Preliminary Account of Shi'i Esoteric Commentary on the 'Hadith-e Haqiqat'

By Bruce Wannell

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #54
Institute of Commonwealth Studies: London, England
July 2–4, 2004
(see list of papers from #54)

    The hadíth on the nature of ultimate reality is attributed to Hazrat 'Alí in conversation with Kumail ibn Ziyad al-Nakha'i, who figures in the Nahj al-Balagha as a confidante and recipient of the Imam's esoteric wisdom, and to whom is also attributed the great Shi'i prayer, the Du'a Kumail. In spite of some reservations by exoteric scholars about the hadíth's authenticity, it has nevertheless given rise to a tradition of commentary by some of the greatest minds to have worked in the greater Iranian and Islamic sphere from the time of the late Saljuqs and Mongols to the present day. Elements of the hadíth echo phrases found in earlier Sufi texts. The first extended commentary to have survived, and which influenced all later commentaries, is that by 'Abd al-Razzaq Kashani, who also quoted the hadíth throughout his extensive work on the "Manazil al-Sa'irin" of `Abdu'llah al-Ansari. The range of commentators encompass the founder of the Ni'matullahi Sufi order, Shah Ni'matullah Wali and his delegate in Shiraz, Shah Da'i ila Allah Shirazi, up to the 19th Century sectarian Shaikh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i and the philosopher Haj Mullah Hádí Sabzwari and 20th Century thinkers such as Ashtiyani and Estehbanati. Problems of authenticity, transmission, and the tradition of commentary will be considered briefly in this paper.

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