Holy War in the Zoroastrian-Aryan Tradition
The Zoroastrian scripture postulates a universal battle at both the spiritual and the corporeal levels between two eternal principles: asha, which is equated to righteousness, truth, good, right, and the Holy; and drug, which is equated to evil, lying, bad, wrong, and the profane. War or ardīg is considered an appropriate means of striving, struggling, and fighting against all forms of evil. The term for Holy War, ardīg, derives from the word arta, which refers to the correct way or religious path.
The reward of heaven, after death, is offered for the souls of believers who have upheld order and combated evil during their lifetime. Moreover, Zoroastrian exegesis holds that at the end of time, Ahura Mazda will descend to earth with the other heavenly spirits, and a final spiritual savior will separate the righteous human souls from the evil ones.
According to the Gathas, Zarathushtra spoke of an ethical and moral dualism between asha (Truth) and drug (Falsehood), associating the former with god or Ahura Mazda and the latter with the devil or Angra Mainyu. Followers of Zarathushtra were required to “differentiate between the just and the unjust” (Yasna 46:15). Zarathushtra following his revelation from Ahura Mazda that “Destruction will come to confusion” (Yasna 30:10), because “the evil mob fears us, for we the strong ones smite those weaker evil ones according to the strictness of your law, O Mazda” (Yasna 34:8). He also urged Ahura Mazda to “place a mighty sword upon the evil ones, to bring appropriate recompense to them, O Mazda” (Yasna 44:14).
The Magi interpreted Zarathushtra’s message to mean that people who fight, morally and tangibly, for order will reach their “promised prize” in the paradisaical “house of song” or heaven as stated in the Gathas. On the other hand, those who spread confusion and harm will, upon death, be condemned by their own actions to be “guests in the spiritual house of deceit.”
By later ages, the Magi began to suggest through textual discourses that humans had entered into a covenant with Ahura Mazda to function specifically as the deity’s troops in the vital struggle against Angra Mainyu’s destructive hordes. According to the cosmogonical myth that the Magi canonized in the Bundahishn: “Ahura Mazda deliberated with the perceptions and immortal souls of humans… saying ‘incarnate you can battle with evil and vanquish it and I consent to resurrect you perfect and immortal at the end.’ The immortal souls of humans agreed to enter the material world to become perfect and eternal in their final bodies” (Bundahishn 3:23-24). Owing to belief in this agreement between god and humans, the life purpose of every Zoroastrian was postulated by the Magi as being a fixed one of combating drug in all its manifestations (religious, social, and political), utilizing all appropriate means, including violence.
Beliefs, praxis, and texts were conjoined in Zoroastrianism by Zarathushtra and the Magi to propose that the reason for human life is a collective Holy War, in addition to each person’s individual struggle. In that Cosmic conflict, the use of physical force is regarded as both necessary and justified as a means of countering the unholy and unjustified violence of Angra Mainyu and his minions.