ḎU’L-FAQĀR (lit., “provided with notches, grooves, vertebrae”), the “miraculous sword” of Imam ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭāleb, with two blades or points, which became a symbol of his courage on the battlefield. According to some sources, it was taken as booty at the battle of Badr (2/624) by the Prophet Moḥammad, who gave it to ʿAlī at the battle of Oḥod (3/625). A voice is supposed to have recited lā sayf ellā Ḏu’l-Faqār wa lā fatā ellā ʿAlī (There is no sword but Ḏu’l-Faqār, and there is no one brave but ʿAlī; Ṭabarī, I/3, pp. 1359, 1402; in the Shiʿite tradition lā fatā … comes first; Balʿamī, ed. Rowšan, III, p. 169; Dehḵodā, s.v. Ḏu’l-Faqār; cf. Dozy, II, s.v. faqara; both versions of this formula became popular as inscriptions on swords throughout the Islamic world; Mittwoch).
Some early Shiʿites believed that Ḏu’l-Faqār was brought down from heaven by the archangel Gabriel and given, together with other relics of the Prophet, as a sign to the imams (Kolaynī, I, pp. 337 ff.; cf. Donaldson, pp. 82-83). It supposedly bore the inscription wa lā yoqtal Moslem be-kāfer (no Muslim shall be slain by an unbeliever; Ebn Saʿd, apud Mittwoch; 1960, p. 486; cf. Moosa, pp. 186-87, 365). On the day of resurrection ʿAlī is supposed to wield the apocalyptic Ḏu’l-Faqār (Ayoub, p. 229).
In Omm al-ketāb it is claimed that Ḏu’l-Faqār was imbued with spiritual power by God’s command, according to sayings attributed to the fifth imam, Moḥammad al-Bāqer (d. ca. 117/735; cf. Moosa, p. 72). Later it was supposedly in the possession of Imam ʿAlī al-Reżā (d. 203/818; Kolaynī, I, pp. 339-40) and was said eventually to have fallen into the hands of the ʿAbbasids (Mittwoch). The sword also figured in the beliefs of the Ahl-e Ḥaqq of western Persia (Moosa, p. 207), where it represented the angel Moṣṭafā, incarnation of divine fury (Mokri, p. 378; tr., p. 132; for beliefs about Ḏu’l-Faqār in other Shiʿite sects, see Moosa, pp. 71, 337-38).
Ḏu’l-Faqārbecame the most prominent ʿAlid symbol andis omnipresent in Shiʿite rituals. In Turkish and Persian maqtal-nāmas (martyrdom narratives), down to Ḥosayn Wāʿeẓ Kāšefī’s 16th-century Rawżat al-šohadāʾ, Imam Ḥosayn carries it in his hand at the battle of Karbalāʾ (Calmard, pp. 226, 528). The “avenger” of Ḥosayn’s blood, Moḥammad b. Ḥanafīya, also fights with it (Calmard, p. 264). ʿAlī (Ḥaydar-e Karrār “the impetuous lion”) and Ḏu’l-Faqār were often celebrated in Persian classical poetry by Šahīd Balḵī, Farroḵī, Manučehrī, Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow, Masʿūd-e Saʿd, Sūzanī, Ḵāqānī, and others (Dehḵodā, s.vv.), as well as in Sunni, Shiʿite, and especially Sufi devotional poetry. In the 13th century Jalāl-al-Dīn Moḥammad Rūmī portrayed Ḏu’l-Faqār as the incarnation of al-Ḥaqq (lit., “divine truth,” in a Sufi context referring to God; Moosa, p. 71). Shah Esmāʿīl I “Ḵaṭāʾī,” (907-30/1501-24), in his Azeri Turkish Dīvān, also claimed to carry it as a sign (Calmard, p. 480).
Although it was used particularly for finials on banners and standards in Safavid and Qajar Persia, Ḏu’l-Faqār seems to have been more popular in Ottoman and Mughal domains. This impression may result partly from the fact that in the Persian lion-and-sun emblem the lion, symbolizing ʿAlī, generally does not wield a two-bladed sword (Malcolm, pp. 565-66; cf. Jamālzāda; Nayyer Nūrī; Ḏokāʾ). Double-bladed or double-pointed swords were represented on coins, however. There are also representations with notched, undulating two-edged blades and a small double point (Ḏokāʾ, 1344 Š./1965, pp. 21-22, figs. 17, 19; cf. Survey of Persian Art, pl. 1423E). In the hierarchy of the fotowwa (lit., “brotherhoods”), the Persian origin of which has now been demonstrated (Baldick), Ḏu’l-Faqār was the emblem of the intermediate level, “those of the sword” (Ṣṟarrāf, p. 108; cf. Baldick, p. 351). Images of the double-pointed sword on banners carried among the marāteb (“dignities”) in Moḥarram processions in India are called barzaḵī or qodratī, perhaps reflecting Savafid usage (Šarīf, pp. 160-61, fig. 11: a pair of scissors). The main banner of the Qoṭbšāhīs of Golconda (901-1098/1496-1697) was provided with two large “arms” representing ʿAlī’s sword (Greenfield, p. 269).
As ʿAlī and his family are venerated by most Muslims, representations of Ḏòu’l-Faqār are common in both official and popular iconography. In Sufi letter symbolism the lām-alef, considered a single letter, is often compared to a sword (or to scissors) and particularly to Ḏu’l-Faqār (Schimmel, p. 419; for other types of imagery, cf. Lassy, p. 214; see Figure 28 and Figure 29, below). In popular Turkish iconography the letter yāʾ in ʿAlī’s name is often extended to form a two-bladed sword(Aksel, pp. 49, 61, 124-25). Ḏu’l-Faqār was also abundantly represented in 17th-century Mughal miniature paintings (Titley, index, s.v. Ḏū’l-faḳār).
In Islamic folklore Ḏu’l-Faqār is connected with magic, and from as early as Fatimid times there have been many legends about its miraculous origin and its two blades or points, effective against the evil eye or any enemy (Zawadowski, p. 37). The image of ʿAlī and Ḏu’l-Faqār was popular on amulets accompanied by the koranic verses used against the evil eye (68:51-52; Donaldson, pp. 130-31, 240). Many mountain passes are said to have been cut by ʿAlī’s magic sword, and some actually bear the name Ḏu’l-Faqār, particularly those near Torbat-e Jām, Tang-e Šamšīrbor, Fīrūzkūh, and Ṭāq-e ʿAlī near Kermān (Massé, Croyances II, p. 411; Dehḵodā, s.v.). Warm springs near Mašhad are also said to be the result of such a stroke. Whenever ʿAlī drew Ḏu’l-Faqār the mountain of Qāf is supposed to have trembled (Donaldson, pp. 90, 150; cf. Moosa, p. 71).
Ḏu’l-Faqār also became a widely used laqab (honorific), often attached to another title (“beg,” “khan,” “pasha,” “sultan,” etc.).
Figure 29. The invocation yā ʿAlī, with reference to ʿAlī also in the human-faced lion and the double-bladed sword. Turkish, influenced by letter symbolism propagated by the Persian and Turkish Ḥorūfīya sect. (Drawing by Jacqueline Calmard after Aksel, p. 88.)
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Originally Published: December 15, 1996
Last Updated: December 1, 2011
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Vol. VII, Fasc. 6, pp. 566-568