Literary Reading: In Ismaili Ginanic Literature Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) is Symbol of Moon-Light, a Mercy to All Nations, and Intercessor

A folio from a manuscript of Ginan Vaek Moto of Pir Shams. Ms. KM 125, 463 folios, 200 x 160 mm; Copied in 1897 Samvat/1841 by Dahio Surijiani. Credit: The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, http://www.iis.ac.uk

1. Introduction

The Ginanic literature of the Ismailis emerged when Ismaili Pirs (missionaries) came to India by the orders of their respective Imams to spread the teachings of  Islam and the Shia Ismaili Tariqah. The task which lay before the Pirs was to introduce the teachings of their faith in a form which would not be alien to the people to whom they were preaching. The Ginans were therefore composed on a ‘synthetic pattern’ of the prevalent religious poetry. The Pirs took the local religious terms as conceptual tools to introduce Ismaili and Islamic teachings to the masses and, in so doing, they achieved marvellous results. The method they adopted was most logical and quite in the spirit of the universal nature of Islam. The Holy Qur’an says:

“Call unto the Way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching; and reason with them in ways that are best.” (Holy Qur’an, 16:125)

Thus the Ismaili Pirs brought the Hindu mind to a logical understanding of the fundamental concepts of Islam. Professor Ivanow makes the following observation on the approach taken by the Ismaili Pirs:

“Either by intuition, or sound and clever reasoning, the Nizari Ismaili missionaries devised some methods which helped them to overcome such local obstacles…One was their bold tactics in separating the meaning and spirit of Islam from its hard Arab shell…They explained the high ideals of Islam in the familiar terms of ancestral religion, Hinduism….They brought the matter a step further by proclaiming Islam the crowning phase of the whole development of Hinduism. According to them, the Qur’an (together with the ta’wil system) was the last and final Ved, completing, abrogating and superseding the earlier revelations. In this theory, Hinduism was merely a preparatory phase just as Christianity, Judaism, etc., in the revelation of the only True Religion, Satpanth (lit. True Path). Thus, from a purely Islamic view point, the method of bridging the difference between Islam and Hinduism adopted by Ismaili missionaries was perfectly correct, in no way conflicting with orthodox ideas.” (quote from Ismaili Da’wa in India, by W. Ivanow, Ilm, Volume 4, Number 2).

Among the concepts presented by Ismaili Pirs in the Ginans was the concept of Nubuwwah (Prophethood).

In the Holy Qur’an this concept is explained with reference to the last Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (may peace be upon him). By giving an analogy of Sirajum-Munira to the Nabi as in the following verse, the Holy Qur’an relates the concept of Nubuwwah with the symbol of N00r (light):

“And as one who invites unto Allah by His permission, and as a lamp that gives light (Sirajum-Munira).” (Holy Qur’an, 33:46)

While the Holy Qur’an describes the Nabi as ‘Bright Lamp’, the Ginans use the symbol of ‘Chandni’ (Moon Light) for the Prophet. Both in the Holy Qur’an and the Ginans, the Prophet is seen as  a Rahemat (Mercy) to mankind. The Qur’an says:

“And We have not sent you but as a mercy to all the nations.” (Holy Qur’an, 21:107)

Obedience to the Prophet is obedience to God and it is also made a necessary condition for the love for God. Those who disobey the Prophet are called the ignorant ones. The Ginans also speak in the same vein. The similarities show that the teachings  of Ismaili Pirs had their foundations in the Holy Qur’an.

2. Nabi as Mercy to Mankind and Light

An Apostle who rehearses to you the Signs of God containing clear explanations, that he may lead forth those who believe and do good works from darkness unto light. (Holy Qur’an, 65:11)

In the verse quoted above, the Prophet is the source of guidance for mankind. He shows them the right path, removes the veil of ignorance and brings them to Light. In the Ginan Satveni Moti, Syed Imam Shah says:

Nabi Muhammad iis joog mahe aviyaa,
Tis-thi chand-roona marag paya…..
verse 3

Translation:

Prophet Muhammad has come in this period
and through this moon-like Light, the Way has been made bright.

The Pir says that the Institution of Nubuwwah, through the last of the Prophets, is like a moon which expels darkness and shows the way to the travellers. It determines a way of action for salvation, because we are liable to errors and may go astray in this world of many complexities.

The Prophet’s manifestation as God’s Bounty and Mercy is shown by the following verse of the  Ginan Alaf Nirale Khalaq Raja by Pir Sadr al-Din:

Bujo-re bhai chhatra kon tana,
Chhatra Nabi Muhammad Mustafa tana

Translation:

Through whom is the care and protection? Know, O Brothers!
The care and protection is through Nabi Muhammad Mustafa (the Chosen).

This clearly resonates with the Qur’anic verse:

“Allah verily has shown grace to the believers by sending unto them a messenger of their own who recites unto them His revelations, and causes them to grow, and teaches them the Scripture and wisdom.” (Holy Qur’an, 3:164)

And Pir Hasan Kabiruddin in his monumental composition, Anant Akhado, says:

Ashaji Nabi chale Nooraj warsey,
Rikhisar ne sir chhai(n)-ji….
verse 398

Translation:

There are showers of Noor where Nabi walks
and the believers have his protection over them.

Thus  the Ginans describe the Prophet’s care and protection as chhatra and chhai(n) respectively. His guidance is Noor (Light), which helps to dispel darkness and makes visible the path leading to reunion with God.

3. Nabi as the Intercessor and Redeemer of Souls

And those whom they invoke besides God have no power of intercession save he who bears witness to the Truth and they know (him). (Holy Qur’an, 43:86)

O Muhammad! Raise your head and speak, and you shall be granted your desire, and intercede and your intercession shall be accepted. (Hadith, Bukhari, 81:51)

Since the Institution of  Nubuwwah is a Blessing given by Allah, believers will have the intercession of the Prophet on the Day of Judgement. This  (intercession) will bring  them spiritual bounties in the life hereafter. In the Ginan Yara Shafayat Muhammad Karshe , Pir Sadr al-Din says:

Yara shafayat Muhammad karsey,
Mu’min bahest lahenga.

Translation:

O friends! Muhammad will intercede (on the Day of Judgement)
and the mu’min (believer) will earn the abode in heaven.

In Buj Niranjan, the Pir says:

Jo Nabi Muhammad karey shafayat,
Ja(n)ko hai ummat ki riayat…
verse 6, lines 9-10

Translation:

If Prophet Muhammad intercedes
then his followers will find ease (on the Day of Judgement).

However, a pre-condition of earning the intercession of the Prophet Muhammad is for one to accept his Prophetic role and to follow his guidance. This is beautifully explained in Kalma Kahore Momano by Pir Satgur Noor:

Eji Nam Nabi-ka mitha hai,
jaisa sakar dudh,
Kalma kaho dil saach soo(n),
to bando shafayat mool

Translation:

O mumin! the name of our Nabi
is as sweet as sugar and milk.
Recite the Kalma with a true and sincere heart.
This, indeed, will provide for you the intercession of the Prophet.

And,

Eji Nabi to jeevo(n) ka datar hai,
Jene Kalma sunaya sar;
Je momin manshe to beheshti howenga,
Baki gafil bhula gemar

Translation:

Nabi is the redeemer of all the souls
and he has taught the kalma to you.
A mumin who declares his faith in the Kalma will earn the heavenly abode
but the rest, who ignore the Kalma, will be lost and, indeed, they are the foolish ones.

The consequences of not obeying the Prophet Muhammad is provided in the following Ginanic verse of Syed Imam Shah:

Nabi Muhammad kahya jeene na kiya,
Dozakh-ma(n) darwaza une liya

Translation:

He who does not obey the teachings of Prophet Muhammad
has taken for himself the path towards the gates of hell.

And, in this vein, the Qur’an declares:

“Establish worship and pay the poor-due and obey the messenger, that you may find mercy. Think not that the unbelievers, are going to frustrate (God’s plan) on earth. Fire will be their home – and it is indeed an evil refuge.” (Holy Qur’an, 24: 56-57)

Folio of Pir Sadr al-Din's Ginan, Saloko Nano. 492 pages, 200 x 160 mm. Copied between 1924 Samvat/1867 and 1942 Samvat/1885 by various scribes including Khoaja Jafar Khiate Dhalani. Credit: http://www.iis.ac.uk

4. Belief in Earlier Prophets and Verses Pertaining to Hazrat Adam, Hazrat Musa and Hazrat Ibrahim (may peace be upon them)

(a) Earlier Revelations

Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which has been revealed to us and in that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Issac and Jacob and the tribes, and in what that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and in that which was given to the Prophets from their Lord; we do not make any distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. (Holy Qur’an, 2:136)

Belief in Prophet Muhammad as the last of Allah’s Messenger renders it necessary for a believer to accept all the earlier prophets, as  shown in the above verse. This  essential principle  as well as  some of the references that the Qur’an makes about the earlier prophets is also found in Ismaili Ginans as shown in the following compositions:

In the Ginan Virabhai Saheb Kero Bhed Na Bujere Koi, Pir Sadr al-Din observes:

Eji ek lakh-ne chovis hazaar-mahe
paigumbar sardar

Translation:

Amongst the 124,000 (Prophets)
the Prophet (Hazrat Nabi Muhammad Mustafa) is the chief.

A well established Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad states that there were 124,000 prophets, while the Holy Qur’an mentions only about twenty-five prophets.

(b) Hazrat Adam

“They (Adam and his wife) said: ‘Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If Thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, surely we are of the lost’.” (Holy Qur’an, 7: 23)

A corresponding verse is found in Pir Hasan Kabiruddin’s Ginan Eji Sarve Jivu-na Lekha Leshey:

Eji Dada Adam mota barvant kahiye,
Tap mota tena kahiye.

Translation:

Hazrat Adam was indeed very strong (spiritually),
and his penance was complete.

(c) Hazrat Musa

“And when Moses came to Our appointed tryst and his Lord had spoken unto him, he said: ‘My Lord! Show me (Thyself) that I may gaze upon Thee.” (Holy Qur’an, 7:143)

Pir Hasan Kabiruddin, speaking about Hazrat Musa, says:

Eji Musa Nabi Shah-ku bahot pyara,
Niti nit darshan karna

Translation:

Prophet Musa was the beloved of the Lord.
He always sought and prayed for the Vision of Allah.

(d) Hazrat Ibrahim

“Say: Allah speaketh truth. So follow the religion of Abraham, the upright.” (Holy Qur’an, 3:95)

And about Hazrat Ibrahim, Pir Hasan Kabiruddin says:

Eji Ibrahim Nabiji-ki bataj suniye,
Karna aiysa kaam

Translation:

Listen to the story of Prophet Ibrahim
and do such deeds as he did.

5. From Nubuwwah to Imamat – Continuity of Divine Guidance

Behold, your Lord said to the angels: ‘I will create a Vicegerent on earth’. (Holy Qur’an, 2:30)

O mankind! Verily there has come to you a convincing proof from your Lord:
for We have sent unto you a light that is manifest. (Holy Qur’an, 4:174)

He whose Mowla I am, Ali is his Mowla. (Hadith)

Finally it would be appropriate to add a few Ginanic verses which speak about the continuity of the Divine Guidance through the Institution of Imamat  after the demise of Allah’s last Prophet, Hazrat Nabi Muhammad Mustafa (may peace be upon him). True, there would be no Prophet after Prophet Muhammad but God’s guidance for mankind had to continue, or else how could God’s Infinite Mercy and Absolute Justice be explained?

The continuous and perpetual guidance mentioned in the Qur’anic verse:

“O mankind! Verily there has come to you a convincing proof from your Lord: for we have sent you a light that is manifest” (4:74)

is stated by Pir Hasan Kabiruddin as follows:

Noore-Khalifa iis joog-ma(n)hey awiya,
Ta(n)ki amar jyot likhai ji

Translation:

Vicegerent of God (Imam) has come in this period
and His Light is Eternal.

However the belief in and the recognition of the Prophet Muhammad is a pre-requisite for a belief in the Imamat and this is reinforced in Pir Hasan Kabiruddin’s Allah Ek Khasam Sabuka:

Nabi Muhammad bujo bhai,
to tamey pamo Imam.

Translation:

O brothers! know Nabi Muhammad,  i.e. know the teachings of Nabi Muhammad,
for it is then that you will gain the recognition of the Imam of the time.

_______________

Notes:

1. Please visit the What’s New page for all articles posted on this website. And do visit the Home page if this is your first encounter with Simerg or you haven’t viewed the latest historical  photograph posted there.

2.  This reading has been adapted by Simerg from an article by Hakim Vali Mohammad Surani entitled Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) in the Light of Ginans, which was originally published in Ilm, March 1980, Volume 5, Number 4, by the Ismailia Association for the United Kingdom.

3. The concept of Imamat in Ismaili Ginanic literature will be covered in more detail in a forthcoming literary reading.

4. Further references to all the Ginans quoted in this reading are provided in the original Ilm article.

8 thoughts on “Literary Reading: In Ismaili Ginanic Literature Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) is Symbol of Moon-Light, a Mercy to All Nations, and Intercessor

  1. Thanks for sharing this beautiful knowledge with us. I truly got a lot of knowledge from your article.

  2. Excellent article. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed reading it, and the beautiful pearls of wisdom within it.

  3. This article gives us an insight as to how in the sub-continent of India, in this context Gujarat, Pirs came using the skill of Social Anthropologists of today, of living and becoming participant observers of the society that they selected for their study! They came to spread the new religious fervour or philosophy of Islam as their mission. Firstly, even though they came from Farsi-speaking Sehentardip the Persian peninsula, into Jampudip India, they learnt the language and used the existing tool of poetry sung in the form of Garbi and large volumes like Salokos as cited in this article. The society was submerged in the shadow of ignorance and in the complexity of ancient Hinduism. They emphasised the light of Islam spreading ‘taweel’ or the essence, not ‘tanzil’ or dogmatic and traditional practice of this great world religion of Peace and Submission to Allah. Sunna is of less importance in the esoteric form of Islam that Ismailis follow.

    We see the scattered imams with a small ‘i’ in the world of today, who distort and pick out ‘jihad’ as the main theme of revenge rather than that of ‘jihade kabir’ the inner cleansing of one’s soul, the most important asset of Islam! The ascetic Pirs introduced Prophet’s and Hazrat Imam Ali’s teaching without crowing themselves as pious to be obeyed, revered or worshipped. They made the populace look up to the creator, the Noor, the Light of Allah taught to mankind via the Prophet of Islam. Please forgive my shortcomings in this comment!

  4. So much learnt from this article. Excellent ! Keep up the good work and may Mowla reward you with this seva.

  5. Quoting the English transliterations of the Ginans along with the translations gives an insight into the hidden nuances of the meanings to the modern
    audience who have not been educated in vernaculars. It is really enlightening. Please keep up the good work.

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