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Friday, 6 January 2017

Five relatively unknown religions in the Middle East

As the birthplace of the Abrahamic religions, the Middle East's rich religious history is well-known, but there's a lot more than just Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

The rise of the so-called Islamic State has brought some of these to greater attention lately, as the extremist group targeted Yazidis in north Iraq. But minority religions have long survived waves of new religions, invasions and empires.

Here's five of the lesser known religions that are present in the Middle East:

1. Mandeanism
Coming from the word manda, which is Aramaic for 'knowledge', the gnostic religion has evidence as early as the 7th century suggesting that the religion originated in Mesopotamia, continuing to thrive in modern-day Iraq.

With John the Baptist as their prophet, the remaining 70,000 Mandaeans strongly believe in dualism, cosmology, and leading an ethical lifestyle.


2. Yazidism
More known in this list due to ISIL's persecution of the Yazidis in 2014, Yazidism is a monotheistic religion with major presence in Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Armenia, and Georgia since 4750 BC.

Majorly influenced by Sufism and Zoroastrianism, the 1.4 million Yazidis believe that God's secrets are held within seven angels, most significantly Tawus Melek (Peacock Angel), whose tears lit out the fire God placed him in when he refused to bow to Adam.


3. Samaritanism
A dwindling population of about 800 due to a genetic disease resulting from inter-marriage restrictions, Samaritans descend from the Hebrews, believing that modern day Judaism is an altered version after the Babylonians exiled the original Jews in the early 6th century.

Mostly located in Holon, Occupied Palestine, Samaritans believe Mount Gerizim is the holy land (as opposed to Jerusalem) and that their prophet Taheb, thought to be Moses by many, will resurrect them once dead.


4. Zoroastrianism
Zoroaster, a man from Greater Iran who later became a prophet, had an ambitious vision of establishing a faith that strived to better the world. Influencing empires, religions, and rulers for centuries to come, Zoroastrianism promotes good thoughts, words, and deeds, as well as the path to the truth.

This perfectionist ideal is backed by deeming the Ahura Mazda, an ancient Iranian god as their supreme being. Nonetheless, Zoroastrians were met with great oppression through Abrahamic times, and led to shrinking communities in Iran and India. In 2011, UNESCO organized events worldwide to celebrate the 3000th Zoroastrian anniversary.


5. Bahaism
The Baha'i faith bloomed in Iran in the late 1800s. Considered peaceful by many but divergent by religious scholars, Bahai's promote the unity of God, who is the spiritual origin of all the world's religions. Through teachings and scriptures, Bahai's believe that the soul will get closer to God, forming a basis for a healthy life and afterlife.


Though Bahai communities have sprung up across East Asia, Europe, and the Americas, they still face persecution in their hubs of Iran, Iraq, and Egypt.

(Source: Stepfeed)

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