Hizb al-Bahr or ‘The Litany of the Sea’ is recited after the midafternoon prayer (‘asr). Some read it at sunrise, at which time it possesses particular properties, and it is also read whenever one is in particular need of something, in which case one makes one’s intention at the words wa sakhkhir lana hadha l-bahr (“and subject to us this sea”). Like all of the hizbs of the tariqa, it should be memorized and recited from one’s heart as if it were one’s own words, with complete attention to whom one is addressing it.
It is not a magic wand, but an expression of slavehood and poverty. In a general way, the purpose of these wirds is not only to train the heart in du‘a’, but to eventually eliminate one’s absentmindedness from Allah, and one must strive in them to have presence of heart. Though memorized, they are not rote. (Shaykh Nuh Keller – http://shadhilitariqa.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=11&Itemid=3&limit=1&limitstart=4)
From The Mystical Teachings of al-Shadhili
The worthy Shaykh Abu al-‘Aza’im Madi ibn Sultan related to me in the city ofTunis, may God the Exalted watch over it, as did also the worthy and blessed Shaykh Sharaf al-Din, son of the Shaykh (al-Shadhili) in the city of Damanhur al-Wahsh of Egypt in the year A.H. 715 that shaykh was on the point of setting out from Cairo to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca a short time after the departure of the pilgrims.
He said, ”I have been divinely ordered to go on pilgrimage this year. So find for us a Nile vessel in which to make the journey by way of Upper Egypt:’ They looked about for a vessel, but found only one belonging to Christians on which was an elderly Christian man with his sons.
He said, “Let us get on board:’ We entered the vessel and set sail from Cairo and traveled for two or three days. Then the wind shifted so that we were sailing into it. So we tied up to the bank of the Nile at an uninhabited spot. We remained there about a week within sight of the hills of Cairo.
One of the pilgrims accompanying us asked, “How is it that the Shaykh says that he was ordered to perform the pilgrimage this year when the time for it has passed? And how long will this journey take? , In the middle of the day the shaykh slept and awoke, and then offered this prayer [known as Litany of the Sea]. “Where is the captain of the vessel?” he inquired.
“Yes” he answered, “here I am:’
“What is your name?” the shaykh asked. “Mismar:’
“O blessed Mismar, unfurl the sail:’ the shaykh ordered.
“O my master:’ the captain objected, “[lf I do that], we shall come again to Cairo by sailing before the wind:’
“We shall again become travelers:’ the shaykh replied, “if God wills:’
Again the captain objected, “This wind will drive us back to Cairo before the end of this day, and, furthermore, with the wind as it is, to get the ship under sail will be absolutely impossible:’
“Unfurl the sail;’ the shaykh ordered him, “with the blessing of God:’ So we unfurled the sail, and God [He is exalted] commanded the wind so that it shifted and filled the sail [so quickly that they] were unable to cast off the rope from the stake. They cut it and we departed under a gentle breeze. The captain converted to Islam, both he and his brother.
Their father did not cease to lament and say, “I have lost my two sons on,
this journey:’ “On the contrary;’ the shaykh said to him, “you have gained them:’
That night the Christian had a vision in which the day of resurrection, as it were, had come, and he was beholding the Garden and the fire. He witnessed the shaykh (al-Shadhili) conducting to the Garden a large crowd of people. Among them were the Christian’s sons. He wanted to follow them, but he was prevented. He was told, “You are not of them until you enter their religion:’
The Christian related that to the shaykh, and he [the Christian] converted to Islam. Then the shaykh told him, “The people whom you saw with me are my companions to the day of resurrection.”
We continued our journey easily and successfully with incidents the telling of which would consume a long time. They finished the pilgrimage that year.
My master, Madi, related, according to a report from the shaykh, The Christian became one of the great saints of God. Consequently, he sold his vessel and performed the pilgrimage with us, along with his sons.
He had a zawiya (worship place) in Upper Egypt and was one of those who were endowed with charismatic powers. This blessed journey was an occasion for the manifestation of such a power. May God have mercy on him and be pleased with him.
The shaykh said,
By God, I did not utter it [the Litany of the Sea] except as it came from the Prophet of God, from whose instruction I learned it. “Guard it;’ he said to me, “for it contains the greatest name of God:’
It is not recited in any place without security reigning there. If it had been with the inhabitants of Baghdad, the Tatars would not have taken the city.
The Litany of the Sea