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The Nusayris-ʿAlawis, whose history and origins were discussed in the previous post, have remained a secretive, esoteric community, observing taqiyya and closely guarding the religious doctrines of Alawites. Even within their community, Nusayri teachings are accessible only to the initiated members (khassa), as distinct from the uninitiated masses (ʿamma), while women are excluded from the initiation process. Every male member of the community has the right, on attaining adulthood, usually at    the age of eighteen, to become initiated

Religious duties: Based on the doctrines of Alawites, the religious duties of the Nusayris-ʿAlawis, of both the initiated and uninitiated members of the community, are limited to moral obligations of a general nature. The Nusayris also participate in certain religious practices such as pilgrimages (ziyarat) to the tombs of Nusayri saints.

The basis of the doctrines of Alawites:

Aspects of Nusayri teachings are to be found in the Kitab al-haft wa’l-azilla, a Mufaddali–Nusayri text that takes the form of a dialogue between Imam Jaʿfar al-Sadiq and al-Mufaddal b. ʿUmar al-Juʿfi

  • The Nusayri religion draws on pagan, Christian and Islamic traditions which are amalgamated particularly with certain radical Shiʿi elements.
  • The Nusayris also resort to esoteric or allegorical interpretations of Qurʾanic passages.
  • Central to the Nusayri system of religious thought is the deification of ʿAli b. Abi Talib.
  • The Nusayris believe in metempsychosis (tanasukh) and incarnation (hulul) of the divine Essence, or maʿna, in certain historical and mythical figures as well as in the imams. They hold that the ineffable God has appeared, at different times, in human form
  • They also hold that the deity has been manifested in seven eras
  • Trinity: the Nusayris also espouse a cyclical view of history, which they combine with their Neoplatonised emanational cosmogony. (adwar    or akwar), each time in the form of a trinity: two entities or persons (aqanim) emanate from the divine Essence (maʿna), namely, ism, the Name, also called hijab, the Veil; and bab, the Gate, through which the believer may contemplate the mystery of divinity. In each era,   the maʿna is veiled by the presence of ism or hijab, representing the prophets from Adam to Muhammad. Each prophet is, in turn, accompanied by a bab, the Gate through which the believer may contemplate the mystery of

The divine trinity of the Nusayriyya has been incarnated not only in historical but also in mythical persons, including biblical figures and others from the Greek, Iranian and Islamic traditions

In the seventh and final era, that of Islam or al-qobba al- Muhammadiyya, the divine trinity is represented by ʿAli as the maʿna, Muhammad as the ism or hijab, and Salman al-Farsi as the bab.

  • Shia Imams in the doctrines of Alawis: In the era of Islam, the deity was later manifested also in the first eleven imams of the Twelver Shiʿis, ending with al-Hasan al-ʿAskari, and their disciples. The babs of these eleven imams were the inter- mediaries between the concealed divinity and the initiated believers. For instance, Muhammad b. Nusayr himself is regarded as the bab of the eleventh imam, al-Hasan al-ʿAskari, whose secret revelation was preserved through him exclusively for the Nusayriyya
  • Beginning of time in the doctrines of Alawis: According to this myth, in the beginning of time, the souls of the Nusayris were lights surrounding and praising God. After a series of transgressions, including the sin of disputing His divinity, the Nusayri souls fell to the material world, where they became encased in material bodies and condemned to metempsychosis, temporal (for the elect) or eternal (for the damned) transmigration (nasukhiyya). In the course of their fall as noted above, God appears to them seven times in seven eras calling for their obedience. The Nusayri believer who acknowledges the identity of the  maʿna is saved and may be liberated from metempsychosis; the soul of such a saved Nusayri is released from its body and embarks on a journey across the heavens towards the divine light. Once again, women are excluded from this soteriological journey.

Taken from: A History of Shiʿi Islam

By: Farhad Daftary


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