Al Muayyad fid din al Shirazi Calligraphy in Arabic Script denoting the Basmallah in Bird Shape
Electronic rendition and graphics by Nina Jaffer
Article by Mohamed Adra
In history this great Ismaili dai and poet is well known by his title 'Al-Mu'ayyad-fid-Din and sometimes merely as 'Al-Muayyad'. The Syrian poet and philosopher Abul-a'la-Muarri, in his correspondence with the dai has addressed him as Sayyidna al-rais al-ajall al Mu'ayyad fid-din . Nasir-i Khusraw calls him Khwaja al-Mu'ayyad. In one of his poems in his diwan he says:
ki kard at khatir-i Khwaja Muayyad,
dar-i Hikmat Kushada bar tu yazdan.
"God has opened a new world of wisdom for you through the teaching of Khwaja al-Muayyad."2
His biographers are unanimous about his full name being Hibtullah bin Musa bin Dawud al-Shirazi. They also call him al Salmani because al-Mu'ayyad has called himself by this name in his diwan. Some biographers believe that he was descended from Salman al-Farsi but al-Mu'ayyad explains it differently in his diwan when he says:
law kuntu asartu al-Nabiyyi Muhammadan
ma kuntu uqassiru 'an mada Salmanihi
wa la qala anta min ahl-i baiti mu 'linan
qawlan yakshifu 'an wuduhi bayanihi
"If I were a contemporary of Prophet Muhammad, I would not be any less than his Salman; and he would have said to me, 'You are of my ahl al-bayt: declaring in unequivocal terms what he meant."4
These lines show that al-Mu'ayyad was not a descendant of Salman, but that his spiritual status equaled that of Salman.
Al-Mu'ayyad's father was a dai in Persia. His grandfather and the rest of his family were all devoted Ismailis. They commanded great respect among the people in Shiraz.
It is difficult to determine the exact date of his birth, but according to M. Kamil Husein he was born somewhere about the year 390 A.H. (999 A.C.) in the city of Shiraz. He was educated by his father, who was well versed in the Ismaili Faith. In 429 A.H. (1105 A.C.), when al-Muayyad was 39, he received quick promotions in his services as a dai. He was first appointed as the chief dai in Shiraz and then as the hujjat for the whole of Persia.
Al Muayyad spent an eventful but a dangerous life in Persia. In his autobiography, he tells us about the hatred and enmity of the non lsmailis towards him and the false rumors they spread about him. He further goes to describe how they spared no efforts to tarnish his good name before King Abu Kalijar al- Buwayhi. In spite of the unfavorable circumstances in which al- Muayyad was placed, he won the favors of the King who permitted him to visit his palace whenever he wished. Later on, the King provided him with an opportunity to challenge his adversaries to a debate when he refuted the arguments of his opponents with great success. His force of logic, his wonderful power of expression, his wide knowledge and the manner in which he defended the truth of his Faith impressed the King to such an extent that he embraced the Ismaili Faith at his hands saying:
"I entrust my soul and my faith to you. I accept your belief. I approve all that you preach and practise."
This did not make things any the easier for al-Mu"ayyad. The courtiers did not spare any effort to dislodge him from the favours of the King and finally they succeeded. King Abu Kalijar wrote to al-Mu'ayyad advising him to leave Shiraz for his own safety and go wherever he wished as he was not in a position to provide protection to al Muayyad any more.
Al Muayyad left the country in disguise to travel to Egypt. He is said to have arrived there some time between 436 and 439 A.H. (1112/1115 A.C.). During his journey to Egypt he had met with many difficulties and dangers, but he faced them all with determination and faith. His only desire was to reach the seat of his Spiritual Lord and have a glimpse of him so that by the holy didar his soul may become pure and more illumined.
When al-Mu'ayyad had left Shiraz for Egypt, he was very hopeful that he would get the opportunity to see the Imam, but at the same time he had also feared the intrigues of the ministers and the courtiers who did not permit any man of learning to see the Imam personally, unless he complied with their dictates and acknowledged their superiority. On reaching Egypt he experienced all that he had feared. He was lodged in a small house and his visits to the court were short and limited to prevent him from seeing the Imam. Most of the Vaziers and their junior officers were jealous of al-Mu'ayyad for they all saw in him the real threat to their positions.
Disappointed, he finally decided to leave Egypt and wrote about his frustrations to Tastari, who was the most powerful in the state:
"I have not come to Egypt to seek wealth or gain any position. The promptings of my faith have brought me here. I have come to visit the Imam and not the vaziers and their officials. Unfortunately, these people stop me from having a look at my Imam and now I am returning disappointed.
The sudden death of Tastari gave al Mu'ayyad another opportunity to renew his efforts to get some time to be in the holy presence of the Imam and with the help of the Minister al-Fallahi he was able to pay respects to the Imam. Describing his experience on this visit, he writes:
"I was taken near the place wherefrom I saw the bright Light of the Prophethood. My eyes were dazzled by the Light. I shed tears of joy and felt as if I was looking at the face of the Prophet of Allah and of the Commander of the Faithful, Hazrat Ali. I prostrated myself before the one who is the fittest person to bow to. I wanted to say something, but 1 was awe-struck....I tried to speak but my tongue refused to move. People asked me to say what I wished to say. I could say nothing. The Imam said, 'Leave him. Let his fear and awe subside. After this, I rose. I took the holy hand of the Imam, placed it on my eyes and on my chest and then kissed it. 1 left the place with immense joy."'
This did not usher a period of peace for al-Mu'ayyad, for the vaziers and their men continued to create problems for him. He was ordered to go to Syria and Iraq to propogate for the da'wah. This was in 447 A.H. (1123 A.C.). He succeeded in gathering a large army and marched towards Baghdad where he put an end to the Abbaside rule and recited the khutba in the name of Imam Mustansir-billah.
In 449A.H. (1125 A.C.), al-Mu'ayyad spread his control over Aleppo in Syria, but this success was not long-lived as trouble appeared in many places. In the same year he decided to return to Egypt. On his way, he received three letters ordering him to make his way back to Syria and Iraq, but al-Mu'ayyad did not change his mind. When he arrived in Egypt he found to his surprise that the courtiers and officers not only did not appreciate his services for the dawah but that they also planned to prevent him from entering the capital city of Egypt, Cairo.
In spite of all the obstacles, al-Mu'ayyad managed to reach Cairo, but he and his colleagues were not given the welcome they deserved. That did not matter much to him for he was only desirous of seeing the Imam and so composed the following verse addressed to the Imam saying:
"uqsimu law annaka tawwajtani
bi taji kisra malik al-Mashriqi
wa niltani kullu umur al-wara
man qad mada wa man qad baqa
wa qulta alla naltaqi sa 'atan
ajabtu ya Mawlayi anna al-taqi
lianna ab'aduka li sa 'atan
shayyaba fudiyya ma 'a l-mafriqi"
"I swear by God, if you were to place on my head the crown of Kisra, the Eastern monarch; if you were to make me the master of the world by putting in my charge the affairs of all those that are dead and alive and lay a condition that I should not see you for a moment, 0 my Lord! 1 shall choose to glance at you rather than prefer the pomp and dignity of the world. For my being away from you will make my head turn grey in a moment."
These lines reached the Imam just when the post of da'i al-duat, chief daiwas lying vacant. The Imam saw al-Mu'ayyad as the most suitable person for this position and so he appointed him to the post and replied to his verses with the following lines of the same scansion and rhyme:
"ya hujjatan mashhuratan fil wara
watuda 'ilmin a'jaza al-murtaqi
ma ghulliqat dunaka abwabuna
illa li amrin mu 'limin mughliqi
khufna ala qalbika min sam'ihi
fa sadduna saddu abin mushfiqin
shi'atuna qad adamu rushdahum
fil gharb ya wa fi al-mashriqi
fanshur lahum ma shi'ta min 'ilmina
wa kun lahum kal walid al-mushfiqi
mithulka la yujadu fi man mada
fi qadimi al-dahri wa la man baqa
in kunta fi dawlatina akhiran
fa anta qad jurta mada al-sabaqi."
"0 you hujjat! who are renowned in the world;
0 you who have ascended to the peak of knowledge
to which none can climb,
we did not allow you interview
for the sake of your safety.
The closing of our doors against you was prompted by
nothing but the fatherly love for his son.
Our Shi'a have lost their mind in the West and in the East,
0 friend! propagate for them what you like of our knowledge and
be with them as an affectionate father.
The like of you has not been found among
those gone by and those that remain;
if you were the last in our dawa,
you have surpassed your predecessors."
Al-Mu'ayyad spent his last days in Egypt. For twenty years he discharged his duty as the da'i al-du'at. He had held majalis to impart knowledge about Ismaili Faith to those who wished to know about it. He died in the first days of Shawwal in 470 A.H. (1077 A.C.). Imam al-Mustansir himself read the funeral prayers. Al-Mu'ayyad was buried in the grounds of Dar al Ilm a seat of learning in Cairo, established by Imam Hakim bi-Amrillah, where he had resided, worked and died.
1. Majam al-udaha Vol III
2. Diwani Nasir-i Khusraw. Tehran edition 1307 A.H.
3. 'Uyunal-maarif by Ali b. Saleh
4. Diwan al Muayyad
Source: Ilm 1986
Life and Lectures of Al Muayyad fid-din al Shirazi
Qadi Numan's Majalis
Ismaili Poetry Page 1
Ismaili Poetry Page 2
About Nasir Khusraw Ismaili Dai
Al Muayyad Ismaili Dai
Poetry in the honor of Imam-e-Zamaan The Present Living Imam
Verses from the Holy Quran pointing to Imams
Who is the Aga Khan? Feature article in Metropolis Magazine
Islamic Revelations more at Metropolis Magazine
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