Texts and Translations of the Ḥadīth al-Ḥaqīqa (Tradition about Ultimate Reality).
The Arabic text of the Hadith al-haqiqa exists in sometimes variant forms found in sources dating from the 7th/13-14th centuries. There is no established chain of transmission going back to the 7th century when it was allegedly uttered by the first Shi`i Imam.
One version of the text of the Hadith al-haqiqa :
حديث كميل (رض) المعروف حين كان أمير المؤمنين (ع مردفا إياه خلف الناقة في صحراء الكوفة ليلا فسأله كميل: ما لحقيقة؟ الإمام علي (ع):ما لك والحقيقة
كميل (رض):"أولست صاحب سرك؟ الإمام علي (ع):"بلى، ولكن يرشح عليك مايطفح مني
كميل (رض): أو مثلك يخيب سائلا.
الإمام علي (ع): الحقيقة كشف سبحات الجلال من غير إشارة .
كميل (رض): زدني بيانا .
الإمام علي (ع): محو الموهوم، مع صحو المعلوم
كميل (رض): زدني بيانا.
الإمام علي (ع): هتك الستر، في غلبة السر.
كميل (رض):"زدني بيانا".
الإمام علي (ع): جذب الأحدية، لصفة التوحيد".
كميل (رض):"زدني بيانا".
الإمام علي (ع): نور يشرق من صبح الأزل فيلوح على هياكل التوحيد آثاره
كميل (رض):"زدني بيانا
الإمام علي (ع) أطفئ السراج، فقد طلع الصبح
Other Arabic texts + sources
The Ḥadith al-Ḥaqīqa [loosely, one of the `Ḥadīth Kumayl'] is a well-known tradition much discussed and highly influential in Shī`ī Islamic philosophy and mysticism as well as many times registered and interpreted in early Shaykhī texts and Bābī-Bahā'ī scriptural literatures. As will be seen below, it was variously commented upon by Shi`i mystics and philosophers, by the first two Shaykhi leaders, Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i (d.1241/1826) and Sayyid Kazim Rashti (d.1259/1843) as well as by Sayyid `Alī Muhammad Shirazi, the Bab (1819-1850) and Mirza Husayn `Alī Nuri (1817-1892), entitled Baha'-Allah (the Splendor of God), the founder of the Baha'i religion. The Bab wrote a detailed Arabic commentary on the Ḥadith al-Ḥaqīqa [Ḥadīth Kumayl] and Baha'-Allah cited it quite frequently (see below).
The Hadith al-ḥaqīqa or Hadith Kumayl is not contained in the 11th cent CE Nahj al-Balagha. I have bypassed the early, pre-`Abd al-Razzāq sources of the Hadith al-haqiqa mentioned by Donaldson his MW 28 (1938) article on this Hadith (p. 252) -- namely, Ibn Wāḍith al-Ya`qūbī (d.c. 292/905), Tarikh (ed. Houtsma, 1883, vol. ii p. 242ff) and Ibn Babuwayh al-Saduq al-Qummi (d. 381/991), Kamal al-Din (Lith. Tehran 1301, pp. 169-171) -- as they are not exaxctly earlier forms of this hadith but possible texts which contibuted to the eventual emergance of the Hadith al-ḥaqīqa and other materials relating to Kumayl. The Hadith al-ḥaqīqa apparently first occurs in texts dating after the 13th century. Its textual history cannot be traced back earlier than the century or so after Ibn al-`Arabi (d. 638/1240). Among other sources the Arabic text of this somewhat esoteric dialogue between the `Alī b. Abī Ṭālib (d. 40/661) and his associate, Kumayl ibn Ziyād al-Nakhā'ī (c.18/639-81/701) are found in the following sources :
Ḥaydar al-'Amulī = Rukn al-Din Ḥaydar ibn `Alī al-Husayni (d.726/1325) :
Jāmi` al-asrār (ed. Corbin & Yahya, Tehran, 1969), 170 and
al-Muqaddamāt min kitāb naṣṣ al-nuṣūṣ (ed. Corbin & Yahya, Tehran 1974), 440.
`Abd al-Razzāq al-Kāshānī (d. c. 736/1336-7)
Risala al-Kumayliyya or
Sharḥ ḥadith ḥaqīqa ('Commentary upon the Hadith of Ultimate Reality'). See below on the commentaries for details...
Shāh Ni`mat-Allāh Walī (d. c. 834/1431):
Muhammad ibn al-Husayn, Baha al-Din al-Amili, Shaykh Baha'i (d. 1030/1621)
Kashkul vol. 2 (ed. M.S. al-Nasiri, Qum 1378/ 1958), 219-20. The citing of a version of the hadith al-ḥaqīqa by Shaykh Baha'i in his Kashkul made this hadith available to a wide readership throughout the post 17th century CE Islamic world.
Mirza Muhammad Bāqir al-Musawī Khwānsārī (d. 1313/1895):
Rawḍāt al-jannat fī aḥwāl al-`ulamā' wa'l-sādāt (Dar al-Islamiyya, 1411/1991) vol. 6: 60. Here a version of the Hadith al-ḥaqīqa is cited from the "Rijal [Book] of Nisaburi [Nishapuri]
It will be evident from the above that there would seem to be no known mss. or textual evidence for the existence of the Hadith al-ḥaqiqa prior to the 7th century AH / 12th-13th centuries CE. In the light of this (the above cited) Hossein Modarressi in his Tradition and Survival I has written :
"A text with the tone and terminology of the mystic school of Muḥyî'l-֊Dīn Ibn 'Arabī (d. 638) that surfaced in the seventh century as 'All's response to Kumayl's inquiry about the nature of truth. The text [Hadith al-Haqiqa], a very popular one in Shî'ite Sufism, ... is quoted, without any formal chain of transmission, in Sufi literature (e.g. Haydar al-'Amulī, Jàmï: 170; idem, Naşş. 440), and whence in some anthologies (e.g. Jung-i Mahdaivī: 136-7; Bahā' al-Dīn al-'Āmilī 2: 219-20) and late biographical works (e.g. Khwānsārī 6: 62). Numerous monographs have been written during the past eight centuries as commentaries on this alleged "hadîth" For lists of many of these, see Aghā Buzurg 13: 196-8; Dānishpazhūh 3: 461^4; Mun/.awî 2: 1331 (see also Ḥājī Khalīfa 2:1041). It should be borne in mind that in the school of Ibn 'Arabī, mystical knowledge can be received directly (i.e. ex nihilo) through revelation, rather than by formal transmission through a chain of authorities. Ibn 'Arabī's own Fuṣūṣ al-hikam is, in fact, a prime example of this phenomenon (see his introduction to the book: 47). It seems therefore unnecessary to look any further for a possible earlier source for the text in question" (Modarressi vol. 1 : 79-80).
Translations of the Ḥadith al-Ḥaqīqa : the five disclosures by `Alī regarding الحقيقة al-ḥaqīqa, Truth, Reality, Ultimate Reality [God].
The Arabic word الحقيقة al-ḥaqīqa, indicating `The Real', Reality' or `Ultimate Reality [God]' occurs repeatedly in Imām `Alī's five definitions of reality" (al-haqīqa) disclosed to Kumayl ibn Ziyād ibn Nahīk al-Nakhā’ī (d. c. 85/704) in well-known versions or recensions of the Ḥadith registering questions of Kumayl regarding ما الحقيقة (= mā’ al-ḥaqīqa, `What is the Reaity / Ultimate Reality?’. In various sources It is entitled the Ḥadith al-Ḥaqīqa
Edward G. Browne (d.1926)
Versions the Ḥadīth al-ḥaqīqa have several times been (partially) translated into English. Firstly, by the Cambridge orientalist Edward G. Browne (d.1926) in Appendix II of his edition of the so-called Tarikh-i Jadīd (New History), p.329 :
"Now although certain knowledge is essential to happiness, its attainment is of all things most difficult, even to the favoured companions of God's saints. Thus Kumeyl ibn Ziyād, one of 'Alī's chosen disciples, once demanded of his Master, behind whom he was seated on a dromedary, "What is Truth?" "What hast thou to do with the Truth?" answered 'Alī , "for verily it is one of God's mysteries, and a jewel out of His treasure-house." Then said Kumeyl, when 'Alī had spoken for some while after this fashion, "O my Master, am I not worthy to share thy secret?" "Yes," answered 'Alī , "but the matter is a great one." "O my Master," said Kumeyl, "dost thou desire those who beg at the door of thy bounty to be turned away?" "Nay, verily," answered 'Alī , "I will answer the call of such as are troubled, and will sprinkle upon thee somewhat of the overflowing fullness of the Station of the Truth; receive it from me according to thy capacity, and conceal it from such as are unworthy to share it. O Kumeyl, the Truth is the revelation of the splendours of Divine Majesty without a sign." "O my Master," said Kumeyl, "I understand not thy meaning; explain it to me further." "The effacement of the conjectured, and the clearing of the known," continued 'Alī . "Explain more fully," demanded Kumeyl. "The rending of the veil by the triumph of the mystery," said 'Alī . "O my beloved Master," rejoined Kumeyl, "tell me more." ''The attraction of the Divine Unity through the nature of the apprehension of its Oneness,' added 'Alī . "Tell me more clearly," repeated Kumeyl. Then said 'Alī , "A light shining forth from the Morning of Eternity and irradiating the temples of the Unity."
Dwight M Donaldson (d.1976)
A second English translation was given by the American Presbyterian missionary Dwight M Donaldson (d.1976) in his still useful 1938 article published in the Muslim World 28 (1938), 249-257 (= DMD).
"[Mirza Muhammad Bāqir Musawī] Khwānsārī's version of the tradition fī ḥaqīqat is taken from the Rijāl, or book of biography, by Nīshāpūrī. He says that Kumail was one of the particular friends of 'Ali, in fact had him ride with him on his camel. And once he asked 'Ali this question; "O Amir al-Mu'minin, what is essential reality (al-ḥaqīqat)?" 'Ali answered, "What have you got to do with al-ḥaqīqat?" Kumail said, "Am I not a companion of your secret?" 'Ali said, "Yes, but what overflows (yaṭfaḥu) from me will only ooze (yarshahu) on you." Kumail said, "Is it like you to discourage a question?" Then 'Ali gave the answer, "Essential reality (al-ḥaqīqat) is revelation of the garments of glory without comment (isharat)" Kumail requested, "Explain to me further," 'Ali continued, "It is the effacement of ignorant superstition and the awakening to facts (sahw al-ma'lum)" Kumail said again, "Explain to me further." 'Ali answered, "The rending of the curtain depends on the mastery of the secret (ghalabat al-sirr)." Kumail repeated, "Explain to me further." Then 'Ali said, "Light shone forth on the morning of the first day and its effects glimmered forth upon the forms of unity (hayākil al-tawḥīd)." Still Kumail said: "Explain to me further." And 'Ali answered, "Put out the light (al-siraj) and behold the morn has arrived (tola' al-subḥ)"(Donaldson, 1938:255-6).
My own translation of one version of this hadith, which only partially attempts to bypass other interpretative renderings, is as follows:
كميل ابن زياد
فقال يا مولاى و سيّدى مَاالْحَقيقة؟ فَقالَ (عليه السلام): مالَكَ و الحقيقة؟ قالَ: اولست صاحب سِرَّكء؟ قال: بلى! ولكن يرشح عليك ما يطفح مِنّى فَقالَ اومثلك يُخيّب سائلاً، قال الإِمام (عليه السّلام): «الحقيقة كشف سَبَحات الجلال من غير اشارة»، قال زدنى فيه بيانا، قال: «محو الموهوم مع صحو المعلوم»، قال زدنى فيه بيانا، فقال: «هتك الستر لغبلة السّر»، قال زدنى فيه بيانا، قال: جذب الاحدية لصفة التوحيد»، قال زدنى فيه بيانا، قال: «نور يشرق من صبح الازل فتلوح على هيا كل التوحيد آثاره»، قال: زدنى فيه بيانا، قال: «اطف السراج فقد طلع الصبح».
Kumayl ibn Ziyad asked `O my Lord and my Master [= the Commander of the Faithful, Amir al-Mumunin = Imam `Alī, d. 40/661)... What is al-Ḥaqīqa? (The Real / Reality' / `Ultimate Reality [God]'). He [`Alī] replied, upon him be peace, `What have you to do with al-Ḥaqīqa (Reality)?'. So Kumayl replied, `Is it not that I am a [sharing] companion [custodian] of your secret (sahib sirrika)?' He [Imam `Alī] replied, `Yes! But what [gnosis merely] sprinkles down upon you, billows over through me'. He, the Imam, upon him be peace, [then] said, al-Ḥaqīqa [ Reality is] `The disclosure of the splendors of the Majestic One [God] (subuḥāt al-jalāl) devoid of intimation [of His Ultimate Reality] (min ghayr al-ishāra)'. He [Kumayl] said, `Expound it to me further'. He [`Alī] said, `It [al-Ḥaqīqa `Reality' ] is the annulment of speculation (mahw al-mawhum) [consonant] with an awareness of [what is] the established' (saḥw al-ma`lūm)'. He [Kumayl] said, `Expound it to me further.' He [`Alī] said, `It [al-Ḥaqīqa `Reality'] is the rending of the [Divine] veil (al-sitr) through the mastery of the secret (ghalabat al-sirr)'. He [Kumayl] said, `Expound it to me further.' He [`Alī] said, `It [al-Ḥaqīqa `Reality'] is the Enticement (jadhb) of the Divine Unicity (al-aḥadiyya) through the instrumentality of the Divine Oneness (al-tawhid)'. He [Kumayl] said, `Expound it to me further.' He [`Alī] said, `It [al-Ḥaqīqa `Reality'] is `A Light (nur) radiating from the Dawn of Eternity (subh al-azal) with its traces (athar) beaming forth [shimmering] upon the Embodiments [Temples] of the Divine Unity (hayākil al-tawhid)'. He [Kumayl] said, `Expound it to me further.' He [`Alī] said, `Quench the lamp (al-sirāj)! for the Dawn (al-subḥ) hath indeed arisen'" (trans. Lambden, 1998 rev. 2008).
Some English Translations of the five key definitions of al-ḥaqīqa in the Hadith al-ḥaqīqa.
The centrally important statements about al-ḥaqīqa made by `Alī are responses to the repeated enquiry of Kumayl as to what constitutes al-haqiqa - ما الحقيقة (= mā’ al-ḥaqīqah), `What is Ultimate Reality?’. After an introductory exchange with Kumayl, the dialogue continues with five somewhat abstruse disclosures by Imam `Ali. The following are the five definitions of al-haqīqa ("Reality") given by Imam `Alī in the Ḥadīth Kumayl as translated by Browne in Appendix II of his edition and translation of the New History .. (1893 : 329), [= EGB 1893] and by Donaldson = in his Muslim World article [= DMD 1938] along that of Todd Lawson (19XX) and my own version (sometimes with a nother alternative). I have assumed the equivalence of the Arabic text translated for the five key sentences defining al-ḥaqīqa -- cited in Arabic above the various translations listed below:
The five statements of Imam `Alī about الحقيقة with comparative translations.
كشف سبحات الجلال من غير اشارة
- "The revelation of the splendours of Divine Majesty without a sign" [EGB 1893]
- "Essential reality (al-ḥaqīqat) is revelation of the garments of glory without comment (isharat)" [DMD 1938]
- Lawson Add.
- `The disclosure of the splendors of the Majestic One [God] / the [Divine] Glory (subuḥāt al-jalāl) devoid of [any] intimation [of His Ultimate Reality] (min ghayr al-ishāra)' (Lambden).
- "The uncovering of the vainglories of Majesty (subuḥāt al-jalāl) without any intimation" (min ghayr al-ishāra) (Lambden alternative rendering no.2 )
It should be noted here that some early Shaykhi and Babi-Baha'i interpretations and translations of the above line of the Hadith are not literal in the sense that they interpret the سبحات الجلال subuḥāt al-jalāl as indicative of veils or human limitations which are expressive of mere conjecture or idle fancy.
محو الموهوم و صحو المعلوم
"The effacement of the conjectured, and the clearing of the known" [EGB 1893]
"It is the effacement of ignorant superstition and the awakening to facts (sahw al-ma'lum)" [DMD 1938]
`It [al-Ḥaqīqa `Reality' ] is the annulment of speculation (mahw al-mawhum) [consonant] with an awareness of that which is established [confirmed]' (saḥw al-ma`lūm)' (Lambden) or
“The nullification of idle speculation [about Ultimate Reality [God] (maḥw al-mawhūm) and the [consequent] realization of that which can [appropriately] be known (ṣaḥw al-ma`lum)" (Lambden alternative rendering no.2 )
هتك السر لغلبة السر
- "The rending of the veil by the triumph of the mystery" [EGB 1893]
- "The rending of the curtain depends on the mastery of the secret (ghalabat al-sirr)" [DMD 1938]
- ADD Lawson
- `It [al-Ḥaqīqa `Reality'] is the rending of the [Divine] veil (al-sitr) through the mastery of the secret (ghalabat al-sirr)' (Lambden) or
- `The dissolution of the covering through the ascendancy of the mystery (hata al-sitr li-ghalbat al-sirr)' (Lambden alternative rendering no.2)
جذب الأحدية لصفة التوحيد
- "The attraction of the Divine Unity through the nature of the apprehension of its Oneness" [EGB 1893]
- MISSING [DMD 1938]
- ADD Lawson
- `It [al-Ḥaqīqa `Reality'] is the Enticement (jadhb) of the Divine Unicity (al-aḥadiyya) through the instrumentality of the Divine Oneness (al-tawhid)' (Lambden).
نور يشرق من صبح الأزل فيلوح على هياكل التوحيد آثاره
- "A Light shining forth from the Morning of Eternity and irradiating the temples of the Unity" [EGB 1893]
- "Light shone forth on the morning of the first day and its effects glimmered forth upon the forms of unity (hayākil al-tawḥīd)." [DMD 1938]
- ADD Lawson
- "A Light (nur) radiating from the Dawn of Eternity (subh al-azal) with its traces (athar) beaming forth [shimmering] upon the Embodiments [Temples] of the Divine Unity (hayākil al-tawḥīd)' (Lambden).
Note on (5) صبح الأزل : Used in Arabic or Persian by the Bāb as a title for Mīrzā Yaḥyā Nuri, the half brother of Baha'u'llah. His title was derived from the gentive phrase (Ar.) صبح الازل (Per.) صبح ازل Subḥ‑i Azal within the Hadītḥ Kumayl (see above). It was thus that the supporters of Mīrzā Yaḥyā became known as Azalīs (lit. loosely, "Eternalites") and their religious orientation Azalī Bābism ‑‑ today a religious faction more or less extinct in concrete terms but very much alive in the arena of modern written neo‑Azalī anti‑Bahā'ī polemic.