II. ZAHIR AND BĀTIN lN THE SHARī' A
The first task, then, is to consider examples of zāhir-bātin interpretations of sharī'a. Reality, Haqīqa, excludes shari'a in the Qiyāma period: to adhere to shari'a during its dispensation is no less than sinful. Shari'a, then, is not a set of uncondi- tionally required duties. Under ordinary circumstances. I.e. in periods of openness as well as of occultation, sharī'a remains in force, but it is no eternal law. The question is: what is sharī'a's temporal nature, which includes both zāhir and bātin?
One may begin by consulting an Ismā'īli text dealing with zāhir-bātin interpretations of sharī'a. Kalāmi Pir in parts dating back to about two hundred years after the fall Of Alamūt, (7) instructs that:
...the conditions or mankind are always changing, under the influence or stars, and peculiarities or different periods, and thus the sharī' a, or the Divine law revealed to mankind, must change. Thus, if the prophet leaves to them a book, its language must be allegorical, and its teachings must be expressed in similes. Only these are intelligible to the primitive people; they cannot understand anything beyond the outward meaning of things, 'zāhir, because they are in their intellectual developmenl similar to brutes; these should follow the outward side of the Prophet's instructions- and this, in realily, is similar lo straw or bark. But those who are capable or understanding the inner meaning (bātin), and themselves seek for knowledge or the real (Haqiqat), living not only by their lower instincts, but also by reason and although - these can perceive the meaning of those instructions and commandments. (8)
And further: Thererore the letter, 'zāhir, of the religious teaching (sharī'at), which is concerned with the world as it appears to us, must be continually changing, while the inner meaning or it, the bātin, which is the revelation or the elernal laws (Haqiqa), is concerned with the world or reality; and since the latter is the same as the world of Divinity, it is unchangeable. (9) One does well to note that bātin is not equated with Haqīqa, but it reveals Haqīqa, zāhir, externality, both indicates the inner content, bātin, and allegorizes Haqīqa. (10) There seems to be three levels, zāhir, bātin, and Haqīqa, and the latter is only accessible through bātin.
The section "The tawil (allegories) of the prescriptions of the the shari'at lists the bātin, the inner meaning, of various sharī'at duties, starting with ritual purification (tahārat) , Its meaning is: making oneself clean from the acts which are committed by those who stick only to the outward side, zāhir, or the teaching. Ablution means the returning to the knowledge of the Imam, because water in the system (hadd) of ta'wil symbolizes the knowledge or the real truth Haqīqat (11)
Outward ablution, an act of separation, is positively evaluated, as is the external, purifying element, water. The emphasis on bātin is not disturbed by the externality, as such, of the ritual act; the two, zāhir and bātin, go together. Kalāmi Pir goes on to explain the ta'wil of washing the various parts of the body, and in this section the esoteric interpretations take on a certain loftiness when the text treats the real meaning of pollution in sexual intercourse.
The meaning or sexual intercourse is instruction (ta'lim). This means that if a mistake or error happens in it, the teacher must purify himself with the knowledge which comes directly from God (' ilmi ta'yīdī), which is the "flowing water". (12)
Instruction, like sexual intercourse, is prone to error and pollution. ln the same manner, the intimate nature of a close relationship like that between teacher and pupil, accords with its inherent dangers.
After this first ta'wil comes an interpretation of prayer, namāz, one of the Pillars of Islam. Supporting himself on eccentric etymologies, the Kalāmi Pir author understands prayer as liberation from association with adversaries. (13) Further, "whoever has attained the knowledge of the Imam has arrived at the state of continuous prayer... [here a Qor'ān verse is adduced as proof for this view]. Such people are exempt from the prescriptions of outward law (sharī'at)." (14) Having left enemies and doubt behind, the persistently pruying person could be said to have entered an individual state of Qiyāma. (15)
Kalāmi Pīr interprets the dissimulation of faith, taqiyya, to be the meaning of the fast, rūza, and deems secrecy unnecess- ary in the Qiyāma, since "all people will be overpowered by argument and proof." (16) The fourth ta'wīl, the religious taxation, zakāt, means "teaching the religion, and making it reach the faithful in accordance with their capacity to understand it." (17) "Progressive taxation", so to speak, means that one should be taxed, i.e. expected to learn, in accordance with one's intellectual capacity.
Fifth, the pilgrimage to Mekka, the hajj, means to gradually give up one's previous beliefs. (18) Several details pertaining to the hajj receive attention, among them one might mention: the formula labbayka ("Lord, here I am") means to convert to the preachings of the Ismā'īlī missionary (dā'ī); the ihrām, the pilgrim's garment, symbolizes distance from those who adhere to, zāhir only, the prescribed runs and circumambulations of the hajj mean "hastening towards the Imam"; the waters in the Zamzam well signify know] edge (this agrees with the water-symbolism in the ta'wil of purification, above); finally, taking off the ihrām at the end of the pilgrimage "means getting away from the punishment of the prescriptions of sharī'at". (19)
One might pause here for a moment since the last observation concerning the ihrām seems too close to the previous interpretation of it, that of donning the ihrām at the start of the hajj. How can donning and disrobing mean something so similar, i.e. first, distance from people who stick to, zahir, and, Secondly, distance from the sharī'a? The pilgrim seems to be back to his starting point. In that case the interpretation would harmonize with the Sunnī, more orthodox one. But, in the Ismā'ilī ta'wil the shedding of the ihrām does not mean to return to ordinary life (as it does in other Islamic doctrines); instead, it implies entering into the paradisial state where sharī'a is void. Thus, the two stages involving the ihrām do not mean entrance into and exit from the sacred environment of Mekka, but a soaring from the profane to the paradisial level, a point, it would seem, of no return to the former level. The movement is, one might say, vertical rather than horizontal. Kalāmi Pīr returns to the topic of sexual pollution as repre- senting faulty instruction by saying that menstruation signifies doubt. (20) Therefore, religious teachers who harbor doubts ought to refrain from teaching until their uncertainties have been cleared up, for, -Pregnant women have no menstruations, -this symbolizes those who have accepted the real knowledge (haqīqa), and who thus became free from doubt and suspicion. As old women have no menstruations, thus those who are for a long time in the state of acceptance of the religion become immune from doubt and suspicion. (21) Successful instruction, "conception", results in life-long, unpolluted faith, "pregnancy". Further, Kalāmi Pīr continues in the same vein. "The meaning of marriage... is being connected with the teacher... and the conception of the seed of his orders, i.e. accepting the word of his preaching (da'wat)." (22)
An earlier (about 13th century A.D.), but less extensive exposition of sharī'a ta'wil can be found in Tūsī's Tasawwaurat. Tūsi, a Sufi, wrote this work at Alamūt where he may have been more or legs a prisoner during Muhammad 111's reign. (23)
For the most part, Tasawwurāt follows the sequence of ta'wil in. Kalāmi Pīr, (24) but adds a final ta'wil, jihād, "waging war for a religious cause means that one must annihilate himself (i.e. his individuality) in the substance of God." (25) More specifically, there are four kinds of jihād: bodily, spiritual, intellectual, and "real" (haqiqa.). (26) These interpretations of jihād have a certain Sūfi ring to them, though they may represent Ismā'il views as well.
In these expositions of ta'wil one observes that the external religious duties cannot be separated from their inner meaning. zāhir and bātin accompany one another, like parallel lines, as long as the shari'a remains in force. This dialetic between the overt and the hidden meaning in shari'a does not necessarily detract importance from externality as such (though Tūsi may appear to hold such a view).Kalāmi Pīr balances zāhir and bātin equally, stressing that, "It is necessary to bring people first to obedience, to sharī'at., and its prescriptions... so that people may rise from the state of beasts, who go by their primitive ways." (27)
However, the paired opposites have their effect solely in the profane world; the syzygies are annulled when the Qiyāma sets in. The Imām, as Qā'im, is the very founding cause and precondition for zāhir and bātin, as well as for everything else. He is "the centre of the skies and the Qutb (pole) of the earth." (28) He makes dualities and pluralilies possible, and, in the Qiyāma, he causes them to cease, letting everything and everybody return to the primordial unity. (29) The dualistic pattern has served its cause, in the profane realm, and other modes of thought and understanding are called for in the Qiyāma.