lunes, 11 de enero de 2016

Druzes, Ishikis, Alevis, Bektashis, Alawites, Yarsanis, Kakais, Mandeans, Yezidis, Shabaks, Donmehs, Zaydis, Ismailis, Karaites, Essenians & Pyramidism 2

Among the Muslim Pomaks there are some Alevi Bektashis.

There's an Alawite religious school called "Zaynabiya" after Zaynabiya, a Syrian town nearby Damascus.


The God of Israel has, both, a male and a female side. The female side is known as the "Shekhina", the "divine presence" in Judaism. The Sumerians called it Inanna. This is, of course, one of the various meanings. The pagan Epic of Gilgamesh describes Inanna as sometimes a young woman and sometimes a young man, sometimes a harlot and sometimes a virgin. Even the theomorphic name "Israel" is considered as a complementation/combination of the two genders of the Canaanite religion, namely the female "Ashera" and the male "El" and so Ashera+El became "Isra-el" (in Semitic languages vowels don't really count, so any given vowel makes no difference to the meaning). Ashera was considered El's wife, in other words, the wife of God. The Canaanite religion, like all other religions in the world, had this non-pagan lore (from a previous non-pagan ancient religion), a lore that eventually ended up as outright paganism. Many of them, the different world religions, started to mock Ashera (or the corresponding local name given to her) turning her into a prostitute like or fertility goddess, depicting her or sculpting her with highly sexualized looks. The Canaanite religion became what we now known as the feminist & sexual revolutions. This immoral pro-sexual, gynocentric worship was performed inside what developed into, what they called, Temples of Love (Temples of Sexual Perversion really) as historically in ancient Sumer.

Priestly Jews are spread out all over the Middle East. Priestly Jews shouldn't be confused with the people we usually know simply as Jews, be it the celebrated Rabbinic Jews ( subdivided into Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews, Reconstructionist Jews, Liberal Jews) that everyone knows or the less known Karaite Jews. Priestly Jews are far less known than Rabbinic Jews, let alone as Jews. They are part of the most persecuted minorities in the Middle East, apart from the Christians & Zoroastrians. The Priestly Jews are little known for their Jewish status because they are Crypto-Jews, in other words they are Hidden Jews. Not many of them are aware of their own Jewish roots though. They have been concealing their real Jewish identity for centuries to avoid persecution. For now they've managed to survive, but now Islamic terrorism is threatening their very existence. These Priestly Jews are the Yazidis, Mandeans, Alevis, Alawis, Ismailis, Druzes, Zaydis... Most Middle Eastern Christians have a Israelite origin likewise, be it Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Maronites... Even the Arab Christians have often an Israelite origin. Some orthodox Muslims, Shia & Sunni, have Israelite ancestors too.

The Karaites are nicknamed Bene Mikra (Children of the Bible) because they only accept the Bible in their beliefs, while rejecting the Talmud, unlike Rabbinic Jews. Karaism started in Babylon. Apart from the schism of Karaism Babylon was the headquarters of one of the two great religious interpretation of Judaism, namely Babylon, while the other was Jerusalem. The two versions of the Talmud were created by these two schools of thought. Babylon was the land of the first Jewish exile, if we don't count the Egyptian captivity of the Israelites because it was voluntary migration & Israel did not exist as State. In this exile the local rulers granted the Jews to have a monarch of their own, the Exilarch. The Exilarchs were credited to be from the House of David & indeed it was almost royal. The Jews looked to it with great pride, as the last vestige of Davidic glory, continued for over a millenium. In the succession of princes of the Exilarchate there dissension frequently & it is believed that one of these palace quarrels for the royal throne caused the Karaite schism. The main character of the schism was a descendant of the Davidic royal lineage, so some of the Karaites can claim King David's descent. Karaite beliefs, like Sadducee beliefs are based on the Bible only. The Karaites went as far as to declare that the Lord sent the Arabs Mohammed as prophet.

For a Christian historian & missionary, the Alevis were a corrupt Christian sect. They accept Jesus Christ as the son of God under the name of Ali. They couldn't proffess this in front of certain Muslims though.

Zaydis are translated as "fivers", Ismailis are translated as "seveners", but the majority of shias are "twelvers" or Imamiyyah.

The Turkish city of Tarsus is in the province of Mersin. It is part of the Adana-Mersin Metropolitan Area, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Turkey with a population of 3 million people. Tarsus forms an administrative district in the eastern part of the Mersin Province and lies in the core of Çukurova region. With a history going back over 6,000 years, Tarsus has long been an important stop for traders and a focal point of many civilisations. During the Roman Empire, Tarsus was the capital of the province of Cilicia, the scene of the first meeting between Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and the birthplace of Paul the Apostle. Here lies Daniel's (the prophet) shrine. Some tombs in the area are worshipped by the Alawis.

Since Manda is an Iranian form of Manassah, then the name Mandean might have the same origin. 

Ishik might be a derived form from the Hebrew name Ishak or Isaac.

Historically many of the Alawites have settled in Iran, from Mazandaran (Tabaristan in the north).

Syria was conquered by the Arab Muslims thousands of years ago. The Alawites are a tribe of the Jews i.e. Banu Kalb. They are not Arabs but they conceal their identity to the Arabs.

                                            Little & less known Abrahamic religions

The Median Maggid ("Magis") kohanim travelled the world in trade and contacted scattered Israel all over the world, that's why there are so many Para-Jewish peoples in all parts of the world, including African peoples such as the Igbo and the Zulu. Almost the entire humanity mixed up with Israelites developing syncretistic Israelite-local religious systems. The Median Maggid kohanim contributed to the religious mix with their Median Judaism.

The Hidden Jews From the Middle East & the WPJO Aims For Them

Crypto-Jews tend to shun public exposure as Jews but the WPJO will eventually need to become public. Fixing world problems are an essential part of the messianic process and that's what's currently being done by adding more and more innovative projects that solve world problems.

There is so far a focus on the broader Middle East on WPJO and this is in order to provide evidence of both comparative religion and history of religion which really, really are very important to make publicly available, including politically so.

The WPJO will eventually need to become more public, that is very true, and in the meantime further projects added. But should not this be the initiative of Crypto-Jews themselves? There are available, both, information and solutions.

Shifts of paradigm commence by making available previously not available information and that's what my intellectual life is devoted to.

Methodology of Recognizing Crypto Israel

The appropriate way to study secretive forms of religion is by means of deconstructive investigative journalistic methods; namely in this field collecting large amounts of data and then highly critically examine the data by carefully checking the facts and discovering deliberate discursive fallacies intended to mislead. Academia is rarely successful at studying secretive religion because scholars of academia typically deploy the wrong methods in this field. Academic footnotes tend to have rather limited value in the study of secretive religion as academic footnotes in the field of the study of secretive religion also tend to endlessly repeat erroneous information (i.e. religious dissimulation) that both members and leaders of secretive denominations typically communicate to outsiders as intended to mislead and thus perpetuate the concealment of religious secrets.

Indeed, anyone should feel most welcome to check the facts for himself/herself as in any journalistic product. Applying journalistic methods rather than academic ones is therefore a very deliberate choice and in the context of the study of secretive religion certainly the right choice. Yet, the extensive data WPJO provides as a public documentation project offers ample opportunity for career scholars of academia to further delve into this topic. Career scientists should however be mindful that WPJO is specifically a political and journalistic project, although surely consequential for academia and organized religion as well. Transcending boundaries of genres of narration, although doubtless provocative to some guardians of paradigm, can open the pursuit of knowledge and accuracy by making previously invisible structurally oppressed perspectives visible indeed.

Dingir, the divine letter “D” in Sumerian religion. It has some similarities with the Jewish Star. 

“Said Rabbi Meir: Look not at the vessel, but at what it contains. There are new vessels that are filled with old wine, and old vessels that do not even contain new wine.” Pirkei Avot 3:20 of the Babylonian Talmud

Therefore in the study of secretive religion it is imperative to be capable to most carefully, and meticulously indeed, distinguish between core and exterior; what is primary and what is secondary, what is the body and what are the clothes? Also, how would someone like Leo Strauss have deconstructed the open esotericism of these overtly secretive denominations of Priestly Judaism? The question of origin is relevant not only historically considering that Judaism predates religious imperialism but also because this is politically highly relevant indeed for the future of the Middle East.

The WPJO aims to help bring about political change in the Middle East and around the world by educating the general public about Crypto-Judaism, Para-Jewish peoples and Crypto-Jewish history. Therefore as an educational project, it is vital to provide accurate and reliable information and so any lingering errors are immediately corrected once taken note of. This is surely not possible with printed paper books where errors can take on a life of their own and hence be continually disseminated.

Therefore, academic literature about Priestly Judaism tends to be rife with prejudice and errors, including by discursively subordinating Priestly Judaism to religious imperialism in thus actually re-enacting this very crime that was committed so many times throughout history against the oppressed peoples of Priestly Judaism. This widespread failure of academia in this particular field prompted the formation of WPJO as a political project with a journalistic methodology indeed.

History is always narrated through perspective and so the WPJO seeks to empower Crypto-Jews by re-narrating history from their perspective as suppressed Jews. This entails deconstructing hegemonic historiographical narratives of religious imperialism by reweaving the facts into different historiographies as narrated from Jewish and Crypto-Jewish perspectives.

A Few Words On Crypto-Jewish Sects

Mapping Alevism took several years. Achieving a Federal Israel is both an educational task and a political challenge for the Zionist movement.

Median Judaism reached many parts of the world including Europe. so it's not a matter of "lost tribes".

Also Sunni tradition identify Shias as Crypto-Jewish.

Furthermore, Freemasons are a remnant of Median Judaism in Europe.

Middle Eastern Minorities Attacked By Radical Islamic Terrorism

We should recognize that Middle Eastern Christians, along with Yazidis, Mandeans and others, are facing an ethnic cleansing... As we celebrate the holidays, let’s speak up for those for whom faith is a matter not of casual worship but of fear, rape and murder.

The Mandeans of Iraq claim descent from Seth, son of Adam, and believe themselves to be the last followers of John the Baptist. They may be the last surviving Gnostic sect. The Mandeans had been protected by Saddam Hussein, who saw them as a link to the ancient Babylonian empire. Few remain.

The US didn’t set out to eradicate the Mandeans, the only surviving Gnostics from antiquity, one of the oldest, smallest and least understood of the many minorities in Iraq.

Iran refugee program? (Iranian religious minorities including Jews, this is a cousin to the Soviet Jew refugee program)

Why did many Assyrians (mostly Muslims) start identifying as Arab, as opposed to Assyrian, once they started speaking Arabic?

Mandeans, Yazidis, Kurds, Zoroaster-Zarathustra, bull sacrifice; a summary of minority religions in the Iraq-Syria region. Where they came from? How they survived?

The Aramean Identity is Our Choice

Every people needs to be connected to its roots in order to be strong and prosper. Like any tree, if you take it of its roots it will be easy to blow away or just stay on its place but be dying.

Most of the Christian Lebanese and Middle Eastern are having problems reaching to their roots because of the arabization process that has been going on for a while.


What we need now is to get back to our roots so that we can be stronger in the future.
All Middle Eastern Levantic Churches should unite around one identity and that is the Aramean.

Only the Aramean identity can bring us back to the roots and get us in touch with history, language, holiness and civilization.

Arameans to Seek Recognition Outside Israel

Lost in the uproar over the proposed Nationality Bill has been the historic recognition of Arameans as a separate nationality in Israel. Israel is the first country in the world to recognize the Arameans. Israel’s historic recognition has empowered and emboldened Arameans to seek better treatment in other countries they live in. Tomorrow (Wednesday November 26), the World Council of Arameans (WCA) will be addressing the Seventh Session of the Forum on Minority Issues at the United Nations in Geneva. Shadi Halul, an Aramean from Gush Halav in the Galilee, will be traveling to Geneva in order to address the assembly.


His two year old child was the first person to be registered under the new identity in Israel, one month ago. Halul was invited by the WCA. Part of the statement of the WCA will read as follows: “We, Aramean Christian Israelis, want all the nations of the world to see the historic democratic move of Israel in recognizing the nationality of ‘Aramean’ within the Christian citizens of the Jewish and democratic Israel. We look specifically to Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon to recognize the Aramean people in their countries, to protect the minority in their historic homelands, and their basic democratic rights, and preserve their culture, language, and history.” Johnny Messo, the President of the World Council of Arameans, emphasized “We greatly commend Israel for being the first state in the world to recognize our people in keeping with international law. This fantastic news has had a major impact on the global Aramean population. It encourages us to continue our legal struggle for recognition by our home countries of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.”
“The only safe haven for our people in the entire region is Israel,” Jahn Zaknoun, spokesperson of the Christian Aramaic Society in Israel told Tazpit News Agency. “It is the only place we are demographically growing in the entire region. In 1948 there were between 50,000 and 70,000 Arameans in the country, and today there are 130,000 Arameans.” The Arameans, while a minority in Israel, are thankful for the democratic nature of the country, and seek to be valued members of the society.

“We want our people to be a useful and productive part of the country, to serve in the army, as anyone who loves this country as it is would do,” Zaknoun added. Israel is the only country in the region where everyone who comes here is integrated into society. Anyone who cherishes freedom, of life and of speech, loves Israel.

ArDO - Aramaic Democratic Organization

The Pro-Democracy Lobby The Aramaic Democratic Organization (ArDO) is a Swedish-based Lebanese organization that seeks self-determination for the Aramaic nation. The Aramaic nation is composed of all groups for whom Aramaic is their primary heritage language.

ArDO believes that self-determination should be implemented through the creation of a federal Lebanon with two official languages; Aramaic and Arabic. Aramaic should however be the sole official language and the only language of instruction in the Aramaic state on Mount Lebanon. English should become an official auxiliary language as in Ethiopia and Israel.

ArDO envisions a democratic Lebanon that enjoys good relations with all free nations. The millet system in Lebanon needs to be replaced with a federal structure that will provide self-determination to all the main regions of Lebanon.

Lebanon is a multi-ethnic nation composed of Aramaeans, Druze, Kurds, Armenians, Alawis, Jews, Arabs and others. ArDO is determined to achieve the re-appropriation of the Aramaic identity and language and achieve self-determination for the Aramaic people within the framework of a federal Lebanon.

The Alawi Agenda in Syria

The following hierarchy of political options constitutes the current strategic agenda of the Alawi-dominated Syrian regime: Plan A: Continued Alawi minority rule and continued Alawi economic & ethnic domination over an undivided Syria. Plan B: An Alawi state is re-established through diplomatic partition of both Syria and Grand Liban to the inclusion of adjacent Judeo-Christian Aramean areas & villages that would certainly prefer to be part of the restored Alawi state. This would form part of a more general partition of Greater Syria between Muslim Amians and Crypto-Jewish peoples. Plan C: The Crypto-Jewish Alawi people in Syria would be seriously threatened with genocide after the regime were to suffer comprehensive, strategic military defeat which would leave Jerusalem little choice but to intervene militarily so as to prevent genocide against this very Jewish people.

In the light of the immensely tragic history of the Crypto-Jewish Alawi people under Muslim rule, the Alawi-dominated secular regime acts quite rationally in accordance with established game theory although certainly gambling with increasingly high stakes. This includes the now recurring Anti-Muslim village massacres which serve the regime-logical tactical purpose of instilling terror in the hearts and minds of the Sunni Amian majority while deterring them from attacking Alawi civilians. Syrian Alawis have no interest whatsoever in once more becoming an oppressed ethno-religious minority under Muslim majority rule similar to the situation of Christians in either Egyptian Egypt or Amian Iraq, hypothetical Alawi political situations which Alawis tend to indeed think would lead to genocide against the Crypto-Jewish Alawi people. Thus, Israel has increasingly become the ultimate Alawi political insurance were everything else to fail and the regime were to begin to lose military control over even the mountainous majority Alawi, Mediterranean region in northwestern Syria.

The diplomatic way forward in Syria is therefore to intensify diplomatic efforts to convince more and more leading economic, military and political personalities in the severely divided Alawi regime elite of the political wisdom for the Pan-Jewish Alawi people in Syria to indeed switch sides between Iran and Israel which would subsequently also lead to peaceful, diplomatic implementation of Plan B, including through a defense pact between Israel, the restored Alawi state and other new Pan-Jewish states in post-partition Greater Syria as an initial step towards broader Pan-Jewish federal-democratic unification. However, this would involve modifying the regime strategic game plan so as to no longer wait for regime tactical military defeat before indeed strategically opting for Plan B. This is also so as Pan-Jewish federal-democratic Israeli unification will certainly provide far more attractive economic opportunities for the Pan-Jewish Alawi people than does currently the dying Alawi kleptocracy in Syria.

Syncretic Alevism and Catharism

Ishikism (Turkish: Işıkçılık or Işık Aleviliği), also known as Chinarism or Ishik Alevism, refers to the movement among some Alevis who have developed an alternative understanding of Alevism and its history. These alternative interpretations and beliefs were organized by writer Erdoğan Çınar, with the publication of his book Aleviliğin Gizli Tarihi (The Secret History of Alevism) in 2004. The Ishik movement claim that the term "Alevi" is derived from the old Anatolian Luvians (Luwian) people, claiming that the word "Luvi" means "people of light" in the Hittite language, while the term "Alevi" in traditional Alevism is believed to have derived from Ali, as in the Arabic word ‘Alawī (علوي). Some Ottoman documents from the 16th century refer to the ancestors of today's Alevis as "Işık Taifesi", meaning "People of Light". This is, according to Ishikis, a proof of the connection between the Luvians and Alevis.


In the area around the Southern Pyrenees a form of heterodox mysticism took hold, a mysticism that had historical and archetypal roots in the Gnosis and Gnosticism of late antiquity. At precisely this time, and in the same area of Southern France, there came the first flowering of the Troubadour traditions and of the Jewish Gnosticism of Kabbalah. To the south in Spain, the mystical tradition that gave root to a Gnostic school in Islam took form – exemplified by Ibn 'Arabī (1165–1240), the seminal figure in Turkish, Persian and Sufi Gnostic traditions. St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226) was also deeply influenced by the spirit of this time and this Cathar land.

Though the term "Cathar" has been used for centuries to identify the movement, whether the movement identified itself with this name is debatable. In Cathar texts, the terms "Good Men" (Bons Hommes) or "Good Christians" are the common terms of self-identification.

Mavi Boncuk |

The Ishikis also claim that the religious ceremonies practiced by Alevis were practiced as early as by the Hittites and even by the Sumerians. According to Ishikis, medieval Christian sects as Paulicianism, Bogomilism etc. were also Alevis. A good example of this belief can be found in the translation of the book The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages (2005) by Sean Martins. Even though the original English version does not contain the word "Alevi", the Turkish translator has translated the title of the book as Ortaçağ'da Avrupa'da Alevi Hareketi - Katharlar (An Alevi Movement in The Middle Ages - The Cathars).

Compared to traditional Alevism, the most striking differences of the Ishik movement are their interpretation of history. The Ishik movement claims that Alevis have changed their apparent identity several times in history in order to survive. According to Ishiki belief, heretic sects like the Paulicians and Bogomils were actually Alevis compelled to appear as Christians because of the Byzantine oppression.

Likewise the modern Alevis have gained an Islamic appearance because of the Ottoman oppression. Ishiki thought is convinced that most heterodox groups are inventions as a result of oppression, meaning that groups like the Ghulat, Ahl-e Haqq, Ismā'īlī, Nusayrî Alawism and Bektashism are in reality separate from real Islam.

Catharism (from Greek: καθαρός, katharos, pure) [The name Cathari had also been used by Novation sects of Anatolia in the fourth century] was a name given to a Christian religious movement with dualistic and gnostic elements that appeared in the Languedoc region of France and other parts of Europe in the 11th century and flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries. The movement was extinguished in the early decades of the thirteenth century, when the Cathars were persecuted and massacred under the Inquisition. Catharism had its roots in the Paulician movement in Armenia and the Bogomils of Bulgaria which took influences from the Paulicians.

Paulicians (Armenian: Պաւլիկեաններ, also remembered as Pavlikians or Paulikianoi were a Christian Adoptionist sect and militarized revolt movement, also accused by medieval sources as Gnostic and quasi Manichaean Christian. They flourished between 650 and 872 in Armenia and the Eastern Themes of the Byzantine Empire.

Dede (religious figure)

A dede is a socio-religious leader in the islamic Alevi and non-islamic Ishikis community.The institution of dede is the most important of all the institutions integral tot the social and religious organization of the Anatolian Alevis.

Although much weakened as a result of the socio-economic transformation experienced in Anatolia towards the end of the nineteenth century, and particularly due to accelerated migration from the rural to the urban areas after the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, itp played a primary role in the survivalo of Alevism until today.

The institution of dedes is based on a three tiered hierarchy: 1.Murshid 2.Pir 3.Rehber

In some regions this hierarchy is modified in such a way that the Pir and Murshid change places. Thisi s exclusively a functional hierarchy, as all involved come from a dede family. They fulfill functions that are complementary in nature, and would be meaningless in isolation from each other. The dede families, all of them called ocakzâdes, have distributed these duties among themselves.

An Alevis dede focusses on the islamic mystic teachings of the Twelve Imams, the Buyruks (mainly the Imam Câfer-i Sadık Buyruğu) and Haji Bektash Veli and an Ishikis dede focusses more on esotericism beliefs and believe that traditions and ceremonies in Alevism are pre-islamic coming from the Hittites and Sumerian (Israelite religion too) religions claiming that it comes from them originally and rejects many teachings from Islam.

The following are major crimes in their teachings: killing a person, committing adultery, divorce, marrying a divorcee (like the Jews), stealing.

Looking at Alawites

The Alawite Religion: Considering Metempsychosis

Since unrest began in March 2011 in Syria, the status of the Alawite minority has come to the forefront of media attention. Given concerns about sectarian dynamics underlying the conflict, there has naturally been much speculation on the nature of traditional Alawite beliefs. That the Alawite faith is syncretic cannot be doubted. That, however, is not the Alawites' only peculiarity.

The question that arises is whether the Alawites are an offshoot of Shi'i Islam (specifically, with an origin in the Iraqi Shi'a ghulat sects that attributed divine qualities to Ali and his descendants who became the twelve Imams of Shi'ism); or whether, ultimately, the Alawites are a religious group predating the advent of Islam to the Levant. The latter hypothesis is presented in popular form by Diana Darke in her travel guide on Syria. She describes them thusly:

They appear to be the descendants of the people who lived in this region at the time of Alexander the Great, and when Christianity flourished here the 'Alawis, isolated in their little mountain communities, clung to their own pre-Islamic religion. After hundreds of years of Shi'a Isma'ili influence, they moved closer to Islam, but contacts with the Byzantines and Crusaders added Christian elements to their religion.

Darke's description has an air of romanticism about it rather than serious analysis. As scholars have increasingly looked into Alawite texts from the medieval period, the notion of an origin in the ghulat sects has become consensus. Puzzles still remain however as to the origins of specific doctrines. Here I intend to examine metempsychosis.[In its most basic form, metempsychosis is the belief in the transmigration of souls.]

Various explanations have been forwarded. Without offering any elaboration, Moosa simply states: "Metempsychosis is not an Islamic dogma, and was most likely borrowed from Buddhism."Friedman allows for a similar hypothesis, stating, "The doctrine of transmigration is a central doctrine in the Hindu religion and infiltrated into Persian culture. In that case, the belief could have arrived in Iraq through Persian Manicheanism."Friedman also notes the hypothesis of transmission through Greek philosophy.

I reject the thesis of transmission via Buddhism or Hinduism through Manichaeism. Had this actually been the case, we would surely have seen some special reverence for Mani—the founder of Manichaeism—and some figures from Hinduism and Buddhism among the Alawites. On the other hand, we do find particular honors accorded to Greek philosophers, including Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. This suggests an ultimately Greek origin for metempsychosis as expounded among Alawites. Below are some possible Greek precedents:

Empedocles: There are numerous parallels between Alawite expositions of the doctrine of metempsychosis and the mystical poetry of the pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles, whose works, which now only survive in fragmentary form, were not only widely circulated in the Hellenistic world and even among the last pagan Neoplatonists such as Simplicius (with excerpts faithfully quoted in the original Greek), but were also known in Arabic. Yet on a prefatory note, it should be emphasized that the specific details presented are not uniformly consistent in Alawite texts, even as the same basic structure is preserved.

The most noteworthy, striking resemblances are as follows. In the traditional Alawite theology, men were once beings in the divine realm of light but fell from grace on account of transgression. Similarly, according to Empedocles, men were once daimones in the divine realm but were expelled for the transgressions of bloodshed and swearing false oaths, "νείκει μαινομένωι πίσυνος" ("trusting in raging Strife"). In Empedocles' worldview, Strife is the force opposed to Love (variously termed Philotes or Aphrodite).

On account of the transgression, the daimon "τρίς μιν μυρίας ὧρας ἀπὸ μακάρων ἀλάλησθαι" ("is to wander in exile for thirty thousand seasons from the blessed"), and during this time, it may be incarnated in the forms of various mortal things;[Empedocles says that at different times he has been a "boy, a girl, a bush, a bird and a fish that travels in the sea").] but if humans lead righteous lives, they can be reincarnated in higher forms of being before the daimones within them return to the divine realm:

This will certainly be the fate of those who attend to the mystic's "path to success".

("Finally they become prophets, singers of hymns, doctors, and leaders for men on earth; from there they rise up as gods greatest in honors").

There is a clear doctrine of transmigration here, and it is a well-established part of traditional Alawite religion, such that, as Gisela Procházka-Eisl and Stephan Procházka note, "it is one of the very few principles of the dogma which Alawis do not keep secret." Matti Moosa correctly points out that the Alawite belief in metempsychosis is linked to "the concept of reward and punishment," so while the souls of evil men When it comes to the designation of 'evil,' it should be understood that the reference is to unbelievers. [Thus, a common motif in Alawite sources is the transmigration of Jewish souls into monkeys, which is derived from Qur'an 2:60 that alludes to punishment against violators of the Sabbath by transformation into apes.] will be reincarnated in the forms of beasts, the righteous will attain higher forms of human being in subsequent lives, just like Empedocles' doctrine as illustrated in fragment B146 that is quoted above.

Nonetheless, as with Empedocles' concept of 30,000 seasons of exile from the blessed realm, there appears to be a set period of exile from the divine realm of light in Alawite theology, entailing a "number of revolutions" of purification through metempsychosis, "as many as twenty-one, each lasting for 1,077 years," after which the Alawites' souls will return to the world of light.[The tradition related here comes from an early Alawite text known as the Kitab al-Haft and the Kitab al-Mashyaka. Friedman notes that al-Khasibi, who was an early Alawite jurist and leader, wrote that faithful Alawite mystics must endure transmigration eighty times before salvation.]

Owing to these similarities, it may be reasonable to suppose that the ultimate origin of these ideas in Alawite theology lies in the philosophy of Empedocles. Concerning the debate on the origins of the Alawites, there are two ways to read the observations. First, one can go with the notion of a pre-Islamic religion heavily influenced by this Greek philosophy, which is somewhat along the lines of Darke's description. Alternatively, one can postulate direct or indirect transmission via Arabic sources and retain the hypothesis of the origins of the Alawite sect in the ghulat groups that arose around Kufa in modern-day Iraq [Incidentally, Simplicius, who travelled around the Eastern Mediterranean, was from Cilicia in southeastern Asia Minor, where there is an Alawite community today that goes back at least to the 18th century].

The problem with the former hypothesis is that Empedocles' fragments can be divided into two main types: his 'physics' and the mystical 'purifications'. The fragments noted above derive from the latter and are not found in Simplicius' works. In fact, they mainly survive in the writings of Christian heresiographers like Hippolytus of Rome, who was active in the late second and early third centuries.
In Arabic, Empedocles was known as Anbaduqlis, but essentially a 'Pseudo-Empedocles' arose in Arabic works pertaining to "doxography, history of philosophy, Shi'i-Isma'ili theology, Sufism, heresiography, and magic." According to this Pseudo-Empedocles, "The human soul is part of the universal soul fallen into matter. Through the teaching of divine messengers, the soul may remember its celestial origin, be purified of the corruption of the material world, and survive after the death of the body."

Yet absent from Pseudo-Empedocles is the concept of a set period of exile for the souls of the righteous with cycles of purification through reincarnation into higher forms of, and transmigration of souls into inferior, non-human forms of being as punishment for wickedness in this life. Indeed, the presentation of Empedocles' original work here is at best only in very garbled form, and it would be difficult to argue that the Alawite teachings on this matter derived from Pseudo-Empedocles in Arabic sources.

Plato's Timaeus: In the Timaeus, each soul has been assigned to a star. Righteous behavior means that after death, the soul will be united with its star, but evil conduct means that the soul will be reincarnated in inferior forms of beings like wild beasts. However, the Timaeus does not contain notions of a fall from the divine realm and transmigration as part of a period of exile. In addition, the righteous soul can immediately return to its companion star after death.

Plato's Phaedrus: This work, in the form of a dialogue between Socrates, Phaedrus and Lysias, expounds on metempsychosis in what is conventionally known as the 'Chariot Allegory.' In this allegory, a soul that cannot follow God falls to Earth through the sins of forgetfulness and wickedness. There are nine levels of human existence that a fallen soul can assume, forming a hierarchy much like Empedocles' conception of transmigration. In descending order, we have: the philosopher, the law-loving king, a bureaucrat, a doctor, the mystic, a poet, a workman, a sophist/demagogue, and a finally a tyrant.

A soul that lives a righteous life can attain a higher form of being, and the opposite is true for unrighteous souls. Only the soul of the philosopher can return to its original state in the third period of a thousand years after it has chosen the life of a philosopher three times. Other souls must wait for 10,000 years. During this time, they are judged after their first life and either dwell in Heaven or Hell for 1000 years, after which they may pass into the body of a beast or a man.

In his Enneads, which were known in Arabic through a partial paraphrase translation known as the "Theology of Aristotle," the Neoplatonist Plotinus discussed metempsychosis in the broad sense of fall from the divine realm into a human body but with the possibility of return to the divine, noting precedents in Empedocles and Plato's Phaedrus, but rejecting the former's poetry for detailed discussion on the grounds of supposed obscurity.

Of the three Greek precedents outlined above, it is the philosophy of Empedocles that appears to be closest to Alawite views on the matter of metempsychosis. A distinction that sets apart the Alawite theology from all three is the belief in eventual resurrection and Day of Judgment —reflecting a clear Islamic influence—that must preclude a conception of time as never-ending cycles, which is at least strongly implied in Empedocles' poetry.

Elsewhere in Islamic thought, metempsychosis was advocated by some of the Mut'azilites, who flourished in Iraq at the same time as the ghulat sects. However, the rationale for this doctrine in their thought is something quite alien to Alawite thinking. That is, it was invoked as a kind of theodicy: "God's justice necessitates another life before or after the actual life, in order to explain the suffering of the innocent and the pleasure of the evildoers." The system of metempsychosis according to Fadl al-Hadathi—a pupil of the Mut'azilite al-Nazzam—is as follows:

In another world God created animals mature and wise, bestowed on them innumerable blessings, and conferred on them many sciences too. God then desired to put them to a test and so commanded them to offer thanks to Him for His gifts. Some obeyed His command and some did not. He rewarded His thankful creatures by giving them heaven and condemned the ungrateful ones to hell. There were some among them who had partly obeyed the divine command and partly not obeyed it. They were sent to the world, were given filthy bodies, and, according to the magnitude of their sins, sorrow and pain, joy and pleasure. Those who had not sinned much and had obeyed most of God's commands were given lovely faces and mild punishment. But those who did only a few good deeds and committed a large number of sins were given ugly faces, and were subjected to severe tribulations. So long as an animal is not purified of all its sins, it will be always changing its forms.

Based on all the above data, I would suggest that rather than transmission through the Mut'azilites, the forerunners of the Nusayri/Alawite sect either got hold of the writings of Plato (most likely, the Phaedrus) and/or Empedocles on metempsychosis in translation (now lost to us,) or had learnt of the ideas from interaction with Gnostic groups in the Mesopotamia and Syria regions,[The main Gnostic group in Mesopotamia today is the Mandaean sect that reveres John the Baptist. Conversion of the non-Muslim populations in the region to Islam was a gradual process over centuries, not decades.] or even Christians who might have had access to the relevant texts in the original Greek or in Syriac translation.

In this context, it should be noted that there is a clear concept of what Friedman terms "Gnostic mystical elevation" relating to the Alawite system of metempsychosis. It is not enough simply to identify as an Alawite if one is to return to the divine realm of light. Rather, one also needs to undergo a process of mystical initiation and study of secret knowledge with the "guidance of the shaykh who has gained an exalted degree of gnosis." Similar notions, noted above, are to be found in Empedocles, with the idea of a secret 'path to success' of which the mystic holds knowledge.

On a concluding note, however, it should be pointed out that the concept of the fall from the divine realm on account of transgression through God's testing in the Mut'azilite story above is present in the Alawite tradition. The notion of God testing men is a repeated theme in the Qur'an (e.g. 2:155, 3:140, 23:30, 29:2 and 57:25), and one could well posit common development of the idea from the Qur'an.
The French Mandate

The French Mandate over what is now Syria has garnered a considerable degree of media attention, because this period saw the establishment of an Alawite State on the northwestern coastline around the port city of Latakia. This enclave was first proclaimed in 1922, following a drawn-out Alawite revolt against French rule beginning in December 1918 and led by Sheikh Ahmad Salih al-Ali. After the Alawite State was established, the Alawite community's leaders, who were well aware of the discrimination and persecution Alawites had suffered under various Sunni Muslim rulers, supported the continuation of the French Mandate, and thus generally did not back the Arab nationalist revolt centered in Damascus against French rule in 1925-6.

It is at this point that we now must turn to narratives in media. Writing in The National Interest, Franck Salameh contrasts what he sees as French appreciation for the ethno-religious diversity of the Levant with "British designs" for "new unitary, Arab-defined creations." He therefore places the blame on the British for an artificial unification of the territories that now comprise Syria. Of course, Salameh is right that the British supported the ideology of pan-Arabism, something that effectively became British policy in World War Two.

Nevertheless, a look at the record will show that the British cannot be blamed for the eventual dissolution of the Alawite State in 1936. The problem for the French was that throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s, nationalist sentiment pushing for the unification of Syria was growing, and this potential source of great unrest could not simply be ignored. Although the Alawite leaders had sent a delegation in April 1933 to Beirut to make it clear that they opposed any unification of the Alawite State with Syria, the French began negotiating with Syrian nationalists in Paris in March 1936, and so Alawite leaders with members of the council of the government in Latakia (the capital of the Alawite State) submitted several memoranda in an attempt to guarantee their separation from any independent Syria.

It was in this context that a memorandum to Léon Blum—the Jewish Prime Minister of France—was submitted in June 1936, with one of the signatories being no less than Suleiman al-Assad, the great-grandfather of Syria's current president. Its contents are particularly striking and have garnered considerable media attention since unrest began in Syria. Indeed, it was the culmination in the series of memoranda seeking to maintain an independent Alawite State. The following excerpts are noteworthy:

The Alawis refuse to be annexed to Muslim Syria because, in Syria, the official religion of the state is Islam, and according to Islam, the Alawis are considered infidels... Do the French leaders want the Muslims to have control over the Alawi people in order to throw them into misery? The spirit of hatred and fanaticism embedded in the hearts of the Arab Muslims against everything that is non Muslim has been perpetually nurtured by the Islamic religion. There is no hope that the situation will ever change. Therefore, the abolition of the Mandate will expose the minorities in Syria to the dangers of death and annihilation, irrespective of the fact that such abolition will annihilate the freedom of thought and belief.

We can sense today how the Muslim citizens of Damascus force the Jews who live among them to sign a document pledging that they will not send provisions to their ill-fated brethren in Palestine. The condition of the Jews in Palestine is the strongest and most explicit evidence of the militancy of the Islamic issue vis-à-vis those who do not belong to Islam. These good Jews contributed to the Arabs with civilization and peace, scattered gold, and established prosperity in Palestine without harming anyone or taking anything by force, yet the Muslims declare holy war against them and never hesitated in slaughtering their women and children, despite the presence of England in Palestine and France in Syria. Therefore, a dark fate awaits the Jews and other minorities in case the mandate is abolished and Muslim Syria is united with Muslim Palestine. The union of the two countries is the ultimate goal of the Muslim Arabs.

We appreciate the noble feeling which motivates you to defend the Syrian people and your desire to realize the independence of Syria. But at present, Syria is still far off from the noble goal you are trying to achieve...You may think that it is possible to ensure the rights of the Alawis and the minorities by a treaty. We assure you that treaties have no value in relation to the Islamic mentality in Syria. We have previously seen this situation in the Anglo-Iraqi treaty, which did not prevent the Iraqis from slaughtering the Assyrians and the Yezidis.

There are several things to be noted about this memorandum. First, it explicitly and vehemently marks off the Alawites as separate from the Muslims, indicating that the identification of Alawites as a mainstream Muslim sect is a product of the modern era, as noted above. Second, the references to Jews are clearly aimed at Léon Blum's Jewish identity and what the signatories believed was his sympathy with the Zionist movement. The apparent Alawite solidarity with the Jews expressed here should not necessarily be taken as sincere.

In fact, there is a conspicuous strand of anti-Jewish thought in Alawite theology. For example, in the Kitab al-Usus (Book of Foundations)—an early Alawite theological treatise—not only are the Jews characterized as "archetypes of heresy," but also the work concludes with an exhortation for the reader not to practice the customs of Judaism, "for there is not a single perfect man to be found among the Jews and God has no elect in their midst."

Coming back to the memorandum, the signatories were correct that there existed at the time an ideological trend seeking to unify the territories of Palestine with Syria, considering the former to be 'southern Syria.' While the Syrians continued to maintain an interest in incorporating Palestine throughout the period into the Palestinian revolt of 1936-9 and well into the 1940s, the enthusiasm had been somewhat dampened among the Palestinians following the French capture of Damascus in July 1920, but still commanded a degree of popular support in the 1930s. As for the massacre of Assyrians to which the signatories allude, the reference is to the mass killings in August 1933 of 600-3000 Assyrians in Nineveh by the Iraqi army and local Arabs and Kurds, known at the time as the Simele massacre.

Ultimately, the Alawite community leaders failed in their attempt to convince the French to maintain an independent Alawite State. Not only had the French come to perceive the pressure of Syrian nationalists as too great, but there was also the reality that the leaders of the four Alawite clans—the Haddadin, al-Khayyatin, al-Kalbiyya and al-Matawira (comprising the Latakia council)—had begun to lose influence among the new, younger generation of Alawites who had access to better education and were more sympathetic to the Syrian nationalists than their parents.

Realizing that the push to maintain Alawite independence under French protection had failed, the Alawite leaders then sought a union with Lebanon. Some attractions of this initiative for the Alawites were noted by Moosa: namely, the existence of already strong economic ties with Lebanon, and similar legal systems, as well as the prospect of a country of minorities with a population of 1.2 million, as opposed to Syria's population of 1.7 million.

In my view, however, Moosa overlooks the force of the traditional sense of solidarity and affinity Alawites have felt with Christians. In the Kitab al-Usus, Christian priests and monks are idealized, and traditionally, feast days with Christian roots have been observed (e.g. commemorating the birth of Jesus). Among the Alawite community in Cilicia, the notion of Christians as natural allies against the Sunni Islamists appears to be particularly strong. In Syria itself, strong relations between the Melkite, Greek Orthodox and Alawite communities have emerged, especially since the ascent of the Assad dynasty.

Nonetheless, the Alawite requests for a union with Lebanon were passed on to the Maronite patriarch and president of Lebanon, but no response was forthcoming, and so the last attempt to preserve some form of Alawite autonomy failed. 

Modern Alawite Faith and Religious Identity

Traditionally, Alawites were known as 'Nusayris', called after Mohammed ibn Nusayr, the reputed founder of the sect. This identity entailed a 'neither Sunni nor Shi'a' position, as reflected in the Alawite tradition attributed to Imam al-Baqir that one should learn religion from a man who would be accused by Sunnis of heresy and excommunicated by the Shi'a.

Beginning in the 1920s, the long-accepted designation of the Alawites as 'Nusayriyya' was abandoned by the sect's community leaders, such that for many Alawites today the word 'Nusayri' has similar negative connotations to the word 'Negro' for black people in the English language, or the word 'rafidi' for a Shi'i in Arabic. The obvious connotation of Alawite as pertaining to Ali was probably supposed to convey an image of Alawites as just another sect of Islam within the bounds of the mainstream.

The tendency towards self-presentation as non-heretical Muslims is also apparent in the Alawite community in Cilicia, where as regards metempsychosis, the sheikhs are known to highlight Qur'an 2:243 in an attempt to prove that the doctrine does not constitute heresy.

The status of the traditional Alawite religion in Syria has been increasingly moribund since the formation of the modern state in 1946, particularly following the rise of the Ba'ath Party in 1963 and the ascent of the Assad dynasty in 1970. For example, a report by the Los Angeles Times quoted a Syrian Alawite blogger living in Japan called Yazan Badran as follows: "Many Alawites nowadays consider themselves outright atheists but are still within the cultural sphere of Alawis and are accepted into the sect and treated like any other (myself, included)." Thus, for Alawites like Badran, the identity is no more than one of bloodline and culture, as is the case with many secularist Jews, even if they regard actual belief in the religion as something ridiculous. John Myhill, a professor of linguistics at Haifa University, reports the existence of the same phenomenon among the small community of Alawites in Israel and in exile in Europe and North America.

Going further back in time, there is one particularly salient case to note. On April 25, 1967, an article appeared in the Syrian Army's newspaper, written by a young Alawite officer called Ibrahim Khalas, who called for liberation from "God, religion, feudalism, capitalism, colonialism, and all the values that prevailed under the old society": values that were derided by Khalas as "mummies in the museums of history." The article provoked outrage from Muslim clergy and some Christian religious leaders in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Hama, but there is no evidence of anger emanating from the Alawite community.

In addition, as Joshua Landis points out, when Hafez al-Assad became president in 1970, he pursued a policy of de facto "Sunnification" for the Alawite community. Hence, while he declared Alawites to be Twelver Shi'a Muslims, he "forbade Alawite Shaykhs to venerate Ali excessively, and set the example for his people by adhering to Sunni practice. He built mosques in Alawite towns, prayed publicly and fasted and encouraged his people to do the same." His son and successor Bashar has set the same ostensible example of orthodox Muslim piety.

However, it should be noted that the identification of Alawites as Twelver Shi'ites is not the theological consensus in Najaf even today, which in fact does not deem them to be Muslims at all, despite earlier attempts by Najaf clergymen like Ayatollah Muhsin al-Hakim in 1947 and Muhammad Rida Shams al-Din in 1956 to establish contact with the Alawite community in Syria and promote the teachings of Jafari jurisprudence among them. Any reciprocal validation has mainly came from the ruling of Imam Musa al-Sadr (an Iranian-Lebanese cleric with extensive ties to Qom, a key center of Twelver Shi'ite religious learning) in 1973, something that gave the new Assad regime a face of Islamic legitimacy amid Sunni claims that the regime was being led by heretics and apostates from Islam.That said, it does not follow that there are no Iraqi Shi'a who regard the Alawites as fellow Shi'a. In fact, as Dr. Hassan Nadhem (a one-time lecturer at the Islamic College in London) pointed out to me, many of those Shi'a who have worked in Syria have come to identify Alawites as co-religionists, but the pejorative notion of Alawites as ghulat (i.e. guilty of extremism in reverence for Ali) is still very much apparent. A Perceived Sunni-Shi'a Conflict?

The promotion of an ostensible Shi'ite identity has proven to be a double-edged sword, for the effect of Imam Sadr's ruling, together with the ties to Iran established by Hafez al-Assad after the 1979 revolution, has been that the present conflict in Syria is increasingly perceived as a Sunni-Shi'a conflict, both by Middle Eastern and North African observers outside Syria and opponents of the Assad regime within Syria. Thus, the Assad dynasty's upholding of the image of Alawites as Shi'ites has only succeeded in inflaming Sunni Arab resentment against the regime. For instance, on Youtube, one can find many videos where those perceived to be regime supporters have been tortured by rebel fighters into confessing that they are supposedly Shi'a. In addition, there are sermons by Sunni clerics outside Syria attacking the Assad regime in the same terms. Among ordinary Iraqi Arabs, one generally finds that stances of support for or skepticism about the opposition to Assad can be determined on the basis of a Sunni or Shi'i sectarian affiliation respectively.

Note the emphasis here on Sunni Arab, because in the Islamic world outside of the Middle East and North Africa, a perception of a Sunni-Shi'a conflict with support or opposition divided on a sectarian basis does not necessarily hold. For example, according to an observer in Peshawar, Pakistan with whom I spoke, the general popular sentiment in Pakistan appears to sympathize with the Assad regime as a victim of a Western conspiracy. The observer added that there were similar views in Pakistan regarding the uprising against Gaddafi in Libya, during which there was a NATO intervention on behalf of the rebels.

There are two points that may explain the existence of these sentiments in Pakistan. First, the Pakistani public is not subject to the broadcasts of al-Jazeera's Arabic channel, which is devoting much effort to covering the conflict from an anti-Assad perspective, or al-Arabiya, the pro-Saudi news channel. Second, populist politicians and pundits in Pakistan have done much to stir up anti-Western sentiment (anti-American in particular), exploiting civilian casualties caused by drone strikes against Taliban and al-Qa'ida militants in the northwest. Any internal conflict in a Muslim country in which the West is thought to be involved will therefore entail sympathy for whoever is perceived to be opposing the West.

In turn, it is worth noting that while Bangladesh and Afghanistan voted in favor of a recent UN General Assembly resolution sponsored by Saudi Arabia to condemn the Syrian regime for using heavy weapons against civilian areas and committing human rights violations (while deploring the UN Security Council's failure to take action,) Pakistan took the decision to abstain from voting. In his opinion piece, Najmuddin A Shaikh argues that reasons for the decision to abstain include concerns over calls for direct foreign intervention in Syria and the Assad regime's ties with the Pakistan People's Party. I would add that popular Pakistani belief in a conspiracy against Syria, as well as a desire not to antagonize China and Iran, played a part.

Indeed, further evidence demonstrates that the concerns of a foreign conspiracy against Assad extend to the ranks of the Pakistani government.

Speaking to the Pakistani newspaper The Nation, spokesman for the Foreign Office Muazzam A Khan indicated: "Pakistan wants territorial integrity of Syria and is seeking peaceful resolution of the conflict." Government sources speaking to the newspaper on the issue of Pakistan's abstention from the UN General Assembly vote maintained that "efforts were underway to install a new government in Syria which they believed would lead to further instability in the entire region and eventually other Muslim countries might face the same fate."


While the abstention contrasts with a vote by Pakistan in favor of a UN General Assembly Resolution condemning Syria back in February, Pakistani officials have constantly emphasized a stance that strongly denounces foreign involvement in the Syria crisis, stressing that any solution should be led and carried out by Syrians alone and that both sides should lay down their arms, with respect "for the principles of independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Syria."

Alawites, The Uprising and The Future

As has been noted above, that the conflict has increasingly assumed an image of a Sunni-Shi'a conflict to Syria's neighboring observers and to many rebels is undeniable. Among many Alawites in Syria, numerous reports have attested to a zero-sum mentality of 'kill or be killed.' For example, an article in The Independent in February quoted a middle-class Alawite living in Homs identified as one Wafaa Ahmad, who said, "If you are a killer, you have to be killed. It's you or me – what do I think? It's a case of existence: your life or my life. I'm not a killer, but I'm ready to be armed and kill if this will end what is happening." In a similar vein, Abu Ahmed, an Alawite interviewed by Reuters, estimated that a third of Alawites from Homs had fled to the port city of Tartous in the northwest amid fears of ethnic cleansing.

Even for Alawites who have chosen to side with the opposition, there are clear concerns about a sectarian dynamic behind the conflict. Nir Rosen is one of the few reporters to have spent extensive time interacting with Alawites in Syria. For one of his reports for al-Jazeera English, Rosen interviewed Alawites who had joined the protests and were open critics of the Assad regime. One of these was an Alawite professor of political science from Homs, identified only as Ahmed. While making no secret of his criticisms of the Syrian government, he nonetheless indicated that he believes the opposition is dominated by Sunni Islamists: "Who leads the street? Mosque sheikhs without degrees. If the leaders were doctors and engineers, I would be very calm, but they are not."

Meanwhile, Alawites who have joined the opposition have been subject to harassment from other Alawites. For instance, Dima, an Alawite student from Damascus, told Rosen that Alawite students and staff at Damascus University attacked protestors in the medical faculty last November, singling out for assault an Alawite student protestor originally from Tartous.

Conversely, Alawites who have tried to join the opposition risk facing distrust if they make their identity openly known. Thus, Ali, a young Alawite banker in Damascus, told Rosen that he rarely told others about his Alawite identity for fear of being mistrusted, despite his eager efforts to demonstrate participation by Syria's minorities in protests. He then took Rosen to meet Abu Hameed, a Sunni opposition leader in Barzeh, a northern suburb of Damascus. When asked whether Alawites were taking part in demonstrations in Barzeh, he declared: "There is no honorable Alawite in Syria. The Alawite sect hates every other sect...The protestors would suspect he [a potential Alawite demonstrator] was a spy."

The evidence gathered by Rosen should not be neglected as isolated examples, but it is also important not to overplay the sectarian paradigm of analysis. If the regime did not command a significant degree of Sunni support from the outset and even now, it would not have been able to survive for so long. It has been widely noted that Assad has his supporters among the Sunni urban classes of Aleppo and Damascus, and in the former city, it is clear that even now, many of the residents do not welcome the rebels, a large number of whom have come from rural areas.

In contrast, many Alawite residents in Homs, where, "after months of fighting, only the shabbiha-guarded Alawite enclaves like Zahra are relatively unscathed," have ambiguous feelings about the imposition of a protection tax on them by pro-regime militiamen, deeming their services necessary on the one hand while considering their demand for payment extortionist on the other.

Furthermore, one should not overstate the role that Alawites play in the security forces. Yes, the very best of the élite divisions—namely the Republican Guard and the Fourth Armored Division—are dominated by Alawites (also true of the highest echelons of government,) but the fact is that opposition propaganda has created a distorted picture of mass defections by Sunni rank-and-file soldiers and higher-rank officers, and given the misleading impression that somehow the main security forces left defending the regime are Alawite or Christian.

Of course, the Sunni support base in both the armed forces and among residents across Syria has been eroding over time, but the pace of that erosion has too often been exaggerated. It is much slower than often supposed. In fact, it should also be noted that most of the country's air-force pilots are Sunni, and it is likely that the recruitment base has been drawn from the middle-class Sunnis of Aleppo. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the air-force academy is located just outside Aleppo.

On a similar note, the characterization of shabiha militiamen as Alawites pumped on steroids is too much of a caricature. For example, the GlobalPost featured an interview back in June 2012 with an Alawite shabiha member identified only as Abu Jaafar, who was described as someone with "massive, tattooed muscles, shaved head, bushy black beard and trademark white trainers." Oddly, this picture exactly resembles photos released by the Daily Mail, whose credibility was seriously thrown into doubt when al-Bawaba (hardly a pro-Assad propaganda outlet) revealed that the guns in the photos were fake. On the other hand, the Aleppo Governorate has seen many Sunnis join the shabiha militias.

To round off, it is worth pondering the future of the Alawite community in Syria. There has been much speculation on whether Assad has in mind to try to create a new Alawite State around Latakia as a 'Plan B' in the event that his regime collapses. Given Assad's dependence on a Sunni support base, there is insufficient evidence, pace the claims of Tony Badran, that the regime has been putting this plan into effect for months now.[Badran's main problem is that he does not distinguish between the actions of forces under direct regime control and those of pro-regime Alawite irregulars, who may well have plans for an Alawite State and were the most likely perpetrators of the Houla.] The main problem with such an initiative is that it would lack international recognition and legitimacy. Turkey above all would almost certainly try to hinder any plans to create an independent Alawite enclave.

Moreover, any notion of an Alawite State would require substantial ethnic cleansing of the Sunni populations in Latakia and Tartous, and would cut off the rest of Syria from access to the sea. If some sort of central government succeeds Assad's regime, there is no reason to suppose it would tolerate either of these potential developments. What also would become of the Alawites—including Bashar al-Assad—who have chosen to intermarry with Sunnis?

One should not underestimate the pull of ideology. The repeated regime statements about 'crushing' the rebels are no rhetorical farce. Rather, the Syrian government really does appear to believe that it can reassert itself over the entire country.

One factor that could facilitate the formation of a de facto autonomous or independent Alawite entity is the existence of deep internal divisions and tensions within rebel factions. However, such a rump state would not become an ally of Israel as Mordechai Nisan and others have hoped. If anything, Alawites who back the regime have thoroughly bought into Arabist ideology that pins blame for the unrest on a Zionist and American conspiracy. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that any Alawite State in the near future will depend on support from Iran. Indeed, Israeli hopes of a new minority alliance in the Levant remain ever elusive.

[Update 15 June 2016: interesting questions have been raised about the authenticity of the 1936 memorandum in this article by Stefan Winter, who highlights that the French archives have a strongly pro-Syrian union petition signed by Suleiman al-Assad's son Ali (the grandfather of Bashar, contrary to common misconception that Suleiman al-Assad was his grandfather). If the 1936 anti-union petition is authentic, it could reflect the generational divide in Alawite opinion at the time as noted in the body of the main article].

What Does That Mean And Why Does It Matter In Syrian Politics?
If you've been reading about the uprising in Syria, you may have heard that Syrian President Bashar Assad is an Alawite. What does that mean -- and why does it matter in Syrian politics?
What do the Alawites believe?
The major divide in Islam is between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, who initially split over who was supposed to succeed the prophet Muhammad. Alawites identify as Shiite Muslims, but the sect carried over older beliefs that predate Islam. For instance, Alawites celebrate some Christian and Zoroastrian holidays.
There are a few other things that distinguish Alawites. Although most Muslims have five pillars of faith, the Alawites have seven. They believe in the divinity of Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad; other Shiites revere Ali but do not believe he was divine.
Middle East scholar Malise Ruthven writes that Alawites include Socrates and Plato in their line of prophets, and they also believe in “transmigration,” in which the souls of the wicked pass into dogs and pigs but righteous souls go on to more perfect human bodies. Many of their beliefs are not known to the outside world. Alawites tend to be secretive about their faith because they have been oppressed.
Like Jews, Alawites also are seen sometimes as more of a cultural group than a strictly religious one. "Many Alawites nowadays consider themselves outright atheists but are still within the cultural sphere of Alawis and are accepted into the sect and treated like any other (myself, included)," wrote Yazan Badran, a Syrian blogger in Japan who comes from an Alawite family.
Muslims have sometimes questioned whether Alawites can really be considered Muslims. A fatwa in 1973 declared that they were Shiite Muslims, but orthodox Muslims still call them heretics sometimes.
How do the Alawites fit into Syria?
In Syria, most of the population is Sunni. Alawites are a minority, believed to make up 12% to 15% of the population. The Assad family, which has ruled Syria for more than 40 years, is Alawite. The religious group also dominates the Syrian security forces.
If the Alawites are such a small sect, how did they come to dominate the Syrian military?
It might seem logical that the Assads put them there, but it was actually the other way around. After World War I, French colonial officials tried to make Syria more inclusive by encouraging minorities to fill government positions. The Alawites ended up finding their place in the military.
“The only meeting ground or assembly point for Alawis, where we didn’t have to pretend that we were something we weren’t, was deep in the inner sanctums of the security state,” an Alawite using the pseudonym Khudr wrote on the blog Syria Comment.
As Alawites were recruited to the military, wealthier Sunni urbanites often shunned the military as a career path for their children. "Nobody else would go," said Camille Otrakji, a Syrian analyst now living in Canada. "The rich in Damascus weren't interested."
That led to the military becoming heavily Alawite. Ultimately, the Syrian military was the springboard from which Alawite air force officer Hafez Assad staged his 1970 coup, beginning the Assad regime.
Why does it matter that the Assads are Alawites?
Alawites have been persecuted throughout their history, perhaps because their religious identity is confusing to the authorities. The Assad regime has played on Alawite fears to help it stay in power.
When Syrians began to protest against Assad, Alawites were fearful that “the fall of the regime would bring disaster for their community,” wrote Leon Goldsmith, a Middle East researcher in New Zealand. Some Alawites fear that other Syrians might want to take revenge against them for the 1982 massacre in Hama, where human rights activists say thousands of Sunnis were slain --and a big statue of Hafez Assad was erected as an unsubtle message.
"The recurrent suggestion [from the Assad regime] is that the choice is between this regime or chaos and civil war; something which to an Alawi only means a violent Sunni revenge for the past 40 years of (perceived) Alawi control of the state," Badran said in an email.
But Assad is not guaranteed Alawite support. Some do not see Assad as truly Alawite, considering he married a Sunni woman and grew up in Damascus, not the rural areas other Alawites come from. The Assad family has also repressed dissent from Alawites just as it has other Syrians.

Other Pan-Jewish Organizations

There are a number of other organizations in the emerging global Pan-Jewish movement. The rich diversity of many different Jewish peoples and Jewish denominations of the wider Jewish nation globally needs to be embraced towards the goal of political unification.

                                                Detail from Alevi/Bektashi religious art.

Para-Jewish communities whose ancestors were forced or lured by religious imperialism to leave their own forms of Judaism/Crypto-Judaism need to be warmly welcomed back primarily to their own regional forms of Judaism/Crypto-Judaism and otherwise to other forms of Judaism/Crypto-Judaism. The Jewish organizations below that assist Para-Jewish communities worldwide solely help Para-Jewish communities whose members on their own initiative express interest in reconnecting with the rabbinically core Jewish people.

Kulanu

Kulanu means “All of Us” in Hebrew and is a US-based Jewish organization focused on collecting and publishing information about, keeping in touch with and with the small available resources at its disposal practically assisting Para-Jewish communities worldwide.


While indeed engaging with Para-Jewish communities globally, Islamdom remains however quite notably mostly a white spot on the worldwide map of Kulanu. www.kulanu.org

Be’Chol Lashon

Be’Chol Lashon means “In Every Tongue” in Hebrew and is a US-based Jewish organization that seeks to broaden the definition of the Jewish people to include communities that traditionally were not or are still not part of Rabbinic Judaism.

As the Jewish people in the United States are becoming increasingly racially diverse, Be’Chol Lashon seeks to embrace cultural and ethnic diversity in the wider Jewish nation by unifying the various different Jewish peoples worldwide. www.bechollashon.org

Shavei Israel

Shavei Israel means “Returners of Israel” in Hebrew and is an Israel-based Jewish organization affiliated with Orthodox Judaism generally and Religious Zionism specifically.

Shavei Israel enables Crypto-Jews to unite with the Jewish people though conversion/reversion to Orthodox Judaism and immigration to Israel. www.shavei.org

The Engagement Movement

The Engagement Movement is a political and intellectual project of retired Israeli high tech entrepreneur Tsvi Misinai and provides documentation of Crypto-Jewish customs among many Palestinian local communities and seeks to aid them to rejoin Judaism, the Jewish people and Israel by making information available about their own Jewish/Samaritan heritage and ancestry.

Tsvi Misinai is a familiar figure in many local Palestinian communities of Judea and Samaria whose members in the Internet age of accessible and affordable DNA-testing are now quietly returning to Jewish identity. www.the-engagement.org

Amishav
Amishav means “My People Returned” in Hebrew and is an Israel-based Jewish organization which under the leadership of rabbi Eliyahu Avichail has conducted extensive research on and established personal ties with Para-Jewish communities of Asia with the aim of achieving the eventual unification of the peoples of Judah and Israel. http://amishav-onetree.org
International Society for the Study of African Jewry
The International Society for the Study of African Jewry (ISSAJ) is an international academic association devoted to facilitating ties and exchange worldwide between scholars engaged in the study of African Judaism and Jewish peoples and communities of Africa.www.issaj.com

Scattered among the Nations
Scattered among the Nations is a US-based Jewish project intended to both document and empower geographically marginal Jewish/Para-Jewish communities worldwide. www.scatteredamongthenations.org

Moshiach.com

Moshiach.com is an educational website affiliated with the Chabad movement of Orthodox Judaism and seeks to prepare people for the Messianic era including with respect to the unification between Judah and Israel.

Moshiach is the Yiddish and Ashkenazi pronounciation of the Hebrew word Mashiach, meaning “messiah” in English.www.moshiach.com/tribes/ns/overview.html

Erdoğan’s Next Victims

After losing the June 7, 2015 parliamentary elections in Turkey, the three opposition parties that now make up the parliamentary majority turned out entirely unwilling to collaborate with and legitimize the rule of the country’s self-appointed dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who embarked on a campaign of persecution, terrorism, violence and war against the Kurdish people intended to ethnically divide the pro-democracy opposition in parliament through a stratagem of divide and rule. This has failed completely and instead has Erdoğan’s destabilization efforts given rise to a revolutionary climate in the country.

For years has Erdoğan successfully played the game of staying in power by inciting religious polarization between Muslims and non-Muslims both inside and outside of Turkey and as he scheduled the November 1, 2015 snap elections without giving the opposition majority in the new parliament the opportunity to form a new government, Erdoğan is likely to soon revert to religious polarization in a manner reminiscent of Turkey’s genocidal past. Erdoğan’s next victims will however likely be the country’s Jewish and Crypto-Jewish religious denominations, namely Rabbinic Jews, Dönmeh, Alevis and Bektashis. Members of these Jewish/Crypto-Jewish religious minorities have already been purged by Erdoğan from amongst the ranks of officers in the Turkish military. However, Erdoğan is now extremely likely to this time try genocide against Jewish/Crypto-Jewish ethno-religious minorities as his next tactics for staying in power.

The Erdoğan regime has all but admitted its involvement in domestic terrorism by completely and entirely implausibly so accusing the PKK of being behind terrorist attacks against pro-Kurdish demonstrators. Erdoğan understands well that a pro-democracy revolution looms at the end of the process if, as expected, the pro-democratic opposition wins the November 1, 2015 snap elections and subsequently Erdoğan continues to refuse to allow the pro-democracy opposition parliamentary majority to form a new CHP-led pro-democratic coalition government. Therefore Erdoğan’s strategy is to first frighten Kurds and only then Alevis from participating in a pro-democracy revolution against Erdoğan’s terrorist dictatorship. The regime’s Anti-Kurdish campaign as seen in recent months is therefore quite likely to be followed by a similarly violent mass campaign against rabbinic Jews, Dönmeh, Alevis and Bektashis with massacres, genocidal incitement and regime-ordered mass terrorist attacks. As the AKP is the Turkish equivalent of the Palestinian Hamas within the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, Erdoğan is increasingly likely to use Hamas tactics such as regular suicide bombings, stabbings in the streets and genocidal massacres such as those committed against Alawite villagers in Syria whose ethno-religious denomination notably is also Crypto-Jewish.

However, Erdoğan the dictator won’t succeed as his crimes will instead embolden his victims to go out in the streets to end the terrorist dictatorship and subsequently put the country on a clear path to liberal democracy. However, the international community would be particularly well advised to really, very closely monitor the situation as it develops because there is real danger of genocide once more taking place in Turkey. Hence, genocide must be preempted before actually happening and therefore it is vital that the international community vocally supports the pro-democratic parliamentary majority opposition and its right to form the next government once its parliamentary majority has been reconfirmed in the elections and should therefore, as of need, provide international political legitimacy for domestic military intervention if necessary so as to ensure that there is no genocide and that the pro-democracy opposition parliamentary majority is indeed permitted to form the next government.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (b. 1948), the leader of the main opposition party CHP in Turkey is also part of the Crypto-Jewish Alevi major ethno-religious minority in Turkey and Kurdistan. Here is he seen being blessed by an Alevi Dede, an Alevi Kohen hereditary priest.

There can be no doubt that citizens of all ethnicities from secular to religious will go out in the streets to mount a pro-democracy revolution and not only predominantly Alevis – as in the 2013 Gezi protests – and Kurds once the CHP and HDP opposition parties officially call on the various peoples of Turkey and Bakur (Northern Kurdistan within the borders of Turkey) to join in mass protests around the country and, if necessary so  indeed mount a pro-democracy revolution.

While Erdoğan’s intention is obviously to frighten minorities from protesting, his mass crimes have really had the opposite effect in giving rise to a revolutionary climate in the country even spreading beyond its international borders. Erdoğan’s Anti-Kurdish mass violence has neither succeeded in dividing the minorities that the HDP pro-democracy party is particularly proud to represent, nor has it broken down the pro-democratic apparent pact between the three opposition parties (CHP, HDP and MHP) in parliament to form a CHP-led pro-democracy government without any participation whatsoever of the toxic Islamist AK party of the current terrorist dictatorship.

Therefore it is absolutely vital that the international community focuses on the situation and, especially so, after the upcoming snap elections on November 1, 2015. The international community partially failed in its responsibility to protect the Crypto-Jewish Yezidis from Islamist genocide in August 2014 and now the challenge is to make sure that Islamist genocide is preempted and not merely interrupted as in the recent tragic case with the genocide against the Yezidi Crypto-Jewish community. Erdoğan might encourage Islamist mass stabbing campaigns against Alevis as is indeed already being carried out against Jews in Israel, also large-scale massacres might be carried out in Turkey’s many Alevi villages such as by the Daesh forces that the AKP regime is increasingly bringing into the country. There is now clear and present danger and the international community needs to make every effort to make sure that attention is appropriately focused and that, if necessary, timely military intervention in support of the pro-democratic parliamentary majority is afforded the appropriate international political legitimacy indeed.

Let there be no doubt that the Islamist Erdoğan is a genocidal Anti-Semite and Hitler-imitator with both motive and will to carry out Jihadist genocide against members of the country’s Jewish and Crypto-Jewish ethno-religious communities. Therefore genocide prevention is absolutely vital not merely once genocide commences but indeed before genocide commences so as to make sure that it does not happen at all.

There is no question that a pro-democracy revolution will become necessary should a reconfirmed opposition parliamentary majority not be permitted to form a government after the November 1, 2015 snap elections. Also, Erdoğan’s attempts at fomenting regional destabilization is not preventing a pro-democracy revolution but is actually leading to such a revolution in Turkey which once increasingly successful is highly likely to spontaneously spread to Iran as well. It is absolutely vital that Turkey’s Deep State military intelligence agency guardian of the secularist order takes every necessary precaution and effort – and indeed timely so in order to prevent a recurrence of the country’s most tragic genocidal past, including as of necessity order a military coup d’état.

However, there is certainly a strategic logic in Erdoğan’s destabilization efforts as Erdoğan will want to import Syria’s Jihadist civil war to Turkey and Bakur if the pro-Jihadist AKP can no longer stay in power. Yes, Islamist movements have religious and cultural differences between themselves but there is very little ideological dissimilarity. All contemporary Sunni Islamist movements are strongly influenced by Sayyid Qutb’s Jihadist ideology of cleansing terror which in turn is the result of influence on Sayyid Qutb from the fellow modernist totalitarian ideologies of Nazism and Communism. Sayyid Qutb was the leader of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the AKP is part of its Turkish branch together with the Millî Görüş Islamist movement. Al Qaida was born out of the Muslim Brotherhood and from there comes this ideology of eradicating everything non-Muslim (Arabic Jahiliyyah) through cleansing religious terror. This is why Erdoğan now behaves in the manner of Hamas (the Palestinian fellow branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) in dispatching suicide terrorists as he also unsurprisingly sponsors and indeed has long sponsored Daesh and the Nusra Front, i.e. Syrian al Qaida.

Although it is true that Mr. Erdoğan dresses in suit and tie and also lives in a modern society just like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, the cultural and religious difference between Islamist movements should not obfuscate the fact that Qutbism (Sunni Islamism) is remarkably ideologically coherent and internally politically differs mostly in terms of the means towards a shared goal. There is no such thing as “moderate Islamists”, only relative degrees of hypocrisy in Daesh being the least prone to hypocrisy and the Muslim Brotherhood being the most prone to hypocrisy within contemporary Sunni Islamism. As Sunni Orthodox sharia prohibits religious hypocrisy in most cases, the degree to which political taqiyyah (dissimulation) – meaning in the Islamist context politically lying for religious purposes – is considered legitimate is however a highly contentious issue within contemporary Qutbism. Therefore the political difference between the AKP (maximum hypocrisy) on one side of the Qutbist hypocrisy spectrum and Daesh (minimum hypocrisy) on the other side of the Qutbist hypocrisy spectrum should not be exaggerated as this is a tactical matter of mere outward appearance and it is surely naïve and yes extremely prejudicial indeed against Muslims generally to judge Islamists by which clothes they tend to wear.

As the fall of the Islamist terrorist regime in Ankara increasingly approaches, it is absolutely vital that international attention is focused on the crimes of the Erdoğan regime, that the pro-democracy opposition is given due official international political support and that timely action as of necessity by the Deep State and the Turkish military is likewise given appropriate official international political support. Genocide is never inevitable and this is one of those historical periods when speaking up and taking timely action is absolutely vital and necessary indeed.

Being Muslim at the Margins:Alevis and the AKP

On January 6, 2008, newspapers in the province of Tunceli in eastern Turkey appeared festooned with the holiday wishes, “May your Gaghand be merry.” Celebrated on the same day as Armenian Christmas and bearing the same name, Gaghand is an important, if almost forgotten event in the religious calendar of Tunceli, or Dersim, to use the area’s historical appellation. In the villages of Dersim, bearded men calling themselves Gaghand Baba (Father Christmas) pay visits to children and the elderly, offering them presents of sweets and pistachios. Historical accounts from the early twentieth century also mention a ritual administered by religious leaders the very same day and highly reminiscent of Holy Communion.

The people of Dersim are not Christians, but Alevis, a catch-all term for a variety of ethno-religious minorities in Turkey whose core religious heritage is Islamic but whose beliefs and practices are highly varied and syncretistic. In Dersim, Christian and other influences infuse a heterodox Islam of distant Shi‘i origin whose adherents do not normally pray in mosques, fast in Ramadan, accept the Qur’an as a source of jurisprudence or make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Like many Alevis, they do commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein on the plains of Karbala’ in the month of Muharram, a reminder of the Shi‘i component of their tradition. As the state does not disclose census and other data regarding religious orientation and ethnic origin, estimates of the overall size of the Alevi population vary widely, ranging between 10 and 25 percent of the population of Turkey. The large majority of Alevis speak Turkish and live in the big cities. By contrast, the Dersimli Alevis speak an Indo-European language called Kurmancki or Zazaki that is related to Kurdish and Persian. Protected by the Munzur mountain range, the Dersim tribes resisted attempts at state centralization until the late 1930s, when the republican government mounted a devastating air campaign, destroying a third of the villages in the province. The survivors were forcibly evacuated to western Turkey. A special law for the region aimed at eradicating Dersimli Alevi identity by repopulating the area with Turkish settlers. Despite these extreme policies, however, many Dersimlis returned in the 1940s, only to be driven out again in the following decades as labor migrants or political refugees. Tunceli today is a thinly populated province with slightly less than 100,000 inhabitants and high levels of out-migration, while more than a million Dersimlis have created a noteworthy diaspora in western Turkey and Europe. Tunceli remains Turkey’s only province with an almost exclusively Alevi population. 

Recently built mosques cater only to government officials, alcohol is on sale in every corner shop and the use of public space is not sex-segregated as in the nearby provinces of Elazig or Erzincan. The Munzur valley, only a few minutes walk from the town center, teems with cafés and bars frequented by couples and groups of young men and women. The mayor, Songül Erol Abdil, was elected on the strength of a coalition of socialist parties and the Kurdish Democratic Society Party. She is one of the few female mayors of a provincial capital, even if the center of Tunceli is home to only 25,000 inhabitants, guarded by several thousand members of the army and the security services. In places like Tunceli, the war that crippled the Kurdish provinces after the military coup of 1980 continues at lower intensity. More than half of 2007’s casualties in the conflict between Kurdish guerrilla organizations and the army occurred in Tunceli. And here the war’s intrusive security controls upon the civilian population, long abolished elsewhere, are still enforced, albeit with a lighter hand. In order to enter or leave the province, one has to pass through checkpoints. Soldiers collect identity cards and check them against a new electronic database indicating terrorist suspects. Officers are proper in their demeanor, yet leave no doubt that one is entering a danger zone. Yet not even the checkpoint can prepare the visitor for the dramatic spectacle of the Munzur valley, with its raging rivers and alpine landscapes. The valley is home to a myriad of sacred places, shrines, revered stones and cemeteries that are markers of Dersimli Alevi identity. Generations of state-employed engineers and technocrats have planned dams and hydroelectric power plants that would destroy the Elysian beauty of the place and turn the ferocious river into a lake. Virtually everybody in Tunceli is against the present dam project, at Konaktepe; posters indicating opposition are displayed in every other shop window in town. Suffocated by the omnipresent security apparatus, closed-circuit TV cameras in the city center and the observation posts in the surrounding mountains, the few citizens of historical Dersim might well hope for a more comfortable relationship with the state.

A Timid Coming to Terms

A recent initiative by Reha Çamuroğlu, a member of Parliament from the governing Justice and Development Party (or AKP, the acronym of the party’s name in Turkish), could have been a first step. One of the party’s few Alevi members, Çamuroğlu authored a plan for a government-hosted iftar to break the Muharram fast on January 11. Yet the initiative met with little support from the rank and file of Alevi civil society. Alevi organizations, with very few exceptions, are staunchly secular, left-leaning and anti-Islamist, and they declared the ruling party’s iftar a misguided attempt at appeasing the European Union in its demands for more inclusive policies toward the country’s sizable minorities. Others insisted that this was yet another plot to destroy Alevi identity through assimilation into the Sunni mainstream. A few religious leaders went so far as to threaten Alevis attending the iftar with excommunication. With its ideological roots in Turkey’s version of Sunni political Islam, its proximity to Sufi orders and its professed orientation as conservative-democratic, the AKP indeed seems an unlikely candidate for the job of embracing Turkey’s syncretistic Alevi communities. The party’s ideology and policy are largely irreconcilable with Alevi notions of ethics and justice: From its tacit promotion of “Islamic dress” to its inherent social conservatism, from its gendered policies to its anti-alcohol stance, AKP policies appear to most Alevis as socially regressive and threatening to their identity and lifestyle.

Semah with sword of Ali


Prominent party members are on record belittling the Alevi rite as a “subculture within Islam” or scorning their shrines of worship (cem evleri) as places for carousing, hinting at the chanting in the ceremony of ayin-i cem, the semah dance that includes both men and women, and the use of wine during services. Finally, some AKP members have downplayed and even defended the massacre of Sivas in 1993, when 37 Alevi intellectuals died in a fire set by Islamists under the noses of security services and allowed to burn by firefighters. In spite of the dismissive position taken by Alevi organizations, voices from Brussels positively acknowledged the government’s attempts. Some commentators in Turkey wondered whether the government’s timid steps would lead to a long-awaited “Alevi opening.”

Was this a break with the history of discrimination and oppression? Even a coming to terms with the country’s religious diversity, which has survived waves of ethnic and religious cleansing during the last decades of the Ottoman Empire and throughout much of the Turkish Republic? Could it be that a party with Islamist roots can overcome its own demons and find a modus vivendi with what are generally agreed to be the most heterodox interpretations of Islam, without subjecting them to assimilation?

From Suspects to Guardians of Secularism

Turkey’s Alevis were treated as a fifth column of the Safavid state in Iran in the early Ottoman Empire, as unruly villagers by the secular republic and as unclean unbelievers by the Sunni establishment. Due to this experience of exclusion, and deepened by a strong proto-socialist thread in Alevi tradition, many developed an affinity for anti-capitalist and communitarian left-wing movements. Throughout the 1970s, Alevis were attacked by changing coalitions of nationalist, fascist and Islamist groups, as well parts of the security apparatus, culminating in a number of anti-Alevi pogroms in central and eastern Anatolia. State agencies, with their deep-seated suspicion of all ethnic and religious minority groups, treated the Alevis as potential enemies.

In the 1980s, when the leaders of the military coup introduced the “Turkish-Islamic synthesis” as semi-official state doctrine to contain the revolutionary left, Alevis were further alienated from the state and its institutions. Yet even during this period, discriminatory policies were differentiated: Turkish-speaking Alevis had to fight fewer prejudices than the Kurmancki-speaking Alevis of the Dersim area, who were often treated as outright terrorists, because of their association with Kurdishness. The aversion to the Dersimli was augmented during the 1980s, when young men and women from the Tunceli area joined the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in its rebellion against the Turkish state. The state and secular establishment’s approach toward the Alevi community arguably changed in the mid-1990s, amidst the Sivas massacre, the killing of 17 Alevi demonstrators by policemen in the Istanbul neighbourhood of Gazi in 1995 and the “post-modern” coup of February 28, 1997, when the army used well-placed phone calls rather than tanks to force the resignation of Necmettin Erbakan, leader of the Islamist precursor to the AKP. If the former two events signified the high point of Alevi alienation from the state, the military’s anti-Islamist intervention radically changed the conditions for the articulation of Alevi identity in the public sphere.

Establishing (Sunni) religious reaction as the prime security threat, the masterminds of the coup created an atmosphere where the Alevis could be reclassified from suspicious citizens to guardians of the secular order. Even though the exclusively Sunni Directorate of Religious Affairs continued to build undesired mosques in Alevi villages, other state agencies offered funds for the construction of cem evleri, while civil society organizations were allowed to operate more freely. The post-intervention years then created the conditions for a limited cooptation into the political mainstream. Even though severely oppressed under the republican regime, many Alevis nevertheless agreed to an implicit deal: Their renewed allegiance to the state would grant them basic rights and protect them against Sunni discrimination and Islamist encroachment.

Ready for the Sunni Embrace? The AKP’s Alevi initiative comes at a time of widespread confusion within the community. Despite a series of setbacks that cost the lives of many hunger-striking prisoners of the far left, the Alevis have emerged from the oblivion of state denial and self-imposed invisibility. The softening of state policies, together with EU-induced reforms and an increasingly well-organized, albeit fragmented transnational Alevi civil society network, have created a lively public sphere with numerous radio and TV stations, journals, online portals and ever more visible cem evleri. Alevi community organizations represent a wide variety of political orientations, ranging from social democrats to deep ecologists and different groupings of the revolutionary left. Many now wonder whether their role as guardians of the secular system was a sensible one. While many of the demonstrators at the anti-AKP rallies in the summer of 2007 were of Alevi origin, there is a growing sense that their secular stance was exploited by nationalist forces, which are otherwise fiercely opposed to Alevi identity. In this period of disillusionment and soul searching, the AKP’s initiative came with a good promise of success.

Hundreds of Alevi citizens attended the fast breaking, and so did most members of the cabinet and the prime minister. Some AKP ministers were overcome with tears for the martyrs of Karbala’, or so they claimed afterwards. Wine had been removed from the menu, though, in order not to offend the sensibilities of the official Sunni guests. Despite the overflowing emotions, however, the Alevi Bektashi Federation and all other Alevi organizations of some standing boycotted the event, leaving the ground to obscure groups with small constituencies. The AKP’s Alevi opening, hence, took place without the community’s legitimate representatives and civil society. Scolding Alevi leaders for the boycott, Çamuroğlu vowed nevertheless to achieve the goals of his initiative—a state ministry for Alevi affairs, state-funded cem evleri and government-paid religious officials—and to celebrate his achievements with a prayer of thanksgiving in the Suleymaniye mosque in Istanbul. With this gesture, however, he “outed” himself as largely assimilated: Most Alevis would not enter a mosque to pray, unless to allay the suspicions of Sunni peers.

These seem to be the limits of the AKP’s Alevi opening: Given that disagreements over doctrine and practice are practically insurmountable, such heterodox understandings of Islam being impermissible to a pious Sunni Muslim mindset, the AKP can reach out only to those Alevis who are already assimilated and to those who are willing to integrate themselves into the fold of Sunni Islam for one reason or another. Çamuroğlu’s plan provides for a state-funded Alevi religious council operating and financed like the Sunni Directorate of Religious Affairs, while it takes no position on compulsory religious education in state schools. These courses are not only geared toward students of Sunni Muslim faith, but also include derogatory depictions of Alevi identity and practice. Neither does the plan refer to the recent past of massacres and pogroms, whose pain is deeply engraved into Alevi identity.

Finally, it fails to call for an end to the practice of state-funded mosque-building programs in Alevi villages, enforced since the 1980s. Yet even Çamuroğlu’s modest overture does not seem to be an urgent priority for the government. After promises of more engagement following the iftar and much talk in the media, the debate simply ebbed away. By the time attention turned to February’s easing of the headscarf ban at universities, the AKP’s Alevi opening had slipped from the agenda.
No Golden Age

The Alevis of Anatolia have a long memory of discrimination and suffering, reflected in their music, ritual and narrative. There is no golden age in which Alevi culture and faith flourished under the auspices of an enlightened Ottoman leader, only the resilient resistance to what has mostly been a less than benign sovereign. Nor has the republican regime redeemed its promise of secularism and religious freedom. Ironically, however, Alevis in Turkey have never been as visible, vocal and present in the public realm as they are now. If the AKP leadership managed to overcome its assimilationist reflexes and evolved toward a policy of recognition of difference, it would contribute significantly to Turkey’s secularization. It would also be an encouraging sign that a party with Sunni Islamist roots can accommodate a creed that has very little in common with its own interpretation of Islam and whose lifestyle is diametrically opposed to it.

If the AKP failed to do so, Turkey’s Alevis would be exploited once again for the political expediency of others. This time, they would be showcased as best practice for AKP reforms in response to European demands for minority and religious rights. As leaders of the Alevi community suggest, the AKP’s Alevi opening has ignored both long-standing requests and grievances from the community as well as its organized civil society. The AKP’s new Alevi policy is not based on an affirmative recognition of difference and a readiness to acknowledge past mistakes, but appears to follow the clientelist model of incorporation and assimilation that the party has so far successfully employed for the incorporation of Kurdish voters. In Tunceli, in the meantime, construction work on the Konaktepe dam—the first of a projected eight—is about to begin, despite fierce local and international resistance. Once the dam is completed, the waters will inundate not only some of the most impressive scenery in this part of the world, but also the sacred places that are repositories of so much Dersimli Alevi belief and memory. For some in Dersim, this would be a loss that cannot be compensated for by a half-hearted government initiative.

Iraq's Kakai Minority Joins Fight Against Islamic State

The desperation of a little-known minority fleeing the Islamic State and religious persecution has led some to deny their faith and others to take up arms.

Like the Christian and Yazidi minorities before them, the Kakais are forming an armed force to protect themselves. Also called “Yarsan” or “Ahel al-Haqq,” the Kakais were displaced from the Ninevah Plain area when IS invaded Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, in the summer of 2014. The Kakai creed dates back to the 14th century in western Iran and contains elements of Zoroastrianism and Shiism. They have been persecuted for their unusual beliefs, driving them to keep a low profile and giving them a reputation for being secretive.

Against the backdrop of the IS attack and out of fear of similar attacks in Kurdish areas, the Kakai announced in September 2014 that they are Muslims. Thirty Kakai figures met at a press conference at the Union of Religious Scholars building in Kirkuk and announced that they had never broken ties with Islam and that their identity cards read “Muslim.”

Other Kakais in Kirkuk reject the announcement, telling Al-Monitor a panoply of stories about members who embrace Islam to protect themselves from persecution. They said the result is divisiveness that threatens the Kakai group as a whole and splits its leaders.

Recep Assi, director of the Yarstan Institution in Kirkuk — an organization that aims to raise awareness about Kakaism and find a middle ground between it and the other groups in Iraq — said in an interview with Al-Monitor that the Kakai religion “is indeed monotheistic, but it has nothing to do with Islam."

He said, "It is a religion that believes in reincarnation, a doctrine that has nothing to do with Islam. Declaring Kakais Muslims would not protect them from persecution, as Muslim religious preachers still deemed Kakais heretics even after they announced they were Muslims.”

Adam Bidar, a theology professor at the University of Salahuddin, explained to Al-Monitor the nature of the division over the Kakai religion in Kurdistan. “On the one hand, there is a split between a religious discourse that incites hatred and deems Kakais disbelievers and polytheistic, and on the other hand a tolerant discourse that considers Kakais Muslims. This difference in views reflects the split in the Kakai street over their faith.”


Ahmed Qassem, a researcher of religious anthropology and head of research at the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement, said in an interview with Al-Monitor that the environment Kakais live in does not tolerate other religions. That mentality is the source of the Kakais’ hesitation to declare themselves followers of a particular religion, he said. “However, there are precedents whereby Kakais declared themselves non-Muslims. For example, Kurdish researcher Fred Ossrd stated in his book titled ‘Barzani Dogmas Principles’ that in 2001, the well-known Kakai figure Sayed Taleb Shukr Darwish declared that the Kakai religion has nothing to do with Islam, putting an end to long centuries of secrecy over the Kakai religion. However, this attempt was an exception in the history of an introverted religion,” Qassem said.

One of its little-known aspects is that the Kakai religion follows a nonmissionary doctrine that does not tolerate conversion. According to this religion, if one is not born a Kakai, one will never be a Kakai. The secretive group faces a lot of speculation and accusations regarding the nature of its beliefs, Nabil Aziz Mahmoud al-Mathfari, head of the history department in the Faculty of Education at the University of Kirkuk, told Al-Monitor.

Kakai men can be identified easily by their long mustaches, which they consider a sign of blessing. It's an obvious distinction from Muslims, who are required to trim their mustaches.

Declaring themselves Muslim is just one example of the Kakais' extreme efforts to protect themselves. Their move to form their own armed force puts an end to centuries of teachings that call for peace and avoiding violence. One militia volunteer told Al-Monitor the Kakais are taking up weapons like other minorities in Iraq, such as Christians and Yazidis, who have their own armed forces. He added that members of the Kakai forces, which number fewer than 680, are now training and plan to form three regiments.

However, Kakais, whose lives are largely removed from the world of politics, failed to anticipate that their bold step would put them in the center of political conflicts between the Kurdish parties, further complicating their lives.

Other Kakai militia volunteers spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity about the obstacles posed by the political conflict between the two major Kurdish parties (the Democratic National Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party) over which camp should lead the Kakai forces.

Assi of the Yarstan Institution stressed to Al-Monitor the need for Kakais to choose their own commander in chief. The KDP, however, rejects that idea.

“This party wanted to put the armed Kakai force under the command of the peshmerga forces, which are affiliated with it. It also wanted to appoint a member of the party to be the commander of the force,” Assi added.

Baghdad-based Al-Alam newspaper reported that as a result of this dispute, on July 9, the Ministry of Peshmerga appointed Adel Kakai, a former commander in the Iraqi army, temporary supervisor of the Kakai forces until the parties agree on a new commander.

However, the leader of the first Kakai regiment, Marivan Taha al-Kakai, told Al-Monitor the Kakai force is affiliated with the Ministry of Peshmerga, which provides equipment to protect the Kakai areas. He said his regiment will protect the Kakai areas in West Daquq, particularly the Kakai villages between Erbil and Mosul.

The conflict suggests the Kakais are unable to make independent decisions to protect themselves without relying on major Kurdish political blocs. Some experts believe that if the Kakais do not increase their political representation and participation in public life, decisions regarding the fate of this religious minority will remain subject to political conflicts between the Kurdish political blocs.

WHO ARE THE YEZIDIS?

The Yezidis – members of an ancient religious community – live predominantly in Northern Iraq and practice one of the least known religions in the Middle East, misunderstood by even closest neighbors.

Yezidis generally speak Kurmanji, the dialect used by the vast majority of Kurds. Most Yezidis live in Northern Iraq, although many can also be found in Europe, Armenia, and Russia. The global Yezidi population has been estimated at approximately one million.

The Yezidi religious tradition shares common roots with pre-Zoroastrianism and elements also found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islamic Sufism. Yezidism is stringently monotheistic, like the Abrahamic religions. Yezidis believe in a single God, referred to as Khude or Ezid. The most prominent and central figure in Yezidi tradition is Tawusi Malak (Angel Peacock), created by God before the creation of the worship world. Tawusi Malak embodies both light and darkness. According the Yezidi belief, everything in the universe has its opposite; the sun and the moon, day and night, etc. Yezidis also believe in the primary importance of the sun. The source of truth is the all-penetrating light (ronai or noor) contained in the heart of each man and woman, and the basis of the human soul. The lighting of oil lamps during religious holidays is a testimony to the veneration of light.

One of the most influential figures in Yezidism is Sheikh Adi, who was born in Lebanon and led Yezidi tribes in present-day Iraq in the 12th century. He is buried at Lalish temple in Northern Iraq – a sacred site for Yezidis.

Yezidis have a religious caste system. Sheikhs and Pirs belong to the religious castes. Both have specific responsibilities during religious ceremonies. Murids are those who don’t belong to the religious caste. There is no hierarchy among the castes, each has different duties and responsibilities.
Because Yezidis often faced persecution, ceremonies were traditionally passed on in secret. Legends, cosmology, holy texts, and prayers were passed from generation to generation orally. Muslim and Christian neighbors often mistakenly characterized Yezidis as devil-worshippers. Because of this inaccurate and unfortunate stereotype, most common among uneducated segments of the population, Yezidis have long been a target of persecution.

Due to ISIS attacks on their homeland, most Yezidi civilians have been displaced from their homes and are now living in IDP camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Nusayriyyah

Doctrines

Nusayriyyah is an extreme Shi'ite group named after its purported founder, Abu Shu'ayb Muhammad ibn Nusayr (d.868). Nusayri doctrine is a mixture of Islamic, Gnostic and Christian beliefs. The Nusayris possess three distinctive doctrines which have led them to be treated as heretics by Sunni Muslims.

1. The belief in incarnation. The Nusayris believe that Ali is God in the flesh. Ali created Muhammad from his spirit, and Muhammad created Salman, an early Shi'ite saint. These three form a Trinity in which Ali is described as the 'meaning', Muhammad is the 'name' and Salman is the 'door'. 2. The rejection of the Qur'an and all forms of prayer associated with the Sunni tradition. All Islamic teaching can be interpreted spiritually and therefore does not have to be taken literally. 3. Nusayris believe in reincarnation. Contrary to Islamic belief, the Nusayris claim that women do not have souls and, therefore, there is no need to explain the secrets of Nusayri doctrine to women.

Nusayris have their own distinct religious leaders, called shaikhs. These shaikhs are believed to be endowed with a kind of divine authority. One of the Shaikh's duties is to lead religious and other forms of ceremony. Nusayris have special feasts in which they celebrate the anniversaries of their sacred figures. At the age of 19 Nusayris undergo an initiation rite in which they begin to learn some of the secrets of the sect. Nusayris are in fact born into the sect; the initiation ceremony serves to confirm their membership.

History

The Nusayris trace their origins to the eleventh Shi'a Imam al-Hasan al-Askari (d.873) and his pupil Ibn Nusayr (d.868). The Nusayris mostly lived in the mountains of Syria, supported by the Shi'ite Hamdanid dynasty. In 1085 the Shi'ite state fell to the Seljuk Turks. The break down of political support made the Nusayris extremely vulnerable to attack and persecution. In 1260 the Mongols captured Aleppo, the capital of the region, and killed many thousands of Shi'as. At the end of the 13th century many Shi'as were massacred by Sunni Muslims who objected to Shi'a support for the Christian crusaders. From then on the Nusayris and other Shi'ite branches were required to conform to the practices of Sunni Islam. In the twentieth century Nusayris have enjoyed a degree of political dominance that is disproportionate to their size. After the first world war the French, who were ruling Syria at the time, made an unsuccessful attempt to establish a separate Nusayri state. Since 1970, following the coup of the Nusayri air force chief, Hafiz al-Asad, the Nusayris have been dominant in Syrian political and military life. Attempts to politically discredit President Asad because of his heterodox religious beliefs have been unsuccessful.

Symbols

Nusayris use wine as a symbol for God.

Adherents

It is estimated that there about 600,000 Nusayris in Syria who make up about 11% of the population of the country (Halm 1991, 159).

Headquarters/Main Center The headquarters of the movement is in Damascus, Syria.


Qizilbash

Qizilbash or Kizilbash (sometimes also Qezelbash or Qazilbash) is the label given to a wide variety of Shi'i militant groups that flourished in Azerbaijan, Anatolia and Kurdistan from the late 13th century onwards, some of which contributed to the foundation of the Safavid dynasty of Iran.
The word Qizilbash is an Ottoman Turkish

Turkish pronunciation: [kɯ.zɯɫ.baʃ]), meaning "Crimson Red Head[ed]".

The expression is derived from their distinctive twelve-gored crimson headwear (tāj or tark in Persian; sometimes specifically titled "Haydar's Crown" /تاج حیدر Tāj-e Ḥaydar), indicating their adherence to the Twelve Imams and to Shaykh Haydar, the spiritual leader (sheikh) of the Safaviyya movement in accordance with the Twelver Shi'i doctrine of the Imamate.

The name was originally a pejorative label given to them by their Sunni Ottoman foes, but soon it was adopted as a provocative mark of pride.
                                                               Safavid Qizilbash soldier

The origin of the Qizilbash can be dated from the 15th century onward, when the spiritual grandmaster of the movement, Haydar (the head of the Ṣafawiyyah Sufi order), organized his followers into militant troops.

Connections between the Qizilbash and other religious groups and secret societies, such as the Mazdaki movement in the Sasanian Empire, or its more radical offspring, the Persian Khurramites, have been suggested. Like the Qizilbash, the latter were an early Shi'i ghulat group and dressed in red, for which they were termed "the red-haired ones" (Arabic: محمرة muḥammirah) by medieval sources. In this context, Turkish scholar Abdülbaki Gölpinarli sees the Qizilbash as "spiritual descendants of the Khurramites".

The Qizilbash were a coalition of many different tribes of predominantly (but not exclusively) Turkic-speaking Azerbaijani background united in their adherence to Safavi Shia Islam.

As murids of the Safavi sheikhs (pirs), the Qizilbash owed implicit obedience to their leader in his capacity as their murshid-e kāmil "supreme spiritual director" and, after the establishment of the kingdom, as their padishah, changing the purely religious pir – murid relationship into a political one. 

As a consequence, any act of disobedience of the Qizilbash Sufis against the order of the spiritual grandmaster (Persian: nāsufigari "improper conduct of a Sufi") became "an act of treason against the king and a crime against the state", as was the case in 1614 when Padishah Abbas the Great put some followers to death.

The Qizilbash adhered to heterodox Shi’i doctrines encouraged by the early Safavi sheikhs Haydar and his son Ismail I. They regarded their rulers as divine figures, and so were classified as ghulat "extremists" by orthodox Twelvers.

When Tabriz was taken, there was not a single book on Twelverism among the Qizilbash leaders. The book of the well known Iraqi scholar al-Hilli (1250–1325) was procured in the town library to provide religious guidance to the state. The imported Shi'i ulama did not participate in the formation of Safavid religious policies during the early formation of the state. However, ghulat doctrines were later forsaken and Arab Twelver ulama from Lebanon, Iraq, and Bahrain were imported in increasing numbers to bolster orthodox Twelver practice and belief.

"Turk & Tājīk"

Shah Ismail I, the Sheikh of the Safavi tariqa, founder of the Safavid Dynasty of Iran, and the Commander-in-chief of the Qizilbash armies.

Among the Qizilbash, Turcoman tribes from Eastern Anatolia and Azerbaijan who had helped Ismail I defeat the Aq Qoyunlu tribe were by far the most important in both number and influence and the name Qizilbash is usually applied exclusively to them. Some of these greater Turcoman tribes were subdivided into as many as eight or nine clans, including:Ustādjlu, Rūmlu, Shāmlu (the most powerful clan during the reign of Shah Ismail I.), Dulkadir (Arabic: Dhu 'l-Kadar), Afshār, Qājār, Takkalu.

Other tribes – such as the Turkman, Bahārlu, Qaramānlu, Warsāk, and Bayāt – were occasionally listed among these "seven great uymaqs".

Some of these names consist of a place-name with addition of the Turkish suffix -lu, such as Shāmlu or Bahārlu. Other names are those of old Oghuz tribes such as the Afshār, Dulghadir, or Bayāt, as mentioned by the medieval Uyghur historian Mahmud al-Kashgari. The origin of the name Ustādjlu, however, is unknown, and possibly indicates a non-Turkic origin of the tribe.

The non-Turkic Iranian tribes among the Qizilbash were called Tājīks by the Turcomans and included: Tālish, Lurs, Siāh-Kuh (Karādja-Dagh), certain Kurdish tribes, certain Persian families and clans...

The rivalry between the Turkic clans and Persian nobles was a major problem in the Safavid kingdom. As V. Minorsky put it, friction between these two groups was inevitable, because the Turcomans "were no party to the national Persian tradition". Shah Ismail tried to solve the problem by appointing Persian wakils as commanders of Qizilbash tribes. The Turcomans considered this an insult and brought about the death of 3 of the 5 Persians appointed to this office – an act that later inspired the deprivation of the Turcomans by Shah Abbas I.


                                                A Safavid - Kızılbaş (Qizilbash) soldier.

In the 15th century, Ardabil was the center of an organization designed to keep the Safavi leadership in close touch with its murids in Azerbaijan, Iraq, Eastern Anatolia and elsewhere. The organization was controlled through the office of khalīfāt al-khulafā'ī who appointed representatives (khalīfa) in regions where Safavi propaganda was active. The khalīfa, in turn, had subordinates termed pira. The Safavi presence in eastern Anatolia posed a serious threat to the Ottoman Empire because they encouraged the Shi'i population of Asia Minor to revolt against the sultan.

In 1499, Ismail, the young leader of the Safavi order, left Lahijan for Ardabil to make a bid for power. By the summer of 1500, about 7,000 supporters from the local Turcoman tribes of Asia Minor (Anatolia), Syria, and the Caucasus –collectively called "Qizilbash" by their enemies – rallied to his support in Erzincan. Leading his troops on a punitive campaign against the Shīrvanshāh (ruler of Shirvan), he sought revenge for the death of his father and his grandfather in Shīrvan. After defeating the Shīrvanshāh Farrukh Yassar and incorporating his kingdom, he moved south into Azarbaijan, where his 7,000 Qizilbash warriors defeated a force of 30,000 Aq Qoyunlu under Alwand Mirzā and conquered Tabriz. This was the beginning of the Safavid state.

By 1510, Ismail and his Qizilbash had conquered the whole of Iran and Azerbaijan, southern Dagestan (with its important city of Derbent), Mesopotamia, Armenia, Khorasan, Eastern Anatolia, and had made the Georgian kingdoms of Kartli and Kakheti his vassals. Many of these areas were priorly under the control of the Ak Koyunlu.

In 1510 Shah Ismail sent a large force of the Qizilbash to Transoxiania to fight the Uzbeks. The Qizilbash defeated the Uzbeks and secured Samarkand at the Battle of Marv. However, in 1512, an entire Qizilbash army was annihilated by the Uzbeks after Turcoman Qizilbash had mutinied against their Persian wakil and commander Najm-e Thani at the Battle of Ghazdewan. This defeat put an end to Safavid expansion and influence in Transoxania and left the northeastern frontiers of the kingdom vulnerable to nomad invasions, until some decades later.

Meanwhile, the Safavid da'wa (propaganda) continued in Ottoman areas – with great success. Even more alarming for the Ottomans was the successful conversion of Turcoman tribes in Eastern Anatolia, and the recruitment of these well experienced and feared fighters into the growing Safavid army. In order to stop the Safavid propaganda, Sultan Bayezid II deported large numbers of the Shi'i population of Asia Minor to Morea. However, in 1507, Shah Ismail and the Qizilbash overran large areas of Kurdistan, defeating regional Ottoman forces. Only two years later in Central Asia, the Qizilbash defeated the Uzbeks at Merv, killing their leader Muhammad Shaybani and destroying his dynasty. His head was sent to the Ottoman sultan as a warning.

In 1511, a pro-Safavid revolt known as the Shahkulu Uprising broke out in Teke. An imperial army that was sent to suppress it, was defeated. Shah Ismail sought to turn the chaos within the Ottoman Empire to his advantage and moved up his borders even more westwards in Asia Minor. The Qizilbash defeated a large Ottoman army under Sinan Pasha. Shocked by this heavy defeat, Sultan Selim I (the new ruler of the Empire) decided to invade Persia with a force of 200,000 Ottomans and face the Qizilbash on their own soil. In addition, he ordered the persecution of Alevis and the massacre its adherents in the Ottoman Empire.

On the 20 August 1514 (1st Rajab 920 A.H.), the two armies met at Chaldiran in Azarbaijan. The Ottomans -equipped with both firearms and cannon- were reported to outnumber the Qizilbash as much as three to one. The Qizilbash were badly defeated; casualties included many high-ranking Qizilbash amirs as well as three influential ulamā.

The defeat destroyed Shah Ismail's belief in his own invincibility and divine status. It also fundamentally altered the relationship between the murshid-e kāmil and his murids.


                                                                     Qizilbash knight

Ismail I tried to reduce the power of the Turcomans by appointing Iranians to the vakil office. However, the Turcomans did not like having an Iranian to the most powerful office of the Safavid Empire, and kept murdering many Iranians who were appointed to that office. After the death of Ismail, the Turkomans managed to seize power from the Iranians, they were however, defeated by Tahmasp I, the son of Ismail.

For almost ten years after the Battle of Chaldiran, rival Qizilbash factions fought for control of the kingdom. In 1524, 10-year-old Shah Tahmasp I, the governor of Herat, succeeded his father Ismail. 

He was the ward of the powerful Qizilbash amir Ali Beg Rūmlū (titled "Div Soltān") who was the de facto ruler of the Safavid kingdom. However, Tahmasp managed to reassert his authority over the state and over the Qizilbash.

During the reign of Shah Tahmasp, the Qizilbash fought a series of wars on two fronts and – with the poor resources available to them – successfully defended their kingdom against the Uzbeks in the east, and against the Ottomans in the west. With the Treaty of Amasya, peace between Safavids and Ottomans remained for the rest of Tahmasp's reign. During Tahmasp' reign, he carried out multiple invasions in the Caucasus which had been incorporated in the Safavid empire since Shah Ismail I and for many centuries afterwards, and started with the trend of deporting and moving hundreds of thousands of Circassians, Georgians, and Armenians to Iran's heartlands.

Initially only solely put in the royal harems, royal guards, and minor other sections of the Empire, Tahmasp believed he could eventually reduce the power of the Qizilbash, by creating and fully integrating a new layer in Persian society with these Caucasian elements and who would question the power and hegemony of the tribal Qizilbash. Shah Abbas I and his successors would significantly expand this policy, deporting and importing during his reign alone around some 200,000 Georgians, 300,000 Armenians and 100,000-150,000 Circassians to Irans heartlands. With this, and the complete systematic disorganisation of the Qizilbash by his personal orders, he eventually fully succeeded in replacing the power of the Qizilbash, with that of the Caucasian ghulams. These new Caucasian elements (the so-called ghilman / غِلْمَان /"servants"), almost always after conversion to Shi'ism depending on given function would be, unlike the Qizilbash, fully loyal only to the Shah. This system of mass usage of Caucasian subjects remained to exist until the fall of the Qajar Dynasty.

Inter-tribal rivalry of the Turcomans, the attempt of Persian nobles to end the Turcoman dominance, and constant succession conflicts went on for another 10 years after Tahmasp's death. This heavily weakened the Safavid state and made the kingdom vulnerable to external enemies: the Ottomans attacked and conquered Azerbaijan, the Uzbeks conquered Khorasan, including Balkh and Herat.

In 1588, Shah Abbas I came to power. He appointed the Governor of Herat and his former guardian and tutor, Alī Quli Khān Shāmlū (also known as Hājī Alī Qizilbāsh Mazandarānī) the chief of all the armed forces. Later on, events of the past, including the role of the Turcomans in the succession struggles after the death of his father, and the counterbalancing influence of traditional Ithnāʻashari Shia Sayeds, made him determined to end the dominance of the untrustworthy Turcoman chiefs in Persia which Tahmasp had already started decades before him. In order to weaken the Turcomans – the important militant elite of the Safavid kingdom – Shah Abbas further raised a standing army, personal guard, Queen-Mothers, Harems and full civil administration from the ranks of these ghilman who were usually ethnic Circassians, Georgians, and Armenians, both men and women, whom he and his predeseccors had taken captive en masse during their wars in the Caucasus, and would systematically replace the Qizilbash from their functions with converted Circassians and Georgians. 

The new army and civil administration would be fully loyal to the king personally and not to the clan-chiefs anymore.

The reorganisation of the army also ended the independent rule of Turcoman chiefs in the Safavid provinces, and instead centralized the administration of those provinces.

Daud is the Arabic form of David & by extension the Moslem one. There are many people & groups that claim to descend from the celebrated King David of the united Kingdom of Israel. The Georgian dynasty of the Bagrationi is one of these groups claiming descendancy from the Davidic dynasty. To the point that the name David is quite popular among the Bagrationis. This Kizilbash commander in the picture clearly had Georgian origin because his last name is Georgian & his first name Daud/David might have been received after the fashionable name of his country of origin' monarchy. Daud Khan Undiladze, Safavid ghulam, military commander, and the governor of Karabakh and Ganja between 1625 and 1630.

Ghulams were appointed to high positions within the royal household, and by the end of Shah Abbas' reign, one-fifth of the high-ranking amirs were ghulams. By 1598 already an ethnic Georgian from Safavid-ruled Georgia, well known by his adopted Muslim name after conversion, Allahverdi Khan, had risen to the position of commander-in-chief of all Safawid armed forces 0and by that became one of the most powerful men in the empire. The offices of wakil and amir al-umarā fell in disuse and were replaced by the office of a Sipahsālār (Persian: سپهسالار, master of the army), commander-in-chief of all armed forces – Turcoman and Non-Turcoman – and usually held by a Persian (Tādjik) noble.

The Turcoman Qizilbash remained an important part of the Safavid executive apparatus. The Afshār and Qājār rulers of Persia who succeeded the Safavids, stemmed from a Qizilbash background. Many other Qizilbash – Turcoman and Non-Turcoman – were settled in far eastern cities such as Kabul and Kandahar during the conquests of Nadir Shah, and remained there as consultants to the new Afghan crown after the Shah's death. Others joined the Mughal emperors of India and became one of the most influential groups of the Mughal court until the British conquest of India.

Qizilbash in the Mughal Empire

The first Mughal Emperor Babur is known to have attained battalions of elite Qizilbash during the Battle of Ghazdewan, they then served during the Battle of Panipat (1526) and particularly during the Battle of Khanwa where the Mughal Empire won a decisive victory against armed Rajput's led by Rana Sanga.

In the year 1556, Qizilbash troopers are known to have served victoriously under the command of the teenage Mughal Emperor Akbar during the Second Battle of Panipat against armed Rajput's led by Hemu.

Later onward's Ahmad Shah Durrani also sought the assistance of the Qizilbash during the Third Battle of Panipat against the Maratha Confederacy, once again those Qizilbash were conscripted by the Mughal Grand Vizier, Shuja-ud-Daula in service of the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II.
Afghanistan

Qizilbash in Afghanistan live in urban areas, such as Kabul, Herat or Mazari Sharif, as well as in certain villages in Hazarajat. They are descendants of the troops left behind by Nadir Shah during his "Indian campaign" in 1738.


Mohammad Naib Sharif, leader of the Qizilbash group in Afghanistan during the First Anglo-Afghan War of 1839–42

Afghanistan's Qizilbash held important posts in government offices in the past, and today engage in trade or are craftsmen. Since the creation of Afghanistan, they constitute an important and politically influential element of society. Estimates of their population vary from 60,000 to 200,000. They are Persian-speaking Shi'i Muslims and are usually linked to the Fārsīwāns and Tājīks of the country.

Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone described the Qizilbash of Kabul in the beginning of the 19 the century as "a colony of Turks," who spoke "Persian, and among themselves Turkish." Described as learned, affluent, and influential, they appear to have abandoned their native Turkish language in favour of Persian, and became "in fact Persianized Turks". Lady Florentia Sale (wife of Sir Robert Henry Sale) and Vincent Eyre –both companions of Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone – described the Qizilbash of Afghanistan also as "Persians, of Persian descent".

The influence of the Qizilbash in the government created resentment among the ruling Pashtun clans, especially after the Qizilbash openly allied themselves with the British during the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839–1842). During Abdur Rahman Khan's massacre of the Shi'i minorities in Afghanistan, the Qizilbash were declared "enemies of the state" and were persecuted and hunted by the government and by the Sunni majority.

Syria/Lebanon

Between the late seventeenth century and 1822 the term “ Qizilbash” was also used in Ottoman administrative documents to identify Twelver (Imami) Shiites in what is today Lebanon. The Ottomans were aware they had no link to the Anatolian or Iranian Qizilbash, employing the term only as a means to delegitimize them or justify punitive campaigns against them. In the early eighteenth century, a part of northern Lebanon is even described as the “Kızılbaş mukataa” tax district.

Turkey

Some contemporary Alevi and Bektashi leaning religious or ethnic minorities in Anatolia are referred to, pejoratively, as Qizilbash. “ It has been reported that, among the Ottoman Turks, kızılbaş has become something of a derogatory term and can be applied to groups that aren't necessarily associated with the Kazilbash of Central Asia. The Bektaşi in Turkey are often referred to as Kızılbaş.

Druzes

Doctrines

Druze beliefs deviate markedly from those of mainstream Islam, consisting of an amalgamation of Neo-Platonic, Isma'ili, and extreme Shi'ite beliefs. The movement derives its name from an Isma'ili missionary, al-Darazi (d.1019/20), who proclaimed the divinity of the sixth Fatimid caliph, Abu 'Ali al-Mansur al-Hakim (985-1021). The principal figure, however, behind the formation of the movement's beliefs was Hamzah ibn 'Ali (d. 1021) who not only taught the divinity of al-Hakim but claimed that he himself was the cosmic intellect. The Druzes attach particular importance to speaking the truth among themselves (although it is permissible to lie to outsiders and even to pretend to accept the religious beliefs of the ruling majority). They believe that Hakim and Hamzah will return to the world and establish a just order ruled by Druzes. Some sects believe in reincarnation and the temporary manifestation of God in human form. They assemble for worship on Thursdays, rather than Fridays, and reject much of Islamic legal practice. The Druze scripture is the Rasa'il al-hikmah (Epistles of Wisdom), most of which was composed by Hamzah's successor, Baha al-Din al-Muqtana.

History

Druze religion has its origins in the second decade of the 11th century, when al-Darazi and Hamzah ibn Ali declared the sixth Fatimid caliph to be the incarnation of the godhead. Following the death of al-Hakim in 1021 the Druze sect in Egypt was subjected to persecution and disappeared. The sect, however, flourished in Syria where it had been established by Darazi's followers, and reached as far as Iraq, Iran and India. During the Ottoman period the Druze were allowed to govern themselves. In the 17th and 18th centuries the sect was bitterly divided between the Qaysis and Yamanis who engaged in a series of violent conflicts with each other. Throughout the 19th century, until the end of the first world war, the Druzes were almost continually in conflict with Maronite Christians. The worst incident occurred in 1860 when the Druzes burned 150 Christian villages, and killed some 11,000 people. Following the end of the first world war and the collapse of the Ottoman empire the Druze, like other groups in the region, came under the jurisdiction of the European powers who took control of the Middle East.

The Druzes constituted important minority groups in three of the countries that were set up in the region in the 1940s: Syria, Lebanon and Israel. The Druzes existed in Syria as a deprived minority denied political power and many educational opportunities. In 1966 fears of a possible Druz e inspired coup led to the purging of Druze officers from the Syrian army and the persecution of the Druzes, causing many to flee to the Lebanon and Jordan. The capture of the Golan heights by Israel in 1973 led to the further depletion of the Druze population of Syria. In Lebanon the history of the Druze has very much been tied up with the unfortunate history of the country. During the first twenty-five years of the country's history the various religious groups succeeded in coexisting without conflict.

However, the denial of effective political power to Lebanon's Muslims by the Christian majority led to the outbreak of civil war in 1958 and in 1975. One important consequence of the post-1975 conflict for the Druzes of Lebanon was the establishment of links between themselves and the Druzes of Syria and Israel as these two countries became involved in Lebanon's civil war. The Druzes of Israel have enjoyed the most stability and prosperity of all the Middle Eastern Druze communities. Of all the non-Jewish communities in Israel the Druzes have been the most loyal to the state. The refusal of the Druzes to involve themselves in the Arab-Israeli conflict and the loyalty of the majority of the Druzes to the state of Israel has led them to be treated relatively favorably by the Israeli authorities.

Symbols

The main symbol of the Druzes is the five-pointed star. This can often be found outside Druze shrines.

Adherents

It is difficult to say with accuracy what the global population of the Druze community is. In Syria the Druzes number about 260,000 (Makarem 1974, 3); in Jordan about 3,000 (ibid); in Israel 89,300 (Europa Publications Ltd. I 1996, 1679); and in Lebanon 250,000 (Europa Publications Ltd., II 1996). Small Druze communities also exist in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Australia.

Headquarters/Main Center


There are numerous Druze centres in the Middle East. In Syria the Druze population is concentrated in the Jabal Al-Duruz region which borders Jordan and Israel. In Lebanon they are concentrated in the centre of the country to t he east of Beirut. In Israel they are concentrated in Galilee.


Isma'iliyyah

Doctrines

Like other Shi'ite traditions, Isma'iliyyah accepts the spiritual authority of the Imam. However, unlike the mainstream Twelver Shi'as (also known as Imamiyyah), the Isma'ilis regard Muhammad son of Isma'il as the seventh Imam and continue the line of Imams through Isma'il and Muhammad's descendants. For this reason Isma'iliyyah are known as Sevener Shi'ites. (The Twelver Shi'ites regard Isma'il's younger brother, al Must'alias, as the seventh Imam and the line of Imams to continue from him.) Isma'ili doctrine considers history to be divided into seven periods. Each period begins with a prophet who is then followed by six infallible Imams.

The first six prophets were Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Each Imam was accompanied by an interpreter who taught the secret meaning of the Imam's teaching to a small circle of initiates. The previous six interpreters were Seth, Shem, Isaac, Aaron, Simon Peter and Ali. The six Shi'a Imams (from al-Hasan to Isma'il) have followed Muhammad and his interpreter Ali. The seventh Imam, Muhammad, did not die but went into hiding, and will appear as the Mahdi, inaugurating an era in which the old traditions, including Islam, will become obsolete. The Isma'ilis believe that Islamic law (the Shari'ah) should be repealed. They reject the Qur'an and all forms of prayers in the main Sunni Islamic tradition. They interpret Islamic teachings spiritually, which frees them from adhering to these laws and obligations such as prayer, fasting, and hajj.

History

The origins of the Isma'ilis can be traced to the second half of the 8th century when a dispute occurred over who should succeed the sixth Imam Jaf'ar al-Sadiq (d.765). The Imamate was originally intended to go to al-Sadiq's eldest son, Isma'il . However, Isma'il died five years before his father and it was therefore decided that the Imamate should go to Isma'il's younger brother, al-Must'alis. Various factions opposed the decision to give the Imamate to al-Must'alis. Some claimed that Isma'i l did not die but was in hiding and would return; others said that the Imamate should go to Isma'il's son, Muhammad. Those factions that claimed that Muhammad was still alive soon died out, but the supporters of Muhammad continued and formed the moveme nt that later came to be known as Isma'iliyyah. Effective missionary activity spread Isma'iliyyah beyond Iraq into North Africa. In 909 the sect set up the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt, where it flourished until 1171 when the Fatimid caliphate was overthrown and the sect lost its official support.

Shortly before its defeat in Egypt, Isma'iliyyah split into two groups called Nizaris and Musta'lis. The schism occurred as a result of a second dispute over who should inherit the Imamate. Following the death of the Fatimid Caliph al-Mustansir in 1094, the first of these sects emerged in support of the claims of al-Mustansir's elder son, Nizar, to succeed his father as the future Imam. The assassination of Nizar and his family led his supporters to flee Egypt and to organize themselves in various regions of Iran and Syria. Their stronghold was the fortress of Alamut in the Ehurz mountains of northern Iran. From here the sect spread out until it was strong enough to establish an Isma'ili-Nizari state which survived for 150 years. Its downfall occurred in 1256 as a result of the expansion of the Mongol empire into Iran and Syria. After the fall of Alamut the history of the Nizaris in Syria is largely one of subjugation and persecution at the hands of the Baybars, the Ottomans and the Nusayris. The Nizaris in Iran also suffered persecution, and from the 14th century onwards many emigrated to India.

These came to be known as Khoja (from the Persian word khwaja, meaning master). These have made considerable concessions to their Indian context and attach little importance to traditional Islamic ritual and practice. They follow the leadership of the Agha Khan. In the 19th century some Khojas emigrated to East Africa, where Khoja communities remain today. The second branch, the Musta'lis, distinguished themselves from the Nizaris through their support of al-Mustansir's younger son, al-Musta'li. Al-Must'ali and his descendants continued in Egypt until the fall of the Fatimid dynasty in 1171. Following the end of the Fatimid dynasty the leadership of the movement was transferred to Yemen. In Yemen the movement split again, with some remaining in Yemen and others emigrating to India. Those who went to India are known as Bohras. Today Musta'lian Isma'ilis are mainly to be found in the Indian province of Gujarat. There are also communities in Arabia, the Persian Gulf, East Africa, and Burma.

Symbols

The Isma'ilis have a lion as their symbol.

Adherents

There are several hundred thousand Musta'lian Isma'ilis in the world today (Momen 1985, 56). There are some 20 million Khojas, of whom 2 million live in Pakistan (Halm 1991, 191).

Headquarters/Main Centre Historically the headquarters of the Nizaris has been the fortress of Alamut in the Elburz mountains of northern Iran. Today there are Nizari communities in Pakistan, North-west India and the Chinese province of Sin-Kiang. The Khojas are mainly to be found in Gujarat and the Punjab. There are also Khoja communities in East and South Africa, Ceylon & Burma.

Zaidiyyah or Zaidism

Zaidiyyah or Zaidism (Arabic: الزيدية az-zaydiyya, adjective form Zaidi or Zaydi) is an early sect which emerged in the eighth century out of Shi'a Islam, named after Zayd ibn ʻAlī, the grandson of Husayn ibn ʻAlī. Followers of the Zaydi Islamic jurisprudence are called Zaydi Shi'a and make up about 35-40% of Muslims in Yemen.

The Zaidiyyah sect, whose members are called Zaydis shouldn't be confused with the Zaydis of Iraq, Pakistan & India.

Origin

The Zaydi madhab emerged in reverence of Zayd’s failed uprising against the Ummayad Caliph, Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (ruling through 724-743 AD), which set a precedent for revolution against corrupt rulers. It might be said that Zaydis find it difficult to remain passive in an unjust world, or in the words of a modern influential Zaydi leader, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, to ‘sit in their houses’.

Zaydis were the oldest branch of the Shia and the largest group amongst the Shia before the Safavid Dynasty in the sixteenth century and currently the second largest group, Zaidi's do not believe in the infallibility of Imāms, but promote their leadership and divine inspiration. Zaydis believe that on the last hour of Zayd ibn Ali, he was betrayed by the people in Kufa. Zaydis as of 2014 constitute roughly 0.5% of the world's Muslim population.

Law

In matters of Islamic jurisprudence, the Zaydis follow Zayd ibn ’Ali's teachings which are documented in his book Majmu’ al-Fiqh (Arabic: مجموع الفِقه). Zaydi fiqh is similar to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence. Abu Hanifa, a Sunni madhab founder, was favorable and even donated towards the Zaydi cause.

Theology

Zaydis’ theological literature retains the Mu’tazilite traditional emphasis on justice and human responsibility, and its political implications i.e. Muslims have an ethical and legal obligation by their religion to rise up and depose unjust leaders including unrighteous sultans and caliphs.

In matters of theology, the Zaydis are close to the Mu'tazili school, though they are not exactly Mu'tazilite. There are a few issues between both schools, most notably the Zaydi doctrine of the Imamate, which is rejected by the Mu'tazilites. Of the Shi'a, Zaydis are most similar to Sunnis since Zaydism shares similar doctrines and jurisprudential opinions with Sunni scholars.

Beliefs

Like all Muslims, the Zaydi Shi'a affirm the fundamental tenet of Islam known as the Shahada or testament of faith –"There is no god but Allah and Muhammed is his messenger." Traditionally, the Zaydi believe that Muslims who commit major sins without remorse should not be considered Muslims nor be considered kafirs but rather be categorized in neither group.

In the context of the Shi'a Muslim belief in spiritual leadership or Imamate, Zaydis believe that the leader of the Ummah or Muslim community must be Fatimids: descendants of Muhammad through his only surviving daughter Fatimah, whose sons were Hasan ibn ʻAlī and Husayn ibn ʻAlī. These Shi'a called themselves Zaydi so they could differentiate themselves from other Shi'is who refused to take up arms with Zayd ibn Ali.

Zaydis believe Zayd ibn Ali was the rightful successor to the Imamate because he led a rebellion against the Umayyad Caliphate, who he believed were tyrannical and corrupt. Muhammad al-Baqir did not engage in political action and the followers of Zayd believed that a true Imām must fight against corrupt rulers. The renowned Muslim jurist Abu Hanifa who is credited for the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, delivered a fatwā or legal statement in favor of Zayd in his rebellion against the Umayyad ruler. He also urged people in secret to join the uprising and delivered funds to Zayd.

Zaydis do not believe in the infallibility of Imāms like the other Shi'a Muslims, and Zaydis do not believe that the Imāmate must pass from father to son but believe it can be held by any descendant from either Hasan ibn ʻAlī or Husayn ibn ʻAlī. Orthodox Shi'is do not necessarily believe in Imamate passing from father to son either, as can be seen from the transition of Imamate from the second Imam, Hasan ibn Alī, after his death, to his brother, Husayn ibn Alī.

The Twelver Imam Ali al-Ridha narrated how his grandfather Ja'far al-Sadiq also supported Zayd ibn Ali's struggle: “ he was one of the scholars from the Household of Muhammad and got angry for the sake of the Honorable the Exalted God. He fought with the enemies of God until he got killed in His path. My father Musa ibn Ja’far narrated that he had heard his father Ja’far ibn Muhammad say, "May God bless my uncle Zayd... He consulted with me about his uprising and I told him, "O my uncle! Do this if you are pleased with being killed and your corpse being hung up from the gallows in the al-Konasa neighborhood." After Zayd left, As-Sadiq said, "Woe be to those who hear his call but do not help him!".

— Uyūn Akhbār al-Riḍā, p. 466

Jafar al-Sadiq's love for Zayd ibn Ali was so immense, he broke down and cried upon reading the letter informing him of his death and proclaimed: “ From God we are and to Him is our return. I ask God for my reward in this calamity. He was a really good uncle. My uncle was a man for our world and for our Hereafter. I swear by God that my uncle is a martyr just like the martyrs who fought along with God’s Hassan or Al-Hussein ”

Prophet or Ali or Al- — Uyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, p. 472

Zaydiyyah

Doctrines

Zaydiyyah is a Shi'ite school of law which, of all the groups in Shi'a, is closest to the Sunni tradition. The Zaydis are principally distinguished from other Shi'ite groups in their conception of the nature of the Imamate. Unlike the Imamis and Isma'ilis, who believe that the Imamate is handed down through a particular line of descendants, the Zaydis believe that anyone in the house of Ali is eligible for the Imamate. The Zaydis reject the doctrine of the Hidden Imam and the return of the Mahdi. The Imam is regarded as neither infallible nor capable of performing miracles. Personal merit, rather than investiture, governs who should be made Imam. The Zaydis reject any form of 'sufi' tradition. Theologically they are closest to the Mu'tazila school.

History

The term "Zaydi" is applied to the followers of Zayd b. Ali, the grandson of al-Husayn (the son of the fourth caliph, Ali) and half-brother of the fifth Imam, Muhammad al-Baqir. Zaid b. Ali was killed in 740 in an uprising against the Ummayad Caliph al-Hisham. In the 9th century two Zaydi states were established: one in Tabaristan, a region south of the Caspian Sea, and the other in Yemen. The Zaydi state came to an end in 928 when its ruler, al-Hasan ibn al-Qasim, fell in battle. However, in 964 a second Zaydi Imamate was established; this lasted until the twelfth century. From the twelfth century the Zaydi communities declined in importance, and during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were gradually incorporated into the Twelver Shi'a. The Yemeni state of Zaydis was founded in 890 by Yahya ibn al-Husayn and has lasted up until the present day. In spite of internal fighting over succession and attacks from the Isma'ilis, the Yemeni state retained its independence until 1539 when it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and became a province within the Ottoman empire. In 1595 the Yemen Zaydis declared war on the Turks, which finally led to the departure of the last Ottoman governor in 1635. The Yemen retained its independence until 1872 when once again it became a province within the Ottoman empire. De facto independence was achieved during the first world war and actual independence with the fall of the Ottoman empire after the first world war.

Following the dissolution of the Ottoman empire Imam Yahya was left in control of the Yemen. In 1948 Imam Yahya was assassinated in an attempted palace coup. The coup was defeated by Yahya's son, Ahmad, who succeeded his father as Imam. When Imam Ahmad died in September 1962 he was succeeded by his son, Muhammad. A week later an army coup deposed the Imam established the Yemen Arab Republic. Since that time the Imamate has remained vacant.

Symbols

Zadiyyah does not have a distinctive symbol system.

Adherents

Zaydis are estimated to constitute 8 million of the some 70 million Shi'ite population of the world.

Headquarters/Main Center

Zaydiyyah has no headquarters or such. It is, however, the official school of the Yemen.

History

Status of Caliphs and the Sahaba

There was a difference of opinion among the companions and supporters of Zayd ibn 'Ali, such as Abu al-Jarud Ziyad ibn Abi Ziyad, Sulayman ibn Jarir, Kathir al-Nawa al-Abtar and Hasan ibn Salih, concerning the status of the first three Caliphs who succeeded to the political and administrative authority of Muhammad. The earliest group, called Jarudiyya (named for Abu al-Jarud Ziyad ibn Abi Ziyad), was opposed to the approval of certain companions of Muhammad. They held that there was sufficient description given by the Prophet that all should have recognized 'Ali as the rightful Caliph. They therefore consider the Companions wrong in failing to recognize 'Ali as the legitimate Caliph and deny legitimacy to Abu Bakr, 'Umar and 'Usman; however, they avoid denouncing them. They further condemn two other companions of Muhammad, Talhah and Zubayr ibn al-Awam, for their initial uprising against Caliph Ali.

The Jarudiyya were active during the late Umayyad Caliphate and early Abbasid Caliphate. Its views, although predominant among the later Zaydis, especially in Yemen under the Hadawi sub-sect, became extinct in Iraq and Iran due to forced conversion to Twelver Shi'ism by the Safavid Dynasty.

The second group, the Sulaymaniyya, named for Sulayman ibn Jarir, held that the Imamate should be a matter to be decided by consultation. They felt that the companions, including Abu Bakr and 'Umar, had been in error in failing to follow 'Ali but it did not amount to sin.

The third group is known as the Tabiriyya, Butriyya or Salihiyya for Kathir an-Nawa al-Abtar and Hasan ibn Salih. Their beliefs are virtually identical to those of the Sulaymaniyya, except they see Uthman also as in error but not in sin.

Zaidis accounts state the term Rafida was a term used by Zayd ibn Ali on those who rejected him in his last hours for his refusal to condemn the first two Caliphs of the Muslim world, Abu Bakr and Umar. Zayd bitterly scolds the "rejectors" (Rafidha) who deserted him, an appellation used by Sunnis and Zaydis to refer to Twelver Shi'ites to this day. “ A group of their leaders assembled in his (Zayd's presence) and said: "May God have mercy on you! What do you have to say on the matter of Abu Bakr and Umar?" Zayd said, "I have not heard anyone in my family renouncing them both nor saying anything but good about them...when they were entrusted with government they behaved justly with the people and acted according to the Qur'an and the Sunnah"

Empires

Idrisid dynasty

                                                  Extent of Zaydi dynasty in North Africa.

The Idrisid dynasty was a mostly Berber Zaydi dynasty centered around modern-day Morocco. It was named after its first leader Idriss I.

Banu Ukhaidhir

The Banu Ukhaidhir was a dynasty that ruled in al-Yamamah (central Arabia) from 867 to at least the mid-eleventh century.

Hammudid dynasty

The Hammudid dynasty was a Zaydi dynasty in the 11th century in southern Spain.

Muttawakili

                                                                Zaydi  regions in red.

Muttawakili Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of Yemen or, retrospectively, as North Yemen, existed between 1918 and 1962 in the northern part of what is now Yemen. Its capital was Sana`a until 1948, then Ta'izz.

Community and former States

Since the earliest form of Zaydism was Jaroudiah, many of the first Zaidi states were supporters of its position, such as those of the Iranian Alavids of Mazandaran Province and the Buyid dynasty of Gilan Province and the Arab dynasties of the Banu Ukhaidhir of al-Yamama (modern Saudi Arabia) and the Rassids of Yemen. The Idrisid dynasty in the western Maghreb were another Arab Zaydi dynasty, ruling 788-985.

The Alavids established a Zaydi state in Deylaman and Tabaristan (northern Iran) in 864; it lasted until the death of its leader at the hand of the Sunni Samanids in 928. Roughly forty years later, the state was revived in Gilan (Northwest Iran) and survived until 1126.

From the 12th-13th centuries, Zaydi communities acknowledged the Imams of Yemen or rival Imams within Iran.

The Buyid dynasty was initially Zaidi as were the Banu Ukhaidhir rulers of al-Yamama in the 9th and 10th centuries.

The leader of the Zaidi community took the title of Caliph. As such, the ruler of Yemen was known as the Caliph. Al-Hadi ila'l-Haqq Yahya, a descendant of Imam Hasan ibn Ali, founded this Rassid state at Sa'da, al-Yaman, in c. 893-7. The Rassid Imamate continued until the middle of the 20th century, when a 1962 revolution deposed the Imam. After the fall of the Zaydi Imamate in 1962 many Zaydi Shia in northern Yemen had converted to Sunni Islam.

The Rassid state was founded under Jarudiyya thought; however, increasing interactions with Hanafi and Shafi'i schools of Sunni Islam led to a shift to Sulaimaniyyah thought, especially among the Hadawi sub-sect.

Currently, the most prominent Zaidi movement is the Shabab Al Mu'mineen, commonly known as Houthis, who have been engaged in an uprising against the Yemeni Government in which the Army has lost 743 men and thousands of innocent civilians have been killed or displaced by government forces and Houthi, causing a grave humanitarian crisis in north Yemen.

Some Persian and Arab legends record that Zaidis fled to China from the Umayyads during the 8th century.

Houthi Yemen

Since 2004 in Yemen, Zaidi fighters have been waging an uprising against factions belonging to the Sunni majority group in the country. The Houthis, as they are often called, have asserted that their actions are for the defense of their community from the government and discrimination, though the Yemeni government in turn accused them of wishing to bring it down and institute religious law.
Houthis Logo

On September 20, 2014, an agreement was signed in Sana'a under UN patronage essentially giving the Houthis control of the government after a decade of conflict. Tribal militias then moved swiftly to consolidate their position in the capital, with the group officially declaring direct control over the state on February 6, 2015. This outcome followed the removal of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012 in the wake of protracted Arab Spring protests. The shift to Houthi (and thus Zaidi) control is significant because it affects the broader power balance in the Middle East, tilting the country from Saudi to Iranian influence.

Saudi Arabia has exercized the predominant external influence in Yemen since the withdrawal of Nasser's Egyptian expeditionary force marking the end of the bitter North Yemen Civil War.

There is a wide array of domestic opponents to Houthi rule in Yemen, ranging from the conservative Sunni Islah Party to the secular socialist Southern Movement to the radical Islamists of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and now ISIS in Yemen.

Zaidi

Zaidi may refer also to: The Zaidiyyah sect of Islam. Al-Zaidi, Arab descendants of Zaid bin Ali (note: Al-Zaidi may also refer to adherents to the Zaidiyyah fiqh). Zaidi Wasitis, people with the surname Zaidi, South Asian descendants of Zaid bin Ali. Zaidis, South Asian followers of Twelver imams and Ja'fari jurisprudence... (This comment goes against the contents of the main article which says that Zaidi jurisprudence is closer to Hanafi Sunni Madhab than it is to the mainstream shia madhab). Yiddish informal title for grandfather.

Ja'fari jurisprudence

This is a sub-article to Islamic jurisprudence and Twelvers.

The Jafarī school of thought, Jafarite School, Jafarī jurisprudence or Jafarī Fiqh [In Arabic script: جعفري, strict transcriptions: Jaʻfarī or Ǧafarī, /; from the name: جعفر, Jaʻfar/Ǧafar.] is the school of jurisprudence of most Shi'a Muslims, derived from the name of Jafar as-Ṣādiq, the 6th Shi'a Imam. This school of jurisprudence is followed by Twelvers, Alevis, and Ismailis in general, as well as a small minority of Zaidis.

It differs from the four or sometimes Five Schools or madhhabs of Sunni jurisprudence in its reliance on ijtihad, as well as on matters of inheritance, religious taxes, commerce, personal status, and the allowing of temporary marriage or muta. However, despite these differences, there have been numerous fatwas regarding the acceptance of Jafarī fiqh as an acceptable Muslim madhhab by Sunni religious bodies. These include the Amman Message and a fatwa by Al-Azhar. In the modern era, former Prime Minister of Sudan Sadiq al-Mahdi defined the recognized schools of Muslim jurisprudence as eight, Ja'fari was one of them. While many differences between Ja'fari fiqh and that of Sunni Muslims are minor, two notable differences are that Ja'fari jurisprudence allows temporary marriage (Nikah mut‘ah), and has stricter view of ritual purity, for example not allowing unbelievers to enter mosques.

Who Are The Ismailis?

Dozens of members of Pakistan's Ismaili Shia minority have been killed in an assault by gunmen on their bus in Karachi. The attack came as a shock -even in a city where sectarian violence has been rife. Here is a look at the Ismaili community.

How are Ismailis different from other Muslims?

Muslims are divided into two major groups, Sunnis and Shias. There are various sub-sects within each. All Shias believe in the Imamat - or spiritual leadership - of Ali, Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law and fourth Caliph.

After him, different sects follow different descendants of Ali as their Imam. Ismailis revere a number of Imams including Imam Ismail who died in 765 AD.

Ismailis interpret the Koran symbolically and allegorically and believe in a religious hierarchy.
In Pakistan, the largest Shia group, the Asna-e-Ashari, has been the main target of armed Sunni extremists.

Ismailis, Bohras and other smaller Shia sects, though occasional targets, have largely stayed unhurt, because of their smaller populations, relative affluence and their tendency to live in close-knit community.

How many Ismailis are there and where are they?

They say they have a population of about 15 million people worldwide, including 500,000 in Pakistan. There are also large populations in India, Afghanistan and Africa.

How do they live?

In Pakistan, the Ismaili urban population is mostly concentrated in Karachi. But they have a presence in most major cities in Sindh, Punjab and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. They are mostly rich businessmen from the Gujrati-speaking belt of India, or small traders and office workers from Sindh.

They tend to live close to their mosques, often apart from other communities. This indicates a feeling of insecurity which pervades minorities everywhere in Pakistan.

Who is their spiritual leader?

He is Prince Karim Aga Khan - or His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV to give him his full title.
He is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims and they trace his lineage directly to the Prophet Muhammad.

He succeeded his grandfather in 1957 at the age of 20.

He lives in France, has a British passport, graduated from Harvard University and is among the top 15 of the world's wealthiest royals, according to Forbes magazine, with an estimated wealth of $1bn (£640m) in 2008.

Does he not own a lot of race horses?

He does. He is a leading owner and breeder of race horses in France, Ireland and the UK. He bred Shergar, once the most famous, and most valuable racehorse in the world.

That sounds unusual

Indeed. TheMuslimTimes describes the Aga Khan as a "paradox". It writes: "The Pope of his flock, he also possesses fabled wealth and inhabits a world of marvellous châteaux, yachts, jets, and Thoroughbred horses. To be sure, few persons bridge so many divides - between the spiritual and the material; East and West; Muslim and Christian - as gracefully as he does."

The Institute of Ismaili Studies says he continues a tradition of "strict political neutrality" but he is often present at conferences of world leaders when Central Asia is on the agenda.

What else is the Aga Khan known for?

He is the founder of the Aga Khan Foundation, a charity, and a business magnate.

He gives his name to bodies including a university in Karachi, and the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture was key to the restoration of the Humayun's Tomb site in Delhi. There is an annual Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

And he founded the Nation Media Group, which has become the largest independent media organisation in east and central Africa.

After the Karachi attack he issued a statement saying the Ismailis were a "peaceful global community living in harmony with other religious and ethnic groups in many countries across the world, including in the Muslim world".

Shabbateans

Doctrines

The Shabbateans were followers of Shabbetai Tzevi (1626-1676), an Ashkenazi Jew born in Izmir, Turkey, who was believed by many Jews in Europe and Asia Minor at the time to be the Messiah. Now known by their Turkish name as Donme "apostates" and outwardly Muslim (following Shabbetai's example), they practise a form of Judaism, though distancing themselves from Jewish orthodoxy. Believing that the messianic age has dawned and the final coming of the Messiah is imminent, they renounced many of the commandments, including those connected with the sabbath day, and placed more emphasis on the mystical traditions contained in the Zohar, than on the Talmud. 


                               Ancient Israelite temple vestiture and ritual offering of incense

Their most important feast on which they celebrate the birthday of Shabbetai, occurs on the 9th of Ab, which for other Jews is a solemn fast commemorating the destruction of the Temple. But, as in orthodox Judaism, their leaders are rabbis, well-versed in the Hebrew scriptures, they use Hebrew in worship and they practise circumcision.

History

The wave of messianic fervor that swept Europe and the Middle East in the seventeenth century, fuelled on the one hand, by the kabbalistic teachings of Shabbetai's chief prophet, Nathan of Gaza, and by anti-Jewish legislation and persecution in Europe, on the other, ended tragically for most Jews with the imprisonment of Shabbetai Tzevi by the Ottoman authorities in Istanbul, and his conversion to Islam, under duress, in 1666. But a small number continued to follow him, believing their Messiah had only appeared to convert so as to triumph all the more completely in the end. They established a community in Salonica, which he had proclaimed a holy city. After his exile to Albania and death in 1676, the Salonica community, led by Shabbetai's wife's family, came to be known as the "apostates" or Donme in Turkish. Small groups of Shabbateans continued to exist in various parts of Europe. They had to meet in secret out of fear of orthodox rabbis, anxious to prevent another tragic outburst of misguided messianic enthusiasm. Leader of one such group was the Polish Jew Jacob Frank (1726-1791) who spent some time in Turkey in contact with the Donme and came to believe he was a reincarnation of Shabbetai Tzevi. His followers known as Frankists presented themselves to the Catholic authorities as Jews who rejected the Talmud and shared many Christian beliefs. Many of them were baptized and were successful members in Polish society. Jacob himself was imprisoned for some years for his heretical beliefs, and was succeeded by his daughter Eve who died in 1817. The Donme of Salonica have survived despite various schisms into the present century, and in 1913 accounted for as much as one quarter of the large Jewish community there. In 1924 they were rejected by the orthodox and moved to Turkey where they have a synagogue in Istanbul.
Adherents 3000 Donme in Istanbul

Symbols

The Shabbateans employ the same symbol system as other Jewish traditions.

Headquarters/Main Center Istanbul.

Alawites in Syria, Lebanon, Israel & Turkey (Alexandreta)

Population All Countries 2,564,900

Alawite in Israel Population 1,900

Without moving, the Alawite religious community moved from Syria to Lebanon and Israel. In fact, their town of Ghajar is split between Israel and Lebanon. It sits in the Golan Heights where it belonged to Syria until the 1967 War when Israel captured the area. When Israel formally annexed Golan, Alawites in Ghajar opted to become Israeli citizens. This made their group the only Alawite community in Israel. Then the UN drew Lebanon's border to cut through the heart of Ghajar. There are over a million Alawites in neighboring Syria, where the Syrian president is part of the Alawite religion. The Alawites in Ghajar find economic benefits by identifying with Israel, so they practice their unique version of Islam in a land ruled by Jews. (Is Ghajar a deformed word from Khazar?; after all the word Gujar, which is more different from the word Khazar, is considered to derive from it)

Alawites borrow beliefs from other religious groups, and worship a relative of Islam's prophet, Mohammed. Alawism says that all people were once stars in the world of light, but they fell due to disobedience. Individuals must be reincarnated seven times before they once again return to being stars. They see themselves as a persecuted minority, God's chosen people, the only ones who have seen the light. (some people consider them as hidden Israelites, that the word Alawi comes secretly from the Hebrew "haLevi" meaning the Levite & indeed they have secret beliefs, drink wine... have priestly class & are considered as Chosen People like the Jews) They think that if people are sinful, they will be reborn as Christians.

Primary Language: Arabic, North Levantine Spoken (1,900 speakers)

Alawite in Lebanon

Population 116,000

In the Jabal al-Nusayriyah, the mountain ranges of northwestern Syria that overlook the Mediterranean Sea, the Alawi community has maintained itself for over one thousand years, fiercely clinging to its syncretistic secret religion. The 'Alawis have survived as a distinct group in spite of repeated persecution and the threat of extinction by the Sunni majority and rulers who considered them pagans and heretics who were not eligible for the status of a protected religion.

"Alawi" is the term that Alawis usually apply to themselves; but until 1920 they were known to the outside world as "Nusayris" or "Ansaris". The change in name, imposed by the French upon their seizure of control in Syria, has significance. Whereas "Nusayri" emphasizes the group's differences from Islam, "Alawi" suggests an adherent of Ali and accentuates the religion's similarities to Shi'a Islam. Consequently, opponents of the Assad regime habitually use the former term; supporters of the regime use the latter.

The mountainous areas of Syria have always been a safe haven for minority groups seeking security. Three Islamic sects found refuge there: the Assassins (Nizari Isma'ilis) and the Druze who were direct offshoots of the Isma'ili Sevener Fatimids of Egypt, and the Alawis who were based on extremer Twelver Shi'a thought mixed with syncretic Christian and traditional influences. The Alawi are one of several groups of extremist Shi'a sects known as the Ghulat (exaggerators). While most Shi'a groups revere Ali and his family, the Ghulat have gone beyond veneration, considering Ali to be the very manifestation of God.

The Alawis are a tribal people, divided into four main tribe. They are a closed society and they see themselves as a persecuted and despised people, who actually are the chosen people of God, the only ones to have seen the light in a world of darkness. While maintaining their beliefs they pretend to adhere to the dominant religion present in order to escape persecution.

The 'Alawi community is divided into the "Khassah", the initiated religious leaders who learn the mysteries of the religion, and the ignorant majority called "'Ammah". Any male over eighteen can try and receive initiation if he passes certain tests. He is then attached to a spiritual guide and can gradually ascend to higher degrees of initiation (Najib, Natik, Imam). All Khassah must pledge to keep the secrets of the faith (Kitman) and it's obligations. The ignorant 'Ammah are expected only to keep general moral rules, be loyal to the community's spiritual leaders, celebrate the 'Alawi feasts and make pilgrimages to the tombs of various holy men, amongst them al-Khidr (Elijah, St. George) and other saints venerated also by Muslims and Christians.

A visitor will not encounter an Alawite who will discuss the particulars of his beliefs. In fact, an Alawite would tell the visitor he is a Muslim, since he sees himself as one. The common Alawite person does not even know his group's teachings, because they are so secret. According to Christian workers assigned to the Fertile Crescent, very few of the Alawites knows Christ personally. There is a great need for more workers who will commit themselves to getting Bibles and other Christian literature into the Alawites' hands and to sharing the Good News in other ways.

Alawite in Syria

Population 1,941,000 Christian 0.02%

Evangelical 0.02% Largest Religion Islam (99.79%)

Main Language Arabic, North Levantine Spoken

Three-quarters of the Syrian Alawis live in the northwestern province of Latakia, where they make up almost two-thirds of the population.

Alawite in Turkey

Population 506,000 Christian 0.03%

Evangelical 0.01% Largest Religion Islam (99.97%)

Sacerdotal/Jewish Personal Status

1. Historical background

Judaism (the monotheistic Adamic religion) in West Asia first emerged in Sumer in what is now southern Iraq. The Sumerian language is considered a language isolate with no known genealogical relatives, yet it is clear that Sumerian is structurally an African language as is obvious even to a non-specialist when comparing Sumerian to contemporary African languages as Sumerian simply put looks and sounds very distinctly African. However even Semitic languages genealogically belong to the otherwise entirely African Afro-Asiatic language family. Also, the tribal Middle East is considered by anthropologists as being culturally part of Africa.

Sumer was a theocratic yet early socialist, slave society where the ruling sacerdotal caste were both religious and political leaders. Agriculture in southern Mesopotamia required careful communal management and close cooperation for irrigation and managing floods and this is the context of economic history in which Sumerian civilization emerged.

The ruling caste of Sumer; the ENs (who still survive in Mesopotamia as Mandeans) were the first deviated Adamic  priests in being the first persons in history in holding Jewish/sacerdotal personal status. With the collapse of Sumerian civilization in 1940 BCE the ENs fled Sumer but reestablished themselves in Canaan, Egypt, Iran, Anatolia, Greece, even in India and elsewhere in the wider region thanks to their advanced technological skills and advanced scientific knowledge.

The originally Israelite King David of Israel established the unified monarchy of Israel and conferred sacerdotal status that had previously been limited to the Levites (Canaanite ENs) to the people generally. This was due to Canaan already being the sacred land Aratta (Hebrew Eretz for land) of Sumerian religion. This conferral marked the birth of the Jewish people and therefore also the broader Jewish nation. The unified monarchy was later split into the southern Kingdom of Judah and the northern Kingdom of Israel. This also marked the beginning of the historical split of Judaism into the Southern Jurisdiction of Judah and the Northern Jurisdiction of Israel.

The Jews of the northern Kingdom of Israel were deported to Media by the Neo-Assyrian Empire and later became instrumental in the establishment of the Median Empire. This caused the tremendous proliferation of the Judaism of the Northern Jurisdiction as Median Judaism became the religion of prestige in Media and was adopted by the ENs in Media (who of course were already priestly) and their respective peoples. The Median Maggid Kohanim (descendants of David) known in Latin by historians as the Magi engaged in global trade which also involved the syncretistic proliferation of Median Judaism and thus conferral of sacerdotal/Jewish personal status to many different peoples around the world as e.g. most Japanese do remain halakhically Jewish as do Igbos who have remained faithful to Odinani (from Sumerian D*Inanna a.k.a. as Diana), the Igbo Crypto-Judaism.
However the deported Israelites of the northern Kingdom of Israel opted for religious secrecy and religious dissimulation after arrival in Assyrian Media so as to be able to communally survive under Assyrian rule. This secrecy has now been maintained for 27 centuries and so the secrecy has therefore become culturally habitual indeed.

The people of the southern Kingdom of Judah were instead deported to Babylonia, later returned to the land of Israel and were in several waves dispersed to countries around the world. The peoples of both Judah and Israel thus very early on experienced globalization, yet Sumerian Adamic sacerdotal personal status was religiously retained throughout history.

The aggressive and intolerant religious imperialism caused Judaism of both jurisdictions to demographically contract. Jewish religious restrictions on conversion to both jurisdictions of Judaism appeared in response to the harsh intolerance of religious imperialism which forbade conversion to Judaism. Strict endogamy and therefore quite rare conversions thus became means towards maintaining sacerdotal personal status.

2. Modernity

Rabbinic Judaism in modernity began to splinter into different competing religious movements, namely primarily and in historical order of appearance Sabbatean Judaism, Hasidic Judaism, Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Orthodox Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism, Humanist Judaism and Jewish Renewal. This caused the emergence of competing strategies for communal survival and disagreements about how precisely to confer sacerdotal personal status with regard to both descent and conversion.

The major religious divide in Rabbinic Judaism during the 20 century was between the non-Orthodox denominations of Rabbinic Judaism and the various sub-denominations of Orthodox Judaism.

However, Rabbinic Judaism in modernity is a spectrum of degree and the main disagreement is not theological but rather about how to practically relate to the challenge modernity, namely hegemonic Western Christian culture/civilization. Relatively more socially conservative denominations of Rabbinic Judaism therefore overtly claim to not recognize the right of relatively more socially liberal denominations to decide how to confer sacerdotal personal status. They do so precisely in order so as prevent assimilation and ensure their own respective communal survival.

For example most rabbis of Orthodox Judaism claim to not recognize conversions performed by rabbis of Conservative Judaism. Yet, when converts to Conservative Judaism regularly pray in Orthodox synagogues and adopt a halakhically observant lifestyle, they are in most cases accepted as fully halakhically Jewish by Orthodox rabbis without requiring any Orthodox conversion whatsoever. Similarly, Sabbatean (Dönmeh) Jews may be asked by Orthodox rabbis to perform a giyur lechumra which literally means “strict conversion” in Hebrew but is actually a quickie conversion intended to remove any lingering doubt as to the sacerdotal personal status of the person in question. Also, officially not admitting that Sabbatean Jews are halakhically Jewish was considered necessary due to the fact that most adherents of Sabbatai Zevi (today totaling about one million) are not descended from Rabbinic Jews but are rather Jews of Alevi-Bektashi Judaism in the Northern Jurisdiction and whose Jewish sacerdotal status was kept secret by both leading rabbis (poskim) and Alevi Dedes and Bektashi Babas.


Semah, Alevi ritual dance

Jewish sacerdotal status was originally conferred patrilineally but this was changed to matrilineal descent in the Southern Jurisdiction probably sometime in Roman-ruled Israel. Karaite Judaism however which is part of the Southern Jurisdictions recognizes only patrilineage for conferring Jewish personal status through ancestry. However, non-Orthodox religious movements in Rabbinic Judaism have increasingly recognized patrilineage as equally legitimate to matrilineage for conferring sacerdotal personal status. Yet, there is a division on the issue of patrilineal descent even within Reform Judaism itself. Reform Judaism in the United States thus accepts patrilineage for conferring Jewish personal status while Reform Judaism in Israel in contrast does not. This means that an American Reform rabbi with a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother, yet not having converted would not be considered Jewish by most Reform rabbis in Israel.

In past decades, Orthodox Judaism has begun to itself increasingly splinter on the issue of conversion so as to prevent the culture of intermarriage among non-Orthodox Diaspora rabbinic Jews from spreading to Orthodox Jewish communities. The various sub-denominations of Orthodox Judaism (Hasidic sects, Mitnagdim, Liberal Orthodox and Hardalim) are therefore increasingly becoming distinctive denominations in their own right whereby the relatively more socially conservative denominations in Orthodox Judaism claim to no longer recognize conversions performed by relatively more socially liberal denominations of Orthodox Judaism.

However all these disagreement regarding who is officially considered recognized as fully Jewish within the Southern Jurisdiction will become irrelevant once the Diaspora of the Southern Jurisdiction has been ingathered and returned home to Israel. This is so considering the fact that the disagreement about conferring sacerdotal personal status is primarily about ensuring communal, denominational survival in the Diaspora. There are three main demographic components within the Southern Jurisdiction; these are Rabbinic Jews, Karaite Jews and Rabbinic Crypto-Jews such as the Anusim Sephardic Crypto-Jews who number in millions and who also need to be substantially aided in reverting to Rabbinic Judaism and making Aliyah (immigrating) to Israel.

However, reluctance to welcome converts to Judaism exists in the Northern Jurisdiction as well. Median Judaism in the Middle East typically requires dual matrilineal and patrilineal descent and conversions to Alawism, Alevism, Druzism, Dönmeh Sabbateanism, Mandeanism and Yezidism are performed in complete secrecy while Bektashism and Yarsanism still openly welcome new converts to their own respective forms of Middle Eastern Median Judaism.


These Alevis could pass for ancient Israelites & even for Arabs. That is the case with their attire, of course, not the colors. These colors could have been used by ancient Israelites for secial ocasions though.

3. Reunification of Judah and Israel

Median Judaism being Jewish has been kept secret for 27 centuries now in religiously awaiting the political unification of the peoples of the Southern Jurisdiction and the Northern Jurisdiction.

Reunification thus also involves the Southern Jurisdiction and crucially the State of Israel officially acknowledging Median Judaism and therefore also affirming the sacerdotal personal status of Jews within the Northern Jurisdiction as fully Jewish indeed. Religious leaders within Median Judaism will in turn have to end their own secrecy about their own denominations being fully Jewish indeed. Both jurisdictions acknowledging Median Judaism is therefore certainly something very much long awaited in both jurisdictions; yet also very much intrinsic to the coming political reunification of the peoples and lands of Judah and Israel.

The acknowledgement of and by Median Judaism and the beginning of the official political reunification of the peoples and lands of Judah and Israel is thus something that must necessarily happen in parallel. Indeed, one will not happen without the other as the acknowledgement process and the reunification process are intimately interconnected indeed. Official reunification cannot happen without official acknowledgment and so official acknowledgement should slightly precede the official start of reunification, including local communal reversions among Para-Jewish peoples historically “lost” to religious imperialism.

Thousands Call On Israel to Save Syrian Druze in Mass Protest

Israel's Druze accepting donations to send to family, friends in Syria who face threat of massacres; 'We are all ready to take them into our homes.'

Thousands protested in Israel's Druze villages Saturday, calling on Israel and the international community to take action and aid the Druze community in Syria, which is facing a growing threat of being massacred at the hands of Islamic State militants, al-Qaeda affiliates and other rebels locked in a civil war with the Syrian regime under Bashar Assad.

"Stop the massacres," cried some protesters, "We want the Druze among us," called others. Donations were accepted during the protests, which the Druze hope will reach their family members in Syria.

"I have family and friends who I'm very worried about and I try to help them in any way I can," said a member of the Israeli Druze community from Mas'ada village in the Golan Heights. "I hope that the State of Israel will help them and let them come to Mas'ada. We are all ready to take them into our homes.

Over 200,000 have been killed in Syria's four-year civil war, but the neutral Druze community remained largely unharmed until al-Qaeda affiliated rebels known as the Nusra Front killed 20 Druze in the north west of the war-torn nation on Thursday.


On Wednesday, President Reuven Rivlin expressed his concern to the United States about the fate of the Druze minority in Syria, saying around 500,000 of them were under threat from Islamist militants in an area near the Israeli border.

No Other Country in the Middle East Champions the Minorities Like Israel Does

Whether they are Christians Israel welcomed with open arms in Jerusalem, Bahai’is with their own temples in Israel, or Druze with many having made Israel their home, minorities in the Middle East will always find Israel welcoming them.

When 20 civilian Druze were gunned down by a Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist cell in Qalb al-Lawzeh in the Idlib Province, Israel rose immediately to the defense of the Syrian Druze community. Thousands of Israeli citizens took to the streets asking to protect the Druze of Syria from any further massacres.

It took 20 innocent Druze killed mercilessly and Israel is already moving heaven and earth to protect Syria’s Druze. In fact, Israel may create a buffer zone in the south of Syria to protect them.

Israel views the Druze of Syria as essential peace partners, and as such, it is acting to create a more peaceful environment in the region.

N.B. Druze is plural for Dirzi.

MK Kara: Druze Are Descended From Jews

The secret is out, says Druze MK Ayoub Kara: "The Druze are actually descended from the Jewish people, and genetic evidence proves it."

                                                                    Druze in Israel

For centuries, practitioners of the Druze religion took care not to reveal any information about the nature of their beliefs, rituals, and traditions. Under penalty of communal ostracism, or worse, members of Druze communities have refrained from telling any outsider more than basic details about their religion.

But now, the secret is out. Druze MK Ayoub Kara (Likud) says members of the Druze communities believe in many of the same things that Jews do. And that's not surprising, he adds, since the Druze are actually descended from the Jewish people - and he says he can bring genetic evidence to prove it.
According to Kara, who is politically allied with the Jewish nationalist camp, there are many aspects of Druze beliefs that mesh with Judaism: “All our prophets are Jewish ones –Moses, Judah, Jethro, and Zevulun, the son of Jacob.” In fact, he says, the Druze are likely one of the lost tribes of the Jewish people –probably Zevulun, considering his special status among them.

According to Kara, there are no vestigial Jewish practices among the Druze – as there are, surprisingly, among some Arabs in the Land of Israel – but one symbol has stuck with the Druze throughout the centuries. “Only among Druze do you find a red Star of David, in homes, cemeteries, and places of worship,” Kara says. “This is one sign that has been open and visible for centuries, unlike most of the other ones, yet few have noticed.”

If the Druze dropped most, if not all, Jewish ritual, it's because they feared the sword of Islam. “Unlike Jews and Christians, who have the status of “people of the Book” among Muslims, and are there foreign given some basic rights, Druze are simply heretics to Islam, and such heretics must be either converted or eliminated,” Kara explains. In fact, Druze were massacred by Muslims on several occasions, and “it would have been much worse if they had identified themselves as Jews.” As a result, the Druze initially converted to Christianity and subsequently took on a Muslim identity – but through it all, they never forgot their Jewish identity.

Those roots explain, at least in part, the fierce loyalty the Druze in Israel have to the state. “However, Druze here are too fearful to loudly proclaim their sympathies with Israel, or to convert to Judaism, although some do –because of the fear of what might happen to their brethren in Syria and Lebanon,” Kara said. Druze soldiers have given their lives for Israel and have risen high in IDF ranks. However, Druze tradition is to be loyal to whatever country rules the area they live in, so that Druze in Syria are loyal to Syria.

And then there is the genetic study, which shows that Druze display genetic attributes quite similar to those of Jews (see the study for the technical details). “A major genetic test from last year, the first extensive test done of the Druze, proves my contention clearly,” says Kara.

Not all experts are convinced – at least not yet. Tsvi MiSinai, an Israeli author who has conducted extensive investigations into the cultural and genetic background of the Arabs living west of the Jordan River, and who has concluded that the vast majority of them are descended from the Jewish nation, believes that more study is necessary. “According to the study, the genetic cluster of Druze coincides closely with those of the Samaritans, and is very close to the genetic clusters of Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and Jews from the Caucasus,” says MiSinai, author of an ambitious study on “Jewish nationhood” called “Brother Shall Not Lift Sword Against Brother.”

While the evidence so far is persuasive, MiSinai wants to see more. “We know from history that there were definitely Jewish villages that became part of the Druze community, mostly to avoid being forced to convert to Islam, such as the residents of the villages of Abu Snein and Yarcha. If the genetic samples were taken from there, it doesn't say much about the rest of the Druze. I would want to see more of an in-depth study,” MiSinai says.

Kara says that his evidence stands on its own merits. “For thousands of years the Druze suffered,” he said, “so it's understandable that they would be a little hesitant to come forward after only 60 years of Israel's existence. But when you check our beliefs –and our veneration of the great Jewish prophets – the matter should become clear.”

Should the Druzim Be Called Bnei Zevulun?

The Druzes take in great esteem Zebulun, son of Israel. They regard themselves as descendants of Israelites. Because of the high regard they have towards Zabulon, he might be their tribal patriarch. 

Perhaps the Druzes from abroad should be allowed to make a Druze Aliyah. Druze Aliyah or Druze reception is not the same. Their faithfulness to the Jewish state from the Druze Israelis is remarkable & it's expected to be the same if they migrate to Israel.

The Jewish State should be more generous to them because of their co-religionists' faithfulness & their Lost Israelite origin, hence the term Druze Aliyah. Maybe the State of Israel could add a new category to the Law of Return in which individuals that have a proven Israelite origin, but are not practising Judaism currently, are permitted to establish in the Promised Land.


Multilayered Jewish Star symbolizing multiplicity of subdivisions within the Jewish streams & the Israelite Lost Tribes. Being the Druzes a remarkable part of it all.

Perhaps the Rabbinate or even the Jewish government could take the Druzim as the lost tribe of Zebulun. The Jews from the kingdom Judah are the ones that mostly maintained their identity as such, whereas the Israelites lost their identity.

The first ones were from the Kingdom of the South, or Jewdah. The second ones formed the separated Kingdom of the North or Israel. So the ones that are religiously Jewish would maintain that status & a new citizenship category would be added in the Israeli legislation for the ones having a proven Lost Israelite origin, even if they don't follow the modern Jewish religion.

Since most in the latter category are descended from the northern Israelite tribes, that category should be called Israelite. The two categories as a whole should be given the name of Hebrew. So in the new State of Israel there would be Jews, Israelites & gentiles or simpler: Hebrews & gentiles. Since most Palestinians have a Hebrew origin descending from Jews, but also from Israelites, they should be encouraged to join either category. 


Some Islamic Sects With Israelite Origin

Dawoodi Bohras (1200 people), Alavi Bohras (6 to 7 thousand), Suleimani Bohras (2000), Dudhwala Jamat, Memons and other Muslims (for these three remaining groups population figures are not available). They are extremely poor, except for the Alavi Bohras & Dudhwala Jamat.

Two groups, the Druze and the Alawites, are distantly related to Shi'ite Islam, and some scholars do not even regard them as Muslims; both tend to be secretive about their religious beiiefs and practices. Druze are found in parts of southern and central Lebanon, southern Syria, and northern Israel; Alawites form a small but highly influential minority in Syria.

Competition with holy men of other persuasions has been constant in Zaydi history. The early years of Zaydi rule, for example, coincided with the advent of a rival Shia sect, the Ismailis, who resisted the spread of the Zaydis. Zaydis are devotees of Zayd, brother of Muhammad al-Baqir who is recognized by all other Shias as the Fifth Imam.

There were four schools of orthodox Sunni jurisprudence (Maliki, Hanafi, Shafii, and Hanbali). The Shia had three (Ismaili, Zaydi, and Twelver Shiites). There was also the Ibadi school of the Kharijites.

Nizari Ismailis are mainly in Central and South Asia, with significant communities across the Middle East.

Early Ismailism was split into two rival factions, which later became generally designated as Fatimid Ismailism and Qarmatism (or Qarmathism).

Ismailis went to Yemen and made converts and conquests at the same time as the Zaidi imams. Ismailism influenced the Yemeni Jews. The Ismailis in Yemen got tribal support and were for a time stronger than the Zaidis. Yemen was a Zaydi state.

The Kaysis and Zaydis always appear together. Zaidi beliefs are moderate compared to other Shia sects. The Zaidis do not believe in the infallibility of the Imams, nor that they receive divine guidance. Zaidis also do not believe that the Imamate must pass from father to son, but believe it can be held by any descendant of Imam 'Ali. For close to a thousand years Yemen has been religiously divided into two regions: the Shiite Northern Highland areas of Zaydism and Ismailism and a Sunni Shafi'i region consisting of the Red Sea coast, the southern mountains of the Highlands, Aden , and the Hadramawt.

Both Druze and Alawites are offshoots of the Ismailis.

Nizari Ismailis are mainly in Central and South Asia, with significant communities across the Middle East.


Information On Whether The Alevi Tatars Are Involved With The Kurds & The PKK

Some of the sources consulted place the Tatars in southeastern Turkey, the home region of the Kurds and the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). However, none of the sources indicates that there is any kind of alliance between the PKK and Alevi Tatars.


                                             Alevi Women don't look and are not rradical Moslems

About 85 per cent of the Turkish population (50 million) is ethnic Turkish, the rest being Kurds, Arabs, Slavs, Bulgars, Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Gypsies, Circassians, Georgians and others (World Encyclopedia of Political Systems and Parties 1987, 1136). While Encyclopedia of the Third World corroborates this information on the ethnic composition of Turkey, it adds that Crimean Tatars are included among Asian Turks (1992, 1972). The Kurds, with a population of about seven million, are the most important Muslim minority in Turkey (ibid.). Two-thirds of Kurds are Sunni Muslims, while one-third are Shiite or Alevi (ibid.).


                                                                          Alevi Symbol

An article in the 25 November 1993 issue of The Daily Telegraph states that the government was enlisting the support of tribal leaders in its battle with the "separatist" PKK. According to the source, one of the enlisted tribes was the Tatars, who live in the mainly Kurdish southeast, and that because of their feudal land ownership system, tribal leaders wield considerable influence in the Tatar community (ibid.).

The United Press International (UPI), in its release of 4 May 1992, reports that several thousand Crimean Tatars live in the central Turkish province of Eskisehir. The same source notes that since 1980, Crimean Tatars who moved to Turkey during and after the Second World War have demanded the right to return to the Crimea (ibid.). In an article in its 2 April 1992 issue, The Ottawa Citizen notes that about five million Crimean Tatars live in Turkey, but Moscow News puts the number at about three million (18 Mar. 1992).


                                                                    Alawite Drawing

According to an official of the Embassy of Turkey in Ottawa, the Tatars are a small ethnic group numbering between 200,000 and 300,000 (16 Dec. 1993). The source states that the Tatars, who are 99 per cent Sunni Muslim, are commonly found in Istanbul and Ankara (ibid.). For more information on the Crimean Tatars, that might provide an insight into Tatars in Turkey, please refer to the attachments.

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

THE ALEVI OF ANATOLIA

INTRODUCTION

The Alevi constitute the second largest religious community in Turkey (following the Sunnis), and number some 25% (15 million) of the total population (Alevis claim 30%-40%!). Most Alevis are ethnic and linguistic Turks, mainly of Turkmen descent from Central and Eastern Anatolia. Some 20% of Alevis are Kurds (though most Kurds are Sunnis), and some 25% of Kurds in Turkey are Alevi (Kurmanji and Zaza speakers).

Alevis consider themselves to be part of the wider Shi`a movement, who revere Ali (Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law) and the Twelve Imams of his house. Like all extreme Shia, their reverence for Ali verges on deification, for which reason classical Sunni ulama classified them as ghulat (exaggerators), outside the orthodox Islamic fold. Alevis are also called Kizilbash (the name of the Turkmen followers of the Safavid Sufi order of the 15th and 16th centuries), and Bektashi (followers of the Anatolian Bektashi Shia Sufi order founded in the 13th century). Further names used signify specific tribal and linguistic identities: Tahtaci; Abdal; Cepni; Zaza; or are names of great men revered by the Alevi: Caferi; Huseyni.

Alevis are distinct from the Arabic speaking Alawis of Syria and Southwest Turkey (Nusayris). Both are extreme Shia (ghulat) communities with similarities in doctrine and practice, but separate historical developments.

Alevis traditionally inhabit rural Central and Eastern Anatolia, in particular the triangle Kayseri- Sivas-Divirgi. Kurdish Alevis are mainly found in Tunceli, Elazig and Mus provinces. On the Mediterranean coast there are some tribal Alevi settlements of Tahtaci and Cepni. Alevi areas are peripheral and underdeveloped, resulting in the migration of Alevis to the large industrialised cities of western Turkey (and to Western Europe, mainly Germany) in relatively larger proportion than rural Sunnis. Alevis in Europe (especially in Germany), experiencing the freedom of a pluralistic society, stimulated new interest in Alevi ethnicity and culture (Alevilik).


Alevite Semah

Alevism originated out of a complex mix of mystical (Sufi) Islam, Shi`ism, and the rivalry between the Ottoman and Safavid Empires. Some Sufi orders like the Safavi and Bektashi accepted Shi`a reverence for Ali and the Twelve Imams, and their adherents and sympathisers became the Alevis. Alevi opposition to the Sunni Ottomans in the 16th century resulted in geographical and social marginalisation. In order to survive despite majority hostility and persecution the Alevi developed a tight social-religious network, and (like Druze, Shia, and Alawis), dissimulation and secrecy about their religion (taqiya). They form an endogamic (marrying only within their group) religious community that has definite ethnic markers.

The Alevi liturgical language is Turkish, as opposed to Sunni and Twelver Shia use of Arabic. They thus see themselves as the "real Turks", maintainers of true Turkish culture, religion and folklore in face of the Arabizing Ottoman Sunnis.

The dominant Sunni Islam which serves as the generally accepted orthodoxy in the Turkish state branded Alevism as heretical thus encouraging distorted perceptions of Alevis as sectarian "others" - attaching to them a stigma from which they still suffer today. There is still a persistent social gap between Sunni and Alevi in Turkish society nourished by centuries of majority persecution, prejudice and misconceptions. In the eyes of many traditional Sunnis Alevis are unclean, practice immorality and orgies, and are not true Muslims.

Whilst Sunnism and Twelver Shi`ism possess a tradition of authoritative religious scholarship backed by carriers of formal learning, Alevism lacks both and is more a flowing together of various related movements, doctrines, ideas, rituals and traditions in a flexible synthesis, its strength lying in shared local traditions and esoteric interpretations of Islamic belief and practice.

Until the 1980s it looked like Alevism was losing its unique characteristics and was being absorbed into the total of modern Turkish society. Alevi tradition has however shown a capacity for survival, renewing its particularistic traditions in the face of modernisation. The mid 1980s saw the start of a revival of the Alevi community through a reconstruction and transformation of its religious and social structures, a return to its communal identity patterns, and a reformulation of traditions. This process is linked to a politicisation of group members and an assertive reaffirmation of the collective Alevi identity.

The seeming collapse of Kemalism in the 1990s has created new problems and opportunities for Alevis, most of whom had appreciated Ataturk's extreme secularism even though it suppressed Alevi culture, as it ended centuries of Alevi persecution and massacres by the Sunni majority.


Semah

An Alevi revival is now flourishing as young Alevis are for the first time in history willing to openly admit their Alevi roots. Not so long ago, they would have denied their being Alevis if asked. Alevis had always practiced their rituals behind closed doors, but in recent years hundreds of Alevi religious societies have been founded, Alevi monasteries have opened in major cities, and Alevi rituals held in public venues in the large cities.

ORIGINS

During the great Turkish expansion from Central Asia into Iran and Anatolia in the Seljuk period (11-12th centuries), Turkmen nomad tribes accepted a Sufi and pro-Ali form of Islam that co-existed with some of their pre-Islamic customs. These tribes dominated central and eastern Anatolia for centuries with their religious warriors (ghazi) spearheading the drive against Byzantines and Slavs. Many Armenians converted to Turkmen type Islam while retaining some Christian practices, and some observers believe that heterodox Armenian Christianity exerted a significant influence on the beliefs of the extremist Shi`ite sects.

Sufism stressed esoteric, allegoric and multiple interpretations of scripture combined to intuitive faith and a search for ecstatic experiences, and was spread by wandering dervishes believed to possess bereket (spiritual power) and keramet (miraculous powers) due to their special nearness to God.
Dervish founders of tarikat (Sufi orders) were revered as Saints (veli) and called dede, baba, pir, or seyh, their tombs serving as pilgrimage centres.

Following the Seljuks, the Ottomans established their power in western Anatolia and gradually incorporated Eastern Anatolia into their empire. After Timur's victory over the Ottomans in the 15th century, the Ottoman hold on Eastern Anatolia weakened for a while, with autonomous Turkmen states (Ak-Koyunlu, Kara-Koyunlu) fighting each other for hegemony.

The Kizilbash (red-heads) were Turkmen tribes who adhered to the Safavid Sufi Order, whose Sheikhs claimed descent from Ali. Under Isma`il (d. 1524) they became dominant in Eastern Anatolia and conquered Azerbaijan with its capital Tabriz, where Isma`il named himself Shah in 1501 and went on to conquer all of Iran. His missionaries spread a message of revolt against the Sunni Ottomans in Anatolia, claiming that Isma`il was the awaited mehdi (messiah), and Anatolia became the scene of protracted warfare between Ottomans and Safavids.

The Bektashiyya is a Shia Sufi order founded in the 13th century by Haji Bektash Veli, a dervish who escaped Central Asia and found refuge with the Seljuks in Anatolia at the time of the Mongol invasions (1219-23). This order gained a great following in rural areas and it later developed in two branches: the Celebi clan, who claimed to be physical descendants of Haci Bektas Veli, were called Bel Evladlari (children of the loins), and became the hereditary spiritual leaders of the rural Alevis; and the Babagan, those faithful to the path (yol evladlari - children of the way) who dominated the official Bektashi Sufi order with its elected leadership.

Later, the Bektashiya became the order of the Janissary special troops, tolerated by the Ottomans as its monasteries and pilgrimage centres could be manipulated to control its Alevi followers.
Alevite dancers

After the foundation of the Safavid Persian state, the new Turkmen Shahs gradually rid themselves of their tribal and sectarian origins in their bid to build a unified Iranian state. Twelver Shiism was proclaimed state religion, with a special role for the Safavi Shahs as descendants of Ali and the Imams. This state religion developed into a very different system to the Alevi faith of their Kizilbash troops. Arab Twelver theologians were recruited from Jabal Amil in Lebanon and from Bahrain, and most Iranians were forcibly converted to Twelver Shiism. The Kizilbash tribal troops were gradually disbanded in favour of a regular Iranian slave army.

The Ottomans had accepted Sunni Islam in the 13th century as a means to unifying their empire, and later proclaimed themselves its defenders against the Safavid Shia state and related heretical sects. This created a gap between the Sunni Ottoman ruling elite and the Alevi Anatolian population. Anatolia became a battlefield between Safavids and Ottomans, each determined to include it in their Empire. Ismail instigated a series of revolts culminating in a general Anatolian uprising against the Ottomans, whose Sultan Bayezid mounted a major expedition 1502-1503 which pushed the Safavids and many of their Turkmen followers into Iran. His successor, Sultan Selim I "The Grim", launched a vigorous campaign into eastern Anatolia, utilising a religious edict condemning Alevis as apostates to massacre many. In the summer of 1514 Selim launched another offensive and won the major battle of Chaldiran on the eastern side of the Euphrates, convincing the Safavids to avoid open conflict with the Ottomans for the next century, and enabling him to overcome the last independent Turkmen dynasties in eastern Anatolia in 1515-1517.

Suleyman the magnificent also ruthlessly suppressed Safavid supporters in eastern Anatolia leading three campaigns into northwest Iran. Finally in 1555 the peace of Amasya recognised Ottoman rule over Iraq and Eastern Anatolia and Iranian rule over Azerbaijan and Caucasia.

The Kizilbash in Anatolia were now militarily, politically and religiously separated from their source in Iran, retreated to isolated rural areas and turned inward, developing their unique structures and doctrines. Following the severe persecution and massacres by the Ottomans which went on into the 18th century, Alevis went underground using taqiya, religious dissimulation permitted by all Shi`a groups, to conceal their faith (pretending to be Sunnis) and survive in a hostile environment. 

Kizilbash and Bektashis shared common religious beliefs and practices becoming intermingled as Alevis in spite of many local variations. Isolated from both the Sunni Ottomans and the Twelver Shi`a Safavids, Alevis developed traditions, practices, and doctrines by the early 17th century which marked them as a closed autonomous religious community. As a result of the immense pressures to conform to Sunni Islam, Alevis developed a tradition of opposition to all forms of external religion.
Some of the differences that mark Alevis from Sunnis are the use of wine for religious ceremonial functions; non-observance of the five daily prayers and prostrations (they only bow twice in the presence of their spiritual leader), Ramadan, and the Haj (they consider the pilgrimage to Mecca an external pretense, the real pilgrimage being internal in one's heart); and non-attendance of mosques.


Alevitesses performing Semah

Alevis were forbidden to proselytise, and Alevism regenerated itself internally by paternal descent. To prevent penetration by hostile outsiders, the Alevis insisted on strict endogamy which eventually made them into a quasi-ethnic group. Alevi taboos limited interaction with the dominant Sunni political-religious centre. Excommunication was the ultimate punishment threatening those who married outsiders, cooperated with outsiders economically, or ate with outsiders. It was also forbidden to use the state (Sunni) courts.

MODERN HISTORY

Rural Alevis were marginalised and discriminated against in the Ottoman Empire, although the official Bektashiya order enjoyed a privileged role through its close association with the Janissary professional military corps. In 1826 Sultan Mahmud II massacred the Janissaries and suppressed the Bektashi order. Yet Bektashi secret circles remained extremely active, Bektashis becoming progressive, anticlerical, and liberal, viewed suspiciously by the authorities and cooperating with others hostile to the establishment such as Freemasons and Young Turks. Until 1925 it was estimated that 10 to 20 percent of Turkey's adult male population were still members of the Bektashiya.

Alevis saw Ataturk as a mehdi (Messiah), a Saviour, a divine emanation following Ali and Haji Bektash, sent to save them from the Sunni Ottoman yoke, who turned Alevi ideals into state practice, and his portrait is hung up beside Ali's in many Alevi homes. Ataturk on his part saw the Alevis as allies in his struggle against the traditional Ottoman elite and for secularism and Turkish nationalism. He selectively included Alevi cultural markers in his construct of the new Turkish national collective identity. However, to ensure national unity, the unique Alevi identity was subordinated to the general Anatolian-Turkish national identity.



Alevis are proud of their cooperation with Ataturk, and the fact that the Celebi and Dedebaba of the Hacibektas monastery had supported him. Alevis were his faithful allies in the war of independence, in the setting up of the modern Turkish secular nationalist state, and in the destruction of Ottomanism. The early Kemalist republic is regarded as the ideal state in which the Alevis were fairly represented proportionately to their percentage of the total population in the National Assembly.
Kemalism turned Alevis into legally equal citizens, and its reforms had a radical impact on them as roads were built through their formerly isolated areas, compulsory schooling was introduced, and communications improved, drawing them out of their marginalisation into active engagement in social and political life and into deeper contact with the outside world and the state centre. The new Turkish Republic fulfilled many Alevi expectations, enabling them to identify with and support its nation-building measures - the Alevis still see themselves as the protectors of Kemalism and democracy in Turkey.

In his drive for secularization Ataturk later (1925) destroyed most religious frameworks, Sunni as well as Alevi, closing down the orders and confiscating their monasteries. Although driven underground, the orders continued to enjoy popularity in secret.

Secularization diminished traditional threats to Alevi existence transforming Turkish society into a less Alevi-hostile community. The downplay of religion in public life and the Westernisation of the ruling elite tended to turn Alevism into just one of several cultural and folklorist themes in Turkish nationalism. While still trying to maintain their ethnic identity, Alevis became increasingly secularised and neglected their traditional institutions. However, the wall of Sunni prejudice to the historically marginalised Alevi was not easily overcome, and Alevis remained to some extent the object of suspicion, in their turn remaining somewhat sceptical of the central state and its institutions.

As the existential danger receded and the community opened up to the outside world, solidarity ties loosened. ritual and ceremony lost some of their meaning and the spiritual leadership gradually lost its authority. This change in Alevi internal structures was accelerated by the massive migration into the cities, where Alevis underwent a process of secularisation and modernisation which broke traditional hereditary ties to the religious hierarchy. Religion lost its relevancy and even intermarriage was practiced by some. A new generation grew up in the 1960s that had not passed through initiation and was not familiar with the Alevi "Way" (yol).


Alevim dancing Semah

However, the stigma of Alevism remained even as the younger generation tried to adapt itself to the secular Turkish identity. Alevis found that they still faced discrimination in employment and education, and again turned to taqiya for stigma management, adapting to Sunni ways in order to get a share of the scarce resources. Many concealed that they were Alevi, visited the mosques, and kept Ramadan. Education and migration were seen as the gateway to social upward mobility, and from 1960s on a new Alevi middle class appeared.

Under Menderes the Hacibektas centre was restored and reopened in 1964 as a museum, with annual celebrations in August for tourists in memory of the Saint.

When Sunni fundamentalism appeared in the 1970s, many Alevis reacted by reinterpreting Alevism in socialist and Marxist idiom that seemed to have an affinity to Alevi ideals. There was a generation gap in Alevism: the older generation remained Kemalist and hoped for the official reopening of the Bektashi order whilst the young generation became very politicised as they came in contact with revolutionary thought in universities, high schools, and trade unions. They claimed that the old forms were outdated and that Alevis must work for a radical restructuring of society. They saw all "reactionary" elements which tried to assimilate them into mainstream Sunni life as enemies, and joined extreme leftist parties, reinterpreting historical opposition to Sunnism in terms of class struggle and continuing the traditional Alevi role of opposition to the state. Some leftist Alevi activists also turned against their own religious hierarchy, branding them feudal exploiters of the masses and driving dedes out of their villages.



                               Map of Alevi Kurds (blue), Alevi Turks (red) & Alevi Arabs (green)

Much of the violence during the late 70s although presented by state and media as left versus right was in fact Sunni versus Alevi. Ultra-nationalists allied themselves to Sunni fundamentalists in attacking Alevis. Even some communists of Sunni background sided with conservative Sunnis against their political allies of Alevi background. In 1978 in the city of Kahramanras in southern Turkey local Sunnis went on a rampage, slaughtering scores of leftist Alevis from the nearby villages in the worst massacre in living memory.

The violence of the 70s resulted in the military takeover of 1980 whose purges hurt Alevis harder than others because of their leftist commitment, and the Hacibektas celebrations were forbidden for several years. As a reaction, community identification intensified and religious and cultural boundary markers against the Sunni majority regained importance.

The return of many Turks to their religious roots and the politicization of their communal identities were a crisis response to modernity and the accelerated rate of change it forced on Turkish society. Secularist ideologies such as Kemalism and socialism seemed to have failed and not delivered the hoped for goods. Alevis were not willing any more to sacrifice their communal identity on the altar of class-struggle and began consciously to identify themselves as a political group on the basis of a shared religious identity.

Turkish state politics after the military takeover encouraged Sunni-orthodox and nationalist unity ideology. Sunni Sufi orders such as the Naqshbandi, Suleimanci, and Nurcu became more visible, and Sunni propaganda disseminated by the government stated that Alevis were actually Sunnis with some divergent customs, negating the uniqueness of Alevism and trying to integrate it in state Sunnism. Whilst accepting that Alevism has important Turkish elements, the authorities tried to Sunnify Alevism, initiating a state policy of assimilation and Sunnification. Infrastructure improvements in Alevi villages were made conditional on compliance with mosque construction and the participation of all Alevi children in Sunni religious instruction.

As Sunni Islamism gained strength in the late 1980s and religious intolerance spread, an Alevi backlash occurred in the form of a cultural revival spearheaded by the new educated Alevi elite who organised foundations and trusts, rebuild Saint tombs, and restored rituals. There was an effort to reclaim traditions and remark boundaries, a call to reconstruct Alevi culture, community, and identity. A process was initiated of a reinterpretation of Alevi history and religion, culminating in an "invention of traditions" accompanied by a "coming out" of Alevis from century long dissimulation practices. For the first time in modern history Alevis dared to publicly accept their stigmatized identity, articulate their collective interests towards the state, and demand equality with the Sunni majority.

The 1980 military takeover brought all Turkish secularist movements under pressure due to the growing Islamization of public and private life. Alevis allied themselves to secular-liberal Sunni groups that feared for the secular Kemalist state -but Alevis this time were not absorbed by these groups but cooperated with them as a separately identifiable group.

The democratic opening in Turkey in 1988/1989 broke taboos and opened up public discussions in the press. Publications were allowed that would never have been permitted before and liberals pushed for ethnographic studies of the Turkish society mosaic. Since 1989 the liberal press has accepted Alevism as a separate religious community. Along with other marginalized groups Alevis increased their political activism and fought for equality and official recognition of Alevism as an Islamic community with its special characteristics, for legalization of its religious ritual and practice, for integration of Alevi doctrine in the state education system, and for allotment of a fair share in the media.


                                                                   Alevi Turkmen flag

The government was unhappy about the outcome of liberalisation. It had hoped to woo Alevis into a pure Turkish nationalist camp and separate them from other oppressed minorities, especially the exploding Kurdish nationalism. There was a growing state interest in dividing Alevis from Kurds and manipulating them to further the regime's aims. The Alevis for their part, encouraged by the weakening of the Soviet block and revived claims for minority recognition around the world, pressed for increased recognition in Turkish society. Alevi publications multiplied, and Alevis supported the claims of other minorities such as the Laz and the Kurds.

The pervasive influence of religion in public life in the 1990s has grave potential for a worsening of Sunni-Alevi tensions. In 1990 the Ministry of Cults took over the organisation of the Hacibektas festivities under the excuse of making it an international attraction. Alevis were unhappy about its interference in the programme especially in 1993 and 1994 as government officials stressed the Turkish elements in Alevism but ignored the community's specifity and did not give it any operating space as a minority community.

With the political thaw of the 1990s, Alevis in Turkey, influenced by the activities of their brethren in Europe, especially Germany, began to actively publish Alevi books, and open Alevi cultural centers.

Sivas incidents

Renewed inter-communal violence is sadly on the rise. The oppression reached its dénouement in Sivas on 2 July 1993, when thirty-six people (Alevis, intellectuals, and a Dutch anthropologist) attending the Pir Sultan Abdal Festival were burned to death in a hotel by Sunni locals. The state security services did not interfere and the prosecution against leaders of the riot was not energetically pursued.

Gazi Quarter riots

Semah dance

1995 Gazi Quarter riots were events that occurred in March 1995 at the Gazi Quarter, a working-class neighborhood in the then Gaziosmanpaşa district, today Sultangazi district, of Istanbul, Turkey, where mostly Alevis live. The riots began after a provocative gunned attack on several cafés at the same time, and spread over other places in Istanbul and also in Ankara in the next days. During the four-day lasting unrest, a total of 23 people were killed and more than 400 were injured at three different places.

Some recent reactions

More recently Istanbul municipal leaders from the Islamic political party Refah tried to raze an Alevi monastery and close the Ezgi cafe where young Alevis meet. In January 1995, a comedian cracked a joke about "Alevi incest" on Turkish TV sparking the first ever street protest by thousands of Alevi youths. Besides, the recent plan to expand Ottoman architecture on Taksim Square, which turned into an anti-government protest all over Turkey, has encountered stiff resistance by some Alevis as well in Turkey and Western Europe.

Further demands

Some Alevis now demand a political party of their own to combat Sunni dominated "Islamist" parties, whilst others are afraid an Alevi party might lead to civil war. Furthermore, many Alevis in Turkey do support the current 'Alawi ruler Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

The Ismā‘īlī Flag: Remembering Karbala

One feast day, when the two child-Imams Hasan and Husayn asked their grandfather the Prophet to give them a new garment as a present, two robes came down out of the sky. The robes were white, but the two boys declared that they would not be satisfied until they were dyed the color they wanted. Hasan asked for his garment to be green as the emerald, while Husayn wanted a color like that of the red hyacinth. This was brought about through the ministration of the Angel Gabriel, the Angel of Revelation. But while the Prophet rejoiced, the Angel shed tears; and when the Prophet asked him the reason, he could not but announce the fate that awaited the two young Imams in this world. Hasan would perish through poison, Husayn would be assassinated. Henry Corbin, (Temple and Contemplation)

                                                                 Ismaili standard flag

The Nizarī Ismā‘īlī Muslim community, led by Mawlānā Shāh Karīm al-Ḥusaynī – the present (hāḍir) and forty-ninth hereditary Imām in direct lineal descent from Imām al-Ḥusayn, continuously bears witness to the events of Ashūra and Karbala. This is evident in the official Ismā‘īlī Flag – raised upon the various buildings and structures where the Present Imām happens to be. This includes the Imām’s private jet – which could be likened to Duldul, the famous horse of Imām ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, in the modern age. Like the companions of Imām al-Ḥusayn in the past, the Ismā‘īlī Muslim today uphold the spirit of Kerbala when they dedicate and sacrifice their lives in the service of the Imām of the Time, the community and humanity at large.

                                                             Isma'ili Agha Khan's flag

Imām Sulṭān Muḥammad Shāh explains the meaning of the Red and Green colors of the Ismā‘īlī Flag in his letter to Dr. Pir Muhammad Hoodboy. As the Imām explains below, the Green color stands for the Prophet Muḥammad, Pīr Imām al-Ḥasan, and the office of the Pīr (the supreme ḥujjah of the Imām) while the Red color stands for Imām ‘Alī, Imām al-Ḥusayn, and the office of the Imām. Interestingly, the colors of Red and Green also featured prominently when the Imām Sulṭān Muḥammad Shāh assumed the Imāmah in Bombay 1885 –where the Imām, dressed in red attire, sat upon a green cushion.

                                               Imām Sulṭān Muḥammad Shāh Āgā Khān III

The colors of our family are Red and Green. The reason being that we represent both the (offices of) Shāh [Imām] and Pīr. The Shāh was Ḥusayn and the Pīr was Ḥasan. Ḥasan had the Pīr’s color of Green, but Ḥusayn’s martyrdom was so enormous in events and was so opposed to even the smallest laws of war that the color of his Holy Blood, namely Red, was accepted with the Green of the Prophet’s flag as a souvenir and remembrance of that terrible day.

The significance of red

Although red is often associated with blood, love, fire, and even force, like green, it too is found on flags of Muslim countries like Turkey. Unlike the colour green, red is scorching and passionate.
The word Adam, the name of the first prophet, literally translates to “red” in Hebrew. And, like the colour green, is also often referenced in the Prophetic tradition:

I saw Allah’s Apostle in a red leather tent and I saw Bilal taking the remaining water with which the Prophet had performed ablution. I saw the people taking the utilized water impatiently and whoever got some of it rubbed it on his body and those who could not get any took the moisture from the others’ hands. Then I saw Bilal carrying a short spear (or stick) which he planted in the ground. The Prophet came out tucking up his red cloak, and led the people in prayer and offered two rak`at.
Narrated by Abu Juhaifa, Sahih Bukhari (Vol. 1, No. 373)

I did not see anybody in a red cloak looking more handsome than the Prophet.

Narrated by Al-Bara’, Sahih Bukhari (Vol. 7, No. 788)

Red and green’s Ismaili roots

The first caliphate to use green in their flag were the Ismaili Fatimids — the only Caliphate ruled by Imam-Caliphs and Mawlana Hazar Imam’s ancestors. The Umayyad Caliphate used white while the Abbasids used black as their primary flag colour. Inscribed on the green Fatimid banner was the following verse from the Holy Qur’an:

The hosts will all be routed and will turn and flee.

Holy Qur’an 54:45

Interestingly, it was the Fatimid use of green that led the colour to be the “official” colour of Islam, and is why so many Muslim countries today use it. After the Nizari-Musta’li split at the tail of the Fatimid era, the Nizari Ismailis relocated their centre to the fortress of Alamut, now in modern-day Iran. The first head of Alamut, Hasan-i-Sabah, is said to have hoisted a green banner on the fort, as a symbol of the Ismaili Imamat.

According to a narration in one of the early treatises of Alamut by Haft Bab-i Baba Sayyid’nam, red is said to have come into the picture when Hasan-i-Sabah foretold the advent of the qiyamat initiated by Imam Hasan Ala Zikrihi’s Salam, and said:

When the Imam appears, he will sacrifice a camel, and bring forth a red standard.

According to Jamiut Tawarikh, during the qiyamat large white, red, yellow and green banners were raised in Alamut’s corners.

The birth of the Ismaili flag

The first time Sultan Muhammad Shah visited the East African Jamat was in 1899. During his visit, in order to celebrate, Ismailis would often wave red flags bearing the Imam’s name in white. Thereafter, red banners became so popular they were hoisted at all the jamatkhanas and festivals. Unfortunately, however, it is not currently known where this tradition of the red flag originally arose. 

In the 1920s, Wazir Kassim Ali Fateh, Kamadia of the Thana Jamatkhana in India, heard about this tradition of red banners during Sultan Muhammad Shah’s visit to East Africa and wanted to adopt it for his Jamatkhana. This led to an unsuccessful effort to design a flag until April 28th, 1927, when the Thana Jamat celebrated Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah’s Golden Jubilee and came to an agreement regarding the colours. The Jamat sent their decision to Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah, who replied with the following telegram:

The Thana jamat can use my green colour in the flag, with a red crossing stripe.

Shortly after, on Eid al-Ghadir, the new flag was officially unfurled to the Thana Jamat and similar unfurling ceremonies took place at jamats all over the continent and East Africa. On his arrival to Bombay, on December 9th, 1928, Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah, when presented with the new Ismaili flag, exclaimed:

Excellent! This is my flag.

When Mawlana Hazar Imam is present at an event, some may have noticed the flag appears with the Imamat Crest in gold, as shown at right. This version, with the Imamat Crest, is not the Ismaili community’s flag, but Hazar Imam’s Personal Standard which the Ismaili Constitution explains, in paragraph 16.1, he has “in accordance with historical right and ancestral tradition.” Both the Imamat Crest and Hazar Imam’s Personal Standard may only be used by Hazar Imam.

Displayed proudly on the tails of Imamat aircraft, the flag flies outside many jamatkhanas, the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa, is often a backdrop at many official Imamat events, such as at the Canadian Parliament buildings where Mawlana Hazar Imam addressed both houses on February 27th, 2014, and has even graced the streets of cities like Vancouver. It’s even made it to the top of Mount Everest!

Bektashiyyah

Doctrines

Bektashi belief and practice is drawn from various sources and, therefore, is not systematic. Such sources include popular pre-Islamic religion, as well as Christian and Islamic elements. Evidence of Christian influence is found in the practice of distributing bread, wine and cheese when new members are received into the order and the confession of sins to senior members of the order, who have the power to grant absolution. The Bektashiyyah or Bektashis claim to be a Sunni order but their doctrines are much closer to Shi'ism than the Sunni tradition; this is evidenced by their recognition of the twelve Imams. They, however, place themselves outside both mainstream Shi'a and Sunni Islam through their neglect of many Muslim ritual duties, including the salat, and their worship of Ali, Muhammad and Allah as a trinity. The order is governed by a Celebi, an office which used to be hereditary. Each monastery is governed by a postnisin (he who sits on a sheepskin). Certain members of the order make a vow of celibacy, and they place themselves under the authority of a figure known as a dede.

History

The origins of Bektashiyyah are uncertain. The order looks to the Turkish Sufi Hajji Bektashs of Khurasan (d c.1337) as its founder. However, it is only in the 15th century that there is any evidence of the Bektashiyyah operating as an organised order. Under the leadership of Balim Sultan (d.1516) the order acquired its own initiatory system and a clear ritual system. In the 16th century the order came to be associated with the Janissaries, a military corps within the Ottoman army that was composed of Christian slaves. As long as the Janissaries enjoyed official favour the Bektashis remained largely free of official interference in spite of their highly unorthodox doctrines and practices, and flourished in areas such as Albania and South Anatolia which had large Christian populations. However, with the abolition of the Janissaries in 1826 the Bektahis lost all official support and their property was confiscated. The order was able to reorganise itself under the relatively mild rule of 'Abd al-Majid (1839-61) only to be prohibited again in 1925 as a result of Kemal Ataturk's policy of the secularisation of Turkey. Its main lodge in Turkey was restored and opened as a museum in 1964. Today the Bektashiyyah continue in the Balkans, particularly in Turkey & Albania where their chief tekkah (tariqa-centre) is in Tirana, Albania.

Symbols

The Bektashiyyah wear a white cap, consisting of four or twelve foldings. The number four symbolises the four gates: sharia, tariqa, ma'riqa, haqiqa; the number twelve points to the number of imams. In parts of the world where they have absorbed Christian communities they celebrate the reception of a new member with wine, bread and cheese.

Adherents

There are no figures for the number of followers of this order.

Headquarters/Main Center Tirana in Albania.

The Bektashi Order

The Bektashi Order (Turkish: Bektaşi Tarikatı), or the ideology of Bektashism (Turkish: Bektaşilik), is an Islamic Sufi order (tariqat) founded in the 13th century by the Wali (saint) Haji Bektash Veli who solely wrote in Turkish, his style was alike of the Turkistani authors yet resurfaces more of pre-Islamic elements. The order is particularly found throughout Anatolia and the Balkans. In addition to the spiritual teachings of Haji Bektash Veli, the Bektashi order was later significantly influenced during its formative period by the Hurufis (in the early 15th century), the Qalandariyya stream of Sufism, and to varying degrees the Ghulat Shia beliefs circulating in Anatolia during the 14th to 16th centuries. The mystical practices and rituals of the Bektashi order were systematized and structured by Balım Sultan in the 16th century after which many of the order's distinct practices and beliefs took shape.

                                                          Alevi Bektashis performing Dhikr

A large number of academics consider Bektashism to have fused a number of Sunni, Shia and Sufi concepts, although the order contains rituals and doctrines that are distinct unto itself. Throughout its history Bektashis have always had wide appeal and influence among both the Ottoman intellectual elite as well as the peasantry.


Bektashi priests in white. Bektashism is considered to derive from the ancient Israelite religion. They resemble indeed the ancient Israelite Levites & even the Essenes of old.

The Bektashi Order is a Sufi order and shares much in common with other Islamic mystical movements, such as the need for an experienced spiritual guide — called a baba in Bektashi parlance — as well as the doctrine of "the four gates that must be traversed": the "Sharia" (religious law), "Tariqah" (the spiritual path), "Marifa" (true knowledge), "Haqiqah" (truth).


                                                        Alevi Bektashis performing Dhikr

Bektashism places much emphasis on the concept of Wahdat-ul-Wujood وحدة الوجود, the "Unity of Being" that was formulated by Ibn Arabi. This has often been labeled as pantheism, although it is a concept closer to panentheism. Bektashism is also heavily permeated with Shiite concepts, such as the marked veneration of Ali, The Twelve Imams, and the ritual commemoration of Ashurah marking the Battle of Karbala (They have a song to commemorate that eventful battle & dance with it). The old Persian holiday of Nowruz is celebrated by Bektashis as Imam Ali's birthday.


                                                          Dead Sea map with Essene sites

In keeping with the central belief of Wahdat-ul-Wujood the Bektashi see reality contained in Haqq-Muhammad-Ali, a single unified entity. Bektashi do not consider this a form of trinity. There are many other practices and ceremonies that share similarity with other faiths, such as a ritual meal (muhabbet) and yearly confession of sins to a baba (magfirat-i zunub مغفرة الذنوب). Bektashis base their practices and rituals on their non-orthodox and mystical interpretation and understanding of the Quran and the prophetic practice (Sunnah). They have no written doctrine specific to them, thus rules and rituals may differ depending on under whose influence one has been taught. Bektashis generally revere Sufi mystics outside of their own order, such as Ibn Arabi, Al-Ghazali and Jelalludin Rumi who are close in spirit to them.


Alevi Bektashi Semah. Anything to do with the Semah Israel? As seen in this ritual dance Bektashis are not typical Moslems. They, like non-Bektashi Alevis, Alawites...worship with women & perform dances with them too. 

Bektashis hold that the Quran has two levels of meaning: an outer (zahir ظاهر) and an inner (batin باطن). They hold the latter to be superior and eternal and this is reflected in their understanding of both the universe and humanity (This view can also be found in Ismailism—see Batiniyya; Ismailism like Bektashism & others are Moslem sects of Israelite origin).


                                                       Multigender Bektashi ritual dance

Bektashism is also initiatic and members must traverse various levels or ranks as they progress along the spiritual path to the Reality. First level members are called aşıks عاشق. They are those who, while not having taken initiation into the order, are nevertheless drawn to it. Following initiation (called nasip) one becomes a mühip محب. After some time as a mühip, one can take further vows and become a dervish. The next level above dervish is that of baba. The baba (lit. father) is considered to be the head of a tekke and qualified to give spiritual guidance (irshad إرشاد). Above the baba is the rank of halife-baba (or dede, grandfather). Traditionally there were twelve of these, the most senior being the dedebaba (great-grandfather). The dedebaba was considered to be the highest ranking authority in the Bektashi Order. Traditionally the residence of the dedebaba was the Pir Evi (The Saint's Home) which was located in the shrine of Hajji Bektash Wali in the central Anatolian town of Hacıbektaş (aka Solucakarahüyük).

Alevism / Bektashism, also called spiritual shiism or Sufi-shia, is a religious group within (Twelver) Shia Islam with Sufi elements of the Bektashi tariqa and some elements of Quranism (criticizing the way the majority of the Muslims practice and rejecting whatever contradicts the Quran), following the mystical teachings through his Ahl al-Bayt alone instead of Sunni sources. Alevis claim to be the followers of Muhammad, his Ahl al-Bayt, his Twelve Imams, and their descendant, the Alevi saint and Sufi master Haji Bektash Veli. They believe the path of Haji Bektash Veli is the path of Ali ibn Abu Talib, following his interpretation of Islam and the Quran, an Islamic understanding that is esoteric (spiritual), rational, progressive and humanistic.

Yazidi

The word Yazidi comes from the Arabic name Yazid. Nevertheless Yazid sounds like a combination of the Hebrew words Yah & zid.

The word for soup (נזיד, nazid) comes from the verb זיד / זוד (zid/ zud), meaning to 'boil' in the literal sense, but figuratively to act proudly or presumptuously.

Then if zid means to be proud & Yah the name of the God of Israel Yazid could be translated as "the One Proud of God" & the Yazidis would be "the Ones Proud of God".

The Israelite Origins of the Mandaean People

On the banks of the Euphrates River exists a small community of faithful known as the Mandaeans.
In their own language, derived from Aramaic, the word mandayye, from which they take their name, means “gnostic.” The religious practices of these people, which dominate most aspects of their lives, are the last remaining traces of ancient gnosticism in the world today.

The origin of the Mandaeans is much debated, and it will be the focus of this paper. The Mandaeans claim that their ancestors came from Judea and originally practiced complex baptismal ordinances, the focal point of their religion, on the Jordan River. They claim that soon after the start of the Common Era, they were persecuted by the Jews and left Palestine, in a mass exodus of around 60,000 individuals, to eventually settle on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. There they have stayed, according to their oral tradition and their written record, for nearly two millennia.

They are relatively few in number (commonly estimated to be about 65,000), and they do not seem to have played a very important role in the shaping of world history. However, understanding the origin of this group can lead to a better understanding of the religious makeup and practices of Judea at the dawn of Christianity. In the course of this paper, I will show that there is evidence which links the origin of Mandaeism very closely to Judea and the pre-Christian sectarian, or non-Jewish, sects centered on the Jordan River which preserved the heritage of the preexilic Israelite temple cult. 

Though I will not be able to conclusively show this to be the case, I believe that the evidence which I will present will show the above stated thesis to be a strong possibility.

The Israelite Origins of the Mandaean People

Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas graduated from BYU in April 2006 with a degree in history. He is studying Greek and Hebrew and is planning to continue biblical studies in graduate school.

In order to accomplish this, first I will cover the Mandaeans in general, discussing aspects of their religion, ordinances, record, and tradition. Then I will show how they are Gnostic in origin. I will examine early Christianity, Judaism, and heterodox sectarian Judaism, pointing out aspects of these religions that have parallels in Mandaeism. I will also identify the Nasarenes, the group from which the Mandaeans most probably originated. In order to show the beliefs of these early Mandaeans, I will examine John the Baptist and his group, which likely are the same group as the Nasarenes. Lastly, I will show how aspects of this group tie back into the pre-exilic Israelite temple cult beliefs, and show the possibility that some of the traditions of preexilic Israel were preserved by the Nasarenes.

The Mandaeans

I have selected to review aspects of Mandaeism which are important both for understanding the religion and for the framework of this paper. It is important to understand their ritual, beliefs, and relationship to other traditions which originated in Judea in order to understand the origins of Mandaeism. Fundamentally, Mandaeans are Gnostics. They claim to have a secret knowledge which makes it possible for their souls, after death, to return to the “Worlds of Light” from whence they came. Their gnosis is manifest in a complex series of sayings, ordinances, and rituals which are absolutely necessary for salvation. They have multiple books of scripture which gave them protection as “People of the Book” under Arab rule. Primary among these books is the Ginza, which includes creation myths, underworld journeys, the story of Noah, words of wisdom from John the Baptist, doctrinal poetry, and Old Testament history with a Mandaean twist. According to Mandaean scholar J. Buckley, “The Ginza testifies of a fully developed Mandaean Gnosticism.” Other important works of literature include the Haran Gawaita, the Book of John, the Liturgies, and other works. Though the literature preserves the doctrines, beliefs, practices, and traditions of the Mandaeans, it exists in a very confused state. Consequently, there has traditionally been reluctance among scholars to use this literature as a historical source. Recently, however, scholars have examined the texts not for specific historical facts but for traditions which may be based in history. As previously stated, the Mandaeans have a highly developed Gnostic belief system marked by a strict concept of dualism between the world of light and the world of dark. Their Gnosticism definitely contains eastern influences but is remarkably similar to the Valentinian Gnosticism described by Ireneaus. Their supreme being, the “Great Life,” exists in a “Light World” and is surrounded by numerous light beings which emanate from him in a manner that shows a gradual fall from the Great Life to the earthly world. The world was created by the Demiurge, who is the son of Ruha, the female fallen spirit and adversary of light.

Ptahil created the human body, but it remained motionless until the preexistent soul of Adam was brought from the Light World by an angelic figure called Anuthra and inhabited the body, thus creating human life. All of these concepts share remarkable similarities with beliefs held in classical Gnosticism. In addition to this Gnostic basis, the Mandaeans revere John the Baptist as one of their most important prophets and claim that he was a Mandaean, along with the Old Testament prophets Adam, Abel, Seth, and Enoch. However, they consider Jesus Christ a deceiver. They are decidedly anti-Christian and anti-Jewish, though they conceptualize their origins as stemming from the same tradition as these two religions They believe in the deliverance of the soul at a cosmological day of judgment. Upon death they believe that the soul ascends to the Light World and to the presence of the “Great Life.” The ordinances, signing names which they receive, as well as the good deeds of the Mandaean, are requisite to get past the watch-houses of the demons as their souls make the journey through the cosmos. This knowledge is provided to Mandaean initiates through a series of ordinances by their established priesthood.

Michael, and Raphael. Most of these names appear in the very early Mandaean literature. In addition to these figures, it refers to biblical events, including the crossing of the Red Sea and the Great Flood. Mandaeans Qqyaeans also embrace much of the same legal terminology and ethics as their Jewish counterparts. One of the most important similarities between the two is their ritual practices. Parallels exist between the ordination ritual of the Mandaean and the Jewish priests, and in their foot washing, enthronement, laying on of hands, and ritual kissing.

The similarities with Judaism are alone not enough to explicitly connect Mandaeism with a western origin. Its similarities with Christianity are also striking, however, and lend much to help strengthen this point of view. Much like the Jews, the Mandaeans express a longstanding hatred for Christianity that also seems to stem back to early contact between the two religions. In Mandaean literature, Christ was born a Mandaean but rejected his heritage. He became, instead, a deceiver and a false Messiah who changed the teachings of John and baptism in the Jordan. His followers are seen in the same light as he is. Though they view Christ in this negative light, the Mandaeans do recognize a divine being that came from the Light World to Jerusalem during the reign of Pilate performing miracles and bringing a salvatory knowledge to many. The Ginza records:

On the contrary, Enos (Anos)-Uthra comes and proceeds to Jerusalem, clothed as with a garment in water-clouds. . . . He emerges and comes during the years of Pilate, king of the world. Enos-Uthra comes into the world with the powers of the sublime King of Light. He heals the sick and opens (the eyes of) the blind, makes the lepers clean, raises the crippled and the lame so that they can move, he makes the deaf and dumb to speak and gives life to the dead. He gains believers among the Jews and shows them that there is death and life, darkness and light, error and truth. He leads the Jews forth in the name of the sublime King of Light. 360 prophets go forth from the place Jerusalem.

It is possible that this reference to Anos-Uthra is a preservation of an early memory of Jesus before the advent of Christianity. No matter what the opinion of Christ is among the Mandaeans, his mother is not subject to such criticism. It is obvious from Mandaean references to Mary and Elizabeth that the Mandaeans had knowledge of the relationship between the two women, possibly due to familiarity to the Gospel of Luke which originated in the eastern Mediterranean. Along with Christians, the Mandaeans have a rich tradition of the veneration of Mary (Miriai). As previously mentioned, John the Baptist is also revered as the special prophet of Mandaeism. His veneration is so much a part of their religion that one of their key books of scripture is the Book of John. When Portuguese missionaries discovered the Mandaeans in the seventeenth century, they incorrectly dubbed them “the Christians of St. John” & some people still call them that way. Ordinances are similar between the two, including the washing of the feet and baptism. Terms associated with baptism are the same, including, anointing, consecrating of water, descending, triple immersion, and unction. Such connections are not enough to tie Mandaeism with the origins of Christianity.

However, they do suggest that the two religions may have stemmed from the same tradition. The baptism of the Mandaeans has other elements which, though not specifically Christian or Jewish, help trace them back to the Near East. In the Mandaean tradition, all baptismal waters are considered “Jordans” (yardne), and they are all seen as physical descendants of the Jordan which exists in the Light World. The Jordan tradition appears in the very oldest Mandaean texts. Another site which is referred to by Mandaean text and tradition is Hauran, the land on the eastern side of the River Jordan in Syria. Like the term Jordan, Hauran is referred to in the most ancient, Mandaean engravings and refers to a celestial homeland from which the living water flows. The references to Hauran seem to indicate that the early Mandaeans saw Hauran as a homeland, and its name began to be used in referring to their celestial home from which, like Hauran, they were separated. The Mandaean language is based on Aramaic, which was spoken both in Babylon and in the west, but specific terms seem to be derived from the west. Mandaean baptismal terms for immersion, descent, signation, drinking of the water, oil, myrtle wreath, and the laying on of the hand are all of western origin, as are the names of the guardians of baptism, Silmai and Nidbai. Probably the most important connection to the Judea, however, is the belief system of the Mandaeans. As was earlier stated, the Mandaean belief system is very similar to Valentinian Gnosticism. This Gnosticism appears very early in the history of Christianity and likely developed in Judea as part of early Christianity. Gnosticism, as with Mandaeism, is firmly rooted in the west, and the parallels which they share suggest that both originated in the west, possibly from the same tradition. As Valentinian Gnosticism was a branch of Christianity, it is highly likely that they all share a common ancestry from Judea. One important Judean movement not yet discussed is the baptist sects which existed in Judea from long before the Christian era to two or three centuries after. Together these believers created a baptist movement which was very influential in and around the regions of the Jordan. Though very little information has survived about these sects, the small bits that have survived show that they share significant traits with Mandaeism which are worth pointing out. In addition, each group shares things in common with other sects, making it impossible, based on the surviving evidence alone, to correctly identify the names and actions of each of these sects. The same group may have been referred to by different names, and each group may have been part of a larger religious whole.
Pharisee & Saducee

The largest and most encompassing group of baptists, as far as we know, was the Essenes. Josephus described them as another group of Jews along with the Pharisees and Saducees. The Essenes shared common meals and lived a simple, pious life. He says, “They assemble themselves together . . . into one place; and when they have clothed themselves in white veils, they then bathe their bodies in cold water.” He also describes the ritual meal of bread and wine that was blessed by their own priests. They were a populous group that increased their number by adopting other men’s children. Some practiced marriage and had children as well. They had a belief that the body was corruptible, but the soul was immortal. They rejected the priesthood of the temple as corrupt. The people of Qumran were likely an Essene group which removed itself from Jerusalem into the desert to keep their people away from the corrupt society and priesthood of the Jews. The Essenes parallel the Mandaeans in many ways.

Such parallels are persuasive evidence pointing towards a Judean origin for Mandaeism. The early church writer Epiphanius mentions the Masobotheans and the Hemerobaptists. Besides the fact that they were part of the baptist movement, very little can be said for sure about them. It is likely, however, that at least the Hemerobaptists were very similar to the group of John the Baptist, as the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies refer to him as “one John, a hemerobaptist who was also . . . the forerunner of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This idea shows that the baptist sects were very similar to one another. If they were distinguishable at all, they certainly were not by outsiders. In light of the tie to Mandaeism, the most important of these sects for this study is that of the Nasarenes. Information regarding them was preserved by Epiphanius in his Panarion. He takes care to note that the heterodox Jewish group of Nasarenes were different than the Christian group of Nazorenes, whom he also describes. He states that they lived primarily on the east side of the Jordan, that they practiced circumcision, observed the Sabbath and the Jewish feasts, honored the patriarchs, but rejected the law of Moses (the Pentateuch).

They were particularly against the sacrifices and were vegetarians. Also, they had notions of “fate” and “astrology,” on which he does not elaborate. He implies that they were a large group of baptists. Epiphanius wrote more than three centuries after the Nasarenes of the pre-Christian era, thus the actual make up of these Nasarenes at that time is unknown. All that can be said for sure, is that there existed a baptist group centered on the Jordan who rejected the Law of Moses and called themselves Nasarenes. The existence of the Nasarenes is significant, because the Mandaean version of that term, Nasoraean, is used often in the most ancient Mandaean literature. Gunduz points out that the term Nasoraean appears in two kinds of usage:

Firstly, it is one of the earliest self-designations of the Mandaeans. We generally see this term referring to the Mandaeans in the texts concerning their history, like Haran Gawaita. Secondly the term is used for a certain group of Mandaeans, those who possess secret knowledge and rites. . . . In the texts, not only historical persons such as John the Baptist, but also heavenly beings such as Hibil, Sitil and Anos (Enos-Uthra), who symbolize the faith of the Mandaeans are called the Nasoraeans.
This term is deeply connected to the Mandaean self-recognition but also in their conceptualization of their relationship with the Light World. Thus far in the paper, multiple parallel have been examined, the traditions of the Mandaeans have been explained, loan words and customs have been identified.

From all of this evidence, it is logical to infer that a pre-Christian Judean origin of the early Mandaeans is very likely. It seems far too much of a coincidence that both the early Mandaeans (calling themselves Nasoraeans), and the Nasarenes, would have existed simultaneously in the Jordan basin, had strong conflicts with the Jewish religion, and, as part of the wider baptist movement, not have been the same group. This means, then, that the proto-Mandaeans must have at least in part consisted of the Nasarenes of Epiphanius. Mandaean scholars of this century, including Drower, Macuch, Buckley, and Gunduz, have come to this conclusion. Gunduz summarizes Macuch’s German hypothesis that “the movement of separation from official Judaism in the pre-Christian period described by Epiphanius developed in two forms. One group migrated to the
East where they were influenced by Babylonian, Iranian and Syrian Christian traditions. These are the later Mandaeans. The other group stayed in Palestine and later was absorbed into Jewish-Christianity.” This theory explains the Mandaean reverence of both the Jordan and Hauran, their animosity towards Judaism, their belief that they truly are God’s chosen people, the origins of their baptismal ritual, and possibly their reverence for John the Baptist. It also adds much to understanding why the Mandaeans have for so long been opposed to Christianity. If the Nasarenes were at all connected with the Jewish-Christian Nazorenes, there would have been animosity toward that group of Christianity, which they would have seen as heretical and apostate, which is manifest today in the Mandaean disdain for Christianity. I concur with Macuch’s conclusion on all but one account. The Nasarenes, rather than being a branch of Judaism, existed alongside it as a separate tradition, preserving remnants of the Israelite temple cult. To solidify this point, it is necessary to understand the role of John the Baptist’s followers. With a clear picture of John and his followers, his ties with Mandaeism can clearly be seen.


                   Essene sites next to the Dead Sea, where John the Batist could have dwelled too.

John the Baptist

Comparatively little is known about John the Baptist, but his influence was great both on Christians and Mandaeans. According to both traditions, John was born of pure priestly descent; that is, his father, Zecharias, was a temple priest, and his mother, Elizabeth, was a “daughter of Aaron.” A recent theory about John’s connections to the Essenes at Qumran has taken hold, and is convincingly conveyed by Fitzmeyer. The evidence is that John was orphaned at a young age and that he “grew . . . in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.” As previously stated, it was the practice of the Essenes, including those at Qumran, to adopt other men’s children, “while yet pliable and docile . . . and mold them according to their ways.” This is likely the case with John, in that he was orphaned and raised in the wilderness. It would be reasonable to assume that if he was not raised at Qumran, then he was raised by another Essene or baptist group. His ministry shares with the Essenes beliefs about baptism, asceticism, anti-Jewish sentiments, desire for piety and righteous living, and just acts toward others. Because his ministry was part of the larger baptist movement, he likely at least had contact with, and was influenced to some extent by, Qumran, the Essenes, and the Nasarenes. John attracted many people to him. The Gospel of Matthew records the tradition, “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan.” He taught the necessity of confession and repentance of sin, a baptism by immersion as a physical token of this inner cleansing, prayer, fasting, expectation of a coming messiah who would proceed an eschatological day of judgment,upright living, justness, and piety toward God. All these principles are espoused by Mandaeans, and similar parallels can be found in the temple cult. Among other people, some, if not all, of Christ’s twelve Apostles came from the ranks of John’s disciples. This may have been seen as a requirement of apostleship to the very earliest Christians. Such an affinity for John’s teachings shows a close relationship between the teachings embraced by Jesus and by John, again suggesting the common roots of Christianity and Mandaeism. After Jesus began ministering and baptizing in Jordan following his baptism by John, John and his disciples began preaching and baptizing in Samaria. After John’s death, his group continued to grow. John’s followers were widely spread and could be found as far as Alexandria and Ephesus. Many of the group apparently converted to Christianity, but there is evidence to show that the rest began to consider John as the Messiah and greater than Jesus. The Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions and the Homilies, thought to have come from Syria in the early third century c.e., record this tradition. In Recognitions, it says, “And, behold, one of the disciples of John asserted that John was the Christ, and not Jesus, inasmuch as Jesus Himself declared that John was greater than all men and all prophets. ‘If, then, said he, he be greater than all, he must be held to be greater than Moses, and than Jesus himself. But if he be the greatest of all, then must he be the Christ.’” Though the events of the Pseudo-Clementine literature are considered fictitious by most, it is likely that they preserve concepts that were believed by many early Jewish Christians.

Furthermore, Homilies records that Simon Magus, a Samaritan heretic associated with magic and proto-Gnosticism, was part of, and for a time led, John’s group. This claim is important, because it helps us to conceptualize the some of the beliefs of John’s group which did not find their way into the New Testament. Simon Magus was widely recognized by the early Christians as the father of all heresies. He is also popularly referred to as the first Gnostic. Though this is a speculative claim, Haar makes an in depth study of it and concludes:

There are sufficient grounds to answer a tentative “yes” to him being a pre-Gnostic in the terms of the definition. . . . From the viewpoint of ancient Christian writers there are clear grounds to conclude that Simon was considered a heretic and the author of all heresies. Further, that he practiced ancient magic, was influenced by Greek philosophy, and entertained nascent forms of Gnostic cosmology and anthropology. . . A self-proclaimed expert on divine things, Simon would not have rejected the notion of being a “Gnostic.”

It is possible that, whether embodied by Simon or symbolized by him, the reference to Simon in the Clementine literature is nothing more than the memory that gnostic concepts, present in both Mandaeism and the temple cult, were part of John’s group, as Simon was a symbol of magic practices and proto-gnostic concepts. Messianism was very common in most sects through the region of Judea at that time. Because of the prevalent expectation of a heavenly messianic figure, his followers concluded that John was greater than Christ and a fulfillment of this expectation. This belief is very similar to John’s portrayal in Mandaean literature. They understand John as the leader of the pre-Christian Mandaeans. He believed all the things which the New Testament writers recorded of him, as well as espousing the gnostic ideas that Pseudo-Clement ascribes to him. Among other Gnostic concepts, the Mandaean Book of John presents a John who taught about ascent through the realms into the Light World and the presence of the Great One. Also, he taught about a dualism between the King of Light and the “King of Darkness.” He taught that the King of Light had many children, lower deities and light-beings which came (emanated) from him originally. This John was associated with a complex system of rituals, ordinances and knowledge which allowed men, upon their deaths, to ascend through the spheres and return to the King of Light. I have established that John’s group was associated, by the late Christian writers, with Gnosticism and un-orthodox beliefs. The character of John the Baptist in Mandaean literature validates this claim well. They also claim that John the Baptist was a Nasorean, who stayed true to the faith. Thus, according to the Mandaeans, John’s group would also be Nasoreans. Scholarship recognizes that the beginnings of Mandaeism in Judea and the beginnings of Gnosticism are tied together. Buckley states, “Given Mandaeism’s affinities with other forms of Gnosticism, one might be able to combine research from the earliest data and strata of Mandaeism with those of other Gnostic sources. This would be crucial for the aim of obtaining a clearer historical picture of Gnosticism’s beginnings.” Likewise, Rudolph states, “We may in fact conclude that there is an original connection between an early cultic community of Jewish heretics and Gnosticism.” It is logical from the evidence presented thus far to accept that the early Mandaeans (proto-Gnostics) were to be found primarily in Judea. However, there is not a strong basis in Orthodox Judaism for many of the Gnostic beliefs here discussed which the Mandaeans ascribe to. In fact, many of their beliefs are diametrically opposed to Judaism of the Pre-Christian era. Such beliefs can, however, be found in the pre-exilic Israelite temple cult.

The Preexilic Israelite Temple Cult

Recent scholarship points to the fact that the Israelite religion which is described in the Old Testament is vastly different than the Israelite religion of history. Margaret Barker presents the argument, and supports it well, that there was an ancient temple cult practiced by the preexilic Israelites, which was suppressed by the reforms of King Josiah and his scribes. The reforms focused the attention of the Israelites on the law rather than on God or the temple. Josiah’s reforms were solidified and followed up by Ezra and his scribes after the return of the Jews from Babylon. In making these reforms, they tried to erase all traces of the temple cult among the Israelites. Anything reminiscent of polytheism, multiple heavenly realms, a Wisdom tradition, secret saving knowledge, and a higher priesthood espousing multiple saving ordinances was done away with. Barker studies this cult by examining nonbiblical, nonorthodox records from that era, including the Ethiopic Book of Enoch, which was seen as heretical by Jews but embraced by some Christians. She also examines the writings of Philo, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi Library, and the Old and New Testaments for still-extant traces of this religion. Though some of the elements were transferred to Orthodox Judaism, most were suppressed and ultimately lost, though their influence can sometimes still be seen. Barker’s main thesis is that remnants of the temple cult survived through the beginning of the Christian era, and served as the basis of Christianity and the backdrop for Christ’s ministry. She also asserts that the roots of Gnosticism are to be found in the remnants of the temple cult. Barker makes strong comparisons between the temple cult and Gnosticism in regards to the conceptualization of the Great God, the Great Angel, and fallen angelic deities. She describes what to look for when searching for remnants of the temple cult:

We should expect to find expression of the anger felt by worshippers of Yahweh who had been excluded by the purists of . . . those who were declaring that Yahweh and El were one. We should expect to. find hostility to the Jews, since this was the name by which the returned exiles were known. We should expect to find a role for Lady Wisdom . . . . We should expect to find a belief in the plural nature of Yahweh. We should expect to find a cult of Angels and heavenly powers with vestiges of the original temple setting. We should expect to find a view of the origin of evil akin to that of the myth of the fallen angels, and we should expect hostility towards the Mosaic Law which characterized the religion of those who both replaced and displaced the ancient cult.

Barker shows that Christian Gnostics fit the picture perfectly. It is apparent that the Mandaeans can be even more closely identified with the temple cult. This comparison may not only show that the earliest Mandaeans preserved remnants of the temple cult, but it also supports the concept that they have the same background as the early Gnostics. Buckley states, “Given Mandaeism’s affinities with other forms of Gnosticism, one might be able to combine research from the earliest data and strata of Mandaeism with those of other Gnostic sources. This would be crucial for the aim of obtaining a clearer historical picture of Gnosticism’s beginnings.” Likewise, Rudolph says, “We may in fact conclude that there is an original connection between an early cultic community of Jewish heretics and Gnosticism.” I will compare specific aspects of Mandaeism, and the temple cult to show this connection.

Mythology and the Heavens

The temple cult looked to a great unknowable father God whom they called El Elyon. El was the high god, and evidences of his existence survive both in the Torah and in prophets, such as Daniel. It seems this high God had both male and female aspects and was the father of the rest of the hosts of heaven. Similarly, the Mandaean supreme being is conceptualized as being “at the summit of the World of Light.” This supreme God is referred to as the “Great Life,” “Master Mind,” and “Melka Ziwa.” The Light Worlds surround and emanate from him, much like the heavenly realms were seen as the throne of God. In the heavens, which surrounded the throne of God, existed the “Sons of God” and a host of other angelic figures. In the temple cult tradition, El Elyon bore many sons, which the Israelites called the Sons of God, or the “Heavenly Hosts.” Chief among these subsidiary gods was Yahweh, Israel’s patron deity. Often throughout the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, and some Dead Sea Scroll texts, Yahweh is referred to as “Yahweh of Hosts,” and there are nearly constant references to “Sons of God.” These divine beings, such as Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, were seen as great angels of the El. Three more, Uriel, Raguel, and Sarakiel, are discussed in detail in Enoch.

Yahweh was worshipped as the Son of God and the Holy One of Israel with the implicit understanding that there were other holy ones, but they were not to be worshipped by Israel as was Yahweh. Also in the heavenly realms were female angelic deities which acted as consorts to the gods and Sons of God previously mentioned. Of these, we have record of Asherah, Sophia, and the Queen of Heaven. The Queen of Heaven is seen as the consort of “The King,” and Asherah as the consort of Yahweh. Marriage was cast in a positive light among the Israelites partly because the Gods existed in a “marriagelike” state. As El’s throne was surrounded by cherubim and other angelic figures, the Great Life was surrounded by countless angelic beings known as uthra. The uthra were created by the Great Life. They too were conceptualized as the children of the high god and were thought to have their own godlike powers. They created the earth under the direction of the Great Life, acted as his messengers, interacted with earth, and preformed saving functions. The Mandaean sacred text Hauran Gawaita states that the Mandaeans “loved the lord Adonai” until the appearance of Christ. Adonai, the Hebrew word for lord, is the title of Yahweh. Thus, the Mandaeans originally saw Yahweh as one of the uthra, much as did the Israelites. Another important uthra to the Mandaeans was Anos. Anos was a messianic uthra that came from the Worlds of Light to Jerusalem during the reign of Pilate, performing miracles and bringing a saving knowledge to many. The Ginza records:

On the contrary, Enos (Anos)-Uthra comes and proceeds to Jerusalem, clothed as with a garment in water-clouds. . . . He emerges and comes during the years of Pilate, king of the world. Enos-Uthra comes into the world with the powers of the sublime King of Light. He heals the sick and opens (the eyes of) the blind, makes the lepers clean, raises the crippled and the lame so that they can move, he makes the deaf and dumb to speak and gives life to the dead. He gains believers among the Jews and shows them that there is death and life, darkness and light, error and truth. He leads the Jews forth in the name of the sublime King of Light. 360 prophets go forth from the place Jerusalem.

Anos came, much like the Jewish messiah, as a heavenly Messiah to bless and save his people. Uthra were paired in marriagelike partnerships. Mandaean tradition claims that the uthra created by Milka Ziwa had “female compliments.” Female uthra are referred to and revered by name, including Miriai (Mary) and Ruha. Both traditions, then, record a complex heavenly order consisting of a high god and many offspring. These lower deities act as angels, saviors, patron gods, and heavenly priests. They often exist within marriagelike partnership. According to Mandaeism, everything that has been created on earth has a spiritual counterpart in the Worlds of Life: “Therefore, the early Adam and Adamites (descendants of Adam) are only the images of the heavenly Adam and Adamites.

Consequently the salvation of the soul happens only when a soul leaves the earthly world and body and unites with its heavenly partner.” The temple cult also portrayed a spiritual creation which preceded a physical creation. Barker states, “Later traditions knew that an elaborate heavenly world had been created before the material world and this heaven was totally integrated with this earth."

The Mandaean tradition records that the supreme god, “deputed the governance of the material world which is a world of non-reality, and even its creation, to regents, spirits of power and purity . . . three hundred and sixty in number.” Elsewhere in Mandaean literature, the creation happens as a result of the uthra moving away from the Great Life, and was brought about “by the demiurge Ptahil with the help of the dark powers.” The concept, then, is that the world was created, as well as the body of man, by fallen angels in conjunction with the dark world. Ptahil’s creation of the world, though, was under the direction of his father Hiwil Ziwa, the uthra most closely associated with this world and its inhabitants. Fallen or evil uthra play a large role in Mandaean mythology. They include Ruha, the Demiurge Ptahil, and, eventually, Adonai, as the fallen god of the Jews. The Mandaean Religion is defined by its strict conceptualization of dualism between Light World and the World of Darkness, the King of Light and the King of Darkness. Fallen angels ceased to be followers of the Great Life, and began to follow the King of Darkness. Similarly, a strong undercurrent of dualism is to be found in the temple cult between the Prince of Light, sometimes conceptualized as Michael or Melchizedek, and the Prince of Darkness called Satan. The temple cult also acknowledged fallen angels, including Lucifer. They believed in the concept that sin and evil was introduced into the world by a multitude of fallen angels known as the sons of heaven.

Ritual, Practices, and Doctrines

The Israelite temple cult was focused in and around the temple of Solomon and its priesthood. At first glance, the rituals of the temple cult do not much seem to resemble the baptismal rituals of the Mandaeans, but a closer examination reveals amazingly similar parallels. Whereas the temple occupied the central place to the temple cult, that role is filled by the mandi, or ritual hut, in the Mandaean tradition. In early texts, these mandi were called “temples” or “tabernacles.” The design of the hut is similar to that of the Israelite temple, albeit on a smaller scale, with a boundary wall that sets off the sacred space of the temple, a courtyard, through which flows a small manmade inlet from the river in which ordinances are preformed (possibly similar to the brazen sea in the Israelite temple), and the sacred hut at the center. Within the hut complex, they make use of incense altars and offer sacrifices of doves, fowl and sheep. The sacrifices are ritually slain and baked for consumption.

They practice these and most other ordinances within their small temple complexes. Paramount to the Mandaean ritual, and the most important feature of the mandi is the flowing water (yardne) in which rituals are performed. The purpose of the baptism ritual of the Mandaeans is to, “make contact with the worlds of light and their healing powers.” Lady Drower, the premier Mandaean scholar of this century, claimed that it was, “regarded not only as a symbol of life, but to a certain degree as life itself. . .

Immersion in the water is immersion in a life-fluid, and gives physical wellbeing, protection against the powers of death, and promise of everlasting life to the soul.” Though the rite of baptism was likely practiced in the temple cult, it cannot yet be proven to have been a part of the cult. However, Barker shows that water was used as a symbol among the temple cult in much the same way that water is used by the Mandaeans. The conceptualization of water among the temple cult is seen in the Psalms. “And thou make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life; in thy light shall we see light.” Also, she points out that, along with Isaiah, Joel, Enoch & Ezekiel prophecies that on the Day of the Lord, water will flow from the door of the temple and towards the sea. It will heal the Dead Sea, making its waters sweet again, and cause life and prosperity. Here, and elsewhere, this water is representative of Yahweh, the Heavenly Messiah who would heal, bring life, and salvation. This “Living Water” role of Yahweh is identical to the role of purifying water in the Mandaean Tradition. The “Living Waters” of baptism are the only way a Mandaean can hope to enter the Worlds of Light, just as Yahweh’s messianic role was seen by the temple cult as the only way by which the Israelites enter into the presence of God. Mandaean priests represent the angelic uthra in their performance of the ordinances. Their ritual dress is very reminiscent of the ritual dress of the temple priests. It consist of a shirt (ksuya), a small patch piece stitched to the outer side of the right breast of the shirt (dasha), drawers (sharawala), and a stole and belt (or girdle). Also, a turban (burzinqa) is worn, which wraps around the head three times, with the end hanging over the left shoulder. Priests wear a crown of silk, a gold ring on the right little finger, and hold a staff. The white clothes, the headdress, girdle, robe, crown, and staff used to adorn Mandaean priest are similar to the ephod, robe, broidered coat, mitre, and girdle of the Israelite priests (Exod 28:4). Also similar are the means of ordaining priests between the two. In Mandaean Communities, priests have the same function as kings and are sometimes referred to as kings. In the performance of their ordinances, the priests represent the uthra. The Israelite temple cult included a priesthood of El Elyon, or priesthood of Melchizedek. This priesthood was a higher priesthood than held by the Levites or the sons of Aaron. The holders of this priesthood were the kings of Israel, who were also identified with Melchizedek and represented Yahweh in the ordinances which they preformed. Much like the Mandaeans, then, the priests of the temple cult were seen as kings and represented heavenly beings in their priestly roles. In the Testament of Levi (a heterodox Jewish text thought to have come from at least the second century b.c.e.) a vestment ordinance is described which included anointing with oil, washing the body, a ritual meal of bread and wine, clothing in priestly clothing, and the wearing of a sacred name. The ordination of priests in the Mandaean tradition consists of a very lengthy ritual that includes intricate purification processes, animal sacrifice, baptism, and all the rituals that have been previously described as part of that. Such rituals include all of the aspects of priestly ordination described in the Testament of Levi. In both traditions, the ordination to the priesthood is a symbolic ascent experience. It symbolically transforms the priest from being merely a man to becoming a celestial being. The Secrets of Enoch records the concept that after Enoch was clothed and washed and anointed by the heavenly beings (i.e., after he became a priest of El) he was “like one of his glorious ones.” Because the rituals of the temple cult are mostly lost, it is beneficial to look at the rituals of Orthodox Judaism which are recorded early in the Bible. Parallels between ordination ritual of the Mandaean and the Jewish priests include foot washing, enthronement, laying on of hands, and ritual kissing. Melchizedek, as the archetypical high priest of El Elyon, is another interesting parallel between the two traditions. Barker states, “Melchizedek was central to the old royal cult. . . It is quite clear that this priesthood operated within the mythology of the sons of Elyon, and the triumph of the royal son of God in Jerusalem. We should expect later references to Melchizedek to retain some memory of the cult of Elyon.” His name, translated from Hebrew to mean “King of Righteousness,” is very similar to the Mandaean name for the Great Life, Malka Ziwa. The word malka in the Mandaean tradition means “king,” and is cognate with the Hebrew word melek;. The Mandaean word ziwa means radiance; thus Malka Ziwa is the “King of Radiance,” while Melchizedek is the “King of Righteousness.” The similarity is striking, as are the similarities between the name of the Israelite God Yahweh (yhwh), and the Mandaean uthra, Yawer (ywr, which means “blindingly bright”). This seems especially remarkable when it is understood that “y” and “r” are interchangeable in the Mandaean script (giving a possible spelling ywy). One of the most important aspects of the temple cult was its conceptualization of knowledge. The cult understood a carefully guarded heavenly knowledge that could cause man to become like the gods. This concept is what is illustrated in the account of the Adam and Eve in Genesis, when El said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” This knowledge is again referred to in the account of the Watchers imparting their heavenly knowledge to mankind, teaching them secrets previously known only to the gods. The cult understood that, “Wisdom, i.e., the Spirit, transformed human beings and made them like God.” Such a concept is also central to Mandaeism. They conceptualize that celestial uthras (including the aforementioned Anos-Uthra) teach believers the knowledge necessary to gain salvation.

After the fall of the soul or the “inner Adam” into the body or “trunk” of Adam. . . Manda dHayye (an uthra whose name means “Knowledge of Life”) came to Adam and taught him the mysteries of the cosmos and the cult-rites. In this way, Adam received “knowledge” (manda) and redemption. “Salvation” or “redemption” (purqana) by means of knowledge and cultic action is brought about in the ascension of the soul (masiqta) to its native realm of light.

It was only through this saving knowledge that the soul was able to travel through the cosmos past the watchtowers and into the Worlds of Light, thus becoming an uthra. Here an angelic figure provides Adam with the knowledge necessary to become a Light World being, or to become like the gods (uthra). It is here apparent just how much the Gnosticism of Mandaeism and the protognosticism of the temple cult have in common. Along with this, there is a belief among the Mandaeans and the temple cult in a day of judgment. Among the Mandaeans, a ritual hand clasp finalizes the baptismal ordinance, called the “giving kusta,” or “truth.” Its name implies that this kusta is an essential part of the saving Wisdom. It cannot be said for certain if the temple cult had such a practice or not, though the concept is seen in many other similar religions and organizations throughout western history. In the temple cult, wisdom was the means whereby wise men were able to ascend through the heavenly realms in a merkab;ah experience and be presented into the presence of El Elyon.


                                                          High Priest enters holy of holies

This divine ascent experience usually is described in terms of the temple, and is associated with the Holy of Holies and the priesthood of El Elyon. Such theophanies are referred to multiple times in the Old Testament, Enoch, and other pseudepigraphical works which preserve traditions of the temple cult. A similar merkab;ah experience is related in the Mandaean Book of John, when recounting the vision of Zacharias in regard to the birth of John: “Fire burned in Old Father Zakhria; three heaven-lights appeared. The sun sank and the lights rose. Fire lit up the house of the people, smoke rose over the temple. A quaking quaked in the Throne-chariot (merkabah, i.e. heaven) so that Earth removed from her seat. A star flew down into Judea, a star flew down into Jerusalem. The sun appeared by night, and the moon rose by day.” Zachariah here has an ascent experience in which he describes bodies of light and a vision foretelling the birth of John. It is very reminiscent of the other mystical wisdom ascent accounts. In addition to these similarities, it must be remembered that much of the ordinances and practices of the temple cult have not survived intact. Therefore, it is impossible to present a complete picture of the practices and rituals of the cult. It is most probable that there were other ordinances, rituals and beliefs of the temple cult than what have here been covered. Using the information that is available, differences between the two can be seen. These differences do not testify that they are different traditions, but rather that there is a 2,500-year separation between modern Mandaeism and the ancient temple cult. In that time, the common tradition has been influenced by Egyptian magic, middle-Platonism, Orthodox Christianity, Hellenistic mystery cults, Babylonian cults, Zoroastrianism, and Islam. With such separation, it is remarkable that so much has stayed the same. In light of all of this evidence, it seems obvious that the origins of Mandaeism lie in the temple cult of Israel. I realize that the conclusions at which I have arrived are not definitive. They cannot be specifically proven because no documents or archeological date exists to do so. However, with the evidence linking Mandaeism to the Israelite temple cult which has been presented through this paper, I feel that a fairly accurate portrayal of Mandaeism’s progression has been traced. Despite being diluted for more than two thousand years, the tradition seems clear. The temple cult of Jerusalem, as it appeared in ancient Israel, was nearly destroyed by Josiah’s reforms. However, the tradition survived over the next six hundred years in one form or another and was still being practiced, to some extent, by the Essenes and Nasarenes in Judah just prior to the advent of Christianity. John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were likely either born into or adopted this tradition and used it as the backdrop for their teachings. After John’s death, it would appear that the Nasarenes who revered him as a prophet mingled with some outside influences and began to be persecuted by the Jews of the age. The followers of Jesus had much the same experience.

Prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 c.e., the Nasarenes likely chose to leave Judah and Syria in a mass exodus, so as to not be punished by the Romans for the sins of the Jews. Through Syria they traveled to Iraq, where they eventually settled down towards the south east end of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. There they remained for the next nearly two millennia, practicing ordinances and passing on the sacred mandayye, which would guarantee them a place in the Light World.

Notes On the Mandaeans

4. Sinasi Gunduz, The Knowledge of Life: The Origins and Early History of Mandaeans and Their Relation to the Sabians of the Qur’an and to the Harranians (England: Oxford University Press, 1994), 70, quoting Ginza Right, 15. 5. Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley, The Mandaeans: Ancient Texts and Modern People (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 12. 6. Buckley, The Mandaeans, 13–15.
Miriai is identified as the mother of Jesus the false Messiah, but she has traits of both the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. She is seen as a convert to Mandaeism from Judaism and is even portrayed as a priestess at certain points. Eventually she obtains an archangel-like role as a light being in the world of light.

Studia Antiqua 5.2, Fall 2007 11

42. Rudolph, Mandaeism, 8. 43. Gunduz, The Knowledge of Life, 113; see also the Book of John, 287. 44. Drower, The Mandaeans of Iran and Iraq, 14. 45. Gunduz, The Knowledge of Life, 115. Nidbai and Silmai are derived from the Phoenician deities ndbk and slmn.

52. “I shall next undertake to describe the sect after the Hermerobaptists, called the Nasarenes. They . . . scarcely had any beliefs beyond those of the Jewish sects I have mentioned” (Epiphanius, The Panarion 18.1.1.). 53. Scobie, John the Baptist, 35. It is obvious from Epiphanius’ scanty coverage of the Nasarenes and the Hemerobaptists that he knows comparatively little about them, and that he is just reflecting what he has heard. Besides identifying their existence, he can hardly be considered a primary source. 54. Gunduz, The Knowledge of Life, 109.

56. Luke 1:14. 57. Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 18–21. 58. Luke 1:80. 59. Josephus, Jewish War 2.8.2. 60. In the Community Rule, the reason for 18.wel Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” In choosing a new apostle, Luke states that the candidate must have been with the apostles from the Baptism of John. 68. Scobie, John the Baptist, 163–64. Scobie shows conclusively that the mysterious “Aenon near Salim” mentioned in John 3:21 is, in fact, located in the region of Samaria. This notion is strengthened by the later association of Simon and Dositheus, both famous Samaritans, with John’s sect. 69. Acts 18:24–25. Apollos, a Hellenistic Jew from Alexandria, was baptized by John. 70. Acts 19:3.

71. Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 1.60 (Weston, NY: Dajul Interprises, 2000-2001). Part of the reason that they may have seen John as the Messiah is because of the Samaritan belief in Taheb, a Moses-like prophet/messiah figure for whom they awaited.

76. G.R.S. Mead, The Gnostic Baptizer: Selections from the Mandaean John-Book (London: John M. Watkins, 1924), 43. 78. Mead, The Gnostic Baptizer, 89. 79. Buckley, The Mandaeans, 3–4. 80. Rudolph, Mandaeism, 16.

81. Margaret Barker, The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1992), 162. 82. Barker, The Great Angel, 166.

85. Rudolph, Mandaeism, 16. 86. Margaret Barker, The Older Testament: The Survival of Themes from the Ancient Royal Cult in Sectarian Judaism and Early Christianity (London: SPCK, 1987), 286. 88. Rudolph, Mandaeism, 13. 89. E.S. Drower, The Mandaeans of Iran and Iraq (New Jersey: Gorgias Press, 2002), 251. It is very similar to the Hebrew name Melchizedek, or King of Righteousness. 92. Daniel 10:21. 93. “Tobit,” in The Apocrypha, trans. Edgar J. Goodspeed (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 113. Raphael is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but is familiar to Israel, as seen here. 94. Daniel 9, 12.

92. Daniel 10:21. 93. “Tobit,” in The Apocrypha, trans. Edgar J. Goodspeed (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 113. Raphael is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but is familiar to Israel, as seen here.

97. This king may have been El Elyon, or it may have been Yahweh. If it was Yahweh, it is possible that these three females were all titles for the same deity. See Barker, The Great Angel, 52.
47. A quote from the Ginza, which references a prayer of Ruha’s to the Great Life, asks, “My Father, my Father, Why didst Thou create me?”

103. Drower, The Mandaeans of Iran and Iraq, 251. 104. Buckley, Mandaeans, 49–56. Miriai is identified as the mother of Jesus, the false Messiah, but she has traits of both the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. She is seen as a convert to Mandaeism from Judaism and is even portrayed as a priestess at certain points. Eventually she is identified as an uthra in the World of Light. 105. Buckley, Mandaeans, 43–47. In this passage, Buckley expounds upon Ruha’s role. Often she is seen as the root of evil, the creator of earth, the patron deity of Jerusalem, a child of the Great Life (and thus an Uthra), and even in a semi-messianic light. She is very much like Sophia, but the Mandaean literature does not provide an account of her “fall” as does Gnosticism with Sophia. Instead, it seems she was created by the Great Life in the world of Darkness, and there dwelt, though she was a child of the Great God.

126. Margaret Barker, The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy (London: T&T Clark Ltd., 2003), 128. She quotes a fragmentary version of the Testaments of Levi from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which I was unable to locate. 128. The Secrets of Enoch 22:9, in The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden (Newfoundland: Alpha House Inc., 1927), 89. 129. Gunduz, The Knowledge of Life, 97–98. 130. Barker, The Older Testament, 257.

134. Margaret Barker, The Great Angel, 164. 135. Genesis 3:22. 136. 1 Enoch 8:1–3. 137. Margaret Barker, On Earth As it is in Heaven: Temple Symbolism in the New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), 31. 138. Rudolph, Mandaeism, 14–15. 139. This kusta is identical to the first Masonic hand-clasp. It is also reminiscent of the dexiosis seen on Greek and Roman funerary art, the art associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the records preserved regarding the rituals of Mithraism.


Is Russia Promoting a Greater Alawistan Adding Damascus, Hama & Homs to the Original Alawite State?

The Alawites, who are estimated at 1.5 to 3 million, constitute about ten percent of Syria’s population. They are settled in the strategically vital coastal provinces of Tartus and Latakia. President Assad, his family and most members of his inner circle are Alawites.

Addressing Turkish ambassadors in Ankara on Tuesday, Erdogan argued that Russia was planning to create a small state around Latakia province, and for that purpose Moscow was dealing strikes against Syria’s Turkomans in an attempt to oust them from the area. Back in September, Erdogan said that President Bashar Assad’s aim was to create a dwarf state taking up about 15% of the original Syria, incorporating Damascus, Hama, Homs and Latakia — the territories with an Alawite majority or where such a majority could be arranged.

Disputed Alawite Village Caught Between Israel & Hezbollah

A day after the Jan. 28 Hezbollah attack on an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) convoy on Mount Dov, in which two soldiers were killed and seven injured, residents of Ghajar have yet to resume their routine. Some 2,400 people live in the small village straddling the Israel-Lebanon border, all members of the Alawite sect. Ever since the village was captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, the villagers have been defining themselves as Syrian nationals residing in Israel. In 1982, Israel designated the village a local council after annexing it under the Golan Heights Law.

Life in the village is one of perpetual, heavy concerns. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah claims Ghajar and the adjacent Shebaa Farms (Mount Dov) as occupied Lebanese territory. Ever since Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 residents have been afraid that the village, or even part of it, will be handed over to Lebanon, given that UN representatives determined that the historic border runs right through the village — with part being Israeli territory and another part Lebanese.



In November 2010, the Israeli Ministerial Defense Committee adopted a proposal by the commander of UNIFIL to withdraw from the village, but the civil war in Syria and the chaos in the country halted Israel’s redeployment along the border. For their part, residents of Ghajar object to division of the village. This week, they received an additional threatening and violent reminder from Hezbollah, once again bringing the issue of Ghajar to public awareness.

The head of the local council, Ahmed Fatli, was busy this week rushing from meeting to meeting with Israeli defense officials and villagers in an effort to restore calm. In case of an escalation, he promised them that the IDF will ensure their safety and even evacuate them in an emergency. “I make sure to reassure my residents, this is now my most important task,” he said in a phone conversation before rushing off to another meeting.

“Everyone here is on edge. You can imagine what heavy pressure we’re under, especially the head of the council, who has to handle all civilian matters,” Bilal Khatib, a resident of Ghajar and an employee of the local council, told Al-Monitor.

“Today [Jan. 28], we were in a meeting and suddenly we heard a tremendous explosion,” he said, recalling the latest incident. “We went outside and saw a vehicle going up in flames in the distance. The sky above us was covered in thick smoke. We were told a house had taken a direct hit and a local team went, under fire, to check that no one was injured or trapped. Luckily, a mother and her two sons had left the house a short while before their house was hit.”

Al-Monitor: How do you deal with the fact that Hezbollah has marked you as a target?

Khatib: We don’t know if the shell that hit the house was [fired by] Hezbollah or the IDF, which returned fire. Everything is still under investigation.

Al-Monitor: Nasrallah hasn’t marked Ghajar as a target?

Khatib: All that talk about Nasrallah, Hezbollah and the disputes is way over my head. Let’s leave it aside.

Al-Monitor: The UN has determined that part of Ghajar is Lebanese territory.

Khatib: And we say that Israel is responsible for reaching an arrangement for us with Syria, not with Lebanon. Ghajar is a Syrian village conquered in 1967 like all the communities on the Golan [Heights]. The village was never under Lebanese control. Representatives of the UN, Terje Rød-Larsen and Staffan de Mistura visited us in the past. We showed them documents, building permits, land registration records, everything. According to maps from 1923, two-thirds of the village are located on Syrian territory and one-third on Israel’s side. In addition, in 1967 some residents who fled to Lebanon because of the war could not return when it was over and the village had been occupied. The Lebanese took them on trucks to Damascus. We hope for a peace agreement one of these days with Syria, and until then we live in peace with the Israelis.

Al-Monitor: How does one describe your socio-economic situation compared to the other Arab communities in Israel?

Khatib: We probably have the highest per capita number of college enrollments in the world. We have residents with undergraduate and graduate degrees and many medical doctors. We have cardiologists, specialists in internal medicine, trauma and orthopedics, dermatologists, general practitioners, dentists, as well as lawyers and education experts, and we’re talking about a village with only some 2,400 residents. The residents themselves forced the head of the council, himself an educator, to take on the job. We simply forced him, because education is at the top of our agenda.

Al-Monitor: The data have been very surprising. How do you account for them?

Khatib: We’re a minority trying to strengthen ourselves through education.

Al-Monitor: Like the Jews in the diaspora?

Khatib: Exactly like you. This is the only way someone will hear us and listen to what we have to say.

Al-Monitor: What did you study?

Khatib: Accounting at Rupin College and I have a degree in auditing local authorities from Haifa University.

Al-Monitor: Are the young village residents still going to study in Syria? Studying there is free and they give scholarships.

Khatib: No, not now. Some went there and completed three years of study, and they’re stuck and cannot come back. Actually, parents don’t want to send their children to the dangerous areas, either.

Al-Monitor: Who do you think will eventually win in Syria?

Khatib: Justice. Only justice will win.

Al-Monitor: And the Alawites will continue to be the ruling minority?


Khatib: The Alawites in Syria are a minority that maintained calm with Israel for 40 years, until groups of terrorists showed up and things changed. Now the border is wide open. We are peace-loving people, we don’t hate anyone. We want brotherhood and unity, like brothers. People must not hate each other. Now everyone is praying for calm to be restored, for the children to go back to school, for the workers to go back to their jobs and for life to get back on track.

Are Alawis & Other Levantines Really Arabs or Just Arab Speakers?

Palestinians do have Jewish haplogroups, true but they've also mixed many other races who have come to the Holy Land. Armenian, Greek, etc. Everyone is mixed there. So, mainly, it is not the race but the culture and communal consensus as well as government definitions that decide it now.

When Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, etc... leave the Arab League, reestablish Aramaic/Phoenician speaking cultures and officially declare themselves as Levantine non-Arabs, and become so recognized by their neighbors, then this can be formally declared.

Armenian dna is very low to nonexistant in Palestinians. Even in 1948 there were only 2000 of them living in the Armenian quarter of Jerusalem. They are endogamous and only married other church members, not rural peasants, although it is higher in Lebanese (also recent due to them fleeing there to escape Turkish persecutions).

Race is much more than culture is. There's an Arab distinction between A'rab and Musta'arab. Palestinians don't belong to Tribes. Arabs do. All Arab tribes can be traced back to the Arabian peninsula of the 7th century. Iraqis are Arabs, because all their tribes can be traced to Arabia. Many of their biggest tribes played a lot of influence in Mohamed's life.

Would you say Sephardic and Mizrahic Jews are Arabs as well? They (up until 1960's) spoke Arabic as their day to day language and Hebrew/Aramaic only in their liturgies. They ate ''Arab food'' (well, Levantine food), wore Arablike clothing and had Arabized names.

But they still considered themselves Bani Israail. How is that different for the Levantine Christians who may speak a so called Arabic dialect in formal settings, but mix it with Aramaic phrases, and also have an Aramaic religious culture? Greek names? Feel more kinship with Greeks than Saudis?

Most Lebanese consider themselves Phoenicians. It's only the sunni ruling elites who continue the whole Arab country thing. Most Lebanese Christians will not agree.

The Phoenician alphabet is being retaught to the younger generation. A lot of Lebanese Muslims are even getting DNA tests & showing up Phoenician blood.

Palestinians are a mix of Jewish, Aramean, Canaanite, Roman, Bosniak and Hellenic peoples.

When in Israel the youth chant "Death to Arabs", they mean exactly the certain groups. They don't chant "Death to Phoenicians".

I have had Levantine coworkers and some said they were not Arabs and some said they were. The problem is this is all non official.

In Israel Palestinians are Israeli nationals and officially registered as "Arabs".
                                            Map of Alawite areas with Jewish Alwite symbol

Some are real/original Arabs and some are musta-arab- Arabized. And there are Arabs who consider Arabic-speaking Jews as Arabs. They even go as far as considering any Khawaja (a title in Muslim countries, including nin Arab ones) who speaks Arabic as an Arab, too.

The new definition of Arab by the Arab League is: "An Arab is a person whose language is Arabic, who lives in an Arabic-speaking country, and who is in sympathy with the aspirations of the Arabic-speaking peoples".

There's no mention of race, descent, original/non-original, religion, etc. Only of language and place of residence. And they seem to be the authority who defines it.

So, the revivalists of the Phoenicianism in Lebanon, Syria, etc., have to tackle this definition first. Then, they will have to leave the Arab League and formally announce it to the world.

If your paternal line going back 1000 years is Arab even if you are nordic or black as night, to Arabs you are Arab. Arab culture and Arabs themselves (the bedouins and the real tribal Arabs of Saudi Arabia, Oman, al-Yemen & Iraq) consider this the definition of an Arab, not culture or language, not even appearance. If you look 100 % Arab, but your mom is Arab and your dad is, let's say, Persian (who look Arab but are Indo-European) you are NOT an Arab, even if your male line continued to marry Arab women for generations, they would NOT be considered Arab.

Up until about 400 years ago, the Levant still spoke Aramaic. Levantines are white skinned, have straight hair, more Mediterranean features. Arabs are brown skinned, have curly to nappy hair and have very semitic features.

Alawis look more like a coastal people. They look more Euro than their Sunni counterparts who live in the deserts of Syria e.t.c. The "real" Lebanese and Syrians are not Arab.

My father has blonde hair and blue eyes, my brother has blonde hair and blue eyes, my aunts are all redheads (ginger, not auburn or brownish red, I mean real red and fair skin that can light a room during the night), as well as my grandfather on both sides of my family. I am dark haired but I inherited that from my mom whose mom was dark (her father is redhaired-light eyes and pale type 1 skin)... I know countless Palestinians that have this story. I also know a lot of Lebanese people with blonde hair. In fact most levantines are blonde as children. Aleppo in Syria is 50 % or so Redhaired. How would this be possible if we were the SAME race as dark Yemenis?

We must say that there are two schools of thought- the traditional definition- by bloodline, and the modern definition - that of the Arab league.

Which one is correct is up for debate. Some people will say the first, some will say the second. There's no official documentation stating that a person is an Arab or not in birth certificate. So, it boils down to personal or group definitions and they vary.

Officially now, Syria and Egypt are called Arab republics. They were once united as the United Arab republic. Why? Why did they not call themselves a United Phoenician-Pharaonic republic?

There was a movement in Egypt once, and some people believe in it still, believing that Egyptians are not Arabs. But officially and now, they are.

I guess the definition of an Arab has changed, at least as far as membership in the Arab League. They even accepted Somalia into it now. So, I guess what did not use to be Arab is now Arab.

I hope that they will kick out Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan.

I have seen your pictures and I agree with what you are saying. Darker Semites vs. lighter skinned Mediterranean looking Semites. But if Arab is not a race but a culture, then the second definition makes sense. Now, you have a formidable Arab League to convince and contend with. And pull all these non Arab countries out of it, Ouch! No more Saudi funding!

The creator of the Ba'ath party was a Greek called Michele Aflaq. The biggest Arab nationalist party created by non-Arabs.

The Christians of the Levant do not consider themselves Arabs!The real Arabs consider us Musta'arab!

Christian Arabs created Arab nationalism, and Alawites supported it because then the Muslims wouldn't opress them but see themselves as Arabs and would also see their religion irrelevant.

Should we agree Levantines are not Arabs? I'm a Jew and I have an identity as my grandpas are from Iraq & Kurdistan but my dna is Roman era- Jew. And as one who lives here I can tell - and go to check if you want - it's illegal to convert from Islam to Christianity in the Palestinian authority. It's funny because there are more Christian Arabs in there than in Israel.

Public Muslims, Secret Jews: A Turkish Sect Faces Crackdown

In Hebrew the community called themselves Ma’aminim – Believers. But in Turkish they became known as the Dönme, a word roughly meaning convert, but which can have a more negative connotation closer to turncoat.

Zevi’s followers thrived in the Muslim Ottoman Empire where, unlike Spain during the Inquisition, authorities didn’t pry into the private religious lives of those they ruled. This was especially true in what became the Dönme heartland, Salonika, in what was then Ottoman-ruled Greece. There, the Dönme’s numbers reached about 15,000 by the early 20th century.

They were an endogamous society, meaning they only married within their own community. The Dönme established their own neighborhoods, schools, courts, cemeteries and houses of worship. Many became very wealthy and well-educated, pioneering the newest innovations in many fields, such as education, architecture, urban reform and commerce.

But with the establishment of the Turkish republic in 1923, the Dönme were counted as Muslims and included in a forced population exchange between Greece and Turkey. They were brought to Istanbul and lost almost all their wealth. Moreover, despite the avowed secularism of the young, fervently nationalistic republic, the Dönme didn’t fit into the state’s continued upholding of a religious component to Turkish identity. Turkishness was officially defined along lines of racial purity and Sunni Islam. Those outside this dual construct were often looked upon with hostility and suspicion, and seen as potentially disloyal.

“Banished from Greece because they were Muslim, the Dönme were greeted in Turkey as if they were Jews,” explained historian Marc David Baer of the London School of Economics, in his 2010 book, “The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks.” “They were depicted as disloyal, sponging parasites who hoarded their wealth and did not sacrifice any part of their fortune for the sake of the nation.”

In response, the Dönme assumed a very low profile, and in due time the pressure to assimilate led to an almost complete loss of culture among the group’s members.

Still, Turkey today continues to host a centuries-old, mostly Sephardic Jewish population of some 17,000 that has survived over many generations by adopting a low-key communal profile. Over the course of the Turkish Republic’s history, it’s suffered discrimination and occasional outbreaks of violence of its own, amid formal toleration. Today, its members report increased hostility tied to the ascent of the Islamist-oriented AKP and a period of strife between Turkey and Israel recently softened by a rapprochement.

The Dönme, meanwhile, as so-called “crypto-Jews,” are clouded in mystery and misunderstanding. They are the frequent subject of conspiracy theories. Most Turkish writing on them is anti-Semitic pseudoscience. For example, the country’s highest selling book of 2007 falsely “accused” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of being Dönme. Many Turks believe the Dönme are everywhere, seeing their conniving hands behind all sorts of evil deeds.

In a quiet neighborhood on Istanbul’s Asian side, two middle-aged Dönme from different sects sip tea together.

Cem speaks rapid-fire English with a flawless American accent, picked up from living in Michigan as a child and later New York. Osman is a hardcore fan of the local Fenerbahçe football club and a wise-cracker, saying with a wink that the two have “unfortunately” been friends for over five years. He plays music on YouTube, calling himself a ‘Dönme DJ.’

They chat for hours about Dönme history, the complex beliefs of the three sects, which traditionally don’t intermarry, and most of all, about discrimination against their communities. They both only agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity. They aren’t official representatives of the Dönme, and their views only represent themselves.

“Throughout the decades, the Dönme saw many acts of injustice,” Osman said. For instance, they suffered from a crippling ‘wealth tax’ targeting non-Muslims from 1942 to 1944, and nationalists painted stars of David on Dönme houses.

The two friends say that despite the historical prejudice, the Dönme believed in and in many ways embodied the ideals of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, such as secularism and enlightenment. Atatürk’s hometown was in fact Salonika, and he went to a Dönme school, leading many conspiracy theorists to erroneously conclude that he himself was Dönme.

“Atatürk and our families had good ties,” Cem says. “He kind of looked favorably on us.”

But both Osman and Cem insist that the Dönme have never felt more uncomfortable than they do under the country’s current rulers. The authoritarian AKP has established a new model of Turkish society – ‘New Turkey’ – with a restrictive national ideal based on being a publicly pious Sunni Muslim.

“All of this previous oppression couldn’t create as much distress as the election of the AK Party,” Osman says, referring to Erdogan’s factional base.

The Islamist-rooted AKP has pushed Sunni Islam ever closer into public life in Turkey. Politicians make constant references to Islam and slurs against religious minorities; the Sunni-focused religious ministry’s budget has more than quadrupled, and Islamic education has massively expanded, in order to “raise a pious generation,” in Erdoğan’s words. Erdoğan once attended an awards ceremony for Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, an Islamist writer who called for the expulsion of the Dönme and seizing of their possessions.

Cem says the discrimination isn’t just against the Dönme. Anyone not fitting into the ‘New Turkey’ is made to feel unwelcome. Although the Dönme may be Turkey’s ultimate outsiders, about half the country doesn’t fit into the AKP’s New Turkey.

“For them […] we’re not human. It’s not just because I’m a D-Ö-N-M-E. Because I’m secular, I’m the enemy. Because I’m Western-leaning, I’m the enemy. Because I want democracy, human rights, I’m the enemy,” Cem says.

Cem and Osman say there are only perhaps 2,000 Dönme left who haven’t completely lost their cultural and religious identities. Cem’s worried that one day the culture could be completely lost.

“These things that could be salvaged, that could be saved, are being lost to history, and to the future generations.”

Cem, whose sect is extremely secular, sees his Dönme identity as more cultural than religious.

“Being Dönme for me is being part of the Sephardic culture,” he said, since their ancestors were Jews who fled persecution in Spain and Portugal in the late fifteenth century for the relative religious freedom of the Ottoman Empire. “It means an interest in the Kabbalah, because our ancestors were extremely involved with studying it. It means mysticism.”

Osman, whose sect is more spiritual, explains what he means by mysticism.

“[Imagine] you’re reading a book written in black ink. You should see the white ink behind the black ink. That’s what mysticism is.”

Cem adds a little clarity.

“There’s an open meaning, and there’s a meaning that’s secret. Trying to decipher the secret meaning is what mysticism is about,” he says, such as reinterpreting passages from the Torah and finding new symbolic meanings.

The Dönme tradition of furtiveness comes not only from an effort to escape discrimination, but also for religious reasons. The members are obliged to secrecy according to the 18 Precepts – sort of their 10 Commandments. The secrecy also makes the religion more special and exclusive.

However, Osman is open to speaking about his faith in the hopes of ending common misconceptions.

“The more you hide and deny things, the more people start to make up nonsense about you, your community and your belief,” he says. “When your whole identity is secret, you leave the door open for this kind of subversion.”

Still, for this story, at least, Osman insisted on keeping his identity secret. Turkey clearly still has a long way to go before everyone can feel comfortable expressing their own identity.


Israel’s 30,000 Karaites follow Bible, not Talmud

Israel today is home to some 30,000 Karaites who are Jews, but Jews with a difference. They are followers of a movement that broke away from mainstream Judaism in eighth-century Babylonia, and retained its separate identity and customs to this day.

Israel's Karaites don't look any different from other Israeli Jews. Moreover, they attend the same schools, hold the same kind of jobs and serve in the same military units.

But in one significant respect they are different: While the religious life of other Jews is governed primarily by the oral law, as embodied in the Talmud, the Karaites reject the Talmud.

More than 1,000 Karaites live in the Bay Area, where many worship at the Karaite Jews of America's congregation in Daly City, led by Rav Joe Pessah. Founding members are from Egypt, and fled from Cairo after the Six-Day War in 1967.

For them, only the Bible counts. That makes the Karaite form of Judaism more restrictive in some respects, less so in others.

That makes the Karaite form of Judaism more restrictive in some respects, less so in others.

Much has been written about the "December dilemma" confronted by diaspora Jews, who must convince their children to forego celebrating Christmas and to concentrate on Chanukah instead. According to Ashdod Karaite Rabbi Eliyahu Dabbah, there's a December dilemma for Israeli Karaites, too: They don't celebrate Chanukah because the saga of the Maccabees is not mentioned in the Bible.

"So when that holiday comes around," Dabbah explains, "our children feel like outsiders. This forces us to make compromises, which take the form, for example, of the lighting of Chanukah candles in some Karaite homes."

Regarding the Sabbath, the prohibition of work extends beyond the 39 actions forbidden in mainstream, rabbinic Judaism. Karaites are enjoined from any activity not forming part of the prayer service or not absolutely essential for the satisfaction of physical needs.

For example, the Karaites don't try to circumvent the prohibition against kindling a fire -- and by extension, turning on a light-- on the Sabbath.

So, rather than following in the footsteps of rabbinic Jews, who may install an electrical system to automatically switch household lights on and off on Shabbat, the Karaites, if they are true to their traditions, simply sit in the dark.

At the same time, the kashrut practices of the Karaites are much less restrictive than those of rabbinic Jews. The prohibition in the Bible against "boiling a kid in its mother's milk" was extended by rabbinic Judaism to a total ban on the combined consumption of milk and meat.

Karaites reject that extension, though in different degrees. All agree that chicken and milk products can be eaten together. As for beef, some Karaites eat it with milk products, if the milk and meat are from different sources; others don't mix the two at all.

Contemporary Karaites also see no reason for rabbinic Judaism's continued emphasis on separate sets of dishes for meat, milk and Passover meals. With modern nonporous dishware, the Karaites say, separate sets are not only unnecessary, but place a heavy burden on the Israeli economy.

The founder of Karaism is usually said to be Anan, a rebellious scion of the Babylonian family -- descendants of the House of David -- which enjoyed supreme authority among diaspora Jews after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

The Karaites became a discernible element in Mideast Jewish life in the eighth through 10th centuries, with special influence in Egypt and in pre-state Israel. At the end of the 11th century, the center of Karaite activity shifted to Europe.

First the Karaites were concentrated in the Byzantine Empire, and later they established a presence in the Crimea and Lithuania, usually in close cooperation with rabbinic Jews.

The situation changed when Lithuania and Crimea were incorporated into Russia at the end of the 18th century. In 1795, Empress Catherine II relieved the Karaites of the double tax imposed upon Jews, and permitted them to acquire land. That created a wall of separation between rabbinic and Karaite Jews, each group enjoying civil rights to a different degree.

The inequality between the two groups grew larger in 1827 when the Crimean Karaites were exempted from the general military draft law, a privilege that was not extended to the rabbinic Jews. A year later, Lithuanian Karaites were similarly exempted.

A huge disparity between Karaites and mainstream Jews was created during World War II, when the Germans ruled that Karaites were not Jews -- a decision that saved most of them from death, although some were massacred at Babi Yar in 1941.

At the end of World War II, the only sizable Karaite community was in Egypt. But after the Sinai Campaign in 1956, most came to Israel, though some also immigrated to France, the United States and other Western countries.

While Israel's 30,000 Karaites are scattered all over the Jewish state, they have managed to establish 11 synagogues. The largest is in Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv, the home of some 1,500 Karaite families. This rapidly growing port town is the venue for numerous Karaite cultural and religious activities.

According to Ashdod Karaite Rabbi Moshe Firus, his community doesn't receive as much support from the Ministry of Religious Affairs as do Orthodox congregations.

Moreover, he adds, the former get regular allocations, while the Karaites are only given ad hoc grants, which can be withheld at will.

But, Firus adds, the Ashdod municipality, no doubt influenced by the substantial number of Karaite voters in the town, has supported various projects, including the construction of a handsome new community center.

Even in Ashdod, however, there are things that the Karaites can't do -- like putting an identifying sign on their butcher shop. It sells kosher meat, or perhaps more correctly, super-kosher meat, because the Karaite rules for ritual slaughter are more stringent than those of rabbinic Jews.

But local Orthodox rabbis, who see the Karaites as rivals, have prevented the placing of a sign lest an "ordinary Jew" be "tricked" into buying Karaite meat.

There is a "mezuzah compromise" as well. The Karaites do not traditionally place a mezuzah on their doorposts. Instead, they put up a little plaque with the Ten Commandments. But in Israel, in order to make other Jews feel comfortable, many have a mezuzah on their doorposts as well.

There are also differences regarding ritual purification. While traditional rabbinic Jews go to a mikvah, or ritual bath, the Karaites simply take a shower at home.

When entering a Karaite synagogue, the first thing one notices is a long line of shoehorns hanging on the wall. They are there because visitors must remove their shoes before entering the house of prayer.

Israel today is home to some 30,000 Karaites who are Jews, but Jews with a difference. They are followers of a movement that broke away from mainstream Judaism in eighth-century Babylonia, and retained its separate identity and customs to this day.

Israel's Karaites don't look any different from other Israeli Jews. Moreover, they attend the same schools, hold the same kind of jobs and serve in the same military units.

But in one significant respect they are different: While the religious life of other Jews is governed primarily by the oral law, as embodied in the Talmud, the Karaites reject the Talmud.

More than 1,000 Karaites live in the Bay Area, where many worship at the Karaite Jews of America's congregation in Daly City, led by Rav Joe Pessah. Founding members are from Egypt, and fled from Cairo after the Six-Day War in 1967.

For them, only the Bible counts. That makes the Karaite form of Judaism more restrictive in some respects, less so in others.

That makes the Karaite form of Judaism more restrictive in some respects, less so in others.

Much has been written about the "December dilemma" confronted by diaspora Jews, who must convince their children to forego celebrating Christmas and to concentrate on Chanukah instead. According to Ashdod Karaite Rabbi Eliyahu Dabbah, there's a December dilemma for Israeli Karaites, too: They don't celebrate Chanukah because the saga of the Maccabees is not mentioned in the Bible.

"So when that holiday comes around," Dabbah explains, "our children feel like outsiders. This forces us to make compromises, which take the form, for example, of the lighting of Chanukah candles in some Karaite homes."

Regarding the Sabbath, the prohibition of work extends beyond the 39 actions forbidden in mainstream, rabbinic Judaism. Karaites are enjoined from any activity not forming part of the prayer service or not absolutely essential for the satisfaction of physical needs.

For example, the Karaites don't try to circumvent the prohibition against kindling a fire -- and by extension, turning on a light-- on the Sabbath.

So, rather than following in the footsteps of rabbinic Jews, who may install an electrical system to automatically switch household lights on and off on Shabbat, the Karaites, if they are true to their traditions, simply sit in the dark.

At the same time, the kashrut practices of the Karaites are much less restrictive than those of rabbinic Jews. The prohibition in the Bible against "boiling a kid in its mother's milk" was extended by rabbinic Judaism to a total ban on the combined consumption of milk and meat.

Karaites reject that extension, though in different degrees. All agree that chicken and milk products can be eaten together. As for beef, some Karaites eat it with milk products, if the milk and meat are from different sources; others don't mix the two at all.

Contemporary Karaites also see no reason for rabbinic Judaism's continued emphasis on separate sets of dishes for meat, milk and Passover meals. With modern nonporous dishware, the Karaites say, separate sets are not only unnecessary, but place a heavy burden on the Israeli economy.

The founder of Karaism is usually said to be Anan, a rebellious scion of the Babylonian family -- descendants of the House of David -- which enjoyed supreme authority among diaspora Jews after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

The Karaites became a discernible element in Mideast Jewish life in the eighth through 10th centuries, with special influence in Egypt and in pre-state Israel. At the end of the 11th century, the center of Karaite activity shifted to Europe.

First the Karaites were concentrated in the Byzantine Empire, and later they established a presence in the Crimea and Lithuania, usually in close cooperation with rabbinic Jews.

The situation changed when Lithuania and Crimea were incorporated into Russia at the end of the 18th century. In 1795, Empress Catherine II relieved the Karaites of the double tax imposed upon Jews, and permitted them to acquire land. That created a wall of separation between rabbinic and Karaite Jews, each group enjoying civil rights to a different degree.

The inequality between the two groups grew larger in 1827 when the Crimean Karaites were exempted from the general military draft law, a privilege that was not extended to the rabbinic Jews. A year later, Lithuanian Karaites were similarly exempted.

A huge disparity between Karaites and mainstream Jews was created during World War II, when the Germans ruled that Karaites were not Jews -- a decision that saved most of them from death, although some were massacred at Babi Yar in 1941.

At the end of World War II, the only sizable Karaite community was in Egypt. But after the Sinai Campaign in 1956, most came to Israel, though some also immigrated to France, the United States and other Western countries.

While Israel's 30,000 Karaites are scattered all over the Jewish state, they have managed to establish 11 synagogues. The largest is in Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv, the home of some 1,500 Karaite families. This rapidly growing port town is the venue for numerous Karaite cultural and religious activities.

According to Ashdod Karaite Rabbi Moshe Firus, his community doesn't receive as much support from the Ministry of Religious Affairs as do Orthodox congregations.

Moreover, Dvir added, "before Eastern Jews came to Israel, they, like the Karaites, removed their shoes before praying in a synagogue, where they sat on rugs rather than on chairs or benches. (moreover, even Moses was asked by God to take off his shoes in his encounter in the Burning Bush)"

Karaites have never been numerous. In 1932, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, there were only some 10,000 of them in Russia and approximately 2,000 elsewhere in the world.

So they are numerically stronger today than they were 65 years ago. But despite their 11 synagogues in Israel (with others in Paris, New York, the Bay Area and, of late, St. Petersburg), their survival is by no means assured.

While no figures on marriages between rabbinic and Karaite Jews in Israel are available, the phenomenon is common and likely to become more so because the Karaites mix freely with mainstream Jews.

Moreover, their children are influenced by rabbinic Jewish teachers, pupils and customs at their schools. Their only exposure to their own heritage is at "Sunday schools."

Be that as it may, the Karaites believe that since God has preserved them for 13 centuries, God will do so for at least 13 more.

Karaites do not sit in the dark on Shabbat. Certainly, that is a most strict interpretation that a “Haredi” type sect of Karaites would follow, but most do not. Lights cannot be switched, but a living or dining room light can be left on. Ideally, you would use no electricity at all and even unplug your fridge, but this is not practical or really necessary. The goal is to be in the spirit of Shabbat, not to jump thru hoops.


Second, an interesting fact: The Ethiopian Jews are of Karaite-oriented extraction. They held many Karaite practices for generations, but are now being “cleansed” by rabbinic Jews sadly. This great community is now being crushed by the Puritans who run the Rabbinate. Karaites also need to do more outreach and help restore the link to Ethiopian Jews.

Extension of Karaitism

Karaite influence extended to Judeo-Berber communities and West African tribal communities such as the Malinke, Peul, Foulani, Mossi, Fanti, Songhay, Yoruba and Hausa. The Karaites were remarkably present in Egypt & the former Russian Empire. Iraq was another remarkable country regarding Karaitism. 

Ben David challenged tihe Rabbanite establishment. Some scholars believe that his followers may have absorbed Jewish Babylonian sects such as the Isunians (followers of Abu ‘Isa al-Isfahani), Yudghanites, and the remnants of the pre-Talmudic Saducees and Boethusians. Later, sects such as the Ukbarites emerged separately from the Ananites.


                                                                               Saducee

However, the Isunians, Yudghanites, ‘Ukabarites, and Mishawites all held views that did not accord with those of either the ‘Ananites or the Karaites. Abu ‘Isa al-Isfahani, who was an illiterate tailor, claimed to be a prophet, prohibited divorce, claimed that all months should have thirty days, believed in Jesus and Muhammad as prophets, and told his followers that they must study the New Testament and the Qur’an. Yudghan was a follower of ‘Isa al-Isfahani and claimed to be a prophet and the Messiah, saying that the observance of Shabbat and Holy Days was no longer obligatory. Isma‘’il al-‘Ukbari believed he was the prophet Elijah, and hated ‘Anan. Mishawayh al-‘Ukbari, who was a disciple of Isma‘’il al-‘Ukbari and the founder of the Mishawites, taught his followers to use a purely solar calendar of 364 days and 30 day months, insisting that all the Holy Days and fast days should always occur on fixed days in the week, rather than on fixed days of the months. He further said that Shabbat should be kept from sunrise on Saturday to sunrise on Sunday. Most Ananites and Karaites rejected such beliefs.


For a while there 40% of Jews practicing Karaite Judaism world wide. This sect regards as Jewish the children of a Karaite man, contrary to the establishment of Judaism that considers Jewish the children of a Jewish woman. Karaitism is considered to be the descendant of Saduceism.


Karaites

Doctrines

Karaite Jews differ from other Jews in their rejection of the "Oral Torah" of rabbinic tradition, and their efforts to live according to the authority of the Hebrew Bible alone. Their name is derived from the Hebrew word for "scripture" (mikra), and they were originally characterized by a form of asceticism and rigid adherence to the literal interpretation of biblical laws. They adopted some Essene practices such as total separation from gentiles and ablutions before entering the synagogue, and did not practise many of the most universally accepted customs of rabbinic Judaism such as the use of phylacteries (tefillin) in prayer, the prohibition of eating meat with milk and the celebration of the festival of Hanukkah. Intermarriage with non-Karaite Jews is forbidden. In contrast to the Thirteen Articles of Faith of Maimonides accepted by most Jews, the Karaites have instead a code of ten, one of which is the religious duty to know the language of the Bible. Modern Karaites have their own prayer book.

History

The founder of Karaism was Anan ben David, a prominent Jewish scholar in eighth century Babylonia. His opposition to rabbinic authority was due partly to personal rivalries within the establishment, and partly to his recognition that Talmudical Judaism was going through a period of stagnation at the time and might be revived by the stimulus of renewed Biblical and Hebrew research. Influenced by Islamic scholarship, his achievement, paradoxically, was to inaugurate a new epoch in the history of orthodox rabbinic Judaism which was to culminate in the work of the great mediaeval Jewish scholars. The Ananites, as his anti-rabbinic followers were called at first, included some of the greatest Jewish personalities of the day. They were renamed Karaites in the next century by Benjamin of Nahavend, and could have become a major force within Judaism had it not been for the counter-offensive led by Saadiya, the greatest of the Geonim (882-942).

Thereafter Egypt was the chief center of oriental Karaism until it was weakened by the authority and reputation of Maimonides in the twelfth century. Karaites spread to Byzantium and Asia Minor, and existed for a brief period in eleventh century Spain. From the twelfth century there were Karaites in Russia and Lithuania, where they were often treated more hospitably by the Christian host communities than the orthodox Jews. In 1939 the Nazi authorities stipulated that Karaites were to be categorized as non-Jews, and there were some cases of Karaite collaboration with the Germans. Celebrated Karaite scholars include Judah Hadassi of Constantinople, 12th century author of a kind of Karaite encyclopedia and a number of hymns still printed in Karaite prayer books, and the colorful Russian writer and archaeologist Abraham Firkovitch (1786-1874). The majority of Karaites now live in Israel where they have their own religious courts. They are not permitted to marry rabbinic Jews.

Symbols

The Karaites employ the same symbol system as other traditions within Judaism.

Adherents

There are estimated to be 1500 in the USA, about 100 families in Istanbul, and about 12,000 in Israel, most of them living near the town of Ramleh.

Headquarters/Main Center Moshav Mazliah, near Ramleh, Israel

Karaite Jews: The readers of Hebrew scriptures

The Karaim are a Jewish community that completely reject the Talmud oral law and only recognize the Torah. They continue their existence in different regions, including Lithuania and Turkey, and it is rumored that Istanbul's Karaköy neighborhood is named after them.


Judaism is based on the principles of the Torah that is believed to have been revealed to Prophet Moses. Judaism also has an oral source called the Talmud. God sent oral commandments to Prophet Moses along with the written ones in the Torah revealed on Mount Sinai. Passed down from one generation to another, this "oral Torah" was put into writing under the name of the Mishnah between 538 B.C. and 70 A.D. and explanations were added to the text by rabbis from Jerusalem and Babylon. The Mishnah and its rabbinic commentary, "Gamara," make up the Talmud.

Centuries later, a group of Jews objected to the legal binding of the Talmud as it was created by man. They argued that the Torah, as divine revelation, should be taken as the basis instead of books written by rabbis. These people are called the Karaites.
                                                          A group of Karaite Jews

Various sects have appeared in Judaism throughout its history. However, all of them perished except for Karaism and the Samaritans, who object to the sanctity of Jerusalem and accept a different copy of Torah.

Although their numbers have diminished throughout history, the Karaites have continued their existence until present day. It is believed that there are about 10,000 Karaites living in Crimea, Poland, Lithuania, Turkey and Palestine.

Today, Jews around the world are composed of different communities such as Sephardic, Ashkenazi and Romaniote Jews, but these are considered cultural and geographical branches of Orthodox Judaism and are not counted as separate sects.

Rabbi Anan Ben David was an associate of the Talmud School and lived in Iraq in the eighth century and was considered to be the first major founder of the Karaite movement. He had a disagreement with his younger brother Hananiah about the leadership of the Jewish community in Baghdad. When the community chose Hananiah, who had milder principles, as their new leader instead of the powerful Anan, Anan declared himself counter-leader in 760 A.D. When his behavior was seen as against the established order, the Abbasid caliphate imprisoned Anan. He was released after introducing himself as a member of a different sect that is close to Islam rather than Judaism. The followers of Anan, who wrote "Sefer Hamitzvot" (Book of Commandments) left Baghdad and settled in Jerusalem with the permission of the Abbasid caliphate, as they suffered oppression by other Jews.

The movement spread to Iran, Iraq and Palestine and reached Europe though Constantinople and Andalusia. The sect, which was first called Ananism, was later called Karaism as its followers believed that everybody should read and interpret the Torah on their own. The Hebrew word "karai" means "reader" in English. However, the Talmud says that 10 Jewish men who are religiously competent should come together to read the Torah. The religious tradition that recognizes the commentaries put together by religious men along with the Torah is known as Rabbinic Judaism or Yahadut Rabanit. The followers of Karaism are considered heretics by the followers of Rabbinic Judaism. Israel now considers followers of Karaism to be Jews and allows them to benefit from the Law of Return.

Karaites believe that the Torah explains itself and there is no need for personal additions, which led to a renaissance in Torah studies by giving great importance to the scientific investigation of the holy book. As a reaction to Karaites, the scientific study of the Hebrew language's history began with Rabbi Saadia Ben Yasef Gaon (honorable sage), a vigorous opponent of Karaites, in the 10th century in Egypt. The Karaites developed a rich polemic literary genre to defend their sect against Jews who acknowledge the Talmud. However, they later began to introduce oral traditions to meet the daily prayer needs of the Karaites and got closer to the belief that they previously criticized.

The followers of Karaism, who are strict monotheists just like all Jews, adopt more strict rules regarding kosher, cleaning, fasting, marriage and apparel. They regard working to be a sin not only on the Sabbath, but also on Fridays. They also deny using religious symbols such as mezuzah and tefillin.

Since Hanukah, the Jewish festival of lights celebrated by lighting candles, is not mentioned in the Torah, the Karaites do not recognize it to this day. Compared to other Jewish rituals, Karaite rituals, during which they recite the Torah, are very ordinary. In contrast to common Jewish belief, the Karaites believe that the father's ancestry is more important than the mother's. The reason behind this belief is that the tribes referred to in the Torah have male names and religious figures are addressed with the name of fathers. Another practice unique to the Karaites is that inter-sect marriage is forbidden. (Today, the marriage of a Jew and a Karaite Jew is only accepted in Israel).

In the 10th century, some Syrian Karaites were settled in Anatolia. In the 11th century, a group of Karaites who were forced to leave Jerusalem because of pressure and oppression by Christians after the crusades settled in Egypt. Andalusian Karaites also left Spain due to pressure in the 12th century. Both at the time of the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople always remained a center of attraction and shelter for the Karaites.

There are also a Karaite Turkic people (Krymkaraylar), who speak a language from the Kypchak branch of the Turkic language family. This group came to Caucasus from the Middle Asia from the seventh century and joined the Turkic Khazar Empire, which ruled what is now southwestern Russia and Ukraine. They dismissed invader Goths and settled in Crimea. When the Khazar Empire adopted Jewism as official state religion in the eighth century, they became a part of Karaite sect. This is why they also adopted the name Karaite. Another Jewish community that lives with Karaites and speaks a Turkic language is Krymchaks, but contrary to Crimean Karaites, they recognize the Talmud.

When the Khazar Empire collapsed in 1016, a large section of Karaites migrated to Lithuania and Poland. Until the massacres by the Nazis they lived as a separate community with an individual rabbi. They also settled in many Anatolian and Balkan cities, including Istanbul, Edirne and Amasra. Some claim that the name of Istanbul's Karaköy neighborhood comes from Karaites (Karai-Keuy).

Although they had Turkic influence, Karaites were influenced by Byzantines and could speak Greek and lived an autonomous life like other religious communities in the Ottoman Empire. They were given privileges upon the sultan's firman (imperial decree). Similar to other Jews, they had their own rabbis, synagogues (Kenissa), courts (Bet-din) and religious schools (Yeshiva). However, they always lived away from other Jews. For years, Istanbul had the largest Karaite population in the world, but lost its status in the 17th century after many Karaites migrated to Ottoman Crimea following Russian annexation. Some adopted Islam. It is even said that some famous historical figures come from the Karaite people.


Karaites mostly lived in Istanbul's Hasköy neighborhood. There are only between 30 to 40 Karaite families left in Istanbul today. Founded at the time of the Byzantines, the Hasköy Synagogue caught fire a couple of times, but was repaired and extended with the help of the sultan and the community. They also have a cemetery on the ridge of Hasköy, which was expanded with the consent of Sultan Abdülmecid in the last century. The cemetery is located on the wayside of the road along the Bosporus Bridge.

Who Were the Essenes?

We’re very excited to be hosting our annual Modern Essene Gathering this weekend (June 27th – July 1st) with Rabbi Gabriel Cousens, MD and Kevin Reyerson. For those of you unable to join us for this year’s Gathering, here’s a segment from Rabbi Cousens’ book Creating Peace by Being Peace, titled “Who Were the Essenes?”:

The Modern Living Essene Way is a general path that resonates with the historical life and core truths of the ancient Essenes. It connects to the particular spiritual life of the prophetic, kabbalistic mystics of the desert, known as the Essenes. It is a complete path and lineage of liberation that goes back 5,000 to 6,000 years, probably to the time of Adam, and more specifically was activated by Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam.

The teachings and way of life of the Essenes were most accurately described by Flavius Josephus, the Roman historian, Pliny the Elder, and Philo, the Alexandrian philosopher. Others in this 300-year period refer to them, including Epiphanius, Eusebius, Hippolytus, Porphry, Strabo, and Chaeremon. Their information is supported by a number of modern historians such as Robert Eisenman, author of many books about these times including The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered (he was the one who forced the Dead Sea Scrolls to be released publicly and is professor of Middle East Religions and Archeology and Director of Judeo-Christian Origins at California State University) and Dr. Edmund Szekeley, who activated the Modern Essene Movement in the 1920s with his book The Essene Gospel of Peace. There seems to be a general agreement among these historians on the uniqueness of the Essenes and the basic information about them. Dr. Szekely summarizes: “Among all the beautiful teachings known to man, none has had a more profound influence for good than that of the Essenes.”

The Essene history documented by these historians covers approximately a 300-year span, from 186 BC to the destruction of the Great Temple and Qumran in 70 AD and the final Roman defeat of the Jewish people, including the remainder of the Essenes known as Zealots (those who would prefer to die rather than lose their sovereignty and be forced to live as slaves and prostitutes, denied their right to live in their spiritual ways by the Romans) at Masada three years later. This makes the point that there was a spectrum of Essenes. Some were married and others celibate; the typical Essene was a mystic of the desert, but others were called Zealots for their political translation of the scriptures into political action. Almost all were vegetarian, but some modern historians suggest that not all were. Some modern French archeologists have even hypothesized that Qumran was a spa at the Dead Sea. It is difficult to conclusively prove what actually was true 2,200 years ago, but the overwhelming evidence documented by ancient and modern historians supports these basic following statements. Some of the great Essenes leaders known in the Christian world include Jesus, James the Just, John the Baptist, and John the Divine.

Josephus, after a three-year apprenticeship with them, described their teachings:

Robert Eisenman repeatedly points out they were coldwater bathers on a daily basis, wearers of only linen, and in general were purists in their life habits.

According to Philo and other authors of that time they were vegetarians (also confirmed by modern historians such as Eisenman) and took no drink other than rainwater or the juice of fruits. It is said that their diet was fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains.

Others suggest they enjoyed music, dance, and other forms of movement and exercise. The Essenes were not seen as just philosophers, but were considered people of intense moral and physical action reflecting their intense beliefs.

In accordance with their lifestyle, outside of healing, they were collectively involved primarily in different forms of agriculture. As an extension of this, they discouraged living in cities. The Essenes were located all over the Middle East including the areas known today as Israel, Jordan, Syria,

Lebanon, and Egypt. They seemed to be most concentrated around Mount Carmel, Qumran, and Lake Mareotis near Alexandria, Egypt, where they were called the Therapeutae.

They are instructed in goodly books and the writings of the prophets and grow in wisdom and purity of heart.

Many of the Essenes have often stepped forth among the people as prophets . . . their presages often came true, and this increased their esteem with the people as holy men and prophets.

Rightly do they deserve to be called an example for the life of other people.

Indeed, they are the champions of faith, truth and honesty . . . as the servants and arbitrators of peace.
With this historical understanding, the Essene Way is a potential bridge of spiritual unification, particularly for brothers and sisters of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian background who have a common father in Avraham. This bridge is sorely needed if we are to jointly create the preconditions of readiness for the Messianic Age. The preconditions are to wake up to the perennial truth of all paths: the Divine Presence is the essence of who we are. When we are in this consciousness, known as deveikut in the Living Essene Way, our essence is the truth of all religions. From that truth our natural state spontaneously emanates that noncausal love, peace, contentment, and joy we all seek.

The Modern Living Essene Way is not an attempt to go back to or mimic what we think the ancient Essenes were and did, but it is energetically aligned with these primordial energies. The Essene consciousness of deveikut, cleaving to God (Yah), implies constant communion with the Divine as an intense, overwhelming consciousness of the Ein Sof, or Divine Nothing—unmanifest as the sole reality. It is a comprehensive principle that relates to all that we are and do in this manifest world. It includes experiencing the Divine Presence in oneself and in all life. All life includes the four shamanic Essene kabbalistic categories of the living planet: domem, or rock people; tsme’ach, or sprouting people (plants or trees); chayah, or animated ones (animals, insects); and m’daber, or speaking ones (humans).

The Essene consciousness is that of the Awakened Ones. They are the ones who live in the Eternal Presence beyond the confines of the identification with the mind and body. Oral tradition says that Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam, who “walked with Yah and became whole,” was the first Essene. Oral and written tradition also teaches that Enoch was taken up alive. Enoch then “walked with God and was no more” as he ascended as a fully God-merged being, and became Metatron, the chief archangel. Scriptures say that Noach also “walked with Yah and was whole.” Noach’s son, Shem, also known as Melchizadek, received the lineage from Noach and passed on the lineage to Avraham, who “walked before Yah and was whole.” By walking before God, Avraham became a living blessing to the world. All those in the lineage of Avraham are considered of the Order of Melchizadek—melchi (king) or tzadik (holy person).

                                                    Modern Sufi leaning Essenian women

Certain oral tradition suggests the Sufis and the Essenes, who both suggest their mystical tradition of liberation goes back to Adam, may indeed have been one and the same mystic group at one time. The Essenes, in their most evolved inner spiritual circle, became the plant-based-only live-food Jewish mystical expression. The Sufis became the Islamic mystical expression, both knowing their essential oneness. Another essential link is that Ishmael and Yitzchak were the children of Avraham. This became more significant when Ishmael and Yitzchak came to peace at the time of Avraham’s death; after Sarah’s death, Haggar, Ishmael’s mother, remarried Avraham after she changed her name and consciousness to Keturah. Their healing represents the potential and model of healing between the Jewish-Christian and the Islamic worlds.

After the teachings of the lineage were transferred by Melchizadek (the son of Noach called Shem) to Avraham, they were then transferred to Yitzchak, to Yaakov, and to Yosef, and then reemerged with Moshe’s (Moses’) teachings of the first set of tablets brought down from Mount Sinai. In the Essene lore, according to scholar and Essene translator Dr. Edmond Bordeaux Szekely and kabbalistic oral tradition, these esoteric teachings, brought down by Moses, were given to those who were spiritually ready. But many of the people were not ready for these esoteric teachings of the tradition. The second set of tablets, containing what we call the Ten Commandments (Speakings), comprised the exoteric teachings given to guide the vast majority, who, in their spiritual immaturity, had created the golden calf. Until now, even the relatively concrete teachings of the magnificently simple and profound Ten Commandments have been too difficult for most of the world to follow.

The Essenes taught a way of being whole and peaceful that included following the laws of the Torah, but took one beyond rote performing of the laws. Their teachings were not meant to replace the Ten Commandments, but rather to offer a way to transform oneself into the living law of the Ten Commandments as the Ten Speakings. The teaching and lineage were given to King David, King Solomon, Samuel the Prophet, and to the prophets Elijah, Elisa, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Amos. Many of these prophets lived on the Mount Carmel mountain range and guided the people who gathered around them, creating a subtle beginning of Essene communities as far back as 600 BC. The initiatory prophetic mantra, according to the kabbalistic literature, was and still is YHWH.

Although Gabriel did not have this information at the time when the Divine directly initiated him into the consciousness of the Tetragrammaton, he now understands that this mantra of the prophets became enlivened or awakened in him so that he might share it with others as an expression of the Essene lineage. It is likely that the esoteric Essene teachings were carried through the prophets on Mount Carmel and finally through the secret societies of the Essenes, who lived in communities three to six centuries BC around Mount Carmel, at Lake Mareotis in Egypt, and around the Dead Sea starting around 186 BC. The Essenes sent forth teachers from their own communities to share these teachings with all nations, including Menachem the Essene in 20 BC, John the Baptist, and John the Beloved, as well as Jesus, who is said to have been raised and educated in the Essene communities. Although it is difficult to absolutely prove that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were Essenes, there is substantial oral and some written history that supports this. The subtle essence of the Essene teachings can be found in the beautiful Seven Beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Based on this information, and a document claimed to be found in the Vatican, the Romanian Jew, naturopath, scholar, and Renaissance man Dr. Szekely poetically translated the Essene Gospel of Peace in 1929. The power of his poetic and archetypical understanding launched the Modern Essene Way and inspired Gabriel. Through a 1995 revelation for the healing of self and the world, Gabriel was further inspired.

As the Essene tradition evolved, it touched many cultures. For example, in the sixth century BC, according to oral history of Pythagoras and oral Jewish history, he studied with the Essenes on Mount Carmel and came down both enlightened and as a proponent of live foods. The next mention of the Essenes is their evolvement from the Pious Ones. The Essene movement evolved from them into the Qumran community by the Dead Sea in 186 BCE. The Essenes were more complex and diversified than that portrayed in the Qumran community texts or by the Jewish historian, Josephus. Parallel to Qumran were the Mount Carmel Essenes and their communities, such as Nazareth in the foothills of Mount Carmel. This is where Joseph and Mary brought forth Jesus, or Yehoshua, who attained and taught the enlightened awareness of the Essenes. John the Baptist, also an Essene, was said to be the cousin of Jesus. The brother of Jesus, James, was Jesus’ appointed successor, and he maintained the teachings of Jesus, including the teaching of good works and grace as foundations on the path. James also ran the Jerusalem church. All these spiritual luminaries were Essenes. This connection is the obvious meeting place between the Jewish and Christian worlds. Jesus taught the enlightened Torah and Talmudic prophetic ways of the Essenes as a Jew.

The Modern Living Essene Way represents the authentic historical teaching and practices of Jesus as it comes from his spiritual and historical context as an enlightened Essene, who many of the Essenes felt was the messiah of that generation. The teachings were that the messiah comes in every generation. Before Jesus was Menachem the Essene in 20 BC, who was also killed by the Romans. In 70 AD the Essenes dispersed, because of the Romans and the destruction of the second temple. The final mention of the Essenes was their valiant stand against the Romans in 73 CE at Masada (near the Dead Sea), where they chose “never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than God . . . and where they believed life without sovereignty was not worth living,” according to Flavius Josephus. 

Except for a brief historical mention of Constantine—the Essene from Africa as a teacher in the Italian School of Medicine at Salerno, who taught Father Benedict, who saved Luigi Coronado’s life by teaching him moderate eating—the Essenes were forgotten to history.

No one knows exactly what happened to the Essenes. In 69 AD, fore- warned of the advancing Roman legions, they hid many of their manuscripts and sacred texts and seemed to disappear. Oral tradition suggests that they brought their teachings in small groups to the far corners of the earth. Some of them were said to have become Gnostics. Their knowledge has only resurfaced in this century through the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 at Qumran and a few manuscripts that had been preserved in monasteries. Some of these Essene manuscripts and fragments were actually found as early as 1897 by Rabbi Solomon Schachter at the Giza Temple in Cairo, where the author has visited. Some were also found in 1927 in the archives of the Vatican, at the castle of the Hapsburgs in Vienna, and in the British Museum by Dr. Szekely, who translated them into English. Many have called Dr. Szekely the first modern Essene.

Through his wise understanding and efforts, the Essene teachings have again spread around the world. In 1929, before the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947, Dr. Szekely reactivated the Essene energetic archetype with the Essene Gospel of Peace, Book 1. It is from this inspirational work that the Living Essene Way has blossomed. It is as relevant today as in ancient times. The essential Essene message of deveikut (God-merging), or “Walk before Yah and be whole,” is an eternal spiritual message. To “walk before” means to be a blessing of God on this planet. Wake up and stay awake is the message and the blessing.

No historian can actually give us more than general information about what the different ancient Essene groups did on a day-to-day basis, but we do have significant knowledge of their historical and spiritual context (as described earlier), from which we can understand their fundamental spiritual path.

The general spiritual understandings given to Gabriel in a 1995 revelation were most likely followed by all of the Essenes regardless of their subgroup belief systems. To call oneself an Essene requires that one is aligned with the core-essence lineage of the Essene Way as it has been lived from the beginning of time, yet make it appropriate to our twenty-first- century lives. The Modern Living Essene Way revelation is about inspiration; it is not about judgment or living exactly as we imagined they lived in the past. It is about inspiring ourselves and others to live in the highest degree of peace and harmony with ourselves, others, animal and plant life, the planetary ecology, and the will of God in the twenty-first century.

Gabriel uses the phrase “Modern Living Essene Way” because our social-spiritual context and direction in these modern times is not identical to that of 3,000 or more years ago. Trying to adopt the rituals and lifestyle of those times is open to wide interpretation and potential self- righteous cultism. In the thirteenth century, the great Torah scholar, Nachmanides, in his introduction to the Sefer HaMizvot L’Ha Rambam (Book of the Commandments of Maimonides), spoke to this issue:
I will not be for them [spiritual predecessors] like a donkey, eternally hauling their books. I will explain their teachings and study their ways, but when my vision does not complement theirs, I will decide according to what my own eyes are seeing and with legal certainty. For God grants wisdom in every generation and every period and will not deny goodness to those who are sincere.

The next evolutionary step in the unfolding of the Essene Way for the author came during July 1995, when the author did a twenty-one-day water fast. On the twenty-first day, over a period of six to twelve hours while meditating and praying in the temple at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center, he had a vision of the letters of the name of God, the Tetragrammaton in the form of Yod Hey Wah Hey, YHWH (That Which Was, Is, and Will Forever Be). The vision turned to flaming letters and burned themselves into his brain, third eye area, heart, and into every cell. They fully permeated every aspect of Gabriel’s consciousness. YHWH is the vibration of the eternal, compassionate Divine Presence as it begins to manifest out of the Ein Sof (infinite-unmanifest). It was after this that the author began to speak in the third person to express the enlightened Essene teaching that we are not the body-mind-I Am complex, but that which is prior to the body-mind-I Am complex.

This third-person expression and teaching of consciousness has also been used by such great Hasidic rabbis as Rebbe Zusha of Annopol, a third-generation Hasid in the lineage of the Magid of Mezeritch from the Ba’al Shem Tov, and by Rebbe Meir Premishlaner, another mystical and famous Hasidic teacher who was in the inner circle of ten of the students of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the enlightened founder of the Hasidic movement.

Over a continuous period of about six hours, while Gabriel meditated, he disappeared into the supernal light of the unmanifest and reemerged back into the flaming letters. Then the flaming letters of God’s name began to symbolically talk to Gabriel. The four letters of the name gave different pieces of wisdom. It was not like channeling. The letters communicated directly into Gabriel’s consciousness and what transpired was beyond the actual message. It was a total cosmic initiation and empowerment into the mysteries of the Tetragrammaton and the Essene kabbalistic Jewish lineage. It became, and is, part of Gabriel’s soul essence in a way that cannot be explained, but can be transmuted energetically by touch, countenance, sound, or breath.

A portion of this divine communication has become a general template for the Modern Living Essene Way. The teaching is a modern expression of the historical Essenes, the shamanic, Jewish, kabbalistic, mystical prophets of the desert. The meaning and relevance of the Tetragrammaton that permeated the author’s consciousness in the temple at the Tree of Life in 1995—in light of Gregg Braden’s book, The God Code (2003)—takes on a more general message for creating world peace. The God Code articulates specifically how God’s name (YHWH) reverberates in the DNA of all life. This teaching is also mentioned in J. J. Hurtak’s earlier work, The Keys of Enoch: “The Name of YHWH is coded within every biochemical function in our body, especially within the life-giving DNA-RNA matrix.” According to Hurtak: Every letter or combination of the divine code (YHWH) helps each individual to reprogram his or her own DNA through quantum coherence. Human consciousness infused into the golden ratios of DNA, microtubules, and clathrin molecules located as jewel-like geometries at the tips of microtubules, awakens and tunes the human body as a vibratory antenna, a virtual Tree of Life on a micro and macro scale!

This name of God is the activated energetic mantra in which Gabriel was initiated. As stated in Exodus (Shemot)20:24,“…in all places where I cause my name to be pronounced, I will come to thee and I will bless thee.” In other words, YHWH is the name of God placed in our minds and, thus, on our foreheads and in our hearts to draw grace. Further research strongly suggests it was also a mantra for meditation revealed to Moses, used by the prophets during their initiations to their students, and also most likely used by Jesus for his disciples. In this context, it is a unifying name of God reverberating in all creation as the name of God encoded in our human DNA, in the DNA of all living creatures and planet life, and in our hearts and minds. The (Yod Hey) represents the balance of the inner female and male and the (Wah Hey) represents the balance of the outer male and female. In this context, it is a mantra of liberation of this lineage at least four thou- sand years old. This holy mantra (hagiya) can be used with the breath (Yod on the in-breath, and Hey on the out-breath):

Yod into the Heart, and Hey out through the heart. Wah from the perineum area up to the third eye, Hey out through the heart.

This breath mantra is excellent for meditating and for maintaining a peace, love, and compassion awareness throughout the day.

In 1996, the following four principles of the Living Essene Way were recognized, acknowledged, and approved by all the main Essene groups in the U.S. at the Breitenbush Essene Conference. The four basic Essene principles are:

I. Sh’ma Israel Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ehad — God is One and many.

II. Teshuva—to return to God by changing one’s ways to the ways of God; to know the self and live the way of God.

III. Tikkun ha-Olam—to actively participate in the healing and trans-formation of the world.

IV. Shalom—the peace on seven levels, leading to ultimate peace of self-realization; peace that comes when we have integrated and unified our inner and outer worlds, balanced the inner and outer male and female (equality and respect between sexes), and created harmony between heaven and earth.


Modern Essenes or Essenians

The Essene Archetype

The Essene Archetype is a very intriguing, inspiring ideal. They were and now are the frequency of enlightenment for the transformation and healing of self and the planet. The ancient Essenes were historically recognized as the mystical Jewish prophets of the desert. They considered themselves, in their terms, “the holy ones of God”. It is no accident that the term Essene comes from the Northern Aramaic word chasya, which means saint in Greek, which was the way they were perceived by the general population. From the time of Hannokh they were also known as B’nei Aliyah, the children of ascension. Many of the early Jewish followers of Jesus were also Essene; it is also strongly suggested historically that Mary’s parents (Joachim and Anna), Jesus’ parents (Mary and Joseph), his brother James, and John the Baptist were also Essene. In 2007, at an Easter talk, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged that the home where Jesus had his last meal was an Essene home, and his second volume of Jesus of Nazareth (2011) mentions the Essenes in general and in specific in the context of Jesus’ “Last Supper”. This suggests that Jesus was clearly associated with the Essenes. If he was not formally trained as an Essene as some historians suggest, he was at least close to them in some spiritual and lifestyle alignment. The Essene existence is first mentioned about 500 B.C., after the fall of the First Temple in 586 BC, in Pythagoras’s biography, where he studied with them on Mt. Carmel and came down enlightened and as a teacher of live foods. These were called the Galilean Essenes of the north, where Jesus came from. The Galilean Essenes were also given the name Nazarenes, as was Jesus.


The current leader of the Modern Essenes is Rabbi Gabriel Cousens, MD, MD (H), DD, Diplomat Ayurveda, Diplomat American Board of Holistic Medicine. Since the time Rabbi Cousens became the leader of this movement, he has added the Six Foundations and Seven-fold Peace, which encapsulate the Great Torah Way of enlightenment. This allows people to follow the way without being Torah scholars. We consider ourselves, because we actually follow the primordial teachings of the Essenes as doers of the Torah adhering to a vegan, live-food, drug-free lifestyle, as an authentic Essene expression.

Ancient Essene Living

The Essenes lived in various communities all over the Middle East. They totaled in number between 4,000 to 10,000 people. This included the Qumran Essene community, which began in 186 B.C. near the Dead Sea. There were also Essenes at the Sea of Galilee, Mt. Carmel, in Egypt at Lake Mareotis, as well as in the areas that are now known as Lebanon and Damascus as early as 100 – 500 B.C. These Essene groups, which resided all over the region, had slightly different styles according to their local culture, but shared the basics of Essene life and spirituality. They believed in creating a lifestyle that would support the human transformation into a whole and healthy life. They were noted by the historian Philo, for their focus on living ecstatically.

Ancient Essene Way of Life

Even though there was some variation between the groups, they all had a mutually agreed upon foundational way of life, which is why they were so well known and respected. The Essene Way included a strong adherence to the Torah teachings, and the practice of a weekly Shabbat or Sacred Meal. The Torah was used as a guide to higher consciousness and enlightenment and also used as a guide for how to live practically, morally, and ethically in the world to heal themselves and the world. They lived strictly and honorably by these ethics. Historical evidence strongly suggests that the vast majority of the Essenes adhered to a plant-source-only and/or live foods diet.

According to the Torah teachings and the main Essene historians, the Essenes did not use drugs, and some, like the Nazarenes, did not even use ceremonial wine. They adhered to the teaching in Leviticus 10:8-11 which says, “And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, ‘Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them by Moses.’”

The Essenes lived naturally, in tune with the environment and were noted in the different regions where they lived for healing, their industriousness, gardening and agriculture, and for their righteous, mystical, and prophetic abilities they brought to their daily life in regard to the people around them. They truly were an uplifting inspiration to the rest of the Jewish community.


The seed of the Modern Essenes today was activated by Dr. Edmund Bordeaux Szekely in 1929. The foundational Modern Essene guidelines, as they did in historical times, include a focus on the great Torah Way of life and liberation, the weekly Shabbat practice, live-food veganism, reestablishing our place in the sacred planetary ecology, and no drug use. The primary focus of the Modern Essenes today is a God-centered, ecstatic enlightenment, as was the inner circle of the Essenes in ancient times. The Modern Essene Way is a way of liberation that goes beyond egocentricity and ethnocentricity to a world/God-centric orientation. To call oneself a Modern Essene today requires spiritual warrior activism and an alignment with the core essence of the Modern Essene lineage, which can be traced back to the time of Adam, Enoch, and the Melchizadek Brotherhood of ancient times.

The one difference is the Modern Essenes today represent a mix of people from all different cultures and religious backgrounds that choose to follow this way of life. So, at this point in history we represent a synergy of the Jewish, Christian, Yogic, Taoist, Buddhist, and other traditions.

Essenes in the 21st Century, their Celebrated Bread, their Main Essene Rabbis & Jesus Christ

There are many webpages that in a way or another claim to practice Essenian principles. Many affirm to be able to make the original Essene bread. The word Essene comes from Latin, from Greek Essenoi, & it's of disputed etymology, perhaps from Hebrew tzenum "the modest ones," or Hebrew hashaim "the silent ones." Klein suggests Syriac hasen, plural absolute state of hase "pious."

                                                              Essene scriptorium

Was Joseph (Jesus' adoptive father) an Essenian that became king of Kashmira ("Sandhimati") as some affirm?

Archangel Gabriel's Temple on Water at a modern Essene village in Canada. The modern Essenians, at least part of them, have the angels in high esteem, especially Gabriel the angel. They believe the Essenian knowledge was received from them.

                                                                     Essenian wedding

Essene Summer Congress in 2009 camping with teepees. The Essene Nation, with their foundation, the "Essenia Foundation" are another remarkable group of contemporaneus Essenes. They have created an Essenian village at Cookshire, Canada, called Essene Village. It's next to a lake. They built a temple named after Gabriel the angel. Some people have gotten married there through the Essene rite.


                As in the old good times, the Essenes of the Essenia Foundation wear white clothes


                                                Peruvian Essenes & Essene symbol of peace.

Some try to get close to approach Judaism or ancient Christian principles. Some Adventists have claimed their roots in them. Some mix with ancient Egyptian, Chinese, Indian... principles. Some have a new age flavor.
In the Book of Genesis it's mentioned the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden that the Essenes called the Tree of Life. This tree is often identified with the Essenians.


                                                               The Sea from Qumran

Most are esoteric & exoteric at the same time, so they deal with body & spiritual needs through massages, healthy habits, natural food, group therapy meetings...

                                Essene minister with Egyptian hyerogliphics on the background

                                                               Essenes of Qumran's ruins

Their leaders are called doctor, proffesor, & even rabbi, or just leader. They have many commonalities, apart from the name Essene/Essenian.

                                                A group of modern Essenians meditating

It's noteworthy that often the ones that denominate themselves Essenian are more Oriental in their approach while the ones that denominate themselves Essene try more to follow the original Essenian principles & teachings.

                                                   Modern Essenian Convention in 2016

In reality there shouldn't be any distinctions. The names Essene & Essenian have the same root & meaning, & they were applied to the same ancient religious group of people.

                                                                          Essene bread

The Essene bread is composed entirely of germinated grains and water. It keeps easily for several days if stored in a dry place.

                                                             Ancient Essene Brotherhood

This bread is generally made from wheat grains, soaked in water for about fifteen hours, then left to germinate for two or three days.

                          An Essene scriptorium where the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were written.

The germinated grains must then be crushed (not too fine), preferrably manually, with a mortar, as soon as the white germ is appearing.

                             Ancient Essenians having a healthy stroll through the Judean desert                                     
You can also replace wheat with any other cereal, such as oats, spelt (don't know if this is the right word in English - it's an ancient variety of wheat which has been "revived" a few decades ago), barley, buckwheat, rye - but also quinoa, sesame or kamut.

                    Essene workers building an aqueduct to bring running water to their community.
                                    
History and origins of this ancestral bread:

The Essenes were a Jewish community which lived on the banks of the Dead Sea from 300 BC to 100 AC and which had a profound influence in the beginnings of Christianity.

                                Essene morning prayers as interpreted by Otto Pilny 1866–1936

The Essenes were highly enlightened. They taught a lifestyle in harmony with nature.

                                   Modern day Essenian Christian leader David "Day" Nazariah.

                                                            Modern Mexican Essenes

Traditionally the Essenians made fine cakes of germinated wheat, crushed and milled, and then dried on rocks exposed to sunshine.

This is bread with history. It has been made since ancient times – some say 6000 years – and yet it has many advantages for modern times.

Another Possible Way to Make the Essene Bread


                                                           Essene Aniversary celebration

Take a variety of grains and some beans of your choice, in particular lentils, red if available....soak, sprout, drain WELL,,, let them sit over colander for a bit.... either grind if you have such a beast,, or put in electric food processor... add yeast and salt ... you can let rise and bake, or if you want RAW bread,,,, spread out on cookie sheet to about 1/2 thick or so,,,, and put in warm spot, sunny window and turn over a few times as it drys,,,, fan or open window helpful.... eat when dry enough.... you can add nuts and seeds to the dough.. advice, do NOT, I mean do NOT add coconut,, it gets RANCID very quickly and you will be throwing out your whole batch...


          There are many ministers in the Essene Foundation, but Olivier Manitara is their main leader.

                           An Essene group discusses over the true meaning of a scroll’s passage.

With chopped nuts and dried fruits, the raw version can be absolutelywonderful,,like an energybar...it is NOT light and fluffy....

                                             An ancient Essenian family in a typical Essene house.

Was Jesus Christ Really an Essene Jew?


Qumram & surroundings. Mazin was a village used by men of low status. some of these were Essene villagers who met in Capernaum, on Lake Galilee.

                                                            Modern Essenian family

Since the archaeological discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946, the word "Essene" has made its way around the world--often raising a lot of questions. Many people were astonished to discover that, two thousand years ago, a brotherhood of holy men and women, living together in a community, carried within themselves all of the seeds of Christianity and of future western civilization.


                                         Essenian Symbol with Star of David & Torch inside

This brotherhood--more or less persecuted and ostracized--according to some, would bring forth people who would change the face of the world and the course of history. Indeed, some people think  almost all of the principal founders of what would later be called Christianity were Essenes--St. Ann, Joseph and Mary, John the Baptist, Jesus, John the Evangelist, etc.


                                                          Essene Rabbi Cousens speaking

The Essenes considered themselves to be a separate people--not because of external signs like skin color, hair color, etc., but because of the illumination of their inner life and their knowledge of the hidden mysteries of nature unknown to other men. 

        Oliver Manitara, leader of the Essenia Foundation & main promoter of Essene Village, Canada

They considered themselves to be also a group of people at the center of all peoples--because everyone could become part of it, as soon as they had successfully passed the selective tests.


Another group of modern Essenians. There are modern Essenes are found in Canada, the USA, Mexico, Peru... The Great Guru of the Sovereign Order of Essene-Sufi Genizahr Solar Initiation Dr. José Manuel Estrada is the main leader of his group that in Spanish is called Soberana Orden de Iniciacion Solar Esenio-Sufi Genizahr. This man was born in Venezuela. He performed pilgrimage to Tibet & Macchu Pichu. In this Essene group their chief leader is called Sublime Master, Older Brother or Great Guru. They want to follow the steps of Buddha, Christ, Quetzalcoatl… As the name Genizahr indicates they aim at following the Janissaries steps too. Genizahr is another form of the word Janissary. The Janissaries were a feared group of soldiers in Ottoman Turkey. They were taken as prisoners from Christian enemies, so they were European Christians originally. Although the Turks are usually dark haired, is not strange to find some blondes, obviously descended from the European Janissaries. The Bektashi Order is said to have been the religious inspiration for the Janissaries. The Alevi Bektashis were a liberal religious group with esoteric teachings. It's the same with the Turkish military order of the Qizilbash that followed Alevism. Another title that the leaders of this Essenian group is Sifu, which is the Cantonese spelling of shīfu (Mandarin Chinese) that has different meaning depending on the context. It is used as a title for and role of a skillful person or a master.

                                        Small lake at the Essene Village in Cookshire, Canada

Essene Vestal at Cookshire, Canada. In ancient Rome, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins (Vestales, singular Vestalis) were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth (Sacred Fire). The College of the Vestals and its well-being was regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome. They cultivated the sacred fire that was not allowed to go out. The Vestals were freed of the usual social obligations to marry and bear children, and took a vow of chastity in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of state rituals that were off-limits to the male colleges of priests.

                                                  Landscape at Esseneland in modern Israel

 They thought that they were the heirs of God's sons and daughters of old, the heirs to their great ancient civilization. They possessed an advanced knowledge and worked assiduously in secret for the triumph of the light over the darkness of the human mind.

                                                         Essenians performing a cleansing

They felt that they had been entrusted with a mission, which would turn out to be the founding of Christianity and of western civilization. They were true saints, Masters of wisdom, hierophants of the ancient arts of mastery.

                                          Modern Essenes praying & enjoying the sun's rays

One of their major preoccupations was to protect themselves from any contact with evil spirits, in order to preserve the purity of their souls. They knew that they would only be on earth for a short time, and they did not want to prostitute their eternal souls. It was this attitude, this strict discipline, this absolute refusal to lie, that made them the object of so much persecution through the ages.

                                                    Ancient Essenians writing on pergamin

The Essenes considered themselves the guardians of the Divine Teaching. They had in their possession a great number of very ancient manuscripts, some of them going back to the dawn of time.


Although the Rastafaris have very deviated ideas (the use of drugs, Haile Selassie I's divinity...), they believe in a Promised Land-Zion... hold that standard translations of the Bible incorporate changes, or were edited for the benefit of the power structure. So they believe in the Bible in their way. Haile Selassie I, Ethiopia's last emperor, descended from king Solomon of Israel, according to ancient Ethiopian books. That's why he had the Middle Eastern title King of Kings & the Israelite title Lion of Judah. This is the origin of the Rasta deviation. Interestingly he was a Christian king & never claimed to be a Messiah as the Rastas say. Many Ethiopian Jews, the Falashas, believe to descend from king Solomon too. This is not unlikely, since king Solomon had a large haren of spouses & concubines from many foreign countries. The Jewish Ethiopian attire is white & similar to that of the olden Essenes, so it is the Rastafari one.


                          Qumram's scrolls. Did the Essenians become Christians as some affirm?

A large portion of the School members spent their time decoding them, translating them into several languages, and reproducing them, in order to perpetuate and preserve this advanced knowledge. They considered this work to be a sacred task.

                                                                   Essenians with scrolls

Ein Feshkha is a nature reserve and archaeological site on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, about three kilometers south of Qumran in the West Bank. The Essenes are supposed to have met here.

The Essenes considered their Brotherhood-Sisterhood as the presence on earth of the Teaching of the sons and daughters of God. They were the light which shines in the darkness and which invites the darkness to change itself into light. Thus, for them, when a candidate asked to be admitted to their school, it meant that, within him, a whole process of awakening of the soul was set in motion. Such a soul was ready to climb the stairs of the sacred temple of humanity.

Supposed ancient Essenian symbol supposedly received through Atlanteans. Some people affirm statements like the Essene's knowledge was received by Atlanteans or the like.

Essene Life Ways

Part of the essential Essene message to the world today is to urge people to chose the Light and Life. In order to do this we need to be mentally and physically clear to be able to discern what the most evolved choice is.

                                          Piece of the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumram, modern Judea

Deuteronomy 30:19 Moshe says, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses! Before you I have placed life and death, the blessing and the curse. You must choose life, so that you and your descendants will survive.”

                                   Christian Essene vegetarian raw-fooder & minister Nazariah 

Romans 12:2, Paul writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.”

                                                           Cave nearby Essene land

The Modern Essene Way is a way of liberation that goes beyond egocentricity and ethnocentricity to a world/Divinty-centric orientation. To call oneself a Modern Essene requires spiritual warrior activism and an alignment with the core essence of the Essene lineage, which can be traced back to the time of Adam, Enoch, and the Melchizadek Brotherhood of ancient times
The Essenic brothers had several names, like the Sons of the Light. They looked for the light, meaning knowledge, but also the actual light. That's one of the reasons they loved solstices. The Sun now exerts its maximum power upon the Earth as its rays strike us head-on. The time of full outward physical manifestation dominates.


          John the Baptist lived a hermit life in the desert similar, in a way, to that of the Essenians.

The powers of inner contemplation are at their lowest point, and everywhere are the energies of doing, of exerting the will. Leaving away in the desert was probably to receive the sun's light, to be somewhat isolated from the urban life in order to live a natural life, to be away from the wicked, to feel closer to God.


Modern Mandeans baptizing. The Mandeans are mostly concentrated in modern Iraq, but originally are considered to have been Jews that separated from the main groups left in the Holy Land. They revere John the Baptist as their main prophet. They're sometimes called John the Baptist's Christians, although they're not Christians. They, as well as John, are often considered to have derived from the Essenians.


The Universal Great Brotherhood was founded by the French Serge Raynaud. This cross is one of their symbols. They belief in a whole bunch philosophies. According to them in all the ages there has existed a Universal Great Brotherhood. In each of the Great civilisations (Mayas, Incas, Druids, Essenes, etc) an organising corporation consisting of the High Dignitaries of this Institution have had in their power the guidance of Mankind. This group doesn't claim an Essenian heritage as strongly as others. Inspite the several commonalities with the modern Essenes, they don't usually claim openly to be Essenians, if at all.


                          Olivier Manitara teaching. Israelite Menorah drawn in the background.

                      The Egyptian Nazarene Essenes bathing in Holy Water as early Baptism

 A Christian hymn says: Our Savior's love Shines like the sun with perfect light. Although ancient pagans considered the son as a god, it's obviously one of God's creations. The great light the sun gives is compared with the Savior's light, physical, mental & spiritual, so the sun should symbolize to us the Lord. For most Christians sunday is His day.


                The Egyptian Nazarene Essenes at the Qumran settlement of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Many people believe Jesus Christ was an Essenian Jew because of the three Jewish currents He only rebuked Pharisaic Jews & the Saducean Jews, but never the Essene Jews.


Building at Qumran. The ancient Essenes were a small community are said to have been an orthodox Jewish sect. They had a village or settlement on the West Bank side of the Dead Sea, not far away from the celebrated Jericho. They had a very strict behavior. 


Essenian Yoga practicioners in Spain. The Essene Yoga is supposedly based on Essene principles. It's believed that Essenian sources have influenced several sects, groups... Free Masonry is just one of these philosophies considered to have been influenced by the Essenes. 


Modern Essene leader Master Estrada between two Essene Gurus with a Star of David shaped window in the background.

                                  Desert wanderers. Did they meet the Essenes in the wilderness?

Sh’ma Israel Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ehad – God is One and many. Teshuva – Return to God by changing one’s ways to the ways of God. Tikkun ha Olam – Actively participate in the healing and transformation of the world. Shalom

When Jesus was a boy – that is after the age of twelve years – He did visit this country, with Joseph of Arimathea, and that during His stay He journeyed to Glastonbury, where certain “settings” were made. That is to say the holding of deep ceremonies which established Glastonbury, England, as a Holy and Magnetic Centre. Glastonbury is an important location for druids in the UK, in modern druidism as it was in ancient druidism. Christ would have been teaching the local druids from the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. Druid Christianity was the first Christianity in Britain & it's said to have been started by the very Jesus Christ.  The druids wore clothes resembling the Essenes' very much. This is what is written about Him being in Britain: And did those feet in ancient time, Walk upon England's mountain green? And was the holy Lamb of God, On England's pleasant pastures seen? And did the countenance divine, Shine forth upon our clouded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here, Among those dark satanic mills? The Brotherhood of the Essenes is a Christian Essenic church that adds a bit of angelology. They have annual meetings for the summer solstice, also at Glastonbury.

                                                            Druids performing a  ritual

                                                                    Was Jesus an Essenian?

Essene Rabbi Gabriel Cousens, M.D. & his wife Shanti Golds Cousens. She's expert in yoga, aromatherapy... He's a Licensed physician in Western medicine, Homeopathy, Psychiatry, Chinese Herbs, Family Counselor. A Diplomat in Ayurveda, A Diplomat of American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. He is the founder of the "Essene Order of Light", a spiritual organization based upon teachings from the Jewish Kabbalah, the Torah, and modern interpretations of the Essenes. They hold retreat programs. He is so popular in the Essene world, that is even known in the Slavian blogosphere.

                                                          Modern Essenes in white attire.

The Four Essene Principles, presented to all the various Modern Essene groups by Rabbi Gabriel Cousens at a 1996 gathering at Breitenbush Hot Springs, Oregon, were unanimously accepted by those present.


                         Modern Essene Rabbi Gabriel Cousens with his Essene kappa on his head.



The Modern Essenes are a seed for the potential fulfillment of the prophecy that the B’nai Israel (Israelites) and B’nai Noach (Gentiles) will work as the pious ones of all traditions to help usher in the Messianic times.



Tree of Life Center's logo with Star of David. Rabbi Gabriel Cousens' web & his Contemporaneous Essenian group.


                                                     Essenian conference at Durango, México


                                      A group of Essenes at the Durango, México, conference


The main group of Essenes, lead by rabbi Gabriel Cousens claims to have an Essenian priesthood. People affirm to have been healed by him.

Peace Essene symbol in Magen David & in Indian flower with 12 petals (symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel?) 

There are modern Essenes that lean towards sufism, an heterodox form of Islam with no relation whatsoever to radical Islam. Apart from sufism proper, this group receives influence from liberal branches of Shia Islam: Alevism & Bektashism. All Bektashis are Alevis, but not all Alevis.


                                          Modern Essene Peruvians in Miraflores, Lima, Perú.

Do Essenes Work Behind the Scenes?

Lawrie, in his History of Freemasonry, in replying to the objection, that if the Fraternity of Freemasons had flourished during the reign of Solomon, it would have existed in Judea in after ages, attempts to meet the argument by showing that there did exist, after the building of the Temple, an association of men resembling Freemasons in  nature, ceremonies, and object of their institution. The association to which here alludes is that of the Essenes, whom he subsequently describes as an ancient Fraternity originating from an association of architects who were connected with the building of Solomon's Temple.

Lawrie evidently seeks to connect historically the Essenes with the Freemasons, and to impress his readers with the identity of the two Institutions. I am not prepared to go so far; but there is such a similarity between the two, and such remarkable coincidences in many of there usages, as to render this Jewish sect an interesting study to every Freemason, to whom therefore some account of the usages and doctrines of this holy brotherhood will not, perhaps be unacceptable.

At the time of the advent of Jesus Christ, there were three religious sects in Judea-the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes; and to one of these sects every Jew was compelled to unite himself. The Savior has been supposed by writers to have been an Essene, because, while repeatedly denouncing the errors of the two other sects, he has nowhere uttered a word of censure against the Essenes; and because, also many of the precepts of the New Testament are found among the laws of this sect.

In ancient authors such as Josephus, Philo, Porphyry, Eusebius, and Pliny, who have had occasion to refer to the subject, the notices of this singular sect have been so brief and unsatisfactory, that modern writers have found great difficulty in properly understanding the true character of Essenism. And yet our antiquaries, never weary of the task of investigation, have at length, within a recent period, succeeded in eliciting, from the collation of all that has been previously written on the subject, very correct details of the doctrines and practices of the Essenes.

Of these writers, none, I think, have been more successful than the laborious German critics Frankel and Rappaport. their investigations have been ably and thoroughly condensed by Dr. Christian D. Ginsburg, whose essay on The Essenes, their History and Doctrines, (Lond., 1864,) has supplied the most material facts contained in the present article.

It is impossible to ascertain the precise date of the development of Essenism as a distinct organization. The old writers are so exaggerated in their statements, that they are worth nothing as historical authorities. Philo says, for instance, that Moses himself instituted the order, and Josephus that it existed ever since the ancient time of the Fathers; while Pliny asserts, with mythical liberality, that it has continued for thousands of ages. Dr. Ginsburg thinks that Essenism was a gradual development of the prevalent religous notions out of Judaism, a theory which Dr. Dillinger repudiates. But Rappaport, who was a learned Jew, thoroughly conversant with the Talmud and other Hebrew writings, and who is hence called by Ginsburg "the corypheus of Jewish critcs," asserts that the Essenes were not a distinct sect, in the strict sense of the word, but simply an order of Judaism, and that there never was a rupture between them and the rest of the Jewish community.

This theory is sustained by Frankel, a learned German, who maintains that the Essenes were simply an intensification of the Pharisaic sect, and that they were the same as the Chasidim, whom Lawrie calls the Kassideans, and of whom he speaks as the guardians of King Solomon's Temple. If this view is the correct one, and there is no good reson to doubt it, then there will be another feature of resemblance and coincidence between the Freemasons and the Essenes; for, as the latter was a religous sect, but merely a development of Judaism, an order of Jews entertaining no heterodox opinions, but simply carrying out the religious dogmas off their faith with an unusal strictness of observance, so are the Freemasons not a religous sect, but simply a development of the religous idea of the age. The difference, however, between Freemasonry and Essenism lies in the spirit of universal tolerance prominent in the one and absent in the other. Freemasonry is Christian as to its membership in general, but recognizing and tolerating in its bosom all other religous: Essenism, on the contrary, was exclusively and intensely Jewish in its membership, its usages, and its doctrines.

The Essenes are first mentioned by Josephus as existing in the days of Jonathan the Maccabaean, one hunddred and sixty-six years before Christ. The Jewish historian repeatedly speaks of them at subsequent periods; and there is no doubt that they constituted one of the three sects which divided the Jewish religous world at the advent of the Savior, and of this sect, he is supposed, as has been already said, to have been a member.

On this subject, Ginsburg says: "Jesus, who in all things conformed to the Jewish law, and who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, would, therefore naturally associate himself with that order of Judaism which was most congenial to his holy nature. Moreover, the fact that Christ, with the exception of once, was not heard of in public till his thirtieth year, implying that he lived in seclusion with this Fraternity, and that, though he frequently rebuked the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees, he never denounced the Essenes, strongly confirms this decision." But he admits that Christ neither adopted nor preached their extreme doctrines of asceticism.

After the establishment of Christianity, the Essenes fade out of notice, and it has been supposed that they were one of the earliest converts to the new faith. Indeed, De Quincey rather paradoxically asserts that they were a diguised portion of the early Christians.

The etymology of the word has not been settled. Yet, among the contending opinions, the preferable one seems to be that it is derived from the Hebrew CHASID, - holy, pious, - which preceded them, and of whom Lawrie says, (quoting from Scaliger), that they were "an order of the KNIGHTS OF THE TEMPLE OF JERUSALEM, who bound themselves to adorn the porches of that magnificent structure, and to preserve it from injury and decay."

The Essenes were so strict in the observance of the Mosaic laws of purity, that they were compelled, for the purpose of avoiding contamination to withdraw altogether from the rest of the Jewish nation and form a separate community, which thus became a brotherhood. The same scruple which led them to withdraw from their less strict Jewish brethren induced most of them to abstain from marriage, and hence the unavoidable depletion of their membership by death could only be repaired by the initiation of converts. They had a common treasury, in which was deposited whatever anyone of them possessed, and from this the wants of the whole community were supplied by stewards appointed by the brotherhood, so that they had everything in common. Hence there was no distinction among them rich and poor, or masters and servants; but the only graduation of rank which they recognized was derived from the degrees or orders into which the members were divided, and which depened on holiness alone. They lived peaceably with all men, reprobrated slavery and war, and would not even manufacture any warlike instruments. They were governed by a president, who was elected by the whole community; and members who violated their rules were, after due trial, excommunicated or expelled.

As they held no communication outside of their own fraternity, they had to raise their own supplies, and some were engaged in tilling, some tending flocks, others in making clothing, and others preparing food. They got up before sunrise, and, after singing a hymn of praise for the return of light, which they did with their faces turned to the east, each one repaired to his appropiate task. At the fifth hour or eleven in the forenoon, the morning labor terminated. The brethren then again assembled, and after a lustration in cold water, they put on white garments and proceeded to the reflectory, where they partook of the most frugal character. A mysterious silence was observed during this meal, which, to some extent, had the character of a sacrament. The feast being ended, and the priest having returned thanks, the brethen withdrew and put off their white garments, resumed their working-clothes and their several employments until evening, when they again assembled as before, to partake of a common meal.

They observed the Sabbath with more than Judaic strictness, regarding even the removal of a vessel as a desecration of the holy day. On that day, each took his seat in the synagogue in becoming attire; and, as they had no ordained ministers, any one that liked read out of the Scriptures, and another, experienced in spiritual matters, expounded the passages that had been read. The distictive ordinances of the brotherhood of the mysteries connected with the Tetragrammaton and the angelic worlds were the prominent topics of Sabbatical instruction. In particular, did they pay attention to the mysteries connected with the Tetragrammaton, or the Shem hamphorash, the expository name, and the other names of God which play so important a part in the mystical theosophy of the Jewish Kabbalists, a great deal of which has descended to the Freemasonry of our own days.

Josephus describes them as being distinguished for their brotherly love, and for their charity and helping the needy, and showing mercy. He says that they are just dispensers of their anger, curbers of their passions, representative of fidelity, ministers of peace, and every word with them is of more force than an oath. They avoid taking an oath, and regard it as worse than perjury; for they say that he who is not believed without calling on God to witness, is already condemned of perjury. He also states that they studied with great assiduity the writings of the ancients on distempers and their remedies, alluding, as it is supposed, to the magical works imputed by the Talmudists to Solomon.

It has already been observed that, in consequence of the celibacy of the Essenes, it was found necessary to recruit their ranks by the introduction of converts, who were admitted by a solid form of initation. The candidate, or aspirant, was required to pass through a noviate of two stages, which extended over three years, before he was admitted to full participation in the privileges of the Order. 

Upon entering the first stage, which lasted for twelve months, the novice cast all his possesions into the common treasury. He then recieved a copy of the regulations of the brotherhood, and was presented with a spade, an apron, and a white robe. The spade was employed to bury excrement, the apron was used at the daily lustrations, and the white robe was worn as symbol of purity. During all this period the aspirant was considered as being outside the order, and, although required to observe some of them the ascetic rules of the society, he was admitted to the common meal. At the end of the probationary year, the aspirant, if approved, was advanced to the second stage, which lasted two years, and was then called an approacher. During this period he was permitted to unite with the brethren in their lustrations, but was not admitted to the common meal, nor to hold any office. Should this second stage of probation be passed with approval, the approacher became an associate, and was admitted into full membership, and at length allowed to partake of the common meal.


There was a third rank or degree, called the disciple or companion, in which there was still a closer union. Upon admission to this highest grade, the candidate was bound by a solemn oath to love God, to be just to all men, to practice charity, maintain truth, and to conceal the secrets of the society and the mysteries connected with the Tetragammaton and the other names of God.

These three sections or degrees, of aspirant, associate, and companion, were subdivided into four orders or ranks, distinguished from each other by different degrees of holiness; and so marked were these distinctions, that if one belonging to higher degree of purity touched one of a lower order, he immediatly became impure, and could only regain his purity by a series of lustrations.

The earnestness and determination of those Essenes, says Ginsburg, to advance to the highest state of holiness, were seen in their self denying and godly life, and it may fairly be questioned whether any religous system has ever produced such a community of saints. Their absolute confidence in God and resignation to the dealings of Providence; their uniformly holy and unselfish life; their unbounded love of virtue and utter contempt for worldy fame, riches and pleasure; their industry temperance, modesty, and simplicity of life; their contentment of mind and cheerfulness of temper; their love of order, and abhorreence of even the semblance of falsehood; their benevolence and philanthropy; their love for the brethren; and their following peace with all men; their hatred of slavery and war; their tender regard for children; and reverous and anxious care for the aged; their attendance on the sick, and readiness to relieve the distressed; their humility and magnanimity; their firmness of character and power to subdue their passions; their heroic endurance under the most agonizing sufferings for righteousness' sake; and their cheerfully looking forward to death, as releasing their immortal souls from the bonds of the body, to be forever in a state of bliss with their Creator, - have hardly found parallel in the history of mankind.

Lawrie, in his History of Freemasonry, gives, on the authority of Pictet, of Basnage, and of Philo, the following condensed recapitulation of what has been said in the preceding pages of the usages of the Essenes:

"When a candidate was proposed for admission, the strictest scrutiny was made into his character. If his life had hitherto been exemplary and if he appeared capable of curbing his passions, and regulating his conduct according to the virtuous, through austere, maxims of their order, he was presented, at the expiration of his novitiate, with a white garment as an emblem of the regularity of his conduct and the purity of his heart. A solemn oath was then administered to him, that he would never divulge the mysteries of the Order; that he would make no innovations on the doctrines of the society; and that he would continue in that honorable course of piety and virtue which he had begun to pursue. Like Freemason, they instructed the young member in the knowledge which they derived from their ancestors. They admitted no women into their order. They had particular signs for recognizing each other, which have strong resemblance to those of Freemasons. They had colleges or places of retirement, where they resorted to practice their rites and settle the affairs of the society; and, after the performance of these duties, they assembled in a large hall, where an entertainment was provided for them by the president or master of the college, who alotted a certain quantity of provisions to every individual. They abolished all distinctions of rank; and if preference was ever given, it was given to piety, liberality, and virtue. Treasures were appointed in every town, to supply the wants of indigent strangers."


                                                    Jerusalem's Temple & Lions of Judah

Lawrie thinks this remarkable coincidence between the chief features of the Masonic and Essenian fraternities can be accounted for only by referring them to the same origin; and, to sustain this view, he attempts to trace to the Kassideans, or Assideans, more properly the Chasidm, "an association of architects who were connected with the building of Solomon's Temple." But, aside from the consideration that there is no evidence that the Chasidim were a body of architects, - for they were really a sect of Jewish puritans, who held the Temple in especial honor, - we cannot conclude, from a mere coincidence of doctrines and usages, that the origin of the Essenes and the Freemasons is identical. Such a course of reasoning would place the Pythagoreans in the same category: a theory that has been rejected by the best modern critics.

The truth appears to be that the Essenes, the School of Pythagoras, and the Freemasons, derive their similarity from that spirit of brotherhood which has prevailed in all ages of the civilized world (Hindu/Persian/Zoroastrian/Zorobabel/Freemasonry), the inherent principles of which, as the results any fraternity, - all the members of which are engaged in the same pursuit and assenting to the same religous creed, - are brotherly love, charity, [System of morality veiled in allegory] and that secrecy which gives them their exclusiveness. And hence, between all fraternities, ancient and modern these remarkable coincidences will be found.


The GREAT PYRAMID of the Lord

There are some interesting facts about the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Apparently the Great Pyramid was never meant to be a tomb. No king was ever buried there and the Great Pyramid is unusual in that it has no pharoah markings on it as all the other pyramids in Egypt do.

Furthermore, the cubit dimensions of the inner chamber of the Temple, the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem, are precisely identical in size to the King's Chamber in the Pyramid and the same volume as the molten sea of water on the Temple Mount as prepared by King Solomon. The Holy of Holies was the room that held the ark. Since the Pyramid was built and sealed long before the days of Moses, when he built the Ark and the Holy of Holies, and had remained sealed for over twenty-five centuries until the ninth century after Christ, there is no natural explanation for the phenomenon of both structures having identical volume measurements the King's chamber in the Great Pyramid are the precise dimensions of "the Holy of Holies" in Jerusalem.

The ark's dimensions are described by the bible as 2.5 cubits by 1.5 cubits by 1.5 cubits (62.5 inches by 37.5 inches by 37.5 inches). Curiously, this is the exact volume of the stone chest or porphyry coffer in the King's Chamber in the Great Pyramid in Egypt. This coffer was the only object within the King's Chamber, as the Ark was the single sacred object within the Holy of Holies, in the Temple. Also the laver, or basin, that the priests used to wash their feet had the identical cubit dimensions.

There seems to be strong evidence in the Bible that proves the Great Pyramid wasnt built for Egyptian gods but the Great God of Moses that Jewish and Christian people worship today.



The Book of Isaiah says this...... "In that day there shall be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the Land of Egypt, and a monument at the border thereof to the Lord, and it shall be for a sign, and for a witness unto the Lord of Hosts in the Land of Egypt" (Isaiah 19:19-20). In the Hebrew language of the scripture, each of the original 30 words has a numerical value because each Hebrew letter is also a number. When the 30 words are added up, the total is 5,449, which is one of the most significant and dominant numbers of the Pyramid. It is the exact height of the Pyramid in sacred Jewish inch. Also consider there were origionally 144,000 casing stones on the Great Pyramid. That number is significant in the book of Revelation. BTW The casing stones weighed as much as 20 tons were placed with an accuracy of 5/1000ths of an inch, and an intentional gap of about 2/100ths of an inch for mortar.

"2 And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea,

3 saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads."

The 144,000

4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel"

Another interesting observation is that the "capstone" on the Great Pyramid is missing.

Matthew 21:42 says this: Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures, 'THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES. In the book of Peter he is quoting Psalm 118:22 The stone rejected by the builders was chosen by God, the chief builder, to be the capstone. Peter is pointing that Jesus Christ was rejected and crucified by his own people. But God who is building the spiritual house (verse 2:5) has chosen Jesus Christ to be the capstone of that building made up of all the believers in Jesus Christ.

The scripture says there shall be a monument on the border in the land of Egypt. When the Bible is making reference to the "border" it means the border of upper and lower Egypt. The Great Pyramid sits precisely on that border. So there seems to be alot of evidence pointing to the fact that the great Pyramid was built for the God of Moses. The Great Pyramid at Giza, was not designed by Pharaoh but by Enoch (Noah's Grandfather), the man who walked with God. (Read the "Book of Enoch" –Genesis 5: 24). Egyptian laborers were used but the intelligence in the exact design came from the DESIGNER of the Universe, and that’s what Enoch passed on to the builders of the Great Pyramid.

This explains why no pharoah has placed claim on building the Great Pyramid. In fact there are NO Egyptian writing any where in the Great Pyramid and all the other pyramids do. And it is because Enoch was the master builder, that the Great Pyramid in ancient times was called ‘Enoch’s Pillar’. His godly influence as a ‘desert shepherd’ in turning the Pharaoh’s heart temporarily to the Lord ruled, before the Egyptian rulers reverted back to their worship of many gods. Enoch’s Pillar was placed exactly as a boundary and cornerstone in Egypt, as only the Creator of the whole world would have known.

For the Great Pyramid was not just a stone structure stuck randomly on the plateau of Giza. The Lord’s PILLAR, the Great Pyramid of Giza, is situated exactly at the center of gravity of the Earth, as geographers and mathematicians have now found out. For do remember that the Earth at one time was just one land mass, which the Lord later divided and spread apart, not by inch by inch continental drift, but by cataclysmic power after the Flood. Consequently the Giza location is also on the longest possible landmass line whether in longitude or latitude. And hence any true researcher has to come to the conclusion that the Great Pyramid’s very location was divinely inspired and NOT chosen by accident or chance.

But it goes even further. It was not a mere burial tomb for a dead Pharaoh, but was meant to show "in stone" the Timeline of Mankind until the 2nd Coming of the King of Kings. This is why it incorporates the dimensions of the Earth, Moon, and the template of life called the Golden Section which the Creator used in both the microcosm as well as the macrocosm. And if you study pyramidology, you will soon discover that an inch equals a year in time by theory. And that theory accurately and precisely parallels the exact history of the Earth when you add up all the 500 feet of both its height and its passageways. Why because 500 feet equals 6000 inches which equals 6000 years. And Enoch stated very precisely that there was going to be Seven thousand years before the Earth was renewed. And when you take away one thousand years, for the Lord’s Millennial rule before this NEW HEAVEN and NEW Earth, and descent of New Jerusalem to the Earth, then that leaves us with a 6,000 year rule of man. Hence the Pillar of Enoch was an exact prophetic marker and WITNESS as well as an altar, from which His people were to give glory and honor to the Creator. 

And that is why, internally it’s dimensions and sarcophagus parallels the most sacred Temple of All, the TABERNACLE consisting of The ARK of the Covenant inside the HOLY OF HOLIES. The parallels are exact because the Lord is exact. Also note that the point at which tunnels change angles are points when you enter a different chamber marks important events in history like the Birth of Christ and many other events throughout history even in the 20th century.

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