Debunking Doubts 1 - Dua Al-Iftitah

A few things come to mind; first of all, I wonder why those who try to attack any text that does not conform with their narrow, secular view, why they do not employ the same tactic, and the same logic, to the Holy Qur'an. And they will - rest assured, soon enough they will turn their malicious, pseudo-intellectual guns towards the Qur'an itself. For example, all the verses that discuss hell and its torment. They are super negative, because you can take any part of a text, especially religious text, zoom in on it, and then extrapolate meaning from it, and apply that meaning to the entire text.

But that is disingenuous. That is not something that a scholar would do. What he is doing is he is taking one part of du'a Iftitah, which is incredibly inspirational, which is a text that brings you nearness to Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala, awareness of Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala. And he is sort of - as I said - he is taking that one text, and then he is saying, "this creates negativity". If you look at the Qur'an once again, you have the verses that talk about how the believers are a minority - "Wa ma akthar un-naasi walaw harasta bi-mu'mineen" (12:103) - as an example of that, no matter how hard you try, no matter how hard you strive, most people will not be believers. This is what the verse in the Qur'an is saying.

So, the statement from du'a Iftitah is rephrasing this same verse in the Holy Qur'an. So, your problem is with the Qur'an. Maybe you should start there. But for now, it is about Hadith and it is about supplications, which, ironically, form an incredibly rich part of our devotional tradition. But then, I guess that is the sign of the times. This is where we are at the moment, where our du'as are being attacked.

Number two, it is funny how when they find a part of a du'a irritating, they conveniently place that text on a mortuary table, slice it, and dice it, and perform an autopsy on the du'a, taking only the part that fits their mindset, and throwing away the parts that do not. In this case, as we said, it happens to be du'a Iftitah, where even he admits is an impeccable text that is nothing short of breathtaking - until it gets too "negative" for his taste.

And speaking of negativity, let me ask him a simple question: first of all, what are your scholarly foundations? I am asking about your epistemological principles. Are they derived from, and grounded, in the Qur'an and Sunnah, our primary religious texts, or are they from psychology? Because if it is derived from psychology, is it Freud or is it Watson? Is it Skinner? Is it Abraham Maslow? Or, if you happen to have a left leaning persuasion, maybe you happen to be a fan of Vygotsky. I mean, it is ridiculous.

The reason I ask is this; he says, "What is all this negativity", right? That was the quote. And if I understand that, you know, ultimately, we live in a world where it is a "feel good now" culture, where sadness and anxiety, or any negative emotion for that matter, is the greatest evil. In this culture, denying reality is seen as a form of the dreaded "negativity". So let me borrow from your hypersensitive, emotion-centric worldview.

What you call "negativity" is an incredibly powerful motivator. If you are making a plea for charity - for an earthquake stricken village, for example - do you talk about the rewards of giving, or do you show images of the earthquake, images of destruction, pain, and human misery? Negativity is what sticks, and inspires behavioral change. Here is another example. You can tell a smoker all about how nice unpolluted air is, but that is not how you change them. They need to see repulsive images of lungs infested with cancer to consider the consequences of their actions. I can give a thousand more examples of how behavioral psychologists acknowledge the power of negative emotions.

Also, until you acknowledge reality, you cannot and will not change it. If a morbidly obese person was surrounded by their friends and family, who walked on eggshells and always told her she looks beautiful no matter what, she will never understand that her health may be at risk. Acknowledging reality is an essential prerequisite towards fixing our problems, which means that someone who lives in an ivory tower, free from discomfort or the hammer of justice, both physical and religious - of course they are not going to acknowledge reality, and any reference to that bitter truth will be mischaracterized as "negativity".

So let us look at what the Imam actually teaches us to say in du'a Iftitah, to understand just how disingenuous this attempt is at undermining our du'as. The du'a, that section of the du'a which is cited is this, essentially: "Allahumma inna nashku ilayka faqda nabiyyina salawatuka alayhi wa alih", Oh Allah, we complain to you about not having our Prophet, may your peace and blessings be upon him and his family, not having him amongst us.

"Wa ghaybata waliyyina", and the absence of our guardian, "Wa kathrata aduwwina", and the numerous enemies that we have, "Wa qillata adadina", and the fact that we are a minority - again, just like the Qur'an says, "Wa shiddata alfitani bina", and the intensity of the trials and the tribulations that have afflicted us. "Wa tadahura alzzamani alayna fasalli ala muhammadin wa alihi waa inna ala dhalik", Oh Allah, so help us, give us backing and support.

"Bifathin minka tuajjiluhu, wa bidurrin takshifuhu, wa nasrin tuizzuhu, wa sultani haqqin tudhiruhu." Let's address the word 'nashku' here, right, because he seems to dismiss this whole part, and the entirety of du'a Iftitah, because of what he calls "complaining", right? So the word 'nashku' - meaning "we complain to you" - and my suggestion is, it is the Holy Month of Ramadan. So, maybe recite the Qur'an, so you would not have these misconceptions, and then spout them from the pulpit.

I'll give you the address for easier reference, OK? In Surat Yusuf, Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala says, "Wa tawallaa 'anhum wa qaala yaaa asafaa 'alaa Yoosuf wabyaddat 'aynaahu minal huzni fahuwa kadheem" (12:84). God, essentially, recounts a conversation between Yaqoob and his sons. After having lost his son, Yusuf, He says, "he turned away from them, and said, 'alas for Yusuf' and his eyes became white with the grief of that he repressed." So, Yaqoob goes blind from all the grief that he repressed within him for the loss of his son, Yusuf. "Qalu tallahi taftao tadhkuru Yusuf" (12:85); so they said to their father, "tallah taftao tadhkuru Yusuf hatta takuna hardhan au takuna min al-halikeen"(12:85) - they said, "by Allah, you will never cease to remember Yusuf until you are ill or until you are of the perished ones." In other words, you are going to die by the, you know, you have got so much grief, and so much sadness, and you keep remembering Yusuf, you are going to die!

"Qal" - and this is the part I want you to focus on - "innama ashkoo baththee wahuznee ila Allah wa aalamu mina Allahi ma la taalamoon" (86:12). He said, "I only complain of my anguish," - draw a hundred red lines under the word "complaint" - "I only complain of my anguish and my grief" - to who? - "to Allah." Now go back to that section in du'a Iftitah: "Allahumma inna nashku ilayka". "Ilayka" - "Oh Allah, we complain to you about our Prophet, about our tribulations," which means that complaining to God is what prophets do. It is the most noble form of worship.

If you think that invites negativity, then frankly, I don't know what to say to you. If Yaqoob can grieve over his missing son until he goes blind, and complain to God about him, then why can't we do the same for the Yusuf of Muhammad, sallal-lahu alayhi wa alyh? The Yusuf of Zahra, the Yusuf of Ali, the Mahdi of Aali Muhammad. Why shouldn't we cry, day and night, for not having the Imam of our time amongst us?

Or, is it something more fundamental, something more nefarious, perhaps? Like for example, not believing in the Mahdi to begin with? Is that what your problem is? And I am not saying that you do not believe in a Mahdi, right? You probably do not believe in the Mahdi, the Shi'a belief in the savior, the awaited Imam. In other words, your conception of the savior is not that of the Shi'a faith, but some kind of mystical, human transfiguration, or intellectual evolution.

And he has been known for saying stuff like that. And I would not be surprised at all, since everything he has been saying is anti-Shi'a; this would top it all up. And, you know, honestly, what all of this reminds me of? Because in a way, there is a silver lining when you hear people making statements like that, attacking our du'a, attacking our heritage, attacking Shi'a culture. In a way, there is a silver lining, and a means of optimism in all of this, because it reminds me of a Hadith of Imam Al-Hassan Askari, alayhi as-salatu wa as-salam, who said, "Wahum" - meaning the imposters, the pseudo scholars, the fake intellectuals - the Imam says, "Wahum adharru ala dhuafae Shi'aatina", they are more harmful for the weak members of our followers, the weak Shi'a, those whose knowledge isn't strong enough - these pseudo scholars are more harmful towards them - "Min jaishi Yazeedin alayhi al-la'ana", from the Army of Yazeed toward the camp of Imam Al-Husayn. Why? The Imam explains. He says, "Fa innahum yasluboonahum ul-arwaha wa al-amwaal", because the army of Yazeed take their lives, they take their possessions; however, these scholars - "Waha ula ulama usoo", these evil, demonic scholars - "Yudkhiluna shakka wa shubha taala dhuafae Shi'aatina", they introduce doubt and misconception into the hearts of those who are weak among our followers.

Why do you think there will be a group of people who are described as scholars who tell Imam Al-Mahdi when he finally, finally returns, "Ya ibn Fatima irrja la hajatalina feek"- "Oh son of Fatima, go back, we do not need you." Because maybe we needed you in the minor occultation. But now, we have smartphones. Now, we have the Internet. Now, we have big fancy institutions, and millions of dollars being pumped by millionaires who back us to find loopholes in religion. So we really do not need you to restore the Prophet's religion. We have distorted it so much that your presence among us is a threat. It is too inconvenient to have you return. Just go back to where you came from.

Nao'odhu billah! We seek refuge in Allah from these individu'als. The Imam says, in another hadith, I believe Imam Al-Sadiq or Imam Al-Baqir, alayhi as-salam, he says, "Hayhaat, hayhaat, la yakunu farajuna hatta tugharbalu", relief won't come until you are sifted, until you are filtered, until the good is separated from the bad, the imposter from the truthful, and the righteous from the hypocrite. "Hatta tugharbalu, thumma tugharbalu, thumma tugharbalu" - the Imam said it three times, the process of filtration has to happen over and over again, "Hatta udhiba Allahu taala al-kadhar wa yubki as-safu", until Allah removes all the filth, all the dirt, and keeps only the purest of the pure.

Now, I will make one final observation about du'a Iftitah and its authenticity because the chain of the du'a goes back to Muhammad Ibn Uthman ibn Saeed Al-Amri. Now, those of you who are familiar with the minor occultation and the emissaries of Imam az-Zaman will recognize this name, because Uthman ibn Saeed Al-Amri was the first emissary, the first safeer of the Imam, and his son, Muhammad Ibn Uthman, became the second, the second representative. He is the one who wrote this du'a in a book, and he said that this du'a is recommended for the month of Ramadan. We also know that Imam Al-Hasan Al-Askari, alayhi salam, gave the highest possible accolade to Uthman ibn Saeed Al-Amri, and his son Muhammad ibn Uthman, to whom this chain ends. This hadith is mentioned by Rajali scholars, and it is considered, as I said, the highest possible accolade that an Imam could give to someone.

Because the Imam says, "Al-Amri, wa ibnuhu thikataan" - "Al-Amri" meaning Uthman ibn Saeed - "the first representative, and his son are reliable." "Al-Amri, wa ibnuhu thikataan fa ma addaya ilayka fa'anni yuaddiyaan", whatever they deliver to you, they are delivering it from me. Whatever they give you, in matters of religion, at least - the Imam does not restrict it to matters of religion, but obviously this would be the context of the Hadith - whatever they give you, they are quoting us. "Wa ma qala lakaf anni yaqulaan", whatever they tell you, they are telling you from us. "Fa asba lahuma wa ati'uhuma" - I mean, it just keeps getting better and better! The Imam says, "So listen to them and obey them,"; "Fa innahum ath-thikataan al-mamunaan", for they are the true, the two trustworthy ones and reliable ones.

The du'a is narrated by this individual and it has been narrated and recited by our great scholars for centuries. But, it seems that none had the eagle eyed precision of making this groundbreaking discovery that the du'a may contain, and I cannot believe I am saying this, some "negativity" so that those sleeping on comfortable beds and deriving, and deriving their teachings from psychology, and going around in their Jaguars, can appreciate the fact that to eradicate injustice on a universal scale requires divine intervention, and that we are too weak and too meek to play God.

Unless, of course, you are so arrogant that you think you are the infantile center of the universe and can do all of those things. It is obvious, it is obvious to me that your problem is not with this du'a per say, but with Shi'ah literature, and our religious culture and identity, a culture that is based on centuries of exhaustive scholarship and meticulous research.

Ayatollah Sheikh Waheed Khorasani, may Allah prolong his life, he makes an observation that is quite incredible, gives an example. He says that our work, the work of a scholar, is like digging a well with a needle. That is how meticulous and painstaking the process is, right?

This culture that is composed of spiritual devotions, the like of which no other religion has seen, and supplications that are the envy of others, to the extent that I have seen with my own two eyes on some Arab TV channels these same du'as being plagiarized, and attributed to the likes of Hassan Al-Basri and other impostors. Then this random guy comes along, and ravages them, because he feels depressed!