Commentaries on Dua al-Iftitah    


Shaikh Mohammed Shomali   | Lecture series on the dua tafseer Shk Jaffer Ladak   |    Syed Fadhil Milani

Du' al-Iftitah was taught by or twelfth Imam (a) for Shi'as to recite every night during the month Ramadhan, The Du'a is excellent for moulding man's attitude towards his Creator as it discusses many aspects of the wretchedness of the human being, and the grace of Allah. The Du'as can be divided into two parts: 

1) Man's relationship with Allah,    &     2) Divine leaders.

The first section of the Du'a describes different qualities of Allah, and reveals the graciousness and love of Allah for the human being. This section of the Du'a can further be divided into the following parts:

a) Praise of Allah: As is the etiquette of Du'a al-Ifttah begins with the raise and glorification of Allah. This is not because Allah needs to be praised before He answers our Du'as, but to remind the supplicant of the Supreme Being he is addressing, good consequently put the awe of Allah into hearts which are often heedless.

The beginning of the Du'a also places the supplicant between hope and fear the ideal attitude while praying. Allah is most merciful, but Is also severe in punishment. Humans are not to despair, nor to be too confident but constantly strive in His way.

b) Emphasis on the Oneness of Allah: Allah has no partner nor son, and has complete, undivided power and control over creation. the inhabitants of the skies and the heavens depend on Him. This Is to strengthen reliance of the supplicant on Allah, as there is none else he can turn to.

c) The Generosity of Allah: The treasures of Allah do not cease, and are always liberally bestowed on His creatures. The needs of the human beings are enormous, and by placing open the door of Du'a Allah has given them the keys to His treasures. His doors are always open, and no supplication to Him is rejected without some answer.

But man is often ungrateful, and always greedy. He expects that his du'as will always be immediately granted. When such Gratification is not forthcoming, he turns away, instead of reminding himself of all the favours he enjoys.

d) Relationship of Allah an the human being. A strange relationship Indeed! Although it is the human who need Allah, and should strive towards Him, it is Allah who invites and encourages him to come, who shows love and mercy and continues to favour him in many ways.

As the 4th Imam says in Du'a-e-Abu Hamza Shimali:

Praise be to Allah who answers me when I call Him, although I am reluctant when He calls me, and Praise is for Allah who gives me when I ask Him, although I am miserly when he asks me. This is worth pondering over for those who think of Allah as a tyrannical master imposing his rules over humans.

This section of the Du'a is an excellent lesson in the Islamic view point of the qualities of Allah. The God of Islam is a loving, gracious God who treats the human being better than he deserves. The root of the relationship between Allah and man is the love of the creator for His creatures. It is on man to search his heart for a reciprocal response.

The second section of the Du'a send blessings on the Holy Prophet (S) and The M'asumeen, and then discusses the role of the twelth Imam (a).

a) Salawat on the Prophet(s): After faith in Allah, the next most important part of religion is faith in His sent ones. Thus after acknowledging the greatness And graciousness of the creator, the Du'a teaches us to acknowledge the divine leaders as our guides towards Him. Blessings are sent to the Prophet(s) As a sign of love and appreciation for the Prophet(s) and as an acknowledgement that he is a human being and needs mercy and blessings from Allah. It also strengthens remembrance of the Prophet(s) and the inspiration to follow his path.

b) Blessing on the M'asumeen: After the Holy Prophet(s), his successors are remembered and prayed for. These are the true leaders of the Muslim ummah who were Divinely appointed by Allah. Belief in them, and love for them, is an important part of the Shi'a faith.

c) Role of the Twelfth Imam (a): In every era Allah has His representative who guides His creatures towards establishing truth and justice on earth. The Twelfth Imam is the leader of our time, who will come an Allah's religion on earth. The last part of Du's al-Iftitah talks about his coming, preparing believers for the anticipated establishment of the rule of Allah on earth. 

Praying for help and victory for the twelfth Imam reminds us that we are waiting for him, and need to prepare for his coming. We become aware of our responsibilities in his ghaybat, and the importance of training ourselves as his helpers. We pray for the ultimate dream of a Muslim, a state in which the religion of Allah is paramount, and disbelief an hypocrisy are degraded.

 Du'a al-Iftitah reminds us that both faith and action are necessary to be a true believer. Faith in Allah entails acting on His message brought by His messenger, and establishing His religion on earth. While that can only be done through the Imam, we should work and pray for his arrival. Human beings can only enjoy true justice and peace, and a fulfillment of all their needs under the leadership of a Divine leader.

Du'a al-Iftitah is not only a supplication for our needs, but a teaching of the roots of faith, and a planning for a way of life. It remains on us to plot the chart of our life as we recite this beautiful du'a during the nights of Ramadhan


Al-Iftitah - An Ocean of Lights  Shaykh Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali

- Excerpts from the commentary of Dua al-Iftitah   Reflections Dr Shomali pdf   Listen wma

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Dua al-Iftitah is a well-known supplication and is generally recited during each night of the month of Ramadan. It is called 'Dua al-Iftitah' because it begins with:

اَللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي افْتَتِحُ ٱلثَّنَاءَ بِحَمْدِكَ

Thus we say that we begin or open praising Allah (swt) by remembering all the great qualities that He (swt) possesses and all the many favours that He (swt) has bestowed upon us.


There are several points that have been emphasized in this du'a, the first and foremost of which is praise of Allah (swt). Praising God the Almighty is perhaps the most important thing mentioned in this du'a. Obviously praising Allah (swt) is not the same as thanking Him (swt). There is a difference between hamd (praising) and shukr (thanksgiving). Praising Allah (swt) requires remembering and mentioning the good qualities that He (swt) possesses and all the good things that He (swt) has done for us, whether they relate to oneself personally or not. However, thanksgiving is about those things that in a way or another actually relate to oneself.


For example, an artist may produce a beautiful work of art and then someone who sees this work of art may praise the artist but would not thank the artist, unless the work had been produced specifically for this person or for someone who relates to this person. Therefore, in general, when Allah (swt) does something good for other people, or even other creatures such as animals, we can praise Him (swt) for this. Indeed the performance of an action by Him (swt) is not even necessary in order to praise Him (swt) as we can praise Him (swt) simply for the qualities He (swt) possesses.

Dua al-Iftitah is a well-known supplication and is generally recited during each night of the month of Ramadan. 


The second theme which is repeated in this du'a regards salutations being offered to the Noble Prophet (s) and His Household (a) and when such salutations are mentioned, then several qualities of the Noble Prophet (s) are described. Some of the qualities of the Prophet's Household in general are also briefly mentioned but when the 12th Imam (a) is described, several of his qualities are referred to. The du'a continues in this spirit of remembrance of the 12th Imam (a) with various requests being made to Allah (swt) regarding the last Imam right up until the end of the du'a where the emphasis then shifts to asking Allah (swt), because of the Imam (a), to grant us our requests concerning what we need for our community.


Regarding the Prophet (s), we read:

اَللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَىٰ مُحَمَّدٍ عَبْدِكَ وَرَسُولِكَ

وَامِينِكَ وَصَفِيِّكَ وَحَبِيبِكَ

وَخِيَرَتِكَ مِنْ خَلْقِكَ

وَحَافِظِ سِرِّكَ

وَمُبَلِّغِ رِسَالاَتِكَ

It is interesting to see that the very first quality which has been mentioned here for the Noble Prophet (s) is that he is a servant of Allah (swt)...


...According to this part of the du'a, salutations can increase and expand. When we send salawat (salutations) or salaam (peace) to the Noble Prophet (s) and our Imams (a), we do not send our salutations or peace directly but instead we ask Allah (swt) Himself to send them these salutations and peace. Indeed salaam is a prayer and so we are asking Allah (swt) to send peace to that person.


Thus we say:


اللّهُمّ صَلّ عَلَى مُحَمّدٍ وَآلِ مُحَمّدٍ

'O Allah! Send salutations to Muhammad (s) and his Household.'


And so when we ask Allah (swt) Himself to send salutations, such salutations are not limited to the time when we say them: rather, we can ask Allah (swt) to send salutations all the time. Therefore, we read in one of the Ziyaaraat for Imam Husayn (a):


عَلَيْكُمْ مِنِّي جَمِيعاً سَلاَمُ ٱللَّهِ ابَداً

مَا بَقيتُ وَبَقِيَ ٱللَّيْلُ وَٱلنَّهَارُ

'Be with you, from me, the peace of Allah (swt) as long as I live and (even if I am not alive) as long as there is day and night.' 

[Tusi, Misbaah al-Mutahajjid, p. 776]


So this means that we request Allah (swt) to send His peace to Imam Husayn (a) until the end of time. So, again we have this beautiful concept that the salaam does not remain in the same state but grows and becomes better and better.



Special salutations to Imam Mahdi (a)

The salutations to Imam Mahdi (a), the Imam of our time, are not limited to simple salutations but instead are expanded on in several phrases and then attention is focused on the last Imam until the end of the du'a.
Firstly we read:

اَللَّهُمَّ وَصَلِّ عَلَىٰ وَليِّ امْرِكَ
ٱلْقَائِمِ ٱلْمُؤَمَّلِ
وَٱلْعَدْلِ ٱلْمُنْتَظَرِ
وَحُفَّهُ بِمَلائِكَتِكَ ٱلْمُقَرَّبِينَ
وَايِّدْهُ بِرُوحِ ٱلْقُدُسِ
يَا رَبَّ ٱلْعَالَمِينَ
O Allah, (please do) send blessings to the custodian of Your commandments,
the vigilant guardian, the reliable patron,
and the awaited establisher of justice.
And (please) surround him with Your favorite angels
and assist him with the Holy Spirit.
O Lord of the worlds!
In this passage we ask Allah (swt) to support our Imam (a) with the Holy Spirit. The concept of the Holy Spirit (Ruuh al-Qudus) is very important, especially for Shi'a Muslims. According to the glorious Qur'an and various narrations, one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to support and guide good people. For example, the Qur'an says that the Holy Spirit supported Prophet Jesus (a) and thus we read in Chapter 5, Verse 110:

إِذْ أَيَّدْتُكَ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ
when I strengthened you with the holy Spirit, 

If we are good and pious people, we too can hope that Allah (swt) will support us and one of the ways in which He (swt) does this is to ask the Holy Spirit to help us.

It should be mentioned that whilst Sunni scholars normally identify the Holy Spirit with the archangel Gabriel, Shi'a Muslims, as taught by the Holy Imams (a) hold that the Holy Spirit is a creature at a higher level than Gabriel. Abu Basir, a great companion of Imam Sadiq (a), says:

'I asked Imam Sadiq (a) about the verse 'They question you concerning the Spirit. Say, 'The Spirit is of the command of my Lord' (17:58).' He responded that the Spirit is a creature greater than Gabriel and Michael.' [Kulayni, Muhammad Ibn Ya'qub, Usul al-Kafi, vol.1 (Tehran Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyya, 1388 AH) p. 273, no.3].

As confirmation of the fact that the Holy Spirit is not the same as Gabriel, one may refer to Verse 4 of Chapter 97 of the Glorious Qur'an which reads:

تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْ مِنْ كُلِّ أَمْرٍ 
The angels and Gibreel descend in it by the permission of their Lord for every affair,

The verse explains that on the night of Qadr, the Holy Spirit descends along with the angels. This suggests that the Holy Spirit is different from the angels which include Gabriel and Michael.



Towards the end of the du'a,] we make a very beautiful and important request to Allah (swt) for ourselves:


اَللَّهُمَّ مَا عَرَّفْتَنَا مِنَ ٱلْحَقِّ فَحَمِّلْنَاهُ

وَمَا قَصُرْنَا عَنْهُ فَبَلِّغْنَاهُ

O Allah, let us bear out that which You make known to us as the truth

and let us attain that which we fall short to do.


This concept of 'bearing' is very important. Regarding this, Chapter 62 Verse 5 reads:


مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرَاةَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَحْمِلُوهَا كَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ يَحْمِلُ أَسْفَارًا ۚ بِئْسَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ 

The likeness of those who were charged with the Taurat, then they did not observe it, is as the likeness of the ass bearing books, evil is the likeness of the people who reject the communications of Allah; and Allah does not guide the unjust people.


Thus someone may be given a divine book but it does not mean that they will necessarily be able to 'bear' it, meaning that they may not be able to take it on board. Therefore, it is important to carry and uphold the truth that we know, to take it on board, and whosoever is able to do this enjoys a high position. 


Furthermore, we ask Allah (swt) to inform us about the parts of the truth of which we are unaware. It is surely enough for us if this part of the du'a is answered, because we will then know the truth about which we were previously and unaware and we will be able to commit ourselves to and implement the truth which we already do know. It would seem that these are actually the only two things which we really need because in Islam everything is facilitated by commitment to the truth and so if we are committed to the truth then everything else will be sorted out