There is a beautiful “whispered prayer” known as Munaajat Sha’baniyyah, also referred to as the Munaajat of Imam Ali, peace be upon him. It was recited by him and all of the other Imams and ranks amongst the most sublime of their prayers.
Before we delve into the discussion on this beautiful whispered prayer, we must first understand that in Islam, we have various methods of communication and communion with Allah – we have the recitation of the Noble Qur’an, we have the supplication (du’a) and we have the whispered prayer (munaajat).
The whispered prayer is different from du’a in that du’a is a general and encompassing term which literally means “to call upon [someone]”. It can be recited in a multiple of ways: from far away or close by, loudly or quietly, from a known person or a stranger – all of these kinds of sounds can be referred to as a du’a. In the Islamic tradition, such an appeal forms an inner connection between the finite and the Infinite – the servant and Allah, the Most High.
However, the munaajat or whispered prayer, and its source word in Arabic, which is najwah, is a whisper or secret talk – a specific communication with someone such that no one else hears the one making such a petition – in essence, it is an form of spiritual intimacy between two individuals.
In a munaajat, therefore, sometimes Allah talks to an individual while at other times, one talks to Allah - and this is what is known as a reciprocal dialogue or form of communication.
In this regards, there is a beautiful statement from the Creator of the World - Allah – in which He has stated the following: “When a person has no other aim except for My pleasure, then I love him and in the darkness of the night, and the quietness of the day, I enter into intimate discourse (munaajat) with him.”
Therefore, the munaajat is such that one speaks knowing that Allah has spoken to him, but no one else knows about this conversation. Indeed when this occurs, it can be said that it is the words of Allah coming out of a servant’s mouth!
There are many ‘well-known’ whispered prayers that have been conveyed to us through the endless teachings of the Ahlul Bayt, peace be upon them; some examples of these are the fifteen whispered prayers (munaajaat) of Imam Ali b. al-Husayn Zaynul Abideen, peace be upon him, which can be found at the end of as-Sahifah as-Sajjadiya [for an in-depth and inspiring explanation of each of these Whispered Prayers of the 4th Imam, please refer to the lectures of Shaykh Mohammad Ali Shomali found at www.quranstudy.com; the munaajat of Imam Ali, peace be upon him, that he used to recite and is famously known as the “Munaajat of Imam Ali in Masjid al-Kufa”; and the Munaajat Sha’baniyyah which was a personal favourite of the late Ayatullah Khomeini who even recommended its recitation when he wrote his final will and testament.
The late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran is quoted as having said that it is not known to him if there is any other intimate whispered prayer or supplication that has been recited by all of the 12 Imams, other than Munaajat Sha’baniyyah.
Thus, munaajat is an expression of our love to Allah; it is the language of love - not the language of logic.
It contains many different etiquettes of invocation to Allah – how to ask Him for forgiveness and reach out for His mercy.
Turning our attention to Munaajat Sha’baniyyah, one part of this intimate whispered prayer deals with a servant pleading for forgiveness from Allah for his wrong doings and evil deeds.
When it comes to asking for forgiveness, there are many different methods and the manner of seeking pardon varies.
For example, let’s say that one has an argument with a friend and says something bad to them. Shortly afterwards, one regrets what transpired and resolves to ask him or her for forgiveness.
The method of doing this is not to say to oneself that, “I did not do anything bad,” rather one must acknowledge the fact that something was done wrong, then we seek forgiveness by humbling ourselves until they accept our words of repentance. In this situation, one will be forgiven by their friend, God willing.
Another kind of seeking forgiveness is that a person understands the fact that in order to reach “perfection” they have to ask for forgiveness for their evil actions with humility and the proper etiquette. However it does not matter for this person if the other side accepts one’s repentance or not, they just want to be content that they have very crucial that his forgiveness is accepted by the other party, and therefore he will plead and plead with the family and beg them to pardon him, because he realizes that it is a life and death situation that he is in.