ANANT AKHAADO literally means a gathering of unlimited souls in an eternal context. It is a composition of verses dealing with the process of evolution and involution of all souls since time immemorial. Overall, it is an expression of a timeless vision of hope for an individual soul bound to the clogging and hampering of this illusory material existence; to rise beyond it into eternity where it will unite with souls from other periods and ages in a joyous and festive manner, and merge with the ultimate reality as an eternal homecoming. Jampudeep meaning the Indian subcontinent (the physical home of the composer), is in some verses taken as a metaphor for the eternal home. The verses also refer to descriptions of all souls in history and indeed metahistory, how they overcame the influence of time and who were the key personalities that assisted them in the process of achieving eternal salvation.
The key aspect about this eternal struggle for liberation of the individual soul is the incessant confrontation with the forces of evil which constantly hinder the progress of the soul. Hence, at the cosmic level, there are numerous descriptions about the eternal power creating and sustaining natural armies to combat the forces of evil, triumphantly and jubilantly overcoming them in the ultimate. Indeed, at the end of each verse there is the phrase, 'Haree anant' which means: Haree(the Lord, the destroyer of evil), is the Master of the unlimited souls, is eternal, is always present and is limitless, giving constant assurance to the reciter about the eternal protection and hope. The most important theme that emerges in this context, is the necessity for the Divine; the pure and perfect, to assume physical manifestations, the avataars, in order to protect individual souls against the forces of evil and destruction and to sustain the universes (fourteen mentioned in the text) continuously. In the present age the avataar is the Imam of the time upon whom praises and tributes are showered throughout the text. Indeed, the text begins with it.
Explicit in the verses is the constant awareness of the insufficiency and the inability of the individual soul by itself to attain this exalted destiny. Hence, there are many verses which are supplications and pleadings of the individual soul for Divine help, protection, grace and mercy. The verses were composed in the Indian subcontinent in which the inherent culture ascribes the stature of the provider and protector of a household to the husband and that of a dependant and the protected to the wife or woman of the household.Hence a woman or a wife, the naari, is a metaphor for an individual soul; and the husband or the master, the nar, is a metaphor for the Imam. Indeed He is such a husband who will always offer protection and help as long as the individual soul remains a devoted and a loyal wife to Him(is faithful to His guidance). He will also fulfil all it's physical and spiritual needs under these conditions. The real understanding and recognition of the Imam cannot be attained except through intense devotion. The composer himself got the understanding as a result of continuously spinning the cotton like substance into cloth, upon which these verses were inscribed, using his own bodily limbs. It is stated that if an individual soul remains a devoted wife, it will reap the benefits of continuously spinning the cotton like substance, i.e., those benefits bestowed upon the composer(the inner understanding of the Imam).
In response to the constant grace, guidance and protection by the Lord through His different manifestations, there is a concomitant responsibility on the part of individual souls to follow the guidance rigorously and intelligently and to live within the moral and religious discipline prescribed for them in order to reach the exalted destiny. This is referred to in many different ways and extensive invaluable practical guidance and wisdom is given. Specifically, the eternal and timeless principles mentioned are: the observance of tithe being the root of religion and the right of the Imam of the time; observance of three times prayer referred to as the three invitations from the Lord; service and devotion to the Imam of the time; constant deep study of and reflection upon the holy scriptures which include the Farmaans of the Peer; abstinence from backbiting, slander, speaking and thinking evil of someone; steadfastness and firmness on the path of righteousness and avoidance of evil; observance of four virtues i.e.,truth, patience, faith and remembrance of the Lord; and avoidance or control of the five evil vices i.e., carnal desires, anger, greed, obsessive attraction for the world and pride.
In the context of Divine guidance, the Lord manifests Himself as Gur-Bhramaa(the light of prophethood- Nur-e-Nabuwwah) to guide individual souls towards the light. This manifestation is the Creator and the Nourisher of the soul(the spiritual mother), the Perfect Teacher(Mursheed-e-Kameel), the Guru or the Peer and is appointed by the Imam of the time. Indeed it is the manifestation of the same light which has composed these verses. Sometimes the role of the Imam and the Peer are combined as at present and sometimes they are separated as at the time of the composition of these verses.
In the context of the relationship between a murid and the Murshid, the associated concept of transformation of the individual soul is important in all mystical traditions. In the verses the Murshid is regarded as the Evaluator who seeks the bronze and transforms it into silver. Hence to be accepted as a disciple is considered to be a very privileged position as far as the individual soul is concerned. The realisation of this fact serves to reinforce the commitment of the individual soul to the relationship.The process of transformation is a gradual elevation from the gross material existence progressively into subtle and more refined spiritual existences until the final state of complete and total LIGHT only. The role of the Murshid is critical in this process. It is stated that it does not take a great deal for the Lord(as manifested in the Murshid) to transform a man into an angel.
To assist a murid on this difficult path of Sirat-al-Mustaqeem, the All Merciful operates at two levels. At the physical level He has set up the Jamatkhanas, referred to as the Gur-Gat-Gangaa wherein there is the presence of the Guru, the Guide, either personally or in the form of His guidance, i.e, recitations of Farmaans, Ginaans,Qasidas and other scriptures for constant guidance, inspiration and deep reflection; Gat, a congregation, as a communal support of the fellow devotees and Gangaa, which literally means River Ganges where the Hindus perform their purifying rituals and hence serves as a metaphor for the presence of purifying rituals. At the spiritual level He has set up angels which offer help and protection at a personal level to the devoted souls and are referred to as the huraau, the guardian angels; and the judging angels referred to as adal firohi firasta who take account of the deeds of the individual souls.Hence, keeping them vigilant at all times.
The eternal and cosmic significance of these verses will become apparent in consideration of the circumstances linked to their composition. They are described in the text in an authoritative and convincing manner and are worthy of deep reflection. These verses were composed by Peer Hassan Kabirdeen at a very young age as an expression of his deep yearning for the deedaar(physical and spiritual vision) of the Imam of the time. After the refusal of his father Peer Sadardeen to take him along with him for the zaheri deedaar (physical encounter between the murid and the Imam), regarding him as too young to undertake the arduous and difficult journey from India to Iran, Peer Hassan Kabirdeen began his devotions, prayers and supplications and gave expression to his feelings by composing these verses in Khojki script, invented by his father, and writing them on over 500 gajes (approximately 1000 feet) of cloth woven by himself.
It took approximately six months to complete the verses. While the verses were being composed, Peer Sardardeen went through intense spiritual crises. An 'iron wall' was erected preventing him from getting the blessings of deedaar both in the physical and spiritual sense. This was due to the fact that he expressed a minute sense of ego by regarding his son as too young. He went through intense prayers, supplications and imposed upon himself many physical mortifications in order to attract Divine mercy and hence alleviate this precarious state. At that time Peer Sadardeen was not a Peer though a highly elevated soul responsible for the salvation of twelve crore souls.
Upon completion of the verses Peer Hassan Kabirdeen dedicated them to the Imam of the time, Mawlana Islam Shah by folding the cloth in the form of a turban. He then travelled to Iran and had the honour of having the audience with the Imam at the village of Kahek. He found the Imam seated bareheaded on His Takht(the Holy Throne of Imamat). With utmost humility and respect, he entered in the presence of the Imam, performed Baiyah(Act of Allegiance) and placed the turban at His Holy feet. Imam Shri Islam Shah gracefully lifted the turban and placed it on His head. After a short while, the Imam removed it and placed it on the head of the Peer as a symbol of his Peeratan . It was at this encounter with the Imam that he was entrusted with lots of grace and mercy, the burden of the salvation of unlimited souls and was bestowed with the status of the Peer in the spiritual sense (was not appointed). In one of the verses this incidence is regarded as a completion of a heavenly plan. It was around that time that the Merciful removed the 'iron wall' from Peer Sadardeen.
After composing the verses of ANANT AKHAADO constituting the turban, he composed additional verses on the cloth and folded it in the form of nine tussles as an addendum to the turban.These were called ANANT NA NAV CHHUGA meaning the nine tussles of eternity(or of the salvation of unlimited souls). Although the majority of the verses were composed before the granting of the eternal burden as alluded in the text, it is conceivable that some verses were added by the composer himself after this very important ceremony.
ANANT AKHAADO like any other mystical literature is very metaphorical and allegorical in it's expression. In Ismaili Tariqah, it is only the Imam of the time who has the ultimate authority to interpret a text of a revelatory nature. Hence in doing the translations every attempt has been made to adhere to the literal meaning as far as possible to enable each individual to interpret them according to his or her own understanding and background. However in some cases it has not been possible due to linguistic and grammatical nuances involved when translating from one medium into another. Moreover, the verses are poetical in nature which further adds to the complexities of translating in a literal manner. Hence, a degree of free translation and a brief explanation of some terms has been included wherever it has been necessary to convey the basic meaning behind the verses. However, a glossary which consists of variation of meaning and explanations where appropriate, is provided at the end. This will be of assistance to individuals for their own analysis and interpretation in the context of personal search, and also be useful for translating other ginaanic literature.
The practical importance of these verses in Ismaili tradition is attested to by the fact that they are recited daily in Jamatkhanas before the first prayer. Indeed Mawlana Sultan Muhammed Shah had advised many murids to recite the entire ANNANT AKHAADO in times of difficulties and crises.In view of the above, these transliterations and the translations have been undertaken primarily for benefit of individuals who have little or no knowledge of Gujerati, especially for the members of the jamaats who come from non-IndoPakistan backgrounds hence, promoting inter traditional cultural and linguistic dialogue and exchange between the various components of the diversity within our jamaat. It is hoped that those who have the knowledge of Gujerati will also get interested and be motivated to read the text in Gujerati for further analysis and interpretation realising that a transliteration or a translation is at best only an approximation to the work in the original language.
In conclusion, ANANT AKHAADO AND ANANT NAA NAV CHHUGAA contain all the essential ideas about the ginaanic literature which encompass our theology, philosophy, history and ethics from the esoteric point of view. It therefore serves as an ideal base for further in depth study of ginanic literature. Although to a certain extent knowledge of the language is important towards the understanding of the concepts therein, one must not get too bogged down with the linguistic analysis of the text but rather, it is more important to try to capture the underlying spirit which has enabled it to flourish for centuries. It is hoped that those who go through it will appreciate the scope of and authority contained in the knowledge of these verses.It is a sincere and humble prayer that this work will give the readers the relevant knowledge, guidance, wisdom, inspiration and spiritual strength to sustain them in their quest for the Light and eternal life. May all enjoy the blessings of eternal peace, joy and happiness in this life being the ultimate vision and the optimum state of the individual soul as expressed in these verses. AMEEN
(Toronto, Aug, 1995)