Glimpses From the Supplications of Imam Zayn Al-Abideen

By AhlulBayt Islamic Mission

Al-Sahifat Al-Sajjadiyya is the oldest prayer manual in Islamic sources and one of the most seminal works of Islamic spirituality of the early period. It was composed by the Prophet’s great grandson, Imam Ali ibn al-Husayn [a], known as Zayn al-‘Abidin (`the adornment of the worshippers’), and has been cherished in Shi’ite sources from earliest times. Zayn al-‘Abidin was the fourth of the Shi’ite Imams. Shi’ite tradition considers the Sahifa a book worthy of the utmost veneration, ranking it behind only the Qur’an and Ali’s Nahj al-Balagha.

The title Al-Sahifat al-Sajjadiyya means simply `The Book of al-Sajjad’. Al-Sajjad is one of the titles given to Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin [a] and signifies `the one who constantly prostrates himself in prayer’. The book is often called Al-Sahifat al-Kamilat al-Sajjadiyya, that is, The “Perfect”, or “Complete”, Book of al-Sajjad.

According to its commentator Sayyid Alikhan Shirazi, the word kamila refers to the perfection of the style and content; some sources state that the adjective was added to differentiate it from another, incomplete version of the work, which is known among the Zaydis, but this seems less likely, given the manner in which the title is employed in the preface. The Sahifa has been called by various honorifics, such as ‘Sister of the Qur’an‘, ‘Gospel of the Folk of the House‘, and ‘Psalms of the Household of Muhammad‘.

His Supplication on Seeking Asylum with Allah [swt]:

“O Allah, if You will, You will pardon us through Your bounty, and if You will, You will chastise us through Your justice. So make our ways smooth to Your pardon through Your kindness and grant us sanctuary from Your chastisement through Your forbearance, for none of us has the endurance for Your justice and none of us can reach deliverance without Your pardon! O Richest of the Rich, here we are, Your servants, before You. I am the neediest of the needy toward You, so redress our neediness through Your abundance and cut us not off from our hopes through Your withholding, lest You make wretched him who seeks felicity through You and deprive him who seeks help from Your bounty! Then to whom would we return after You? Where would we go from Your gate? Glory be to You! We are the distressed, the response to whom You have made incumbent, the people from whom You have promised to remove the evil. That thing most resembling Your will and that affair most worthy for You in Your mightiness is showing mercy to him who asks You for mercy and helping him who seeks help from You. So show mercy upon our pleading with You and free us from need when we throw ourselves before You! O Allah, Satan will gloat over us if we follow him in disobeying You, so bless Mohammed and his Household and let him not gloat over us after we have renounced him for You and beseeched You against him! [1]

In this holy supplication we feel that the Imām, peace be on him, sought asylum with Allah and clung to Him. He, peace be on him, showed that he was poor and in need of Allah’s pardon and bounty. He asked Allah not to deprive him of His bounty and not to cut him off from his hopes through His withholding, lest he (the Imām) should be wretched after his felicity through Him. Besides, the Imām, peace be on him, showed abasement and pleading before the Almighty Creator to the extent that he became among the lords of the pious and those who turned in repentance to Allah, the Glorified.

His Supplication on Fleeing to Allah [swt]:

“O Allah, I showed sincerity by cutting myself off from everything but You. I approached You with my whole self. I averted my face from everyone who needs Your support. I ceased to ask from anyone who cannot do without Your bounty. I saw that the needy who seeks from the needy is foolish in his opinion, and misguided in his intellect. How many people have I seen, my Allah, who sought exaltation through other than You and were abased, who wanted wealth from someone else and became poor, who tried to rise high and fell down low! Observing the likes of them corrects a prudent man; his taking heed gives him success; his choosing the best guides him to the path of right. So You, my Master, are the object of my asking to the exclusion of all those who are asked and the patron of my need to the exclusion of all those from whom requests are made. You are singled out for my call before all who are called; none is associated with You in my hope, none comes along with You in my supplication, nor does any join with You within it, for to You is my appeal. To You, my Allah, belongs the Unity of number, the property of eternal power, the excellence of force and strength, the degree of sublimity and elevation. Everyone other than You is the object of compassion in his lifetime, overcome in his affair, overwhelmed in his situation, diverse in states, constantly changing in attributes. So You are high exalted above likeness and opposites, proudly magnified beyond similitudes and rivals! Glory be to You! There is no Allah but You.[2]”

In this masterpiece, we feel that the Imām completely dedicated himself to Allah, the Glorified. He approached Him with his feelings and sentiments. He averted his face and heart from other creatures who need Allah’s support, for regarding them in hope and expectation is foolishness in opinion and misguidance in intellect. The Imām, peace be on him, attributed all sources of benefit and strength to Allah, the Glorified. He criticized those who sought glory, wealth and exaltation from other than Allah. He showed that they became poor and fell down low. So those who seek good, exaltation, and dignity should devote themselves to Allah, Who has power over everything. As for those other than Allah, they are the object of compassion in their lifetime, overcome in their affair, overwhelmed in their situation, diverse in states, constantly changing in attributes. This supplication shows pure faith and the essence of the Oneness of Allah.

His Supplication on Seeking Needs from Allah [swt]:

“O Allah, O ultimate object of my needs! O He through whom requests are attained! O He whose favors are not bought by prices! O He who does not stain His gifts by the imposition of obligations! O He along with whom nothing is needed and without whom nothing can be done! O He toward whom desire is ever directed and never turned away! O He whose treasuries cannot be exhausted by demands! O He whose wisdom cannot be altered by any means! O He from whom the needs of the needy are never cut off! O He who is not distressed by the supplications of the supplicators! You have lauded Yourself for having no need for Your creatures, and it suits You to have no need for them, and You have attributed to them poverty, and it suits to them to be poor toward You. So he who strives to remedy his lack through what is with You and wishes to turn poverty away from himself through You has sought his need in the most likely place and come to his request from the right quarter.

However, he who turns in his need toward one of Your creatures or assigns the cause of its being granted to other than You, has exposed himself to deprivation and deserves to miss Your beneficence.

“ O Allah, I have a need of You: My exertion has fallen short of it and my stratagems have been cut back before reaching it. My soul induced me to present it to him who presents his need to You and can do nothing without You in his requests, but this is one of the slips of the offenders, one of the stumbles of the sinners! Then through Your reminding me I was aroused from my heedlessness, through Your giving success, I stood up from my slip, and through Your pointing the way, I returned and withdrew from my stumble. I said: Glory to my Lord! How can the needy ask from the needy? How can the destitute beseech the destitute? So I went straight to You, my Lord in beseeching, and I sent You my hope with trust in You. I came to know that the many I request from You are few before Your wealth, the weighty I ask from You is vile before your plenty; Your generosity is not constrained by anyone’s asking. Your hand is higher in bestowing gifts than every hand!

“O Allah, so bless Mohammed and his Household, take me through Your generosity to Your gratuitous bounty and take me not through Your justice to what I deserve! I am not the first beseecher to beseech You and You bestowed upon him while he deserved withholding, nor I am the first to ask from You and You were bounteous toward him while he merited deprivation.

“O Allah, bless Mohammed and his Household, respond to my supplication, come near my call, have mercy on my pleading, listen to my voice, cut not short my hope for You, severe not my thread to You, turn not my face in this my need, and other needs, away from You, attend for my sake to the fulfillment of my request, the granting of my need, and the attainment of what I have asked before I leave this place through Your making easy for me the difficult and Your excellent ordainment for me in all affairs! Bless Mohammed and his Household with a permanent, ever-growing blessing, whose perpetuity has no cutting off and whose term knows no limit, and make that a help to me and a cause for the granting of my request! You are boundless, Generous![3]”

After this supplication, the Imām, peace be on him, stated his need, prostrated himself, and said in his supplication: “Your bounty has comforted me and Your beneficence has shown me the way, so I ask You by You and by Mohammed and his Household (Your blessing be upon them) that You send me not back in disappointment!”

This holy supplication shows the firm clinging of the Imām, peace be on him, to Allah and his great belief in Him. The Imām firmly believed that Allah, the Glorified, was the only ultimate object whom servants asked for their needs, that He bestowed on them His blessings and favors, and that He did not sell these favors to them by prices, nor did He stain them by the imposition of obligations. Man has no need of others through Allah’s gifts. All the creatures are in need of Allah’s generosity while He, the Exalted, is in no need of them. Indeed, the clever and knowledgeable one is he who turns in his need to Allah only. As for the one who turns in his need to other than Allah, he exposes himself to deprivation and is worthy of missing beneficence. The Imām, peace be on him, asked Allah, the Glorified, for forgiveness and good pleasure, and then he came to know that the many favors he requested from Allah were few before Him, the Exalted. Besides he came to know that Allah had bounteous gifts and His hand was higher in bestowing gifts than every hand.

Indeed this Imām is the lord of those who have knowledge of Allah and Imām of the pious. His supplications and whispered prayers contain many lessons which are necessary for purifying souls of disobedience and wickedness.

His Pleading and Humbleness Before Allah [swt]:

“O Allah, I praise You-and You are worthy of praise-for Your benefaction toward me, the lavishness of Your favors toward me, Your plentiful bestowal upon me, and for showing bounty toward me through Your mercy and lavishing Your favor upon me. You have done well toward me and I am incapable of thanking You. Were it not for Your beneficence toward me and the lavishness of Your favors upon me, I would not have reached the taking of my share nor would my soul have been set right, but You began with beneficence toward me, provided me sufficiency in all my affairs, turned me away from the toil of affliction, and held back from me the feared decree.

“My Allah, how many a toilsome affliction which You have turned away from me! How many a lavish favor with which You gladdened my eye! How many a generous benefaction of Yours which is present with me! It is You who responded to my supplication at the time of distress, released me from my slip in stumbling, and took my enemies to task for doing wrong to me. My Allah, I did not find You a miser when I asked of You nor a withholder when I desired form You. No, I found You a hearer of my supplication and a bestower of my requests; I found Your favors toward me lavish in my every situation and in my every time. So You are praised by me and Your benefaction honored. My soul, my tongue, and my intelligence praise You, a praise that reaches fulfillment and the reality of thanksgiving, a praise that attains to Your good pleasure with me – so deliver me from Your displeasure! O my cave when the ways thwart me! O He who releases me from my stumble! Were it not for Your covering my shameful defects, I would be one of the disgraced. O my confirmer through help! Were it not for Your helping me, I would be one of the overcome! O He before whom kings place the yoke of lowliness around their necks, fearing his penalties! O worthy of reverential fear! O He to whom belong the names most beautiful! I ask You to pardon me and to forgive me, for I am not innocent that I should offer excuse, nor a possessor of strength that I should gain victory, nor have I any place of flight that I should flee! I ask You to release me from my stumbles, and before You I disavow my sins, which have laid me waste, encompassed me, and destroyed me! I flee from them to You, my Lord, turning repentantly, so turn toward me, seeking refuge, so grant me refuge, asking sanctuary, so abandon me not, requesting, so deprive me not, holding fast, so leave me not, supplicating, so send me not back disappointed! I have supplicated You, my Lord, as one miserable, abased, apprehensive, fearful, quaking, poor, driven to have recourse to You! I complain to You, my Lord, of my soul- which is too weak to hurry to that which You have promised Your friends or to avoid that against which You have cautioned Your enemies- and of the multitude of my concerns, and of my soul’s confusing thoughts.

“My Allah, You have not disgraced me through my secret thoughts or destroyed me because of my misdeeds! I call upon You, and You respond even if I am slow when You call upon me. I ask You everything I want of my needs, and I deposit with You my secret wherever I may be. I supplicate to no one besides You, and I hope for no one other than You. At Your service! At Your service! You hear him who complains to You! You receive him who has confidence in You! You save him who holds fast to You! You give relief to him who seeks shelter in You.

“My Allah, so deprive me not of the good of the last world and the first because of the paucity of my thanksgiving and forgive me the sins of mine which You know! If You chastise, I am the wrongdoer, the neglecter, the derelict, the sluggard, the heedless of the share of my soul! And If You forgive- You are the Most merciful of the merciful![4]”

This holy supplication is full of pleading, humbleness, and submission to the Almighty Creator. The Imām, peace be on him, praised Allah with the praise that resulted from belief, knowledge, and sincerity. He acknowledged his falling short of thanking Allah for His lavish blessings and favors. After that he asked Allah for pardon and forgiveness, seeking refuge in Him. He, peace be on him, showed great fear and apprehension to the extent that the souls and hearts quiver.

His Supplication in Abasing himself:

“My Lord, my sins have silenced me, and my words have been cut off. I have no argument, for I am the prisoner of my own affliction, the hostage to my works, the frequenter of my own offense, the confused in my intended way, the thwarted. I have brought myself in a halt in the halting place of the abased sinners, the halting place of the wretched and insolent, those who think lightly of Your promise. Glory be to You! What insolence I have insolently shown toward You! What delusion with which I have deluded myself! My Master, have mercy on my falling flat on my face, the slipping of my foot, grant me my ignorance through Your clemency, and my evildoing through Your beneficence, for I admit my sin and I confess my offense: Here are my hand and my forelock! I am resigned to retaliation against my soul! Have mercy on my white hair, the depletion of my days, the nearing of my term, my frailty, my misery, and the paucity of my stratagems! My Master, and have mercy upon me when my trace is cut off from this world, my name is effaced among the creatures, and I join the forgotten, like the forgotten ones! My Master, and have mercy upon me at the change of my form and state when my body decays, my limbs are scattered, and my joints are dismembered! O my heedlessness toward what was wanted from me! My Master, have mercy upon me at my mustering and uprising and on that day, appoint my standing place with Your friends, my place of emergence with Your beloved ones, and my dwelling in Your neighborhood! O Lord of the worlds![5]”

Notes:

[1] – Sermon No. 10

[2] – Sermon No. 28

[3] – Sermon No. 13

[4] – Sermon No. 51

[5] – Sermon No. 53

The article first appeared on the AhlulBayt Islamic Mission website.