Rafed English

Our Belief in Pilgrimage (ziyarah) to the Holy Shrines

Adopted from the book : "The Faith of Shi'a Islam" by : "Allamah Muhammad Ridha al-Muzaffar"

One of the practices which distinguish the Shi'a from all other Islamic sects is the attention paid to pilgrimage to the Holy Shrines, such as those of the Prophet (A S) and the Imams (A S) and the building of magnificent domes and buildings over their tombs by good will and faith.

All of these things are done through the recommendations of the Imams. for they were continually persuading and encouraging their followers to make pilgrimages so as to derived great reward from Allah. It is one of the best forms of worship after the obligatory ones, and the shrines are the best places for supplicating and approaching Allah. Furthermore, according the sayings of the Imams, this is a form of fidelity to them. Imam Rida (A.S) said:

For every one of the Shi'a and their followers has an understanding with them (the Imams), and pilgrimage is a way of fulfilling and being faithful to that understanding. Whosoever undertakes a pilgrimage of his own free will, believing in it, for him the Imams will intercede with Allah on the Day of Resurrection.

There are social and religious advantages in making ziyarah. Thus our Imams have stressed its performance, for it fortifies the bond between them and their followers and reminds us of their virtues and their struggle for the truth. Moreover, it gathers Muslims together in one place so that they cam get to know and establish friendships with one another, in order that the condition of obedience to Allah and devotion to his commandments becomes firmly imprinted in their hearts. And it confirms in them the true meaning of pilgrimage: the tawhid, the sanctity of Islam, the prophethood of Muhammad, the various Islamic duties such as the striving for an elevated morality, bowing down and prostrating before the Commander of all creatures, and how to thank Allah for His gifts by means of those prayers which are recited during pilgrimage. And these prayers are among those with the most exalted meanings. For example, the du'a'' 'Amin Allah'' composed by Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (A.S) when he made a pilgrimage to the grave of his grandfather' Ali, Amir al-Mu'minin (A.S).

Also the recitations during the pilgrimage point out the magnificent characters of the Imams, their sacrifices in defending the truth and elevating the religion, and their perseverance in obedience to Allah. They are written in the most excellent Arabic, full of great eloquence and easily understandable phrases, and they contain the best exposition of tawhid, and supplication and prayer to Allah. Truly, among them is the greatest religious literature after the Qur'an, Nahj al-Balaghah and the other prayers of the Imams, because they have included in them summaries of their teachings on Islamic matters and morality. There are also teachings and guidance in certain pilgrimage ceremonies mentioned below for the spiritual progress of the Muslim, the cultivation of sympathy for the poor, and encouragement for fostering brotherhood, good behaviour and understanding between people.

These rites must be performed before entering the shrine and reciting the special prayer of pligrimage, and some others must be said during or after. Here we shall indicate some of them in order to make clear what we have already said.

Firstly the pilgrim must wash himself (ghusl) as commanded in the books of Islam, and clean his body before beginning. This is so that he may rid himself of dirt, prevent disease and suffering, so that his odour does not offend others,6 and at the same time to cleanse his spirit from moral impurities. Traditions have been narrated instructing that after completing this washing, and in order to fix his attention on these high aims, the pilgrim should say:

O Allah! Give me light and purity, and preserve me from all disease, sickness, calamity or corruption, and also through this washing purify my heart, my body, my bones, flesh and blood, my hair and skin, my brain and nerves and every place I touch the earth, and provide me with a witness on the Day of my poverty, necessity and requirement.

Secondly, the pilgrim should wear the best and cleanest clothes that he has, because in such in such days of gathering it causes people to love and be kind to one another, increases their dignity and thus enables them to understand the importance of pilgrimage. It should be noted that the pilgrim should put on the best clothes that he can afford, not the finest that are obtainable, For not everyone can wear the best, and such a command would cause despair among the poor, and thus it would go against the favour of Allah. So it is said that there is a two-fold meaning, i. e. that people should be well-dressed and that they should pay due regard to the condition of the poor.

Thirdly, the pilgrim should wear perfume where possible, for its benefit is like that of being well-dressed.

Fourthly, he should give alms to the poor, according as he is able. The purpose of this is, firstly, to help the poor, and then to instill in the pilgrim a sense of generosity.

Fifthly, the pilgrim should proceed towards the shrine slowly and quietly without gazing around. This is clearly in respect for the sacred place (haram), the pilgrimage and those who are buried, there, but also that the pilgrim may give his undivided attention to Allah, and avoid inconveniencing others along his way.

Sixthly, he must say' 'Allahu akbar'' (Allah, the supreme) and repeat it as much as he can. Some traditions instruct the pilgrim to repeat it one hundred times. By this he becomes aware of Allah's Greatness and Magnificence, and realizes that nothing is greater than He. This is for the sake of Allah and His dignity and to revive the sacred of Islam and be strengthen the religion.

Seventhly, after visiting the tomb of the Prophet or an Imam, the pilgrim should pray at least two rak'ah. This is in order to worship Allah and give thanks to Him, and to ask for success in one's pilgrimage ; then he should ask that the spiritual reward for the prayer should go to the soul of he who is buried in that place.

The special du'a' that follows, which the pilgrim must recite after his prayer, serves to show him that prayer and worship during pilgrimage are only for Allah, that no-one deserves to be worshipped save him. It is a means of winning Allah's favour, for the pilgrim says:

O Allah! To Thee alone do I pray, to Thee alone do I bow down and prostrate myself.

Thou art One,

Thou hast no partner

and it is a sin to pray, bow down or prostrate oneself before anyone else but Thee

O Allah! Praise be to Muhammad and his Family.

Accept my pilgrimage, and grant my request for the sake of Muhammad and his Immaculate Descendents.

This Du'a explains to those who want to know, the purpose of pilgrimage to the shrines as it was performed by the Imams and their followers, and it answers those who suppose that pilgrimage is a kind of idolatry and polytheism.
No doubt, the purpose of such detractors is to discourage the Shi'a from the benefits of meeting one another, and the solidarity which increases in the time of pilgrimage, because such brotherhood is like the shafts of arrows in the eyes of the enemies of Muhammad, for they cannot be unaware of the Imam's intention. It is not possible to believe that those whose every saying and doing were for the sake of Allah, and who gave their blood in the cause of the religion of Allah, should call the people to polytheism and idolatry.

Finally, one of the necessities of the pilgrimage is that " the pilgrim should behave towards and treat his fellow pilgrim with politeness, that he should say few words but ones of benefit and purpose, that he should remember Allah.7be humble, worship often, ask for the Mercy of Allah on Muhammad and his Descendants, lower his eyes and not stare around, assist his brothers when they have nothing and console them, remain far from what is unlawful, avoid quarrelling and arguing about one's beliefs."

The reality behind the pilgrimage is the salutation of Muhammad or the Imam, because, in accordance with the Qur'an:

They are alive and are provided with sustenance from their Lord. (3;168)

And they hear the words of the pilgrim and answer his salutations. it is enough to say, for example, before the tomb of the Prophet: "As-salamu alayka ya rasul allah" (peace be upon thee, O Messenger of Allah), but it is much better to say the words prescribed by the Household of the prophet, for they express the highest intentions and the greatest religious significance by their eloquence, and they are the most excellent prayers through which the pilgrimage may be contemplate Allah.

Notes :

6. Amir al-Muminin (AS) said: "Clean yourselves by water from affensive odours and examine your bodies carefully. Surely Allah detests those of his servants who are not clean, so the when people sit with them they are repelled by their odours"

7. This does not only mean verbal renenbrance of Allah such as say' 'Subhanullah wa'l-hamdulillah" (Glory be to Allah, and praise be to Allah). and the such -like repeatedly, but it means what Imam Ja'far Sadiq (AS) said in interpretation of the remembraned of Allah: "We do not only say suhanullah wa-hamdulillah wa la illaha illa' lla wa allahu akbar although this is a means of remembering Allah, but rather Allah should be remembered everywhere whether we obey him or not.

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