Shaykh Ahmad - Risala for Muhammad Ḥusayn al-Anārī al Kirmānī - Introduction and Translation

The Epistle of Shaykh Ahmad al-Aḥsā’ī in response to questions posed by Mullā Muhammad Ḥusayn al-Anārī al Kirmānī. 

Stephen N. Lambden UCMerced.

In progress 15-09-2015.

This Arabic Risāla or treatise dated to 1235/1820 written by al-Ahsa'i for Mullā Ḥusayn al-Anārī al-Kirmānī, has been printed in Jawami` al-kalim vol. 1. part iii. Here it is the 9th Risāla (here unpaginated but pp. 153-4) and is reprinted in ed. Majmū`a al-Rasā’il vol. 30 pp. 207-214.

Scattered throughout the writings of Shaykh Aḥmad are statements about the first Adam and the first couple or about there being a myriad Adams. Responding to a question of Mullā Muhammad Ḥusayn al-Anārī al-Aḥsā’ī makes a variety of cosmological statements and continues,

God, exalted be he, created a thousand, thousand worlds and a thousand, thousand Adams. You are in the last of the worlds and of these Adams. And in all of these worlds there exists the likeness (similitude, mathal) of what is in our world respecting the heavens and the earth, the mountains, the oceans and the fishes, the trees and the fruits, and the deserts. So too what is in it of wild beasts and birds and other assembled things. And these worlds are all within this world (al-dunyā) and in the hereafter (`world to come’ al-ākhira). On the Day of Resurrection the people shall multiply in both earth and heaven... (Majmū`a 30:312-3; cf. Sh-Ziyāra 3:301f; 361f).

 

Extracts from the al-Risāla for Mullā Muhammad Ḥusayn al-Anārī, al-Kirmānī with occasional notes. 

From a forthcoming paper :

 In the al-Risāla (Treatise) written in 1235/1820 for Mullā Muhammad Ḥusayn al-Anārī, al- Kirmānī,[1]  al-Aḥsā’ī specifically responds to a question about Hurqalya [=H*] as a “world”, as well as its “elemental nature”, “spheres” and linguistic derivation. He states,

As for  the expression هورقليا (H* = Hurqalya [sic.]) and its meaning. It is another dominion (mulk ākhar) since what is indicated thereby is the `ālam al‑barzakh  (the world of the isthmus) which relates to this mundane world  (`alām al‑dunyā) [but is also] indicative of the world of [celestial] meta-bodies (`ālam al‑ajsam),  that is to say, the world of dominion [on high] (`ālam al‑mulk) and the world of souls (`ālam al‑nufūs),[2] which is the world of the kingdom (`ālam al‑malakūt).  Now, as the world of the Barzakh [isthmus] (`ālam al‑barzakh), it is the intermediary [realm] between this mundane world (`ālam al‑dunyā) and the world of the kingdom (`ālam al‑malakūt). It is thus [expressive of] another dominion (mulk ākhar), that is to say, the world of meta-bodies (`ālam al-ajsām) which is the world of the dominion [on high] (`ālam al-mulk)  for these are both expressive of another dominion (`ālam mulk ākhar) being [located] in the eighth clime (al‑iqlīm al‑thāmin), the lowest degree of which is above the convex terrestrial  vault, at the very boundary of directionality (muḥaddib muḥaddad al-jihāt) on a level that is bereft of direction… Even the lowest nadir of the world of H*, stands way above the most elevated sphere of any starless outermost sphere (`āla falak al-aṭlas). It has direction and form the like of which can be seen in a mirror though such is the very lowest point of that interworld (asfal min dhalik al-`ālam).[3]

This treatise also contains a key statement of al-Aḥsā’ī about the linguistic derivation of H* and its relationship to this mundane world, the world of Barzakh and the `ālam al‑mithāl (the “world of similitudes”). This led Corbin, Macúch (see above) and others, to seek a Mandaic derivation for H* (see above):

As for what language this term is in. It H* (= هورقليا) is derived from the Syriac [Aramaic] language (al‑lughat al‑suryāniyya) and is a Sabian [Mandaic] term (lughat al‑ṣābi’a) and they [the Sabians = Mandaeans] are now living in Baṣra... Know also that the world of the isthmus (`ālam al‑barzakh) is intermediary between this mundane world and the world of the hereafter (al‑dunyā wa’l‑ākhira). It is the imaginal world [of similitudes] (`ālam al‑mithāl) [existing] between the world of the kingdom (`ālam al‑malakūt) and this [lower] mundane world (al‑dunyā)” (JK., I. iii [153-4]; Maj-Rasā’il 30: 309. Cf. Corbin SBCE: 191-2). [4]

Al-Aḥsā’ī most likely came to this opinion through his direct contacts with Mandaeans [5]  when living in Baṣra where he resided at least three times [6] and where Mandaeans have lived for many centuries. [7] As with al-Suhrawardī, numerous Mandaean sacred texts place supernal Light at the very apex of the uppermost realms of Divine Reality. Perhaps, like Suhrawardī, Shaykh Aḥmad had dialogue with Mandaeans and soon grasped the centrality of the light-generating upper firmament within the heaven of their gnosis. One can readily imagine Suhrawardī dialoging with Jews, Christian or Mandaeans about the falak (pl aflāk; the celestial spheres) and its being the light-beaming radiance of the supra-celestial “firmament(s)”. This he perhaps somewhat loosely remembered as H*. [8] We may now pay succinct attention to H* and the firmament in Aramaic-Syriac and Mandaic.  

Footnotes

[1] Text in JK 1/iii [pagination supplied] 152-4, rep. in al-Aḥsā’ī, Maj-Rasā’il 30: 307-14, partial trans. Corbin SBCE: 191-197.

[2] What al-Aḥsā’ī might mean here by the ālam al‑nufūs, “world of the [supra-] souls [persons]” is probably not simply the otherworldly domain of the human afterlife. See his Risāla for Mullā Kāẓim ibn `Alī Naqī Simnānī, Majmū`a, 30:57 and Sh-`Arshiyya, 2:5f; 9ff etc.

[3] JK., I. iii, 153; Maj-Rasā’il 30: 308-9; cf. Corbin SBCE: 191. 

[4]  al-Aḥsā’ī, JK., I. iii [153-4] = Maj-R  30: 308 9 = trans. Lambden, cf. trans. Corbin, SBCE [1977]: 191-2; 1990:103). The text cited does not overrule the possibility that Shaykh Aḥmad was influenced by an as yet unidentified written source mentioning this possible Mandaean derivation of H*.

[5] Named after the word manda, which can mean “knowledge” or “gnosis”, the Mandaeans have an extensive, often complex and composite, Mandaic literature. These multi-faceted writings most likely have their origins in 1st-4th cent. CE Judaisms of Syria-Palestine. Thereafter, as a result of migrations, influences from Mesopotamia, Persia and elsewhere made their mark. 

[6] Refer, `Abd-Allāh al-Aḥsā’ī, Sharḥ al-ḥālāt, 27-28; al-Tāliqānī, 1999: 62-5; MacEoin, EIr. I: 674f.

[7] See Pallis, 1926 and 2nd rev. 1974, p. 27. Al-Aḥsā’ī may well also have visited Khūzestān (SW., Iran), and passed through Aḥwāz the capital of this Iranian province. In the early 19th century there were around 2000 Mandaeans in Aḥwāẓ (today something in excess of 5,000 though many have emigrated to other countries). Aḥwāẓ has long been a major and important Mandaean center with learned initiates.

[8] The above listed works of Ishrāqī and Shī`ī thinkers and of al-Aḥsā’ī are by no means all the references made to H* (or its parallel worlds or realms) by these or other pre-modern Islamic thinkers. It should be borne in mind that al-Aḥsā’ī’s appointed successor Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī (d. 1259/1843),  also made  use of a cosmology- eschatology of H* (five times, for example, in his Sharḥ  āyat al-kursī , `Commentary on the Throne Verse’, Q. 2:255) as did other persons considered his successors such as Ḥajjī Mīrzā Muhammad Karīm Khān Kirmānī (d. 1871) in his Irshād al-`awāmm (`Guidance for the Masses’, see index).