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The Sermon without Dots

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The sermon without dots (Arabic: خطبة الإمام علي عليه السلام الخالية من النقطة) is a sermon by Imam ʿAli (a) in which no Arabic letters with diacritics are used. The sermon was delivered to a group of the Prophet’s companions who were talking about the role of letters in speech. Since fifteen out of the twenty eight letters in the Arabic alphabet have diacritics (that is, dots above or below them), and the sermon is delivered by using only thirteen letters in the Arabic alphabet, it counts as a literary masterpiece.

The sermon is cited in Nahj al-sa'ada and Tamam nahj al-balagha. It is concerned with a praise to God, enumeration of some of his blessings, the place of the Prophet’s household, and compliance with the Prophet’s tradition. The book, Du shahkar ʿAlawi (Two masterpieces by ʿAli), is an exposition of this and another sermon by Imam ʿAli which was delivered without using the frequent Arabic letter, aleph.

In some sources, another sermon without dots is attributed to Imam ʿAli (a), which is less reliable than the first sermon.

Context of Deliverance

The sermon without dots is a sermon delivered by Imam ʿAli (a), in which no diacritics (i.e. letters with dots above or below them) are used. According to a hadith from Imam al-Rida (a) cited in Manaqib, the context in which the sermon was delivered was as follows: a group of the Prophet’s companions were talking about the role of letters in speech. They believed that “aleph” was the most frequent letter in Arabic. At this time, Imam ʿAli (a) delivered a sermon without aleph, and then a sermon without dots. The improvisation of the sermons, their reliance on the Quran, and their eloquence have been admired.

Contents

The sermon begins with a praise of God and enumeration of some of His blessings. It then refers to the place of the Prophet (s) and his household, recommending the compliance with the Prophet’s tradition. Moreover, it gives advice for health, avoidance of sins, obedience of Islamic commands, one’s supplications being heard by God, and the happiness of the audience.

Source

Muhammad Baqir Mahmudi cites the sermon without dots in his Nahj al-saʿada fi-mustadrak nahj al-balagha (which is a supplementation of Nahj al-balagha). In his own words, he found the sermon from Majmuʿa adabiyya by Muhammad b. ʿAbd al-Qahir Shahrazuri al-Musili (d. eighth/fourteenth century). However, it was not cited by Sayyid Radi in Nahj al-balagha. The sermon also appears in the book, Tamam nahj al-balagha.

Moreover, according to Ihsanifar, the author of Du shahkar ʿAlawi, the title or parts of the sermon without dots are mentioned in Manaqib, al-Sirat al-mustaqim, Minhaj al-baraʿa, Bihar al-anwar, and Nahj al-iman.

The Other Sermon

According to Muhammad Baqir Mahmudi, the author of Nahj al-saʿada fi-mustadrak nahj al-balagha, in certain recent sources another sermon without dots is attributed to Imam ʿAli (a), which is cited by Mulla Fath Allah Kashani at the end of his Persian translation of Nahj al-balagha. Mahmudi has not cited the text of this sermon in his Nahj al-saʿada, because he believed there was no reliable source to validate its issuance from the Imam.

According to Ihsanifar, Mulla Fath Allah Kashani does not cite the sermon in his translation of Nahj al-balagha. The sermon was delivered in the marriage proposal ceremony of a person from Banu Hashim, but others have added the sermon to the book.

Monograph

The book, Du shahkar ʿAlawi (literally: two masterpieces by ʿAli), by Muhammad Ihsanifar Langarudi is a Persian book written in exposition of the sermon without dots and the sermon without aleph. A precis of the book is published in an article titled “One book in one article (two masterpieces by Imam ʿAli): a research into sermons without aleph and without dots by Amir al-Muʾminin.”

References