Munajat

The Arabic word munajat is derived from najiy, meaning confidential talk The Koran says: “And We called to him from the right side of the Mount (Sinai) and let him come near in order to have a personal talk (najiy) with Him” (19:52)

Another view suggests that the word munajat is derived either from yunaji or najawa meaning talking in secret. This word is also found in a hadith that, “When a man is at his prayer-rite, he is in intimate converse with (yunaji) his Lord” (Masnad, 2:34). The prayer-rite then is a munajat (confidential converse). Besides, the word najawa itself is rooted from najah, meaning deliverance or salvation. In the technical term of the poetry, the word munajat offers the meaning of longing for repentance of sins. According to Ilmi Urdu Lughat (Lahore, 1972, p. 1427), “Munajat means secret conversation, whispering, prayer, longing or yearning. It is a poem glorifying God as well as an act of offering prayer by submitting humble supplication.” The term munajat has also the connotation of conveying greetings and reverence to a sanctified person.

The munajat under our review is a traditional song of the Ismailis of Indo-Pakistan subcontinent to be recited in the Jamatkhanas on the occasion of the Imamate day. It is difficult to be definitive about the name of its composer and its first recitation. The critical analysis of few lines and the blend of Hindi and Urdu expressions garbed in some Arabic and ornate Persian diction, do furnish clues, which would indicate that it may have been composed by a Syed of Persian origin and later , it was updated by another person.

There is a view that it was composed by Syed Fateh Ali. Other attributed its composition by Syed Didar Ali (d. 1898), the father of Syed Mushtaq Ali. The names of Syed Hasan, Syed Muhammad Shah and Syed Aga Mohammad are also advanced in this context. We will thus examine the different traditions.

The tradition originated most probably in later period has it that Syed Fateh Ali Shamsi (1733-1798) composed it in the time of Imam Abul Hasan Ali Shah (1730-1792). In the extant munajat, the words “Shamsi” and “Abul Hasan Shah” are incorporated, which prompted cultivation of above tradition. While examining the two accessible ginans of Syed Fateh Ali and comparing them with the language of the munajat, it seems that the tradition of his composition is doubtful as the verses of munajat sound quite modernity. Secondly, Syed Fateh Ali was an Indian vakil, who visited Shahr-i Babak in the period of Imam Abul Hasan Ali, and he describes in his ginan that, “The Lord resides in the western land as an Iranian. He speaks Persian in northern Iran. His residence is in Shahr-i Babak, and his name in elegant form is Shah Abul Hasan Ali.” Imam Abul Hasan Ali resided in Kirman and moved towards Shahr-i Babak in 1745 situated about 180 kilometers southwest of the main city of Kirman. Granted that the munajat was composed by Syed Fateh Ali during the ascension ceremony of the Imam in 1730, the age of Syed Fateh Ali should have been 3 to 4 years. Besides, he had seen the Imam in Shahr-i Babak on or after 1745 when his age was 12 years or above. Hence, it seems quite improbable that Syed Fateh Ali had composed it at the age of 3 or 4 years, or 12 years. Thirdly, the title “Shamsi” is said to have related to him, and the present munajat also contains the same epithet, whose reason was something different which has been discussed hereinafter, and nothing to do with that of the title of Syed Fateh Ali. Lastly, the word “Abul Hasan Shah” used in the munajat is an epithet of Hazrat Ali, and does not refer to Imam Abul Hasan Shah.

The second tradition relates that it was recited in India to celebrate the ascension ceremony of Imam Hasan Ali Shah (1817-1881). Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj published it for the first time in 1910 in Pachas Ginan’ni Chopadi from the Khoja Sindhi Chhapakhana, Bombay; wherein it is stated: “This poem was composed when Imam Hasan Ali Shah ascended on the throne of Imamate, and recited with the variation of names at present.” (p. 7) Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj also made a striking note in the heading that, “Mubarak Dhanni Salamat’je takhat’ji” (Greetings to the throne of the Lord).

It is said that the news of the Imamate of Imam Hasan Ali Shah reached Bombay at the end of 1817. The followers rejoiced and celebrated a token ceremony in the main Jamatkhana of Bombay. Accordingly, a wooden throne was prepared in Calcutta and brought in the main Jamatkhana. The Mukhi, Kamadia, leaders and jamats of different areas slowly marched towards the main Jamatkhana with an old musical team in a procession (mamero). The Imam’s painted photo was also placed on the throne. On that occasion, a praise-poem was composed and recited as if the Imam acceded to the throne on Indian soil. This praise-poem was known as the shairo, (laudatory odes). Unfortunately, we cannot find the shairo in the old manuscripts. It was an occasional composition, and its composer could not be identified.

After a long and tedious journey, Imam Hasan Ali Shah arrived in Sind in 1842 via Afghanistan, and thence he proceeded to Bombay in 1845. Due to some political reasons, the Imam had to leave Bombay in 1847 for Calcutta for 18 months, and returned back to Bombay on December 26, 1848. He declared Bombay as his permanent residence. The Ismailis rejoiced with the Imam’s decision and urged for a grand didar, which was granted. The preparation for a grand didar program began and the Ismailis from all parts of India poured down in Bombay.

The oral tradition relates that some Ismaili families from Iran had arrived in Bombay in 1848 when Imam Hasan Ali Shah was yet in Calcutta. They were lodged in the camps pitched at Wadi, Bombay. The guests were provided foods as per Imam’s order. It is further said that the Ismaili families of Punjab, who knew their language, looked after the guests. When the Iranian Ismailis entered Wadi, they delighted to see the well decorated camps, tinged with green flags. The Punjabi Ismailis greeted them with the loud recitation of the salawat. These Punjabi Ismailis were known as the Shamsi, and the whole account is sounded in the above qasida.

Syed Hasan, representing the Iranian Ismailis sought permission from Kamadia Haji to recite few lyrical expressions in presence of the Imam. The pendol erected at Wadi, Mazgon was well decorated. The stage was adorned with a beautiful throne and a green umbrella. Syed Hasan recited six qasida with some other eleven Syeds. These six qasida are given below: –

Ya Ali khub mijalas zinnat kar’ke, farash bichhai ga’li,

A’an baith’e hai takhat’ke upar, Abul Hasan Shah vali.

O’Ali! The vivid assembly is gloriously adorned with carpets spread on the floor. The Lord Abul Hasan Shah has come and sat on the throne.

Ya Ali didar len’e ku’n aiy’e Shah teri, Hindi jamat sa’ri,

Sijada baja kar najara’n dev’e, jan apani’ku va’ri

O’Ali! your whole Indian jamat has flocked to behold you. They are homaging prostratively as if offering their lives.

Ya Ali takhat ne chhatr tuj’ku’n mubarak, Zaheraji’ke piyar’e

Abul Hasan Shah karani so teri, jannat a’ap san’var’e

O’Beloved of (Fatimatu’z) Zahera! be congratulated for having the throne and umbrella. O’Abul Hasan Shah! (Hazrat Ali) these are due to your deeds, and you embellish the paradise.

Ya Ali takhat ne chhatr sun’ke ter’e, falak’se baras’e noora’n

moti tabaka hathu’n me’n lekar, Shah ku’n vadhav’e hura’n

O’Ali! the light showered from the heaven when heard (news) of your throne and umbrella as if the hurries are greeting the Lord with pearl-trays in hands.

Ya Ali maheman khan’e me’n, momin’ku’n jab la’i Id musal’e,

Shamsi jo salwat pad kar, marafat’ki khushiyali.

O’Ali! when the believers were brought in the guesthouse, (the appearance looked) like an Eid, and the Shamsi recited salwat to rejoice the spiritual enlightenment.

Ya Ali teri mubarakbadi’ke khatar, Syed kart’e munajat,

Shah Najaf teri pusht panah, ter’e dushman hoi fanah.

O’Ali! Syed (Hasan) recites the munajat to offer you congratulations, (and pray), “O’Lord of Najaf! may you be protected, and your enemies be perished.”

These six qasida known as the shairo, has nothing to do with the inaccessible shairo of 1817. The shairo of 1817 differed with the shairo of 1848, but the people equated them as one, making the later originated in 1817. In 1910, Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj actually published the shairo of 1848 and he too attributed it that of 1817, which was recited before the wooden throne in Bombay Jamatkhana. Mukhi Laljibhai had no choice but to write on the top of the shairo (now known as the munajat) that, “the greetings to the throne of the Lord.” He however admits that Syed Hasan composed it.

The above six qasida have been put in the present printed munajat in the order of 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

The death of Imam Hasan Ali Shah took place in 1881 and was succeeded by his son, Imam Aga Ali Shah, who also died in 1885. There is no record of the evolution of the above shairo (or munajat) between 1881 and 1885.

The coronation ceremony of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah was performed on September 18, 1886 in Wadi, Mazgon, Bombay. On that occasion, Syed Didar Ali (d. 1898) recited the above six qasida. He also added two another qasida in the recitation with a refrain to emphasis that Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah was the bearer of the noor of Ali from his grandfather to father. Hence, the shairo of six qasida had been updated in 1886, which are given below:-

Ya Ali tera nasiba roz’e awwal’se, deta hair’e kamali,

Shah Ali Shah’ke mukh me’n se, nikala Shah Sultan Muhammad Shah vali.

O’Ali! your destiny has goaled (pick of) perfection since formative day. Shah Sultan Muhammad emanated from the fount of Shah Ali Shah.

Ya Ali Shah kahu’n to tujaku’n baja hai, bakht buland peshani,

Chhoti umar me’n a’ali martaba, talu’ki hai nishani.

O’Ali! it is befitting to reckon you an absolute Lord, because of (glittering) great intellect on forehead. An exalted dignity in a small age indicates a sign of grandeur.

(Refrain)

A’aj raj mubarak hov’e, noor ain Ali’ku’n raj mubarak hov’e

Shah a’al’e nabi’ku raj mubarak hov’e, Hov’e hov’e a’aj raj mubarak hov’e

O’Lord! Be blessed today with this kingdom.

Be blessed the kingdom to the light of Ali’s eyes.

Be blessed the kingdom to the Lord, the progeny of the Prophet.

(O’Lord!) be blessed today with this kingdom.

The six stanza or qasida recited in 1848 and another two with a refrain in 1886 ultimately gave a final shape to the present munajat of 8 stanza or qasida.

It is possible that an influx of the Ismailis from all parts of India poured down in Bombay in 1886. While returning to their places, they borrowed the above munajat and introduced in their areas. It was a mammoth concourse of the Ismailis, who seem to have coined that it was recited for the first time.

It is also said that it was especially composed for, and recited during the first wedding of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah to Shahzadi Begum, the daughter of Imam’s uncle, Aga Jhangi Shah. The wedding celebrations took place in Poona at Yaroda Palace on January 16, 1897, where nearly 30,000 Ismailis had come from all parts. From its content, it clearly appears that this munajat does not relate to the occasion of the marriage. It is however possible that it may have been recited on that occasion.

Itmadi Nazar Ali of Buj, Kutchh recited the munajat for the first time in Zanzibar on June 28, 1899 and again on September 26, 1899 in Dar-es-Salaam. On both occasion, the Imam sat on the wooden thrones.

The first virtual takhat nashini of the Present Hazar Imam solemnized simply in Barkat Villa in Geneva on July 13, 1957 in presence of the distinguished Ismaili leaders. On that occasion, the munajat was recited. In the first qasida, the word “Abul Hasan Shah” was replaced by “Shah Karim Shah” and also “Shah Sultan Shah’ke mukh me’n se nikala Shah Karim Shah Vali” was substituted in place of “Shah Ali Shah’ke mukh me’n se nikala Shah Sultan Shah Vali” and since then, the munajat has been printed and recited in the same vein.

The verses of the munajat are most simple and beautiful in form. Its beauty lies in thought and the expression is much impressive. Its style resembles that of the Kalam-e-Mawla as far as its language is concerned. It also excels in expression of thought with clear flow. The verses are written in simple Hindi mode, richly overlaid with Persian and Arabic words.

Besides, the term “munajat” for this praise-poem was coined around in 1953. It does not come in the category of the ginans like Kalam-e-Mawla. It is a praise-poem generally recited on the occasion of the Imamate day.

The transliteration and translation of the munajat in present order of the stanza are given below:-

Ya Ali khub mijalas zinnat kar’ke, farash bichhai ga’li,

A’an baith’e hai takhat’ke upar, Shah Karim Shah vali.

(Refrain)

A’aj raj mubarak hov’e, noor ain Ali’ku’n raj mubarak hov’e

Shah a’al’e nabi’ku raj mubarak hov’e, Hov’e hov’e a’aj raj mubarak hov’e

“O’Ali! the vivid assembly is gloriously adorned with carpets spread on the floor. The Lord

Shah Karim Shah has come and sat on the throne.”

O’Lord! be blessed today with this kingdom. Be blessed the kingdom to the light of

Ali’s eyes. Be blessed the kingdom to the Lord, the progeny of the Prophet. (O’Lord) be

blessed today with this kingdom.

Ya Ali didar len’e ku’n aiy’e Shah teri, Hindi jamat sa’ri,

Sijada baja kar najara’n dev’e, jan apani’ku va’ri

“O’Ali! your whole Indian jamat has flocked to behold you. They are homaging

prostratively as if offering their lives.”

Ya Ali tera nasiba roz’e awwal’se, deta hair’e kamali,

Shah Sultan Shah’ke mukh me’n se, nikala Shah Karim Shah vali.

“O’Ali! your destiny has goaled (pick of) perfection since formative day. Shah Karim

Shah emanated from the fount of Shah Sultan Muhammad.”

Ya Ali Shah kahu’n to tujaku’n baja hai, bakht buland peshani,

Chhoti umar me’n a’ali martaba, talu’ki hai nishani.

“O’Ali! it is befitting to reckon you an absolute Lord, because of (glittering) great

intellect on forehead. An exalted dignity in a small age indicates a sign of grandeur.”

Ya Ali takhat ne chhatr tuj’ku’n mubarak, Zaheraji’ke piyar’e

Abul Hasan Shah karani so teri, jannat a’ap san’var’e

“O’ Beloved of (Fatimatu’z) Zahera! be congratulated for having the throne and

umbrella. O’Abul Hasan Shah ((Hazrat Ali)! these are due to your deeds, and the paradise is

embellished by you.”

Ya Ali takhat ne chhatr sun’ke ter’e, falak’se baras’e noora’n

moti tabaka hathu’n me’n lekar, Shah ku’n vadhav’e hura’n

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