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Siyahat-i gharb (book)

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Siyahat-i Gharb (book)
Author Aqa Najafi Quchani
Original title سیاحت غرب
Language Farsi
Series 1 volume
Subject Barzakh
Genre Story
Published First published in 1349 Sh/1970

Siyāḥat-i Gharb (Persian:سیاحت غرب) (the journey to the west point of horizon) or The fate of souls after death (Persian: سرنوشت ارواح پس از مرگ), is a famous Persian book in the form of story written by the Shi'a scholar, Aqa Najafi Quchani (b.1295/1878 - d.1363/1944). The narrative story in the book illustrates the journey of the soul after death in the world of Barzakh. The main structure and different stages of this journey reflect the conditions of Barzakh portrayed by the narrations of the Ahl al-Bayt (a).

Author

Main article: Aqa Najafi Quchani

Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Hasan, known as Aqa Najafi, son of Muhammad Najafi was a graduate of Mashhad and Najaf seminaries. He has authored seven books most famous of which are: Siyhat-i Sharq and Siyahat-i Gharb. Siyahat-i Sharq (the journey to the east) deals with the social and political conditions of Iraq and Iran, during the age of Iranian Constitutional Revolution.

Features of the Book

The book is introduced by the author as his Barzakhi (related to afterlife) observations and has been narrated from a first person perspective. The style corresponds to the writings of early 14th/19th century in which many Arabic and religious phrases are used. In the book, Qur'anic verses and hadiths are not translated into Persian.

Story of Barzakh

The story is narrated from a person who has died and starts from the moment he dies. After the ghusl, funeral and burial, the narrator talks about the questioning in the grave, and then he mentions the pressure of the grave. Different parts of the book have been formed based on the hadiths related to the world of Barzakh. Examples of punishment in the grave, particular punishments for certain forbidden acts and meeting with dead people, have been placed in the narrative.

Use of Hadith and Qur'anic verses

In different parts of the book, related Qur'anic verses and hadiths are reminded by the narrator of the story. Throughout the story, the author has tried to illustrate the role of Shi'a beliefs, particularly, the belief in the wilaya of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and love of Imam Ali (a), in the afterlife. One example of such approach is a person called "Hadi" (lit. guide) who guides the narrator for the most part of the journey. The author introduces Hadi as the love of Imam Ali (a) which appears as a young good-looking man who helps and guides the dead person. Different kinds of moral and religious advices are made on proper occasions when the soul encounters certain difficulties or delights.

Video Call in Barzakh

One interesting part of the story is where Habib b. Muzahir, one of the companions of Imam al-Husayn (a) and Martyrs of Karbala, make a video call to the narrator of the story. The narrator says: "The phone was of the kind that shows the person while talking".

Prints and Publications

For the first time, Tabataba'i Publications published Siyahat-i Gharb in 1970. This print bore the explanations and comments of Ahmad Tadayyun and Muhammad Rida 'Ata'i Quchani. The book became a best-seller so the publisher had to issue its second print in 1972. Various publications have republished the book ever since.

Movie

In 2003, a movie was produced based on the story of Siyahat-i Gharb. Like its original book, the movie was very successful in terms of its popularity. It was introduced in its advertisement as some kind of hereafter-therapy. One of the features of this movie is that in some of its scenes, the Qur'anic verses related to the dialogues are displayed as subtitles.

Siyahat-i Gharb and the Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy is one of the classics of European literature and is composed by Dante. It pictures the scenes and stages of the afterlife based on Christian teachings. The book has three parts: Inferno (hell), Purgatorio (purgatory), and Paradiso (paradise). It is about an imaginary journey through these stages. On its way, the soul encounters wild beasts which represent lust, pride, and greed. The soul enters Inferno (hell) from which it is later rescued by lady Mary (a) and then enters Purgatory. It is important to know that Purgatory does not accurately equate to Barzakh in its Islamic traditional sense. However, according to Dante, passing through Purgatory is necessary for entering Paradise. There are similarities and differences between Aqa Quchani's Siyahat-i Gharb and Dane's Divine Comedy. One main similarity is that both works outline appalling pictures of vices and thus warn the readers and encourage them to do righteous deeds. Two of notable differences are:

  1. The styles of the two works are different;
  2. Unlike the Divine Comedy, Siyahat-i Gharb makes extensive and exclusive reliance on the verses of the Qur'an and the narrations from the Prophet (s) and the Ahl al-Bayt (a).

References