Why is Bandagi practised in the morning and not a more regular aspect of our faith practiced in evening Jamatkhana ceremonies, particularly if Ismailism is focused on spirituality?
Firstly, Baytul Khayal Bandagi, according to Mawlana Hazar Imam’s many farmans, is a voluntary practice and not an obligatory practice. Du’a and Dasond as per Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah are the two main obligatory practices for Ismaili Muslim Murids. Bandagi is only obligatory for those who have received the bol or ism ‘azam from the Imam and have therefore committed to do Bandagi every morning.
Secondly, Bandagi is performed early in the morning because, as the Imam has explained on numerous occasions, this is the time when the human mind is most detached from material mundane concerns and thoughts and this is therefore the time when the chances for success is Bandagi is greatest.
Our religion is esoteric, you understand. It is a perpetual initiation. Nothing is imposed, not even prayer at fixed times; what is important is the spirit. Thus, (he explains), we recommend prayer at 4:00 in the morning. I know, in the modern world, it is difficult…yet it is at this time that the spirit is most free from the matters of the world.
Mawlana Hazar Imam (Translation)
Jeune Afrique Interview (1st), Anne Loesch, (Paris, France) 15 October 1967
Thirdly, one must not think that the rites and rituals of evening Jamatkhana are not spiritual or unrelated to spirituality. The human soul, according to the teachings of the Ismaili Imams, and da’is, is identical to the self-awareness, the “I”, of each person and the human intellect which is responsible for both rational thought and intuitive contemplation, is a faculty of this human soul. To read more about the human soul in Ismaili philosophy and the rational basis for the existence of this soul, read this article. To learn more about the human intellect in Ismaili thought, read this article.
Bandagi is performed early in the morning because, as the Imam has explained on numerous occasions, this is the time when the human mind is most detached from material mundane concerns and thoughts …
Therefore, to realize the spirituality of Jamatkhana evening rituals, one must engage their rational mind and their intuitive faculty of knowing and perceiving. In summary, every Jamatkhana ritual including Du’a Karavi, Du’a, Tasbih, Ginan, Farman, Mehmani, Ghat Pat, etc. is an expression of the spiritual relationship between the Murids and the Imam as defined in the bay’ah. To perform a certain ritual is to enact and develop that aspect of one’s spiritual bond with the Imam of the Time. Even within the Ismaili Du’a, the Fifth Part contains a small component of Bandagi where Ya ‘Ali Ya Muhammad is recited in silence. A suggested in the Ginan Brahm Prakash and other Ginans, the first bol that the Jamat of South Asia used in Bandagi was Shah-Pir, and in modern times, the Ya ‘Ali-Ya Muhammad invocation is the equivalent of Shah-Pir. So the Du’a does contain this small foretaste of Baytul Khayal Bandagi. In fact, the entire Ismaili Du’a symbolizes the full spiritual journey of the Ismaili Murid from the worship of God to the recognition (ma’rifah) of the tawhid of God through the Imam of the Time. This can be read about in more detail in this article.