(Persia Digest) - The baptism ritual of the monotheistic religion of the Sabian Mandaeans was held on the anniversary of their New Year, at the same time as Dehwa Rabba, on Monday in Karun River near Ghadir Bridge in Ahvaz.

The religious rituals of the Sabian Mandaeans, followers of the Prophet Yaḥyā [John the Baptist], began on Tuesday morning in Ahvaz on the occasion of the Mandaean New Year. This day, the birthday of Adam, is Mandaeans’ holiest day and is celebrated every year. The Sabian Mandaeans baptize in the river in the morning for 12 hours, and then Kanshi Zahla ritual begins at 18h00. The Mandaeans stay at their homes for 36 hours and pray for the well-being of the people and their leader, as well as for the healing of the sick. Kanshi means sweeping and cleaning, which along with baptism means the cleaning of the spirit, soul and the body, and the word Zahla means manifestation.

Mandaean New Year, titled the Great Eid or Dehwa Rabba, begins on 19 July. The Mandaeans believe that after the creation of Adam and Eve's bodies, a number of angels were assigned by God to infuse the soul (Nishmata) into their bodies. When they reached the earth, it took them 36 hours to infuse the soul into Adam and Eve’s bodies. The Mandaeans, also known as the Sabians in Khuzestan, are followers of John the Baptist and one of the religious minorities of Iran, Iraq and Syria.

The followers of Mandaeism live near the rivers of Tigris, the Euphrates and Karun, and their holy book is called "Ginza Rabba" or the great treasure, which consists of the teachings of Adam and his son Seth (=Šīṯ in Islamic culture) and contains the methods and rules of the Mandaean religion.

All the rituals of Sabian Mandaeans are dependent on the running water and their main religious pillar is baptism in the water on Sundays. Their occupations mostly consist of goldsmithing, vitreous enameling, and boat building.

The Mandaeans’ population is estimated at 70,000 in Iraq and 25,000 in Iran. Civil wars and ISIS presence in Iraq and Syria have led many Mandaeans to immigrate to other countries. In Iran, the pollution, as well as drying of Karun and Karkheh has affected the rituals of the religion’s followers, so that their population has declined sharply in the past two decades due to immigration.

The word ‘Sabian’, as a religion, has been mentioned three times in Qur'an (Sūrah al-Baqarah, verse 62, Sūrat al-Anʻām, verse 69, and Sūrat al-Ḥajj, verse 17), along with 'Judaism', 'Christianity' and 'Zoroastrianism'.

They believe that, Adam, Seth, Noah, Shem and John were the five prophets of the Mandaeans, and John (PBUH), their last prophet, was the one who baptized his cousin, Jesus Christ in the Jordan River.

They believe that after the ascension of John at the age of 64 to the heavens, the Jews slaughtered his followers, and the immigration of this Aramaic people began, and they settled near the banks of the Euphrates, Tigris in Iraq, and Karkheh, Karun and Jarrahi in Iran more than 1800 years ago. Today, the center and spiritual leadership of the world’s Sabians is in the city of Ahvaz.


Photos: Mohammad Reza Khabbazan / IRNA, Mehdi Pedramkhah / Mehr, Morteza Jaberian / Tasnim

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