Significance of Sandhya Vera: From the Ginan
“Anant Akhado” by Pir Hasan Kabirdin
This ginanic epic has five hundred verses in the main Ginan with nine epilogues containing ten verses each (ninety verses). From the main text of the Ginan, we recite five verses every day before evening (sanjiji) Du’a. These five verses (from number 252 to 256) are said to have five major windows that will take a momin towards the Lord. In these verses lies the essence of Ismaili obligatory practices that we as murids must observe regularly. In this brief article I am trying to decipher the coded verses that indicate at every step, what we should be keeping in mind in order to get closer to our Mowla, the Lord! These verses, if taken literary, show simple way of following the five windows to achieve the above goal. However, these verses are full of inner wisdom covered with a simple conceptual framework. This article is aiming to uncover these simple concepts and find its inner meanings and the insightful wisdom that lies underneath.
In the first verse (252) Pir says,
Aashaji sandhya vera tame mat koi chuko, e-chhe gur ni endhaniji;
Ehi vera tamane didhi, Kidhi te din ni baari.
Meaning: O’ momin never miss evening prayer time, because this evening time has been given to you by Allah as His sign or a sign that leads you to the true path. This time has been given to you in the form of a window of religion (to worship).
An explicit meaning of this verse is very simple. It clearly indicates that the evening time of prayer is a window of religion that has been opened for us so that we can find a way to reach our Lord. From an Ismaili perspective this time is of our first Du’a that we recite just after sunset. In the Qur’an, Allah gives significant importance to evening and morning prayer times, and He says, “Establish regular prayers at the two ends of the day and the approaches of the night” (11:114). The two ends referred to in the Qur’an are morning before the dawn (fajr) and evening just after the sunset (Maghrib). These morning and evening prayers in Islam are known as Salat-al-Fajr and Salat-al-Maghrib. In Ismailism, these prayers are known as Subuh-Sadhakji Du’a and Sanjiji Du’a respectively. Confirming the significance of these prayer times Imam Sultan Mohammad Shah  in his Farman says, “You should never miss the recitation of your two evening prayers and early morning prayer under any circumstances” (Ruhani Raz. Manjewadi, December 27, 1893).
Why do both, ginanic literature as well as the Qur’an attach such importance to evening prayers time? Why is it considered as the first window that leads momin to the murshid? The Lord or the murshid has been called by various names or titles, both in our Ginans and in the Qur’an, such as Swami, Shah, Narji, Malik, Lord, Malik-al Yawmidin, Raab-al Alamin and so on. Both the above questions require deeper understanding about the origin, nature, the times of prayers as well as necessity for prayer. Therefore, we will discuss these questions before moving to the other four windows indicated by the Pir.
In order to find answers to the above questions and understand the significance of prayers and its time, we have to unpack the concept of the origin of prayer, who enjoined it upon the mankind and why? In this respect if we examine the history of religion, the history of mankind and the nature of religious practices; we will find that human beings are spiritual animals and even in prehistoric time, a primitive man was using many forms of rites, rituals and practices to communicate with the Divine Being. According to Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, “for a primitive man, the magic of natural phenomenon such as the rising and setting of the sun, the passage of seasons, the rain and wind etc., were caused and controlled by deities or Super Being.” Further, according to Karen Armstrong, “men and women started worshipping gods as soon as they became recognizably human and they created works of Art. Like art religion for them became an attempt to fine meaning and value in life” Thus, worshipping God means finding a meaning and value in life, which is engraved in the human nature.
Further yet, if we examine the creation of Hazrat Adam, the first man and Allah’s first Khalifa on the earth from the Quranic perspective; then we will find that major elements in Adam’s creation were in a spiritual sense, whereby Allah breathed His Spirit into Adam (15:29). Thus, with breathing of Divine Spirit an eternal spiritual bond was created by the command of Allah between the Adam and Himself. In the physical perspective, Adam was created with the clay and water also by the command of Allah. Therefore, the act of spiritual and physical existence of Hazrat Adam established a relationship of a creator and the slave. With this bond, Allah’s worship became Adam’s prime obligation and responsibility, because he was given the life through the spirit of Allah. Since all human beings are considered Hazrat Adam’s children. Every man and woman is born with the spark of the spirit of Allah which is confirmed by the Qur’an, “Allah brought forth from the loins of the children of Adam and their children” (7:172). This binds every human being just like Hazrat Adam, to a prime obligation and responsibility to worship Allah-the Creator.
Thus, the origin of prayers lies in the relationship between Allah as the creator and the human being as creation and the slave of Allah. In this respect the Quran also confirms where Allah says, “I have only created jinns and men that they worship me” (51:56); and Allah further says to the Prophet Mohammed (s.a.s.) in the Qur’an that “set up regular prayers: for such prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times” (4:103). According to the Quran this command of setting up of regular prayers and charity was ordered to all prophets, for example, Abraham (a.s.) (21:73); Musa (a.s.) (2:83); Isa (a.s.) (19:31), during their times of prophethood.
In the light of the above discussion, it is evident that obligation to pray and its time are set by the command of Allah. However, in the light of the Ginan-Anant Akhado Pir particularly indicates the importance of prayer for momin is evening time that is “Sandhiya Vera”. At this time, every momin has an obligation and responsibility to worship Allah through a prescribed prayer. This is a prime time for remembering the Creator. Pir also calls this time as a first window opened by Allah for his slaves to move towards his/her creator. Therefore it is essential for us not to forget or miss evening prayer time as Mowlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Husayni also says in his Farman, “Every murid, all the time keep in mind the principles of our faith. Be regular in the practice of your faith. If for any given reason you are unable to come to Jamat Khana take your tasbih….and call the name of Allah, call the name of Hazrat Ali and, call the names of Imams…” (Lisbon. July 13, 2008). By asking us to take the names of Allah, Ali and the Imams, Hazar Imam further opens this window by making it easy for us to attend to Du’a time.
However, in times of the pervious Imams like Imam Mustansirbillah the satpanth religion was rather strict about reciting three times Du’a. Confirming this Syed Noor Mohammed Shah says in his Ginan ‘satveni ni ve’l that “je koi chuk se sanjka tana, oosku guna das din parmana” meaning the one who misses one evening prayer then he has committed sins of missing ten days. Hazar Imam has made it easy for us by saying that we should remember the name of Allah, Ali and other Imams at this time. This saves us from committing sins for ten days. How fortunate we are to have such rahmat and mercy from our Lord. However, this does not give us the freedom of not saying our daily Du’a because the above mercy is only in circumstances when we cannot reach Jamat Khana and not otherwise.
In the second verse (253) Pir says,
Aashaji beeji vera ehija jano, raat gadi chha gai janoji;
Te to baari darga tani, gur thi thavo hushiyar.
Meaning: “O’momin the second window in religion is the time when the night is still young and it begins just after the sunset till midnight”. In the Ismaili practice, it refers to our second Du’a. This prayer is called Somniji Du’a, which is recited after other practices like recitation of the Ginans and Farmans, etc. In Islamic practice it is called Salat-al-isha that is, between salat -al-magrib and midnight. Pir explains that the importance and significance of this window of religion lies in the fact that the benefit of this prayer is like visiting Imam’s dargah (house) or Imam’s Bargah. Therefore, if you say your Somniji Du’a regularly on time means you have had Imam’s deedar by visiting his Bargah or his palace. On the other hand going to Jamat Khana also means going to the house of Imam and Allah where Imam and Allah are both present spiritually and that enlightens you with the deedar. It is evident from Imam Sultan Mohammad Shah’s Farman in which he says: “those who attend Jamat Khana during the time of prayer and meditation are approaching the house of the Lord” (Ruhani Raz. Bombay. April 4, 1893).
In this verse Pir also says that this window makes you aware of your Lord, so be alert of His presence. Being aware of His presence means to live and move in the being of Allah and the Imam of the time, which makes us extremely aware of good and bad things in the world and to live according to the ethics and practice of our religion. This is also indicated by Mawlana Hazar Imam as he says: “… I want you to know that I wish you to succeed. So work hard, come to Jamat Khana regularly, for a man without prayers is a man who has no use on this earth.” Thus, this window shows us way to the house of the Lord and being aware of the presence of our Lord.
The next window is the third one (253) that takes us closer to our Lord as Pir says:
Aashaji treeji sandhya pachhali jano, khat gadi parmanoji;
E-bari sarga ni bhanie, Leve gur ne haath.
Meaning: O momin, the third window begins just after midnight which is the time you should be busy remembering your Lord. Pir further says: this window leads you to the door of paradise where you will find your Lord’s hand.
According to Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah, a momin should not spend the whole night sleeping. It is enough for the momin to sleep five to six hours of the night and spend the rest of it in remembering God and performing bandgi. In similar view Pir is indicating that if you want to see the hand of your Lord; just as Prophet (s.a.s.) saw a hand of Allah during the time of the miraj; then you must be aware of this important window. You must do zikr and remember your Lord in this time of window so you can reach to your personal miraj and find your Lord’s hand. The prayers and zikr performed in this time are very beneficial as it is said that, at this time an angel knocks at momins’ door and asks, “Are there any momin praying this time? If yes, I can take the prayers in the presence of Allah and get them accepted.” So momins, if you want your prayers to be answered then follow Pir’s advice and perform the prayers at this window which Pir calls saragni baari that is, a window that leads to paradise.
In the forth verse (255) Pir says:
“Aashaji chothi baari nahi kuchh bole, neet neet karvi vadhaiji;
Gurnarsu(n) neet hetaj rakho, to poh(n)cho sarag duwar.”
Meaning: O’ momin the forth window is the one that says nothing in which the momin remains in the state of blissfulness. Pir further advices that O momin if you love with your heart and soul your gurnar i.e. your Lord; you will reach to the door of paradise.
This is the most important window for a momin because it begins at the time of Ibadat that is morning 4.00-5.00 a.m. which Imam has prescribed for silent meditation. Therefore, Pir says that this window says nothing it also relates to Ibadat as during the Ibadat we go in the state of nothingness in our mind; we empty all our worldly thoughts and worries, and concentrate on the word of Ism-i-Azam (the Bol), which brings us closer to Allah. Pir congratulates those who go into this window and find blissfulness. A momin, who loves his/her Lord more than worldly comfort of sleeping, will get up at 4:00 a.m., will think about his/her Lord in Ibadat. Here Pir is encouraging the jamat to enhance such love every night, because as a result of such act we will reach to the door of paradise. Here, for a true momin the paradise means to be with his/her beloved and to enjoy the divine fruits and companionship. In this respect Rabia Basari, a sufi saint says, “O my Lord, if I worship Thee from the fear of hell, burn me in the fire of hell; if I worship Thee from the hope of paradise, exclude me from paradise; but if I worship Thee for Thine sake, withhold not from me Thine Eternal beauty.” Here too Pir refers to the paradise of being one with the Lord. This is the most important window because it takes us to the level of Marifat-to be one with Allah, which is the prime purpose of our life.
We have now reached to a most significant, most critical and most essential window in this series of five windows. This is the one without which none of the above can be achieved. This is the window of submitting Dasond. The term Dasond literary means ‘das’ that is ten and ‘ond’ means parts. It is also known as ‘daspanti’, which means tenth part of a whole. It is also known as mal-i wajibat. An equivalent term for a Dasond in Islam is Zaqat which is derived from the Arabic word ‘zaqaa’ which means to ‘purify’. It also means a religious tax or dues. Other terms for ‘zaqat’ are ‘khumms’ and ‘Sadaqah’.
Describing the fifth window Pir says:
Aashaji Pa(n)chmi baari Dasondni kahie, te sahuthi moti janoji;
Te ma(n)he tame rahejo hushiyar, to rahesho gurnar ne saath.
Meaning: O’ momin the fifth window is that of submitting the Dasond to your Lord. Pir Says: consider this as the greatest of all the windows. In the practice of Dasond (that is, paying one eighth of your income to the Imam of the time as per Ismaili Tariqa-10% for the Imam and 2.5% for the Pir, who showed this religion to us), be very careful and do not forget that it is the most important of all windows. If you remain regular and consistent in performing the practice of Dasond; then you will stay with your gurnar in both worlds (this one and the next one that is the spiritual world).
In this ginanic epic there are many verses in which Pir indicates that Dasond is the most important element of reaching the door of paradise and being one with your Lord. Without submitting Dasond one cannot succeed in getting salvation, that is being fana-fi Allah (to be annihilated in Allah), or Baqa-bi Allah (to be in the blissful state with Allah). In this respect we need to find answers to questions as to what is the Dasond. Where is its origin? Why is it enjoined upon human beings? What are its benefits? The answers to these questions can be found in many verses of Anant Akhado Ginan. There are numerous verses on the concept of Dasond in the Anant Akhado, which deal with the meaning, origin, significance and benefits of submitting Dasond. Those who would like to enhance their understanding must study these verses.
 Imam Sultan Mohammad Shah. Ruhani Raz. Manjewadi, India. December 27, 1893.
 Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah “The Memoirs of Aga Khan World Enough Time”. London Cassell and Company. 1954:169
 Karen Armstrong “A History of God”. London: Vintage. 1999:3.
 Farman Mubarak made by Mowlana Shah Karim al Husayni in Lisbon, Portugal. July 13, 2008.
 During the time when Pir came to the Indian subcontinent to convert Hindus to Satpanth, occasionally Pir used to under take most difficult and dangerous journey to visit the Imam of the time and to be in his presence in Iran. The act of being in presence of the Imam is known as going to Darga that is, Imam’s Bargah-the residence. This practice was continued during the time of Imam Hasanali Shah, Imam Alishah and Imam Sultan Mohammad Shah. All three Imams lived in the Aga Hall, in Bombay, India, where they used to give Deedar to Jamat at their residence. Jamat used to gather at the Aga Hall and Imam used to sit on a ‘Takhat’, surrounded by the Jamat. Presently, the Imam is not living in the midst of the Jamat and He only visits once in a few years. Since the time of Imam Sultan Mohammad Shah the Piratan and Imamat are vested in the Imam of the time, so reciting second Du’a; we get the benefit of being in the presence of the Imam of the time. He is both our Pir and Imam.
Another practice of the term ‘Bargah’ is found in our previous ‘ghat paat ji Du’a, which we used to recite during the time of Imam sultan Mohammad Shah and the earlier years of Shah Karim al Husayni and before the introduction of the current Arabic Du’a. This ‘ghat paat ji Du’a’ had many chapters and was recited with numerous sijdas (prostrations), gestures and posters. In this Du’a before every sijda, the Du’a that was recited is as follows: “shah toji dargha me kabool kar nur pak Mowlana Sarkar Aga Sultan Mohammad shah Datar Hazar Imam”. The meaning of this Du’a is “O my Lord, accept my prayer in your sacred presence or in your house, O’ my present living Imam, Aga Sultan Mohammad Shah Datar. Thus, it is evident from the above two practices that the dargha means Imam’s house or his Divine Presence.
 Imam Sultan Mohammad Shah. Ruhani Raz. Bombay, India. April 4, 1893.
 Rabia Basri’s prayer is cited from Annemarie Schimmel, quoted in “Importance of Du’a in Islam”. In Ismaili Bulletin. July-Aug, 1977:32.
 These verses are as follows: #s 82, 105, 106, 155, 256, 259, 348, to 351, 353, to 358, 360 to 365, and 367 to372, 457, and 458, 383,384 and 386.