Tuesday, May 1st, 2018, marks the birth anniversary of Imam al-Mahdi (p), 15th of Shaban,…
Our fourth imam, Imam Ali Zayn al-Abidin (p) was born on the fifth of the blessed month of Shaban and became a martyr from the poison of the Umayyad caliph, Walid ibn Abd al-Malik, on the twenty-fifth of Muharram. He spent his childhood under the guidance of his father, Imam Hussain (p). During the battle of Karbala, Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) fell ill and was unable to defend his father. But soon after the battle of Karbala and the political upheaval of the time, he spent a great deal of his time in prayer and supplication, and thus was named “Zayn al-Abidin” or the “ornament of the worshippers” and “al-Sajjad” or the “one who prostrates.” Among the most important legacies that Imam Zayn al-Abidin left behind for his followers were his immaculate supplications. One of his outstanding supplications is the “Supplication of Abu Hamza al-Thumali” which highlights the mercy and love of God for His creation.
The Supplication of Abu Hamza al-Thumali
The supplication of Abu Hamza al-Thumali is a supplication which our fourth imam narrated to his close companion Abu Hamza al-Thumali. We often recite it during the nights of the holy month of Ramadan, and it emphasizes themes that we should reflect upon throughout the year. This supplication is among the most powerful means of devotion to God and a reflection of what it means to be truly dependent on the Creator. These words illustrate a visual image of how much the Almighty has blessed us. In one section of the supplication, the Imam states,
“Oh my Master! I am the [child] whom You have brought up, And I am the ignorant whom You have taught, And I am the lost whom You have guided, And I am the humble [inferior] whom You have given rise, And I am the afraid whom You have given security, And I am the hungry whom You have satiated, And I am the thirsty whom You have quenched, And I am the naked whom You have dressed, And I am the poor whom You have given affluence, And I am the weak whom You have strengthened, And I am the lowly whom You have given might, And I am the ill whom You have cured, And I am the beggar whom You have given to, And I am the sinner whom You have concealed [my sins], And I am the guilty whom You have excused, And I am the valueless whom You have evaluated, And I am the helpless whom You have helped, And I am the expelled that You have sheltered.”1
We are often forgetful of how much God has blessed us, with things such as clothes, water, knowledge, and forgiveness. Through careful reflection, we realize that the Almighty has given us all these gifts through His compassion and mercy.
God’s Affection for His Creation
In another section of this powerful supplication, the words of Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) demonstrate God’s care and love for His creation.
The Imam states, “All praise be to God who answers me whenever I pray to Him, although I am slow whenever He invites [calls to] me. All praise be to God who gives me whenever I ask Him…All praise be to God whom I call whenever I need something, And whom I secretly converse whenever I want [and] He settles my needs…All praise be to God who has accepted me to depend upon Him and bestowed favors upon me. He [God] has not left me to the people who will definitely humiliate me. All praise be to God Who showed his love to me when He does not need me. All praise be to God Who is gentle and considerate towards me as if I have not sinned.”2
Even though we may think of ourselves as insignificant in this vast world, God Himself finds us significant, hence He answers our prayers, protects us from humiliation, and loves us no matter the situation.
Bits of Advice
1. Never lose hope: As we learn from Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p), the mercy of God is vast and all-encompassing, and thus we should never lose hope, regardless of our past sins and errors. The door of repentance is always open, and it is a failure to recognize the generosity of our Creator if we lose hope in his compassion. Our fourth imam demonstrates this beautifully when he states, “By Your Majesty, I swear, Oh my Lord, even if you chide me, I shall never leave Your Door and I shall never stop [asking] You.”3 No matter how far we have distanced ourselves from the Almighty, we should realize that the first door that will open for us in such difficulties is the door of God’s mercy.
2. Reflect on the words of Al-sahifah al-sajjadiyah: Al-sahifah al-sajjadiyah (also called The Psalms of Islam) is a collection of supplications narrated from Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p). The words of the household of the Prophet teach us how to know God. When we reflect on these supplications, we can learn incredible lessons. By flipping through and stopping to read different pages of the manuscript of Imam Ali Zayn al-Abidin (p), we see the insightful themes of mercy, compassion, beauty, and love all phrased in the most beautiful language.
3. Seek God Through Supplication: As human beings, we often become distracted from our focus on God’s obedience, and thus it is normal to fall into vice sometimes. Each of us will also go through some sort of difficulties in our lives. The important thing is that we get back up and realize that God wants to hear our pleading and calling upon Him, so He can respond to our request, whether it is for forgiveness or for help in getting through difficulties. God states, “[I]f any of My servants ask you about Me, (tell them that the Lord says), ‘I certainly am near; I answer the prayers of those who pray.’ Allow My servants to ask Me for an answer to their call and believe in Me so that perhaps they may know the right direction.”4 Our all-merciful Lord loves when we supplicate to Him, and we learn the most beautiful of all supplications from Imam al-Sajjad (p).
1. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafatih al-jinan.
2. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafatih al-jinan.
3. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafatih al-jinan.
4. The Holy Quran, translated by Muhammad Sarwar, 2:186.