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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

The term kalma (pl. al-kalma, kalmat) means word matter, sentence or verse. The word kalma is used 26 times, al-kalma 4 times and kalmat 8 times in the Koran. In Islamic terminology it refers to the confession of faith. This testimony in the terminology of the jurists is called iman mujmal (a brief expression of faith). It is simply by bearing witness to the truth that a man enters the fold of Islam. Kalma is a solemn declaration or a testament, and when one pronounces it willfully, he undertakes a great responsibility upon himself. The kalma must rule over him for the rest of his life. His heart shall not accept anything contrary to his declaration. It is his article of faith, a criterion or a touchstone to judge good from bad and truth from falsehood. He will do what the kalma dictates to him as for the Divine writ. It will guide his direction like a rudder of the ship on the high sea of his life.

Mecca was a thick arena of the idol-worshipers during the advent of Islam, where stones, idols, trees, animals, heavenly bodies or force of nature were worshipped. In the pagan society, the emphasis was strongly laid on the Unity of God in Mecca. Thus, the kalma only contained the most fundamental phrase, la ilaha ill-Allah. It is the fountain-head of all Islamic doctrine, the alpha and omega of the Islamic message. In contrast, the situation in Medina was different from Mecca, where the tribes of Aws and Khazraj were idolaters, and the Jews inspired in them the belief of another Prophet to be appeared in near future after Moses. Thus, the stress was given on the appearance of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him); therefore, another phrase in the kalma was necessarily added, i.e. Muhammad-an rasulullah. These two phrases facilitated the fulfillment of mission of the Prophet to convert the tribes of Aws and Khazraj and the Jews as well. This is the reason that the two phrases of the kalma do not occur in any single verse of the Koran, but its first phrase "There is no god but Allah" (la ilaha ill-Allah) occurs twice in the Koran (37:35, 47:19). The second phrase "Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah" (Muhammad-an rasulullah) occurs once in 48:29. It appears from a hadith that it is an essential condition of these component parts of the creed (Bukhari, 2:40). The belief in Oneness of God and His last Prophet was summed up in the two short sentences in the kalma. It contained confession of tawhid and nabuwat.

The Prophet declared Ali bin Abu Talib as his successor at Ghadir al-Khum, which means God opened new avenue for the continuation of His guidance till the day of judgment. Hence, the kalma required further confession in the imamate, making it a pair of three in Islamic teachings, i.e., tawhid, nabuwat and imamate. Qadi Noman writes in Kitab a-Himma (p. 35) that, "This is clear from the fact that God has linked the devotion to Him, the devotion to the Prophet and the devotion to the Imams so inextricably that none of these three devotions can be separated." Sharif Amili al-Ispahani writes in Mirat al-Anwar (Tehran, 1954, 1:25) that, "Confessing the Imamate of the Imams and their love and wilayat comes after the confession of the Nabuwat of the Prophet in the course of correct religion and faith, just as the confession of Nabuwat comes after the confession of Tawhid." Besides God and His Prophet, then, there stands a third figure, the Imam who completes the triad.

The notion of tawhid, nabuwat and imamate infers in the following Koranic verses: "Only God is your Wali (Guardian) and His Apostle and those who believe, who perform prayer and pay alms while they bow" (5:55), "And believe in God and His Apostle and the noor (Light) that We have brought down" (44:8), "O ye who believe! Obey God and obey the Prophet and those who hold authority (from) among you" (4:59) and "O ye who believe! Fear God and believe in His Prophet and He will bestow upon you a double portion of His mercy; He will provide for you a light by which ye shall walk" (28:28).

The Shiat-i Ali, the early Shi'ites thus added the phrase, Ali Waliyullah in their azan, salat and kalma.

The Koran says, "Whoever desires honour, then to God belongs the honour wholly. To Him do ascend the goodly words; and the goodly deed" (35:10). This verse contains the word kalmat, the plural of kalma. It must be known that the Arabic language applies the rule of plural from the figure of three, and not two. This verse uses the plural kalmat, which can be only valid provided it must consists of three phrases instead of two. It means it must have kalma'i wilayat or imamate along with kalma'i tawhid and kalma'i nabuwat. When asked the interpretation of above Koranic verse (35:10), Imam Jafar Sadik said, "The kalma'i tawhid refers to the words of the believers, confessing that there is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah and Ali is the Wali from Allah" (Tafsir al-Safi, 2:293, Tafsir Mirat al-Anwar, p. 196, Tafsir al-Burhan, 3:877).

The Koran further says: "And those who are upright in their testimonies, and those who keep a guard on their prayer, those shall be in the paradise, honoured" (70:33-35). These verses contain the word shahadatihim means their testimonies. It is also in the plural form, referring to the confession of tawhid, nabuwat and imamate. "It means God praises those believers who keep a guard on their prayer while being upright in three testimonies" (Shadat'i Wilayat'i Ali, Lahore, 1993, pp. 150-1).

Abdullah bin Ammar Jaheni relates: "We took oath of allegiance from the Prophet upon the terms that there is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah and Ali is the successor of the Prophet" (Lisan al-Mizan, 5:245). It is also reported that one Christian priest embraced Islam by the hand of Ali bin Abu Talib during the event of Siffin. On that occasion, he confessed that, "I testify that there is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah and Ali is the Commander of the Faithful" (Amal Saduq, p. 406, Shawahid un-Nubuwwa, pp. 286-7, etc.)). It is also related that when Muslim bin Aqil was martyred in Kufa, he recited, "I testify that there is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Apostle of God and Ali is the Wali of Allah, the successor of the Apostle and Caliph" (Yanabi al-Muwadat, 2:161).

Between the period of Karbala's event and the rise of the Abbasids, about 24 sects sprang from the mainstream of Shi'ism. Each sect assumed different phrases in confession of the Imamate of Ali bin Abu Talib, such as Ali Waliullah, Ali Hujjat Allah, Ali Wasiullah, Ali Amirul Mominin Wasiullah, Ali Maqim al-Hujjat Allah, Aliyyin Amir al-Mominin Khalif Allah, Ali Waliyullah al-Imam ba'd Nabiullah, etc. The main branch of the Shi'ites however retained the phrase: Amirul Mominin Ali Waliullah.

The Ismailis lived in the milieu of the Twelvers in Iran during Alamut and post-Alamut periods, the mode of kalma was slightly altered in order to distinguish them from the Twelvers, which firstly sounded most probably in the old dua recited in India. The Ismaili thus recite the kalma, la ilaha ill-Allah, Muhammad-an rasulullah, Aliyyun Amirul Mominin Aliyyullah (There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah, Ali the Commander of the believers is from God).

The phrase "la ilaha ill-Allah, Muhammad-an rasulullah" is the kalma of those who hold belief in tawhid and nabuwat, while "la ilaha ill-Allah, Muhammad-an rasulullah, wa Aliyun Amirul Mominin Aliyullah" is the kalma of those who profess belief in tawhid, nabuwat and imamate.

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