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Friday, September 04, 2015

The Sajjâdiyât

A couple weeks back I found William Chittick's 1988 translation of Al-Sâhifat Al-Sajjâdiyya: The Psalms of Islam. Chittick also offers an introduction.

"The Sajjâdî Book" is a psalter or hymnal now revered by the Imâmî Shî'a sect. Fifty-four of its hymns are attributed to 'Ali 'Zayn al-'Âbidîn' bin Husayn, who died in 94 or 95 AH in the Madina - under al-Walîd's and al-Hajjâj's final, paranoid years. Chittick has no real interest in this book's authenticity (xix-xx); he figures, whoever did it, was authentic-enough.

Pace the editors, the book's real name is al-Sâhifat al-Sajjâdiyyat with the closing "teh marbuta"; no "idafa" is implied. Pace Chittick xvii, it does not necessarily mean "the book by some guy named al-Sajjâd". al-Sâhifat li'l-Sajjâdi would get that point across more exactly. It doesn't mean "the book of the Sajjadites" either: hifat al-Sajjâdiyya(ti). It is just... the Sajjadite book. As for its ascription to 'Ali bin Husayn, 'Ali already had a nickname - 'Zayn al-'Âbidîn'. 'Al-Sajjâd' was likely foisted on him when this book was foisted on him.

So we are dealing with an anonymous collection. Its "Sajjâdiya" contents are, still, likely early. One would think that a forgery would have been ascribed to someone even earlier, like al-Husayn or 'Ali or even the Prophet. That the Shi'ites didn't bother implies that the Sajjâdiyât, at least some of them, may well belong to 'Ali bin Husayn's lifetime.

I see in the introduction a hadith going back to a son of Zayd bin 'Ali. This is interesting in that Zayd is not in most Shi'a lines of succession. Zayd belongs to the Houthis now; other sects respect him, but do not revere him. So this collection seems to start with the early Zaydis.

The psalms quote the Qur'an a lot, implying that they arose after its final collection or near-enough. The first psalm cites sura 44; the third, sura 50.

Many of these are Shi'ite, in that they praise the Prophet and his family - like the second one, and the fifth and sixth. But I don't see them praising the family as a full-on Twelver or Ismaili mystic might. Some don't mention the ahl al-bayt - the first and third psalms don't, so are not Shi'ite by nature. The fourth psalm praises the Companions instead! Such material will have entered the collection from the wider Muslim community.

Given that, when I see in #7, #8 and #9 "bless Muhammad and his household" in contexts that don't require it, I wonder if these blessings be just tacked-on to a pan-Islamic core. The first "phase" of such intrusive blessings came under the Marwani era, when suddenly one starts seeing "bless Muhammad" on the Dome and then in the desert graffiti. Certainly Hoyland mentioned many. But we are talking of the Prophet's family here; and I am unaware of additional blessings for that in the graffiti - at least, Hoyland doesn't mention any.

Zayd, at least, had made his appeal to the wider Muslim community. It was after Zayd's rebellion failed that the Shi'a became more esoteric.

posted by Zimri on 22:13 | link | 0 comments

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