The Religion of Mandaeism or Mandaeanism is a gnostic religion with a strongly dualistic worldview. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh,Noah, Shem, Aram and especially John the Baptist, but reject Abraham, Mosses and Jesus of Nazareth. According to most scholars, Mandaeans migrated from the Southern Levant to Mesopotamia in the first centuries CE and are certainly of pre-Arab and pre-Islamic origin.
They are Semites and speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. They may well be related to the “Nabateans of Iraq” who were pagan, Aramaic-speaking indigenous pre-Arab and pre-Islamic inhabitants of southern Iraq. Mandaeans appear to have settled in northern Mesopotamia, but the religion has been practiced primarily around the lower Karun, Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. There are thought to be between 60,000 and 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide, and until the 2003 Iraq war, almost all of them lived in Iraq.
Many Mandaean Iraqis have since fled their country (as have many other Iraqis) because of the turmoil created by the War on Terror and subsequent rise in sectarian violence by Muslim extremists. By 2007, the population of Mandaeans in Iraq had fallen to approximately 5,000. Most Mandaean Iraqis have sought refuge in Iran with the fellow Mandaeans there. Others have moved to northern Iraq.
There has been a much smaller influx into Syria and Jordan, with smaller populations in Sweden, Australia, the United States, and other Western countries. The Mandaeans have remained separate and intensely private—reports of them and of their religion have come primarily from outsiders, particularly from the Orientalist Julius Heinrich Petermann, Nicolas Siouffi a Yazidi (1880), and Lady Drower. An Anglican vicar, Rev. Peter Owen-Jones, included a short segment on a Mandaean group in Sydney, Australia, in his BBC series Around the World in 80 Faiths.