SHORT ESSENTIAL READINGS II
In Celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Visit to East Africa
ASPECTS OF THE ‘DIDAR’
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 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 second in a series that will continue into late July. Please visit this Web site frequently and make use of this valuable resource. We welcome contributions from our world-wide audience in the form of personal reflections, narratives and poetry relevant to the didar. Please submit your pieces to Simerg@aol.com with appropriate references. For the previous post, please click Preparing for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Didar: Short Essential Readings (I)
ESSENTIAL READINGS (II)
1. THE DIDAR: LIFE’S ULTIMATE PURPOSE
In the following excerpt Imam Mustansir-Billah (32nd Ismaili Imam, post Alamut period) emphasizes the Zaheri and Batini aspects of the Imam’s Didar. He recognizes and acknowledges the sacrificing spirit of the Jamat, in serving him and in observing religious duties including special prayers through the night:
“They (the Jamat) have given up their property, and even their lives. All of them have faithfully submitted their religious dues. Others have travelled long distances through arduous conditions by land and sea, braving storms and incurring great expense. Some attend religious assemblies to increase their knowledge while others, without any worldly motive, perform acts of charity to benefit the poor. Some have acted with noble actions in the cause of faith, including special devotions, worship and especially remembrance (Zikr), continually invoking the Lord throughout the night, never neglecting God for even a moment, and worshipping him out of passionate devotion.
“All believers are urged to come into the presence of the Imam and to see him with their own eyes. Thus, the esoteric (batini) vision, realized through pious works and the constant remembrance of God during the nightly vigil, as well as the exoteric (zaheri) vision, achieved by travelling to the Imam’s residence and beholding the gateway of God’s mercy, become the ultimate purpose of human life.
“Piety should be for the purpose of recognizing and beholding God, which is achieved through the recognition and vision of the Imam of one’s time.”
In the last line, see the similarity with Imam Husayn’s reply to the question, “What is the knowledge of God?” He said:
“It is, for the people of each age, knowledge of the imam to whom they owe obeisance.” (please see Essential Readings I)
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2. IMAM AL-MAHDI’S UNVEILING: A MOMENT OF GLORY AT SIJILMASA
Standing out in the heat of the desert, a group of conquering Berber tribesmen waited anxiously for their Imam to emerge from the city of Sijilmasa in North Africa. The year was 909 and they had successfully overthrown the Aghlabid rulers at Raqqada. Now was the moment they had longed for – they had come to retrieve their Imam from Sijilmasa, where he had been under arrest, and install him as their new Caliph. They dreamt and prayed that the world would finally achieve peace and justice under the rule of a divinely-guided descendant of the Prophet.
Until that moment, the Ismaili Imams had been in hiding for four generations, so few people could recognize them. In order to identify him at Sijilmasa, it was agreed that if someone rode out into the desert, the tribesmen would dismount from their horses. If that person did not respond by also dismounting, they would know it was their Imam.
To witness that moment of unveiling when Imam al-Mahdi rode out to meet his followers stands for me above all the other moments of glory, intrigue and devastation throughout Ismaili history. The image of a long-hidden Imam remaining atop his mount when all his awestruck followers dismounted is among the most powerful symbols of the authority of the Shi‘a Imams. In that instant, over a century of hiding and persecution was cast aside, and a new era would begin for the Ismailis. For most, the Imam had long been an idea rather than a living person, but now he was real and right in front of them. He was present and living. And those followers at Sijilmasa fell at his feet in the most sincere devotion to their spiritual guide.
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3. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SOUL
“Look at the trouble your parents have taken from the days of your childhood in the growth of your bodies and in the improvement of your physical life on earth. But for the interest they took in you, you would not have been what you are. Your souls are thousand times more important than your bodies. The Imams are your spiritual parents. Avail yourselves of a few days of life which are at your disposal here and look after your spiritual elevation under the care of your spiritual parents.
“Once you miss this opportunity, you will repent forever. You will not be given a second chance to set things right.”
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4. IMAMS ARE OUR SPIRITUAL PARENTS
“O Ali! I and you are parents of this community.” This is a well known Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (sas). In this way, those who believe in the Imam of the Time become his spiritual children. The spiritual love is much deeper and stronger than the physical one because worldly love is temporal like the body while the spiritual relation is eternal. The Imam of the Time, as our spiritual parent, devotes everything for the betterment of his spiritual children. Indeed this becomes the mission of his life. As Prophet Muhammad has said: “I am sent for your worldy betterment and for salvation in the hereafter.”
So the spiritual parents express their love for their spiritual children by showering on them their blessings and mercy and by guiding them on the path of worldly and spiritual progress.
The present progress of the Ismaili Jamat is a living example of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s love, affection and care for his spiritual children. When he became our 49th Imam, he declared:
“My grandfather had worked for the betterment of his spiritual children till his last breath. I also devote my life for you”
and later he said:
“My love for my Jamat is a lot stronger than yours can ever be for me and I would like you to remember this.”
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5. A SUPPLICATION BY PIR HASAN KABIRDIN
O Exalted Islam Shah!
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Date “Essential Readings (II)” posted: June 28, 2011
Please also see:Short Essential Readings (I)
References below correspond to numbered excerpts above.
(1) Imam Mustansir bi’llah on the Importance of Zaheri and Batini Aspects of Didar (article on this Website)
(2) The Unveiling at Sijilmasa (article by Aleem Karmali on this Website).
(3) Spiritual Enlightenment Under the Imam’s Guidance (article on this Website)
(4) Silver Jubilee: A Symbol of Love and Affection By Alwaez Kamaluddin A. Muhammad, Al-Misbah, UK, July 1983, page 9.
(5) A translation by Jehangir Merchant of Ashaajee Jug pati jug naath Sri Islam Shah…, first verse of Pir Hasan Kabirdin’s composition known as Anant Akhado. Please also visit http://salmanspiritual.com for transliteration/translation of the complete Ginan by Noorallah Juma/Karim Maherali.
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