The Sabians | example of pluralism in Islam

In the context of Arabia and the time when Islam emerged, Islam adopted a very moderate, pluralistic approach to other religions. This pluralistic, harmonious ideology of Islam was only later hijacked for a number of geo-political reasons. The true spirit of Islam always had ample room to accomodate and even give good news to people of other faith, namely Christians and Jews. Second chapter of Quran has a notable verse on this theme which says: Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Judgement day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve. (The Quran| 2.62)

This verse not only give good news to genuine Jews and Christians, but also include another people of faith, namely Sabians. Some scholars argue that the term Sabians are used to accomodate people of different faith other than Judaism and Christianity. Yet other scholars have traced particular religious group known as Sabian that existing pre-Islamic time. The blog, Mavi Boncuk has an interesting article on the Sabians. let me share here.

Evangelical Christians do not read or understand Koran (Quran). Most muslims also do not read and question the information that is in plain sight. The Sabians existed before Muhammad, and are said to have read from a book called the Zabur. The Saabi`ah Hunafa came under Islamic rule about 639 AD. At that time in history they were described as Greek immigrants but were grouped together with the Saabi'ah Mushrikoon Nabataeans.

Under sharia, the Sabians form a protected religious group (along with Christians and Jews).

Many Islamic writers from the period of about 650 CE onward gave further descriptions of the Sabians. They wrote that the Sabians lived in Iraq around Sawad, Kutha and Mosul and they "wash themselves with water" and had "long hair" and "white gowns" [citation needed]. They had a monotheistic faith with religious literature (the Zabur) and acknowledged the prophets. Their theology resembled that of Judaism and Christianity yet were neither, nor were they Magians.

As explained by Muslim historian of the eleventh century, Al Biruni, the Sabians were believed to have been remnants of the Jewish captivity who chose to remain behind in Babylon and practiced a combined religion of Judaism and Zoroastrianism, and claimed descent from Enoch. In their Hermetic literature, Enoch was equated with Hermes, and from their community, and the most famous of the treatise attributed to them, that was to become notorious in the West was the Picatrix.

It is also considered that a set of Sufi treatises, known as the Epistles of the Ikhawan al Saffa wa Kkhullan al Wafa, or of The Brethren of Purity and Loyal Friends, a philosophical and religious encyclopedia, which scholars regard as reflecting elements of Pythagorean, Neoplatonic, and the traditions of the Magi, were drawn up in the ninth century AD, under Sabian influence. It is generally agreed that the Epistles of the Ikhwan as Saffa were composed by leading proponents of the Ismaili sect of the Shiah.

Yazdânism or Cult of Angels (also Yazdâni or Yazdanism) is a modern term for the monotheistic, though universalist, religion that was practiced by most Kurds up to the Islamization during the sixteenth century. Yazdânism involved a belief in incarnation as well as 7 angelic beings which defend the world from their equal and opposite number. In Kurdistan a fair estimate still claims yazdanists being close to one third of the population. They are the Sabians of Harran described in Maimonides "Guide for the Perplexed" and mentioned in Bahá'í writings as Sabeans. The name Yazdânism derives from the Kurdish word Yazdân, meaning god or angel. << Credit

:: The significance of including a less prominent religious faith such as the Sabians in this particular Quranic verse, goes much deeper than it seems in the beginning. This shows the truly universal and harmonious approach of Islam to people of all faith to such a degree that Islam didn't hesitate to include Sabians, accepting and acknowledging their faith in God. This single verse thus have greater message to the modern world about Islam's tolerance and accomodating nature, when it comes to wrong perception about the religion of Islam.

The very definition of the term pluralism allows for the development of a common tradition while preserving the right of each group to maintain its cultural heritage (faith is a part of culture, no doubt). Pluralism implies mutual respect. And if one looks close at Islam's spirit, one can see this right at the core of Islam's message to humanity.

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Technology of the Heart: The Sabians | example of pluralism in Islam
The Sabians | example of pluralism in Islam
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