INTRODUCED BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
For the first time in recent Ismaili history since the accession on July 11, 1957 of Mawlana Hazar Imam, Highness the Aga Khan, to the throne of Imamat, millions of Shia Imami Ismailis around the world will be celebrating his 80th birthday or salgirah on December 13, 2016, just after the commemoration of the milad or birthday of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) which falls on the 12th day of the Islamic month of Rabi al-Awwal. These two important festivals haven’t been as close to each other as now in the Ismaili calendar, based on information we have gathered.
In India December 13th, 2016, has been designated as a gazetted holiday for the celebration of the milad, while in numerous other Muslim countries and Western countries, the commemoration of the birthday of the Prophet falls anywhere between December 11th and December 14th. The Ismaili community in Canada will be observing the milad on Sunday, December 11, 2016.
To mark these two very happy and inspiring days that raise our consciousness about the accomplishments of Prophet Muhammad and Mawlana Hazar Imam, we shall be featuring special pieces on this literary website as well as on Simerg’s two sister websites, http://www.simergphotos.com and http://www.barakah.com. It may be noted that barakah has been dedicated for the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam.
We begin with a piece from Ismaili ginanic sources on the Divine Institution of Nabuwwat (or Prophethood), which was precursor to the Divine Institution of Imamat.
It is Shia Muslim belief that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) designated his cousin and son-in-law Hazrat Ali to be the first Imam (Ghadir-Khumm and the Two Weighty Matters) . Thereafter, the Imamat has continued by heredity through Imam Ali (a.s.) and his wife and Prophet’s daughter, Hazrat Bibi Fatimat-az-Zahra, Khātun-i-Jannat (a.s). Today, the Ismailis are the only Shia community in this hereditary lineage led by a living Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The forefathers of His Highness ruled in North Africa and Egypt as the Fatimid Caliphs, and were founders of Cairo and the Al-Azhar University.
Prophet Muhammad in Ismaili Ginans
BY HAKIM VALI MOHAMMAD SURANI
The ginanic literature of the Ismailis emerged when Ismaili Pirs (missionaries) came to India 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 completely 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 good 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 the earlier revelations. 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.” — Excerpts from Ismaili Da’wa in India, by W. Ivanow, Ilm, Volume 4, Number 2.
In this brief article, we will present only a few of the several verses that reference Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) in the ginanic literature of the Ismailis.
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 (Prophet) as in the following verse, the Holy Qur’an relates the concept of Nubuwwah with the symbol of Noor (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.
Mercy to Mankind
“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”
“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”
“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”
“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.
“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.”
“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
“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”
“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.”
“Eji Nabi to jeevo(n) ka datar hai, Jene Kalma sunaya sar; Je momin manshe to beheshti howenga, Baki gafil bhula gemar”
“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 to those who have paid allegiance to Islam is provided in the following verse of Syed Imam Shah:
“Nabi Muhammad kahya jeene na kiya, dozakh-ma(n) darwaza une liya”
“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.
(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 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”
“Amongst the 124,000 (Prophets), the Prophet (Hazrat Nabi Muhammad Mustafa) is the chief.”
This is in accordance with a well known tradition of the Prophet Muhammad which states that there were 124,000 prophets; the Holy Qur’an mentions only about twenty-five prophets.
(b) Hazrat Adam (a.s.)
“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 Eji Sarve Jivu-na Lekha Leshey:
“Eji Dada Adam mota barvant kahiye, Tap mota tena kahiye.”
“Hazrat Adam was indeed very strong (spiritually), and his penance was complete.”
(c) Hazrat Musa (a.s.)
“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”
“Prophet Musa was the beloved of the Lord. He always sought and prayed for the vision of Allah.”
(d) Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.)
“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”
“Listen to the story of Prophet Ibrahim and do such deeds as he did.”
Nubuwwah to Imamat
“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 Mawla I am, Ali is his Mawla.” — 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” — Holy Qur’an, 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”
“Vicegerent of God (Imam) has come in this period and His Light is Eternal.”
However, the belief in and the recognition of 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.”
“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.”
Date posted: Friday, December 2, 2016.
This ginanic reading has been adapted from Hakim Vali Mohammad Surani’s piece 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, now known as the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB). References to all the ginans quoted in this reading are provided in the original Ilm article.
http://ginans.usask.ca/ is an outstanding research resource for ginans and includes recitations of hundreds of ginans by multiple reciters from around the world.
This a good co-incident and the material imparts good knowledge. Thank you.
80th Happy Birthday to Hazar Imam and congratulation to all Ismailis.
Excellent piece by Hakim Surani reproduced from UK’s Ilm magazine! As a young student at university, I used to read the pieces by Jehangir Merchant in Ilm – a caller small magazine that was edited by him; something we kind of lack now. He enlightened many of us during those tumultuous days of settling in Canada from Africa and knowing our Beloved Imam’s Farman on “…do not fail Islam….” That Mawla made to us as students in 1978. Thank you for continuing this enlightenment, scholarly and well researched papers through this website.
May Mawla continue to Bless you & your loved ones, Aameen.
What a unique co-incident. My heartfelt greetings to all!