AZL flag holder TransparentSabbateans (Sabbatians) are followers or disciples and believers in Sabbatai Zevi (1626–1676), a Jewish rabbi who was proclaimed to be the Jewish Messiah in 1665 by Nathan of Gaza. In 1666 Zevi became a Jewish apostate to Islam. Many within Zevi’s inner circle followed him into Islam, including his wife Sarah and most of his closest relatives and friends. Nevertheless, vast numbers of Jews still accepted his claims to “Messiahship” after his apparent conversion. Ties between Sabbatean Kabbalah and Sufism go back to the days of Sabbatai Zevi. The Dönme community of Salonika, those followers of Zevi who had ‘converted’ to Islam but who secretly continued Jewish observances, came to play a significant role in the Sufi life of the region and its members actively involved with a number of Sufi orders. Similarities between Dönme and unorthodox Sufi practice seem to exist, including the violation of kashrut/halal, sexual license, ecstatic singing, mystical interpretations of sacred scripture, and the practice of ritual meals.

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