Literary Reading: The Munajat – Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas

By Sadrudin K. Hassam

Introduction and definition of the term Munajat

The tradition of reciting the Munajat, Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas, began over a hundred years ago. It was  recited in various jamati gatherings (mijalas) by Ismailis in many parts of the world to commemorate the enthronement of their 48th Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, the late Aga Khan III (1877 – 1957).  Continuing with this tradition, this Munajat, with slight variations, is now recited on the occasion of the anniversary of the ascension of Shah Karim al-Husseini (His Highness the Aga Khan IV) as the 49th Imam of The Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. He became  Imam on July 11th, 1957 and the date in 2013 will mark his fifty sixth Imamat anniversary.

The Arabic word munajat is formed from the root word na-ja-wa which means ‘to converse secretly’ or ‘confidentially’. Hence munajat means ‘confidential talk or ‘secret conversation’.

Na-ja-wa is also the root for najah meaning ‘deliverance’, ‘salvation’ or ‘redemption’. So technically by munajat is meant ‘to do giriyah-uzari’ (supplication). It is also an expression of gratitude and the seeking of Divine help (tawfiq). From the context of the ginanic literature of the Ismailis, the term munajat would be equivalent to venti (supplication).

Apart from conveying this basic idea of venti, the term munajat also has the connotation of conveying mubaraki (greetings) and adoration or reverence to a holy person, in this case the Ismaili Imam.

In Ismaili poetical literature comprising of Ginans and Qasidas, some of the most profound philosophical thoughts and sublime mystical insights are very tersely and beautifully expressed in verses. Moreover, this poetic literature effectively emphasizes the renewal and strengthening of the spiritual relationship between each murid (follower) in the community and Kamil Murshid (The Perfect Guide), Hazar Imam (The Living Imam). Hence, the importance and significance of the contents of this literature is testified by Pir Sadardin in the following first verse of his Ginan:

Eji ginan bolo-re nit noor-e bhariya,
Evo haide tama-re harakh na ma-eji.

Meaning:

Recite the ginans, so filled with light (enlightenment),
Your joy will know no bounds within the heart.

The Composition of the Munajat

It is not easy to be definitive about the name of the composer(s) of this munajat, the date of the composition and when it was first recited. The examination of some lines of the text and the beautiful blend of Hindi and Urdu expressions garbed in some Arabic and ornate Persian diction do provide clues which indicate that this munajat may have been composed by a sayyad or sayyads of Persian origin. These sayyads were relatives and followers who had migrated from Iran to India with the 46th Ismaili Imam, Aga  Hassanaly Shah (Aga Khan I), in the 1840s. The Sayyads continued to be looked after by his successors, Aga Khan II and Aga Khan III, in Pune and Mumbai, up to the early twentieth century. It is also during this period, that is, in the last few years of the nineteenth century that this munajat begins to appear in the manuscripts.

Popular tradition has it that the munajat was first recited during the enthronement ceremony of the 48th Imam, Sir  Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III, which took place at Aga Hall at Mazagon Road in Mumbai in September 1885. Another tradition says that the recitation first took place when the young Imam met his followers at the main Ismaili Jamatkhana in Mumbai, known as the Darkhana.

The following lines (explanation provided later) from the original version of the munajat would seem to corroborate the view that Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas…. was recited during the enthronement of the Imam, when he was only eight years old. Specifically, these lines do refer to Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah’s ascension to the throne of Imamat by the amr (command) of his father, Imam Shah Ali Shah, Aga Khan II. The Imam’s exalted status at a ‘young’ age and the gathering of the Indian Jamat for the holy Didar are also mentioned:

verses 1, line 3-4:

Aan baithe hay takht-ke upar,
Sultan Muhammad Shah Vali

verse 3, lines 3- 4:

Shah Ali Shah ke mukhme(n) se nikla,
Sultan Muhammad Shah Vali

Verse 4, line 3

Chhoti umarmen aali martaba

verse 2, line 1-2

Ya Ali Didar leneku (n) aaye Shah teri
Hindi jama-et saari

Having stated that it should be mentioned that ‘Noorun Mubin’ which gives a fairly detailed account of the Imamat of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah makes no mention about the recitation of this munajat either during the Takht Nashini ceremony at Aga Hall or during the mulaqat  in the Darkhana Jamatkhana, Mumbai. But the author of another book, ‘Jampu Dip No Sultan’, mentions that the munajat was recited during the didar at the Darkhana. The book also gives the names of the composers as Sayyad Mushtaqali and his father, Sayyad Didarali. The collection of ginan books published in Khojki or Gujarati state at the top of this munajat that it is by a Sayyad without giving any specific name. In the munajat text itself the terms Shamsi and Sayyad are referenced in the two lines:

‘Shamsi jo Salwat padkar’ (verse 7, line3)

‘Sayyad karte munajat’ (verse 8, line 3)

Shamsi refers to any sayyad who claims descent from Pir Shams al-Din and Pir Hasan Kabirdin, who were both related to the Ismaili Imams during their period.

Another view is that it was especially composed for and recited during the first wedding of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah to Shahzadi Begum, the daughter of the Imam’s uncle, Aga Jangi Shah. The wedding celebrations took place in Pune from 16th to 21st January, 1897 when nearly 30,000 Ismailis had come from various parts of the world. Considering all the above, one can only draw a conclusion that the munajat was composed a few years before the end of the nineteenth century.

A very different explanation about the composition comes from Alwaez Abdulhussein A. Nanji,  author of the work ‘Pir- Padharya Apne Dw’ar’ . He writes that the munajat was composed by Sayyad Fatehali Shah, the composer of the ginan Navroz Na Din Sohamna. He further adds that it was composed to honour the enthronement of Imam Abul Hassanali Shah as the 44th Ismaili Imam in 1730 AC. This would imply that this munajat is nearly two hundred and eighty years old, whereas in the manuscripts it begins to appear only towards the end of the nineteenth century.

It is, however, interesting to read in the same chapter of Nanji’s book that during the birthday celebrations (Salgirah) of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah this munajat used to be sung accompanied with a musical band in a mamero (procession) led by Ismaili leaders in their jabbas (robes) and gold-threaded pagrees (turbans). This mamero used to take place in the streets leading to Jamatkhana. The other members of the jamat followed playing dandiya raas (stick dancing and hand clapping) in a festive mood. This is an interesting fact — almost reminiscent of the gharbis of Pir Shams.

The Variations and Style of the Munajat

In comparing the Indian Khojki version of the munajat recited during the Imamat of Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah and the Pakistani Sindhi Khojki version, one encounters minor variations of the pronunciation of certain words e.g. majalas and majalis, jinnat and jannat, firas’ and farash. These do not necessarily affect the meaning or the spirit behind these words. Therefore, there is no need to be pedantic about them.

In the modern version, the reference is to the current Imam where for example, Shah Karim Shah Vali, substitutes Shah Sultan Shah Vali. In Pakistan, Pak jamat saari instead of Hindi jamat saari is recited – and instead of Shah Ali Shah ke mukhme(n) se nikla, the modern version reads Shah Sultan Shah ke mukhme(n)se nikla. These minor changes are made to update the munajat to reflect the passing of the Imamat from one Imam to his successor and to take into account prevalent political realities (for example, India and Pakistan now being distinct countries).

The complete munajat has eight stanzas of four lines each, the chopai. The second and fourth lines in each stanza are shorter than the other two and the last words in them rhyme. At the end of each stanza there is a warani (refrain) of four lines which ends with the words ‘Mubarak hove’. This refrain is repeated at the end of each stanza for collective recitation and participation of the Jamat.

Explanation of Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas

It is not an easy task to explain and translate a Ginan or Qasida from one language to another. For this munajat which is a blend of several languages and is suffused with deep feelings and sublime supplication, the task becomes even more daunting. A conscious effort has been made to be as close to the original as possible and we hope that this explanation will impart our readers with some understanding about Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas.

Each of the transliterated verse (no accents) is accompanied with its translation and some key glossary terms.

VERSE ONE.

Transliteration

Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas Zinat Karake
Farasha Bichhai Gali,
Aan Baithe Hay Takht-Ke Upar
Shah Karim Shah Vali

Refrain

Aaj Raj Mubarak Hove,
Noor Ain Alikun Raj Mubarak Hove,
Shah Aal-e Nabi Kun Raaj Mubarak Hove,
Hove Hove Aaj Raj Mubarak Hove.

Explanation

O Ali! In the fair assembly,
gloriously adorned with carpets spread on the floor,
Our Lord Shah Karim sits on the takht,
our Lord Shah Karim our Guardian.

Refrain

Today blessed be your rule
Oh the light of Ali’s eye,
Blessed be your rule
Shah, the descendant of the Holy Prophet,
Blessed be your rule today
Blessed be your rule today.

Glossary

Khub is a Persian word meaning ‘fair’ or ‘glorious’
Mijalas is an Arabic word meaning ‘a gathering’
Zinat Karake means ‘decorated’
Farasha means ‘floor’
Bichhai Gali means ‘laid out carpets’
Vali means ‘a guardian’
Ain means ‘eye’
Ale means ‘descendant’
Takht means ‘throne’

VERSE TWO

Transliteration

Ya Ali Didar Lenekun Aye Shah Teri,
Hindi Jama-et Sari,
Sijada Baja Kar Najaran Deve
Jan Apniku Vari…. Aaj.

Explanation

O Ali! To be blessed with didar
your whole Indian jamat have assembled.
They prostrate and they offer nazrana (homage)
devoting their lives to you.

Glossary

Didar means ‘to have a glimpse of the Imam’
Didar lenekun Aye means ‘they have come for didar’
Sari means ‘the whole’
Najaran means ‘offerings’ or ‘homage’
Jan apnikun vari means ‘are ready to sacrifice their lives’

VERSE THREE

Transliteration

Ya Ali Tera Nasiba Roje Awal-Se,
Deta Haire Kamali,
Shah Sultan Shah Ke Mukhamen Se Nikala,
Shah Karim Shah Vali….Aaj

Explanation

O Ali! Your fortune from the very first day (right from the beginning)
has bestowed perfection upon you,
Hazrat Imam Shah Sultan Muhammad Shah declared that
Mawlana Shah Karim is the Lord and the Guardian.

Glossary

Tera nasiba means ‘Your fortune’
Roje awal-se means ‘from the first day’
Kamali means ‘perfection’
Mukhamen se Nikla means ‘declared’ or ‘gave firman’

VERSE FOUR

Transliteration

Ya Ali Shah Kahun To Tujakun Baja Hay,
Bakhta Bulanda Peshani,
Chhoti Umarmen Aali Marataba,
Taluki Hay Nishani….Aaj

Explanation

O Ali! To call you Lord is your due.
Your fortune and greatness is evident on your forehead.
Your exalted status at the young age
is a sign of greatness.

Glossary

Tujakun Baja hay means ‘is your due’
Bakhta means ‘fortune’
Bulanda means ‘greatness’
Peshani means ‘on your forehead’
Chhotti Umarmen means ‘at a young age’
Aali martaba means ‘exalted status’
Taluki means ‘of greatness’
Nishani means ‘sign’

VERSE FIVE

Transliteration

Ya Ali Takhta Ne Chhatra Tujakun Mubarak,
Zaheraji-Ke Piyare,
Abul Hasan Shah Karani So Teri
Jannat Aap Sanvare….Aaj

Explanation

O Ali! May your throne and canopy (exalted position) be blessed,
the dear one of Fatimatuz Zahra.
O Mawla Ali! All this is because of your glorious deeds.
Paradise is embellished by your presence.

Glossary

Takht ne Chhatra literally means ‘throne and canopy’ but figuratively it means ‘exalted status of Imamat’;
Zaheraji-ke piyare means ‘the dear one descended from Bibi Fatimatuz Zahra’. Every Imam is her descendant, the daughter of the Holy Prophet Muhammad who was married to Hazrat Ali;
Abul Hassan in Arabic means ‘the father of Hazrat Hassan’, that is Hazrat Ali, the first Shia Imam;
Karani means ‘glorious deeds’;
Sanvare means ‘decorated’;
Jannat means ‘paradise’;

VERSE SIX

Transliteration

Ya Ali Takht ne Chhatra sunake tere
Falakase Barase Nooran,
Moti Tabaka Hathunmen Lekar,
Shah KunVadhave Huran….Aaj

Explanation

O Ali! At the news of your Takht Nashini (Takhta ne Chhatra)
the heavens shower Light,
with trays of pearls in their hands,
the houris (chaste heavenly maidens) greet the Lord.

Glossary

Takhta ne Chhatra figuratively means ‘Takht Nashini’ or ‘spiritual enthronement’
Falakase means ‘from the heavens’
Barase means ‘shower’
Nooran means ‘light’
Moti Tabaka means ‘with trays of pearls’
Shah kun vadhave huran means ‘the houris greet the Lord’ (The events in this world are complemented even in the heavens by the spiritual beings).

VERSE SEVEN

Transliteration

Ya Ali Maheman Khanemen Momankun Jab
La-i ‘Id Musal-le
Shamsi Jo Salavat Pada Kar
Marafat-Ki Khushiyali….Aaj

Explanation

In the guest-house when the celebration of your Takht Nashini takes place,
the momins celebrate like ‘Id.
They recite the Shamsi prayer, the salwat,
and they experience the ecstasy of spiritual enlightenment.

Glossary

Maheman means ‘guest’
Khane means ‘house’
Maheman khane means ‘guest-house’
Musal-le means ‘like’
Salwat Pad Kar means ‘to recite the salwat’
Salwat meansthe prayer that is offered for peace on Muhammad and his descendants, the Imams’
Marafat-ki Khushtyali means ‘the spiritual happiness of the marifat’.

VERSE EIGHT

Transliteration

Ya Ali Teri Mubarak Badike Khatar,
Sayyad Karte Munajat,
Shah Najaf Tere Pushta Panah
Tere Dushman Hove Fanah….Aaj

Explanation

O Ali! To offer greetings,
the Sayyads make their humble supplication (munajat)
O Ali, the Lord of Najaf, may your progeny be protected
and your enemies be destroyed.

Glossary

Khatar means ‘for’
Shah Najaf is a reference to the first Imam, Hazrat Murtaza Ali who is buried in a place called Najaf-e-Sharif in Iraq
Pushta literally means ‘back’
Panah means ‘safety, under protection’
Dushman means ‘enemy’
Hove fanah means ‘may be destroyed’

Date updated: June 16, 2013

__________________________

Copyright. Reading adapted bywww.simerg.com from: The Munajat – Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas by Sadrudin K. Hassam, Ilm magazine, Volume 11, number 2, July 1987, published by the Shia Imami Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for the United Kingdom.

____________________________

Other Notes:

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13 thoughts on “Literary Reading: The Munajat – Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas

  1. The explanation given here about the Munajat is very informative, and at best gives a clear etymology and history of the composition. It is important to note that the Munajat was not composed during the time of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, as many Ismailis have come to believe, but rather it is much older than that.

    The composer of the Munajat has kept anonymous. We can guess at best who that may be by comparing the style to composers such as Fathe Ali Shah and the like, but that is only guess work and cannot be proven indefinitely.

    Rather, it should be mentioned in jamat khanas and within the Ismaili education system that the Munajat was composed to celebrate the Imamat. What was the occasion? One clue is that the composer wished the Imam’s safety from those who wanted to do him harm. We can only assume that the 46th Imam would most likely fit the bill.

    Moreover, there are now ample texts available that have Aga Khan I within the composition. The text mentions that from the order of Khallilah that Hasan Ali Shah became the next on the throne. Mukhi Lalji Bhai Devraj, a well known compiler of the ginans noted that it had to have been composed during Aga Khan I’s lifetime.

    This is a very important part of Ismaili history because it testifies to a period in which there was a lot of movement and turmoil. It is to the benefit of all Ismailis to research this part of history and to extract the meaning of the events that took place.

  2. Sadrubhai Hassam has done a great service in putting together this article and done a fantastic job in explaining the real philosophical meaning behind this ginan we recite so often.

  3. Excellent! Every Imamat Day this Ginan or Munajat is recited but I think it should be taught with its gist or translation to the young in our Jamat as they are deprived of any exposure to our vernaculars. Why not have the verses, even a few recited after the gist is read out? Then it will not become merely a ‘ritual’ to have to go through or sit through and boredom that one sees on their young faces on this great day?

  4. It is certainly an interesting reading. The explanation of the word munajat has become more clearer than what we learnt in our mission class.

    The historical background and details related to this munajat increases our knowledge and awareness of our beautiful traditions.

    Imam Day Mubaraki!

  5. Fantastic Effort. As yet I have not come across a better paper on this very very important recitation.

    My personal appeal: Is it not time that instead of Hindi or Pak Jamat we recite the Global Jamat (or equivalent).

    Khushiali Mubarak to you and your team.

  6. Ya Ali Madad,

    Good job, I really appreciate your labor, and indeed the explanation of Munaqibat is very clear and true.

    May Mawlana Hazar Imam bestow you more courage and strength to perform such further divine works for our esteemed community.ameen.

    With kind regards and best wishes

    Shehzada Behram
    Admin: http://www.heavenchitral.webs.com

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