The Lord’s Prayer in Islam

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January 13, 2018

Taymaz Tabrizi is currently Director of Research at the Berkeley Institute for Islamic Studies. He holds a PhD from McMaster University, Canada from the Department of Religious Studies where he specialized in the anthropology of religion and Imāmī Islamic law. He also holds a doctoral diploma in Gender Studies and Feminist Research from McMaster University from the Department of English and Cultural Studies.

The Islamic version of the Lord’s Prayer is too close to be a mere coincidence and is influenced by New Testament manuscripts. The Muslim scholarly reaction to it has been mixed.

The Lord’s Prayer as it appears in Matthew 6:9-6:13 is perhaps the most important prayer in the New Testament and most Christian denominations. Most churches use this version as oppose to the version in Luke 11:2-4. The prayer is important for many reasons among the many denominational churches of Christianity, yet one of its most significant social roles has been its redemptive role for worldly suffering. For its believers, the prayer is often used as a reminder that God’s will always reigns supreme and his providence is always at hand even in the most difficult of times.

The Matthean version of the prayer is as follows:

9 Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.[1]

The prayer although widespread in Christianity, has historically been absent in Muslim rituals for the most part yet some Muslim traditions purport that it was recommended and perhaps even recited by the Prophet Muhammad albeit in an altered version that would befit Qur’anic theology. The tradition is as follows:

حَدَّثَنَا يَزِيدُ بْنُ خَالِدِ بْنِ مَوْهَبٍ الرَّمْلِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا اللَّيْثُ، عَنْ زِيَادِ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ كَعْبٍ الْقُرَظِيِّ، عَنْ فَضَالَةَ بْنِ عُبَيْدٍ، عَنْ أَبِي الدَّرْدَاءِ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ” مَنِ اشْتَكَى مِنْكُمْ شَيْئًا أَوِ اشْتَكَاهُ أَخٌ لَهُ فَلْيَقُلْ رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ الَّذِي فِي السَّمَاءِ تَقَدَّسَ اسْمُكَ أَمْرُكَ فِي السَّمَاءِ وَالأَرْضِ كَمَا رَحْمَتُكَ فِي السَّمَاءِ فَاجْعَلْ رَحْمَتَكَ فِي الأَرْضِ اغْفِرْ لَنَا حُوبَنَا وَخَطَايَانَا أَنْتَ رَبُّ الطَّيِّبِينَ أَنْزِلْ رَحْمَةً مِنْ رَحْمَتِكَ وَشِفَاءً مِنْ شِفَائِكَ عَلَى هَذَا الْوَجَعِ فَيَبْرَأُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

Abī al-Dardā said: I heard the messenger of God (s) saying: if any of you or his brother is suffering from anything, then he should say:

O Lord God who is in heaven,

Hallowed be your name,

Your decree is in heaven and the earth,

As your mercy is in heaven,

Forgive us our sins and trespasses,

You are the Lord of the good folk,

Send down a mercy from your mercy,

And a healing from your healing upon this pain so that it may be healed[2]

The above supplication is most likely an Arabic rendering of some version of the Lord’s Prayer either through the translation of a prior Christian text or simply a direct influence from John or Matthean manuscripts. The wording is too similar to simply be an accident. The tradition is originally by Abū Dāwūd (d. 275/888) but is surprisingly utilized by Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728/1328) for theological purposes[3] suggesting that its contents – in his view – are reliable at some level.[4] The tradition exists almost verbatim in Shīʿī traditions but is attributed to ʿAlī who states that the prayer was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel as a healing for his physical pain.[5]

Supplications (adʿiyah, sing. duʿāʾ) are an integral part of Islam. Perhaps the school most centered on formalized and ritualized supplications has been Imāmī Shīʿism with its large collections of compendiums devoted to supplications such as the Mafātīḥ al-Jinān, a twentieth century contribution by ʿAbbās Qummī (d. 1941). Despite the large body of supplications used in Imāmī literature, the Lord’s Prayer has largely been absent in its devotional literature despite the fact that it is narrated through ʿAlī and attributed to the Prophet. When it comes to the strength of chains of transmission, Imāmī scholars have usually been liberal in the acceptance of supplications as long as they fit the normative theological and devotional narrative of Imāmī Shīʿism yet nothing in the Islamic version of the Lord’s Prayer is controversial by Imāmī or any normative standard in the discursive tradition of Islam.

One is left to think that its mostly conspicuous absence, especially in the Imāmī devotional literature may be the result of a wariness of acting on a tradition that most likely originates from or is inspired by a New Testament supplication – a reality which may not sit too comfortably with some scholars. But such an explanation is not sufficient for Muslim scholars could always argue that the same God who revealed the prayer to Jesus might as well have revealed it to the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnism’s wariness may be explained by controversies over its chain of transmission as well as the fact that devotional literature does not figure as prominently as it does in Imāmīsm. But if Imāmīs and their more liberal approach to supplications and their chains of transmission were to avoid the tradition, it may be reasonable to think that it was out of fear of being perceived as influenced by Christianity (a common concern), an allegation that has often been made and which much of the scholarly class tried to avoid.

[1] New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

[2] ʿAbd Allāh al-Ḥākim al-Nisāburī, al-Mustadrak ʿalā al-Ṣaḥīḥayn, ed. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. al-Hādī al-Wāridʿī (Cairo: Dār al-Ḥaramayn, 1417/1997), I, 487-488.

[3] Ibn Taymiyyah is utilizing the tradition to show that God is literally in the heaven, it is likely intended to be used as evidence against those who subscribe to panentheism (waḥdat al-wujūd). See Taqī al-Dīn Aḥmad Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmūʿah al-Rasāʾil al-Kubrā (al-ʿAqīdah al-Wāsiṭiyyah), 2 vols. (Beirut: Dār li-Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, n.d), I, 399.

[4] Although many Sunnī scholars have had qualms with the tradition, dismissing its chain of transmission as weak (ḍaʿīf), others have considered it as reliable (ḥasan), see for example Muḥāmmad b. Khalīl al-Harrās, Sharḥ al-ʿAqīdat al-Wāsiṭiyyah (Cairo: Dār Ibn ʿAffān, 1423/2002), 208.

[5] ʿAbd Allāh and Ḥusayn Abnā Busṭām, Ṭibb al-Aʾimmah, ed. Muḥammad Mahdī Khirsān (Qum: Dār al-Sharīf al-Rāḍī, 1411/1990), 20; al-Faḍl b. al-Ḥasan al-Ṭabrisī, Makārim al-Akhlāq (Qum: al-Sharīf al-Rāḍī, 1412/[1991-1992]), 394; Muḥammad b. Ḥasan al-Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Tafṣīl Wasā’il al-Shīʿah ilā Taḥṣīl Masā’il al-Sharīʿah, 30 vols., ed. Mu’assasat Āl al-Bayt (Qum: Mu’assasat Āl al-Bayt, 1409/[1988-1989]), II, 423; Hidāyat al-Aʾimmah ilā ʾAḥkām al-Aʾimmah, 8 vols., ed. Āstān-i Quds-i Raḍawī (Mashhad: Āstānah al-Raḍawiyyah al-Muqadassah, 1414/1993), I, 233; Muḥammad Bāqir al-Majlisī, Biḥār al-Anwār al-Jāmiʿah li-durar Akhbār al-A’immah al-Aṭhār, 110 vols., ed. by a committee of researchers (Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1403/1982), XCII, 52.

2018-01-29T23:19:52+00:00

Taymaz Tabrizi

Taymaz Tabrizi is currently Director of Research at the Berkeley Institute for Islamic Studies. He holds a PhD from McMaster University, Canada from the Department of Religious Studies where he specialized in the anthropology of religion and Imāmī Islamic law. He also holds a doctoral diploma in Gender Studies and Feminist Research from McMaster University from the Department of English and Cultural Studies.
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