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Ḥadith al-Ḥaqiqa III - The Commentary of the Bab

فی تفسير حديث الحقيقه 

Tafsīr Ḥadīth al-Ḥaqīqa III

The Tafsīr Ḥadith al-Haqiqa III : The Commentary of Sayyid `Alī Muhammad Shirazi, the Bab.

The Commentary on the Ḥadith al-Ḥaqīqa (Ultimate Reality) for Kumayl ibn Ziyād ibn Nahīk al-Naka'ī (d. c. 81 / 701) of Sayyid `Alī Muhammad Shirazi, the Bāb (d.1850 CE).

Stephen N. Lambden UC Merced.  2003.

IN PROGRESS and under revision 2019-20,

Last revised 28-12-2019.

Introductory Note

The Hadîth al-haqîqa ("Tradition concerning Ultimate Reality") or Hadîth ma al-haqîqa, (very loosely) the `Hadîth Kumayl' is the record of an alleged (Arabic) conversation between the first Shî`î Imam, `Alî b. Abî Tâlib (d.40/661) and his Shî`î associate, the one-time governor of Hît (Iraq, 130 miles from Baghdad), Kumayl ibn Ziyâd ibn Nahîd ibn Haytham ibn Sa'd ibn Malik ibn al-Nakhâ'î. (d. c. 81 / 701) whose shine is located at wadî al-salâm near Najaf (Iraq) (al-Mufîd, K. al-Irshâd). It has to do with the nature and definition of of al-aqîqa which is often (loosely) translated "Reality" or "Ultimate Reality". The hadîth al-haqîqa is a well-known tradition much discussed and highly influential in Shî`î Islamic philosophy and mysticism as well as many times registered in Babi-Baha'i scripture. It has been commented upon by the early Shaykhi leaders as well as many gnostic (irfani) or esoterically minded thinkers among them Hajji Mullâ Hâdî Sabziwârî (d. c.1295/ 1878). He had occasion to comment upon the Hadîth al-ḥaqīqa in various of his works including the recently republished (new edition) of his `Commentary on the Most Beautiful Names of God'. The hadîth al-haqîqa has several times been (partially) translated into English, once by the Cambridge orientalist Edward G. Browne (d. 1926) and again by the American Presbyterian missionary Dwight M. Donaldson (d.1976) whose article has been published in the periodical Muslim World .

The commentary of the Bab on the hadîth al-haqîqa

In his commentary on the hadîth al-haqîqa the Bab introduces it as follows: Regarding the Commentary upon the `Tradition about Reality' (hadith al-ḥaqīqa) which has it that Kumayl ibn Ziyād al-Nakha`i was riding one day behind [imam] `Alī (upon Him be peace) on his she-camel (naqa). And Kumayl said `O my Master, what is al-ḥaqīqa ("Reality")?' [Imam] `Alī upon Him be peace replied, `What have you to do with Reality?' He [Kumayl] responded, `Am I not a custodian of thy secret (sahib al-sirrika)? He [`Alī] said, `Yes! but what merely sprinkles down upon you overfloweth abundantly through me.'

Subsequently Imam `Alī gives several somewhat cryptic definitions of al-haqīqa (Reality). The final definition refers to the sub al-azal ("Morn of Eternity") and seems to have been the ultimate source of the title of Mirza Yahya (c. 1834-1912) (Per.) Subh-i Azal.  Among the imamological and other senses given the Hadith Kumayl by the Bab is that it revolves around the high station of Imam `Alī, whose Logos-Self is represented as the creative genesis of Being and a divine effulgence which mediates divine realities in the world of creation. The Bab from very early in his mission cited and gave importance to the Hadîth Kumayl. He cited it in his early Risâla fi'l-suluk ("Trestise on the Path") as he did later in his Sahifa bayn al-haramayn (Epistle between the two shrines) and his (Persian) Dala'il-i sab`ah (Seven Proofs) where it is also given an interesting imamological exegesis.

The Bāb's Commentary upon the Ḥadīth al-ḥaqīqa

It will be demonstrated below that from very early in his mission the Bab cited and gave importance to the Ḥadīth al-Haqiqa associated with  Kumayl b. Ziyād al-Nakhā'ī. His Tafsir on this Ḥadīth al-ḥaqīqa attributed to Imām `Alī  (d.40/661) is known to be extant in at least  five unpublished mss. MacEoin lists several of them in his Sources (p.199) - I have supplemented this list with a few additions and correlations : 

  • [1] Tehran INBA 4011C pp. 127-134. [2] Tehran INBA 6007C pp.  74-77. [3] Tehran INBA  6010C pp. 5-41 = INBMC 14: 462-8 (check). [4] Tehran INBMC 53 : 63-8. [5] Tehran INBMC 67:148-55.

Translation Stephen Lambden 2003 - under revision 2020.

Arabic texts translated from Tehran INBA 6007C : 74-77 and INBMC 14: 462-8

The typed Arabic text represents a semi-critical edition based on the above mss., primarily, INBA 6007C : 74-77.


From INBMC 53:63


فی حديث الحقيقه تفسير

هوان كميل بن زيادالنخعی اردفه علی عليه السلام يوما علی ناقه . 

In commentary upon the Ḥadīth al-Ḥaqīqa,  the Tradition about Ultimate Reality (al-Ḥaqīqa) which has it that Kumayl ibn Ziyād al-Nakhā'ī  was riding one day behind [Imam] `Alī (upon Him be peace) [d. 40/ 661], upon his she-camel (nāqa). 


 يا مولای ما الحقيقه  كميل فقال  

 And Kumayl said `O my Master, what is al-ḥaqīqa?'


وقال ما لك الحقيقه

 [And] He [`Alī] replied, `What do you [Kumayl] have to do with al-ḥaqīqa?'


 قال اولست بصاحب سرك

 And [Kumayl] said,  `Is it not that I am a companion of your secret? '


 قال بلی و لكن يرشح عليك ما يطفح منی          

 And he [`Alī] replied, `Yes indeed! But what [gnosis merely] sprinkles down upon you, billows over through me'


       قال او مثلك يخيب سائلا

He [Kumayl] questioning responded: `Is it like thee to discourage questioning?' .


قال عليه السلام

 كشف سبحات الجلال من غير اشاره

He [`Alī] said: -upon him be peace - [al-Ḥaqīqa  constitutes] "the uncovering of the vainglories of hybris / the splendors of the Majestic One (subuḥāt al-jalāl) without  any  allusion" (min ghayr al-ishāra)... etc.

`Alī  - upon Him be peace - replied, `What have you to do with Reality?' He [Kumayl] responded, `Am I not a custodian of thy secret (ṣāḥib al-sirrika)?  He [`Alī] replied, `Yes! but there shall merely sprinkle (yarshau) upon thee what overflows abundantly  (yatfahu)  from me.' He [Kumayl] said, `Is it like thee to discourage questioning?' .


He [`Alī], upon him be peace, [defining al-ḥaqīqa ] said,

  الحقيقة كشف سبحات الجلال من غير اشارة

`It is the unveiling of the splendors of the Majestic One [vainglories of hybris] (kashf subuḥāt al-jalāl)  without allusion  (min ghayr ishāra) [an apophatic disclosure] [and so on]!'


[INBMC 53:63]

 فاعلم ان كلامه عليه السلام محيط بكلشیٌ و جارية فی كل العوالم لان الكلام تجلی من تجليات المتكلم و الله تعالی جعله مظهر احاطته و تجليه و كل ظهوراته لان الذات وحده وحده احاطته نفسه و هو المحيط و لا محاط و مقام الاقتران مقام فعله و ظهوره  و هو مخلوق خلقه  بان  بارئه بنفسه و استقره فی ظله و ان كل التعبير مقام المعرفة تعبر عن مقامه و احاطة كلامه احاطة كلام الله لا يغرب عن تحت ظله شیٌ  

[I] So know that his [`Alī's] discourse (kalām) [about al-Ḥaqīqa] - upon him be peace - encompasses all things (muḥīṭ bi-kulli shay')  and  encircles all the worlds (jāriyat fī˙ kull al-`awālim)  [2] since this discourse (kalām) [about al-haqiqa] is a theophanic disclosure (tajallī)  beyond the theophanic realizations of the dialectic theologians (tajalliyyāt al-mutakallim).  [3] And God, praised be He, made him [Imam `Alī], upon him be peace, a manifestation (maẓhar)  of His  All-Encompassing Knowledge (iḥaṭat) and of His theophanic Self-Disclosure (tajallī)   as well as of all of His [diverse] Manifestations (ẓuhūrāt). [4] This since the Divine Essence (al-dhāt)  is [Indisputably] One (waḥda), a Singularity (waḥda) by virtue of His All-Encompassing Knowledge (iḥaṭat) which is [expressed through] His Own Logos-Self (nafsihi). [5] He [God though`Alī] is indeed the All-Encompassing One (al-muḥīṭ), not One Encompassed (muḥāṭ). [6] The station of  Union (maqām al-iqtirān) and prior to the Union (qabl al-iqtirān) is the station of His  Active Reality (maqām fi`l)  and of His Manifestation (ẓuhūr). [7] He [`Alī the Logos-Self] is [generative of]  created reality (makhlūq) [amidst]  His creation (khalq), for He initiated it through His Logos-Self (bi-nafsihi  = Imām [`Alī). [8] And He established it [creation or him= Imam `Ali] beneath His shadow (ẓill). [9] And all the interpretations (ta`bīrāt) in the station of gnosis (maqām al-ma`rifa)  are [in reality] an interpretation of his [Imām `Alī's] station (maqām) - upon him be peace - and the all-encompassing nature of his Speech (kalām) which is the all-encompassing Speech of God (kalām Allāh). [10] There is not a single thing which is far removed from beneath his shadow.  


فاذا عرفت هذه المقدمة

فاعلم ان حال كميل يظهر من جوابه * انه ما كان كاملا فی مقام العبودية والا لم يسئل عن الحقيقه لان المسئول عنه نفسها وليست هو غيره بل هو الاظهر من ان يسال كما قال سيدالشهدإ  عليه السلام فی دعائه عرفه :  ايكون لغيرك من الظهور ما ليس لك حتی يكون هو المظهر لك متی غبت حتی تحتاج الی دليل يدل عليك ومتی بعدت حتی تكون الاثار هی التی توصل اليك عميت عين لا تراك ولا تزال عليها  رقيبا وخسرت صفقة عبد لم تجعل له حبك نصيب


[1] So if you understand this [above] prolegomenon then know that the spiritual state (ḥāl) of Kumayl was evident in his (`Alī's) -  upon him be peace- reply [to the questions of Kumayl], for he [Kumayl] was not concerned with the consummate aspects (kāmilan) of  the station of servitude (maqām al-`ubūdiyya),  otherwise, he would not have asked about  al-ḥaqīqa  ("Ultimate Reality"). Indeed! the matter inquired about  [from `Ali] was pertinent to his [`Alī's]   Logos-Self (nafs).  [2] It was not anything other than this! [3] Nay rather,  it was manifestly the case that he asked of this just as the Prince of Martyrs [= the third twelver Imam Ḥusayn] (Sayyid al-Shuhadā') [martyred 61/680] - upon him be peace - stated in the Du`ā al-`Arafa (Supplication for [the day of] `Arafah) :

`[4] Can there be for those other than Thee any manifestion (al-ẓuhūr) which is not [actually] of Thee? [5] This such that it is [ever] He that is made Manifest (huwa al-maẓhar) through Thee [God];  [6] unless, that is, Thou were absent such that Thou should [find it necessary to] provide testimony (dalīl) in evidence of Thyself. [7] Yet, whenever Thou  be remote [from us] there are [always]  tokens-signs-vestiges (al-āthār) [of Thee] which provided a link with Thee! [8] Blinded then is the eye that does not vision Thee, [One ever] vigilant  (raqīb an ) thereof ! [9] And forfeited is the contract of that servant (ṣafqa `abd) who fails to proffer before Thee a share (naṣīb an) of Thy love (ḥubb)!" (cf. Arabic text cited Qummi, Mafatih, 311). 


ولو لا ان كميل رای نفسه مرادفا له  عليه السلام  فی الركوب علی الناقه لما جرء علی مثل هذا النوع من الكلام معه  ولو انه عرف نفسه لم يقدر ان يرادف معه عليه السلام لان حقيقته رشحة طفح من جلاله فكيف يمكن للشعاع ان يرادف قمص الشمس ذلك محال فان الشیٌ لا يجاوز ورإ مبدئه

[1] How could it not be the case that Kumayl saw [visioned] his [`Ali's] Logos-Self (nafs) whilst riding behind him [Imam `Alī] - upon him be peace -  mounted [camelback] (al-rukūb) upon the she-camel (al-nāqa), [2] [especially]  since a portion of a likeness of this  measure of the [theophanic] Speech (al-naw` min al-kalam) [of God /`Ali] was adjacent to him [Kumayl on the camel]. [3] And if he had [already fully] recognized His Logos-Self (nafs) it would have proven impossible for him [Kumayl] to ride behind him [`Ali] - upon him be peace - [4] for his [Kumayl's] reality (haqīqa) was but a  mere sprinkling (rasḥḥa) compared to the overflowing abundance coming from his [`Ali's] - upon him be peace - Divine Majesty (jalāl)! [5] How can it be possible for [mere]  beams [rays] (al-shu`ā`) to ride [camelback] behind the cloak of the Sun (qams al-shams)? [6]  Such is inconceivable (muḥāl)! The merest entity (al-shay') [= Kumayl] is not permitted [to travel camelback] behind its Creator (mubda')!


ولقد اخطإ كميل لما رای مراد فيته معه  فتوهم لما رای نفسانيته وحقيقته فسئل بالحقيقه قال  مالك والحقيقه قصدعليه السلام بانك فی مقام الاثنيته وذلك شرك بعدك بعد المشرقين وهو اقرب اليك من حبل الوريد ما لك والحقيقه فلما سمع العبد وعرف الشرك من نفسه خف عند بارئه ورق ظلمانية نفسه

[1] It was thus that Kumayl greviously erred (ikhṭā') when he saw  his camel-backed riding companion (murādfiyyat) adjacent to him. [8] He supposed when he saw  his Logos-Selfhood [Divine personality] (nafsāniyya) and his ḥaqīqat ("Ultimate Reality") that he might ask about  al-ḥaqīqa ("Ultimate Reality"). [2] Hence he [`Ali] said to Kumayl], "What do you and al-haqiqa ("Ultimate Reality") have to do with one another? [3] He indicated that `You [kumayl] are in the station of secondary [subsiduary] duality relative to Him (al-ithaniyyatihi) and that [theological error] is infidelity (shirk) for your remoteness ( ba`d) is  the [error of] the infidels (reading al-mushrikīn) [?? mss. 6007 = al-mushrigin]. [4] Such [error] is closer to you than your jugular vein (ḥabl al-warīd) [cf. Q. ADD ref.]; [5] [Hence `Alī said] `What do you  and al-ḥaqīqa ("Ultimate Reality") have to do with one another? [6] Thus, when the servant [Kumayl] heard the call from beyond (nidā' al-bu`d) and understood his infidelity (al-shirk) regarding his al-ḥaqīqa ("Ultimate Reality") he was sore afraid nigh his Maker (bāri`) and he lamented the pitiful darkness of his [own] person (zulmāniyya nafsihi) and said, `Am I not a companion of your secret (sahib sirrika)?' [7] And he [`Ali] replied, `Yea verily! There is a grace (luṭf) through Him since  the fire of His love (nar al-muhabbat) did not lessen (?) and there sprinkled upon him [Kumayl] what flowed abundantly of his [`Ali's] - upon him be peace - gnosis (`irfān). [8] Hence his saying, `What sprinkles upon you [Kumayl] overflows abundantly through me [`Ali]'. [9] (`Ali meant by this) `Your al-ḥaqīqa  (personal status) O Kumayl ! is but a sprinkling ["dewdrop"] of the station of  the prophets (rashḥa min maqām al-anbiyā') for they [the prophets] were not such as received an overflowing abundance [of gnosis] from me'.


        [1] Another meaning [of this] is that ADD HERE


Extracts with translation from INBMC 53:65

He [`Alī] said [al-ḥaqīqa-Reality is]: "The unveiling of the subuḥāt al-jalāl ("the splendors-vainglories of majesty") without allusion (min ghayr al-ishāra)!  So cast aside! O Kumayl all of the subuḥāt ([splendors] "vainglories") for such are the creatures of God (khuluq Allāh), and become established in the ocean of the Jalāl (Glory- the Majesty One) for such is the station of devoid of allusions...[?] check another text 


"Then observe with the vision [eye] of thine inmost heart (`ayn al-fu'ādika) that thy ḥaqīqa  (Reality) is the Lordship of thy Lord (rububiyyat al-rabb) both before thee and within thee for thou art He and He is thou except that thou art thou which is indeed thyself and He is He Himself and for Him is the station of that Oneness  which an Ipseity of the Divine Essence (waḥdat huwiyya dhat). Wherefore, indeed, is there neither mention nor allusion of Him.. ADD


 ولذا قالت النصاری ثالث ثلثه واخذت شكل الصليب فی الرتبة التثليث وحل اللاهوت التی هی عالم ظهور المشية فی الناسوت التی هی مقام ذكر الكثيرة فتعالی الله عما يقول الظالمون فی احكام قدرته علوا كبيرا

Wherefore did the Christians say "the third of three" (= Q.) for they took the form of the cross (shakl al-salīb) to be on the level of the Trinity (al-tathlīth) [presupposing] the descent of Divinity (al-lahut) - which is the world of the Manifestation of the Mashiyya (Divine Will) -- into the human realm (al-nasut), which is the station of the recollection of multiplicity (dhikr al-kathīra). Yet, exalted be God, Elevated and Mighty, above that which these tyrants assert about the modes of His Power (aḥkām al-qudrat)!

Some Scriptural and Exegetical Notes

هو مخلوق خلقه  بان  بارئه بنفسه  : II:7   In mss. 6007C p. 75 line 3 the text between بان   and بنفسه is unclear. The reading  بارئه  is provided by  mss. The literal sense of  هو مخلوق is "He is One Created" (makhluq) though the following  خلقه(perhaps) indicating  "of His creatures" or "of His creation" although the sense might be that Imam `Ali is representative of مخلوق   (makhluq) "Creation/ Created Reality" by virtue of his being the creative locus of the nafs or "Logos-Self"  of God.

III: 2 . The Du`ā [yawm] al-`Arafa or "Supplication for [the day of] `Arafah" is a prayer ascribed to  the third twelver Shi`i Imam Ḥusayn ibn Abi Talib (d. 71/680) known as the "Prince of Martyrs"  (Sayyid al-Shuhadā') on account of his tragic execution at Karbala. This Du`a yawm al-`Arafa is a lengthy Arabic prayer associated with the 9th day of Dhu`l-Ḥijja during the Muslim pilgrimage and is believed to have been recited by Imam Husayn on the Day of `Arafah. Versionf of it can be found in numerous Shi`i devotional compilations. The Arabic text of the  Du`ā al-`Arafa can be found, for example, in the frequently printed  work of `Abbās Qummī  (d. 1359/1940) entitled Mafātīḥ al-Jinān ("The Keys of the Paradise") including the following editions (1) Mafātīḥ al-Jinān Islamiyya ed., ed. Muhammad Baqir Kamara'i, Tehran 1379/1959-60 (see pp.350-365). (2) Mafātīḥ al-Jinān, ed. Muhammad Ḥasan `Ilmī. Tehran 1381/1961, (see pp. 531-3). (3) Mafātīḥ al-Jinān. Beirut: Dar Ihya' al-Turath al-`Arabī, 1422/2001, (see pp. 301-312). 

Not all of the versions, recensions or printings of the Du`ā [yawm] al-`Arafa contain the passage cited by the Bab in his Tafsir Hadith al-haqiqa.  In the Mafātīḥ al-Jinān `Abbās Qummī explains that the version of the Du`ā al-`Arafa found in the Kitab Bilad al-amīn ("Book of the Secure Land") of  Taqi al-Dīn al-Kaf`āmī (d. 900/1494-5) and repeated by Muhammad Bāqir Majlisi (d.1111/1699-1700) in his Kitāb Zād al-Ma`ād ("Knapsack for the Eschaton") ends with the threefold repetition of the words Yā Rabb ("O Lord!") followed by a few contextual details.  An earlier version registered by Sayyid Raḍī al-Dīn Muhammad ibn Aḥmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ṭāwūs (d. Baghdad,  664 /1266) in his (two or more volume) compilation of prayers and devotions entitled Kitab Iqbāl bi'l-a`māl al-ḥasana fimā (nadhkuruhu mimmā) yu'-malu marratan fi'l-sana (or mīqātan wāḥidan kull sana) (see Dhari`a II 264 no. 1078 and Brockelmann GAL, Supp., I: 912, no. 7), however, has a two-three page extended version of the prayer of Ḥusayn for the Du`ā al-`Arafa which includes the few lines cited by the Bab in the Tafsir Hadith al-Haqiqa (see Qummi, Mafatih, 310). The extended version of the  Du`ā [yawm] al-`Arafa  begins with the words "O my God! I am poor" (al-faqir)..." and ends "Thou art indeed are One Powerful over all things. Praise belongs to God alone" (see Qummi, Mafatih al-Jinan, 1422/2001 : 311-2). 

Some Shi`i authorities and scholars have regarded the  extended version of the  Du`ā [yawm] al-`Arafa partially cited by the Bāb as a later Sufi type addition to the original prayer. In this respect and for clarification of this issue I can do no better than to cite Etan Kohlberg's erudite volume A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work, Ibn Ṭāwūs and his Library  (Leiden E. J. Brill., 1992) :

"The [Kitab ] Iqbāl [bi'l-a`māl al-ḥasana...] may not be entirely free of interpolations by others as well: al-Majlisi (in BA, CXVIII, pp. 227-228), referring to a prayer of al-Husayn for yawm 'Arafa (see IQ 557-566/339-350), asserts that its last part includes Sufi  expressions which are out of character in supplications of the Imams and which are not found in the versions of this prayer in IT [= Ibn Tawud]'s Zā'ir, in al-Kaf'ami's Balad [al-amin] and even in some manuscripts of the Iqbāl itself. Al-Majlisī believes that this part is an interpolation by a Sufi shaykh, either into a work from which IT copied or (more likely) directly into the Iqbāl. Two lithograph editions have been consulted: [Iran], 1314/1896 [ = IQ1] and Tehran, 1320/1902, repr. 1390/1970 and 1407/1987 [ = IQ2]..." (Kohlberg, 1992: 38).

An on line Arabic (extended) version of the  Du`ā yawm al-`Arafa with an inadequate English translation can be found online at : ADD HERE.  A lengthy portion of the text of the  Du`ā al-`Arafa  has been excellently translated into English by William Chittick in the A Shi`ite Anthology  (London: Muhammadi Trust,  1980) selected by the late Allamah Tabataba'i (d. 1402/1981; see between pages 93-124).

III: 4-8  The citation from the Du`ā yawm al-`Arafa

 ايكون لغيرك من الظهور ما ليس لك حتی يكون هو المظهر لك متی غبت حتی تحتاج الی دليل يدل عليك ومتی بعدت حتی تكون الاثار [الاشارة] هی التی توصل اليك عميت عين لا تراك ولا تزال عليها  رقيبا وخسرت صفقة عبد لم تجعل له حبك نصيباً.

Mss. ADD     الاثار  for   الاشارة  has    in this citation from the Du`a yawm al-`Arafa (          ) cf. the ghayr al-ishara in the Hadith Kumayl  الاثار for الاشارة has ADD in this citation from the Du`a yawm al-`Arafa cf. the ghayr al-ishara in the Hadith Kumayli