Each of the Imams of the Ahlul Bayt (p) had a specific role that they played in preserving the religion of Islam and the ideology of their followers. Soon after the demise of the Messenger (pbuh&hp), the spiritual progress of the Muslim ummah suffered, except among the few who had a true understanding of our relationship with God as practiced by the Prophet. Only a few decades later, the spiritual fragility of the Muslim community became further evident as people were drawn even further away from God-consciousness and piety during the reign of the Umayyad dynasty, especially with individuals like Muawiyah and Yazid ascending to positions of leadership. Muawiyah and Yazid had desensitized the community away from seeking knowledge and from reflecting on the signs of God. Amid this historical context and its dire circumstances, Imam Hussain (p) recited his remarkable supplication on the Day of Arafah, teaching us the reality of what it means to know God and recognize our responsibilities to our Creator. The supplication, in its beauty, eloquence, and sincerity, is similar in style to other well-known supplications like Dua Kumayl by Imam Ali (p) and Dua Abu Hamza Thumali by Imam al-Sajjad (p).

In this article, we will examine a few exemplary lines from Dua Arafah. It is important to keep in mind that even though this supplication was recited by the Imam on the plains of Arafah during the days of hajj, we do not need to limit our recitation or contemplation of it to the ninth of Dhu al-Hijjah because it contains lessons for everyday use. 1

The Context of Dua Arafah

Perhaps first narrated by Sayyid Ibn Tawus in Iqbal al-amal1 and later in Albalad al-amin by Shaykh al-Kafami, it is related that Imam Hussain (p) was facing the qiblah on the eve of the Day of Arafah and raised his hands to God “as if a beggar was begging for food.” 2 Here, we see the humble nature of a man like Imam Hussain (p) during his pleading and conversation with his Lord. Similarly, if we desire to achieve high levels of spirituality, then it is vital that we humble ourselves in the eyes of God as a demonstration of sincerity. Like other supplications from the prophetic household, Dua Arafah begins with praise of God and professes our distance from Him. Through humility, there is an opportunity for us to remind ourselves that we are servants on the path of obedience to our Creator and, thus, seek to draw closer to Him. Through worship, ritualistic acts of obedience, and abiding by God’s command and law as stipulated in the Quran, we are reminding ourselves of the uniqueness of submission and, in turn, engraining humility into the fabric of our being.

Praise and Gratitude

Dua Arafah of Imam Hussain (p) is an incredibly lengthy supplication; nonetheless, every line consists of wisdom and insights. As mentioned above, it begins with praise of God, as the Imam states, “Praise be to God, who has nothing to stop His decree, and who nothing hinders when He gives.” 3 Beginning any action or, in this case, supplication with God’s praises is a reminder that everything in creation revolves around Him, the All-Mighty and the All-High. As God states in the Quran, “The seven heavens, the earth, and whatever is between them all glorify Him. There is nothing that does not glorify Him and always praise him, but you do not understand their praise and glorification. He is All-forbearing and All-forgiving.” 4

In another powerful line from this supplication, Imam Hussain (p) states, “You began blessing me before I even became something known [before I was born].” 5 This line allows the reader to enter into a state of deep contemplation and introspection of how many blessings truly surround us and, thus, the need to be in a state of constant gratitude to our Lord. Aside from the blessings of life, family, wealth, happiness, food, and drink, which we encounter and benefit from daily, the reality is that God blessed us with so much before He even created us.

Feeling the Presence of God

A major theme of the supplication of Imam Hussain (p) revolves around feeling God’s presence and being in a state of absolute submission and lowliness to Him. God created us with the fitra, or the primordial nature that drives us to know and be receptive to Him. God states in the Quran, “So set your heart on the religion as a people of pure faith, the origination of [God] according to which He originated mankind (There is no altering [God’s] creation; that is the upright religion, but most people do not know.)” 6 It becomes our responsibility, by reflection, servitude, obedience, and following in the footsteps of Quranic teachings and the instruction of the Messenger (pbuh&hp) and his family, to struggle for our souls to remain on the path of guidance. In another line, attributed to Imam Hussain (p) in Dua Arafah, he eloquently testifies to this reality when he states in the course of the supplication, “How can I provide evidences for you when I am the one who is in question? Is there something else that is more apparent than you (that I need to provide [proof of] your existence). When were you missing such that I need to provide evidence for where you are? When did you go far that we need to seek your traces.”7 These lines are a reminder that God’s presence consistently remains, and it is we, His creation, who are in a state of perpetual dependence on the Creator. That dependence should translate into prayers, fasting, and continuous supplication to our Lord—all acts that can allow the distractions of this temporal world to pass us by and allow for fixation on our duties and responsibilities to our Creator.

Soon thereafter, the narrator of the supplication states that the Imam took a break from reciting, as his eyes filled with tears, where he continued calling out, “Oh God! Make me fear you as though I can see you!” 8 The fear or khushu that Imam Hussain speaks about is not to be frightened by a powerful authority, but rather the fear of disappointing a loved one. Often, our culture, family, and religious leadership describe God as seeking to punish us for every shortcoming as opposed to recollecting and holding onto His divine mercy, compassion, and generosity. The Prophet and his family (pbut) stress a more positive approach to understanding God, and through reflecting upon these lines in the supplication and the prayer in its totality, we can begin to  place the necessary building blocks of our relationship with Him in the best spots to make a beautiful structure.

Conclusions

Dua Arafah of Imam Hussain (p) is arguably the most powerful supplication that we have within our collection. From its recitation, coupled with deep contemplation, we can derive numerous ethical, spiritual, and social lessons that we can incorporate into our daily lives. Themes like praise, gratitude, and hope are only a few of the messages that the Imam employs in his understanding and relationship with God, and during these days, or whenever we might see a dip in our spiritual development, reading and reflection upon the lines of this supplication can be something truly transformational.

1. Sayyid Ibn Tawus, Iqbal al-amal, p. 651.
2. Shaykh al-Kafami, Al-balad al-amin, p. 352.
3. Excerpt from Dua Arafah.
4. The Holy Quran 17:44, Muhammad Sarwar translation.
5. Excerpt from Dua Arafah.
6. The Quran 30:30, Ali Quli Qarai translation.
7. Excerpt from Dua Arafah.
8. Excerpt from Dua Arafah.

3. جاء في دعاء عرفة عن الإمام الحسين (ع): ” اَلْحَمْدُ للهِ الَّذى لَيْسَ لِقَضآئِهِ دافِعٌ، وَلا لِعَطائِهِ مانِعٌ”
4. قال الله تعالى: ((سَبِّحُ لَهُ السَّمَاوَاتُ السَّبْعُ وَالْأَرْضُ وَمَن فِيهِنَّ ۚ وَإِن مِّن شَيْءٍ إِلَّا يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِهِ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا تَفْقَهُونَ تَسْبِيحَهُمْ ۗ إِنَّهُ كَانَ حَلِيمًا غَفُورً))
5.  جاء في دعاء عرفة عن الإمام الحسين (ع): “اِبْتَدَأتَنى بِنِعْمَتِكَ قَبْلَ اَنْ اَكُونَ شَيْئاً مَذكوراً، وَخَلَقْتَنى مِنَ التُّرابِ، ثُمَّ اَسْكَنْتَنِى الاْصْلابَ، آمِناً لِرَيْبِ الْمَنُونِ، وَاخْتِلافِ”
6.  قال الله تعالى: ((فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا ۚ فِطْرَتَ اللَّـهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّـهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ))
7. جاء في دعاء عرفة عن الإمام الحسين (ع): ” كَيْفَ يُسْتَدَلُّ عَلَيْكَ بِما هُوَ فى وُجُودِهِ مُفْتَقِرٌ اِلَيْكَ، اَيَكُونُ لِغَيْرِكَ مِنَ الظُّهُورِ ما لَيْسَ لَكَ، حَتّى يَكُونَ هُوَ الْمُظْهِرَ لَكَ، مَتى غِبْتَ حَتّى تَحْتاجَ اِلى دَليل يَدُلُّ عَليْكَ، وَمَتى بَعُدْتَ حَتّى تَكُونَ الاْثارُ هِىَ الَّتى تُوصِلُ اِلَيْكَ”
8. جاء في دعاء عرفة عن الإمام الحسين (ع): “اَللّهُمَّ اجْعَلْنى اَخْشاكَ كَاُنّى اَراكَ”