Intermarriage and Progeny of Intermarried Zarthushtis

by Mrs. Pervin Mistry

The Mazdayasni Zarthushti Religion is a revealed religion. Those who are its followers are bound by the Divine Revelations of Paigambar Asho Zarathushtra.

When we talk about 'acceptance' of intermarriage or the progeny of intermarried Zarthushtis, we must be aware of what the scriptures and religious texts reveal. In recent years, some Zarthushtis tend to 'accept' intermarriage as an act that is now socially proliferating and therefore, should be religiously approved. Some Zarthushtis only condone the acceptance of progeny of intermarried male Zarthushtis. This not only discriminates against the female Zarthushtis who are intermarried but such patrilineal 'acceptance' is unZarthushtrian! Our scriptures are explicit and support religious equality amongst the sexes within the Zarthushti ritual tradition as far as intermarriage is concerned. Our scriptures identify intermarriage as a religious sin. If intermarriage is not religiously accepted, the question of accepting the patrilineal so-called 'tradition' does not exist!

Perhaps the so-called acceptance of patrilineality exists in the minds of some due to the Bombay High Court judgement delivered by Justices Davar and Beamon in 1909. The judgement accepted a "Parsi" as any descendant of the original Persian emigrants who are born of both Zarthushti parents; the Iranis from Iran who are Zarthushtis; and children of Parsi fathers by alien mothers who have been duly admitted into the religion. Some priests began to perform navjotes of children of Parsi fathers although the community at large never accepted this definition of a "Parsi". The Vada Dasturjis have denounced the judgement of Davar and Beamon which has subsequently been declared an 'obiter', legally. Patrilineality has no religious standing according to our scriptures, neither does it have any legal acceptance.

Herewith is the established evidence from the scriptures that there IS religious equality among the sexes within the Zarthushti ritual tradition pertaining to intermarriage since we consider navjote and ashirvad as "ritual traditions" as well! It is important to note that our scriptures do not support patrilineal acceptance or any acceptance of intermarriage which is regarded as religiously sinful.

1: Vendidad, the famous 18.62. "O Ahura Mazda, who grieves (you) with the greatest grief? Who torments (you) with the greatest injury?" Reply: "Certainly the jahi, who causes the procreative seeds to be mixed with the foreigners...".

The "foriegners" mean juddins, followers of a different religious faith. Those who consider male's progeny as religiously "accepted", will have a hard time proving where in the scriptures it specifies that only females married out are considered 'religious' adulterers? We must bear in mind what the Vada Dasturjis themselves have translated with re to this famous 18.62 at the time of Roxanne Shah controversy! And, not just the Vada Dasturjis but also noted scholars such as Kangaji and Sheriarji Bharucha have translated that intermarriage is a 'religious' adultery, not applying to females alone. "Jahi" is translated as "religiously illegal" or "religious adultery". Nowhere in this fargard does it say that a Zarthushti male, if married out, is exempted from committing this spiritual sin!

Moreover, I quote what Dasturji Kotwal has written in "Jarthosti Dharma ane Kriyao Vishe Lakhano" (Gujrati), 1994, Bombay. On page 118, Dasturji affirms very strongly that the majority of DEENPARST Dasturjis refuse to accept the progeny of intermarried males, reason being the Dasturjis are opposed to intermarriage without discrimination between the sexes! The Dasturjis cannot falsely declare that females are banned from intermarrying as this act is considered "religiously illegal" but not for the male members.

At WZC2000 in Houston (at the evening session on World Body), when Meher Master-Moos reminded Mr. Khojeste Mistree of there being no discrimination in the Vendidad regarding intermarriage and acceptance of progeny of either sexes, he did not reply as there is nothing to argue on this issue, the Vendidad being very explicit; the injunction is quite specific and includes both sexes. Surely, Vendidad being one of the Nasks, has precedence over any individual opinion.

2: Husparam Nask, SBE Vol. 37, Chapter XXXI, para 7 (Dinkard Book VIII), "And the Bridge penalty upon HIM (emphasis mine) who has sexual intercourse with a woman who wants washing; WITH HER WHO IS A FOREIGNER (emphasis mine), or any of those not authorized for intercourse; the confusion of germs by the woman who grants intercourse to foreigners, and other sin which they commit about like matters." Here too, intermarriage is considered a spiritual sin for both sexes.

3: Dinkard, Book II, compares the mixing of "seeds" between a Zarthushti and a juddin as a product which belongs to neither religion! It explains that just as the offspring of an Arab horse and a country mare is neither a fleet-runner like the Arab horse nor long-standing like a country mare, so is the mule born by the meeting of a horse and an ass. It does not resemble either of the two and in this way the original "seed" is cut off. Dinkard states that "for this reason a good deal of benefit accrues from the preservation of the seed-essential." It is a fact that children of intermarriage themselves marry out causing the "seed" and lineage to be diluted and cut off from the mainstream. Only a miniscule number get married within the community.

It is a proven fact that intermarriage weakens the ethnicity or 'parsi-panu' of the community which has held the religion together for so long. We have survived thus far only because we did not accept intermarriage or conversion.

It's only in the last century that these started and in the past 30 odd years they have accelerated with the result that today we worry about our own survival. The progeny of intermarrieds inherit two religions and two cultures and both are diluted; the children end up belonging to neither! And, if intermarriage weakens our ethnicity, why do we still wish to accept, rationalize and justify that which we believe to be the cause of destruction of our miniscule community as well as religion? Shouldn't we talk about preserving ethnicity? If any Zarthushti holds contradictory views that although intermarriage weakens the ethnicity, it is still o.k. to accept the practice of acceptance of progeny of males who marry out, they are surely confused. In fact, more often than not, it is the mother who teaches religious education to the children! An alien mother is not capable of imparting Zarthushti religion, culture and traditions to her children as she herself is not brought up in a Zarthushti home. These values are imbibed from childhood.

4: Patet Pashemani, translated from Kangaji's Khordeh Avesta Ba Maeni, Karda 3, irrefutably declares intermarriage as "gunah-e ravani" or a spiritual sin WITHOUT discriminating between the sexes! It is listed under the various "akho paye gunah", meaning sins that destroy the Mazdayasni Zarthushti Din from its very foundation. Intermarriage harms the religion to the core by cutting off the lineage, i.e. severing the unbroken lineage we pray for when we recite, "uz Gayomard unda Soshyoz". According to our ritualistic and scriptural traditions, no distinction of sexes is mentioned!

5: Ganje Shayegan: The contents of this book were written in the 6th cen. A.D. In the Preface (translated from the original Pahlavi Text by Peshutan Dastur Behramji Sanjana, 1885), Vazorgmithra, one of the Chief Ministers at the Court of King Khushru, is quoted as advising the King not to hand over the crown to Prince Hormazd because he was the son of Khushru's juddin wife. This proves that even in the days of the Empire, intermarriage was not accepted but strongly opposed and condemned according to tradition. The sons of intermarried royalty indulged in treason, proselytism and rebellion against the Zarthushti religion which eventually destroyed faith in religion and sadly led to the destruction of the Empire from within!

6: In the Shah Nameh too, Gordafrid scorns Sohrab, Rustom's son, saying that Iranis never mix blood with "foreigners" (Turanis). She said this because Sohrab was seeking Rustom in the company of Turanis and Gordafrid mistook him to be a foreigner as well.

"Boonak pasbaani" is so ingrained in the Irani psyche that even today, nomadic tribes in Iran, such as the Bakhtiari, Qashquai, Shahsavans, etc., marry only within their own tribes! Altho' these tribes follow Islam, they condemn even inter-tribal marriage in order to preserve their individual traditions and lifestyle. In Iran, as in any other Islamic regime, intermarriage is not considered legal because according to Muslim law, both spouses must be Muslims.

Similarly, our religion, like all others, does not accept any other marriage ritual except the ashirvad or "doa-i-paeman" which can be performed only after both the partners go through the ritual of naahn. Naahn essentially requires nirang and kusti-padyab which a juddin partner cannot undergo! Therefore, even if some renegade mobed performs the ashirvad when one partner is a juddin, this ceremony is religiously null and void! It is religiously unacceptable since we do not have conversion in our religion and subsequently, naahn and ashirvad rituals are a farce in such instances; they're religiously invalid. The ashirvad ritual can never be justified where one partner happens to be a juddin. Since we do not accept any other ceremony except ashirvad as a ritual bond, intermarriage is definitely unacceptable and incorrect from a religious perspective. It is considered as a religious sin, an adulteration of the "seed-essential". And, it should also be noted that the Zarthushti religion does not accept proselytism! As proven again and again by the Vada Dasturjis in writing, there are no such words as "conversion" and "acceptance" in our religion! Our religion does not accept converts from other religions nor does it accept intermarriage.

To advocate under these circumstances that a male's progeny is a 'Zarthushti', or, to advocate that intermarriage be religiously approved, is totally unacceptable. The male's spouse being juddin (I am emphasizing patrilineal acceptance), where is the question of acceptance if the ashirvad is not religiously legal or accepted according to our ritual tradition of non-proselytism and marrying only within the Zarthushti fold? Any legal signing of a marriage contract by an attorney or a JP is not religiously accepted. And, false ashirvad performed under lies that the couple (both partners) are Mazdayasni Zarthsuhtis and that the ritual is performed with compliance to the laws of the religion that involve naahn, nirang, kusti, etc. is carrying falsehood to the extreme! It is a lie and as such it is against any tradition of any religion. It's not just an intellectual deceit but a spiritual, religious deceit. Hence, the theory that a male Zarthushti's progeny are accepted 'traditionally' is totally incorrect.

About the patrilineal tradition, we are definitely a patrilineal society as almost all other societies in the world are! What has that to do with acceptance of a religiously false practice? Our religion does not accept intermarriage and that's that! Even the Islamic society is patrilineal. Yet, they do not accept intermarriage unless the partner converts to Islam first! Christians do the same. Are some misinformed Zarthushtis trying to suggest the same to our Dasturjis and to us? Do try and understand our scriptural, ritual, doctrinal tradition that we do not proselytize or accept intermarriage and therefore, whichever way one looks at intermarriage, it is a religious sin! Intermarriage (of male Zarthushtis also included) cannot be accepted unless we change the scriptures (Pahlavi Texts as well as the Avesta), to suit the few who are intermarried and/or favor patrilineality! But then, how can anyone tamper with or alter revealed scriptures and doctrines? Only a divinely appointed Messenger after holding communion with the Divinity is authorized to reveal new scriptures. The last such Messenger was the saintly Dasturan-e Dastur Adarbad Marespand who proved his spiritual powers. If any non-saintly human tampers with revealed scriptures, these are not considered to be the root of a religion; rather, such writings and the followers are relegated to belong to a cult devoid of spiritual revelation! Also, the Saintly Dasturan-e Dastur Adarbad Marespand has revealed and re-affirmed in Chithrem Buyat (Setayesh) and Patet Pashemani that intermarriage is a spiritual, religious sin!

We cannot try to justify a wrong by saying that the issue of our males marrying out (women too), is indeed a vexed one, but because intermarriage is on the rise, we should recognize these as the current social norm and get the so-called patrilineality religiously accepted. First of all, the practice of intermarriage may have gained acceptance within the families of Tata, Wadia and other wealthy families at the beginning of the 20th century. Still, these were rare instances. Intermarrieds were religiously ostracized until the last 30 years. These instances have increased since then because religious laws were not enforced and simultaneously, individual 'rights' were accepted. Preservation of ethnicity and parsi-panu were ignored. Clandestinely, 'acceptance' of what is religiously wrong crept into our so-called 'tradition' in spite of the many Samast Anjuman Meetings taking place over the years to condemn such practices because no actions to counteract these were taken. If the High Priests have accepted intermarriage among the males, why has Dasturji Kotwal made the declaration in writing, in public speeches too that Dasturjis have never accepted intermarriage even if it be Zarthushti males'? Are we saying that because a wrong is multiplying, we accept this wrong? As Zarthushtis, we never accept falsehood, or any undoctrinal practices. Even recently, not too many months ago, the Dasturjis jointly condemned intermarriage in the Jam-e and have pronounced that mobeds who perform such ceremonies are renegade priests! They have specified they do not acknowledge males marrying out or their progeny as Zarthushtis either. So, what 'ritual tradition' are some misguided Zarthushtis referring to, to justify 'patrilineality'? And, how long is this so-called tradition in acceptance IF the Dasturjis have condemned and opposed intermarriage of males as well as females and acceptance of kids of males married out as recently as in the year 2002?

Dasturji Dhalla of Karachi had to take the stand in court during the Vansda navjote case. He confessed that he himself had never performed a juddin navjote, nor will; will our 8 Vada Dasturjis say under oath that they have performed juddin navjotes and performed ashirvad of intermarried couples? They have NOT! And, they have written again and again that they are against mobeds who commit these wrong religious acts! What will be the outcome in court? The Vada Dasturjis are all very traditional and orthodox, very learned in our religion and religious ways. They will never let our religion be altered to accommodate false 'ritual traditions' as defined by the misguided few. No one has the authority to alter a revealed religion.

As Zarthushtis we cannot be promoting falsehood. For example, the scriptures say one must not lie or steal. But, these acts are on the increase; therefore, shall we accept them as 'tradition'! Of course not! Similarly, our scriptures are quite specific about intermarriage, with reference to both sexes, and therefore, just because in the past 30 years or so, if intermarriage is on the increase, it does not mean we, or the Dasturjis, accept this religiously wrong practice as 'tradition'. In which case, what about the millennia old tradition of NOT accepting intermarriage as religiously sanctified, as opposed to a tradition that is 30 years or a century old and IS against the scriptural, doctrinal practices? Why would a Zarthushti justify wrong in any shape or form or practice and ask or advise the politically gullible Dasturjis to accept that which is so wrong for our communal and religious survival, as well as scripturally incorrect? If intermarriage is on the increase, should we accept a bad situation getting more deplorable and seemingly irreversible as time goes by, by justifying, rationalizing and accepting it?

To justify patrilineal acceptance as opposed to matrilineal, some give the example of an osti girl marrying to a behdin and thereby getting 'demoted' of her priestly family status. But what 'ritual tradition' is involved in this except to prove that we are indeed a patrilineal community? This example has nothing to do with accepting intermarriage which is religiously forbidden and considered to be a religious sin. So far, I have given all the proof needed with reference to ritual tradition backed by scriptural references regarding intermarriage (with special reference to intermarried males), and the non-acceptance of their kids as "Zarthushtis". There is not a single reference from our scriptures (from the Avesta) that proves if an osti is married to a behdin, it is a ritual transgression. Because girls' names were and still are taken with their fathers' or husbands' names, an osti will definitely become 'behdin' if married to a behdin. But where's the demotion? We have no class system in our society. Zarthushtis are free to follow any profession of choice except that we do not make a behdin an athornan. That is why the osti is referred to as behdin by marrying a behdin! This is an accepted common patrilineal practice but one certainly cannot call it a ritual tradition!

There are no such 'ritually traditional' scriptural references, please, to prove the argument regarding osti-osta and how it concerns or justifies intermarriage. A behdin girl may have been unwelcome in a priestly class but that has nothing to do with 'ritual tradition'! The mobed families may have felt that behdin girls are not trained to weave kustis, or wake up early in the mornings to make malido-papri. In fact, many Zarthushtis used to say that if a behdin girl marries a mobed, it is 'poon-nu kaam'. There may have been reluctance on the part of athornans to accept their osti daughter marrying a behdin, but there is no scriptural reference that this was religiously tabooed. If the community started this social custom of 'demoting' an osti if married to a behdin, can we justify the argument about acceptance of intermarried males and their progeny based on this fad? If the athornans consider that by an osti marrying a behdin, the athornan's lineage is diluted (although BOTH share the same religion), what about our actual religious lineage when any Zarthsuhti marries OUT of the religious community? As mentioned, many societies are patrilineal but they do not accept intermarriage. Although all Zarthushtis KNOW that intermarriage is untenable from a scriptural, ritual, traditional, doctrinal point, some still wish to justify the wrongful act of accepting males married out and accepting their progeny as Zarthsushtis! This is indeed wrong and cannot be accepted as religiously correct! No religion teaches to accept a lie or any falsehood as truth no matter how the lie is 'coated' to hoodwink the gullible. If navjote and ashirvad are not ritual traditions, what are they? Can we separate scriptures from rituals? No! Religion is holistic and therefore, scriptures, rituals, traditions are all interconnected and interdependent.

May wiser counsel prevail and may our religion survive as has been passed down to us for countless centuries, unaltered! And do consider that if we accept double standards and wander away from the scriptural base, we are in for serious trouble. The scriptures are specific and no other rules are religiously acceptable. What some write about the " legal convention", "religious rightness", "by way of practice" is a game of words that is meant to deceive the gullible. Why on earth are we calling Samast Meetings to combat intermarriage and acceptance of progeny? It proves that WE HAVE NOT AS YET ACCEPTED THESE RELIGIOUSLY FALSE PRACTICES as the "laws of the land" (India gives religious freedom), and that THEY HAVE NOT BECOME ESTABLISHED PRACTICE OF THE COMMUNITY AS YET, contrary to what some write and believe! If the Dasturjis have, as recently as few weeks ago, written against intermarriage (of males too), how can one maintain that this practice has been accepted for 3 generations? The community has always condemned these! It can be proven even in the courts! Long tolerance of ritual misdeeds (performance of ashirvad of intermarrieds and navjote of their progeny) may have gained some standing among the heterodox; therefore, it will take an active uphill battle and wise leadership to change these practices back to what the scriptures and ritual traditions dictate. Two wrongs cannot make a right. If we are religious, we cannot accept falsehood and false practices. We need to correct the wrong that has crept in recently which is what our religion is all about. To combat falsehood!

Oh, please also read Sad Dar, SBE, p.300, chapter XXXVIII. "It is requisite to abstain from the same cup as those of a different religion, and it is not desirable to drink the water of any goblet of theirs.... Because, when any one drinks with a stranger, it makes his heart inclined towards him, for it would be a sin; and, on account of the sin committed, he becomes bold, and his soul has an inclination for wickedness." This, during the worst days Zarthushtis faced in Iran! Yet, they are admonished not even to drink from the same cup as a juddin! How about permitting any Zarthushti to share a whole lifetime together in matrimony with a juddin? Since when has intermarriage become a ritual tradition? Please remember that no religion on Earth teaches its followers to accept, rationalize and justify that which is religiously wrong!

Before we even think of any kind of religious 'acceptance', we must first inspect our scriptures and texts because religion is not an exercise in democracy wherein individuals 'choose' for themselves what suits them and what does not. Religion is a revealed doctrine, revealed by Ahura Mazda's Messenger through Divine Communion. As followers, we do not 'choose', we merely follow!

Yazdan Panah Baad,


July, 15, 2002.

P.S. Please circulate this e-mail to the Vada Dasturjis, mobeds and friends, especially to the youth. Thank you.

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