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This supplication begins thus

It has been recorded by the eminent traditionalist, Shaykh Abbas Qummi (r.a.), in his renowned compilation, ‘Mafatihul Jinaan’. He has reported this invocation on the authority of Shaykh Kafami from the latter’s ‘Misbahul Mutahajjid’. It is recommended that this supplication be recited after every obligatory namaaz or for that matter at any other time. (This supplication is mentioned in ‘Mafatihul Jinaan’ before the fifteen supplications of Imam Sajjad (a.s. )). Considering the veracity of this supplication, and with an eye on brevity, we have not mentioned the chain of transmitters.

A supplication generally commences by invoking Allah as in ‘Allahumma` , which means ‘O Allah’. The very next word `arzokna’ , means grant us sustenance. The word sustenance is by and large associated with food and succour. However, this word is also used to imply bounties associated with both this world, as well as the hereafter. In other words, any bounty, aid, assistance, etc., granted by Allah is dubbed as ‘razk’ and this could be in the guise of ‘taufeeq’ to perform some action or it could be some monetary benefit or an increase in knowledge and recognition (ma’refat). Granting sustenance is the exclusive domain of Allah as He Himself mentions in the Quran

“Surely Allah is the bestower of sustenance, the Lord of Power, the Strong.’
(Chapter of Zariyat, verse 58)
The word ‘huva’ that precedes ‘arrazko’ is an added emphasis on Allah’s prerogative in granting sustenance to man. This declaration affirming Allah’s sovereignty in the matter of succour in the very beginning of this invocation is an admission of man’s absolute helplessness and dependence on Allah. (It must be noted that the Quran alludes to others also like responsiblity for granting sustenance. However, these can only perform this duty with permission and assistance from Allah and are by no means His associates.)
It is pertinent to note what Imam Mahdi (a.s.) has beseeched from Allah, under the heading of ‘arzokna’. And what Imam (a.s.) has sought under the heading ‘arzokna’. ‘Tawfeeq’ is derived from ‘Vafq’, which means to reform or to rectify. It also means success and fruition. This is again the undisputed right of Allah as expounded in chapter of Hud, verse 88.

“And with none but Allah is the direction of my affair to the right issue.”
Thus all success, honour and accomplishment is directly attributed to Allah’s assistance and aid. Then, one who wishes to advance in this world as well as the hereafter, must constantly entreat Allah. ‘Taufeeq’; plays a crucial role in the performance of actions. For instance, there could be a youth, strong and capable, who is unable to perform a simple action due to lack of ‘taufeeq’, while a man twice his age may perform an even more formidable task, like say praying Namaze Shab in severe wintry conditions, with ‘taufeeq’ from Allah’ side. However, it is relevant to note that Allah never acts impulsively. His actions are governed by perfect wisdom and reasoning. In other words, Allah will never grant man ‘taufeeq’ without some cause. And this cause that draws ‘taufeeq’ is intention (neeyah). And that is why traditions elucidate this concept thus;
‘Taufeeq is in proportion with intention.’
‘At-ta’a’ means an attraction, inclination or preference towards someone or something. It is commonly used to denote submission, obedience or compliance. In this supplication ‘At-ta’a’ implies obedience of Allah’s commands and edicts. Indeed, submission to Allah is the key to man’s problems relating to the world, and the hereafter. Submission to Allah’s commands, is a precursor to man’s success, stifles social disputes, wards off Allah’s wrath, grants man honour and dignity and averts evil. Then one who obeys Allah’s commands will accept death matter-of-factly. He will show urgency in performing all obligatory acts. However, regrettably, today we see the Muslims evading obligatory deeds. Ameerul Mo’mineen (a.s.) protests against this strange trait thus,
“When their God invites them (towards goodness) they flee and abscond. But when Satan entices them they heed his call with urgency and rush towards him.’
(Nahjul Balaga, sermon 166)
One must never forget that all bounties are a direct consequence of our obedience to Allah, for nothing can be achieved without His satisfaction. Subservience to the Almighty gains precedence over all other actions. ,

“And help us abstain from sin and disobedience.” Verily abstinence from sins is among Allah’s greatest bounties. Disobedience is a result of ‘asa’.
‘Kazalan’ means that Allah abandons the servant and deprives him of His bounties;
i.e. He does not care about him. And this only adds to man’s depravation and debasement. A Muslim when he sins not only disobeys Allah, but also infringes upon the rights of the Prophet and his progeny (a.s.). That
is why Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) declares,
‘Undoubtedly the friend of Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) is the one who obeys Allah, even if he bears no blood ties with the Prophet (s.a. w.s.). And the antagonist of Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) is the one who defies Allah even while he boasts of blood ties with the Prophet (s.a.w.s.).’
(Nahjul Balaga sermon 96)
Indeed man’s behaviour is astonishing. For he evinces urgency in responding to the call of this world, that only invites him to trials, tribulations and misery.

“And inculcate sincerity in my intentions”.
Intention is the foundations of all our actions and in fact, the latter are a consequence of the former. An unwavering intention can subdue the weakness of the body. That is why traditions declare, ‘The believer’s intention surpasses his action and the disbeliever’s intention surpasses his action.”
In this supplication Imame Asr (a.t.f.s.) beseeches Allah to purify his intentions from all blemishes like ostentation, vainglory, pride, disbelief, etc. Such a level of purity in our intention is crucial, for actions are accepted by Allah only if our intention is unfettered with such blemishes; else regardless of the effort, our actions will never be acknowledged by Allah. Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) proclaims,

‘If one is sincere in his intentions, then Allah will multiply manifold his sustenance.”
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) also declares, “One who has pure intentions will experience serenity in his heart. For the heart can only get tranquillity from actions that are performed for Allah’s sake alone.” Insincere intentions deprive man of his sustenance, hurl him into tribulations and seize ‘barakat’ from him.

‘Irfan’ and ‘Marefat’ imply recognition and comprehension. ‘Al Horma’ means all those things that are prohibited by the Islamic Shariat. In this supplication, Imam (a.s.) implores Allah to help him recognise the forbidden actions, so that he may exercise restrain in this regard. For surely among the signs of the intellect is that the person abstains from prohibited deeds, especially consuming impure food by which blood is produced in the body. Hence when a Muslim eats what is forbidden by the Shariat, the angels in the heavens and the earth curse that person. Moreover, worship on a stomach filled with prohibited food, is akin to a house that is built on water. To the extent that traditions pronounce that a person who forsakes a morsel of prohibited food will get reward that exceeds that of two thousand recommended (mustahhab) units of namaz. But this abstinence is possible only if man can clearly identify the prohibited actions. Then one who abstains from the forbidden deeds while he is having the ability and inclination, then Allah will avert from him the fire of Hell and grant him entry in Paradise.

‘And grant us honour through guidance and Steadfastness.’
Verily the best guidance is that of Allah. So critical is guidance that Allah has not delegated it to anyone and has kept this responsibility with Himself. In fact, Allah tells the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in the chapter of Qasas, verse 57,

“(O Prophet) surely you cannot guide whom you love, but Allah guides whom He pleases.”
Then if guidance is with Allah, how does man go about acquiring it? Who
are the ones fortunate enough to receive it and the wretched who are
deprived of it? There are certain actions the performance of which invoke
Allah’s guidance and mercy, viz.,

a) belief in Allah,
b) piety,
c) repentance and contrition,
d) abstinence from sins,
e) endeavours in the way of Allah,
f) adherence to the Islamic Shariat,
g) concern and regard for religion,
h) patience and fortitude,
i) certitude,
j) sincere intentions,
k) consultation,
l) frequent remembrance of Allah,
m) acquisition of knowledge,
n) obedience of the Imams (a.s.).

On the other hand there are certain actions that repel Allah’s mercy and
guidance viz.,

a) Injustice – be it on others, or on oneself by way of sins
b) Disbelief and apostasy
c) Transgression and unrestraint in the matter of sins
d) Extravagance
e) Falsehood
f) To accede to one’s desires
g) To act without any ma’soom Imam’s leadership.
h) Doubt and scepticism (after certitude)

Steadfastness connotes following the right path, the path of guidance, as opposed to that of deviation and misguidance, as it is mentioned in the first chapter of Quran thus, ‘Keep us on the right path.’ And the chapter of Hud, verse 112 “Remain steadfast as you have been commanded.” Steadfastness and uprightness are among the distinctive features of a believer. Allah has given glad tidings to those who observe fortitude and Steadfastness in their affairs. In fact this is the best means of leading one’s life. Then one who wishes to succeed in the world and
the hereafter must embrace these characteristics. For as Ameerul Mo’mineen (a.s.) declares,
‘One who is steadfast shall get Paradise, but the one who is afflicted with doubt and disbelief shall get the fire.’
(Nahjul Balaga, sermon 119)
Only after being graced by Allah with Steadfastness and guidance can one truly comprehend the meaning of the word ‘Akrimna’ which means, ‘honour us’. For surely One who is blessed by Allah with these two traits will find honour and esteem in the eyes of Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w. s.).

‘Direct our tongues to speak truthful and prudent discourses.’
Here ‘sawab’ means to enjoin upon the right path and ‘alsanah’ means tongues. ‘saddad’ means honest and rightful discourses, while ‘hikmat’ means reflections and talks marked with wisdom and discernment.
A man’s tongue plays a crucial role in moulding his personality. Which is why Ameerul Mo’mineen (a.s.) proclaims,
‘The tongue determine man’s worth.’
Just as a woman’s grace and beauty is reflected in her visage, a man’s character is (disguised) in his tongue. Indeed the tongue is the root of all goodness and evil. A man can never achieve steadfastness in his character unless he first observes this trait in his speech. That is why Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) exhorts us to guard our tongues with the same judiciousness with which we safeguard gold and silver. In fact in this lies the security of man. For this little piece of flesh used with abandon can cause damage more severe and destructive than swords and lances. Hence we must beseech Allah to help us guard our tongues so nothing comes forth from it but guidance and wisdom. We must observe a lot of discretion and caution in our speech. As Ameerul Mo’mineen has put it
‘The wise man’s tongue is hidden behind his intellect, while a fool’s intellect is hidden behind his tongue.’
(Nahjul Balaga, saying 40).

‘And pervade our hearts with knowledge and recognition.’
Indeed knowledge and recognition are such profound concepts that to do justice to them in this short exposition is well-nigh impossible. The great traditionist, Allamah Muhammad Baqir Majlisi (r.a.) has discussed knowledge, recognition and intellect in over two volumes of his celebrated work ‘Behaarul Anwaar’. To put it briefly, the Imams (a.s.) have enjoined acquisition of knowledge upon every Muslim man and woman. In fact few other things in Islam have been emphasised with such vehemence by the Imams (a.s.). Despite all these exhortations Muslims today cut a sorry figure steeped in ignorance and regression.
And this state of ignorance among his Shias pains Imame Asr (a.t.f.s.) more than anything else. Our responsibility then, is not only to acquire knowledge, but to disseminate it. Now as far as recognition is concerned, it can only be achieved by strictly adhering to the commands of Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.s.) as far as obligatory and recommended, prohibited and abominable actions are concerned. And it is important that we always recite the following invocation:
‘O Allah, help us recognise ourselves, for surely if we fail to recognise ourselves, we can never recognise Your Prophet. O Allah, help us recognise Your Prophet, for surely if we fail to recognise Your Prophet we can never recognise Your Proof (Imame Asr). O Allah, help us recognise Your Proof, for surely if we fail to recognise Your Proof we shall be deviated from Your religion.’

‘And purify our bellies from impure and unclean food.’
The unclean food that finds its way in our bellies is deemed impure on the basis of two criteria; first, it is either obtained from unlawful livelihood or from a livelihood on which khums has not been paid. Second, either the food by itself is impure or it has been acquired from an unclean person. For instance, if one acquires some foodstuff from an unbeliever that has been made unclean with the latter’s sweat. Such impure food once consumed sows seeds of rebellion against the Almighty. That is why as mentioned earlier one who forsakes a morsel of prohibited food will get reward that exceeds that of two thousand recommended (mustahhab) units of namaz. Apart from the effect on our spirituality, impure food has far reaching repercussions on our issues. The impure blood that flows in their veins incites them to revolt against Allah. However, we often find Muslims, especially Indian Muslims, who are negligent about this aspect and advance lame excuses like, it is not possible for any person living in this country to totally avoid unclean food!! Of course that is not true. We find instances wherein a doctor strongly recommends, say a non-vegetarian patient from eating mutton. The patient actually adheres to the doctor’s recommendations and completely stops consuming mutton. If man can go to such lengths to preserve this temporal body, then he should make a more concerted effort for success in the eternal life in the hereafter, and he should constantly endeavour to attain Allah’s satisfaction. In this regard it is sufficient to say that impure food is a cause for repudiation of all our prayers and supplications and a means of Imam’s displeasure.

‘And withhold our hands from injustice and theft.’
Tyranny and injustice are among the major sins. Allah does not guide the tyrant, on the contrary He sends down His chastisement upon him. Tyranny and injustice are the root cause of all sins and transgression, as Quran proclaims,
“And certainly We did destroy generations before you when they were unjust.”
(Yunus : 13)
Injustice can be broadly divided under three categories.
First is ‘Shirk’ i.e. to take some associate for Allah. ‘Shirk’ is so heinous that it has been dubbed by the Quran as the ‘zulm azeem’ Second is to do injustice to oneself through sins and transgression. The third category involves injustice to others, by usurping their rights or encroaching upon their property. Another form of injustice involves doubting and questioning a tenet or , fundamental of religion (please refer Tafsire Ayyashi under Chapter of Anam, verse 82). One must never employ coercion with the old and defenceless. That is why Ameerul Mo’mineen (a.s.) exhorts us thus,
“When your hand advances to perpetrate injustice remember the justice of Allah. And when you wrest control over someone remember the control Allah exercises over you.’
(Behaarul Anwaar vol. 75, page 322)
One who does injustice or commits theft will find himself in a very wretched state on the Day of Judgement. Allah asserts in the Quran
“And the day when the unjust one shall bite his hands, saying: O! Would that I had taken a way with the Apostle.”
(Furqan : 27)

‘And lower our gaze at scenes of transgression and treachery.’
This statement endorses the verse of the chapter of Nur, wherein Allah commands the believers, men as well as women, to lower their gaze. Indeed among the miracles of Quran is how it has succinctly outlined a mode of living for mankind that is in perfect harmony with his inherent nature and at the same time in line with his spiritual needs. No other philosopher or thinker of any age or school of thought has ever formulated (nor will he ever formulate) a mode of lifestyle that even remotely resembles the one advocated by the Quran. Islam has forbidden Muslims from casting a glance on the na-mahram. Indeed this is the transgression and treachery of the eyes. On the Day of Judgement all eyes will weep save those that when they are confronted with the forbidden, lower their gaze. Those eyes that are habituated to looking at na-mahram will in the hereafter find rods of blazing fire being driven in their eyes. Looking at the forbidden is a potent poison with which Satan spoils the faith of the believer. On the other hand, the fear of Allah is the anti-dote to this poison. Indeed, the Shia must reflect on it here and now, during the period ofoccultation. If he desires to look at the forbidden he will never be able to cherish the sight of the luminous countenance oflmame Asr (a.t.f.s.). *Refrain our hearing from vain talks and backbiting.’ Quran declares ‘And who keep aloof from what is vain.’ (Mo’minoon: 3)
All talks that do not involve some discussion about Allah or His Prophet (s.a.w.s.) or the Able Bayt (a.s.), can be accounted as vain. Even music is classified as vain and listening to it is forbidden. One who forsakes vain talks will find an elevation in his honour and esteem. ‘Ghibat’ means to muse over the shortcomings and flaws of a believer in his absence. If indeed those flaws are present in the believer then it constitutes ‘ghibat’ (backbiting), else it takes the form of ‘bohtan’ (accusation). Quran has prohibited the believers from backbiting thus;
“Not let some of you backbite others. Does one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother?”
(Hujrat : 12)
Thus as per the Quran, backbiting of a believer is tantamount to eating the dead brother’s flesh. Not only is speaking evil of a believer prohibited, but even lending one’s ears to the slanderous talks of the backbiter is forbidden. If it is possible for us, then we should immediately refrain the person from going on any further, and remind him of Allah’s displeasure in this regard.

‘And bless our scholars and the learned with piety and the ability to give sound advice.’
Indeed if all the scholars of the Islamic nation strive and endeavour in the way of Allah, then most of our problems will be solved. In this supplication Imame Asr (a.s.) beseeches Allah to bestow His grace and benevolence upon the scholars of the Islamic nation. Indeed if the learned of this nation do not propagate Islam with intensity, and do not exhort the Muslims towards goodness and refrain them from evil, then the only logical consequence will be sedition and disputes.

‘And grant inclination to the seekers of knowledge to struggle hard in their quest for knowledge.’
Here there is one thing that must always be kept in mind. The sole objective of acquiring knowledge must be to seek Allah’s pleasure and satisfaction. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) declares that one who seeks knowledge for four reasons shall be worthy of a place in Hell, viz., one who seeks knowledge merely to debate with the scholars, or solely to have some vain talks with the fools and simpletons or some aimless discussions, or to invite the people towards oneself or to acquire some wealth from the affluent.
(Behaarul Anwaar vol 2, vase 38)

‘And bless the listeners so that they may respond to invitations of truth and righteousness and lend their ears to sound advice and admonitions.’
One must always endeavour to obey and abide by Allah’s commands. As Allah asserts in the Quran in the chapter of Baqarah, verse 38
“Then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them nor shall they grieve.’
Indeed admonitions keep alive the heart and dispel unawareness and incognizance. The best admonisher is the Quran. Hence we must endeavour to be constantly in touch with this miracle that has come for man’s guidance.

‘And grant relief and tranquillity to the ailing.’

‘And bestow Your mercy and pardon on the dead.’
In the above two statements of the supplication, Imame Asr (a.t.f.s.) implores Allah to reform the condition of the afflicted and dead among the Muslims. These invocations only serve to remind us of our obligations towards the sick and dead amongst us. Indeed in our busy lives today, we seem to have overlooked these two sections of the community. Keeping in mind the implorations of Imam (a.s.) for the indisposed and the dead, we must take out time to visit the ailing and pray for their relief and comfort. And as far as the dead are concerned, we should recite the Quran on their behalf and visit their graves regularly and pray for the forgiveness of their sins.

‘And bestow dignity and serenity upon our elders’
The elders play a very pivotal role in the progress of the community. The enthusiasm and fervour of the youth can only be reined in by the experience and foresight of the senior citizens of the nation. However, the elders must work alongside the youth keeping in mind their own dignity and honour. Then they should not do anything to violate this respect and esteem. Indeed the similitude of the senior members of society is that of captain of ship, who even in the storm, does not lose his bearings, but musters up all his experience and expertise, steering the ship towards the shore.’

‘And endow the youth with a feeling of repentance and contrition.
A man’s youth is a period of craze and abandon. The youth should therefore observe caution in this age by obeying Allah, falling in line with His commands and tenets. The juveniles must always bear in mind the transience of their youth, that will soon be replaced with old age and fatigue. That is why the period of one’s youth must be used most judiciously. Surely the fervour and intensity of youth is fleeting, and man must exploit it before it is taken away. Indeed Imam Baqir’s admonitions in this regard are most striking. Imam declares, “If I find a youth not engaged in the acquisition of religious knowledge, I will beat him.” Surely, Imame Asr (a.s.) when he reappears, will punish all those youths who are incognizant of their religious obligations. O Shia youths! If your lives have been steeped in sins till now, turn to Allah and seek pardon with sincerity, so that you may be acquainted with the true essence of religion.

‘And grant our women modesty and chastity.’
Surely Imame Asr (a.s.) is distressed when he observes the outrageous
spectacle of the women of our society with their heads unveiled and
exposed. This display of immodesty provokes him into beseeching Allah
for instilling modesty among the women. Traditions warn that even if a
single strand of hair (of a woman) stands exposed to men, she will on
the Day of Judgement be dangled in Hell by that very strand of hair,
(provided of course that this exposure was intentional on her part).
However, in their attempt to ape the West, we find people who not only
flagrantly violate the Islamic tenets, but on the contrary are not willing
to accept the Islamic injunction on the veil and demand evidence from
the Quran and traditions in this regard. The Islamic veil constitutes an
independent topic by itself and is beyond the scope of this treatise.
Suffice it is to say that both the Quran and traditions of Ahle Bayt (a.s.)
have been most vehement in this regard. For further deliberation on this
topic, readers are welcome to correspond with our organisation. Quran
proclaims

“Do not advance your opinion where you do not have the knowledge.” Modesty is a sign of faith and honour. Chastity is the best form of worship. Ameerul Mo’mineen (a.s.) narrates,”Chastity is the zakaat of beauty and grace.” (Ghuraral Hekam)

‘And confer humility and generosity on the affluent and wealthy’
Wealth and riches must at no point of time instill any pride and arrogance in us. This is because abundance is like any other bounty of Allah and He can take it away whenever He pleases. In this regard, history is witness over the fate of Qarun and Firaun. When Allah has bestowed wealth to one section of the community, then they should endeavour to share their good fortune with those who are deprived of it, for tradition exhorts us thus, ‘And do good to the people like Allah has done good with you.’ Never we should deem our intellect, efforts and capabilities responsible for our wealth and fortune. Tradition declares, ‘Allah bestows wealth on a fool so that the wise can perceive Allah’s role in apportioning sustenance and the helplessness of their own intellect in its provision.’

‘And bestow patience and contentment on the poor and needy.’
Imame Asr (a.t.f.s.) on the one hand exhorts the wealthy to act with humility and on the other hand urges the needy to deal with patience. This is so because Allah has examined the former by their wealth, while the latter have been tried with their poverty and indigence. Man should never complain to Allah about his destitution and penury. On the contrary he should struggle to acquire his livelihood and thank Allah under all circumstances. This is because contentment by itself is good fortune. Contentment is akin to gratitude and protestation to ingratitude. That is why Ameerul Mo’mineen (a.s.) says,

‘The contented man is wealthy even while he is h
ungry and naked.’
(Ghuraral Hikam)
Contentment elevates a man’s honour and esteem. Allah accepts easily whatever little deeds such a man has to offer. And it is worth noting that one who is not content in scarcity will never be so in abundance.

‘And arm our warriors with (Your) aid and make them victorious.’
This part of Imam’s supplication pertains to those warriors who relinquish the comforts of day and forsake their sleep at night only to serve Allah and safeguard His religion.

‘And grant respite and succour to the captives.’
Indeed no one is more aware of the helplessness and powerlessness of the captives than Imame Asr (a.t.f.s.), who has seen so many of his forefathers brave captivity and imprisonment for long periods of time.

‘And assist the judges to perform (their duties) with justice and compassion.’

‘And induce the citizens to act with fairness and good ethics.’
Indeed if we act as per the exhortations of Imame Asr (a.t.f.s.), we shall find the world a place of shelter and asylum.

‘And bless the pilgrims and visitors (of graves of Imams)/ And assist them in their pilgrimage that you have made as an obligation upon them. By Your Grace and Mercy, O Most Merciful’
In the end, Imame Asr (a.t.f.s.) prays for the pilgrims and visitors (of graves of Imams) and beseeches Allah to increase their sustenance and provisions so that they can easily discharge their religious obligations. We conclude this brief exposition with a tradition from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) regarding the visitation (Ziarat) of Imam Hussain (a.s.), the Doyen of Martyrs.
‘When Allah wishes goodness and happiness for someone, He instills in his heart love for Imam Hussain (a.s.), and an inclination for his visitation.’