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TEACHINGS FOR THE SHI’A FROM THE HOUSEHOLD OF THE PROPHET – 2

O Allah! Have Mercy on the one standing alone in front of Thee, my heart beating through fear of Thee, my limbs trembling in awe of Thee.

O Lord! My sins cause me to stand ashamed before Thee; if I keep silence, no-one will speak on my behalf. even if someone would intercede for me, I have no right to intercession.

We also read in the thirty-thirddu’a’:

If Thou shouldst punish me justly, I should perish, but if Thou shouldst pour on me Thy Mercy, I should retain my existence. . . .
And lift from me the burden of my sins whose weight has bent my back, and I beg help from Thee for the heaviness which brings my knees to the ground.
May peace be upon Muhammad and his Family. Have Mercy on my soul for the wrong I have done to myself, and let Thy Mercy take up the load of my sins. . . .

  1. d) The fourth merit of thosead’iyah is to lift the one who recites them towards perfection, away from evil deeds and badness of character, to cleanse his conscience and purify his heart, as we read in the twentiethdu’a’:

O Allah! Increase the sincerity of my intentions by Thy Kindness, and strengthen my certainty of Thee, and by Thy Power correct my faults. . . .
O Lord! Bring peace to Muhammad and his Family, grant me correct guidance that I may not change, and a true path from which I may not deviate, and integrity of intention that I may not doubt. . . .
O Allah! Do not leave me any characteristic which may be a blemish on me without correcting it, or any defect which is a misfortune for me without improving it, or any imperfect quality without perfecting it.

  1. e) The fifth theme is to inspire the one who recites thead’iyah to realise the necessity for independence from others, not to demean himself in front of them, and not to rely for his needs on any but Allah. For greediness for things which belong to others is one of the worst characteristics a man can have. We read in the twentiethdu’a’:

Do not tempt me to beg from anyone but Thee, or to demean myself by asking from anyone but Thee when I am in need, or to implore anyone but Thee when I am afraid,
so that from these things I merit being abandoned by Thee, being deprived of Thy blessings, or being ignored by Thee.

And in the twenty-eighthdu’a’:

O Allah! Verily I have sincerely devoted myself to Thee, and I have turned away from (relying on) those who (in fact) need Thy help, and I no longer beg from those who are in need of Thy Favour, for I have realised that for someone in need to beg from someone else in need shows the foolishness of one’s views and the delusions of one’s mind.

And again in the thirteenthdu’a’:

For someone who seeks gratification of his needs from Thee and relies for the relieving of his poverty on Thee, surely he has taken his need to the proper place, and has approached his w ants from the right direction.
And someone who comes for his needs to one of Thy creatures and has considered that someone other than Thee will be the cause of his succeeding, surely he will deserve an end to Thy Beneficence.

  1. f) Sixthly, thesead’iyah teach people the necessity of considering the rights of others, of helping them, of being compassionate and kind towards each other, of making sacrifices for somebody else’s sake, so as to make a reality of Islamic brotherhood. For example, we read in the thirty -eighthdu’a’:

O Allah I beg forgiveness from Thee for ill-treatment meted out to someone in my presence without my coming to his aid, and for kindness shown to me without my giving thanks,
and for something unpleasant for which the doer asked forgiveness from me but I refused, and for any hungry person who asked from me but I ignored,
and for the rights of a deserving believer which it was my duty to see to but to which I did not attend,
and for the defect in a believer which I noticed but did not conceal.

This asking for forgiveness is a most effective way of admonishing the soul to do those things which are necessary for exalted, divine morality.
In the thirty-ninthdu’a’ there is something more important that this. It teaches how it is your duty to forgive someone who has wronged you, and stops you from taking revenge on him, and can elevate you to the ranks of the saints.

O Allah! Anyone who has taken from me when Thou hast for bidden,
and has slandered me when Thou hast prohibited,
and has died with my shadow on him, or did this to me and is still alive, forgive him for that through which he harmed me, and do not rebuke him for that which he has done to me, and do not humiliate him for what he has taken from me.
Make the forgiveness with which I forgive them, and the gift which I have offered to them, the purest offering that anyone can offer, and the highest liberality of those near to Thee, and reward me for my forgiveness by forgiving me, and for mydu’a’ for them by Thy Mercy, so that everyone of us may rejoice through Thy Grace.

How amazing are these last phrases! and how beautifully they enter the souls of the good to warn them of the necessity for pure intentions towards all people, to make them ask for happiness for everyone even for those who have been unjust or iniquitous to them.

There are many examples of this in thead’iyah of as-Sahifat as Sajjadiyyah, and if people would only listen to their guidance, they are full of all kinds of teachings in Divine morality.

36 Our Belief in Pilgrimage (ziyarah) to the Holy Shrines

One of the practices which distinguish the Shi’a from all other Islamic sects is the attention paid to pilgrimage to the Holy Shrines, such as those of the Prophet (S.A.) and the Imams (A.S.), and the building of magnificent domes and buildings over their tombs by good will and faith.

All of these things are done through the recommendations of the Imams, for they were continually persuading and encouraging their followers to make pilgrimages, so as to derive great reward from Allah. It is one of the best forms of worship after the obligatory ones, and the shrines are the best places for supplicating and approaching Allah.
Furthermore, according to the sayings of the Imams, this, is a form of fidelity to them. Imam Rid . a (A.S.) said:

For every one of the Shi’a and their followers has an understanding with them (the Imams), and pilgrimage is a way of fulfilling and being faithful to that understanding. Whosoever undertakes a pilgrimage of his own free will, believing in it, for him the Imams will intercede with Allah on the Day of Resurrection.

There are social and religious advantages in makingziyarah. Thus our Imams have stressed its performance, for it fortifies the bond between them and their followers and reminds us of their virtues and their struggle for the truth. Moreover, it gathers Muslims together in one place so that they can get to know and establish friendships with one another, in order that the condition of obedience to Allah and devotion to his commandments becomes firmly imprinted in their hearts. And it confirms in them the true meaning of pilgrimage: the truth oftawhid, the sanctity of Islam, the prophethood of Muhammad, the various Islamic duties such as the striving for an elevated. morality, bowing down and prostrating before the Commander of all creatures, and how to thank Allah for His gifts by means of those prayers which are recited during pilgrimage. And these prayers are among those with the most exalted meanings. For example, thedu’a’ “Amin Allah” composed by Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (A.S.) when he made a pilgrimage to the grave of his grandfather ‘Ali, Amir al-Mu’minin (A.S.).

Also the recitations during the pilgrimage point out the magnificent characters of the Imams, their sacrifices in defending the truth and elevating the religion, and their perseverance in obedience to Allah. They are written in the most excellent Arabic, full of great eloquence and easily understandable phrases, and they contain the best exposition oftawhid, and supplication and prayer to Allah. Truly, among them is the greatest religious literature after the Qur’an, Nahj al-Balaghah and the other prayers of the Imams, because they have included in them summaries of their teachings on Islamic matters and morality. There are also teachings and guidance in certain pilgrimage ceremonies mentioned below for the spiritual progress of the Muslim, the cultivation of sympathy for the poor, and encouragement for fostering brotherhood, good behaviour and understanding between people.

These rites must be performed before entering the shrine and reciting the special prayer of pilgrimage, and some others must be said during or after. Here we shall indicate some of them in order to make clear what we have already said.

Firstly the pilgrim must wash himself (ghusl) as commanded in the books of Islam, and clean his body before beginning. This is so that he may rid himself of dirt, prevent disease and suffering, so that his odour does not offend others,[6] and at the same time to cleanse his spirit from moral impurities. Traditions have been narrated instructing that after completing this washing, and in order to fix his attention on these high aims, the pilgrim should say.

O Allah! Give me light and purity, and preserve me from all disease, sickness, calamity or corruption, and also through this washing purify my heart, my body, my bones, flesh and blood, my hair and skin, my brain and nerves and every place 1 touch the earth, and provide me with a witness on the Day of my poverty, necessity and requirement.

Secondly, the pilgrim should wear the best and cleanest clothes that he has, because in such days of gathering it causes people to love and be kind to one another, increases their dignity and thus enables them to understand the importance of pilgrimage. It should be noted that the pilgrim should put on the best clothes that he can afford, not the finest that are obtainable. For not everyone can wear the best, and such a command would cause despair among the poor, and thus it would go against the favour of Allah. So it is said that there is a two-fold meaning, i.e. that people should be well-dressed and that they should pay due regard to the condition of the poor.

Thirdly, the pilgrim should wear perfume where possible, for its benefit is like that of being well-dressed.

Fourthly, he should give alms to the poor, according as he is able. The purpose Of this is, firstly, to help the poor, and then to instill in the pilgrim a sense of generosity .

Fifthly, the pilgrim should proceed towards the shrine slowly and Quietly without gazing around. This is clearly in respect for the sacred place (haram), the pilgrimage and those who are buried there, but also that the pilgrim may give his undivided attention to Allah, and avoid inconveniencing others along his way.

Sixthly, he must say”Allahu akbar” (Allah, the Supreme) and repeat it as much as he can. Some traditions instruct the pilgrim to repeat it one hundred times. By this he becomes aware of Allah’s Greatness and Magnificence, and realises that nothing is greater than He. This is for the sake of Allah and His Dignity and to revive the sacred rites of Islam and to strengthen the religion.

Seventhly, after visiting the tomb of the Prophet or an Imam, the pilgrim should pray at least tworak’ah. This is in order to worship Allah and give thanks to Him, and to ask for success in one’s pilgrimage’, then he should ask that the spiritual reward for the prayer should go to the soul of he who is buried in that place.

The specialdu’a’ that follows, which the pilgrim must recite after his prayer, serves to show him that prayer and worship during pilgrimage are only for Allah, that no-one deserves to be worshipped save Him. It is a means of winning Allah’s favour, for the pilgrim says:

O Allah! To Thee alone do I pray, to Thee alone do I bow down and prostrate myself.
Thou art One,
Thou bast no partner,
and it is a sin to pray, bow down or prostrate oneself before anyone else but Thee.
O Allah! Praise be to Muhammad and his Family.
Accept my pilgrimage, and grant my request for the sake of Muhammad and his Immaculate Descendents.

Thisdu’a’ explains to those who want to know, the purpose of pilgrimage to the shrines as it was performed by the Imams and their followers, and it answers those who suppose that pilgrimage is a kind of idolatry and polytheism.

No doubt, the purpose of such detractors is to discourage the Shi’a from the benefits of meeting one another, and the solidarity which increases in the times of pilgrimage, because such brotherhood is like the shafts of arrows in the eyes of the enemies of Muhammad, for they cannot be unaware of the Imams’ intention. It is not possible to believe that those whose every saying and doing were for the sake of Allah, and who gave their blood in the cause of the religion of Allah, should call the people to polytheism and idolatry.

Finally, one of the necessities of the pilgrimage is that “the pilgrim should behave towards and treat his fellow pilgrim with politeness, that he should say few words but ones of benefit and purpose, that he should remember Allah,[7] be humble, worship often, ask for the Mercy of Allah on Muhammad and his Descendents, lower his eyes and not stare around,. assist his brothers when they have nothing and console them, remain far from what is unlawful, avoid quarrelling and arguing about one’s beliefs.”

The reality behind the pilgrimage is the salutation of Muhammad or the Imam, because, in accordance with the Qur’an:

They are alive and are provided with sustenance from their Lord. (3;168)

And they hear the words of the pilgrim and answer his salutations. It is enough to say, for example, before the tomb of the Prophet:”As-salamu ‘alayka ya rasul allah” (Peace be upon thee, O Messenger of Allah), but it is much better to say the words prescribed by the Household of the Prophet, for they express the highest intentions and the greatest religious significance by their eloquence, and they are the most excellent prayers through which the pilgrim may contemplate Allah.

  1. The meaning of “Shi’a” in the Opinion of the Household of the Prophet

The Imams of the Household (A.S.) did not receive the leadership of Islam, although, however, they never had any designs towards it. So they devoted themselves to educating the Muslims, and to instructing them as Allah had ordered. They remained with those who were faithful to them, and confided in them their secrets, took great pains to teach them all the religious commandments and instill in them religious knowledge, and showed them what is of advantage to man and what is harmful. They recognised no-one as Shi’i or as one of their followers unless he obeyed the commands of Allah, kept himself apart from his desires and carried out what they taught and guided him towards. Only to love them will not suffice to save someone, it. that person also follows his desires. making excuses for his disobedience to Allah, because they have clearly said that love of them will save no-one unless it is accompanied by pure actions, truth, honesty, piety and virtue.

Imam Baqir (A.S.) said:

O Khuthayma! Say to our friends that we can be of no help to them before Allah unless their actions are pure, and that they cannot attain our friendship and love except through their virtue.
For surely, one who reveres justice, but does not act in accordance with it, will be stricken with grief and remorse more than anyone else.

The Imams desired and expected their followers to guide others and show them the correct path of goodness, and they instructed them to call the people to the truth by good actions, saying that this was more important than calling by word.

Call the people unto the truth by your behaviour, so that they can see your obedience, and know that you are truthful and obedient.

We shall give some extracts here from conversations between the Imams and their followers, so that the reader may see how they were anxious to educate the people.

  1. 1. From Imam Baqir’s conversation with Jabir al-Ju’afi:

O Jabir! How can someone who claims to follow us be content with only loving us? I swear that our follower is one who carries out his duty to Allah and fears Him. Our followers are known by their humility. modesty, exceeding remembrance of Allah, fasting, prayer, being sympathetic and helpful towards the poor, their reading of the Qur’an, saying nothing about a person except concerning his good actions, and they are most trustworthy among those close to them. (O ye who follow!) Observe your duty to Allah, and perform good actions for His reward, for there is no preference by Allah towards anyone. The most beloved of His servants in the presence of Allah is the best in conduct and obedience to Him.[8] O Jabir! Nobody can come close to Allah except through obedience. Without this nobody will be saved from Hell, nor can anybody excuse himself before Allah without it. Whosoever obeys Him, he is our friend, but whosoever disobeys Him, he is our enemy. You cannot attain to our friendship except through good actions and virtuousness.

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