Sayyid Kāẓim al-Ḥusaynī al-Rashtī (d.1259/1843) on the Du`a al-Simat (The Prayer of the Signs)

سيد كاظم بن قاسم الحسيني الرﺷتي‎

Sayyid Kāẓim al-Ḥusaynī al-Rashtī (d.1259/1843)

The Commentary of Sayyid Kāẓim al-Ḥusaynī al-Rashtī (d.1259/1843) on the Du`a al-Simat (The Prayer of the Signs). 

Stephen Lambden 1980s.

Under revision and completion: Last updated 23rd March 2015.

PDf. The Prayer of the Signs- Lambden trans. 2007 : Du`a al-simat-trans. Lambden.pdf

General Introduction 

The Arabic text of the Du`a' al-simāt  exists in various versions or recensions which are believed to go back to the fifth and sixth Imams, Muhammad al-Baqir ( d. c.126/743) and Ja`far al-Sadiq (d. c 48/765). It has been variously transmitted and reproduced in such works as the al-Misbāḥ al-mutahajjid al-kabir (The Greater Luminary of the Pilgrim..) of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (d.460/1067) and  the Jamāl al-usbū` (Beauty of the Week)  of Raḍī al-Dīn Ibn Ṭāwūs (d. 664/1226). As transmitted  and commented upon by SKR in the  the abovementioned edition of the Du`a' al-simāt,  the prayer opens with the basmala   بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم     and continues with reference to the Greatest Name of God as follows:

اللهم إني أسألك باسمك العظيم الأعظم الأعز الأجل الأكرم الذي إذا دعيت به على مغالق أبواب السماء للفتح بالرحمة   

O my God! I, verily, beseech Thee by Thy Mighty, Mightiest, Most Powerful, Most Glorious, Most Gracious Name which, when I supplicate  [Thee] therewith, that the strongly-bolted portals of  the Gates of Heaven might, through  [Thy]  Mercy,  be opened up....

The Du`a simāt  a few paragraphs into this supplication interestingly echoes a biblical verse in the book Deuteronomy, chapter 33 verse 2 and is an important example of Shi`i Islamo-biblical gnosis.  Echoing various verses of the bible one version of the   Du`a simāt   commences as follows:

 وأسألك اللهم بمجدك الذي كلمت به عبدك ورسولك موسى بن عمران في المقدسين فوق إحساس الكروبين، فوق عمائم النور فوق تابوت الشهادة في عمود النور وفي طور سيناء وفي جبل حوريث في الواد المقدس في البقعة المباركة من جانب الطور الأيمن من الشجرة وفي أرض مصر بتسع آيات بينات، ويوم فرقت لبني إسرائيل البحر وفي المنبجسات التي صنعت بها العجائب في بحر سوف وعقدت ماء البحر في قلب الغمر كالحجارة وجاوزت ببني إسرائيل البحر وتمت كلمتك الحسنى عليهم بما صبروا وأورثتهم مشارق الأرض ومغاربها التي باركت فيها للعالمين وأغرقت فرعون وجنوده ومراكبه في اليم،

I beseech Thee, O my God! by Thy Glory (majd)  through which Thou did converse with Thy servant and Thy messenger Moses son of `Imrān, in the sanctified [Sinaitic] regions (al-muqaddisīn) beyond the ken of the cherubim (al-karūbiyyin), above the clouds of Light beyond the Ark of the Testament  (al-tābūt al-shahāda),  within the Pillars of Light. And in Mount Sinai (tur sina') and Mount Horeb (jabal al-hurib)  in the sanctified Vale (al-wad al-muqaddas), in the Blessed Spot (al-buq'at al-mubaraka), in  the direction of the Mount (al-tur)  situated at the right-hand side of the Bush [Tree]. And likewise [he conversed] in the land of Egypt through nine Luminous Verses (āyāt  bayyināt). And He separated the [Red] Sea for the children of Israel...

Arabic texts of the  Du`ā al-simāt are found in various Shi`i literatures. It is found, for example,  in the مصباح المتهجد  Misbāḥ al-Mutahijjad [al-Kabir] ("The [Greater] Lamp of the Nightly Vigil") of Shaykh Abu Ja`far Muhammad  ibn Ḥasan  al-Tūsī (d. 460/1067), the جمال الأسبوع   Jamāl al-usbū` fī [bi] kamāl al-`amal al-mashru` ("The  Beauty of the [Islamic] Week") of the Shī`ī theologian  Raḍī al-Dīn Ibn Tāwūs al-Ḥasani aI-`Alawī al-Hillī (d.  673/1274-5) (see Tehrani, Dhar`ia V 129 No. 534; GAL-S1:912 No.14; Kohlberg, 1992, p. 40 No. 22) and in the various devotional and related works of  Taqī al-Dīn al-Kaf`āmī (d.900/1494-5): see, for example, his Miṣbāḥ (Beirut, 1414/1994, pp. 560-564+ Beirut, 1425/2004, pp. 537-541) and his al-Balad al-amīn wa'l-dir` al-ḥaṣīn ("The Secure Land and the  Protective Armor") (Beirut, 1417/1997, pp. 134-140). The Du`a al-simāt  is traditionally recited in Shī`ī devotional circles  around the time of sunset especially during the last hour of Friday, the Islamic sacred day of the week. Fāṭimah, the daughter of the prophet Muhammad and wife of Imam `Alī (d. 40/661), is said to have recited it at  sunset or around this time. A hadith from Imam Ja`far  recorded in the Jamāl al-usbū`  of Ibn Tawus states that it is preferred that the Du`ā' al-simāt is recited after sunset on Friday, the Yawm al-jum`a or day of Gathering (Ibn Tāwūs,  Jamāl al-usbū`, 532-3 cited SDS:42; see also al-Kaf`āmī, al-Balad al-amīn, 134).

The  Du`a al-simāt  is traditionally recited in  Shī`ī devotional circles  around the time of sunset especially during the last hour of Friday, the Islamic sacred day of the week. Fāṭimah, the daughter of the prophet Muhammad and wife of Imam `Alī (d. 40/661), is said to have recited it at the time of sunset. The fifth Imam allegedly said of the  Du`a al-simāt :

  هذا من مكنون عميق العلم ومخزونه لمن يسأل الحاجة عند الله فادعوا به ولا تبدوه إلا لأهله  

"This [Du`a al-simāt] is of what is hidden in the depths of knowledge, something treasured up for whoever requests intercession from God. So supplicate with it and do not disclose it except unto his [Shī`ī] people."

He is also reckoned to have stated:

   لو حلفت أن في هذا الدعاء الاسم الأعظم لبررت  

"If you should  swear an oath to the effect that the Greatest Name (al-ism al-a`zam) [of God] is found in this prayer you would assuredly be vindicated".

This statement makes sense in the light of the opening words  following the basmala  of the  Du`a al-simāt which read:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ بِإِسْمِكَ العَظِيمِ الاَعْظَمِ الاَعَزِّ الاَجَلِّ الاَكْرَمِ الَّذِي إِذا دُعِيتَ بِهِ عَلى مَغالِقِ أَبْوابِ السَّمأِ لِلْفَتْحِ بِالرَّحْمَةِ انْفَتَحَتْ ، وَإِذا دُعِيتَ بِهِ عَلى مَضائِقِ أَبْوابِ الاَرْضِ لِلْفَرَجِ انْفَرَجَتْ

I, verily, O my God! beseech Thee by Thy Mighty, Greatest, Mightiest Most Powerful, Most Glorious, Most Noble Name which, when I supplicate thereby, an opening is effected of the bolts of the gates of heaven (maghāliq abwāb al-samā') through the Divine Mercy (al-raḥmat)...

The Commentary of Sayyid Kāẓim al-Ḥusaynī al-Rashtī (d.1259/1843)

Sharḥ du`a al-simāt  (Commentary on the Prayer of the Signs).

= شرح دعاى السمات

  

First page  within the Lithopgraph printing of 1277/1860.

 In his Fihrist Ibrahimi mentions that this medium length work of 1350 verses, the Sharḥ du`a al-simāt  (Commentary on the Prayer of the Signs), was written in reply to Mullā `Alī Asghar Nīshāpūrī on 15th Sha`ban 1238 (27th April 1823) in Kufa about a portion of the well-known Du`a-yi simāt, the supplication or `Prayer of the Signs'. In his opinion it is a work replete with "weighty mysteries and philosophical wisdom" (Fihrist, No. 144 p. 292). Kirmānī again mentions that the original mss. of this work is lost  and refers to the existence of an old (see below) printing (chap qadīm) (ibid.). This old lithograph printing of the Sharḥ du`a al-simāt  is found towards the beginning of the Tabrīz printing of Muḥammad Shafīʻ al-Ṣadr within (pp.3-23), the large compilation of the works of Rashti entitled Majmūʻat rasāʼil min muṣannafāt... Hajji Sayyid Kāẓim al-Rashtī  which dates to 1277/1860 (see above under Rasa'il) :

  • PDf. Sharḥ du`a al-simāt in Majmūʻat rasāʼil min muṣannafāt... Hajji Sayyid Kāẓim al-Rashtī  1277/1860, pp. 3-23 : Sh-Du`a al-simat.pdf

(Commentary upon the Prayer of the Signs and the Ḥadīth regarding Destiny)

 

Sharḥ du`a al-simāt wa yalayihi  Sharḥ ḥadīth al-qadr   

شرح دعاى السمات وحديث القدر  

A very recent printing of this work is found within the paperback volume of the `Divine wise one', Sayyid Kāẓim al-Ḥusaynī al-Rashtī    شرح دعاء السمات ويليه شرح حديث القدر  (Sharh du`a' al-simāt wa yalayihi  Sharḥ ḥadīth al-qadr). Beirut: Mu`assat Fikr al-Awḥad, [14th Rabi` al-Awwal] 1423/ [26th May] (Syria [Damascus] al-Sayyida Zaynab). 2002. This printing appears to have been expertly made from various original mss. (see pp.24-29, first and last pages are reproduced here) as edited and introduced by Raḍī Nāṣir al-Salmān. It is printed along with an edition of Sayyid Kāẓim's brief `Commentary upon the Ḥadīth of al-Qadr' (Power, Destiny) which occupies (with its introduction)  pp. 287-298. In this printing the general or editors introduction occupies  pp.1-36  ADD HERE. The text of the commentary on the Sharḥ du`a al-simāt  occupies  pp. [37] 41-385. The text of the 'Prayer of the Signs' is divided into 72 portions and commented upon in some detail.

Sayyid Kāẓim al-Ḥusaynī al-Rashtī (d.1259/1843) wrote the recently (re-) printed (see image above) medium length (1350 verse and over 200 page) commentary on the Du`a al-simāt (Prayer of the Signs) in Ottoman Kufa (now Iraq) on the 15th Sha`ban 1238 (27th April 1823). This for a certain Mullā `Alī Asghar Nīshāpūrī  in response to his enquiry about a portion of this then well-known supplication, the Du`a al-simāt and a Shi`i hadith about al-qadr (destiny, fate...).  The  Shaykhi leader Āqā Ḥajjī `Abu'l-Qāsim Khān al-Ibrahīmī -Kirmānī (d.1969),  the well-known as the author of the  Fīhrist kutub mashāyikh `izam (Catalogue of the books of the mighty Shaykhs) a Shaykhī  `Bibliographical Index', had it that the Arabic    Commentary on the Du`a al-simāt of Sayyid Kāẓim was replete with "weighty mysteries and philosophical wisdom" (Fihrist, No. 144 p. 292). Kirmānī also mentions that the original mss. of this work is lost  and refers to the existence of an old (lithograph?) printing (chap qadīm) (ibid.). 

A very recent printing of this work is within the paperback volume of the `Divine wise one', Sayyid Kāẓim al-Ḥusaynī al-Rashtī    شرح دعاء السمات ويليه شرح حديث القدر   (Sharh du`a' al-simāt wa yalayihi  Sharḥ ḥadīth al-qadr). Beirut: Mu`assat Fikr al-Awḥad, [14th Rabi` al-Awwal] 1423/ [26th May] (Syria [Damascus] al-Sayyida Zaynab). 2002. This printing appears to have been expertly made from various original mss. (see pp.24-29, first and last pages are reproduced here) as edited and introduced by Raḍī Nāṣir al-Salmān. It is printed along with an edition of Sayyid Kāẓim's brief `Commentary upon the Ḥadīth of al-Qadr' (Power, Destiny) which occupies (with its introduction)  pp. 287-298.      In this printing the general or editors introduction occupies  pp.1-36  ADD HERE. The text of the Sharḥ du`a al-simāt  commentary occupies  pp. [37] 41-385. The text of the 'Prayer of the Signs' is divided into 72 portions and commented upon in some detail. ADD    

Translation and Select Notes   

As transmitted  and commented upon by Sayyid Kazim Rashti in the abovementioned edition of the Du`a' al-simāt,  the prayer opens with the basmala   بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم     and continues with reference to the Greatest Name of God as follows:

اللهم إني أسألك باسمك العظيم الأعظم الأعز الأجل الأكرم الذي  إذا دعيت به على مغالق أبواب السماء للفتح بالرحمة

O my God! I, verily, beseech Thee by Thy Mighty, Mightiest, Most Powerful, Most Glorious, Most Gracious Name which, when I supplicate  [Thee] therewith, that the strongly-bolted portals of  the Gates of Heaven might, through  [Thy]  Mercy,  be opened up....   

The Commentary of SKR (2nd ed. pp. 37-285 = 248pp) commences with the theological phrase "In God, the One beseeched for aid" (bi-Allah al-musta`an) followed by the Islamic basmala ("In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate") which is said to be evocative of divine power [piety] (taqiyy) and hopefulness [expectation] (rija'i). He continues with this distinctly Shi`i prefatory laudation :

"Praised be to God, the Lord of all the worlds and blessings and peace be upon best best of his creatures,  Muhammad and his purified family and may the curse of God be upon all their enemies". 

He continues firther with the following personal preamble :

"And now he [SKR] says, this poor, annihilated soul, the servant [of God], Kazim ibn Qasim al-Husayni al-Rashti that the most honourable master (al-mawla  al-afkhar) and most radiant light (al-nur al-azhar) characterized by understanding and sobriety [peacefullness] ... al-Akhund  Mullā `Alī Asghar [Nīshāpūrī] sought from this  wretched one among the poor (haqir al-faqir) [= SKR], an exposition of some of the subtle allusions (isharat) of the well-known, Mighty Supplication (al-fu`a al-azim al-mashur), the Du`a al-Simat ("Prayer of the Signs"), the unveiling  (kashf) of some of its enigmatic aspects (rumuz) as well as the opening of its [incomprehenbible] fetters and the unravelling of its puzzling aspects (mudil)" (Sharh, pp. 39-40).

The first section (I.1) of the commentary of SKR on the DS proper is entitled "The Bounty (fadl) and the Might (`azm) of its Gravitas (sha`n)". SKR first states that this supplication was transmitted by Kaf`ami [in his Misbah] from [ the 4th Imam Muhammad] al-Baqir [d. c. 126/743]  ...

A few paragraphs later the  The Du`a simāt  echoes a biblical verse in the book Deuteronomy, chapter 33 verse 2  providing an important example of Shi`i Islamo-biblical assimilation.

A beautiful passage a few paragraphs further on reflects rewritten verses of Deut. 33:2  as well as other biblically rooted passages and concepts :

اللهم بمجدك الذي كلمت به عبدك ورسولك موسى بن عمران في المقدسين فوق إحساس الكروبين، فوق عمائم النور فوق تابوت الشهادة في عمود النور وفي طور سيناء وفي جبل حوريث في الواد المقدس في البقعة المباركة من جانب الطور الأيمن من الشجرةك وفي أرض مصر بتسع آيات بينات،

I beseech Thee, O my God! by Thy Glory (majd)  through which Thou did converse with Thy servant and Thy messenger Moses son of `Imrān in the sanctified [Sinaitic] regions (al-muqaddisīn) beyond the ken of the cherubim (al-karūbiyyin), above the clouds of Light beyond the Ark of the Testament (al-tābūt al-shahāda) within the Pillars of Light.  And in Mount Sinai (tur sina') and Mount Horeb (jabal al-hurib) in the sanctified Vale (al-wad al-muqaddas), in the Blessed Spot (al-buq'at al-mubaraka) in  the direction of the Mount [Sinai] (al-ṭūr)  situated at the right-hand side of the Bush [Tree]. And likewise [he conversed] in the land of Egypt through nine Luminous Verses (āyāt  bayyināt)...

أسأل ويوم فرقت لبني إسرائيل البحر وفي المنبجسات التي صنعت بها العجائب في بحر سوف وعقدت ماء البحر في قلب الغمر كالحجارة وجاوزت ببني إسرائيل البحر وتمت كلمتك الحسنى عليهم بما صبروا وأورثتهم مشارق الأرض ومغاربها التي باركت فيها للعالمين وأغرقت فرعون وجنوده ومراكبه في اليم