This is a short analysis regarding some claims regarding this supplication
Recently there has been some back and forth between scholars regarding the authenticity of this supplication. Therefore, we wish to shed some light unto some of the claims.
A negative supplication
It has been noted by some that the tone of this supplication is negative, first we would like to say that this is not necessarily a sign of weakness for a text. The impression and experience one has with a supplication is a personal matter, you may be compelled by one supplication over the other and you are not obliged to recite every supplication. We wish to reiterate the words Shaykh Hobbollah quoted from his teacher regarding this matter:
the one who turns to supplications and recommended acts, he is as the one who is invited to a feast in which there are varieties of food, where he can’t pick all of them but is able to choose from them what suits or matches him.The authenticity of supplications and how to deal with them – Shaykh Hobbollah – Link
That being said it does not mean that this supplication should be assumed to be from the Imam or that it is free from questionable passages.
Some Shia speakers have alluded to there being no doubt about the authenticity of this text, of course without going in depth as to why, they accuse others of being reckless in denying its authenticity while they don’t even know why they affirm it.
Lets take a look at its transmission:
The first time this supplication was narrated was by Ibn Ṭāwūs (d. 664 AH) in his compilation of supplications, where he mentioned it under the heading of supplications recommended for Friday, Eid al-Fiṭr, Eid al-Aḍḥā, and Eid al-Ghadīr.
Firstly before we look at the chain, a red flag should already be raised that the first time this supplication appeared is with one of the later scholars, this while mentioning its supposed specific recommendation for the 3 Eids begs the question, where is the mention of this supplication before Ibn Ṭāwūs? If it was such an established ritual for it to be recited on every Eid surely it would be found in earlier books like Miṣbāḥ al-Mutahajjid by Shaykh al-Ṭūsī (d. 460 AH).
Now let us take a look at the chain:
ذكر بعض أصحابنا قال: قال محمد بن علي ابن أبي قرة نقلت من كتاب محمد بن الحسين بن سفيان البزوفري رضي الله عنه دعاء الندبة وذكر أنه الدعاء لصاحب الزمان صلوات الله عليه، ويستحب أن يدعى به في الأعياد الأربعة وهو:
It has been mentioned by some of our companions that Muhammad b. Ali b. Abi Qurrah said: I quote from the book of Muhammad b. al-Husayn b. Sufyan al-Buzofri (ra) Dua al-Nudba and he mentioned its a supplication for Sahib al-Zaman (saa), it is recommended to recite it on the 4 Eids and it is as follows:Miṣbāh al-Zā’ir, pg 229-230
There are several objections as for authenticating this chain:
1. Ibn Ṭāwūs (d. 664 AH) is narrating from people who are unknown to us from Muhammad b. Ali b. Abi Qurrah. Ibn Abi Qurrah is from the generation of the teachers of Shaykh al-Najashi who died in 450 AH as result there is a big gap between them.
2. The narrator of this supplication himself is unknown to us from the main sources of rijal so his reliability cannot be established and as result he will not be relied on as he is Majhool (Unknown). This is the opinion of Sayed al-Khoei  and others. Others have attempted to authenticate him under the presumption that tarahum, is a sign of someones goodness / trustworthiness.
3. The narrator does not even mention a chain to an Imam to begin with, so there is no specific attribution of this supplication to an Imam. Some have suggested it was narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (as)  and others have suggested it is from the 12th Imam – al-Qaim (as) himself. It has also been mentioned by some scholars that its possible that al-Buzofri did not even claim it as a supplication from the Imam but rather it may have been his own supplication.
Allamah Muhammad Kadhim al-Shushtari, in his treatise responding to the suspicion of Dr. Ali Shariati that the supplication may have Kaysanite origins, mentions:
أمّا فيما يتعلّق بسند الدعاء، فقد نقل المجلسي في البحار عن كتاب المزار لعليّ بن طاووس قوله: ذكر بعض أصحابنا، قال: قال: محمد بن علي بن أبي قرّة: نقلت من كتاب محمد بن الحسين بن سفيان البزوفري دعاء الندبة، وذكر أنه الدعاء لصاحب الزمان (صلوات الله عليه)، ويستحبّ أن يدعى به في الأعياد الأربعة، وهو: الحمد لله رب العالمين، وصلى الله على سيدنا محمد نبيه وآله وسلم تسليماً، اللهم لك الحمد على ما جرى به قضاؤك في أوليائك..، وينقل الدعاء إلى آخره، ثم يقول: قال محمد بن المشهدي في المزار الكبير: قال محمد بن علي بن قرّة: نقلت من كتاب أبي جعفر محمد بن الحسين بن سفيان البزوفري ….
والذي يظهر من قوله في تكملة الرواية: وذكر أنه الدعاء لصاحب
الزمان ع أنّ البزوفري روى الدعاء عن صاحب الزمان ع، ممّا يعني أنّه من إنشائه عليه السلام على غرار دعاء الافتتاح.
وثمّة احتمال يمكن استخلاصه من الخبر المذكور، وهو أن يكون دعاء الندبة من إنشاء البزوفري نفسه، أنشأه ليدعى به لصاحب الزمان؛ لغرض التعجيل في أمر فرجه وظهوره، وبناء على ذلك، يتضح أن سند الدعاء يرجع إلى ما ذكر في بحار الأنوار.
وأمّا ما جاء في زاد المعاد من أنّه نُقل بسند معتبر عن الإمام الصادق ع ليُدعى به في الأعياد الأربعة: الجمعة، وعيدي الفطر والأضحى، وعيد الغدير، فهو على ما يبدو من قصور المؤلف في العودة إلى المصادر، واعتماده في ذلك على أمر خارج نطاق المصادر المعتبرة، وقد أخطأ في ذلك، إذ لو صحّ ما رواه عن
الصادق ع لكان من الأجدر أن يذكره صاحب البحار الذي يعنى كتابه ويتخصّص بالروايات المسندة.
As for what is related to the chain of the supplication, al-Majlisi in al-Bihar has transmitted it from Kitab al-Mazar of Ali b. Tawus saying: It has been mentioned by some of our companions that Muhammad b. Ali b. Abi Qurrah said: I quoted from the book of Muhammad b. al-Husayn b. Sufyan al-Buzofri (ra) Dua al-Nudba and he mentioned its a supplication for Sahib al-Zaman (saa), it is recommended to recite it on the 4 Eids and it is as follows: […] and he [al-Majlisi] transmits the supplication till the end and then says: Muhammad b. al-Mashadi said in al-Mazar al-Kabeer: Muhammad b. Ali b. Qurrah said: I quoted from the book of Abi Ja’far Muhammad b. al-Husayn b. Sufyan al-Buzofriدعاء الندبة كيساني أم شيعي إمامي؟ – Link
And what becomes apparent from his words at the end of the narration: “and he mentioned its a supplication for Sahib al-Zaman (saa)” is that al-Buzofri narrated this supplication from Sahib al-Zaman (as), which means that it is from the compositions of him (as) similairly to Dua al-Iftitah
And there is a possibility that can be derived from the aforementioned report, that Dua al-Nudba is from the compositions of al-Buzofri himself, from his compositions to supplicate for Sahib al-Zaman (as); with the goal of hastening his reappearance, and based on this view, it will become clear that the chain stems from/goes back to what was mentioned in Bihar al-Anwar
As for what’s mentioned in Zād al-maʿād that it was transmitted with an authentic chain from Imam al-Sadiq عليه السلام to be supplicated with on the 4 Eids: Friday, Eid al-Fiṭr, Eid al-Aḍḥā, and Eid al-Ghadīr, it seems to be from the shortcoming of the author to refer to the sources, and his reliance on matters outside of the reliable sources, and so he has erred in this matter, if what he narrates from Al-Sadiq عليه السلام was correct then the author of Al-Bihar whom concerned his book with connected narrations should’ve mentioned it
Ayatollah Shaykh Muḥammad Hādī Yusufī Gharawī a Qummi hawza professor, historian, and researcher; in an interview discussing his “Minhāj al-H̪ayāh fi al-Ada’iya al al-Ziyārāt ‘an Ahl al-Bayt al-Hudāh” – a filtered version of the famous Mafātīh̪ al-Jinān by Shaykh ‘Abbas Qummi, he says:
Another dua attributed unto him (a) is Dua Nudba. This dua ended with Husayn b. Sufyan Buzufari, a special Companion of the Hadiyin (a). However, at no point does he claim that he heard this dua from an Infallible (a). He is reliable and close to the deputies, I consider it convincing and thus I added it to the prayerbook.Prof. Ayt. Gharawi, Dua Tawassul, Shirk, Wilayat e Takwini, and the Errors in Mafatih al-Jinan – shiismandislamichistory
The Marja’ Sayed Muḥammad Ḥusayn Faḍlullāh (d. 2010 CE) also briefly comments in response to a question on the supplication:
س: نحن نحضر دعاء الندبة بشكل أسبوعي، لكن سمعنا أن فيه بعض الألفاظ الداخلة بالغلو … ، وسمعنا أنه غير صحيح مطلقا ، ولايمكن أن يصدر عن معصوم. هل هذا صحيح؟ :
ج: هذا الدعاء غير ثابت سنداً عن المعصومين (ع).
Question: We attend Dua al-Nudba on a weekly basis, but we heard that it has some words which contain ghuluw …, and we heard that it is absolutely unauthentic, and it is not possible to have originated from an infallible. Is this correct?
Answer: On the basis of the chain of narrators this supplication is not established to be from the infallibles (as)bayynat.org – Link
The Marja’ Shaykh Bashīr Ḥusayn al-Najafī responds to a question regarding this supplication in one of his books:
Question 7: What does Dua al-Nudba mean to you, your eminence? Is its recitation like any other rituals of worship, or is it a way of life that the person should live by with the Imam (as)?Wiladat al-Imam al-Mahdi (as), pg 88
Answer 7: It is possible to look at Dua Nudba from many angles, some of which may seem negative initially, but nevertheless are important as per academic standards. So therefore, when we look at it in terms of sanad (chain of narration), we find that multiple experts in the field of Isnad and Hadith have refused to confirm this dua as being authentic, however; they have not forbidden its recitation as long as it is recited just as a dua (i.e. without attributing it to the Imams), because passages from this supplication may connect the servant with Allah (swt)
Content of the supplication
We will take a look at one of the passages which – depending on how its interpreted – can be problematic, we find in this section of the supplication:
وَاوْدَعْتَهُ عِلْمَ مَا كَانَ وَمَا يَكُونُ إِِلَىٰ ٱنْقِضَاءِ خَلْقِكَ
and entrusted with him the knowledge of whatever passed, and whatever shall come to pass up to the extinction of Your creatures.
This passage attributes the knowledge of whatever passed and is to come to the Prophet ﷺ which is not something that is confirmed in authentic sources.
This belief may put someone in a position of believing in ‘ilm al-ghayb for the creation, while this is something that is exclusive to Allah (swt).
قُل لَّا أَمْلِكُ لِنَفْسِي نَفْعًا وَلَا ضَرًّا إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ ۚ وَلَوْ كُنتُ أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ لَاسْتَكْثَرْتُ مِنَ الْخَيْرِ وَمَا مَسَّنِيَ السُّوءُ ۚ إِنْ أَنَا إِلَّا نَذِيرٌ وَبَشِيرٌ لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ
Say: “I have no control over any beneﬁt for myself nor [over] any harm except what Allah may will. Had I known the Unseen, I would have acquired much good, and no ill would have befallen me. I am only a warner and a bearer of good news to a people who have faith.”Surat al-A’araf, Verse 188
Ibn Shahrashub (d. 588 AH) stated:
قوله سبحانه وَ لٰا أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ و قوله الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ النبي و الإمام يجب أن يعلما علوم الدين و الشريعة و لا يجب أن يعلما الغيب و ما كان و ما يكون لأن ذلك يؤدي إلى أنهما مشاركان للقديم تعالى في جميع معلوماته و معلوماته لا تتناهى
روي أن أمير المؤمنين ع كان يعلم أنه مقتول و أن قاتله ابن ملجم فلا يجوز أن يكون عالما بالوقت الذي يقتله فيه على التعيين لأنه لو علم ذلك لوجب عليه أن يدفعه عن نفسه و لا يلقي بيده إلى التهلكة و إن هذا في علم الجملة غير واجب
[Regarding] His saying, Glory be to Him, “[..] nor do I [the Prophet ﷺ] know the unseen [..]” (6:50), and His saying, “Those who believe in the unseen [..]” (2:3)Mutashabih al Quran, Volume 1, pg 211
It is a necessity that the Prophet and the Imam have knowledge of the religion and sharia [islamic law], and it is not necessary for them to have knowledge of the unseen and what was and what will happen [the future], because that leads to the fact that they are partners with the Almighty in all of his knowledge and His knowledge is endless.
It has been narrated Ameer al-Mumineem عليه السلام knew that he would be killed and that his killer will be Ibn Muljim, and it is not permissable/possible that he knows the time he will be killed in, in detail (?) because if he knew that, it would be obligatory on him to protect himself [..]
More statements and narrations regarding ‘ilm al-ghayb can be found in another published article: Do the Imams have knowledge of the unseen [‘ilm al ghayb] ?
Some have suggested to utilise the book “Dua al-Nudba, wa tawtheeqa min al kitab wal sunnah” where allegedly the content of this supplication is corroborated from the Quran and Sunnah.
But when we look at what is quoted for this passage it seems the book was an attempt in gathering whatever one could find that possibly relates to a passage, because there is no attempt in quoting anything reliable. After citing questionable sources like Mashāriq Anwār al-Yaqīn and Baṣaʾir al-darajāt, the only narration quoted from Al-Kafi is extremely weak. So rather than proving anything it has actually strengthened our suspicion.
While being far from an extensive analysis we hope this short article has shown the reality that it is far from being a recent phenomenon that there are questions being asked about the authenticity of this supplication. It has become apparent that it is difficult to establish who composed this supplication and whether it even originated from an infallible to begin with.
That being said, a supplication not certainly originating from an infallible does not mean you can’t recite it, as long as it does not go against the teachings of Islam which is also something that can become subjective depending on the interpretation of the passages.
The underlying problem we hope to address in this article and other similar ones published is one of methodology rather than addressing specific supplications. The main point we wish to reiterate is that just as people are expected to be wary regarding absolutely rejecting things attributed to the Imams as fabricated, one should equally be wary of affirming anything and everything that even remotely mentions the Imams as being from them merely for existing in a book.
والحمد لله رب العالمين وصلى الله على محمد وآله الطاهرين
|↑1||Al-Mufeed Min Mu’jam Rijal al-Hadith, pg 518, Person #10593|
|↑2||Asking for Allah’s (swt) mercy upon someone after mentioning their name; (rahimullah)|
|↑3||See Āghā Bozorg al-Tehrānī in his Al-Dharīʿa (vol 8, pg 194) and Shaykh Namazi Shāhroudī in his Mustadrakat ‘ilm al-Rijal (vol 7, pg 59).|
|↑4||It was claimed by Al-Majlisi in Zād al-maʿād that it was transmitted with a reliable chain from Imam al-Sadiq عليه السلام, there exists no such thing and it is likely this was an error of the author.|
|↑5||KAYSĀNIYA (occasionally referred to also as Moḵtāriya), the Shiʿite sectarian movement(s) emerging from the Kufan revolt of Moḵtār b. Abi ʿObayd Ṯaqafi in 66-67/685-87, which revered Moḥammad b. Ḥanafiya (d. 81/700) as their imam and the Mahdi. |
|↑6||Relevant reading: The authenticity of supplications and how to deal with them|