In worrying time of Covid-19 pandemic, let us seek compassion, help and hope from our scriptures and Mawlana Hazar Imam's Farmans that he is present with his murids all the time

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in Booni Chitral.
Mawlana Hazar Imam in Booni Chitral during his Diamond Jubilee visit to Pakistan in December 2017. Photo: The Ismaili/ Karim Sadruddin.

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

As the world struggles to cope with the novel coronavirus pandemic, it is natural to become anxious. We live in extraordinary times. The closure of Jamatkhanas in almost all countries accentuates our anxiety.  I do not intend this article to be doom and gloom. To the contrary, I want to portray hope from our faith.

The emergence of this new virus and its global impact has demonstrated the intricate ways in which humanity is interconnected and how it has brought entire humanity to its knees and shown us the vulnerability of the ‘House of Cards’ that is our civilization. There is no ‘foreign virus’ as some have chosen to describe it. This virus is brutally merciless and does not recognize race, colour, gender, religion or national boundaries.  

There is already a disruption of social care and communal services as the pandemic progresses in Europe, North America and elsewhere. This will transfer the burden of care of the aged, less able and vulnerable to younger, and healthier family members who may ride through the illness with minor discomfort. The projected time periods are likely to be several months.

Bearing in mind all these factors, how should we react to the pandemic? Ours is an intellectual tradition. Allah possesses the power of miracles, but we do not relay on Allah’s miracle alone.

At this very moment, there are laboratories around the world racing against time to come up with a vaccine against the virus. Indeed, one was tested on a few patients a few days ago. May be the virus is temperature sensitive and as we, in temperate zones transition to spring and rising temperatures, it may abate the virus. May be the ‘herd immunization’ strategy that is talked about will work and lessen the impact of the new virus. As ordinary citizens, we sometimes feel helpless. Under such circumstances, after following all the advice we are given to protect ourselves and our beloved ones, the next tendency in people in troubled times is prayers.

Psychologists have long known this fact. It gives people tremendous hope and alleviates stress in face of adversity. Prayers work, and in this I am reminded of a Farman Mawlana Hazar Imam had made in the 1960’s when he said that those who prayed in difficult times knew how prayers had helped them during their difficulties. At the same time, he reminded us that we should not only pray when times are bad but also when times are good.

Our Ginans can also give us help during these difficult times. Several Ginans have powerful verses of supplication and pleading for Allah’s mercy and compassion and help. These verses are not parochial but are pleadings for Allah’s compassion and mercy for the entire humanity.  In the context of the pandemic, this fact comes out clear. It is our hope that this ‘One Humanity’ idea endures beyond the pandemic.

Some of the verses I present are well-known, but I include them for completeness. First is a verse that extols the virtue of congregational prayers. It is from Pir Hasan Kabir’s Anant Akhado, verse 115.

Aashaaji til dharam ne hasti paap
sohi gat utaare ji
Gat naa vachan te Nar ji maane
te maahaadan maanhe nahi puchhaaye.

Translation:

O Lord, our good deeds are minuscule, our sins monumental. These are forgiven in congregational prayers
The Lord listens to congregational prayers and spares the questioning on the Day of Judgement.

The physical separateness due to the closure of our Jamatkhanas does not preclude us from offering prayers for humanity in our hearts and/or with our families.

In Pir Hasan Kabir’s Ananta Akhado, verse 32, Pir says that in Lord’s Assembly, He grants you whatever you wish.

Aashaji jiya jem mango, tiya tem verse,
Satgur gher anand ji

Translation:

Whatever you ask for in His assembly, He grants.
There is joy and no one returns disappointed from His assembly.

In verse 127, the scope of the pleading and supplication expands and encompass the entire humanity.

Aashaji, Sansar serve Shrusti tamari, ane serve mankha jiv ji
Daya kari teme amne taaro, Sami serve jiv tamara ji

Translation:

O Lord, the entire creation is Yours,  as are the souls,
With compassion, save us, O Lord, we all are Your souls.

In Pir Hasan Kabir’s Venti Eji Aash Tamari Shree Ho, which is full of supplications and pleadings, the opening verse portrays the congregation, standing with hands folded, asking for Lord’s compassion:

Eji, Aash tamari Shree Ho Kayam Sami, 
Saheb Chinta kee je, Ya Shah
Sab Gatie Shah ke khde re umayo Shah
Raj Rikhisar Ghar Dejo

Translation:

O Lord, we are hopeful of and dependent on your compassion; O Lord, we beseech you, spare your thought for us; the entire congregation is standing in submission; O Lord, bestow prosperity and happiness upon us…

Next is a beautiful venti of sincere submission and heart rendering plea for help by Pir Hasan Kabir in Hum Dil Khalak ya Ali tu(n)hij:

Hum dil Khalak ya Ali tu(n)hij vase,
Ya Mawla tu(n)hij vase,
avar na dhuja koi,
jive pi(n)dhe jo tun(n)hij dhani;
Ya Mawla tu(n)hij dhani.
Jia(n) kari(n) tiya hoi
Maher karo mora saai ya
Ali hum tere aadhar
Tere aadhar ya Mawla tu(n)hij daatar
Maher karo mora saai ya
Ali hum tere aadhan

Translation:

Only you reside in my heart O Ali,
O Mawla only you,
Non-other I think of
You, who are master of my soul and body
O Mawla, truly you are the Master
Your wish and command prevail
Show mercy O Lord
Ali you are my support,
I am dependent in You;
O Mawla you are the provider (of all my needs)
Show mercy O Lord,
Ali you are my only support

The next powerful verse that we often recite to seek divine help  is  from Seyyad Imam Shah’s Ame Saaheb Saathe, Verse 6

Eji Tuj vinaa koi avar na dise,
Saami amne chhe tamaaro aadhaar-ji;
Tuj vinaa ame eklaa Saami,
Saami tame thaajo rakhvaarr-ji

Translation:

O Lord, You alone we see,
O Lord, we rely upon You
Without You we are all alone
Please be our protector (In these troubled times)

In addition to the Ginans, our daily Arabic Du’a has powerful pleas for help.  In part two we recite:

“O Allah, O our Lord from You is my help, upon You is my reliance. You alone we worship and You alone we seek for help. O Aly help me with your kindness.”

In part three of our Du’a, we recite:

“Seek at times of difficulty, the help of your Lord, the present living Imam, Shah Karim al Hussaini.”

In part 4 of our Du’a, we recite:

“O Allah: Forgive us our sins, give us our daily bread and have mercy upon us….”

In part five of our Du’a, we recite:

“Ya Shah Karim, O Mawla, from you is my strength…”

As we go through this difficult time we should take comfort from these Ginanic verses and our Holy Du’a as well the Farmans of Mawlana Hazar Imam that have been published recently. Repeatedly, he assures his murids of his constant presence with them. For example, in his Diamond Jubilee Farman made in Booni, Chitral, Pakistan, he lovingly tells us that he is always with his Jamat, every day, every minute, every second (Diamond Jubilee Farman book, page 57, also pages 51, 62). As such, we should seek to keep his enduring blessings for mushkil-asan (protection from difficulties) alive in our hearts all the time.

I pray that these trying times pass and that Allah in His compassion listens to our plea for help for humanity. His compassion and mercy know no bound.

Date posted: March 18, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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Shiraz Pradhan

Shiraz Pradhan, in parallel with his work as an international engineering consultant, has contributed for several years to furthering religious education among the Ismaili community in the UK, Canada, USA and Japan. He is the author of several articles published on this website and was a regular contributor to UK’s flagship Ismaili magazine, Ilm. Currently he is concluding the script of a full-length play of the 10th Century trial of the Sufi Saint Mansur al-Hallaj in Baghdad based on historical facts.

The author wishes to thank Platinum Rahemtulla for references to Ginanic verses and their translations that are quoted in the article.

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Prayers for Syria – An Aid in Righteous Resistance Against Enemies

This calligraphy by an Ottoman artists  Fakhri ibn Vali el-Brusevi has the following inscription on it:  "Call upon Ali who causes wonders to appear, you will find him a help to you in adversity, all anguish and sorrow will disappear through your friendship oh Ali, oh Ali, oh Ali." Photo Credit: The Trustees of the British Museum. Copyright.

This calligraphy by an Ottoman artist Fakhri ibn Vali el-Brusevi has the following inscription on it: “Call upon Ali who causes wonders to appear, you will find him a help to you in adversity, all anguish and sorrow will disappear through your friendship oh Ali, oh Ali, oh Ali.” Photo Credit: The Trustees of the British Museum. Copyright.

LETTER FROM PUBLISHER

Simerg’s most recent piece A Message to Our Beloved Ismaili Brothers and Sisters in Syria: Our Hearts and Prayers are With You, You are Never Alone! resulted in more than 30 touching responses from  readers from around the world. We also heard from various members of the Syrian jamat, who have appreciated the readers’ good wishes and prayers for their jamat. Indeed, one teacher went on to state that prayers was all that they needed.

Over the centuries, wars against enemies who are definitely at fault, has not been won by prayers alone. But there are examples which illustrate that a righteous show of resistance against any intruding enemy, such as the one that we may witness in Salamiyah, can be aided by prayers.

When the Sino-Japanese war broke out in August 1894, Tanaka Giichi, an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army  — who then became Japan’s Prime Minister in 1927 — and several of his followers went to a small deserted island called Sakurajima located near Osaka. They built a two-stories platform and enshrined a sword in front of a statue of Nichiren (a Japanese monk in the 13th century) on an altar set to face Peking. The cutting edge of the sword was also made to face the Chinese capital.

Three times a day for over a month, they prayed for the defeat of the enemy, and on the day they concluded the services, word was received that Pyongyang had fallen to the victorious Japanese army. This was powerful vindication of the invocation prayer which called for  the wisdom of the Buddha to be brought to bear upon the evil sphere of China.[1]

Centuries earlier, according to a story in the Islamic tradition narrated by Hussain Rashid in a piece for this website, [2] the Prophet Muhammad laid siege to the fort of Khaybar, but the walls were so well-fortified that the army could not break through. The Angel Gabriel came to the Prophet Muhammad and told him to recite the Naad-e Ali:

“Nade Ali, Nade Ali, Nade Ali
Nade Aliyyan mazhar al-ajaib
Tajidahu awnan lakafin-nawaib
Kullu hammin wa ghammin
sayanj-i Ali Bi wilayatika,
Ya Ali! Ya Ali! Ya Ali!”

“Call Ali call Ali call Ali,
the manifestation of marvels
He will be your helper in difficulty
Every anxiety and sorrow will end
Through your friendship.
O Ali, O Ali, O Ali.”

Hazrat Ali came to the Prophet’s aid, and in an act of heroism he tore down the gate of the fort, and the army of the Prophet crossed over and successfully ended the siege. Ali, of course, was a valiant fighter within the fort and when victory was achieved, the Angel Gabriel appeared to Prophet Muhammad again and said to him:

“There is no hero but Ali; there is no sword but Dhu’lfiqar.”

The prayer of Naad-e-Ali is a very strong Shia tradition, and can be recited today under different circumstances, such as the one we have today in Syria and other parts of the Muslim world. It can be recited when one is surrounded by enemies, as well as when one is facing personal troubles and tribulations. Like the power of prayer witnessed during the Sino-Japanese war, Naad-e-Ali’s recitation even 3 to 5 times daily, will empower those engaged in resisting the enemy, and Inshallah avert the grave crisis from children, women and men who remain close to the frontline.

The constant and regular recitation of Naad-e-Ali, particularly at this difficult time, will infuse within us a deeper commitment to prayer, and a selfless awareness of the needs and struggles of thousands of our brothers and sisters in Syria and other parts of the world.

Date posted: Thursday, April 9, 2015.

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[1] Episode quoted from “The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture”, page 206, originally mentioned in Tanaka Chicagu Jide.
[2] See Rashid’s Historical Images: The Naad-e-Ali, “Call Upon Ali….oh Ali, oh Ali, oh Ali,” in Ottoman Calligraphy, and Other Shia Inscriptions in the British Museum’s Islamic Collection

YOUR FEEDBACK: We invite our readers to offer their solidarity with the Ismaili jamat in Syria and the people of Syria by conveying their heartfelt prayers by clicking on LEAVE A COMMENT or in the comment box below. If you encounter any difficulty in submitting your comment, please email your comment for publication to Simerg@aol.com, subject “Syria.”

A Story: The Fish Who Dreamed to See the Forest

Once upon a time, a little fish lived in a pond. But she wanted to go to the forest. The pond was deep, and high banks hid the surrounding forest from her view. Wanting to see the forest, the fish would leap out of water now and then, reaching higher over the pond with the strength of her tail….Read the Complete Story