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SATARA

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

The word satara is a corrupt form of satada, which is a formation of two words, i.e. sat (seven) and dahada (days). Its synonmous are satado, satado or satrata. The satara or satada denotes a spiritual exercise (riyazat) of the faithful at midnight or day, such as the practice of i'tikaf. For removing hindrances in spiritual progress, or to remove interruption in the practice of worship, the Ismaili hold the majalis of Satara as the seven nights of supplication.

Moses passed such forty nights in Mount Sinan: "And remember We appointed forty nights for Moses" (2:51), which is also mentioned in the Old Testament: "And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and got him up into the mount, and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights" (Exod. 24:18). Prophet Zachariah also passed such three days without speaking with others: "He said: My Lord! Give me a sign. He said: Your sign is that you should not speak to the people three nights" (19:10). The object of assuming silence was to be engaged solely in prayer to God; and hence Zachariah told his people also to glorify God. In the same manner, Mary the mother of Jesus kept a fast for one day: "So eat and drink and refresh the eye. Then if you see any mortal, say: Surely I have vowed a fast to the Beneficent God, so I shall not speak to any man today" (19:26)

In Islam, the practice of i'tikaf is common like the satara. The word i'tikaf is derived from akafa alai'hi, meaning he kept or clave to it constantly or perseveringly. Literally, it means to stay in a place; technically it is staying in a mosque for a certain number of days, especially the last ten days of the month of Ramzan. During these days, the mu'takif (one who enters the state of i'tikaf) dissociates himself from all worldly affairs. The Koranic word lailatus siyamir rafaso (2:187) however requires the believer to be moderate in their spiritual exercise. The women are also allowed to enter the state of i'tikaf (Bukhari, 33:6). It was a voluntary practice and not obligatory. An i'tikat may be performed in other days" (Abu Daud, 14:75). I'tikaf is of three types, wajib (essential), sunnat-i muakkadah (prerogatory) and mustahab (supererogatory).

The practice of arba'in, chilla and khalwat, the forty days' meditation in a narrow, dark room or a subterranean place is prevalent among the Sufis. The forty-day retreats (chilla), also known as arba'iniyya are derived from the fast of Moses (7:138). "Muhammad's withdrawal from society in the cave on Mount Hira outside Mecca for the purpose of meditation was seen by later mystics as the basis for the systematic practice of seclusion, particularly in the form of the difficult forty-day retreat" (Sufism, London, 1997, pp. 47-8 by Carl W. Ernst).

Likewise, the seven-day prayers of satara have a special spiritual bearing on Ismaili tariqah. In the event of serious epidemics, wars, riots, unprovoked damage to property and person, famines and such other calamities, the seven days satara is also observed for relief of such afflictions.


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