Question: "What is Yazidism, and what do Yazidis believe?"
Answer: Yazidism is the religion of a Kurdish people-group that lives primarily in Iraq. Some Yazidis also live in Armenia, Turkey, Iran, Georgia, and Syria. The Kurds are usually identified as an Iranian ethnic group descended from the Medes. Not all Kurds are Yazidis, but all Yazidis are Kurdish. The Yazidi live in tight-knit communities, and marriage outside the religion is not allowed. The Yazidi follow a strict caste system within their culture. The Yazidi are also called Yezidi, Daasin, or Ezidi.
Yazidis are monotheistic, and they believe in a creator God whom they call Yasdan. Similarity to Christianity ends with monotheism. According to Yazidism, after creation the world was placed in the care of seven angels. Their chief is a being called “the Peacock Angel,” a rather capricious ruler who causes both bad and good things to happen to people. The Yazidis have a myth about the Peacock Angel falling from God’s favor and then eventually being redeemed after his tears of repentance quenched the fires of the hell to which he had been sent for punishment. This tale correlates in some ways to a story in the Sufi religion. The figure Iblis, the Sufi version of Satan, is sometimes equated with the Yazidi Peacock Angel. Because of this connection, Yazidis are thought of as devil worshipers by other regional religions, and this is one reason for the persecution of Yazidis by Sunni Muslims, including ISIS.
Yazidism is a syncretic religion that has been described as a mixture of Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Mithraism. Although Yazidi theology is based on oral tradition, passed on through hymns, they do have two holy books: the Mishefa Reş, or the Black Book; and the Kitêba Cilwe, or the Book of Revelation. The Yazidi pray to the Peacock Angel several times a day, facing east. Yazidi children are baptized at birth. Once a year, the Yazidi make a pilgrimage to the tomb of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir, a key figure in their religion, in the city of Lalish, Iraq.
The Yazidi accept no converts; in order to be a Yazidi, one must be born a Yazidi. Yazidis believe that they descended from Adam alone (without help from Eve) but that the rest of humanity came from the union of Adam and Eve. Yazidism teaches the transmigration of souls, the idea that, upon death, souls pass on to different bodies. Through this chain of death and rebirth, people are gradually purified.
Yazidism differs from Christianity in almost every way, from the creation story onward. Yazidism is related to the religions of ancient Assyrians, Babylonians, and Chaldeans, three groups mentioned many times in the Old Testament. In fact, the Chaldeans are mentioned first in Genesis 11, and Abram was born into that group of people (Genesis 11:27–28). Abram left the Chaldeans to start afresh in Canaan. He received a call from God to break off from his tribe and travel to a land that God had promised to him (Genesis 12:1–7). In obedience prompted by faith, Abram became Abraham, the father of the Israelites (Hebrews 11:8–12).