MENU

A Sword That Becomes a Word (Part 2)

The Supplication to ʿAlī in a Malay Manuscript

A naga accompanies the rhythmic invocation “zabḥin, shamḥin, yamḥin, ramḥin, O Muḥammad,” flowers, and daggers (MS 13, page 5; courtesy Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

Majid Daneshgar


This is the second installment of a two-part essay. The first part was published on Mizan in December and can be found here.

Malays and Dhū’l-Faqār as a Word

In the Malay world, warriors and practitioners of a local type of martial art called silat still use the phrase lā fatā illā ʿAlī, lā sayf illā Dhū’l-Faqār. There are also techniques in silat that employ the name of the sword Dhū’l-Faqār, for example as described in a book published in 1996 entitled Ilmu Beladiri Tenaga dalam Pedang Zulfiqar (Martial Arts Power in the Sword of Dhū’l-Faqār).

This book is divided into five sections showing various techniques and defense positions. The last part of the book suggests that readers as well as practitioners complete the power of the Sword of Dhū’l-Faqār technique and increase their concentration by reciting a supplication in their heart (di dalam hati) while crossing legs or kneeling (duduk bersila atau duduk timpuh).

The supplication consists of reciting “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful” (membaca Basmala); praising Muḥammad and his household (membaca sholawat); reciting the Dhū’l-Faqār supplication (membaca doa Zulfiqar); and (d) reciting “there is no god but God” (membaca Kalimat Tauhid).1 Interestingly, this martial arts manual contains a distinctive style of the Dhū’l-Faqār phrase with unique orthography:

لا فتئلا علی ولا سیف الا زرفقار

lā fataʾlā ʿAlī wa-lā sayf illā Zurfiqār2

Apart from silat practitioners, there are Sufis in the archipelago who integrate invocations of ʿAlī’s name with qurʾānic verses, uttering them repeatedly every day.

The use of the image of Dhū’l-Faqār for protection spread beyond the Malay Peninsula to other parts of Muslim Southeast Asia. This barong or knife from Jolo in the Philippines dating to the nineteenth century features an image of Dhū’l-Faqār, the name of God, and talismanic markings inscribed on its blade (36.25.888a; courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art) (photo credit: Michael Pregill). From the exhibition Power and Piety: Islamic Talismans on the Battlefield.

The use of the image of Dhū’l-Faqār for protection spread beyond the Malay Peninsula to other parts of Muslim Southeast Asia. This barong or knife from Jolo in the Philippines dating to the nineteenth century features an image of Dhū’l-Faqār, the name of God, and talismanic markings inscribed on its blade (36.25.888a; courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art) (photo credit: Michael Pregill). From the exhibition Power and Piety: Islamic Talismans on the Battlefield.

The Malay Book of Supplication : A Concise Profile

The little-known and undated manuscript that will be the focus of the second part of this essay, the Buku Doa dan Jampi, was apparently written in the nineteenth century.3 It uses different short and long phrases in dealing with supplications (doa-doa), incantations or spells (jampi dan petua), and rituals.4 It sometimes uses qurʾānic verses and ḥadīth in Arabic and their translation into Malay in jawi script (a modified form of the Arabic alphabet).

The initial pages are illuminated with floral paintings in red and black. Thus, page 2 shows a triangle adorned by paintings of flowers and plants and the words Allāh waḥdahu lā sharīka la-hu Muḥammad Rasūl Allāh fa-innaka manṣūr (“God, alone without partner, Muḥammad is the messenger of God, you will be assisted”).

Triangle adorned with vegetal motifs, featuring the invocation Allāh waḥdahu lā sharīka la-hu Muḥammad Rasūl Allāh fa-innaka manṣūr (MS 13, page 2; courtesy Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

Triangle adorned with vegetal motifs, featuring the invocation Allāh waḥdahu lā sharīka la-hu Muḥammad Rasūl Allāh fa-innaka manṣūr (MS 13, page 2; courtesy Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

MS 13 starts with well-known, popular supplications that should be recited for the purpose of (re)gaining health, safety and fortune, such as “in the name of the Restorer of Health (al-Shāfī), in the name of the All-Sufficing (al-Kāfī), in the name of the Forgiver (al-Maʿāfī)…”5 According to Islamic teachings, these Arabic terms are among the beautiful names of Allah (asmāʾ al-ḥusnā) and His attributes, which are extensively used in talismans and amulets to protect a child, heal a patient, increase property, and so on.

Pages 41-59 refer to various figures and spells with illustrations of four half-dragon, half-serpent creatures called nagas, one of which is annotated with rhythmic invocations (awrād, sing. wird) such as “zabḥin, shamḥin, yamḥin, ramḥin, O Muḥammad!”6

 

There are also a number of divinatory circles (dāʾirāt) and tables here, resembling types commonly used in the Middle East. They are filled with the names of the Prophet and his successors Abū Bakr (d. 634), ʿUmar (d. 644), ʿUthmān (d. 656) and ʿAlī, in addition to other terms also found in Middle Eastern aḥrāz (sing. ḥirz) or amulets. The main body of MS 13 is mostly written in black and the opening phrases are occasionally in red ink. Changes in the form of writing and margin prove that different writers, perhaps not fully familiar with the Arabic language, assembled MS 13.7

The Religious Background of the Manuscript

At this stage, it is difficult to definitively establish the sectarian inclination of the author(s) of MS 13. He was, however, possibly a follower of a mystical ṭarīqah coming from South Asia. He explicitly added the names of other caliphs next to the name of ʿAlī, members of his household, and God’s attributes and epithets: ʿUmar, yā ʿUthmān, yā ʿAlī, yā Sayyidī ʿAbd al-Qādīr [sic; readʿAbd al-Qādir], yā Ḥasan, yā Ḥusayn, yā ʿĀʾishah, yā Khadījah, yā Āminah, yā Fāṭimah… yā Ḥanān, yā Mannān, yā Dayyān, yā Burhān, yā Dhā’l-Jalāl wa’l-Ikrām.8

The phrases yā Hū (“O absolute God”) and yā Muḥammad, popular among Sufis, along with the names of the Rāshidūn or “Four Righteous Caliphs” in red (MS 13, page 46; courtesy Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

The phrases yā Hū (“O absolute God”) and yā Muḥammad, popular among Sufis, along with the names of the Rāshidūn or “Four Righteous Caliphs” in red (MS 13, page 46; courtesy Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

Mentioning the name of other caliphs along with the name of ʿAlī and his descendants is reminiscent of the Sunni Ottomans who ignored the Persian Safavids’ cursing of the first three caliphs and added their names and symbols to their banners alongside those of the Ahl al-Bayt.9

However, the circles containing the phrases yā Hū (huwa) and yā Muḥammad alongside the names of the four Rāshidūn Caliphs on page 46, very well-known among Sufis, as well as the inclusion of the name of Sayyidī ʿAbd al-Qādīr on page 15 – presumably addressing ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī, the founder of the Qādiriyyah order – allow us to infer that the author of these pages was a Sufi practitioner.

I have also found such dedications to influential Sufi figures in a nineteenth-century prayer book from Aceh in which the scribe/author asks readers to recite Sūrah 1 of the Qurʾān and dedicate its reward to al-Syaykh [i.e. al-Shaykh] al-Shādhilī, the founder of the Shādhiliyyah order.10

Dhū’l-Faqār in Malay History and Literature

 There is a supplication in the manuscript that appears under the rubric ini doa dzul faqar, “this is the Dhū’l-Faqār supplication.” As mentioned earlier, Dhū’l-Faqār (or Dhū’l-Fiqār) refers to the iconic symbol of ʿAlī, a mysterious sword whose origin, owner, and features are controversial matters among scholars. Its image is displayed on different historical objects, including amulets and flags. In the Malay Archipelago, the name Dhū’l-Faqār is frequently mentioned in manuscripts as a sword or pedang of ʿAlī (that is, as an actual object).

For instance, in Hikayat Fatimah Berka-kata dengan Pedang Ali (“The Story of Fāṭimah Speaking with the Sword of ʿAlī”), Fāṭimah, Muḥammad’s daughter, talks to Dhū’l-Faqār.11 Dhū’l-Faqār  is also referred to as an object in a manuscript dealing with the death of Muḥammad and his daughter, Wapheuet Nabi Ngon Wapheuet Fatimah, an Acehnese text preserved in the National Library of Indonesia.12

The Macan Ali displayed on the flag of the Kingdom of Cirebon (image courtesy of Martin van Bruinessen).

The Macan Ali displayed on the flag of the Kingdom of Cirebon (image courtesy of Martin van Bruinessen).

The flag of the Kingdom of Cirebon in West Java has an image of Dhū’l-Faqār at its center. It is accompanied by the Basmala and some of the beautiful names of God; stars; three calligraphic lions, two small and one large, referring to ʿAlī; and qurʾānic verses, including Q 61:13. This flag is called Macan Ali. The similarities between the Macan Ali and the banners of Selim I and Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha from the Ottoman Empire examined by Yürekli are noteworthy; some of the similarities between Malay and Turkish flags have already been observed by Mohd Zahamri bin Nizar in a 2011 article.13

 

The supplication in the Malay manuscript and al-Majlisī

A careful reading indicates that the Dhū’l-Faqār supplication (which also ends with Q 61:13 here) in MS13 resembles the duʿā nādi ʿAlī as it appears in Majlisī’s Biḥār al-anwār.14 Here, the reader’s attention is drawn to some obvious interpolations found in the supplication as it is found in MS 13.

table

In contrast to Majlisī’s supplication, MS 13 begins with allāhumma (“O God”). The name of ʿAlī in MS 13 has been written as ʿĀlī. Also, the word al-nawāʾib in the original, more popular one has been modified to al-tawāʾib. The phrase ghammin wa-hammin in the primary supplication has been replaced with hammin wa-ghammin in MS 13; bi-nubuwwatik yā Muḥammad has also been added to MS 13.

Further, the phrase “O ʿAlī” in al-Majlisī’s version of nādi ʿAlī has been replaced with the main phrase lā fatḥ(?) illā ʿAlī la ṣayf illā dzul fuqarā in MS 13, and it was probably for this reason that the author called the supplication by the name of Dhū’l-Faqār/Dzul faqar instead of nādi ʿAlī. Moreover, fatā (“hero”) has been written as fatḥ (“conquest”)15 – which is nonsense here – and the letter ‘s’ in sayf was written with ṣād rather than sīn, which does not mean “sword” but rather “summer.” The name Dhū’l-Faqār was written as dzul fuqarā (suggestive of al-fuqarāʾ, “the poor”?), perhaps deriving from a different pronunciation or dialect. It is a common view held by scholars that these are not orthographic errors but rather reflect  the linguistic and cultural environment of the copyist.16

The Doa dzul faqar, MS 13; Courtesy of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The doa dzul faqar  (MS 13, page 40; Courtesy of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

Conclusion

In this essay, I have tried to present the story of a well-known supplication found in a Malay manuscript. Although the duʿā nādi ʿAlī originates in a Middle Eastern ḥadīth and supplication frequently discussed in various Sunni, Shi’i, and Sufi sources, it is not still possible to draw definitive conclusions about the origin of its appearance in MS 13.

The most significant problem, one that defies an easy solution, pertains to the form of the supplication given in the manuscript. It is possible that the changes made to the wording of the invocation were deliberate, the result of a kind of religious censorship that occurred in the nineteenth century, termed “de-Shiʿitization” by Wieringa and others.17 Here, the title of Nādi ʿAlī changed to “doa dzul faqar,” reflecting orthographic and structural changes. Reading the manuscript, one readily concludes that the author(s) or scribe(s) of MS 13 must have known how to write and spell the name of ʿAlī properly. Thus, one wonders why ʿAlī’s name in the beginning of the supplication, which should appear as ʿAliyyan, was very clearly changed to ʿĀliyyan (suggesting a meaning of “above”), which is not what tradition records as either what Gabriel recited or what Muḥammad recommended to believers. As we have seen, other orthographic changes seem to have been made as well.

This could also be the result of “Suficization” of Islamic sources and rituals coming from South Asia. However, additional studies must be conducted to discover how such an assimilation process would affect orthography or pronunciation. It is also possible that these changes reflect local tradition, time-honored ways of rendering and reciting the supplication.18 Thus, despite its long association with Shi’a, Persian Shi’is in particular, one might conclude that Malay readers may actually have had a more neutral view of the nādi ʿAlī invocation and that its use transcended sectarian boundaries.

 

MAJID DANESHGAR is a lecturer at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He teaches Islamic Studies and his research interests pertain to the connection between Islamic intellectual and exegetical progress in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well as Malay Islamic studies. His main volumes are The Qur’ān in the Malay-Indonesian World: Context and Interpretation, co-edited with Peter G. Riddell and Andrew Rippin (Routledge 2016) and Islamic Studies Today: Essays in Honor of Andrew Rippin, co-edited with Walid A. Saleh (Brill 2016). His monograph on the modern Qurʾān exegete Tantawi Jawhari (d. 1940), Tantawi Jawhari and the Quran: Tafsir and Social Concerns in the Twentieth Century, will be published in 2017.

 

[1] J. Subroto dan Nurman Sukendro, Ilmu Beladiri Tenaga dalam Pedang Zulfiqar (Pekalongan: CV. Gunung Mas, 1996), 53.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ms. 13, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

[4] Recently, Farouk Yahya has investigated some aspects of Malay manuscripts dealing with magic and divination including MS 13; see Farouk Yahya, Magic and Divination in Malay Illustrated Manuscripts (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2015).

[5] MS 13, 3-4.

[6] MS 13, 54. I have found another, similar rhythmic invocation (“ramḥin, yamḥin, samḥin, saḥḥin O Muḥammad”) in the British Library manuscript Or. 16875, also dated to the nineteenth century. Likewise, various figures, spells, and illustrations of dragons or flowers annotated with nonsensical rhythmic invocations are found in other Malay books of supplication and traditional medicine such as Buku Raksi (MS 82) dated 1274 AH/1857 CE preserved in the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. See Kamariah Abu Samah and Wand Salhah Megat Ahmad, Katalog manuskrip Melayu Koleksi Pusat Dokumentasi Melayu (Kuala Lumpur: Pusat Dokumentasi Melayu, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 2006), 62.

[7] Katalog Manuskrip Melayu, 61.

[8] MS. 13, 15.

[9] See Zeynep Yürekli, “The Sword Dhū’l-Faqār and the Ottomans,” in Fahmida Suleman (ed.), People of the Prophet’s House: Artistic and Ritual Expressions of Shi’i Islam (London: Azimuth Editions in Association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2015), 163-172.

[10] British Library ms. Or 14194.

[11] It is also referred to in the so-called “Note-book of Tuanku Imam Bonjol” (Cod. Or. 1751, no. 18) (personal communication from Edwin Wieringa). See Edwin Wieringa, Catalogue of Malay and Minangkabau Manuscripts in the Library of Leiden University and Other Collections in the Netherlands (Leiden: Legatum Warnerianum, Leiden University Library, 1998), 1:111-114.

[12] MS. VT 60, 20.

[13] See Yürekli, “The Sword Dhū’l-Faqār and the Ottomans” and Mohd Zahamri bin Nizar, “Ikonografi Zulfikar dalam Sejarah Hubungan Turki dan Nusantara,” Suhuf 4 (2011): 111-141.

[14] MS 13, 40; Muḥammad Bāqir b. Muḥammad Taqī al-Majlisī, Biḥār al-Anwār (Beirut: Muʾasssat al-Wafāʾ, 1983), 20.73.

[15] Another reading is possibly fattāḥ (“opener”).

[16] I thank Martin van Bruinessen for this suggestion (personal communication, October 11, 2016).

[17] Edwin Wieringa, “Does Traditional Islamic Malay Literature Contain Shiʿitic Elements? ʿAlī and Fatimah in Malay Hikayat Literature,” Studia Islamika: Indonesian Journal for Islamic Studies 3 (1996): 93-111.

[18] For example, the author might have been transcribing the doa dzul faqar according to a reciter’s different pronunciation and understanding of the nādi ʿAlī as used in local tradition.

Add comment

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.

A Sword That Becomes a Word (Part 2)

The Supplication to ʿAlī in a Malay Manuscript


Majid Daneshgar


This is the second installment of a two-part essay. The first part was published on Mizan in December and can be found here.

Malays and Dhū’l-Faqār as a Word

In the Malay world, warriors and practitioners of a local type of martial art called silat still use the phrase lā fatā illā ʿAlī, lā sayf illā Dhū’l-Faqār. There are also techniques in silat that employ the name of the sword Dhū’l-Faqār, for example as described in a book published in 1996 entitled Ilmu Beladiri Tenaga dalam Pedang Zulfiqar (Martial Arts Power in the Sword of Dhū’l-Faqār).

This book is divided into five sections showing various techniques and defense positions. The last part of the book suggests that readers as well as practitioners complete the power of the Sword of Dhū’l-Faqār technique and increase their concentration by reciting a supplication in their heart (di dalam hati) while crossing legs or kneeling (duduk bersila atau duduk timpuh).

The supplication consists of reciting “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful” (membaca Basmala); praising Muḥammad and his household (membaca sholawat); reciting the Dhū’l-Faqār supplication (membaca doa Zulfiqar); and (d) reciting “there is no god but God” (membaca Kalimat Tauhid).1 Interestingly, this martial arts manual contains a distinctive style of the Dhū’l-Faqār phrase with unique orthography:

لا فتئلا علی ولا سیف الا زرفقار

lā fataʾlā ʿAlī wa-lā sayf illā Zurfiqār2

Apart from silat practitioners, there are Sufis in the archipelago who integrate invocations of ʿAlī’s name with qurʾānic verses, uttering them repeatedly every day.

The use of the image of Dhū’l-Faqār for protection spread beyond the Malay Peninsula to other parts of Muslim Southeast Asia. This barong or knife from Jolo in the Philippines dating to the nineteenth century features an image of Dhū’l-Faqār, the name of God, and talismanic markings inscribed on its blade (36.25.888a; courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art) (photo credit: Michael Pregill). From the exhibition Power and Piety: Islamic Talismans on the Battlefield.

The use of the image of Dhū’l-Faqār for protection spread beyond the Malay Peninsula to other parts of Muslim Southeast Asia. This barong or knife from Jolo in the Philippines dating to the nineteenth century features an image of Dhū’l-Faqār, the name of God, and talismanic markings inscribed on its blade (36.25.888a; courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art) (photo credit: Michael Pregill). From the exhibition Power and Piety: Islamic Talismans on the Battlefield.

The Malay Book of Supplication : A Concise Profile

The little-known and undated manuscript that will be the focus of the second part of this essay, the Buku Doa dan Jampi, was apparently written in the nineteenth century.3 It uses different short and long phrases in dealing with supplications (doa-doa), incantations or spells (jampi dan petua), and rituals.4 It sometimes uses qurʾānic verses and ḥadīth in Arabic and their translation into Malay in jawi script (a modified form of the Arabic alphabet).

The initial pages are illuminated with floral paintings in red and black. Thus, page 2 shows a triangle adorned by paintings of flowers and plants and the words Allāh waḥdahu lā sharīka la-hu Muḥammad Rasūl Allāh fa-innaka manṣūr (“God, alone without partner, Muḥammad is the messenger of God, you will be assisted”).

Triangle adorned with vegetal motifs, featuring the invocation Allāh waḥdahu lā sharīka la-hu Muḥammad Rasūl Allāh fa-innaka manṣūr (MS 13, page 2; courtesy Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

Triangle adorned with vegetal motifs, featuring the invocation Allāh waḥdahu lā sharīka la-hu Muḥammad Rasūl Allāh fa-innaka manṣūr (MS 13, page 2; courtesy Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

MS 13 starts with well-known, popular supplications that should be recited for the purpose of (re)gaining health, safety and fortune, such as “in the name of the Restorer of Health (al-Shāfī), in the name of the All-Sufficing (al-Kāfī), in the name of the Forgiver (al-Maʿāfī)…”5 According to Islamic teachings, these Arabic terms are among the beautiful names of Allah (asmāʾ al-ḥusnā) and His attributes, which are extensively used in talismans and amulets to protect a child, heal a patient, increase property, and so on.

Pages 41-59 refer to various figures and spells with illustrations of four half-dragon, half-serpent creatures called nagas, one of which is annotated with rhythmic invocations (awrād, sing. wird) such as “zabḥin, shamḥin, yamḥin, ramḥin, O Muḥammad!”6

 

There are also a number of divinatory circles (dāʾirāt) and tables here, resembling types commonly used in the Middle East. They are filled with the names of the Prophet and his successors Abū Bakr (d. 634), ʿUmar (d. 644), ʿUthmān (d. 656) and ʿAlī, in addition to other terms also found in Middle Eastern aḥrāz (sing. ḥirz) or amulets. The main body of MS 13 is mostly written in black and the opening phrases are occasionally in red ink. Changes in the form of writing and margin prove that different writers, perhaps not fully familiar with the Arabic language, assembled MS 13.7

The Religious Background of the Manuscript

At this stage, it is difficult to definitively establish the sectarian inclination of the author(s) of MS 13. He was, however, possibly a follower of a mystical ṭarīqah coming from South Asia. He explicitly added the names of other caliphs next to the name of ʿAlī, members of his household, and God’s attributes and epithets: ʿUmar, yā ʿUthmān, yā ʿAlī, yā Sayyidī ʿAbd al-Qādīr [sic; readʿAbd al-Qādir], yā Ḥasan, yā Ḥusayn, yā ʿĀʾishah, yā Khadījah, yā Āminah, yā Fāṭimah… yā Ḥanān, yā Mannān, yā Dayyān, yā Burhān, yā Dhā’l-Jalāl wa’l-Ikrām.8

The phrases yā Hū (“O absolute God”) and yā Muḥammad, popular among Sufis, along with the names of the Rāshidūn or “Four Righteous Caliphs” in red (MS 13, page 46; courtesy Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

The phrases yā Hū (“O absolute God”) and yā Muḥammad, popular among Sufis, along with the names of the Rāshidūn or “Four Righteous Caliphs” in red (MS 13, page 46; courtesy Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

Mentioning the name of other caliphs along with the name of ʿAlī and his descendants is reminiscent of the Sunni Ottomans who ignored the Persian Safavids’ cursing of the first three caliphs and added their names and symbols to their banners alongside those of the Ahl al-Bayt.9

However, the circles containing the phrases yā Hū (huwa) and yā Muḥammad alongside the names of the four Rāshidūn Caliphs on page 46, very well-known among Sufis, as well as the inclusion of the name of Sayyidī ʿAbd al-Qādīr on page 15 – presumably addressing ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī, the founder of the Qādiriyyah order – allow us to infer that the author of these pages was a Sufi practitioner.

I have also found such dedications to influential Sufi figures in a nineteenth-century prayer book from Aceh in which the scribe/author asks readers to recite Sūrah 1 of the Qurʾān and dedicate its reward to al-Syaykh [i.e. al-Shaykh] al-Shādhilī, the founder of the Shādhiliyyah order.10

Dhū’l-Faqār in Malay History and Literature

 There is a supplication in the manuscript that appears under the rubric ini doa dzul faqar, “this is the Dhū’l-Faqār supplication.” As mentioned earlier, Dhū’l-Faqār (or Dhū’l-Fiqār) refers to the iconic symbol of ʿAlī, a mysterious sword whose origin, owner, and features are controversial matters among scholars. Its image is displayed on different historical objects, including amulets and flags. In the Malay Archipelago, the name Dhū’l-Faqār is frequently mentioned in manuscripts as a sword or pedang of ʿAlī (that is, as an actual object).

For instance, in Hikayat Fatimah Berka-kata dengan Pedang Ali (“The Story of Fāṭimah Speaking with the Sword of ʿAlī”), Fāṭimah, Muḥammad’s daughter, talks to Dhū’l-Faqār.11 Dhū’l-Faqār  is also referred to as an object in a manuscript dealing with the death of Muḥammad and his daughter, Wapheuet Nabi Ngon Wapheuet Fatimah, an Acehnese text preserved in the National Library of Indonesia.12

The Macan Ali displayed on the flag of the Kingdom of Cirebon (image courtesy of Martin van Bruinessen).

The Macan Ali displayed on the flag of the Kingdom of Cirebon (image courtesy of Martin van Bruinessen).

The flag of the Kingdom of Cirebon in West Java has an image of Dhū’l-Faqār at its center. It is accompanied by the Basmala and some of the beautiful names of God; stars; three calligraphic lions, two small and one large, referring to ʿAlī; and qurʾānic verses, including Q 61:13. This flag is called Macan Ali. The similarities between the Macan Ali and the banners of Selim I and Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha from the Ottoman Empire examined by Yürekli are noteworthy; some of the similarities between Malay and Turkish flags have already been observed by Mohd Zahamri bin Nizar in a 2011 article.13

 

The supplication in the Malay manuscript and al-Majlisī

A careful reading indicates that the Dhū’l-Faqār supplication (which also ends with Q 61:13 here) in MS13 resembles the duʿā nādi ʿAlī as it appears in Majlisī’s Biḥār al-anwār.14 Here, the reader’s attention is drawn to some obvious interpolations found in the supplication as it is found in MS 13.

table

In contrast to Majlisī’s supplication, MS 13 begins with allāhumma (“O God”). The name of ʿAlī in MS 13 has been written as ʿĀlī. Also, the word al-nawāʾib in the original, more popular one has been modified to al-tawāʾib. The phrase ghammin wa-hammin in the primary supplication has been replaced with hammin wa-ghammin in MS 13; bi-nubuwwatik yā Muḥammad has also been added to MS 13.

Further, the phrase “O ʿAlī” in al-Majlisī’s version of nādi ʿAlī has been replaced with the main phrase lā fatḥ(?) illā ʿAlī la ṣayf illā dzul fuqarā in MS 13, and it was probably for this reason that the author called the supplication by the name of Dhū’l-Faqār/Dzul faqar instead of nādi ʿAlī. Moreover, fatā (“hero”) has been written as fatḥ (“conquest”)15 – which is nonsense here – and the letter ‘s’ in sayf was written with ṣād rather than sīn, which does not mean “sword” but rather “summer.” The name Dhū’l-Faqār was written as dzul fuqarā (suggestive of al-fuqarāʾ, “the poor”?), perhaps deriving from a different pronunciation or dialect. It is a common view held by scholars that these are not orthographic errors but rather reflect  the linguistic and cultural environment of the copyist.16

The Doa dzul faqar, MS 13; Courtesy of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The doa dzul faqar  (MS 13, page 40; Courtesy of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

Conclusion

In this essay, I have tried to present the story of a well-known supplication found in a Malay manuscript. Although the duʿā nādi ʿAlī originates in a Middle Eastern ḥadīth and supplication frequently discussed in various Sunni, Shi’i, and Sufi sources, it is not still possible to draw definitive conclusions about the origin of its appearance in MS 13.

The most significant problem, one that defies an easy solution, pertains to the form of the supplication given in the manuscript. It is possible that the changes made to the wording of the invocation were deliberate, the result of a kind of religious censorship that occurred in the nineteenth century, termed “de-Shiʿitization” by Wieringa and others.17 Here, the title of Nādi ʿAlī changed to “doa dzul faqar,” reflecting orthographic and structural changes. Reading the manuscript, one readily concludes that the author(s) or scribe(s) of MS 13 must have known how to write and spell the name of ʿAlī properly. Thus, one wonders why ʿAlī’s name in the beginning of the supplication, which should appear as ʿAliyyan, was very clearly changed to ʿĀliyyan (suggesting a meaning of “above”), which is not what tradition records as either what Gabriel recited or what Muḥammad recommended to believers. As we have seen, other orthographic changes seem to have been made as well.

This could also be the result of “Suficization” of Islamic sources and rituals coming from South Asia. However, additional studies must be conducted to discover how such an assimilation process would affect orthography or pronunciation. It is also possible that these changes reflect local tradition, time-honored ways of rendering and reciting the supplication.18 Thus, despite its long association with Shi’a, Persian Shi’is in particular, one might conclude that Malay readers may actually have had a more neutral view of the nādi ʿAlī invocation and that its use transcended sectarian boundaries.

 

MAJID DANESHGAR is a lecturer at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He teaches Islamic Studies and his research interests pertain to the connection between Islamic intellectual and exegetical progress in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well as Malay Islamic studies. His main volumes are The Qur’ān in the Malay-Indonesian World: Context and Interpretation, co-edited with Peter G. Riddell and Andrew Rippin (Routledge 2016) and Islamic Studies Today: Essays in Honor of Andrew Rippin, co-edited with Walid A. Saleh (Brill 2016). His monograph on the modern Qurʾān exegete Tantawi Jawhari (d. 1940), Tantawi Jawhari and the Quran: Tafsir and Social Concerns in the Twentieth Century, will be published in 2017.

 

[1] J. Subroto dan Nurman Sukendro, Ilmu Beladiri Tenaga dalam Pedang Zulfiqar (Pekalongan: CV. Gunung Mas, 1996), 53.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ms. 13, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

[4] Recently, Farouk Yahya has investigated some aspects of Malay manuscripts dealing with magic and divination including MS 13; see Farouk Yahya, Magic and Divination in Malay Illustrated Manuscripts (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2015).

[5] MS 13, 3-4.

[6] MS 13, 54. I have found another, similar rhythmic invocation (“ramḥin, yamḥin, samḥin, saḥḥin O Muḥammad”) in the British Library manuscript Or. 16875, also dated to the nineteenth century. Likewise, various figures, spells, and illustrations of dragons or flowers annotated with nonsensical rhythmic invocations are found in other Malay books of supplication and traditional medicine such as Buku Raksi (MS 82) dated 1274 AH/1857 CE preserved in the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. See Kamariah Abu Samah and Wand Salhah Megat Ahmad, Katalog manuskrip Melayu Koleksi Pusat Dokumentasi Melayu (Kuala Lumpur: Pusat Dokumentasi Melayu, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 2006), 62.

[7] Katalog Manuskrip Melayu, 61.

[8] MS. 13, 15.

[9] See Zeynep Yürekli, “The Sword Dhū’l-Faqār and the Ottomans,” in Fahmida Suleman (ed.), People of the Prophet’s House: Artistic and Ritual Expressions of Shi’i Islam (London: Azimuth Editions in Association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2015), 163-172.

[10] British Library ms. Or 14194.

[11] It is also referred to in the so-called “Note-book of Tuanku Imam Bonjol” (Cod. Or. 1751, no. 18) (personal communication from Edwin Wieringa). See Edwin Wieringa, Catalogue of Malay and Minangkabau Manuscripts in the Library of Leiden University and Other Collections in the Netherlands (Leiden: Legatum Warnerianum, Leiden University Library, 1998), 1:111-114.

[12] MS. VT 60, 20.

[13] See Yürekli, “The Sword Dhū’l-Faqār and the Ottomans” and Mohd Zahamri bin Nizar, “Ikonografi Zulfikar dalam Sejarah Hubungan Turki dan Nusantara,” Suhuf 4 (2011): 111-141.

[14] MS 13, 40; Muḥammad Bāqir b. Muḥammad Taqī al-Majlisī, Biḥār al-Anwār (Beirut: Muʾasssat al-Wafāʾ, 1983), 20.73.

[15] Another reading is possibly fattāḥ (“opener”).

[16] I thank Martin van Bruinessen for this suggestion (personal communication, October 11, 2016).

[17] Edwin Wieringa, “Does Traditional Islamic Malay Literature Contain Shiʿitic Elements? ʿAlī and Fatimah in Malay Hikayat Literature,” Studia Islamika: Indonesian Journal for Islamic Studies 3 (1996): 93-111.

[18] For example, the author might have been transcribing the doa dzul faqar according to a reciter’s different pronunciation and understanding of the nādi ʿAlī as used in local tradition.

A Sword That Becomes a Word (Part 2)

The Supplication to ʿAlī in a Malay Manuscript

A Sword That Becomes a Word (Part 2)

The Supplication to ʿAlī in a Malay Manuscript