Both Zoroastrianism and Islam are monotheist religions founded by historical founders and originated in middle-East long after Hinduism. Both the religions have a past of forcefully converting people of other faiths into theirs and both have prescribed form of regimented religious practices. In spite of these, there exist some differences between the two as regards evolution, beliefs and practices. This article is an attempt to highlight some of the major differences between the two.
Difference as to evolution
The religion was originated in Persia (now Iran) during seventh century BC. It was the official religion of Persia during Sassanid Empire. Zarathustra or Zoroaster was the founder of the religion. Zarathustra claimed to be taken to heaven by God Ahura Mazda, who he claimed was the creator of all the good things in the universe, and that Ahura Mazda is the only God to be worshipped. This monotheist ideology contradicted the existing polytheism and Zoroastrianism faced resistance in the beginning. But the ruling dynasty patronized the religion, and it existed as the official language of Persia till seventh century BC when Muslim invaders invaded Persia and Islam became the state religion.
During 5th century AD, Arabian Peninsula was the land of continuously migrating nomadic people. As settlements by small groups began in Mecca, polytheism became the faith structure with different sects believing in different Gods. In Mecca there were 360 shrines one for each day of the lunar calendar, and Mecca was the most prominent pilgrimage center in the Arabian Peninsula. Religion was never a source of morality for the people living in Arab. Greed, violence, and other unethical practices were abounded during that time. The Quraish community to which Muhammad the founder of Islam belonged was the most powerful tribe in Mecca. Muhammad propagated the religion as he claimed to have been revealed to him by angel Gabriel on behalf of Allah. Gradually the religion grew in strength as more and more people embraced Islam, sometimes out of fear of prosecution, in Arabian Peninsula and the rest of the world including Indian subcontinent and Europe.
Difference as to belief
Followers of Zoroastrianism believe that there is only one God called Ahura Mazda and an opponent called Ahura Mainyu, the spirit of evil forces. They believe there would be battle between good and evil where good will be victorious and that people have to participate in the battle. Depending upon for which side people fight in the war, they will spend their eternity after death.
Muslims believe there is only one God (Allah) and no other God. The purpose of human lives is to live life according to Allah’s wish and as reward attain paradise. The followers of Islam believe that Muhammad was the ‘seal of prophets’ i. e. last and greatest of all messengers of Allah. It is written in Quran that soul never dies and after death transformation of physical appearance take place. It is also a wide held belief in Islam that a judgment day will come when humanity will be destined either to heaven or hell.
Difference as to practices
Zoroastrianism have some of the primitive customs like bathing a number of times to keep body pure and worshipping with elaborate arrangements some are really difficult to practice in normal life style. One highly controversial religious practice of Zoroastrianism is polygamy and incest, which according to Zarathustra makes the soul and body of the new born pure. Though the ruling dynasty of 7th century BC Persia accepted this practice, it remains a point of dissent even among the followers of Zoroastrianism. Another controversial practice is distinct class division among the followers.
On the other hand Islam is free from such torturous religious practices. The followers of Islam pray 5 times a day and keep fast for a month in the year. There are some compulsory rituals like donating money and food to the poor in certain occasions. There is also a voluntary practice of visiting Mecca called Haj. Islam never discriminates on the basis of class or creed.
Difference as to religious text
Quran is the religious text of Islam that contains the revelations as the angel made to Muhammad. There is another text in Islam Called Hadish that contains stories as told by other prophets of Islam.
On the other hand the religious text of Zoroastrianism is known as Avesta. The book contains the hymns in praise of Ahura Mazda and rituals to be performed during festival. The book was completed during the Sassanid dynasty.
Difference as to choosing followers
Zarathustra founded the religion to be practiced strictly by people of Persia, and people of no other places were allowed to practice the religion. This is the reason that the religion was confined to Iran until there was huge migration of Zoroastrians from Iran to India for fear of persecution by Muslim rulers. Today the religion is confined to some pockets of Iran and some places in north-India. There are about hundred thousand Zoroastrians all over the world and almost sixty percent of them live in India.
Islam on the other hand originated in Arabian Peninsula, and spread to whole of middle-East, Europe, and Indian subcontinent. The preachers of Islam made all out effort to spread Islam even forcefully. Today’s world-Muslim population is about 200 million.
- Islam was founded by Muhammad in 7th century AD; Zoroastrianism was founded by Zoroaster in 7th century BC.
- Zoroastrians believe in only one God Ahura Mazda; Muslims believe in only one God Allah.
- Zoroastrianism propagates incest; Islam prohibits incest except some exceptional cases.
- Zoroastrianism is confined to Iran and India; Islam is spread all over the world.
- The sacred text of Zoroastrianism is Avesta; Quran is the sacred text of Islam.
- Zoroastrians follow torturous rituals; Muslims follow less torturous rituals.
- Current world population of Zoroastrians is about 100 thousand; that of Muslims is about 200 million.