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05. Fictitious Narratives in the "Satveni'ji Vel"

The Satpanth Literature or the Ginans were composed by 9 Ismaili Pirs and 22 Syeds during their mission in Indian subcontinent. The ginans were preserved in different manuscripts. Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj (1842-1930) collected the old manuscripts in different places. It was difficult to judge the authenticity of each ginan a hundred years ago due to the lack of the competent scholars. He published the ginans in his printing press in Bombay with a view that if any published text was found irrelevant or doubtful, it would be never reprinted. During the process of printing, however, some compositions were found doubtful, such as the “Chhatris Krodi,” “Dashtari Gayatri,” “Chetamani of Pir Imam Shah” etc., which were never published. The “Satveni’ji Vel” by Syed Nur Muhammad Shah (d. 940/1534) was however published without prior testing of its Ismaili root. Mukhi Laljibhai however appealed the Ismailis through his monthly magazine, “Ismaili Satpanth Prakash” (April 12, 1918) to draw his attention the errors, discrepancies or doubtfulness in the ginans he had published from his Khoja Sindhi Printing Press. On this juncture, the authenticity of the “Satveni’ji Vel” was challenged with evidences, which were minutely examined and resolved not to publish it next time. The inventory of its evidences is not known except that “Satveni’ji Vel” contained non-Ismaili elements and suffered with interpolation.

Suppose a Shi’ite author brings forth a book on the history of the twelve Imams, it has nothing to do with Ismailism. Since it contained the history of Hazrat Ali to Imam Jafar Sadik, the Ismailis will never ignore and refer it for the study. Correspondingly, the “Satveni’ji Vel” of Syed Muhammad Shah also advocates equal purpose, wherein the cursory sketch of the history of the Ismaili Imams and Pirs is given; therefore, the Ismaili scholars refer it for their study. This is the reason that “Satveni’ji Vel” never became a standard text in Ismaili literature, and is hardly recited in the Jamatkhana.

Syed Nur Muhammad Shah, the son of Syed Imam Shah and the founder of the Imam Shahi sect had compiled “Satveni’ji Vel” most probably between 922/1516 and 926/1520, containing 100 verses. Its manuscript was in private collection of the Imam Shahis in Pirana (about 10 miles from Ahmedabad), where many fabricated verses were included. One old manuscript of 1890 contained 150 verses. It implies that the original text was adulterated by inclusion of later verses. Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj had gone to Ahmedabad in search of old manuscripts in about 1905, where he unearthed the manuscript of the “Satveni’ji Vel” consisted of 150 verses. He brought it in Bombay and published in the Khojki script in 1906. Patel Laljibhai Nanjibhai, the follower of the Imam Shahi sect reproduced the same text into Gujrati, entitled “Motti Satveni’ni Vel” in 1960 in Ahmedabad.

In 1978, its one rare manuscript was discovered in Buj, Kutchh. It was written in 1780, containing 100 verses. Comparing it with the above printed texts, it appears that 50 verses were incorporated at the end of the 18th century. The extra verses given in the printed texts, such as 23-24, 28-33, 75, 78-93, 97-100, 115-135 (total 50 verses) are not found in the oldest manuscript of 1780. It means that the interpolation would have taken place after 1780.

Scrutiny of the other accessible records also throws a flood of light that the original feature of the text (100 verses) was affected with the addition of 50 new verses. The anonymous composer hampered and interpolated the imaginary verses with his own sense of propriety. The Russian scholar W. Ivanow also reckoned it a “modern work.” Thus, in the later 50 verses, the stories of Amir Pir and Muhammad Hanif (Ibn al-Hanafia) are grossly misrepresented and highlighted skillfully. It is given in four places (verse nos. 23, 24, 29 & 30) under different headings, whose gist is given below with comments:-

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