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Dua - Namaz in Shia Ismaili Tariqah

Publication Type  Article
Year of Publication  2009
Authors  Tajddin Sadiq Ali, Mumtaz-Ali

5 pages


History of the Practise of Namaz and Dua among Shia Ismailis.

Dua - Namaz in Shia Ismaili Tariqah

The Shia Muslims were almost united in the period of the first Imam Hazrat Ali (d. 40/661) and Imam Mohammad Bakir (114/733), and during which period, they offered Namaz (Salat) jointly with the Sunni Muslims.

In a century that followed the Holy Prophet, the wave of Muslim conquest reached upto Samarkand, beyond the Oxus. With the extension of Muslim territory, there cropped up a number of new problems. Hundred of schools of jurisprudence appeared to mould the Muslim system of laws, but none could crystallize into definite system, accepted by all. The Schools of Law represented by the Sunni theologians Abu Hanifah (d. 150/767), Malik bin Anas (d. 179/795), Shafi’i (d. 204/820) and Ahmad bin Hanbal (d. 241/856) coded the Islamic tenants, but the problem was however to find a correct balance among all these developments when the Islamic world was undergoing radical changes. Islam had to keep pace with, and adjust to, the fast changing world and the growing of new trend. On this juncture, Imam Mohammad Bakir (d. 114/733) was the first to bring forth the legal school of Ahel al-Bayt in view of the prevalent milieu. Kashi writes in his “Rijal” (p. 289) that, “Before the Imamate of Mohammad Bakir, the Shias did not know what was lawful and unlawful, except what they learnt from the people until Mohammad Bakir became the Imam, and he taught and explained to them the knowledge (of law), and they began to teach other people from whom they were previously learning.”

The period of Imam Mohammad Bakir (d. 114/733) and Imam Jafar Sadik (d. 148/765) saw a complete growth of the Shi’ism in Islam, therefore, the followers were imparted the doctrine of the Imamate and other tenants of Islam through the agency of tawil (allegorical interpretation), which distinguished them from the orthodox Sunni Muslims. Hence, the Shia and Sunni differed with each other in the interpretation of religious aspects.

The major divisions came on surface in the Shia Muslims after the death of Imam Jafar Sadik. One group adhered to the Imamate of Ismail and other to Musa Kazim, making one group known as Shia Ismailis and other as Shia Ithna Asharis.

The Shia Ismailis continued to offer Namaz according to the guidance of Imam Mohammad Bakir. They offered the external form of prayers by acquiring its notion esoterically, while others exoterically. It should be noted that the Sunni theologians turned the Shariah into formalistic ritualism, and hence their adherents were known as Ashab al-Zahir and the Shia Ismailis or the followers of the esoteric tariqah were called Ashab-i ilm-i Batin.

This practice continued from Imam Ismail (d. 158/775) to Imam Razi Abdullah (d. 268/881) Further, it also continued in the Fatimid period in North Africa and Egypt. In Cairo during the Fatimid Khilafat, the names of the Panjtan Pa’k and the name of the Imam-Caliph of the time were recited in the khutba (sermon) in every mosque, notably in the mosque of Al-Azhar.

It is related that the ambitious Ismailis in the Fatimid period desired for spiritual progress. Thus, the midnight worship in the form of the private Majalis started in Cairo in the period of Imam Hakim bi Amrillah. He established Darul Hikmah (house of wisdom) in 395/1004, which organized two assemblies, namely Majalis al-Khassa (session for the selected) for the Ismailis and Majalis al-Amma (session for the public) for the non-Ismailis. Later on, a regular and secret assembly on every Thursday and Friday was specially arranged for most advanced Ismailis, including the women, known as Majlis al-Hikmah (session on wisdom). This was the first time in the Ismaili history that the midnight worship or Baitul Khiyal (house of concentration) was given much more progress. Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah said, “Kar’e Buzrug (Baitul Khiyal) was highly progressed in the period of Imam Hakim bi-Amrillah.” (Karachi, 7/2/1951).

It is evident that the Shia Ismaili is a batin, sufic or esoteric tariqah in Islam. It is an intellectual tariqah. The institution of the Imamate is a cornerstone and paramount position in Shia Ismaili tariqah. The Imam is a Spiritual Guide, exhorting his followers the true interpretation of faith in accordance with the time for their material and spiritual progress. Needless to mention that the Shia Ismaili tariqah is the kernel of Islam that the Holy Prophet himself very carefully separated from the common injunctions of the Shariah. This kernel was kept reserved for the privileged few, and kept on the other hand the Shariah for the mass ummah.

The Shia Ismailis offered their Namaz with other Muslims. The most advanced followers seem to have urged the Imam in Alamut to guide them in the personal search of the Light – a potential rite for spiritual elevation. Thus, the period of Imam Hasan Ala Zikria Salam (d. 561/1166) was destined to relieve followers from the bondage of the Shariah, so that they might engage in the personal search of the Truth. The esoteric teachings were not common but confined to some advanced believers. He also abolished unnecessary and irrelevant laws of Shariah in Alamut, the occasion of which is called Qaim al-Qiyamah.

The term “qiyamah” literary means “rising” of the dead, and allegorically it implies an idea denoting the rising to the next spiritual stage, and qaim al-qiyamah refers to an attainment of the highest degree when a man becomes free from the ties of external laws, whom he shackles and transfigures into spiritual substance, which rejoins its divine sources. The qiyama was interpreted to mean the manifestation of the unveiled Truth in the person of the Imam. The believers were now capable to comprehend the Truth. According to this interpretation, the believers could come to know God and the mysteries and realities of creation through an Imam, the epiphany (mazhar) of God on earth.

It is related that the Shia Ismailis began to recite their own Arabic-Persian Namaz, known as the “Kalimatul Haq” (The Word of Truth) in Alamut period. In the beginning line, the word “Hazrat Baba Sayedna” (Hasan bin Sabbah) is mentioned, also implies its composition in Alamut period. It was in practice for a long time in Iran and other parts of the Central Asia.

After the commemoration of Qaim al-Qiyamah, the Muslims arrayed hostility with the Shia Ismailis in the light of their own sense of propriety. Frankly speaking, they knew little and broadcast more, and the field therefore continued to be dominated by the fanciful impressions. Between 559/1164 and 607/1210, the orthodox machinery sprouted out from all directions in Iran and Syria, reviling that the Shia Ismailis had violated the Shariah. Imam Jalaluddin Hasan (d. 618/1221) eventually reinstated the observance of the external rituals of the Shariah, notably the Namaz and cemented close terms with the Muslim rulers. Henceforward, the Ismailis began to offer Namaz in public, while their Batini practice of worship went into underground. In other words, it resulted the existence of the Ismaili Khanaqah (cloister) like the Sufis to observe the esoteric practices in solitude, especially the midnight worship. It conveniently protected the Ismailis from persecution and served in the preservation of their sectarian existence under the hostile circumstances.

After the fall of Alamut, there emerged a huge gap between the people of zahir and batin in Islam. It is quite possible that the Shia Ismails have much matured their spirits during a continuous hard struggle that they could be regarded as quite fit to discard the usual external forms of worship, and carry on their internal spiritual discipline like the Sufis in Iran, therefore, the Ismailis forsook five times prayers, and instead, offered three times prayers according to the injunction of the Holy Koran.

In India, Pir Shams (d. 757/1356) is said to have built 84 khana (Jamatkhana). In Punjab, he introduced a Sairaiki Dua to be offered thrice a day. Pir Sadruddin (d. 819/1416) established three main Jamatkhanas in Sind, Punjab and Kashmir and also introduced a new Sindhi Dua in Sind, Punjab, Kutchh, Gujrat and Kathiawar. Thus, the Sairaiki Dua being recited in Punjab since the period of Pir Shams, was replaced in the period of Pir Sadruddin. The external mode of the Sindhi Dua was to build a bridge with the Hindus. It must be known that this Dua was formulated in accordance with the cultural environment of India, absolutely not applicable for the Ismailis of other parts of the world, where the Ismailis offered Namaz for three times. They offered it in the morning and evening and offered remaining one in a convenient time. After the end of each Namaz, they individually recited names of the Imams from Hazrat Ali to the Imam of the time.

In the period of 39th Imam Khalilullah Ali (d. 993/1585), few major changes were made in India. He consigned the task to Pir Dadu (d. 1005/1596) to revise the Sindhi Dua of Pir Sadruddin and shorten it in 18 parts. This Dua continued till the arrival of Imam Hasan Ali Shah (d. 1298/1881) in India. In 1878, Pir Shihabuddin Shah (d. 1302/1885) was assigned to revise the Sindhi Dua. He was again commissioned to revise in 1883. It was further revised about three times in the period of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (d. 1376/1957).

It is related that Imam Aqa Ali Shah (d. 1302/1885) had deputed Pir Shihabuddin Shah in Afghanistan to examine their condition. He found that there was no prayers among the Ismailis except that the observance of the Namaz with the Shias and Sunnis. He seems to have noted that in some places in Afghanistan, the Shia Ismailis recited the Arabic-Persian Namaz, “Kalimatul Haq” of the Alamut period. He is said to have brought its copies in Bombay and confined it in six parts to be recited thrice a day in sitting posture. This Namaz was however printed in the period of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah in 1898 and sent in Afghanistan. During his first visit to East Africa, the Imam said, “I have printed and sent the booklet of Namaz, why? Because the Khojas are not only my followers, but there are so many followers. Since the Arabs and Badakhshanis etc. do not understand the Indian language, the booklet of Namaz has been printed and sent for them. There is no difference between the Namaz and Dua which you recite” (Zanzibar, 5/7/1899).

It seems that the original “Kalimatul Haq” was a Shi’ite sounding version, and its revised version was as if a gist of the Sindhi Dua. The Ismailis recited the tasbih of “Ya Ali Mushqil Aasan” (22 times) after prayer in the morning and “Ya Ali, Ya Muhammad” (101 times) after the evening prayer. This Namaz gradually spread in Iran, Tajikistan, Russia, China and some other parts of Central Asia and Arab.

Soon after the partition of India, the need arose to introduce the Arabic Dua. In 1950, Imam assigned Prof. Jawad Muscati with instructions to compose a new Dua in Arabic. About 14 times he received Imam’s guidance in this context. The Imam finally approved it in 1954. Prof. Jawad Muscati said, “I was mere a painter, the original designer was the Imam.” Its text was also passed from one to another Ismaili scholar, who mastered in Arabic till it was approved in 1955. In 1956, Prince Amyn Muhammad and Prince Karim (Hazar Imam) introduced the new Arabic Dua for the first time in Madagascar. In 1960, the Arabic Dua started in the world.

The practice of the Arabic Dua was prevalent in Pakistan, India, East Africa, Canada, United States, Europe, etc., while the Shia Ismailis in other parts of the world continued to offer Namaz of their own (Kalimatul Haq) or offer with other Muslims.

Dua is most convenient to the followers who practice esoteric tariqah as well as unwavering belief in the hereditary Imamate. In other words, the Shariah ritual cannot take its proper place so easily in the tariqah practice. Thus, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah is reported to have introduced the Sindhi Dua for the first time in Syria, and among the followers of the Central Asia, who were in close contact with the Imam.

Since the time of Pir Shams and Pir Sadruddin, the Dua has been considered the Shariah practice in the Shia Ismaili Muslims. In Syria, Iran and some places in Central Asia, the Arabic Dua and Namaz stands co-existence in the Ismaili Muslims, making difference between them. Thus, in the Holy Talika and Farman of the Hazar Imam of 13th December, 2008, the Imam said, “Throughout the jamat’s history, including the Fatimid times, a consistent feature of the Ismaili tariqah has been the complementarily between practices that are specific to our tariqah, and those that are part of the Shariah, common to all Muslims, albeit with denominational specificities. Examples of these are the historic co-existence between Namaz and Dua, and the concept of private prayer and personal search, which has an important place in Islam, since it concerns the relationship of faith with life.”

The Imam further said in the Holy Message that a formal, uniform text of the Shia Imami Ismaili Namaz, reflecting the imprint of the centrality of the hereditary Imamate in the Shia Ismaili tariqah, would be made available to the jamat globally within the next year or so. The Imam also said, “It will affirm the principle of each individual’s personal search as guided by the Imam of the Time, and the jamat’s historic commitment to the notion of a common humanity.”

It infers that there is uniformity in the text of Arabic Dua, but it is not so in the Namaz. The text of the Shia Ismaili Namaz globally will also form uniformity.

Besides, the uniformity in the Nikah, reflecting Shia Ismaili tariqah will also be made. The Imam also said, “These principles will also be reflected in the uniform text of a Nikah which is to be made available to my jamat globally, through my institutions, over the next few months.”

Not only the text of the Namaz and Nikah will be made available, the text of the ceremony of Chiragh-e-Rawshan in Central Asia will also be made available. In this context, the Imam said, “The ceremony of Chirag Roshan is an integral part of their (jamats of Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Northern Pakistan) tradition, and therefore, I have instructed my institutions to make available, as soon as possible, a common text, which can be utilized for practicing this ceremony. This text will also reflect the principles to which I have already referred.”

Summing up the above discussion, it infers from the Holy Talika and Farman that the Shia Ismaili jamat is spread worldwide, and there must be uniform practice of Namaz, Nikah and the ceremony of Chiragh-e-Rawshan in such a manner as the present Arabic Dua.


Qadi Noman (d. 363/974) writes in “Ikhtilaf Usul al-Madhahib” (p. 21) that, “There are only three foundations of the law : Koran, Sunnah and the word of the Imam” (al’ amalu bi-zahiran kitab wa sunnah wa qawl al-i ’imah)

“The Nizari branch of Ismailis, the followers of the Agha Khan, vest all legal authority in their Imam, who is termed “Mawlana Hazar Imam (al-Imam al-Hadir), meaning the Imam who is Present and not in occultation.” (vide, “Islamic Legal Orthodoxy” (Salt Lake, 1998, p. 177) by Devin J. Stewart)

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