Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya is a book of supplications attributed to Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin, the great-grandson of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. According to Shia narrations, the book is said to have been composed after the Battle of Karbala (680 AD) and describes the relationship between man and God. Although the book is principally a collection of Islamic knowledge and thought in supplication form, it is said to have played an important part in the uprising against the Umayyads. According to some scholars, al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya is an example of the highest form of eloquence, and its contents have been described and explained in many books of commentary. The main part of the book is mutawatir (conveyed by successive narration), but over the years a number of scholars have written addenda to it. Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya is an important book for Shia Muslims.
Al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya has several titles, such as "Sister of the Quran", "Gospel of the Holy Household" and "Psalms of the Muhammad dynasty", names which clearly indicate the importance of the book for Shia Islam. In the form of supplication, it expresses Islamic knowledge and thought and involves all aspects of individual, social, economical, political and cultural life. Reason, human feelings, emotions and conscience are all addressed by it.
Shia narration states that Sajjad composed al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya after the Battle of Karbala (680 AD). According to some researchers, circumstances at the time of the Umayyad Caliphate did not allow Imam Sajjad to speak explicitly and unambiguously. Not only did the regime not permit it, but the public, too, were unwilling to listen to his words. Shia narrations state Imam Sajjad therefore used rich and meaningful supplications to reconstruct society and distribute Islamic knowledge. It seems al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya -which was protected from government agents by Imam Sajjad’s sons and companions- was a sectarian and organisational booklet, which the access of the government agents to it make ineffective all Imam Sajjad's efforts.
Many scholars see al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya as teaching theology in a personal and practical way, not in abstract language, and as indicating the relation between man and god in a way that can be universally understood. However, the book is not merely a conversation with God; in supplication form, it is also a collection of Islamic knowledge and thought. It emphasizes detachment from the material world, and addresses many moral and ethical issues. According to some scholars, al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya exhibits the highest level of eloquence and purity to be found in Arabic literature after the Quran and the Nahj al-Balagha of Ali, cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad.
View of prominent Christian figures
Philip Woolley, a professor and researcher from Germany, asked for a copy of al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya to be sent to him after his friend, a Roman Catholic Cardinal, saw the book in his library, studied part of it, and impressed with its novelty insisted on taking it away with him. When the Vatican Library in Rome received an English version of al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya, it said in its letter of acknowledgment: "This book contains great mystical themes, so we place it for researchers in the best position of the library." A leader of Germany's Social Democratic Party wrote to a friend, Professor Singler, saying: "This book had a profound impact on me and changed my view about Islam. I invite my friend to study this book", while in Poland, Christian Scientist Andre Kowski said of the book: "I am deeply impressed by the ideas of Imam Sajjad, whose noble thoughts are manifested on the pages of the book al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya. It is so attractive, to the extent that I feel this book has given me a complete sense of the mystical and divine."