Clerical and state hierarchy are separated in Zoroastrianism. The principle of division of church and state dates to the time of Ashoo Zarathustra and King Vishtasp. Only male descendants of Ashoo Zarathustra’s first students can become priests. They form their own social class. The clerical hierarchy from the lowest group to the highest is divided in the following levels:
Moobedyar (a priest’s assistant)
A Moobedyar is a priest’s assistant who is chosen from the more religious and educated laymen. This title was created several years before the Islamic revolution of Iran by the Zoroastrian Priests Association of Iran (Anjoman Moghan Iran) due to lack of priests in some areas. In the absence of a Moobed or a Hirbad, Moobedyars can perform basic rituals and teach other laymen about Zoroastrian religion. Officially, Moobedyars are not member in the Anjoman Moghan, but like all Behdins, they follow the Anjoman’s decisions without questioning them.
Hirbad (a half initiated priest)
A Hirbad is a half initiated priest from a priestly family who usually studies to become a Moobed in future. Hirbads receive religious educations from Dasturs and Moobeds, and after assisting a Moobed for 5 to 10 years, will be initiated as a fully ordained priest, that is a Moobed. Hirbad’s responsibilities are to educate his community, perform initiation and funeral ceremonies for Behdisn. In a Moobed’s absence, a Hirbad can serve the fire of the third rank Atash Dadgah. Hirbads are official members of the Anjoman Moghan but until they become Moobeds, they cannot vote in the process of decision making.
Moobed (the wise priest)
This term comes from the ancient Iranian word «Magush» which is known in other languages as «Magi». A man from a family of Moobeds who is in good health and has not committed an inexpiable sin can become a Moobed. Before initiation, he has to complete an education, work as a Hirbad, go through purification rites, and the initiation ceremony. Prior to initiation, the candidate has to marry a Zoroastrian woman, whose parents are also Zoroastrians. The bride’s parents can also be converts. Nozoodi, the initiation ceremony, is performed by three Dasturs (High Priests) with at least nine or more Behdins in attendance.
All Moobeds have the necessary qualifications for service in a fire temple, and other religious rituals: acceptance of faith, marriage, funeral service, granting a title, purification, commemoration service, etc.
Dastur (High Priest)
Dastur is an experienced and knowledgable Moobed who, by studying the scriptures, gaining experience by performing religious rituals and achieving popularity in his community, has been appointed as High Priest by a Sar-Moobed or the Moobedan Moobed. A Dasturs area of authority is his province including its fire-temples, Dakhmehs, Pirs etc. A Dastur has the religious right to issue ‘Datic’ rules. Such commands could be social and political instructions which are necessary for all Behdins and other priests (from the lower ranks) to follow. Places with more than one fire-temple such as Yazd, Kerman etc, will have more than one Dastur. A Zoroastrian High Priest (Dastur) can give advice both in political and social matters to his community. Zoroastrian communities should listen to their Dasturs without questioning their authorities on the religion. When it comes to legal issues, Dastur’s decisions are higher than those of the secular judge of the community.
Sar-Moobed (Bozorg Dastur, Great Dastur)
This title is given to Dasturs (High Priests) who know the Avesta, Pahlavi and Persian commentaries by heart. A Sar-Moobed is usually elected by the Moobedan Moobed or in his absence, by the Anjoman Moghan. After the Moobedan Moobed, the Sar-Moobeds have the highest authority in the Zoroastrian community. They can appoint or reject other priests, for example Dasturs and Moobeds, in their area of authority. In a Zoroastrian state, they have the religious right to choose or reject the governor. In short, the Sar-Moobeds are the right hand of the Moobedan Moobed. A Sar-Moobed has many religious rights such as deciding to close a fire-temple, moving the sacred fire from one place to another, expelling a person from the Zoroastrian community, giving command to go to war, etc.
Moobedan Moobed (highest Zoroastrian religious authority)
Moobedan Moobed (Moobed of Moobeds) is the highest religious authority. He lives in Iran and is chosen by the AMI from a number of Sar-Moobeds or sometimes Dasturs. Moobedan Moobed can make religious decisions for the world Zoroastrian community on religious, social and political issues. His decisions on religious issues should be approved by an assembly of Dasturs and Moobeds. If Dasturs and Moobeds reject the Moobedan Moobed’s decision, but the Sar-Moobeds agree to it, it will be passed and will become a religious rule for everyone to follow.
Although despite Zoroastrian Priest’s Association of Iran (Anjoman Moghan Iran), there are other priest’s communities in the world such as: NAMC: North American Moobed Council, or the eight Parsi High Priests in India, however, Anjoman Moghan Iran (AMI) is the world religious body in all decision making. At this time, the position of Moobedan Moobed of Iran is still vacant after the death of last Moobedan Moobed, General Dr. Jahangir Aushedari who died in 2004. Currently, because the new Moobedan Moobed has not been yet elected, Anjoman Moghan is led by the five Sar-Moobeds of Iran.
One of the few traditional Iranian Moobeds serving outside of Iran is Moobed Kamran Jamshidi, member of Anjoman Bozorg Bazgasht (the Great Return). This organization is involved in many Zoroastrian activities such as returning Iranians to Zoroastrianism. Anjoman Bozorg Bazgasht also helps non-Iranians to convert to Good Faith. You can read more about this in the section titled «Conversion».