The Chain of Authorities of al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya
As for the chain of authorities of al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya, it goes back to the greatest Imam, Abu Ja’far al-Baqir, peace be on him, and to the immortal martyr Zayd b. Ali b. al-Hussein, peace be on him. The Chain of Authorities has been mentioned in the introduction of al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya and is confirmed by over fifty-six thousand authorities. The religious scholars received al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya from successive authorities.1
Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin al-Amily said: “The strongest proof for the authenticity of al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya is that it contains pure words, matchless eloquence, excellent meanings, different kinds of humbleness to Allah and praising Him, wonderful ways for seeking His pardon and generosity, and imploring Him. Hence this pearl belongs to that sea, this jewel belongs to that metal, and this fruit belongs to that tree. Besides it is very famous and its chain of authorities is numerous and goes back to its author, Imam Zayn al-Abidin, may Allah bless him and his pure fathers and his pure children. The trustworthy narrators reported it through their numerous, successive chain of authorities on the authority of Zayn al-Abidin, peace be on him. Zayd, the martyr, had copies of it, and he handed them over to his children, who handed them over to the children of Abd Allah b. al-Hasan al-Muthnna, as it has been mentioned in the introduction of al-Sahifa, as well as al-Baqir, peace be on him, had copies of it. The people took great care of narrating it, verifying its words and copies, and they went on reciting its supplications by night and day.2
As the chain of authority of al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya is definite and its eloquence is excellent, therefore it issued from none except this great Imam.
The Characteristics of al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya
Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya, like all supplication books, has very important characteristics of which are the following:
1. It represents the most perfect freedom from the material world, full devotion and fleeing to Allah, the Most High. Such qualities are the most valuable in this world. In this respect let’s listen to the Imam’s words:
“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 any 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 God, 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 who 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 God, belong 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 his 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 likenesses and opposites, proudly magnified beyond similitudes and rivals! Glory be to You! There is no god but You!3”
These paragraphs represent the Imam’s devotion to Allah, the Exalted, his clinging to Him, his turning away from other than Him, and his renouncing those other than Him. The Imam, peace be on him, justified this as follows:
A. It is an act of foolishness and vanity that man hopes those other than his Creator, for those other than Allah, despite their great importance, are weak and in need of support and gift. So how does man hope them and hopes for good from them?
B. The experiences taught the Imam, peace be on him, that some people sought honor, might, and exaltation through a way other than that of Allah, but their hopes came to nothing, and they completely lost their way, and that some people sought wealth from other than Allah, so, suddenly, they became poor and deprived. This matter increased the Imam’s insight and certainty and made him think that clinging to other than Allah was foolishness and vanity.
C. Might and power are only in the hand of Allah, the Glorified. As for those other than Allah, they are the object of there compassion in there lifetime, overcome in there affair, overwhelmed in there situation, diverse in states, constantly changing in attributes. All these matters made the Imam, peace be on him, turn away from those other than Allah.
2. It shows that the Imam, peace be on him, had perfect knowledge of Allah, the Exalted, and had firm faith in Him. Such knowledge and faith did not result from sentiment or tradition, rather they resulted from deep thinking and pure mind. In his book, al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya, the Imam, peace be on him, has mentioned many theological views on which the Muslim theologians and philosophers depended in writing about the Necessary Being (Allah). Now, let’s listen to another paragraph of his supplication wherein he has mentioned the tremendousness of the Wise Creator. He, peace be on him, said:
“Praise belongs to Allah, the First, without a first before Him, the Last, without a last behind him. Beholders’ eyes fall short of seeing Him, describers’ imaginations are not able to depict Him. He originated the creatures through His power with an origination. He devised them in accordance with His will with a devising.4” In this paragraph, the Imam, peace be on him, has mentioned some attributes of the Almighty Creator. These attributes are the most important matters in theology. They are as follows:
A. Allah is, the First, without a first before Him.
B. He is the Last, without a last behind Him. These two attributes have been established in theology.
C. Beholders’ eyes fall short of seeing Him. How can beholders see and perceive the Almighty Being, Who created and originated the universe?
D. Describers’ imaginations are not able to depict Him, the Exalted, for all the words cannot contain some of His attributes.
E. He originated the creatures through His power with an origination and devised them in accordance with His will with a devising, while no associate shared Him in creating the creatures, and there was none like Him in mightiness.
Now, let’s listen to another part of his supplication concerning describing the mightiness of the Almighty Creator. He, peace be on him, said:
“Praise belongs to Allah, who created night and day through His strength, set them apart through His power, and appointed for each a determined limit and a drawn-out period. He makes each of the two enter into its companion, and makes its companion enter into it, as an ordainment from Him for His servants in that through which He feeds them and with which He makes them grow. He created for them the night, that they might rest in it, from tiring movements and wearisome exertions and He made it a garment for them that they might be clothed in its ease and its sleep, that it might be for them refreshment and strength, that they might reach therein pleasure and passion. He created for them the daytime, giving sight, that they might seek within it of His bounty, find the means to His provision, and roam freely in His earth.5”
The wise Imam proved the mightiness of Allah, the Exalted, through His creating night and day and making them enter into each other, through a light movement which none can stop, control, divide, and limit. Night enters into day and day enters into night in a gradual manner in which moments and changes cannot be set apart. The darkness of night gradually enters into the brightness of day, and morning gradually enters into the utter darkness, and they both are a repeated sight.6 Also the Imam mentioned the wisdom in creating night and day; Allah, the Most High, created night, that man might rest in it, from tiring movements and wearisome exertions, and man can regain in sleeping all the strength he consumes through his work by day; He, the Exalted created the daytime, giving sight, that man might seek within it of His bounty, find the means to His provision, and work to maintain himself and his family.
The Imam’s supplications contain a group of proofs for the Unity of Allah. They show that the Imam was among those who recognized Allah and turned to Him in repentance.
3. It contains absolute humbleness and lowliness before Allah, the Exalted, and with this it has been distinguished from the other supplications of the pure Imams, peace be on them. In the preface of his Sahifa, al-Fadil al-Asfahani said: “Though the supplications of our master, Imam Zayn al-Abidin, peace be on him, are numerous, they are distinguished from those of the infallible Imam, peace be on him, by showing pleading, lowliness, and neediness to Allah, the Most High.” He added: “Allah, the Exalted, singled out each of the Imams with a quality which does not exist in other than him, such as bravery in Imam Ali, the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, and his son al-Hussein, peace be on him, gentleness and lament in Imam Zayn al-Abidin’s supplications, especially as it concerns the supplications of al-Sahifa al-Kamila, which our companions sometimes call the “Psalms of the Household of Mohammed” and sometimes they call it the “Gospel of the Folk of the House””7
Let’s listen to another part of his supplications in which he pled to Allah. He, peace be on him, said:
“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 to 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 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 mention 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 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!8”
This supplication is full of fear of Allah and devotion to Him, for this great Imam melted before the Wise Creator and showed love for him and did all things that brought him nigh to Him, asking Him for forgiveness and good pleasure.
4. It has opened doors to hope and expectation through Allah’s mercy, which embraces all things, for whatever sins and crimes man commits, he should not despair of Allah’s mercy, forgiveness, and munificence. In one of his supplications, Imam Zayn al-Abidin, peace be on him, said:
“O my Allah, by Your mightiness and majesty, if You demand my sins, I will demand Your pardon, and if You demand my ignobility, I will demand Your munificence.”
Most of the Imam’s supplications are full of hope which fills the souls with radiance, ambitions, and trust in Allah’s pardon and forgiveness.
5. It has opened doors to wonderful debates with Allah, the Exalted. Such debates are full of firm proofs for asking Him, the Exalted, for pardon. Let’s listen to some of them. He, peace be on him, says:
“My Allah, if You do not forgive save Your friends and those who obey You, then where shall the sinners go? If You do not show generosity save to those who are sincere to You, then whom shall the evildoers ask for help? My Allah, You have revealed pardon in Your Book, and You have commanded us to pardon him who wrongs us. We have wronged ourselves, so pardon us, for You are worthier of that than us. We have commanded us not to repel a beggar from our doors. I have come to beg You; therefore repel me not from Your door! You have commanded us to do good. We are your slaves; therefore release our necks from the Fire!’
In another supplication, he, peace be on him, said:
“So have mercy upon me, O Allah, for I am a vile man and my worth is little. Chastising me will not add the weight of a dust mote to Your kingdom. Were chastising me something that would add to Your kingdom, I would ask You for patience to bear it and would love for it to belong to You; but Your authority, my Allah, is mightier, and Your kingdom more lasting, than that the obedience of the sinners diminish it!”
Commenting on this part of supplication, Allama, the late Shaykh, Mohammed Jawad Mughniya said: “Have you ever seen a defense stronger than this defense or a proof more conclusive than this proof? What does Allah make through punishing men as long as punishing (them) does not decrease His kingdom nor does it increase His authority? The Imam protested through the same law Allah has written against Himself and against all mankind, for He, the Great and Almighty, said: “Your Lord has written mercy against Himself: O My servants who have been prodigal against yourselves, do not despair of Allah’s mercy, surely Allah forgives all sins. Surely, He is All-forgiving, All-merciful.” Imam Zayn al-Abidin, peace be on him, talked in a right manner and submitted figures with sanctification to the Great Judge. As Allah’s words are true, the Imam protested according to them.9″
6. Most supplications of the Sahifa contain moral programs which purify man’s soul. The following is one of them:
“O Allah, bless Mohammed and his Household, cause my faith to reach the most perfect faith, make my certainty the most excellent certainty, and take my intention to the best of intentions and my works to the best of works! O Allah, complete my intention through Your gentleness, rectify my certainty through what is with You, and set right what is corrupt in me through Your power!
“O Allah, bless Mohammed and his Household, spare me the concerns which distract me, employ me in that about which You will ask me tomorrow, and let me pass my days in that for which You have created me! Free me from need, expand Your provision toward me and tempt me not with ingratitude! Exalt me and afflict me not with pride! Make me worship You and corrupt not my worship with self-admiration! Let good flow out from my hands upon the people and efface it not by my making them feel obliged! Give me the highest moral traits and preserve me from vainglory!
“O Allah, bless Mohammed and his Household, raise me not a single degree before the people without lowering me its like in myself and bring about no outward exaltation for me without inward abasement in myself to the same measure! O Allah, bless Mohammed and his Household, give me to enjoy a sound guidance which I seek not to replace, a path of truth from which I swerve not, and an intention of right conduct in which I have no doubts! Let me live as long as my life is a free gift in obeying You, but if my life should become a pasture for Satan, size me to Yourself before Your hatred overtakes me or Your wrath against me becomes firm!
“O Allah, deposit in me no quality for which I will be faulted unless You set it right, no flaw for which I will be blamed, unless You make it beautiful, no deficient noble trait, unless You complete it!”
The Imam, peace be on him, asked the Great Creator to give him all excellencies through which man becomes sublime. He asked Him, the Exalted, to give him perfect faith and the most excellent certainty, to make his works the best of works, to employ him in obeying Him and acts that please Him, to expand His provision toward him, not to tempt him with poverty, deprivation, might, and self-admiration, to make him an obedient servant, submissive to Him, to let good flow out from his hands upon the people, not to efface it by making them feel obliged, to give him the highest moral traits and the best qualities, and not to raise him a degree before the people without lowering him its like in himself, lest he should see his soul had an excellence over Allah’s servants. The Imam, peace be on him, added:
“O Allah, bless Mohammed and his Household and point me straight to resist him who is dishonest toward me with good counsel, repay him who separates from me with gentle devotion, reward him who deprives me with free giving, recompense him who cuts me off with joining, oppose him who slanders me with excellent mention, give thanks for good, and shut my eyes to evil.
“O Allah, bless Mohammed and his Household, adorn me with the adornment of the righteous, and clothe me in the ornaments of the Allah-fearing, through spreading justice, restraining range, quenching the flame of hate, bringing together the people of separation, correcting discord, spreading about good behavior, covering faults, mildness of temper, lowering the wing, beauty of conduct, gravity of bearing, agreeableness in comportment, precedence in reaching excellence, preferring bounteousness, refraining from condemnation, bestowing bounty on the undeserving, speaking the truth, though it be painful, making little of the good in my words and deeds, though it be much, and making much of the evil in my words and deeds, though it be little! Perfect this for me through lasting obedience, holding fast to the community, and rejecting the people of innovation and those who act in accordance with originated opinions!10”
The Imam, peace be on him, asked Allah, the Exalted, to be kind to him through giving him the most excellent qualities, the highest moral traits and all that which would bring him near to Him, that he might live in abundant dignity, guide the people, and show them the way to the truth and rightness.
7. It contains the scientific realities which none had discovered before him, for example, he, peace be on him, in invoked Allah against the enemies of the Muslims, saying: “O Allah, mix their waters with pestilence and their food with maladies.11”
The Imam, peace be on him, mentioned the scientific reality which was discovered in the last century; and which is that the germs of the pestilence called Cholera live in water and food, hence whoever drinks or eats such water and food will carry them.
Another example of the scientific realities the Imam mentioned in his Sahifa is these words of him, peace be on him: “Praise belongs to Allah, who has placed within us the organs of expansion, and assigned for us the agents of contraction.12”
The Imam, peace be on him, talked about the hands and the legs, which are among the wonderful organs in man’s body, for they contract and expand according to the oscillation of the brain. The English Science Magazine said: “Man’s hand is among the unique, natural wonders. It is very difficult; rather it is impossible to make a tool like human hand in simplicity, capability, and speedy adaptation. When you want to read a book, you take it with your hand and fix it in a situation appropriate for reading. It is the hand which sets right its situation automatically. When you want to turn over one of its pages, you put your fingers under the page and press it to the degree through which you turn it over, then the pressure removes when you have turned the page over. The hand catches the pencil and writes with it; it uses all tools necessary for man such as spoon, knife, and typewriter; it opens windows and shut them, and carries all what man wants. The two hands have twenty-seven bones, and each has nineteen groups of muscles.13” Modern medicine objectively and inclusively searched for the wonderful qualities of the hand, which proves the existence of the Great Creator.
8. It is among the spiritual and moral sources in Islamic thought; therefore it is a remedy for the perplexed souls, and fresh fountain from which the Allah-fearing and those who turn to him in repentance drink. It represents the philosophy of supplication, which the believer uses as a ladder to climb to Allah, and which makes him reach the highest degree of perfection, for there is nothing in this world’s life higher than communicating with Allah, the Exalted, the Creator of the universe and Giver of life. Surely perplexed souls find their objectives in supplication, for they feel tranquility after anxiety, and hope after despair. Sincere supplication takes man to the Kingdom and frees him from material pleasures. The immortal Sahifa of al-Sajjad has clearly contained this brilliant philosophy of supplication.
9. Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya was a revolt against the Umayyads, who spread corruption among the Muslims and froze their abilities
10. It has reached the highest degree of eloquence and purity. I (the author) firmly believe that no Arab words are more eloquent and purer than the supplications of Imam Zayn al-Abidin, peace be on him, except those of the Holy Qur’an and of Ali’s Nahjj al-Balagha. The most prominent qualities of the Sahifa are the beauty of style and the mildness of words. The Imam used only the words which have brought together all the measures of beauty.
None knows the rhetorical and literary qualities of al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya except the rhetoricians. Commenting on it and all the supplications of the Imams of the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt) , peace be on them, Dr. Hussein Ali Mahfuz said: “The Imams’ supplications are wonderful art prose plain in style, expression, and eloquence. Surely, this genuine, miraculous method is of the pure (words) of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his Household, and his family, peace be on them.
“Supplication is beautiful literature, blessed conversation, rich language, valuable religion, genuine eloquence, divine trace, and prophetic scent.14”
Among the aspects of splendor and eloquence in the supplications of the Imam, peace be on him, is that he elaborated on describing the bliss, luxury, and beautiful palaces of the Garden, for he wanted men to wish for it through doing good deeds. Also he elaborated on frightening men with the Fire and severe punishment to make them refrain from committing sins. In this he followed the Holy Qur’an, which elaborated on describing the Garden and the Fire in many of its verses, for the same reasons which we have mentioned. The rhetoricians have mentioned that the elaboration on such matters is among the highest and the most wonderful degrees of eloquence.
* The Life of Imam Zayn al-Abidin. By Baqir Sharif al-Qarashi.
1- Al-Balagh Magazine, no. 7, first year, p.54, an essay by Dr. Hussein ‘Ali Mahfuz.
2- Al-Balagh Magazine, no. 7, the first year, p. 54, an essay by Dr. Hussein ‘Ali Mahfuz.
3- Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya, Supplication no. 28.
4- Ibid., Supplication no. 1.
5- Ibid., Supplication no. 6.
7- Al-Sahifa al-Khamisa al-Sajjadiya, pp. 13-14.
8- Ibid, Supplication no. 53.
9- Ma’alim al-Falsafa al-Islamiya, pp. 190-191.
10- Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya, Supplication no. 20.
11- Ibid., Supplication no. 27.
12- Ibid., Supplication no. 1.
13- God and Modern Science.
14- Al-Balagh Magazine, no. 6, 1st year, p. 56.