The supplications prescribed by the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and his family (pbut) are full of wisdom and spiritual insight. When we take an examination of these important legacies left behind by the pure household, we realize they have potential in allowing us to understand our responsibilities towards God. During the month of Sha’ban, amongst the most important supplications to recite is what is known as al-Munajaat al-Sha’baniya (or the whispered prayer of Sha’ban), as narrated to us by the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (p). This supplication contains numerous lessons and is an emotional conversation between the Imam and his Lord. It is an incredible tool for us to reflect upon.

God advises the faithful believers to constantly seek and call upon Him. He states, “Pray to your Lord humbly and privately.”1 In this verse, we are told of two of the most important qualities we must have while in the state of supplicating to God—to stay humble and know our place as a servant, and secondly, to recognize the importance of solitude.

Difference between “Dua” and “Munajaat”

Al-Munajaat al-Sha’baniya is the “whispered prayer” of Imam Ali (p) and is unique from other supplications narrated by him. Although both are considered dua (supplication),the difference from munajaat (whispered prayer) is that a dua is a general supplication, while the language of a munajaat is understood to be more personal and intimate between the reciter and God.

The Proximity of God during Supplication

It is important for us to recognize that when we are in a state of supplicating to God that He is not distant from us, rather He is close. Furthermore, we should recognize that God loves to hear our voice and plead to Him. In a tradition from Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp), he says, “Dua is the weapon of the believer, the pillar of faith, and the light of the heavens and the Earth.”2

God says in the Quran, “(Muhammad), if any of My servants ask you about Me, tell them that the Lord says, ’I am near; I accept the prayers of those who pray.’ Let My servants answer My call and believe in Me so that perhaps they may know the right direction.”3 In this beautiful verse, God demonstrates His proximity to the one who calls upon Him. Dua is an important mechanism by which we can attain God’s mercy, reward, and fulfillment of our wishes if we are sincere in asking.

Themes of Munajaat Sha’baniyya

The Munajaat of Imam Ali (p) is the prayer that he would recite during the month of Sha’ban, and the other imams from his progeny followed in his tradition.4 In the Munajaat of Imam Ali (p) we can see a few important themes:

1. Servitude:

It is important for us (i.e. believers) to recognize that we were created to submit to the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and seek from His limitless and bountiful sustenance. In the beginning of the whispered prayer, Imam Ali (p) declares and admits his state of perpetual neediness and sole recourse in God by begging Him to respond to the supplication and embrace him as he beseeches. He states:

“For [my Lord], I fled to You, and I stood subserviently [and submissive] before You, imploring You, hopeful for my reward that is [only] with You. You know what is hidden within me, and You are [fully] aware of my needs, and You know my conscience, and the circumstances of my movements and stillness are never hidden from You.”5

2. Forgiveness:

When we commit any act of wrongdoing, God wants us to seek pardon and forgiveness from Him. In these lines, we are very open with the fact that we have slipped and fallen, and our only option is to turn ourselves to seeking God’s mercy and surely “God loves those who repent.”6 Imam Ali (p) states in these powerful lines:

“O my God, if You pardon [me], then who else is foremost in doing so than You? If my time of death is near and [the sum of] my deeds do not bring me close to You, then I have made my admission of guilt my means to reach You. O my God, I have taken it upon myself to scrutinize [and regret] it (i.e. my shortcomings and guilt), therefore woe upon it if You do not forgive it.”7

3. Hope vs. Fear:

A believer should always be between having hope in God’s mercy and fear of His punishment. Keeping this sort of mindset will never allow us to either feel too confident and prideful with our acts of obedience nor in a state of anxiety or depression from our sins. Thus, we recite in the munajaat:

“O my God! If You demand me to account [and punish me] for my transgressions, then I shall call upon and entreat your pardon. If You hold me accountable [and punish me] for my sins, then I shall call upon and implore your forgiveness. And if You were to place me in Hell, I will declare my love for You to its inmates. O my God! If my deeds are too insignificant next to (i.e. in the fulfillment of) your obedience, then my confidence [of receiving salvation] is boundless given my [unwavering] hope in You.”8

How can we benefit from the Whispered Prayer of Imam Ali (p)

The supplication of the imam is extremely powerful, and we can use it as a tool to get closer to the Almighty. To do that, we can:

Read a Short Passage Every day: Because it is lengthy, we should read 5-10 lines a day throughout the month.

Ponder and Reflect: We don’t only read, but ponder about the meaning of the blessed words for a few minutes every day.

Find Some Alone Time: While many of us are busy with family and work responsibilities, it is very important to find some time of our day to spend with God. Because it is more of a personal conversation, try to be in solitude.

This prayer of Imam Ali (p) has timeless lessons. Let us take the opportunity to ponder upon its meaning. We should make our best effort during these blessed days and nights of Sha’ban and beyond to read it with a sincere intention and a clean heart in order to take maximum benefit.

1. The Holy Quran 7:55.
2. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 2, p. 339.
3. The Holy Quran 2:186.
4. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafateeh al-jinan (Beirut, Al-alami Library, 2006), 208.
5. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafateeh al-jinan (Beirut, Al-alami Library, 2006), 208.
6. The Holy Quran 2:222.
7. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafateeh al-jinan (Beirut, Al-alami Library, 2006), 209.
8. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafateeh al-jinan (Beirut, Al-alami Library, 2006), 209.

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