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Husbando Gacha Tier List

2020.04.13 13:52 Excellent_Dish Husbando Gacha Tier List

Hello, I made this list last year of husbando gacha games and people seemed to like it so I'm updating it since a couple of the games on there shut down but I'm structuring this one more like a tier list for fun. I'll be basing it on the games' waifu:husbando ratio, quality and viability of the husbandos, and the game's overall quality and my own personal taste and enjoyment so this is not an objective tier list. I will also be adding a mini review and some notes. There are ones I have definitely played more than others so expect more text on the ones that I have played. It's all based on my opinion so don't take the rankings too seriously. Also I'm writing this as a bi dude or a "gaymer" in America so keep that in mind.
I will not be putting in games like Brave Frontier or AFK Arena or Mario Kart Tour because their art style is too pixel-y or not "husbando-y" enough. The "Featured Husbandos" will be my personal favorites and/or the main ones they give you for free. If an anime has multiple gacha games, I'm only putting the one I'm most familar with on the list. Also there are some I haven't played(mainly the Marvel and anime ones because I'd rather watch the anime or I'm not interested in it), but I have at least tried most of them. Note that there's a ton of gacha games out there that I probably missed, but I think I got the most prominent and important ones.
EDIT: Forgot to mention, I ripped some of the descriptions from the sub's Gacha Game List so thank you to whoever compiled it. It's very helpful and how I discovered some of these games!

S+ Tier - mostly or all husbandos

Name Orientation Notes Featured Husbandos
Tokyo Afterschool Summoners (aka Housamo) Mostly single player RPG. You can borrow your friend's units, but that's about as far as the social aspect goes. There's no actual guilds even though they have them in the story. The cast is mostly skimpy bara men with some bara furries thrown in there. The men are very big and a couple of them are plus size. It's nice to see body diversity. There are some women but it's like 90% men. It's not fully translated but it's still playable. You might need to go to the wiki later for skill translations though. The story is pretty good which is unexpected. Combat is fun and turn based. It says it's an LGBT game, but I don't know of any trans characters in it. Also no login feature so your save data is deleted if you uninstall the app and don't transfer it to another device. Horkeu Kamui, Ryota
Uta no Prince-sama (UtaPri for short) Rhythm otome game. Story isn't that great. There's only about 10-ish boys so most of the units are just them in different costumes. Basically Bandori but with all dudes instead. (EDIT: Actually, the real all-male version of Bandori is called Argonavis. More info in the Misc. section) Shinomiya Natsuki
Bungo Stray Dogs: TotL Pinball style game that's based off the anime. It's mostly twinks. Kunikida Doppo
Obey Me! Shall we date? More of an otome than a gacha game. There's battles but they're dance battles lol. The twist is that all the boys are demons that represent the 7 deadly sins. Lucifer
A3! Another "more of an otome" game. Visual novel too. It's about running an acting company. Like UtaPri there's only about 20 boys so you pull for them in different costumes. The plays they put on are pretty interesting since there's only actors and no actresses. For example, instead of Romeo and Juliet they had Romeo and Julius lol Sakuya
Mr Love: Queen's Choice Again, a "more of an otome" type of game. This one is also more of a visual novel as well. There's 4 guys to romance, but you can pull cards of women characters that help during "battles". I put battles in quotes because they're the same type of "battles" that Love Nikki has where they're basically just stat checks. I wasn't sure whether or not to put these three games because they're more otome/visual novel type games, but here they are. Victor
Ayakashi: Romance Reborn Supernatural otome game with gameplay similar to A3! (Thank you u/arcanine04 for bringing it up) Ginnojo
Captain Tsubasa: Dream Team Real Time soccer game based of the manga. Not really a fan of soccer or sports anime/manga but it seems to be all guys. All the guys look too similar and the art is kinda ugly imo but that's just me. I'd rather play Venus Eleven even if they only have waifus. However, it is made by KLAB who also made Bleach Brave Souls, Love Live, and UtaPri which are all good games so this one is probably good too. Genzo
Saint Seiya Awakening Turn-based and based on the anime. There's another Saint Seiya gacha but it's ugly and I don't want to touch it lol Andromeda Shun
One Piece Treasure Cruise Anime. Turn-based. Pretty old. The art style isn't very husbando-y but the cast is mostly male and it's worth putting on here just for Zoro. Zoro, Sanji, Shanks, Ace, Smoker, Usopp
Dragon Ball Legends Real Time. I grew up watching Dragon Ball, but I've actually never really been that attracted to any of the characters. It is one of the OG bara animes though and it's got English voice acting. Trunks, Vegeta, Piccolo. Krillin
Bleach Brave Souls Old Hack n Slash. Very generous from what I remember. Most of these shounen anime gachas don't really have husbando-y art styles but there are some good looking male characters. Sado, Ichigo, Isshin

S Tier - This is also where I put most of the popular gachas with good waifu:husbando ratios

Name Orientation Notes Featured Husbandos
Fate Grand Order (FGO) Pretty even husbando/waifu split. STILL no autobattle or Facebook link/login function for global. That being said, the story is pretty good and you can pretty much use whoever you want and they give you husbandos for free from the story. There's a couple you'll get eventually from the friendship point summon. However the gacha husbandos are always hotter and have better art. (I retract this statement. u/Strawberuka has provided evidence to the contrary lol There's actually a couple more good 3 star husbandos than I thought) They do give out tickets like once a year that let you choose a servant. That's how I got Gilgamesh. Hijikata(my only 5 star sadly lol), Hans Christian Andersan(discount Merlin boy), Asterios, Ozymanidas, Gilgamesh, Cú Chulainn(not the ugly caster version tho), Emiya, Tawara Touta, David, Iskandar, Astolfo, Arjuna
Granblue Fantasy (GBF - same acronym as Gay Best Friend lol) Browser game. Another even waifu/husbando split. Pretty big in Japan. It even got its own anime and fighting console game which is interesting because usually the anime or the console games come before the mobile game. It's just that popular. Notoriously grindy. I played for a couple of months but got burnt out. You can whale for a good grid to avoid the grind but it's expensive. Lots of husbandos though. The diversity is second only to Housamo. They have a race of bara men called Draphs, and a race of short people called Harvins, and a race of furries called Erunes, so there's bound to be someone you like lol. They sell surprise tickets sometimes so you can buy whoever you want. Even the lowest rarity characters can be used for pendant farming. If you don't pull a meta husbando, the male main character is a meta husbando himself so you can always use him. Plus he's the best and most versatile character. A lot of your power comes from your grid, so the game lets you be a lot more flexible with your party members. SSR characters will pretty much always be better, but there are a couple of good SR's. I don't think team comp really matters till endgame and you will be leeching raids a lot in the beginning, so just use who you want until things start getting difficult. Also the angels and the dragon knights are gay and you can't change my mind. Gran(the MC), Rackam, Noa, Lancelot and Vane, Barawa, Cain, Jamil, Aglovale, Drang, Lobelia uh actually maybe not, Eustace, Tsubasa, Belial :(
Epic 7 Similar to Summoner's War but newer, shinier and more anime. Pretty even waifu/husbando split but I've heard they've been releasing more waifus lately. The MC Ras is a husbando. He's not very good and needs the gear to shine, but you can use him. However, it's probably better to invest in someone else unless you really like him. They give you like 30 free rerolls so you can try to get someone you like or a good healer. I kinda got overwhelmed by the RNG gear grind so I quit. Vildred, Tywin, Basar
The Seven Deadly Sins: Grand Cross Turn-based. Based on the anime. Pretty grindy like GBF but not as much. You could grind all day if you wanted to since stamina potions are abundant. They give you Meliodas the baby MC for free as well as shirtless Ban with a beard. He even cooks for you! Netmarble made it so I'd be wary. It also seems to be FG3000's new favorite game lol Ban(short for husbando. jk lol), Hendrickson
Onmyoji ▭ (Also available on Steam) Turn-based Japanese art style game. I quit because I didn't pull any SSR husbandos or an SSR in general(even though you don't need any SSR's), but the MC Seimei, while not a unit, is a husbando himself and you also get Hiromasa from the story. Some of the units are monsters and are very ugly lol. Like, I thought Kamikui was a pretty trap but he has a scary mouth in the back of his hair. Shuten Doji, Kamikui, Ootengu, Inugami,
Sdorica Story-driven puzzle RPG with a pretty storybook-like art style. Everyone is viable. There's guilds and stuff, but I only paid attention to events and the main story and got by just fine. Also if I remembered correctly, there's a love triangle between 3 of the husbandos lol Pang(free tiger daddy you get at the beginning), Ned, Nigel, Charle, Morris
King's Raid Old but gold. Gacha is only for weapons so you can just straight up buy whoever you want with gems which you can get for free. They even have summer skins ;) Nyx, Kaulah, Baudoin
Dissida Final Fantasy: Opera Omnia (DFFOO) Chibi and turn-based. Based off the console Final Fantasy game by Square Enix. Gacha is for weapons. Warrior of Light
Another Eden Turn-based. Very story-driven. Made by some of the same people who created Chrono Trigger. It's single player only. Aldo
Dragalia Lost Hack n Slash. Everyone is viable for the most part but characters that have the same weapon type play identical to each other pretty much. Cygames developed it and Nintendo published it so the quality is high of course. It's mostly twinks and bishounen but there is surprisingly a lot of boys with the occasional bara in there. There's only like 3 black characters but that's every gacha game unfortunately. Ranzal, Joe(he's canonically gay!), Victor, Rex, Curran, Heinwald, Hawk, Jakob, Gauld(thanks u/mastanmastan)
Fire Emblem Heroes(FEH) Strategy. Another good game published by Nintendo. You can build whoever you want. Most of the units are from the popular and modern Fire Emblem games like Awakening and Fates and they added some of the new Three Houses characters, so if your favorite is from an older game, you're kinda out of luck. Ike, Alfonse, Xander, Claude
Pokemon Masters Real Time. More Nintendo (I'd put in the Mario Kart gacha but it's Mario lol). It's Pokemon so I'm biased. It focuses a bit more on the human characters like the gym leaders and Elite 4 which is interesting. They even characterized the main series' playable characters like Red and Silver. No Ash Ketchum though. There's co-op but no PvP or guilds. Lt. Surge, Crasher Wake, Marshal, Guzma, Brycen, the swimmer NPCs, Red, Blue

A Tier - decent games with a healthy amount of husbando

Name Orientation Notes Featured Husbandos
Food Fantasy Chibi RTS and restaurant management hybrid game featuring characters based off of food aka husbentos and waifoods! Both the restaurant management and the combat parts of the gameplay are pretty shallow unfortunately. The restaurant management part is more enjoyable though IMO. It has a shard system which usually entails pulling duplicates sadly, so even if you do pull an elusive UR, you'll need to pull multiples of them to max them out. It caters too much to whales for my liking. However there are good f2p units whose shards you can farm. You'll be using Milk, Black Tea, and Tom Yum which you get for free at the beginning for the first 90% of the game. Not everyone is viable for combat, but everyone is useful for helping around the restaurant because you need a lot of food souls to run the restaurant. Plus you can put your favorite food soul on the home screen so you can see them frequently and they say cute things. All of the husbandos are bishounen. Tom Yum, Bamboo Rice, Sandwich, Steak, Tempura
Grand Chase Hack N Slash based off an old MMORPG with the same name that got shut down. You pretty much need SR heroes so there's very little variety in team composition. Fortunately they give them out for free in login rewards. There's also a gacha for pets. Lass, Ronan, Grandiel
Langrisser ▭ (Also has a PC Client) Based off of the old console games with the same name. Similar gameplay to Fire Emblem Heroes but it's in landscape mode. Some of the husbandos are older. Hooray for age diversity and daddies! Grenier, Leon, Gizarof
Brave Nine (used to be called Brown Dust) Unique strategy game. It's kinda hard to describe the gameplay and you sorta have to see it for yourself, but basically there's a grid and you put your units on there, set the order, then watch them attack automatically. It seems to be pretty hit or miss for most people. Lots of waifus and husbandos. Even the upgrade units are waifu slime girls. Also the MC has the hentai protagonist hairdo lol Carlson, Martius, Acha
DanMachi - MEMORIA FREESE Very similar gameplay to Another Eden but it actually has multiplayer features. Based off the anime "Is it wrong to try to pick up girls in a dungeon?" I never got into it(the game or the anime) because with a title like that it just sounds like it'd be annoying. Bell
Blustone II Interesting game I don't see being talked about enough. The combat is kinda like a clicker game but you have to time when to swap out your units. The MC, Hermes, Bear
Elchronicle Hack n Slash. Everyone is viable because the gacha is for gear. Not very popular though. Jaegal Woon and Dean
Aion: Legions of War Real Time. Seems pretty polished to me, but it looks like it's on its last legs. Maybe a Miku collab could save them lol Ren
Crash Fever Puzzle RPG. It's got some good lore but I never really got that into it. Not talked about a lot but the discord is pretty active. Tons of characters, but you can barely see them cause they're surrounded by too many flashy things in their art. New World Disorder Columbus (Every unit has a super long name like this lol)
Soccer Spirits Old and powercrept turn-based game based off of the sport. It's a Com2Us game and they don't exactly have the best reputation. I'm surprised it's not dead yet. Sam
Heir of Light Real Time and Dark Fantasy. Another game similar to Summoner's War and they even have a collab with them. Heide, John Wick
Final Fantasy Brave Exvius(FFBE) Another FF game. It's turn-based. Might be a little too pixelated, but it's got some good husbandos. Sieghard, Ariana Grande
The Alchemist Code Turn-Based with similar gameplay to Fire Emblem Heroes and Shinnazuki(RIP not even a Miku collab could save it) if anyone remembers that game. Made by Gumi which is another company that has a reputation for being greedy Logi
King of Fighters ALLSTAR Based off the fighting video game series. A Netmarble game. Terry Bogard
MARVEL gachas They're all ▭ I like MARVEL and superheroes as much as the next guy, but I just don't have any interest in playing a MARVEL mobile game. Plus, they're western gachas and western gachas usually aren't as good. There are three of them if you're interested Wolverine, Cyclops, Black Panther, Spiderman

B Tier - few husbandos and/or the game is inadequate(imo) in too many other aspects

Name Orientation Notes Featured Husbandos
Sid Story This was my main game for a while, but it's got some glaring flaws. I might do a review on the game since it's got some unique mechanics and no one covers it lol. Anyways, it's a collection based game where the more cards you have the stronger you are. Quantity > Quality. It's mostly waifus but it also has a lot of bishounen husbandos. The story is badly translated and it's basically FGO's story premise but way worse. Collecting is fun though. Shaka, Beethoven, Turing
Arknights(AK or Ark for short) Chibi Tower defense gacha. Made by the same people who made Girls Frontline so the quality is high and it's f2p friendly. It's mostly female characters but there are a couple of males. It's got a lot of furries/characters with animal attributes. Also this is important if you care about the story: the infection in the story does NOT cause people to become furries. The infection and the furries are two separate things! I just downloaded it but I saw that one of the villains is a cute boy so that's cool. There's 12 slots in a party so you're bound to fit at least one husbando in there haha Castle, Ansel(a lovely trap), Matterhorn, SilverAsh, Spot, Ace :(
Lord of Dice I don't remember much of it other than: art good, game bad. Roger
Fist of the North Star Based off an old manga with the same name. The cast is mostly muscular men, but they're uh not very conventionally attractive. It also has a questionably high number of servers. Kenshiro
Sword Art Online gachas N/A There's like 3 SAO gachas. I never tried them because I didn't like the anime. There's some husbandos from what I've seen Kirito I guess?
Soul Ark Got rebooted a while ago. Still kinda sucks. It used to have an overworld like an MMORPG for some reason. Its old translation was horrendous but they fixed it up a bit and it's playable now. Too little, too late though. But I do like the art and it's very generous. 30 free rerolls at the beginning. Nezha
Astral Chronicles Chibi Hack n Slash. Mostly waifus. Someone called it a poor man's Another Eden, but their only similarities is their overworlds and the fact that they're both gachas imo. Another Eden is turn-based, not a hack n slash. The skills are so flashy that it becomes an inconvenience, but combat is fun. I like drawing symbols to attack. The male MC is a husbando and is in every battle if you can't pull a gacha one. Ryuni Meikami, Ryudo
Harbringers VIP system. P2W and shard system but it has 30 free tutorial rerolls. Has a cool comic book art style similar to Persona and gameplay similar to AFK Arena. Zhao Yun
Dragon Blaze Real Time. Old but still alive somehow. Christopher Avery
Chain Strike Turn-based Com2Us game that's sorta like chess Lucian
Seven Knights Pretty old turn-based game. I'm surprised it's not dead. It's got some nice husbandos though. Made by Netmarble Karma
Knights Chronicle Chibi. Turn-Based. People dropped it as soon as costumegate happened where they released p2w costumes, but I don't think it's that bad. From what I remember, pretty much only SSR characters are viable which sucks. Also made by Netmarble. I don't really like them if you couldn't tell. Idk why they decided to put the word "Knights" in multiple games but none of them are that good lol. Theo, Amon, Ian, Hercus
Crossing Void Anime crossover game featuring characters from tons of animes such as Durarara, Sword Art Online, and The Devil is a Part-Timer. Kinda died down after the devs did some shady things. Shizuo
Mobile Legends: Adventure Idle RPG based on characters from the mobile MOBA. Went under fire for its lack of polish and for adding P2W costumes like Knights Chronicle did Zilong, Clint, Alucard
Iron Saga Mecha game with 20% male pilots you can get for free over time. Gacha is for the giant mecha they pilot. (paraphrased from u/gloveonthefloor. Thank you for mentioning it!) Becas
Last Cloudia Real Time. Very grindy with bad rates. There's some controversy surrounding it because of things like the paid step up banner. Plus the name of the company behind it looks questionable(AIDIS). Not a lot of characters, but most of the ones they do have, including the husbandos, are viable. (Thank you u/z0kuuu) Kyle, Zekus, Robin, Prince Gorm, Shin
Xross Chronicle Real Time. Used to be called Phantom Chasers but that got shut down and it was relaunched by LINE Games. (Thanks u/beepborpimajorp) Blue Dragon
Blade Xlord Just came out. Despite the awful name, it's got pretty good husbandos and there's even an all male banner. I heard that some people from Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger worked on it too. Gacha is for weapons and characters. Ryde, Heathbell

F Tier (This is a joke tier. Don't play these games for the husbandos lol)

Name Orientation Notes Featured "Husbandos"
Valkyrie Connect ▭ (Also available on Steam) Real Time. Majority waifus. Still alive somehow. Still very P2W from what I heard, but it just came out on Steam which is nice. I just downloaded it and there's unlimited tutorial rerolls, but you only pull 3 at a time, at least on the Steam version. Thor
Age of Ishtaria Old turn-based gacha. You probably wouldn't be able to tell by looking, but there are some husbandos hidden in here lol. There's even a page on male units in the wiki. It's still overwhelmingly waifu-centered though. In the beginning, they had more banners with male units, but I guess they stopped. Money talks, I guess. :( Aristotle
Destiny Child Hardly any boys. Unless you have really good luck(or bad luck depending on who you are lol), you might not even see any of the husbandos. I got pretty lucky and pulled a nat 5 dude, but it was Thanatos sadly. (Thanatos is pretty good and I love him, but like... look at him and read his dialogue) Only about 6 guys are meta. It also has 2 trap characters. The game is still pretty fun and generous. Hard to play in public though. I know about silhouette mode, but I like a challenge!(EDIT: started playing this game again recently and there's more husbandos than I thought. I think it belongs more in between B and F tier so maybe C or D tier?) Frej, Red Cross, Jupiter, Firo, Mayahuel
Girls Frontline Literally no boys(which is to be expected), but some of the girls are androgynous and there was a skin event called "Princes Frontline" where they looked more masculine lol. (I'm still waiting for Boys Frontline) MP-446
Azur Lane No boys here either, but there's like 2 characters that kinda look boyish and some boyish skins Cleveland, Hiryuu
Raid: Shadow Legends I mean there's some husbandos, but like, it's Raid: Shadow Legends. The game is just a meme at this point. At least they sponsor YouTubers I like. Galek

Misc. (Not in English/No American or western release/I'm not really sure if these can be called gachas)

JP/KCN Only (for now...?)
Some contributions from u/planetarial (Thank you for your contributions, guys!)
-Tales of the Rays (JP)
Action based RPG that is essentially PvE only. Gear gacha where you obtain characters from playing the story or events, while pulling their attacks in the gacha itself. Fairly even gender ratio. Tons of costumes and attachments to earn ingame to dress up characters, including swimsuits, formal suits, and kimonos. Majority of characters are viable and workable, including the main male character Ix. Character examples: Ix, Kocis, Yuri, and Sorey
Only downside is JP only (admittedly a pretty big con) and there’s not a ton of deviation from the usual bishounen look, with only a few real bara types like Barbatos and Kongman.
-Tales of Asteria (JP)
Strange turn based system involving placing pngs into slots with different effects each turn and watching it play out. Unit gacha, PvE with some guild system. Pretty much everything viable has to be five star awakenable. Mostly the same amount of representation (and similar cons) in Rays, perhaps a bit better in the husbando department since they have a groom banner instead of just brides in June, the Idolmaster Side M collab and every single Tales character. Events let you usually pick 1-2 cute boy pngs as a trophy. Character examples: Cress, Leon, Zelos and Yuri
Miscellaneous Husbando Gacha Games that are in English

Glossary

Ending Notes

If you like gacha games with husbandos, you might also like otome games, visual novels, and dating sims that let you romance hot dudes. Also check out otomegames, gaymers, and visualnovels
One more thing: I noticed that husbando gacha games like A3!, Obey Me, and Mr Love have super shallow gameplay, while waifu gacha games like AL and GFL have deeper gameplay and don't focus as much on the romance aspect. I want more husbando gacha games to have deeper gameplay!
Wow I have too much free time lol. Anyways that's all from me. Hope you guys found this list helpful and maybe even enjoyable. Let me know your thoughts and if I missed any games!
EDIT: I edited it a lot. I'm not going to log every individual edit, but basically I fixed some grammar, removed games that have shut down/are going to shut down, added some featured husbandos, and added games people suggested in the comments :)
EDIT 2: I would say "Wow! My first gold!" and "Thanks for the gold/coins, kind strangers!" but that's kinda cringey so I just PM'd them lol but thank you guys. I appreciate it. This list took 2 days to compile and a ton of space on my phone and PC so I'm glad to see my work "pay off" haha. Also thank you to everyone who added their own suggestions and contributions <3
submitted by Excellent_Dish to gachagaming [link] [comments]


2020.02.29 04:28 saert_gert Mandaeans, the Gnostic Sabians

Mandaeism or Mandaeanism (Arabic: مَنْدَائِيَّة‎, Mandāʾīyah), also known as Sabaeanism, is a monotheistic and gnostic religion: with a strongly dualistic cosmology. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Noah, Shem, Aram, and especially John the Baptist. The Mandaeans are Semites and speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. The name 'Mandaean' is said to come from the Aramaic manda meaning "knowledge", as does Greek gnosis. Within the Middle East, but outside of their community, the Mandaeans are more commonly known as the Ṣubba (singular: Ṣubbī) or Sabians. The term Ṣubba is derived from the Aramaic root related to baptism, the neo-Mandaic is Ṣabi. In Islam, the "Sabians" (Arabic: الصَّابِئُون‎, aṣ-Ṣābiʾūn) are described several times in the Quran as People of the Book, alongside Jews and Christians. Occasionally, Mandaeans are called "Christians of Saint John". According to most scholars, Mandaeaism originated sometime in the first three centuries AD, in either southwestern Mesopotamia or the Syro-Palestinian area. However, some scholars take the view that Mandaeanism is older and dates from pre-Christian times.
Etymology:
The term Mandaeism comes from Classical Mandaic Mandaiia and appears in Neo-Mandaic as Mandeyānā. On the basis of cognates in other Aramaic dialects, Semiticists such as Mark Lidzbarski and Rudolf Macuch have translated the term manda, from which Mandaiia derives, as "knowledge" (cf. Aramaic: מַנְדַּע‎ mandaʻ in Dan. 2:21, 4:31, 33, 5:12; cf. Hebrew: מַדַּע maddaʻ, with characteristic assimilation of /n/ to the following consonant, medial -nd- hence becoming -dd-). . This etymology suggests that the Mandaeans may well be the only sect surviving from Late Antiquity to identify themselves explicitly as Gnostics. Other scholars derive the term mandaiia from Mandā d-Heyyi (Mandaic Manda ḏ'Hayyi "Knowledge of Life," in reference to the chief divinity Hayyi Rabbi "the Great Life" or "Great Living God") or from the word Beth Manda, which is the cultic hut in which many Mandaean ceremonies are performed (such as the baptism, which is the central sacrament of Mandaean religious life).
History:
According to the Mandaean text the Haran Gawaita, the recorded history of the Mandaeans began when a group called the Nasoreans (the Mandaean priestly caste as opposed to the laity), left Judea/Palestine and migrated to Mesopotamia in the 1st century AD. The reason given for this was their persecution in Jerusalem. The emigrants went first to Haran (probably Harran in modern day Turkey), or Hauran and then the Median hills in Iran, before finally settling in the southern provinces of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). At the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Mesopotamia, the leader of the Mandaeans, Anush son of Danqa appeared before Muslim authorities showing them a copy of the Ginza Rabba, the Mandaean holy book, and proclaiming the chief Mandaean prophet to be John the Baptist, who is also mentioned in the Quran as Yahya Bin Zakariya. This identified Mandaeans with the Sabians who are mentioned in the Quran as being counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book). This provided Mandaeans a status as a legal minority religion within the Muslim Empire. The Mandaeans were henceforth associated with the Sabians and the Jewish Christian group the Elcesaites, on account of the location of all three in Mesopotamia in the early centuries AD, and the similarities in their beliefs. The importance of baptism in the rituals of all three is particularly marked. Like the Mandaeans, the Sabians were also said to be gnostics and descended from Noah. Mandaeans continue to be identified with Sabians up to the present day, but the exact relationship between the three groups remains unclear. Around 1290, a learned Dominican Catholic from Tuscany, Ricoldo da Montecroce, or Ricoldo Pennini, was in Mesopotamia where he met the Mandaeans. He described them as follows:
A very strange and singular people, in terms of their rituals, lives in the desert near Baghdad; they are called Sabaeans. Many of them came to me and begged me insistently to go and visit them. They are a very simple people and they claim to possess a secret law of God, which they preserve in beautiful books. Their writing is a sort of middle way between Syriac and Arabic. They detest Abraham because of circumcision and they venerate John the Baptist above all. They live only near a few rivers in the desert. They wash day and night so as not to be condemned by God…
Mandaeans were called "Christians of Saint John" by members of the Discalced Carmelite mission in Basra during the 16th century, based upon their preliminary reports. Some Portuguese Jesuits had also met some "Saint John Christians" around the Strait of Hormuz in 1559, when the Portuguese fleet fought with the Ottoman Turkish army in Bahrain. These Mandaean seemed to be willing to obey the Catholic Church. They learned and used the seven Catholic sacraments and the related ceremonies in their lives. What we next find is a Mandaean culture, rooted in southern Mesopotamia, with its own distinctive language, from the eastern (not western) Aramaic group, and its own alphabet, closely related to that found in inscriptions of Elymais and coins of Characene. What is striking is that the Mandaeans appear to be a distinct, endogamic religious and ethnic group, with neither proselytism towards, nor conversions from, the outside. While the disciples of John the Baptist were Baptist Jews who kept us to the biblical reading among radical anti-nomistic Christian and post-Christian Gnostic groups, whose hatred for the Jews is well explained as originating in Christian circles. If we add that the Mandaean traditions on John the Baptist cannot be directly connected to the historical John, but are developments of Christian apocryphal legends (Lupieri, up with the reading of the Torah and its observance, the Mandaeans appear to be defiantly anti-Jewish, to abhor circumcision as the worst impurity, and to propose an “inverted” reading of the little they still use of the Jewish Bible: the Jews and their God are the villains, and the Egyptians with their Pharaoh, the enemies of the Jews, become the ancestors of the Mandaeans (Drower, 1937, pp. 261-66; Lupieri, 2002, pp. 133-42). This brings 1988, pp. 195-395), and that even those pertaining to Miriai (a Jewish girl of priestly stock who is said to have converted to become a Mandaean in some early stage of its history) are constructed on other Christian apocryphal stories about Mary, the mother of Jesus (Buckley, 1993), any direct physical connection with first-century Palestine becomes historically unnecessary. The Mandaean history of salvation is a creative conflation of biblical lore and the theory of the four ages of the world. After the biblical flood, which ends the third age of the world, the Mandaeans are the only descendants of the “pure seed” of Adam on earth, but are subjected to periodic extinctions during the present fourth age. Following each extinction, one of the Mandaean saviors or revealers brings new Mandaeans to Mesopotamia from a fabulous realm in the mountains of the North, a sort of paradise on earth where their pure seed survives. This is where the inventor of Mandaean baptism, Birham the Great (and not John the Baptist), resides. This semi-divine entity has the same name as a Semitic divinity, which in the Mesopotamia of Late Antiquity was identified as the Greek demigod Heracles and became the protecting god of the Hyspaosinnidic dynasty of the rulers of Mesene-Characene under the Arsacid empire (roughly from 165BC.E. to 222 C.E.). The Arsacids were followed by the Sasanians, who took full control of Mesopotamia in the years 224-27 C.E. and adhered firmly to Zoroastrianism. They initiated a period of religious persecution, which reached its climax in the second half of the third century under the guidance of the leading Zoroastrian priest and imperial dignitary Karter (or Kirdir). He was responsible for the imprisonment and death of Mani (ca. 275 C.E.), and in his Kaʿba-ye Zardošt inscription (Back, pp. 414-16) he boasts that he persecuted Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Brahmins, zandiks (usually regarded as Mazdean heretics), the mysterious Makdaks (Manicheans or maybe Mandaeans), and the Nasuraeans (possibly Mandaeans or some Jewish-Christian groups). This inscription could offer the terminus ante quem for the existence of an independent Mandaean religion in Mesopotamia. The Sasanian persecution also seems to provide the best explanation for a peculiar Mandaean legend about a “king Artabanus” who was “the king of the Mandaeans.” In recent versions of the story, he becomes the brother of “king Pharaoh,” who survives the crossing of the Red Sea and flees Moses and his Jewish army. The story has many versions, one of which may be present in the very fragmentary Haran Gauaita (Drower, 1953); this book possibly contained a whole Mandaean world history, from the mythical beginning to the apocalyptical end. Unfortunately the beginning is missing and the present title reproduces the first two words of the surviving text, alluding to the “Interior Harran” which welcomes Artabanus after his defeat. It appears that both Pharaoh and Artabanus are Mandaean kings and both are defeated by the Jews. This could be a historical memory of the figure of Artabanus V (r. ca. 213-24 C.E.), the last and defeated Arsacid king. During the Sasanian period of persecution, the last king of a previous tolerant dynasty could have been “adopted” as a Mandaean, in the same way as the Pharaoh, the enemy of the enemies (the Jews), was. If this is true, Mandaeanism must have already existed at the beginning of Sasanian rule. The richness and variety of the second- and third-century Mesopotamian religious milieu is well documented and is evident in the Codex Manichaicus Coloniensis, which shows Mani growing up as a member of a community of Mesopotamian Baptists (all men dressed in white). According to the Codex, their leader was Elchasai, the apparent author of a Jewish-Christian apocalypse with strong Gnostic traits written around 115 C.E. (Cirillo, Luttikhuizen). Mandaeanism is very likely a splinter group of southern Mesopotamian, post-Christian Gnosticism, possibly originating in the late second century. The connection with Old and New Testament Palestine is cultural, not ethnic or geographic, as there is no need to explain a migration of ideas in terms of the migration of an entire population. What remains unique is that, if we consider the ethnic conscience of the Mandaeans as original to them, we must accept that a whole ethnic group collectively adopted a Gnostic form of religion. If this is true, we may presume there occurred some form of mass conversion as a consequence of the preaching of some religious missionary or reformer. Although the full study of Mandaean text colophons has yet to be completed, we may still find in them some indication of the possible founder of Mandaeanism. Most of the colophons repeat the same series of names, which constitutes a list of the oldest scribes and religious leaders. With some exceptions, which are possibly a reaction to the more common tradition, the oldest name is that of a certain Zazai. In some colophons he appears to have received the book directly from a divine figure and even to be a semi-divine person himself. In the Haran Gauaita he is the first of seven Mandaean king-archers who destroy Judaism, is appointed by Anuš ʿUtra, one of the Mandaean revealers, as the Mandaean king in Baghdad (which is usually identified with Jerusalem), and finally ascends to heaven, where he spends sixty-two days (to receive a special revelation?). Therefore, this Zazai seems to be the historical founder of Mandaeanism, possibly a second-century Mesopotamian Gnostic teacher who considered himself the bearer of direct, divine inspiration. From the numerous names listed in prayers, colophons, and the Haran Gauaita, it is possible to identify some other important religious authors and leaders in early Mandaean history. After Zazai, but before the Islamic era, a certain Šganda, or Ašganda, was so famous that the Mesopotamian city of Ṭib, where he resided, was, for the Mandaeans, “the city of Ašganda.” In the years of the Muslim Arab conquest of Mesopotamia (639-42 CE), we are told that a certain Anuš bar Danqa, a layman, considered to be a descendent of King Artabanus, was able to convince the new rulers that the Mandaeans, like the Christians and the Jews, were “People of the Book” (Arabic: Ahl al-Ketāb), and therefore should not be persecuted. In those years, a certain Ramuia was the leading figure among the scribal and religious authorities, possibly the person in charge of (re)writing the Mandaean religious texts, so that they could be shown to the Muslim rulers. In early Islamic times, we find the recurrent name of a person who must have standardized most Mandaean texts: Baian. It is tempting to consider his activity as a reaction to a religious schism, of which we have both written and oral accounts, the schism of Qiqil. This Mandaean religious leader resided in T’ib, is said to have taken the wrong path, but in the end to have repented. According to Mandaean sources his activity is chronologically connected to John the Baptist (several centuries after him), since all the Mandaeans who accepted Qiqil’s teachings are considered to be the descendants of those Jews who were converted by John the Baptist, and therefore not ethnically Mandaeans. But this is heresiological acrimony, not historical reconstruction.
Beliefs:
Mandaeism, as the religion of the Mandaean people, is based more on a common heritage than on any set of religious creeds and doctrines. The corpus of Mandaean literature, though quite large, covers topics such as eschatology, the knowledge of God and the afterlife—in an unsystematic manner. Moreover, it is known only to the priesthood and a few laypeople.
Fundamental tenets:
According to E. S. Drower, the Mandaean Gnosis is characterized by nine features, which appear in various forms in other gnostic sects:
  1. A supreme formless Entity, the expression of which in time and space is creation of spiritual, etheric, and material worlds and beings. Production of these is delegated by It to a creator or creators who originated It. The cosmos is created by Archetypal Man, who produces it in similitude to his own shape.
  2. Dualism: a cosmic Father and Mother, Light and Darkness, Right and Left, syzygy in cosmic and microcosmic form.
  3. As a feature of this dualism, counter-types, a world of ideas.
  4. The soul is portrayed as an exile, a captive; her home and origin being the supreme Entity to which she eventually returns.
  5. Planets and stars influence fate and human beings, and are also places of detention after death.
  6. A savior spirit or savior spirits which assist the soul on her journey through life and after it to ‘worlds of light’.'
  7. A cult-language of symbol and metaphor. Ideas and qualities are personified.
  8. ‘Mysteries’, i.e. sacraments to aid and purify the soul, to ensure her rebirth into a spiritual body, and her ascent from the world of matter. These are often adaptations of existing seasonal and traditional rites to which an esoteric interpretation is attached. In the case of the Naṣoraeans this interpretation is based on the Creation story (see 1 and 2), especially on the Divine Man, Adam, as crowned and anointed King-priest.
  9. Great secrecy is enjoined upon initiates; full explanation of 1, 2, and 8 being reserved for those considered able to understand and preserve the gnosis.
Cosmology:
The cosmology is marked by a strict dualism between a “World of Light” (alma d-nuhra) and a “World of Darkness” (alma d-hšuka). The world of light is ruled by a sublime being who bears different names: “Life” (hiia, haiyi), “Lord of Greatness” (mara d-rabuta), “Great Mind” (mana rba), “King of Light” (malka d-nuhra). He is surrounded by a countless number of beings of light (uthri or malki), living in “dwellings” (škinata) or “worlds” (almi), performing cultic acts and praising the Life. The world of light came into being from the “First Life” (haiyi qadmaiyi) by way of descending emanations or creations, which are called “Second,” “Third,” and “Fourth Life”; they also bear personal names, such as Yōšamin, Abathur, and Ptahil; the last one is the later demiurge. The “World of Darkness” is governed by the “Lord of Darkness” (mara d-hšuka) and arose from the “dark waters” (meyi siawi, or ʿkumi, tahmi) representing the chaos. The main powers of the world of darkness are a giant monster or dragon with the name Ur (probably a polemic transformation of Hebr. ʿor “light”) and the evil (female) “Spirit” (ruha). Their offspring are demonic beings (daiwi) and “angels” (malaki). To them belong also the “Seven” (šuba), i.e., the planets (šibiahyi), and the “Twelve” (trisar) signs of the Zodiac; they are sons of Ur and Ruha. The conflict between light and darkness, life and death, good and evil leads to the creation of the world (tibil) by the demiurge Ptahil with the help of the dark or gloomy powers, mainly Ruha and the “Seven” and “Twelve.” In this process, the body of first man, Adam, is created by the same bad beings, but his “animating essence” is derived from the World of Light. This “substance of light” in Adam is called “inner (hidden) Adam” (adam kasya, adakas, also adam rba “great Adam”), and it represents the “soul” (nišimta) or “mind” (mana) in humans, which has to be saved or rescued from the dark, evil body (pagra) and the world (tibil) by heavenly beings of light. The wife of Adam, Eve (Hawwa), is created separate from him according to the heavenly “cloud of light” (who figures as the wife of the heavenly or “great Adam”; regarding another tradition on Eve, see below). The salvation of souls is the main concern of the Mandaean religion. One of its central creeds is the belief in several “messengers” (šganda, šliha), “helpers” (adyaura), or “redeemers” (parwanqa) sent by the Life in order to inform the pious of their “call” and to save their souls. The dominant figure of these “envoys of light” is the “Knowledge of Life” (Manda d-Haiyi), who is also called “Son of Life” (Barhaiyi) or “Counterpart of Life” (Dmuthaiyi). Beside him stand the three heavenly Adamites, Hibil (Abel), Šitil (Seth), and Anōš (Enosh). Actually, the Mandaeans know no “historical” redeemers but only the “mythological” ones appearing throughout the ages of the history of the world as a repetition of the first revelation to Adam, which is the prototype of redemption. In some texts the soul ascending after death is escorted and saved by one of the saviors mentioned. Probably after the confrontation with early Christianity, the Mandaeans developed the story that one of their messengers (Anōš or Manda d-Haiyi) appeared in Jerusalem as an antagonist of Jesus Christ in order to expose him as a liar and a false messiah. In this connection John the Baptist played the role of a true Mandaean “disciple” or “priest” (tarmida). Whether reliable information about early Mandaean history in relation to the movement of the followers of John the Baptist can be derived from these tales is a problem that remains unsolved (Rudolph, 1960, pp. 66-80). Clearly, for the Mandaeans John is not the founder of their religion but only one of their prominent representatives. Only the ritual of baptism in flowing water still reminds us of John’s practice (see below). As noted above Mandaean theology is not systematic. There is no one single authoritative account of the creation of the cosmos, but rather a series of several accounts. Some scholars, such as Edmondo Lupieri, maintain that comparison of these different accounts may reveal the diverse religious influences upon which the Mandaeans have drawn and the ways in which the Mandaean religion has evolved over time. In contrast with the religious texts of the western Gnostic sects formerly found in Syria and Egypt, the earliest Mandaean religious texts suggest a more strictly dualistic theology, typical of other Iranian religions such as Zoroastrianism, Zurvanism, Manichaeism, and the teachings of Mazdak. In these texts, instead of a large pleroma, there is a discrete division between light and darkness. The Mandaean God is known as Hayyi Rabbi (The Great Living God). Other names used are Mare d'Rabuta (Lord of Greatness) and Melka d'Nhura (King of Light). Ptahil, the third emanation, alone does not constitute the demiurge but only fills that role insofar as he is the creator of the material world. Rather, Ptahil is the lowest of a group of three emanations, the other two being Yushamin (first emanation a.k.a. Joshamin) and Abathur, the second emanation. Abathur's demiurgic role consists of his sitting in judgment upon the souls of mortals. The role of Yushamin, the first emanation, is more obscure; wanting to create a world of his own, he was severely punished for opposing the King of Light. The name may derive from Iao haš-šammayim (in Hebrew: Yahweh "of the heavens"). While Mandaeans agree with other gnostic sects that the world is a prison governed by the planetary archons, they do not view it as a cruel and inhospitable one.
Chief prophets:
Mandaeans recognize several prophets. Yahia-Yohanna, known in Christianity as John the Baptist, is accorded a special status, higher than his role in Christianity and Islam. Mandaeans do not consider John to be the founder of their religion but revere him as one of their greatest teachers, tracing their beliefs back to Adam. Mandaeans do not believe in Abraham, Moses or Jesus, but recognize other prophetic figures from the Abrahamic religions, such as Adam, his son Seth and his grandson Anush (Enos), as well as Nuh (Noah), his descendants Sam, (Shem) in Bible and Ram (Aram) in Bible. The latter three they consider to be their direct ancestors. Mandaeans also do not recognize the Holy Spirit in the Talmud and Bible, who is known in Mandaic as Ruha, Ruha d-Qudsha, or Ruha Masțanita, in the same way. Instead of being viewed positively as a holy spirit, she is viewed negatively as the personification of the lower, emotional, and feminine elements of the human psyche.
Scriptures:
The Mandaeans have a large corpus of religious scriptures, the most important of which is the Ginza Rba or Ginza, a collection of history, theology, and prayers. The Ginza Rba is divided into two halves—the Genzā Smālā or "Left Ginza", and the Genzā Yeminā or "Right Ginza". By consulting the colophons in the Left Ginza, Jorunn J. Buckley has identified an uninterrupted chain of copyists to the late second or early third century. The colophons attest to the existence of the Mandaeans or their predecessors during the late Parthian Empire at the very latest. The oldest texts are lead amulets from about the third century AD, followed by magic bowls from about AD 600. The important religious manuscripts are not older than the sixteenth century, with most coming from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although the Ginza continued to evolve under the rule of the Sasanian Empire and the Islamic caliphates, few textual traditions can lay claim to such extensive continuity. Another important text is the Haran Gawaita which tells the history of the Mandaeans. According to this text, a group of Nasoraeans (Mandean priests) left Judea before the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century CE, and settled within the Parthian Empire. Other important books include the Qolusta, the canonical prayerbook of the Mandaeans, which was translated by E. S. Drower. One of the chief works of Mandaean scripture, accessible to laymen and initiates alike, is the Mandaean Book of John (Lidzbarski, Mark. "Das Johannesbuch der Mandäer". Giessen : Töpelmann.), which includes a dialogue between John and Jesus. In addition to the Ginza, Qolusta, and Draša, there is the Dīvān, which contains a description of the 'regions' the soul ascends through, and the Asfar Malwāshē, the "Book of the Zodiacal Constellations". Finally, there are some pre-Muslim artifacts that contain Mandaean writings and inscriptions, such as some Aramaic incantation bowls. The language in which the Mandaean religious literature was originally composed is known as Mandaic, and is a member of the Aramaic family of dialects. It is written in a cursive variant of the Parthian chancellory script. Many Mandaean lay people do not speak this language, though some members of the Mandaean community resident in Iran and Iraq continue to speak Neo-Mandaic, a modern version of this language.
Organisation:
There is a strict division between Mandaean laity and the priests. According to E.S. Drower (The Secret Adam, p. ix):
[T]hose amongst the community who possess secret knowledge are called Naṣuraiia—Naṣoreans (or, if the emphatic ‹ṣ› is written as ‹z›, Nazorenes). At the same time the ignorant or semi-ignorant laity are called 'Mandaeans', Mandaiia—'gnostics.' When a man becomes a priest he leaves 'Mandaeanism' and enters tarmiduta, 'priesthood.' Even then he has not attained to true enlightenment, for this, called 'Naṣiruta', is reserved for a very few. Those possessed of its secrets may call themselves Naṣoreans, and 'Naṣorean' today indicates not only one who observes strictly all rules of ritual purity, but one who understands the secret doctrine.
There are three grades of priesthood in Mandaeism: the tarmidia "disciples" (Neo-Mandaic tarmidānā), the ganzibria "treasurers" (from Old Persian ganza-bara "id.," Neo-Mandaic ganzeḇrānā) and the rišamma "leader of the people". This last office, the highest level of the Mandaean priesthood, has lain vacant for many years. At the moment, the highest office currently occupied is that of the ganzeḇrā, a title which appears first in a religious context in the Aramaic ritual texts from Persepolis (c. 3rd century BCE) and which may be related to the kamnaskires (Elamite kapnuskir "treasurer"), title of the rulers of Elymais (modern Khuzestan) during the Hellenistic age. Traditionally, any ganzeḇrā who baptizes seven or more ganzeḇrānā may qualify for the office of rišamma, though the Mandaean community has yet to rally as a whole behind any single candidate. The contemporary priesthood can trace its immediate origins to the first half of the 19th century. In 1831, an outbreak of cholera devastated the region and eliminated most if not all of the Mandaean religious authorities. Two of the surviving acolytes (šgandia), Yahia Bihram and Ram Zihrun, reestablished the priesthood on the basis of their own training and the texts that were available to them. In 2009, there were two dozen Mandaean priests in the world, according to the Associated Press.However, according to the Mandaean Society in America the number of priests has been growing in recent years.
Relations with other groups:
The Mandaeans have been identified with several groups, in particular the Sabians and the Elkasaites. Other groups such as the Nazerences and the Dositheans have also been identified with the Mandaeans. The exact relation of all these groups to one another is a difficult question. But they do share many common beliefs, in accordance with other ancient Middle Eastern religions such as Yazdaism and Judaism, such as belief in a formless deity, reincarnation and rejection of meat or red meat either completely or during religious times. While it seems certain that a number of distinct groups are intended by these names, the nature of these sects and the connections between them are less than clear. At least according to the Fihrist (see below), these groups seem all to have emerged from or developed in parallel with the "Sabian" followers of El-Hasaih; "Elkasaites" in particular may simply have been a blanket term for Mughtasila, Mandaeans, the original Sabians and even Manichaeans.
Sabians:
The Quran makes several references to the Sabians, who are frequently thought to be Mandaeans. Sabians are counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book), and several hadith feature them. Arab sources of early Quranic times (7th century) also make some references to Sabians. Some scholars hold that the etymology of the root word 'Sabi'un' points to origins either in the Syriac or Mandaic word 'Sabian', and suggest that the Mandaean religion originated with Sabeans who came under the influence of early Hellenic Sabian missionaries, but preferred their own priesthood. The Sabians believed they "belong to the prophet Noah"; Similarly, the Mandaeans claim direct descent from Noah. Early in the 9th century, a group of Hermeticists in the northern Mesopotamian city of Harran declared themselves Sabians when facing persecution; an Assyrian Christian writer said that the true 'Sabians' or Sabba lived in the marshes of lower Iraq. The Assyrian writer Theodore Bar Konai (in the Scholion, 792) described a "sect" of "Sabians", who were located in southern Mesopotamia. Al-Biruni (writing at the beginning of the 11th century) said that the 'real Sabians' were "the remnants of the Jewish tribes who remained in Babylonia when the other tribes left it for Jerusalem in the days of Cyrus and Artaxerxes. These remaining tribes ... adopted a system mixed-up of Magism and Judaism."
Nasaraean:
The Haran Gawaita uses the name Nasoraeans for the Mandaeans arriving from Jerusalem. Consequently, the Mandaeans have been connected with the Nasaraeans described by Epiphanius, a group within the Essenes. Epiphanius says (29:6) that they existed before Christ. That is questioned by some, but others accept the pre-Christian origin of this group.
Elkesaites:
The Elkesaites were a Judeo-Christian baptismal sect which seem to have been related, and possibly ancestral, to the Mandaeans (see Sabians). The members of this sect, like the Mandaeans, wore white and performed baptisms. They dwelt in east Judea and Assyria, whence the Mandaeans claim to have migrated to southern Mesopotamia, according to the Harran Gawaiṯā. In the Fihrist ("Book of Nations") of Arabic scholar Al-Nadim (c. 987), the Mogtasilah (Mughtasila, "self-ablutionists") are counted among the followers of El-Hasaih or Elkesaites. Mogtasilah may thus have been Al-Nadim's term for the Mandaeans, as the few details on rituals and habit are similar to Mandaeans ones. The Elkesaites seem to have prospered for a while, but ultimately splintered. They may have originated in a schism where they renounced the Torah, while the mainstream Sampsaeans held on to it (as Elchasai's followers did)—if so, this must have happened around the mid-late 1st millennium CE. However, it is not clear exactly which group he referred to, for by then the Elkesaite sects may have been at their most diverse. Some disappeared subsequently; for example, the Sampsaeans are not well attested in later sources. The Ginza Rba, one of the chief holy scriptures of the Mandaeans, appears to originate around the time of Elchasai or somewhat thereafter.
Manichaeans
According to the Fihrist of ibn al-Nadim, the Mesopotamian prophet Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, was brought up within the Elkesaite (Elcesaite or Elchasaite) sect, this being confirmed more recently by the Cologne Mani Codex. None of the Manichaean scriptures has survived in its entirety, and it seems that the remaining fragments have not been compared to the Ginza Rba. Mani later left the Elkasaites to found his own religion. In a comparative analysis, Mandaean scholar Säve-Söderberg indicated that Mani's Psalms of Thomas were closely related to Mandaean texts. This would imply that Mani had access to Mandaean religious literature, or that both derived from the same source.
Dositheans:
They are connected with the Samaritan group the Dositheans by Theodore Bar Kōnī in his Scholion.
Zoroastrians:
A survey of demonstrable Persian (Iranian or Zoroastrian) elements in the Mandaean religion clearly shows that the Mandaeans had, in the course of their history, diversely adapted to their greater surroundings without losing their identity. The correspondences with Zoroastrianism in practice and ritual are more prominent than any in mythology or theology. Mandaean mythology and theology, with its basic dualistic orientation, did not distance itself from the original Gnostic task for reflection, that is, an anti-cosmic view. This attitude, however, did not manifest itself in ascetic practice, and therefore the religion comes closer to the Iranian Zoroastrian view of the world as split into good and evil. There are further striking correspondences between Mandaean and Persian traditions in regard to prayer times, repentance and confession disciplines, and marriage ceremonies. While there is evidence that the Mandaeans had different daily prayer hours in the course of their history (three, five, and seven times), the Zoroastrians have five (gāhān; see GĀH; Modi, 1937, pp. 219-20; Stausberg, 2004, pp. 488 ff.; concerning the relation between gāh and gāthā, see ibid., p. 59), as more or less constantly witnessed, which were evidently a model for the five Mandaean ones (Rudolph, 1961, pp. 224 ff.). It may also be assumed that the three possibilities of penance before an excommunication were a Persian legacy to the Mandaeans; the two religions shared a common formula for confessions (MPers. patīt), by which the (mainly ritual) sins were atoned for through repentance (ibid., pp. 243 ff., 252 f.). The marriage ceremonies include ablutions, the drinking of wine, and a curtain between the bridal couple during the rituals (ibid., p. 321). An analysis of these subjects leads to the conclusion (Rudolph, 1965; 1996, pp. 362-69) that the older, strictly dualistic conception was later amended by a more monistic doctrine which considered the creation of the world (tibil) and man (adam) as an act of the “king of light” (malka d-nuhra). The classic, dualistic doctrine consists of the opposition between a world of life (hiia) or light (nuhra) and one of darkness (hšuka), each of which arose by itself and whose hostile relationship determined the future history of the world. This corresponds with the Iranian Zoroastrian concepts, once we disregard Zarathustra’s older views in the Gathas and in more recent Zurvanism. It was therefore not wrong of Hans Jonas to describe Mandaeism as a special form of the Iranian type of gnosis, which also had characteristics of the so-called “Syrian-Egyptian type” (Jonas, 1934, 1988, pp. 380 ff.). Its difference from the Iranian concept was, however, that it attributed creation to the act of a fallen demiurge (Ptahil) and his evil sons, the planets and zodiac creatures, so that the world became a part of darkness. The human being (Adam) is also part of the world in his material form. Only the “soul” (nišimta, mana; also called “hidden Adam,” Adakas), sent by the “Great Life” or “Great Mana,” enables Adam to live; the liberation of the soul from body and world then becomes the aim of the entire subject of redemption, an idea which corresponds with the Iranian one and is altogether typical of Gnosis.
Current situation:
Currently, one ganzibra (the highest ranking priest), three tarmidas (the lower ranking priest), and several yalufas serve as leaders, keeping the Mandaeans focused around their rituals and securing the community’s life. The Mandaean leaders of Ahwaz are trying to rescue their spoken Mandaic language, the ratna, which seems to be extinct in Iraq. To instruct the Mandaean children and youth is especially vital, and the effort to secure the language is a fairly recent one. Only in Persia—and among a few Iranian Mandaeans in emigration— does the spoken language (as distinct from the ancient, East Aramaic, written ritual language) still survive, mainly among the community’s elders. Iranian Mandaeans living in emigration in Australia also try to keep the Mandaic tongue alive. In addition to their varied ritual roles, the religious leaders of Ahwaz also serve as links to local Muslim authorities when necessary. The Mandaeans are by tradition endogamous, pacifist in nature, and non-proselytizing, for converts are not accepted. Government regulations requiring schoolboys to cut their hair short have created difficulties for the recruitment to the Mandaean priesthood, as priests’ hair and beards must remain uncut throughout life. Islamic instruction in Muslim schools is required of Mandaean children, and Mandaeans must adhere to Muslim codes for dress and public behavior. Mandaean priests, with their long beards, white turbans, and aristocratic demeanor, continue to instill awed respect in public places. With cloaks over their white garments, they look somewhat like Shiʿite clerics or other religious dignitaries familiar in Islamic cultures. The religion has been practised primarily around the lower Karun, Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. There are thought to be between 60,000 and 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide. Until the Iraq War, almost all of them lived in Iraq. Many Mandaean Iraqis have since fled their country because of the turmoil created by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation by U.S. armed forces, and the related rise in sectarian violence by Muslim extremists. By 2007, the population of Mandaeans in Iraq had fallen to approximately 5,000.
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2020.02.29 04:28 saert_gert Mandaeans, the Gnostic Sabians

Mandaeism or Mandaeanism (Arabic: مَنْدَائِيَّة‎, Mandāʾīyah), also known as Sabaeanism, is a monotheistic and gnostic religion: with a strongly dualistic cosmology. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Noah, Shem, Aram, and especially John the Baptist. The Mandaeans are Semites and speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. The name 'Mandaean' is said to come from the Aramaic manda meaning "knowledge", as does Greek gnosis. Within the Middle East, but outside of their community, the Mandaeans are more commonly known as the Ṣubba (singular: Ṣubbī) or Sabians. The term Ṣubba is derived from the Aramaic root related to baptism, the neo-Mandaic is Ṣabi. In Islam, the "Sabians" (Arabic: الصَّابِئُون‎, aṣ-Ṣābiʾūn) are described several times in the Quran as People of the Book, alongside Jews and Christians. Occasionally, Mandaeans are called "Christians of Saint John". According to most scholars, Mandaeaism originated sometime in the first three centuries AD, in either southwestern Mesopotamia or the Syro-Palestinian area. However, some scholars take the view that Mandaeanism is older and dates from pre-Christian times.
Etymology:
The term Mandaeism comes from Classical Mandaic Mandaiia and appears in Neo-Mandaic as Mandeyānā. On the basis of cognates in other Aramaic dialects, Semiticists such as Mark Lidzbarski and Rudolf Macuch have translated the term manda, from which Mandaiia derives, as "knowledge" (cf. Aramaic: מַנְדַּע‎ mandaʻ in Dan. 2:21, 4:31, 33, 5:12; cf. Hebrew: מַדַּע maddaʻ, with characteristic assimilation of /n/ to the following consonant, medial -nd- hence becoming -dd-). . This etymology suggests that the Mandaeans may well be the only sect surviving from Late Antiquity to identify themselves explicitly as Gnostics. Other scholars derive the term mandaiia from Mandā d-Heyyi (Mandaic Manda ḏ'Hayyi "Knowledge of Life," in reference to the chief divinity Hayyi Rabbi "the Great Life" or "Great Living God") or from the word Beth Manda, which is the cultic hut in which many Mandaean ceremonies are performed (such as the baptism, which is the central sacrament of Mandaean religious life).
History:
According to the Mandaean text the Haran Gawaita, the recorded history of the Mandaeans began when a group called the Nasoreans (the Mandaean priestly caste as opposed to the laity), left Judea/Palestine and migrated to Mesopotamia in the 1st century AD. The reason given for this was their persecution in Jerusalem. The emigrants went first to Haran (probably Harran in modern day Turkey), or Hauran and then the Median hills in Iran, before finally settling in the southern provinces of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). At the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Mesopotamia, the leader of the Mandaeans, Anush son of Danqa appeared before Muslim authorities showing them a copy of the Ginza Rabba, the Mandaean holy book, and proclaiming the chief Mandaean prophet to be John the Baptist, who is also mentioned in the Quran as Yahya Bin Zakariya. This identified Mandaeans with the Sabians who are mentioned in the Quran as being counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book). This provided Mandaeans a status as a legal minority religion within the Muslim Empire. The Mandaeans were henceforth associated with the Sabians and the Jewish Christian group the Elcesaites, on account of the location of all three in Mesopotamia in the early centuries AD, and the similarities in their beliefs. The importance of baptism in the rituals of all three is particularly marked. Like the Mandaeans, the Sabians were also said to be gnostics and descended from Noah. Mandaeans continue to be identified with Sabians up to the present day, but the exact relationship between the three groups remains unclear. Around 1290, a learned Dominican Catholic from Tuscany, Ricoldo da Montecroce, or Ricoldo Pennini, was in Mesopotamia where he met the Mandaeans. He described them as follows:
A very strange and singular people, in terms of their rituals, lives in the desert near Baghdad; they are called Sabaeans. Many of them came to me and begged me insistently to go and visit them. They are a very simple people and they claim to possess a secret law of God, which they preserve in beautiful books. Their writing is a sort of middle way between Syriac and Arabic. They detest Abraham because of circumcision and they venerate John the Baptist above all. They live only near a few rivers in the desert. They wash day and night so as not to be condemned by God…
Mandaeans were called "Christians of Saint John" by members of the Discalced Carmelite mission in Basra during the 16th century, based upon their preliminary reports. Some Portuguese Jesuits had also met some "Saint John Christians" around the Strait of Hormuz in 1559, when the Portuguese fleet fought with the Ottoman Turkish army in Bahrain. These Mandaean seemed to be willing to obey the Catholic Church. They learned and used the seven Catholic sacraments and the related ceremonies in their lives. What we next find is a Mandaean culture, rooted in southern Mesopotamia, with its own distinctive language, from the eastern (not western) Aramaic group, and its own alphabet, closely related to that found in inscriptions of Elymais and coins of Characene. What is striking is that the Mandaeans appear to be a distinct, endogamic religious and ethnic group, with neither proselytism towards, nor conversions from, the outside. While the disciples of John the Baptist were Baptist Jews who kept us to the biblical reading among radical anti-nomistic Christian and post-Christian Gnostic groups, whose hatred for the Jews is well explained as originating in Christian circles. If we add that the Mandaean traditions on John the Baptist cannot be directly connected to the historical John, but are developments of Christian apocryphal legends (Lupieri, up with the reading of the Torah and its observance, the Mandaeans appear to be defiantly anti-Jewish, to abhor circumcision as the worst impurity, and to propose an “inverted” reading of the little they still use of the Jewish Bible: the Jews and their God are the villains, and the Egyptians with their Pharaoh, the enemies of the Jews, become the ancestors of the Mandaeans (Drower, 1937, pp. 261-66; Lupieri, 2002, pp. 133-42). This brings 1988, pp. 195-395), and that even those pertaining to Miriai (a Jewish girl of priestly stock who is said to have converted to become a Mandaean in some early stage of its history) are constructed on other Christian apocryphal stories about Mary, the mother of Jesus (Buckley, 1993), any direct physical connection with first-century Palestine becomes historically unnecessary. The Mandaean history of salvation is a creative conflation of biblical lore and the theory of the four ages of the world. After the biblical flood, which ends the third age of the world, the Mandaeans are the only descendants of the “pure seed” of Adam on earth, but are subjected to periodic extinctions during the present fourth age. Following each extinction, one of the Mandaean saviors or revealers brings new Mandaeans to Mesopotamia from a fabulous realm in the mountains of the North, a sort of paradise on earth where their pure seed survives. This is where the inventor of Mandaean baptism, Birham the Great (and not John the Baptist), resides. This semi-divine entity has the same name as a Semitic divinity, which in the Mesopotamia of Late Antiquity was identified as the Greek demigod Heracles and became the protecting god of the Hyspaosinnidic dynasty of the rulers of Mesene-Characene under the Arsacid empire (roughly from 165BC.E. to 222 C.E.). The Arsacids were followed by the Sasanians, who took full control of Mesopotamia in the years 224-27 C.E. and adhered firmly to Zoroastrianism. They initiated a period of religious persecution, which reached its climax in the second half of the third century under the guidance of the leading Zoroastrian priest and imperial dignitary Karter (or Kirdir). He was responsible for the imprisonment and death of Mani (ca. 275 C.E.), and in his Kaʿba-ye Zardošt inscription (Back, pp. 414-16) he boasts that he persecuted Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Brahmins, zandiks (usually regarded as Mazdean heretics), the mysterious Makdaks (Manicheans or maybe Mandaeans), and the Nasuraeans (possibly Mandaeans or some Jewish-Christian groups). This inscription could offer the terminus ante quem for the existence of an independent Mandaean religion in Mesopotamia. The Sasanian persecution also seems to provide the best explanation for a peculiar Mandaean legend about a “king Artabanus” who was “the king of the Mandaeans.” In recent versions of the story, he becomes the brother of “king Pharaoh,” who survives the crossing of the Red Sea and flees Moses and his Jewish army. The story has many versions, one of which may be present in the very fragmentary Haran Gauaita (Drower, 1953); this book possibly contained a whole Mandaean world history, from the mythical beginning to the apocalyptical end. Unfortunately the beginning is missing and the present title reproduces the first two words of the surviving text, alluding to the “Interior Harran” which welcomes Artabanus after his defeat. It appears that both Pharaoh and Artabanus are Mandaean kings and both are defeated by the Jews. This could be a historical memory of the figure of Artabanus V (r. ca. 213-24 C.E.), the last and defeated Arsacid king. During the Sasanian period of persecution, the last king of a previous tolerant dynasty could have been “adopted” as a Mandaean, in the same way as the Pharaoh, the enemy of the enemies (the Jews), was. If this is true, Mandaeanism must have already existed at the beginning of Sasanian rule. The richness and variety of the second- and third-century Mesopotamian religious milieu is well documented and is evident in the Codex Manichaicus Coloniensis, which shows Mani growing up as a member of a community of Mesopotamian Baptists (all men dressed in white). According to the Codex, their leader was Elchasai, the apparent author of a Jewish-Christian apocalypse with strong Gnostic traits written around 115 C.E. (Cirillo, Luttikhuizen). Mandaeanism is very likely a splinter group of southern Mesopotamian, post-Christian Gnosticism, possibly originating in the late second century. The connection with Old and New Testament Palestine is cultural, not ethnic or geographic, as there is no need to explain a migration of ideas in terms of the migration of an entire population. What remains unique is that, if we consider the ethnic conscience of the Mandaeans as original to them, we must accept that a whole ethnic group collectively adopted a Gnostic form of religion. If this is true, we may presume there occurred some form of mass conversion as a consequence of the preaching of some religious missionary or reformer. Although the full study of Mandaean text colophons has yet to be completed, we may still find in them some indication of the possible founder of Mandaeanism. Most of the colophons repeat the same series of names, which constitutes a list of the oldest scribes and religious leaders. With some exceptions, which are possibly a reaction to the more common tradition, the oldest name is that of a certain Zazai. In some colophons he appears to have received the book directly from a divine figure and even to be a semi-divine person himself. In the Haran Gauaita he is the first of seven Mandaean king-archers who destroy Judaism, is appointed by Anuš ʿUtra, one of the Mandaean revealers, as the Mandaean king in Baghdad (which is usually identified with Jerusalem), and finally ascends to heaven, where he spends sixty-two days (to receive a special revelation?). Therefore, this Zazai seems to be the historical founder of Mandaeanism, possibly a second-century Mesopotamian Gnostic teacher who considered himself the bearer of direct, divine inspiration. From the numerous names listed in prayers, colophons, and the Haran Gauaita, it is possible to identify some other important religious authors and leaders in early Mandaean history. After Zazai, but before the Islamic era, a certain Šganda, or Ašganda, was so famous that the Mesopotamian city of Ṭib, where he resided, was, for the Mandaeans, “the city of Ašganda.” In the years of the Muslim Arab conquest of Mesopotamia (639-42 CE), we are told that a certain Anuš bar Danqa, a layman, considered to be a descendent of King Artabanus, was able to convince the new rulers that the Mandaeans, like the Christians and the Jews, were “People of the Book” (Arabic: Ahl al-Ketāb), and therefore should not be persecuted. In those years, a certain Ramuia was the leading figure among the scribal and religious authorities, possibly the person in charge of (re)writing the Mandaean religious texts, so that they could be shown to the Muslim rulers. In early Islamic times, we find the recurrent name of a person who must have standardized most Mandaean texts: Baian. It is tempting to consider his activity as a reaction to a religious schism, of which we have both written and oral accounts, the schism of Qiqil. This Mandaean religious leader resided in T’ib, is said to have taken the wrong path, but in the end to have repented. According to Mandaean sources his activity is chronologically connected to John the Baptist (several centuries after him), since all the Mandaeans who accepted Qiqil’s teachings are considered to be the descendants of those Jews who were converted by John the Baptist, and therefore not ethnically Mandaeans. But this is heresiological acrimony, not historical reconstruction.
Beliefs:
Mandaeism, as the religion of the Mandaean people, is based more on a common heritage than on any set of religious creeds and doctrines. The corpus of Mandaean literature, though quite large, covers topics such as eschatology, the knowledge of God and the afterlife—in an unsystematic manner. Moreover, it is known only to the priesthood and a few laypeople.
Fundamental tenets:
According to E. S. Drower, the Mandaean Gnosis is characterized by nine features, which appear in various forms in other gnostic sects:
  1. A supreme formless Entity, the expression of which in time and space is creation of spiritual, etheric, and material worlds and beings. Production of these is delegated by It to a creator or creators who originated It. The cosmos is created by Archetypal Man, who produces it in similitude to his own shape.
  2. Dualism: a cosmic Father and Mother, Light and Darkness, Right and Left, syzygy in cosmic and microcosmic form.
  3. As a feature of this dualism, counter-types, a world of ideas.
  4. The soul is portrayed as an exile, a captive; her home and origin being the supreme Entity to which she eventually returns.
  5. Planets and stars influence fate and human beings, and are also places of detention after death.
  6. A savior spirit or savior spirits which assist the soul on her journey through life and after it to ‘worlds of light’.'
  7. A cult-language of symbol and metaphor. Ideas and qualities are personified.
  8. ‘Mysteries’, i.e. sacraments to aid and purify the soul, to ensure her rebirth into a spiritual body, and her ascent from the world of matter. These are often adaptations of existing seasonal and traditional rites to which an esoteric interpretation is attached. In the case of the Naṣoraeans this interpretation is based on the Creation story (see 1 and 2), especially on the Divine Man, Adam, as crowned and anointed King-priest.
  9. Great secrecy is enjoined upon initiates; full explanation of 1, 2, and 8 being reserved for those considered able to understand and preserve the gnosis.
Cosmology:
The cosmology is marked by a strict dualism between a “World of Light” (alma d-nuhra) and a “World of Darkness” (alma d-hšuka). The world of light is ruled by a sublime being who bears different names: “Life” (hiia, haiyi), “Lord of Greatness” (mara d-rabuta), “Great Mind” (mana rba), “King of Light” (malka d-nuhra). He is surrounded by a countless number of beings of light (uthri or malki), living in “dwellings” (škinata) or “worlds” (almi), performing cultic acts and praising the Life. The world of light came into being from the “First Life” (haiyi qadmaiyi) by way of descending emanations or creations, which are called “Second,” “Third,” and “Fourth Life”; they also bear personal names, such as Yōšamin, Abathur, and Ptahil; the last one is the later demiurge. The “World of Darkness” is governed by the “Lord of Darkness” (mara d-hšuka) and arose from the “dark waters” (meyi siawi, or ʿkumi, tahmi) representing the chaos. The main powers of the world of darkness are a giant monster or dragon with the name Ur (probably a polemic transformation of Hebr. ʿor “light”) and the evil (female) “Spirit” (ruha). Their offspring are demonic beings (daiwi) and “angels” (malaki). To them belong also the “Seven” (šuba), i.e., the planets (šibiahyi), and the “Twelve” (trisar) signs of the Zodiac; they are sons of Ur and Ruha. The conflict between light and darkness, life and death, good and evil leads to the creation of the world (tibil) by the demiurge Ptahil with the help of the dark or gloomy powers, mainly Ruha and the “Seven” and “Twelve.” In this process, the body of first man, Adam, is created by the same bad beings, but his “animating essence” is derived from the World of Light. This “substance of light” in Adam is called “inner (hidden) Adam” (adam kasya, adakas, also adam rba “great Adam”), and it represents the “soul” (nišimta) or “mind” (mana) in humans, which has to be saved or rescued from the dark, evil body (pagra) and the world (tibil) by heavenly beings of light. The wife of Adam, Eve (Hawwa), is created separate from him according to the heavenly “cloud of light” (who figures as the wife of the heavenly or “great Adam”; regarding another tradition on Eve, see below). The salvation of souls is the main concern of the Mandaean religion. One of its central creeds is the belief in several “messengers” (šganda, šliha), “helpers” (adyaura), or “redeemers” (parwanqa) sent by the Life in order to inform the pious of their “call” and to save their souls. The dominant figure of these “envoys of light” is the “Knowledge of Life” (Manda d-Haiyi), who is also called “Son of Life” (Barhaiyi) or “Counterpart of Life” (Dmuthaiyi). Beside him stand the three heavenly Adamites, Hibil (Abel), Šitil (Seth), and Anōš (Enosh). Actually, the Mandaeans know no “historical” redeemers but only the “mythological” ones appearing throughout the ages of the history of the world as a repetition of the first revelation to Adam, which is the prototype of redemption. In some texts the soul ascending after death is escorted and saved by one of the saviors mentioned. Probably after the confrontation with early Christianity, the Mandaeans developed the story that one of their messengers (Anōš or Manda d-Haiyi) appeared in Jerusalem as an antagonist of Jesus Christ in order to expose him as a liar and a false messiah. In this connection John the Baptist played the role of a true Mandaean “disciple” or “priest” (tarmida). Whether reliable information about early Mandaean history in relation to the movement of the followers of John the Baptist can be derived from these tales is a problem that remains unsolved (Rudolph, 1960, pp. 66-80). Clearly, for the Mandaeans John is not the founder of their religion but only one of their prominent representatives. Only the ritual of baptism in flowing water still reminds us of John’s practice (see below). As noted above Mandaean theology is not systematic. There is no one single authoritative account of the creation of the cosmos, but rather a series of several accounts. Some scholars, such as Edmondo Lupieri, maintain that comparison of these different accounts may reveal the diverse religious influences upon which the Mandaeans have drawn and the ways in which the Mandaean religion has evolved over time. In contrast with the religious texts of the western Gnostic sects formerly found in Syria and Egypt, the earliest Mandaean religious texts suggest a more strictly dualistic theology, typical of other Iranian religions such as Zoroastrianism, Zurvanism, Manichaeism, and the teachings of Mazdak. In these texts, instead of a large pleroma, there is a discrete division between light and darkness. The Mandaean God is known as Hayyi Rabbi (The Great Living God). Other names used are Mare d'Rabuta (Lord of Greatness) and Melka d'Nhura (King of Light). Ptahil, the third emanation, alone does not constitute the demiurge but only fills that role insofar as he is the creator of the material world. Rather, Ptahil is the lowest of a group of three emanations, the other two being Yushamin (first emanation a.k.a. Joshamin) and Abathur, the second emanation. Abathur's demiurgic role consists of his sitting in judgment upon the souls of mortals. The role of Yushamin, the first emanation, is more obscure; wanting to create a world of his own, he was severely punished for opposing the King of Light. The name may derive from Iao haš-šammayim (in Hebrew: Yahweh "of the heavens"). While Mandaeans agree with other gnostic sects that the world is a prison governed by the planetary archons, they do not view it as a cruel and inhospitable one.
Chief prophets:
Mandaeans recognize several prophets. Yahia-Yohanna, known in Christianity as John the Baptist, is accorded a special status, higher than his role in Christianity and Islam. Mandaeans do not consider John to be the founder of their religion but revere him as one of their greatest teachers, tracing their beliefs back to Adam. Mandaeans do not believe in Abraham, Moses or Jesus, but recognize other prophetic figures from the Abrahamic religions, such as Adam, his son Seth and his grandson Anush (Enos), as well as Nuh (Noah), his descendants Sam, (Shem) in Bible and Ram (Aram) in Bible. The latter three they consider to be their direct ancestors. Mandaeans also do not recognize the Holy Spirit in the Talmud and Bible, who is known in Mandaic as Ruha, Ruha d-Qudsha, or Ruha Masțanita, in the same way. Instead of being viewed positively as a holy spirit, she is viewed negatively as the personification of the lower, emotional, and feminine elements of the human psyche.
Scriptures:
The Mandaeans have a large corpus of religious scriptures, the most important of which is the Ginza Rba or Ginza, a collection of history, theology, and prayers. The Ginza Rba is divided into two halves—the Genzā Smālā or "Left Ginza", and the Genzā Yeminā or "Right Ginza". By consulting the colophons in the Left Ginza, Jorunn J. Buckley has identified an uninterrupted chain of copyists to the late second or early third century. The colophons attest to the existence of the Mandaeans or their predecessors during the late Parthian Empire at the very latest. The oldest texts are lead amulets from about the third century AD, followed by magic bowls from about AD 600. The important religious manuscripts are not older than the sixteenth century, with most coming from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although the Ginza continued to evolve under the rule of the Sasanian Empire and the Islamic caliphates, few textual traditions can lay claim to such extensive continuity. Another important text is the Haran Gawaita which tells the history of the Mandaeans. According to this text, a group of Nasoraeans (Mandean priests) left Judea before the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century CE, and settled within the Parthian Empire. Other important books include the Qolusta, the canonical prayerbook of the Mandaeans, which was translated by E. S. Drower. One of the chief works of Mandaean scripture, accessible to laymen and initiates alike, is the Mandaean Book of John (Lidzbarski, Mark. "Das Johannesbuch der Mandäer". Giessen : Töpelmann.), which includes a dialogue between John and Jesus. In addition to the Ginza, Qolusta, and Draša, there is the Dīvān, which contains a description of the 'regions' the soul ascends through, and the Asfar Malwāshē, the "Book of the Zodiacal Constellations". Finally, there are some pre-Muslim artifacts that contain Mandaean writings and inscriptions, such as some Aramaic incantation bowls. The language in which the Mandaean religious literature was originally composed is known as Mandaic, and is a member of the Aramaic family of dialects. It is written in a cursive variant of the Parthian chancellory script. Many Mandaean lay people do not speak this language, though some members of the Mandaean community resident in Iran and Iraq continue to speak Neo-Mandaic, a modern version of this language.
Organisation:
There is a strict division between Mandaean laity and the priests. According to E.S. Drower (The Secret Adam, p. ix):
[T]hose amongst the community who possess secret knowledge are called Naṣuraiia—Naṣoreans (or, if the emphatic ‹ṣ› is written as ‹z›, Nazorenes). At the same time the ignorant or semi-ignorant laity are called 'Mandaeans', Mandaiia—'gnostics.' When a man becomes a priest he leaves 'Mandaeanism' and enters tarmiduta, 'priesthood.' Even then he has not attained to true enlightenment, for this, called 'Naṣiruta', is reserved for a very few. Those possessed of its secrets may call themselves Naṣoreans, and 'Naṣorean' today indicates not only one who observes strictly all rules of ritual purity, but one who understands the secret doctrine.
There are three grades of priesthood in Mandaeism: the tarmidia "disciples" (Neo-Mandaic tarmidānā), the ganzibria "treasurers" (from Old Persian ganza-bara "id.," Neo-Mandaic ganzeḇrānā) and the rišamma "leader of the people". This last office, the highest level of the Mandaean priesthood, has lain vacant for many years. At the moment, the highest office currently occupied is that of the ganzeḇrā, a title which appears first in a religious context in the Aramaic ritual texts from Persepolis (c. 3rd century BCE) and which may be related to the kamnaskires (Elamite kapnuskir "treasurer"), title of the rulers of Elymais (modern Khuzestan) during the Hellenistic age. Traditionally, any ganzeḇrā who baptizes seven or more ganzeḇrānā may qualify for the office of rišamma, though the Mandaean community has yet to rally as a whole behind any single candidate. The contemporary priesthood can trace its immediate origins to the first half of the 19th century. In 1831, an outbreak of cholera devastated the region and eliminated most if not all of the Mandaean religious authorities. Two of the surviving acolytes (šgandia), Yahia Bihram and Ram Zihrun, reestablished the priesthood on the basis of their own training and the texts that were available to them. In 2009, there were two dozen Mandaean priests in the world, according to the Associated Press.However, according to the Mandaean Society in America the number of priests has been growing in recent years.
Relations with other groups:
The Mandaeans have been identified with several groups, in particular the Sabians and the Elkasaites. Other groups such as the Nazerences and the Dositheans have also been identified with the Mandaeans. The exact relation of all these groups to one another is a difficult question. But they do share many common beliefs, in accordance with other ancient Middle Eastern religions such as Yazdaism and Judaism, such as belief in a formless deity, reincarnation and rejection of meat or red meat either completely or during religious times. While it seems certain that a number of distinct groups are intended by these names, the nature of these sects and the connections between them are less than clear. At least according to the Fihrist (see below), these groups seem all to have emerged from or developed in parallel with the "Sabian" followers of El-Hasaih; "Elkasaites" in particular may simply have been a blanket term for Mughtasila, Mandaeans, the original Sabians and even Manichaeans.
Sabians:
The Quran makes several references to the Sabians, who are frequently thought to be Mandaeans. Sabians are counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book), and several hadith feature them. Arab sources of early Quranic times (7th century) also make some references to Sabians. Some scholars hold that the etymology of the root word 'Sabi'un' points to origins either in the Syriac or Mandaic word 'Sabian', and suggest that the Mandaean religion originated with Sabeans who came under the influence of early Hellenic Sabian missionaries, but preferred their own priesthood. The Sabians believed they "belong to the prophet Noah"; Similarly, the Mandaeans claim direct descent from Noah. Early in the 9th century, a group of Hermeticists in the northern Mesopotamian city of Harran declared themselves Sabians when facing persecution; an Assyrian Christian writer said that the true 'Sabians' or Sabba lived in the marshes of lower Iraq. The Assyrian writer Theodore Bar Konai (in the Scholion, 792) described a "sect" of "Sabians", who were located in southern Mesopotamia. Al-Biruni (writing at the beginning of the 11th century) said that the 'real Sabians' were "the remnants of the Jewish tribes who remained in Babylonia when the other tribes left it for Jerusalem in the days of Cyrus and Artaxerxes. These remaining tribes ... adopted a system mixed-up of Magism and Judaism."
Nasaraean:
The Haran Gawaita uses the name Nasoraeans for the Mandaeans arriving from Jerusalem. Consequently, the Mandaeans have been connected with the Nasaraeans described by Epiphanius, a group within the Essenes. Epiphanius says (29:6) that they existed before Christ. That is questioned by some, but others accept the pre-Christian origin of this group.
Elkesaites:
The Elkesaites were a Judeo-Christian baptismal sect which seem to have been related, and possibly ancestral, to the Mandaeans (see Sabians). The members of this sect, like the Mandaeans, wore white and performed baptisms. They dwelt in east Judea and Assyria, whence the Mandaeans claim to have migrated to southern Mesopotamia, according to the Harran Gawaiṯā. In the Fihrist ("Book of Nations") of Arabic scholar Al-Nadim (c. 987), the Mogtasilah (Mughtasila, "self-ablutionists") are counted among the followers of El-Hasaih or Elkesaites. Mogtasilah may thus have been Al-Nadim's term for the Mandaeans, as the few details on rituals and habit are similar to Mandaeans ones. The Elkesaites seem to have prospered for a while, but ultimately splintered. They may have originated in a schism where they renounced the Torah, while the mainstream Sampsaeans held on to it (as Elchasai's followers did)—if so, this must have happened around the mid-late 1st millennium CE. However, it is not clear exactly which group he referred to, for by then the Elkesaite sects may have been at their most diverse. Some disappeared subsequently; for example, the Sampsaeans are not well attested in later sources. The Ginza Rba, one of the chief holy scriptures of the Mandaeans, appears to originate around the time of Elchasai or somewhat thereafter.
Manichaeans
According to the Fihrist of ibn al-Nadim, the Mesopotamian prophet Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, was brought up within the Elkesaite (Elcesaite or Elchasaite) sect, this being confirmed more recently by the Cologne Mani Codex. None of the Manichaean scriptures has survived in its entirety, and it seems that the remaining fragments have not been compared to the Ginza Rba. Mani later left the Elkasaites to found his own religion. In a comparative analysis, Mandaean scholar Säve-Söderberg indicated that Mani's Psalms of Thomas were closely related to Mandaean texts. This would imply that Mani had access to Mandaean religious literature, or that both derived from the same source.
Dositheans:
They are connected with the Samaritan group the Dositheans by Theodore Bar Kōnī in his Scholion.
Zoroastrians:
A survey of demonstrable Persian (Iranian or Zoroastrian) elements in the Mandaean religion clearly shows that the Mandaeans had, in the course of their history, diversely adapted to their greater surroundings without losing their identity. The correspondences with Zoroastrianism in practice and ritual are more prominent than any in mythology or theology. Mandaean mythology and theology, with its basic dualistic orientation, did not distance itself from the original Gnostic task for reflection, that is, an anti-cosmic view. This attitude, however, did not manifest itself in ascetic practice, and therefore the religion comes closer to the Iranian Zoroastrian view of the world as split into good and evil. There are further striking correspondences between Mandaean and Persian traditions in regard to prayer times, repentance and confession disciplines, and marriage ceremonies. While there is evidence that the Mandaeans had different daily prayer hours in the course of their history (three, five, and seven times), the Zoroastrians have five (gāhān; see GĀH; Modi, 1937, pp. 219-20; Stausberg, 2004, pp. 488 ff.; concerning the relation between gāh and gāthā, see ibid., p. 59), as more or less constantly witnessed, which were evidently a model for the five Mandaean ones (Rudolph, 1961, pp. 224 ff.). It may also be assumed that the three possibilities of penance before an excommunication were a Persian legacy to the Mandaeans; the two religions shared a common formula for confessions (MPers. patīt), by which the (mainly ritual) sins were atoned for through repentance (ibid., pp. 243 ff., 252 f.). The marriage ceremonies include ablutions, the drinking of wine, and a curtain between the bridal couple during the rituals (ibid., p. 321). An analysis of these subjects leads to the conclusion (Rudolph, 1965; 1996, pp. 362-69) that the older, strictly dualistic conception was later amended by a more monistic doctrine which considered the creation of the world (tibil) and man (adam) as an act of the “king of light” (malka d-nuhra). The classic, dualistic doctrine consists of the opposition between a world of life (hiia) or light (nuhra) and one of darkness (hšuka), each of which arose by itself and whose hostile relationship determined the future history of the world. This corresponds with the Iranian Zoroastrian concepts, once we disregard Zarathustra’s older views in the Gathas and in more recent Zurvanism. It was therefore not wrong of Hans Jonas to describe Mandaeism as a special form of the Iranian type of gnosis, which also had characteristics of the so-called “Syrian-Egyptian type” (Jonas, 1934, 1988, pp. 380 ff.). Its difference from the Iranian concept was, however, that it attributed creation to the act of a fallen demiurge (Ptahil) and his evil sons, the planets and zodiac creatures, so that the world became a part of darkness. The human being (Adam) is also part of the world in his material form. Only the “soul” (nišimta, mana; also called “hidden Adam,” Adakas), sent by the “Great Life” or “Great Mana,” enables Adam to live; the liberation of the soul from body and world then becomes the aim of the entire subject of redemption, an idea which corresponds with the Iranian one and is altogether typical of Gnosis.
Current situation:
Currently, one ganzibra (the highest ranking priest), three tarmidas (the lower ranking priest), and several yalufas serve as leaders, keeping the Mandaeans focused around their rituals and securing the community’s life. The Mandaean leaders of Ahwaz are trying to rescue their spoken Mandaic language, the ratna, which seems to be extinct in Iraq. To instruct the Mandaean children and youth is especially vital, and the effort to secure the language is a fairly recent one. Only in Persia—and among a few Iranian Mandaeans in emigration— does the spoken language (as distinct from the ancient, East Aramaic, written ritual language) still survive, mainly among the community’s elders. Iranian Mandaeans living in emigration in Australia also try to keep the Mandaic tongue alive. In addition to their varied ritual roles, the religious leaders of Ahwaz also serve as links to local Muslim authorities when necessary. The Mandaeans are by tradition endogamous, pacifist in nature, and non-proselytizing, for converts are not accepted. Government regulations requiring schoolboys to cut their hair short have created difficulties for the recruitment to the Mandaean priesthood, as priests’ hair and beards must remain uncut throughout life. Islamic instruction in Muslim schools is required of Mandaean children, and Mandaeans must adhere to Muslim codes for dress and public behavior. Mandaean priests, with their long beards, white turbans, and aristocratic demeanor, continue to instill awed respect in public places. With cloaks over their white garments, they look somewhat like Shiʿite clerics or other religious dignitaries familiar in Islamic cultures. The religion has been practised primarily around the lower Karun, Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. There are thought to be between 60,000 and 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide. Until the Iraq War, almost all of them lived in Iraq. Many Mandaean Iraqis have since fled their country because of the turmoil created by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation by U.S. armed forces, and the related rise in sectarian violence by Muslim extremists. By 2007, the population of Mandaeans in Iraq had fallen to approximately 5,000.
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2020.02.29 04:27 saert_gert Mandaeans, the Gnostic Sabians

Mandaeism or Mandaeanism (Arabic: مَنْدَائِيَّة‎, Mandāʾīyah), also known as Sabaeanism, is a monotheistic and gnostic religion: with a strongly dualistic cosmology. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Noah, Shem, Aram, and especially John the Baptist. The Mandaeans are Semites and speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. The name 'Mandaean' is said to come from the Aramaic manda meaning "knowledge", as does Greek gnosis. Within the Middle East, but outside of their community, the Mandaeans are more commonly known as the Ṣubba (singular: Ṣubbī) or Sabians. The term Ṣubba is derived from the Aramaic root related to baptism, the neo-Mandaic is Ṣabi. In Islam, the "Sabians" (Arabic: الصَّابِئُون‎, aṣ-Ṣābiʾūn) are described several times in the Quran as People of the Book, alongside Jews and Christians. Occasionally, Mandaeans are called "Christians of Saint John". According to most scholars, Mandaeaism originated sometime in the first three centuries AD, in either southwestern Mesopotamia or the Syro-Palestinian area. However, some scholars take the view that Mandaeanism is older and dates from pre-Christian times.
Etymology:
The term Mandaeism comes from Classical Mandaic Mandaiia and appears in Neo-Mandaic as Mandeyānā. On the basis of cognates in other Aramaic dialects, Semiticists such as Mark Lidzbarski and Rudolf Macuch have translated the term manda, from which Mandaiia derives, as "knowledge" (cf. Aramaic: מַנְדַּע‎ mandaʻ in Dan. 2:21, 4:31, 33, 5:12; cf. Hebrew: מַדַּע maddaʻ, with characteristic assimilation of /n/ to the following consonant, medial -nd- hence becoming -dd-). . This etymology suggests that the Mandaeans may well be the only sect surviving from Late Antiquity to identify themselves explicitly as Gnostics. Other scholars derive the term mandaiia from Mandā d-Heyyi (Mandaic Manda ḏ'Hayyi "Knowledge of Life," in reference to the chief divinity Hayyi Rabbi "the Great Life" or "Great Living God") or from the word Beth Manda, which is the cultic hut in which many Mandaean ceremonies are performed (such as the baptism, which is the central sacrament of Mandaean religious life).
History:
According to the Mandaean text the Haran Gawaita, the recorded history of the Mandaeans began when a group called the Nasoreans (the Mandaean priestly caste as opposed to the laity), left Judea/Palestine and migrated to Mesopotamia in the 1st century AD. The reason given for this was their persecution in Jerusalem. The emigrants went first to Haran (probably Harran in modern day Turkey), or Hauran and then the Median hills in Iran, before finally settling in the southern provinces of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). At the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Mesopotamia, the leader of the Mandaeans, Anush son of Danqa appeared before Muslim authorities showing them a copy of the Ginza Rabba, the Mandaean holy book, and proclaiming the chief Mandaean prophet to be John the Baptist, who is also mentioned in the Quran as Yahya Bin Zakariya. This identified Mandaeans with the Sabians who are mentioned in the Quran as being counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book). This provided Mandaeans a status as a legal minority religion within the Muslim Empire. The Mandaeans were henceforth associated with the Sabians and the Jewish Christian group the Elcesaites, on account of the location of all three in Mesopotamia in the early centuries AD, and the similarities in their beliefs. The importance of baptism in the rituals of all three is particularly marked. Like the Mandaeans, the Sabians were also said to be gnostics and descended from Noah. Mandaeans continue to be identified with Sabians up to the present day, but the exact relationship between the three groups remains unclear. Around 1290, a learned Dominican Catholic from Tuscany, Ricoldo da Montecroce, or Ricoldo Pennini, was in Mesopotamia where he met the Mandaeans. He described them as follows:
A very strange and singular people, in terms of their rituals, lives in the desert near Baghdad; they are called Sabaeans. Many of them came to me and begged me insistently to go and visit them. They are a very simple people and they claim to possess a secret law of God, which they preserve in beautiful books. Their writing is a sort of middle way between Syriac and Arabic. They detest Abraham because of circumcision and they venerate John the Baptist above all. They live only near a few rivers in the desert. They wash day and night so as not to be condemned by God…
Mandaeans were called "Christians of Saint John" by members of the Discalced Carmelite mission in Basra during the 16th century, based upon their preliminary reports. Some Portuguese Jesuits had also met some "Saint John Christians" around the Strait of Hormuz in 1559, when the Portuguese fleet fought with the Ottoman Turkish army in Bahrain. These Mandaean seemed to be willing to obey the Catholic Church. They learned and used the seven Catholic sacraments and the related ceremonies in their lives. What we next find is a Mandaean culture, rooted in southern Mesopotamia, with its own distinctive language, from the eastern (not western) Aramaic group, and its own alphabet, closely related to that found in inscriptions of Elymais and coins of Characene. What is striking is that the Mandaeans appear to be a distinct, endogamic religious and ethnic group, with neither proselytism towards, nor conversions from, the outside. While the disciples of John the Baptist were Baptist Jews who kept us to the biblical reading among radical anti-nomistic Christian and post-Christian Gnostic groups, whose hatred for the Jews is well explained as originating in Christian circles. If we add that the Mandaean traditions on John the Baptist cannot be directly connected to the historical John, but are developments of Christian apocryphal legends (Lupieri, up with the reading of the Torah and its observance, the Mandaeans appear to be defiantly anti-Jewish, to abhor circumcision as the worst impurity, and to propose an “inverted” reading of the little they still use of the Jewish Bible: the Jews and their God are the villains, and the Egyptians with their Pharaoh, the enemies of the Jews, become the ancestors of the Mandaeans (Drower, 1937, pp. 261-66; Lupieri, 2002, pp. 133-42). This brings 1988, pp. 195-395), and that even those pertaining to Miriai (a Jewish girl of priestly stock who is said to have converted to become a Mandaean in some early stage of its history) are constructed on other Christian apocryphal stories about Mary, the mother of Jesus (Buckley, 1993), any direct physical connection with first-century Palestine becomes historically unnecessary. The Mandaean history of salvation is a creative conflation of biblical lore and the theory of the four ages of the world. After the biblical flood, which ends the third age of the world, the Mandaeans are the only descendants of the “pure seed” of Adam on earth, but are subjected to periodic extinctions during the present fourth age. Following each extinction, one of the Mandaean saviors or revealers brings new Mandaeans to Mesopotamia from a fabulous realm in the mountains of the North, a sort of paradise on earth where their pure seed survives. This is where the inventor of Mandaean baptism, Birham the Great (and not John the Baptist), resides. This semi-divine entity has the same name as a Semitic divinity, which in the Mesopotamia of Late Antiquity was identified as the Greek demigod Heracles and became the protecting god of the Hyspaosinnidic dynasty of the rulers of Mesene-Characene under the Arsacid empire (roughly from 165BC.E. to 222 C.E.). The Arsacids were followed by the Sasanians, who took full control of Mesopotamia in the years 224-27 C.E. and adhered firmly to Zoroastrianism. They initiated a period of religious persecution, which reached its climax in the second half of the third century under the guidance of the leading Zoroastrian priest and imperial dignitary Karter (or Kirdir). He was responsible for the imprisonment and death of Mani (ca. 275 C.E.), and in his Kaʿba-ye Zardošt inscription (Back, pp. 414-16) he boasts that he persecuted Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Brahmins, zandiks (usually regarded as Mazdean heretics), the mysterious Makdaks (Manicheans or maybe Mandaeans), and the Nasuraeans (possibly Mandaeans or some Jewish-Christian groups). This inscription could offer the terminus ante quem for the existence of an independent Mandaean religion in Mesopotamia. The Sasanian persecution also seems to provide the best explanation for a peculiar Mandaean legend about a “king Artabanus” who was “the king of the Mandaeans.” In recent versions of the story, he becomes the brother of “king Pharaoh,” who survives the crossing of the Red Sea and flees Moses and his Jewish army. The story has many versions, one of which may be present in the very fragmentary Haran Gauaita (Drower, 1953); this book possibly contained a whole Mandaean world history, from the mythical beginning to the apocalyptical end. Unfortunately the beginning is missing and the present title reproduces the first two words of the surviving text, alluding to the “Interior Harran” which welcomes Artabanus after his defeat. It appears that both Pharaoh and Artabanus are Mandaean kings and both are defeated by the Jews. This could be a historical memory of the figure of Artabanus V (r. ca. 213-24 C.E.), the last and defeated Arsacid king. During the Sasanian period of persecution, the last king of a previous tolerant dynasty could have been “adopted” as a Mandaean, in the same way as the Pharaoh, the enemy of the enemies (the Jews), was. If this is true, Mandaeanism must have already existed at the beginning of Sasanian rule. The richness and variety of the second- and third-century Mesopotamian religious milieu is well documented and is evident in the Codex Manichaicus Coloniensis, which shows Mani growing up as a member of a community of Mesopotamian Baptists (all men dressed in white). According to the Codex, their leader was Elchasai, the apparent author of a Jewish-Christian apocalypse with strong Gnostic traits written around 115 C.E. (Cirillo, Luttikhuizen). Mandaeanism is very likely a splinter group of southern Mesopotamian, post-Christian Gnosticism, possibly originating in the late second century. The connection with Old and New Testament Palestine is cultural, not ethnic or geographic, as there is no need to explain a migration of ideas in terms of the migration of an entire population. What remains unique is that, if we consider the ethnic conscience of the Mandaeans as original to them, we must accept that a whole ethnic group collectively adopted a Gnostic form of religion. If this is true, we may presume there occurred some form of mass conversion as a consequence of the preaching of some religious missionary or reformer. Although the full study of Mandaean text colophons has yet to be completed, we may still find in them some indication of the possible founder of Mandaeanism. Most of the colophons repeat the same series of names, which constitutes a list of the oldest scribes and religious leaders. With some exceptions, which are possibly a reaction to the more common tradition, the oldest name is that of a certain Zazai. In some colophons he appears to have received the book directly from a divine figure and even to be a semi-divine person himself. In the Haran Gauaita he is the first of seven Mandaean king-archers who destroy Judaism, is appointed by Anuš ʿUtra, one of the Mandaean revealers, as the Mandaean king in Baghdad (which is usually identified with Jerusalem), and finally ascends to heaven, where he spends sixty-two days (to receive a special revelation?). Therefore, this Zazai seems to be the historical founder of Mandaeanism, possibly a second-century Mesopotamian Gnostic teacher who considered himself the bearer of direct, divine inspiration. From the numerous names listed in prayers, colophons, and the Haran Gauaita, it is possible to identify some other important religious authors and leaders in early Mandaean history. After Zazai, but before the Islamic era, a certain Šganda, or Ašganda, was so famous that the Mesopotamian city of Ṭib, where he resided, was, for the Mandaeans, “the city of Ašganda.” In the years of the Muslim Arab conquest of Mesopotamia (639-42 CE), we are told that a certain Anuš bar Danqa, a layman, considered to be a descendent of King Artabanus, was able to convince the new rulers that the Mandaeans, like the Christians and the Jews, were “People of the Book” (Arabic: Ahl al-Ketāb), and therefore should not be persecuted. In those years, a certain Ramuia was the leading figure among the scribal and religious authorities, possibly the person in charge of (re)writing the Mandaean religious texts, so that they could be shown to the Muslim rulers. In early Islamic times, we find the recurrent name of a person who must have standardized most Mandaean texts: Baian. It is tempting to consider his activity as a reaction to a religious schism, of which we have both written and oral accounts, the schism of Qiqil. This Mandaean religious leader resided in T’ib, is said to have taken the wrong path, but in the end to have repented. According to Mandaean sources his activity is chronologically connected to John the Baptist (several centuries after him), since all the Mandaeans who accepted Qiqil’s teachings are considered to be the descendants of those Jews who were converted by John the Baptist, and therefore not ethnically Mandaeans. But this is heresiological acrimony, not historical reconstruction.
Beliefs:
Mandaeism, as the religion of the Mandaean people, is based more on a common heritage than on any set of religious creeds and doctrines. The corpus of Mandaean literature, though quite large, covers topics such as eschatology, the knowledge of God and the afterlife—in an unsystematic manner. Moreover, it is known only to the priesthood and a few laypeople.
Fundamental tenets:
According to E. S. Drower, the Mandaean Gnosis is characterized by nine features, which appear in various forms in other gnostic sects:
  1. A supreme formless Entity, the expression of which in time and space is creation of spiritual, etheric, and material worlds and beings. Production of these is delegated by It to a creator or creators who originated It. The cosmos is created by Archetypal Man, who produces it in similitude to his own shape.
  2. Dualism: a cosmic Father and Mother, Light and Darkness, Right and Left, syzygy in cosmic and microcosmic form.
  3. As a feature of this dualism, counter-types, a world of ideas.
  4. The soul is portrayed as an exile, a captive; her home and origin being the supreme Entity to which she eventually returns.
  5. Planets and stars influence fate and human beings, and are also places of detention after death.
  6. A savior spirit or savior spirits which assist the soul on her journey through life and after it to ‘worlds of light’.'
  7. A cult-language of symbol and metaphor. Ideas and qualities are personified.
  8. ‘Mysteries’, i.e. sacraments to aid and purify the soul, to ensure her rebirth into a spiritual body, and her ascent from the world of matter. These are often adaptations of existing seasonal and traditional rites to which an esoteric interpretation is attached. In the case of the Naṣoraeans this interpretation is based on the Creation story (see 1 and 2), especially on the Divine Man, Adam, as crowned and anointed King-priest.
  9. Great secrecy is enjoined upon initiates; full explanation of 1, 2, and 8 being reserved for those considered able to understand and preserve the gnosis.
Cosmology:
The cosmology is marked by a strict dualism between a “World of Light” (alma d-nuhra) and a “World of Darkness” (alma d-hšuka). The world of light is ruled by a sublime being who bears different names: “Life” (hiia, haiyi), “Lord of Greatness” (mara d-rabuta), “Great Mind” (mana rba), “King of Light” (malka d-nuhra). He is surrounded by a countless number of beings of light (uthri or malki), living in “dwellings” (škinata) or “worlds” (almi), performing cultic acts and praising the Life. The world of light came into being from the “First Life” (haiyi qadmaiyi) by way of descending emanations or creations, which are called “Second,” “Third,” and “Fourth Life”; they also bear personal names, such as Yōšamin, Abathur, and Ptahil; the last one is the later demiurge. The “World of Darkness” is governed by the “Lord of Darkness” (mara d-hšuka) and arose from the “dark waters” (meyi siawi, or ʿkumi, tahmi) representing the chaos. The main powers of the world of darkness are a giant monster or dragon with the name Ur (probably a polemic transformation of Hebr. ʿor “light”) and the evil (female) “Spirit” (ruha). Their offspring are demonic beings (daiwi) and “angels” (malaki). To them belong also the “Seven” (šuba), i.e., the planets (šibiahyi), and the “Twelve” (trisar) signs of the Zodiac; they are sons of Ur and Ruha. The conflict between light and darkness, life and death, good and evil leads to the creation of the world (tibil) by the demiurge Ptahil with the help of the dark or gloomy powers, mainly Ruha and the “Seven” and “Twelve.” In this process, the body of first man, Adam, is created by the same bad beings, but his “animating essence” is derived from the World of Light. This “substance of light” in Adam is called “inner (hidden) Adam” (adam kasya, adakas, also adam rba “great Adam”), and it represents the “soul” (nišimta) or “mind” (mana) in humans, which has to be saved or rescued from the dark, evil body (pagra) and the world (tibil) by heavenly beings of light. The wife of Adam, Eve (Hawwa), is created separate from him according to the heavenly “cloud of light” (who figures as the wife of the heavenly or “great Adam”; regarding another tradition on Eve, see below). The salvation of souls is the main concern of the Mandaean religion. One of its central creeds is the belief in several “messengers” (šganda, šliha), “helpers” (adyaura), or “redeemers” (parwanqa) sent by the Life in order to inform the pious of their “call” and to save their souls. The dominant figure of these “envoys of light” is the “Knowledge of Life” (Manda d-Haiyi), who is also called “Son of Life” (Barhaiyi) or “Counterpart of Life” (Dmuthaiyi). Beside him stand the three heavenly Adamites, Hibil (Abel), Šitil (Seth), and Anōš (Enosh). Actually, the Mandaeans know no “historical” redeemers but only the “mythological” ones appearing throughout the ages of the history of the world as a repetition of the first revelation to Adam, which is the prototype of redemption. In some texts the soul ascending after death is escorted and saved by one of the saviors mentioned. Probably after the confrontation with early Christianity, the Mandaeans developed the story that one of their messengers (Anōš or Manda d-Haiyi) appeared in Jerusalem as an antagonist of Jesus Christ in order to expose him as a liar and a false messiah. In this connection John the Baptist played the role of a true Mandaean “disciple” or “priest” (tarmida). Whether reliable information about early Mandaean history in relation to the movement of the followers of John the Baptist can be derived from these tales is a problem that remains unsolved (Rudolph, 1960, pp. 66-80). Clearly, for the Mandaeans John is not the founder of their religion but only one of their prominent representatives. Only the ritual of baptism in flowing water still reminds us of John’s practice (see below). As noted above Mandaean theology is not systematic. There is no one single authoritative account of the creation of the cosmos, but rather a series of several accounts. Some scholars, such as Edmondo Lupieri, maintain that comparison of these different accounts may reveal the diverse religious influences upon which the Mandaeans have drawn and the ways in which the Mandaean religion has evolved over time. In contrast with the religious texts of the western Gnostic sects formerly found in Syria and Egypt, the earliest Mandaean religious texts suggest a more strictly dualistic theology, typical of other Iranian religions such as Zoroastrianism, Zurvanism, Manichaeism, and the teachings of Mazdak. In these texts, instead of a large pleroma, there is a discrete division between light and darkness. The Mandaean God is known as Hayyi Rabbi (The Great Living God). Other names used are Mare d'Rabuta (Lord of Greatness) and Melka d'Nhura (King of Light). Ptahil, the third emanation, alone does not constitute the demiurge but only fills that role insofar as he is the creator of the material world. Rather, Ptahil is the lowest of a group of three emanations, the other two being Yushamin (first emanation a.k.a. Joshamin) and Abathur, the second emanation. Abathur's demiurgic role consists of his sitting in judgment upon the souls of mortals. The role of Yushamin, the first emanation, is more obscure; wanting to create a world of his own, he was severely punished for opposing the King of Light. The name may derive from Iao haš-šammayim (in Hebrew: Yahweh "of the heavens"). While Mandaeans agree with other gnostic sects that the world is a prison governed by the planetary archons, they do not view it as a cruel and inhospitable one.
Chief prophets:
Mandaeans recognize several prophets. Yahia-Yohanna, known in Christianity as John the Baptist, is accorded a special status, higher than his role in Christianity and Islam. Mandaeans do not consider John to be the founder of their religion but revere him as one of their greatest teachers, tracing their beliefs back to Adam. Mandaeans do not believe in Abraham, Moses or Jesus, but recognize other prophetic figures from the Abrahamic religions, such as Adam, his son Seth and his grandson Anush (Enos), as well as Nuh (Noah), his descendants Sam, (Shem) in Bible and Ram (Aram) in Bible. The latter three they consider to be their direct ancestors. Mandaeans also do not recognize the Holy Spirit in the Talmud and Bible, who is known in Mandaic as Ruha, Ruha d-Qudsha, or Ruha Masțanita, in the same way. Instead of being viewed positively as a holy spirit, she is viewed negatively as the personification of the lower, emotional, and feminine elements of the human psyche.
Scriptures:
The Mandaeans have a large corpus of religious scriptures, the most important of which is the Ginza Rba or Ginza, a collection of history, theology, and prayers. The Ginza Rba is divided into two halves—the Genzā Smālā or "Left Ginza", and the Genzā Yeminā or "Right Ginza". By consulting the colophons in the Left Ginza, Jorunn J. Buckley has identified an uninterrupted chain of copyists to the late second or early third century. The colophons attest to the existence of the Mandaeans or their predecessors during the late Parthian Empire at the very latest. The oldest texts are lead amulets from about the third century AD, followed by magic bowls from about AD 600. The important religious manuscripts are not older than the sixteenth century, with most coming from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although the Ginza continued to evolve under the rule of the Sasanian Empire and the Islamic caliphates, few textual traditions can lay claim to such extensive continuity. Another important text is the Haran Gawaita which tells the history of the Mandaeans. According to this text, a group of Nasoraeans (Mandean priests) left Judea before the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century CE, and settled within the Parthian Empire. Other important books include the Qolusta, the canonical prayerbook of the Mandaeans, which was translated by E. S. Drower. One of the chief works of Mandaean scripture, accessible to laymen and initiates alike, is the Mandaean Book of John (Lidzbarski, Mark. "Das Johannesbuch der Mandäer". Giessen : Töpelmann.), which includes a dialogue between John and Jesus. In addition to the Ginza, Qolusta, and Draša, there is the Dīvān, which contains a description of the 'regions' the soul ascends through, and the Asfar Malwāshē, the "Book of the Zodiacal Constellations". Finally, there are some pre-Muslim artifacts that contain Mandaean writings and inscriptions, such as some Aramaic incantation bowls. The language in which the Mandaean religious literature was originally composed is known as Mandaic, and is a member of the Aramaic family of dialects. It is written in a cursive variant of the Parthian chancellory script. Many Mandaean lay people do not speak this language, though some members of the Mandaean community resident in Iran and Iraq continue to speak Neo-Mandaic, a modern version of this language.
Organisation:
There is a strict division between Mandaean laity and the priests. According to E.S. Drower (The Secret Adam, p. ix):
[T]hose amongst the community who possess secret knowledge are called Naṣuraiia—Naṣoreans (or, if the emphatic ‹ṣ› is written as ‹z›, Nazorenes). At the same time the ignorant or semi-ignorant laity are called 'Mandaeans', Mandaiia—'gnostics.' When a man becomes a priest he leaves 'Mandaeanism' and enters tarmiduta, 'priesthood.' Even then he has not attained to true enlightenment, for this, called 'Naṣiruta', is reserved for a very few. Those possessed of its secrets may call themselves Naṣoreans, and 'Naṣorean' today indicates not only one who observes strictly all rules of ritual purity, but one who understands the secret doctrine.
There are three grades of priesthood in Mandaeism: the tarmidia "disciples" (Neo-Mandaic tarmidānā), the ganzibria "treasurers" (from Old Persian ganza-bara "id.," Neo-Mandaic ganzeḇrānā) and the rišamma "leader of the people". This last office, the highest level of the Mandaean priesthood, has lain vacant for many years. At the moment, the highest office currently occupied is that of the ganzeḇrā, a title which appears first in a religious context in the Aramaic ritual texts from Persepolis (c. 3rd century BCE) and which may be related to the kamnaskires (Elamite kapnuskir "treasurer"), title of the rulers of Elymais (modern Khuzestan) during the Hellenistic age. Traditionally, any ganzeḇrā who baptizes seven or more ganzeḇrānā may qualify for the office of rišamma, though the Mandaean community has yet to rally as a whole behind any single candidate. The contemporary priesthood can trace its immediate origins to the first half of the 19th century. In 1831, an outbreak of cholera devastated the region and eliminated most if not all of the Mandaean religious authorities. Two of the surviving acolytes (šgandia), Yahia Bihram and Ram Zihrun, reestablished the priesthood on the basis of their own training and the texts that were available to them. In 2009, there were two dozen Mandaean priests in the world, according to the Associated Press.However, according to the Mandaean Society in America the number of priests has been growing in recent years.
Relations with other groups:
The Mandaeans have been identified with several groups, in particular the Sabians and the Elkasaites. Other groups such as the Nazerences and the Dositheans have also been identified with the Mandaeans. The exact relation of all these groups to one another is a difficult question. But they do share many common beliefs, in accordance with other ancient Middle Eastern religions such as Yazdaism and Judaism, such as belief in a formless deity, reincarnation and rejection of meat or red meat either completely or during religious times. While it seems certain that a number of distinct groups are intended by these names, the nature of these sects and the connections between them are less than clear. At least according to the Fihrist (see below), these groups seem all to have emerged from or developed in parallel with the "Sabian" followers of El-Hasaih; "Elkasaites" in particular may simply have been a blanket term for Mughtasila, Mandaeans, the original Sabians and even Manichaeans.
Sabians:
The Quran makes several references to the Sabians, who are frequently thought to be Mandaeans. Sabians are counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book), and several hadith feature them. Arab sources of early Quranic times (7th century) also make some references to Sabians. Some scholars hold that the etymology of the root word 'Sabi'un' points to origins either in the Syriac or Mandaic word 'Sabian', and suggest that the Mandaean religion originated with Sabeans who came under the influence of early Hellenic Sabian missionaries, but preferred their own priesthood. The Sabians believed they "belong to the prophet Noah"; Similarly, the Mandaeans claim direct descent from Noah. Early in the 9th century, a group of Hermeticists in the northern Mesopotamian city of Harran declared themselves Sabians when facing persecution; an Assyrian Christian writer said that the true 'Sabians' or Sabba lived in the marshes of lower Iraq. The Assyrian writer Theodore Bar Konai (in the Scholion, 792) described a "sect" of "Sabians", who were located in southern Mesopotamia. Al-Biruni (writing at the beginning of the 11th century) said that the 'real Sabians' were "the remnants of the Jewish tribes who remained in Babylonia when the other tribes left it for Jerusalem in the days of Cyrus and Artaxerxes. These remaining tribes ... adopted a system mixed-up of Magism and Judaism."
Nasaraean:
The Haran Gawaita uses the name Nasoraeans for the Mandaeans arriving from Jerusalem. Consequently, the Mandaeans have been connected with the Nasaraeans described by Epiphanius, a group within the Essenes. Epiphanius says (29:6) that they existed before Christ. That is questioned by some, but others accept the pre-Christian origin of this group.
Elkesaites:
The Elkesaites were a Judeo-Christian baptismal sect which seem to have been related, and possibly ancestral, to the Mandaeans (see Sabians). The members of this sect, like the Mandaeans, wore white and performed baptisms. They dwelt in east Judea and Assyria, whence the Mandaeans claim to have migrated to southern Mesopotamia, according to the Harran Gawaiṯā. In the Fihrist ("Book of Nations") of Arabic scholar Al-Nadim (c. 987), the Mogtasilah (Mughtasila, "self-ablutionists") are counted among the followers of El-Hasaih or Elkesaites. Mogtasilah may thus have been Al-Nadim's term for the Mandaeans, as the few details on rituals and habit are similar to Mandaeans ones. The Elkesaites seem to have prospered for a while, but ultimately splintered. They may have originated in a schism where they renounced the Torah, while the mainstream Sampsaeans held on to it (as Elchasai's followers did)—if so, this must have happened around the mid-late 1st millennium CE. However, it is not clear exactly which group he referred to, for by then the Elkesaite sects may have been at their most diverse. Some disappeared subsequently; for example, the Sampsaeans are not well attested in later sources. The Ginza Rba, one of the chief holy scriptures of the Mandaeans, appears to originate around the time of Elchasai or somewhat thereafter.
Manichaeans
According to the Fihrist of ibn al-Nadim, the Mesopotamian prophet Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, was brought up within the Elkesaite (Elcesaite or Elchasaite) sect, this being confirmed more recently by the Cologne Mani Codex. None of the Manichaean scriptures has survived in its entirety, and it seems that the remaining fragments have not been compared to the Ginza Rba. Mani later left the Elkasaites to found his own religion. In a comparative analysis, Mandaean scholar Säve-Söderberg indicated that Mani's Psalms of Thomas were closely related to Mandaean texts. This would imply that Mani had access to Mandaean religious literature, or that both derived from the same source.
Dositheans:
They are connected with the Samaritan group the Dositheans by Theodore Bar Kōnī in his Scholion.
Zoroastrians:
A survey of demonstrable Persian (Iranian or Zoroastrian) elements in the Mandaean religion clearly shows that the Mandaeans had, in the course of their history, diversely adapted to their greater surroundings without losing their identity. The correspondences with Zoroastrianism in practice and ritual are more prominent than any in mythology or theology. Mandaean mythology and theology, with its basic dualistic orientation, did not distance itself from the original Gnostic task for reflection, that is, an anti-cosmic view. This attitude, however, did not manifest itself in ascetic practice, and therefore the religion comes closer to the Iranian Zoroastrian view of the world as split into good and evil. There are further striking correspondences between Mandaean and Persian traditions in regard to prayer times, repentance and confession disciplines, and marriage ceremonies. While there is evidence that the Mandaeans had different daily prayer hours in the course of their history (three, five, and seven times), the Zoroastrians have five (gāhān; see GĀH; Modi, 1937, pp. 219-20; Stausberg, 2004, pp. 488 ff.; concerning the relation between gāh and gāthā, see ibid., p. 59), as more or less constantly witnessed, which were evidently a model for the five Mandaean ones (Rudolph, 1961, pp. 224 ff.). It may also be assumed that the three possibilities of penance before an excommunication were a Persian legacy to the Mandaeans; the two religions shared a common formula for confessions (MPers. patīt), by which the (mainly ritual) sins were atoned for through repentance (ibid., pp. 243 ff., 252 f.). The marriage ceremonies include ablutions, the drinking of wine, and a curtain between the bridal couple during the rituals (ibid., p. 321). An analysis of these subjects leads to the conclusion (Rudolph, 1965; 1996, pp. 362-69) that the older, strictly dualistic conception was later amended by a more monistic doctrine which considered the creation of the world (tibil) and man (adam) as an act of the “king of light” (malka d-nuhra). The classic, dualistic doctrine consists of the opposition between a world of life (hiia) or light (nuhra) and one of darkness (hšuka), each of which arose by itself and whose hostile relationship determined the future history of the world. This corresponds with the Iranian Zoroastrian concepts, once we disregard Zarathustra’s older views in the Gathas and in more recent Zurvanism. It was therefore not wrong of Hans Jonas to describe Mandaeism as a special form of the Iranian type of gnosis, which also had characteristics of the so-called “Syrian-Egyptian type” (Jonas, 1934, 1988, pp. 380 ff.). Its difference from the Iranian concept was, however, that it attributed creation to the act of a fallen demiurge (Ptahil) and his evil sons, the planets and zodiac creatures, so that the world became a part of darkness. The human being (Adam) is also part of the world in his material form. Only the “soul” (nišimta, mana; also called “hidden Adam,” Adakas), sent by the “Great Life” or “Great Mana,” enables Adam to live; the liberation of the soul from body and world then becomes the aim of the entire subject of redemption, an idea which corresponds with the Iranian one and is altogether typical of Gnosis.
Current situation:
Currently, one ganzibra (the highest ranking priest), three tarmidas (the lower ranking priest), and several yalufas serve as leaders, keeping the Mandaeans focused around their rituals and securing the community’s life. The Mandaean leaders of Ahwaz are trying to rescue their spoken Mandaic language, the ratna, which seems to be extinct in Iraq. To instruct the Mandaean children and youth is especially vital, and the effort to secure the language is a fairly recent one. Only in Persia—and among a few Iranian Mandaeans in emigration— does the spoken language (as distinct from the ancient, East Aramaic, written ritual language) still survive, mainly among the community’s elders. Iranian Mandaeans living in emigration in Australia also try to keep the Mandaic tongue alive. In addition to their varied ritual roles, the religious leaders of Ahwaz also serve as links to local Muslim authorities when necessary. The Mandaeans are by tradition endogamous, pacifist in nature, and non-proselytizing, for converts are not accepted. Government regulations requiring schoolboys to cut their hair short have created difficulties for the recruitment to the Mandaean priesthood, as priests’ hair and beards must remain uncut throughout life. Islamic instruction in Muslim schools is required of Mandaean children, and Mandaeans must adhere to Muslim codes for dress and public behavior. Mandaean priests, with their long beards, white turbans, and aristocratic demeanor, continue to instill awed respect in public places. With cloaks over their white garments, they look somewhat like Shiʿite clerics or other religious dignitaries familiar in Islamic cultures. The religion has been practised primarily around the lower Karun, Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. There are thought to be between 60,000 and 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide. Until the Iraq War, almost all of them lived in Iraq. Many Mandaean Iraqis have since fled their country because of the turmoil created by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation by U.S. armed forces, and the related rise in sectarian violence by Muslim extremists. By 2007, the population of Mandaeans in Iraq had fallen to approximately 5,000.
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2020.02.29 04:27 saert_gert Mandaeans, the Gnostic Sabians

Mandaeism or Mandaeanism (Arabic: مَنْدَائِيَّة‎, Mandāʾīyah), also known as Sabaeanism, is a monotheistic and gnostic religion: with a strongly dualistic cosmology. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Noah, Shem, Aram, and especially John the Baptist. The Mandaeans are Semites and speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. The name 'Mandaean' is said to come from the Aramaic manda meaning "knowledge", as does Greek gnosis. Within the Middle East, but outside of their community, the Mandaeans are more commonly known as the Ṣubba (singular: Ṣubbī) or Sabians. The term Ṣubba is derived from the Aramaic root related to baptism, the neo-Mandaic is Ṣabi. In Islam, the "Sabians" (Arabic: الصَّابِئُون‎, aṣ-Ṣābiʾūn) are described several times in the Quran as People of the Book, alongside Jews and Christians. Occasionally, Mandaeans are called "Christians of Saint John". According to most scholars, Mandaeaism originated sometime in the first three centuries AD, in either southwestern Mesopotamia or the Syro-Palestinian area. However, some scholars take the view that Mandaeanism is older and dates from pre-Christian times.
Etymology:
The term Mandaeism comes from Classical Mandaic Mandaiia and appears in Neo-Mandaic as Mandeyānā. On the basis of cognates in other Aramaic dialects, Semiticists such as Mark Lidzbarski and Rudolf Macuch have translated the term manda, from which Mandaiia derives, as "knowledge" (cf. Aramaic: מַנְדַּע‎ mandaʻ in Dan. 2:21, 4:31, 33, 5:12; cf. Hebrew: מַדַּע maddaʻ, with characteristic assimilation of /n/ to the following consonant, medial -nd- hence becoming -dd-). . This etymology suggests that the Mandaeans may well be the only sect surviving from Late Antiquity to identify themselves explicitly as Gnostics. Other scholars derive the term mandaiia from Mandā d-Heyyi (Mandaic Manda ḏ'Hayyi "Knowledge of Life," in reference to the chief divinity Hayyi Rabbi "the Great Life" or "Great Living God") or from the word Beth Manda, which is the cultic hut in which many Mandaean ceremonies are performed (such as the baptism, which is the central sacrament of Mandaean religious life).
History:
According to the Mandaean text the Haran Gawaita, the recorded history of the Mandaeans began when a group called the Nasoreans (the Mandaean priestly caste as opposed to the laity), left Judea/Palestine and migrated to Mesopotamia in the 1st century AD. The reason given for this was their persecution in Jerusalem. The emigrants went first to Haran (probably Harran in modern day Turkey), or Hauran and then the Median hills in Iran, before finally settling in the southern provinces of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). At the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Mesopotamia, the leader of the Mandaeans, Anush son of Danqa appeared before Muslim authorities showing them a copy of the Ginza Rabba, the Mandaean holy book, and proclaiming the chief Mandaean prophet to be John the Baptist, who is also mentioned in the Quran as Yahya Bin Zakariya. This identified Mandaeans with the Sabians who are mentioned in the Quran as being counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book). This provided Mandaeans a status as a legal minority religion within the Muslim Empire. The Mandaeans were henceforth associated with the Sabians and the Jewish Christian group the Elcesaites, on account of the location of all three in Mesopotamia in the early centuries AD, and the similarities in their beliefs. The importance of baptism in the rituals of all three is particularly marked. Like the Mandaeans, the Sabians were also said to be gnostics and descended from Noah. Mandaeans continue to be identified with Sabians up to the present day, but the exact relationship between the three groups remains unclear. Around 1290, a learned Dominican Catholic from Tuscany, Ricoldo da Montecroce, or Ricoldo Pennini, was in Mesopotamia where he met the Mandaeans. He described them as follows:
A very strange and singular people, in terms of their rituals, lives in the desert near Baghdad; they are called Sabaeans. Many of them came to me and begged me insistently to go and visit them. They are a very simple people and they claim to possess a secret law of God, which they preserve in beautiful books. Their writing is a sort of middle way between Syriac and Arabic. They detest Abraham because of circumcision and they venerate John the Baptist above all. They live only near a few rivers in the desert. They wash day and night so as not to be condemned by God…
Mandaeans were called "Christians of Saint John" by members of the Discalced Carmelite mission in Basra during the 16th century, based upon their preliminary reports. Some Portuguese Jesuits had also met some "Saint John Christians" around the Strait of Hormuz in 1559, when the Portuguese fleet fought with the Ottoman Turkish army in Bahrain. These Mandaean seemed to be willing to obey the Catholic Church. They learned and used the seven Catholic sacraments and the related ceremonies in their lives. What we next find is a Mandaean culture, rooted in southern Mesopotamia, with its own distinctive language, from the eastern (not western) Aramaic group, and its own alphabet, closely related to that found in inscriptions of Elymais and coins of Characene. What is striking is that the Mandaeans appear to be a distinct, endogamic religious and ethnic group, with neither proselytism towards, nor conversions from, the outside. While the disciples of John the Baptist were Baptist Jews who kept us to the biblical reading among radical anti-nomistic Christian and post-Christian Gnostic groups, whose hatred for the Jews is well explained as originating in Christian circles. If we add that the Mandaean traditions on John the Baptist cannot be directly connected to the historical John, but are developments of Christian apocryphal legends (Lupieri, up with the reading of the Torah and its observance, the Mandaeans appear to be defiantly anti-Jewish, to abhor circumcision as the worst impurity, and to propose an “inverted” reading of the little they still use of the Jewish Bible: the Jews and their God are the villains, and the Egyptians with their Pharaoh, the enemies of the Jews, become the ancestors of the Mandaeans (Drower, 1937, pp. 261-66; Lupieri, 2002, pp. 133-42). This brings 1988, pp. 195-395), and that even those pertaining to Miriai (a Jewish girl of priestly stock who is said to have converted to become a Mandaean in some early stage of its history) are constructed on other Christian apocryphal stories about Mary, the mother of Jesus (Buckley, 1993), any direct physical connection with first-century Palestine becomes historically unnecessary. The Mandaean history of salvation is a creative conflation of biblical lore and the theory of the four ages of the world. After the biblical flood, which ends the third age of the world, the Mandaeans are the only descendants of the “pure seed” of Adam on earth, but are subjected to periodic extinctions during the present fourth age. Following each extinction, one of the Mandaean saviors or revealers brings new Mandaeans to Mesopotamia from a fabulous realm in the mountains of the North, a sort of paradise on earth where their pure seed survives. This is where the inventor of Mandaean baptism, Birham the Great (and not John the Baptist), resides. This semi-divine entity has the same name as a Semitic divinity, which in the Mesopotamia of Late Antiquity was identified as the Greek demigod Heracles and became the protecting god of the Hyspaosinnidic dynasty of the rulers of Mesene-Characene under the Arsacid empire (roughly from 165BC.E. to 222 C.E.). The Arsacids were followed by the Sasanians, who took full control of Mesopotamia in the years 224-27 C.E. and adhered firmly to Zoroastrianism. They initiated a period of religious persecution, which reached its climax in the second half of the third century under the guidance of the leading Zoroastrian priest and imperial dignitary Karter (or Kirdir). He was responsible for the imprisonment and death of Mani (ca. 275 C.E.), and in his Kaʿba-ye Zardošt inscription (Back, pp. 414-16) he boasts that he persecuted Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Brahmins, zandiks (usually regarded as Mazdean heretics), the mysterious Makdaks (Manicheans or maybe Mandaeans), and the Nasuraeans (possibly Mandaeans or some Jewish-Christian groups). This inscription could offer the terminus ante quem for the existence of an independent Mandaean religion in Mesopotamia. The Sasanian persecution also seems to provide the best explanation for a peculiar Mandaean legend about a “king Artabanus” who was “the king of the Mandaeans.” In recent versions of the story, he becomes the brother of “king Pharaoh,” who survives the crossing of the Red Sea and flees Moses and his Jewish army. The story has many versions, one of which may be present in the very fragmentary Haran Gauaita (Drower, 1953); this book possibly contained a whole Mandaean world history, from the mythical beginning to the apocalyptical end. Unfortunately the beginning is missing and the present title reproduces the first two words of the surviving text, alluding to the “Interior Harran” which welcomes Artabanus after his defeat. It appears that both Pharaoh and Artabanus are Mandaean kings and both are defeated by the Jews. This could be a historical memory of the figure of Artabanus V (r. ca. 213-24 C.E.), the last and defeated Arsacid king. During the Sasanian period of persecution, the last king of a previous tolerant dynasty could have been “adopted” as a Mandaean, in the same way as the Pharaoh, the enemy of the enemies (the Jews), was. If this is true, Mandaeanism must have already existed at the beginning of Sasanian rule. The richness and variety of the second- and third-century Mesopotamian religious milieu is well documented and is evident in the Codex Manichaicus Coloniensis, which shows Mani growing up as a member of a community of Mesopotamian Baptists (all men dressed in white). According to the Codex, their leader was Elchasai, the apparent author of a Jewish-Christian apocalypse with strong Gnostic traits written around 115 C.E. (Cirillo, Luttikhuizen). Mandaeanism is very likely a splinter group of southern Mesopotamian, post-Christian Gnosticism, possibly originating in the late second century. The connection with Old and New Testament Palestine is cultural, not ethnic or geographic, as there is no need to explain a migration of ideas in terms of the migration of an entire population. What remains unique is that, if we consider the ethnic conscience of the Mandaeans as original to them, we must accept that a whole ethnic group collectively adopted a Gnostic form of religion. If this is true, we may presume there occurred some form of mass conversion as a consequence of the preaching of some religious missionary or reformer. Although the full study of Mandaean text colophons has yet to be completed, we may still find in them some indication of the possible founder of Mandaeanism. Most of the colophons repeat the same series of names, which constitutes a list of the oldest scribes and religious leaders. With some exceptions, which are possibly a reaction to the more common tradition, the oldest name is that of a certain Zazai. In some colophons he appears to have received the book directly from a divine figure and even to be a semi-divine person himself. In the Haran Gauaita he is the first of seven Mandaean king-archers who destroy Judaism, is appointed by Anuš ʿUtra, one of the Mandaean revealers, as the Mandaean king in Baghdad (which is usually identified with Jerusalem), and finally ascends to heaven, where he spends sixty-two days (to receive a special revelation?). Therefore, this Zazai seems to be the historical founder of Mandaeanism, possibly a second-century Mesopotamian Gnostic teacher who considered himself the bearer of direct, divine inspiration. From the numerous names listed in prayers, colophons, and the Haran Gauaita, it is possible to identify some other important religious authors and leaders in early Mandaean history. After Zazai, but before the Islamic era, a certain Šganda, or Ašganda, was so famous that the Mesopotamian city of Ṭib, where he resided, was, for the Mandaeans, “the city of Ašganda.” In the years of the Muslim Arab conquest of Mesopotamia (639-42 CE), we are told that a certain Anuš bar Danqa, a layman, considered to be a descendent of King Artabanus, was able to convince the new rulers that the Mandaeans, like the Christians and the Jews, were “People of the Book” (Arabic: Ahl al-Ketāb), and therefore should not be persecuted. In those years, a certain Ramuia was the leading figure among the scribal and religious authorities, possibly the person in charge of (re)writing the Mandaean religious texts, so that they could be shown to the Muslim rulers. In early Islamic times, we find the recurrent name of a person who must have standardized most Mandaean texts: Baian. It is tempting to consider his activity as a reaction to a religious schism, of which we have both written and oral accounts, the schism of Qiqil. This Mandaean religious leader resided in T’ib, is said to have taken the wrong path, but in the end to have repented. According to Mandaean sources his activity is chronologically connected to John the Baptist (several centuries after him), since all the Mandaeans who accepted Qiqil’s teachings are considered to be the descendants of those Jews who were converted by John the Baptist, and therefore not ethnically Mandaeans. But this is heresiological acrimony, not historical reconstruction.
Beliefs:
Mandaeism, as the religion of the Mandaean people, is based more on a common heritage than on any set of religious creeds and doctrines. The corpus of Mandaean literature, though quite large, covers topics such as eschatology, the knowledge of God and the afterlife—in an unsystematic manner. Moreover, it is known only to the priesthood and a few laypeople.
Fundamental tenets:
According to E. S. Drower, the Mandaean Gnosis is characterized by nine features, which appear in various forms in other gnostic sects:
  1. A supreme formless Entity, the expression of which in time and space is creation of spiritual, etheric, and material worlds and beings. Production of these is delegated by It to a creator or creators who originated It. The cosmos is created by Archetypal Man, who produces it in similitude to his own shape.
  2. Dualism: a cosmic Father and Mother, Light and Darkness, Right and Left, syzygy in cosmic and microcosmic form.
  3. As a feature of this dualism, counter-types, a world of ideas.
  4. The soul is portrayed as an exile, a captive; her home and origin being the supreme Entity to which she eventually returns.
  5. Planets and stars influence fate and human beings, and are also places of detention after death.
  6. A savior spirit or savior spirits which assist the soul on her journey through life and after it to ‘worlds of light’.'
  7. A cult-language of symbol and metaphor. Ideas and qualities are personified.
  8. ‘Mysteries’, i.e. sacraments to aid and purify the soul, to ensure her rebirth into a spiritual body, and her ascent from the world of matter. These are often adaptations of existing seasonal and traditional rites to which an esoteric interpretation is attached. In the case of the Naṣoraeans this interpretation is based on the Creation story (see 1 and 2), especially on the Divine Man, Adam, as crowned and anointed King-priest.
  9. Great secrecy is enjoined upon initiates; full explanation of 1, 2, and 8 being reserved for those considered able to understand and preserve the gnosis.
Cosmology:
The cosmology is marked by a strict dualism between a “World of Light” (alma d-nuhra) and a “World of Darkness” (alma d-hšuka). The world of light is ruled by a sublime being who bears different names: “Life” (hiia, haiyi), “Lord of Greatness” (mara d-rabuta), “Great Mind” (mana rba), “King of Light” (malka d-nuhra). He is surrounded by a countless number of beings of light (uthri or malki), living in “dwellings” (škinata) or “worlds” (almi), performing cultic acts and praising the Life. The world of light came into being from the “First Life” (haiyi qadmaiyi) by way of descending emanations or creations, which are called “Second,” “Third,” and “Fourth Life”; they also bear personal names, such as Yōšamin, Abathur, and Ptahil; the last one is the later demiurge. The “World of Darkness” is governed by the “Lord of Darkness” (mara d-hšuka) and arose from the “dark waters” (meyi siawi, or ʿkumi, tahmi) representing the chaos. The main powers of the world of darkness are a giant monster or dragon with the name Ur (probably a polemic transformation of Hebr. ʿor “light”) and the evil (female) “Spirit” (ruha). Their offspring are demonic beings (daiwi) and “angels” (malaki). To them belong also the “Seven” (šuba), i.e., the planets (šibiahyi), and the “Twelve” (trisar) signs of the Zodiac; they are sons of Ur and Ruha. The conflict between light and darkness, life and death, good and evil leads to the creation of the world (tibil) by the demiurge Ptahil with the help of the dark or gloomy powers, mainly Ruha and the “Seven” and “Twelve.” In this process, the body of first man, Adam, is created by the same bad beings, but his “animating essence” is derived from the World of Light. This “substance of light” in Adam is called “inner (hidden) Adam” (adam kasya, adakas, also adam rba “great Adam”), and it represents the “soul” (nišimta) or “mind” (mana) in humans, which has to be saved or rescued from the dark, evil body (pagra) and the world (tibil) by heavenly beings of light. The wife of Adam, Eve (Hawwa), is created separate from him according to the heavenly “cloud of light” (who figures as the wife of the heavenly or “great Adam”; regarding another tradition on Eve, see below). The salvation of souls is the main concern of the Mandaean religion. One of its central creeds is the belief in several “messengers” (šganda, šliha), “helpers” (adyaura), or “redeemers” (parwanqa) sent by the Life in order to inform the pious of their “call” and to save their souls. The dominant figure of these “envoys of light” is the “Knowledge of Life” (Manda d-Haiyi), who is also called “Son of Life” (Barhaiyi) or “Counterpart of Life” (Dmuthaiyi). Beside him stand the three heavenly Adamites, Hibil (Abel), Šitil (Seth), and Anōš (Enosh). Actually, the Mandaeans know no “historical” redeemers but only the “mythological” ones appearing throughout the ages of the history of the world as a repetition of the first revelation to Adam, which is the prototype of redemption. In some texts the soul ascending after death is escorted and saved by one of the saviors mentioned. Probably after the confrontation with early Christianity, the Mandaeans developed the story that one of their messengers (Anōš or Manda d-Haiyi) appeared in Jerusalem as an antagonist of Jesus Christ in order to expose him as a liar and a false messiah. In this connection John the Baptist played the role of a true Mandaean “disciple” or “priest” (tarmida). Whether reliable information about early Mandaean history in relation to the movement of the followers of John the Baptist can be derived from these tales is a problem that remains unsolved (Rudolph, 1960, pp. 66-80). Clearly, for the Mandaeans John is not the founder of their religion but only one of their prominent representatives. Only the ritual of baptism in flowing water still reminds us of John’s practice (see below). As noted above Mandaean theology is not systematic. There is no one single authoritative account of the creation of the cosmos, but rather a series of several accounts. Some scholars, such as Edmondo Lupieri, maintain that comparison of these different accounts may reveal the diverse religious influences upon which the Mandaeans have drawn and the ways in which the Mandaean religion has evolved over time. In contrast with the religious texts of the western Gnostic sects formerly found in Syria and Egypt, the earliest Mandaean religious texts suggest a more strictly dualistic theology, typical of other Iranian religions such as Zoroastrianism, Zurvanism, Manichaeism, and the teachings of Mazdak. In these texts, instead of a large pleroma, there is a discrete division between light and darkness. The Mandaean God is known as Hayyi Rabbi (The Great Living God). Other names used are Mare d'Rabuta (Lord of Greatness) and Melka d'Nhura (King of Light). Ptahil, the third emanation, alone does not constitute the demiurge but only fills that role insofar as he is the creator of the material world. Rather, Ptahil is the lowest of a group of three emanations, the other two being Yushamin (first emanation a.k.a. Joshamin) and Abathur, the second emanation. Abathur's demiurgic role consists of his sitting in judgment upon the souls of mortals. The role of Yushamin, the first emanation, is more obscure; wanting to create a world of his own, he was severely punished for opposing the King of Light. The name may derive from Iao haš-šammayim (in Hebrew: Yahweh "of the heavens"). While Mandaeans agree with other gnostic sects that the world is a prison governed by the planetary archons, they do not view it as a cruel and inhospitable one.
Chief prophets:
Mandaeans recognize several prophets. Yahia-Yohanna, known in Christianity as John the Baptist, is accorded a special status, higher than his role in Christianity and Islam. Mandaeans do not consider John to be the founder of their religion but revere him as one of their greatest teachers, tracing their beliefs back to Adam. Mandaeans do not believe in Abraham, Moses or Jesus, but recognize other prophetic figures from the Abrahamic religions, such as Adam, his son Seth and his grandson Anush (Enos), as well as Nuh (Noah), his descendants Sam, (Shem) in Bible and Ram (Aram) in Bible. The latter three they consider to be their direct ancestors. Mandaeans also do not recognize the Holy Spirit in the Talmud and Bible, who is known in Mandaic as Ruha, Ruha d-Qudsha, or Ruha Masțanita, in the same way. Instead of being viewed positively as a holy spirit, she is viewed negatively as the personification of the lower, emotional, and feminine elements of the human psyche.
Scriptures:
The Mandaeans have a large corpus of religious scriptures, the most important of which is the Ginza Rba or Ginza, a collection of history, theology, and prayers. The Ginza Rba is divided into two halves—the Genzā Smālā or "Left Ginza", and the Genzā Yeminā or "Right Ginza". By consulting the colophons in the Left Ginza, Jorunn J. Buckley has identified an uninterrupted chain of copyists to the late second or early third century. The colophons attest to the existence of the Mandaeans or their predecessors during the late Parthian Empire at the very latest. The oldest texts are lead amulets from about the third century AD, followed by magic bowls from about AD 600. The important religious manuscripts are not older than the sixteenth century, with most coming from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although the Ginza continued to evolve under the rule of the Sasanian Empire and the Islamic caliphates, few textual traditions can lay claim to such extensive continuity. Another important text is the Haran Gawaita which tells the history of the Mandaeans. According to this text, a group of Nasoraeans (Mandean priests) left Judea before the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century CE, and settled within the Parthian Empire. Other important books include the Qolusta, the canonical prayerbook of the Mandaeans, which was translated by E. S. Drower. One of the chief works of Mandaean scripture, accessible to laymen and initiates alike, is the Mandaean Book of John (Lidzbarski, Mark. "Das Johannesbuch der Mandäer". Giessen : Töpelmann.), which includes a dialogue between John and Jesus. In addition to the Ginza, Qolusta, and Draša, there is the Dīvān, which contains a description of the 'regions' the soul ascends through, and the Asfar Malwāshē, the "Book of the Zodiacal Constellations". Finally, there are some pre-Muslim artifacts that contain Mandaean writings and inscriptions, such as some Aramaic incantation bowls. The language in which the Mandaean religious literature was originally composed is known as Mandaic, and is a member of the Aramaic family of dialects. It is written in a cursive variant of the Parthian chancellory script. Many Mandaean lay people do not speak this language, though some members of the Mandaean community resident in Iran and Iraq continue to speak Neo-Mandaic, a modern version of this language.
Organisation:
There is a strict division between Mandaean laity and the priests. According to E.S. Drower (The Secret Adam, p. ix):
[T]hose amongst the community who possess secret knowledge are called Naṣuraiia—Naṣoreans (or, if the emphatic ‹ṣ› is written as ‹z›, Nazorenes). At the same time the ignorant or semi-ignorant laity are called 'Mandaeans', Mandaiia—'gnostics.' When a man becomes a priest he leaves 'Mandaeanism' and enters tarmiduta, 'priesthood.' Even then he has not attained to true enlightenment, for this, called 'Naṣiruta', is reserved for a very few. Those possessed of its secrets may call themselves Naṣoreans, and 'Naṣorean' today indicates not only one who observes strictly all rules of ritual purity, but one who understands the secret doctrine.
There are three grades of priesthood in Mandaeism: the tarmidia "disciples" (Neo-Mandaic tarmidānā), the ganzibria "treasurers" (from Old Persian ganza-bara "id.," Neo-Mandaic ganzeḇrānā) and the rišamma "leader of the people". This last office, the highest level of the Mandaean priesthood, has lain vacant for many years. At the moment, the highest office currently occupied is that of the ganzeḇrā, a title which appears first in a religious context in the Aramaic ritual texts from Persepolis (c. 3rd century BCE) and which may be related to the kamnaskires (Elamite kapnuskir "treasurer"), title of the rulers of Elymais (modern Khuzestan) during the Hellenistic age. Traditionally, any ganzeḇrā who baptizes seven or more ganzeḇrānā may qualify for the office of rišamma, though the Mandaean community has yet to rally as a whole behind any single candidate. The contemporary priesthood can trace its immediate origins to the first half of the 19th century. In 1831, an outbreak of cholera devastated the region and eliminated most if not all of the Mandaean religious authorities. Two of the surviving acolytes (šgandia), Yahia Bihram and Ram Zihrun, reestablished the priesthood on the basis of their own training and the texts that were available to them. In 2009, there were two dozen Mandaean priests in the world, according to the Associated Press.However, according to the Mandaean Society in America the number of priests has been growing in recent years.
Relations with other groups:
The Mandaeans have been identified with several groups, in particular the Sabians and the Elkasaites. Other groups such as the Nazerences and the Dositheans have also been identified with the Mandaeans. The exact relation of all these groups to one another is a difficult question. But they do share many common beliefs, in accordance with other ancient Middle Eastern religions such as Yazdaism and Judaism, such as belief in a formless deity, reincarnation and rejection of meat or red meat either completely or during religious times. While it seems certain that a number of distinct groups are intended by these names, the nature of these sects and the connections between them are less than clear. At least according to the Fihrist (see below), these groups seem all to have emerged from or developed in parallel with the "Sabian" followers of El-Hasaih; "Elkasaites" in particular may simply have been a blanket term for Mughtasila, Mandaeans, the original Sabians and even Manichaeans.
Sabians:
The Quran makes several references to the Sabians, who are frequently thought to be Mandaeans. Sabians are counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book), and several hadith feature them. Arab sources of early Quranic times (7th century) also make some references to Sabians. Some scholars hold that the etymology of the root word 'Sabi'un' points to origins either in the Syriac or Mandaic word 'Sabian', and suggest that the Mandaean religion originated with Sabeans who came under the influence of early Hellenic Sabian missionaries, but preferred their own priesthood. The Sabians believed they "belong to the prophet Noah"; Similarly, the Mandaeans claim direct descent from Noah. Early in the 9th century, a group of Hermeticists in the northern Mesopotamian city of Harran declared themselves Sabians when facing persecution; an Assyrian Christian writer said that the true 'Sabians' or Sabba lived in the marshes of lower Iraq. The Assyrian writer Theodore Bar Konai (in the Scholion, 792) described a "sect" of "Sabians", who were located in southern Mesopotamia. Al-Biruni (writing at the beginning of the 11th century) said that the 'real Sabians' were "the remnants of the Jewish tribes who remained in Babylonia when the other tribes left it for Jerusalem in the days of Cyrus and Artaxerxes. These remaining tribes ... adopted a system mixed-up of Magism and Judaism."
Nasaraean:
The Haran Gawaita uses the name Nasoraeans for the Mandaeans arriving from Jerusalem. Consequently, the Mandaeans have been connected with the Nasaraeans described by Epiphanius, a group within the Essenes. Epiphanius says (29:6) that they existed before Christ. That is questioned by some, but others accept the pre-Christian origin of this group.
Elkesaites:
The Elkesaites were a Judeo-Christian baptismal sect which seem to have been related, and possibly ancestral, to the Mandaeans (see Sabians). The members of this sect, like the Mandaeans, wore white and performed baptisms. They dwelt in east Judea and Assyria, whence the Mandaeans claim to have migrated to southern Mesopotamia, according to the Harran Gawaiṯā. In the Fihrist ("Book of Nations") of Arabic scholar Al-Nadim (c. 987), the Mogtasilah (Mughtasila, "self-ablutionists") are counted among the followers of El-Hasaih or Elkesaites. Mogtasilah may thus have been Al-Nadim's term for the Mandaeans, as the few details on rituals and habit are similar to Mandaeans ones. The Elkesaites seem to have prospered for a while, but ultimately splintered. They may have originated in a schism where they renounced the Torah, while the mainstream Sampsaeans held on to it (as Elchasai's followers did)—if so, this must have happened around the mid-late 1st millennium CE. However, it is not clear exactly which group he referred to, for by then the Elkesaite sects may have been at their most diverse. Some disappeared subsequently; for example, the Sampsaeans are not well attested in later sources. The Ginza Rba, one of the chief holy scriptures of the Mandaeans, appears to originate around the time of Elchasai or somewhat thereafter.
Manichaeans
According to the Fihrist of ibn al-Nadim, the Mesopotamian prophet Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, was brought up within the Elkesaite (Elcesaite or Elchasaite) sect, this being confirmed more recently by the Cologne Mani Codex. None of the Manichaean scriptures has survived in its entirety, and it seems that the remaining fragments have not been compared to the Ginza Rba. Mani later left the Elkasaites to found his own religion. In a comparative analysis, Mandaean scholar Säve-Söderberg indicated that Mani's Psalms of Thomas were closely related to Mandaean texts. This would imply that Mani had access to Mandaean religious literature, or that both derived from the same source.
Dositheans:
They are connected with the Samaritan group the Dositheans by Theodore Bar Kōnī in his Scholion.
Zoroastrians:
A survey of demonstrable Persian (Iranian or Zoroastrian) elements in the Mandaean religion clearly shows that the Mandaeans had, in the course of their history, diversely adapted to their greater surroundings without losing their identity. The correspondences with Zoroastrianism in practice and ritual are more prominent than any in mythology or theology. Mandaean mythology and theology, with its basic dualistic orientation, did not distance itself from the original Gnostic task for reflection, that is, an anti-cosmic view. This attitude, however, did not manifest itself in ascetic practice, and therefore the religion comes closer to the Iranian Zoroastrian view of the world as split into good and evil. There are further striking correspondences between Mandaean and Persian traditions in regard to prayer times, repentance and confession disciplines, and marriage ceremonies. While there is evidence that the Mandaeans had different daily prayer hours in the course of their history (three, five, and seven times), the Zoroastrians have five (gāhān; see GĀH; Modi, 1937, pp. 219-20; Stausberg, 2004, pp. 488 ff.; concerning the relation between gāh and gāthā, see ibid., p. 59), as more or less constantly witnessed, which were evidently a model for the five Mandaean ones (Rudolph, 1961, pp. 224 ff.). It may also be assumed that the three possibilities of penance before an excommunication were a Persian legacy to the Mandaeans; the two religions shared a common formula for confessions (MPers. patīt), by which the (mainly ritual) sins were atoned for through repentance (ibid., pp. 243 ff., 252 f.). The marriage ceremonies include ablutions, the drinking of wine, and a curtain between the bridal couple during the rituals (ibid., p. 321). An analysis of these subjects leads to the conclusion (Rudolph, 1965; 1996, pp. 362-69) that the older, strictly dualistic conception was later amended by a more monistic doctrine which considered the creation of the world (tibil) and man (adam) as an act of the “king of light” (malka d-nuhra). The classic, dualistic doctrine consists of the opposition between a world of life (hiia) or light (nuhra) and one of darkness (hšuka), each of which arose by itself and whose hostile relationship determined the future history of the world. This corresponds with the Iranian Zoroastrian concepts, once we disregard Zarathustra’s older views in the Gathas and in more recent Zurvanism. It was therefore not wrong of Hans Jonas to describe Mandaeism as a special form of the Iranian type of gnosis, which also had characteristics of the so-called “Syrian-Egyptian type” (Jonas, 1934, 1988, pp. 380 ff.). Its difference from the Iranian concept was, however, that it attributed creation to the act of a fallen demiurge (Ptahil) and his evil sons, the planets and zodiac creatures, so that the world became a part of darkness. The human being (Adam) is also part of the world in his material form. Only the “soul” (nišimta, mana; also called “hidden Adam,” Adakas), sent by the “Great Life” or “Great Mana,” enables Adam to live; the liberation of the soul from body and world then becomes the aim of the entire subject of redemption, an idea which corresponds with the Iranian one and is altogether typical of Gnosis.
Current situation:
Currently, one ganzibra (the highest ranking priest), three tarmidas (the lower ranking priest), and several yalufas serve as leaders, keeping the Mandaeans focused around their rituals and securing the community’s life. The Mandaean leaders of Ahwaz are trying to rescue their spoken Mandaic language, the ratna, which seems to be extinct in Iraq. To instruct the Mandaean children and youth is especially vital, and the effort to secure the language is a fairly recent one. Only in Persia—and among a few Iranian Mandaeans in emigration— does the spoken language (as distinct from the ancient, East Aramaic, written ritual language) still survive, mainly among the community’s elders. Iranian Mandaeans living in emigration in Australia also try to keep the Mandaic tongue alive. In addition to their varied ritual roles, the religious leaders of Ahwaz also serve as links to local Muslim authorities when necessary. The Mandaeans are by tradition endogamous, pacifist in nature, and non-proselytizing, for converts are not accepted. Government regulations requiring schoolboys to cut their hair short have created difficulties for the recruitment to the Mandaean priesthood, as priests’ hair and beards must remain uncut throughout life. Islamic instruction in Muslim schools is required of Mandaean children, and Mandaeans must adhere to Muslim codes for dress and public behavior. Mandaean priests, with their long beards, white turbans, and aristocratic demeanor, continue to instill awed respect in public places. With cloaks over their white garments, they look somewhat like Shiʿite clerics or other religious dignitaries familiar in Islamic cultures. The religion has been practised primarily around the lower Karun, Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. There are thought to be between 60,000 and 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide. Until the Iraq War, almost all of them lived in Iraq. Many Mandaean Iraqis have since fled their country because of the turmoil created by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation by U.S. armed forces, and the related rise in sectarian violence by Muslim extremists. By 2007, the population of Mandaeans in Iraq had fallen to approximately 5,000.
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2020.02.29 04:26 saert_gert Mandaeans, the Gnostic Sabians

Mandaeism or Mandaeanism (Arabic: مَنْدَائِيَّة‎, Mandāʾīyah), also known as Sabaeanism, is a monotheistic and gnostic religion: with a strongly dualistic cosmology. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Noah, Shem, Aram, and especially John the Baptist. The Mandaeans are Semites and speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. The name 'Mandaean' is said to come from the Aramaic manda meaning "knowledge", as does Greek gnosis. Within the Middle East, but outside of their community, the Mandaeans are more commonly known as the Ṣubba (singular: Ṣubbī) or Sabians. The term Ṣubba is derived from the Aramaic root related to baptism, the neo-Mandaic is Ṣabi. In Islam, the "Sabians" (Arabic: الصَّابِئُون‎, aṣ-Ṣābiʾūn) are described several times in the Quran as People of the Book, alongside Jews and Christians. Occasionally, Mandaeans are called "Christians of Saint John". According to most scholars, Mandaeaism originated sometime in the first three centuries AD, in either southwestern Mesopotamia or the Syro-Palestinian area. However, some scholars take the view that Mandaeanism is older and dates from pre-Christian times.
Etymology:
The term Mandaeism comes from Classical Mandaic Mandaiia and appears in Neo-Mandaic as Mandeyānā. On the basis of cognates in other Aramaic dialects, Semiticists such as Mark Lidzbarski and Rudolf Macuch have translated the term manda, from which Mandaiia derives, as "knowledge" (cf. Aramaic: מַנְדַּע‎ mandaʻ in Dan. 2:21, 4:31, 33, 5:12; cf. Hebrew: מַדַּע maddaʻ, with characteristic assimilation of /n/ to the following consonant, medial -nd- hence becoming -dd-). . This etymology suggests that the Mandaeans may well be the only sect surviving from Late Antiquity to identify themselves explicitly as Gnostics. Other scholars derive the term mandaiia from Mandā d-Heyyi (Mandaic Manda ḏ'Hayyi "Knowledge of Life," in reference to the chief divinity Hayyi Rabbi "the Great Life" or "Great Living God") or from the word Beth Manda, which is the cultic hut in which many Mandaean ceremonies are performed (such as the baptism, which is the central sacrament of Mandaean religious life).
History:
According to the Mandaean text the Haran Gawaita, the recorded history of the Mandaeans began when a group called the Nasoreans (the Mandaean priestly caste as opposed to the laity), left Judea/Palestine and migrated to Mesopotamia in the 1st century AD. The reason given for this was their persecution in Jerusalem. The emigrants went first to Haran (probably Harran in modern day Turkey), or Hauran and then the Median hills in Iran, before finally settling in the southern provinces of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). At the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Mesopotamia, the leader of the Mandaeans, Anush son of Danqa appeared before Muslim authorities showing them a copy of the Ginza Rabba, the Mandaean holy book, and proclaiming the chief Mandaean prophet to be John the Baptist, who is also mentioned in the Quran as Yahya Bin Zakariya. This identified Mandaeans with the Sabians who are mentioned in the Quran as being counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book). This provided Mandaeans a status as a legal minority religion within the Muslim Empire. The Mandaeans were henceforth associated with the Sabians and the Jewish Christian group the Elcesaites, on account of the location of all three in Mesopotamia in the early centuries AD, and the similarities in their beliefs. The importance of baptism in the rituals of all three is particularly marked. Like the Mandaeans, the Sabians were also said to be gnostics and descended from Noah. Mandaeans continue to be identified with Sabians up to the present day, but the exact relationship between the three groups remains unclear. Around 1290, a learned Dominican Catholic from Tuscany, Ricoldo da Montecroce, or Ricoldo Pennini, was in Mesopotamia where he met the Mandaeans. He described them as follows:
A very strange and singular people, in terms of their rituals, lives in the desert near Baghdad; they are called Sabaeans. Many of them came to me and begged me insistently to go and visit them. They are a very simple people and they claim to possess a secret law of God, which they preserve in beautiful books. Their writing is a sort of middle way between Syriac and Arabic. They detest Abraham because of circumcision and they venerate John the Baptist above all. They live only near a few rivers in the desert. They wash day and night so as not to be condemned by God…
Mandaeans were called "Christians of Saint John" by members of the Discalced Carmelite mission in Basra during the 16th century, based upon their preliminary reports. Some Portuguese Jesuits had also met some "Saint John Christians" around the Strait of Hormuz in 1559, when the Portuguese fleet fought with the Ottoman Turkish army in Bahrain. These Mandaean seemed to be willing to obey the Catholic Church. They learned and used the seven Catholic sacraments and the related ceremonies in their lives. What we next find is a Mandaean culture, rooted in southern Mesopotamia, with its own distinctive language, from the eastern (not western) Aramaic group, and its own alphabet, closely related to that found in inscriptions of Elymais and coins of Characene. What is striking is that the Mandaeans appear to be a distinct, endogamic religious and ethnic group, with neither proselytism towards, nor conversions from, the outside. While the disciples of John the Baptist were Baptist Jews who kept us to the biblical reading among radical anti-nomistic Christian and post-Christian Gnostic groups, whose hatred for the Jews is well explained as originating in Christian circles. If we add that the Mandaean traditions on John the Baptist cannot be directly connected to the historical John, but are developments of Christian apocryphal legends (Lupieri, up with the reading of the Torah and its observance, the Mandaeans appear to be defiantly anti-Jewish, to abhor circumcision as the worst impurity, and to propose an “inverted” reading of the little they still use of the Jewish Bible: the Jews and their God are the villains, and the Egyptians with their Pharaoh, the enemies of the Jews, become the ancestors of the Mandaeans (Drower, 1937, pp. 261-66; Lupieri, 2002, pp. 133-42). This brings 1988, pp. 195-395), and that even those pertaining to Miriai (a Jewish girl of priestly stock who is said to have converted to become a Mandaean in some early stage of its history) are constructed on other Christian apocryphal stories about Mary, the mother of Jesus (Buckley, 1993), any direct physical connection with first-century Palestine becomes historically unnecessary. The Mandaean history of salvation is a creative conflation of biblical lore and the theory of the four ages of the world. After the biblical flood, which ends the third age of the world, the Mandaeans are the only descendants of the “pure seed” of Adam on earth, but are subjected to periodic extinctions during the present fourth age. Following each extinction, one of the Mandaean saviors or revealers brings new Mandaeans to Mesopotamia from a fabulous realm in the mountains of the North, a sort of paradise on earth where their pure seed survives. This is where the inventor of Mandaean baptism, Birham the Great (and not John the Baptist), resides. This semi-divine entity has the same name as a Semitic divinity, which in the Mesopotamia of Late Antiquity was identified as the Greek demigod Heracles and became the protecting god of the Hyspaosinnidic dynasty of the rulers of Mesene-Characene under the Arsacid empire (roughly from 165BC.E. to 222 C.E.). The Arsacids were followed by the Sasanians, who took full control of Mesopotamia in the years 224-27 C.E. and adhered firmly to Zoroastrianism. They initiated a period of religious persecution, which reached its climax in the second half of the third century under the guidance of the leading Zoroastrian priest and imperial dignitary Karter (or Kirdir). He was responsible for the imprisonment and death of Mani (ca. 275 C.E.), and in his Kaʿba-ye Zardošt inscription (Back, pp. 414-16) he boasts that he persecuted Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Brahmins, zandiks (usually regarded as Mazdean heretics), the mysterious Makdaks (Manicheans or maybe Mandaeans), and the Nasuraeans (possibly Mandaeans or some Jewish-Christian groups). This inscription could offer the terminus ante quem for the existence of an independent Mandaean religion in Mesopotamia. The Sasanian persecution also seems to provide the best explanation for a peculiar Mandaean legend about a “king Artabanus” who was “the king of the Mandaeans.” In recent versions of the story, he becomes the brother of “king Pharaoh,” who survives the crossing of the Red Sea and flees Moses and his Jewish army. The story has many versions, one of which may be present in the very fragmentary Haran Gauaita (Drower, 1953); this book possibly contained a whole Mandaean world history, from the mythical beginning to the apocalyptical end. Unfortunately the beginning is missing and the present title reproduces the first two words of the surviving text, alluding to the “Interior Harran” which welcomes Artabanus after his defeat. It appears that both Pharaoh and Artabanus are Mandaean kings and both are defeated by the Jews. This could be a historical memory of the figure of Artabanus V (r. ca. 213-24 C.E.), the last and defeated Arsacid king. During the Sasanian period of persecution, the last king of a previous tolerant dynasty could have been “adopted” as a Mandaean, in the same way as the Pharaoh, the enemy of the enemies (the Jews), was. If this is true, Mandaeanism must have already existed at the beginning of Sasanian rule. The richness and variety of the second- and third-century Mesopotamian religious milieu is well documented and is evident in the Codex Manichaicus Coloniensis, which shows Mani growing up as a member of a community of Mesopotamian Baptists (all men dressed in white). According to the Codex, their leader was Elchasai, the apparent author of a Jewish-Christian apocalypse with strong Gnostic traits written around 115 C.E. (Cirillo, Luttikhuizen). Mandaeanism is very likely a splinter group of southern Mesopotamian, post-Christian Gnosticism, possibly originating in the late second century. The connection with Old and New Testament Palestine is cultural, not ethnic or geographic, as there is no need to explain a migration of ideas in terms of the migration of an entire population. What remains unique is that, if we consider the ethnic conscience of the Mandaeans as original to them, we must accept that a whole ethnic group collectively adopted a Gnostic form of religion. If this is true, we may presume there occurred some form of mass conversion as a consequence of the preaching of some religious missionary or reformer. Although the full study of Mandaean text colophons has yet to be completed, we may still find in them some indication of the possible founder of Mandaeanism. Most of the colophons repeat the same series of names, which constitutes a list of the oldest scribes and religious leaders. With some exceptions, which are possibly a reaction to the more common tradition, the oldest name is that of a certain Zazai. In some colophons he appears to have received the book directly from a divine figure and even to be a semi-divine person himself. In the Haran Gauaita he is the first of seven Mandaean king-archers who destroy Judaism, is appointed by Anuš ʿUtra, one of the Mandaean revealers, as the Mandaean king in Baghdad (which is usually identified with Jerusalem), and finally ascends to heaven, where he spends sixty-two days (to receive a special revelation?). Therefore, this Zazai seems to be the historical founder of Mandaeanism, possibly a second-century Mesopotamian Gnostic teacher who considered himself the bearer of direct, divine inspiration. From the numerous names listed in prayers, colophons, and the Haran Gauaita, it is possible to identify some other important religious authors and leaders in early Mandaean history. After Zazai, but before the Islamic era, a certain Šganda, or Ašganda, was so famous that the Mesopotamian city of Ṭib, where he resided, was, for the Mandaeans, “the city of Ašganda.” In the years of the Muslim Arab conquest of Mesopotamia (639-42 CE), we are told that a certain Anuš bar Danqa, a layman, considered to be a descendent of King Artabanus, was able to convince the new rulers that the Mandaeans, like the Christians and the Jews, were “People of the Book” (Arabic: Ahl al-Ketāb), and therefore should not be persecuted. In those years, a certain Ramuia was the leading figure among the scribal and religious authorities, possibly the person in charge of (re)writing the Mandaean religious texts, so that they could be shown to the Muslim rulers. In early Islamic times, we find the recurrent name of a person who must have standardized most Mandaean texts: Baian. It is tempting to consider his activity as a reaction to a religious schism, of which we have both written and oral accounts, the schism of Qiqil. This Mandaean religious leader resided in T’ib, is said to have taken the wrong path, but in the end to have repented. According to Mandaean sources his activity is chronologically connected to John the Baptist (several centuries after him), since all the Mandaeans who accepted Qiqil’s teachings are considered to be the descendants of those Jews who were converted by John the Baptist, and therefore not ethnically Mandaeans. But this is heresiological acrimony, not historical reconstruction.
Beliefs:
Mandaeism, as the religion of the Mandaean people, is based more on a common heritage than on any set of religious creeds and doctrines. The corpus of Mandaean literature, though quite large, covers topics such as eschatology, the knowledge of God and the afterlife—in an unsystematic manner. Moreover, it is known only to the priesthood and a few laypeople.
Fundamental tenets:
According to E. S. Drower, the Mandaean Gnosis is characterized by nine features, which appear in various forms in other gnostic sects:
  1. A supreme formless Entity, the expression of which in time and space is creation of spiritual, etheric, and material worlds and beings. Production of these is delegated by It to a creator or creators who originated It. The cosmos is created by Archetypal Man, who produces it in similitude to his own shape.
  2. Dualism: a cosmic Father and Mother, Light and Darkness, Right and Left, syzygy in cosmic and microcosmic form.
  3. As a feature of this dualism, counter-types, a world of ideas.
  4. The soul is portrayed as an exile, a captive; her home and origin being the supreme Entity to which she eventually returns.
  5. Planets and stars influence fate and human beings, and are also places of detention after death.
  6. A savior spirit or savior spirits which assist the soul on her journey through life and after it to ‘worlds of light’.'
  7. A cult-language of symbol and metaphor. Ideas and qualities are personified.
  8. ‘Mysteries’, i.e. sacraments to aid and purify the soul, to ensure her rebirth into a spiritual body, and her ascent from the world of matter. These are often adaptations of existing seasonal and traditional rites to which an esoteric interpretation is attached. In the case of the Naṣoraeans this interpretation is based on the Creation story (see 1 and 2), especially on the Divine Man, Adam, as crowned and anointed King-priest.
  9. Great secrecy is enjoined upon initiates; full explanation of 1, 2, and 8 being reserved for those considered able to understand and preserve the gnosis.
Cosmology:
The cosmology is marked by a strict dualism between a “World of Light” (alma d-nuhra) and a “World of Darkness” (alma d-hšuka). The world of light is ruled by a sublime being who bears different names: “Life” (hiia, haiyi), “Lord of Greatness” (mara d-rabuta), “Great Mind” (mana rba), “King of Light” (malka d-nuhra). He is surrounded by a countless number of beings of light (uthri or malki), living in “dwellings” (škinata) or “worlds” (almi), performing cultic acts and praising the Life. The world of light came into being from the “First Life” (haiyi qadmaiyi) by way of descending emanations or creations, which are called “Second,” “Third,” and “Fourth Life”; they also bear personal names, such as Yōšamin, Abathur, and Ptahil; the last one is the later demiurge. The “World of Darkness” is governed by the “Lord of Darkness” (mara d-hšuka) and arose from the “dark waters” (meyi siawi, or ʿkumi, tahmi) representing the chaos. The main powers of the world of darkness are a giant monster or dragon with the name Ur (probably a polemic transformation of Hebr. ʿor “light”) and the evil (female) “Spirit” (ruha). Their offspring are demonic beings (daiwi) and “angels” (malaki). To them belong also the “Seven” (šuba), i.e., the planets (šibiahyi), and the “Twelve” (trisar) signs of the Zodiac; they are sons of Ur and Ruha. The conflict between light and darkness, life and death, good and evil leads to the creation of the world (tibil) by the demiurge Ptahil with the help of the dark or gloomy powers, mainly Ruha and the “Seven” and “Twelve.” In this process, the body of first man, Adam, is created by the same bad beings, but his “animating essence” is derived from the World of Light. This “substance of light” in Adam is called “inner (hidden) Adam” (adam kasya, adakas, also adam rba “great Adam”), and it represents the “soul” (nišimta) or “mind” (mana) in humans, which has to be saved or rescued from the dark, evil body (pagra) and the world (tibil) by heavenly beings of light. The wife of Adam, Eve (Hawwa), is created separate from him according to the heavenly “cloud of light” (who figures as the wife of the heavenly or “great Adam”; regarding another tradition on Eve, see below). The salvation of souls is the main concern of the Mandaean religion. One of its central creeds is the belief in several “messengers” (šganda, šliha), “helpers” (adyaura), or “redeemers” (parwanqa) sent by the Life in order to inform the pious of their “call” and to save their souls. The dominant figure of these “envoys of light” is the “Knowledge of Life” (Manda d-Haiyi), who is also called “Son of Life” (Barhaiyi) or “Counterpart of Life” (Dmuthaiyi). Beside him stand the three heavenly Adamites, Hibil (Abel), Šitil (Seth), and Anōš (Enosh). Actually, the Mandaeans know no “historical” redeemers but only the “mythological” ones appearing throughout the ages of the history of the world as a repetition of the first revelation to Adam, which is the prototype of redemption. In some texts the soul ascending after death is escorted and saved by one of the saviors mentioned. Probably after the confrontation with early Christianity, the Mandaeans developed the story that one of their messengers (Anōš or Manda d-Haiyi) appeared in Jerusalem as an antagonist of Jesus Christ in order to expose him as a liar and a false messiah. In this connection John the Baptist played the role of a true Mandaean “disciple” or “priest” (tarmida). Whether reliable information about early Mandaean history in relation to the movement of the followers of John the Baptist can be derived from these tales is a problem that remains unsolved (Rudolph, 1960, pp. 66-80). Clearly, for the Mandaeans John is not the founder of their religion but only one of their prominent representatives. Only the ritual of baptism in flowing water still reminds us of John’s practice (see below). As noted above Mandaean theology is not systematic. There is no one single authoritative account of the creation of the cosmos, but rather a series of several accounts. Some scholars, such as Edmondo Lupieri, maintain that comparison of these different accounts may reveal the diverse religious influences upon which the Mandaeans have drawn and the ways in which the Mandaean religion has evolved over time. In contrast with the religious texts of the western Gnostic sects formerly found in Syria and Egypt, the earliest Mandaean religious texts suggest a more strictly dualistic theology, typical of other Iranian religions such as Zoroastrianism, Zurvanism, Manichaeism, and the teachings of Mazdak. In these texts, instead of a large pleroma, there is a discrete division between light and darkness. The Mandaean God is known as Hayyi Rabbi (The Great Living God). Other names used are Mare d'Rabuta (Lord of Greatness) and Melka d'Nhura (King of Light). Ptahil, the third emanation, alone does not constitute the demiurge but only fills that role insofar as he is the creator of the material world. Rather, Ptahil is the lowest of a group of three emanations, the other two being Yushamin (first emanation a.k.a. Joshamin) and Abathur, the second emanation. Abathur's demiurgic role consists of his sitting in judgment upon the souls of mortals. The role of Yushamin, the first emanation, is more obscure; wanting to create a world of his own, he was severely punished for opposing the King of Light. The name may derive from Iao haš-šammayim (in Hebrew: Yahweh "of the heavens"). While Mandaeans agree with other gnostic sects that the world is a prison governed by the planetary archons, they do not view it as a cruel and inhospitable one.
Chief prophets:
Mandaeans recognize several prophets. Yahia-Yohanna, known in Christianity as John the Baptist, is accorded a special status, higher than his role in Christianity and Islam. Mandaeans do not consider John to be the founder of their religion but revere him as one of their greatest teachers, tracing their beliefs back to Adam. Mandaeans do not believe in Abraham, Moses or Jesus, but recognize other prophetic figures from the Abrahamic religions, such as Adam, his son Seth and his grandson Anush (Enos), as well as Nuh (Noah), his descendants Sam, (Shem) in Bible and Ram (Aram) in Bible. The latter three they consider to be their direct ancestors. Mandaeans also do not recognize the Holy Spirit in the Talmud and Bible, who is known in Mandaic as Ruha, Ruha d-Qudsha, or Ruha Masțanita, in the same way. Instead of being viewed positively as a holy spirit, she is viewed negatively as the personification of the lower, emotional, and feminine elements of the human psyche.
Scriptures:
The Mandaeans have a large corpus of religious scriptures, the most important of which is the Ginza Rba or Ginza, a collection of history, theology, and prayers. The Ginza Rba is divided into two halves—the Genzā Smālā or "Left Ginza", and the Genzā Yeminā or "Right Ginza". By consulting the colophons in the Left Ginza, Jorunn J. Buckley has identified an uninterrupted chain of copyists to the late second or early third century. The colophons attest to the existence of the Mandaeans or their predecessors during the late Parthian Empire at the very latest. The oldest texts are lead amulets from about the third century AD, followed by magic bowls from about AD 600. The important religious manuscripts are not older than the sixteenth century, with most coming from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although the Ginza continued to evolve under the rule of the Sasanian Empire and the Islamic caliphates, few textual traditions can lay claim to such extensive continuity. Another important text is the Haran Gawaita which tells the history of the Mandaeans. According to this text, a group of Nasoraeans (Mandean priests) left Judea before the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century CE, and settled within the Parthian Empire. Other important books include the Qolusta, the canonical prayerbook of the Mandaeans, which was translated by E. S. Drower. One of the chief works of Mandaean scripture, accessible to laymen and initiates alike, is the Mandaean Book of John (Lidzbarski, Mark. "Das Johannesbuch der Mandäer". Giessen : Töpelmann.), which includes a dialogue between John and Jesus. In addition to the Ginza, Qolusta, and Draša, there is the Dīvān, which contains a description of the 'regions' the soul ascends through, and the Asfar Malwāshē, the "Book of the Zodiacal Constellations". Finally, there are some pre-Muslim artifacts that contain Mandaean writings and inscriptions, such as some Aramaic incantation bowls. The language in which the Mandaean religious literature was originally composed is known as Mandaic, and is a member of the Aramaic family of dialects. It is written in a cursive variant of the Parthian chancellory script. Many Mandaean lay people do not speak this language, though some members of the Mandaean community resident in Iran and Iraq continue to speak Neo-Mandaic, a modern version of this language.
Organisation:
There is a strict division between Mandaean laity and the priests. According to E.S. Drower (The Secret Adam, p. ix):
[T]hose amongst the community who possess secret knowledge are called Naṣuraiia—Naṣoreans (or, if the emphatic ‹ṣ› is written as ‹z›, Nazorenes). At the same time the ignorant or semi-ignorant laity are called 'Mandaeans', Mandaiia—'gnostics.' When a man becomes a priest he leaves 'Mandaeanism' and enters tarmiduta, 'priesthood.' Even then he has not attained to true enlightenment, for this, called 'Naṣiruta', is reserved for a very few. Those possessed of its secrets may call themselves Naṣoreans, and 'Naṣorean' today indicates not only one who observes strictly all rules of ritual purity, but one who understands the secret doctrine.
There are three grades of priesthood in Mandaeism: the tarmidia "disciples" (Neo-Mandaic tarmidānā), the ganzibria "treasurers" (from Old Persian ganza-bara "id.," Neo-Mandaic ganzeḇrānā) and the rišamma "leader of the people". This last office, the highest level of the Mandaean priesthood, has lain vacant for many years. At the moment, the highest office currently occupied is that of the ganzeḇrā, a title which appears first in a religious context in the Aramaic ritual texts from Persepolis (c. 3rd century BCE) and which may be related to the kamnaskires (Elamite kapnuskir "treasurer"), title of the rulers of Elymais (modern Khuzestan) during the Hellenistic age. Traditionally, any ganzeḇrā who baptizes seven or more ganzeḇrānā may qualify for the office of rišamma, though the Mandaean community has yet to rally as a whole behind any single candidate. The contemporary priesthood can trace its immediate origins to the first half of the 19th century. In 1831, an outbreak of cholera devastated the region and eliminated most if not all of the Mandaean religious authorities. Two of the surviving acolytes (šgandia), Yahia Bihram and Ram Zihrun, reestablished the priesthood on the basis of their own training and the texts that were available to them. In 2009, there were two dozen Mandaean priests in the world, according to the Associated Press.However, according to the Mandaean Society in America the number of priests has been growing in recent years.
Relations with other groups:
The Mandaeans have been identified with several groups, in particular the Sabians and the Elkasaites. Other groups such as the Nazerences and the Dositheans have also been identified with the Mandaeans. The exact relation of all these groups to one another is a difficult question. But they do share many common beliefs, in accordance with other ancient Middle Eastern religions such as Yazdaism and Judaism, such as belief in a formless deity, reincarnation and rejection of meat or red meat either completely or during religious times. While it seems certain that a number of distinct groups are intended by these names, the nature of these sects and the connections between them are less than clear. At least according to the Fihrist (see below), these groups seem all to have emerged from or developed in parallel with the "Sabian" followers of El-Hasaih; "Elkasaites" in particular may simply have been a blanket term for Mughtasila, Mandaeans, the original Sabians and even Manichaeans.
Sabians:
The Quran makes several references to the Sabians, who are frequently thought to be Mandaeans. Sabians are counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book), and several hadith feature them. Arab sources of early Quranic times (7th century) also make some references to Sabians. Some scholars hold that the etymology of the root word 'Sabi'un' points to origins either in the Syriac or Mandaic word 'Sabian', and suggest that the Mandaean religion originated with Sabeans who came under the influence of early Hellenic Sabian missionaries, but preferred their own priesthood. The Sabians believed they "belong to the prophet Noah"; Similarly, the Mandaeans claim direct descent from Noah. Early in the 9th century, a group of Hermeticists in the northern Mesopotamian city of Harran declared themselves Sabians when facing persecution; an Assyrian Christian writer said that the true 'Sabians' or Sabba lived in the marshes of lower Iraq. The Assyrian writer Theodore Bar Konai (in the Scholion, 792) described a "sect" of "Sabians", who were located in southern Mesopotamia. Al-Biruni (writing at the beginning of the 11th century) said that the 'real Sabians' were "the remnants of the Jewish tribes who remained in Babylonia when the other tribes left it for Jerusalem in the days of Cyrus and Artaxerxes. These remaining tribes ... adopted a system mixed-up of Magism and Judaism."
Nasaraean:
The Haran Gawaita uses the name Nasoraeans for the Mandaeans arriving from Jerusalem. Consequently, the Mandaeans have been connected with the Nasaraeans described by Epiphanius, a group within the Essenes. Epiphanius says (29:6) that they existed before Christ. That is questioned by some, but others accept the pre-Christian origin of this group.
Elkesaites:
The Elkesaites were a Judeo-Christian baptismal sect which seem to have been related, and possibly ancestral, to the Mandaeans (see Sabians). The members of this sect, like the Mandaeans, wore white and performed baptisms. They dwelt in east Judea and Assyria, whence the Mandaeans claim to have migrated to southern Mesopotamia, according to the Harran Gawaiṯā. In the Fihrist ("Book of Nations") of Arabic scholar Al-Nadim (c. 987), the Mogtasilah (Mughtasila, "self-ablutionists") are counted among the followers of El-Hasaih or Elkesaites. Mogtasilah may thus have been Al-Nadim's term for the Mandaeans, as the few details on rituals and habit are similar to Mandaeans ones. The Elkesaites seem to have prospered for a while, but ultimately splintered. They may have originated in a schism where they renounced the Torah, while the mainstream Sampsaeans held on to it (as Elchasai's followers did)—if so, this must have happened around the mid-late 1st millennium CE. However, it is not clear exactly which group he referred to, for by then the Elkesaite sects may have been at their most diverse. Some disappeared subsequently; for example, the Sampsaeans are not well attested in later sources. The Ginza Rba, one of the chief holy scriptures of the Mandaeans, appears to originate around the time of Elchasai or somewhat thereafter.
Manichaeans
According to the Fihrist of ibn al-Nadim, the Mesopotamian prophet Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, was brought up within the Elkesaite (Elcesaite or Elchasaite) sect, this being confirmed more recently by the Cologne Mani Codex. None of the Manichaean scriptures has survived in its entirety, and it seems that the remaining fragments have not been compared to the Ginza Rba. Mani later left the Elkasaites to found his own religion. In a comparative analysis, Mandaean scholar Säve-Söderberg indicated that Mani's Psalms of Thomas were closely related to Mandaean texts. This would imply that Mani had access to Mandaean religious literature, or that both derived from the same source.
Dositheans:
They are connected with the Samaritan group the Dositheans by Theodore Bar Kōnī in his Scholion.
Zoroastrians:
A survey of demonstrable Persian (Iranian or Zoroastrian) elements in the Mandaean religion clearly shows that the Mandaeans had, in the course of their history, diversely adapted to their greater surroundings without losing their identity. The correspondences with Zoroastrianism in practice and ritual are more prominent than any in mythology or theology. Mandaean mythology and theology, with its basic dualistic orientation, did not distance itself from the original Gnostic task for reflection, that is, an anti-cosmic view. This attitude, however, did not manifest itself in ascetic practice, and therefore the religion comes closer to the Iranian Zoroastrian view of the world as split into good and evil. There are further striking correspondences between Mandaean and Persian traditions in regard to prayer times, repentance and confession disciplines, and marriage ceremonies. While there is evidence that the Mandaeans had different daily prayer hours in the course of their history (three, five, and seven times), the Zoroastrians have five (gāhān; see GĀH; Modi, 1937, pp. 219-20; Stausberg, 2004, pp. 488 ff.; concerning the relation between gāh and gāthā, see ibid., p. 59), as more or less constantly witnessed, which were evidently a model for the five Mandaean ones (Rudolph, 1961, pp. 224 ff.). It may also be assumed that the three possibilities of penance before an excommunication were a Persian legacy to the Mandaeans; the two religions shared a common formula for confessions (MPers. patīt), by which the (mainly ritual) sins were atoned for through repentance (ibid., pp. 243 ff., 252 f.). The marriage ceremonies include ablutions, the drinking of wine, and a curtain between the bridal couple during the rituals (ibid., p. 321). An analysis of these subjects leads to the conclusion (Rudolph, 1965; 1996, pp. 362-69) that the older, strictly dualistic conception was later amended by a more monistic doctrine which considered the creation of the world (tibil) and man (adam) as an act of the “king of light” (malka d-nuhra). The classic, dualistic doctrine consists of the opposition between a world of life (hiia) or light (nuhra) and one of darkness (hšuka), each of which arose by itself and whose hostile relationship determined the future history of the world. This corresponds with the Iranian Zoroastrian concepts, once we disregard Zarathustra’s older views in the Gathas and in more recent Zurvanism. It was therefore not wrong of Hans Jonas to describe Mandaeism as a special form of the Iranian type of gnosis, which also had characteristics of the so-called “Syrian-Egyptian type” (Jonas, 1934, 1988, pp. 380 ff.). Its difference from the Iranian concept was, however, that it attributed creation to the act of a fallen demiurge (Ptahil) and his evil sons, the planets and zodiac creatures, so that the world became a part of darkness. The human being (Adam) is also part of the world in his material form. Only the “soul” (nišimta, mana; also called “hidden Adam,” Adakas), sent by the “Great Life” or “Great Mana,” enables Adam to live; the liberation of the soul from body and world then becomes the aim of the entire subject of redemption, an idea which corresponds with the Iranian one and is altogether typical of Gnosis.
Current situation:
Currently, one ganzibra (the highest ranking priest), three tarmidas (the lower ranking priest), and several yalufas serve as leaders, keeping the Mandaeans focused around their rituals and securing the community’s life. The Mandaean leaders of Ahwaz are trying to rescue their spoken Mandaic language, the ratna, which seems to be extinct in Iraq. To instruct the Mandaean children and youth is especially vital, and the effort to secure the language is a fairly recent one. Only in Persia—and among a few Iranian Mandaeans in emigration— does the spoken language (as distinct from the ancient, East Aramaic, written ritual language) still survive, mainly among the community’s elders. Iranian Mandaeans living in emigration in Australia also try to keep the Mandaic tongue alive. In addition to their varied ritual roles, the religious leaders of Ahwaz also serve as links to local Muslim authorities when necessary. The Mandaeans are by tradition endogamous, pacifist in nature, and non-proselytizing, for converts are not accepted. Government regulations requiring schoolboys to cut their hair short have created difficulties for the recruitment to the Mandaean priesthood, as priests’ hair and beards must remain uncut throughout life. Islamic instruction in Muslim schools is required of Mandaean children, and Mandaeans must adhere to Muslim codes for dress and public behavior. Mandaean priests, with their long beards, white turbans, and aristocratic demeanor, continue to instill awed respect in public places. With cloaks over their white garments, they look somewhat like Shiʿite clerics or other religious dignitaries familiar in Islamic cultures. The religion has been practised primarily around the lower Karun, Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. There are thought to be between 60,000 and 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide. Until the Iraq War, almost all of them lived in Iraq. Many Mandaean Iraqis have since fled their country because of the turmoil created by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation by U.S. armed forces, and the related rise in sectarian violence by Muslim extremists. By 2007, the population of Mandaeans in Iraq had fallen to approximately 5,000.
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2020.02.29 04:20 saert_gert Mandaeans, the Gnostic Sabians

Mandaeism or Mandaeanism (Arabic: مَنْدَائِيَّة‎, Mandāʾīyah), also known as Sabaeanism, is a monotheistic and gnostic religion: with a strongly dualistic cosmology. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Noah, Shem, Aram, and especially John the Baptist. The Mandaeans are Semites and speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. The name 'Mandaean' is said to come from the Aramaic manda meaning "knowledge", as does Greek gnosis. Within the Middle East, but outside of their community, the Mandaeans are more commonly known as the Ṣubba (singular: Ṣubbī) or Sabians. The term Ṣubba is derived from the Aramaic root related to baptism, the neo-Mandaic is Ṣabi. In Islam, the "Sabians" (Arabic: الصَّابِئُون‎, aṣ-Ṣābiʾūn) are described several times in the Quran as People of the Book, alongside Jews and Christians. Occasionally, Mandaeans are called "Christians of Saint John". According to most scholars, Mandaeaism originated sometime in the first three centuries AD, in either southwestern Mesopotamia or the Syro-Palestinian area. However, some scholars take the view that Mandaeanism is older and dates from pre-Christian times.
Etymology:
The term Mandaeism comes from Classical Mandaic Mandaiia and appears in Neo-Mandaic as Mandeyānā. On the basis of cognates in other Aramaic dialects, Semiticists such as Mark Lidzbarski and Rudolf Macuch have translated the term manda, from which Mandaiia derives, as "knowledge" (cf. Aramaic: מַנְדַּע‎ mandaʻ in Dan. 2:21, 4:31, 33, 5:12; cf. Hebrew: מַדַּע maddaʻ, with characteristic assimilation of /n/ to the following consonant, medial -nd- hence becoming -dd-). . This etymology suggests that the Mandaeans may well be the only sect surviving from Late Antiquity to identify themselves explicitly as Gnostics. Other scholars derive the term mandaiia from Mandā d-Heyyi (Mandaic Manda ḏ'Hayyi "Knowledge of Life," in reference to the chief divinity Hayyi Rabbi "the Great Life" or "Great Living God") or from the word Beth Manda, which is the cultic hut in which many Mandaean ceremonies are performed (such as the baptism, which is the central sacrament of Mandaean religious life).
History:
According to the Mandaean text the Haran Gawaita, the recorded history of the Mandaeans began when a group called the Nasoreans (the Mandaean priestly caste as opposed to the laity), left Judea/Palestine and migrated to Mesopotamia in the 1st century AD. The reason given for this was their persecution in Jerusalem. The emigrants went first to Haran (probably Harran in modern day Turkey), or Hauran and then the Median hills in Iran, before finally settling in the southern provinces of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). At the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Mesopotamia, the leader of the Mandaeans, Anush son of Danqa appeared before Muslim authorities showing them a copy of the Ginza Rabba, the Mandaean holy book, and proclaiming the chief Mandaean prophet to be John the Baptist, who is also mentioned in the Quran as Yahya Bin Zakariya. This identified Mandaeans with the Sabians who are mentioned in the Quran as being counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book). This provided Mandaeans a status as a legal minority religion within the Muslim Empire. The Mandaeans were henceforth associated with the Sabians and the Jewish Christian group the Elcesaites, on account of the location of all three in Mesopotamia in the early centuries AD, and the similarities in their beliefs. The importance of baptism in the rituals of all three is particularly marked. Like the Mandaeans, the Sabians were also said to be gnostics and descended from Noah. Mandaeans continue to be identified with Sabians up to the present day, but the exact relationship between the three groups remains unclear. Around 1290, a learned Dominican Catholic from Tuscany, Ricoldo da Montecroce, or Ricoldo Pennini, was in Mesopotamia where he met the Mandaeans. He described them as follows:
A very strange and singular people, in terms of their rituals, lives in the desert near Baghdad; they are called Sabaeans. Many of them came to me and begged me insistently to go and visit them. They are a very simple people and they claim to possess a secret law of God, which they preserve in beautiful books. Their writing is a sort of middle way between Syriac and Arabic. They detest Abraham because of circumcision and they venerate John the Baptist above all. They live only near a few rivers in the desert. They wash day and night so as not to be condemned by God…
Mandaeans were called "Christians of Saint John" by members of the Discalced Carmelite mission in Basra during the 16th century, based upon their preliminary reports. Some Portuguese Jesuits had also met some "Saint John Christians" around the Strait of Hormuz in 1559, when the Portuguese fleet fought with the Ottoman Turkish army in Bahrain. These Mandaean seemed to be willing to obey the Catholic Church. They learned and used the seven Catholic sacraments and the related ceremonies in their lives. What we next find is a Mandaean culture, rooted in southern Mesopotamia, with its own distinctive language, from the eastern (not western) Aramaic group, and its own alphabet, closely related to that found in inscriptions of Elymais and coins of Characene. What is striking is that the Mandaeans appear to be a distinct, endogamic religious and ethnic group, with neither proselytism towards, nor conversions from, the outside. While the disciples of John the Baptist were Baptist Jews who kept us to the biblical reading among radical anti-nomistic Christian and post-Christian Gnostic groups, whose hatred for the Jews is well explained as originating in Christian circles. If we add that the Mandaean traditions on John the Baptist cannot be directly connected to the historical John, but are developments of Christian apocryphal legends (Lupieri, up with the reading of the Torah and its observance, the Mandaeans appear to be defiantly anti-Jewish, to abhor circumcision as the worst impurity, and to propose an “inverted” reading of the little they still use of the Jewish Bible: the Jews and their God are the villains, and the Egyptians with their Pharaoh, the enemies of the Jews, become the ancestors of the Mandaeans (Drower, 1937, pp. 261-66; Lupieri, 2002, pp. 133-42). This brings 1988, pp. 195-395), and that even those pertaining to Miriai (a Jewish girl of priestly stock who is said to have converted to become a Mandaean in some early stage of its history) are constructed on other Christian apocryphal stories about Mary, the mother of Jesus (Buckley, 1993), any direct physical connection with first-century Palestine becomes historically unnecessary. The Mandaean history of salvation is a creative conflation of biblical lore and the theory of the four ages of the world. After the biblical flood, which ends the third age of the world, the Mandaeans are the only descendants of the “pure seed” of Adam on earth, but are subjected to periodic extinctions during the present fourth age. Following each extinction, one of the Mandaean saviors or revealers brings new Mandaeans to Mesopotamia from a fabulous realm in the mountains of the North, a sort of paradise on earth where their pure seed survives. This is where the inventor of Mandaean baptism, Birham the Great (and not John the Baptist), resides. This semi-divine entity has the same name as a Semitic divinity, which in the Mesopotamia of Late Antiquity was identified as the Greek demigod Heracles and became the protecting god of the Hyspaosinnidic dynasty of the rulers of Mesene-Characene under the Arsacid empire (roughly from 165BC.E. to 222 C.E.). The Arsacids were followed by the Sasanians, who took full control of Mesopotamia in the years 224-27 C.E. and adhered firmly to Zoroastrianism. They initiated a period of religious persecution, which reached its climax in the second half of the third century under the guidance of the leading Zoroastrian priest and imperial dignitary Karter (or Kirdir). He was responsible for the imprisonment and death of Mani (ca. 275 C.E.), and in his Kaʿba-ye Zardošt inscription (Back, pp. 414-16) he boasts that he persecuted Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Brahmins, zandiks (usually regarded as Mazdean heretics), the mysterious Makdaks (Manicheans or maybe Mandaeans), and the Nasuraeans (possibly Mandaeans or some Jewish-Christian groups). This inscription could offer the terminus ante quem for the existence of an independent Mandaean religion in Mesopotamia. The Sasanian persecution also seems to provide the best explanation for a peculiar Mandaean legend about a “king Artabanus” who was “the king of the Mandaeans.” In recent versions of the story, he becomes the brother of “king Pharaoh,” who survives the crossing of the Red Sea and flees Moses and his Jewish army. The story has many versions, one of which may be present in the very fragmentary Haran Gauaita (Drower, 1953); this book possibly contained a whole Mandaean world history, from the mythical beginning to the apocalyptical end. Unfortunately the beginning is missing and the present title reproduces the first two words of the surviving text, alluding to the “Interior Harran” which welcomes Artabanus after his defeat. It appears that both Pharaoh and Artabanus are Mandaean kings and both are defeated by the Jews. This could be a historical memory of the figure of Artabanus V (r. ca. 213-24 C.E.), the last and defeated Arsacid king. During the Sasanian period of persecution, the last king of a previous tolerant dynasty could have been “adopted” as a Mandaean, in the same way as the Pharaoh, the enemy of the enemies (the Jews), was. If this is true, Mandaeanism must have already existed at the beginning of Sasanian rule. The richness and variety of the second- and third-century Mesopotamian religious milieu is well documented and is evident in the Codex Manichaicus Coloniensis, which shows Mani growing up as a member of a community of Mesopotamian Baptists (all men dressed in white). According to the Codex, their leader was Elchasai, the apparent author of a Jewish-Christian apocalypse with strong Gnostic traits written around 115 C.E. (Cirillo, Luttikhuizen). Mandaeanism is very likely a splinter group of southern Mesopotamian, post-Christian Gnosticism, possibly originating in the late second century. The connection with Old and New Testament Palestine is cultural, not ethnic or geographic, as there is no need to explain a migration of ideas in terms of the migration of an entire population. What remains unique is that, if we consider the ethnic conscience of the Mandaeans as original to them, we must accept that a whole ethnic group collectively adopted a Gnostic form of religion. If this is true, we may presume there occurred some form of mass conversion as a consequence of the preaching of some religious missionary or reformer. Although the full study of Mandaean text colophons has yet to be completed, we may still find in them some indication of the possible founder of Mandaeanism. Most of the colophons repeat the same series of names, which constitutes a list of the oldest scribes and religious leaders. With some exceptions, which are possibly a reaction to the more common tradition, the oldest name is that of a certain Zazai. In some colophons he appears to have received the book directly from a divine figure and even to be a semi-divine person himself. In the Haran Gauaita he is the first of seven Mandaean king-archers who destroy Judaism, is appointed by Anuš ʿUtra, one of the Mandaean revealers, as the Mandaean king in Baghdad (which is usually identified with Jerusalem), and finally ascends to heaven, where he spends sixty-two days (to receive a special revelation?). Therefore, this Zazai seems to be the historical founder of Mandaeanism, possibly a second-century Mesopotamian Gnostic teacher who considered himself the bearer of direct, divine inspiration. From the numerous names listed in prayers, colophons, and the Haran Gauaita, it is possible to identify some other important religious authors and leaders in early Mandaean history. After Zazai, but before the Islamic era, a certain Šganda, or Ašganda, was so famous that the Mesopotamian city of Ṭib, where he resided, was, for the Mandaeans, “the city of Ašganda.” In the years of the Muslim Arab conquest of Mesopotamia (639-42 CE), we are told that a certain Anuš bar Danqa, a layman, considered to be a descendent of King Artabanus, was able to convince the new rulers that the Mandaeans, like the Christians and the Jews, were “People of the Book” (Arabic: Ahl al-Ketāb), and therefore should not be persecuted. In those years, a certain Ramuia was the leading figure among the scribal and religious authorities, possibly the person in charge of (re)writing the Mandaean religious texts, so that they could be shown to the Muslim rulers. In early Islamic times, we find the recurrent name of a person who must have standardized most Mandaean texts: Baian. It is tempting to consider his activity as a reaction to a religious schism, of which we have both written and oral accounts, the schism of Qiqil. This Mandaean religious leader resided in T’ib, is said to have taken the wrong path, but in the end to have repented. According to Mandaean sources his activity is chronologically connected to John the Baptist (several centuries after him), since all the Mandaeans who accepted Qiqil’s teachings are considered to be the descendants of those Jews who were converted by John the Baptist, and therefore not ethnically Mandaeans. But this is heresiological acrimony, not historical reconstruction.
Beliefs:
Mandaeism, as the religion of the Mandaean people, is based more on a common heritage than on any set of religious creeds and doctrines. The corpus of Mandaean literature, though quite large, covers topics such as eschatology, the knowledge of God and the afterlife—in an unsystematic manner. Moreover, it is known only to the priesthood and a few laypeople.
Fundamental tenets:
According to E. S. Drower, the Mandaean Gnosis is characterized by nine features, which appear in various forms in other gnostic sects:
  1. A supreme formless Entity, the expression of which in time and space is creation of spiritual, etheric, and material worlds and beings. Production of these is delegated by It to a creator or creators who originated It. The cosmos is created by Archetypal Man, who produces it in similitude to his own shape.
  2. Dualism: a cosmic Father and Mother, Light and Darkness, Right and Left, syzygy in cosmic and microcosmic form.
  3. As a feature of this dualism, counter-types, a world of ideas.
  4. The soul is portrayed as an exile, a captive; her home and origin being the supreme Entity to which she eventually returns.
  5. Planets and stars influence fate and human beings, and are also places of detention after death.
  6. A savior spirit or savior spirits which assist the soul on her journey through life and after it to ‘worlds of light’.'
  7. A cult-language of symbol and metaphor. Ideas and qualities are personified.
  8. ‘Mysteries’, i.e. sacraments to aid and purify the soul, to ensure her rebirth into a spiritual body, and her ascent from the world of matter. These are often adaptations of existing seasonal and traditional rites to which an esoteric interpretation is attached. In the case of the Naṣoraeans this interpretation is based on the Creation story (see 1 and 2), especially on the Divine Man, Adam, as crowned and anointed King-priest.
  9. Great secrecy is enjoined upon initiates; full explanation of 1, 2, and 8 being reserved for those considered able to understand and preserve the gnosis.
Cosmology:
The cosmology is marked by a strict dualism between a “World of Light” (alma d-nuhra) and a “World of Darkness” (alma d-hšuka). The world of light is ruled by a sublime being who bears different names: “Life” (hiia, haiyi), “Lord of Greatness” (mara d-rabuta), “Great Mind” (mana rba), “King of Light” (malka d-nuhra). He is surrounded by a countless number of beings of light (uthri or malki), living in “dwellings” (škinata) or “worlds” (almi), performing cultic acts and praising the Life. The world of light came into being from the “First Life” (haiyi qadmaiyi) by way of descending emanations or creations, which are called “Second,” “Third,” and “Fourth Life”; they also bear personal names, such as Yōšamin, Abathur, and Ptahil; the last one is the later demiurge. The “World of Darkness” is governed by the “Lord of Darkness” (mara d-hšuka) and arose from the “dark waters” (meyi siawi, or ʿkumi, tahmi) representing the chaos. The main powers of the world of darkness are a giant monster or dragon with the name Ur (probably a polemic transformation of Hebr. ʿor “light”) and the evil (female) “Spirit” (ruha). Their offspring are demonic beings (daiwi) and “angels” (malaki). To them belong also the “Seven” (šuba), i.e., the planets (šibiahyi), and the “Twelve” (trisar) signs of the Zodiac; they are sons of Ur and Ruha. The conflict between light and darkness, life and death, good and evil leads to the creation of the world (tibil) by the demiurge Ptahil with the help of the dark or gloomy powers, mainly Ruha and the “Seven” and “Twelve.” In this process, the body of first man, Adam, is created by the same bad beings, but his “animating essence” is derived from the World of Light. This “substance of light” in Adam is called “inner (hidden) Adam” (adam kasya, adakas, also adam rba “great Adam”), and it represents the “soul” (nišimta) or “mind” (mana) in humans, which has to be saved or rescued from the dark, evil body (pagra) and the world (tibil) by heavenly beings of light. The wife of Adam, Eve (Hawwa), is created separate from him according to the heavenly “cloud of light” (who figures as the wife of the heavenly or “great Adam”; regarding another tradition on Eve, see below). The salvation of souls is the main concern of the Mandaean religion. One of its central creeds is the belief in several “messengers” (šganda, šliha), “helpers” (adyaura), or “redeemers” (parwanqa) sent by the Life in order to inform the pious of their “call” and to save their souls. The dominant figure of these “envoys of light” is the “Knowledge of Life” (Manda d-Haiyi), who is also called “Son of Life” (Barhaiyi) or “Counterpart of Life” (Dmuthaiyi). Beside him stand the three heavenly Adamites, Hibil (Abel), Šitil (Seth), and Anōš (Enosh). Actually, the Mandaeans know no “historical” redeemers but only the “mythological” ones appearing throughout the ages of the history of the world as a repetition of the first revelation to Adam, which is the prototype of redemption. In some texts the soul ascending after death is escorted and saved by one of the saviors mentioned. Probably after the confrontation with early Christianity, the Mandaeans developed the story that one of their messengers (Anōš or Manda d-Haiyi) appeared in Jerusalem as an antagonist of Jesus Christ in order to expose him as a liar and a false messiah. In this connection John the Baptist played the role of a true Mandaean “disciple” or “priest” (tarmida). Whether reliable information about early Mandaean history in relation to the movement of the followers of John the Baptist can be derived from these tales is a problem that remains unsolved (Rudolph, 1960, pp. 66-80). Clearly, for the Mandaeans John is not the founder of their religion but only one of their prominent representatives. Only the ritual of baptism in flowing water still reminds us of John’s practice (see below). As noted above Mandaean theology is not systematic. There is no one single authoritative account of the creation of the cosmos, but rather a series of several accounts. Some scholars, such as Edmondo Lupieri, maintain that comparison of these different accounts may reveal the diverse religious influences upon which the Mandaeans have drawn and the ways in which the Mandaean religion has evolved over time. In contrast with the religious texts of the western Gnostic sects formerly found in Syria and Egypt, the earliest Mandaean religious texts suggest a more strictly dualistic theology, typical of other Iranian religions such as Zoroastrianism, Zurvanism, Manichaeism, and the teachings of Mazdak. In these texts, instead of a large pleroma, there is a discrete division between light and darkness. The Mandaean God is known as Hayyi Rabbi (The Great Living God). Other names used are Mare d'Rabuta (Lord of Greatness) and Melka d'Nhura (King of Light). Ptahil, the third emanation, alone does not constitute the demiurge but only fills that role insofar as he is the creator of the material world. Rather, Ptahil is the lowest of a group of three emanations, the other two being Yushamin (first emanation a.k.a. Joshamin) and Abathur, the second emanation. Abathur's demiurgic role consists of his sitting in judgment upon the souls of mortals. The role of Yushamin, the first emanation, is more obscure; wanting to create a world of his own, he was severely punished for opposing the King of Light. The name may derive from Iao haš-šammayim (in Hebrew: Yahweh "of the heavens"). While Mandaeans agree with other gnostic sects that the world is a prison governed by the planetary archons, they do not view it as a cruel and inhospitable one.
Chief prophets:
Mandaeans recognize several prophets. Yahia-Yohanna, known in Christianity as John the Baptist, is accorded a special status, higher than his role in Christianity and Islam. Mandaeans do not consider John to be the founder of their religion but revere him as one of their greatest teachers, tracing their beliefs back to Adam. Mandaeans do not believe in Abraham, Moses or Jesus, but recognize other prophetic figures from the Abrahamic religions, such as Adam, his son Seth and his grandson Anush (Enos), as well as Nuh (Noah), his descendants Sam, (Shem) in Bible and Ram (Aram) in Bible. The latter three they consider to be their direct ancestors. Mandaeans also do not recognize the Holy Spirit in the Talmud and Bible, who is known in Mandaic as Ruha, Ruha d-Qudsha, or Ruha Masțanita, in the same way. Instead of being viewed positively as a holy spirit, she is viewed negatively as the personification of the lower, emotional, and feminine elements of the human psyche.
Scriptures:
The Mandaeans have a large corpus of religious scriptures, the most important of which is the Ginza Rba or Ginza, a collection of history, theology, and prayers. The Ginza Rba is divided into two halves—the Genzā Smālā or "Left Ginza", and the Genzā Yeminā or "Right Ginza". By consulting the colophons in the Left Ginza, Jorunn J. Buckley has identified an uninterrupted chain of copyists to the late second or early third century. The colophons attest to the existence of the Mandaeans or their predecessors during the late Parthian Empire at the very latest. The oldest texts are lead amulets from about the third century AD, followed by magic bowls from about AD 600. The important religious manuscripts are not older than the sixteenth century, with most coming from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although the Ginza continued to evolve under the rule of the Sasanian Empire and the Islamic caliphates, few textual traditions can lay claim to such extensive continuity. Another important text is the Haran Gawaita which tells the history of the Mandaeans. According to this text, a group of Nasoraeans (Mandean priests) left Judea before the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century CE, and settled within the Parthian Empire. Other important books include the Qolusta, the canonical prayerbook of the Mandaeans, which was translated by E. S. Drower. One of the chief works of Mandaean scripture, accessible to laymen and initiates alike, is the Mandaean Book of John (Lidzbarski, Mark. "Das Johannesbuch der Mandäer". Giessen : Töpelmann.), which includes a dialogue between John and Jesus. In addition to the Ginza, Qolusta, and Draša, there is the Dīvān, which contains a description of the 'regions' the soul ascends through, and the Asfar Malwāshē, the "Book of the Zodiacal Constellations". Finally, there are some pre-Muslim artifacts that contain Mandaean writings and inscriptions, such as some Aramaic incantation bowls. The language in which the Mandaean religious literature was originally composed is known as Mandaic, and is a member of the Aramaic family of dialects. It is written in a cursive variant of the Parthian chancellory script. Many Mandaean lay people do not speak this language, though some members of the Mandaean community resident in Iran and Iraq continue to speak Neo-Mandaic, a modern version of this language.
Organisation:
There is a strict division between Mandaean laity and the priests. According to E.S. Drower (The Secret Adam, p. ix):
[T]hose amongst the community who possess secret knowledge are called Naṣuraiia—Naṣoreans (or, if the emphatic ‹ṣ› is written as ‹z›, Nazorenes). At the same time the ignorant or semi-ignorant laity are called 'Mandaeans', Mandaiia—'gnostics.' When a man becomes a priest he leaves 'Mandaeanism' and enters tarmiduta, 'priesthood.' Even then he has not attained to true enlightenment, for this, called 'Naṣiruta', is reserved for a very few. Those possessed of its secrets may call themselves Naṣoreans, and 'Naṣorean' today indicates not only one who observes strictly all rules of ritual purity, but one who understands the secret doctrine.
There are three grades of priesthood in Mandaeism: the tarmidia "disciples" (Neo-Mandaic tarmidānā), the ganzibria "treasurers" (from Old Persian ganza-bara "id.," Neo-Mandaic ganzeḇrānā) and the rišamma "leader of the people". This last office, the highest level of the Mandaean priesthood, has lain vacant for many years. At the moment, the highest office currently occupied is that of the ganzeḇrā, a title which appears first in a religious context in the Aramaic ritual texts from Persepolis (c. 3rd century BCE) and which may be related to the kamnaskires (Elamite kapnuskir "treasurer"), title of the rulers of Elymais (modern Khuzestan) during the Hellenistic age. Traditionally, any ganzeḇrā who baptizes seven or more ganzeḇrānā may qualify for the office of rišamma, though the Mandaean community has yet to rally as a whole behind any single candidate. The contemporary priesthood can trace its immediate origins to the first half of the 19th century. In 1831, an outbreak of cholera devastated the region and eliminated most if not all of the Mandaean religious authorities. Two of the surviving acolytes (šgandia), Yahia Bihram and Ram Zihrun, reestablished the priesthood on the basis of their own training and the texts that were available to them. In 2009, there were two dozen Mandaean priests in the world, according to the Associated Press.However, according to the Mandaean Society in America the number of priests has been growing in recent years.
Relations with other groups:
The Mandaeans have been identified with several groups, in particular the Sabians and the Elkasaites. Other groups such as the Nazerences and the Dositheans have also been identified with the Mandaeans. The exact relation of all these groups to one another is a difficult question. But they do share many common beliefs, in accordance with other ancient Middle Eastern religions such as Yazdaism and Judaism, such as belief in a formless deity, reincarnation and rejection of meat or red meat either completely or during religious times. While it seems certain that a number of distinct groups are intended by these names, the nature of these sects and the connections between them are less than clear. At least according to the Fihrist (see below), these groups seem all to have emerged from or developed in parallel with the "Sabian" followers of El-Hasaih; "Elkasaites" in particular may simply have been a blanket term for Mughtasila, Mandaeans, the original Sabians and even Manichaeans.
Sabians:
The Quran makes several references to the Sabians, who are frequently thought to be Mandaeans. Sabians are counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book), and several hadith feature them. Arab sources of early Quranic times (7th century) also make some references to Sabians. Some scholars hold that the etymology of the root word 'Sabi'un' points to origins either in the Syriac or Mandaic word 'Sabian', and suggest that the Mandaean religion originated with Sabeans who came under the influence of early Hellenic Sabian missionaries, but preferred their own priesthood. The Sabians believed they "belong to the prophet Noah"; Similarly, the Mandaeans claim direct descent from Noah. Early in the 9th century, a group of Hermeticists in the northern Mesopotamian city of Harran declared themselves Sabians when facing persecution; an Assyrian Christian writer said that the true 'Sabians' or Sabba lived in the marshes of lower Iraq. The Assyrian writer Theodore Bar Konai (in the Scholion, 792) described a "sect" of "Sabians", who were located in southern Mesopotamia. Al-Biruni (writing at the beginning of the 11th century) said that the 'real Sabians' were "the remnants of the Jewish tribes who remained in Babylonia when the other tribes left it for Jerusalem in the days of Cyrus and Artaxerxes. These remaining tribes ... adopted a system mixed-up of Magism and Judaism."
Nasaraean:
The Haran Gawaita uses the name Nasoraeans for the Mandaeans arriving from Jerusalem. Consequently, the Mandaeans have been connected with the Nasaraeans described by Epiphanius, a group within the Essenes. Epiphanius says (29:6) that they existed before Christ. That is questioned by some, but others accept the pre-Christian origin of this group.
Elkesaites:
The Elkesaites were a Judeo-Christian baptismal sect which seem to have been related, and possibly ancestral, to the Mandaeans (see Sabians). The members of this sect, like the Mandaeans, wore white and performed baptisms. They dwelt in east Judea and Assyria, whence the Mandaeans claim to have migrated to southern Mesopotamia, according to the Harran Gawaiṯā. In the Fihrist ("Book of Nations") of Arabic scholar Al-Nadim (c. 987), the Mogtasilah (Mughtasila, "self-ablutionists") are counted among the followers of El-Hasaih or Elkesaites. Mogtasilah may thus have been Al-Nadim's term for the Mandaeans, as the few details on rituals and habit are similar to Mandaeans ones. The Elkesaites seem to have prospered for a while, but ultimately splintered. They may have originated in a schism where they renounced the Torah, while the mainstream Sampsaeans held on to it (as Elchasai's followers did)—if so, this must have happened around the mid-late 1st millennium CE. However, it is not clear exactly which group he referred to, for by then the Elkesaite sects may have been at their most diverse. Some disappeared subsequently; for example, the Sampsaeans are not well attested in later sources. The Ginza Rba, one of the chief holy scriptures of the Mandaeans, appears to originate around the time of Elchasai or somewhat thereafter.
Manichaeans
According to the Fihrist of ibn al-Nadim, the Mesopotamian prophet Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, was brought up within the Elkesaite (Elcesaite or Elchasaite) sect, this being confirmed more recently by the Cologne Mani Codex. None of the Manichaean scriptures has survived in its entirety, and it seems that the remaining fragments have not been compared to the Ginza Rba. Mani later left the Elkasaites to found his own religion. In a comparative analysis, Mandaean scholar Säve-Söderberg indicated that Mani's Psalms of Thomas were closely related to Mandaean texts. This would imply that Mani had access to Mandaean religious literature, or that both derived from the same source.
Dositheans:
They are connected with the Samaritan group the Dositheans by Theodore Bar Kōnī in his Scholion.
Zoroastrians:
A survey of demonstrable Persian (Iranian or Zoroastrian) elements in the Mandaean religion clearly shows that the Mandaeans had, in the course of their history, diversely adapted to their greater surroundings without losing their identity. The correspondences with Zoroastrianism in practice and ritual are more prominent than any in mythology or theology. Mandaean mythology and theology, with its basic dualistic orientation, did not distance itself from the original Gnostic task for reflection, that is, an anti-cosmic view. This attitude, however, did not manifest itself in ascetic practice, and therefore the religion comes closer to the Iranian Zoroastrian view of the world as split into good and evil. There are further striking correspondences between Mandaean and Persian traditions in regard to prayer times, repentance and confession disciplines, and marriage ceremonies. While there is evidence that the Mandaeans had different daily prayer hours in the course of their history (three, five, and seven times), the Zoroastrians have five (gāhān; see GĀH; Modi, 1937, pp. 219-20; Stausberg, 2004, pp. 488 ff.; concerning the relation between gāh and gāthā, see ibid., p. 59), as more or less constantly witnessed, which were evidently a model for the five Mandaean ones (Rudolph, 1961, pp. 224 ff.). It may also be assumed that the three possibilities of penance before an excommunication were a Persian legacy to the Mandaeans; the two religions shared a common formula for confessions (MPers. patīt), by which the (mainly ritual) sins were atoned for through repentance (ibid., pp. 243 ff., 252 f.). The marriage ceremonies include ablutions, the drinking of wine, and a curtain between the bridal couple during the rituals (ibid., p. 321). An analysis of these subjects leads to the conclusion (Rudolph, 1965; 1996, pp. 362-69) that the older, strictly dualistic conception was later amended by a more monistic doctrine which considered the creation of the world (tibil) and man (adam) as an act of the “king of light” (malka d-nuhra). The classic, dualistic doctrine consists of the opposition between a world of life (hiia) or light (nuhra) and one of darkness (hšuka), each of which arose by itself and whose hostile relationship determined the future history of the world. This corresponds with the Iranian Zoroastrian concepts, once we disregard Zarathustra’s older views in the Gathas and in more recent Zurvanism. It was therefore not wrong of Hans Jonas to describe Mandaeism as a special form of the Iranian type of gnosis, which also had characteristics of the so-called “Syrian-Egyptian type” (Jonas, 1934, 1988, pp. 380 ff.). Its difference from the Iranian concept was, however, that it attributed creation to the act of a fallen demiurge (Ptahil) and his evil sons, the planets and zodiac creatures, so that the world became a part of darkness. The human being (Adam) is also part of the world in his material form. Only the “soul” (nišimta, mana; also called “hidden Adam,” Adakas), sent by the “Great Life” or “Great Mana,” enables Adam to live; the liberation of the soul from body and world then becomes the aim of the entire subject of redemption, an idea which corresponds with the Iranian one and is altogether typical of Gnosis.
Current situation:
Currently, one ganzibra (the highest ranking priest), three tarmidas (the lower ranking priest), and several yalufas serve as leaders, keeping the Mandaeans focused around their rituals and securing the community’s life. The Mandaean leaders of Ahwaz are trying to rescue their spoken Mandaic language, the ratna, which seems to be extinct in Iraq. To instruct the Mandaean children and youth is especially vital, and the effort to secure the language is a fairly recent one. Only in Persia—and among a few Iranian Mandaeans in emigration— does the spoken language (as distinct from the ancient, East Aramaic, written ritual language) still survive, mainly among the community’s elders. Iranian Mandaeans living in emigration in Australia also try to keep the Mandaic tongue alive. In addition to their varied ritual roles, the religious leaders of Ahwaz also serve as links to local Muslim authorities when necessary. The Mandaeans are by tradition endogamous, pacifist in nature, and non-proselytizing, for converts are not accepted. Government regulations requiring schoolboys to cut their hair short have created difficulties for the recruitment to the Mandaean priesthood, as priests’ hair and beards must remain uncut throughout life. Islamic instruction in Muslim schools is required of Mandaean children, and Mandaeans must adhere to Muslim codes for dress and public behavior. Mandaean priests, with their long beards, white turbans, and aristocratic demeanor, continue to instill awed respect in public places. With cloaks over their white garments, they look somewhat like Shiʿite clerics or other religious dignitaries familiar in Islamic cultures. The religion has been practised primarily around the lower Karun, Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. There are thought to be between 60,000 and 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide. Until the Iraq War, almost all of them lived in Iraq. Many Mandaean Iraqis have since fled their country because of the turmoil created by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation by U.S. armed forces, and the related rise in sectarian violence by Muslim extremists. By 2007, the population of Mandaeans in Iraq had fallen to approximately 5,000.
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2020.02.29 04:18 saert_gert Mandaeans, the Gnostic Sabians

Mandaeism or Mandaeanism (Arabic: مَنْدَائِيَّة‎, Mandāʾīyah), also known as Sabaeanism, is a monotheistic and gnostic religion: with a strongly dualistic cosmology. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Noah, Shem, Aram, and especially John the Baptist. The Mandaeans are Semites and speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. The name 'Mandaean' is said to come from the Aramaic manda meaning "knowledge", as does Greek gnosis. Within the Middle East, but outside of their community, the Mandaeans are more commonly known as the Ṣubba (singular: Ṣubbī) or Sabians. The term Ṣubba is derived from the Aramaic root related to baptism, the neo-Mandaic is Ṣabi. In Islam, the "Sabians" (Arabic: الصَّابِئُون‎, aṣ-Ṣābiʾūn) are described several times in the Quran as People of the Book, alongside Jews and Christians. Occasionally, Mandaeans are called "Christians of Saint John". According to most scholars, Mandaeaism originated sometime in the first three centuries AD, in either southwestern Mesopotamia or the Syro-Palestinian area. However, some scholars take the view that Mandaeanism is older and dates from pre-Christian times.
Etymology:
The term Mandaeism comes from Classical Mandaic Mandaiia and appears in Neo-Mandaic as Mandeyānā. On the basis of cognates in other Aramaic dialects, Semiticists such as Mark Lidzbarski and Rudolf Macuch have translated the term manda, from which Mandaiia derives, as "knowledge" (cf. Aramaic: מַנְדַּע‎ mandaʻ in Dan. 2:21, 4:31, 33, 5:12; cf. Hebrew: מַדַּע maddaʻ, with characteristic assimilation of /n/ to the following consonant, medial -nd- hence becoming -dd-). . This etymology suggests that the Mandaeans may well be the only sect surviving from Late Antiquity to identify themselves explicitly as Gnostics. Other scholars derive the term mandaiia from Mandā d-Heyyi (Mandaic Manda ḏ'Hayyi "Knowledge of Life," in reference to the chief divinity Hayyi Rabbi "the Great Life" or "Great Living God") or from the word Beth Manda, which is the cultic hut in which many Mandaean ceremonies are performed (such as the baptism, which is the central sacrament of Mandaean religious life).
History:
According to the Mandaean text the Haran Gawaita, the recorded history of the Mandaeans began when a group called the Nasoreans (the Mandaean priestly caste as opposed to the laity), left Judea/Palestine and migrated to Mesopotamia in the 1st century AD. The reason given for this was their persecution in Jerusalem. The emigrants went first to Haran (probably Harran in modern day Turkey), or Hauran and then the Median hills in Iran, before finally settling in the southern provinces of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). At the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Mesopotamia, the leader of the Mandaeans, Anush son of Danqa appeared before Muslim authorities showing them a copy of the Ginza Rabba, the Mandaean holy book, and proclaiming the chief Mandaean prophet to be John the Baptist, who is also mentioned in the Quran as Yahya Bin Zakariya. This identified Mandaeans with the Sabians who are mentioned in the Quran as being counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book). This provided Mandaeans a status as a legal minority religion within the Muslim Empire. The Mandaeans were henceforth associated with the Sabians and the Jewish Christian group the Elcesaites, on account of the location of all three in Mesopotamia in the early centuries AD, and the similarities in their beliefs. The importance of baptism in the rituals of all three is particularly marked. Like the Mandaeans, the Sabians were also said to be gnostics and descended from Noah. Mandaeans continue to be identified with Sabians up to the present day, but the exact relationship between the three groups remains unclear. Around 1290, a learned Dominican Catholic from Tuscany, Ricoldo da Montecroce, or Ricoldo Pennini, was in Mesopotamia where he met the Mandaeans. He described them as follows:
A very strange and singular people, in terms of their rituals, lives in the desert near Baghdad; they are called Sabaeans. Many of them came to me and begged me insistently to go and visit them. They are a very simple people and they claim to possess a secret law of God, which they preserve in beautiful books. Their writing is a sort of middle way between Syriac and Arabic. They detest Abraham because of circumcision and they venerate John the Baptist above all. They live only near a few rivers in the desert. They wash day and night so as not to be condemned by God…
Mandaeans were called "Christians of Saint John" by members of the Discalced Carmelite mission in Basra during the 16th century, based upon their preliminary reports. Some Portuguese Jesuits had also met some "Saint John Christians" around the Strait of Hormuz in 1559, when the Portuguese fleet fought with the Ottoman Turkish army in Bahrain. These Mandaean seemed to be willing to obey the Catholic Church. They learned and used the seven Catholic sacraments and the related ceremonies in their lives. What we next find is a Mandaean culture, rooted in southern Mesopotamia, with its own distinctive language, from the eastern (not western) Aramaic group, and its own alphabet, closely related to that found in inscriptions of Elymais and coins of Characene. What is striking is that the Mandaeans appear to be a distinct, endogamic religious and ethnic group, with neither proselytism towards, nor conversions from, the outside. While the disciples of John the Baptist were Baptist Jews who kept us to the biblical reading among radical anti-nomistic Christian and post-Christian Gnostic groups, whose hatred for the Jews is well explained as originating in Christian circles. If we add that the Mandaean traditions on John the Baptist cannot be directly connected to the historical John, but are developments of Christian apocryphal legends (Lupieri, up with the reading of the Torah and its observance, the Mandaeans appear to be defiantly anti-Jewish, to abhor circumcision as the worst impurity, and to propose an “inverted” reading of the little they still use of the Jewish Bible: the Jews and their God are the villains, and the Egyptians with their Pharaoh, the enemies of the Jews, become the ancestors of the Mandaeans (Drower, 1937, pp. 261-66; Lupieri, 2002, pp. 133-42). This brings 1988, pp. 195-395), and that even those pertaining to Miriai (a Jewish girl of priestly stock who is said to have converted to become a Mandaean in some early stage of its history) are constructed on other Christian apocryphal stories about Mary, the mother of Jesus (Buckley, 1993), any direct physical connection with first-century Palestine becomes historically unnecessary. The Mandaean history of salvation is a creative conflation of biblical lore and the theory of the four ages of the world. After the biblical flood, which ends the third age of the world, the Mandaeans are the only descendants of the “pure seed” of Adam on earth, but are subjected to periodic extinctions during the present fourth age. Following each extinction, one of the Mandaean saviors or revealers brings new Mandaeans to Mesopotamia from a fabulous realm in the mountains of the North, a sort of paradise on earth where their pure seed survives. This is where the inventor of Mandaean baptism, Birham the Great (and not John the Baptist), resides. This semi-divine entity has the same name as a Semitic divinity, which in the Mesopotamia of Late Antiquity was identified as the Greek demigod Heracles and became the protecting god of the Hyspaosinnidic dynasty of the rulers of Mesene-Characene under the Arsacid empire (roughly from 165BC.E. to 222 C.E.). The Arsacids were followed by the Sasanians, who took full control of Mesopotamia in the years 224-27 C.E. and adhered firmly to Zoroastrianism. They initiated a period of religious persecution, which reached its climax in the second half of the third century under the guidance of the leading Zoroastrian priest and imperial dignitary Karter (or Kirdir). He was responsible for the imprisonment and death of Mani (ca. 275 C.E.), and in his Kaʿba-ye Zardošt inscription (Back, pp. 414-16) he boasts that he persecuted Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Brahmins, zandiks (usually regarded as Mazdean heretics), the mysterious Makdaks (Manicheans or maybe Mandaeans), and the Nasuraeans (possibly Mandaeans or some Jewish-Christian groups). This inscription could offer the terminus ante quem for the existence of an independent Mandaean religion in Mesopotamia. The Sasanian persecution also seems to provide the best explanation for a peculiar Mandaean legend about a “king Artabanus” who was “the king of the Mandaeans.” In recent versions of the story, he becomes the brother of “king Pharaoh,” who survives the crossing of the Red Sea and flees Moses and his Jewish army. The story has many versions, one of which may be present in the very fragmentary Haran Gauaita (Drower, 1953); this book possibly contained a whole Mandaean world history, from the mythical beginning to the apocalyptical end. Unfortunately the beginning is missing and the present title reproduces the first two words of the surviving text, alluding to the “Interior Harran” which welcomes Artabanus after his defeat. It appears that both Pharaoh and Artabanus are Mandaean kings and both are defeated by the Jews. This could be a historical memory of the figure of Artabanus V (r. ca. 213-24 C.E.), the last and defeated Arsacid king. During the Sasanian period of persecution, the last king of a previous tolerant dynasty could have been “adopted” as a Mandaean, in the same way as the Pharaoh, the enemy of the enemies (the Jews), was. If this is true, Mandaeanism must have already existed at the beginning of Sasanian rule. The richness and variety of the second- and third-century Mesopotamian religious milieu is well documented and is evident in the Codex Manichaicus Coloniensis, which shows Mani growing up as a member of a community of Mesopotamian Baptists (all men dressed in white). According to the Codex, their leader was Elchasai, the apparent author of a Jewish-Christian apocalypse with strong Gnostic traits written around 115 C.E. (Cirillo, Luttikhuizen). Mandaeanism is very likely a splinter group of southern Mesopotamian, post-Christian Gnosticism, possibly originating in the late second century. The connection with Old and New Testament Palestine is cultural, not ethnic or geographic, as there is no need to explain a migration of ideas in terms of the migration of an entire population. What remains unique is that, if we consider the ethnic conscience of the Mandaeans as original to them, we must accept that a whole ethnic group collectively adopted a Gnostic form of religion. If this is true, we may presume there occurred some form of mass conversion as a consequence of the preaching of some religious missionary or reformer. Although the full study of Mandaean text colophons has yet to be completed, we may still find in them some indication of the possible founder of Mandaeanism. Most of the colophons repeat the same series of names, which constitutes a list of the oldest scribes and religious leaders. With some exceptions, which are possibly a reaction to the more common tradition, the oldest name is that of a certain Zazai. In some colophons he appears to have received the book directly from a divine figure and even to be a semi-divine person himself. In the Haran Gauaita he is the first of seven Mandaean king-archers who destroy Judaism, is appointed by Anuš ʿUtra, one of the Mandaean revealers, as the Mandaean king in Baghdad (which is usually identified with Jerusalem), and finally ascends to heaven, where he spends sixty-two days (to receive a special revelation?). Therefore, this Zazai seems to be the historical founder of Mandaeanism, possibly a second-century Mesopotamian Gnostic teacher who considered himself the bearer of direct, divine inspiration. From the numerous names listed in prayers, colophons, and the Haran Gauaita, it is possible to identify some other important religious authors and leaders in early Mandaean history. After Zazai, but before the Islamic era, a certain Šganda, or Ašganda, was so famous that the Mesopotamian city of Ṭib, where he resided, was, for the Mandaeans, “the city of Ašganda.” In the years of the Muslim Arab conquest of Mesopotamia (639-42 CE), we are told that a certain Anuš bar Danqa, a layman, considered to be a descendent of King Artabanus, was able to convince the new rulers that the Mandaeans, like the Christians and the Jews, were “People of the Book” (Arabic: Ahl al-Ketāb), and therefore should not be persecuted. In those years, a certain Ramuia was the leading figure among the scribal and religious authorities, possibly the person in charge of (re)writing the Mandaean religious texts, so that they could be shown to the Muslim rulers. In early Islamic times, we find the recurrent name of a person who must have standardized most Mandaean texts: Baian. It is tempting to consider his activity as a reaction to a religious schism, of which we have both written and oral accounts, the schism of Qiqil. This Mandaean religious leader resided in T’ib, is said to have taken the wrong path, but in the end to have repented. According to Mandaean sources his activity is chronologically connected to John the Baptist (several centuries after him), since all the Mandaeans who accepted Qiqil’s teachings are considered to be the descendants of those Jews who were converted by John the Baptist, and therefore not ethnically Mandaeans. But this is heresiological acrimony, not historical reconstruction.
Beliefs:
Mandaeism, as the religion of the Mandaean people, is based more on a common heritage than on any set of religious creeds and doctrines. The corpus of Mandaean literature, though quite large, covers topics such as eschatology, the knowledge of God and the afterlife—in an unsystematic manner. Moreover, it is known only to the priesthood and a few laypeople.
Fundamental tenets:
According to E. S. Drower, the Mandaean Gnosis is characterized by nine features, which appear in various forms in other gnostic sects:
  1. A supreme formless Entity, the expression of which in time and space is creation of spiritual, etheric, and material worlds and beings. Production of these is delegated by It to a creator or creators who originated It. The cosmos is created by Archetypal Man, who produces it in similitude to his own shape.
  2. Dualism: a cosmic Father and Mother, Light and Darkness, Right and Left, syzygy in cosmic and microcosmic form.
  3. As a feature of this dualism, counter-types, a world of ideas.
  4. The soul is portrayed as an exile, a captive; her home and origin being the supreme Entity to which she eventually returns.
  5. Planets and stars influence fate and human beings, and are also places of detention after death.
  6. A savior spirit or savior spirits which assist the soul on her journey through life and after it to ‘worlds of light’.'
  7. A cult-language of symbol and metaphor. Ideas and qualities are personified.
  8. ‘Mysteries’, i.e. sacraments to aid and purify the soul, to ensure her rebirth into a spiritual body, and her ascent from the world of matter. These are often adaptations of existing seasonal and traditional rites to which an esoteric interpretation is attached. In the case of the Naṣoraeans this interpretation is based on the Creation story (see 1 and 2), especially on the Divine Man, Adam, as crowned and anointed King-priest.
  9. Great secrecy is enjoined upon initiates; full explanation of 1, 2, and 8 being reserved for those considered able to understand and preserve the gnosis.
    Cosmology:
    The cosmology is marked by a strict dualism between a “World of Light” (alma d-nuhra) and a “World of Darkness” (alma d-hšuka). The world of light is ruled by a sublime being who bears different names: “Life” (hiia, haiyi), “Lord of Greatness” (mara d-rabuta), “Great Mind” (mana rba), “King of Light” (malka d-nuhra). He is surrounded by a countless number of beings of light (uthri or malki), living in “dwellings” (škinata) or “worlds” (almi), performing cultic acts and praising the Life. The world of light came into being from the “First Life” (haiyi qadmaiyi) by way of descending emanations or creations, which are called “Second,” “Third,” and “Fourth Life”; they also bear personal names, such as Yōšamin, Abathur, and Ptahil; the last one is the later demiurge. The “World of Darkness” is governed by the “Lord of Darkness” (mara d-hšuka) and arose from the “dark waters” (meyi siawi, or ʿkumi, tahmi) representing the chaos. The main powers of the world of darkness are a giant monster or dragon with the name Ur (probably a polemic transformation of Hebr. ʿor “light”) and the evil (female) “Spirit” (ruha). Their offspring are demonic beings (daiwi) and “angels” (malaki). To them belong also the “Seven” (šuba), i.e., the planets (šibiahyi), and the “Twelve” (trisar) signs of the Zodiac; they are sons of Ur and Ruha. The conflict between light and darkness, life and death, good and evil leads to the creation of the world (tibil) by the demiurge Ptahil with the help of the dark or gloomy powers, mainly Ruha and the “Seven” and “Twelve.” In this process, the body of first man, Adam, is created by the same bad beings, but his “animating essence” is derived from the World of Light. This “substance of light” in Adam is called “inner (hidden) Adam” (adam kasya, adakas, also adam rba “great Adam), and it represents the “soul” (nišimta) or “mind” (mana) in humans, which has to be saved or rescued from the dark, evil body (pagra) and the world (tibil) by heavenly beings of light. The wife of Adam, Eve (Hawwa), is created separate from him according to the heavenly “cloud of light” (who figures as the wife of the heavenly or “great Adam”; regarding another tradition on Eve, see below). The salvation of souls is the main concern of the Mandaean religion. One of its central creeds is the belief in several “messengers” (šganda, šliha), “helpers” (adyaura), or “redeemers” (parwanqa) sent by the Life in order to inform the pious of their “call” and to save their souls. The dominant figure of these “envoys of light” is the “Knowledge of Life” (Manda d-Haiyi), who is also called “Son of Life” (Barhaiyi) or “Counterpart of Life” (Dmuthaiyi). Beside him stand the three heavenly Adamites, Hibil (Abel), Šitil (Seth), and Anōš (Enosh). Actually, the Mandaeans know no “historical” redeemers but only the “mythological” ones appearing throughout the ages of the history of the world as a repetition of the first revelation to Adam, which is the prototype of redemption. In some texts the soul ascending after death is escorted and saved by one of the saviors mentioned. Probably after the confrontation with early Christianity, the Mandaeans developed the story that one of their messengers (Anōš or Manda d-Haiyi) appeared in Jerusalem as an antagonist of Jesus Christ in order to expose him as a liar and a false messiah. In this connection John the Baptist played the role of a true Mandaean “disciple” or “priest” (tarmida). Whether reliable information about early Mandaean history in relation to the movement of the followers of John the Baptist can be derived from these tales is a problem that remains unsolved (Rudolph, 1960, pp. 66-80). Clearly, for the Mandaeans John is not the founder of their religion but only one of their prominent representatives. Only the ritual of baptism in flowing water still reminds us of John’s practice (see below). As noted above Mandaean theology is not systematic. There is no one single authoritative account of the creation of the cosmos, but rather a series of several accounts. Some scholars, such as Edmondo Lupieri, maintain that comparison of these different accounts may reveal the diverse religious influences upon which the Mandaeans have drawn and the ways in which the Mandaean religion has evolved over time. In contrast with the religious texts of the western Gnostic sects formerly found in Syria and Egypt, the earliest Mandaean religious texts suggest a more strictly dualistic theology, typical of other Iranian religions such as Zoroastrianism, Zurvanism, Manichaeism, and the teachings of Mazdak. In these texts, instead of a large pleroma, there is a discrete division between light and darkness. The Mandaean God is known as Hayyi Rabbi (The Great Living God). Other names used are Mare d'Rabuta (Lord of Greatness) and Melka d'Nhura (King of Light). Ptahil, the third emanation, alone does not constitute the demiurge but only fills that role insofar as he is the creator of the material world. Rather, Ptahil is the lowest of a group of three emanations, the other two being Yushamin (first emanation a.k.a. Joshamin) and Abathur, the second emanation. Abathur's demiurgic role consists of his sitting in judgment upon the souls of mortals. The role of Yushamin, the first emanation, is more obscure; wanting to create a world of his own, he was severely punished for opposing the King of Light. The name may derive from Iao haš-šammayim (in Hebrew: Yahweh "of the heavens"). While Mandaeans agree with other gnostic sects that the world is a prison governed by the planetary archons, they do not view it as a cruel and inhospitable one.
Chief prophets:
Mandaeans recognize several prophets. Yahia-Yohanna, known in Christianity as John the Baptist, is accorded a special status, higher than his role in Christianity and Islam. Mandaeans do not consider John to be the founder of their religion but revere him as one of their greatest teachers, tracing their beliefs back to Adam. Mandaeans do not believe in Abraham, Moses or Jesus, but recognize other prophetic figures from the Abrahamic religions, such as Adam, his son Seth and his grandson Anush (Enos), as well as Nuh (Noah), his descendants Sam, (Shem) in Bible and Ram (Aram) in Bible. The latter three they consider to be their direct ancestors. Mandaeans also do not recognize the Holy Spirit in the Talmud and Bible, who is known in Mandaic as Ruha, Ruha d-Qudsha, or Ruha Masțanita, in the same way. Instead of being viewed positively as a holy spirit, she is viewed negatively as the personification of the lower, emotional, and feminine elements of the human psyche.
Scriptures:
The Mandaeans have a large corpus of religious scriptures, the most important of which is the Ginza Rba or Ginza, a collection of history, theology, and prayers. The Ginza Rba is divided into two halves—the Genzā Smālā or "Left Ginza", and the Genzā Yeminā or "Right Ginza". By consulting the colophons in the Left Ginza, Jorunn J. Buckley has identified an uninterrupted chain of copyists to the late second or early third century. The colophons attest to the existence of the Mandaeans or their predecessors during the late Parthian Empire at the very latest. The oldest texts are lead amulets from about the third century AD, followed by magic bowls from about AD 600. The important religious manuscripts are not older than the sixteenth century, with most coming from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although the Ginza continued to evolve under the rule of the Sasanian Empire and the Islamic caliphates, few textual traditions can lay claim to such extensive continuity. Another important text is the Haran Gawaita which tells the history of the Mandaeans. According to this text, a group of Nasoraeans (Mandean priests) left Judea before the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century CE, and settled within the Parthian Empire. Other important books include the Qolusta, the canonical prayerbook of the Mandaeans, which was translated by E. S. Drower. One of the chief works of Mandaean scripture, accessible to laymen and initiates alike, is the Mandaean Book of John (Lidzbarski, Mark. "Das Johannesbuch der Mandäer". Giessen : Töpelmann.), which includes a dialogue between John and Jesus. In addition to the Ginza, Qolusta, and Draša, there is the Dīvān, which contains a description of the 'regions' the soul ascends through, and the Asfar Malwāshē, the "Book of the Zodiacal Constellations". Finally, there are some pre-Muslim artifacts that contain Mandaean writings and inscriptions, such as some Aramaic incantation bowls. The language in which the Mandaean religious literature was originally composed is known as Mandaic, and is a member of the Aramaic family of dialects. It is written in a cursive variant of the Parthian chancellory script. Many Mandaean lay people do not speak this language, though some members of the Mandaean community resident in Iran and Iraq continue to speak Neo-Mandaic, a modern version of this language.
Organisation:
There is a strict division between Mandaean laity and the priests. According to E.S. Drower (The Secret Adam, p. ix):
[T]hose amongst the community who possess secret knowledge are called Naṣuraiia—Naṣoreans (or, if the emphatic ‹ṣ› is written as ‹z›, Nazorenes). At the same time the ignorant or semi-ignorant laity are called 'Mandaeans', Mandaiia—'gnostics.' When a man becomes a priest he leaves 'Mandaeanism' and enters tarmiduta, 'priesthood.' Even then he has not attained to true enlightenment, for this, called 'Naṣiruta', is reserved for a very few. Those possessed of its secrets may call themselves Naṣoreans, and 'Naṣorean' today indicates not only one who observes strictly all rules of ritual purity, but one who understands the secret doctrine.
There are three grades of priesthood in Mandaeism: the tarmidia "disciples" (Neo-Mandaic tarmidānā), the ganzibria "treasurers" (from Old Persian ganza-bara "id.," Neo-Mandaic ganzeḇrānā) and the rišamma "leader of the people". This last office, the highest level of the Mandaean priesthood, has lain vacant for many years. At the moment, the highest office currently occupied is that of the ganzeḇrā, a title which appears first in a religious context in the Aramaic ritual texts from Persepolis (c. 3rd century BCE) and which may be related to the kamnaskires (Elamite kapnuskir "treasurer"), title of the rulers of Elymais (modern Khuzestan) during the Hellenistic age. Traditionally, any ganzeḇrā who baptizes seven or more ganzeḇrānā may qualify for the office of rišamma, though the Mandaean community has yet to rally as a whole behind any single candidate. The contemporary priesthood can trace its immediate origins to the first half of the 19th century. In 1831, an outbreak of cholera devastated the region and eliminated most if not all of the Mandaean religious authorities. Two of the surviving acolytes (šgandia), Yahia Bihram and Ram Zihrun, reestablished the priesthood on the basis of their own training and the texts that were available to them. In 2009, there were two dozen Mandaean priests in the world, according to the Associated Press.However, according to the Mandaean Society in America the number of priests has been growing in recent years.
Relations with other groups:
The Mandaeans have been identified with several groups, in particular the Sabians and the Elkasaites. Other groups such as the Nazerences and the Dositheans have also been identified with the Mandaeans. The exact relation of all these groups to one another is a difficult question. But they do share many common beliefs, in accordance with other ancient Middle Eastern religions such as Yazdaism and Judaism, such as belief in a formless deity, reincarnation and rejection of meat or red meat either completely or during religious times. While it seems certain that a number of distinct groups are intended by these names, the nature of these sects and the connections between them are less than clear. At least according to the Fihrist (see below), these groups seem all to have emerged from or developed in parallel with the "Sabian" followers of El-Hasaih; "Elkasaites" in particular may simply have been a blanket term for Mughtasila, Mandaeans, the original Sabians and even Manichaeans.
Sabians:
The Quran makes several references to the Sabians, who are frequently thought to be Mandaeans. Sabians are counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book), and several hadith feature them. Arab sources of early Quranic times (7th century) also make some references to Sabians. Some scholars hold that the etymology of the root word 'Sabi'un' points to origins either in the Syriac or Mandaic word 'Sabian', and suggest that the Mandaean religion originated with Sabeans who came under the influence of early Hellenic Sabian missionaries, but preferred their own priesthood. The Sabians believed they "belong to the prophet Noah"; Similarly, the Mandaeans claim direct descent from Noah. Early in the 9th century, a group of Hermeticists in the northern Mesopotamian city of Harran declared themselves Sabians when facing persecution; an Assyrian Christian writer said that the true 'Sabians' or Sabba lived in the marshes of lower Iraq. The Assyrian writer Theodore Bar Konai (in the Scholion, 792) described a "sect" of "Sabians", who were located in southern Mesopotamia. Al-Biruni (writing at the beginning of the 11th century) said that the 'real Sabians' were "the remnants of the Jewish tribes who remained in Babylonia when the other tribes left it for Jerusalem in the days of Cyrus and Artaxerxes. These remaining tribes ... adopted a system mixed-up of Magism and Judaism."
Nasaraean:
The Haran Gawaita uses the name Nasoraeans for the Mandaeans arriving from Jerusalem. Consequently, the Mandaeans have been connected with the Nasaraeans described by Epiphanius, a group within the Essenes. Epiphanius says (29:6) that they existed before Christ. That is questioned by some, but others accept the pre-Christian origin of this group.
Elkesaites:
The Elkesaites were a Judeo-Christian baptismal sect which seem to have been related, and possibly ancestral, to the Mandaeans (see Sabians). The members of this sect, like the Mandaeans, wore white and performed baptisms. They dwelt in east Judea and Assyria, whence the Mandaeans claim to have migrated to southern Mesopotamia, according to the Harran Gawaiṯā. In the Fihrist ("Book of Nations") of Arabic scholar Al-Nadim (c. 987), the Mogtasilah (Mughtasila, "self-ablutionists") are counted among the followers of El-Hasaih or Elkesaites. Mogtasilah may thus have been Al-Nadim's term for the Mandaeans, as the few details on rituals and habit are similar to Mandaeans ones. The Elkesaites seem to have prospered for a while, but ultimately splintered. They may have originated in a schism where they renounced the Torah, while the mainstream Sampsaeans held on to it (as Elchasai's followers did)—if so, this must have happened around the mid-late 1st millennium CE. However, it is not clear exactly which group he referred to, for by then the Elkesaite sects may have been at their most diverse. Some disappeared subsequently; for example, the Sampsaeans are not well attested in later sources. The Ginza Rba, one of the chief holy scriptures of the Mandaeans, appears to originate around the time of Elchasai or somewhat thereafter.
Manichaeans
According to the Fihrist of ibn al-Nadim, the Mesopotamian prophet Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, was brought up within the Elkesaite (Elcesaite or Elchasaite) sect, this being confirmed more recently by the Cologne Mani Codex. None of the Manichaean scriptures has survived in its entirety, and it seems that the remaining fragments have not been compared to the Ginza Rba. Mani later left the Elkasaites to found his own religion. In a comparative analysis, Mandaean scholar Säve-Söderberg indicated that Mani's Psalms of Thomas were closely related to Mandaean texts. This would imply that Mani had access to Mandaean religious literature, or that both derived from the same source.
Dositheans:
They are connected with the Samaritan group the Dositheans by Theodore Bar Kōnī in his Scholion.
Zoroastrians:
A survey of demonstrable Persian (Iranian or Zoroastrian) elements in the Mandaean religion clearly shows that the Mandaeans had, in the course of their history, diversely adapted to their greater surroundings without losing their identity. The correspondences with Zoroastrianism in practice and ritual are more prominent than any in mythology or theology. Mandaean mythology and theology, with its basic dualistic orientation, did not distance itself from the original Gnostic task for reflection, that is, an anti-cosmic view. This attitude, however, did not manifest itself in ascetic practice, and therefore the religion comes closer to the Iranian Zoroastrian view of the world as split into good and evil. There are further striking correspondences between Mandaean and Persian traditions in regard to prayer times, repentance and confession disciplines, and marriage ceremonies. While there is evidence that the Mandaeans had different daily prayer hours in the course of their history (three, five, and seven times), the Zoroastrians have five (gāhān; see GĀH; Modi, 1937, pp. 219-20; Stausberg, 2004, pp. 488 ff.; concerning the relation between gāh and gāthā, see ibid., p. 59), as more or less constantly witnessed, which were evidently a model for the five Mandaean ones (Rudolph, 1961, pp. 224 ff.). It may also be assumed that the three possibilities of penance before an excommunication were a Persian legacy to the Mandaeans; the two religions shared a common formula for confessions (MPers. patīt), by which the (mainly ritual) sins were atoned for through repentance (ibid., pp. 243 ff., 252 f.). The marriage ceremonies include ablutions, the drinking of wine, and a curtain between the bridal couple during the rituals (ibid., p. 321). An analysis of these subjects leads to the conclusion (Rudolph, 1965; 1996, pp. 362-69) that the older, strictly dualistic conception was later amended by a more monistic doctrine which considered the creation of the world (tibil) and man (adam) as an act of the “king of light” (malka d-nuhra). The classic, dualistic doctrine consists of the opposition between a world of life (hiia) or light (nuhra) and one of darkness (hšuka), each of which arose by itself and whose hostile relationship determined the future history of the world. This corresponds with the Iranian Zoroastrian concepts, once we disregard Zarathustra’s older views in the Gathas and in more recent Zurvanism. It was therefore not wrong of Hans Jonas to describe Mandaeism as a special form of the Iranian type of gnosis, which also had characteristics of the so-called “Syrian-Egyptian type” (Jonas, 1934, 1988, pp. 380 ff.). Its difference from the Iranian concept was, however, that it attributed creation to the act of a fallen demiurge (Ptahil) and his evil sons, the planets and zodiac creatures, so that the world became a part of darkness. The human being (Adam) is also part of the world in his material form. Only the “soul” (nišimta, mana; also called “hidden Adam,” Adakas), sent by the “Great Life” or “Great Mana,” enables Adam to live; the liberation of the soul from body and world then becomes the aim of the entire subject of redemption, an idea which corresponds with the Iranian one and is altogether typical of Gnosis.
Current situation:
Currently, one ganzibra (the highest ranking priest), three tarmidas (the lower ranking priest), and several yalufas serve as leaders, keeping the Mandaeans focused around their rituals and securing the community’s life. The Mandaean leaders of Ahwaz are trying to rescue their spoken Mandaic language, the ratna, which seems to be extinct in Iraq. To instruct the Mandaean children and youth is especially vital, and the effort to secure the language is a fairly recent one. Only in Persia—and among a few Iranian Mandaeans in emigration— does the spoken language (as distinct from the ancient, East Aramaic, written ritual language) still survive, mainly among the community’s elders. Iranian Mandaeans living in emigration in Australia also try to keep the Mandaic tongue alive. In addition to their varied ritual roles, the religious leaders of Ahwaz also serve as links to local Muslim authorities when necessary. The Mandaeans are by tradition endogamous, pacifist in nature, and non-proselytizing, for converts are not accepted. Government regulations requiring schoolboys to cut their hair short have created difficulties for the recruitment to the Mandaean priesthood, as priests’ hair and beards must remain uncut throughout life. Islamic instruction in Muslim schools is required of Mandaean children, and Mandaeans must adhere to Muslim codes for dress and public behavior. Mandaean priests, with their long beards, white turbans, and aristocratic demeanor, continue to instill awed respect in public places. With cloaks over their white garments, they look somewhat like Shiʿite clerics or other religious dignitaries familiar in Islamic cultures. The religion has been practised primarily around the lower Karun, Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. There are thought to be between 60,000 and 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide. Until the Iraq War, almost all of them lived in Iraq. Many Mandaean Iraqis have since fled their country because of the turmoil created by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation by U.S. armed forces, and the related rise in sectarian violence by Muslim extremists. By 2007, the population of Mandaeans in Iraq had fallen to approximately 5,000.
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2018.02.23 04:57 ohamid345 Did The Prophet ﷺ Makeup Islam For His Own Benefit?

Introduction
The assertion that the Prophet ﷺ created Islam for his benefit is consistently being mentioned, so, I saw it fit to point out its fallacious nature.
Discussion
The premise behind the assertion is that if there is something in the Quran that benefits the Prophet ﷺ in any way, then this is proof that the Quran is from him and not from God. This fundamentally fails because it commits the Circumstantial Ad Hominem logical fallacy. The fallacy is as follows:
A circumstantial ad hominem is made when one tries to refute a claim on the basis of how that person came up with that claim or what consequences that claim may have for that person (and hence what interest that person might have in that claim being true).
So, the entire claim is baseless to begin with. Just because there was an instance or instances where a verse was revealed that had consequences which were beneficial to the Prophet ﷺ does not mean he made up the Revelation for his own benefit, that the Quran is not Divine Revelation, nor that his Prophethood is invalid. This sort of argument makes up a great deal of the anti-Islam/Muslim polemics that exists today. As it turns out, it is fundamentally fallacious. Moreover, there are verses in the Quran where the Prophet ﷺ is solely called to a higher teaching as well as important hadith which further debunk this argument.
Quran
To begin, here is one verse:
and during the night wake up and pray, as an extra offering of your own, so that your Lord may raise you to a [highly] praised status.
Quran 17:79 (Abdel Haleem)
Imam Ibn Kathir comments on this verse:
(And in some parts of the night (also) offer the Salah with it as an additional prayer for you.) Here Allah commands him (the Prophet) to offer further prayers at night after the prescribed prayers. It was reported in Sahih Muslim from Abu Hurayrah that when the Messenger of Allah was asked which prayer is best after the prescribed prayers, he said, ...
(The Night prayer) Allah commanded His Messenger to pray the Night prayer after offering the prescribed prayers, and the term Tahajjud refers to prayer that is offered after sleeping. This was the view of 'Alqamah, Al-Aswad, Ibrahim An-Nakha'i and others. It is also well-known from the Arabic language itself. A number of Hadiths report that the Messenger of Allah used to pray Tahajjud after he had slept. These include reports from Ibn 'Abbas, 'A'ishah and other Companions, may Allah be pleased with them. This has been discussed in detail in the appropriate place, praise be to Allah. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, "This is what comes after `Isha', or it could mean what comes after sleeping.'' ...
(an additional prayer (Nawafil)) means the Night prayer has been made an extra prayer specifically for the Prophet, because all his previous and future sins had been forgiven. But for other members of his Ummah, offering optional prayers may expiate for whatever sins they may commit. This was the view of Mujahid, and it was reported in Al-Musnad from Abu Umamah Al-Bahili.
Tafsir Ibn Kathir Q 17:79
The feet of the Prophet ﷺ used to swell because of how long he used to pray:
Allah's Apostle (ﷺ) kept standing in prayer (for such long hours) that his feet were swollen. They (his Companions) said: Verily, Allah has pardoned for thee the earlier and the later of thine sins. Thereupon he said: Should I not prove myself to be a grateful servant (of Allah)?
Sahih Muslim 2819 b
Were the Prophet ﷺ making up Islam for his benefit, it makes no sense that there would be commands for him to do extra prayers at night so much so that his feet would swell.
In another passage, we read:
He frowned and turned away when the blind man came to him––But what would make you perceive, [O Muhammad], that perhaps he might be purified or taken note of something useful to him. For the self-satisfied one you go out of your way––though you are not to be blamed for his lack of spiritual growth––but from the one who has come to you full of eagerness and awe you allow yourself to be distracted.
Quran 80:1-10 (Abdel Haleem)
In these verses, we find the Prophet ﷺ being called to a higher teaching by God which also blatantly contradicts the idea of making up Islam for his benefit.
Hadith
Here are some important hadiths on the matter.
Narrated Al-Mughira bin Shu'ba: The sun eclipsed in the lifetime of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) on the day when (his son) Ibrahim died. So the people said that the sun had eclipsed because of the death of Ibrahim. Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "The sun and the moon do not eclipse because of the death or life (i.e. birth) of someone. When you see the eclipse pray and invoke Allah."
Sahih Bukhari 1043
Shaykh Elshinawy comments on this hadith writing:
Had the Prophet ﷺ been an imposter, this would have been the perfect opportunity to capitalize on such a credibility booster. These coinciding events opened an extremely convenient window for self-promotion, and yet, the Prophet ﷺ would not even let others interpret this as the skies being saddened for Ibrāhīm. Though hurting from the tragic loss, he ﷺ ascended the pulpit, dismissed the false interpretation, and established that eclipses follow nothing but the universal laws of God.
The Character of the Prophet ﷺ
Some argue the Prophet ﷺ made up Islam for women, this is demonstrably false because the Quraysh offered the Prophet ﷺ, in exchange to stop preaching Islam, marriage to ten women at will as well as any other desire until he was the richest man of Quraysh. The Prophet ﷺ rejected this offer (see Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaiba 37715 and the Sirah of Ibn Hisham Vol. 1 pp. 265-266).
The Quraysh also offered the Prophet ﷺ power:
They said, 'O Muhammad, we have sent for you so that nobody will think we are to blame. By Allah we do not know any man among the Arabs who has brought to his people what you have brought to your people. You have slandered our forefathers, criticized our religion, insulted our reason, slandered our gods and caused division. There is no objectionable thing that you have not brought between us. If you are preaching these things because you want wealth, we will collect some of our wealth together for you and make you the wealthiest man among us.
If you are looking for position, we will make you our leader. If you are looking for kingship, we will make you our king. If what has come to you is a type of Jinn that has possessed you, then we can spend our money looking for the medicine that will rid you of it so that no one will think we are to blame.'
The Prophet ﷺ replied:
(My case is not as you say. I have not brought what I have brought to you because I want your wealth or to be your leader or king. But Allah has sent me to you as a Messenger and has revealed to me a Book and has commanded me to bring you good news and a warning. So, I have conveyed to you the Messages of my Lord and have advised you accordingly. If you accept what I have brought to you, then this is your good fortune in this world and the Hereafter, but if you reject it, I shall wait patiently for the command of Allah until Allah judges between me and you.) or words to that effect.
Tafsir Ibn Kathir Q 17:90
Here we see the Prophet ﷺ rejecting offers of wealth, leadership and women. This further debunks the claim.
The Prophet ﷺ would also assist his family:
Narrated Al-Aswad: That he asked 'Aisha "What did the Prophet (ﷺ) use to do in his house?" She replied, "He used to keep himself busy serving his family and when it was the time for prayer he would go for it."
Sahih Bukhari 676
The Prophet ﷺ would serve by doing different tasks:
'Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was asked: What did the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) do in his house? She said: He was a human being like any other; he would clean his garment, milk his sheep and serve himself.
Musnad Ahmad 26194 Grade: Sahih (Authentic) according to Al-Albani
He would also do his own chores:
Hisham said, "I asked 'Aisha, 'What did the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, do in his house?' She replied, 'He did what one of you would do in his house. He mended sandals and patched garments and sewed."
Al-Adab al-Mufrad 540 Grade: Sahih (Authentic) according to Al-Albani (cf. Musnad Ahmad 24903)
Were the Prophet ﷺ making up Islam for his benefit, it makes no sense that he would do his own chores because he could have had someone else do them for him.
In the following narration, we find the Prophet ﷺ asking God to forgive the people trying to murder him:
Sahl ibn Sa’d reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “O Allah, forgive my people for they do not know.”
Abu Hatim, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “The Prophet said this supplication during the battle of Uhud when they slashed his face.”
Sahih Ibn Hibban 985 Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to al-Haythami
Imam al-Nawawi comments on this hadith:
In this tradition is what the Prophet practiced of forbearance, patience, forgiveness, and compassion for his people, his supplication for them to receive guidance and to be forgiven, and for them to be excused for their sins as they did not know.
Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1792 (cf. Praying for Enemies in Islam)
In another narration the Prophet ﷺ says the following:
I have not been sent as one who damns. Rather, I have been sent as an inviter and a mercy. O Allah! Guide my people for indeed they know not.
Al-Shifa 1/72-1/73 (cf. Quran 21:107, Islam and Turning the Other Cheek)
Praying for the forgiveness and guidance of one's enemies who are trying to murder him, as it was trying to happen, would be completely illogical to do if one were making up a religion for their benefit.
In the following narration, we see a companion mention that no one was braver than the Prophet ﷺ on the day of the Battle of Hunain as he rushed into the Battle:
A man asked Al-Bara "O Abu 'Umara! Did you flee on the day (of the battle) of Hunain?" Al-Bara replied while I was listening, "As for Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) he did not flee on that day. Abu Sufyan bin Al- Harith was holding the reins of his mule and when the pagans attacked him, he dismounted and started saying, 'I am the Prophet, and there is no lie about it; I am the son of `Abdul Muttalib.' On that day nobody was seen braver than the Prophet.
Sahih Bukhari 3042
In these narrations, we see the Prophet ﷺ risking his life, being attacked, and showing amazing bravery. Were he making up Islam for benefit, he would not do so.
Someone might respond and say that these verses and the hadith also show that the Prophet ﷺ made up Islam for his own interests because they were invented for the purpose of showing that he didn't make up Islam for his benefit. At such a point, the anti-Muslim/Islam apologist's assertion becomes unfalsifiable because even clear-cut evidence against the assertion is reinterpreted as evidence for it. This is just another way such an assertion is nonsense and easily dismissible.
Here are several hadiths showing the generosity, poverty, and ethos of the Prophet ﷺ:
Sahih Bukhari 2298
Narrated Abu Huraira: Whenever a dead man in debt was brought to Allah's Apostle he would ask, "Has he left anything to repay his debt?" If he was informed that he had left something to repay his debts, he would offer his funeral prayer, otherwise he would tell the Muslims to offer their friend's funeral prayer. When Allah made the Prophet wealthy through conquests, he said, "I am more rightful than other believers to be the guardian of the believers, so if a Muslim dies while in debt, I am responsible for the repayment of his debt, and whoever leaves wealth (after his death) it will belong to his heirs."
Sahih Bukhari 5413
Narrated Abu Hazim: I asked Sahl bin Sad, "Did Allah's Apostle ever eat white flour?" Sahl said, "Allah's Apostle never saw white flour since Allah sent him as an Apostle till He took him unto Him." I asked, "Did the people have (use) sieves during the lifetime of Allah's Apostle?" Sahl said, "Allah's Apostle never saw (used) a sieve since Allah sent him as an Apostle until He took him unto Him," I said, "How could you eat barley unsifted?" he said, "We used to grind it and then blow off its husk, and after the husk flew away, we used to prepare the dough (bake) and eat it."
Sahih Bukhari 6458
Narrated 'Aisha: A complete month would pass by during which we would not make a fire (for cooking), and our food used to be only dates and water unless we were given a present of some meat.
Sahih Bukhari 4101
Narrated Jabir: We were digging (the trench) on the day of (Al-Khandaq (i.e. Trench)) and we came across a big solid rock. We went to the Prophet (ﷺ) and said, "Here is a rock appearing across the trench." He said, "I am coming down." Then he got up, and a stone was tied to his belly for we had not eaten anything for three days.
Sahih Bukhari 3445
Narrated `Umar: I heard the Prophet (ﷺ) saying, "Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary, for I am only a Slave. So, call me the Slave of Allah and His Apostle."
Sunan Ibn Mājah 3312
Abu Mas’ud reported: A man came to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and his voice trembled as he spoke to him. The Prophet said to him, “Be calm, for I am not a king. Verily, I am only the son of a woman who ate dried meat.”
Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Albani
Sunan Ibn Majah 4153
'Umar bin Khattab said: “I entered upon the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) when he was (sitting) on a reed mat. I sat down and (saw that) he was wearing a waist wrap, and there was no other barrier between him and the mat but his waist wrap, and the reed mat had made marks on his side. And I saw a handful of barley, nearly a Sa’, and some acacia leaves, in a corner of the room, and a skin hanging up. My eyes flowed with tears, and he said: ‘Why are you weeping, O son of Khattab?’ I said: ‘O Prophet of Allah, why should I not weep? This mat has made marks on your side, and this is all you have accumulated, I cannot see anything other than what I see (here), while Chosroes and Caesar live among fruits and rivers. You are the Prophet of Allah and His Chosen One, and this is what you have accumulated.’ He said: ‘O son of Khattab, does it not please you (to know) that (these things) are for us in the Hereafter and for them in this world?’ He said: ‘Yes.’”
Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Darussalam
Conclusion
These sources demonstrate that such an assertion is nonsense because, if the Prophet ﷺ was making up Islam for his benefit, he wouldn't have lived in such a way and done such things. The Prophet ﷺ worshipped more than his followers, underwent incredible persecution and suffering, rejected offers of wealth as well as power and women when offered, constantly starved himself and effectively lived in poverty when he didn't have to, constantly donated his wealth, risked his life as a warrior at the frontlines of battles, and even prayed for those trying to kill him during the battle (as well as elsewhere). It's also important to reiterate that all of these references are in addition to the fact that such a claim is already guilty of a logical fallacy and is thereby easily dismissed on that alone.
Here's an interesting quote to keep in mind from the Emeritus Professor in Arabic and Islamic Studies William Montgomery Watt:
His readiness to undergo persecution for his beliefs, the high moral character of the men who believed in him and looked up to him as a leader, and the greatness of his ultimate achievement – all argue his fundamental integrity. To suppose Muhammad an imposter raises more problems than it solves. Moreover, none of the great figures of history is so poorly appreciated in the West as Muhammad… Thus, not merely must we credit Muhammad with essential honesty and integrity of purpose, if we are to understand him at all; if we are to correct the errors we have inherited from the past, we must not forget that conclusive proof is a much stricter requirement than a show of plausibility, and in a matter such as this only to be attained with difficulty.
Muhammad at Mecca, by William Montgomery Watt, Oxford University Press (1953), p. 52
The Character of the Prophet ﷺ
See also:
The Prophetic Truth: Proving Muhammad ﷺ's Prophethood
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2018.02.03 14:22 ohamid345 Robert Spencer Debunked

Note: This article will be updated continuously
"No one has upset the Islamophobia cabal more than Robert Spencer. First, he knows more about Islamic doctrine than they do. Next, he has outed all the tricks they use in their taqiyyah bag to disinform the public. Finally, and most importantly, Robert will not be cowed. Please read this important book and make sure you share it with as many people as possible." (Ayaan Hirsi Ali, human rights activist, author of Heretic: Why Islam Needs Reformation Now)
From Ayaan Hirsi Ali's review of Robert's latest book, "Confessions of an Islamophobe".
Quotation Found Here: https://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Islamophobe-Robert-Spencedp/1682614905 (Emphasis Mine)
Introduction
In this article, I will be responding to Robert Spencer, by means of a transcription, in a debate he had with Dr. Kreeft. I won't be quoting everything Robert says, I will, however, respond to the scriptural arguments he gives that Islam promotes terrorism. Quotations from the debate can be found here:
https://www.jihadwatch.org/2010/12/kreeftspencer-debate-transcript-is-the-only-good-muslim-a-bad-muslim
As of now, they are from his opening statement.
Discussion
Now that’s important for the present question, because when we have the Muslim character saying ‘Jihad is an interior spiritual struggle,’ he is in fact putting himself in the position of contradicting the words and example of Muhammad and the words of the Qur’an itself. There’s an entire chapter of the Qur’an, chapter eight, called al-Anfal: the spoils of war. There are no spoils of war in an interior spiritual struggle. There is no booty to be captured, there are no slave girls to be distributed among the warriors, and yet that chapter of the Qur’an and others contain instruction for doing just that kind of thing. And a fifth of the spoils are reserved for the Prophet himself; he took part in these wars, he actually fought seventy-eight battles during his career as the Prophet, and seventy-seven were offensive in nature. The Qur’an does not teach that jihad is an interior spiritual struggle.
We already have a major problem here. Robert commits a straw man fallacy by making it seem like Muslims maintain that Jihad is only an inner struggle, it isn’t. The position that 77 of the battles fought were offensive in nature itself must be substantiated. It seems to have been just the opposite. For example, folks like Robert might say that caravan raids the Prophet ﷺ took part in were all offensive in nature, when this is clearly misrepresenting the situation. See: Why did Prophet Muhammad ﷺ Raid Caravans in Medina?
As for the statement that the Muslim is contradicting the Quran and the words of the Prophet ﷺ in that both do not teach that jihad is an interior spiritual struggle clearly shows that Robert is either lying or completely ignorant. The Quran does teach jihad against the lower self. Here are some examples:
Quran 29:6
Wa Man Jāhada Fa'innamā Yujāhidu Linafsihi~ ۚ 'Inna Allāha Laghanīyun Ani Al-Ālamīna
Those who exert themselves do so for their own benefit––God does not need His creatures––
(Abdul Haleem, emphasis mine)
Quran 29:69
Wa Al-Ladhīna Jāhadū Fīnā Lanahdiyannahum Subulanā ۚ Wa 'Inna Allāha Lama`a Al-Muĥsinīna
But We shall be sure to guide to Our ways those who strive hard for Our cause: God is with those who do good.
(Abdul Haleem, emphasis mine)
Quran 79:40-41 and 91:7-10 can also be quoted, these verses do not mention the term "Jahadu", but do teach jihad against the lower self.
All of these verses were revealed in Mecca, which demonstrates that they could have not meant anything in relation to war and each of these enjoins jihad al-nafs, which is the jihad against the lower self. A self-proclaimed expert like Spencer should know as much. Moreover, among the strongest pieces of evidence that the struggle against oneself is a form of jihad are Hadiths from the Prophet ﷺ and others. Here is one such Hadith from the Prophet ﷺ:
The mujahid is he who makes jihad against his nafs (ego) for the sake of obeying Allah.
– Ibn Hibban (#1624, 2519): Authentic;
– Shu'ayb al-Arna’ut (Commentary on Ibn Hibban): authentic;
– al-Hakim: sahih;
– 'Iraqi confirms him;
It is also included in other collections and even more evidence can be found here as well:
Jihad al-Nafs: Striving for Self-Perfection
Someone might object to the use of a Hadith here and say that Robert was strictly speaking about the Quran, the problem with this objection is that he later mentions abrogation to make his point down below. The issue is that you cannot know what is abrogated and what is not abrogated without Hadith and other sources which show the context. So, it would commit the Double Standard logical fallacy. Moreover, he also explicitly mentions the words of the Prophet ﷺ.
Here is a reminder of Robert's statement as quoted above:
the Muslim character saying ‘Jihad is an interior spiritual struggle,’ he is in fact putting himself in the position of contradicting the words and example of Muhammad and the words of the Qur’an itself
This is simply false and, as I mentioned, Robert is either ignorant or lying. Neither bodes well with his supposed expert status.
Not only that, but, the jihad against the nafs is the greater jihad. I have also been compiling resources on this matter for some time now as well and am well prepared to deal with counter objections through a framework. Here is an example. The most famous Tabi'i and one of the earliest scholars in Islamic history, Imam Hasan al Basri, was asked:
“O Abu Sa’eed, which jihad is best?”
Imam Hasan al Basri replied:
Your jihad against your desires.
Source: Rawdat Al-Muhibeen 1/478
For more, see: Jihad Against The Soul In Islam
Needless to say however, the position that the greater jihad is against the lower self is well-known and substantiated. In fact, Robert’s favorite Shariah manual also says this, Reliance of the Traveller (Umdat as-Salik) o9.0:
(O: Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada, signifying warfare to establish the religion. And it is the lesser jihad. As for the greater jihad, it is spiritual warfare against the lower self (nafs), which is why the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said as he was returning from jihad, “We have returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad”
There is reason to believe that Robert knew of this passage before his debate with Dr. Kreeft. In his book, "The Truth About Muhammad", which was published as early as 2006, he gives a reference to o9.13 in Reliance of the Traveller. Though, to be fair, this might be a later edition of the book published after the debate with Dr. Kreeft, I am doubtful of this, however. In my edition of Reliance of the Traveller, o9.0 is on page 599 and o9.13 is on page 604. See this link which shows he has referenced o9.13: Reference.
That said, when Robert mentions that the Prophet ﷺ had a fifth of the booty he forgot to mention Hadiths like these:
Narrated Abu Huraira: Whenever a dead man in debt was brought to Allah's Apostle he would ask, "Has he left anything to repay his debt?" If he was informed that he had left something to repay his debts, he would offer his funeral prayer, otherwise he would tell the Muslims to offer their friend's funeral prayer. When Allah made the Prophet wealthy through conquests, he said, "I am more rightful than other believers to be the guardian of the believers, so if a Muslim dies while in debt, I am responsible for the repayment of his debt, and whoever leaves wealth (after his death) it will belong to his heirs." (Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 37, Number 495)
Narrated Amr bin Al-Harith: (The brother of the wife of Allah's Apostle. Juwaira bint Al-Harith) When Allah's Apostle died, he did not leave any Dirham or Dinar (i.e. money), a slave or a slave woman or anything else except his white mule, his arms and a piece of land which he had given in charity . (Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 51, Number 2) (Note that the translation here of "slave" is suspect as I later share sources that show as much)
'Umar b. al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) reported: He said: Ibn Khattab, aren't you satisfied that for us (there should be the prosperity) of the Hereafter, and for them (there should be the prosperity of) this world? I said: Yes. (Sahih Muslim Book 9, Number 3507)
Narrated Abu Hazim: I asked Sahl bin Sad, "Did Allah's Apostle ever eat white flour?" Sahl said, "Allah's Apostle never saw white flour since Allah sent him as an Apostle till He took him unto Him." I asked, "Did the people have (use) sieves during the lifetime of Allah's Apostle?" Sahl said, "Allah's Apostle never saw (used) a sieve since Allah sent him as an Apostle until He took him unto Him," I said, "How could you eat barley unsifted?" he said, "We used to grind it and then blow off its husk, and after the husk flew away, we used to prepare the dough (bake) and eat it." (Sahih Muslim Volume 7, Number 324)
Narrated 'Aisha: A complete month would pass by during which we would not make a fire (for cooking), and our food used to be only dates and water unless we were given a present of some meat. (Sahih Bukhari Volume 8, Book 76, Number 465)
Narrated Jabir: We were digging (the trench) on the day of (Al-Khandaq ( i.e. Trench )) and we came across a big solid rock. We went to the Prophet (ﷺ) and said, "Here is a rock appearing across the trench." He said, "I am coming down." Then he got up, and a stone was tied to his belly for we had not eaten anything for three days. (Sahih Bukhari Volume 5, Book 59, Hadith 427)
And there are many more.
The phrase "slave girls" Robert used is also suspect, the following sources clarify what Islam actually says on the matter:
What Does Islam Teach About Slavery?
How Islam Abolished pre-Islamic & Western Colonial Chattel Slavery
Robert continues:
The Muslim hero of Dr. Kreeft’s book further says that Muhammad never fought against Christians and Jews unless he did so in a defensive manner. That unfortunately is factually false. As a matter of fact, in the last battle of his career, right before he died, Muhammad went to Tabuk, which was a Byzantine imperial outpost, to fight a Christian garrison there. He didn’t actually find them there. They had left. In chapter nine of the Qur’an are numerous teachings–which of course are portrayed as divine revelation which cannot be questioned and have to be obeyed by any pious and observant Muslim. These are instructions to wage offensive warfare against Jews and Christians–particularly in chapter nine verse twenty-nine which tells Muslims to fight against those who do not obey Allah and his messenger and do not forbid that which he has forbidden (in other words, don’t follow the strictures of Islamic law) even if they are the People of the Book, which is the Qur’anic designation for primarily Jews and Christians, until they pay the jizya (which is a tax) with willing submission and feel themselves subdued. That verse became the foundation of an elaborate superstructure of laws that are still part of Islamic jurisprudence and of Islamic political law that Islamists, that jihad terrorists, that any Islamic supremacist wants to impose over the world today.
No, Robert is wrong here. Tabuk was a defensive battle. The context for Surah 9:29 shows as much.
Here is the context:
Misquotation 5 – Verse 9:29
One of the most interesting citations is 9:29, along with the claim that it instructs Muslims to fight people of the Book “until they pay the jizya and feel subdued”. But this verse as well has a historical context that is neglected. The very early exegete, Mujahid ibn Jabr al-Makhzumi (d.104H) explained that this fighting was revealed in reference to the Prophet Muhammad’s campaign against the Byzantine empire [15]. The Prophet Muhammad sent al-Harith ibn Umayr al-Azdi as an emissary to the Byzantine vassal state of the Ghassanids, but the chieftain Shurahbeel committing the shocking crime of tying up the emissary, torturing him, and murdering him [16]. When an army was dispatched to confront the Ghassanids for their crime, the Vicarius Theodorus summoned a large force of Roman soldiers to engage in war against the Muslims in the Battle of Mu’tah.
Thus, this verse was revealed in regards to fighting within an existing war against an enemy political entity, namely the Byzantine empire, which lead to preparations for the expedition of Tabuk. The hostility of the group in question is mentioned in the this very Qur’anic passage itself, which goes on to state (9:32) that this instruction refers to those “who attempt to extinguish the light of Islam with their mouths“, which al-Dahhak (d.105H) stated meant “they wish to destroy Muhammad and his companions.” [17]
As history went on, imperial conflicts continued between the Byzantine empire and the subsequent Muslim empire of the Umayyads. Many writing within the historical setting of imperial conflict assumed that this verse characterized a generic state of perpetual warfare with opponent political entities. However, as noted in Tafsir al-Maraghi, all of the Qur’anic conditions of warfare mentioned earlier still apply to this verse. Thus, the verse means,
“fight those mentioned when the conditions which necessitate fighting are present, namely, aggression against you or your country, oppression and persecution against you on account of your faith, or threatening your safety and security, as was committed against you by the Byzantines, which was what lead to Tabuk.” [18]
[15] Jami’ al-Bayan ‘an Ta’wil ay al-Qur’an (9:29) of Imam al-Tabari, also al-Kashf wa’l-Bayan (9:29) of Imam al-Tha’labi.
[16] Kitab al-Tarikh wa’l-Maghazi of Imam al-Waqidi (d.207H), p. 755.
[17] Recorded by Ibn Abi Hatim (d.327H), as cited in Fath al-Qadeer (9:32) of Imam al-Shawkani (d.1250H).
[18] Tafsir al-Maraghi vol. 10, p.95 of Sh. Ahmad Mustafa al-Maraghi: “أي قاتلوا من ذكروا حين وجود ما يقتضي القتال كالعتداء عليكم أو علي بلادكم أو اضطهادكم و فتنتكم عن دينكم أو تهديد أمنكم و سلامتكم كما فعل بك الروم و كان ذلك سببا لغزوة تبوك”
Source: Top Five Misquotations of the Quran
Jizya is a defensive tax only put on able-bodied men as mentioned here:
Religious Minorities Under Muslim Rule
For more detail see: Quran 9:29 - In Context Robert continues:
Now, mainstream Islamic theologians and the preponderance of Islamic theological tradition teaches that if there is a disagreement between two passages in the Qur’an, then one of the chief ways to see which one takes precedence in our own day is, which one came later chronologically in Muhammad’s career. Unfortunately for us, the violence comes later, and thus is considered under the principles of al-nasikh wal-mansukh (or abrogation) to cancel out the peaceful passages. Or the peaceful passages only apply when Muslims are a small group, as the Meccan Muslims were in the first stage of Muhammad’s career. So in other words, when they’re a small group, when they’re powerless, then they teach tolerance and non-violence. But later, gaining in power and numbers, the other parts begin to kick in and the violence and the supremacism apply.
First, Robert must substantiate his saying this, Ibn Kathir (whom Robert loves to quote in much of his work) points out in his commentary that this is implausible with respect to Quran 9:5 and 2:190, he writes:
Abu Ja'far Ar-Razi said that Ar-Rabi' bin Anas said that Abu Al-'Aliyah commented on what Allah said: … (And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you,) Abu Al-'Aliyah said, "This was the first Ayah about fighting that was revealed in Al-Madinah. Ever since it was revealed, Allah's Messenger used to fight only those who fought him and avoid non-combatants. Later, Surat Bara'ah (chapter 9 in the Qur'an) was revealed.'' 'Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said similarly, then he said that this was later abrogated by the Ayah: … (then kill them wherever you find them) (9:5). However, this statement is not plausible, because Allah's statement: … (...those who fight you) applies only to fighting the enemies who are engaged in fighting Islam and its people. So the Ayah means, 'Fight those who fight you', just as Allah said (in another Ayah): … (...and fight against the Mushrikin collectively as they fight against you collectively.) (9:36) This is why Allah said later in the Ayah: … (And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out.) meaning, `Your energy should be spent on fighting them, just as their energy is spent on fighting you, and on expelling them from the areas from which they have expelled you, as a law of equality in punishment.’
Allah said: … (but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors.) This Ayah means, 'Fight for the sake of Allah and do not be transgressors,' such as, by committing prohibitions. Al-Hasan Al-Basri stated that transgression (indicated by the Ayah), "includes mutilating the dead, theft (from the captured goods), killing women, children and old people who do not participate in warfare, killing priests and residents of houses of worship, burning down trees and killing animals without real benefit.'' This is also the opinion of Ibn 'Abbas, 'Umar bin 'Abdul-'Aziz, Muqatil bin Hayyan and others. Muslim recorded in his Sahih that Buraydah narrated that Allah's Messenger said: … (Fight for the sake of Allah and fight those who disbelieve in Allah. Fight, but do not steal (from the captured goods), commit treachery, mutilate (the dead), or kill a child, or those who reside in houses of worship.) It is reported in the Two Sahihs that Ibn `Umar said, "A woman was found dead during one of the Prophet's battles and the Prophet then forbade killing women and children. '' There are many other Hadiths on this subject.
Source: http://www.qtafsir.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=235 (Emphasis Mine)
Moreover, Imam al Qurtubi, who does maintain that later verses abrogate pervious verses, still maintains that one cannot murder innocent people, he writes:
“The Prophet ﷺ fought those who fought him and refrained from those who refrained from fighting him until the ayat in Surat at-Tawba (9:5) was revealed. ‘Fight the idolaters wherever you find them,’ and this ayat [2:190] was abrogated. This is the position of the majority of scholars…Ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz, and Mujahid said that it is an ayat at whose judgement remains operative and means: ‘Fight those fight you and do not transgress by killing women, children, monks and the like,’ as will be explained. An-Nahhas said that this is the sounder position in terms of both the Sunna and in terms of both the Sunna and in terms of logic. As for the Sunnah, there is a hadith reported by Ibn ‘Umar that, during one of the expeditions of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ a woman had been killed and he abhorred that and forbade the killing of women and children. As for logic, it applies to children and those like them, like monks, chronically ill, old men and hirelings who clearly should not be killed”
Al-Qurtubi (2003) Tafsir Al-Qurtubi: Classical Commentary of the Holy Qur’an, V. 1, Translated by Aisha Bewley, 2: 190, p. 490 – 491 https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B76p5GnL05obemVpY0hzck4tZkk/view
Through this quotation (and others, cf. Imam al Qurtubi on Quran 2:190, 2:193, 9:5 and Perpetual Jihad), we understand that Imam al Qurtubi still maintains that it is not allowed to kill non-combatants and is advocating for preemptive war (keep in mind that this was during the paradigm of empire). For context on Surah 9:5 abrogating, we can look to the Tafsir of Ibn Kathir:
Allah mentions the wisdom in dissolving all obligations to the idolaters and giving them a four month period of safety, after which they will meet the ship sword wherever they are found…The Messenger of Allah ﷺ and the Muslims preserved the terms of the treaty with the people of Makkah…until the Quraysh broke it and helped their allies, Banu Bakr, against the Khuza’ah, the allies of Allah’s Messenger ﷺ. Aided by the Quraysh, Banu Bakr killed some of the Bani Khuza’ah in the Sacred Area! The Messenger of Allah ﷺ [then] led an invasion army in the month of Ramadan, of the eighth year, and Allah opened the Sacred Area for him to rule over them…”
Source: http://www.qtafsir.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2579&Itemid=64 (cf. Quran 60:7, 60:8, 60:9 - In Context)
Taken from Asadullah Ali: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rEb8NfMPuc Asadullah also has an excellent response debunking the use of the word "terror" in Surah 8 (which Robert also mentions), by means of another person in the same video (cf. Quran 8:12, 8:60 - In Context).
Later on, Imam al Qurtubi mentions a Hadith related in the Muwatta of Imam Malik in which the the first Caliph, Abu Bakr as Siddiq (RA), said:
Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly.
Source: https://sunnah.com/malik/21
The second Caliph, Umar ibn Al Khattab (RA), reiterated this by decreeing:
Do not steal the spoils, do not be treacherous with the enemy, do not mutilate the dead, do not kill children, and fear Allah regarding the farmers who do not wage war against you.
The Hanbali Jurist Imam Ibn Qudamah said of this decree:
We adhere to the saying of Umar. The companions of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, did not kill farmers when they liberated the lands because they do not fight. In this, they resemble old men and priests.
Source: https://abuaminaelias.com/dailyhadithonline/2016/04/03/umar-on-war-fear-allah-regarding-children-and-civilian-non-combatants/
Here we have two of the closest companions of the Prophet ﷺ, and Caliphs, decreeing that Muslim armies are to not kill non-combatants. Would Quran 9:5 to abrogate previous verses in such a way that allows non-combatants to be killed, the two closest companions wouldn't have given rulings that blatantly contradict such an idea. Any attempt to argue that Quran 9:5 abrogated previous verses such that one can kill non-combatants is simply wrong with no evidence to back up the assertion. Moreover, as a source linked down below will show, there is actually scholarly consensus ('ijma) that it is prohibited to kill non-combatants.
For the rest of the debate, Robert does not really get into scriptural evidence, he simply reiterates the same talking points over and over again, he does, for instance, mention things like the marriage to Aisha (RA) which I have contextualized, Robert has no basis to attack the marriage:
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ's Marriage to Aisha at Young Age
He does, however, bring up a Hadith towards the end of the debate, Robert says:
Ultimately, however, there is a hadith that is very pernicious where Muhammad says, “The End Times will not come until Muslims kill Jews. And the Jews hide behind trees and the trees cry out and say, ‘O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.'” Now that is an authenticated hadith that is one that is considered to be part of Islamic doctrine. And so it is considered to be a laudable practice for a Muslim to kill a Jew because it is something that hastens the coming of the End Times, in which all things will be consummated. But anyway, it’s not specifically in the Qur’an like that, that’s all.
This Hadith is frequently misrepresented, the context for it is as follows:
Explanation of the misquoted hadith
A story about a supernatural apocalyptic battle between good and evil
When we look up different narrations of the hadith in question, we find out that the phrase being quoted is actually part of a larger narrative in the genre of eschatology (the part of theology dealing with the end times and the Day of Judgment), describing the return of Jesus and the apocalyptic battle between Jesus and the Dajjal (Antichrist).[1] In this battle that will take place between the armies of Jesus and the Dajjal, several miracles are said to occur including that the Dajjal will melt when Jesus sees him, and that inanimate rocks and trees will speak and identify soldiers of the Dajjal (Sunan Ibn Majah 4077).
This is a story about a battle between two groups of soldiers involved in war, one side of which is clearly unjust; it does not refer to innocent civilians. And it’s not actually a battle of one religious group against another! As a matter of fact, Muslims believe that all righteous Christians, Jews, and Muslims will be following Jesus after he returns (Qur’an 4:159) united under one creed of monotheism and belief in all of God’s messengers. Meanwhile, misguided Christians, Jews, and Muslims will be following the Dajjal. Indeed, other hadith demonstrate that many of the Dajjal’s forces will actually be deviant Muslims (Sunan Ibn Majah 179).[2]
Jews are amongst the good guys in the Muslim apocalypse
The hadith describing the soldiers of Dajjal who happen to be Jewish are in fact referring to a specific cult of 70 000 that takes Dajjal to be their messiah and follows him in his tyrannical actions (Sahih Muslim 2944). Hadith commentary states that those who will become Dajjal’s followers will represent only a small fraction of the global population of Jews (Fayd al-Bari, Anwar Shah Kashmiri, 4/197). In fact, most Jews will be righteous folk amongst the forces of good uniting with virtuous Christians and Muslims, embracing the message of all the Prophets, and fighting against the Dajjal.[3] After all, the Dajjal will be a murderous dictator who claims to be God, an anathema to all followers of the Abrahamic tradition as well as to all people of conscience.
Muslims do not believe that rocks and trees will be pointing out random innocent bystanders, but rather soldiers of the Dajjal—combatants who are themselves involved in killing innocent people. It is about these specific combatants in the Antichrist’s army that rocks and trees will say, “There is one hiding behind me, come and slay him!” The religious identity of the Dajjal’s soldiers includes evildoers from all backgrounds (including misguided Muslims). Other variants of the hadith state that the rocks and trees will simply say, “Here is a rejector of truth hiding behind me!” (Musnad Ahmad 3546) or “Here is a soldier of Dajjal!” (al-Buhur al-Zakhirah 1/493) and do not focus on the religious identity.
Therefore, this hadith describes a future battle between warriors and can only occur after the return of Jesus; in no way can it be interpreted as a prescription to go out and harm civilians or peaceful members of any faith community. The Qur’an explicitly condemns violence against civilians and noncombatants, stating “Whoever kills a soul it is as if he has slain all humanity,” (5:32) and, “So if they withdraw and do not fight you, and offer you peace, then God gives you no way against them,” (4:90). War is only permitted in defense against aggression or to aid the oppressed, as in the case of Jesus fighting against the Dajjal’s forces.
The question of Anti-Semitism and the Armageddon
All three Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) have well-established traditions about a prophesied Messiah who will engage in a battle against the forces of evil in the end times, whether it be the return of Christ who will battle all the nations of the earth, or the coming of the Masiach ben Yossef who will destroy the Edomites and enemies of Israel.[4] All three groups have had to explicate these esoteric eschatological passages in order to steer clear of antagonism towards other communities. In 2012, A DNC County Chairman resigned after he said, “The Christians just want us to be there so we can be slaughtered and converted and bring on the second coming of Jesus Christ.”[5] The Bible describes the Armageddon in painful terms regarding the enemies of Christ/Israel (See: Zechariah 14:12).[6] It’s necessary for people of all faiths to not allow their texts about the end times to be hijacked in a way that validates hateful speech or actions in the present. All Abrahamic faiths have eschatological teachings that are esoteric and require careful critical interpretation. The mainstream leaders of all faith communities have consistently emphasized tolerance and respect for others.
[1] Fath al-Bari by Ibn Hajar al-’Aqsalani, Sharh Sahih Muslim by al-Nawawi, Umdatul-Qari by Badr al-Deen al-’Ayni
[2] This narration states that he will emerge from the deviant group known as the Khawarij (Sunan Ibn Majah 179), and according to commentaries on Ibn Majah, he will emerge at the head of a great army (“jaysh al-adheem”) of Khawarij (Shuruh Sunan Ibn Majah, edited by Raed Sabri Ibn Abi Ulfah). Another narration (Sahih Bukhari 1881) states that he will be joined by the inhabitants of Makkah and Madinah who are munafiqeen—those who outwardly claim to be Muslim but whose insincerity in faith will be evident once they join forces with the Dajjal.
[3] Fayd al-Bari explains, “This is only about the Jews whom Jesus is fighting against, namely those in the armies of Dajjal, not all Jews around the world.” In fact, if Dajjal is followed by a cult of seventy thousand wearing green shawls and crowns—as the hadith states—this number amounts to less than 0.5% of the global population, a tiny fraction. As an aside, though not a hadith nor theologically reliable narration of any sort, there is an interesting comment recorded in Kitab al-Fitan by Nu’aym ibn Hammad (d.228H), the teacher of Imam al-Bukhari (d. 256H), which states that after al-Mahdi (another Islamic eschatological figure) recovers the Ark of the Covenant, most Jews will join the Muslims except for a few. And in the Rabbinical literature, the staff of Aaron—one of the items in the Ark of the Covenant—will be recovered by the Messiah, as a token of his authority (Midrash Yelamdenu).
[4] “Appendix II – Mashiach in Jewish Law by Rabbi Dr. J. Immanuel Schochet, from his book Mashiach— the Messianic Era in Jewish Law on Chabad.org. Dr. Schochet writes, “Interestingly enough, according to Pirkei deR. Eliezer ch. 28 (in non-censored versions), the Ishmaelites (Arabs) will be the final kingdom to be defeated by Mashiach.” http://www.chabad.org/library/moshiach/article_cdo/aid/101747/jewish/Appendix-II.htm#footnote6a101747
[5] http://americanvision.org/6370/christians-just-want-jews-slaughtered-and-converted/
[6] http://biblehub.com/zechariah/14-12.htm
Source: The Myth of An Antisemitic Genocide In Muslim Scripture
In fact, as I mentioned above, there is scholarly consensus (‘ijma, which is definitive and binding upon any person who claims to be a Sunni Muslim) that it is prohibited to murder women and children (as they are not from those who fight, which shows it can be extended to all who don't fight, for example, Imam al Qurtubi mentions consensus on the prohibition of killing old men), as reported here:
Jihad – The Most Just, Humane and Noble Form of Warfare
submitted by ohamid345 to MuslimsRespond [link] [comments]


2013.04.12 23:55 tabledresser [Table] IAmA: I just spent five weeks on *both* sides of the front line in Syria - with regime soldiers and Sunni rebels. AMA.

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Date: 2013-04-09
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Questions Answers
Did you experience / notice something that media dont tell the world? Yes. The media is convinced that Syria is swimming in Al Quaeda terrorists. This isn't the case. That's a story that sells very well in the West, because we love reading about nemesis. I didn't meet a single foreign fighters in the three weeks I was there. They do exist in Syria, sure, but not in the numbers you would think.
How are the fighters getting on with american personnel providing "not lethal assistance and training"? I assume these are different than Al-Queda fighters. Good point. I don't think the training is taking place on Syrian soil.
And I'm sure the US is terrified of training up fighters that may turn against them. That's the main reason, I suspect, for the lack of western foreign intervention.
Let's get this straight. You work for PBS which is essentially american state-owned television. We have reports everywhere telling us rebels are foreign fighters armed by western powers. The same american officials who (potentially) arm the rebels control PBS. You are sitting here telling us you only met honest local people fighting. The pieces don't quite fit. How do you respond to this? I'm sorry my experience doesn't fit with your point of view. Sometimes, I know, that can be difficult.
I'm a freelance filmaker who lived in rebel territory, and I didn't meet foreign fighters. I was, however, attacked by Syrians, saying that my government was not stopping the killing (17 people had just been killed in the village I was standing in).
Interesting... Yet another reason to mistrust for-profit Western media propaganda. It's all about the ratings and the page views! Although nearly everything I've done has been for profit making Western media (Channel 4, Sky...).
The footage from the Al-Bara bombings felt to me like the most unbiased first hand reporting to come out of the Syria Civil War. Thank you for putting your life at risk for the sake of journalism. Another good question. I wasn't "embedded" in any official capacity, but rebels quickly understood that I wasn't just popping in for tea one afternoon - I lived with refugees and fighters for weeks, and ran the same risks as they did. As such, they would trust me quite quickly.
I would like to know how "embedded" you felt in the rebel's cause. Did they acknowledge the risks you were taking and incorporate you into their struggle as a participant, or do you feel at all times they regard you as their propaganda wing meant for outside exposure, therefore limiting the variety in your filming? And I'm sure they regarded me as a potential propaganda machine - people would often approach the camera and make speeches or cite "facts" that were not verifiable. And obviously I decided what went into the film.
What would you say in your defense as not being part of the propaganda machine? The same people who (allegedly) train and arm the foreign fighters pay your salary - PBS is, after all, american state-owned. Perhaps you should see the film before you call it propaganda?
Do you think there is any possibility of a peace between the two, or is it only going to end when Assad is ousted or the Rebels are crushed? It did seem clear that a "peace" between the two sides is now almost impossible. Too much blood has been spilled for either side to countenance sitting down with the other. Most rebels and those who support the revolution are fiercely opposed to having to deal with Assad given the way he has cracked down on the revolution and the protests. And on the regime side, there's increasingly a profound sense that they are locked in a fight to the death, and that regime supporters would be wiped out in the event that the government fell. It's a very bleak state of affairs...
Do you think it's the case that the rebels would wipe out regime troops after they fell? In the manner of hunting them down and executing them? What kind of Political/Legal legitimacy or integrity to the rebel leaders have? The rebels I met were not that bloodthirsty, and the more enlightened ones do understand that many soldiers are unable to defect even though they may not want to. But with each passing day, it does get harder and harder for rebels to countenance having any kind of peace deal with regime soldiers. The rebels have created their own legitimacy. Mainly their power comes from their ability to win the respect of those around them. Political and Legal legitimacy will be something they will all fight if / when the regime falls.
What methods are being utilized by the regime to prevent defection by troops (at respective levels of rank), and what percentage do you estimate would either (1) defect or (2) cease hostilities/leave the country if they were able to? It's well known that the regime monitors telephone calls made by soldiers. Also there are numerous checkpoints all across regime-controlled Syria. You can't just leave you base and drive home. And regime bases only show regime TV stations, which are incredible propaganda. As for the percentage of potential defectors or refugees, I really do not know I'm afraid.
Who is responsible for the car bombings which have ended so many lives? Are the car bombings not acts of terrorism? Yes, absolutely, the car bombings are acts of terrorism. Both sides have carried out car bombings and terrorist attacks in order to gain an advantage.
How many times did you think "This is just too dangerous...what the hell am I doing?" Quite a lot! After three weeks, I had had 3 very close calls (the air strike on Al Bara being only one of them). The worst was the final 24 hours, when I was filming people buying vegetables in a market, which suddenly came under sustained mortar fire from regime bases. I decided to leave the following day, but at 1.30am, mortars began landing around the house I was staying in. They landed horribly close, but all I could really do was pull the blanket up over my head. I left at 5.30 that morning.
It's got to be hard, knowing that while you can leave, everyone else you know is stuck there. I can't imagine living in a country where PTSD is the normal state off affairs for everyday citizens! What was the mindset of the people there? Did they seem to take it in stride, or was there noticeable trauma? I don't think anyone really "gets used to" violence like that. People sort of absorb it, make it part of their lives. Many, many people I met were clearly clinically traumatised by what they were going through.
Did you ever learn why the regime soldiers chose to support the regime instead of the rebels? There a number of reasons why people may side with the regime. By now, many Alawites and members of minorities will have become convinced that their fate is aligned with that of the regime - ie if the regime falls, they are doomed. But there may be more personal reasons. It is very difficult for soldiers to defect (their families may be fighting in the army, or they may have nowhere safe to go). Or their personal finances may be dependent on the survival of the regime - it's little reported that many middle class Sunnis support the regime. It would be interesting (if impossible) to find out how many "regime supporters" would actually want to keep the regime to remain in power IF there was a credible alternative.
How did you manage to get this job? I'm about to start college, and am interested in journalism/reporting jobs like what you've done here. Do you have any advice for someone trying to enter this field? My advice is always to start with what you know. Don't feel you need to travel a million miles for a story. Often, great stories are within reach of you right now, and you may be able to get close to them in a way other's can't.
Also, always ask yourself why other people would or should be interested in the story you want to tell. You might think something is interesting, but why would someone else? In Syria Behind The Lines, I did try to tell the stories of ordinary people who could be you or me if the same environment erupted around us.
Which side do you feel is in the right? I don't think that it is a case of which of these "two sides" are "right". It's way more complex than that. The violence meted out by Assad is certainly far, far greater than that which the rebels have or have been able to dish out. But that doesn't mean that the rebels are right. There is no unified rebellion any longer.
The fundamental question is how to bring it to an end.
How much of this war smacks of Iraq-esque sectarian warring versus an anti-dictatorship uprising? I feel like it started as the latter but has morphed into the former as the fighting expanded last year. Yes, I agree. This all started as a peaceful revolution against the regime, and many rebel supporters still hanker for those days when it was simply a pro / anti regime struggle. The eruption of sectarian tension is relatively recent, and paradoxically this suits the regime - it will encourage minorities to side with Assad, and see him as their bulwark against sectarian hatred and annihilation.
Do you think the regime was involved in fomenting the sectarian fighting? Yes, I think there is no doubt about that. Sectarian tension strengthens the regime. It makes Syria's many minorities look to the regime to defend them, and allows the regime to be righteous about its "defence" of the Syrian people.
How do you comment on the many car bombings and sporadic executions performed by rebels that we keep hearing of? Do you think they will ever be charged as terrorists? Both sides have committed atrocities, but all evidence suggests that the regime has committed many more. I think it will be complex next chapter in Syria's history - how they deal with people who have committed extra-judicial killings or terrorist attacks. On both sides.
In the 36 minute video about the bombing at al-Bara (sp?), there was a man who made a speach (he opened the van door to show where wounded people had been bleeding) about how he was going to take revenge on the Alawites. Is this conflict about personal enmities that are being acted out or is it a political conflict? That's a good question. The desire for revenge and retribution certainly started out as something localised - perhaps a desire for revenge from one particular village or family. But with each passing day, it does seem like people are thinking more and more broadly about the people they want to take revenge on.
The soundwork, under such conditions, is great! What setup did you use for the sound? In the footage that you've seen, that was simply a Senheisser K6 / ME66 top mic mounted on my Sony PMW 200 camera. If you watch the film tonight, sound plays a very important part. I used two simple radio mics, using KOS11 lavalier personal mics, which produce very good sound. Glad you noticed!
2)What was one of the things you saw in Syria that you wish you caught on camera to show the rest of the world. 3)Why do you think russia and china still back up the Syrian regime instead of the people? 4)I noticed that in the preview you mentioned how disorganized everything was, I was just wondering that if Assad was to step down, who do you think will lead the syrian people? Is it even clear? 2 - I think the air strike that you have seen is the thing I most wanted seen.
Why are all the rebels shown on television speaking in Moroccan accents? News to me.
Hello, can you tell me what kind of specific help the Syrian people want, if any, from the international community? I suspect that an enforced No Fly Zone from the UN would be a start but is further intervention something actual Syrians desire? Well, it depends who you ask. Regime loyalists see the civil war as almost entirely created and maintained by the international community!
Rebels obviously want a load of weapons, and more importantly a no fly zone. The latter is something that I think would make a real difference in Syria.
A no-fly zone is a no-brainer. It was the very first UN resolution implemented in Libya and saved hundreds if not thousands of lives. I do agree. A no fly zone would save lives immediately.
Thank you for the video about the bombing at al-Bara. I know some people who are calling for revolution in the good ol' USA. i am going to send them your al-Bara video because it really shows how awful the aftermath of violence on such a massive scale really is for the ordinary people who are affected by the fighting. The scences you filmed could have been people in the London Blitzkreg or the Vietnam War. What you showed was the futility of the violence, how individuals are ground up like paper in a shredder, nothing noble at all about it. And for a political cause? What a waste! And those houses (in al-Bara) looked like they were made of some fairly substantial masonry, that must have been some fairly large ordinance that was dropped on ordinary homes and shops. When these events were happening, how did you stifle your immediate feelings so you could keep on working rather than run for cover? You did a great public service by staying to film there, it must have been so scary at the time. Did the feelings of fear or numbness come back again when you were editing the video? Thanks fella. It's odd - when I recorded that commentary for the Bombing of Al Bara footage, I hadn't really watched it through as intensely as that for a long time. And in a way I was more shocked and shaken by what I saw then than what I felt at the time. I wrote a piece for Salon recently (the link is above) about that weird disconnect in my own head when filming this - on the one hand the keen filmer, on the other, a rather shaken young man. Both those attitudes need each other, but they pull in very different directions.
Thank you for answering. This AMA is intrigueing. Not that it matters but I'm a woman, pushing 60 years old. As such, I have to ask: what has YOUR family's reaction been about your work? I bet your parents were holding back the bile from fear when they saw this video of al-Bara. Yes, that's always a complicated one from a personal point of view. I'm always a bit vague with my mother about what I'm doing. I always tell her it won't be that dangerous. She was a bit cross when she saw the final film (muttering "I'll never believe you again!"). It's harder with my girlfriend and our two kids, who are both in their teens. I rang my girlfriend the night of the Al Bara bombing, and for a while she was very angry that I even considered staying out there a minute longer. But I have a very understanding home life - I think the people around me recognise that it's important to tell these stories.
Unlike the revolution in Libya, why does it seem that there has been very little interevention from outside forces? Not sure. It's possibly more delicate than Libya - Syria is supported by Russia and Iran. So the diplomatic stakes are a lot higher. Syria also borders on Israel, so it's a potential powder keg.
I'm interested in the rebel's and regime's opinions on their international aid - I'm sure both receive weapons and training from other states and persons outside Syria, did you see any foreigners training or embedded with troops or a significant presence of foreign-made weapons? Perhaps discussions on foreign funding sources? Russia and Iran and the UK/US/France are the obvious ones, of course, but are there any less overt interests? There are foreign fighters, but not in the areas I visited. I only met one person who expressed a more fundamentalist Islamic view, and he was extremely unpopular and shouted down and virtually expelled by the guys I was with. They hated him.
Do the rebels have plans of what will happen if they topple the Al Assad regime, or has no one thought that far? There is no clear consensus of "what next" if / when the regime falls, no.
What interested you in going to syria? every filmmaker has a story they're trying to tell - what was the syrian story? do you have plans to go back? did you meet with peaceful activists? I've always been interested in ordinary people who are caught up in an extraordinary situation. That extraordinary situation could be a child going through a divorce in Ohio, or a young Syrian suddenly becoming a rebel fighter. It's often by focusing on these small stories that the big story becomes clear. I always say to documentary students - find the smallest window with the biggest view.
Thank you for sharing the experience! I did meet a handful of peaceful activists, yes. But they are struggling to be heard over the sound of the weapons.
Will it air on the Frontline website worldwide? Or only for American IP's? It will be available on the FRONTLINE website for everyone other than the UK at 10 pm ET tonight. It will be broadcast in the UK on April 17th at 10pm on Channel 4.
Well, as a french, thanks Frontline then. As an english, you are welcome.
I found it fascinating when you met Ahmed, do you have a link to where he publishes? What can you say to any potential guerrilla reporters who might find themselves in a position to document situations and events? You can find him on facebook though: Link to www.facebook.com or copy and paste this Arabic name into your "find friends" box.
Watching your Al-Bara bombing video just left me stunned. I have watched a lot of videos from Syria, but this one was quite something else. And of course want to thank you for making this visible to us. I want to know is did you ever feel that your life was in danger from the rebels themselves? Was there ever a sense they might take you hostage, or let their anger out on you as a "westerner"? I am mainly wondering how they relate to someone coming from the outside, and how safe are you in general amongst them? Not really. A few people got angry were angry with the West for not doing more, and they shouted at me for that. And one night some guys with guns came to our house and dropped hints that we "might" get kidnapped. But I think they just wanted some money. (We didn't give it to them). Overall, Syrians are overwhelmingly generous, hospitable people. That is much forgotten.
The video of the aftermath of the bombing of al-Bara was incredibly powerful. Thank you for being there to capture and share it with us. On the rebel side, I traveled over the Turkish / Syrian border, and then travelled with rebel fighters from village to village to get to the valley that is the main filming location. When I had finished there, I returned to London via Turkey, and then a few weeks later flew to Beirut and travelled back to the loyalist villages in the valley from a completely different route, via Damascus. On the regime side, yes, I was there officially with a visa, and had two security officials with em.
What was it like dealing with constant armed checkpoints while traveling? I had no problem with the checkpoints.
I am always interested in the Syrian's thoughts/opinions on Russia and Iran. I watched the Frontline documentary and heard a lot of the victims questioning why isn't the UN helping more. Do they understand why the UN (Security Counsel) haven't acted because of Vetos from Russia and China? Do they understand that Russia and Iran are still supplying arms and support to Assad? What are their views/opinions on why their Muslim/Arab neighbors ( Jordan/Iraq/Saudi...etc) have not supported their cause? That's a good point, and perhaps those people who express anger towards the UN don't understand the veto that Russia and China can employ in the security council. Really it all adds to a sense that the international community have let them down.
What's the most heartbreaking event you witnessed there? The air strike on Al Bara had a profound effect on me.
I feel uncomfortable talking about this, as I'm incredibly lucky to have been able to walk away from that, not just alive, but away from the country. The people around me are really just stuck in the war zone.
But the boy crying about his grandparents will always stay with me.
From your experience, are the airstrikes random or targeted? Thank you for the documentary. I don't think any air strike is "random".
On the day of the bombing of Al Bara, there were a number of air strikes on rebel villages in the area. There were many more the following day.
Regime loyalists often talk about how villages in rebel hands are "incubating environments" for rebels, and are therefore legitimate targets. I think on the day I was there, there were just bombs dropped on a number of rebel held villages. It's highly likely this could be called "collective punishment", which is against the Geneva Convention.
So it's kind of like, "Someone reported there are rebels in that town, drop some bombs." Sounds like an easy way to gain enemies. Assuming the rebels are advancing, this strategy will lose them the war. How do the loyalists discern a town being in rebel hands? Yes, absolutely, an easy way to gain enemies. It's very clear when a town is in rebel hands. Villages and towns change hands a lot - when the army withdraws its forces on the ground, the rebels will usually take over and establish a presence.
A couple months ago Robert King said that with every passing day the regime is another step closer to falling; do you subscribe to this belief as well? If so (or if not) why do you believe this? I don't agree at all. While a lot of battles are taking place and a lot of munitions are being used, Syria is in deadlock at the moment. Neither side is able to win, and neither is going to lose. I spent time in Damascus and met regime officials. They don't feel threatened, and Damascus is incredibly well defended.
I've read many reports that Al-Qaeda associated groups such as the ‘al Nusrah Front were fighting with the rebels in Syrira, at the behest Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia. There are certainly credible reports of Croatian arms coming into southern Syria, though I've not heard them being imported in those numbers. Personally, I saw nothing like this in my time there. The area I lived and worked in is populated by fighters who are exclusively local people fighting for their country in their own way.
What did you see, if anything, that supports the claims that Western powers, mostly through the use of intelligence agencies, are fighting a proxy war in Syria through the rebels, against the Assad regime? There is always a risk of a proxy war. But it does seem to me that it is the fear of a proxy war that is stopping Western powers get involved in any significant way.
Did you meet any "wartourists" or whatever you call them? People with no real connection to Syria and the war that had traveled there to join the fight and fight along side the rebels? If so, did they give you any reason to have traveled there and why they were fighting? I didn't meet them, but there are a few well known faces. It's terribly misguided.
1) Is there tension between peaceful rebels, militaristic factions, and those caught in the middle of it all? In the areas I visited, there were no foreign fighters - when one guy started talking about a "jihad", he was practically chased from the room. But these elements are undoubtedly growing stronger.
16:35 of this video Did you say "YOLO let's go"? In all seriousness, thank you for doing this. This video is amazing. Thank you for filming it and showing the rest of the world. I said "Yalla", which is Arabic for "let's go"...
Did you notice a Western/American presence? No, none at all in the areas I stayed in.
There are rumours of a handful of western special forces operatives in Syria acting in an advisory role, but I've seen no evidence of it.
Well, the bulk of US forces is in Jordan, training fighters and sending them on from there. Link to www.foxnews.com. I said "in Syria".
Proof? Did you have trouble with the second group you joined after having already been on the front line for the first group? (not sure which came first) No. Each trip was entirely separate.
Did you tell them of your plans to visit both sides? No. They didn't ask.
Is there any point at all in the fighting? I can't figure it out. I realize Assad isn't a great guy, but is the alternative? There's rarely any point in fighting. The only thing it seems to do is harden one's resolve.
By the way FRONTLINE does amazing things. I am always so impressed with how current yet well done the stories usually are. I will set the DVR. Well, I have two thoughts on that.
If you don't mind a follow-up: Given that you learned there isn't any point in the fighting, do you feel as if risking your life to tell the story was worth while? I'm sure there is good that can come of the story. Firstly, I sincerely believe that revealing the world to people is good. We need to look at or even confront the world we live in, or we might as well all just go to sleep. Journalism is part of that process.
I'm not sure what there is for anyone to do in a no-win situation like this. Its a poor analogy, but as a parent, sometimes I find it best to avoid intervening in my children's disputes so they learn to work out problems themselves. It is horrible to stand by and watch people kill each other and themselves, but what is helping and what are the consequences of intervening? As for disputes - I agree with you on a domestic level. But when thousands of people are killing thousands of people, I like to believe that we have some responsibility to get involved, even if that just means understanding it. Looking away and waiting for the killing to, kinda, sort itself out - I really hope that's not where we are headed.
Did you ever wet yourself? Do you still have any contact with people, any news? I am still in touch with Ahmad, who features in the main documentary. He has been injured a few times, and wants to join Jabhat al Nusra, an Islamic faction aligned with Al Qaida.
Is it possible to watch this on the internet from, say, Europe? Yes, everywhere except the UK. It will be available tonight, 10pm Eastern Standard Time in the US.
How are ethnic minorities like Armenians doing in Syria? I think they are sympathetic to Assad but you would know better then I. I didn't meet any Armenians, but did meet Turkmen, Alawites and Christians. The minorities are in very difficult situation in Syria, and often have to tread very carefully between the two sides.
Thanks for your great Salon article. I shared it with a bunch of friends. How did you look out for your security in terms of kidnapping? What precautions did you take to avoid that situation? I could write for hours about the security precautions we had to take. Each trip required a 60 page risk assessment, detailing what I would do in the event of anything dangerous, from driving a car to getting bombed. I had to think through everything in advance, and write it down. Where would I get treated if injured, how would I travel, where would I stay. It was a very lengthy process. But worth it in the end. It meant that when I arrived in Syria, I could concentrate on making the film, as I'd already considered what I would need to do if things went wrong.
Did you ever meet James Foley? What do you think about his capture by un identified gunmen in Syria last November while freelancing for the GlobalPost? No I never met him. It's a very sad story. i do hope he gets out OK.
Have you witnessed incidents that clearly contradict the coverage that we receive in the U.S.? Yes. It's not awash with foreign fighters. They are an influential minority. But it was Syrians who began this rebellion, and I hope it is Syrians that will finish it.
Did you hear any stories of the supposed use of chemical munitions by the government there? I remember reading about it on the internet but never saw if it was confirmed or not. It definitely hasn't been confirmed, and there is no evidence for it.
The regime did try and convince the UN that the rebels had used chemical weapons, but it almost certainly not true, and the UN did warn them not to try this as a tactic to get them involved in that way. The explanation of how this could have been a rebel use of CW was nigh on impossible. Most likely, a regime or rebel rocket exploded a chlorine container that injured civilians. it's almost certain that this was consequently exploited by the regime for propaganda purposes.
What do regime soldiers eat versus Sunni rebels? Where the fuck do the rebels get their ammo? Have you actually taken a pot shot at anyone, knowing that nobody would ever find out if you accidentally killed someone? When do these people find the time to sing? Who let you out?
What's life like for the average Syrian civilian? It just seems that from the media coverage we get here in the UK, that the regime is a bad one.. But if people are fighting for the regime, how much is it truly liked/disliked? Have tried to answer below why people might be supporting the regime...
Do you think that, if the rebels win, they would be friendlier to the us? There's a growing sense of disillusionment with the West among the rebels. Many cannot understand why the US is not getting involved.
Are the rebels all "good" as how the media seem to be portraying them? I don't think anyone is portraying the rebels as "all good". At all. There are some dangerous, extreme elements amongst the rebels, who have carried out summary executions, kidnappings. This isn't as simple as goodies and baddies.
Hi, Olly, burning question: what's Ross Kemp like? Why do you ask? That's a very, very big question...
Last updated: 2013-04-15 16:26 UTC Next update: 2013-04-15 22:26 UTC
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