Saheefa Al-Kamilah: The Perfect Epistle by A.H. Sheriff

It was during the years of 1950-60 when the Khawja Abdul Latif Ansari, the eminent Pakistani scholar and preacher, was once discussing the glory and high status of the book Saheefa Al-Kamilah. He related his experience and contact with an American Christian lady who had come to the East in the course of her research on rituals of prayers by different religions. She had previously come across and studied Saheefa Alawiyya consisting of invocations by his grandson Imam Zainul Abedeed A.S.

Whilst in Iran, the lady had an opportunity of studying the Saheefa Al-Kamilah. Being an educated lady well-versed in the Arabic language, she could easily digest the underlying meaning and interpretation of the invaluable invocations by the Imam. She felt so much impressed and moved that she readily converted to Islam remarking that no other book would surpass this as it contained the supreme possible human approach towards the Creator Allah.

Such being the impact of this holy book, whoever took an opportunity of making a serious study could not remain without showering words of eugoly. Born in 1862 and educated in Al Azhar University, the prominent Arab Professer of Philosophy and author of many valuable books, Sheikhul Islam Tantawi Jawhari from Alexandia was once presented by someone with a gift of Saheefa Al-Kamilah. He was some much overwhelmed by the contents that he expressed these views:

“I have studied this book with utmost care. I have gone through the invocations and supplications with searching eyes. I was stunned by the lofty meanings and deep sense contained therein. I was deeply impressed by the value and magnificence of these invocations. I wonder how the Muslims have all along been ignorant of such a valuable treasure. They have been in deep slumber for these centuries. They could not even feel that Allah has supplied them with such a precious store of knowledge. To the extent that I have been able to meditate over it, I notice that its words are above those of the created ones and below those of the creator.”

After the tragedy of Kerbala Imam Zainul Abedeen A.S. was virtually under house imprisonment. People in Medina, where the Imam lived, were still under harsh suppression of the Umayyad rulers of the time. It was a time when Ahl-Albait were made to be ignored by the man in the street. It was almost impossible for people to approach the descendants of the Prophet to seek knowledge of the Holy Qur’an and Hadith. As the divinely appointed guide for the Ummah, how could the Imam carry on the dissemination of the knowledge of the faith without endangering his safety and that of his followers? The Imam chose the medium of invocation and supplication to Allah, which proved of lasting effect. What a sagacious and wise step this was to preserve the lofty teachings of Islam!

In order that this holy book is preserved for the benefit of posterity, Imam Zainul Abedeen A.S. had originally dictated the invocations therein to two of his sons, Mohamed ibn Ali and Zaid ibn Ali. For some years the book was preserved secretly lest it was tampered with. However during the times of Imam Jaffer Sadiq A.S., it was copied and circulated around among the followers of Ahl-Abait. It is said that the copy from the hands of Zaid, after his death, was found to be incomplete whereas the one from Mohammed ibn Ali Al Baqer was perfect, hence its name Saheefa Al-Kamila became widely popular. The name may also have been meant to imply that this is a perfect book of guidance and spiritual help for the believers in their day-to-day problems.

The book came also to be known as Saheefa Al Sajjadiyya, relating to one of the epithets of the Imam. It has also been reffered to as Zaboore Ale Mohammed, meaning the Psalms of the Children of Mohammed. Certainly the words of the Imam in the book are not below those of Hazrat Dawood in the Zaboor. It also came to be known as Injeele Ale Mohammed meaning the Evangel of the People of the House of the Prophet.

From in-depth study, the Saheefa will be found unveiling many secrets of learning and mysteries of knowledge. The heartrending invocations therein inspire a reader to abstain from evil and lean towards virtue and piety. One who recites the invocations with understanding is apt to concentrate his attentiion towards Allah and attain self-purification and spiritual upliftment. The invocations, some sixty-eight of them, pertain to different subjects and were recited on special occasions, like day of Araft, Idd el Fitr, Idd el Adha, commencement and end of the holy Ramazan. Some are on occasions like thunderstorm, arrival of news of one’s death, when faced with heavy debt, hardships or seeking Allah’s forgiveness against sins. On such moments when the human heart is shaken or when one is bewildered not knowing what to do, the sublime words in those invocations do indeed provide great solace and tranquility. Only when one recites the various invocations with full understanding can one can really appreciate the true value of this holy book.

If there was any holy book chosen by an Imam as a gift to be offered to one pious and high calibre jurist, it was Saheefa Al-Kamilah. The following story does indeed indicate the profound value and status of it:

Allama Mohammed Taqi Majlisi, the father of the famous Mohamed Baquer Majlisi was well-known for his piety, excellence of character and his endeavours in the poropogation of the traditions of Ahl Albait. In his book ‘Man La Yahzuru Faqih’ Vol. 4, he narrates how in the course of his dreams, he was being guided by the 12th Imam Sahibul Asr a.f. on various knotty questions of jurisprudence and recommendation not to miss the mid-night prayers.

In a dream once, the Allamh requested the 12th imam for a gift of a book from which he could constantly benefit. The Imam recommended Saheefa Al-Kamila telling him that it was a gift from him and he should go and collect the book from a person named at a particular place. Allamah confirms that in accordance with the advice of the Imam, he collected the Saheefa from which he benefited a great deal in his exercises of self-purification. The book was cherished as an invaluable gift from the Imam and circulated round among the believers of the place.

The above article has been reproduced from The Light magazine, published by Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania.