A STORY FROM PYARA IMAM NI PYARI WATO
By Sairab Abuturabi and Jaferali Bhalwani
English rendition by Sakar H. Datoo
Please remember the name, Farazdaq. It is a name well-worth remembering. You may ask, “why?” It is because he was the poet of the descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and the off-spring of Hazrat Ali (a.s.). The praise of the descendants of Ali flowed freely from his speech and pen. This tale belongs to ages past. It goes back to the era of Hazrat Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s.), our third Imam, from whose veins was to ensue the Divine Line of the Imams. He was the Imam who, on the battlefield of Karbala, received the nass of Imamat from his father, Hazrat Imam Hussain (a.s.) with the blessing: “Through you the line of Imamat will continue till the Day of Judgment.”
Once, during the days of Hajj, Imam Zainul Abideen was at Mecca. At that time the Hajjis accorded him great respect. To be sure, for the believers he was everything, but even others revered him deeply. Should he happen to pass through a crowd of people, they would silently, and reverently move to make way for him. Quite a few of them expressed their reverence for the descendant of the Prophet by reciting salwaat. In those days, the Arabs of Syria had somehow been misled in the comprehension of the significance of the royal “dynasty of the prophet”, the Imamat. The Bani Umayyah had settled there as governors and caliphs and had misled the Syrians that they were the nearest relations of the Holy Prophet. The Syrians followed the people of Yazid and Muawiya. They did not seem to have a grain of belief or devotion for Hazrat Ali, Bibi Fatima, Hazrat Hassan or Hazrat Hussein. Among the Bani Umayyah (sons of Umayyah), the Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan had also come to perform the pilgrimage of Hajj. With him were some Syrian citizens. Seeing Hazrat Mawlana Zainul Abideen being accorded such great respect, the Syrian pilgrim who did not recognize him were puzzled, while Hisham and his companions who knew the Imam burnt in the fire of envy.
Finally, a Syrian asked Hisham: “Who is this person (meaning Hazrat Zainul Abideen)? He seems to be commanding such respect from the Hajjis.” Hisham thought if he revealed the true identity of the Holy Personage, their claim would suffer. Therefore, pretending not to know, he replied curtly: “Who knows who he is. He appears to be some magnate from Mecca or Medina.”
The foregoing remarks fell on the ears of the poet Farazdaq, who was standing near at that time. He could not bear to hear such undue comments, and putting his hand on the shoulder of the Syrian who had asked the question, and looking at him, he said: “Brother, instead of asking this man, ask me who he is.”
So saying, in fluent Arabic, he let loose beautiful poetry from his mouth. The poetry in Mawla’s praise began to flow like a stream from his mouth. The following felicitous and beautiful words began to echo through all the corners from the mouth of the poet:
“The Holy Mecca and the land of Kaaba know too well the holy feet of Saheb.
“He is the prince of the Imam of all of Allah’s creation. Indeed! The Divine Messenger with whose grace Allah’s Mercy descends in my pen and speech, is his grandfather.
“The most excellent of all women, Bibi Fatima Zahra Khatoon-e-janaat is his mother and he, Hazrat Ali, the dispeller of all troubles, with whose sword the foes of faith can be destroyed, is his father.
“He is the grandson of him whose greatness has been acknowledged by the very greatness of all the Prophets. The greatness of his people has been accepted by all people, and he is the one who has played in the lap of the Jewel of all Prophets.
“He reigns supreme on the peak of dignity and respect, the peak which is insurmountable. The entire creation remains under his obligation. It is with the sunny rays of his great mercy that ignorance, sins, vanity and terror are annihilated.”
Then, addressing Hisham, he spoke:
“Oh Hisham, don’t you really know him? How unfortunate can you be? But know him now, recognize him that he is the descendant of the Messenger of Allah (May peace be upon him), to whose allegiance he is committed.
“In his veins flows the blood of the great Prophet. He is full of the good qualities, beauty, truth and love for Allah.
“And then you ask who he is ? Or that you don’t know him ? Such words from you cannot affect him.
“For listen, his friendship, his closeness, his love should be the religion of every man, and enmity with him is fatal for a human being. He is the very incarnation of nearness.
“Oh Hisham and oh Syrian inquirer! From whom have you derived the wealth of the religion of Islam? Have you forgotten that you have got it from his holy grandfather, from his holy father ? He is the symbol our Holy Prophet Muhammad.
“He is a peerless leader. For all these reasons who can be as unfortunate as not to take pride in being even the servant of his house?”
Thus, the poet recited to the present pilgrim his rich poetry laden with lavish praise.
Hisham’s anger knew no bounds. It reached the extreme limit. He said to Farazdaq:
“Oh Farazdaq: so much praise for Hazrat Zainul Abideen? And not even half of such praise for us, the leaders of the Umayyah? You have been receiving annual stipends from the Umayyad Caliphs, and you have been composing poetry, but you have never sung any praise to this extent for us.”
The poet replied:
“What? Was I singing the praises of the Imam? Who am I, and do I deserve to sing divine praises? Indeed, His praises shine in the very lanterns of the Universe. Look at this wall of Baitullah!  At the time of the birth of his great-grandfather, these walls had burst, and we are but mere human beings. Should our hearts therefore not burn with the love for the Imam? He whose heart burns not with the love of Ali (Asadullah – the Lion of God) such a heart is like an abode void of light.”
Following this, Farazdaq followed with a forceful question:
“At the time of the riots in Medina when your grandfather Marwan’s life was in danger, in whose house had you sought shelter?”
And then folding his hands in humility, he went on:
“You were saved when you had shelter under the wing of Hazrat Zainul Abideen. What, have you forgotten that so soon? And your praises? What a comparison? Oh Hisham, was your father like his father? Was your grandfather like his grandfather? Does your grandmother command the same respect which his grandmother does? Your grandfather like his grandfather? Tell me, show me that he was and I shall sing his praises.
“But glory be to Allah, the Creator of the Universe, that none has hitherto been like the Imam, his ancestors nor any one shall ever be.”
During this encounter between Farazdaq and Caliph Marwan, Mawlana Zainul Abideen was not present physically, but he was informed of it after some time. He was further informed that the Umayyad Caliph had withheld Farazdaq’s stipend, and that he had been imprisoned in the prison of Asfan between Mecca and Medina.
The Imam sent him a generous gift of 12,000 dirham to the poet. The poet, returning the gift, humbly submitted to Mawlana Zainul Abideen:
“Oh Mawla ! I did not praise thee and thy ancestors for the sake of money but only to have Allah and His Prophet pleased with me!”
In reply, Hazrat Imam Zainul Abideen sent the gift back to Farazdaq with the message:
“We who are Ahl-e-Bayt do not accept back the gift already bestowed.”
Therefore, Farazdaq, accepted the gift.
Thereafter, having lost the stipend of 1000 dirham from the Umayyad Caliph, he began to receive a stipend of 2000 dirham from the Imam. Even when the Umayyads deported the poet to Basra, he still continued to receive the stipend and for the rest of his life, he became the fortunate recipient of the Imam’s grace for his spiritual and worldly barakah and well-being.
Such is the Imam of the Time, Magnanimous and Merciful who takes care of the believers at all times.
Let us conclude with the following:
Believers, run and partake of Heavenly water,
Quench your thirst, believers,
Behold the Saqi  of the Heavenly water,
Standing at the spring of Kausar 
This is the House of Magnanimity whence none departs disappointed,
The long-awaited morn has dawned,
Mustafa’s children are the incarnation of belief;
Refreshed we are by Fatima’s son.
Date posted: September 1, 2012.
 Baitullah – the House of God, the Kaaba.
 Saqi – one who is the cupbearer or one who pours drinks to the thirsty.
 Kausar – sacred fountain of heaven.
In Ismaili tradition, Hazrat Ali or the Imam of the Time — since each Imam in essence is the bearer of the same Nur (light) — is called Saqi-e-Kausar (the cupbearer of the fountain of Paradise).
About the authors and translator: Sairab Turabi and Jaferali Bhalwani were the authors of the Gujarati work Pyara Imam ni Pyari Wato which contained anecdotes from the lives of Ismaili Imams. Sakar H. Datoo renditioned into English several stories from the famed work for the Ismailia Association for Tanzania’s weekly magazine Ismaili Crescent. Ms. Datoo served as an educator with the Aga Khan educational institutions around the world for many years. She was the principal of the Aga Khan Mzizima Secondary School in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, from 1967-1976.
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