Translation of the
Famous Epistle known as
One of the writings of the divinely knowledgeable Master
Haaj Mohammmad Karim Khan Kermani
May the Lord exalt his status.
Completed on Tuesday 21 December 1852
The word ‘Shaykh’ has many meanings, but in this topic it refers to a Wise Learned Elder, or Master.
Mashayekh is a collective noun for the above.
Shaykhi is a name given to the followers of Shaykh Ahmad Ahsa’i (May the Lord Exalt his status).
Seyyed is a title given to a direct descendant of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (May he and his people be in everlasting Peace).
Hadith: These are the reports and accounts of acts and or sayings of the Holy Prophet and the 12 Imams (May the ever-lasting Peace be with them and their followers).
Table of contents
|Introduction||About the cause for writing this epistle and dividing the content into 4 sections|
|First Section||Relationship with God, His Prophet and guiding Imams (May they be in everlasting Peace)|
|Second Section||Second Section: Relationships with Mashayekh and Learned teachers whom you emulate in matters of God’s religion|
|Third Section||Third Section: Exchanges with kings and governors.|
|Third Section||Fourth Section: Exchanges with other people|
In The Name of AlLah, The Beneficent, The Merciful
Thanks to the Lord of the worlds and may the Praise of God be on Muhammad and his holy people and may the curse of God be on all of his enemies.
And so says this humble and sinful servant, Karim son of Ebrahim, may the Lord forgive his misdeeds – that this is an epistle letter from me to every and each one of those who follow and emulate the blessed Mashayekh - Shaykh Ahmad Ahsa’i and Haaj Seyyed Kaadhem Rashti (May the Lord Exalt their status) and have put their trust in these two great ones.
My expectation from each and every one of these followers is that they take great care of this epistle - read and study it with care at least once every week. And if any of them can write, to copy it and keep it and if they cannot write to get someone to write it for them and to get someone who can read, to read it to them at least once a week and help them understand it.
May the Lord have mercy on anyone who has recorded a saved copy as I have described and carries out its instructions and takes it to his brothers in faith so that they may also make copies. And may the Lord make them successful and place them in his heaven together with his holy ones.
And if despite opportunity and ability anyone does not carry out its instructions and is negligent and takes his religion lightly and does not pay it due respect and does not fear the spoiling of the good name and reputation of his Learned Mashayekh and disobeys and opposes them, then may the curse of God and all his holy Imams (May they be in everlasting Peace) and all of his high angels and his creation be on them. I shall be disgusted with them and on the Day of Resurrection in the presence of the Holy Imams and Prophet (May they be in everlasting Peace) I will challenge them. Of course this is for the people who claim to follow these great ones – for I have no business with others and they know how to manage their own affairs and do not appeal to me.
Know that the state and way of the world is such that if you listen to my testament, then the people would say “May God have Mercy of Karim son of Ebrahim who has trained his followers so well”; and if you do not listen to them they would say “May God curse him for training such followers”. That is the state of the world today but other people would follow other learned ones and may have all sorts of unacceptable behaviour and no one would connect their bad deeds with the other learned ones and they do not connect the bad actions of one on to the rest – but your bad is thought to be from me and from my Mashayekh. The blame for whatever obscene action by any of you is attached to all of you, me and my Mashayekh. So your bad deeds would cause three problems:
a- Your own disgrace
b- Disgrace for your fellow brothers
c- Disgrace for your Mashayekh
And the person who claims piety, would not bring disgrace upon himself, his brothers or his maters by disgraceful behaviour.
Know now my brothers, that in this world you will engage in 4 relationships:
1- With your God, His Prophet and the guiding Imams (May they be in everlasting Peace).
2- With your Mashayekh and learned teachers whom you may or may not emulate.
3- With kings and governors on whom your civilian life is based.
4- With the rest of the people.
Therefore, I will divide this letter into 4 sections and may God give his blessings to he who accepts them and the person who does not accept them is not a follower of mine nor of my Mashayekh.
Relationship with your God, His Prophet and guiding Imams (May they be in everlasting Peace).
Know that in this relationship, my testament is that you should be pious and abstain and avoid all that is forbidden and observe God’s instructions as far as you can and carry out all the recommendations and avoid all things that have been disapproved. Conform and comply with the Book (Quraan) and the Hadith and do not deviate from them and do not regard your religion as a game. Do not leave the necessities of religion and faith and the consensus of religious learned. Recognise and accept fully the greatness and wisdom of the family of Muhammad (May they be in everlasting Peace) and accept the teachings of those who convey such teachings and obey and comply with their instructions for these are the conditions for acceptance of your actions by God.
O you God’s good people, know that you share with animals eyes, ears, nose, mouth, body parts, eating, drinking, reproduction, happiness and anger, movement and stillness, sleep and wakefulness, and in these you do not excel. Your excellence is in your humanity which includes knowledge, patience, remembrance, thought, intelligence, purity and wisdom. Therefore try to develop these characteristic so that you are regarded as part of humanity.
And know O you God’s servants, that in the religion (Islam) you have been ordered to deeds which are humane and are from humane characteristics and have been prohibited from matters that are animal attributes and oppose human attributes. There are a limitless number of human attributes for you to carry out and our life time is not sufficient to attain them all – so try to gain the spirit of humanity and when that appears in you, then without difficulty or fatigue all the characteristics would automatically spring forth. Same as animal movements and characteristics which are also far too many and if a plant wants to obtain those characteristics, it cannot achieve them – but when the animal spirit is present in that body then those characteristics appear and emanate and improve daily. Now if the spirit of humanity appears in a body that has animal spirit within it, the humane deeds would start to be seen automatically. And if it does not have the spirit of humanity, then the animal spirit with great difficulty, trouble and fatigue can obtain some of these characteristics and in the end becomes to a degree ‘polite’ out of fear and training but he would never become ‘human’! So O you God’s servants, you must try so that the spirit of humanity appears in you and the signs of its appearance are that without trouble and quite naturally humane actions and deeds are observed in you. And if you cannot achieve this, at least try to be a ‘polite’ animal and do not oppose and rebel against and upset your owners who are your Imams.
And know that another sign of achievement of the spirit of humanity is association with ‘humans’ and fear of ‘animals’. So he who associates with the real human beings - who are the people of Muhammad (May they be in everlasting Peace), is a human and the test of its truth is the abhorrence of their enemies – and he who does not associate with them and does not achieve abhorrence of their enemies is not human – therefore at least try to be well-trained polite animals.
Relationships with your Mashayekh and Learned teachers whom you emulate in matters of God’s religion.
Know O righteous servants of God that your Prophet Muhammad (May he and his people be in everlasting Peace) and your 11 Imams have all died. The twelfth and their last is concealed from our view for reasons best known to himself. He was asked “How shall we obtain our religious instructions in your absence?” and he responded: “Refer to those who narrate our news and our instructions as they are my ‘confirmed ones’ upon you and I am the Lord’s ‘Confirmed One’.” It is obvious that the duration of the absence has been some 900 years and neither the Blessed Shaykh nor Blessed Seyyed and I have been at the Imams’ presence and have not even been present at their times – We have learnt the details of our religion from the narrators of the Hadith and acts of the Imams – who are God’s ‘confirmed ones’ upon the Shia. It is these narrators of the Hadith (acts and sayings) of the Imams that in every age have passed on the information to the next generation until it has reached us – So these are the ‘confirmed ones’ of God upon the Shia and it is an obligation that they should be regarded with the greatest respect and honour and any such offering of respect is in turn to regard the Imam in greatness.
Now it is said that some of you belittle the religious learned and the narrators of hadith of the holy Imams. I have not seen this for myself, but have heard it from others. Be well aware – and I take God, His Prophet and the Imams (May they be in everlasting Peace) and the angels as my witness that if any of you has belittled them in the past or belittles them in future, then I am disgusted with that person in the two worlds and our Mashayekh are disgusted with him and our Imams, The Prophet (May they be in everlasting Peace) and the Almighty God will be disgusted with him, as ridiculing the religious learned and the narrators of the hadith of the holy Imams, is ridiculing the Imams (May they be in everlasting Peace), and the belittling and ridiculing the Imams is ridiculing the Prophet and ridiculing the Prophet is ridiculing God and blasphemy and so the rejection of the learned ones is the rejection of God and the person who rejects God’s instructions is a polytheist. All the faithful, my Mashayekh and I despise polytheists. And the person who belittles previous and or future learned religious masters is cursed, a blasphemer and a polytheist. And if a stupid person does such a thing then he has become a polytheist and has accused his brothers and our Mashayekh and may God judge between us and that stupid person who is an imposter polytheist and a blasphemer who ridicules the learned masters and the rejection of the blessing of the presence of such Shia learned masters is the rejection of a major blessing of God.
They also report that some others exaggerate the way they describe the Mashayekh and liken them by the attributes of the holy Imams or the Prophet (May they be in everlasting Peace) or God. This group are also polytheists and infidels and cursed by God, his Prophets and Holy Imams (May they be in everlasting Peace) and are excluded from the Shia. If it is true that one of you has described or is describing our Mashayekh in such a way, then he is an infidel and a polytheist and I swear to the Almighty that the Mashayekh and I detest him.
It is said that some of you regard me as the ‘fourth pillar’ and that you regard the Mashayekh as the ‘fourth pillar’. If your intention is based on what I have said, written and believe, then some possibilities exist. If the intention is that the Learned of Shia as a whole (those past and those of the future) are the fourth pillar of faith – that is the first pillar is the recognition of God, the second is prophet-hood, the third is the recognition of the Imams (May they be in everlasting Peace) and the fourth the recognition of the Learned of Shia for the purpose of emulation and to ask questions – then this is not special or exclusive to myself and my Mashayekh, all of the Learned ones are the fourth pillar. All the Learned ones are in agreement that after the Imam, people are either master scholars and learned or they are emulators and questioners. For a person who is not learned, it is essential that he finds himself one that is and to copy him. This is my religion and I hope that witnesses take it to those who are not present. But if the meaning of the fourth pillar is thought to be a chief or a noble person as has been described in the traditions, I have written in some of the books, that if someone calls me a chief or a noble, then by Almighty Great God, I would despise him and he is cursed because this is an exaggeration in my status and by God I am not worthy of such a status and this matter has never passed through my mind or expressed by my tongue or pen – and may the Lord curse me if I have made or hold such a claim. On the Day of Resurrection I will contend with any one who associates me with such a great attribute and in my view he is a cursed and sinful – And if they associate these attributes to the blessed Seyyed or the blessed Sheikh then, swear to the Almighty God, I must say although I was extremely close to the blessed Seyyed, I have never heard such a claim from him. If any one associates them with being one of the close companions of the Holy Imam then may the Lord curse him with the totality of his curses because he despised any such claims and while he was alive some would try and give such attributes to him but he would exonerate himself from such claims. The Chiefs and Nobles (close companions of the Holy Imam) are unrecognisable as is the Imam himself and any one who claims to know them is a liar.
I am not happy with the conduct of some towards me which is the opposite of the correct conduct with the Learned ones. I have said it repeatedly from the pulpit and I repeat once again that because of the knowledge that God has given me, I have left the lifestyle of the clan of Ghajars and khans and despise those who conduct themselves towards me in the same way as they would conduct themselves with the members of other tribes and my brothers and bow and pay respect in similar fashion and may the curse of God and the Prophet be upon them. If you are my followers, then you must follow the way and religious conduct of the Holy Prophet of God (May he and his people be in everlasting Peace) and that of the other learned masters (May the Lord be pleased with them).
The Lord has made the greeting of the pious as Salaam and if someone conducts himself as per the old habits or similar to other brothers, I despise him.
May the Lord despise those who gather by the doors of meeting places or mosques or schools so as to offer respects or accompany me on the road to a place that I am travelling to unless they have a problem and a question or a task in which case they cannot be restricted. If we are in a mosque, then after completing their prayers they should disperse and not wait for me. If it is a private or public teaching session, then after the lesson each should go after their own affairs. I swear by God that I have always disliked and abhorred such gatherings. Leave me to myself so that with two or three of my employees I can go to where I want.
Also may the Lord despise any who takes sanctuary in my house or places me as intermediary with the governors for their needs for I have abhorred acting as intermediary.
Also if anyone calls me by attributes which are unfitting of a learned one, then may the Lord curse them with all his curses as I have forbidden this repeatedly and I forbid it once more and exonerate myself from such matters.
Whatever my enemies say behind my back whether it be curses, or insults or even if they call me an apostate, I also expect you not to assist in any way and if you wish to please me, you should be patient as I show patience – and if any speaks impolitely to that speaker or shows disrespect to his master, then may he be cursed by God, and his Prophet (May he and his people be in everlasting Peace).
And know that the God of all these people is one and their Prophet is the same person, and their book is the same, their faith is one and their Imams are certain persons and their religion is one and that there is no difference amongst them on the principle points. And where there are minor differences in some issues, this has always existed amongst the Learned – this does not cause a schism and is not wrong and it does not exclude anyone from the faith. And if some expresses enmity about these minor issues and wishes to exonerate themselves, then may the curse of God and his Prophet be upon them. If they show enmity towards you bear it and show patience and if they act in any way against the religion, you must not - leave aside your anger and indignation – any person who does wrong, may the curse of God and his Prophet be upon him.
Exchanges with kings and governors.
Know O you God’s pious people that God has tested you by the rulers – for the protection of cities and countries and its people, he has positioned above you commanders, governors and kings and has made them dominant over you and his will has been that they should be kings, governors and commanders and has made their obedience in worldly matters a duty upon you as are daily prayers, poor due and one-fifth tax, fasting and Hajj. And as it is immoral and haraam to discontinue with any of these religious duties, so is opposition to them. The more pious of you who is more guarding of their religious duties should show greater submission and obedience to their rulers and the person who abandons these duties and disobeys them is worse than a loather and an infidel. And this is my religion in its entirety (interior and exterior).
Any of you who have recognised God, then your demands and wants must be as per the wishes of God. So whoever God has made a king, you wish him as king also and whoever God has made a governor, you wish him as governor also and as per demands of his rule, go along with him also; and whoever God has made a minister or commander, you wish him as minister and commander and as per demands of his ministry or commands, go along with him; and whoever God has made an official or collector, you wish him as an official or collector and show respect as per demands of his duties; and whoever God has made a sheriff or headman, you wish him as sheriff and headman and as per demands of his their office, go along with him; and whoever God has made a receiver or manager, you wish him as receiver and manager and as per demands of his office go along with him and also any one belonging to the kings or governors where God has given them a status, then wish him at that status and to that degree show respect.
I have repeatedly advised and I do it once again over and over that he who disobeys this rule of God, then will be cursed by God and his Prophet. A pious worshiper of God is he who regards the Halaal of God as Halaal and his Haraam as Haraam and if God afflicts a punishment on someone it is because of their opposition to God’s wishes. So if you oppose and receive punishment, then do not blame anyone other than yourselves.
I will limit this section at this point as these were the totality of all advice.
Exchanges with other people.
Know O you God’s pious people, that God has created you in such a way that without doubt you need other people for socialising and in the carriage of your religious and worldly deed. So treat God’s creatures well and wish for people whatever God has given them and as their status demands go along with them. Act in goodness in your social intercourse, talks, gatherings and trade with them. Any of you whose recognition of God is greater should show better behaviour with people. Whoever is your elder either in age or greatness, then show them respect. Any who is younger or of lower status than you, then show kindness and moderation. If they have behaved towards you against the wishes of God, then do not behave in a way that is against God’s wishes. Do not envy bad behaviour. If anyone behaves badly, let them and do not retaliate and leave anger, ardour and ignorance. If they swear at you then say if you are telling the truth, may God forgive me and if you are telling a lie, then may God forgive you. And if they hit you on one side of the head, then hold your head’s other side to them and say that the head that has rebelled against God deserves more than this! If they say if you say something we will answer a hundred fold, say if you say a hundred, I will not answer even once.
If you see someone is troubling one of your brothers, then advise your brother against speaking with them and instruct as to calmness and patience and do not remonstrate with the other person.
Do not take part in gatherings regarding accidents and commotions and do not cause a disturbance in the land of the king as if you blow on a fire it will get hotter and if you ignore it, it will die down. So do not expand the fire of sedition and mutiny by blowing on it, turn your face away so that it dies down.
As an encouraging advisor, I advise you that if you encounter any bad deeds from others, then take it on board and do not refer the matter to governors and kings – reason being that their revenge is too harsh and it could be that they harm them to a greater degree than you were harmed and you would be the cause of that excess. If they make a claim and cause you to be vulnerable to revenge, then calmly and with good words state and clarify your position, else be patient and this will increase your benefit.
In your trade with people as far as possible record and fix your agreements and secure it in presence of the learned or just and pious witnesses so that it does not end in disagreement and doubt.
If the Learned make a mistake and issues a ruling against you and you are unable to disprove it, then do not criticise the learned as they are neither innocent nor wise to the unseen and so can only base their judgement on what they observe – what else can they do?
If some people emulate another learned than the one you have accepted or that they do not offer prayers with the imam that you have accepted, then do not criticise them as this is purely a personal choice. Any person who recognises another as a just person can offer prayers with him and if he recognises a person as a learned, then can follow him. Perhaps they have not met your Learned and his justice and or knowledge has not become apparent to them - so by religious rules they cannot offer prayers with him nor follow him – what else can the poor people do?
Or perhaps they are aware of the justice and the knowledge of your Learned person but choose to emulate another learned or offer prayers with another just person – in our religion it is not compulsory that every one must follow just one person or obtain the details of their religion from just one person. Or if they do not attend the classes of your Master, again it is not compulsory that every one attends the classes of just one person. So if you are pious, leave ardour and anger and do not take your religion as a game or enter into obstinacy.
I have repeatedly offered this point and offer it once more – If you want to deviate from these instructions, then do not associate yourselves with our Mashayekh and do not cause your disgraceful actions and behaviour to be associated with them. The state of the world is such that people do not associate the bad deeds of the followers of other learned with that particular learned person, but they view and associate any of your bad deeds to be from your Mashayekh. So show respect to God and do not cause disgrace for your Learned. Know that as no one expects any bad from you, so any bad deed from you is very obvious and yet the bad behaviour of others is covered up.
I have another plea – totally do not discuss religious issues with others and do not research from just anybody. Reason being that each speech has a right audience and each point has its own place. You have not learned all that there is and you do not know the conditions of speaking. Even if you speak justly, it will be incomplete and if you say something that is baseless, then you have misrepresented God. Whatever you say people will regard it as a saying of your Mashayekh and will associate what one of you has said with all of you and will say that the Shaykhis believe this in their religion – and it is very possible that one of you has said something through ignorance and your Learned ones and brothers would despise that. So close down completely any discussions with people and do not cause accusations or disgrace for your Mashayekh.
I cannot remedy all your problems – same as the Prophet of God (May he and his people be in everlasting Peace) could not remedy his people and the holy Imams (May they be in everlasting Peace) could not remedy their own disciples and our Mashayekh could not remedy the problems of their own followers. The Prophet of God (May he and his people be in everlasting Peace) with a miraculous tongue, strong arm, sword and whip invited followers for 23 years and of all his people only 4 avoided hypocrisy and division, the rest caused all sort so accusations and caused disgrace for him – so how can I remedy your problems with an unclear tongue, short-coming hand and being of low status?
I wrote another epistle from Yazd to you and you did not carry it out. However, so that God and his creation know that I have not been neglectful of your training, I state as I have repeatedly stated these points and so I have written this epistle – so now you know yourselves how to manage your affairs. If you are pious, then based on hypocrisy do not associate yourselves with our Mashayekh and at least from now on act according to this epistle. I despise any one that this epistle reaches them and they would oppose it to belittle and despise religion and to cause disgrace for their Mashayekh.
By the Rights of Prophet Mohammad and His Household, who are the lords of creation, may God give you and us success for carrying out our religious duties, in avoiding rebellion against his wishes and keeping away from sin. I seek refuge in the Lord of all creation and I grasp the Lord of Power and Greatness and the unseen and I seek escape from all that I fear and avoid for my religion and my body and whatever God has given me from the wickedness of myself and from you. May the Lord send praise and greetings to Mohammad and his innocent people and may his curse be on all of their enemies. Nothing changes and has no power by itself else through the most high and Great God.
First edition finished on Eidul Fetr 9/8/2013.
Second 12/08/2013. Third on 15/09/2013, Fourth on 04/03/2014
Translation by : Soroush Ebrahimi