The merits of Imam Ali (p) are plentiful—his bravery and courage in the battlefield, his generosity to orphans and widows, his leadership of the Muslim community from his residence in Kufa, and so much more. But among the most unique merits of the Commander of the Faithful is his worship and intense love for and devotion to God. A reflection on his prayers and supplications teaches us how to dedicate ourselves to our Lord. The Imam’s diligence, focus, and determination in seeking closeness to the Almighty continue to remain an inspiration for us all in terms of the steps that we need to take in our daily lives. In a beautiful supplication, Imam Ali (p) states, “Oh my Lord! It suffices me as an honor that I am your servant! And it suffices me as pride that you are my Lord! Oh my Lord! You are just as I love, so give me the ability to become that which You love!”1

Worship in Islamic Tradition

Recognizing the meaning and purpose of worship in Islamic tradition is a fundamental principle, for God tells us in the Quran that the purpose of our creation is solely to worship Him. He states, “We have created jinn and human beings only that they might worship Me.”2 God can be worshipped in many ways. Prayers, fasting, the Hajj pilgrimage, giving charity, caring for orphans, and service to humanity are just a few means of seeking closeness to the Creator. It is important to recognize that we should not perform all these acts of worship  solely to attain rewards, but for a far more important purpose. Imam Ali (p) states in another beautiful tradition, “Oh my Lord! I do not worship You for fear of Your punishment, nor longing for Your reward. But rather I found You worthy of being worshiped, so I worshiped You!”3 The Imam is teaching us the true meaning of what it means to be created for worship. In other words, recognizing our servanthood in front of our Creator is the pinnacle of fulfilling our responsibility to Him. At the same time, it is not easy for us to get to that position, thus we need to ask God to help us reach the level of his best worshippers. And in Dua Kumayl, Imam Ali (p) states, “Oh God! Make me amongst the best of servants in proximity to You!”4

The Worship of Imam Ali (p)

When taking a close look at the life of the Commander of the Faithful, it is evident that Imam Ali (p) personified what it meant to be a symbol of obedience and devotion to the Almighty.  Even his grandson, Imam Sajjad (p), who was known for his worship, prayers, and supplications to God states, “Who can worship like Ali son of Abi Talib?”5 Narrations tell us of the awe and submissiveness that Imam Ali (p) had at the time for prayer. Another tradition states, “When the prayer time came the Commander of the Faithful’s face discolored and his body shook. He was asked about the reason for this change of state. Imam Ali (p) answered, ‘It is the time for fulfilling a trust [to God] that He had given the skies, the Earth, and the mountains, but they could not bear it. Instead, the humans bear it despite their weakness.’”6

Furthermore, in another tradition, Muawiyah (the Umayyad caliph) once called forth a companion of the Imam, Dharar Ibn Dhamarah, and asked him to describe Imam Ali (p). Dharar replied, “I saw Ali (p) in some occasions worshipping in the darkness of night. He had grasped his beard, agonizing like a snake-bitten person, weeping, and saying, ‘Oh world! Get away from me! Why do you come to me? Deceive others, not me! I do not need you. I divorce you three times. Your time is short, your value is little, and my desire for you is scarce. Oh from the shortage of supply (i.e., good deeds for the afterlife), the journey is long, the travel is far, and arrival [before God for being accounted] is great!’”7 The relationship that Imam Ali (p) had with his Lord is an example of the ideal relationship between the creation and his Creator, and it offers us insight into what we should work toward.

Bits of Advice

1. Recite lines from the supplications of Imam Ali (p): The Commander of the Faithful has incredibly powerful supplications which he has narrated to us by virtue of his close companions and confidantes. For instance, Dua Kumayl, Dua Sabah, and Munajat al-Shabaniya are just a few of his incredible words of devotion to the Almighty. Many of these supplications are lengthy, but even if we recite a few lines from them weekly, it will help us understand our role in front of our Creator and allow us to walk in the footsteps of Imam Ali (p).

2. Be at the service of humanity: Worship and obedience to God have different facets as mentioned above. Imam Ali (p) exemplified what it means to care for others for God’s sake.  He (p) has stated, “I am the father of the orphan, I am the cave [refuge] of the widows.”8 Imam Ali (p) cared deeply for the less fortunate, and he put this care into action in the most beautiful  ways. His servitude to God was manifested in his care for those around him. We should reflect to see how we can make a difference and support the underprivileged and underserved in our local communities.

3. Find personal time to connect with our Creator: Life has many distractions, but we learn from the Commander of the Faithful (p) that we need to find alone time to reconnect with God. Spending a portion of our days, in the early mornings or in the darkness of the night, supplicating to our Creator, reciting Quran, asking for forgiveness, or centering ourselves for God’s sake are all from the etiquette of Imam Ali (p).  These are practices that we should do our best to mirror. In a beautiful tradition of the Imam, he states, “For the believer, the day should be split into three times: a time for the believer to call upon his Lord. [Secondly], a time to care for ones’ day to day living. And [thirdly], a time to keep between one’s self to do what he pleases which is permissible and he enjoys.”9

1. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 91, p. 94.
2. The Holy Quran 51:56. Muhammad Sarwar’s translation.
3. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 41, p. 14.
4. Misbah al-mutahajjid, p. 844.
5. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 41, p. 17.
6. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 41, p. 17.
7. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 40, p. 345.
8. Al-fadhail, p. 84.
9. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 91, p. 94.

1-  من دعاء لأمير المؤمنين عليه السلام “من دعاء أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام “إلهي كفى بي عزّا أن أكون لك عبدا، وكفى بي فخرا أن تكون لي ربّا إلهي”
2- {وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ}
3- روي عن أمير الؤمنين عليه السلام “إلهي ما عبدتّك خوفاً من عقابك ولا طمعاً في ثوابك، ولكن وجدتك أهلاً للعبادة فعبدتّك”
4- ورد عن أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام في دعاء كميل “اللّهُمَّ …، وَاجْعَلْنِي مِنْ أَحْسَنِ عَبِيدِكَ نَصِيباً عِنْدَكَ”
5-  روي عن الإمام زين العابدين عليه السلام “من يقوى على عبادة علي بن أبي طالب عليه السلام؟”
6-  روي أن أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام كان إذا حضر وقت الصلاة تلوّن وتزلزل، فقيل له: مالك؟ فيقول: جاء وقت أمانة عرضها الله تعالى على السماوات والأرض والجبال فأبين أن يحملنها وحملها الانسان في ضعفه”
7-  من خبر ضرار بن ضمرة الضبائي عند دخوله على معاوية ومسألته له عن أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام قال: فأشهد لقد رأيته في بعض مواقفه ولقد أرخى الليل سدوله، وهو قائم في محرابه قابض على لحيته يتململ تململ السليم، ويبكي بكاء الحزين ويقول: يا دنيا يا دنيا إليك عني، أبي تعرضت أم إلي تشوقت؟ لا حان حينك، هيهات غري غيري، لا حاجة لي فيك، قد طلقتك ثلاثا لا رجعة فيها، فعيشك قصير، وخطرك يسير، وأملك حقير، آه من قلة الزاد، وطول الطريق، وبعد السفر، وعظم المورد.
8-  روي عن أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام “انا أبو اليتامى انا كهف الأرامل”
9-  روي عن أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام ” للمؤمن ثلاث ساعات فساعة يناجي فيها ربه، وساعة يرم معاشه، وساعة يخلي بين نفسه وبين لذتها فيما يحل ويجمل”

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