Reflections on Dua Jawshan Kabir 1

Dua Jawshan Kabir, literally Great Armor, has been narrated from Prophet Muhammad (s). In his beautiful introduction to this dua, the late Shaykh 'Abbas Qummi writes:

[This dua] is mentioned in the books, al-Balad al- Amin and al-Misbah of al-Kafa'mi. It is related from Imam 'Ali ibn al-Husayn Sayyid al-Sajidin from his father from his grandfather, the Prophet of Allah, who received it from the Angel Gabriel during one of the battles. [In that battle] the Prophet had a very heavy coat of armor on to protect himself. The coat was so heavy that it was hurting the Prophet's body. In this state, the Angel Gabriel came to the Prophet and said, "O Muhammad! Your Lord conveys his salutations to you and tells you to take out this coat of armor (jawshan) and to recite this dua [instead], as it is a protection for you and your Ummah."(1),(2)

At this point, the Angel continued to explain the greatness of this supplication to the Prophet. Our limited space does not allow us to quote the entire narration here. However, it suffices us to mention that, according to this narration, whoever writes down this dua on his kafan (burial shroud), God will not lead him to the hellfire and whoever recites this dua with a pure intention in the beginning of the month of Ramadan, God will grant him success to witness the Night of Qadr and will create for him seventy thousand angels, all of whom will be busy praising and glorifying God. The rewards of this praise and glorification will be given to the person who recited this supplication.

In addition, it is mentioned that whoever reads this supplication three times during the month of Ramadan, God will make the hellfire forbidden to him and will make it certain for him to enter Paradise. For such a person, Allah will also appoint two Angels to protect him from all evils in this world.

Imam Husayn ibn 'Ali (a), also, has reportedly said, "My father Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (a) bequeathed to me that I should memorize and protect this supplication, write it on his kafan, and teach it to my family members, encouraging them to recite it, as it contains one thousand names of Allah, among which is the Greatest Name (Ism al-A’zam)".(3)

Shaykh 'Abbas Qummi then explains that he has not found any narration to the effect that this dua must be recited particularly on the Night of Qadr. However, it could be argued that because it was recommended to recite this dua three times in the month of Ramadan, people gradually over the centuries appropriated the three famous nights (one of which is considered as the night of Qadr) for recitation of this dua.

Besides, as Shaykh 'Abbas mentions, the fact that 'Allama Majlisi, in his Zad al-Ma'ad, has included the recitation of this dua among the rituals of this night suffices us to believe that reciting the supplication of Jawshan Kabir is specially recommended on these three nights.

Sources and Structure

Dua Jawshan Kabir has been narrated by prominent Shiite scholars, such as 'Allama Majlisi (1037-1110 AH) in his Bihar al-Anwar,(4) Ibrahim b. 'Ali al-'Amili al-Kaf'ami (840-905 AH) in his al-Misbah,(5) and his al-Balad al-Amin.(6)

The dua consists of one hundred sections, each containing ten names or attributes of Allah. It includes, therefore, a total of one thousand names and attributes of the Almighty, some of which are mentioned in the Holy Qur'an. After every section, the following sentence should be recited:

سبحانك يا لا إله إلا أنت إني كنت من الظالمين.

Immaculate are You! There is no god but Thee. Help us! Help us! Protect us from the Fire, O my Lord!

The Concept of Tasbih

This very sentence, which is repeated one hundred times in this dua, is very important and significant. According to the Holy Qur'an, when Prophet Jonah (s) was in the belly of the whale, he regretfully asked Allah for forgiveness. Regarding this, The Holy Qur'an reads:

وَذَا النُّونِ إِذْ ذَهَبَ مُغَاضِبًا فَظَنَّ أَنْ لَنْ نَقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ فَنَادَىٰ فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ أَنْ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنْتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ.

And the Man of the Fish, when he left in a rage, thinking that We would not put him to hardship. Then he cried out in the darkness, "There is no god except You! You are immaculate! I have indeed been among the wrongdoers!"

After supplicating Allah in such manner, the Glorified, answered Jonah positively. The next verse reads:

فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ وَنَجَّيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْغَمِّ ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ نُنْجِي الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

So We answered his prayer and delivered him from the agony; and thus do We deliver the faithful.(9)

Based on this verse, the believers are recommended to call Allah in the same way and with the same sentence:

سبحانك إني كنت من الظالمين.

This phrase is a very well-known one and is called by the scholars Zikr al-Yunusiyya, which is recommended to be recited repeatedly especially at nights.

Elsewhere in the Holy Qur'an, however, Almighty Allah, reporting the same story, states:

فَلَوْلَا أَنَّهُ كَانَ مِنَ الْمُسَبِّحِينَ لَلَبِثَ فِي بَطْنِهِ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ.

"And had he not been one of those who celebrate Allah's glory, he would have surely remained in its belly till the day they will be resurrected." (10)

According to this verse, tasbih (glorification), which includes attesting to Allah's oneness, was the main reason for Jonah's deliverance.

Another point that shows us the importance of tasbih is the fact that the angels are occupied with doing tasbih all the time. This has been referred to in several verses of the Holy Qur'an. For instance:

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً ۖ قَالُوا أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَنْ يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاءَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ ۖ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ.

When your Lord said to the angels, "Indeed I am going to set a viceroy on the earth," they said, "Will You set in it someone who will cause corruption in it, and shed blood, while we celebrate Your praise and proclaim Your sanctity?" He said, "Indeed I know what you do not know."(11)

The Qur'an refers to the same fact:

الَّذِينَ يَحْمِلُونَ الْعَرْشَ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهُ يُسَبِّحُونَ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّهِمْ وَيُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ وَيَسْتَغْفِرُونَ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا رَبَّنَا وَسِعْتَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ رَحْمَةً وَعِلْمًا فَاغْفِرْ لِلَّذِينَ تَابُوا وَاتَّبَعُوا سَبِيلَكَ وَقِهِمْ عَذَابَ الْجَحِيمِ.

Those who bear the Throne, and those around it, celebrate the praise of their Lord and have faith in Him, and they plead for forgiveness for the faithful: "Our Lord! You comprehend all things in mercy and knowledge. So forgive those who repent and follow Your way and save them from the punishment of hell.(12)

According to Qur'an, the call of the inhabitants of the heaven is tasbih as well:

دَعْوَاهُمْ فِيهَا سُبْحَانَكَ اللَّهُمَّ وَتَحِيَّتُهُمْ فِيهَا سَلَامٌ ۚ وَآخِرُ دَعْوَاهُمْ أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ.

Their call therein will be: "O Allah! Immaculate are You!" And their greeting therein will be: "Peace!" And their concluding call: "All praise belongs to God, the Lord of all the worlds."(13)

Therefore, tasbih and hamd (praising Allah) are two important acts performed by both the angels and the believers. In our prayers, we follow the same pattern when we say, in the state of ruku':

سبحان ربي العظيم وبحمده.

And, while prostrating:

سبحان ربي الأعلى وبحمده.

So, like the angels and the inhabitants of the heaven, we begin with tasbih and conclude with hamd. Allah has put so much power in tasbih that, according to some narrations, the angels gain their energy from tasbih. The Prophet (s) is reported to have said:

طعامهم التسبيح.

Their (i.e. the angels') food is tasbih.(14)

Continue in the next article: ( Reflections on Dua Jawshan Kabir 2 )

NOTES:

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1. The complete narration, including the merits of the recitation of this dua, is recorded by Allama Majlisi in his Bihar al-Anwar Vol. 91, P. 482-484

2. Mafatih al-Janan, P. 86

3. Mafatih al-Janan, P. 86-87

4. Biha al-Anwar Vol. 91, P. 384-397

5. al-Balad al-Amin, P. 247-260

6. al-Balad al-Amin, P. 402-411

7. Eqbal ul-Amal, Vol. 1, P. 237

8. The Holy Quran 21:87

9. The Holy Qur'an 21:88

10. The Holy Qur'an 37:142-143

11. The Holy Qur'an 2:30

12. The Holy Qur'an 40:7

13. Al-Kafi, Vol. 8, P. 173

14. Biha al-Anwar Vol. 57, P. 249

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