Literary Reading: Ethics in the Kalam-i Mawla of Hazrat Ali, Part Five

Part Five: Conclusion

“The Kalam-i Mawla is a truly enjoyable poem to be read for
pleasure, instruction and inspiration”

Previous Readings:
Literary Reading: Ethics in the Kalam-i Mawla of Hazrat Ali, Part One
Literary Reading: Ethics in the Kalam-i Mawla of Hazrat Ali, Part Two
Literary Reading: Ethics in the Kalam-i Mawla of Hazrat Ali, Part Three
Literary Reading: Ethics in the Kalam-i Mawla of Hazrat Ali, Part Four

The ethical dimension in the Kalam-i Mawla is expressed at three interlinked levels. The first level situates the ethics of the faith within the doctrines and beliefs of Shi’a Islam. These form the foundation upon which the ethics are based, an embodiment of the ‘charter’ that provides the rationale for the ethical development of a Shi’a Muslim. And, perhaps more important, the beliefs and doctrines also reveal – indeed, proclaim – the sanctions that await the transgression of the enunciated ethical injunctions and the reward for their observance.

The second level involves the pronouncement of the moral injunctions themselves. In a work of prose, the pronouncement could perhaps be made at length, with explanatory notes and cross-references to weightier texts, including the Quran itself. In poetry, however, an exposition of the theme is governed by such literary constraints as the rhyming scheme and control of the required number of metres per line. The poet has thus to be economical with his choice of words which in turn, ‘forces’ him to make a selection of the themes of priority. What we thus have in the Kalam-i Mawla is the poet’s own choice of what he considers to be important injunctions to be conveyed to a Muslim.

The third level is the literary. We have referred above to the constraint – and challenge – imposed on the poet by the prosodic tradition and convention prevalent in his culture. The poet functions within the prosodic framework to convey his message and ideas. But the framework, at best, is no more than a skeleton in need of flesh and blood to give it form and meaning. And the poet provides this drawing on the idioms of his culture, society and everyday expressions of daily living. The choice of vocabulary, images and metaphors combined with the poet’s own skill of wielding them into verses meant to be read and intoned make the Kalam-i Mawla a truly enjoyable poem to be read for pleasure, instruction and inspiration.

The presentation given in these readings, in relation to the ethical injunctions in the poem, represents but a tiny sample of a vast corpus. END.

______________

Series adapted from Ethics in the Kalam-i Mawla: A Brief Introduction, by Dr. Farouk M. Topan, published in Ilm, Vol 13, Number 1 (July 1990), Shia Imami Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education for the United Kingdom.

A note of acknowledgement by Dr. Farouk M. Topan:

I am grateful to Mr Akbar Rupani of the Tariqah Board for India, to Mr Hoosain Khan Mohamed, formerly of Karachi, and to a gentleman who wishes to remain anonymous, for their kindness in checking the translation of the Kalam-i Mawla that I had undertaken a few years ago. Their help, given with unstinted generosity, was most encouraging; but may I also state that it does not associate them in any way with any errors of translation that may arise out of my choice of meaning. I am also grateful to Mrs. Izzat Muneyb for her comments on an earlier draft of this article.

2 thoughts on “Literary Reading: Ethics in the Kalam-i Mawla of Hazrat Ali, Part Five

  1. Dr. Farouk Topan is and has always been an inspiration to me. I enjoy listening to him in all arenas. Like me he hails from Zanzibar, and I attended a course on Understanding Islam where together with other eminent scholars I learnt a lot.

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