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The Sabians of Harran

The Sabians of Harran

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Published by: blue_july2000 on Jan 15, 2009
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The Sabians of Harran
By Kemal Menemencioglu
This Article was written for and published in the bilingual Turkishmagazine Consensus.
When we mention Anatolian civilizationsvery few of us think of Harran. The cityof Harran is virtually a forgotten spot inthe geography of Anatolia. Whereas inreality, it is a place of great importancehaving a very significant role in thedevelopment of civilization. It maysurprise you to know that a 11,500-year-old temple was discovered inGöbeklitepe, and a 13,500-year-oldstatue, the world’s oldest, wasdiscovered during an excavation inBalıklıgöl. Assistant Professor A. CihatKürkçüoglu of Harran University claimsthat the history of civilization began in the Urfa (a city just 45kilometers from Harran). When we consider that civilization began inEgypt in Mesopotamia roughly 5,000 years ago we can have an ideaon how these archeological finds have rocked the foundations of ourunderstanding of history.The city of Harran was believed to have been founded in 2000 B.C. asa merchant outpost of Ur. The name "Harran-U" means "caravan" or"crossroad" in Sumerian and Akkadian. The Bible records thatAbraham stayed in Harran after leaving Ur, which some claim wasactually Urfa. Though there are claims that Harran got its name fromHaran the brother of Abraham. Other than the similarity of name thisis not substantiated. Furthermore, we learn that Terah, the father of Abraham and Haran died and was buried in Haran, and that a branchof the family remained there. Later Abraham sent a servant to Harranto obtain a wife for his son Isaac.Though Harran, once a fabulous city, is now in ruins, we are told thatnot only was this city built over an area where the first world's citieswith the first temples rose, and where agriculture was first started, but
The World's Oldest Statue
hosted perhaps the world's oldest university in the world. Manyphilosophers, scientists, such as Al-Battanai, who calculated thedistance from the Earth to the Moon, Thabit ibn Qurrah, who translatedGreek classics and scientific works into Arabic, and wrote onmathematics and astronomy, and the physicist and chemist Jabir ibnHayyan to name just a few of the figures who rose to prominence inthe Harran school.At a time when Christianitywas rapidly spreadingthroughout the known world.Harran became the last paganenclave, and as the the seatsof learning in Alexandria fellin the wake of the newreligion, and the Academiesand schools of philosophywere closed down,philosophers sought refuge inHarran, where their booksand teachings werepreserved. Later many of them were translated intoArabic. Some by the so called"Sabians of Harran", usheringa golden age in the Islamicworld. Later these works wereto make their way intoEurope, directly resulting inthe Renaissance along withthose works that werepreserved in monasteries.Furthermore suchunderground movements asthe Rosicrucians that foughtfor the reformation of stateinstitutions, religion and science claimed their source of knowledgefrom the mysterious Damkar, believed to be a Sabian center of learning. The secular, democratic and humanistic principles of themodern world are due to such struggles which have taken centuries.The first church and the first Mosque in Anatolia was built there, butthe Harranians were famed as Sabians, "Star Worshippers." BothJewish and Islamic sources claim that Abraham was himself a star
Ruins of the Harran University destroyed in 1251
worshiper, and there is a mutually story told that after contemplatingthe setting of Sun and the Moon, he came to the conclusion that theremust be one God. There was a great temple dedicated to the moongod Sin at Harran, and it is claimed that Harran was one of seven citieseach of which was dedicated to one of the seven planets. Such asystem of astrolatry could be the oldest religion of man. Ancientstructures like Stonehenge and the pyramids are known to beconstructed on the basis of very fine astronomical calculations suchplanetary and stellar movements, seasons and eclipse. It is also thesource for astrology which seeks to establish a unity between thegreater phenomenon in the macrocosmos, and the lesser phenomenonin the microcosmos (man).In 639 A.D. Harran came under Islamic rule The Caliph Marwan (744-750 AD) moved to Harran and brought the Umayyad Empire fromDamascus to Harran. In 830 A.D. It is said that the Caliph al-Ma'mumwhile passing through Harran during an expedition to Byzantium,asked the Harranians what religion they belonged to. They said, "Weare Harranians," and made it clear that they were neither Muslims,Christians or Jews, the Caliph said that was not goodenough, they had to be either Muslims, Jews, Christians orSabians, as only these are lawfully "People of the Book"according to the Koran. The Caliph continued on his journey and saidthey when he got back, they better convert to one these or it would belawful to shed the blood of idolaters. After consultations the anxiousHarranians were advised by someone clever to say "We are Sabians,"and thereby the Pagan "Sabians" were able to continue their faithundisturbed until in 1251, when Harran was destroyed by a Mongolinvasion.The Harranian school drew from many resources, they had their rootsin Chaldea and schools of the Magi; they harbored priceless Greekscrolls and which would have otherwise may have been lost. Theywere influenced by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They reveredHermes Trismegistus as theri prophet and the Corpus Hermeticum astheir holy book. Hermes Trismegistus was believed to be an ancientgreat Egyptain sage, perhaps Imhotep, who as the founder of writingand the author of many books on science, medicine, theology, ethics,astrology, alchemy and magic. In the Hermeticum we have histeaching in the form of mystic visions, He has been equated with theGreek god Hermes, and the Egyptian god Thoth or Tehuti, but theHermeticum portrays a divinely inspired teacher. He has also beenequated with Enoch in the Bible, and Idris in the Koran. Through theHermeticum's monotheistic teachings, the Harranians where able to

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