Invocation (du‘a) is a form of voluntary prayer in which the believer implores God Almighty so that he may be helped during hardship, his sins may be forgiven, his attitudes rectified and that he may finally get close to Him. It is a significant aspect of a spiritual life and all monotheistic religions place emphasis on it. Such emphasis is particularly found in the invocations of the Imams of Ahl ul-Bayt that have been preserved down the centuries. Although other Islamic schools have stressed the role of invocations, the quantity and the spiritual traits of those reported by the family of the Prophet(s) have always distinguished their followers. Indeed these special invocations are the sources for many arguments presented in theological discourses and the missing link between history and spirituality or, in other words, between the human and the divine.
Considering the famous narration of the Prophet; “I leave you two weighty things: the book of God and my family” one can easily deduce that the invocations of Ahl ul-Bayt(as) are a major portion of the precious prophetic legacy.
Invocation consists of beseeching God while being aware of our dependency on Him and that only He is Independent from all needs. It is therefore the most intimate recognition of our servitude manifested in the profound attachment and subordination to Him in our life.
It is possible to invocate God by any sincere verbal expression coming from the heart, presenting our feelings, fears and emotions, in front of Him. Although words sometimes may not flow spontaneously, or may not be found suitable to express our sentiments it is here that the invocations of the Ahl ul-Bayt(as) can be used as a distinctive tool to communicate with God.
However, invocation should not be a mere aesthetic recitation for cheering up our mental state, especially when it is expressed loudly with a beautiful voice. It is something much deeper leading the believer to open the door of happiness, to find oneself in front of God while presenting his whole self as a simple creature, standing, sitting, prostrating or weeping, in great need of his Beloved. It is the moment in which each of our most intimate secrets is willingly revealed, and no barriers are put up between the creature and the Creator.
The believer asks his Lord to help him for what is not in his capacity. Such an attitude increases the intimacy between the supplicant and God.
A striking expression in the Qur’an states: “Call me and I will answer you” (40:60).The real caller here is God Himself who invites us to His mercy.
Some good etiquettes for the supplicant are mentioned in the Qur’an such as sincerity (40:14), fear and hope (7:56), awe, yearning and reverence (21:90). Another motivating characteristic that is mentioned is the suffering soul: “Is He who responds to the desperate one when he calls upon Him and removes evil?” (27:62). Here it is understood that the person afflicted by suffering is more easily transported towards God. Indeed invocation is the heart of supplication as it expresses the most profound meaning of submission and abandonment to the Lord of the universe. It manifests the purest concept of faith, it keeps it alive and it renews and strengthens it in every moment.
Some believers may witness such profundity with awareness but without realising the literal meaning of what they are saying or hearing. They might recite an invocation from the Ahl al-Bayt(as) and become emotional about it but in fact not focus on the meanings of the words. However, we should be aware that there is a special communication that God has reserved for his sincere servants that is understood only from the bottom of the heart.
Yet, the recommendation is to recite the transmitted invocations in their original language which is Quranic Arabic. It is true that the truths spoken by the Imams through their invocations, in essence, transcend the barriers of conventional languages. However, intermediation of language is allowed for grasping lofty meanings. Such a tool is a connection between words and concepts. Therefore it is a gift from God even if it may be subject to corruption by human hands in some cases. Also, corruption of language can lead to corruption of thought or, even worse, to corruption in cognition of the meanings.
Muslims today do not doubt the celestial origin of the classical Arabic language which is manifested in one divine speech, the Holy Qur’an. It is true that the holy Qur’an is also a linguistic composition but its eloquent achievements have not been achieved by any thinker, writer, poet or philosopher consciously or unconsciously trying to imitate Quranic wisdom. Since man should correctly relate himself to contemplative realities which language can fully represent, God has enclosed in Quranic Arabic the terms with which to describe them. It is clear at this point that we are not talking anymore about a science related to linguistics, grammar or phonetics but a science of language that only prophets and holy Imams possess. Herein lies the importance of reciting the invocations of Ahl al-Bayt(as) in their original language which are the best and most accurate exegesis of the Qur’an that can be spoken of.