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TEACHINGS FOR THE SHI’A FROM THE HOUSEHOLD OF THE PROPHET – 1

Introduction

The Imams of the Household knew that power would not return to them in their own lifetimes, and that the Shi’a would remain under the rule of others, and that they would be obliged to use force and violence to struggle against this rule.

At the same time, it was natural for them to conceal their religion and the way that they followed, as long as taqiyyah did not cause bloodshed and did not bring harm to others or to Islam; thus they endeavoured to stay in this sea of troubles, treachery, hatred and vengeance against the Household.

It was necessary, because of this, for the Imams to devote their time to teaching their followers the fundamentals of the Islamicshari’ah in a special way, and to guide them in correct social behaviour so that they might become examples of perfect, just Muslims.

The way of the Household as regards teaching cannot be explained in this short book, and the famous books ofahadith can be consulted for examples of their teachings on religious education. However, it is not a bad idea to indicate here some of these teachings which can be gathered together under the general heading of their doctrines concerning the teaching of their followers. These concern their moral teachings dealing with social behaviour and those things which may bring their followers closer to Allah, how to cleanse the heart from unclean things, and how to be honest. We have already mentioned, in the discussion oftaqiyyah, some of the things about useful social behaviour, and in the following pages we shall mention some further important matters.

  1. The Doctrine Concerning du’a’

The Prophet said:

Du’a’ is a weapon for the believer, a pillar of din, and a light of the heaven and the earth.

and here is truth. It became one of the peculiarities of the Shi’a by which they are distinguished. They have written many books mentioning its importance, and the correct way of performing these supplications, and from thesead’iyah (pl. ofdu’a’) which have been transmitted from the Household, hundreds of books, large and small, have been written, wherein are stored the aims of the Prophet and his Household, urging their followers and encouraging them to recitedu’a’. From them have been transmitted:

The best worship isdu’a’.
The most beloved action in the view of Allah on earth isdu’a’.
Du’a’ can remove calamities and retribution (which would otherwise have been ordained by Divine decree).
Du’a’ is the cure for every sickness.

The first Imam, Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Ali (A.S.), was much given todu’a’, and this is clear because he was the leader in monotheism (Sayyid al-muwahhiddi) and the Chief among believers (Imam al-alihiyyin) and hisad’iyah and sermons are masterpieces of Arabic eloquence: for instance, thedu’a’ of Kumayl ibn Ziyad al-Mashhur. And they contain enough Divine and religious education to enable one to tread the right path to being a perfect Muslim.

In fact, thead’iyah which are transmitted from the Prophet and his Household are the best guidance for a Muslim. When he thinks deeply about them, they will stimulate in him strength of faith and belief and the spirit of sacrifice in the path of Allah, and will reveal to him the mystery of worship, and the sweetness of praying to Allah and abandoning everything but Him. They will teach him what is incumbent on a human being to know about his religion, and what will bring him close to Allah, and take him far from corruption, his desires and false innovations. In short, in thesead’iyah have been stored the summary of education as regards morality, training of the soul and Islamic beliefs; but they are, at the same time, the most important source of philosophical ideas for investigating theology and for the study of ethics.

If people could follow the guidance contained in the elevated meanings of thesead’iyah – but, alas, they will not be able to do so – no trace of the corruption which fills the earth would be found, and those souls which are bound by their sins could go to the Heaven of Truth freely. But it is a near impossibility to pay attention to these reformers who have called humanity to the way of Truth. So the word of Allah has revealed to mankind:

Most surely (man’s) soul is wont to command (him to do) evil. (11;53)

And most men will not believe though you desire it eagerly. (11;103)

The source of badness in man is self-deception and an ignorance of his faults caused by denying their existence, thus making them seem good. So he oppresses others, seizes their property, lies, flatters, obeys his own desires, and then deceives himself that he is not really obeying his desires, but that these things need to be done, so as to make his sins seem very insignificant. The following transmitteddu’a’, which takes its strength from Divine revelation, influences man to withdraw himself and to be alone with Allah, and shows him how to confess his sins and to understand that he is an evil-doer, and that he must devote his time to asking forgiveness from Allah, and reminding himself of his self-deception. Thus the reciter supplicates Allah from thedu’a’ of Kumayl ibn Ziyad:

Would that I knew my Lord, my Master! How canst Thou bring down Fire on faces who fall d own in prostration to Thy Greatness, or on tongues who speak sincerely of Thy Unity and- thank Thee with their praises, or on hearts who attest to Thy Divinity with certainty, or on minds who have acquired knowledge of Thee to such an extent that they are humbled, or on limbs who have travelled afar to worship Thee obediently and to show their repentance through their submission to Thy Will. We cannot imagine that Thou wilt deal with us thus; this is not what we have been taught of Thy Generosity.

Repeat the recitation of this passage and reflect on the delicateness of the remonstrance, its eloquence and the enchantment of its exposition.

At the same time as it inspires the soul to confess its short-comings and its servitude, it also instructs it not to despair of the Mercy and Kindness of Allah. Then it speaks to the soul in a clever and subtle manner, and instructs it in its highest duties, and makes incumbent upon it the thorough performance of these duties. It teaches the soul how man, through the performance of these duties, may deserve the granting of forgiveness by Allah, and this is what causes man to listen to his soul and to do what is necessary for him to do, when formerly he was not carrying out his obligations. Then follows another style of remonstrance from the samedu’a’:

Answer me, O my God, my Master and my Lord!
I may endure Thy punishment, but how can I endure separation from Thee?
O, answer me, my Lord!
I may endure the heat of Hell, but how can I endure not to look upon Thy Munificence?

This is instruction for the soul in the necessity of taking pleasure in the nearness of Allah, and observing His Kindness and His Power, and loving and desiring what He possesses. Taking pleasure in nearness to Him may reach such a degree that to be without it is worse for the soul than punishment and the heat of Hell. It may be that man can endure the fire of Hell, but he cannot endure to be abandoned. As these passages lead us to understand, love and taking pleasure in closeness to Allah is the best intercession for a guilty person, that Allah may forgive and pardon him. The delicateness of this kind of wonder and adulation of Allah Who accepts repentance and forgives sin will not remain unheard.

It would not be a bad thing to end this exposition with a shortdu’a’ which lists the highest virtues, and also tells us what is necessary in order that every part and category of humanity may be endowed with the best qualities.

O Lord! Give us steadfastness in obedience and keep us far from sin,
give us sincerity in intention, and knowledge of that which is sacred;
bestow on us guidance and constancy,
seal our tongues with reason and wisdom,
fill our hearts with knowledge and learning,
keep us clean within from what is forbidden and
from those things of which we are uncertain,
keep our hands from oppression and stealing,
hide from our eyes immorality and treachery,
and close our ears to foolish talk and calumny.

Bestow on our’ulama’ freedom from concupiscence
and the ability to give good counsel;
on our scholars, application and desire for their studies;
and on those who listen to them, obedience to their spiritual advice.
And on those Muslims who are sick, bestow comfort and cure;
and on our dead, compassion and mercy.

And on our aged, dignity and calm,
on our youth acceptance and the true faith and repentance.
And on women, modesty and chastity,
on the rich, humility and generosity,
and on the poor, patience and contentedness.
And on the fighters for Islam, victory and triumph,
on those who are prisoners of the enemy,
freedom and peace.
And on the rulers, justice and kindness,
and on the people they rule, fairness and good behaviour.
And help the pilgrims to Mecca and the Holy Shrines to be
charitable with their provisions
and their wealth, and help them to perform
what is proscribed for thehajj and the’umrah.
Grant this through Thy Overflowing Generosity and Thy Mercy,
O Merciful and Compassionate!

I recommend you, my brothers, the readers, not to miss the opportunity of reciting thesead’iyah, paying attention to their meaning and their purpose, and through presence of mind drawing near and listening to Allah with humility, reading them as if they are speaking of oneself, and following the rites that are proscribed with them by the Household of the Prophet; because reading them mindlessly, merely mouthing the words, will not increase man’s knowledge, or cause him to draw near to Allah, none of his troubles will be resolved, and hisdu’a’ will not be accepted.

Allah does not acceptdu’a’ from a darkened heart, so when you recite adu’a’, draw near with your heart and do not doubt that it will be accepted.

  1. Themes in the ad’iyah from as-Sahifat as-Sajjadiyyah

After the deplorable tragedy (of Karbala’), and after the Ummayids had taken over the leadership of the Islamic community, they committed excesses in oppression, revelled in bloodshed and made a mockery of Islamic teachings. There was no alternative for Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, Sayyid as-Sajidin (A.S.) but to remain in the seclusion of his own home, dejected and full of sorrow. No-one dared to approach him in his house, and he was forbidden to guide the people as they should have been.

He was forced to adopt the method ofdu’a’ (as we have mentioned, this is one of the methods of nurturing purity of character) as a means of propagating the teachings of the Qur’an, the principles of Islam, and the message of the Household of the Prophet, of instilling in the minds of the people a sense of spirituality and piety, and as a means to the necessary purification of the soul and morality. This was a method of dissemination that he adopted to teach people without arousing the suspicions of the tyrannical rulers, and without giving them any evidence with which to condemn him. That is why we see that most of these eloquentad’iyah, some of which have been collected together in as-Sahifat as-Sajjadiyyah, also known as Zabur Ali Muhammad (The Psalms of the Household of the Prophet), consist of various topics in Islamic learning. Their style and meaning count them among the greatest examples of authorship in Arabic literature; they are the embodiment of the teachings of the true religion; they contain the innermost subtleties oftawhid andnubuwwat; and they constitute the best way to propagate the ethics of Muhammad and Islamic morality. Thus they are spiritual and ethical teachings in the style ofad’iyah, orad’iyah in accordance with spiritual teachings and ethics. Without doubt, after the Qur’an and Nahj al-Balaghah these are the greatest examples of literary style in Arabic, and the best philosophical discussions of theological matters and ethics.

From then, we understand how to praise Allah and how to sing his glories and how to thank Him and turn to Him in repentance; and it is in this way that we can understand how to establish communion with Allah and to express our secrets to Him in private, and how to become solely dependent on Him. It is by this method that we are made to understand the meaning behind invoking benedictions on the Prophet of Allah, on His Messengers and Chosen Ones from His creation, and the manner of doing this. It is thus that we can understand how we should do good towards our parents – the obligations of the father towards the son, and of the son towards the father, as well as the obligations towards one’s relatives and neighbours, and the obligations of all Muslims in general obligations of the poor towards the rich, and vice versa.

We are warned about repaying our debts towards others, about how we should act in commerce and business, and about how we should cooperate with our relatives, friends and all people with their interests at heart. In this way, all the good qualities in man are brought out. These ad’iyah comprise a comprehensive system of instructions in the science of ethics.

By reciting them we can come to know how to show patience in the midst of hardships and difficulties, and how to face both sickness and health. They explain the duties of Islamic armies and their soldiers, and the duties of the people towards these soldiers, and many other things which are in accordance with the essence of Islam and the revealedshari’ah, and all this has been done only in the form of thedu’a’.

The following themes are recurrent in the Sahifah, and are frequent.
a) A description of Allah and His Grandeur and Power and a description of His Oneness and Transcendence, couched in the most exact and scholarly terms. This theme occurs in almost all of thead’iyah in various styles and ways of expression. For instance, in the firstdu’a’ we come across the following passage:

All praise is due to Allah, the First before Whom no being preceded, and the Last after Whom will be no other.

Whom the eyes of those who see cannot perceive, and Whom our descriptive imagination cannot envisage.
With His Power He brought Creation into being out of nothingness, and made His creatures totally subservient to His Will.

In this passage, he has explained the exact nature of the eternity of Allah, and has set Him above the level at which sight and mind may encompass His Being and has referred to the true nature of the Creation of Allah.

In the sixthdu’a’ the Power of Allah and His regulation of the universe are referred to in a different manner.

All praise is due to Allah Who created day and night by His Might, and made them different from one another by His Power, confined them both to specific limits, each following on the heels of the other, so that people might obtain their sustenance and might grow;

He created night for them so that they might relax from the stress of life, and from excessive fatigue, and made it a garment of comfort and rest for people so that it might be for them a gathering of new strength, and an enjoyment of leisure and sensual delights.

He continues mentioning the wisdom of the days and the nights, and how it is a duty for man to be thankful and grateful to Allah for them.

In the seventhdu’a’ the fact that everything is in the hand of Allah is described in the following way:

O Allah! through Whose Will the knots of problems are unravelled.
O Allah! with Whom we take refuge in times of hardship.
O Allah! to Whom we look for relief in times of misfortune.
It is Thy Might before which even the most brazen are humiliated, and it is through Thy Grace that the ways to make better our situation are provided.
Destiny is determined by Thy Power, and things follow the dictates of Thy Will.
That which Thou dost order hastens to the bidding of Thy Will without waiting for Thy Command, and according to Thy Wish is withheld without Your Forbidding.

  1. b) The second recurring theme of as-Sahifat as-Sajjadiyyah concerns the Bounties and Grace of Allah towards man, and the inability of man to pay back what is due through worship and obedience to his Lord, and through sole reliance on Him. Thus we read in the thirty-eighthdu’a’:

O Allah! No-one is able to complete his thanksgiving to Thee without new bounties being bestowed upon him which require further gratitude;
and no-one reaches the level of complete obedience, try he ever so hard, without being short by that which Thy Grace bestows on him;
thus Thy most thankful servant offers his thanks to Thee, but not as he ought to, and Thy most devoted servant obeys Thee, but always short of perfect obedience.

Due to the magnitude and multitude of the bounties of Allah, which never stop, even for one moment, it is impossible for man to thank Allah as he should (even if he is grateful and obedient to Him), so how could one who has committed one act of ingratitude make up for it, even if he were to do all that was in his power to make amends. This is what is suggested in the following quotation from the sixteenthdu’a’:

O Allah! Were I to weep until I became blind, were I to moan until I lost my voice, were I to stand in prayer until my feet could no longer support me, were I to bow inruku’ until my back was paralysed, were I to prostrate before Thee until I became a skeleton, were I to eat clay all my life or to drink the most filthy water until the end of my days, were I to sing Thy Glory until my tongue dried up,
even then I could not raise up my eyes to the heavens because of my shame, undeserving to request the erasing of even a single one of the sins which I have committed in my life.

  1. c) The third most common theme of thead’iyah concerns Divine reward and punishment, Hell and Paradise; and it is pointed out again and again that Allah rewards his servants solely on the basis of His Grace and Mercy; for man deserves nothing but punishment even for the minutest of his sins. All thead’iyah of as-Sahifat as-Sajjadiyyah make mention of this theme, in order to produce in man a sense of fear of the punishment of Allah and hope for His reward and Mercy. All this is conveyed to such an effective manner and style that it generates in the heart an intense fear and awe, and saves man from falling into the abyss of sin. For instance, we read in the forty -sixthdu’a’:

The signs are clear, and Thy Supremacy is eternal and will not diminish,
therefore eternally beset with misfortune is he who disobeys Thee, and ignominiously lost is he who turns away from Thee, and the worst calamity befalls he who strays from Thee.
How fiercely he will be overtaken by Thy punishment, and how long he will linger in that terrible state, how far he will be from any remission, and how hopeless a state he will be in.
The sentence passed by Thee will be the just sentence, and the Justice of Thy decision cannot be challenged. Thou hast made all things exceedingly clear, and no room for excuse has been left. . . .

Or as we read in the thirty-firstdu’a’:

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