one with Order when dead."

(58.) Cf. Rivayat of Emed son of Aswahist 26.1, below.

(59.) This is based on Pahlavi Videvdad 7.52; see Anklesaria 1949: 176-77.

(60.) The religious legal authorities.

(61.) Safa-Isfehani (1980) renders the beginning as "If [he has received] a brand on an organ of his body, as the Moslems do on a[n especial] section [of their body]."

(62.) The sin of simple damage to the body is a lesser sin and is atoned for by a monetary penalty; see Sayist ne sayist 1.1-2 (Tavadia 1930: 28).

(63.) See Kiel 2008.

(64.) Rav Shmuel ben Hofni, Commentary on Deuteronomy 4:28-41; Greenbaum 1975: 106-8; Zucker 1978: 8-9.

(65.) 'Abd al-Djabbar b. Ahmad, Al-Mughni, 14: 348; Zucker 1978: 7-8.

(66.) Adurfarnbay does not use the term menisnig(iha) "in thought" in these contexts, which is common elsewhere; cf. Sayist ne sayist 8.13, below, and see Kiel 2008: 123 and 2014.

(67.) A somewhat generic term for a Zoroastrian authority.

(68.) See also Persian Rivayats, tr. Dhabhar 1932: 23-32.

(69.) Her primary husband, whose children will be his heirs; see Shaki 1999; Hjerrild 2003: 19-76; Macuch 2007.

(70.) This fragment is cited as an example of the use of yo "who" as masculine singular.

(71.) See Williams, vol. II: 149.

(72.) Cf. Safa-Isfehani 1980: 183-88; de Menasce 1967: 227-28.

(73.) The ambiposition az... be is found, e.g., in the expression az an be "because of that"; it is also used in the sense of "(made) from," e.g., az Wahman be mah tasid ested "the moon is made from Wahman."

(74.) The place for those whose good and bad deeds are of equal weight.

(75.) The ms. reading is problematic: <hwt'yh 'gylk... krtn swt HWEnd>. A similar problem appears in Dadestan i denlg 38.24 (Jaafari-Dehaghi 1998, 160-61): pad an i wattar den nimudar ke andar <awf> ast 3 tomag i ne ebyanghaned "it is indicated in the worse den (that, of those) who (are) *born in it, there are three races who do not tie the kustig." The emendation of <krtn' swt> to <krf wswt> is trivial (<n = ' = w>); the scribe of the Dadestan i denlg may have changed the unexpected <wswt> to <swf = SNT> "year" thinking of the grace period. The verb wisud, lit., "aborted," typically applies to demons, and so could conceivably be used for the regular zad "born" when speaking about non-Zoroastrians. The word <'sylk> is also problematic. It can easily be emended to <'sklk>, but this is not a common error for <'sklk> askarag "manifest" and the sentence does not become easier to understand with this emendation. Safa-Isfehani (1980: 188) reads askarag, but renders (without any support) ne az xwadlh askarag as "not by his own deliberate confession" (her unsupported translations will not be cited in the following).

(76.) That is, not like an an-er "non-Iranian" (= ag-den).

(77.) Mss. abag for abaz; cf. Rivayat of Adurfarnbay 53 just cited.

(78.) Madayan i hazar dadestan 34.8 andar an ew ka "at that time when"; cf. Macuch (1993: 554): "zu einem Zeitpunkt, da..."; also in Rivayat of Adurfarnbay 94.2, JamaspAsa/Nawabi 1978: 378; Anklesaria 1969: 57.

(79.) Cf. Jamasp 1907: 276.

(80.) A "confession of sins"; cf. Sayist ne sayist 8.2 (Tavadia 1930: 104) oy i margarzan winah andar radan garzisn tan he abespardan "the sins of a margarzan should be 'confessed' to the rads and the body be surrendered (to them)." See also Supplementary Texts to Sayist ne sayist 13.2, 29 (Kotwal 1969: 440-41, 49) and Shaked 1979: 264 (on mandag garzidan).
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Date:Apr 1, 2017
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