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To browse Academia. Skip to main content. By using our site, you agree to our collection of information through the use of cookies. To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. Nadia Erum. Zayn al-'Abidin was the fourth of the Shi'ite Imams, after his father Husayn, his uncle Hasan, and his grandfather 'Ali, the Prophet's son-in-law.

Many Shi'ite sources state that his mother was Shahrbanu, the daughter of Yazdigird, the last Sasanian king of Persia. Zayn al-'Abidin accompanied his father on the march toward Kufa, but he had fallen deathly ill and was lying on a skin in a tent.

Once the Umayyad troops had massacred Husayn and his male followers, they looted the tents, stripped the women of their jewellery, and even took the skin upon which Zayn al-'Abidin was prostrate. Zayn al-'Abidin was taken along with the women to the caliph in Damascus, and eventually he was allowed to return to Medina.

Several accounts are related concerning his grief over this tragedy. It is said that for twenty years whenever food was placed before him, he would weep. Is it not time for your sorrow to come to an end? Jacob the prophet had twelve sons, and God made one of them disappear. But I watched while my father, my brother, my uncle, and seventeen members of my family were slaughtered all around me. How should my sorrow come to an end?

He was the object both of great sympathy because of the massacre of his family and of veneration as the great grandson of the Prophet. He dedicated his life to learning and worship and became an authority on prophetic traditions and law, but he was known mostly for his nobility of character and his piety, which earned him his sobriquet already in his lifetime.

The details that have reached us about his life in Medina mainly take the form of anecdotes affirming his constant preoccupation with worship and acts of devotion.

He fathered fifteen children, eleven boys and four girls. After Karbala', there were a number of different factions in the Shi'ite community, not all of which supported Zayn al-'Abidin as the rightful Imam of the Muslim community. But Zayn al-'Abidin himself refused to become involved with politics. After his death, a split occurred between his eldest son and designated successor Muhammad al-Baqir, the fifth Imam, and his second son, al-Baqir's half brother Zayd, who advocated active resistance to Umayyad oppression and gained a large number of followers as a result.

The Zaydi Shi'ites, still strong in the Yemen today, trace the lineage of their imams back to Zayd. In later times the text became widely disseminated among Shi'ites of all persuasions.

The specialists in the science of hadith maintain that the text is mutawatir; in other words, it was generally known from earliest times and has been handed down by numerous chains of transmission, while its authenticity has never been questioned. The original fifty-four supplications show an undeniable freshness and unity of theme and style, while the latter, especially the munajat, add a certain orderliness and self-conscious artistry which may suggest the hand of an editor.

It includes all the supplications included in the previous Sahifas; of these are found in the first and second Sahifas and 52 are added. In her sympathetic study of Islamic prayer manuals, Muslim Devotions, Constance Padwick made use of this fifth recension of the text, which fills more than six hundred pages. Any serious attempt to sort out the relative historical reliability of the individual supplications found in all the versions of the Sahifa on the basis of modern critical scholarship would be an undertaking of major proportions.

The result of such a study - if one can judge by studies of other ancient texts - would probably be that, after years of toil, we would have a series of hypotheses, leaving varying degrees of doubt.

This would be of interest to Western scholars and modernized Muslims, both of whom, in any case, have no personal involvement with the contents and teachings of the Sahifa.

In other words, in the fifty-four basic prayers of the Sahifa we have the Zayn al-'Abidin who has been known to Shi'ites for more than a thousand years and who has helped give to Shi'ism its specific contours down to the present day. Scholars may eventually reach the conclusion that the Zayn al-'Abidin of 'historical fact' differs from the Zayn al-'Abidin of tradition, but this will remain a hypothesis, since at this distance 'historical facts' are impossible to verify and as open to interpretation as literature.

Whether or not historians accept the text as completely authentic will not change the actual influence which Zayn al-'Abidin and the Sahifa have exercised upon Islam over the centuries, nor is it likely to change the way they continue to influence practising Muslims.

The 'real' Zayn al-'Abidin is the figure enshrined by the text as it now stands. The opinion of the writer of these lines concerning the authenticity of the Sahifa - admittedly based only upon an intimate acquaintance with the text gained through many months spent in translation - is that the original fifty-four prayers go back to Zayn al-'Abidin, that the addenda are nearly as trustworthy, and that the munajat may have been worked upon by others.

But the Sahifa in its larger forms probably contains a good deal of material from later authors. Though the Imam makes a number of allusions to the injustice suffered by his family and the fact that their rightful heritage has been usurped, no one can call this a major theme of the Sahifa or an 'intransigent, undying resentment'.

In the one instance where Zayn al-'Abidin speaks rather explicitly of the injustice suffered by the Imams The modern Iranian editions are based mainly on the version of this text transmitted by the father of the above-mentioned Muhammad Baqir Majlisi, Mulla Muhammad Taqi Majlisi d.

The elder Majlisi had at his disposal numerous manuscripts of the text, which he had received from the foremost Shi'ite authorities of his day.

In one of his works he refers to all the chains of transmission by which he had received the Sahifa, and, we are told, these number more than a million. The question naturally arises as to why Majlisi chose the particular chain of transmission mentioned in the preface out of the many he had at his disposal, especially since the chain itself is exceedingly weak as indicated by the commentators and recorded in the notes to the translation.

The reason for this seems to be the accuracy of this particular version going back to al-Shahid al-Awwal, as confirmed by another 'special' route through which Majlisi received the Sahifa. This special route is worth mentioning in detail, since it provides a good example of the aura which has surrounded the text in Shi'ite circles. One day, lying in bed half asleep, Majlisi saw himself in the courtyard of the 'Atiq mosque in Isfahan, and before him stood the Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam.

Majlisi asked him about a number of scholarly problems which he had not been able to solve, and the Mahdi explained their solutions. Then Majlisi asked him for a book which he could put into practice, and the Mahdi directed him to seek out Mawlana Muhammad al-Taj. In his vision Majlisi found the book, and it appeared to be a book of supplications. Waking up, he saw that his hand was empty, and he wept until morning at his loss.

Hence he went to see Shaykh Muhammad, and, entering his circle, saw that he held a copy of the Sahifa in his hand. He went forward and recounted his vision to Shaykh Muhammad, who interpreted it to mean that he would reach high levels of gnostic and visionary knowledge.

But Majlisi was not satisfied with this explanation, and he wandered around the bazaar in perplexity and sorrow. Majlisi greeted him, and Aqa Hasan called to him and said that he had a number of books which were consecrated for religious purpose waqfi but that he did not trust most of the students to put them to proper use. He then went back to Shaykh Muhammad and began collating his newly acquired copy with that of Shaykh Muhammad; both of them had been made from the manuscript of al-Shahid al-Awwal.

In short, Majlisi tells us that the authenticity of his copy of the Sahifa was confirmed by the Mahdi himself.

Among famous Safavid scholars who wrote commentaries are Shaykh-i Baha'i, the philosopher Mir Damad d. The best introduction to these - as well as to the contents of the Sahifa - is provided by Padwick's Muslim Devotions which also analyzes the major themes common to all supplications and explains many of the important Arabic terms employed.

Given the existence of Padwick's study, we can be excused for providing only a few comments to situate supplication in the larger context of Muslim prayer and to suggest the importance of the Sahifa for gaining an understanding of Islam as a religion. Nothing is more basic than the daily prayers to Muslim practice except the testimony of faith or shahada: "There is no god but God and Muhammad is His Messenger. Even the bedridden must pray the salat if they are conscious and coherent, though they are excused from the physical movements which normally accompany it.

Most of the many forms of recommended prayer can be classified either as salat, dhikr or du'a'. The recommended salat involves the same movements and recitations that are contained in the obligatory salat while the Prophet's sunna sets down various times during the day or occasions when various specific salats may be performed. In addition, the worshiper is free to perform salat as he desires, and thus it is related that Imam Zayn al-'Abidin used to perform one thousand supererogatory cycles of salat every night, in imitation of his grandfather 'Ali.

Most Muslims recite such formulas a set number of times after completing an obligatory ritual prayer. If the Shari'a does not make dhikr an incumbent act, this has to do with the fact that the Qur'anic command to remember God was not given a single, specific form by the Prophet's sunna, in contrast to the command to perform the salat.

In other words, everyone agrees that it is important to perform dhikr and that the Prophet practiced it constantly. But the Prophet never made any specific form of dhikr mandatory for the faithful; on the contrary, he practiced many different forms and seems to have suggested a great variety of forms to his Companions in keeping with their needs.

From earliest times the sources confirm the power of dhikr to provide for human psychological and spiritual needs and to influence activity. Spiritual teachers eventually developed a science of different adhkar plural of dhikr appropriate for all the states of the soul. Whichever you supplicate - to Him belong the most beautiful names.

Surely those who wax too proud to worship Me shall enter Gehenna utterly abject. MUSLIM God will respond to the servant as long as he does not supplicate for anything sinful or for breaking the ties of the womb, and as long as he does not ask for an immediate response. All of you are poor except him whom I enrich, so ask Me for riches, and I will provide for you.

All of you are sinners except him whom I release, so ask Me to forgive you, and I will forgive you. It forms a basic part of the religious life, but like dhikr, though commanded by the Qur'an in general terms, it does not take a specific form in the injunctions of the Shari'a because of its personal and inward nature.

Everyone must remember God and supplicate Him, but this can hardly be legislated, since it pertains to the secret relationship between a human being and his or her Lord. The salat, however, is the absolute minimum which God will accept from the faithful as the mark of their faith and their membership in the community. Its public side is emphasized by the physical movements which accompany it and the fact that its form and contents are basically the same for all worshipers, even if its private side is shown by the fact that it can be performed wherever a person happens to find himself.

In contrast dhikr and supplication are totally personal. But the private devotional lives of the great exemplars of religion often become public, since they act as models for other human beings. When he recited them aloud, his Companions would remember and memorize them. Most of the prophetic supplications are short and could easily have been recited on the spur of the moment, but some of the prayers of the Imams - such as Zayn al-'Abidin's supplication for the Day of 'Arafa no.

Even if they began as spontaneous prayers, the very fact that they have been designated as prayers for special occasions suggests that they were noted down and then repeated by the Imam or his followers when the same occasion came around again. Naturally it is not possible to know the circumstances in which supplications were composed, but we do know a good deal about early Islam's general environment which can help suggest the role that supplication played in the community.

Many Muslims, no doubt much more so than today, devoted a great deal of their waking lives to recitation of the Qur'an, remembrance of God, and prayer. Even those who left Mecca and Medina to take part in the campaigns through which Islam was spread or participate in the governing of the new empire did not necessarily neglect spiritual practices.

And for those who devoted themselves to worship, supplication was the flesh and blood of the imagination. It provided a means whereby people could think about God and keep the thought of Him present throughout their daily activities.

In the Islamic context, supplication appears as one of the primary frameworks within which the soul can be moulded in accordance with the Divine Will and through which all thoughts and concepts centered upon the ego can be discarded.

For Muslims then as today, obeying God depended upon imitating those who had already been shaped by God's mercy and guidance, beginning with the Prophet, and followed by the great Companions. For the Shi'ites, the words and acts of the Imams play such a basic role in this respect that they sometimes seem - at least to non-Shi'ites - to push the sunna of the Prophet into the background.

The companions of the Imams constantly referred to them for guidance, while the Imams themselves followed the Prophet's practice of spending long hours of the day and night in salat, dhikr, and supplication. Though much of this devotional life was inward and personal, the Imams had the duty of guiding the community and enriching their religious life. Hence it was only natural that they would compose prayers in which their knowledge of man's relationship with God was expressed in the most personal terms and which could be passed around and become communal property.

Many if not most of the supplications recorded in the Sahifa seem to be of this sort. One of them provides internal evidence to suggest that the Imam had in mind his followers rather than himself: in the supplication for parents 24 , he speaks as if his parents were still alive, whereas this could hardly have been the case, unless we suppose that he composed it in his youth before the events at Karbala'.


Sahifa Sajjadiya

This beautifully produced book brings alive for the non-Arabic speaker the power and the subtlety of the supplications and prayers taught by the Fourth Imam, Ali b. This comprehensive book of prayer has been a mainstay of the practical dimension of religion, its lived spirituality, for countless souls down through the ages. It not only engages the deepest dimensions of the yearning of the seeker for God, it also contains penetrating insights into the psychology of the soul, acute observations of the nature of life in this world, and meditation upon the divine qualities and attributes. In addition, the book contains moral and ethical teachings -the ideal behaviour of the Muslim in daily life, in relation to parents, children, friends and enemies -that are all the more compelling in being presented in the context of a dynamic relationship between the soul and its Creator. Join Our Mailing List Simply fill in your contact details below and click on submit to start receiving our latest news and events. Related Readings prev next. Upcoming Events No Events.


As-Sahifa Al-Kamilah Al-Sajjadiyya

One of his Glorifications. A Supplication and Magnification by him a. His Supplication in Mentioning the Household of Muhammad upon them be peace. His Supplication in Calling down Blessings upon Adam. His Supplication in Distress and Seeking Release. His Supplication against that which he Feared and Dreaded.


Sahifa Sajjadiya also known as Sahifa Kamila is the oldest prayer manual in Islamic sources and one of the most seminal works of Islamic spirituality of the early period. Zayn al-'Abidin was the fourth of the Shi'ite Imams, after his father Husayn, his uncle Hasan, and his grandfather 'Ali, the Prophet's son-in-law. One of the greatest treasures we have today is this book and it contains supplications which any person may benefit from. If you are ill, in debt, need a moral boost or in a state of repentance there is a supplication for each. Each supplication or whispered prayer will benefit the reciter and and bring spiritual relief to them.



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