Instead of arranging explanations, which the fragment greatly needs, in the form of footnotes, I feel it is more convenient and rational to offer them in the form of preliminary remarks. Having read them, the student will more easily find his way in the text.
There can be little room for doubt that the book, of which our fragment forms a part, was composed either by a sectarian with strong ties with darwishism, or a darwish of a high degree of initiation, closely affiliated with the Ali-ilahis. It is for this reason that one of the first matters with which he deals here is the aetiological myth of the ceremony of sar supurdan (or sar dādan) to which we shall return in due course. Generally speaking, darwishism, especially Shi'ite darwishism in the post-Mongol period as far as it is possible to see, occupied a key position in all kinds of religious, social, national and other movements in mediaeval life. It is therefore a really sad admission that we know next to nothing about it. This merits consideration if we remember that studies of Sufism started in Europe more than 150 years ago. Unfortunately, from the very start, early arm-chair experts had adopted the view-point which they found in Persian and Arabic works, namely that all that matters is the so-called "philosophy" of Sufism, i.e. childish and helpless paraphrasing of the ill- understood and ill-adjusted popular version of Hellenistic wisdom which came into circulation in the Islamic society through second and third hands. No-one apparently cared to note that such quasi-philosophical works simply repeat each other, being composed on the same principle as in poetry, scores of poems are devoted to one and the same subject: Khusraw wa Shīrīn, Laylī wa Majnūn, etc. What the authors aimed at, was to offer a new and more stylistically perfect form of what everyone already knew, and not to search for and explore the deep and elusive mysteries of mystical experiences. All this monotonous matter, in which, of course, there are occasionally works of talented authors although the majority are merely individual fancies of dreamers or simply the production of charlatans (quite many of them) in prose and verse, was proclaimed the standard and the essence of Sufism. But every manifestation of popular ideas, forms, dreams and views was invariably treated as something far too inferior and unworthy of attention, just as popular poetry, rural dialects, popular beliefs, customs, art, and so forth. Once such ideas had set in, 150 years were unable to upset or alter them.
Almost every student of Persian at the beginning of his career falls in love with Sufism, that Protheus of Persian spiritual life which always promises more than it really possesses. There were, however, many real "specialists" in this matter, revered for their learning. In spite of all these, if we are asked to mention really valuable monographs on Sufic matters, one would have to confess that with the possible exception of L. Massignon's study of Hallāj (1922), there is, in fact, none. The arm-chair programme insisted that before we did anything we must have at our disposal reproach less critical editions of all earlier texts. This, of course, would take the work of many generations of students, who, after all, would be all the time "groping in the dark" without a reliable synthesis of the subject. It is really important to have only critical editions of such texts : they deal with pious dreams, prayers, miracles, visions, vigils, fasts, pious, reflections, and other highly important subjects in which every textual error might surely ruin the whole chain of learned reasoning. No wonder that after all we in fact know nothing of Sufism as it was in real life, active in wide masses, playing an immensely important part in the social life of medieaval Islam. Life itself played a trick with arm-chair plans and programs. While these were still at their beginning, events in political life created an attitude in the awakening, Eastern nations ruthlessly antagonistic to religious parasitism which formed a prominent element in Sufism. The result is that, except in a few remote corners, Suf'ism is practically extinct, a thing of the past, and nothing can resuscitate it. Thus, under the learned guidance of clever "specialists", we have wasted 150 years doing which by careful observation and, as far as practicable, collecting statistical data, we could have provided invaluable material for the correct understanding of many social processes in the past on which we will find nothing in the "philosophical" works of the "learned and true" form of Sufism.
Apologizing for a digression, I have to point out that whenever we have to deal with popular religious forms darwishism always comes up in one way or another as either the source or an intermediary in carrying various elements and beliefs to different corners of the Islamic world. 13 As a widespread organisation of a religious nature which never missed an opportunity of advertising that it was the guardian of a supposed higher knowledge and supreme truth, darwishism certainly exercised much influence not only upon the lower classes professing the majority religion but also upon the unsophisticated members of various sectarian communities. It is for this reason that we find so much popular Sufic influence either in writings of the Ali-ilahis, Satpanthis or Persian Ismailis of a later period, while on the other hand there is little room for doubt that darwishism itself, in its syncretist tendency, had absorbed much from all the communities mentioned above.
The fragment begins with the helpless discussion of the attributčlesness of God, the theory which is generally known under the term of tanzīh, and is familiar to every student of Ismailism. Of course, it by no means forms an exclusive peculiarity of the Ismaili system, and was also common to other Shi' ite sects. Here the authors absence of literary experience makes it blurred and rather confusing. We may keep in mind that the fact that all such discussions found in the present text are based on an idea similar to the ancient gnostictic theory of the real Supreme God, attribute less and unknowable in His nature, and God the creator, who becomes incarnated as man on earth. Here the author struggles to express this in his discussion of Ahad and Wahid both terms meaning "one", but forming an inexhaustible source for theological hair-splitting and theorizing as to the difference between both. The triads which the author mentions further on are undoubtedly Sufic and Ali-ilahi adaptations of the usual theory of emanation : amr, or kalima, aqli-ikull and nas-i kull, which, however, themselves do not appear here.
Not feeling at home with such abstruse speculations, the author makes many strange statements. The Wahid , i.e. God-Creator, who is, in Sufic allegorical parlance, the "educator and teacher" (murabbī wa adīb, ) of course, of the ( murīd, i.e. the world ) is the "mirror of the One" (mir at-i Ahad ) . This obviously does not mean the mirror, but what is in the mirror, i.e. a reflection of the One. Thus the Incarnation becomes as if a true copy, reflection in the mirror, of the One, i.e. Supreme God reduced to perceptible form for the humans, quite a Christian motif. The Wahid , whom we may safely translate as the Incarnation, is, as the author says, haykal-i Ahad, i.e. temple, form, image, face, figure, etc. of the "God of all" (Illah-i'kull) . The triads are composed of the Ahad, One, the Wahid who occupies the position of the amr , or kalima, or aql-i kull, and the third member, the nafs-i kull to whom the author only makes allegorical reference. In his philosophizing zeal he depends principally on words rather than ideas. In this way he makes a distinction between jawhar and gawhar , although the second is merely the Persian form of the first. The author uses the term jawhar , which in Persian is commonly . used as "chemical substance", or acid, in the general sense of "substance" (usually mādda ) and haykal , instead of sūrat , as accidence (arad) . All this philosophy is further on substantiated by Kabbalistic speculations over letters and their numerical values. As in all similar speculations, it is presupposed that the name of a thing is its Platonic idea which has an independent existence. The sounds, or rather letters, with which the author is concerned in writing, are elements of words, i.e. names, i.e. ideas, and thus the elements of everything existent. They therefore take the form of a limited number of the basic ideas of everything in the world, and the world itself, in its entirety. This is why such futile speculations possess such deeply convincing value for the unsophisticated adepts. The fact that, by incidental custom, alif is not marked in the spelling of certain Arabic words, where it should be written, thus comes to the position of a profound symbol of cosmic importance.
In this philosophy it is not only letters that matter, but also dots which are used as diacritical signs. Special importance, as we see, is attributed to the additional Persian letters which do not exist in Arabic, p, ch and zh 14. More over, in Ali-ilahi speculations of this kind, yet further development is found. Not content with the theory of letters being the "elements" of the world, they go a step further and divide the letters themselves into dots, nuqtas, into which calligraphers divide letters while teaching their pupils in order to show the standard proportions of every letter. In practice a nuqta , is a miniature square stain made by a qalam, reed pen, moved over paper for a distance of one breadth of its tip. The pupils are taught that alif must be so many nuqtas, or squares, long, so many, and so forth. Each style of handwriting has its proportions which are regarded as standard.
The Ali-ilahis have made the world a symbol of Sufic, or rather darwish, ideas. Thus yā, the last letter of the alphabet, is a tālib , or murīd of lā, and the latter of hā, and the latter of waw , and, so forth, till alif , which itself is a tālib of three dots, these are a tālib of two dots, and these of one dot, nuqta'i awwa 15 which, surely, should be God. The world is the incarnation of the letter yā (dunyā = dun-iyā, where dun is a Turkish word for Arabic libās, dress, in the sense of the body which a substance dons when Incarnated.)
What apparently the author wished to show by all these discussions, - if, of course, his speculations are really complete here, and there is no lacuna before he comes to the story of the creation, , is to show the position of Sahabkar, the Creator, i.e. Sahib - i Kar . He is the second person of the triads mentioned at the beginning, the third obviously being the gawhars 16, i.e. created substances. An important point is omitted here. The sectarians divide humanity into two uneven parts, the dhāt-i q'urs , i.e. "hard substance", and dhāt-i minmān, i.e. "passing, incidental, guest-like, substance." The first is the essence of the direct descendants of an incarnation or its closest associates, called Sayyids, while the other are ordinary mortals. In order to affiliate the progeny of such associates, and partly in order to enhance their significance, the legends narrated here have been devised.
It is a familiar motif in such theosophical speculations that man, being the last and the most perfect creation, has the strongest case for being chosen for the incarnation of the Deity. Here this idea is expressed in the form of what amounts to the eternity of Adam. Adam is the first incarnation of the Deity in human form, but as the Deity was, always incarnated, thus Adam becomes eternal, too. Later incarnations, such as all these Shah Khusins, Sultan Suhaks, and others, are merely recent instances of the same eternal process. All of them were there - incarnation of Adam. Here the Coranic version interferes with the theory, God and Adam appear as two different persons, but as it was explained to me, Sahabkar, Shah Khushin, and so forth, all were the same substance as Adam. It is in order to witness and give testimony of such identity that the further proceedings have been instituted.
Jawhar , i.e., Divine Substance, incarnated in human form, calls out Banyamīn, described as an incarnation of Jabrail, or Salman 17. We need not halt on the association of these two names which has been in use ever since the beginning of Islam. The most difficult, however, is explanation of the name Benyamīn. Has it anything to do with Ruhu'l -amin ? Or it is simply a honorific title Ibn Yamin, "the one who (always) stands on the right (i.e. honorable) side"? This name is usually spelled as Bani Amin as in this text, but my insistent inquiries at every opportunity as to the meaning of the name failed to bring any sensible answer.
The very idea of "witnessing" may be connected not with the witnessing of the truth of the religion, but the identity of the person of the Imam, and these speculations clearly point to that. The Deity further on creates Da'ud from His own sweat. This is another primitive way of avoiding the idea of creation from nothing. Banyamīn was "called out," as if he had already existed before having been called, and Da'udd was thus related to the Deity, by substance. The next saint, Pir-i Musi, was not created from nothing, but made out of hu i.e. the name of God, so much used in Suf'ism, simply "He", and hui i.e. Divine ipseity. The next saint is created from the seal, muhr, of the Deity. The seal, khātam, in Arabic, here evidently symbolizes his functions as the Angel of Death, although this might have been a later development.
It is difficult to understand why the second saint is called Da'ud, undoubtedly a purely Biblical name which frequently occurs in Ali-ilahi stories,. In Islamic ideas Biblical David does not play any big part. Contrary to this, Musa, Biblical Moses, was by some sects regarded as the greatest of the Apostles of God, because he was the fourth, and the number four is the "most perfect".18 We may also remember that the early Khattābites had amongst their "angels" or prophets a "Robust Moses." The epithet of Pīr-i Mūsī, qalam-zan-i Lawh, "writer on the tablet," is also Biblical, obviously referring to the Tables of Law, received on mount Sinai. The name of the fourth angel, Mustafay-i Da'udan, is again enigmatic. It is quite probable that all these names belonged to the saints, members of the original sect which laid the foundation to Ali-ilahism, and that they simply bore ordinary Biblical names: Benjamin, David, Moses, and a certain "son of David," who later on received the name of Mustafa.
The idea that the Deity, having created the world, found no task more urgent than that of establishing the institution of the pīr-ship and its relation with the murid , is a part of the Sufic vision of the world. In such an ideology the relations of the Pir and murid are certainly fundamental. The deliberate emphasising of the paradoxical situation in which ,the Deity wants to become a murīd of His own creation, is also a Sufic symbol. It was obviously intended as an aetiological myth for the situation in which the Prophet, who actually was the "instructor" of Ali, i.e. the person who conveyed to him the still unrevealed portion of the Divine Revelation, was in fact a murīd, while Ali was the Pir, being a Divine incarnation.
The creation of the jawz, a nut (in practice it is what is called jawz-i buya nutmeg) from the Creator's own sweat is another aetiological myth, intended to stress the Divine origin of the ceremony. The nut is offered as a substitute for one's head, which is "entrusted" or "given" (supurda or dada shawad) to the Pir , who cuts it to pieces which he, distributes amongst those present at the ceremony. I hope to deal elsewhere with the details of the ceremony, and their symbolism. 19
As has been mentioned above, the Deity, having laid the foundations to these ceremonies, disappears, instructing the participants carry on the preaching and guidance of people towards God (here Jawhar.)
The next item is the mystical hierarchy, quite common amongst all the Sufic schools. It exists in a great number of variants, and although its original implications have been forgotten, such matters as the qutb, chihil tan, rijal-ighyab, etc are on everyone's tongue. 20
This is here called the jam i.e. ceremonial assembly, which was in the dharra'i kull or dharra -i gil ? The first expression appears to be far-fetched, while the second may simply be hyperbolism in the reverse, dharra-igil, "a speck of mud" standing for the name of the earth. 21 Further on it is said that assembly, jam , was held in Fire, while in the world there was the domination of fire, saltanat-i nar 22 Some of the sectaries whom I consulted found this idea strange and insisted that the text should be corrected to the effect that the first assembly jam was held zir-i saj-i nar . Saj is the Turkish word for frying pan, and the expression Saj-i Nar, which occurs rather often in Ali-ilahi texts, simply means sky. 23
The end of the fragment apparently contains the story of the insurrection of the disobedient spirits, and their punishment. It is quite unconnected with the preceding stories, and it seems that the author simply added it for record. Eschatological stories seem to be rare in such texts. Here the name of Iblīs appears in the Yezidī form of Malak Taus, i.e. Peacock. 24 Unfortunately for the student, the story is left unfinished.
Thus the fragment, despite its small size contains interesting information which merits recording. Its mixed style, in which colloquial, "bazar", expressions are interspersed with the attempts at writing in a learned manner, with Arabic quotations and terms, and above all the author's obvious helplessness in expressing his thoughts gives us to some extend a guarantee that he was acting in dead earnest while recording these stories.