proclamation of imamat
The defining characteristic of Ismailism is the Imamat. So the Ismaili du’a pulls verses from the Quran to help solidify this foundation. According to the Quran, God has appointed a guide for every point in time throughout human history (chapter 13, verse 7). These guides are supposed to take the message of God and tailor it to whatever time and place they find themselves, recognising that the guidance coming from God would not stay consistent in an inconsistent world (chapter 48, verse 23). This is why Ismailis understand the Quran to be a heavily contextual document: it speaks to the time and place in which it was revealed. The message that was revealed in the Quran would be outdated by today’s standards, so God appoints a new guide for this time, in order to spread the message. This guide would be (for Ismailis) the Imam of the Time. In the Shia understanding, the hereditary line of Imamat was set forth by the Prophet Muhammad at the pond in Khumm, during his Farewell Pilgrimage.
The Quranic verse (5:67) recited in the third part of du’a emphasises the importance of Muhammad appointing this continuation of Imams to his followers. Muhammad is specifically referred to as a “Messenger” (rasool) in this verse, and it pins more importance on conveying a message (this is the only time “balligh” is used in the Quran) than any other verse in the Quran, implying that if the message (of Imamat) isn’t delivered, then Muhammad’s 23 year mission has been wasted. Traditionally, after the appointment of Hazrat Ali, Muhammad received the revelation that the religion had been perfected (5:3).
names of God
In part three of the Du’a, God is called by a few different names. Each one of the names is accompanied by part of the shahada (“There is no deity, but God) reaffirming that there is only one God who holds these characteristics. The first two, The Everliving and Eternal, come from chapter 2, verse 255 of the Quran. The third, is The Sovereign: describing God as one who rules over the “kingdom” of the universe. Unlike a king, however, God is believed to have absolute control over his subjects; his subjects being everything in existence, living or otherwise. This name is derived from chapter 3, verse 26, where God is described as the Master of the Kingdom. God is then called the Ultimate Truth (a notion alSijistani expands on) and the Evident. According to Muslim scholars, there is evidence of God everywhere in the world. “Everywhere you turn, there is the face of God”. This evidence is found in the systematic order of the natural universe, as opposed to overt miracles and other supernatural phenomena. Scholars also say that these signs are only for those who can already see them. The second chapter of the Quran notes that there are people who don’t have the capacity to believe in God, so they wouldn’t be able to see these signs. But for those who already believe, these signs simply prove certainty in God, which is why God is also called the “Certainty”. Finally, God is called the Lord of the Day of Judgement, because he presides over the end times (as explained in part one).
Ali and Zulfiqar
In the Ismaili du’a Imam Ali is referred to as a ”hero”. This could be referencing his accomplishments in battle (like the battle of Khaybar, where he almost single-handedly delivered victory to the Muslims), but Fatimid scholar Qadi Numan claims that the word for hero (fata) actually refers to Ali’s qualification to become the Imam. This qualification (coupled with his physical and emotional strength) makes for an incredibly strong guide for the Shia community. And that strength is symbolised in the reference to Ali’s sword Zulfiqar, in the Ismaili du’a. The third part of du’a ends by encouraging ismailis to seek the strength of their guide in times of difficulty, whether that’s Imam Ali with his sword, or the present Imam.