“Qur’an and Ginan” (Qur’anic Teachings in the Ginan)

Editor’s note: Erudite Ismaili missionary, Kamaluddin Ali Muhammad, has co-authored with his wife, Zarina, a series of Gujarati, Urdu and English texts on the Ismaili tariqah in recent years. A complete list of his works can be found on his website (see link below). In this piece below for Simerg, he introduces the subject of his most recent book published in English under the title “Qur’an and Ginan.” A collage of selected works by Alwaez is produced with his profile at the end of this piece.

Qur’anic Teachings in the Ginan

by Kamaluddin Ali Muhammad

Front cover of "Qur'an and Ginan" - Qur'anic Teachings in the Ginan - co-authored by Alwaez Kamaluddin and Alwaeza Zarina Kamaluddiin. Hardback, pp. 225, Kamalzar, 2014.

Front cover of “Qur’an and Ginan” – Qur’anic Teachings in the Ginan – co-authored by Alwaez Kamaluddin and Alwaeza Zarina Kamaluddin. Hardback, pp. 225, Kamalzar, 2014.

INTRODUCTION

From time immemorial Allah, The Merciful, sent a large number of Messengers and Imams for the guidance of humankind of whom some were granted with revealed Books, notable of which are Taurat, Zabur, Injil and Qur’an. The Holy Qur’an is the final Book revealed to the last and the final Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa alihi wa sallam). This is a universal and eternal message of Allah considered by the believers to be the miracle of Islam. As Allah says:

“And if ye are in doubt as to what we have revealed from time to time to our servant, then produce a Sura like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers besides Allah, if your (doubts) are true. But if ye cannot — and of a surety ye cannot — then fear the Fire whose fuel is men and stones, — which is prepared for those who reject Faith.” (2:23, 24)

“Say: If the whole of mankind and jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support.” (17:88)

“Had we sent down this Qur’an on a mountain, verily, thou wouldst have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder for fear of Allah. Such are the similitude which we propound to men, that they may reflect.” (59:21)

This divine message is an unfathomable ocean of knowledge and wisdom which has illuminated the hearts and minds of people of all ages and at all places. Islamic civilization, rising from the land of Arabia, spread over a large part of the world whose people, their cultures, their languages, their norms and customs were all different but this message made itself understandable to all of them. To adept according to the time, place and circumstances is a unique characteristic of Islam. As Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini has said:

“…. the Qur’an-e-Sharif, rich in parable and allegory, metaphor and symbol, has been an inexhaustible well-spring of inspiration, lending itself to a wide spectrum of interpretations. This freedom of interpretation is a generosity which the Qur’an confers upon all believers, uniting them in the conviction that All-Merciful Allah will forgive them if they err in their sincere attempts to understand His word. Happily, as a result, the Holy Book continues to guide and illuminate the thought and conduct of Muslims belonging to different communities of interpretation and spiritual affiliation, from century to century, in diverse cultural environments. The Noble Qur’an extends its principle of pluralism also to adherents of other faiths. It affirms that each has a direction and path to which they turn so that all should strive for good works, in the belief that, wheresoever they may be, Allah will bring them together” — (London, October 19, 2003)

THE QUR’AN AND GINANIC TEACHINGS

The preaching of Ismaili Tariqah in the Indian subcontinent is a very long and important chapter of the Ismaili history, where the Ismaili pirs and sayyids preached the Tariqah for many centuries. The most striking feature of this activity was that the Ismaili Tariqah was preached in the local languages and in harmony with the local beliefs, customs and traditions which was the main reason of the success of its mission. The literary genre which was inherited to us as a result of this preaching is known as Ginan, meaning spiritual knowledge, which comprises of roughly 800 short and long poetries. The Ginans represent the Shi‘a Ismaili beliefs, practices and various aspects of communal life of this community in the Indian sub-continent for many centuries. Although its languages are local, its teachings are by and large based on the final message of Allah – the Holy Qur’an. As Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (a.s.) has said:

“In the Ginans that Pir Sadardin has given you, he has explained to you the essence of the Qur’an in Indian languages”. — Zanzibar 5-7-1899

“Pir Sadardin has narrated the Ginans having composed them from the Tafsir of the Qur’an”. — Zanzibar, 10-7-1899

In the text of the Ginans itself we repeatedly come across the concept that the teachings of the Ginans are based on the messages of the Qur’an. This is evident from the following verses of the Ginans:

Pir Shams paḍe ilam Kuran,
Moman so jo jaṇe bharam ginan. [1]

Translation

Pir Shams narrates the knowledge of the Qur’an.
A believer is one who knows the divine knowledge.

Gur nache garbimaṅhe, te gae Kuranne re lol. [2]

Translation

The spiritual guide danced to the Garbi and related the teachings of the Qur’an.”

Satgur kahere Pir Shams Kuran ja bhakhiya,
Ane bhakhiya char ved ja jaṇ;
Te gat gangamanhe besi kari,
Kīdhi sachi sankh nirvaṇ re… [3]

Translation

The Satgur says: Pir Shams has preached the Qur’an and preached the four Vedas. Sitting among the Gat Jamat he has narrated the true signs.”

Eji Pir Sadardin yara paḍe re Kurana,
Bahar jave taku andar lana,
Shahne sujaṇo apṇa pirne pichhaṇo, bhi saiyan…[4]

Translation

“O brother! Pir Sadardin is giving you the teachings of the Holy Qur’ān. Bring back those who have turned away from your religion. Recognize the Imam and know the Pir.”

Eji nurthi nur ja parghaṭiya,
Tenu vas chhe nur ja manhe;
Teṇe a satpanth peda kidha,
Khoji kaḍhiyo Kuranmanhe; cheto…

Eji Ali Nabithi e satpanth chaliya,
Tene sirevie gubat apar;
Athar vedi a satpanth kahie,
Te to khojiya Kuran minjar; cheto…[5]

Translation

“Light manifested from light; its abode is in the light. He created this true path (Satpanth) and searched it out from the Holy Qur’an. That Satpanth continued from Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and the Prophet (s.a.s); follow it most discreetly. This Satpanth is according to Athar Veda (the last Veda) that has been searched out from the Holy Qur’an.”

FEATURES OF THE BOOK

In our new book, “Qur’an and Ginan,” we have tried to make a humble attempt to highlight those concepts and teachings of the Ginans in which the messages of the Qur’an have been clearly conveyed in the local languages and usages. We have divided this book into various chapters containing collection of Ayats from the Holy Qur’an on different topics such as the attributes of Allah, Angels, the Prophets, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s), Imamat, Death and the Day of Judgment, Ethics, Zakat and numerous other subjects followed by corresponding Ginanic verses. In the beginning of each chapter, a short introductory note has been given explaining briefly the teachings containing in the selected verses of the Qur’an and the Ginans collected in each chapter so that it becomes clear to the readers as to how the teachings of the Qur’an have been represented in the selected verses of the Ginans. There are more than one hundred topics on which selected verses of the Qur’an and the Ginans have been collected in this book.

We hope that our humble efforts will be useful, particularly for the waizin, religion teachers and the students of the religious education system, and generally for the whole Jamat.

Copyright: Kamaluddin Ali Muhammad.

Date posted: Monday, May 12, 2014.

_________________

References

[1] Pir Shams, granth “Man Samjaṇi”, paat no. 258.
[2] Pir Shams, ginan “Sat marag Shams Pir”, paat no. 5.
[3] Pir Shams, granth “Saloko Moṭo”, pāṭh no. 202.
[4] Pir Hasan Kabirdin, ginan “Ash puni ham”, paat no. 6.
[5] Sayyid Imam Shah, granth “Moman Chetamṇi”, paaṭ no. 7, 162.

A NOTE ON KAMALUDDIN MUHAMMAD AND A SELECTION OF HIS WORKS

About the author: Alwaez Rai Kamaluddin Ali Muhammad of Karachi, Pakistan, has been attached with the Shia Imami Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for Pakistan (ITREB) since 1965. He along with his wife, Alwaeza Raisaheba Zarina Kamaluddin, were granted the honour of imparting religious education to the children of Mawlana Hazar Imam. Alwaez is author and compiler of numerous books and articles related to Islam and the Ismaili tariqah (see images below).  His complete profile and list of publications may be viewed on his Website, http://kamalzar.com/.

An important selection of books in English on the Ismaili tariqah by Kamaluddin Muhammad and Zarina Kamaluddin.

An important selection of books in English on the Ismaili tariqah by Kamaluddin Muhammad and Zarina Kamaluddin.

Pocket sized compilations

Pocket sized compilations

Other article(s) by Alwaez Kamaluddin on this website:

A Reflection on Wajhullah (‘The Face of Allah’)

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4 thoughts on ““Qur’an and Ginan” (Qur’anic Teachings in the Ginan)

  1. I agree with Malik Merchant and Ismaili Gnosis. There are many examples of Ginan books published outside the fold of Jamati institutions. Ismaili Hymns from South Asia – an Introduction to the Ginans by Christopher Shackle and Zawahir Moir published by SOAS (School of Oriantal and African Studies, University of London, 1992), Tazim Kassam’s work published by SUNY in the 1990’s, the late G. Allana published one in the 1970’s or 1980’s and of course we have A scent of Sndalwood – Indo-Ismaili Religious Lyrics by Aziz Esmail, by IIS, London. Recently I received links of Ginans from Saskatchewan University – there is a piece by Simerg on this too. These books can be found in public libraries, so it’s not a big deal!

  2. I think ITREB is the only authority to publish religious books then how come this private venture is allowed to print and sell religious books. Should Ismailis in general and Simerg in particular support this practice?

    • Simerg is also an independent initiative and publishes religious articles, among many other subjects. Alwaez Kamaludin and his wife Zarina have come out with works that are accessible, easily understood, and well-written and explained. We welcomed Alwaez’s article on Qur’an and Ginan introducing his new book, and highlighted some of his other publications. It is hoped that in the coming months and years ITREB will produce literary works that are comprehensible to all streams of the Jamat. There are very few books by the IIS that are non-academic in nature. In this regard we heartily welcome the special publications by the new Aga Khan Museum aimed at children. We hope the Museum’s new set of publications will prove popular both among jamati and non-jamati members.

    • Actually your statement is patently incorrect. There is nothing that limits the publication of books on Ismaili history and thought to ITREB only. There is tons of academic literature that proves otherwise.

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