Persian civilization before Islam
The Persian civilization existed in a large area of the world with solid buildings. It shared the Roman civilization the rule of the civilized world. The Persian civilization flourished in the Persian Sassanid Dynasty since mid-third century BC. Thus, it flourished in politics, governance, wars, and aspects of luxury and welfare, with Zoroastrianism as the official religion, and Pahlavi as the language of literature and wisdom.
The doctrine of the Persians
The Persians had worshiped God in the past eras and they used to prostrate themselves to Him. Then they started to glorify the sun, moon, stars and celestial bodies, like other early peoples, before the emergence of Zoroaster (660-583 BC) as a social reformer. He thought of how to reform the religious attitudes of his fellow citizens, saying the light of God shines in all that shines and burns in the universe. He ordered the people to face the sun and fire during prayer; because light symbolizes God. He also ordered not to desecrate the four elements: fire, air, earth, water. After his death other clergymen developed different laws for the Zoroastrians, such as forbidding using the things that require fire. This restricted their works to agriculture and trade. Through this glorification of fire and facing it during prayers, people started to worship it and build temples for it. Faiths and religions other than worship of fire gradually disappeared.
Since fire did not reveal a law to its worshipers, send a messenger, interfere in the affairs of their life or punish sinners and criminals, religion has been reduced to rituals and traditions performed by the Magi in special places and at certain times. But outside temples and in their government departments as well as in political and social affairs, they were free. They used to do what they liked; only observing their interests and benefits, like the polytheists in every age and place.
Ethics of the Persians
The basis of ethics had been uncertain and disturbed for long eras in history. The relatively forbidden things, which the people of the moderate provinces were accustomed to, continued to be a subject of controversy and discussion so much so that Yazdegerd II, who ruled in the late 5th century AD, married his daughter and then killed her and Bahram Gobain, who ruled in the 6th century AD, was married to his sister. In his book Sassanid Persia, Dr. Arthur Christensen, Professor of Eastern languages, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and who is specialized in the history of Iran, said the contemporary historians of the Sassanid era, such as Jathias and others, believed that the Iranians used to get married to unmarriageable relatives and there were examples of this kind of marriage in the Sasanid era. Such a marriage was not sinful at the time in Iran, but rather a good act through which they sought to draw closer to God. Chinese traveler Hiun-Tsiang referred to this marriage, as he noted that the Iranians did not know exceptions in marriages.
Mani's teachings in Persia
n the 3rd century AD Mani emerged as a violent reaction to a prevailing sensual trend in the country. Fighting this unbridled lust and sensuality, Mani called to a life of celibacy and forbade marriage in a bid to cut off birth and accelerate cessation of being. He was killed by the Sassanid king Bahram (276 AD), saying: Mani came out to call for the destruction of the world, so it is obligatory to start sabotaging himself before any of his purposes is realized. Mani passed away, but his teachings lived until after the Islamic conquest.
Then arose the spirit of the Persian nature over Mani's unfair teachings and embraced the call initiated by Mazdak (born 487 AD), who said that human beings were born equal; no difference between them, and so they should live equal. However, since man is keen to preserve wealth and women, Mazdak said both must be common among people. Al-Shahristany says: "He (Mazdak) made women and wealth lawfully common among people, just like water, fire and pasture."
This call was welcomed by the young people, the rich and the affluent; met a desire in their hearts; and was protected by the court. Kavadh supported and disseminated it. Overwhelmed by this call, Iran was plunged into moral chaos and uncontrollable lust. Al-Tabary says: "The mobs seized the opportunity and surrounded Mazdak and his companions, thus afflicting the people. (Mazdak's supporters) got stronger so much so that they would break into a man's home and take his house, money and women and he could not prevent them. They persuaded Kavadh to stimulate this and threaten him to depose him. No much time had passed than men did not know their children and children did not know their fathers."
Thus, Khosrous, kings of Persia, claimed that divine blood was running in their veins and that their nature was sublime and sacred. The Persians believed this claim, giving their kings the status of gods, made offerings to them, and thought they were the only ones who had the right to wear the crown and levy taxes; and that right could descend in the royal lineage from grandfathers to fathers, and only the oppressors who could claim or compete with them over the rule. Therefore, the Persians believed in the inheritance of power within the royal family; no other alternative or way.
Classes of Persian society
There was a wide gap between the classes of the Persian society. Professor Arthur Christensen said the Iranian society was founded on the grounds of lineage and crafts, and there was a large gap among the classes of society – no bridge or relation connecting them.
Thus, this was the Persian civilization, where attention was focused on physical pleasures, counting on military power and political domination, and reverence and deifying deification of kings among the masses and society classes.
 Abu Zayd Shalaby: Tarikh Al Hadarah Al Islamya wal Feker Al Islami, (History of Islamic Civilization and Islamic Thought), p. 67.
 See: Shahin Makarios: Tarikh Iran, (History of Iran), pp. 221-224.
 See: Abul Hasan Nadwi: Madha Khasira al-`Alam bi-Inhitat al-Muslimin? pp. 63, 64
 Arthur Christensen: (died 1945) an expert on Iranian history and professor of Iranian studies at the University of Copenhagen, and is one of the best of those who wrote about Iran before and after Islam.
 Arthur Christensen: Sassanid Persia, quoted by Abul Hasan Nadwi, op cit, pp. 56, 57.
 Ibid, p. 42.
 Mazdak: a Persian philosopher, emerged in the days of Chosroes Kavadh, father Anu Sherwan (488-513 AD), he called Kavadh to his doctrine and the latter answered. Anu Sherwan knew Mazdak's lies and so he invited him and killed him. Mazdak had made women and money lawful and common among people.
 Al- Shahristany: Abu al-Fath Muhammad ibn Abdul-Karim ibn Ahmad al-Shahristany (479-548 AH/1086-1153 AD), a Muslim philosopher and a leading scholar in Islamic philosophy, religions of nations and ideologies of philosophers. Nicknamed al-Afdal (i.e. The Best) he was born and died in Shahristan. See: al-Zirikly, 6 / 215.
 Shahristany: al-Milal wa al-Nihal, 1/248.
 Kavadh bin Fairuz: one of the greatest Sassanid kings. He ruled for forty-three years (488-531 AD), fought against the Kingdom of Khazaria in decisive battles, and fought the Romans as well.
 Al-Tabary: Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabary (224-310 AH / 839-923 AD), a leading scholar in many fields of knowledge, including the interpretation of the Qur'an, Hadith and Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence), history, and others. He was born in Amal, Tabarystan, and died in Baghdad. See: Ibn Khallikan: Wafayat al-A`yan, 4/191, 192.
 Al-Tabary: Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Muluk (History of Nations and Kings), 1/419.
 Abul Hasan Nadwi: op cit, pp. 58, 59.
 Arthur Christensen: op cit, p. 590, quoted from previous source, p. 60.
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