ṢAḤIFA AL-SAJJĀDIYA, AL-, celebrated collection of supplicatory prayers (see DOʿĀ) attributed to Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin ʿAli b. Ḥosayn, also known as Imam Sajjād, the fourth Imam of the Imami Shiʿites.  The Ṣaḥifa is an important source of Shiʿite piety, and its prestige is reflected in its honorific titles, Zabur āl Moḥammad (the psalms of the family of Moḥammad) and Enjil Ahl al-Bayt (gospel of the prophet’s family; Majlesi, Beḥār XXV, p. 305). 

Imam Sajjād is universally acknowledged as an enthusiast of worship and prayer, and it is not surprising that an extensive amount of devotional material is associated with his name.  According to the account provided in the detailed preface, found in the prevalent narration of the Ṣaḥifa but apparently absent from other narrations, Imam Sajjād taught a number of doʿā to two of his children, Zayd al-Šahid and Moḥammad al-Bāqer; Zayd compiled the supplicatory prayers into a book (ṣaḥifa) that he bequeathed to his son Yaḥyā, while Moḥammad al-Bāqer dictated them to his own son Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq, the sixth Imam.  A certain Motawakkel b. Hārun Balḵi, who has not been authenticated by the scholars of biography (rejāl), served as a link between Yaḥyā’s and Jaʿfar’s copies. Motawakkel transmitted “sixty-odd” supplications to his son ʿOmayr, and from him they were disseminated through four narrators of the 3rd/9th century (Jalili, pp. 18-21).

However, there are internal and external indications that this preface is not altogether reliable as a chronology of the Ṣaḥifa; rather, in earlier centuries the supplications attributed to Imam Sajjād circulated as separate texts, each containing variant readings, arrangements, and titles.  Shaikh Abu Jaʿfar Ṭusi (d. 460/1068) and Aḥmad Najāši (d. 450/1058) refer to the material rather unspecifically as the supplication (or supplications) of the Ṣaḥifa (Shaikh Ṭusi, p. 447; Najāši, p. 426; Jalāli, p. 10).  Apparently it was not until the 6th/12fth century that al-Ṣaḥifa al-Sajjādiya was primarily regarded as the proper name of a well-defined body of material, when Ebn Šahrāšub Māzandarāni (d. 588/1192) declared the Ṣaḥifa as the sixth book in Islam (Ebn Šahrāšub, p. 2).  Ebn Šahrāšub was also the first known scholar to call the Ṣaḥifa by its twin honorifics, Zabur āl Moḥammad and Enjil Ahl al-Bayt.  A third title, Oḵt al-Qorʾān (sister of the Qurʾan), is less frequently encountered and seems to be a modern invention. 

The frequently cited statement of some scholars that the Ṣaḥifa is supported by “thousands upon thousands” chains of transmission of documents (esnāds; Majlesi, Beḥār XXV, p. 299) refers to its certificate of transmission (ejāzat al-rewāya; see EJĀZA), not to its original transmission, since, technically speaking, it is a weak and solitary Hadith (Jalāli, pp. 15-17).  Despite this, the Shiʿites have never questioned the authorship of the Ṣaḥifa; rather, based upon its elevated contents, expressive style, and long-established fame, they consider it of assured provenance (qaṭeʿ al-ṣoḍur) in the same manner as the Qurʾan (Majlesi, Beḥār XXV, pp. 305, 307; Musawi Borujerdi, pp. 39-44).  Although Sunnites hold Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin in high esteem as a pious tābeʿi (successor of the companions) and one of the seven jurists (faqih) of Medina, his doʿās are practically unknown amongst them.  The source of emulation (marjaʿ al-taqlid) and bibliophile Šehāb-al-Din Marʿaši Najafi (d. 1990) relates sending a copy of the Ṣaḥifa to the Egyptian mufti and exegete Jawhar al-Ṭanṭāwi, who replied that it was unfortunate that the Sunnites were unaware of its sublime eloquence and lofty teachings.  The Zaydi Shiʿites, on the other hand, accept and venerate the Ṣaḥifa in much the same way as the Imami Shiʿites (Jalāli, p. 15; Musawi Borujerdi, p. 49, n. 3).

The version of the Ṣaḥifa in current use is known as al-Ṣaḥifa al-kāmela and consists of  fifty-four supplications; the doʿās range in length from a few to well over a hundred lines, but mostly containing ten to twenty lines.  It was established by Šams-al-Din Moḥammad b. Makki (also known as Šahid-e Awwal d. 786/1384), in the 8th/14th century based upon a combination of two transmissions (rewāyāt).  Bahāʾ-al-Din ʿĀmeli (d. 1030/1621) had in his possession a copy of the manuscript of Šahid-e Awwal from his grandfather, and this version soon became the standard version (omm al-nosaḵ) in Iran.  Before the Safavid era, the Ṣaḥifa was recognized and respected among compilers of doʿā books (Musawi Borujerdi, p. 44), but it was Moḥammad-Taqi Majlesi (d. 1070/1659) who was instrumental in making the work essentially on par with the Four Books of Hadith (see HADITH ii), and he himself repeatedly boasted of this accomplishment in his writings.  Following a “true vision” (roʾya ṣaḥiḥa) of the Mahdi that took place in the old congregational mosque (Masjed-e Jāmeʿ) of Isfahan, Moḥammad-Taqi Majlesi devoted some fifty years to teaching the work as well as checking manuscripts (Majlesi, Rawżat XIV, pp. 419-22; Majlesi, Beḥār XXV, p. 297, 299; Majlesi, al-Farāʾed, p. 5).  While Majlesi states that before his time the Ṣaḥifa was practically difficult to obtain in Iran and close to being forgotten (maṭmus al-aṯar), by the time of his son Moḥammad-Bāqer (1037-1110/1627-98) “almost every home in Iran, especially in Isfahan, possessed a copy” (Majlesi, al-Farāʾed, p. 5); the dramatic increase in manuscripts produced during the Safavid era, far outnumbering all known manuscripts from previous centuries, is a testament to Majlesi’s success in disseminating the work widely (Jalāli, pp. 35-45). 

The popularization of the Ṣaḥifa spurred the compilation of supplementary works (mostadrakāt) containing additional devotional material attributed to Imam Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin, which are referred to as the second, third, fourth, etc. Ṣaḥifa.  In recent times some scholars have collected all of the original and supplementary material into one volume, most notably al-Ṣaḥifa al-Sajjādiya al-jāmeʿa of Moḥammad-Bāqer Abṭaḥi.  The most important of the supplementary material are fifteen monājāts (extemporaneous prayer) and seven doʿās specific to each day of the week (doʿā al-yawm) that are very popular with the Imamites; these texts are now routinely included as appendices to printed editions of the Ṣaḥifa. A contemporary phenomenon influenced by the fame of the Ṣaḥifa has been the compilation of doʿā of other of the Twelve Imams into one volume, with each collection entitled a Ṣaḥifa; thus a collection of doʿās of ʿAli b. Abi Ṭāleb is called al-Ṣaḥifa al-ʿalawiya, the doʿās attributed to the Mahdi are collected in a volume titled al-Ṣaḥifa al-mahdawiya, and so forth.  In the last fifty years the Ṣaḥifa has also been translated into a number of European and Asian languages. 

One consequence of the newfound prominence of the Ṣaḥifa in the Safavid period was the earnest writing of commentary literature.  Among the nearly fifty Arabic and Persian commentaries (šoruḥ) and glosses (ḥawāši) listed in Āqā Bozorg Ṭehrāni’s al-Ḏarʿia (XIII, pp. 345-59) only a few are pre-Safavid, while a considerable number are from Safavid times.  The earliest attested commentary is attributed to the faqih (jurisprudent) Ebn Edris Ḥelli (d. 598/1202) and consists solely of brief marginalia explaining unclear words.  A number of luminaries of the Safavid era, including the eminent polymath Shaikh Bahāʾi, the mystical philosopher Mir Dāmād (d. 1041/1631), and the gnostic traditionalist Fayż Kašāni (d. 1090/1679) wrote commentaries or glosses in either Arabic or Persian (Āqā Bozorg Ṭehrāni, XIII, pp. 347, 357, 358).  As part of his project to revive the Ṣaḥifa in Iran, Moḥammad-Taqi Majlesi started two commentaries, one in Arabic and another in Persian, although he did not live to complete them. He enjoined his son Moḥammad-Bāqer to complete all of his unfinished works, but the younger Majlesi reworked glosses he had already started into a full commentary called al-Farāʾed al-ṭarifa fi šarḥ al-ṣaḥifa al-šarifa, although this too was left unfinished (Majlesi, al-Farāʾed, pp. 5-6). Two of Moḥammad-Bāqer Majlesi’s students, Mirzā Afandi (d. 1130/1718), author of Riāż al-ʿolamāʾ, and Neʿmat-Allāh Jazāʾeri (d. 1112/1701), šayḵ-al-eslām of the city of Šuštar, also composed commentaries or glosses (Āqā Bozorg Ṭehrāni, XIII, pp. 353, 258-59).  The Riāż al-sālekin fi šarḥ ṣaḥifat sayyed al-sājedin of Sayyed ʿAli Khan Širāzi (d. 1120/1708-09), dedicated to Shah Solṭān-Ḥosayn, however, is conventionally cited as the most significant commentary on the Ṣaḥifa. This work is probably a favorite because, unlike many other commentaries, it covers the entirety of the Ṣaḥifa and also treats many linguistic, grammatical, theological, and legal issues.  It mainly focuses on the views of the lexicographers and moḥaddeṯin (narrators of traditions) and largely ignores the opinions of the philosophers and mystics. 

Overall the Ṣaḥifa exhibits a simple and direct spirituality that stands in contrast with the elaborate and esoteric imamology that is usually considered a hallmark of Shiʿite piety (see SHIʿITE DOCTRINE).  While there are occasional references to the merits (fażāʾel) of the Imam (supplication nos. 46: lines 60-63) and condemnation of his enemies (nos. 48: lines 9-10), the Ṣaḥifa reflects a minimalist Shiʿite spirituality in which the significance of Imamate is acknowledged but not belabored.  Its style and contents are highly reminiscent of the Qurʾan, and there are either direct or indirect references to the scripture of Islam in every doʿā.  The constant remembrance of God (ḏekr Allāh) and gratitude for his blessings, the humble seeking of every kind of mundane and spiritual need from God (nos. 7, 13, 15, 18, 19, 20, 22, 29, 30, 49, 50), the enumerating of the virtues of the prophets (no. 2) and angels (no. 3), and prayers for the believers and close relations (nos. 23-25) are its major themes.  Also encountered frequently in the Ṣaḥifa are intense expressions of remorse for sins and admission of wrongdoings that are accompanied by imploring God for his pardon and forgiveness (nos. 12, 14, 16, 31, 38, 39).  This presents the central paradox of Shiʿite imamology, namely, why a maʿṣum (infallible; see ČAHĀRDAH MAʿṢUM) would fervently ask forgiveness for committing sins (Chittick, pp. xxx-xxxv, in Imam Zayna-al-ʿĀbedin).

As is the case with other Shiʿite prayer manuals, the Ṣaḥifa is rarely read from cover to cover; rather, in practice certain doʿās are recited for specific occasions or read upon the relevant circumstances.  Popular supplications include the coming of the month of Ramadan (no. 44) and bidding farewell to it (no. 45), completing a reading of the Qur’an (no. 42), and on the day of ʿArafa (Ḏu’l-ḥejja 9; see no. 47).  Also frequently recited are Makārem al-aḵlāq (no. 20), a detailed and elegant piece concerning the cultivation of noble religio-ethical traits, and the Ahl-al-ṯoḡur (no. 27), originally read for the victory of those fighting along the borderlands (ṯoḡur) of Islam but in recent times recited whenever the believers are persecuted in any location.  This last doʿā,  however, contains a problematic list of enemies of Islam (line 9) that reflects the geopolitical circumstances of a later time and includes some harsh imprecations against the enemies (lines 6, 12), which sound atypical of Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin’s demeanor as well as contrary to the Islamic code of warfare.  These issues, and the fact that in what is probably the oldest manuscript of the Ṣaḥifa this doʿā contains an additional verse not found in the present edition (Jalāli, p. 67), raise questions as to its overall integrity.



Sayyed ʿAli Khan b. Maʿṣum Širāzi, Riāż al-sālekin fi šarḥ ṣaḥifat sayyed al-sājedin, ed. Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Amini, 7 vols., Qom, n.d.

Moḥammad-Moḥsen Āqā Bozorg Ṭehrāni, al-Ḏariʿa elā taṣānif al-Šiʿa, 25 vols., Najaf, 1936-75. 

Mahmood G. Dhalla, “Alone with the Beloved: The Words of ʿAli b. al-Husayn in The Sahifa Sajjadiyya,” MPh. Thesis, University of Birmingham, 2012. 

Ebn Šahrāšub, Maʿālem al-ʿolamāʾ fi fehrest kotob al-Šiʿa wa asmāʾ al-moʾallefin, ed. Moḥammad-Ṣādeq Āl Baḥr-al-ʿOlum, Beirut, n.d.

Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Ḥorr ʿĀmeli, al-Ṣaḥifa al-ṣajjādiya al-ṯāniya, ed. F-Ḥ Karim, Qom, 1421/2000. 

Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Ḥosayni Jalāli, Derāsat ḥawl al-ṣaḥifa al-sajjādiya, Beirut, 1421/2000. 

Moḥammad-Bāqer Majlesi, Beḥār al-anwār al-jāmeʿa le-dorar aḵbār al-aʾemma al-aṭhār, ed. ʿA-N. Šāhrudi, 25 vols., Beirut, 1429/2008, XXV, pp. 297-308.

Idem, al-Farāʾed al-ṭarifa fi šarḥ al-ṣaḥifa al-šarifa, ed. Mehdi Rajāʾi, Isfahan, 1407/1987.  Moḥammad-Taqi Majlesi, Rawżat al-mottaqin fi šarḥ man lā yaḥżoroho’l-faqih, ed. Ḥosayn Musawi Kermāni and ʿAi-Panāh Eštehārdi, 14 vols., Qom, 1399/1979, XIV, pp. 418-423. 

Hossein Modarressi Tabatabaʾi, Tradition and Survival: A Bibliographical Survey of Early Shīʿite Literature I, Oxford, 2003, pp. 33-35. 

Moḥammad-Ḥosayn al-Moẓaffar, al-Dalil ela’l mawżuʿāt al-Ṣaḥifa al-sajjādiya, Qom, 1403/1983. 

Sayyed Ḥasan Musawi Borujerdi, “al-Aʿlām al-jallia fi aṣālat nosḵat al-šahid men al-Ṣaḥifa al-sajjādiya,” Torāṯonā 89-90, 1428/2007, pp. 35-150. 

Aḥmad b. ʿAli Najāši, Ketāb al-rejāl, ed. Musā Šobayri Zanjāni, Qom,1997.

Shaikh Abu Jaʿfar Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Ṭusi, Meṣbāḥ al-motahajjad, ed. Ḥ. Aʿlami, Beirut, 1418/1998. 

Afarin Zare and Leila Dianat, “Phonological Analysis in al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya,” Open Journal of Modern Linguistics 2/4, 2012, pp. 189-97.

Imam Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin, al-Ṣaḥifa al-sajjādiya, tr. William C. Chittick with an Introduction, as The Psalms of Islam, London, 1988.

(Louis Medoff)

Originally Published: September 7, 2016

Last Updated: September 7, 2016

Cite this entry:

Louis Medoff, “ṢAḤIFA AL-SAJJĀDIYA, AL-,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/sahifa-al-sajjadiya (accessed on 07 September 2016).