This recording was made in Honglefu Daotang (“Hall of Dao”) of Jahriyya Sufism after the Isha prayer (the last of the five daily prayers) on November 6, 2011. Honglefu Daotang is located in the suburb of the city of Qingtongxia, in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of Northwest China. The text of Mukhammas consists of poetries with a five-line stanza, a structure that is literalized in its Chinese title, tianfang wulianshi (“the five-lined poems of the Heavenly Square”).

The etymology of the word mukhammas is somewhat obscure, but its Arabic form bears a strong affinity with Persian and Urdu. Instead of designating a particular text or a set of texts, mukhammas refers more generally to a poetic form similar to cinquain. The internal structure of the five lines might vary. One version of it consists of two distichs and one hemistich in monorhyme. The specific Mukhammas that Jahriyya Sufis recite rhyme on the consonant م, explained by some Jahriyya as corresponding to the first consonant in Muhammad. Though some mukhammas poems, particularly those written in Persian, take Imam Ali as the object of praise, it is still the Prophet Muhammad that is supposed to be the exclusive addressee of Jahriyya’s Mukhammas. The trope of the number five extends further than the stanza of the poetry. Jahriyya disciples observe the strict rule of daily reciting five pages. All Jahriyya followers I interviewed insisted that such continuity had never been interrupted, even during the Cultural Revolution when all religions were persecuted and prohibited.

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