Harranian is an exonym for Yazdânism and should be merged with that page.
The Sabians of Harran, a sect of Hermetists, often confused with the Mandaeans. As star-worshippers, Sabians showed a great interest in astronomy, astrology, magic and mathematics. This sect lived in the vicinity of the main center of the Caliphate until 1258, when the Mongols destroyed their last shrine. During Muslim rule, they were a protected minority, and around the time of al-Mutawakkil's reign their town became a center for philosophical, esoteric and medical learning. They were joined by the descendants of pagan Greek scholars who, having been persecuted in Europe, settled in lands that became part of the Abbasid caliphate. The Muslims were greatly interested in Greek culture and science, collecting and translating many ancient Greek works in the fields of philosophy and mathematics. Although they later became Arabic speakers, in pre-Islamic times, it was common for Sabians to speak Greek.
Christianity and Harranian
Harran was a centre of Christianity from early on, the first place where purpose-built churches were constructed openly. However although a bishop resided in the city, many people of Harran retained their ancient pagan Karzdi faith during the Christian period and thus the Harranian culture was born here in Harran.
At the beginning of the Islamic period Harran was located in the land of the Mudar tribe (Diyar Mudar), the western part of northern Mesopotamia (Jazira). Along with ar-Ruha' (Edessa, present day Urfa) and ar Raqqah it was one of the main cities in the region. During the reign of the Umayyad caliph Marwan II Harran became the seat of the caliphal government of the Islamic empire stretching from Spain to Central Asia.
It was allegedly the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun passing through Harran on his way to a campaign against Byzantium who forced the Harranians to convert to either one of the 'religions of the book', meaning Judaism, Christianity or Islam. The people of Harran identified themselves with the Sabians in order to fall under the protection of Islam. Sabians were mentioned in the Quran but those were a group of Gnostic Mandaeans living in southern Iraq, but extinct at the time of al-Ma'mun. The Harranian Sabians and the ones mentioned in the Quran have nothing in common.
Islam's first university
During the late 8th and 9th century Harran was a centre for translating works of astronomy, philosophy, natural sciences and medicine from Greek to Arabic, bringing the knowledge of the classical world to the emerging Arabic speaking civilization. Baghdad came to this work later than Harran. Many important scholars of natural science, astronomy and medicine originate from Harran, including possibly the alchemist Geber.
The end of the Sabians
In 1032 or 1033 the temple of the Sabians was destroyed and the urban community extinguished by an uprising of the rural starving 'Alid-Shiite population with impoverished urban Muslim militias. In 1059-60 the temple was rebuilt into a fortified residence of the Numayrids, an Arab tribe assuming power in the Diyar Mudar (western Al-Jazira, Mesopotamia) during the 11th century. The Zangid ruler Nur al-Din Mahmud transformed the residence into a strong fortress.
During the Crusades, on May 7, 1104 a decisive battle was fought in the Balikh valley, commonly known as the Battle of Harran. However, according to Matthew of Edessa the actual location of the battle lies two days away from Harran. Albert of Aachen and Fulcher of Chartres locate the battle ground in the plain opposite to the city of ar Raqqah. During the battle, Baldwin of Bourcq, count of Edessa, was captured by Seljuq troops. After his release Baldwin became king of Jerusalem.At the end of 12th century Harran served together with ar-Raqqah as residence of Ayyubid princes. The Ayyubid ruler of the Jazira, al-'Adil Abu Bakr, again strengthened the fortifications of the castle. In the 1260s the city was completely destroyed and abandoned during the Mongol wars. The father of the famous Hanbalite scholar Ibn Taymiyah was a refugee from Harran, settling in Damascus. The 13th century Arab historian Abulfeda describes the city in ruins.