Arda Wiraz Namag (Iranian "Divina Commedia") And The Prophet's Night Journey

M S M Saifullah

© Islamic Awareness, All Rights Reserved.

First Composed: 29th June 2002

Last Updated: 7th December 2005


Assalamu-`alaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

1. Introduction

The earliest Orientalist who suggested the direct influence of Zoroastrianism on Islam was Goldziher.[1] His work gained so much popularity that it was translated into English[2] and became the basis on which further arguments concerning the Zoroastrian influences on Islam were developed. One such alleged influence of Zoroastrianism on Islam was the ascent of the Prophet to the heavens as mentioned briefly in the Qur'an and discussed in detail in the hadith literature. It has been claimed that this event as well as the details in it had been borrowed from the well-known Iranian "Divina Commedia" called Arda Wiraz Namag.[3]

As expected, the Christian missionaries were not far behind and they jumped on this bandwagon pretty early. Tisdall made a similar argument that Arda Wiraz Namag was indeed the source of the event of ascension of the Prophet to the heavens and his witnessing of denizens of heaven and hell. The Chinwad bridge mentioned in Arda Wiraz Namag was compared with the bridge over the Hell as mentioned in the hadith literature. Tisdall even made a claim that the book Arda Wiraz Namag was composed some 400 years before the hijra.[4] Instead of embarking upon a critical scholarship, Ibn Warraq satisfied himself by lifting and expanding the arguments of Tisdall. Like Tisdall, he claimed that

This ascent to heaven (or Miraj in Arabic) can be compared to the account in the Pahlavi text called Arta (or Artay) Viraf written several hundred years before the Muslim era.[5]

Again quoting Tisdall, Steven Masood also says that:

... the ascent of Muhammad to heaven and the passing visit to hell and paradise may be found in Zoroastrian tales dating some four hundred years before the time of Muhammad.[6]

As expected, the claim that Arda Wiraz Namag was written "several hundred years before the Muslim era" remained unsubstantiated either by Ibn Warraq or by Masood. One can also add `Abdallah `Abd al-Fadi,[7] Geisler and Abdul Saleeb[8] into the category of Tisdall's faithful followers. Anis Shorrosh, on the other hand, belongs to a class of his own. After mentioning Prophet's night journey, he talks about the "original" source and says:

The original Hindu source is Arta Viraf Namak.[9]

His claim of Arda Wiraz Namag being a "Hindu source" certainly shows "originality". However, such "originality" stops short of any proper substantiation. Hence to refute these unsubstantiated arguments it would be sufficient to show that Arda Wiraz Namag was redacted after the advent of Islam.

2. Dating Arda Wiraz Namag

Before making a claim of borrowing, it would be a good idea to see the textual stability and dating of the sources. Ibn Warraq accepted Tisdall's dating without even undertaking investigation into the nature of the textual source. It is well-known that the Zoroastrian sources like the Rabbanic literature underwent many redactions and that they were finally redacted a few hundred years after the advent of Islam.

There are two historical persons mentioned in Arda Wiraz Namag: Âdurbâd î Mâraspandan,[10] the famous Dastur and minister of Shapur II (309-379 CE) and Weh-sâpûr,[11] the famous Môbad in the time of Khosrow I (531-579 CE).[12] It is interesting to note that Arda Wiraz Namag says Wiraz was also called Weh-sâpûr:

.... from three one named Wirâz, it is so that some called him Weh-sâpûr.[13]

Did the author(s) of Arda Wiraz Namag know these two historical personalities? Vahman says that the author(s) of Arda Wiraz Namag:

.... had no historical knowledge about the time when they lived.[14]

This would mean that the story may have originated any time after 579 CE. The dating of Arda Wiraz Namag had been a case of controversy because of the mention of these two historical persons. Walter Belardi had dated this book before the third century establishment of the Sasanian state.[15] His argument is that the names Âdurbâd î Mâraspandan and Weh-sâpûr are perhaps the work of a later interpolator.[16] He also goes to an extreme by claiming that the whole of Chapter I, 1-20, is a later day literary forgery.[17] However, such position has not gained currency. Due to uncertainity and lack of evidence Vahman takes a middle path unlike Belardi. He opines that may be "their names were interpolated to credit the authenticity of the book. Or perhaps these priests were remembered with respect and honour at the time when the book was edited...". It appears that this is the most accepted view among the scholars as will be seen below. David Flattery and Martin Schwartz have relied (and so the missionaries!) on Belardi's dating even though they concede that the extant version of the book is late and can be dated to ninth century CE.[18] Hence the obvious conclusion here is that we do not know the terminus a quo of Arda Wiraz Namag.

If it is the "first redaction" that is important than the final redaction (in the redaction criticism it is the other way around!), Vargo did not show what the "first redaction" actually contained. Obviously, he can't show what he has not got! Gignoux says the following about the problems facing literary critics concerning the Zoroastrain writings including Arda Wiraz Namag.

It is known that the whole of the Pahalvi literature was written tardily, roughly speaking after the Muslim conquest, and that it however transmitted extremely old traditions to us, from Sasanide and even pre-Sasanide times.... One also needs remark that the handwritten tradition in Iran was never regarded as a rigid data, untouchable and final from where successive rehandlings which the texts underwent, and that poses the literary critic problems that need to be solved, in what concern us in particular is that of the dating of the various draftings..... A particularly significant example of the transmission of a text for the Pahalvi literature, is the book of Arday Viraz.... Like also indicated by Ms. Boyce, in the work already quoted, this book underwent many rehandlings, and in the final drafting, the introduction was written subsequently to the Muslim conquest. But the adaptation of the text for purposes of a religious propaganda at the time, when Mazdaism had to be upheld against the attacks of Islam, does not seem to have been the last. Certain linguistic facts, with savior the presence of well characterized "persianisms", attest that the text still seems to have undergone rehandlings in the 10th or 11th centuries and that the final drafting of the text such as it was preserved to us - insofar as, as one saw, one can speak about final drafting - could be extremely late.[19]

Similarly Encyclopaedia Iranica says:

The Arda Wiraz-namag, like many of the Zoroastrian works, underwent successive redactions. It assumed its definitive form in the 9th-10th centuries AD, as may be seen in the texts frequent Persianisms, usages known to be characteristic of early Persian literature.[20]

In other words, Arda Wiraz Namag underwent many redactions before it came into its final form after the advent of Islam in 9th-10th centuries CE. Mary Boyce argued along similar lines by saying:

In its surviving form it is a prose work, written in simple, direct style; and an introductory chapter indicates a date after the Arab conquest. This late redaction was made in Pars, and is probably one of the 9th/10th century literary products of the province.[21]

Fereydun Vahman, the translater of Arda Wiraz Namag, also asserts:

The introductory chapter indicates a date after the Arab conquest and was apparently written in Pars. It is probably one of the 9th or 10th century literary products of the province. A linguistic analysis supports this view.[22]

Gignoux did a literary study of Arda Wiraz Namag and reached a conclusion that Arda Wiraz Namag had reached its final form in 10th or 11th century CE.[23] Nevertheless, it appears that the general consensus among the scholars is that Arda Wiraz Namag came into its final form between 9th-11th centuries CE. Hence the terminus ad quem of Arda Wiraz Namag is between 9th-11th centuries CE.

It is not surprising to see that scholars dating this work say:

.... when it was set down is unknown.[24]

Vahman believes that this story may have originated when the Persian Empire declined or after its downfall as suggested by the introductory chapter.[25] This is the period of emergence of Islam and it was rise of Islam that brought an end of the Persian Empire. So, if Vargo is interested in the first redaction of Arda Wiraz Namag he has to live with the hard fact that it is not known and is more likely during the rise of Islam.

3. Arda Wiraz Namag & Kirdir's Inscriptions at Pars

The missionary Andrew Vargo ends his article, with a master-stroke in deception, as we will soon see, using the quote from the book of Flattery and Schwartz[26] to "prove" that the story Arda Wiraz Namag is much older than the 9th-10th redaction and that it "existed long before the time of Muhammad". The missionary says:

... Essentially consistent with these accounts is a passage found in two stone inscriptions written in Fars about 300 A.D. by Kirdir, the founder of the Sasanian Zoroastrian ecclesiastical establishment ... Kirdir's inscription asserts in this passage, as a basis of his claim to religious authority, that his spirit double visited the other world and was shown heaven and hell. The account thus parallels the Arda Wiraz Namag in reaffirming the reliance placed on a vision of menog existence as the means to religious truth.

This, according to the missionary, "proves" that the story Arda Wiraz Namag is much older than the 9th-10th century redaction date cited by the scholars. Now if we look at the full paragraph in context which the missionary has conveniently eliminated, it reads:

To summarize, the three Pahlavi accounts are consistent in showing that sauma brought about a condition outwardly resembling sleep (i.e., stard) in which targeted visions of what is believed to be a spirit existence were seen. Essentially consistent with these accounts is a passage found in two stone inscriptions written in Fars about 300 A.D. by Kirdir, the founder of the Sasanian Zoroastrian ecclesiastical establishment. In the analysis of Back (1978), Brunner (1974), Gignoux (1979; 1981; 1984), and Skjaervo (1985), Kirdir's inscription asserts in this passage, as a basis of his claim of religious authority, that his spirit double visited the other world and was shown heaven and hell. The account thus parallels the Arda Wiraz Namag in reaffirming the reliance placed on a vision of menog existence as the means to religious truth.[27]

In other words, the three Pahlavi accounts, viz., Arda Wiraz Namag, Denkird and Zand î Wahman Yasht that Flattery and Schwartz mention, show that the drug sauma brought the condition of outwardly resembling sleep that gives rise to the visions. The account of taking sauma for religious visions is also consistent with the account found in two stone inscriptions of Kirdir found in Fars (or Pars). Vargo conveniently eliminated the first sentence of the paragraph to claim that the story Arda Wiraz Namag is "proven" to be much older than the 9th-10th century redaction and that it "existed long before the time of Muhammad". The passage, on the other hand, clearly deals with the intoxication and the resulting visions in the three Pahlavi accounts and its parallels with Kirdir inscriptions (there are some problems with such a claim as we would soon see!). It nowhere deals with showing Arda Wiraz Namag existed long before the advent of Islam. Furthermore, the name of the book is Haoma And Harmaline: The Botanical Identity Of The Indo-Iranian Sacred Hallucinogen "Soma" And Its Legacy In Religion, Language, And Middle Eastern Folklore. It deals with the use of sauma (or haoma or mang) and Harmel intoxication in Middle Eastern folklore. As mentioned earlier, Flattery and Schwartz concede that the extant version of the book is late and can be dated to ninth century CE.

Now that the missionary's unsubstantiated claim is completely refuted, let us now turn our attention to the parallels between Arda Wiraz Namag, Kirdir's inscriptions and the Islamic accounts of Prophet'snight journey to see if the missionary is really trying to tell the truth or just cooking up stories.

What are the parallels between Arda Wiraz Namag and inscriptions at Pars? How do they compare with Islamic accounts of Prophet'sal-mi`raj? There are four inscriptions from third century CE attributed to Kirdir at Pars. They are:

  1. Kirdir's rock inscription at Naqs-i-Rustam (KNRm).[28]

  2. Kirdir's inscription on the Ka`aba-ye Zardost (KKZ).[29]

  3. Kirdir's rock inscription at Sar Mashad (KSM).[30]

  4. Kirdir's rock inscription at Naqs-i-Rajab (KNRb).

Out of these, only the inscriptions KSM and KNRm preserves the account by the high priest Kirdir going to a journey beyond death and the fate of the souls of the departed. Apart from a few minor details these two inscriptions are identical and but fragmentary.

The journey of Kirdir and Arda Wiraz Namag beyond death can be broadly classfied as shown below.[31] We will also compare and contrast the Islamic account of Prophet's al-mi`raj.

  1. Background and introduction to the visions:

    Kirdir's inscriptions: Kirdir's inscriptions begin by recapitulation of Kirdir's exalted position in the realm and explanation of the function of the vsions he asked the gods for. The function is twofold: for Kirdir to improve and become more confident in religious matters, and the same for those who read the record of the vision.[32]

    Arda Wiraz Namag: Arda Wiraz Namag begins in a setting when Mazdaean religion was in the state of confusion and people were in doubt. This introductory chapter was written after the advent of Islam. The confusion resulted in the religious leaders to assemble to seek a solution and get the news from spiritual realm. The priests called all the people in the court and separated from them seven men who were more certain of God and religion, and whose thoughts, words and deeds were orderly and religious. Wiraz, also known as Weh-sâpûr, was selected, through casting of the lots, to go to spiritual realm.[33]

    Al-Mi`raj: The Prophet's al-mi`raj, according to majority of jurists, between 16-12 months prior to migration to Madinah. During this time in Makka, the Prophet's life is noted for alternate fortune: gradual success and continuous prosecution.[34] The generally accepted view is that the Isra' and Mi`raj occured on the same night, and took place when the Prophet was awake, not in a dream. The Prophet travelled physically, not metaphorically.[35] He was carried physically from al-Masjid al-Harâm in Makkah to al-Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem on a horse called al-Buraq in the company of archangel Gabriel. In Jerusalem, the Prophet alighted, tethered the horse to a ring and led the Prophets to prayer. After that Gabriel took him to heavens on the same horse.

    Discussion: There is no common thread in the above three narratives except that the vision of Kirdir and Wiraz share a common theme of attaining confidence in the religion.

  2. Preparation for the vision:

    Kirdir's inscriptions: This part of the text contains a quotation of Kirdir's prayer to the gods where he asks the gods to show him personally, in life, the truth of the promised journey of the soul after death acording to scriptures, so that he, Kirdir, may act accordingly. Kirdir goes on to describe the manner in which he prevailed upon the gods to grant him his prayer. His religious works as well as his extra-ordinary piety served as a means for obtaining the vision. The next issue is about how Kirdir obtained his vision. On this issue the scholars are in dispute. According to Gignoux, Kirdir may have used a narcotic to go into a trace; though there is no mention of such a procedure in the inscription. Skærvf assumed tentaively that Kirdir's vision was by the means of a potent manthra during a ritual. This takes us another problem. In what manner Kirdir - whether in dreaming or person - received the revelation. According to Gignoux, it was a vision revealed to Kirdir. His main argument was that the vision was told in the first person. Skærvf has correctly pointed out that the first person singular is restricted to the part containing the preparations for the revelation, whereas the vision itself is told in the first person plural, i.e., someone other than Kirdir himself. Gignoux, however, correctly suggests that the story-tellers must be the mysterious lysyks who are "sent down". More probably, however, lysyks are the persons who are acting as mediums to receive the vision in the presence of Kirdir after he "set them down" during the recitation of manthra.[36]

    Arda Wiraz Namag: In the story of Arda Wiraz Namag, Wiraz asks the permission from Mazdeans to recite the rites of the departed and take food and make his will before they give him the wine and narcotic called henbane (= Haoma). The high priests agree. At the fire temple those religious leaders chose a spot where Wiraz washed his head and body and put on a new garment, perfumed himself and spread new clean bedding on a counch. He sat on the clean couch and bedding, consecrated the drôn (a round loaf of bread made of unleavened dough), remembered the rites of the departed and partook the food. Then the religious leaders filled three golden cups with wine and henbane and gave it to Wiraz. He drank the wine and henbane, and while still conscious left bâj (the recitation of formulae from the Avesta in connection with religious or secular act) and slept in the bed. For seven days and nights the religious formulas from various religious texts were recited by Mazdeans and others.[37]

    Al-Mi`raj: The significant event that occurred before the Prophet's "Night Journey" was that his breast was cleft by Angel Gabriel, his heart extracted and washed with the water of Zamzam - a sacred spring in Makkah. In the same context, there was brought to him two gold vessels. There was milk in one, while the other was full of wine. The Prophet was asked to choose either of them, so he selected the vessel containing the milk and drank it. The angel said: "You have been guided on al-Fitrah. Had you selected wine, your nation would have been misled."[38] As mentioned earlier, the Prophet's was taken physically to the heavens; he did not go into a trance and neither did he consume any narcotic.

    Discussion: It is not clear how Kirdir obtained his vision, whether it was a narcotic or a potent manthra. What is clear, however, is that lysyks are the ones who are acting as mediums to receive the vision in the presence of Kirdir. Wiraz, on the other hand, went into trance by drinking wine and narcotic henbane. He slept for seven days and seven night during which he had the visions. The Islamic narrative says that the Prophet denied the wine and took milk. The Prophet was physically taken to heavens and he was not in a trance at any time. The narratives in Kirdir's inscription and Arda Wiraz Namag when compared with al-Mi`raj have nothing in common.

  3. The vision:

    Kirdir's inscriptions: In Kirdir's inscriptions, the journey in the world of dead is told by lysyks. The story is introduced by the words 'they spoke thus', 'they said the following' and many main sections of the story and stages of the journey are introduced by 'and they said'. The journey presumably starts at the entrance to the other world where we find the lysyks, who tell that they see a shahriyâr ('commander, king prince') on a noble horse, with a banner in the hand, a man seated on a golden throne(?) as being 'Kirdir's likeness' and a very noble woman coming from the East on a very bright road. The noble woman comes forward and greets the man, who is like 'Kirdir's likeness', by placing 'head to head'. They both take each other by hand and walk towards the East on the bright road. On this road a shahriyâr with a scales in front of appear. The man, who is like 'Kirdir's likeness' and the woman walk past shahriyâr towards the East. They again encounter another shahriyâr on a throne who was more nobler than those whom they saw earlier. This shahriyâr had a cydyn in his hand. As for the cydyn itself, there is a puzzling fact that this appears to be held in the hand first (KNRm 63) and then in the immediate verse it appears like a bottomless well, which is Hell (KNRm 63-64). This bottomless well is full of snakes, lizards and other reptiles. The lysyks were sent down to examine the shape and build of Hell. They were distressed by shape, build and view of Hell and they did not want to go any further. However, somebody speaks of them, the identity of whom is unclear, reminding them that they only have to report on what they see. To be able to do that they have to cross the bridge over the pit of Hell. The bridge across the pit of Hell has a sharp edge. The woman and the man, who is like 'Kirdir's likeness', go towards the bridge. As they advence and go towards the bridge another shahriyâr appears; this being more nobler than the three who came earlier. Three of them cross the bridge (i.e., the Chinwad bridge). It is not clear why shahriyâr has to take them across personally. Continuing their journey, they see a palace and go inside it exclaiming that they have seen nothing nobler and brighter than this. Here the text in both KNRm and KSM has lots of lacunae to construct the event with certainity. It seems that there is more than one palace, golden throne and shahriyâr in this part of the journey. At the end of the journey, the man, who is like 'Kirdir's likeness', takes bread and wine. After a long lacuna, a host comes forward and the 'likeness of Kirdir' distributes and gives them something. After another lacuna, someone is pointing a finger at the 'likeness of Kirdir' and smiling.[39] This is a brief summary of the vision in Kirdir's inscription.

    Arda Wiraz Namag: After Wiraz consumed wine and henbane, he went to sleep. The soul of Wiraz went from his body to the 'lawful summit' on the Chinwad bridge and one the seventh day returned and entered his body. Wiraz rose up as if rising from a pleasant sleep and was welcomed by the religious leaders and Mazdeans. The bowed before him and asked him to narrate what he had seen in his vision. Wiraz started the narration by mentioning that on the first night pious Sros and the god Adur came to meet him and they paid homage to him. They both took Wiraz by hand and he came to the Chinwad bridge. This bridge was very protecting of the righteous. Here Wiraz saw the souls of the deceased. When the soul of the pious went around the scented plants, there he met his "own religion" and his "own deeds" (also called as dên) in the form of a very pleasing girl . Then the width of Chinwad bridge became nine lances long. Wiraz passed over it with the assistance of Sros, the pious, and the god Adur with ease, well protected by god Mihr, the just Rashn, the good Way, the powerful god Wahram and the god Ashtad. The righteous souls and other heavenly residents bowed before Wiraz and then Wiraz saw the just Rashn who had in his hand a golden balance. The just Rashn was weighing the deeds of righteous and sinful. Then the pious Sros and the god Adur took hold of Wiraz's hand and showed him Paradise and Hell. They came to a place where they saw souls of some people standing together. Sros, the pious, and the god Adur said that it is a place called Hammistagân and these souls stand here until the Final Body. These are the people who good and bad deeds were equal. After this Wiraz is taken to the Heaven and then the Hell.[40] Since it is a long narrative, we will not deal with it here. Interested readers are requested to consult the ref. 37 for details. However, we will deal with some of issues in the discussion.

    Al-Mi`raj: When Gabriel and the Prophet reached the first heaven Gabriel asked the guradian angel to open the door of heaven. It was opened and he saw Adam. The Prophet saluted him and Adam welcomed him and expressed his faith in Muhammad's Prophethood. The Prophet saw the souls of martyrs on his right and those of the wretched on his left. Gabriel then ascended with the Prophet to the second heaven, asked for opening of the gate and then he saw and saluted Yahya, the son of Zakariyya and Jesus, son of Mary. They returned their salutation, welcomed the Prophet and expressed their faith in his Prophethood. Then Gabriel and the Prophet reached the third heaven where they saw Yusuf and saluted him. The latter welcomed the Prophet and expressed faith in his Prophethood. The Prophet, in the company of Gabriel, then reached the fourth heaven where he met Idris and saluted him. Prophet Idris returned the salutation and expressed faith in his Prophethood. Then the Prophet was carried to the fifth heaven where he met Harun and saluted him. Prophet Harun returned the salutation and expressed faith in his Prophethood. In the sixth heaven, the Prophet met Moses and saluted him. The latter returned the salutation and expressed faith in his Prophethood. Moses was weeping because he witnessed a man sent after him as a Messenger (Muhammad) who was able to lead more of his people to the Paradise than he himself did. Then the Prophet reached the seventh heaven where he met Ibrahim and saluted him. The latter returned the salutation and expressed faith in his Prophethood. The Prophet was then carried to Sidrat al-Muntaha (The remotest Lote Tree) and was shown al-Bayt al-Ma`mur (the Most Frequented House) which was like the Ka`bah encompassed daily by seventy thousand angels. The Prophet was then presented to the Divine Presence and experienced the thrill of witnessing the Divine Glory and Manifestation. The five daily prayers were made obligatory.[41] The Prophet was shown the Heaven and the Hell. We will deal with the relevent bits in the discussion.

    Discussion: The parallels between Kirdir's inscription and that of Arda Wiraz Namag start to appear once the narrative has moved into the visions. The nature of how Kirdir and Wiraz are receiving their visions is different. However, what they see have some similarities between them. For example, the appearance of the noble woman (representing person's "religion" and "deeds"; called as dên), the person with the scales to weigh the deeds, the Chinwad bridge and then the view of the Hell and the Heaven. The sequence of the events in both the narratives is slightly different as shown in the figure below.[42]

    It is obvious that the Islamic narrative of al-Mi`raj has no parallels to this part of the narrative. Scholars in the past have compared the Chinwad bridge with the bridge over Hell in the hadith literature. However, they have overlooked certain important points. The Gathas talk about Chinwad bridge symbolically as a transitory stage between the darkness of the world and the new life which is happiness for the righteous. On the other hand, the later Zoroastrian literature considers the bridge to be real. Hence there exists a dichotomy in the Zoroastrian literature concerning Chinwad bridge. Quoting Barr, Vahman says:

    Since Zoroaster undoubtedly expected to witness the renewal of the existence in this material life it is possible to assume that for him the expression the crossing of the separator only describes the critical, decisive stage of passing to the new ideal shepherd life. According to his way of thinking the new life implied that the death of the body no longer existed for the believers, because death belonged to the world of Angra Mainyu. The expression itself: cinvatô.peretô - was probably not made by Zoroaster. It was taken from the popular conception of passing from this world to the other.

    In the later Zoroastrian literature, the bridge is real. It is situated in Êrânvêj with two extremeties. One of which at Cagâd î daîdîd, the lawful summit, and the other at Alborz. When a righteous man crosses the bridge it becomes nine lances wide. In the case of a sinner it becomes as sharp as a blade. The righteous person is helped by Astâd and Mihr to reach Paradise, whereas the wicked one falls into the darkness of hell, after having suffered terrible anguish.[43]

    How does al-Sirât compares with Chinwad bridge? The common theme between the purpose of two bridges is that the righteous can only cross it and the sinners and wicked people would fall in the Hell. There are also differences between the two. When the righteous crosses Chinwad bridge, it becomes nine lances wide and in the case of a sinner it becomes sharp as a blade. The shape of al-Sirât, on the other hand, does not change when the righteous and the wicked cross it.

    Let us now turn our attention to the common theme between the punishments as observed by Wiraz and the Prophet. Among all the punishments of the Hell as mentioned in Arda Wiraz Namag and in the narration of Prophet's al-Mi`raj (there are no punishments mentioned in Kirdir's inscriptions!), there is only one that is common in both narratives, i.e., the punishment of the women who committed adultery. These women were seen hung by their breasts.[44] Arda Wiraz Namag also mentions other punishments for the adulterous women; the punishments being driving of wooden pegs into the eyes of women while they were hanging downwards by one leg[45] and cutting of their chest and breast with an iron comb.[46]

4. Conclusion

Taking the clue from Goldziher, subsequent writers like Tisdall, Ibn Warraq and Steven Masood have claimed that the event of ascension of the Prophet to the heavens and his witnessing of denizens of the heaven and the hell was borrowed from the Iranian "Divine Commedia" Arda Wiraz Namag. These writers also made a fantastic claim that this work dates "400 years" before hijra or "several hundred years before Muslim era" is unsupported by any evidence. Contrary to their claim, the scholars of Persian studies have shown that Arda Wiraz Namag was redacted finally in 9th-10th centuries CE, at least a century after the advent of Islam. As for when this work was penned down is unknown.

The missionary Vargo went a step ahead to claim that Arda Wiraz Namag existed "long before" the time of advent of Islam. His evidence was a passage from the book by Flattery and Schwartz called Haoma And Harmaline: The Botanical Identity Of The Indo-Iranian Sacred Hallucinogen "Soma" And Its Legacy In Religion, Language, And Middle Eastern Folklore. It was shown that the missionary misquoted the reference. The passage nowhere says that the story Arda Wiraz Namag is older than the 9th-10th century redaction and that it "existed long before the time of Muhammad". Instead, the reference is to the three Pahlavi accounts, viz., Arda Wiraz Namag, Denkird and Zand î Wahman Yasht to show that the drug sauma brought the condition of outwardly resembling sleep that gives rise to the visions. The alleged parallels to these can be found in Kirdir's inscriptions. It is, however, unclear whether the account of taking sauma for religious visions as found in the Pahlavi texts are also consistent with the account found in two stone inscriptions of Kirdir. There is a scholarly disagreement about this issue.

The exists numerous parallels between the visions of Kirdir and Wiraz but the former contains no descriptions of denizens of Hell. The visions of Kirdir and Wiraz were compared and contrasted with Prophet's al-Mi`raj. It was shown that the Zoroastrian and Islamic accounts are vastly different in scope with hardly any details common between them. The only detail common in all the stories is the bridge over the Hell. Again the issues associated with this bridge in the Zoroastrian and Islamic literature are different. Coupled with this problem is the late redaction of Arda Wiraz Namag after the advent of Islam and even later availability of the manuscripts. This makes it worse for the case of Tisdall and his likes to show the proof of "borrowing". Due to lack of early manuscripts and the lack of rigidty in the written tradition, there is no way of knowing the extent of redaction that Arda Wiraz Namag underwent before it came into its final form in 9th-10th centuries. This, according to Gignoux, is a serious problem facing the textual critics. As for the borrowing theory, it stood on a weak foundation only to fall flat on its face.

And Allah knows best!

Appendix: The Manuscripts of Arda Wiraz Namag

Following are the extant manuscripts of Arda Wiraz Namag. There is no surviving manuscript of Arda Wiraz Namag that dates before 14th century CE.[47] We are mentioning only the three important manuscripts that were used to make various critical editions.

MS. K20: It is an undated manuscript and has the complete text. However, it has three colophons which have been dated in an irregular order of 1321, 1351 and 1331 CE. It is in the Royal Library, Copenhagen. It is believed that this manuscript dates from latter half of the 14th century CE.

MS. H6: This manuscript is kept in Die Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich. The date of this copy is 1397 CE. The scribe is Pesotan son of Râm who used another copy dated to 1249 CE to make his edition.

MS. K26: It is an undated Copenhagen manuscript. This manuscript supplies some phrases missing in both K20 and H6 and consequently it has not been copied from either of them. It is believed that this manuscript is from ~1371 CE or nearly contemporary with H6.

Further Reading

Prophet Muhammad's Night Journey To Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa - The Farthest Mosque


References & Notes

[1] I. Goldziher, "Islamisme et Parsisme", Revue De L'Histoire Des Religions, 1901, Volume XLIII, pp. 1-29.

[2] G. K. Nariman (ed.), Persia & Parsis, 1925, Part I, Iran League: Bombay. For translation see pp. 39-68 and a note on pp. 69-74.

[3] L. H. Gray, "Zoroastrian Elements In Muhammadan Eschatology", Le Muséon, 1902, Volume III, pp. 153-184. A brief statement about the Zoroastrian influences is also made in A. V. Williams Jackson's, Zoroastrian Studies: The Iranian Religion And Various Monographs, 1928, Colombia University Press: New York, p. 211.

[4] Rev. W. St. Clair Tisdall, The Original Sources Of The Qur'an, 1905, Society For The Promotion Of Christian Knowledge: London, p. 226. Full discussion on pp. 218-235.

[5] Ibn Warraq, Why I Am Not A Muslim, 1995, Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY, p. 46. Full discussion in pp. 45-47.

[6] S. Masood, The Bible And The Qur'an: A Question Of Integrity, 2001, OM Publication: Carlisle, UK, p. 144.

[7] `Abdallah `Abd al-Fadi, Is The Qur'an Infallible?, 1995, Light of Life: Villach (Austria), pp. 318-319. Although he does not cite any sources, it is most likely that he has used Tisdall's reference.

[8] N. L. Geisler & A. Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent In The Light Of The Cross, 1993, Baker Books: Grand Rapids (MI), p. 309; Also see "Qur'an, Alleged Divine Origin Of", in N. L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 2002, Baker Books: Grand Rapids (MI), p. 628.

[9] Dr. A. A. Shorrosh, Islam Revealed: A Christian Arab's View Of Islam, 1988, Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, p. 159.

Another person who belongs to a class of his own in Robert Morey. He claims that the "bridge of Sirat" among others things mentioned in the Qur'an were derived from Zoroastrian and Hindu sources. From his book, it is unclear which was the source of the "bridge of Sirat". See R. Morey, The Islamic Invasion: Confronting The World's Fastest Growing Religion, 1992, Harvest House Publishers: Eugene (OR), p. 151.

[10] F. Vahman, Arda Wiraz Namag: The Iranian 'Divina Commendia', 1986, The Curzon Press: London, p. 191

[11] ibid., p. 192.

[12] ibid., p. 11.

[13] ibid., p. 192.

[14] ibid., p. 11.

[15] W. Belardi, The Pahlavi Book Of Righteous Viraz, 1979 [Biblioteca di ricerche linguistiche e filologiche 10], University Department of Linguistics: Rome, pp. 121-122.

[16] As for the mention of Âdurbâd î Mâraspandan, Belardi says that the sentence No. 16 containing this name is interpolated because "the continuity of the sense is broken between No. 15 and No. 17-18" [ibid., p. 32]. Further, it is also added that the paleographic evidence shows the presence of three circles arranged in the form of a triangle. According to Belardi this "punctuation reflects an attempt made by a copyist to justify the context which because odd by inserting the marginal note (i.e., No. 16)" and hence the "copyist realized that the (interpolator) exemplar that he was reading and copying out was lacking in logical order; thus he left a space so as to m ake evident the lacuna he suspected" [p. 33]. As for the mention of Weh-sâpûr, Belardi opines that "probably this sentence is interpolated" [p. 43].

[17] ibid., p. 123. For Vahman's views see, F. Vahman, Arda Wiraz Namag: The Iranian 'Divina Commendia', op cit., p. 11.

[18] D. S. Flattery and M. Schwartz, Haoma And Harmaline: The Botanical Identity Of The Indo-Iranian Sacred Hallucinogen "Soma" And Its Legacy In Religion, Language, And Middle Eastern Folklore, 1989 [Near Eastern Studies 21], University of California Press: Berkeley and Los Angles, p. 16.

[19] P. Gignoux, "Notes Sur La Redaction De L'Arday Viraz Namag: L'Emploi De Hamê Et De Bê", Zeitschrift Der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 1969, Supplementa I, Teil 3, pp. 998-999. We reproduce the article in French below.

On sait que l'ensemble de la littérature pehlevie a été rédigé tardivement, grosso modo après la conquête musulmane, et qu'elle nous a transmis cependant des traditions fort anciennes, de l'époque sassanide et même pré-sassanide. .... Il faut remarque aussi que la tradition manuscrite en Iran n'a jamais été considérée comme une donnée rigide, intouchable et définitive d'où les remaniements successifs qu'ont subis les textes, et cela pose au critique littéraire des problèmes diffciles à résoudre, en ce qui concern en particulier celui de la datation des diverses rédactions. .... Un exemple particulièrement significatif de la transmission d'un texte pour la littérature pehlevie, est le livre d'Arday Viraz.... Comme l'a indiqué aussi M. Boyce, dans l'ouvrage déjà cité, ce livre a subi de nombreux remaniements, et dans la rédaction finale, l'introduction a été rédigée postérieurement à la conquête musulmane. Mais l'adaptation du texte aux fins d'une propagande religieuse à une époque déterminée, lorsque le mazdéisme dut se défendre contre les attaques de l'Islam, ne semble pas avoir été la dernière. Certains faits linguistiques, à savior la présence de "persianismes" bien caractérisés, attestent que le texte semble avoir subi des remaniements encore au 10è ou 11è siècles et que la rédaction définitive du texte tel qu'il nous a été conservé - dans la mesure où, comme on l'a vu, on peut parler de rédaction finale - a pu être fort tardive.

[20] "Arda Wiraz", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1987, Volume II, Routledge & Kegan Paul: London & New York, p. 357.

[21] M. Boyce, "Middle Persian Literature", Handbuch Der Orientalistik, 1968, Band VIII, Iranistik: Zweitter Abschnitt, E. J. Brill: Leiden/Köln, p. 48. In the footnote 3. she says that it has been "maintained" that Arda Wiraz Namag influenced the Islamic tradition of Mi`raj even though she asserts that final redaction of Arda Wiraz Namag is late and long after the advent of Islam!; Also see M. Boyce (ed.), Textual Sources For The Study Of Zoroastrianism, 1984, Manchester University Press: Manchester, p. 84.

[22] F. Vahman, Arda Wiraz Namag: The Iranian 'Divina Commendia', op cit., p. 11.

[23] P. Gignoux, "Notes Sur La Redaction De L'Arday Viraz Namag: L'Emploi De Hamê Et De Bê", Zeitschrift Der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Op. Cit., p. 1004. His conclusions in French are reproduced below.

Au demeurant, ce qui a été montré de l'usage de la particule hamê et du préverbe bê, nous semble suffisant pour pouvoir affirmer que l'ouvrage pehlevi sur l'enfer et le paradis a subi un remaniement vers le 10è ou 11è siècle, si ce n'est pas là la date de sa rédaction définitive, mais cela, pour être démontré, devrait l'être à l'aide d'autres critères.

[24] M. Boyce, "Middle Persian Literature", Handbuch Der Orientalistik, op cit., p. 48.

[25] F. Vahman, Arda Wiraz Namag: The Iranian 'Divina Commendia', op cit., p. 11.

[26] D. S. Flattery and M. Schwartz, Haoma And Harmaline: The Botanical Identity Of The Indo-Iranian Sacred Hallucinogen "Soma" And Its Legacy In Religion, Language, And Middle Eastern Folklore, op cit., p. 23.

[27] ibid.

[28] P. Gignoux, "L'inscription de Kirdîr à Naqs-i Rustam", Studia Iranica, 1972, Volume 1, pp. 177-205; C. J. Brunner, "The Middle Persian Inscription Of The Priest Kirder At Naqs-i Rustam", in D. K. Kouymjian (ed.) Near Eastern Numismatics, Iconography, Epigraphy And History: Studies In Honor Of George C. Miles, 1974, American University of Beirut: Beirut (Lebanon), pp. 97-113.

[29] M. L. Chaumont, "L'inscription de Kartir à la Ka`bah de Zoroastre", Journal Asiatique, 1960, Volume 248, pp. 339-380.

[30] P. Gignoux, "L'inscription de Kartir à Sar Mashad", Journal Asiatique, 1968, Volume 256, pp. 387-418.

[31] P. O. Skærvf, "'Kirdir's Vision': Translation And Analysis", Archaeologische Mitteilungen Aus Iran, 1983, Volume 16, pp. 289-304.

[32] op cit., p. 289.

[33] F. Vahman, Arda Wiraz Namag: The Iranian 'Divina Commendia', op cit., pp. 191-192.

[34] Safi-ur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtûm (The Sealed Nectar), 1995, Maktaba Dar-us-Salam: Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), p. 147.

[35] `Abd-Allah Hajjaj (trans. Huda Khattab), The Isra' And Mi`raj: The Prophet's Night-Journey And Ascent Into Heaven, 1989, Dar al-Taqwa Ltd: London (United Kingdom), p. 53. This book is deals with the issue of Isra' and Mi`raj concisely, dealing with different views and then stating the strongest and agreed upon opinion by the scholars.

[36] P. O. Skærvf, "'Kirdir's Vision': Translation And Analysis", Archaeologische Mitteilungen Aus Iran, Op. Cit., pp. 289-294.

[37] F. Vahman, Arda Wiraz Namag: The Iranian 'Divina Commendia', op cit., p. 193.

[38] Safi-ur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtûm (The Sealed Nectar), op cit., p. 149; `Abd-Allah Hajjaj (trans. Huda Khattab), The Isra' And Mi`raj: The Prophet's Night-Journey And Ascent Into Heaven, op cit., pp. 41-43 for variants of this hadith.

[39] P. O. Skærvf, "'Kirdir's Vision': Translation And Analysis", Archaeologische Mitteilungen Aus Iran, op cit., pp. 280-289 and pp. 294-304.

[40] F. Vahman, Arda Wiraz Namag: The Iranian 'Divina Commendia', op cit., pp. 193-196. The description of the Heaven and the Hell can be seen at pp. 196-219.

[41] Safi-ur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtûm (The Sealed Nectar), op cit., pp. 147-148; `Abd-Allah Hajjaj (trans. Huda Khattab), The Isra' And Mi`raj: The Prophet's Night-Journey And Ascent Into Heaven, op cit., pp. 5-14.

[42] P. O. Skærvf, "'Kirdir's Vision': Translation And Analysis", Archaeologische Mitteilungen Aus Iran, op cit., p. 301.

[43] F. Vahman, Arda Wiraz Namag: The Iranian 'Divina Commendia', op cit., p. 239.

[44] ibid., p. 203.

[45] ibid., p. 212.

[46] ibid., p. 210.

[47] ibid., p. 10.

The Refutation Of Sources Of The Qur'an