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

 Part Two: The Doctrinal and Esoteric Dimensions in the Kalam-i Mawla

This is a continuation from Literary Reading: Ethics in the Kalam-i Mawla of Hazrat Ali, Part One

The first dimension may be termed doctrinal; its expression is interspersed throughout the poem as the basis for man’s action. Two examples may suffice for our purpose here. The opening verse of Kalam-i Mawla sets out a theological hierarchy. The first remembrance (Zikr), it says, is of Allah; the second profession (kalma) is of Muhammad (s.a.w) and the third is of the Mawla who narrates  “his kalam, a treasure of jewels revealed to us.”  Thus God, the Prophet and the Imam are mentioned from the beginning. In verse 5 the concepts of Tawhid, Nabuwwa and Imamah are expressed explicitly: “Know that Allah, the Sustainer is One; that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah; after the Prophet (comes) the Lord of the Imamat, Murtaza Ali; believe in him with truth.”

Ambigram depicting Muhammad and Ali written in a single word. The 180 degree inverted form shows both words.
Ambigram depicting Muhammad and Ali written in a single word. The 180 degree inverted form shows both words.

The second dimension in Kalam-i Mawla is the esoteric.  One finds verses of deep mystical meaning in the poem which encourage the reader to aspire to a higher spiritual reality. The emphasis is again on action: through prayer, bandagi and acquisition of knowledge. Prayers undertaken at (or after) midnight are given a special mention (verse 168) as they bring ‘light’ to the very being of a person, a light reflected on one’s face; then, on the Day of Judgement, one will be counted among those whose faces are white (of. Qur’an 3:105-106). A believer who is regular in his prayers and bandagi will be graced with the vision of his Lord (verse 170). If such a mu’min is a true beloved of the Lord, then he too will be granted the spiritual bliss of the mi’raj experienced by the Prophet (verses 170/171).

But a believer who wishes to attain such spiritual bliss must first have a guide, a murshid, to open the gates of esoteric knowledge for him. Even a tiny and minute amount of such knowledge – “mere dot (nukta) of marifah” as it is stated in verse 101 – is enough, if given by the murshid himself, to lead a mu’min back to his origin, to the essence of Truth (haqq). Only then will he be able to transcend the state of duality (“The duality of You and me” and merge into a state of Unity and become One with Him who is the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden, He who will continue to exist when all else perishes (verse 327).

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

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 Board for the United Kingdom.

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