Sunday, September 08, 2013

Kakais of Iraqi Kurdistan

IPS has an article on a Kurdish religious group called the Kakais:
“The soul needs to reincarnate a thousand times before becoming one with god,” says Rajab Assy Karim from Ali Saray, 190 kilometres north of Baghdad. Iraq is full of “shortcuts” to the ultimate, and several seem to pass through this tiny desert village.
The few hundred people living in the adobe houses of Ali Saray are all Kakais, followers of an ancient pre-Islamic creed whose mere survival in this region in the 21st century is a miracle.
Karim knows this, and devotes most of his spare time to collecting books for the only library among the 12 Kakai villages clustered in this region...
The rubble of the 13 houses destroyed in just this village this year bears witness to the violence local residents are subjected to. It is the price to pay for being Kurdish and “pagan” in one of Iraq’s most volatile areas.
I think this article actually has errors.  The Kakais, also called the Ahl-i Haqq, were among the religious groups discussed by Patricia Crone in The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran.  According to that work, they were founded about 1400 by a guy named Sultan Sohak, and are a sort of gnostic group believing in a series of divine incarnations which has included both their founder and Ali, considered by Shi'ites as the first imam.  The context of their foundation would then be the syncretic religious ferment of the mountainous East Anatolia Accretion Zone in the 14th and 15th century that saw mixtures of Islam with local beliefs among mountain peoples, including the Kurds.  Although the author of the linked article says they are secretive about their beliefs, that would be a local self-defense measure, as in the modern world there has been some movement to actually win converts to ensure the religion's survival.  I'm also dubious of the claim that there is only one existing copy of their religious text, the Zanur.

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