Literary Reading: Aab-i Shifaa, Water that Heals

The reference by the Persian Ismaili Missionary, Fida’i  Khurasani, of the distribution of healing water by Imam Islamshah is significant, as the practice of drinking water blessed by the Imam is frequently attested in the Ginans and continues to form part of the Ismaili tradition to this day.

The use of such consecrated water is widely practiced in several religious traditions. Many Twelver Shi’a, for example, dissolve the dust of Karbala where the Imam Husayn is buried, or that of Najaf, the resting place of the Imam ‘Ali, and drink the resulting healing water (Aab-i Shifaa) as a cure for illness, both spiritual and physical.

The Ismaili emphasis on the spiritual aspect of this healing is clear from the names used to designate the water, which include Light (Nur) and ambrosia (Amiiras, Aamiijal). Their use of the blessed water is also distinctive in another regard. It is taken in the name of the Imam of the time, who is physically present on earth.

In the old prayer associated with this ritual, preserved in many of the manuscripts, the water is sanctified with the following formula when poured into the vessel:

Pure is the water,  pure is the wind

Pure is the earth,  pure is the sky

Pure is the moon,  pure is the sun

Pure is the Lord’s vessel,  pure is the Lord’s name

By the name of the Lord,  pure becomes the Lord’s congregation

In the remainder of this long prayer, the primordial existence of a manifest divine authority is repeatedly evoked. The lineage of this authority is traced through the cosmic ages and is ultimately affirmed to be vested in the living Imam of the age. The sections of the prayer end with a declaration that the Imam is alive and eternally present.

At this point the reciter of the prayer would announce the word farman, to which those in attendance would reply Shah-Pir-a reaffirmation of their allegiance to the command ( Farman) of the reigning Imam (Shah) and his representative (Pir).

The current practice is similar, but the expression Shah-Pir has been replaced by Ya ‘Ali-Ya Muhammad.

In this manner, the community members voiced their allegiance, in the words of Nasir al-Din Tusi, not solely to the command, but to the Commander of their time, the Possessor of the Command.

(Reading Adapted from The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, a Search for Salvation by Shafique N. Virani, Hardcover – May 3, 2007)

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