Ahl-e Haqq is either classified as an independent religion, or as part of Islam. With the latter definition, it is categorized as a Sufi order of Iran and Iraq, belonging to Shi'i Islam, with 2 to 3 million adherents.
|AHL-E HAQQ IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Last column: % Ahl-e Haqq of the population
|*) Calculated for the total population of North Africa and the Middle East, approx. 460,000,000. The figures above are very rough estimates.|
|Other countries: Unknown
Ahl-e Haqq is Persian (but also Arabic, although then spelled ahl al-haqq) for "People of Truth." It is sometimes even translated as "People of God," haqq being one of the 99 names of God.
The Alh-e Haqq is the name they use themselves, but they are named otherwise by outsiders. Yarsan, or Yaresan, is a common name, while opponents label them Ali-Ilahis. This refers to the idea that they think of Ali as a god.
The Ahl-e Haqq are organized in spiritual households, called khandans. When these were established, in the 16th century, there were 7, all headed by a leader, or a spiritual parent, called a say-yed. At a later stage, 4 more khandans were added, and even today there are 11 khandans.
Each member of the Ahl-e Haqq belongs to one khandan. Spiritual oversight for members is provided by the say-yed.
Throughout history, the say-yeds have been rivals, competing to have the largest number of followers.
Central is also their cult of Ali, which is even more profound than that is commonly found with mainstream Shi'is. Large portions of their theology are unknown with certainty by scholars, since they keep their faith hidden from outsiders. Among the best sources for understanding the Ahl-e Haqq is the book by theologian and musician, Ostad Elahi, Demonstration of the Truth (1963).
Other central aspects to their faith are the belief in the 12 imams of Twelver Shi'ism. All their rituals are associated with a communal feast and may include animal sacrifice. They teach that God may manifest himself in the earthly world.
The believer passes through 4 stages before reaching the level of the Ultimate Truth. The 3 last stages involve the acquisition of esoteric knowledge through study. They also gradually involve the discontinuance of the laws of Sharia.
Their view of the afterlife include the concept of the transmigration of souls, where each soul of a human being must pass through 1,001 incarnations, in order to achieve the ultimate heavenly rewards. On the Day of Judgment, good souls will enter Paradise, while bad souls will be destroyed.
CULT and CEREMONIES
Among their most central cultic rituals is an annual winter fast lasting for a period of 3 days, called Niyat Marovni. Just like the Muslim Sawm at Ramadan, it is broken collectively at sunset. The last breaking is a special ceremony, named Shab-e Padeshahi.
Children of members must pass through an affiliation ceremony at an age no later 3 years old.
Ahl-e Haqq is an open religion, and accepts new members. Entering a khandan inolves an elaborate and highly emotional ceremony.
Members regularly get together for assemblies, called djem, where issues are dealt with and disputes are settled.
A rarer form of ceremony is the dhikr where music and dance is performed until a point in which the participants reach a level of extasy.
Adherents to the Ahl-e Haqq mainly live in central-western Iran, in the region of Bukhtaran, in communities around Kirkuk, Iraq and in rural communities of southeastern Turkey. Most adherents are Kurds, while small groups of Luri, Azeri and Persian also belong to the Ahl-e Haqq.
According to the tradition, a male member of the Ahl-e Haqq never cut his moustache.
Their foundation is normally ascribed to a legendary figure in the 16th century named Soltan Sohak.
It is commonly assumed that there is a relationship between the Ahl-e Haqq and the Alevi, both in terms of origin and theology. But it has also been suggested that they are related to the Yazidi.