Dr. Eberhard Werner
Anthropology, Linguistics, Social
Sciences and Religion
Religion presents the deep core value
system of a people group. The
conscience performs world view.
Religion is a system of symbols which
reflects long-lasting moods and
motivations by formulating conceptions
of a general order and existence. They
are clothed with such an aura of faculty
that they seem uniquely realistic.
Religions of the Zaza ethnicity
The N o r t h e r n d i a l e c t G r o u p follows
Alevism. A mix of Zoroastrianism-serduşt
(Parsiism in East Asia), Animism,
Judaism/Christianity and Islam.
The S o u t h e r n and E a s t e r n / C e n t r a l
G r o u p follows Sunnism. The S o u t h e r n
G r o u p the Islamic school of Hanafi and
the E a s t e r n G r o u p partially the Hanafi
or Shafi’i rite. The latter is also the main rite
of the Kurmanji speaking neighbors.
Animistic, Judaistic and Christian
influences still observable.
Religions - Turkish - Zazaki - Kurmanji
Christian Zaza and
Did the Zaza people enter their recent homeland as peasants?
Did the Zaza people migrate from the Southern Caspian area
already being Islamic?
Considering the latter, following the Daylam-Thesis, the
Zaza followed either one or more of the Persian cults /
religions or they were Islamized (but when?).
Islamization movements in East Anatolia concerning
the Zaza people in their recent settlement area:
Arabic Bedouins (7-8th century AD / 1-2nd century AH)
Seljuk Emperors (11-13th century AD / 5-7th century AH)
Mongol Storms (12-13th century AD / 6-7th century AH)
Wahhabism movement by strategy of da’awah (invitation) and
jihad (inner and outward war against evil) (18th century AD /
12th century AH)
A recent revival is set up on a rediscovering of the
origin or a transition to an ideology based on
environmental / nature-oriented humanism.
Influenced by Zoroastrianism (Parsiism),
Manichaeism, Gnosticism, Animism and Eastern
Allah is represented by energies of the prophets
Hz. Muhammed and Hz. Ali (his cousin). Divine
creative energy is embodied in the latent breath (or
Allah the Almighty), the prototypical human which is
made up of active and passive principles (or Hz.
Muhammad and the divine light / Hz. Ali).
Thus, a Trinitarian similarity to Christian doctrines
can be noticed.
Alevism spread to Turkish, Kurmanji, Azeri and
Zazaki speaking members of the Ottoman Empire.
Some argue that Zaza Alevism was foundational
and led to Turkish and Kurmanji branches. Some
even declare the latter branches were originally
Zaza and were assimilated by the Turkish or
Kurmanji speaking societies.
20 million Alevis in Turkey . One of the two big
national challenges for the 21st century that is
“Question of Alevism” paralleled by the “Kurdish
Question”. At least half of the Zaza population
follows Alevism (1-1 ½ million).
Since 15th century AD / 9th century AH tensions with
Sunnism following Zaza, Turks and Kurmanji
The Hanafi rite: named after its founder Hanifa
(8th century AD / 2nd century AH).
A few Zaza and the bulk of the Kurmanji
speakers follow the Shafi’i rite named by its
founder Shafi’i (beginning of 9th century AD / 3rd
In the 19th century AD / 13th century AH visitors
to the Zaza homeland reported their strong
Islamic beliefs and practices although the Zaza
were not educated in Islam.
The Zaza society followed their own theological
interpretation like the brotherhood of Egypt or
Yemen (Karl Pfander in Schirrmacher 1992:37;
see above). Reasons:
The societal three class structure of the Sunni Zaza people
(social Institutions: religiously oriented mıllah, religiously and
politically oriented sheikh, only politically oriented agha)
Travel to and education at madrassa of Egypt (Cairo) and
Bagdad, Damascus (e.g. Osman Efendi, Nuri Dersimi, etc.
Theologians developed their own education system an branches
of their education centre
They were considered as mıllah (Arab. Mullah), rallied a group of
devotees around themselves and slowly at some places a
mullaharchy started to develop.
Differences in Worldview (samples)
Death (world and
-Transition process from the “here” to
-Both worlds are interrelated, a person
can move from hither to yon
-Eschatology as Reincarnation
(eternal life cycle) and
metempsychosis (soul transfer)
-No return or transcrossing from
physical into the metaphysical or
-Eschatology as intransigent Last
Judgment (Paradise of Hell)
-Dead is perceived as dreadful
Purity / Impurity
-Humanism asks for reciprocal
respect, gender and social equality,
-The sphere of purity is to be in
harmony with nature and people
-The sphere of impurity is bordered by
hurting others or nature: a. Disrespect
against elders, family or tribal leaders,
b. exploitation of nature, c.
infringement of community law (e.g.
insulting women or children)
-The umma (religious community) is to
be held in high esteem.
-Spiritual life overlaps with physical
-The sphere of Purity is balanced by
playing for safety, not to cross
borders. In consequence an ongoing
struggle of staying pure limits personal
freedom of movement.
-The sphere of Impurity is marked by
a. exploitation of the Islamic Law
(şeriat; e.g. şırk) b. Disrespect against
elders, family, religious or tribal
leaders, c. loosing face by luring envy,
evil spirits, wrath of Allah.