Editor’s Note: Though aimed primarily at the younger reader, the article should be of benefit to the general reader as well.
In the Shia Imami Ismaili Tariqah, obedience to the Imam of the Time (Hazar Imam) is known as Farmanbardari. It is the most important duty of each Ismaili Muslim. We should not disobey a farman even if that farman may not seem right for us. Hazar Imam knows better.
To obey the Imam is the best way to show our love for him and earn the Imam’s blessings, pleasure and happiness.
Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:
“And We have given you only little knowledge, from all the knowledge there is.” (Holy Qur’an, 17:85)
This proves that we are not able to understand everything. Hence, in order to know the Siratal Mustaqim, the True Path, we have to follow the farmans of Hazar Imam, who knows everything.
In the Holy Qur’an, Allah also says:
“And We have vested the knowledge and authority of everything in Imam-e-Mubin (the Manifest Imam).” ( 36 : 67)
It is necessary for us to have complete faith in the Imam. We must obey his farmans and we must never doubt the Imam or the farman which he gives. The farmans are for our benefit in this world and the next. There are numerous ginans and farmans about Farmanbardari. Here is a part of one ginan, in which the Pir has described the downfall of Azazil, because Azazil was proud and did not obey Allah:
Eji Azazil firasta buzarag kahiye,
Ane budhivanta kahiye tesa,
Chhatris karod kitaba padiya,
Bhitar bheda na paya. . . Ilahi bhed…
Azazil was the most learned of all the angels.
He had studied 360 million books,
but he did not heed God’s command to bow down before Hazrat Adam.
God, therefore, banished him from the Kingdom of Heaven and he became Satan.
Farmans change according to the times and circumstances. We should follow the current guidance of the present Imam. There is no choice in obeying farmans. We have to follow all the farmans of the present Imam. We cannot choose the farmans we like and ignore the ones that are difficult to follow. Such an attitude never makes one a Mo’min.
A true mo’min submits himself to the Imam. There is no question of how far to obey the Imam or why to obey him. Farmans are to be accepted as they stand and truly mean.
Here is an example related to Farmanbardari.
Once, a king called his court and ordered a golden hammer and the most expensive pearl to be brought from his treasury. With the pearl in one hand and the golden hammer in the other, the king ordered each of his courtiers to come and smash the pearl. Each courtier bowed before the king, sang praises and replied that it was a very valuable pearl and the king would not want it smashed.
In the end, the king ordered his slave to smash the pearl. The slave accepted the golden hammer from the king, took the pearl and smashed it into tiny pieces.
All the courtiers were aghast at the sight of the smashed pearl. They all cried that the slave should be severely punished. The king called for order and questioned the slave as to why he had smashed such a valuable pearl. The slave answered that the command of the king was more valuable to him than the pearl, and he had therefore obeyed the King.
Similarly, for an Ismaili the farmans of Hazar Imam are more valuable than any material thing.
When Hazar Imam tells us to do something concerning ourselves or involving the Jamat, we should do so accordingly. Just as we need a guide when we are in a strange country and can’t argue with the guide, we cannot argue with the spiritual guide. Thus to remain on the Siratal Mustaqim we have to follow our Imam’s farmans.
Here is another ginan in which our Pir has explained the importance of the Imam as a guide.
Satagur kahere amara vachan je manshe,
Te chhe amare galeka har.
Tene galeka har kari rakhasu,
Tis momanke sukhaka anta na par-re.
In the above ginan, the Pir is saying that whoever obeys the Imam’s farmans is like a garland. Hazar Imam will keep such a person very near to him and that Mo’min will be very happy in this world and the next.
All the worldly knowledge, position or valuables are nothing before the farmans of the Imam. The Imam loves his murids. Day and night he is working for our betterment. It remains for the believers to snatch the pearls of his farmans and fill up their lives with the treasure, repaying with love and devotion for their Imam.
1. The reading has been adapted from an article entitled Farmanbardari by Nadya T. A. Kassam. It was a winning entry in the junior category of an essay competition organized by the Ismailia Association for the UK in 1979. The full essay was published in Ilm magazine, Volume 5, Numbers 2 & 3, December 1979, pages 32-35.