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The Avestā and Law and Justice

Unlike some other Eastern religious teachings, the message of the Avestā was not merely confined to the pursuance of the ultimate salvation of man and it did not in fact draw any divisions between man’s felicity in this life and in the life of the Hereafter. This point has been highlighted particularly in a paragraph in the Gāhān (or Gāthās) or the hymns of Prophet Zartosht (Zoroaster) in which it has been specified that Zoroaster had been divinely appointed to reveal the right path for man in this life and for the attainment of salvation in the Hereafter. According to records that have survived from the Sassanid period, one-thirds of the Avestā available during that period comprised the “Dātik” (derived from the word “dād” meaning “justice”) that consisted of religious and legal issues. From among those parts of the Avestā, only the Vendidāds have survived in their complete form today while from among the other parts of the Dātik only some reports and other traces have survived.

The Vendidād or the “anti-demonic laws” is probably the oldest surviving text that has been written on the Mazdayanian justice, a major part of which comprises information on religious rituals, in general, and rules on purification, in particular. Nevertheless, certain discussions related to crime and punishment have made this book invaluable from the viewpoint of the history of law and justice. From among the other parts of the Datik Avestā that have been referred to in the various pages of the Dinkard, the Nigadom Nask was supposed to have been important from the angle of criminal law. This Nask covered laws concerning a range of crimes from murder to physical assault and indictment while a part of it was dedicated to judicial procedures like litigation, testimony, and legal defense. Some laws contained in this book, in relation to the punishment of minors and the punishment of non-Iranians, are noteworthy. From among the other Nasks, the Husparam Nask, too, is important from the angle of laws on ownership, inheritance, and family right 

* source: Pakatchi , Ahmad "Iran Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.10 ,pp.620

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