Nationalism in the Nile: Egyptians, Afrocentrism, and Kevin Hart

A small faction of Egyptian neo-nationalists on social media has announced that the wholesome American comedian, Kevin Hart, is not welcome in Egypt leading up to his February 21, 2023 performance in the country. Behind this supposed “viral” campaign is a small cadre of under-educated Egyptians who have recently learned of something called Afrocentrism. In turn, they have erroneously made him the symbol of Afrocentrism due to some internet pictures of him dressed as an ancient Egyptian and some vague statements he made. A few people have brought this controversy to my attention and sought my opinion on it as someone who has bridged the gap between Afrocentricity and the Arab world in the past. As perhaps my final post from the city of Cairo, I will address this controversy and offer a voice of reason on the topic that I hope all interested parties can benefit from.

The Egyptian Neo-Nationalists Behind the Posts

The people behind the hashtags and the posts reflect a misplaced Egyptian nationalistic sentiment that only directs their energy at topics of no consequence for their country. They offer no solutions to class disparities, education, or discrimination within Egyptian society but they seem adamant that confronting Afrocentrism and banning African Americans will solve their problems. These neo-nationalists reject the fact that many of the ancient Egyptians were dark skinned; which can be considered a central tenant of Afrocentric thought. Furthermore, they might have encountered a hostile Hotep who might have spewed some rhetoric about taking back their ancestral homeland of Egypt in one of their vitriolic rants. But does this really warrant a protest movement? And what does it have to do with Kevin Hart?

Ahmad Youness

On December 13, he posted a video speaking out against the upcoming Kevin Hart show and Afrocentrism in general. He claims that the Egyptians of today are the Egyptians of the ancient past and he encouraged Egyptians to not tolerate the appropriation of their history by anyone, especially not “Africans.” Ahmad Youness is a 40-something year old radio personality who has been in the business since 2003. He is known for telling horror stories on the Radio 9090 station. According to his Wikipedia page, has a “license” (a low-level degree) in the English language but not much more of an educational background beyond that.

In one video, he states what could be translated as the following:

This is Ahmad Youness with you, an Egyptian media personality. Recently we heard about a show that will be held by the African actor, Kevin Hart. It should be a comedy show, but I don’t really see anything funny about it. The only funny thing about it is that there are people within Egypt who invited him and there is an Egyptian company that supports and organizes it…

This guy called Kevin Hart is one of the supporters of Afrocentrism. Afrocentrism, if you don’t know, is a movement that says that the ancient Egyptian civilization is not ours but it belongs to Africans and that we stole it. It has since then been falsely attributed to us and that they will take it back one way or another. They have a lot of supporters within and outside their ranks as well. There are also those who secretly support them. You might think that the idea is not widespread but it is very popular. The topic of Afrocentrism is one that has been discussed at length and there are big names that support it.

He shouldn’t come here to Egypt and we shouldn’t welcome him. He is not here. He is not welcome here. And he will not enter Egypt!

Of course, there are many things wrong with his diatribe. Kevin Hart is not an African actor but an American actor who happens to be African American. Racist Arabs often drop the American aspect of an African American’s identity to demean them. This was done to Barack Obama often in the Arab media throughout his presidency. While Kevin Hart might believe how most African Americans (and probably most non-Black Americans) believe, that the ancient Egyptians were Black Africans or dark skinned people, but he is not the poster boy for Afrocentrism by any means. In the US, Kevin Hart has a reputation as a wholesome comedian who is funny but not as edgy or raunchy as other well-known comedians such as Dave Chappelle or Chris Rock. His opposition to Kevin Hart amounts to nothing but a safe target of his campaign. Ahmad Youness is a labeling Kevin Hart with a term that he never claimed in the first place. And he is accusing him of something so minute that Hart probably has no clear recollection of.

Egyptian History Defenders

Another front in the campaign against Kevin Hart is the social media handle Egyptian History Defenders. Their social media accounts are full of anti-African American memes concerning their so-called appropriation of Egyptian history. These memes are directed at Afrocentric claims that Black people are at the root of Egyptian civilization. However, it is clear that they cannot differentiate between an Afrocentrist and an African American. Indeed, probably most African Americans believe that the ancient Egyptians were Black, but that does not make them Afrocentrists. This group probably only heard of the term Afrocentrism without researching it, then began to label everything that resembles it by that term. In truth, Afrocentrism is a scholarly approach stemming from the Black Studies movement that began to take shape in the mid-20th century. At its core, it intends to center the perspectives and experiences of Africans on the continent (Egyptians included) and throughout the diaspora in various fields of study starting with history. Molefi Asante, perhaps the most vocal proponent of the term who has since disavowed the concept, rejected the use of Afrocentrism as a response to Eurocentrism. Rather, he used the term Afrocentricity to denote a proactive cultural movement among Africans that shapes the adherent’s paradigm on various areas of human interest. The neo-nationalists have instead reduced Afrocentrism to a mere musing on the ancestors.

Interestingly enough, these Egyptian neo-nationalists in their anti-intellectualism have slipped into the same methodological fallacy as some Afrocentrists. Just as Afrocentrists juxtapose paintings and sculptures from ancient civilizations to pictures of contemporary African Americans to show that these ancient people would be classified as Black by present American standards, they too have taken to juxtaposing pictures of ancient Egyptians to show that they would be classified as Egyptians by today’s standards. While interesting to look at, this is not proof of descent, not for African Americans and not for current-day Egyptians.

On both sides, we should acknowledge that many changes have taken place on earth since the ancient days. While it is obvious that the original Egyptians were Black as we know it today that does not exclude any other people from greatness. Many of those dark skinned people continue to live in the region where you find most of the ancient Egyptian monuments in Luxor and Aswan along with many other Ṣaʿāyada (people of Upper Egypt), who all Egyptians identify as sumr (dark skinned). Why neo-nationalist Egyptians ignore them is indicative of their racism and colonial mindset. They are blinded by the metropolitan north which is dominated by descendants of Central Asians, Greeks, Anatolians, Circassians, and other people of European descent including the French and Germans, that they don’t even realize the dark skinned people that dominate the south of the country where the markers of ancient Egyptian civilization are found. But most Egyptians care nothing about ancient Egypt until foreigners show an interest in it.

No Protests Against European Egyptologists

Why don’t Egyptian neo-nationalists oppose European Egyptologists? They have done more damage than Afrocentrists ever have. In fact, Afrocentrists pose no threat to Egyptian society despite their fiery rhetoric. Yet, white Americans and Europeans are the only groups who have a proven track record of attacking Egypt and distorting its historical narrative under the guise of research. Not only did the French and British colonize Egypt, and the U.S. continues to influence its politics, but they stole artifacts, introduced the question of the ancient Egyptians’ race, and interfered in Egyptian politics, society, and media. Not only that, but it was the West who took the civilization away from Egypt and labeled it “world heritage,” effectively handing their history and artifacts over to the “world,” which just happens to be located in Western countries.

The debate over the race of the ancient Egyptians was started by European orientalists, who founded the field of Egyptology with the intention of barring indigenous scholarship and participation in it. But there are no hashtags and strong words from media personalities for them. The “red line” they draw supposedly at the tampering with Egyptian history is only for the imaginary threat of Black Americans and not the real threat of White Westerners. The neo-nationalist Egyptians should thank Africans and African Americans trained in the West like Carter G. Woodson, Cheikh Anta Diop, George G.M. James, Ivan van Sertima, and John Henrik Clarke among others, who loosened the grip of White colonialists on the narrative of ancient Egypt. In addition, it was the movie Black Panther that sparked the recent sentiment of returning antiquities to their countries of origin. This is an Afrocentric sentiment that Egyptians are tangibly benefiting from. If ancient Egypt is indeed world heritage, then scholars of all backgrounds with the interest and necessary qualifications should be able to contribute to the scholarship of that heritage.

Concluding Thoughts

One of the major accomplishments of the Afrocentric movement was that they dispelled the myth of colonizing European Egyptologists who spread the lie that the ancient Egyptians were “white” like them. I don’t know a single African American or other ethnicity from America for that fact who does not believe that the ancient Egyptians were dark skinned African people. Does Ahmad Youness and his cadre seek to disinvite all foreigners who hold these views regardless of race? Or is this ban exclusively for African Americans? I have lived in Egypt six years and met Egyptians who believe that the ancient Egyptians were Black Africans as well. Do they also think those Egyptians should be expelled? If so, when does the madness end?

Plus, who gave these people the authority to say who is and is not welcome in Egypt? They are not government officials or even intellectuals. They do not speak for the majority of Egyptians who have no idea what Afrocentrism is and more than likely do not care. Kevin Hart’s coming to Egypt would stimulate a depressed economy, which is suffering greatly now. It will also bring joy to a depressed people. Who are these protesters who care nothing about the poor condition of their country and their people? Tourists of all types, including African Americans, stimulate the Egyptian economy every year by taking tours throughout the country. What these protesters want to do effectively is deprive their country of this essential income for their economy. What did not make the headlines was the cancellation of the annual Afrocentric conference that takes place in Luxor. We can presume that it was at the behest of the same neo-nationalists. Baba James Small alerted me to this earlier in the year and I thought it was a bit uncharacteristic of the Egyptian tourist industry, which jumps at just about any and every opportunity to make a dollar. It is clear that Afrocentrism has benefited Egyptians financially and intellectually, more than it has harmed them. If only its detractors would research the matter more seriously.

What I see as vital to resolving the issues between my Afrocentric and Egyptian brethren is opening the lines of communication and the venues for dialogue. From my readings of contemporary Egyptian scholars like Okasha El Daly and Nadim al-Sayyar, as well as classical Arabic scholarship on ancient Egypt, I feel like the two sides have more in common than they might think. Currently, the exchange is almost all hostile and emotionally charged based on their own cultural sensitivities. But if a few level heads came together to discuss things on an intellectual level I am sure we will learn a lot from each other. If there is anyone out there interested in such an exchange please let me know. Until then, enjoy the Kevin Hart show.

Is God the Universe?

It has become popular to refer to God as the Universe in recent years but few know that this practice is rooted in ancient philosophical debates over ḥulūl (pantheism) and the eternity of the universe. Sabians generally argued that the universe was eternal and thus equal to God. Because of this, they accepted the concept of pantheism, i.e. that God can be found within His creation as celestial bodies, inanimate objects, living things, a man or mankind in general, etc. On the other hand, Hanifs argued that eternity was an attribute of God alone and thus the universe was not eternal but a creation of God. As a consequence of this thinking, God was an entirely different genus from His creation and this, among other qualities, made Him worthy of worship.

While these debates are not prominent in popular contemporary discourse , they nonetheless influence much of our thinking, knowingly or unknowingly. Therefore, every time we hear someone praising the universe, we are hearing the residuals of Sabian thought echoing in the current day. While some might see these debates as benign or akin to splitting hairs, they most definitely have metaphysical, if not physical consequences on the masses past, present, and future. In this post, I will present the ancient debate and identify strains of Sabian thought in the modern day.

Al-Ghazālī vs. the Muslim Sabians

In the 11th century, Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī penned his landmark work, Tahāfut al-Falāsifa (often translated as The Incoherence of the Philosophers). While the work is pivotal to Islamic theological debates as well as the intellectual history of philosophy from the ancient world to modern times, it is also relevant to the study of Sabian thought. Moreover, it allows us to understand the fallacies of Sabian thought from a Muslim perspective as well as how to recognize them and refute them in our times. He noticed a trend among the Muslim intellectuals of his day who, upon studying the works of the ancient Greeks, would adopt their philosophies uncritically. This meant that they embraced the belief of the eternity of the universe, which led to other blasphemous ideas such as the weakness of God, the possibility of two deities, and the purposelessness of existence.

In addition to this mistake having detrimental effects on the personal faith of these Muslim philosophers, they would also submerge Muslim civilization in the same theological turmoil that the Naṣārā (Christians) suffered. If we recall from Islam and the Mystery Schools Part 10, the Naṣārā of the Roman Empire, Persia, and beyond were plunged into the philosophical debates of the Mystery Schools i.e. Sabians. Although they won debates about the supremacy of the prophet of their time (i.e. Jesus Christ/ʿĪsā), they compromised on the topic of ḥulūl or pantheism, with the caveat that only Christ occupies the position of God to the exclusion of others in His Creation. In the Muslim Ummah, the likes of al-Farābī and Ibn Sīnā would spearhead this dangerous slip into Sabian philosophy. To others, it was Ibn ʿArabī’s concept of waḥdat al-wujūd (the unity of existence). Wherever the concept was raised it was refuted.

We should understand that al-Ghazālī did not categorically refute the knowledge of the Sabian philosophers. Rather he enumerated 20 points in which the philosophers went wrong and jeopardized their metaphysical futures. While seemingly benign, al-Ghazālī is serious about the magnitude of these mistakes. As I read his words, I cannot help but see some similitude to our current situation. Here, I will turn to al-Ghazālī’s criticisms that are related to the nature of the universe.

Ancient Sabian philosophers argued that it was impossible that a temporal creation emanate from an intemporal creator, i.e., that a finite universe proceed from an eternal God. Instead, they argued that the universe always existed or always had the potential to exist. So, if the universe came into existence at a particular point in time, then why? In their line of questioning, they asked: Was God incapable of bringing the world into existence before this point, thus changing from weakness to power or impossibility to possibility or futility to purpose? They contended that if God was All-Powerful and All-Knowing, then all the conditions were met to bring the universe into existence prior to its existence. So, there must have been some catalyst or cause to bring it into existence.

Al-Ghazālī responds to this conundrum by stating that the creation of the universe at the point that it came into existence was part of God’s eternal will and essentially that God sees the big picture and man does not and cannot. Man might ascribe perceived changes in God’s will to some sort of flaw based on man’s experience and dispositions but these experiences and dispositions do not apply to God. Therefore, the burden of proof is on the philosopher to demonstrate that the creation of the universe was not God’s will. (Ghazālī, 1963, 14-19) Indeed the entire debate is God’s will. We only need to choose the side on which we stand.

Malachi Z. York (leader of the Nuwaubians)

Sabians in the Modern Day

If we turn our attention to the current American metaphysical landscape, we find that our communities are infested with Sabian “manifestations” (or perhaps man-infestations). The New Age movements, Black conscious community, and woke culture represent Sabian thought in our day. Movements such as the Nation of Islam and the Five Percenters have adopted the concept of hulūl, when they deem the Black man as God. The Nuwaubians, with their multifarious deifications of Malachi York have done the same. Some Afrocentric Egyptophiles are also guilty of this in their claims that the Black woman is God, while also postulating their pseudo-intellectual arguments for the existence of multiple gods in the form of ancestors.

Even though modern-day Sabians often pose their questions as intellectual speculation, their intent is mostly mockery of God and His prophets with the aim of leading people to confusion and disbelief in God. Their speculation into the nature of God and the universe is not aimed at a higher Truth but confusion. You will barely find one who can understand the ancient arguments of the Sabians, let alone debate an intelligent Hanif. Their solution is to embrace a multitude of beliefs because in reality they do not believe in anything.

Though modern-day Sabians go by many names, they all have similar traits, like the veneration of the creation over the Creator. Equating the universe to God is tantamount to denying God because it omits the initial Cause and opens up the gates of pantheism, which allows creation to be regarded as God or part of God. These ideas were accepted by the ancient Sabians but opposed by the Hanifs, whose strongest proponents were the Muslims. Yet, within the ranks of the Muslim world these ideas would need to be refuted when they gained traction in its societies. But few among the Muslims are debating these ideas in our times. Even among the droves of Muslim students of knowledge, who study ʿaqīda, kalām, the works of al-Ghazālī, and Muslim philosophers, we have not raised conscious minds who understand the Sabian-Hanif dichotomy and can construct strong rebuttals of the modern Sabians. Rene Guenon (Abd al-Wahid Yahya) was perhaps one of the last to champion Traditional (Hanif) religion over the aberrations of the Spiritualists (Sabians) of his time. I call on my Hanif brethren among the Muslims and the People of the Book to stand up to the Sabian confusion of the current day with knowledge and grace by which we can restore the order of the universe to its proper place.

Reference

Ghazālī, Abu Hamid. Al-Ghazali’s Tahāfut al-Falāsifah: Incoherence of the Philosophers. Translated by Sabih Ahmad Kamali, Pakistan Philosophical Congress, 1963. lib.aucegypt.edu Library Catalog, https://www.ghazali.org/books/tf/index.htm.

America is Not Egypt

It should go without saying that Egypt is not America. After all, they are two different places on two different continents. However, in the world of Wikipedia research, YouTube scholarship, and gullible social media disciples, this is one of the many theories that has been circulating that has no merit. While much of the current media hoopla about Ye and Kyrie Irving is indirectly a critique of the Hebrew Israelite claim that Africans in the Americas are the true Jews (yet another colonialist construct), they and their Moorish counterparts also promote a more extremely bogus theory: that ancient Egypt was in America.

Uriah Brandon*, in his YouTube series, America is Egypt, argues that there is a massive conspiracy to conceal the fact that the civilization, knowledge, and artifacts – attributed to the ancient African civilization Egypt – actually belonged to ancient Native Americans. What is more is that these ancient Native Americans were in actuality the so-called African Americans. The series raises a number of questions, to which Mr. Brandon attempts to answer with his America is Egypt theory. In Episode 4, he queries:

Shouldn’t the Egyptians aka Arabs have known about Egyptian history before the Europeans? So all of these ancient grandiose monuments sit abandoned in the desert in the middle of a trade highway between three continents and they were never studied or surveyed by the Arab population who had been living in the region for at least a thousand years?! How is it possible that supposed native Egyptians knew nothing about Egyptian culture or language until the invasion of the French? The Rosetta Stone and the pyramids had been there for thousands of years, yet the same people accredited with the some of the world’s most advanced knowledge hadn’t even cared to take a peak at a pyramid wall?

America Is Egypt Episode 4. America Is Egypt. UB TV, https://youtu.be/_0fIwWiGoiI. (5:04-6:05)

One of the foundational premises of his theory rests on the claim that Egyptians had no conceptualization, recollection or academic interest in their ancient past. This feeds into his conclusion that the Egyptian monuments and artifacts and even its historicity was concocted by European Jesuits and Freemasons. Mr. Brandon expounds upon this premise in Part 4 of his series, which I will demonstrate in this post is spurious.

Medieval Egyptology

Mr. Brandon did a good job of recounting the problematic origins of the Egyptology field and is right to question colonial scholarship on the ancient world, which is wrapped up in racialized and racist views of people and clear white supremacist motives. His deconstructions of race and language are also meritorious. However, he, like many Hebrew Israelites, Afrocentrists, Moors, and New Agers, suffer from the ailment of not reading widely enough, a lack of scholarly rigor, and debilitating confirmation bias.

Mr. Brandon exposes his ignorance of Egypt in his statement about Egyptians not bothering to look at the pyramids. Anyone who has been to the Pyramids of Giza knows that there are no hieroglyphic inscriptions on them or the Sphinx that sits in their vicinity. One will have to venture (by plane) to the southern part of Egypt to the city of Luxor to find hieroglyphic inscriptions on the walls of their temples and burial sites. On top of that, even the most ignorant Egyptian tour guide will point out that Coptic Christians used these temples and tombs as monasteries and hiding places from the Byzantines (i.e. Romans) who sought to impose their theology on the Egyptian Coptics.

Mr. Brandon might be surprised to learn that not only was there  continuity between ancient Egypt and medieval Egypt, but aspects of ancient Egyptian culture, language, and religious beliefs were retained and studied over the medieval period… in Arabic. Although the study of Egypt since the Islamic expansion to the region is an under-researched topic in English, there was a genre of writings in the Arabic language on ancient Egypt from the likes of Abu Al-ʿAbbās al-Maqrīzī, Jamāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī, Ibn Khaldūn, and more. Many of these sources are cited in the book  Egyptology: The Missing Millennium, Ancient Egypt in Medieval Arabic Writings by Ukasha El-Daly. I recently met the author at a talk he gave at the American Research Center in Egypt on Oct. 12, 2022. Although his research aims at correcting the Western academic narrative on the topic, he also answers the very questions Mr. Brandon poses concerning the Egyptians’ own knowledge of their ancient heritage.

Mr. Brandon embraces the same conclusions as the European Orientalists who believe that only they took an interest in unlocking the secrets of ancient Egypt. They carry the attitude that a people’s adoption of Christianity or Islam  automatically makes them religious bigots incapable of not only studying but remembering their ancient past. Yet El-Daly shows both empirically and anecdotally that this was not the case. Rather it was European and American Egyptologists who ignored all indigenous writings on ancient Egypt between the 7th and 16th centuries even though they were aware of them. El-Daly asserts that:

“The main reason was the desire of early Western Egyptologists and others to keep Egyptians out of Egyptology by discouraging them from participation and study, thus leading to their marginalisation and to inevitable Western dominance of the subject” (El-Daly, 2005, p. 4).

We know that early European Egyptologists were not oblivious to the works of the Arabs, Muslims, and Copts with regards to ancient Egypt. El-Daly points out that the British Orientalist, Joseph von Hammer, published an English translation of the 10th century scholar Ibn Waḥshīya’s** deciphering of ancient scripts along with its original Arabic. Others like Athanasius Kircher (17th century) and Wallis Budge (19th/20th century) were indebted to medieval Muslim and Coptic scholarship on the Demotic, Hieratic and Hieroglyphic.*** (El-Daly, 2005, pp. 57-58)

Chapter 5 of El-Daly’s book is titled, “Medieval Arab attempts to decipher ancient Egyptian scripts.” In this chapter, he documents Arab and Muslim attempts at deciphering the hieroglyphics. He says the first of them to take an interest in deciphering the scripts of the ancient Egyptians was the mid-7th century scholar Jābir ibn Ḥayān. Other Arab and Muslim scholars who wrote on the topic include Ayūb Ibn Maslama (9th century), Dhū al-Nūn al-Miṣrī (9th century), Ibn Waḥshīya (9th/10th centuries), and Abū al-Qāsim (El-Daly, 2005, p. 67).

El-Daly’s work introduces the English reader to a myriad of medieval writings in Arabic not the least of which is Anwār ʻUlwīyy al-Ajrām fī al-Kashf ʻan Asrār al-Ahrām by the 13th century scholar of Moroccan descent, Muhammad al-Idrīsī. It provides insights into the nature of medieval Arabic Egyptology. For instance, throughout the book it only mentions the presence of two pyramids. This is not because the others were built later, but because they were covered in sand and only the two largest ones were visible.

During al-Idrīsī’s time, there were a number of theories in circulation about who built the pyramids and for what purpose. One theory was that it was built by thirty consecutive kings of Egypt starting with Bayṣar, the son of Ḥām, and was used as a food repository during the time of Prophet Yūsuf. Some believed that Aristotle had the two pyramids built for himself and Alexander of Macedonia. (Idrīsī and Haarmann, 1991, p. 89). Some thought they were built by the people of ʿĀd, a race of giants from  Arabia (Idrīsī and Haarmann, 1991, p. 99). Others believed that the pyramids and the other monuments, statues, and structures (known as barbā) were built by Enoch (Prophet Idrīs) to preserve the world’s knowledge in preparation of the great cataclysm that was foreseen in the stars. They were not sure if the cataclysm would be in the form of a flood, fire, or invasion. Therefore, they build the structures out of stone and clay so that if the cataclysm was a flood, the stone would remain. If it was by fire then the clay would remain. And if it was by the sword, then everything would remain (Idrīsī and Haarmann, 1991, p. 94). Al-Idrīsī concluded that this latter theory was the most plausible and that the people of the Nile Valley collectively agreed to build these structures for the sake of mankind, showing that they did not believe that the pyramids were built with Israelite slave labor far before Western scholars came to this realization.

The linguistic terrain in Egypt was also complicated by the presence of a plethora of groups and languages in the region in late antiquity prior to Islamic hegemony. This linguistic diversity is best represented in the Genizah documents that were found in Old Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue. In this collection of legal, religious, and mundane papyri documents, One can find Hebrew written in Arabic and Coptic scripts, Arabic written in Hebrew and Coptic scripts, Coptic written in Arabic and Hebrew scripts, as well as Persian and Ethiopic languages. This shows that Egypt was a linguistically plural society since the 6th century. So there is no wonder how lesser used, esoteric ancient languages can die out in such an environment.

In terms of continuity, Coptic is not just a sect of Christianity, but the cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and some would argue, the religious continuation of ancient Egypt. First, the word Egypt is derived from the word Copt, which is pronounced gipṭ. This is perhaps an adaptation of Qifṭ, the son of Miṣr, who was a grandson of Prophet Noah according to al-Masʿūdī (El-Daly, 2005, p. 21). Muslim historians from other lands often sat at the feet of Coptic monks to learn about ancient Egypt. Al-Idrīsī relates the anecdote of a non-Arab expert on Egyptology who used to collect ancient Egyptian texts. He found a mummy and a scroll in the monastery of Abū Hermes, but did not recognize the script. Believing it to be an ancient form of Coptic, he sought out a monk at the monastery of al-Qalamūn in Fayyum who could read it (Idrīsī and Haarmann, 1991, p. 100). This shows that the religious scholars among the Copts continued to retain knowledge of their ancient past at the time of Islamic expansion and Muslim scholars came to learn from them. This further demonstrates that neither the advent of Christianity or Islam eroded this knowledge and clearly they had a concept of ancient Egypt.

The Cairo Postcard Trust. Pyramid and Sphinx. Still Image, c. late 19th/early 20th century. Rare Books and Special Collections Library; American University in Cairo.

Egypt is Arabia

Mr. Brandon and those who believe that America is Egypt need not jump to far-fetched conclusions to explain anomalies in history, such as the lack of archaeological evidence for an Israelite presence in Egypt and the Levant. Indeed, there is a burgeoning school of thought that challenges classical Biblical scholarship on this matter. In 1985, Kamal Salibi, a Lebanese scholar of Christian background, published his controversial book, The Bible Came From Arabia. In light of the lack of physical evidence in the Levant and Egypt for an Israelite presence, he hypothesized that the events occurred further south. He laid a map of the Biblical place names over a map of current-day places in Arabia and was able to observe a correspondence.

Later, Salibi’s research was developed by the likes of Bernard Leeman in his Queen of Sheba and Biblical Scholarship, Dana Reynolds-Marniche’s The African and Arabian Origins of the Hebrew Bible: An Ethnohistorical Study, and the works of Fāḍil al-Rabīʿī. While I will admit that their work is inconclusive because the necessary archaeological excavations cannot be done at present due to conflict in the region, their hypothesis has some basis in logic and pre-modern texts such as al-Shahrastānī who believed that Jews, Christians, and Pagans in pre-Islamic Arabia were not ethnically distinct peoples, but rather their differences were theological (Shahrastānī and Muhammad, 1992, p. 227-228). Mandaean scriptures also corroborate a common Semitic genealogy among Jews, Christians, Mandaeans, and Egyptians and highlight the theological dichotomy between Sabians (represented by Mandaeans, Egyptians, Harranians, and the like) and Hanifs (Jews, Christians, and other followers of Abraham) (Samak, 1995, p. 38-39).

One might notice that Leeman is of European descent but was raised in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Reynolds-Marniche is an African American raised as a Theosophist and contributed a chapter to Ivan van Sertima’s Golden Age of the Moor, and al-Rabīʿī is an Iraqi leftist thinker and historian. Each author is from a different region and a different linguistic and educational background, which allows them to bring different expertise and perspectives to the topic. As such, scholarship is not a conspiracy, they are submitting their works to the scholarly community for review and criticism in order to arrive at a consensus.

Conclusion

It is possible for knowledge to be forgotten if the ones that possess it do not transmit it orally or in the written word. What most modern Sabian groups do not understand is that the nature of teaching in the ancient world was such that one had to have contact with a teacher or at least be taught how to read certain texts in order to acquire knowledge. This student-to-teacher transmission kept the links of knowledge alive. In times of war, disease, famine, and social upheaval the concerns of people turn away from knowledge acquisition to the issues of the time. So the number of people who devote their time to study and teaching diminishes and sometimes they die without transmitting certain knowledge. Thus, not ever omission of knowledge is a conspiracy or cover up. But perhaps the die-hard skeptical conspiracy theorist will dismiss the facts and references I posited here as well, wrapping me and the authors I cited into another layer of their elaborate conspiracy theory. But before they do, I will present this question to them: What is the difference between an age-old global conspiracy and your overall ignorance about a topic?

Notes:

*Mr. Brandon is a filmmaker out of North Carolina and graduate of North Carolina A&T in Greensboro. Like myself, he was influenced by the Afrocentric researcher, Steve Cokeley, who is responsible for giving countless lectures exposing the Black fraternal order of the Boulè Both Mr. Brandon and I grew up in the same state, had similar majors in college, similar interests, and influences. However, he is a much better filmmaker than I ever was but I am surely a better researcher. We further diverge on the level of philosophy. He seems to have embraced a strand of the Hebrew Israelite doctrine, while I am clearly a Muslim.

**Ibn Waḥshīya, though he wrote in Arabic, was not an Arab. He was of Aramaic Nabataean origin of southern Iraq.

***It must be noted that Hieroglyphics were not the everyday script of the ancient Egyptians. Demotic was found in more common use, while Hieratic was used by the scribes. Hieroglyphics was used as an esoteric script, reserved for only the high priests and kings (El-Daly, 2005, p. 60).

References:

El-Daly, Okasha. Egyptology: The Missing Millennium, Ancient Egypt in Medieval Arabic Writings. UCL Press, 2005.

Idrīsī, Muḥammad ibn ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz, and Ulrich Haarmann. Anwār ʻUlwīyy Al-Ajrām Fī al-Kashf ʻan Asrār al-Ahrām. Frānts Shtāyrir, 1991.

Samak, ʿAbdullah ʿAlī. Al-Ṣābiʼūn. 1st ed., Maktabat al-Ādāb, 1995.

Shahrastānī, Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Karīm al-, and Ahmad Fahmi Muhammad. Al-Milal Wa al-Niḥal. 2nd ed., Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmīyyah, 1992.

The Cairo Postcard Trust. Pyramid and Sphinx. Still Image, c. late 19th/early 20th century, https://digitalcollections.aucegypt.edu/digital/collection/p15795coll21/id/1609/rec/93. Rare Books and Special Collections Library; American University in Cairo.

The Mawlid: Between Sabians and Hanifs

Love for the Prophet Muhammad is an indisputable cornerstone of the Islamic faith, but the celebration of the Prophet’s birth has in modern times surfaced as a matter of contention. Despite its long-standing and widespread tradition, modern detractors have insisted that it is a blameworthy invention within the religion because it was not observed during the lifetime of the Prophet or his immediate predecessors. Others see it as an odd parallel to Christmas and a segue to the excesses of the Christians in their love for Jesus. While I will leave the legal debates to the experts, I seek to offer an additional perspective on the Mawlid. Given what we know of Sabian views on prophets and angels, there is more wisdom to celebrating the advent of the prophet than we may think.

Angels vs. Prophets

As mentioned in previous posts, one of the core disagreements between the Sabians and Hanifs according to Muhammad al-Shahrastani was the issue of prophecy and prophethood. The Sabians glorified the angels and deemed them superior to human prophets, because they are sinless and pure. To them, man is tainted both physically and spiritually because he is subject to carnal desires and temptations that distract his worship of God. The Hanifs, on the other hand, exalted the human prophets as God’s chosen guides to mankind. They believed that human beings who have overcome their desires and temptations through the grace of God, such as prophets, have more merit. They contend that angels have no choice but to worship God at all times and there is no merit in compulsion (Shahrastānī and Muhammad, 1993, 16-22).

By no means did these debates end in pre-Islamic times. Rather, they ensued well into Abbasid-era Islamic scholarly discourse and beyond. Ibn Rawandi, a Mu’tazilite scholar turned skeptic, was in conversation with a Sabian group called the Brahmins concerning the role of the intellect in religion. This group argued that the intellect was a sufficient alternative to revelation. They figured that even if the prophets brought teachings that were compatible with the intellect, the prophet would be superfluous because humans were already endowed with intellect. Likewise, they reasoned that sanctuaries in Mecca like the Kaʿba, Black Stone, Ṣafā, and Marwa, etc. were no different from other places in the world. So it made no sense to perform rituals at these sites to the exclusion of others and this was thus opposed to the intellect. Similarly, they deemed the prophets no different from other men even if they could predict future events. This is because they could determine the future by the stars and are thus in no need of prophets (Lawrence, 1976, 80).

The 15th century Egyptian scholar, Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī wrote a book on Islamic angelology titled, Al-Ḥabā’ik fī Akhbār al-Malā’ik (The Arrangement Concerning the Traditions of the Angels), in which he collected the opinions of various Muslim scholars concerning the merits of angels versus human prophets. In a section, not featured in its English translation, he enumerates the various opinions of Muslim scholars on the preference of human prophets or angels. In summary, he states that there were three main positions:

1) the prophets are greater than the angels. This is the majority opinion for Sunnis and Shi’as.

2) the angels are greater than the prophets. This is the position of the Muʿtazilites, but there are some Sunni scholars who hold this opinion.

3) that there is no comparison; except that all are agreed that the Prophet Muhammad is the best of creation. (Suyūṭī, 1988, 203)

We find here, that the Muʿtazilites inherited the positions of the Sabian philosophers with regards to the angels and prophets. It is therefore the reemergence of Sabian thought within the Islamic umma that seeks to belittle the prophets to the level of ordinary men, rather than guides and examples who should be followed and celebrated. It is the core Hanif strain within Islam that opposes this diminution of the prophets and exalts their status and benefits for all of mankind.

References

Lawrence, Bruce B. Shahrastani on the Indian Religions. De Gruyter, 1976.

Shahrastānī, Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Karīm al-, and Ahmad Fahmi Muhammad. Al-Milal Wa al-Niḥal. 2nd ed., Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmīyyah, 1992.

Suyūṭī, Jalāl al-Dīn al-. Al-Ḥabā’ik Fī Akhbār al-Malā’ik. Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmīyyah, 1988.

Islam and the Ancient Mystery Schools Part 12

I would like to return to my original thesis that was sparked by George G.M. James’ Stolen Legacy several years ago (see Islam and the Ancient Mysteries Part 1and Part 2). Although this thesis has undergone modifications since I began my research, the premise has remained the same. In the midst of this series I have found that the word Ṣābi’a is the general term in Arabic for the Ancient Mystery Schools, while theorizing that other terms such as Naṣārā and Chaldean refer to the leaders of temporal and geographic Mystery Schools. In the following post, I will summarize my theory and trace the genealogy of Sabian/Mystery School thought to this day.

Islam and the Revival of the Ancient Mysteries

The Sabians mentioned throughout classical Arabic literature are what the Greeks called the Mysteries. Like the Jews and Christians before them, the Muslims wrestled with the perceived harms and benefits of Sabian thought. On the one hand, the scriptures of the Abrahamic traditions were deeply critical of the theological distortions in Sabian doctrine. Abrahamic doctrines and rituals were in response to the beliefs and practices of the Sabians, which opened up the gates of polytheism among the unlearned laymen. On the other hand, the Sabians had benefited the world by their advances in other areas of human knowledge. The Abbasid Caliphate, like Eastern Christianity, came to terms with the knowledge produced by the Sabians. However, the Muslims strived not to take the road of the Christians, whose doctrine ultimately succumbed to the philosophical influences of the Sabians.

What we witness from the 9th to 11th century in the Islamic world with the codification of both traditional religious knowledge as well as the translation of ancient empirical and occult texts, is a race to retain knowledge of the Prophet Muhammad, while also reviving the knowledge of the Sabians (i.e. the Mystery Schools). The Islamic empire and its scholars sought to uphold the Abrahamic doctrine in the face of Sabian doctrine by calling people to Islam and granting protection (i.e. dhimmi status) to the People of the Book, i.e. Jews and Christians. At the same time, they were vehemently opposed to the polytheistic elements of Sabian thought.

As such, the Muslims had revived the Mystery Schools under the Abrahamic creed of Islam. This, however, was not without its conflicts. As certain groups of Muslims had the tendency to slip back into the beliefs of the Sabians, such as:

  • The Khawārij, who embraced the Stoic (Mystery School) concept of perfection and sinlessness as a sign of righteousness.
  • The Muʿtazilites would later stress the primacy of reason over revelation, which placed the philosopher sage on level with and sometimes over the prophets and rekindle the notion that human beings attain prophethood through their own efforts and merits rather than the grace and ordinance of God.
  • Al-Ghazālī’s criticism of the Muslim philosophers (primarily Ibn Sīnā) in his Incoherence of the Philosophers, identifies certain ancient beliefs held by these philosophers, which he believes led them to apostasy. This, while maintaining the utility of ancient Sabian empirical knowledge.
  • Ibn Rushd (Averroes) would later take issue with al-Ghazālī’s conclusions, claiming that the “craft of ḥikma” (wisdom/ancient knowledge) needed to be passed down like any other craft.

Ibn Rushd’s defense of Sabian philosophy would be rejected or ignored by the greater Muslim world, but the means by which Sabian knowledge would gain interest and popularity in Western Europe.

Modern Day Mysteries

In the last few centuries, Western civilization has become the battleground between Abrahamic and Sabian thought since the so-called European Renaissance. As such, Renè Guenon considered the beginning of the West’s decline to be Renè Descartes’ hyper-skepticism. Even as the West was philosophizing itself out of the Abrahamic tradition, it was making a dash for Eastern empirical and esoteric knowledge, which they harbored in their secret societies. This would lead to the separation of religion from science, politics, sociology, and the many other sciences needed for human civilization.

In the 20th century, Western philosophy and esotericism trickled down to the populace by way of clandestine organizations, theosophy, and counterculture movements. In no place were these ideas more prevalent than in the United States. As a result, we witness Sabian thought proliferate in the society everyday. More specifically, Sabian thought has entered African American communities through such groups as the Moorish Science Temple, the Nation of Islam, the Five Percenters, Nuwaubians, and Afrocentrists. All of these groups have explicitly or implicitly embraced the erroneous notion that they can reconstruct the Mystery Schools. I understand that this is a bold claim, but I will show the parallels between their theosophies and ancient Sabian thought. I will argue that they based their movements on incomplete knowledge of the ancient Mysteries because they did not received their knowledge through an unbroken chain of living teachers. This knowledge of the Mysteries/Sabians has been filtered by the Abrahamic faiths, primarily Islam in the current day, and cannot be accessed except through these traditional channels.

“Thoughts From Sudan,” No Longer Are They Just In My Head

What do Dave Chappelle, Malaria, and the FBI have in common? They all make appearances in the latest publication from the Maurchives, Thoughts from Sudan. Once I graduated with my master’s from the Khartoum International Institute for Arabic Language in 2011, I thought I had closed that chapter of my life, but the thoughts from Sudan kept on coming back to mind. The emails and stories I shared with my family and friends throughout my travels and studies gave us all a good laugh. Some have encouraged me to publish them. So as of August 21, 2022, Thoughts from Sudan, the monograph, is available for the world to chuckle at.

Order it here.

Cover of Thoughts from Sudan

Thoughts is one of the works I will be publishing in the Islamic Literacy Series, in which I will address the elusive topic of how to embark on a path of studying the sacred sciences of Islam. My goal is to increase the Islamic literacy of the American Muslim community, young and old, by sharing my experiences, providing sound advice on study plans and strategies, and using my connections to facilitate travel to the Muslim world for advanced studies, if they choose to do so. Thoughts will be followed by the title, Towards Islamic Literacy, which will provide a definition to the much abused term “Islamic Literacy” and a practical model one can follow to achieve it.

Before I conclude this post, I want to share with you a brief passage from Thoughts. It’s about my landing in the Khartoum airport after being stranded in Detroit due to an interrogation with the FBI and Immigration, which made me miss my initial flight. This passage describes a nightmare scenario in which I landed in a foreign country with nothing three days after I was scheduled to be there. Check out my initial reaction to life in Sudan. The rest of the book is full of these types of scenarios.

From the chapter “My journey:”

As I flew into Khartoum, all I noticed was low level square hut-like dwellings. From my vantage point, it did not look a lot different from the Detroit terrain I just left. When it was time to finally exit the plane, I felt a gush of hot air overcome me; one that would not leave me until I left ten months later. I stood in a long line of people passing through customs, eventually entering the airport about an hour later. I waited quite a while for my luggage at baggage claim. Most people from my cohort grabbed their bags and left, followed by another cohort. However, I and a handful of other people were still waiting for our bags. It became evident that something went wrong, and a significant amount of people’s luggage did not arrive with the flight. So those of us still waiting, surrounded a 20-something airport employee and described to him our bags and their contents. He seemed like a nice guy, but he was unbearably slow.

Employee: “What was uh… in your bag?”

European Traveler: “I had some clothes…”

Employee: “Ok, clozes…” Writes something down for about fifteen seconds. “What kind of clozes?”

European Traveler: “Let’s see, I had some socks…”

Employee: “Yes. Sooks.” Writes something down for about twenty seconds. “How many sooks?”

European: “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe ten.”

Employee: “Yes. Ten.” Writes something down for about thirty seconds. “What color sooks?”

After what had to be several hours of chasing these rabbit holes, finally it was my turn, and I was the last one. Once I finished, I had something else to think about. How was I going to get to my destination? Dr. Lo’s Senegalese friend studying in the Sudan, Muhammad (Mamadou) Diouf, was assigned to meet me at the airport, but I could not imagine him waiting so long. First, I was three days late. Secondly, I exited the airport several hours after my flight was scheduled to arrive and it was already dark.

Upon stepping out of the airport, I was quickly approached by a taxi driver, whose question in Arabic I understood as, “Do you need a taxi?” To which I said (no). He looked at me in surprise and said in Arabic, “You speak Arabic very well!” This is something I and many other Westerners traveling in the Arab world experience. You say one word of Arabic to a native speaker, and they quickly compliment your Arabic proficiency, even if you know nothing more than that single word. Nevertheless, I welcomed the official transition from English to Arabic.

Shortly afterwards, someone who appeared to be Senegalese caught my eye. He was a lean, dark-skinned man with piercing eyes. We both approached each other asking the other by name. Alhamdulillah! It was a big relief that he waited. He ended up negotiating with that taxi driver to take us to the dormitory. First, we had to stop and exchange some of my dollars for Sudanese guinea, then we were on our way. Muhammad wondered where all my luggage was, to which I told him it was lost, and I had to go back to get it later. He said that the next day was a holiday in the Sudan, but we would make plans to go after that.

An image from Sudan I will never forget.

We arrived at his dark and dusty dorm room where he promptly began chopping up onions and putting rice in a pot on an electric heater. He gave me a pair of his shorts, a pair of sandals, and a bar of soap and directed me to the bathroom. Only in Moroccan rest stops had I seen bathrooms so filthy. Brown streaks ran up and down the ancient tile walls and pieces of hair were tucked between crevices. Was this the place I was to live for the indefinite future?

Islam and the Ancient Mystery Schools (Part 11)

If we cede that the primordial religion was a comprehensive spiritual and intellectual tradition resembling what we know as the Ancient Mystery Schools, then we should be able to map them to a single origin, whose name and appearance differed throughout time and space, but whose essence remained the same.To better illustrate the relationship between the major religions of the Near East and the Ancient Mystery Schools see the graphic below. Following that, I will provide a brief description of each of these names for Near Eastern religions with the aims of illuminating the similarities and differences.

The various forms of Near Eastern Mystery Schools

Chaldeans

The priests of the Mystery Schools in Prophet Ibrahim’s day were referred to as the Chaldeans. This is the Latinized form of the Semitic term, Kasdīm. Seated in ancient Iraq, they were known for their knowledge of astrology and worshipful reverence of the stars. When they went astray, Ibrahim was sent to rectify their religion. Those that followed him were known as Ḥanīfs. The Muslim polymath, al-Fārābī believed that the Chaldeans were the first to harvest the “wisdom teachings,” which they transmitted to the Egyptians, who transmitted them to the Greeks, who transmitted them to the Syrians (i.e. Naṣārā), who ultimately transmitted them to the Arab Muslims (43).

Sabians

The leaders of the Mystery Schools of Egypt and the lands that fell under their rule were known as Sabians (Ṣābi’a). This is attested to in Mandaean sources as well as in hieroglyphics. Dr. Nadim al-Sayyar found in a papyrus scroll that the word for knowledge was ṣabāwi (صباوٍ), which is derived from the word ṣabā, which means guidance in the ancient Egyptian language. Moreover, another derivative of this root is the word for teachings, ṣabāyat, which also indicates a scripture or a message (Sayyār, 1995, 274-5). He also demonstrates that this root carried connotations to the stars (Sayyār, 2020, 142).

How this Egyptian term entered the Arabic lexicon is a matter of speculation, but it suffices us to say that historians writing in Arabic after the advent of Islam used the term to refer to the unreformed Mystery Schools and the antithesis to Ḥanīf. This is attested to by the Andalusian Jewish scholar, Maimonides in his Guide For the Perplexed, Ṣa’id al-Andalusī’s Biographies of the Nations, and Muhammad al-Shahrastānī’s Sects and Creeds.

Ḥanīfs

Though the term Ḥanīf referred to Ibrahim and his followers who taught an unwavering monotheism and deference to human prophets as opposed to the angels, the term was inverted by many Semitic languages and religions. Other groups took it to mean pagan among other things discussed in Part 10 of this series. The Arabic of the Qur’an corrected this understanding and freed Ibrahim of any allegations of polytheism (as discussed in Part 9).

In later Arabic writings, the term Ḥanīf could be understood as the reformed versions of the Mystery Schools guided by the prophets as opposed to the Sabians, who represented the unreformed versions. While Muslim jurists, theologians, and historians acknowledged that Sabian beliefs had a foundation in monotheism, they also invented ideas that misled the masses into polytheism. Therefore, later religions would lie on the continuum between Sabian, a kind of proto-polytheism, and Ḥanīf, an orthodox monotheism.

Yahūd

It is my understanding that the Bani Isra’il (the Children of Israel) represented the Ḥanīf opposition to Egyptian, Chaldean, and Arabian Sabianism, as expounded by Maimonides. The Yahūd, on the other hand, are frequently spoken of negatively in the Qur’an, in contrast to Bānī Isrā’īl. Thus it is plausible that the Yahūd were those Jewish priests who relapsed into the practices and beliefs of the Sabians, particularly those of Northern Arabia where the kingdoms of Israel and Judah (perhaps a cognate to the Arabic word, Yahūd) were located. As we know, the Kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Assyrians and fell under the influence of the Chaldeans of their day.

One should note that the Mandaean Sabians believed themselves to have once been of the Jews, who were called Yahutai in Aramaic. However, they were from the faction who doubted the immaculate conception of Miriam (Buckley, 4), meaning they contributed to the distortion of the revealed doctrine. It should also be noted that Madaeans see the ancient Yahutai (i.e. Yahūd) and the Chaldeans (their spiritual predecessors) as one and the same. This can account for the Qur’an’s repeated critique of the Yahūd and other Sabian-style beliefs. A deeper look into the language of the Qur’an will reveal that most of their mentions in the Qur’an refer to them as “those who claim to be Jews” (الذين هادوا) revealing that God is casting doubt on their claims.

http://history-of-israel.org/history/chronological_presentation11.php

Philosophers

The Greek Philosophers, though not mentioned directly in the Qur’an, are generally known as Sabians among Muslim scholars. Ibn Taymīya, for instance, stated as such in his Al-Radd ʿalā al-Shādhulī. He believed that the philosophers were originally rightly guided (al-Ṣābi’a al-Ḥunafā’), just as the Yahūd and Naṣārā were originally rightly guided. However, only those among them who did not contradict the prophets remained guided (Ibn Taymīya, 136-7). We should also note that the Greek philosophers are also most commonly associated with the Mystery Schools. The likes of Pythagoras, Socrates, and Zeno were all associated with versions of the Mysteries, although there were philosophers also not associated with a particular Mystery school.

Naṣārā

As discussed in Part 10 of this series, the Naṣārā were most likely the Nasoraeans, a Neo-Platonic priestly class that became infused with the prophetic lineage (i.e. Ḥanīf) following the advent of Īsā. They were apparently Judeo-Christian in their beliefs and practice, but they retained a philosophical element inherited from the Sabians that influenced their approach to the prophetic tradition. As such, God in the Qur’an rebukes those beliefs that came from the Sabians such as the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and his sonship of God, while affirming the Ḥanīfs among them as Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book). The concepts of the Trinity, divination of man, and pantheism are all recurring themes in Sabianism and the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman mysteries.

Majūs

As for the Majūs, they are only mentioned once in the Qur’an among those who claim to be Jews, Sabians, and Naṣārā. They were the priestly class of the Zoroastrians, the Persian Mystery Schools. Medieval European Biblical scholars referred to Zoroastrians as Eastern Chaldeans and Sabians (Elukin, 624).

The Abbasid court astrologer, Abū Sahl ibn Nawbakht, gives a testimony to the Persian Mysteries in Ibn al-Nadīm’s al-Fihrist. According to Abū Sahl, Hermes taught the “wisdom teachings” to the people of Babylon, which included present-day Iran, then he traveled to Egypt to teach to them. The knowledge taught by Hermes remained in Persia uninterrupted until the invasion of Alexander, in which he killed the leader Dara II, defaced the inscriptions on their buildings, and looted all their manuscripts. Alexander then took these works on medicine, astronomy, etc. and had them translated into Greek and Coptic, then burned the Persian originals. Following this catastrophe, the Persian kings began the process of reconstructing their knowledge by acquiring manuscripts from the peripheries of the Persian Empire like those of India and China and re-establishing their chains of transmission in Persia. This project persisted into the Muslim conquest of Persia and was continued until the height of the Abbasid empire (Ibn al-Nadīm, 333-4).

Summary

Now that we have provided a synopsis for each of these terms, we see that the common denominator is that these terms primarily referred to the learned class within their respective traditions, whose nomenclature varied depending on the locale and time period. Secondly, these traditions all had similar trajectories. For instance, they all excelled at the empirical and occult sciences, especially astrology. However, the standard for measuring the veracity of a tradition was how close it conformed to the Ḥanīf system, which was championed by the prophets, as opposed to the Sabian system, championed by the polytheists (i.e. Mushrikūn). Finally, many exegetes of the Qur’an interpreted al-Baqara: 62 and its cognate verses to mean: Whosoever affirms a belief in God as taught by the Prophet Muhammad among the Yahūd, Sabians, Naṣārā, and Majūs will not be treated unjustly by God in the end. An unraveling of this nomenclature and their respective beliefs has relevance for 21st century America. As many individuals, young and old, gravitate to expressions of Sabianism in one form or another, it is necessary to know where these ideas came from and the pre-modern debates that ensued around them. I will touch on these discussions in subsequent posts.

References

Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen. The Mandaeans: Ancient Texts and Modern People. Oxford University Press, 2002.

Elukin, Jonathan. “Maimonides and the Rise and Fall of the Sabians: Explaining Mosaic Laws and the Limits of Scholarship.” Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 63, no. 4, 2002, pp. 619–37. JSTORhttps://doi.org/10.2307/3654163.

Farabi al-. Al-Farabi’s Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. Translated by Muhsin Mahdi, Free Press of Glencoe, 1962.

Ibn Nadīm, Abū al-Faraj Muḥammad ibn Isḥaq. Al-Fihrist. Dar al-Ma’rifah, 937.

Ibn Taymiyya, Taqī al-Dīn Abū’l-’Abbās Aḥmad, and ʿAlī Muhammad ʿUmrān. Al-Radd ʿalā al-Shādhulī Fī Ḥizbayhi Wa Mā Ṣannafahu Fī Ādāb al-Ṭarīq. Dār ʿĀlam al-Fawā’id, 2008.

Sayyār, Nadīm al-. Qudamāʼ Al-Misṛīyīn Awwal al-Muwahḥịdīn. 2nd ed., 1995.

Sayyār, Nadīm al-. Laysū Āliha Wa Lākin Malā’ika. 2020.

Nationalism in the Nile: Egyptians, Afrocentrism, and Kevin Hart The Maurchives

  1. Nationalism in the Nile: Egyptians, Afrocentrism, and Kevin Hart
  2. Is God the Universe?
  3. America is Not Egypt
  4. The Mawlid: Between Sabians and Hanifs
  5. “Thoughts From Sudan,” No Longer Are They Just In My Head

Islam and the Ancient Mystery Schools (Part 10)

In this post, I would like to revisit the notion of Naṣarā mentioned in Islam and the Ancient Mystery Schools (Part 5). If you recall, the results from our readings of Fadil al- Rabi’i’s were inconclusive. Upon further exploration, I have come across some information that has provided me a bit more perspective on who was intended by this term in the Quran. However, before we get into this exploration, let’s review some of the most compelling arguments espoused by Al-Rabi’i:

  • Nasrani/Naṣarā is not a relative adjective describing a person from Nazareth. This means that the Naṣarā are not called as such solely on their affiliation with Jesus of Nazareth.
  • The root of the word Naṣarā is related to the word meaning to be “uncircumcised.” This means that the Naṣarā were known for their opposition to or at least their ambivalence to the practice.
  • In Muslim writings, the pre-Islamic Naṣarā were few in number and often associated with the Hanifs. This should make us ask: why do these few people warrant such attention in the Quran? If they were Christians, why didn’t they build a church? And why have they been historically classified as Hanifs?
Panini, Giovanni Paolo. An Architectural Capriccio of the Roman Forum with Philosophers and Soldiers among Ancient Ruins. oil on canvas, c.  -1750 1745, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:An_Architectural_Capriccio_of_the_Roman_Forum_with_Philosophers_and_Soldiers_among_Ancient_Ruins_…,_by_Giovanni_Paolo_Panini,_c._1745-1750,_oil_on_canvas_-_National_Museum_of_Western_Art,_Tokyo_-_DSC08515.JPG. National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Japan.

I posit that the Naṣarā were a type of Hanīf or Sabian that was found in pre-Islamic Arabia. Most likely remnants of Neoplatonic Mysteries from the Roman Empire, who were dispersed into Asia Minor, Persia, Arabia, and the interior of Africa. More specifically, they probably considered themselves a priestly class of the Greater Mysteries who pontificated on a number of metaphysical matters of the day, which fomented much confusion in pre-Islamic times. Let’s first look at the historical links between the Mystery Schools of Rome and religion in pre-Islamic Arabia.

Christianity and the Mystery Schools

Christianity emerged in the Roman Empire as a reviled religion, with clear Semitic roots. It was opposed by the emperors because they were considered the ultimate legal and religious authorities. They believed that there was only one religion, the Mysteries. Different schools of the Mysteries had different expressions of it based on their culture and language because religion was associated with citizenship (Ando, 2021,13). Constantine, upon his conversion to Christianity in the early 4th century was the first Roman emperor to ease the repression of Christians in the empire. By the end of the century, Theodosious would make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and commence the official closing of the Mystery Schools. Justinian would continue this project of closing the Mysteries in the 6th century. In turn, many of its die-hard members who refused to convert to the state religion fled to Asia Minor, like the city of Ḥarrān, Persia, the Arabian peninsula, and the interior of Africa (Errington, 2006, 249-52).

Quraysh and the Mystery Schools

As for those who fled to the Arabian peninsula, it is possible that the Quraysh tribe was one such group. Scholars are unsure of their exact origins, but some have proposed that they were one of the groups that who fled Byzantium. This would make sense since the Quraysh only emerge in the 5th century and appear to take over the most important shrine in Arabia (Ḍayf, 1960, 49). Furthermore, prior to the prophetic mission of Muhammad, the Quraysh exhibited traits common to followers of the Mysteries. First, the Dār al-Nadwa that managed the affairs of Mecca only allowed wealthy men over the age of forty. In the Mysteries, this age was significant because it represented the age at which men attained wisdom and the position of teacher and leadership. They were also learned in advanced mathematics because they set interest rates and performed the duties of bankers. Similarly, they were also the religious authorities because they controlled the rites of the pilgrimage to the Kaʿba, which they believed to be a Saturnalia shrine. For these reasons, it is likely that there was a substantial influence on the pre-Islamic Arabs from the Ancient Mystery Schools.

Naṣārā and the Mystery Schools

When we look into the Qur’an, we find numerous mentions of Naṣārā, but never of Masīḥiyīn, a more direct translation of the word Christians. I believe this was the case because Naṣārā actually referred to a group known as the Nāṣūrati or Nasoraeans, who scholars call a Jewish-Christian Gnostic sect that emerged during the post-Christian religious milieu in the Near East (Bladel, 2017, 6). However, they are more commonly associated with the Mandaeans of southern Iraq; the only group in the world commonly labeled Sabians. Members of their priestly class are called Nasoraeans, who assiduously guard the secret rituals and doctrines of the Mandaeans, which they perceive as having a more ancient origin. Much like the Mystery Schools, the Nasoraeans function as the Greater Mysteries that requires a much more rigorous training in the secret arts, while the rank-and-file Mandaean constitutes the Lesser Mysteries that is open to those who are inclined to Gnosticism. Their doctrine consists of a worshipful regard for angels and the stars and opposition to the practice of circumcision. Indeed, they are those that many Muslim jurists, historians, and theologians identified as the last visages of the Qur’anic Sabians.

Concluding Remarks

With the above understanding, we can gather that:

1) the Nasoraeans were around and active in the Near East before and during the time of the Prophet Muhammad

2) the Nasoraeans constitute a hybrid of the Ancient Mystery Schools and Judeo-Christian beliefs and practices

3) the Nasoraean’s minority status and secretive nature explains why no “Naṣrānī” church was established in the heart of Arabia

4) if the Naṣārā are the Nasoraeans, then this is cause to reconsider the identities of the Yahūd (or “those who became Jews”) and the Majūs

Linking the Naṣārā of the Qur’an to the Nasoraeans of the Mandaean religion will introduce us to a different way of understanding certain arguments put forth in the Qur’an. I will show in future posts how verses that discuss the angels and pre-Islamic ideas about nature and prophethood are actually a polemic against the positions of the Nasoraeans. In addition, we will see that the Qur’an’s criticism of other religions is based on the degree to which they adopted beliefs associated with the Nasoraeans and other Sabians, which were remnants of the Ancient Mystery Schools in Islamic lands. The Naṣārā who were deemed as Christians were those who were closer to the Ḥanīfs in their beliefs. Not only will we witness the historical implications of this information, but we will begin to see how these doctrines continue to shape the current religious discourse.

References

Ando, Clifford. “Religious Affiliation and Political Belonging from Cicero to Theodosius.” Acta Classica, vol. 64, no. 1, 2021, pp. 9–28. https://doi.org/10.1353/acl.2021.0013.

Bladel, Kevin Thomas Van. From Sasanian Mandaeans to Ṣābians of the Marshes. Brill, 2017.

Ḍayf, Shawqi. Al-ʿAṣr al-Jāhilī. 11th ed., vol. 1, Dār al-Ma’ārif, 1960.

Errington, R. M. Roman Imperial Policy from Julian to Theodosius. University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

The Truth of Translation: The Sunni – Moorish Debate

On Apr 19, 2022, a livestream debate between the Baltimore-based Moorish Science Temple representative, Taharka Bey, and the D.C. area-based Sunni Muslim, Tariq Ibn Jamil, was posted to the Moorish World Tv YouTube channel. The stated topic was “Can the Qur’an be translated?” With Tariq arguing the affirmative and Taharka arguing the negative. I find in this debate many teachable moments in terms of Islamic literacy, linguistics, the rules of engagement with regards to intellectual debate, and simple logic.

After hearing both sides of the core debate (there are many tangential debates), I will have to say that Taharka Bey is the victor for reasons that I will explore in this post.

Taharka Bey’s Argument

Taharka’s presentation of his position was stronger due to some key strategies that are align with sound scholarship and argumentation, which I will enumerate below. I will also point out flaws in his argument and gaps in his knowledge.

1) He argued the majority opinion.

The common position of Muslims is that the Qur’an is inimitable and it cannot be precisely translated, only explained through the lens of a combination of auxiliary sciences, not the least of which is Arabic linguistics. Arguing the majority opinion has its benefits in a debate. It makes supporting evidence easier to access and counterarguments easier to make because predecessors have already done the work.

2) He had a logical sequence.

Taharka has a clear logic. He begins by stating his premise, which is that in the “Common Tradition:”

Any translation of the Quran will be termed inauthentic if it goes against the established hadith (sayings and actions) of the Prophet and against the understandings of the companions of the Prophet.

45:00

According to the epistemology of Black Orientalists, transmitted reports are not valid evidence of a fact, which is diametrically opposed to the underlying epistemology of hadith science. Orientalists often use this as the first mode of attack, because in the modern age, oral transmissions are no longer perceived as valid. They prefer written evidence and documentation.

He uses this premise to make a number of points, before moving on to his next point:

In order to extrapolate the meaning of a particular Quranic verse, Muslims rely on exegesis, or commentary rather than a direct translation of the text.

49:00

He then makes a distinction between exegesis/commentary and translation. For instance, he takes a number of different English translations of a verse that uses the word taqwā to demonstrate that the various translators are making an exegesis of the word, because there is no direct equivalent in English.

2) He used substantial evidence that was relevant to the argument he was attempting to make.

Taharka’s used a mixture of primary and secondary source evidence. The examples of Qur’anic words without easy English equivalents were clear and plentiful (primary). Then he used statements from experts on the subject to back up his point (secondary). Taharka even cited an academic journal article, whose main author was a Libyan linguist who looks like an African American. The article can be found here: http://www.ijssh.net/papers/178-A10061.pdf.

He made a good point when he said that knowledge of linguistics is a prerequisite for translation (1:01:00). Unfortunately, not all translators have this background. Reading knowledge of a language alone does not always suffice for translation. Linguistics often gives the translator a bird’s eye view of how the two different languages function.

For more reading on this topic, you might want to read Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qurʹān by the Japanese scholar Toshihiko Izutsu. He was not a Muslim, but his work is respected in the Muslim world due to his ontological approach to Qur’anic ethical terminology.

Critiques of Taharka Bey

1) He began his argument on a faulty premise.

Taharka’s first premise, whose source he begged the audience not to ask about, though logical, is faulty because it is simply not true. While hadith and the understandings of the companions can contribute to the understanding of the Qur’an, they are not the primary determinants of a valid translation. For instance, the Shi’ah have different standards of hadith and do not accept the understandings of all the companions, but this does not render their translations of the Qur’an invalid. What renders a translation invalid is if it is not consistent with the original language and apparent meaning of the Qur’an.

However, I understand that the epistemology of Western Orientalism (in this case Black Orientalism) does not accept orally transmitted reports as valid evidence of a fact. Although this was the epistemology of the ancient world. They often claim to prefer written reports (“receipts” if you will). However, they do not acknowledge that they too accept oral transmission of information, as evidenced by the fact that they are engaging in a live oral debate rather than an exchange of written publications.

Also, when Tariq was showing a number of books to say that a translator needed to study a number of subjects to produce a translation, I noticed a few comments in the chat:

Showing off books is a weird way to prove a point. You should be able to recite and orate the contents of the books without referencing them. This guy only knows how to recite stories

ALL BOOKS ARE MAN MADE AND CAN BE TRANSLATED BY MAN WOMAN AND CHILD

Black Orientalists still have reservations about the written word despite their rhetoric about wanting “receipts” and written documents.

2) He relied on a few straw man arguments.

A straw man argument is a fallacy many debaters fall into when constructing arguments agains their opponents. Taharka’s first premise was a prime example of this. It was as if he propped up a dummy to beat up on to show that he is tough. Of course, we know dummies don’t hit back.

He also used a straw man argument on his point about the translation of the term maqām as “shrine” in surat al-Baqarah: 125. He used the most strict (Salafi) interpretation of Muhsin Khan’s Noble Qur’an to establish that the word “shrine” is a mistranslation. Khan translates it as “stone on which Ibrāhim (Abraham) stood.” However, this is an argument over semantics and what people understand when they hear a word in a particular language. It is possible that “shrine” is the most appropriate equivalence for the word maqām as understood by Arabic speakers. But the issue is that Taharka assumes that Muhsin Khan has the correct opinion with regard to Muslims creating shrines (which in the context of the verse is an anachronism because it is referring to Abraham, who predates historical Islam). This causes Taharka not to question Muhsin Khan’s word choice, which might be influenced by his Salafi ideology, or his understanding of the word shrine, which some English speakers might associate with pagan worship.

To further drive home my point, he used the example of the word kāfir to say that words have “implied meaning” (as do all words in any language) and an exegesis is needed to reveal its connotations (1:00:00). I would argue that the English language has a single equivalent to the word kāfir in the word “infidel.” The root k-f-r (ك – ف – ر) has a connotation to ingratitude, betrayal, and infidelity as evidenced in other the Qur’anic verses (see surat al-Isrā: 27 and surat Ibrāhīm: 7). However, modern translators avoid the word “infidel” because they are aware that it carries negative connotations in the English-speaking world, even though it might be loyal to the Arabic meaning (no pun intended). The avoidance of the term demonstrates my point about semantics, mental associations, and ideology.

3) He differentiated between exegesis (commentary) and translation.

This point is a matter of personal opinion, but one that is backed up by some scholars of translation theory. I believe that translation is a type of commentary. A translation should not simply be reduced to an exchange of words in one language to another. A translator looks at more than just the lexical meanings of words. A good translator is looking at the overall effect of the work. While I understand the distinction Taharka is trying to make, I simply do not agree.

SUNNI’S Al ISLAM vs. MOORISH SCIENCE’S ISLAMISM
Tariq Ibn Jamil vs. Taharka Bey

Tariq ibn Jamil’s Argument

As for our friend, Tariq, there are a few reasons as to why he lost the debate.

1) His presentation was not compelling.

Quite frankly, I think he bored the listeners because his points were not easy to follow. He was also very cerebral and soft-spoken. Furthermore, he interspersed his speech with too much Arabic terminology and quotations of Arabic passages. This shows a disregard for his audience, who primarily do not speak Arabic.

Moreover, his approach resembled that of a traditional Muslim scholar rather than a “hotep” debate. In these types of venues, a Muslim cannot appear to be too academic, because in the minds of the audience he will be acting “too white.” Likewise, if his approach is too “traditionally Muslim,” then he would be deemed “too Arab.” These are unfortunate facts.

2) He attempted to argue a minority opinion.

Those who argue a minority or unpopular opinion have an uphill battle. Not only are they less likely to have a wealth of supporting evidence, but their arguments and primary sources must be overwhelmingly convincing.

Tariq presented his argument in the form of a rare narrative gathered from an uncited Sunni tradition. His focus was on a translation of the Qur’an officiated by Salmān al-Farsī. By this, he demonstrated that it “can” be translated and it “was,” but his evidence was not strong enough to show that his translation was a complete or quality translation.

First of all, the story of Salmān al-Farsī’s translation of the Qur’an into Persian is not common knowledge, even among Muslims. So he has the added task of proving the existence of this translation. Otherwise, the listener will need to take his word for it. But even if he could produce this early Persian translation of the Qur’an (which I do not believe is extant), his audience would not have the tools to determine its accuracy, because the majority of the audience does not read Persian or Arabic.

Although I would not have taken his approach, Tariq could have emphasized more the fact that Salmān al-Farsī was not an Arab, but a Persian; although most Americans probably cannot differentiate between the two. A historical approach does not usually hold up in a debate unless it is backed up with a clear purpose and sound logic.

3) He entered a lot of unclear and irrelevant information.

The many details of Salmān al-Farsī’s story, the showing of books, and preachy statements were not relevant to his argument.Therefore, he lost momentum and wasted a lot of time speaking on the contours of his argument but making very few points.

Additionally, I don’t think the points he did make were clear to the audience. He could have devoted more time to discussing how vital the various subjects he mentioned in the books he displayed were to translating the Qur’an. Yet, he should have had a better selection of books because those that he presented were mostly not pivotal works in the fields he was referring to. However, the true scope of these fields would have required much more than 30 minutes.

Finally, there was also a woman (I’m assuming) named, Amutalha Abdul Rahman, who sought to aid Tariq’s argument, but it was not coherent. What I understood from it was that the Tafsir of Ibn Kathīr (mistakenly wrote Ibn Khair) had an AEU seal of authenticity. These things needed to be explained exactly how it contributes to the argument.

Concluding Remarks

As we can clearly see, there is a lot to learn from this debate. However, one thing lingered in my mind throughout. Why were they debating such a pointless topic? The answer to the debaters’ central question: Can the Qur’an be translated? is an emphatic yes. There have been multiple attempts at translating the Qur’an in various languages. Each attempt could be placed on a scale of subjectivity to just how loyal the translation is to the Arabic original. However, they could have asked a better question.

Islam and the Ancient Mystery Schools ( Part 9)

In the year 377 AH/987 CE, at the heart of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad, a bookseller and lover of the Prophet Muhammad’s family by the name of Ibn al-Nadīm published a catalog of books that were in circulation throughout the Islamic-controlled world at the time. Al-Fihrist (The Catalog), as it was called, went beyond simply listing books and their authors, it also included a survey of scholarship in all fields of knowledge, pivotal scholars, and often times excerpts from works that may or may not be extant today. Through his work we can deduce that Muslims throughout the Ummayad period and well into the Abbasid period primarily studied the works of the ancients prior to the codification of the transmitted Islamic sciences. Al-Fihrist is cited by Islamic and western scholars alike for its information on ancient people and their knowledge. In fact, he transmits a few interesting takes on Sabianism. I will present two in this post. Then I will show how the two different narratives bring us closer to understanding the differences between the Sabians and the Ḥanīfs.

Al-Kindī’s View of Sabianism:

Al-Kindī was considered the first Arab philosopher, who took knowledge from the ancient Sabians. His student, Ahmad ibn al-Ṭayyib, recorded his description of the Sabians, which is related in al-Fihrist. To him, the Sabians were a monotheistic people who believed in a transcendent deity who was unlike His creation in every way. He selected purified individuals to be guides to people, such as Arānī, Aghāthādhīmīn, and Hirmīs (Heron, Agathodaemon, and Hermes Trismegistus), and some even included Solon, one of the grandparents of Plato. They prayed three times a day with ablution facing the North Star. They shunned people who were missing body parts or suffered from contagious diseases like leprosy. They did not eat pork and avoided some other types of meat and vegetables. (Ibn al-Nadīm, Al-Fihrist, 442-4)

Abū Saʿīd Wahb ibn Ibn Ibrāhīm

Abū Saʿīd was a Christian writer and the Christians were usually no friends of the Sabians. With this caveat, his depiction of the Sabians was completely different from al-Kindī’s. It gives a detailed account of monthly rituals, which include animal and human sacrifices to “gods, jinns, devils, and spirits.” In the month of August (Āb), they made wine to their gods and sacrificed a newborn child. They ground its flesh into powder and baked it into small disks. They then distributed these disks to all sane free male onlookers. In addition, Abū Saʿīd gives the Sabian names for the days of the week as corresponding with celestial deities, not unlike the origins of the day names used in European Romance languages (Ibn Nadīm, Al-Fihrist, 447-8).

Ethan Doyle White. Scroll of Abathur. 18th century, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68493361. Bodleian Library.

One Eye, Two Heads: Alternating the Narratives

These two characterizations of Sabians put forth by Ibn al-Nadīm from his sources are starkly contrast. Al-Kindī depicts them as a monotheistic, gnostic, proto-Islamic group, while Abū Saʿīd depicts them as a heathenistic, pagan cult. Which characterization is correct?

I believe them both to be correct characterizations of two different Sabian factions. The former was known as Ḥanīfs and the latter retained the name of Sabian. If we look into the Qur’an, we will find 12 instances of the word Ḥanīf (plural Ḥunafā‘), most of them in reference to the Prophet Abraham (Ibrāhīm). These references contrast him to the mushrikūn (polytheists). Take Surat al-Naḥl: 120 for instance, which can be translated as: Indeed Abraham was an ummah, obedient to God as a Ḥanīf, and he was not of the polytheists. It appears to be common knowledge by anyone reading or hearing the words of the Qur’an that Abraham was not a polytheist, so why is the elaboration needed?

Apparently, the Mandaeans (known to Arabs as the only extant Sabians) have an alternate narrative of the story of Abraham in which he was on his way to becoming a high priest (Nāṣūrā’ī – more on this term later) among the Chaldean Sabians of Babylon. However, they believe he came under the possession of an evil spirit named Yūrbā who over powered him to circumcise himself. As mentioned a in al-Fihrist, Sabians believed that missing any part of the body or illness rendered a person impure, and thus Abraham was no longer qualified to become a high priest. Instead, the Mandaeans claim that he became an outcast and he was followed by lepers, amputees, and other reprobates. He then, in the name of Yūrbā, attacked the peaceful Sabians of Babylon, forcibly circumcising the men (Samak, Al-Ṣābi’ūn, 42-43).

The Qur’an is obviously seeking to clarify a narrative that was once misunderstood and continues to be misunderstood. François de Blois, a linguist of Semitic and Iranian languages and historian of ancient Near Eastern religions, notes that the cognates to Ḥanīf in Syriac, Aramaic, Mandaic, and Hebrew, hn-p, all carry negative connotations like pagan, false god, hypocrite, and pollution (Blois, Naṣrānī and Ḥanīf, 19). It was only the Arabic of the Qur’an that converted it to a positive meaning. We have seen how a look into the Sabian narrative adds another dimension to our understanding of the word Ḥanīf as used in the Qur’an, as well as the lines of division in the Ancient Mystery Schools. Reading into this narrative can also do the same for the use of the word Naṣarā as we will see in future posts.

References

Blois, François de. “Naṣrānī (Ναζωραȋος) and Ḥanīf (Ἐθνικός): Studies on the Religious Vocabulary of Christianity and of Islam.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, vol. 65, no. 1, 2002, pp. 1–30.

Ibn Nadīm, Abū al-Faraj Muḥammad ibn Isḥaq. Al-Fihrist. Dar al-Ma’rifah, 937. http://archive.org/details/alfihrist-alma3rifa.

Samak, ʿAbdullah ʿAlī. Al-Ṣābiʼūn. 1st ed., Maktabat al-Ādāb, 1995.