By Maleksultan J. Merchant
Ayaz — Hi, Naguib. How’re you?
Naguib — Ya Ali Madad Ayaz; I’m fine thank you.
Ayaz — What did you just say?
Naguib — Ya Ali Madad!
Ayaz — And what’s that?
Naguib — You mean you don’t know! That’s an Ismaili greeting.
Ayaz — How do you mean?
Naguib — Well just as ‘Goodmorning’, ‘Goodafternoon’ and others are greetings in the English culture, so Ya Ali Madad is a greeting in our Ismaili culture.
Ayaz — That’s interesting – no one’s ever told me that before!
Naguib — Actually, there is also a Muslim greeting, which goes ‘As-salaam-alaykum’. The reply to that is ‘Wa-alaykum-salaam’.
Ayaz — I guess all that has a special meaning.
Naguib — Yes. As-salaam-alaykum, which is Arabic, means ‘May Peace be upon you!’ The reply to this, Wa-alaykum-salaam means ‘And may peace be upon you, too’.
Ayaz — So I suppose it would be alright for me to use this greeting when I meet another Muslim.
Naguib — Yes, certainly. We should maintain this Muslim tradition.
Ayaz — That’s really great! Tell me, what does Ya Ali Madad mean?
Naguib — Ya Ali Madad is a phrase very rich in meaning. Firstly, Ali is one of the Names of Allah. it means ‘The Exalted’.
Ali, of course, is also the name of our first Imam and Mawlana Hazar Imam is Mawla Ali himself because he is the bearer of the same Noor as Hazrat Ali, like all Imams before him.
Thus, Ya Ali Madad means ‘May the Exalted Allah help you’ and it also means ‘May Mawla Ali, our Hazar Imam help you’.
Ayaz — What is the reply to Ya Ali Madad?
Nuguib — It’s Mawla Ali Madad, which means ‘May the Exalted Allah help you, too’, or ‘May Mawla Ali, our Hazar Imam help you, too’.
Ayaz — I think that’s a very beautiful greeting!
Naguib — It sure is, because Ya Ali Madad, unlike greetings like hi, good-morning, etc. is not merely a polite and courteous way to acknowledge another Ismaili’s presence. It is a Tasbih and a prayer.
It’s a Tasbih because we remember Allah and we remember Hazar Imam. At the same time, it is also a prayer asking for the help of Allah and Mawlana Hazar Imam.
Ayaz — It’s amazing but I’ve never heard of these greetings before. It’s almost embarassing to admit that such beautiful traditions exist in our culture, and yet I’ve never heard of them.
Naguib — But haven’t your parents ever mentioned this to you?
Ayaz — No. All mum says is, ‘Bye, take care’ when I go out and ‘Hello’ when I come in. When I go to bed, it’s ‘Goodnight’ with a kiss. Come to think of it mum never says Ya Ali Madad to her friends either. It’s always ‘Hi Jenny’ and ‘Hi Sakar’.
Naguib — It’s very sad to hear that we ignore our traditions. I guess it’s alright to say ‘Hi’ and Hello’ to non-Ismaili and non-Muslim friends. But I do feel that we ought to use As-salaam-alaykum and Ya Ali Madad when greeting Muslim and Ismaili friends.
Don’t you think it would be nice to say Ya Ali Madad before leaving for school, then again on returning from school, and finally when going to bed? And parents could say Mawla Ali Madad, i.e. ‘May Mawla Ali help you’ rather than ‘Take care of yourself’.
Ayaz — Yes it would, because then we know that Hazar Imam’s help is always available to us. Mum and dad will be really surprised to night when I say Ya Ali Madad instead of ‘Goodnight’.
I’ll surprise Mahmud, my Muslim friend at school tomorrow, too.
Naguib — I bet they’ll be amazed!
Ayaz — How come you know all this. Did your parents tell you?
Naguib — Yes, and I also learn a great deal by attending religious classes which teach us about our ethics, faith and culture. I suggest you enrol at your nearest centre and benefit from the material that we learn there.
Ayaz — Great, I’ll get my mum to enrol me. I’m glad I met you today and you said Ya Ali Madad. I wouldn’t have learnt all this if you’d just wished me ‘Hi’.
Naguib — Well, I’m glad you see the beauty and importance of our tradition. It’s also nice to know that you’ll start attending the classes.
Ayaz — Yes, I’ll make a point of attending the classes. Thank you very much for being so patient and explaining all this to me.
Naguib — Not at all – I’m glad I could be of help.
Ayaz — I’m glad too that I’ve learnt something about our traditions today. Well, I guess I’d better go now. Thank you Naguib, and Ya Ali Madad – ‘May the Exalted Allah help you’ and ‘May our Hazar Imam help you’, is that right?
Naguib — Yes, that’s right. Mowla Ali Madad, Ayaz.
Date posted: Saturday, September 24, 2011
The above reading is a revised version of a religious dialogue prepared by Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant while she taught Baitul Ilm in London, England. The dialogue was presented on numerous occasions by her students at their respective religious education centres and Jamatkhanas in the Greater London Area. The dialogue was first published in the 1977 Navroz issue (Volume 2, Numbers 3 & 4) of Ilm magazine – Ed
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