Here is an interesting article about Sufism and some "heretical" St. John Christians in Afghanistan.
From: http://knol.google.com/k/zia-shah/am...nhcumbuyp/161#Among the Dervishes
This is a book by Omar Michael Burke that has a chapter about a small community in Heerat, Afghanistan that follow both Christian and Muslim tradition. He writes:
"There must be about a thousand of these Christians. Their chief is the Abba Yahiyya (Father John), who can recite the succession of teachers through nearly sixty generations to- Isa, son of Mary, of ‘Nazara', the Kashmiri."
Sunday Telegraph wrote about the book:
"Mr. Burke, an accomplished travel-writer, has had rare opportunities to spend time with Dervish communities in the Middle and Near East, which work towards 'the perfectability of man' ... Mr. Burke's vigorous book opens horizons that cause the mind to soar."
Here is a portion of the chapter number 8 of the book titled, The followers of Jesus:
The followers of Isa, son of Maryam - Jesus the son of Mary *generally call themselves Moslems and inhabit a number of villages scattered throughout the Western area of Afghanistan whose centre is Herat. I had heard of them several times, but considered that they were probably people who had been con*verted by European missionaries from Eastern Persia, or else that they were a relic of the times when Herat had been a flourishing bishopric of the Nestorian rite, before the Arabs conquered Persia in the seventh and eighth centuries.
But, from their own accounts and what I could observe, they seem to come from some much older source.
I found them through one of the deputies of the Mir of Gazarga, the descendant of Mohammed under whose protec*tion they are. Gazarga is the shrine where Abdullah Ansar, a Sufi mystic and great local saint, is buried in a magnificent tomb formerly much visited by the emperors of India and other notables.
There must be about a thousand of these Christians. Their chief is the Abba Yahiyya (Father John), who can recite the succession of teachers through nearly sixty generations to- Isa, son of Mary, of ‘Nazara', the Kashmiri.
According to these people, Jesus escaped from the Cross, was hidden by friends, was helped to flee to India, where he had been before during his youth, and settled in Kashmir, where he is revered as an ancient teacher, Yuz Asaf. It is from this period of the supposed life of Jesus that these people claim to have got their message.
I had several conversations with the Abba; though, not unnaturally if his story was true, there were few points of Christian doctrine as we know it today that we could recognise.
The Abba lived on a farm, and like all the 'Christians' says that their teacher stipulated that his followers should always have a worldly vocation. Jesus, according to this community, was a carpenter and also a shepherd. He had the power to perform miracles, and he did indeed 'die for the sake of his people'. This death, astonishingly enough, is not the death generally assumed. The death was a real one, but it took place long before Jesus started his mission, and it was as a result of this experience that he met God and was sent back to mankind to warn them of their possible fate if they did not seek love and truth.
The 'Traditions of the Masih' (anointed one) is the holy book of the community. They do not believe in the New Testament; or, rather, they say that these Traditions are the New Testa*ment, and that the Gospels which we have are partly true but generally written by people who did not understand the teach*ings of the Master.
Abba Yahiyya, a towering figure with the face of a saint, was certainly an erudite man, and he knew his own scriptures, plus a great deal of the Jewish writings, very well indeed. He had heard of the teachings of the 'heretics' as he called what we would call the various sects of Christians known to us; and he wanted no part of them.
'My son,' he said, in his softly accented Persian, 'these people are reading and repeating a part of the story. They have com*pletely misunderstood the message. We have the story told us by the Master, and through Him we will be saved and made whole. Some of the events in that document which you call the Bible are true, but a great deal is made up or imagined or put in for less than worthy reasons. Isa lived for over thirty years after the materials you have were completed, and He told us what was true.'
Briefly, the doctrine is that Jesus was the Son of God because He had attained that rank through his goodness and sacrifices. Thus He was equal to a divine person. He came after John the Baptist, who himself had reached the highest degree of de*velopment possible at that time. John baptised with water, Jesus with spirit and fire, These were the three stages of under*standing, which were taught by our Christians.
There was a great deal of confusion at first, because I was talking about sacraments and being saved, while it took me some time to realise that Abba John's people regarded baptism, the Holy Ghost and the Kingdom of God to be three stages in a system of human illumination. This is what they claim is the function of the Church: the preservation of and administration of these. three 'developments' for the worshippers.
There is a ritual meal, like the Last Supper, but this is carried out once a week. Bread and wine are eaten, but as symbolic of the grosser and finer nutritions which are the experiences of attainment of nearness to God.
While it is possible to consider these people as mere heretics, or else as followers of someone else who impersonated Jesus, yet I was singularly impressed by their piety, their feeling of cer*tainty, their simplicity and lack of the unpleasant forms of fervour which one often finds in minority cults; They were convinced, too, that the day would come when the world would discover the truth about Jesus. When this took place, it would be the mission of the Followers to come out into the open and teach those who wanted to believe in Jesus, the methods by which a man or woman could 'enter the Kingdom'.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Abba Yahiyya or Abu Yahiyya leader of a sect of Alenzar (Nizariun Hagarenes) with an independent Ishmaili Sufi tradition of Herat in Afghanistan, was introduced to the west through Omar Michael Burke in his book Among the Dervishes in 1976. The traditions of Isa having lived in India are known by some thousand Nizariun devotees of Isa, son of Maryam, who live within several scattered villages in northwestern Afghanistan, centered around Herat. This has been brought out by O. M. Burke, who personally interviewed their spiritual leader, Abba Yahiyya (Father John), while researching Ishmaili Sufism in this area of the globe.. Alenzar also lived in South India and Kenya and were an inspiration for the Ansar nation of islam movement placing Mesiah over mahomed. Alenzariun are the followers of the non-hagarene Arab group who settled Medina from the 72 southist Ansar Havariun families and their Azwajrasul priesthood.
In 'Among the Dervishes', author Omar Michael Burke says that in Herat he encountered about a thousand Sufis who follow the teachings of "Isa, son of Maryam." The chief of these Nizariun named Abba Yahiyya or Father John, was able to recite to Omar a succession of Mages through sixty generations back to the Rock and finally "Isa, son of Mary, of Nazara, the Kashmiri." These clerics were partnered to "sadiqin" in India of the house of Amram and Harun's line (perhaps a reference to Aga Khan?) all the way back to Jakub Assadiq, Yahiyya and Zakariya -Isa's maternal relatives. According to their tradition, their Magian ancestors had been seduced by the anti-namus dualism of Nasiruta until the Rock's missionaries came to guide their apostasy from Nasiruta back towards the siratulmustaqim considering themselves a direct continuation of the pre-islamic Sabiah Hunafa. The essential differences from other Ishmaelis are that they regard mahomed as nothing more than a title for the chief Mages (the آبائ who oddly enough may be male or female) in their magisterium of إخوان (which continues the roles of the nabi and observe a sabbath from Friday nights) whose responsibility it is to protect the identity of the 36 pairs of Zealot families and their priestly kahan Azwajrasul, from general laity through a system of social eligibility rules concerning courtship.
The 'Traditions of the Masih' (arranged and translated by Harvard University Press) is the holy book of the community which they say complete the injeel, the Gospels being only part of the truth. Omar describes Abba Yahiyya as "a towering figure with the face of a saint," an erudite man who knows his own scriptures and the Jewish writings. Father Yahiyya considered the various sects of Christians known to us today, as heretics
Every celebratory occasion is marked by a festive meal called Al-Maeda, always commenced with a breaking bread blessing, and concluded with a thanksgiving toast but the fruit of the vine is not consumed among them. They carry daggers which are never drawn, use bathing garments, and grow their hair long wearing turbans like the sikhs. Ramadaan and Hajj are considered to occur at the right time (winter and spring respectively) for three years in a row in intervals of 33 years. At such a Hajj, Alenzar vows are fulfilled with sacrifices, headshaving, free-association and edible vine products.
1. ^ Omar Michael Burke, Among the Dervishes (London: Octagon Press, 1976) 107.
2. ^ Istawa M. Angevine, I'm a Muslim and Jesus is my Lord: Muslims for Jesus, Bloomington: 1stBooks, 2003
There is a group of modern 'Gnostics' in my area that trace their lineage back to St. John. They don't really use the term Gnostic because they (quite correctly) believe that this term was applied from the outside (not unlike pagan or heathen come to think of it.) They call themselves Johannites and their bishop always takes the name Johannes. There are a number of similar groups throughout history who trace their lineage back to St. John. The two Johns, St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist are integrated into Freemasonry. There are depictions of the 2 Johns as two opposite poles on astrological charts. Interestingly enough, in the cult of Mithras, Mithras had 2 attendants who stood at opposite sides of depictions of the cosmos.
Another group of wayward Christians who are known as St. John Christians are the Mandaeans, who amazingly are still around, though their numbers have dwindled since the invasion of Iraq.