Preparing for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Didar: Short Essential Readings (VI) – The Merciful Glance and other readings


In Celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Visit to East Africa

A portrait of His Highness the Aga Khan. Jehangir Merchant Collection.


Introduction: What does Ismaili and related Shia literature reveal about the doctrine of Imamat? What are the pre-requisites in our daily lives to maximize the benefits from the didar (lit. glimpse) of the Imam of the Time? What should our attitudes be in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam? These are some of the themes which “Essential Readings” is covering through short excerpts. This is the sixth in a series which began on June 25th. Links to other “Didar Series” posts are provided at the end of this post. We welcome personal reflections, narratives and poetry relevant to didar and the East African visit from all our readers. Please submit your pieces to with appropriate references.



by Fida’i Khurasani

He is always present
a witness with his followers;

but who has seen his beauty
except the blessed?

He who is the cupbearer of
the fount of paradise

is aware altogether of
the hearts of his followers

He is the Imam of the time
the guide and comforter

the protector of his followers
whether young or old

Like the sun in the sky
he is manifest in the world

but the blind bat cannot see
his luminous face

* * *

By Qadi Noman (10th century)

“Say (O Muhammad): No reward do I ask (for my favours) except your love for my kith and kin”

“He who loves us will be with us on the Day of Judgement” – Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq

It is related from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq that a group of Shias visited him one day. One in the group addressed the Imam and spoke of a man who was with them.

“O Son of the Messenger of God: this man has love for you.” On hearing these words, the Imam looked at the person and said: “The best kind of love is the love for the sake of God and His Messenger. There is no gain in any other kind of love.”

The Imam then continued:

“Once the Ansars came to Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (sas) and said, ‘O Messenger of God! We were on the wrong path and Allah guided us through you. We were destitute and we prospered by your blessings. For this reason, you may ask of anything you desire from our belongings and we shall give it to you.’ At this, the following verse was revealed by Allah, ‘Say (O Muhammad): No reward do I ask (for my favours) except your love for my kith and kin’.”

Moved to tears, Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq then raised his hands and exclaimed: “Praise be to God, Who has exalted us above all.”

It is said that a group of people came from Khorassan to pay their homage to Imam Muhammad al-Baqir. Seeing both the feet of one of the visitors severely wounded he inquired about the nature of the injury. The man replied: “O the Son of the Messenger of God! My feet have become sore with blisters because of the long distance I travelled on foot. I swear by God that nothing but the love for Ahl al-Bayt has brought me all the way here.”

The Imam said: “He who loves us will be with us on the Day of Judgement. Religion is nothing but love! God says. ‘Say (0 Muhammad): if you love God follow me. God will love you’.” (Holy Qur’an 3:31)

Imam al-Baqir is also reported to have said, “At the time of death, when one is breathing his last, it is only the love of Ali that will be most beneficial to him.”

* * *

By Mansoor Ladha (“I Wish I’d Been There”)

[Following the conquest of Egypt] I would see Jawhar establish the new capital, pacify the provinces…and introduce new religious observances in conformity with the Shia Ismaili faith. This would include a call to prayers containing the Shiite invitation to “come to the best prayer.” Now that all had been done, no further time would be spent. There was nothing left to do but to invite Imam al-Muizz to Egypt.

In 973, the Imam leaves the Maghreb on his way to Egypt with his sons and relatives with him, along with coffins of his ancestors. One of his stops is Alexandria, where the Imam resolves to dedicate his life in the exercise of good works. He departs after spending three days in Alexandria, and on June 6, 973, he reaches a place known as Mina. Jawhar is there to receive him. I see him go forth to meet his master and I witness him drawing near the Imam, dismounting from his horse and kissing the ground before the Imam in a show of loyalty, humility and submission to the Amirul Muminin. This is affection and love for the Imam I see at the highest and deepest level. It is a profound experience and a joy to behold, which I would report.

The Imam would then cross the Nile on the Rawdah bridge, bypass Fustat, and proceed straight to Cairo and take possession of the palace or fort that Jawhar had constructed for the Imam. Then I would see him present the Imam, al-Muizz, with the best breed of 150 horses gilded with saddles and bridles of gold and diamonds as well as camels and ponies, saddled with boxes filled with all rare items in Egypt.

Then the Imam Muizz in a remarkable gesture of magnanimity and forgiveness would announce the release of about 1000 of his prisoners and present robes and Khalat to all his nobles and officers. Would Jawhar be forgotten in the sight of the Imam? No. I would be exuberant to see my beloved Imam’s immense love for someone responsible for conquering Egypt some four years earlier. Jawhar would be honoured as he is presented with a golden Khalat and a turban. Imam Muizz then would tie a sword on Jawhar’s waist and present him with 20 horses with golden saddles, 50 thousand dinars and 200,000 dirhams. With this Darbar, Egypt and Cairo enter a new era that would last almost two centuries and constitute one of the most brilliant periods in Ismaili history and Islamic Civilization.

* * *

By Khalil Andani

There is a very powerful and profound significance to notion of the Imam glancing upon or making eye contact with his murids in the didar. The glance of the Imam which he grants to his murids is called nazar (in Arabic/Persian) and najar (in the Ginans). The word nazar can mean ‘gazing’, ‘glancing’, ‘looking’, ‘seeing’ or ‘reflecting’. The word nazar appears in the famous hadith where the Prophet says:

al-nazar ila wajhi ‘Ali ‘ibada [1]


Gazing upon the face of ‘Ali is worship

If the murid’s glance or nazar upon the face of Mawlana Hazar Imam – the ‘Ali of the age – is equal to ibada (worship), then one can only imagine the benefit and blessings that the Imam’s glance or nazar upon the face of the murid can bring! Many of us desire or seek the Imam to look at our face when he is amidst us. This is not really a selfish thought – but actually a form of prayer which is rooted in the Holy Ginans.

For example, the pirs in many Ginans beseech the Imam to cast his glance upon them. Pir Hasan Kabir al-Din [2] makes the following plea to the Imam:

eji charann te apna bhetadjo
sunno maaraa nar haree re ya ali
nazar karo moraa shaam
akheeyu(n) amee bharee re ya ali


O our Lord! Embrace us at your feet. O my mumins, listen
for He is indeed the Master, the Lord Oh Ali.
O our Lord! Look (nazar) at us for Your eyes are filled
with the water of mercy, Oh Ali.

The glance which the Imam grants to the murid is an act of mercy, grace and compassion. This glance has the power to forgive all of our sins, polish our souls and transform our vices into virtues and our bad deeds into good deeds. In this regard, the great Islamic philosopher Nasir al-Din Tusi wrote the following:

“The devotees, devoid of all scruples or doubt, but with total confidence and sincere trust, must believe that a single merciful (rahmat) glance (nazar) or sign of acceptance given by the Imam to the supplication and imploration of the creatures from first to last can remit their sins and pardon their faults, transmuting their iniquities into deeds of merit.” [3]



[1] Justice and Remembrance, Reza Shah-Kazemi, pp. 62
[2] Pir Hasan Kabir al-Din, Saahebe farmaan lakhee mokalyaa, Verse 4
[3] The Paradise of Submission, Nasir al-Din Tusi, tr. S.J. Badakchani, p. 94

* * *

13th – 20th centuries

The following short story from Rumi’s Mathnawi about a shepherd and verses from Kalam-e Mawla and a ginan illustrate the point that Mawlana Hazar Imam has himself made that “Man will ultimately be judged by what he is in his heart” and “Man will be judged by his faith in Allah.”

“When Prophet Musa (as) heard a shepherd praying to God: “0 God, show me where Thou art, that I may become Thy servant. I will clean Thy shoes and comb Thy hair, and sew Thy clothes, and fetch Thee milk,” he rebuked him, saying, ‘0 foolish one, though your father was a Musalman, you have become an infidel. God is a Spirit, and needs not such gross ministrations as, in your ignorance, you suppose’. Then a voice from heaven was heard, saying, ‘0 Musa, I regard not the words that are spoken, but the heart that offers them. I do not require fine words, but a burning heart. Men’s ways of showing devotion to Me are various, but so long as the supplications are genuine, they are accepted.”

Hazrat Ali says in his Kalam:

Khuda to niyat ne dil dekhe, na dekhe surat aur libas; Atlas pahene to kiya huva, aur kiya huva jo pahene karbas.


God sees the intention and the heart, and not the feature or the clothes. What does it matter if one wore satin or, for that matter, rich (gold or silver embroidered) clothes.

Similarly, Pir Sadardin in his Ginan Eji shaamku aava(n)taa jo kahe explains:

Eji Pir Sadardin boliyaa,
koi man aapnnu samjaave;
kapaddaa dhove so kyaa huvaa,
dil dhove so paave


Pir Sadardin says and enlightens your mind (heart).
Of what good is it to clean your clothes (be ostentatious).
It is only through the purity of the inner being (heart)
that one attains (salvation and the timeless rewards).

* * *

Date Essential Readings (VI) posted: July 12, 2011


For other “Didar Series” posts please scroll down or click:
Short Essential Readings (I) (The Imam – Proof of God, Dazzled by the Light, Companionship on High, Unity of Imamat, Supplication)
Short Essential Readings (II) (The Didar: Life’s Ultimate Purpose, The Unveiling at Sijilmasa, the Soul, Our Spiritual Parents, Supplication)
Short Essential Readings (III) (Imam’s Essence, Ism’ul-Azam, Quhistani’s Example, The Imam – A Cosmic Necessity, Supplication)
Short Essential Readings (IV) (Aab-i Shifaa, The Good One, The Nur of Imamat, Obedience to the Imam, Supplication)
Short Essential Readings (V) (The Example of Ismail Gangji, Imam’s Beatific Vision, Fatima’s Progeny, Imams – Ships of Salvation, Supplication)
Short Essential Readings (VI) (You are reading it: The Merciful Glance, The Manifest Imam, Jawhar’s Devotion, Love for the Imam and True Faith)



1. Shimmering Light: An Anthology of Ismaili Poems, ed. Faquir M. Hunzai and Kutub Kassam, pub. I. B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 1997. Note: The poem appears under the title “Recognition of the Imam” in the Anthology. For a PDF catalogue of IIS publications please click IIS publications.

2. Excerpts from Imams Muhammad al-Baqir and Ja’far as-Sadiq on Love for the Imam (on this Website).

3. See His Name is Jawhar by Mansoor Ladha in this Website’s series I Wish I’d Been There.

4. Excerpts from Khalil Andani’s article “The Merciful Glance.” The complete article will be published on this Website at a later date.

5. Excerpt includes material from Zahir and Batin by Shaukatali H. Dharsee, Ilm, Volume 8, Number 4, March 1984, page 26.


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