Marriage. The preferred system of marriage is next-of-kin or cousin marriage. The cousin-marriage system differs little from that of the Muslims. Zoroastrians insist more on marriage within one's religious group than on marriage with someone of equal status. One way for a Zoroastrian to perform social responsibilities is for a rich individual to marry a poor one. The problem that has emerged is the excess of inbreeding: this has resulted in a high recurrence of physiological defects such as diabetes, heart disease, and mental illness. These developments have led many among the younger generation to oppose cousin marriage. Because of the increase in the number of young individuals moving to Europe and the United States and marriage with non-Zoroastrians, there is a possibility of the extinction of the group. This has led to the acceptance of conversions to Zoroastrianism. According to the Zoroastrian anjoman of Iran, the marriage of a Zoroastrian to a non-Zoroastrian must be performed in compliance with Zoroastrian rituals. The marriage must be registered with the Registrar of Zoroastrian Marriages. The individual interested in marrying a Zoroastrian must make application to the anjoman and must submit various documents. The non-Zoroastrian party must certify that he believes in the Zoroastrian faith and will become part of the Zoroastrian community. The authorized mobed (priest) must certify that the person has learned the essential principles and prayers of the religion. A certificate signed by seven Zoroastrians testifying that the individual is of good character and integrity also is required. By Iranian law, a Zoroastrian girl who marries a Muslim boy must become a Muslim. One is not allowed to marry within one's primary and secondary kin. The prohibited group includes grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. The best choice for marriage is with the children of paternal or maternal siblings and more distant cousins. The various steps that must be taken in order to marry are xastegari (expressing the desire for the girl's hand), namzad (engagement), and nikah (marriage) (Fischer 1973, 199-204). It is only during the twentieth century that divorce has been recognized.
Domestic Unit. The head of the household is the father or husband. The members of the family must respect him and submit to his will. In return, he must satisfy their financial, social, and material needs. The wife is expected to perform her wifely duties, which include the care of the home and children. Many women have become educated and have entered the work force. They are thus contributing also to the financial security of the family. In the traditional family, dominance is determined by age and sex. The older dominates the younger, the male dominates the female. The reputation and honor of the family, which are influenced by the accomplishments of the head of the household as well as its individual members, are strictly protected. Households are either conjugal or extended. An extended household includes parents, unmarried children, a married child with a spouse, and grandchildren. The conjugal family simply includes the parents and children.
Inheritance. If a husband dies without a will, a settlement has traditionally been made to the widow after all debts have been paid. Brothers and sisters are technically supposed to receive equal shares; however, a division similar to the Islamic rule of two parts for a son and one part for a daughter has been practiced (Fischer 1973, 196). The rule for division applies only if a husband dies without a will; otherwise, he may pass on his inheritance as he likes.
Socialization. It is the duty of a Zoroastrian to marry and have children. At birth, the child's lips are steeped in haoma (Sanskrit: soma ), which is the juice of an intoxicating plant. The child becomes a full Zoroastrian at the age of 7. The initiation ceremony, sedre-pushun, lasts nine days and requires the learning of a few of the important prayers in Avestan. The child is also given the sacred shirt of cotton ( sudre sedre ) and the sacred girdle ( kusti ) of fine lamb's wool, which is formed of 72 threads, wound three times around the waist, and tied with three knots. The knots symbolize the three rules of Zoroastrianism, which are "good words, good deeds, and good thoughts." The kusti is tied over the sudra, which has a little purse sewn into the throat. The pocket is to be filled with the results of complying with the three rules. It is to assist the wearer in concentrating on the practice of the faith.
It was not until after the 1870s that Zoroastrians were given permission to establish schools for their children. In the villages, the schools were funded and supported by wealthy Parsis in India. Relative to the entire Iranian population, the level of education of Zoroastrians is high.