Brief Exegesis of Ziyarat Nahiyah

Shaheed-e-Mehraab, Maulana Sayyed Mohammed Jafar Saheb Zaidi (ra) who expired in 28 Zilhajj 1400 AH (November 7, 1980) in Lahore. After a brief sermon he wrote, This Ziyarat is actually a gift for Islam and homage paid by Imam Mahdi (as) to his beloved, oppressed grandfather, the fifth companion of the cloak,  Sayyed ash-Shohada (as). It is an elegy and a lamentation in the form of a salutation in which Imam (as) depicts the heartrending afflictions of Imam Husayn (as).

Authenticity of Ziyarat Nahiyah

This ziyarat is related from the special deputies who were the only link between the Imam (as) and the people. Shiite scholars have deemed this Ziyarat as most authentic and have recorded it in their books of Ziyarats and supplications.

Allamah Majlisi (ra) first recorded the Ziyarat in his book ‘Tohfatuz Zaer’ among the Ziyarats    that are transmitted from the infallible Imams (as) and not from the scholars. Allamah Majlisi (ra) has recounted it citing the works of Sayyed Ibne Taoos (ra) and Shaykh Mohammed bin Mashhadi (ra) as references.

Another respected scholar, Shaykh al-Taaifah Abu Jafar Tusi (ra) has also related this Ziyarat      directly from Ibne Ayyaash. Shaykh Mufeed (ra), the teacher of Shaykh Tusi (ra) and Shaykh-e-Najaashi (ra), has also reported it in his book al-Mazaar.

Sayyed Ibne Taoos (ra) has recorded this Ziyarat in his famous compilation Iqbaal al-Amaal.

Many Shiah scholars have chronicled the Ziyarat in their works underlining its credibility and authenticity. The illustrious Shiah scholar Janab Sayyed Sibte Hasan Hansawi in the magazine “Al Jawad” January 1953 advanced very firm arguments upholding the authenticity of Ziyarat Nahiyah.

Mirza Dabeer (ra) and Mir Ishq (ra) have translated the Ziyarat in the poetic form.

Brief exegesis of Ziyarat Nahiyah

Since the Ziyarat is very lengthy, we have resorted to brevity while expounding the Ziyarat. We begin the discussion straight away with the statements related to Imam Husayn (as). We have omitted the opening statements of the Ziyarat not because, God forbid, we do not consider them important enough. Rather, it is purely to keep this exegesis concise and to restrict the discussion, as far as possible, to Imam Husayn (as).

“Peace be on Husayn (as) who sacrificed his life
in the way of Allah with complete sincerity.”

This statement has three important words Sameha, Nafs and Mohja.

‘Sameha’ means to be generous and munificent. Islam, especially the Shiite sect, places great emphasis on generosity and munificence. The distinguished scholar of traditions Allamah Mohammed Baqir Majlisi (ra) in the 71st volume (page 350) of  Beharul Anwar has recorded over 22 traditions on this subject.

Ameerul Momineen (as) asked Imam Hasan (as), What is generosity? Imam Hasan (as) replied: “To spend (in the way of Allah) whether in ease or difficulty.” (Ma’anil Akhbaar page 255)

In another tradition, a narrator relates, I heard Imam Reza (as) explain (the concept of generosity): The generous one is proximate to Allah, Paradise and proximate to the people. While the stingy one is distant from Allah, Paradise and distant from the people. (Oyoon Akhbaar al-Reza (as) volume 2 page 12)

The second word that is the subject of discussion in this line of Ziyarat Nahiyah is ‘Nafs’. Nafs is the reality based on which man acquires his self. When a man says ‘I’, he is referring to his Nafs (self).

Shaykh Sadooq (ra) in his book ‘Risaalatul Aqaaed’ describes nafs thus – “Our belief about the selves is that these are the souls due to which we exist.” (Beharul Anwar volume 61 page 78)

To conclude, when we say nafs, we mean our entire, actual self.

The third word for discussion is ‘Mohja’ means blood or blood of the heart or life or soul.

In view of this definition, by reflecting on this statement of the Ziyarat, we can appreciate Imam Husayn’s (as) sense of sacrifice in the path of religion. Indeed, Imam’s (as) generosity and munificence are without parallel. After all, he is the one about whom the Holy Prophet (sawa) asserted, “Husayn is from me and I am from Husayn.” With such credentials, it was sufficient for Imam Husayn (as) to make just one sacrifice in the way of Allah i.e. his own life.

However, Imam Husayn (as) wanted to show the world that when the Ahle Bayt (as) wished to deal generously with Islam, they weren’t satisfied with sacrificing just their own lives. Rather they did not settle for anything less than a comprehensive sacrifice even if it included an equal brother, a son in the prime of youth, a young nephew and even a 6-month old infant. As if this was not enough, Imam (as) submitted to the unveiling and parading of his womenfolk in the most humiliating manner across Iraq and Syria. All this was insignificant for Imam (as) only because it resulted in the preservation of his grandfather’s religion till the Day of Resurrection.

“Peace be on the one who obeys Allah secretly and openly.”

This statement underscores Imam Husayn’s (as) sense of obedience and submission. Indeed obedience and submission are the objectives behind man’s creation. Unfortunately, most men do not perceive this. Let’s understand from the Ahle Bayt (as) themselves the role of obedience and submission in our lives.

Is Allah, the Almighty, in need of our obedience? When we refer this question to Ameerul Momeneen (as), this is the response we observe – “He created the creation while He was needless of their obedience and was secure from their disobedience. This is because the disobedience of the disobedient does not harm him and the obedience of the obedient does not benefit him.” (Nahjul Balagha Sermon 193)

If Allah is needless of our obedience then why has He commanded us to worship Him” Once again, Ameerul Momeneen (as) informs us, When you command yourself to obey Allah, you honor yourself and when you urge it to disobey Allah, you degrade it. (Sharh Nahjul Balagha by Ibne Abil Hadid volume 10 page 189)

So the more one exhorts his self to obey Allah, the more honor he grants his own self. And the more one disobeys Allah, the more he humiliates his own self.

Often relatives, friends, colleagues and customs incite us to disobey Allah or at the very least act in a manner contrary to the Islamic Shariat.  In such a situation, we are at odds over our religious obligation. Again, it is Ameerul Momeneen (as) who resolves this predicament – Your Lord calls out to you but you did not answer His Call and turned your back on Him. However, when Satan called out to you, you responded to his invitation and welcomed him. Allah invites you to the everlasting abode, full of bounties, in the neighborhood of the Prophets (as) and the fortunate ones. On the other hand, although this world invites you to misfortunes, destruction, calamities and disasters, you respond to it and advance towards it urgently. (Ghorarul Hikam)

This tradition informs  – “There can be no obedience for the creatures at the expense of Creator’s disobedience.” (Man La Yahzarul Faqih volume 2 page 621)

In other words, obeying the creatures is not obligatory, regardless of them being relatives, friends and colleagues, if it results in the disobedience of Allah.

“Salutations upon the one, whose soil (dust) is
blessed with healing powers.”

The above sentence infers that Allah the Almighty has decreed the soil, upon which the pure blood of Imam Husayn (as) was spilled, to become a cure for every ailment.

Imam Kazim (as) narrates in his will – …And do not eat anything of the soil of our graves for blessing. Surely, the (eating) of all soils has been prohibited except the dust of (the grave) of our forefather Husayn (as). Verily, Allah (s.w.t.) has made it a cure for our Shiahs and our friends… (Beharul Anwar, volume 58 page 225, extract of Oyoon Akhbaar al-Reza volume 1 page 85)

He (as) mentions in another tradition – Our Shiahs are never devoid of four possessions:

Mat made from date leaves on which he can pray namaz
Ring on his finger
Miswaak for brushing
Rosary made from the dust of Husayn (as)’s grave having 33 beads in it.

When he turns the beads in Allah’s remembrance (Zikr), Allah writes forty rewards for every bead. And when he turns them unmindfully, Allah writes for him, twenty rewards.” (Beharul Anwar volume 76 page 135, extract of Rauzat al-Waaezeen)

“Salutations upon the one, under the dome
of whose shrine, prayers are accepted.”

Without doubt, there is no place in the universe more revered and purer than the shrine of the Chief of the Martyrs (as) where prayers are accepted.

Allamah Shaykh Mohammed Baqir Majlisi (ra) Beharul Anwar – I have read this incident in the books of a few Shiah scholars that Sulayman al-Amash narrates, “I lived in Kufah. I had a neighbour whom I frequently visited. I met him one Thursday night and asked his opinion about the ziyarat of the grave of Husayn (as). He replied that the ziyarat of the grave of Husayn (as) was an innovation (bid’at). And every innovation was a deviation and all deviants would go to Hell.

Sulayman says: Hearing this, I stood up in anger and rage. I deliberated that I would go to him the next morning and narrate some of the excellences and virtues of Imam Husayn (as). If he remained upon his hatred and enmity after this, I would kill him. I left for his house the next morning, knocked on his door and called out his name. (To my utter amazement) his wife answered that he had left for the ziyarat of Imam Husayn (as) late last night.

Sulayman continues: I followed him to Karbala. On entering the shrine, I saw a person performing prostrations to Allah, praying and crying. He was asking forgiveness from the Mighty Lord. He lifted his head after a long time and I recognised him.

I asked him: O Shaykh! Just a day before, you were telling me that ziyarat of Husayn (as) was an innovation and that all innovations are deviations and that deviants would taste hell-fire. And now, you yourself have come for the ziyarat? He replied: O Sulayman, do not rebuke me for I was not a believer in the Imamate of Ahle Bayt (as) until last night. But the vision I had dreamt in the first part of the night has shaken me.

I enquired: And what did you dream of?

He continued: I saw a noble person, of medium height, of such great stature and grace that words cannot describe. There were other personalities with him as if in a procession. There was a horse in front of them. He wore a four pointed crown with studded jewels whose brilliance could illuminate a distance of a journey of three days.

I asked a few of his servants: Who is this dignified personality?  They replied: He is Hazrat Mohammed Mustafa (sawa).

I questioned: Who is the other person? They informed: Hazrat Ali Murtuza (as), the successor of the Prophet.

I looked beyond them. I saw a camel which was a brilliant light. A saddle of light was placed upon it with ladies sitting upon it. The camel was flying between the heavens and the earth. I asked: Whose camel is this? The answer came: The camel of Janabe Khadijah al-Kubra (sa) and Hazrat Ftemah Zahra (sa).

I further enquired: Who is this youth? They replied: This is Imam Hasan Ibn Ali (as).

I asked: Where are these pure personalities going?

They replied: To visit the shrine of the martyr of Karbala, the oppressed of Nainawa, Imam Husayn Ibn Ali (as).

I attempted to go towards the camel on which the princess, Hazrat Zahra (sa) was sitting when suddenly some pages with something written on them started to rain from the sky.

I asked, What are these pages? The answer came: These are permits of freedom from the hell-fire for the pilgrims of Imam Husayn (as), those visitors who go for the ziyarat of Imam Husayn (as) on Thursday night. On hearing this, I too requested for a permit. I was told: But you are of the view that visiting the shrine of Imam Husayn (as) is an innovation. You will definitely not receive a permit until you visit the shrine of Imam Husayn (as) and be steadfast in the belief of his greatness and elevated status.

As soon as I heard this, I woke up fearful and left immediately for the ziyarat of my master, Husayn Ibn Ali (as). I repent to God upon my past. By Allah! O Sulayman, I will not separate from the grave of Husayn (as) until death overtakes me. (Beharul Anwar volume 45 page 401)

“Salutations upon the one in whose progeny
continues the chain of Imamate”.

It concurs that the chain of Imamate continued through Imam Husayn (as) and not through Imam Hasan Mujtaba (as). This famous tradition of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) has been narrated by both Shiah and scholars of Ahle Sunnah – O Abu Zar! …and soon nine of the Imams (as) from the lineage of Husayn (as) who are infallible, will be steadfast on justice. And from us is the Mahdi of this ummah. I asked: O Prophet of Allah (sawa), how many are the Imams (as) after you? He (sawa) replied: “Their number is equal to the nuqaba of Bani Israel. (i.e. twelve).

In yet another tradition, the Holy Prophet (sawa) says – Husayn (as)! You are an Imam, the son of an Imam, the brother of an Imam, the father of Imams. There will be nine Imams from your progeny.” (Beharul Anwar volume 36 page 312 narrating from Kifayatul Asar)

It is possible that a question arises as to why the lineage progressed from Imam Husayn (as) and not Imam Hasan Mujtaba (as)? This question was put forward by a companion of Imam Sadiq (as). Imam (as) replied – “Surely Hazrat Musa (as) and Hazrat Haroon (as) were messengers, prophets and brothers. But, Allah established prophethood in the progeny of Hazrat Haroon (as) and not Hazrat Musa (as). And nobody has the right to question the authority of Allah regarding this. Verily, Imamate on this earth is the representation of God, and nobody has the right to ask why Allah established it in the progeny of Imam Husayn (as) and not Imam Hasan (as)? For, there is wisdom in all the acts of Allah. He will not be asked regarding His action but people will be questioned regarding their actions. (Kamaluddin page 358)

“Salutations upon the son of Seal of the Prophets.”

The seal of the Prophets is one of the titles of our Prophet, Mohammed Mustafa (sawa). He (sawa) was the seal of all Messengers and Prophets, i.e. there is neither any messenger nor any prophet after him. This is an open announcement of the Holy Quran and traditions. It is also a fundamental of Islamic faith. If someone harbours the belief that there can be any messenger or prophet after the Prophet of Islam, Hazrat Mohammed Ibn Abdillah (sawa) or another shariah or a new religion, then surely he has departed from the religion of Islam. He will no longer be called a Muslim. The Holy Qur’an has announced this in Surah Ahzab, verse 40. “Mohammed is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Apostle of Allah and the Last of the prophets…”

To put it briefly, proponents of new religions like Qadiyanism or Bahaism were indeed false claimants and pseudo-Prophets and their adherents and sympathizers are outside the fold of Islam.

It is explained in this verse of Ziyarat Nahiyah that Imam Husayn (as) is the son of the Holy Prophet (sawa). A few of the ignorant and some of the opponents question the correctness of the assertion that Imam Husayn (as) is the son of the Prophet (sawa), while he (as) is of the progeny of Hazrat Ali Murtuza (as) and Hazrat Zahra (sa).

This question has been answered by the Holy Quran itself. At the time of revelation of the verse of Mubahelah (Surah Aale Imran verse 61), the Holy Prophet (sawa) was ordered – “..Then say (O Prophet): Come let us call our sons and your sons…”

All Shiah and Sunni exegeses are unanimous that upon revelation of this verse, the Holy Prophet (sawa) had only taken Imam Hasan (as) and Imam Husayn (as) along with him to the field of malediction (Mubahelah) as “our sons” of the verse. Innumerable narrations quote the Messenger of Islam (sawa) saying: “my son Husayn.” Hence the doubts are either due to ignorance or sheer enmity.

“Salutations upon the son of the chief of vicegerents.”

It is apparent that the ‘chief of vicegerents’ represents the master of the universe, Ameerul Momeneen Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as). Imam Sadiq (as) narrates: Hazrat Jibraeel (as) came to the Prophet (sawa) and said – “(O Prophet) Surely Allah selected you as the chief of the messengers and made Ali as the chief of the vicegerents.”

Hence, Ameerul Momeneen (as) is the chief and master of all the vicegerents, whether they precede him or the eleven Imams (as) who succeed him. And this promise has been made by the Almighty God Himself. Imam Husayn (as) is the son of the chief of the vicegerents, which increases his superiority and excellence.

“Salutations upon the son of Fatemah Zahra (sa),
Salutations upon the son of Khadijatul Kubra (sa).”

The world knows about the position and distinction of Fatemah Zahra (sa). It is sufficient to note that she is the leader of the women of the world. Numerous verses have been revealed in the Holy Qur’an eulogizing her majesty and splendour.

She is the daughter of the Holy Prophet (sawa), the wife of Ali (as) and the mother of Imams (as).

Similarly, narratives would fall short in describing the sacrifices of Janabe Khadijatul Kubra (sa). She is the lady who spent all her wealth in the way of the Lord. She also made such momentous contributions as a devout wife that people were astonished. She was a true helper of Islam.

Did the Muslims repay her kindness and obligations to Islam? Had they really done so, her grandson Husayn (as) would not have been martyred in the battlefield of Karbala with his family, friends and companions after being kept hungry and thirsty for three days.

The lineage of the chief of the martyrs was discussed in these verses of Ziyarat Nahiyah. This was to clarify that the war of Karbala was not a fight between two princes (as some of the fools perceive) but a battle between the Divine and the Satanic, between truth and falsehood.

“Peace be upon the blood-smeared necks.”

There are two words in this sentence of Ziyarat Nahiyah – ‘Juyoob’ (necks) and ‘Mudharrajaat’ (blood-smeared).

Imam Mahdi (as) is sending his salutations upon those collars which were torn. It cannot be ascertained who Hazrat Hujjat (as) has addressed here but many scholars recite in their elegies that when Janabe Qasim (as), the orphan of Imam Hasan Mujtaba (as), proceeded to the battlefield, at that time Imam Husayn (as) tore his collar. When the child asked his uncle the reason for doing so, Imam Husayn (as) said, “Son, this is a sign of the orphans”. It is also possible that Imam Mahdi (as) has addressed this to all the martyrs of Karbala whose collars were ripped apart by the accursed ones after their martyrdom. Allah and His Proof (as) know best what is right.

“Peace be upon the lips, that were parched due to thirst.”

‘Shifaah’ is the plural of ‘Shafatun’ which means lips and ‘zaabilaat’ means parched. These were lips which the Holy Prophet (sawa) used to kiss. Shaykh Mufeed (ra) narrates in Kitab al-Irshad – “When the head of Imam Husayn (as) was kept in front of Ibn Ziyad (may Allah curse him), he was looking at it and smiling. There was a stick in his hand with which he was disrespecting the lips of Imam (as). At that time, Zaid Ibn Arqam, a companion of the Messenger of Allah (sawa) who was very old, was present there. When he saw this, he scolded Ibn Ziyad and said, ‘Move away your stick from these (blessed) lips. I swear by Allah, apart from Who there is no god, I have seen the Messenger of Allah (sawa) kiss these lips so many times that it cannot be counted.’ Saying this, he started weeping.” (Beharul Anwar, volume 45 page 116)

“Peace be upon those (martyrs) who were cut into pieces.”

‘Nufoos’ is the plural of ‘nafs’ which means life, soul, etc. and ‘mustalamaat’ is derived from the infinitive ‘istelaam’. Its meaning has been explained thus, “When a nation is destroyed from its very foundation then it is said to have been a victim of ‘istelaam’. (Lesaan al-Arab by Ibn Manzoor, volume 12 page 340)

“Peace be upon the souls whose bodies were mutilated treacherously.”

The plural of ‘rooh’ is ‘arwaah’ and the root of ‘mukhtalasaat’ is ‘kh-l-s’. Peace be upon the souls who were killed deceitfully. They were invited as guests and were killed, they were promised help and assistance but were martyred.

“Peace be upon the uncovered dead bodies.”

‘Ajsaad’ is the plural of ‘jasad’ meaning body and ‘aariyaat’ is derived from ‘uryaan’ which means bare-bodied and without clothes. The accursed person who had snatched the dress of Imam Husayn (as) was Ishaaq Ibn Huwayyah al-Hazrami. It is written in the books of ‘maqtal’ that the moment he wore the shirt of Imam Husayn (as), he was inflicted with leucoderma. (Beharul Anwar, volume 45 page 57)

“Peace be upon the emaciated bodies (due to the severity of heat).”

‘Jusoom’ is the plural of ‘jism’ and ‘shaahibaat’ is its attribute. A person whose body has become lean and whose skin-colour has paled due to extreme toil, hunger or travel is known as ‘shaahib’.

The colour of the bodies of Imam Husayn (as) and his companions had turned pale and they had become weak due to hunger, thirst, weight of the sword, tiring journey, etc. But none of these causes had the ability to become a hindrance for them from fulfilling the right of the holy war.

“Peace be upon the deluge of blood (of the martyrs).”

‘Dimaa’ means blood and ‘saaelaat’ is derived from  ‘s-y-l’ which means ‘to flow’. Till the time blood circulates, there is warmth in the human body and when the soul departs from the body, the blood freezes and a person is termed dead.

By shedding their blood, the martyrs of Karbala breathed a soul into the life of humanity which will not allow it to die till the Day of Judgment and will grant an eternal life to the human body. It is due to the blood of the martyrs of Karbala that there exists warmth in the existence of humanity and will remain so forever. This is the biggest favor of Imam Husayn (as) on humanity.

“Peace be upon the dismembered limbs.”

‘A’azaa’ is the plural of ‘a’zw’ and ‘muqatta’aat’ means pieces. The mourners of Imam Husayn (as) who attend his mourning ceremonies are very well aware of the manner in which Imam Husayn (as) used to bring the dead bodies of his companions and relatives to the tents from morning till evening on the day of Aashura. Sometimes, the dead bodies were trampled upon by the horses. Imam Husayn (as) used to collect the broken pieces of the dead bodies and bring them to the tents.

“Peace be upon the heads that were raised on spears.”

The singular of ‘ruoos’ is ‘ra’s’ meaning head and ‘mushaalaat’ is derived from ‘sh-y-l’ which means ‘to raise’. It is a Nominal Predicate and Unbroken Plural (Feminine). The celebrated scholar, Syed Ibn Taoos (ra) says: “Ibn Ziyad ordered Imam Husayn’s (as) head to be paraded in the markets of Kufa”. Then, the Syed presents a few couplets from an elegy:

The head of the son of the daughter of Mohammed (sawa) and his (sawa) Vicegerent
Was raised on spears for the onlookers
And Muslims were looking at this sight and hearing it
None of them were opposing it nor were they remorseful

“Peace be upon the (chaste) women who
had to come out (of their tents) with uncovered heads.”

Hameed Ibn Muslim says: “(On the evening of Ashura) when the tents were set on fire and flames erupted, the women of the household came out of the tents when they had been completely plundered, bare-feet and wailing…” When these women saw the dead bodies of the martyrs, they started wailing aloud and hitting their faces. Hameed says: “By Allah, I can never forget Zainab binte Ali (as) when she was weeping over Imam Husayn (as) and complaining in an extremely heart-rending tone, ‘My dear grandfather! The angels of the heavens send their salutations upon you. This is your Husayn (as), drenched in blood, his body has been cut into pieces and your daughters have been taken as captives.’ (In some traditions it is mentioned: This is your Husayn (as) whose head has been severed from his body and his turban and cloak have been seized.) (Beharul Anwar volume 45  pages 58-59)

“Peace be upon the Proof (Hujjat) of the Lord of the Worlds. Peace be upon you and your pure ancestors. Peace be upon you and your martyred sons. Peace be upon you and your offspring who help you. Peace be upon you and the angels who are the caretakers (of your grave).”

Those who have been saluted in the aforementioned statements of the Ziyarat are as follows:

  1. The Divine Proof
  2. The infallible parents of Imam Husayn (as)
  3. The martyred sons of Imam Husayn (as)
  4. The descendants of Imam (as) who help him
  5. The caretaker angels of the grave of Imam Husayn (as)

Read more: Resources on Imam Mahdi | Duas, Namaz and Ziyarats

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