The Alevi and
are two different
sects sharing common
name. The Alevis
in Turkey. The Alawis
Alawis believe in the absolute unity
of God who is undefinable
God however reveals
to man in a Trinitarian
form. This has happened
seven times in history,
the last and final
in 'Ali, Muhammad,
and Salman al-Farisi.
(Salman was a Persian
disciple and close
companion of Muhammad).
The first person of this Trinity ('Ali)
represents the Meaning of the Deity
(Ma'na) which is the inner essence
of God. The second person (Muhammad)
is the Name or the Veil of Deity (Ism,
Hijab) - its outward manifestation.
The third person (Salman) is the Gate
(Bab) of the Deity, through whom the
true believer can gain an entrance
to the mystery of the Godhead as revealed
The first person, the Ma'na, is the real
substance of God, the source and meaning
of all things. The other two are derived
from him and inferior to him. They
are emanations of the Ma'na's light.
In 'Alawi theology 'Ali is thus placed
above Muhammad in the hierarchy of
the trinity. All attributes and names
of God are given to 'Ali and worship
is directed to him.
Muhammad emanated from the light of 'Ali's
essence, and 'Ali taught him the Quran.
Muhammad's role as Ism (Name = Logos?)
was to create and sustain the universe,
and as Veil (Hijab) to reveal 'Ali
to mankind. Muhammad is thus the intermediary
between man and God.
Salman in turn emanated from Muhammad
and is the only Door (Bab) which leads
to the Ma'na through the Ism. He also
appeared as the angel Gabriel to guide
Muhammad into the Quran. He is also
called the Holy Spirit and the Universal
Soul, the third person in the 'Alawi
The 'Alawi profession of faith states:
"I testify that there is no God
but 'Ali ibn-Talib the one to be worshipped,
no Veil but the Lord Muhammad worthy
to be praised, and no Gate but the
Lord Salman al-Farisi the object of
The mystery of the Trinity is the centre
of 'Alawi worship and rites. It is
symbolised by the three letters AMS
(Arabic 'Ain, Mim, Sin) standing for
'Ali, Muhammad and Salman. These three
are one and it is blasphemy to try
and separate them. Meditating on the
relationship between the three persons
of this Trinity is part of 'Alawi
Out of the Bab emanated the five Lords
of the Elements (Aytam - incomparable
ones), who are also identified with
real historical figures. These powers
(hierarchies) under Salman, are the
creators and sustainors of this universe.
Below them are five further spiritual
ranks. All these heavenly beings appeared
in human form and are personified
in Nusairi notables.
In addition to the hierarchies, the 'Alawis
also revere many prophets and apostles.
The total number of hierarchies, apostles
and prophets is said to be 124,000.
Light is the very essence of God, so
the 'Alawis worship the sun and the
moon seeing them as the abodes of
'Ali, Muhammad and Salman. Actually
there are two divisions within the
'Alawis: The Shamsiya (from the Arabic
Shams, meaning sun), identify 'Ali
with the sun and Salman with the moon.
The other group, the Qamariyah (from
Qamar, the moon), identify 'Ali with
the moon and Salman with the sun.
Prayers are said facing the sun.
The heavens are worshipped as God's abode.
'Alawi worship of sun, moon and sky
can be traced back to the Sabean sect,
an ancient Aramaic community of upper
Mesopotamia (Harran) who worshipped
the sun, moon and the five planets.
They believed that God had one essence
but was multiple in his manifestations.
Like Twelver Shi'ites, the 'Alawis believe
in the twelve Imams from 'Ali down
to Muhammad the Mahdi, each of whom
had a Gate (Bab) who served as the
pathway leading believers to the Imam.
The twelfth Imam disappeared leaving
no Bab. This position was then claimed
by ibn-Nusayr the founder of the 'Alawi
faith. The Imams are seen as pre-
existent heavenly spirits around God's
throne who later descended to earth
in physical bodies to lead humans
in praise back to God.
The 'Alawi feasts include the general
Muslim feasts of 'Id al-Fitr ( but
without the fast of Ramadan) and 'Id
al-Adha (without the pilgrimage to
Mecca). From Shi'a Islam they celebrate
'Id al-Ghadir that commemorates 'Ali's
nomination as successor to Muhammad,
and the 'Ashura that commemorates
the martyrdom of Hussein, 'Ali's son,
The Persian Nawruz (New Year, held in
Spring and symbolising the change
from cold to heat), and the Mihrajan
(signifying the change from heat to
cold in the Autumn), are also celebrated
by the 'Alawis revealing the strong
Persian links of their religion.
Christian feast days such as Christmas,
Epiphany (the baptism of Jesus by
John the Baptist), Pentecost and Palm
Sunday are celebrated. Also the feasts
of Saint John the Baptist, Saint John
Chrysostom, Saint Barbara and Saint
The 'Alawis also celebrate a ceremony
resembling the mass (Quddass), where
wine and bread are consecrated and
partaken of by the male initiates.
The wine especially is considered
to be the very essence of God ('Ali),
transsubstantiated by the mass and
offered to the believer. It is called
"The Servant Of Light" ('Abd
al-Nur). Vines are treated with great
respect in 'Alawi culture.
The main 'Alawi Holy Book is the "Kitab
al-Majmu'" compiled by al-Khasibi
and containing 16 Suras. Other sacred
books are: Kitab al-Mashaykha (manual
for Sheikhs), Kitab Majmu' al-'Ayad
(Book of Feasts) and Kitab Ta'lim
al-Diyana al-Nusayriyyah, the 'Alawi
The 'Alawis believe in the transmigration
of souls (metempshychosis, reincarnation).
Unbelievers (Muslims, Christians,
Jews) return as animals, whilst 'Alawis
are reincarnated in other 'Alawis
and eventually can reach the state
of luminous stars!
Another important 'Alawi principle is
that of Taqiya - religious dissimulation,
practiced also by Shi'as and the Druze.
'Alawis may pretend to adhere outwardly
to the majority religion in order
to ensure their own survival. This
also means keeping the 'Alawi religion
and its principles hidden from outsiders.
The Alawi dominated goverment of Syria
has been making steady progress in
making the Alawi sect conform to
Islamic beliefs. The Alawi dominated
government killed over 10,000 Muslims
in Hama in 1982 and since has moved
towards including Islam in daily life
Page last updated:
Friday, November 25, 2005 22:04:51 -0500