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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

The aslam alaikum was a common phrase of salutation in the period of the Prophet. Imam Hussain once said, "Seventy rewards are the share of the one who initiates a greeting, and only one reward belongs to the one who returns the greeting" (Bihar al-Anwar, 78:120). Soon after the battle of Siffin, the Shi'ite became the target of hostility and were persecuted by the Umayyads. The Imams had no option but to impart them the doctrine of taqiya to avoid the danger of being killed. In the period of Imam Muhammad al-Bakir, the Shi'ites, residing far from Medina could hardly recognized their fellow followers. Thus, as a mark of recognition, Imam Jafar Sadik said, "Our followers possess a light on their foreheads by which they are easily recognized by the people of the world and if they greet each other, they should kiss each other's forehead" (Bihar al-Anwar 10:144). The kissing of forehead became a mark of recognizing each other, and an addition in the usual manner of wishing salam. During the period of dawr-i satr, the Ismailis were scattered and lived in different garbs inside and outside the territories of Arabia. It is known that the Ismailis living in the villages of Iran uttered salam and raised their right hands' palms to recognize their fellow followers.

The fragments of the tradition indicate that the Ismaili pilgrims took tremendous difficulties in the perilous and tedious journey from India to Iran to see the Imams during post-Alamut period. They scarcely recognized one another on the route, because the Bakhtiyari tribesmen committed banditry on the roads, terrorizing the highways. The pilgrims were plundered and killed, therefore, none dared to disclose the identity. It infers from an old manuscripts of Bawa Sher Muhammad of Bombay, which was copied by Zainal Khanu, the daughter of Janat Ali Muhammad Ali on August 13, 1920, dealing with the old account of the Bawa family and their services in post-Alamut period that Pir Dadu (d. 1005/1596) had introduced the tradition of applying secret codes for the Ismaili pilgrims. Thus, a secret travel-code was also introduced for security purpose. When one traveled towards Iran, and found any stranger on the route, he slowly uttered Hai Zinda. If unresponsive to the call, he presumed that the stranger was not an Ismaili. If responded with an equal return of Hai Zinda, it was meant that he was too an Ismaili traveling to Iran, but misguided on route, and then both trekked together. If responded in return with the utterance of Qaim Paya, it was conceived that the person was an Ismaili, returning to homeland after making pilgrimage of the dharkhana. Thus, one who going to Iran uttered Hai Zinda, and Qaim Paya by the returning one.

The Hai Zinda and Qaim Paya were not familiar phrases among the Arabic and Persian speaking followers, therefore, they used the phrase Ya Ali Madad instead of Hai Zinda and Mawla Ali Madad in place of Qaim Paya. The Indian pilgrims also followed it. It implies that the term Mawla was in the travel-code for one who beheld the Mawla (Imam). This travel-code proved an ideal weapon to scatter the clouds of persecution. It must be known that the term Madat'i Ali was the first phrase of the 18th part of an old prayer. The word Madat'i Ali was a corrupted form of Madad'i Ali, which was prevalent mostly in Kutchh. Gradually, the terms Ya Ali Madad and Mawla Ali Madad became a salutation in the Ismaili circles in India, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and Central Asia. In the manuscripts of the ginans of 17th century, the practice of writing Ya Ali Madad in the beginning also became vogue. The Ismailis of China use to utter Ya Ali Madad by putting their hands on their knees. When the guest departs, they utter Khuda Hafiz by putting their hands on their knees in the same manner.

The phrase Ya Ali Madad means may Ali help (you), and the responder utters Mawla Ali Madad means may Mawla Ali help (you too). It is in the same manner when one speaks have a nice day and the responder utters you too. It main feature is that the responder includes the word Mawla in addition. It implies that he confesses the authority, superiority and guardianship of Mawla Ali. The Ismailis only apply this salutation among themselves, but utter the usual phrase of salam before other Muslims.

The Koran says, "Seek help through patience and prayer" (2:45). It implies that the patience and prayer are the sources to seek the Divine help. The Koran further says, "Our Lord! Get us out of this town whose inhabitants are tyrants, and appoint for us from You a guardian, and appoint for us from You a helper" (4:75). Hence, the Ismailis seek the Divine help through the channel of Ali, who is present in the world as an Imam.

The Koran says, "And to God belong the beautiful names, so call on Him by them" (7:180). In its interpretation, Ali bin Abu Talib said, "I am the beautiful name by which God has commanded people to call on Him." (Kawkab-i Durri, 3:29). According to the report of Abul Hamra, it is mentioned in Hilyatul Awliya that the Prophet said, "When I was carried by night to the heaven, I saw written on the leg of the Throne: I (God) planted the paradise of Eden. Muhammad is the best of My creation. I helped him through Ali" (Ibid. 2:53). It is further mentioned on the authority of Abu Dhar Ghafari that the Prophet said, "Indeed God has given power to this religion through Ali, and I am from him and about him is revealed in the verse (11:17), "Is he then (like unto him) who has a clear proof from his Lord" (Ibid. 2:145).

In sum, the Shi'ite sects believe that the Divine help can be sought through the agency of the Imamate, which is apparent in the world in the progeny of the Prophet.

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