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TTNJ Shaykhism

Shaykh Aḥmad al-Aḥsā'ī (d. 1241/1826) and other early Shaykhi writers on the Khuṭbat al-Ṭutunjiyya

The Qajar era generator of that branch of Shi`i thought and mystical philosophy (loosely "gnosis" )which came to be known as al-Shaykhiyya (Shaykhism) and (among other things) Kashfiyya  (the "Movement for Disclosure" of the deeper Shi`i imamological truth ) was the Arab born  mystically inclined sage-philosopher and exegete Shaykh Aḥmad b. Zayn al-Din al-Aḥsā'ī (d. 1241/1826). He and his various Shaykhī and other successors countered the allegedly non-authentic or ghuluww ("extremist") nature of the Kh-T.  They referred to it with awe and reverence.  In a treatise contained in the massive and foundational Shaykhī compilation  entitled  Jawāmi` al-kalim  ("The Comprehensive Discourse")   the great Shi`i sage-philosopher al-Aḥsā'ī himself wrote in defense of the veracity of the Kh-T. He stated that it's allegedly ghuluww  ("extremist") text  is only viewed as such by those who reject what they fail to comprehend. Shaykh Ahmad categorically stated in a Risālah in reply to questions of Shāhzadeh Muhammad Mīrzā  (one of which had to do with the veracity of the ascription of the Khuṭbat al-Bayān "Sermon of the Exposition" and the Kh-T to  Imam `Alī ) that in the Kh-T., there is    فلا عَيْبَ فيها  , "As for al-Khuṭbat al-Ṭuṭunjiyya there is no  imperfection therein". In their ignorance, Shaykh Ahmad continues to observe, some persons reject what they find difficult or incomprehensible without good reason. They take no proper account of the authoritative ḥadith texts which warn about the sometimes abstruse nature of  Shi`i materials or affairs. It was relayed from the Imams that 

"Our [Shi`i] tradition (ḥadith) is arcane (ṣa`b), bewilderingly arcane (mustas`ab),  impenetrable (lit. "coarse") (khashin), imponderable (lit. "uneven") (makhshush). None then among the people should disdainfully abandon it. Yet whoso is [truly] aware of this do they accuse of excess and disavow. So take firm hold thereof for none can bear it save three: (1) an angel brought nigh [cf. the cherubim] (malak muqarrib), (2) a commissioned [sent] Prophet (nabi mursal)  or (3) a believing servant (`abd mu'min) whose heart God has tested for faith".

They [the Imams] do furthermore say:

"Our Cause (amr) is the Truth (al-ḥaqq), the reality of the Truth (ḥaqq al-ḥaqq). It is  exterior Reality and interior Reality (ẓāhir wa bāṭin) as well as the interior Reality of the exterior Reality (bāṭin al-ẓāhir) and the interior Reality of the interior Reality (bāṭin al-bāṭin). It is the mystery (al-sirr) and the mystery of the mystery (sirr al-sirr), the very mystery of the secreted mystery (al-sirr al-mustansirr) and a mystery veiled up in mystery (sirr muqanna` bi'l-sirr)".

Similar to this was the response of [Imam Ja`far]  al-Ṣādiq say -- upon him be peace -- when he said, `What is the meaning of something' (ma`ani) for I, indeed, never utter a word (kalimat) but thereby intend seventy and one meanings [aspects]  (wajh an) up until, that is, everything is divulged. And relative to what is  transmitted, if I so will I deduce something there from and if I so will I deduce something else there from..." (Majmu`at al-rasā'il  30 : 269)

Summing matters up Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i, among other things, underlines the fact that the two Khuṭbas he had been asked about, (the Khuṭbat al-Bayān and the Kh-T ) are "not from other than the people of infallibility [the Imams] (ahl al-`iṣmat) (Shaykh Aḥmad, JK 1: ADD and Majmu`at al-rasā'il  30, pp. 268, 270).

 Sharh al-Ziyara

The  خطبة الطتنجية  ("Sermon of the Gulf")  in  the writings of Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī

From an early period Sayyid Kāẓim refers to and cites the Kh-T. Written when he was about 20 years old  his 7,000 verse (roughly 150-200 pp)  تفسيراية الكرسى   Tafsīr āyat al-kursī   ("Commentary on the Chair [Throne] Verse" = Q. 2:255) contains several citations. Commenting in a complex fashion of the letter  ل  lām which follows the letter ا   alif  within the four letters making up the qur'anic personal Name of God  Allah   الله  Sayyid Kazim at one point writes,

و الثاني بالوجود الشرعي و المعني واحد لا اختلاف الا في العبارة فاشار الي الوجود التشريعي يعني بقوله تعالي اللام المذكورة بعد الالف و هي اشارة الي الزام خلقه الولاية اي ولاية الولي عليه السلام فان قبول ولاية الولي و الاقرار بها هو القبول و الاقرار بجميع ما جاء به الانبياء و المرسلون من عند الله تبارك و تعالي فكلما جاء به الانبياء فهو حق فكل الانبياء صادرون عن امر الولي و كلما يأمر الولي و هو امر الله  ...فكل حق فهو من امر الولي و كل باطل فهو من نهيه فالزام الخلق بولاية الولي هو الامر بكل معروف و النهي عن كل منكر و اشار بتكرر اللام الي قسمي العبادات و الاعمال فانها علي قسمين ظاهرية و باطنية و الظاهرية ظاهرة و الباطنية هي اعمال الحواس و القوي و المشاعر و الادراكات الباطنية كالفؤاد و العقل و النفس و القلب و الخيال و الواهمة و الحافظة و المفكرة و امثال ذلك من القوي الباطنية و لهم اعمال من دون ذلك اي الاعمال الظاهرة هم لها عاملون و الالف اشارة الي البرزخ المتوسط بين العالمين عالم الظاهر و عالم الباطن و هو عالم الاشباح و المثال النورانية و الابدان النورانية التي لا روح فيها فان الالف هي السراج و هو ( هو الباب خ ) الواقف بين الطتنجين مس النار و النار و الاشعة و الاظلة كما هو حال البرازخ و المثال مقرب عن وجه و مبعد من كل الوجوه اين حال السراج و البرزخ بينهما بون بعيد كما يعرفه العلماء الراسخون  ...

And secondly as relates to the legislative existence. Here the meaning is one having no difference relative to.. ADD HERE

Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī

The  شرح خطبة الطتنجية   Sharḥ khuṭbat al-ṭutunjiyya  (Sh-Kh-T) has been cited and referred to above. Very early on in his commentary on the opening words of the KH-T Sayyid Kazim has occasion to cite and  comment on Q.  5:64a which is a response to the qur'anic Jewish assertion that “the hands of God are chained up”, namely, “Nay rather!  Both His two hands are widely outstretched (mabsuṭtāni)” . These words indicate the twofoldness of the divine providence, [1]  the “Hand of faḍl (the Divine Bounty) and [2] the Hand of `adl (the Divine Justice) which are explicitly said to be the al-Ṭuṭunjayn (“two Gulfs”) “doubly branching out fro m the Hamd (“Praise”), from its ẓāhir (exterior aspect) and from its bāṭin (interior aspect)

In the muqaddima (prolegomenon) towards the beginning, on page 7 of the 1st lithograph edition (and pp. 39-40  of the Kuwait 2nd ed. )  of his Commentary on the Kh-T.,  Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī  cites Shaykh Rajab al-Bursi’s introduction to the Kt-T from his Mashāriq anwār … (translated above;  with the same spelling as in the published edition for TTNJ =  taṭanjiyya). He comments on it in some detail. The following paragraphs are of particular interest: [correct this Arabic]

أقول: إنما يقال لها التطنجية لاشتمالها على أكوار ا لوجود وأدواره منحصرة في الكرتين والدائرتين المتعاكستي السيرين المتحاذيتي السطحين والمتقابلتي الميلين، في حال اجتماعهما مفترقتان وفي افتراقهما مجتمعتان، وهما التطنجان أي الخليجان المتشعبان من البحر المحيط، وذلك البحر هو الماء الذي خلق الله منه بشرا فجعله نسبا وصهرا، فجرى خليجان أحدهما من باطنه وهو  الماء العذب الفرات السائغ شرابه ومنه انشعبت أربعة أنهار، فالنهر الذي من الماء من ميم بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، والذي من العمسل المصفى من هائها، والذي من اللبن الذي لم يتغير طعمه من ميم الرحمن، والذي من الخمر من ميم الرحيم، وثانيهما من ظاهره وهو الماء المالح الأجاج ومنه انشعبت أربعة أنهار، عين الكبريت، وعين أبرهوت، وعين أفريقية، وجمة ماسيدان، وهو الماء الذي نزله الله سبحانه من القرأن فجعل منه خليجين أحدهما شفاء ورحمة للمؤمنين، وثانيهما عذاب ونقمة للكافرين، قال الله تعالى (ؤننزل من ألقرءان ما هو شفآء ورحمة للمؤمنين و لا يزيد الظلمين الاخسارا)


"I say, regarding what he [al-Bursi] says about the al-tuṭunjiyya  [Gulf oriented Sermon] that it pertains to the realms of existence  (akwār al-wujūd) and its cycles (adwār) incorporating two doubly repeating (al-karratayn), doubly counter-proceeding (al-mut`ākisatī al-sayyirayn),  doubly  parallel in outstretched opposition (al-mutaḥadhaytī  al-saṭaḥayn), doubly obliquely opposite each other (al-mutaqābilatī al-mailayn), doubly [expressive of a twofold] cyclic schemata (da'iratayn). In their twofold state of  conjunction they [the twin gulfs] remain doubly disengaged while in their dual disengagement  they remain doubly conjoined. 

"And the tuṭunjayn ("two gulfs") that is to say the khalijayn  (“two gulfs-bays-canals-rivulets”) do branch out from the all-encompassing Ocean (min al-baḥr al-muḥīṭ). That is the Ocean (al-baḥr) which is the [primordial] “Water” (al-mā’) out of which God created humanity (bashar an). He made it generative of affinity (nisab an), [that is] maritialy unitative (ṣahr an) such that there flowed forth two rivulets [channels-gulfs-bays] (khalījayn), one of the two deriving from its interior (bāṭin) [flow] which is the sweet water of  the [sweet watered] Euphrates (al-mā’ al-`adhb al-furāt), being palatable (sā’igh),  drinkable [wine]  (sharāba)."        

"From it [furthermore] there branched out four streams (anhār). They  are,

  • [1] the stream (al-nahr) deriving from the [cosmic] Water which is [generated] from the (letter) “M” ( m = mā’ = “Water”) of the basmala (= bismillāh al-raḥman al-raḥīm , “In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate”). And

  •  [2] that [stream] which is of Honey  (min al-`asal al-muṣaffan) from its (letter) “H” (al-hā’). Then

  •  [3] that [stream] which  of Milk (min al-laban) the tasteful flavor (ṭa`m) of which never changes,  [generated] through the  (letter) “M” of Raḥman  (= “Divine Mercy”). Again, there is

  • [4]  that [stream] which is of  Wine  (min al-khamr) [generated] through the  (letter) “M” of Raḥīm (= “Divine Compassion”).

The second of the two streams [channels-gulfs-bays] (khalījayn) derives from its [the primordial Oceans’] exterior (ẓāhir) [flow] which  is the [cosmic] watery expanse  (al-mā’) that is briny  [salty] (māliḥ), bitter (ujāj) [or ajjāj = “burning hot”]. From it there [further] branches out four  streams [rivers] (anhār), [namely],

  • [1] the wellspring of Sulphur (`ayn al-kibrīt) and
  • [2] the wellspring  ابرهوت     a-b-r-h-u-t  (cf. Ethiopia ?),
  • [3] the wellspring of  Africa (ifrīqīya) and

  • [4] the waterhole that is blackness (? jammat mā  saydān, cf. Sudan ?).

    "Such is the [nature of the primordial] Watery Expanse (al-mā’)  which God sent down, glory be unto Him, through the Qur’ān. And He made from it the two streams  [channels-gulfs-bays] (khalījayn), one of the two is a Healing  and a Mercy (shafā’ wa raḥmat) for the believers (al-mu’minīn) while the second of the two is a torture [agony- punishment-suffering-chastisement] (`adhāb) and a punishment-vengeance-adversity-retribution] (naghma)  for the unbelievers (al-kāfrirīn). God, exalted be He,  [says in the Qur’ān], “We indeed sent down from the Qur’ān what is a healing and a mercy for the believers and it did not increase for the iniquitous anything save loss.” (Q. 17:82)” (Sh-Kh-T., Lith. p. ADD ;    2nd ed. 39-40)."

    "It is the case, furthermore, that this noble sermon (al-khuṭbat al-sharīfah) consists of an explanation of the two cycles of the [letter] Kāf (dūrān al-kāf) [abjad = 20 = 10x2)... ADD   

The "twin gulfs"in other early Shaykhi literatures

In his lengthy Persian Irshād al-`awāmm  ("Guidance for the Masses"), the polymathic anti-Bābī-Baha'i Shaykhi leader and disciple of Sayyid Kāzim Rashti, Ḥajji Mirza Muhammad Karīm Khān Kirmānī (d. 1288/1871)  had  occasion to comment upon the implications of the twin gulfs spiritual cosmology  and includes a clearly written, annotated Persian translation of Kh-T IV: 2-3 (see below) ...  انا الواقف على الطتنجين..  (note the spelling). This  in the course of discoursing in Persian upon soteriological and related imamological  dimensions of the supreme Paradise of  Bihisht  and of that Hell  which is Gehenna.  Kirmani mentions the Paradise of Bihisht  as the manifestation of the ṣāḥib-i  vilāya  ("Lord of wilāya") along with the appearance of his sovereignty (salṭanat) then adds (obviously translating Kh-T., IV:2-3) that the Commander of the Faithful, his holiness Imam `Ali ( hazrat-i amir) said:

 منم واقف بر طتنجين و ناظر در مشرقين و مغربين

 manam  vāqif bar ṭutunjayn va nāẓir dār mashriqayn va maghribayn

I am indeed the one standing over  the "two gulfs" (ṭ-t-n-jayn) and gazing into the two Easts and the two Wests.

Immediately following his Persian translation, Kirmani  explains as follows, clarifying his understanding of the twofoldness in these lines of the Kh-T : 

اين طرف راه جهنم و آن طرف بهشت باشد و معلوم است كه صاحب ولايت كه مستولي بر جهنم و بهشت است ظهور سلطنتش در اينجاست چنانكه حضرت امير فرمود منم واقف بر طتنجين و ناظر در مشرقين و مغربين و طتنج نهر بزرگ است يعني منم ايستاده بر دو نهر نهر رحمت و نهر غضب و منم ناظر در مشرق انوار بهشت و مغرب جهنم پس چون اين مقام مقام كسي است كه نسبتش باهل بهشت و جهنم مساوي است چرا كه پادشاه هر دو گروه است و قسيم جنت و نار است پس اينجا مقام ظهور سلطنت ائمه باشد پس آنكه خدا ميفرمايد و علي الاعراف رجال يعرفون كلاً بسيماهم يعني بر اعراف مرداني چند هستند كه هر كس را بسيمايش ميشناسند آن مردان ائمه‌اند و الآن بر اعراف ايستاده‌اند اهل بهشت را مي‌بينند و ميشناسند و اهل جهنم را مي‌بينند و ميشناسند چرا كه هر دو در زير پاي ايشان است و ايشان بر تلهاي بلند ايستاده‌اند كه مقامهاي ولايت باشد و جنت و نار در تحت ايشان است هر دو طايفه را مي‌بينند و جماعتي در اين ميان هستند...

    Loosely translated this excerpt from Kirmani's  Irshād al-`awāmm  reads, 

"... طتنج ṭutunj indicates a large river (nahr-i buzurg), that is to say [Imam `Alī implies], `I am standing over two rivers, the River of Raḥmat ("Divine Mercy") and the River of Ghaḍb ("Divine Wrath") and I am gazing (nāzir) on the [Western] Dawning-Place of the Lights of Bihisht  (Paradise) and the East of Gehenna (Hell). So this station (maqām) is the position (maqām) of a Person whose relationship is to the denizens  of Bihisht (Paradise) and equally [also] to [those of] Gehenna (Hell). This inasmuch as he is a Sovereign (padishah) over both [these spheres] and a  co-director of [the realms of] Paradise and Hell. Thus this locale [is representative of] the station [position] of the manifestation of the Sovereignty of the Imams. In consequence, it is the case that God says "and above the Heights [Ramparts] (al-a`rāf) are Men (rijal) who recognize all by their characteristic marks" [see Q. 7:46-8].  That is to say, above the Heights are several "Men" who recognize everyone by their  characteristic marks (sīmā). Those "Men" are the Imams. Now do they stand over the "Heights" and observe and  recognize the denizens of Paradise (bihisht).  And they [also] observe and recognize the inmates of Gehenna [Hell] because both are under their feet, and they are standing on high Hills, which are the stations of Vilāyat  [Walāya] (loci of guidance) and both the Garden (jannat) and Hell-fire (nār) are beneath them. They observe both groups...  (Irshad, vol. 2: ADD)