Ḥirz (Arabic: حِرز) literally means a fortified and firm place. Terminologically speaking, it refers to some Quranic verses, dhikrs, and narrated supplications that are recited in order to protect one's life and property against damages or are carried in written forms.
The word "hirz" and its cognates do not appear in the Holy Qur'an, but it extensively appears in Shiite and Sunni hadiths and narrated supplications. Some of these hadiths, including the hadith of Anas b. Malik and the one narrated from 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) show that the word, hirz, was used in the early days of Islam in its terminological meaning.
Hirz has been more common in the Shiite culture than in other Islamic cultures. The vast number of hirzes, ta'widhs (Arabic: تَعویذ), and supplications for protection cited in the Imami books of supplications and hadiths is evidence for this.
"Hirz" literally means a fortified and firm place that protects its residents from dangers. It terminologically refers to something like "ta'widh" or "'udha" (Arabic: العُوذَة) or a type thereof that is compatible with shari'a. According to al-Zamakhshari, the terminological use of the word, "hirz", is figurative.
Difference with Ta'widh
Hirz, ta'widh, and supplication are overlapping notions with no sharp boundary among them. In some books of hadith, hirzes and ta'widhs are mentioned under one section. Some hirzes are also collected under "ta'widhs of the Imams for protection", so ta'widh is used to refer to hirz.
In his Muhaj al-da'awat, al-Sayyid b. Tawus refers to the supplication attributed to Imam al-Jawad (a) written for protection to al-Ma'mun al-'Abbasi as "hirz", and in his al-Aman, he refers to it as "'udha" (or ta'widh). The contents of hirzes and ta'widhs do not reveal any difference between them. Thus in the literature of the scholars of hadiths and supplications, hirz, ta'widh, and their cognates, taharruz (using a hirz) and ta'awudh (usuing a ta'widh), are usually used interchangeably as referring to one and the same thing. It might be said that ta'widh is only what is recited or written (such as al-Ism al-a'zam [the Greatest Divine Name] or dhikrs and supplications), but hirz includes objects as well.
The word, "hirz", and its cognates do not appear in the Holy Qur'an, but it has appeared in Shiite and Sunni hadiths and narrated supplications. Some of these hadiths, such as the hadith of Anas b. Malik and one narrated from 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a), imply the use of the word, "hirz", in the early days of Islam; that is, the Prophet Muhammad (s), the Imams (a) and some of the Companions and tabi'un and people who met them used hirz to protect themselves or others from dangers and it actually worked.
It was common among Sufis to use hirz for protection against devils and jinns or to write hirz for the healing of the sick, as Abu Sa'id Abu l-Khayr composed a ruba'i (a four-line poem) for the healing of his sick teacher. Muhyi l-Din b. al-'Arabi attributed a hirz to the prophet Sulayman b. Dawud (a).
Hirz has been more common in the Shiite culture than in other Islamic cultures. The vast number of hirzes, ta'widhs and supplications for protection cited in the Imami books of supplications and hadiths is evidence for this.
Hirzes are different with respect to their length. Some of them, such as "Hirz of Khadija", consist only of few words, but some of them consist of some lines, and others, such as the hirz attributed to Imam al-Sajjad (a) and the one attributed to Imam al-Sadiq (a) are longer.
hirzes have different themes. Some of them are verses of the Holy Qur'an, such as al-Kursi Verse and Wa In Yakad Verse. These are called "Ayat al-Hirz" (Hirz verses). According to a hadith from the Holy Prophet (s), if one recites 33 verses of the Holy Qur'an at night, he will be protected against thieves and wild animals. They and their families will be secure and healthy until the morning. And Imam al-Sadiq (a) used some verses of the Holy Qur'an as hirzes for his son, Musa b. Ja'far (a). Imam Musa (a) recited those verses and appealed to them as ta'widh.
A number of hirzes are common dhikrs among Muslims, such as tahlil, tasbih and tahmid. Hirzes that are not directly taken from the Holy Qur'an usually involve themes that are obviously in line with the Holy Qur'an, involving themes of tawhid, reliance on God and His omnipotence and avoiding the refuge to devils, jinns, and souls. A few hirzes involve mysterious and unfamiliar letters, words and phrases and so their themes are not known.
Moreover, there are some actions that are considered by some hadiths as hirz, such as carrying soil of Imam al-Husayn's (a) grave, especially when one is on a travel, anointing with the oil of the banyan tree, carrying a cane made of the almond tree when one is on a travel, carving some dhikrs on a ring's signet, having an agate ring in one's finger, and carrying a ring with a yellow agate signet.
Hirzes Attributed to the Imams (a) and Companions
There are many hirzes attributed to the Fourteen Infallibles (a). Some hirzes are attributed to the Holy Prophet (s), his wife, Khadija bt. Khuwaylid, his daughter, Fatima al-Zahra (a), and the Imams (a). Here are the best-known hirzes:
- The hirz of Abu Dujana al-Ansari for protection against jinns and the spell. The hirz was originally cited by Sunni narrators of hadiths, but in recent centuries it also entered Shiite collections of hadiths. Sunni scholars of hadith, however, unanimously believe that this hadith was forged, and its immediate narrator, Musa al-Ansari, was a fake sahaba and did not really exist.
- Al-Hirz al-Yamani, known as the al-Sayfi supplication, is a hirz attributed to 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a). This hirz, also known as the "al-Yamani Supplication", is cited with different chains of narrations and contents. Some expositions are written for this hirz. These expositions deal with preparations and manners of using this supplication and its chain of narration and contents.
- "Ruq'at al-Jayb" (paper in the pocket) is a hirz attributed to Imam 'Ali b. Musa al-Rida (a). It is called so because Humayd b. Qahtaba al-Ta'i's bondwoman found it in Imam al-Rida's (a) pocket when she was washing his clothes. There is another hirz with the same title attributed to Imam Rida (a).
- It was common among Shias to carry with them Hirz al-Jawad which is attributed to Imam al-Jawad (a). In books of supplications and hadiths, an incredible story is narrated regarding this hirz and it is said that the Imam (a) wrote this hirz for al-Ma'mun al-'Abbasi for the first time. Muhammad b. Hasan 'Ali al-Shushtari, a scholar of the 12th/18th century and the grandson of 'Abd Allah b. Husayn al-Tustari, wrote an essay for Sultan Husayn al-Safawi about the manners of Hirz al-Jawad.
Attribution to the Imams (a)
The evaluation of the hirzes and the accuracy or inaccuracy of their attribution to the Imams (a) requires a scrutiny of hadiths containing them with respect to the continuity or discontinuity and the reliability of their chains of narrators. Some hadiths in which hirzes are cited have been said to have unreliable chains of narrators. It is worth noting that sometimes one hirz and its occasion are attributed to two Imams. For example, there is a hirz attributed to Imam Musa b. Ja'far (a) the occasion of which is said to be when the Imam (a) was thrown into a pit full of wild animals. The same hirz and the same occasion are also attributed to Imam 'Ali b. Musa al-Rida (a).
There are some hirzes that not only lack chains of narrations, but are also not attributed to any of the Infallibles (a). Such hirzes were written by some religious scholars and cited in the supplication sections of hadith collections such as Bihar al-anwar and some books of supplications.
Permissibility of Hanging hirzes
Hadiths from the Infallibles (a) imply that it is permissible to hang things in which a Quranic verse or a dhikr is mentioned as far as there is no implication of polytheism. Therefore, hadiths in which hanging hirzes counts as a manner of the Jahiliyya and is thus taken to be forbidden should refer to things such as hanging amulet and the like, rather than Quranic verses and dhikrs.
Supplications of Hujub or Veils
In addition to hirzes, there are Quranic verses, supplications and dhikrs in books of hadiths and supplications called "hujub" or veils (Arabic: اَلحُجُب, plural form of "hijab", Arabic:اَلحِجاب) or supplications of "ahjiba" (Arabic: اَلاَحجِبَة) and "ihtijabat" (Arabic:اَلاِحتِجابات). These names come from the Holy Qur'an, 17:45-46 and the contents of some of these supplications. These veils or hujub function like hirz, and so they are recommended when there is a possibility of a danger.
- When you recite the Qurʾān, We draw between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter a hidden curtain, (45) and We cast veils on their hearts, lest they should understand it, and a deafness into their ears. When you mention your Lord alone in the Qurʾān, they turn their backs in aversion. (Qur'an 17:45-46)
- The material for this article has been mainly taken from حرز in Farsi WikiShia.