Examining the teachings of the Supplication of Arafah from the viewpoint of Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi
RNA – The Supplication of Arafah must be recited with a full heartfelt presence and with complete understanding of its content. One must reflect on the deeper meaning of its various teachings and benefit from the blessings of this great day.
The ninth day of Dhi al-Ḥijjah is known as the Day of Arafah, a day of great spirituality and blessings. This day is also marked by a very special supplication which was recited by Imam al-Husayn; this supplication holds many deep meanings and profound teachings and it is a masterpiece of spirituality and divine yearning. One of the things which has become customary through the blessings of the Islamic revolution in Iran is the regular yearly recitation of this special supplication on the day of Arafah. This custom has spread to the point where it is recited all around the country.
In light of this issue, in order for us to better understand this supplication, we will refer to the valuable ideas of Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi to help explain the various subtle ties of this supplication. Understanding this supplication in a deeper and more complete way will allow us to reach a higher spiritual rank and gain greater proximity to God. Through utilizing the power of this supplication, we will be able to reach a higher level of perfection.
The Significance and Position of the Day of Arafah
The blessed Day of Arafah holds such a significant position within the context of the Islamic faith that has been referred to in various traditions as a type of Id. This day also coincides with the martyrdom of Muslim ibn Aqil and thus it is both a day of celebration and a day of mourning. On this day, God has called his servants to obey him and spend their time in his worship. He in turn has spread his mercy and grace far and wide for his servants; on this day, Satan has been made wretched and disgraced. The traditions have mentioned that on this day, the servants are blessed with the special mercy of God.
The Importance of the Supplication of Arafah
The recitation of the supplication of Arafah is considered to be extremely important in the teachings of the faith. Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has explained the importance of this supplication as follows: The traditions which have been narrated in regards to the importance of the Day of Arafah are extremely amazing in nature. They show us that the mercy of God falls upon the servants at Arafat and the sins are forgiven.
The Supplication of Arafah as a Sign of the Truthfulness of the Position of the Ahl al-Bayt
Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has noted that this supplication as one of the most important pieces of evidence showing that the Ahl al-Bayt are indeed the rightful leaders of the entire Muslim Ummah. He has stated in this regard: One of proofs corroborating the fact that the Ahl al-Bayt are indeed the rightful leaders of the entire Muslim Ummah can be found in these types of supplications (such as the supplications of Kumayl, Ṣabaḥ, Arafah, etc.) Such supplications cannot be found within any of the other Muslim schools and this supplication of Imam al-Husayn which was first recited by the Imam on the Day of Arafah in the desert of Arafat is in reality a manifestation of his love for God.
Without any doubt, supplications bring people closer to God and they prevent the insinuations and whispers of Satan to have any effect. These supplications cause a very subtle type of spirituality to develop and they strengthen the foundations of faith and allow one to further purify oneself and develop a greater level of morality and ethics. Since these supplications emanate from the lofty spirit of the Infallibles, they all possess great value and spiritual depth. Thus, through an aware recitation of these supplications, one can reach the heights of knowledge and wisdom.
The Supplication of Arafah is a Lesson in Monotheism
Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi believes that many valuable lessons on monotheism and its true recognition can be found in the Supplication of Arafah. He has stated in this regard: The supplications, particularly those by the Infallibles, are filled with lofty lessons on morality and the perfection of one’s character qualities. For example, the lofty Supplication of Arafah is filled with many complete lessons in regards to Islamic precepts, particularly those of monotheism. The kind of emphasis placed on monotheistic notions and the invaluable lessons taught in monotheism in this supplication cannot be found in other supplications.
The Supplication of Arafah: A Complete Set of Lessons on Theology
Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has said the following in regards to the lofty teachings found in the Supplication of Arafah: The Supplication of Arafah is a complete set of lessons on Islamic mysticism (Irfan), theology, prophetology, Wilayah, ethics, the various stages of spiritual wayfaring. In essence, this supplication is a complete set of lessons on all of the important Islamic precepts expressed in the language of prayers.
Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has explained this issue further by saying: Contained in the Supplication of Arafah, which has been taught to us by Imam al-Husayn, we find a complete set of lessons on theology with all of the finer points which it contains. When referring to God’s blessings and power in this supplication, Imam al-Husayn stated the following: You began my creation with worthless drops of semen, and then you placed me within the three folds of darkness, in between flesh, skin, and blood. You did not make my creation manifest and you continued my creation in that hidden place. You did not leave to me any of the stages of my creation and then you transferred me in to the world healthy and complete.
Supplication and Intimate Prayer: The Master Key to Knowledge of the Divine
Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has then explained the necessity of supplicating to God and he has considered the Supplication of Arafah to be one of the more important of these supplications. He has stated in this regard: One must supplicate to God on this day in a manner where one pleads to their Lord and considers themselves to be needy. The Day of Arafah is considered to be one of the best days for supplicating to God.
Drawing upon Imam al-Husayn’s words in the Supplication of Arafah, Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has presented the following interpretations: based on this supplication mankind has to be told: O’ man! What are you and your arrogance in the face of God’s vast creation? When we consider our own creation, we see that we came about from a drop of semen and we will end up as a dead and rotting corpse. During our own lives we are essentially a container of filth. So how can something like this act arrogantly on this earth? By pondering on the Supplication of Arafah, one begins to understand who we really are and how we should live our lives.
We should also learn the ways of servitude and supplication before God from Imam al-Husayn. While reciting this supplication, Imam al-Husayn cried hard and spoke to God in the following way: ‘Oh Lord, I am in poverty even when I have everything I need, much less when I am in a state of actual poverty. Oh Lord, even when I have knowledge, I am ignorant, much less when I am in a state of actual ignorance.’ The supplication then continues: Oh Lord, for the one whose good actions are, in essence, evil, how can his evil actions not be evil? This is a type of knowledge which led to the self-sacrifice of al-Imam Husayn of the Day of ‘Ashura!
The cure to arrogance, which arises from ignorance and a lack of understanding, can only come from understanding the greatness of the creation of this universe and one’s own weakness. This is an understanding which enjoys a direct relationship with humility and humility enjoys a direct relationship with knowledge, and knowledge is linked to wisdom and understanding. There is a tradition narrated from Imam al-Husayn who said: ‘Learning and discussing knowledge give rise to wisdom and understanding.’
Thankfulness: A Key Element in the Supplication of Arafah
The element of thankfulness is also one of the concepts which is found in the Supplication of Arafah. Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has explained this important concept in the following words: In a section of Imam al-Husayn’s supplication of Arafah, we read: If I wished to thank you for one of your blessings and I was to remain alive forever (active in thanking you), then still, I would not have been able to thank you properly for even one of your blessings.
Examining the Lofty Position of the Day of Arafah Based on the Evidence from the Quran
Arafah as the Day which is ‘Witnessed’
Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has explained that the verse which states: وَ شاهِد وَ مَشْهُود is using the term Mashhud as a reference to the Day of Arafah, where the Id al-Aḍḥa is the witness (Shahid), while the Day of Arafah itself is that which is witnessed (Mashhud). From this perspective, the Day of Arafah is considered as a very important day and it is necessary that one reflects upon its various aspects and spiritual mysteries. This day is so important that it will be a witness to the actions of the people on the Day of Judgement. In fact, the Day of Arafah and the immense crowds gathered on this day in the Arafat all bear a type of resemblance to the Day of Judgement itself.
The Supplication of Arafah: An Acknowledgement of God’s Presence
One of the points which we can learn from the Supplication of Arafah is that God is omnipresent, i.e. he is present in all places at all times. Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has explained this issue in the following way: Imam al-Husayn says to God in the Supplication of Arafah that- Blind is the eye which does not see you keeping watch over him.
The Argument of Poverty and Wealth: A Key Characteristic in the Supplication of Arafah
Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has delved in to the essence of poverty and wealth as explained in the Supplication of Arafah. He has mentioned that: Without any doubt, human beings must begin the day with the light of guidance and they must finish their day with wisdom in the face of their enemies, both domestic and foreign; this a victory which is not possible except with the light of God’s guidance. The Supplication of Arafah has mentioned in this regard that: Oh Lord, make me self-sufficient within myself. This line clearly indicates that wealth and self-sufficiency are not things which can be found external to ourselves; this is not a state which can be reached through gathering up lots of wealth and building large mansions for oneself.
Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has then further explained the essential nature of poverty and wealth by stating: The well-known supplication of Imam al-Husayn on the Day of Arafah is one of the deepest and most profound of the supplications handed down to us from the Infallibles; this is particularly true in relation to the issue of monotheism. In the aforementioned supplication, it has been mentioned that: How can I demonstrate your existence through means of things whose existence depends upon You. Are things which are other than You more apparent that one should use them as a means of introducing Your existence?
Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has then continued and said: In another section of the Supplication of Arafah, we read that: ‘Oh Lord, I am in poverty even when I have everything I need, much less when I am in a state of actual poverty.’ Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has also explained the spiritual teachings found in this supplication and he has stated: It has been mentioned in this same supplication that- When were you ever hidden so that you needed a reason to be introduced? And when were you ever far away from us so that we would need your signs in order to reach you? Blind is the eye which does not see you present and watchful over them.
The Supplication of Arafah: Gaining Knowledge of Oneself towards the Realization of Felicity
Another key point highlighted in the Supplication of Arafah is how important it is to acknowledge one’s human weakness and the necessity of gaining greater knowledge of the divine. Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has mentioned in this regard that the Supplication of Arafah teaches us that a human being that is so weak must submit himself to God and the truth. Thus, man’s failure to gain knowledge of God, Himself, and this world is the root source of all wretchedness and disgrace that they experience. Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has further explained this issue by saying: We must pay attention to the Supplication of Arafah and see the amazing lines of prayer which are found within it. When an individual sees the level of self-sacrifice on the Day of Ashura, they may be surprised.
Yet when one reads Imam al-Husayn’s Supplication of Arafah, it becomes very easy to understand how Imam al-Husayn did what he did on the Day of Ashura many centuries ago. This is because one’s actions arise from one’s convictions and beliefs. In, yet, another section of the Supplication of Arafah, we read: ‘Oh Lord, if we look deeply at the good of human beings, we will find that they are nothing more than deficiencies and defects, much less if we were to look at their defects and deficiencies… If we delve in to the realities and knowledge of this human being, we will find it intertwined with ignorance, so how can his ignorance not be considered ignorance?’ If someone were to deeply examine our power and potential, they would quickly find that we are nothing but utter weakness and deficiency.
Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has then gone on to explain the way of gaining deeper knowledge of the divine and attaining true felicity. He has mentioned in this regard: Imam al-Husayn has stated in the Supplication of Arafah that- ‘Oh my Lord, people come after the signs in order to recognize you but have you gone away so that I need to seek the signs in order to find you?’
The supplication then continues: ‘Blind is the eye which does not see your pure beauty. And at a loss is the servant who does not have a share of your love and affection in his heart.’ If we gain sufficient knowledge of God, the world around us, and ourselves, then any sense of arrogance and pride will be neutralized within us and we will be true servants of our Lord. Therefore, we must recognize the greatness of God in the world around us.
A Final Word
Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has then emphasized the importance of reciting this Supplication of Arafah. He has furthermore explained that we must not only recite it but we must also understand its content and reflect upon its subtle notions and teachings. He has stated in this regard that: One must recite the Supplication of Arafah with a complete presence of heart and a complete understanding of its profound teachings. One must reflect upon its various, subtle notions that it contains and benefit from the blessings of this valuable supplication.
The Day of Arafah is in reality a day of supplication and prayer. All of the believers must make use of this day and ask God to resolve the problems which the Muslims are facing all round the world. We are hopeful that everyone will be blessed to participate in the Supplication of Arafah and that everyone will remember their fellow brothers and sisters in these important prayers.
The supplication of this day holds so much importance that it has been recommended that we pray for the departed, as well as the Prisoners of War who are still being held captive. We must ask God to resolve the problems of the Muslim community, particularly the problems related to our own country of Iran. We hope that God will have mercy on us on this day due to the blessings of this supplication (Arafah) and for the sake of the martyrs, such as Muslim ibn Aqil and Hani ibn Urwah. We must all pray for the resolution of the domestic and international problems which the Muslim world faces today and we must ask God for the grace of being able to serve in his cause.