Forty Sessions     

The Fiery Dawn

Apercu   Discussion    Join  

Sheikh Semnani narrates the following story.

One day Imam Ali ‘Ibn Abi Tālib was riding a camel and Kumail Ziad—Imam’s Sirr (Secrets’) Confidant—was sitting behind him. This was Imam Ali’s usual behavior [1] when Sirr (the secrets) & knowledge would tumult within him and in order to release some burden he would let Kumail sit next to him whereat the Imam would commence divulging the uncovered Sirrs (Secrets), as in one particular session:

Kumail: What is Haqiqa (Absolute Truth)?
Imam Ali: What business you have with Haqiqa? [2]
Kumail: Aren’t I the confidant for your Sirr (Secret)?
Imam Ali: Yes, however (only) what overflows within me spills over unto you!
Kumail: Are you the like of someone that fails the questioner?
Imam Ali: Haqiqa (Absolute Truth) is the Kashf (Uncovering) of the Sobohāt (Fiery Manifest) of the Divine Jalāl (Momentous Glory) without any Ishārat (Pointing, Hinting At). [3]
Kumail: Tell me more about this (I do not understand).
Imam Ali: Fading off the mental processes due to the awakening of the Divine Knowledge.
Kumail: Tell me more about this.
Imam Ali: Tearing apart the barriers (boundaries) for the Sifat (Attribute) of Tawhid (Divine Oneness). (Translation?)
Kumail: Tell me more about this. [4]
Imam Ali: The curtain veiling the triumphant Sirr (Secret) (or the curtain veiling the chatter of the secrets).  [5]
Kumail: Tell me more about this.
Imam Ali: The dawn’s light from the morning of the Azal (Sempiternity) gleaming upon the altar(s) of Tawhid (Divine Oneness). [6]
Kumail: Tell me more about this.
Imam Ali: The lamp dies down when the morning dawns (or the lamp’s light drowns in the morning’s dawn). [7]

Pointing to his chest Imam Ali continued, “Plethora of knowledge being placed/hidden here by Allah Almighty but I do not see any Dard (Seeker’s Pain) [8] within people’s hearts for intelligence & intellect. They would craft a trap from this knowledge within my chest to entrap fame & worldly gain and on the other hand the ones with the Dard (Seeker’s Pain) for the Din (Divine Way, Religion) who have forsaken fame have no intelligence & intellect to understand this knowledge. However I much hope that Allah Almighty leave not this earth empty of people whose hearts illuminated with such knowledge: They are indeed few in numbers but large in their rewards.” And afterwards Imam Ali concluded, “I yearn to meet them in person…”.



This is the description of a person at the very end of the Divine Path where his heart & soul are not enough to contain the knowledge and affection that is pouring in, so he seeks another ‘container’ or ‘goblet’ to spill over into. As we see in the behavior of the Imam Ali, the human touch was very important i.e. another human being became the extension of Imam Ali to express & contain the uncovering of the secrets. This goes in the reverse of our modern misanthropic view of the spirituality where the seeker of the secrets of the Divine is a lonely person avoiding all human contacts to be pure to uncover secrets—a hermit in a cave.

Also note the concept of “spill over”: What was uncovered within Imam Ali was beyond the verbiage of the words, little that had spilled over was indeed within the scope of human language to transmit from one person to another.

[2] We observe a subtle point: Sirr (Secret) is not just given to someone because they asked for it, there has to be a justification or need. Though this justification could be symbolic, the receiver must be given permission to view the spilled over secrets not just ask or probe. In other words these uncovered Sirr (Secret) were exclusive to the person of Imam Ali for that moment in space and time, they were not meant for someone else unless there was a reason.

[3] Imagine a caveman brought to present time at Cape Canaveral eye-witnessing the lift-off of the Space Shuttle in close proximity of the launch pad. This is roughly the feel for the words of Imam Ali describing the word Haqiqa: Something that is unveiled in front of you in some fantastic visual form that you can see with certainty and within you no doubts or even thoughts remains. Imam Ali’s use of the word Ishārat (Pointing, Hinting At) indicates that even ‘hint’ not present when Haqiqa is exposed within the human being.

Sobohāt:      (Source: Lisānol ‘Arab or The Language of The Arab)

Normally it is used in the form, “Sobohāt of Allah’s Face (Countenance)” which means ITs luminosity, glory & mightiness. Arch Angel Gabriel—peace be upon—has said, “For Allah besides (before) the Throne there are seventy veils, if we come close to any one of them Sobohāt of Allah’s Face (Countenance) would burn us”. ‘Ibn Shomayl has said, “Sobohāt of ITs Face (Countenance) means the light of ITs Face (Countenance)”. In another Hadith (Prophetic Narration), “ITs veil is light and fire, if you uncover it the Sobohāt of ITs Face (Countenance) shall burn anything that sets eyes upon IT”. Sobohāt is the plural for Sobhah (In many Sufi books it is written as Sabahāt which is incorrect). Some said Sobohāt of ITs Face (Countenance) is ITs Beauty and if you saw the beauty of ITs Face (Countenance) you would have said, “Sobhānallah! (Praising Allah with amazement)”. If any of Allah’s lights are uncovered—the ones that were veiling the slaves against IT—shall kill anyone that meets this light, as (happened to) Prophet Moses who fell down to the ground swooned and the mountain was shattered, once Allah made Tajalli (Lucent Manifestation).

[4] The Knowledge of Tawhid (Divine Oneness) and what we rationalize about it is indeed a barrier that occludes our vision of IT. Best I could translate what Imam Ali meant: Even tearing apart that veil of Tawhid (Divine Oneness).  

[5] I am not sure what it means but I suspect the veil refers to previous statement at [4] i.e. tearing apart the veil of Tawhid that veil behind which the secrets chatter or that veil behind which secrets triumphantly hide. Allah knows best.

[6] Haykal was used in plural form of Hayākel that means altar or frame. I believe the concept of the plural form is to show that Tawhid (Divine Oneness) has many facets for human cognition.

[7] The lamp—Allah knows best—means the human cognizance of Tawhid (Divine Oneness) that is drowned in the light of the Azal (Sempiternity’s) dawn, perhaps best being explained by Kashani's Lantern of Guidance: 

“Tawhid (Oneness) due to Propensity” is when Oneness becomes a must for propensity/nature/inclination of the Mowah-hid (person in the state of Tawhid) and much of the darkness of customs/habits of his existence—except a little—succumbs to the terrific luminosity of Tawhid (Divine Oneness), shattered and dissolved. And the light of (human) knowledge of Oneness fades within the light of his propensity/nature like the light of stars vanishes within the light of the sun.


The origin of this Tawhid (Oneness due to Propensity) is the light of perception and origin of the “Oneness due to Knowledge” is the light of intimacy and closeness (to Beloved). By means of this Tawhid (Oneness due to Propensity) much of one’s humanity is pushed away like the sunlight wipes out most of the darkness upon the earth. But the light of the “Tawhid (Oneness) due to Knowledge” is likened to the light of the moon illuminating the earth where some of the darkness is wiped off but mostly remains unlit. What remains of the Mowah-hid during the “Tawhid (Oneness) due to Propensity” is the bare necessities of actions and attributes required for his minimalist physical existence.

[8] Dard is Farsi for pain. In Sufi terminology this is the pain caused within the Morid (Seeker) who is excessively toiling to seek that Beloved. However this part of the text is in Farsi and if the word is Dord (Sediment) that is spelled the same way then the text reads similarly with the connotation of things deep within their hearts like the bottomed sediment: “Plethora of knowledge being placed/hidden here by Allah Almighty but I do not see any Dord (Sediment) within their hearts for intelligence & intellect. They would craft a trap from this knowledge within my chest to entrap fame & worldly gain and on the other hand the ones with the Dard (Sediment) for Din (Divine Way, Religion)—within their heart—who have forsaken fame…” My vote is for Dard (Sufi Pain). 

© 2004-2002,  Dara O. Shayda