Prophet Mani (pbuh) is one of the great prophets of God. What do we know of his life and teachings?
History across the globe is replete with stories of good souls who came to this world with the intention of guiding and reforming the people, making those beaten down and rejected realise their potential, and uprooting tyrannical systems and leaders. One such man whose story has been pushed to the edge of our reckoning is Prophet Mani, ‘The Light King’.
His call exemplified the key fundamentals of recognising God’s proof in creation; he came claiming a divine successorship, and only called to the supremacy of God’s will. He exemplified and embodied divine knowledge attempting to install a kingdom of heaven on earth extolling peace, harmony, and justice to all mankind. His call, therefore, resonated with that of the other prophets who have been sent to humanity from the same, one true God, such as Prophet Muhammad (pbuhahf) who was from his lineage.
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. He who has more integrity has indeed greater honour with God. Surely God is all-knowing and well-informed.”
– Holy Quran, Al-Hujurat verse 13
The true identity of his parents and the event of his birth have been shrouded in mystery. His birth as Mani was recorded as 215 AD on the eastern banks of the Tigris river, Iraq, near Edessa at a time of bitter conflict between Persia and the Byzantine empire, and the name of his mother was Mary. Babylonia was caught in the melee, just as it is today in modern Iraq. However, it seems likely with many observers stating the calendar is not accurate that these timelines require considerable readjustment. Either way, he was born into a world with pure religion having been manipulated by self-seeking Magi priests and distorted Zoroastrianism, Chaldean paganism, and Mandean ritual in the heartlands of Asia.
Early on, he showed significant potential as a painter and poet, when at just twelve years old he received his ‘Twin’ angelic guide.
“Withdraw from the sect, no people belong to you, your concern is with purifying the soul and abandoning the passions, but the time for public appearance has not yet come, for you are now still too young.”
– Gospel of Mani Pg. 25, When AnNadim Spoke to Mani
This angelic guidance was pivotal to his apprenticeship in faith, monotheism and the importance to extol the edicts of the righteous call enabling him to,
“…see the Whole and become one body and one spirit.”
– Gospel of Mani, p.26
The same angel returned when he was 24 years old.
“Now the time has come for you to go out and proclaim your authority as God’s prophet. This is from myself and my Lord who sent me and has chosen you for his message. He has now bidden you to invite people to your truth and to proclaim the good news of the truth from before him and persevere in that with all your zeal.”
– The Book of the Teaching of the Light, Peter Thompson, Mani of the Light
Remarkably, Mani also acknowledged a belief in Ahru Mazda, who commissioned Zoroaster to start his call to people in Persia. Mani claimed support from the same,
“Those who follow me and put their hope in God, Ahura Mazda and want the pure and righteous select to be their leaders, they are the ones saved and find salvation from the cycle of rebirths and attain eternal redemption.”
– Apocryphal Epistle of Mar Ammo Ascribed to Mani
This is of primary importance, as today Imam Ahmad Al-Hassan (fhip) has confirmed Ahru Mazda is, in fact, the same Jesus (pbuh), who was the spiritual guide for both Mani and Zoroaster in their age. The question remains, was this only an interaction with Mani, or is the connection far deeper? This subject is something we must go into, to truly understand the link between Jesus, Mani, and Muhammad (pbut). Who were Mani’s physical father and mother?
He was a renowned ascetic and was often referred to as ‘the beggar’, for the way he lived such a humble life. He sought to treat all with gentleness and affection, and was received with adoration by his adherents. They were full of praise and gratitude.
A precious ‘Kephalaia’ gives us further insight into his supernatural mysticism.
“This cloud which is visible to you which you see, I shall show you and make clear to you how it has come up.”
He then described how different formations of clouds are derived from different combinations of elements of fire, water, wind, light and air.
The mission began on home turf reaching the court of King Shapur, who granted Mani’s followers protection in the lands and eventually embraced the call. However, later, under pressure from the clergy, he imprisoned Mani, denying him food, though when Mani healed his horse he was restored to prominence and the state religion changed in tandem. The call of ‘The Living Truth’ spread to India and Africa for some ten years, preaching through the power of light, leading to the conversion of Augustine of Hippo.
He preached to them the hope of life and there, chose a good selection of disciples. He reached out to West Asia and the Sassanid dynasty, leading to a flourishing in Syria, Iraq, and Persia, despite persecution from other creeds. He eventually returned home and established a church. As the call grew, the rulers rose against Mani, incited by the various sects of the age. He wondered how people preferred to bear tyranny and tried to shackle his pure message, rather than embrace his divine call. As with all pure religions of God, there was a group of devoted apostles who would act as missionaries and advisors, and just like with Jesus and
Muhammad (pbuhahf) and the tribes of Moses, this consisted of twelve in number. These pure devotees adored him, such as Amu, Sissin, his constant companion, who tried to draw out the light and bring immortality out of death.
They were sent far and wide, to places such as Babylon, Edessa, and Ahwaz. In later years the call spread to China amongst the Uygur, and to Rome in the 3rd Century.
Many have alluded to the duality belief and worship of Jesus as a divine messenger only by the Bogomil, Cathar, and Waldensians, as an indication of their being offshoots of this call. Fundamentally, we see how his call was shackled by the animosity of the people. Once an apostle asked his luminary,
“O please, our Lord, give us two Manis who resemble thyself and come down like thee! Good and serene and kind must they be….When our Luminary heard these words, he nodded and said, See I, a single Mani has come to preach the good. Will they have not given me the chance to speak freely, yet in truth done the work of the Mystery, the world resists me heaping calumnies on me through sects. I brought out the impurity within and planted the tree of wisdom. If now two men come to the world, where would they be able to bear them or welcome them?”
– Gospel of Mani p.37, Duncan Greenless
Of his original doctrine, only a few Syriac fragments remain, with at least seven or eight books having been penned, such as the Homilies and Treasure of Life, and a Book of Psalms. Of course, many words have been twisted to a degree, to satisfy the whims of the scholars of the age.
Overlaps with gnostic Christianity abound in texts such as the Hymn of the Soul embedded in The Acts of John.
A foundation stone of the Manichaean faith is the aspect of duality. This alludes back to a key point: if God is Good, why is there evil in our world? Mani (pbuh) reminds us that God is, in fact, not the direct creator of this world, but darkness is a by-product of light, so once light exists, then darkness does as well, as they are two polar opposites and co-eternal sources. So this Cosmic struggle predates creation. Mani tells us that his twin angels revealed before these two forces were in equilibrium with a separate king over each realm, darkness and light. God’s Kingdom is beyond compare and this did not go unnoticed by Satan, leading to an upsurge of envy and his decision to capture the light and subdue it for himself. Therefore darkness swallowed the light, resulting in the mixing of these forces, and we are fundamentally a product of this conflict. This concept of duality is not isolated to Manichaeism. Other scriptures promulgated this reality. Apocryphal and Yazidi texts state the Lord of darkness fashioned the body of Adam out of an altered form of black mud. The arrogance of Satan permeates through their texts,
“In the secret cave of my wisdom it is known there is no God but myself, knowing this who dares then worship the false gods of the Quran and Bible?”
– Melek Taus, from Ashemaogha Becoming Ahriman, v.1
Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (pbuh), the fifth Imam of Shia Islam, revealed also that the devil created the world,
“Creation of these realms is hard to fathom, not everyone knows the way to knowledge, and its secret is well concealed. In the beginning was God, the only eternal God and nothing else, from terror sprang the light, the High king lent Azazel (dear one of God) his light, and using this light he shaped his creations. This arrogant one told God you are God and I am a God, and both these spirits we have made.”
– Umm Al Khitab
This stance prevented Satan from accepting the ultimate truth that all his creation is from the light of God, and that his own power is derived from God alone, and that by himself, he could do nothing.
“For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.”
– Holy Bible: Hebrews 3:4
In Christianity, Jesus said that my Kingdom is not of this world, that people were either sons of the Devil or sons of God. The tempter Devil showed all the kingdoms of this world to him and said, I will give this all to you if you only bow down and worship me. Jesus personified the mandate of Mani,
“Where have you come from? Say, we have come from the light from where the light came into being by itself established itself and appeared in their image. I say if you are whole you will be filled with light, but if divided you will be filled with darkness.”
– Gospel of Thomas, Saying 61
Also, we find in Zoroastrianism, the Devil, or Angra Mainyu, was pitted against Ahura Mazda. Zarathustra taught the same principle concerning the mixing of light and darkness, with the goal of life to retrieve light from darkness and how the creator of this world is the devil. Dr. Amandala represents the faith and says,
“Evil is complete and independent of good… pairs of opposites, God is not the source of both, if so it would be a contradiction and chaos, if evil comes from him He is not all good or deserving of our worship, if he is all good only good should exist so evil existing must be independent of his will, if he for some purpose wills both good and evil, then he himself is imperfect, if he wills only good, someone else wills evil, the Devil.”
– The Gospel of the Prophet Mani, p. 149
Clearly, God is benevolent, and light and darkness only come from the personification of evil, the devil. The vital point to recognize is that the demon who controls this world is also a created being and not the absolute, One true God. Mani then teaches us in response, as mercy and salvation, God sent emanations of light sparks into the devil’s creation as conscious souls, like divers who remove the shiny pearl from the coarse and unrefined Oyster, to purify the light that had become entangled in the darkness. The first five-fold potencies, powers of light, were aspects of the complete human mind, and remarkably, we know today from the 7th Covenant these five pure souls were the first creation of God: Muhammad, Ali, Fatima, Hassan, and Hussain (pbut).
So once the light was planted in the clay, the goal of the wise is to reawaken the Adamite consciousnesses to their heavenly origin, so they would become willing to undertake a path of self-purification to realise the divine within themselves. Therefore, the spirit to overcome the tendencies of the body, such a philosophy dovetails perfectly with the beliefs of other religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, and the struggle of the self, emphasised by Muhammad (pbuhahf). Finally, there would be a showdown with light triumphant, so we must choose our destiny.
In turn, this led to the manifestation of this awakening through certain symbolic acts of devotion, including fasting, self-purification, and ritual prayer. The key was to magnify God-consciousness in the heart of the believer so they would willingly renounce the self to become more altruistic and virtuous. As darkness and evil began to prevail on earth, the need for God to send a liberator to the nations to eradicate ignorance and facilitate this conscious shift became increasingly apparent. Of course, one such visionary was Mani himself. Mani would encourage his pure and devout servants to sit down in contemplative meditation, to turn away from lusts of the body, and increase in what is pious. He taught the importance of daily prayer, at key times of midday afternoon and sun fall, 4-7 times per day in unison with Islam. Adherents would stand with palms open to the sky and also perform ablution,
“Now indeed, man stands up, washes in flowing water, and turns towards the greater luminary
– Al Nadim’s Fihrist 333:14
The face of prayer being the sun and moon was not just symbolic, it was the light of God from the
“It is the gate of life and Vehicle of Peace for this great Aeon of the Light, But Satan knows that it is the door for the soul’s escape, so he put a strong injunction in his law that none should honour it.”
– The Gospel of the Prophet Mani, Page xliii
If the moon was absent, they would turn to the North. Zoroastrians perform the ritual prayer facing the fire, but only as a conduit to the absolute God, who said,
“We therefore bow before thee with confessions of guilt to Ahura Mazda, all good thoughts, words well said and deeds well done with these, we would approach thee. “
– Yasna 36:5
Islamic prophecies remarkably reveal how some of the most unlikely people would embrace the truth in our era, those like the supporters of Mani (pbuh).
Imam Al-Sadiq (pbuh) said: “If the Qa’im (pbuh) rises, those who were seen to be on this matter go out of it, and the likes of the worshippers of the sun and the moon enter it.”
–Al-Ghayba, Ibn Abi Zainab Al-No’mani, 1st ed., p.332, hadith 1 (Online book: p. 330)
-Mo’jam Ahadeeth Al-Imam Al-Mahdi, Ali Al-Korani, 1st ed., v.3, p.501, hadith 1073 (Online book: p.494)
As with the keeping of the Islamic pillars of faith, alms giving and charity were encouraged and fasts kept. This was in a prescribed month, when the new light and sun was in Aquarius, and they would break the fast at nightfall.
“Put on the clothes of saints; communion with fasting and good deeds.” – Mani pbuh
As Muhammad (pbuhahf) would later remind his adherents,
The Prophet (pbuhahf) said: “Every Muslim has to give in charity (‘sadaka’ to help the needy).” The people asked, “O Prophet of Allah what if he has nothing?” He (pbuhahf) said: “He should work with his hands to benefit himself and give charity (from what he earns).” They asked: “If he cannot do that?” He (pbuhahf) replied: “He should help the needy who appeal for help.” They asked: “If he did not find one?” He replied: “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, this is a charitable deed.”
Sahih Bukhari, Abi Abdullah Muhammad ibn Isma’il Al-Bukhari, 1st ed., Book 24: Obligatory Charity Tax, p.351, hadith 1445
Dietary requirements were strict and Mani revealed how fruits and vegetables, figs, and juice contain light matter, and were, therefore, more conducive to self-purification. As they say today, you are what you eat. Prophet Muhammad emphasised a similar diet of fruits encompassing how they bring blessings and cure disease. Mani revealed further commonalities with Abrahamic religions and of the Orient, such as faith in the Unseen. In the Book of Giants 4, angels such as Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel are identified with the same benevolent God. They act as intermediaries to messengers and prophets or are assigned to collect the souls of the deceased. Once again, the Yasna reveals Ahura Mazda sends Archangels, guardian angels into the world to act as a support to humanity. This extended to Mani who himself was visited by his Twin, Jesus (pbuh).
“Whoever is an enemy to God and His Angels and His Messengers, and Jibril and Mikal, (Angel Gabriel and Michael, respectively) then surely God is an enemy to the disbelievers.”
– Holy Quran, Al-Baqarah verse 98
Another critical aspect was regarding reincarnation and with relation to heaven and hell. Mani teaches about the return of the soul multiple times, just as his twin Jesus did.
“When you see your likeness you are happy, but when you see your images come into being before you and that neither die nor become visible, how much you will have to bear.”
– Gospel of Thomas, Saying 84
He also preached a doctrine concerning a shift from higher to lower forms. A disciple Amu recounted a redemption story highlighting karmic law and the mercy of God through his Prophet.
“On our way, father Mani sat on a mule, a big lion came to meet us, with an arrow in
its side, weeping. Mani told us to keep it still while he removed it. Mani informed them it was Pilate, who condemned Jesus, but in his favour he uttered one phrase, my hands are pure from the blood of the righteous one, on account he received forgiveness.”
– Manichean Homilies, 91
In Islam, we see a common thread with the return of the soul in Al-Haft Al-Shareef, where sinful people incarnate as animals in maskh (animal form) such as monkeys and pigs, corresponding to what is written in the Quran:
” Say, ‘Shall I inform you of [what is] worse than that as penalty from Allah? [It is that of] those whom Allah has cursed and with whom He became angry and made of them apes and pigs and slaves of Taghut. Those are worse in position and further astray from the sound way.'”
– Holy Quran, Al-Ma’idah verse 60
“And We will surely let them taste the nearer punishment1 short of the greater punishment that perhaps they will return [i.e., repent].”
– Holy Quran, As-Sajdah verse 21
The truth spelled out in the scriptures is crystal clear,
“And He is the One Who gave you life, then will cause you to die, and then will bring you back to life.”
– Holy Quran, Al-Hajj verse 66
Ultimately, Mani denies Jesus as an absolute God, just like Muhammad. Worship God, my Lord and your Lord, He is, in fact, the Luminous soul or spiritual guide, messiah incarnate in a physical sense. Whilst the Suffering Jesus is actually a lookalike who replaced him, saving Jesus from the crucifixion. Just like in the Islamic creed,
“They claim ‘Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, the messenger of God’ And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him another was made to resemble him to them.”
– Holy Quran, An-Nisa’ verse 157
As Mani said, Jesus is still crucified on every tree. Critically, Mani sought to remind people that God sent a succession of messengers including Jesus (pbuh) This began with Adam including Enoch, Abraham, Buddha, Zoroaster, Hermes, and Plato. As Muhammad (pbuhahf) later emphasised,
“And, indeed We have sent Messengers before you of some of them We have related to you their story and of some We have not related to you their story.”
– Holy Quran, Al-Mu’min verse 78
Mani came to synergise all these disparate religions and unite all peoples under one banner. Such a reformation would end the divide and conquer tactics of Satan that have led to so much disharmony and cruelty on earth and facilitate the flowering of the human race to reach its zenith and divine aspect.
Likewise, Mani ensured he left no dispute and clarified a successor when he gathered his companions, selecting Sisin. Mani confirmed he gave his hand that he would help strengthen his brethren after him. He emphasised the significance of twelve followers, just like Jesus and Muhammad (pbut).
“You did appoint 12 teachers and 72 overseers; make Sisin leader over your children.”
– Manichean Homilies
It was also clarified how after Sisin, his word laid upon Innai, that he should place himself as leader of the sect in his place. It is just like in Islam where Muhammad (pbuhahf) appointed his cousin as decreed by God to Imam Ali (pbuh).
During this later phase, the Sassanid dynasty came to power founded on the reemergence of Zoroastrianism and the orthodox Magi. These zealots of the book sought to crush any kingdom that strayed from their way, bringing Shapur into the spotlight. Whilst Mani sought to wean the King of violence and vainglory, the King slipped from piety and grace. Unsurprisingly, Shapur buckled under pressure from the new regime and cast aside Mani, exiling him to protect his power and title. It was recorded that Mani spent about one year in solitary communion in a cave penning a new thesis entitled Ertenk. It was mentioned how a doctor came from Babylon and cured a young girl. It was told after the nobles of Turan embraced his message. Here he left for China where the faith became predominant for a while. After the death of Shapur, he hastily returned to Persia harkening the new King to, “…Save men from sin and to let everyone have the chance to live.”
This King’s son died, and his replacement was full of cruelty and vainglory, vehemently opposed to Mani. At this point, he travelled up the Tigris, sensing the danger and only reaching Hormizd. Forbidden to proceed further by King Bahram, Mani knew he would have to face down these tyrants, and proceeded to Ctesiphon, the winter capital. Mani, like his predecessor Jesus, seemed to know he was facing his impending demise,
“Gaze at me and sate yourselves, my children, for I shall withdraw myself physically from you.”
– The Gospel of the Prophet Mani, p.54
He then informed his disciples to take care of his books and look after the widows and orphans and reminded the elect to take care of their duty to teach the spiritual life to the hearers as their lives depended on it. By now there was much political intrigue and subterfuge surrounding Mani and his entourage and his fate was sealed. He was accused by the Magi of disturbing the empire and of spreading ‘lying screeds’ and ‘false doctrines.’ Once he arrived in Belipat, the priesthood turned out in droves, crying out to the Godless judge,
“…a man has appeared fighting against us and bringing our affairs to nought. We implore thee, o King, to do away with him, for he is a teacher who leads men astray!”
– The Gospel of the Prophet Mani, p.57
He clearly threatened their status quo, and they would stop at nothing to destroy him. Consequently Mani was brought before the king where he explained how he had cured many of the King’s servants of demonic possession and fevers.
Mani explained how he was sent by an angelic force to guide to the law of life, and teach the commandments of Christ to a wayward nation. He expressed how this knowledge was revealed before and as custom became concealed by the rulers of the day. Of course this truth enraged the King who retorted with a response that seems to repeat in all ages of how God chose to reveal this truth to a ‘vile unfit foreigner’ as opposed to the ruling monarch.
At this stage Mani’s feet, back and neck were fettered in iron chains, the courtiers mocked him and danced in front of him, before assigning him to the dungeons for 26 days. Mani was finally condemned by the ruling authority, who made what is sweet now bitter. His speech at his last hour revealed his reliance on God and willingness to die for truth. God mercifully granted him the ability to see his ‘Twin’, his Father who was waiting to open the gate on high for him. His main concern was for the orphans and widows who would be left behind and to finally deliver his soul from the ‘filthy abyss’ and surrender his body to the dark Lord of this creation. His final words were an instruction to use his place of rest to strengthen the brethren. The reaction of his apostles exemplifies their immense devotion,
“O, Father is (it that) you are going from us leaving behind your children to be orphans after you?”
– Homilies, 53
If it was not enough to torture, mock and maim an innocent God-fearing prophet, three days later, they calculatedly mutilated and desecrated the corpse. Mani’s skin was stripped off, filled with grass, and certain medications used to inflate it and then given as prey to the birds. We know today that the term Mannequin derives from this. Mani had gone forth and fulfilled his duty to spread the message of light and had paid the ultimate price. It is a well-known fact that the more you stand for truth, the stronger the resistance from the dark forces will be.
“No prophet is welcome in his homeland; doctors don’t cure those who know them.”
– Gospel of Thomas, Saying 31
Mani remained steadfast despite these attacks and the extent of the hatred he endured and the torture he faced. This is a testimony to the brilliance of his light. Once again, The Light King had failed to be granted his divine and exclusive right to sit on the throne as God’s chosen King. He had thousands of converts, and thousands more became martyred. However, the martyrdom was not in vain and his legacy lives on. Mani remains a beacon of light, empowering others to stand firm and fight against tyranny and oppression today.