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Origin of Chhanta in Ismaili <i>tariqah</i>

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

The Koran says: "(Receive) the baptism (sibghah) of God, for who is better than God to baptize (sibghatan)?" (2:138).

The word sibghah is derived from the Syriac word sba, meaning dyeing or colouring, and also dipping or immersing in water, hence sibghah indicates baptism, which the Christians effect by immersing in water. Wahidi relates from Ibn Abbas that, "When a child is born to Christians, after the seventh day they immerse him (sabghuhu) in a kind of water in order to purify him" (Asbab Nuzul al-Koran, Cairo, 1969, p. 38).

According to Tabari, the Jews and Christians once said to the Prophet and his faithful Companions, "Embrace Judaism or Christianity, so that you may be guided aright." In the meantime, God instructed to His Prophet to say to them, "O Jews and Christians, rather follow the path of Abraham, the sibghah of God, which is the best sibghah, for it is the pure faith of Islam" (Jami al-Bayan, Cairo, 1954, 3:118). Thus, Tabari translates the above Koranic verse, taking sibghah as a synonym for the religion that, "Follow the religion of God, which is the best religion." Tabarsi relates from Imam Jafar Sadik that, "The sibghah of God is Islam." According to Hasan al-Basri, Qatadah and Mujahid, it is the religion of God (Majma al-Bayan, Beirut, 1961, 1:492). Abu Hayyan writes in Bahr al-Muhit that, "The Divine baptism indicates the religion of God or the nature according to which God has created man."

It implies that the description of the sibghah in the Koran has nothing to do with that of the practice of baptism in Christianity. W. Montgomery Watt writes in his Companions to the Quran (London, 1967) that, "It is doubtful if there is any reference to Christian baptism (in the Koranic verse)."

Qurtubi adds another significance of the word sibghah: "It is said that sibghah is a (ritualistic) bath for one who wishes to enter into Islam. Instead of baptism of the Christianity, I say that according to this tawil, the bath is mandatory for a rejecter of faith as an act of worship. This is because the meaning of sibghah of God is the bath of God. This is as if to say,

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