Jihad in the Koran
The Religion of Peace in Persia
Our aim is not to fight you. Accept Islam the peaceful way, and you will be safe. If not then clear our way to the people so that we may explain this beautiful way of life to them… If you do not accept any of these conditions then the only alternative is the use of the sword.
Before deciding on the third alternative you should keep in mind that I am bringing against you a people who love death more than you love life.
From a letter by Khalid Ibn Al-Walid, the leader of the Muslim armies invading Persia, to impose "the beautiful way of life" by force, to the Persian General Hormuz before the battle of Kadima.
It was a typically bloody conquest with the believers offering no quarter, beheading thousands of surrendered and captured Persian soldiers fulfilling Khalid's pledge to Allah that if He gave them victory "no enemy warrior will be left alive, until their river runs red with blood."
The Muslims may have won the war, but getting the Persian people to accept "the beautiful way of life" may have proven problematic, for Umar, the Caliph at the time of the conquest, to discover a lost verse where Allah included the Zoroastrians as a people of the Book, people who could refuse "the beautiful way of life" and not be put to death if they agreed to pay the Jizya.
The Magians in revelation 22:17 is the only reference to Zoroastrians in the Koran.
22:17 Indeed, the believers, the Jews, the Sabians, the Christians, the Magians and the idolaters – Allah shall decide between them on the Day of Resurrection. Surely, Allah is a witness of everything.
Robert Wright in The Evolution of God speculates that verse 22:17 may have been added after the Muslim conquest of Persia to make Islam more palatable to Zoroastrians by including them as a people whom Allah, who “does whatever He pleases”, may admit into Paradise.
By and large the Koran offers no evidence that Muhammad had contact with the Zoroastrians —except for this one verse where they appear out of nowhere and are suddenly eligible for Paradise. It’s enough to make you wonder whether this verse wasn’t added, or at least amended after Muhammad’s death, when the conquest of Persian lands brought many Zoroastrians under Islamic governance.
The Zoroastrians were a people of a book, not the Book, but a book, the Avesta. But, what about the Sabians?
There is another reason to suspect that this verse is a product of the post-Muhammad era. It grants salvation not only to Zoroastrians but to “Sabians.” To judge by the beliefs of their modern day heirs (sometimes called Mandeans), the Sabians, like the Zoroastrians, would have been hard to fit into the Abrahamic fold; they revered John the Baptist but considered Jesus, Abraham and Moses false prophets. And again (judging by their modern heirs) they would have had another thing in common with Zoroastrians; their residential epicenter was to the east of Muhammad’s turf, in modern-day Iraq and Iran, land conquered not by Muhammad but by his successors.
Robert Wright, The Evolution of God, p. 394
Who First Destroyed the Birthplace of Zoroaster
Fakhry says Greeks, Moududi says Romans. The “clear revelations” are not always clear even for eminent scholars of the Koran. In Moududi’s translation, the Greeks of revelation 30:2 become Romans and those they vanquished are the Iranians who initially vanquished them.
THE GREEKS [or BYZANTINES]
In the Name of Allah,
the Compassionate, the Merciful
30:1 Alif – Lam – Mim. 30:2 The Greeks have been vanquished
30:3 In the nearest part of the land; but after being vanquished, they shall vanquish,
30:4 In a few years. Allah’s is the command before and after; and on that day the believers shall rejoice,
30:5 In Allah’s support. He supports whom He wills; and He is the Almighty, the Merciful.
30:6 It is Allah’s Promise. Allah does not break His Promise, although most people do not know.
The believers rejoiced, according to Moududi, not because of the Byzantine Emperor’s victory over the Iranians where he destroyed the birth-place of Zoroaster and ravaged the principal fire-temple of Iran, but the Muslim victory at Badr in 624 over the Meccans which occurred at about the same time.