HOW DID SABIANS PRACTICE THEIR FAITH?
The origin of the Arabic namus, (honour) is the Greek word nomos which means the law or the religious law. So the people of faith are accepted as honourable. (The others? What do you think they are, crooks?) Some orientalists say that the Arabic word namus is an ancient word with many meanings including money. In order to find the clues to the origin of the ideas relating to honour-namus of the 'religions of the book' one has to read the book written by Zayn'ud Din Ibn'ul Verdi (Tetummet'ul Muhtasar Fi Akhbari'l Beşer) where he mentions a page that he had seen, which he claims to have belonged to the Sabians. Unfortunately we do not have the page but thanks to the researchers interested in this subject I give translation from Arabic of this page on namus:
'' Refrain from doing anything to your brother that you would not like to have done to you.
Do not show off, do not resort to showing off by mentioning your self and virtues.
Do not make vows on god's name when you are telling lies, and never start making vows right away to make someone believe.
Stick to honesty so that in your words yes will be a real yes, and no will be a real no.
Refrain from causing liars make vows on the name of God. Otherwise you will become a part of their sins, especially when you know that they will go back on their words.
Refer everything in you and everybody to God who knows all the secrets. He will be to you a just judge and a defender who shows you the solutions.
Avoid uttering superficial, wrong and negative words.
Do not cooperate with the persons who are in error.
Do not joke too much and laugh too much.
Do not criticize or reproach anybody. Do not utter negative words when you are angry, because this will put you in disgraceful situations, bringing on you shame and disregard, sin and trouble.
He who conquers his anger, knows his word, purifies his thoughts, and keeps his self pure will be able to defeat all kinds of evil and wickedness.
Be conscious of the blessing.
Turn to piety.
Make dignity and maturity your habit.
Try to decorate yourself with good and agreeable manners.
Be balanced in everything you do.
Do not rush especially to punish the guilty. Every person should move away immediately from those who take the wrong path, and does evil, strange things. One should not think that one might save oneself while one's relations with them continue. Let us suppose that one has managed to cover up one's doings in this world; but one should not doubt that one's guilt will come out into the open in front of everybody in the 'day of religion' ('day of judgment')."
Sabians had daily prayers with units, bowing down and prostration (Islam has adopted this practice). They prayed three times daily; before sunrise, at noon, and at the sunset. These were obligatory (Islam in the beginning had same number of daily prayers but later on the number was increased to five times daily). There were three more that were not obligatory but thought of as proper to perform: At the second hour of the day; at the ninth hour of the day; and at the third hour of the night.
Sabians started their daily prayers by expressing their intent-resolve to pray (Islam has adopted it).
The prayer at the funeral is without bowing down and prostration (Islam has adopted it intact).
Ablution before the prayers was necessary in the Sabian faith (Islam has adopted it).
Sabians had the 'call' to prayer (Islam has adopted it).
Sabians turned towards a certain direction during their prayers: Sabians of Irak turned to the constellation of Capricorn. Sabians of our time kept this practice (Islam has adopted this practice by establishing supposedly Al-Kuds - Yerushalim - as the direction to turn to in the beginning. But the real kıbla was Bakka-Bekke-Behe).
I have written earlier that Sabians needed canonical purification of the body before each prayer (In other words, an ablution; the general word for cleanliness-purification is called taharot in Judaism and taharat in Islam). Therefore, following a sexual union, bodily cleaning is necessary. Sabians were obliged to immerse themselves fully in the flowing water to get this bodily cleaning. Urinating, passing bowels, breaking wind, touching a woman in her period, touching a woman in the forty-day period following the childbirth, touching a foreigner, and the bleeding of the nose necessitated ablution (accept touching a foreigner Islam has adopted these conditions).
According to the Mandaean branch of this belief system, prayers - seven times daily - were made compulsory to Adam, and this practice continued until John the Baptist (Yahya) changed it to three times daily.
There is fasting in the Sabian faith. It lasts for 30 days. This period is tied to the movement of the Moon. Their rule was 'see the moon and start fasting, see the moon and start rejoicing.' (Islam has adopted exactly the period of fasting and the rule of 'fasting-rejoicing').
Tthe Hagarene messenger ('Muhammad') said that Ka'ba in Makka was a Sabian temple, built by Abraham and his son Ismail-Ish'mael. Sun temple was a square according to Masudi) and Ka'ba was given the name it has (according to Islamic sources) because of its shape. in some of the Islamic dictionaries Ka'ba is described as 'a square house.' So, Ka'ba must have been a temple for the sun.
Islamic scholars, especially Ab'ul Fida, writes that the Sabians have showed great respect towards the 'house of god' in Makka and visited them periodically (Islam has adopted this practice). Some orientalists point out that amongst the traditions of Hac as accepted by Islam, there exist traditions originating from the ceremonies of the Sun cult. They claim that the 'stoning of the devil' which is adopted by Islam originates from the practice of driving away the 'ifrit' (jinn, Satan) which pesters the Sun.
The Sabians have sacrificial offerings. Here let us refresh our memories on Abraham and his attempt to offer his son Isaac. Abraham's making an altar, arranging the logs in an orderly fashion, then tying up his son and laying him down on this pile of wood is in full compliance with the Sabian tradition, because the Sabians used to kill the child first and then burn it. Sometimes his flesh would be taken away and mixed with dough and cooked, and the rest of the carcass, hair, bones and nerves would be burnt. But to be honest with you, this offering must have its origin in the Harranian branch of the Sabians and not in the Mandaean cult. Mandaeans had sacrificial offering of animals. They did not have human offering. So tese stories of human offering must have entered the codebooks via the story in Genesis, where Abraham is presented as a person coming to Palestine via Harran. if Abraham had really attempted to sacrifice his son, it must have been because he was wrongly believed to be a Sabian of the Harranian branch.
There is making vows in the Sabian faith. The god of Kuran likes very much to make vows on practically everything (Kuran 91:1-8; 95:1-3).
There is full body ablution in the Sabian faith. It is necessary following a sexual union. This type of bodily cleansing is fundamentally a tradition of immersion in water. Following the birth, the newborn is immersed in water. This is basically the baptism of the Christianity. In addition to the bodily ablution, ablution for daily prayers is a must in the Sabian faith. (Bodily ablution and before-prayer-ablutions are adopted by Islam).
MONOGAMY OR POLYGAMY?
The Sabians in Haran and those Sabians which tow the line of Haran believe in the marriage with a single women. But among the Sabians elsewhere, marriage with more than one women is possible if all the woman are treated equally. Christianity has adopted the first solution; ancient Judaism and Islam have adopted the second solution. A Sabian can only marry another Sabian. Those who married strangers or people from another belief system are considered apostates (Judaism has accepted both rules). Marriage bond was finalized in front of the witnesses (Judaism and especially Christianity and Islam have accepted this rule).
Adultery is one of the fundamental 'prohibitions.' Judaism and Islam have very heavy penalties for adultery. It is in some cases a cause for death.
Among the Sabians living in Haran and the Sabians who recognize the authority of Haran, divorce is considered impossible without adultery or without the concrete proof of it. It is almost identical in Christianty. But for those Sabians who are understood to have had a developed sense of ownership, theft, not washing during menstruation, and not doing the daily prayers were also considered as causes for divorce.
Circumcision is a very important social imperative amongst 'Hanifs', who are definitely the 'Sabians of Abraham' (This Sabian practice is adopted exactly by Judaism and Islam).
There are animals the flesh of which are forbidden to eat according to the Sabian faith, which are; all kinds of carcasses; all animals killed without the blood flowing out; all kinds of carnivors with divided hooves; especially pigs and dogs, birds of prey and donkeys. (These are banned. They are 'herem' in Judaism and 'haram' in Islam; Check Kuran 5:3). Pig is banned in Judaism, and consequently in Islam (The Old Testament Leviticus; Deuteronomy 14:
. The pig ban comes from those ages predating the Old Testament, and the Sabians. It is a subject of a totem ban. Pig is a totem animal. The members of a clan establish a tie between the totem animal and themselves. According to these people this totem animal has extraordinary, superhuman attributes, and protects the members of the clan. That is why this animal should not be killed, its flesh should not be consumed. Pig was the animal of another god who was the enemy of Osiris, according to Herodotus. And that god was called 'pig.' It was the god of night and evil. In those moonlit nights pigs were sacrificed to that god and its meat consumed at these ceremonies. According to Ibn Nadim, Sabians used to sacrifice pigs to their gods once every year and consumed pig meat.
DO NOT EAT BLOOD!
This is the taboo of the primitive communities from the days of animism. The Old Testament story on this subject has the clues: The Hebrew god (god of Islam as well) speaks in Leviticus 17:10: "And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eats any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eats blood, and will cast him off from among his people." What could be the reason? He gives the reason in Leviticus 17:11: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul." So that's that! The taboo left over from the days of animism has become a taboo for the Hebrews and for the Muslims.
Interest, and profit based on interest is definitely banned in the Sabian faith. This ban was taken over by the writers of the Old Testament, and the writers of Kuran have made it a part of their belief system. Here we need to explain what is not allowed and what should be acceptable. This interest, or profit based on interest is called 'ribă' in Arabic. This practice called 'ribă' has incurred a disproportionate responsibility on the borrower when paying back the interest. Since this disproportionate part was not in return for something real it is decreed haram-herem and the practice was banned. In the Arab community before Islam a person who was unable to pay back in time had to pay a second 'ribă.' Thus he was made to pay more than he borrowed. This made the rich richer, and the poor poorer. This is banned. Today the interest paid by the banks in return for deposits is nothing like this. Money has a cost. Those who use this money for their purposes has to pay the 'cost'. Today's interest is the cost of money, it has nothing to do with the Arabic 'ribă.'
As could be seen from these pages the Sabian faith is one of those fundamental systems of religious law which had a permanent effect on the belief systems which have come later.