Who are the Saabi’ah (Sabaeans)?
Fatwa No: 23568

Question

What is meant by the Saabi’ah (Sabaeans), who were mentioned in the Chapter of Al-Baqarah [Quran 2:60]? Do they follow a heavenly religion? Who is the messenger that was sent to them? Do they exist today?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu 'alyhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

Imaam Al-Qurtubi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned, in the course of interpreting the above-mentioned verse, that scholars disagree about what is meant by the Saabi’ah:

  1. Some say that the Saabi’ah are a sect from the People of the Book and that it is permissible for Muslims to eat the animals that they slaughter and to marry their women;
  2. Others say that the Saabi’ah follow a religion similar to Christianity but they turn to the south in their prayers, and they allege that they follow the religion of Nooh (Noah)  may  Allaah  exalt  his  mention;
  3. A third group say that the Saabi’ah follow a religion that is a mixture of Judaism and Magianism, and that it is prohibited for Muslims to eat the animals they slaughter or to marry their women; and
  4. A fourth party say that the Saabi’ah worship angels and turn to the Muslims' Qiblah (prayer direction) in their prayers. Their holy Book is the Zaboor (Book of Psalms) and they perform five prayers a day.

Imaam Al-Qurtubi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him concluded that the Saabi’ah believe in monotheism, but they also believe in the influence of the stars and, therefore, scholars categorize them as disbelievers. 

It was also said that the only existing sect of the Saabi’ah is called Al-Mindaa’iyyah. This sect considers its prophet to be Yahya (John)  may  Allaah  exalt  his  mention. The followers of this sect glorify the planets and the stars, and they turn to the North Pole in their prayers and practice baptism. 

Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned that the Saabi’ah are of two kinds :

  1. As-Saabi’ah Al-Hunafaa’ (monotheistic Sabaeans):  they are considered followers of the Torah and Bible before it was fabricated and changed.  This sect was praised by Allaah The Exalted in the Quran.
  2. The polytheistic Saabi’ah: they worship heavenly spirits (the angels) and their holy Book is the Zaboor (Book of Psalms).  They also perform prayers.

In conclusion, it appears that the Saabi’ah is a term that applies to several sects and groups:

  • Some of them are followers of Nooh (Noah)  may  Allaah  exalt  his  mention;
  • Some of them are the followers of Yahya, son of Zakariyya, may Allaah exalt their mention;
  • Some of them follow a religion which is a mixture of Judaism and Christianity; and
  • Some of them follow a religion which is a mixture of Judaism and Magianism.

As for where the existing sects of the Saabi’ah live today, they are mainly found in Iraq and Iran. In Iraq they are spread along the lower banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the area of Al- Ahwaar and Shatt Al-Arab.  Their population is mainly centered in the following cities: Al-‘Imaarah, An-Naasiriyyah, Al-Basrah (Basra), Qal‘at Salih, Al-Halafaayah, Sooq Ash-Shuyookh and Al-Qarnah.  In Iran they reside along the banks of the Karoon River and Ar-Rizz, in addition to the Iranian coastal cities.

Allaah Knows best.

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