Shaykh Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali
Excerpts from the commentary of Dua al-Iftitah
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.