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Imam Zayn al-Abidin's Acts of Worship - Part 2

His Supplication after the Night Prayer

When he, peace be on him, had finished the night prayer, he supplicated with this holy supplication, which is among the outstanding supplications of the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt) , peace be on them. It is as follows:

"O Allah, O Possessor of kingdom perpetual in everlastingness, authority invincible without armies or helpers, might abiding through aeons past, years gone by, times and days elapsed! Your authority is mighty with a might that knows no bound by being first nor utmost end by being last! Your kingdom towers high with a towering before which all things fall down without reaching its term; the least of it which You have kept to Yourself is not reached by the furthest description of the descripers! Attributes go astray in You, descriptions fall apart below You the subtlest of imaginations are bewildered by Your magnificence!
Hence are You, Allah, the first in Your firstness, and Hence are You everlastingly. You do not pass away. However, I am the slave feeble in works, immense in hopes. Your tying links are outside my hand, except what is tied by Your mercy; the bounds of hopes have been cut away from me, except the pardon to which I hold fast. Little on my part is the obedience toward You upon which I count, and great against me the disobedience toward You to which I have reverted. However, pardoning Your slave will not constrain You, even if he be bad, Hence pardon me!"

This paragraph of his supplication contains glorifying Allah, professing belief in His unity, and mentioning some of His exalted attributes such as kingdom perpetual in everlastingness and authority invincible without armies or helpers, Hence attributes and descriptions are unable to depict Allah, the Most High.

Then the Ima`m goes on showing absolute humility, submission, and slavery to Allah, the Exalted, saying:
"O Allah, You commanded me, and I refrained, You prohibited me, and I committed. Evil thoughts tempted me to offend, and I was negligent. I cannot call upon daytime to witness my fasting, nor can I seek sanctuary in night because of my vigil; no sunna praises me for keeping it alive, only Your obligations, he who neglects which has perished.

I cannot seek access to You through the excellence of a supererogatory work, given the many duties of Your obligations of which I have been heedless and the stations of Your bounds which I have transgressed, thereby violating sacred things and committing great sins, though You have given my safety from their disgraces as a covering. This is the station of him who is ashamed of himself before You, angry with himself, and satisfied with You. He meets You with a humble soul, a neck bent down, a back heavy with offenses, hesitating between longing for You and fear of You.

You are the most worthy of those in whom he might hope, the most deserving for him to dread and fear. Hence give me, my Lord, what I hope for, make me secure against what frightens me, and act kindly toward me with the kindly act of mercy! Surely You are the most generous of those from whom are asked!"
The Ima`m, the monk of the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt) , peace be on them, showed his humility and submission before Allah. He thought that all his good deeds such as spending night in prayer, day in fasting, performing all the superfluous prayer (nawafil), desirable deeds (mustahabbat), enlivening the Islamic laws, and other countless good deeds were insufficient for performing the rights of Allah against him. Hence which turn to Allah in repentance better than this turn? Which devotion to Him is better than this devotion? Indeed, this Ima`m was a unique example in the world of the pious and the righteous.

Now, let's listen to another part of this supplication: "O Allah, since You have covered me with Your pardon and shielded me with Your bounty in the abode of annihilation and the presence of equals, grant me sanctuary from the disgraces of the Abode of Subsistence at the standing places of the Witnesses (the angels brought nigh, the messengers honored, the martyrs, the righteous) before the neighbor from whom I have hidden my evil deeds and the womb relative before whom I feel ashamed in my secret thoughts! I trust them not, my Lord, to cover me over, but I trust You, my Lord, to forgive me!

"O Allah, Your knowledge watches over hidden works, every covered thing is exposed before Your awareness, the intricacies of things are not concealed from You, and unseen mysteries slip not away from You. But over me Your enemy has gained mastery:

He asked a delay from You to lead me astray, and You gave him the delay! He asked a respite from You until the Day of Doom to misguide me, and You gave him the respite! Hence he threw me down, though I had fled to You from small, ruinous and great, deadly works, until, when I had yielded to disobeying You and merited Your anger through my bad efforts, he turned the bridle of his treachery away from me, met me with the word of his ingratitude, undertook to be quit of me, turned his back to flee from me, threw me to the desert of Your wrath alone, and sent me as an outcast into the courtyard of Your vengeance.
There is no intercessor to intercede for me with You, no protector to make me feel secure against You, no fortress to veil me from You, no shelter in which to seek asylum apart from You! This is the station of him who takes refuge with You, the place of the confessor to You: Let not Your bounty be too narrow for me, let not Your pardon fall short of me! Let me not be the most disappointed of Your repentant servants, nor the most despairing of those who come to You with expectations! Forgive me, surely You are the best of the forgivers!"

In these paragraphs the Ima`m, peace be on him, talks about the weakness of man's soul before desires and its inability to resist stoned Satan, who employs it through wicked inclinations such as greediness and haughtiness. Satan controls man's feelings and sentiments, employs him in the fields of sins and offenses, and drives him away from seeking nearness to Allah.

The Ima`m continued supplicating: "I trust them not, my Lord, to cover me over1, but I trust You my Lord, to forgive me! You are the most worthy of those in whom confidence is had, the most giving of those who are besought, and the most clement of those from whom mercy is asked."

In this paragraph the Ima`m, peace be on him, expresses his great confidence in Allah and his hope in Allah's forgiveness and favors. He asks Allah to forgive him and to be pleased with him in the hereafter. He, peace be on him, mentions that Allah covers over His disobedient servants. Moreover, he asks Allah to grant him sanctuary from the disgraces of the Abode of Subsistence at the standing places of the Witnesses, the angels brought nigh, the messengers honored, the martyrs, and the righteous. In this manner, he, peace be on him, urges the disobedient to turn to Allah in repentance and to do good deeds, that they may attain Allah's good pleasure and mercy, which embraces all things. Now, let's return to consider another part of this holy supplication:

"O Allah, You caused me to descend as mean water from loins of narrow bones and tight passages into a constricted womb which You had covered with veils; You turned me about from state to state until You took me to the completion of the form and fixed within me the bodily parts, as You have described in Your Book: a drop, then a clot, then a tissue, then bones, then You garmented the bones with flesh, then You produced me as another creature as You willed.

Then, when I needed Your provision, and could not do without the aid of Your bounty, You appointed for me a nourishment from the bounty of the food and drink which You bestowed upon Your handmaid in whose belly You gave me to rest and in lodging of whose womb You deposited me. Had You entrusted me in those states, my Lord, to my own force, or driven me to have recourse to my own strength, force would have removed from me and strength taken far away.

Hence You have fed me through Your bounty with the food of the Good, the Gentle; You have done that for me in graciousness toward me up to this present point. I do not lack Your goodness, nor does Your benefaction keep me waiting. Yet with all that, my trust has not become firm enough that I might free myself for that which is more favored by You.

Satan has taken possession of my reins through my distrust and frail certainty. I complain of his evil neighborhood with me and my soul's obedience toward him! I ask You to preserve me against his domination, and I plead with You to turn his trickery away from me! I ask You to make the path to my provision easy, since to You belongs praise for Your beginning with immense favors and Your inspiring gratitude for beneficence and bestowing favor!

Bless Mohammed and his Household, and make the way to my provision easy for me! (I ask You) to make me content with your ordainment for me, to make me satisfied with me lot in that which You have apportioned for me and to place what has gone of my body and my life-span into the path of Your obedience! Surely You are the Best of providers!"

In this paragraph there are some reliable proofs of the existence of the Great Creator. They are as follows: Allah, the Most High, created man from mean water, put him into a narrow womb, turned him from state to state until he took him to the completion of the form. Man is the greatest creature of Allah.

He has wonderful organs such as brain, eye, ear, and they all indicate the existence of the Wise Creator. The Ima`m, peace be on him, derived his views from the Holy Qur'a`n, which talked in detail about the creation of man. It is worth mentioning that the Qur'a`n has accurately showed how the embryo is formed, Hence it supplies man with this wonderful reality. Sayyid Qutub said:

"Man stands astonished before the reality which the Qur'a`n has displayed concerning the form of fetus. (This reality) was discovered when embryology developed. This is because the cells of bones are different from those of flesh. It has been established that the cells of bones are formed in embryo before those of flesh. None of the cells of flesh is seen unless those of bones appear, and the skeleton of fetus is complete. The Qur'a`nic text has mentioned this reality."

Any how, when the Ima`m, peace be on him, had mentioned the greatest blessings of Allah, he asked Allah to save him from the trickery and delusions of Satan, who is the first enemy of man. Now, let's read on the last paragraphs of this supplication:

"O Allah, I seek refuge in You from the Fire through which You are harsh toward him who disobeys You and by which You have threatened him who turns away from Your good pleasure; from the Fire whose light is darkness, whose ease is pain, and whose far is near; from the Fire parts of which devour parts and parts of which leap upon parts; from the Fire which leaves bones decayed and lets its people drink boiling water; from the Fire which does not spare him who pleads to it, has no mercy on him who seeks sympathy from it, and has no power to relieve him who humbles himself before it and yields himself to it; it meets its inhabitants with the hottest that it possesses: painful punishment and intense noxiousness.

I seek refuge in You from its gaping-jawed scorpions, its scraping-toothed serpents and its drinks, which tear a part the intestines and hearts of its inhabitants and root out their marrows. I ask guidance from You to that which will keep far from it and make it retreat!

"O Allah, bless Mohammed and his Household, grant me sanctuary from it through the bounty of Your mercy, release me from my stumbles through Your good releasing, and abandon me not, O Best of the sanctuary-granters. O Allah, You protect from the disliked, give the good, do what You will, and You are powerful over everything.

" O Allah, bless Mohammed and his Household when the pious are mentioned and bless Mohammed and his Household as long as night and day come and go with a blessing whose replenishment is never cut off and whose number cannot be counted, a blessing that will fill up the air and crowd the earth and the heaven! Allah bless him until he is well pleased and Allah bless him and his Household after good pleasure with a blessing that has neither bound nor utmost limit! O Most Merciful of the merciful!"

These paragraphs contain fearful descriptions of the Fire of Hell, which Allah has prepared for the sinful and tyrannical ones from among his creatures, who spread oppression and corruption in the earth, Hence they will suffer various kinds of indescribable terrible torture in the Fire of Hell, may Allah protect us from it.
With this we will end our talk about this holy supplication, which the Ima`m used to recite after the night prayer, and which is among the outstanding supplications of the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt) , peace be on them.

His Frailty and Weakness

Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, became frail because of his many prayers, for worship strained him very much, and he was Hence weak that the wind would bend (his body) to left and right like an ear of corn.( Al-Mufeed, al-Irshad, p. 272, Roudat al-Wa'izin, no. 1, p. 237)

This is because he had no power to stand. His son 'Abd Allah reported: "My father used to pray at night. When he had finished (praying), he crept to his bed."(Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 46. p. 99)

This means that he had no power to stand because of tiredness, weakness and faintness.

His family and those who loved him felt pity for him because of the intense weakness resulted from his many prayers. They feared that he would die, Hence they talked with him about that, but he refused to answer them, and he went on performing his prayers until he met his fathers. The following is some of those who talked with him:

1. One of his Sons

One of his sons feared for his safety, Hence he asked him with regret and fear: "Father, how long will you continue (praying)?"

The Ima`m answered him with kindness and affection: "Do you make me love my Lord?1"
Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, loved his Lord and drew near to Him through all ways. There is no one in the world of the pious and the righteous like him in turning to Allah in repentance and intense clinging to Him.

2. Ja`bir al-Ansa`ri

The great companion (of the Prophet), Ja`bir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansa`ri, felt pity for the Ima`m, peace be on him, and asked him to reduce his prayers and not to strain himself. Ima`m al-Ba`qir, peace be on him, reported his tradition, saying: [When Fa`tima, daughter of the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, saw that her nephew, 'Ali b. al-Husayn, strained himself with prayer, she went to Ja`bir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansa`ri and said to him:]

"O Companion of Allah's Apostle, we have rights against you. Among our rights against you is that when you see one of us strain himself (with prayer), you must remind him of Allah and to ask him to spare his life. This is 'Ali b. al-Husayn, the surviving one of his father al-Husayn, has carried out in worship (to the extent that) his nose has been squashed; his forehead has been bruised; his legs and feet have been swollen."

Hence Ja`bir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansa`ri went to Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him, and found him in his mihrab exerted by worship and obedience (to Allah). When the Ima`m saw Ja`bir, he received him and sat him beside him and asked him very much about his conditions, Hence Ja`bir turned to him and said to him: "O Son of Allah's Apostle, didn't you know that Allah has created Heaven for you and for those who love you, and He has created the Fire for those who hate you and show enmity toward you, Hence why have you strained yourself (in worship)?"

The Ima`m kindly and gently answered him: "O Companion of Allah's Apostle, didn't you know that Allah forgave my grandfather, Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family, his previous and next sins? Yet, he did not leave exertion (in worship), may my father and mother be ransom for him, to the extent that his legs and feet were swollen, Hence he was asked: 'Do you do this, while Allah has forgiven you your previous and next sins?' Hence he replied: 'Shall I not be a grateful servant?'"

When Jabir knew that it was difficult for him to convince the Ima`m to leave exertion in worship, he said to him: "O Son of Allah's Apostle, spare your life, for you are from among the family through whom tribulation is driven away, through whom cures are discovered, and through whom the sky is asked to rain."

The Ima`m answered him with a faint voice: "I will continue the method of my fathers until I meet them."
Hence Ja`bir admired the Ima`m, turned to those who around him, and said to them: "None of the sons of the prophets was like 'Ali b. al-Husayn except Yousif b. Ya'qu`b. By Allah, the progeny of al-Husayn is better than the progeny of Yousif b. Ya'qu`b. Surely one of them will fill the earth with justice and fairness as it was filled with oppression and tyranny"

Yes, by Allah, no one of the sons of the prophets was like 'Ali b. al-Husayn in piety, Allah-fearingness, and all other ideals that raised him to the zenith which the great figures from among his fathers reached. Ja`bir declared that the progeny of al-Husayn was better than the progeny of Yousif b. Ya'qu`b, for among them is the great reformer, the Qa'im of the family of Mohammed, may Allah bless him and his family, of whom the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, gave good news, and who will fill the earth with justice and fairness as it was filled with oppression and tyranny, that will occur during the days of his government and authority.

'Abd al-Malik

'Abd al-Malik b. Marwa`n was among those who pitied for Ima`m Zayn al-'Abidin, peace be on him. That was when the Ima`m went to him to intercede with him for some Muslims whom the authority had arrested. When 'Abd al-Malik saw him, he admired the marks of prostration between his eyes, Hence he said to him:

"The exertion (in worship) has appeared on your face, while Allah has already promised you good, you are part of Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family, your lineage is close (to him), your relation (with him) is certain, you are the most meritorious of the family of your House and the people of your time, you have been given merits, knowledge, religion, piety of which none before or after you has been given."
'Abd al-Malik flattered the Ima`m, reminded him of his merits and laudable deeds. When he ended his talk, the Ima`m said to him: "All what you have mentioned is attained through the bounty, support, and success of Allah, the Glorified. Hence where is our gratefulness to Him for what He has bestowed (upon us)? Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family, stood in pray to the extent that his feet were swollen and became thirsty during fast to the extent that his mouth became dried, Hence he was asked: 'O Allah's Apostle, didn't Allah forgive you your past and next sins?' Hence he, may Allah bless him and his family, replied: 'Shall I not be a grateful servant?'

"Praise belongs to Allah for what He has rendered and tested, and praise belongs to Him for here and the hereafter. By Allah, even if my limbs are severed, and my tears flow onto my chest, I will be unable to give thanks to Allah, the Great and Almighty, for the tenth of the tenth of one blessing of all His blessings which calculators cannot count, and no one can attain a blessing of them through all the praise of the praisers.
No, by Allah, doesn't Allah see that nothing distract me from thanking Him and remembering Him by day and night, secretly and openly? Were it not for that my family had right against me, and that people in private and in general had rights against me, I would look at the sky with my eye and at Allah with my heart, and then I would not prevent them (from that), until Allah made me die, and He is the Best of judges."

The Ima`m bitterly wept. His words and his painful sight had a great effect on 'Abd al-Malik, the tyrannical caliph, who said with admiration: "There is a great difference between a servant who seeks the hereafter and a servant who seeks this world."

Then 'Abd al-Malik yielded to the Ima`m and released the persons for whom he interceded.

These are some of those who felt pitied for the Ima`m because of his many prayers and abundant worship and asked him frequently to decrease them and to have a rest, but the Ima`m did not respond them for that, for he found in prayers a unique, psychological rest.

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