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Summary of question
Who are the Magi?
question
Who are the Magi?
Concise answer

The term “Magus” which is used to denote the Zoroastrians in Arabic, derives from “Magoosh” or “Magoo” of the ancient Persian language. (The word Magic comes from this term). After entering the Arabic language, it changed to Magus. Zoroastrianism, which is the religion of the Magi, is related to the Torah and Bible. The Bible doesn’t directly mention this term, but in eight of the books of the Torah, the kings of Persia have been mentioned.

Detailed Answer

After the emergence of Zoroastrianism and before the rule of the Medes, non-Aryan inhabitants of Iran followed a religion called “Maghan”. The word “Magh” in the ancient Persian language meant servant.[1]

In Arabic, the “Moghoosh” are called “Magus”, which refers to the followers of Zoroastrianism. Nevertheless, it has been proven that in the beginning, the term “Magus” didn’t refer to Zoroastrians, but referred to followers of the Medes who lived before Zoroaster. In the Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrianism, the term “Magus” refers to those opposing Zoroaster, but since the Medes were known as the “Moghoosh” in the lands of the Arabs and Damascus, the followers of Zoroaster were referred to as “Magus”.[2]

This term has only been mentioned once in the Quran[3], and considering the fact that it has been used in a way that shows it is in contrast with shirk and the mushriks and is next to other divine religions, it can be concluded that it has been a substantial religion with a prophet and holy book. Some of our hadiths also confirm this matter. One day, Ash’ath ibn Qays asked Imam Ali (as): “How come you collect the jizya [tax collected from non-Muslims who are People of the Book by the Islamic government] from the Magi [if the jizya is only to be collected from the People of the Book] while they don’t even have a divine book? The imam answered: “It isn't as you perceive! They had a holy book and Allah (swt) sent them a messenger…”[4]

Without a doubt, today Zoroastrians are referred to as Magus[5], or at least a great deal of the Magi are followers of the Zoroastrian faith. Yet, the past of Zoroaster is pretty vague. Zoroastrians are referred to as Magusi, Gabr and Parsi as well.[6]

According to most, Zoroaster (prophet of the Zoroastrian faith) was born in 660 BC and was chosen prophet in 630 BC at the age of thirty. He is said to have been murdered at the altar by the Turanians in the storming of Balkh (Afghanistan).

Zoroastrianism, which is the religion of the Magi, is related to the Torah and Bible. In the Bible, there is no sign of this religion, but in eight books of the Torah, it has been mentioned. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read: Some of the first to visit the newly born Messiah were people from the East called the “Magi”.[7]

Over the past several years, Zoroastrians have been advocates of a religion that is based on ethnicity and in other words, a religion that doesn’t allow others to convert to it; in order to be Zoroastrian, you have to be born of two Zoroastrian parents. Today, Zoroastrianism is the smallest religion amongst the eleven most important religions of the world.[8] 150,000 of them live in India, and another 150,000 live in Yazd, Kerman and Tehran of Iran.[9]

The book of Zoroastrians

Avesta is the book of Zoroastrians which literally means foundation, basis and scripture. This book has been written in the Avestan language which belongs to ancient Persia and shares the same roots as the Pahlavi and Sanskrit. In addition to the Avesta, Zoroastrians have a tafsir by the name of “Zand-Avesta” and another holy book written in the Pahlavi language.[10]

For information on the beliefs and doctrines of Zoroastrianism, see Question 184 (website: 2504).



[1] Hosain Tofighi, Ashnayi ba Adyane Bozorg,, pg. 56.

[2] Mohammad ibn Mohammad Sheikh Mufid, Tashihul-I’tiqadat, pg. 134.

[3] Hajj:17 “إِنَّ الَّذِینَ آمَنُوا وَ الَّذِینَ هادُوا وَ الصَّابِئِینَ وَ النَّصارى‏ وَ الْمَجُوسَ وَ الَّذِینَ أَشْرَکُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ یَفْصِلُ بَیْنَهُمْ یَوْمَ الْقِیامَةِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلى‏ کُلِّ شَیْ‏ءٍ شَهِیدٌ

[4] Abd Ali ibn Jumah Arusi Huwayzi, Tafsir Nurul-Thaqalain, vol. 3, pg. 457.

[5] Nasir Makarem Shirazi, Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 14, pg. 44.

[6] Ashnayi ba Adyane Bozorg, pg. 57.

[7] Robert Heum, Adyane Zendeye Jahan (translation of Abdul-Rahim Govahi), pg. 268.

[8] Adyane Zendeye Jahan, pg. 269.

[9] Ashnayi ba Adyane Bozorg, pg. 62.

[10] Ashnayi ba Adyane Bozorg, pp. 58-59.

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