‘DHIKR’ means the remembrance of God, and is an act of worship (‘Ibadah). Allah has prescribed this act of ‘Ibadah just as He has prescribed salah and fasting. We can see this from the command in the following verse: “O you who believe! Remember God with much remembrance.” (37:75).
We are told to remember Allah not merely during certain periods of the year (such as Ramadhan), nor only at certain times of the day (i.e. during prayer), but often and at any time.
One of the common misunderstandings about dhikr is that it has to be done via specific words. It need not be – dhikr comes in many forms:
1. There are ritual forms of dhikr, for example: Salah, recitation of Qur’an, and relevant du’aa for particular actions (e.g. before eating, after salah etc.). These acts of remembrance will involve some conditions: e.g. there are particular actions that must be performed, certain conditions of purity, specific words or times of the day that need to be adhered to.
2. But there is also non-ritual form of dhikr. Simply to remember Allah, with your tongue, or in silence in your thoughts and in your heart, counts as dhikr. This is a very easy, accessible and immediate form of dhikr. For example, you are engaged in dhikr right now, as you’re reading this.
Another misunderstanding is that you have to already be pious and very knowledgeable to be the type of person who engages in regular dhikr. That is not the case. The very simplicity of this act of Ibadah reflects the mercy, love and generosity of Allah, as well as the pragmatism and relevance of Islam in our everyday lives.
- It demonstrates that Allah has made it very easy for us to be close to Him and to reap the benefits of remembrance.
- There is no elitist hierarchy of who can or cannot connect with Allah. The gift is given to everyone.
- We do not need someone ‘more religious’ to be an intermediary between us and God – each person can and should go directly to Allah, without anyone standing in between.
- Islam does not advocate complete detachment from people or the world around you in order to be close to Allah – for example, while we are encouraged to seek moments of solitude to reconnect with God, monasteries and convents do not exist in Islam.
- Moreover, a person can engage in dhikr while busy with her daily tasks, or while interacting with other people. This means remembrance of God is never an obstacle or a burden in anyone’s life; a person does not (necessarily) have to choose between their livelihood/ looking after their families/ other functions of life, and their faith. The apparently problematic binary between ‘religion’ and ‘worldly’ pursuits is thus shown to be a false one. This means there is always time for dhikr, and therefore, there is always a way for us to worship Allah and bring Him into our lives. This is not for God’s benefit, since Allah is Al-Ghani – The Self-sufficient, rather it is we who benefit.
Why would Allah reward us for something that is so easy to do, if it was not out of His love and generosity? Clearly Allah wants to see us succeed despite all our flaws.
What are the rewards and benefits of Dhikr?
1. Dhikr is one of the highest ranked deeds and rewarded abundantly: The Prophet (saw) said: “Shall I not tell you about the best and purest of your works for your Lord and the most exalted of them in ranks, and the work which is better for you than giving shelter and gold, and better for you than resisting the enemy…?” …”The constant remembering of Allah”. (Ibn Majah)
2. Remembrance of God washes away sins (again and again): “And men who remember Allah much and women who remember Allah much, Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward“. (Qur’an 33:35)
3. Dhikr makes you alive: “The difference between the one who remembers his Lord and the one who does not is like the difference between the living and the dead.” (Bukhari).
We may be physically alive, but our souls would be dead without the remembrance of our Lord. The great scholar of Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (ra) said the one who does not engage in dhikr is like the fish out of water – unable to breathe, without oxygen. The opposite is also true – the one who engages in dhikr regularly is in a state of safety, protection and comfort.
4.Dhikr gives you tranquility: “Those who have believed and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of God – verily in the remembrance of God do hearts find peace!…” (13:28).
Can there be anything more valuable in this dunya than the internal peace gained through dhikr? People are constantly seeking fulfilment through material gain, or through the approval of others. The narcissism and consumerism of the current age is parasitic, feeding off the soul until it feels empty. The way to restore tranquility to the soul is to fill the void with dhikr.
5. Most profound of all: Allah is with us when we remember Him: “If you remember Me, I will remember you.” (2:152).
When we make mention of Allah to ourselves, Allah makes mention of us to Himself; and when we make mention of Allah in a gathering, Allah mentions our names in a far better gathering!
There can be no greater honour, and no greater solace than to be remembered by our Creator, the Most Merciful; it is an immediate safeguard against shaytan and harm.
How can we increase our remembrance of Allah? *
- Make a habit of remembering Allah at specific times of the day: either through du’a (e.g. pray for a good day at work while you’re on your commute) or simply by starting your tasks with ‘Bismillah’. It takes time to develop a habit – keep persevering with this.
- When going through any hardships or irritations during the day, convert any negative feelings of annoyance or anger into something positive by asking for sabr, for Allah’s help, or simply by calling on His Names. This ability to channel our immediate reactions and emotions towards Allah reflects a heart that is in a constant state of dhikr.
- Train yourself to actively connect everyday observations and things you read or hear with Allah – either using it as an opportunity to praise or thank Allah, to seek His protection, or to reflect on Allah’s guidance in the Qur’an. For example, if you’re walking by some trees, consider they too are servants of Allah and are in a state of worship; or if you come across something negative when reading the news, before rushing to give your own judgment or to share others’ commentaries, tune your mind to first reflect on Allah’s advice on such matters in the Qur’an, or on the Prophets’ responses to comparable situations in history.
- Use ‘downtime’ while travelling to remember Allah, e.g. revise surahs, or make du’a.
- Focus during Salah, ensure you are actively remembering Allah during prayers. This focus and concentration is called khushu’. Not only is this one of the greatest and most important forms of dhikr, but it also disciplines the mind and trains you to focus better in all your other tasks.
- Find a fixed time of day, which you’re likely to repeat, for recitation of Qur’an – e.g. after Fajr, or before going to sleep. Even if it’s just one line – try to keep it consistent, and try to reflect on the meaning. If you are struggling with the Arabic, try to listen to it while following a translation. No translation is perfect, but it is better than nothing. And even if you cannot follow a translation, there is still some blessing in simply listening to the Qur’an in its Arabic form, for it brings tranquility to the heart and invites the presence of angels.
- Keep good company – surround yourself with people who remember Allah much and remind you of Allah. You will need to make an effort to meet up with those sisters on a regular basis – this effort and whatever sacrifice it involves is in fact a form of ‘ibadah too: if you can’t meet that often, aim to meet once a week or at least once a month.
- Carry something with you that will remind you to engage in dhikr when you see it, e.g. a book of du’a, or prayer beads for example.
- Familiarise yourself with the beautiful Names of Allah, which makes it easier to call upon your Lord using those Names.
- Solitude: dedicate a small amount of time during the day/ once a week, in silence, with no other distractions, to simply reflect on Allah.
- When doing menial tasks which don’t require concentration, put on an audio recitation of Qur’an/ listen to an Islamic lecture.
- Make some time on a regular basis to surround yourself with nature away from human distractions – the creation of Allah is abundant with signs of Allah’s majesty.
- Identify the things that make you forgetful of Allah, and strive to cut it out/cut it down. Action on this front requires honesty first and foremost.
It would be a good idea to start off with just one of the above – small, consistent deeds are the best ones.
Allah commends in the Qur’an those who engage in dhikr: “Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord! Thou hast not created this in vain! Glory be to Thee; save us then from the chastisement of the fire…” (3:191).
May Allah make us of those people.
(*JazakumAllah khairan to the circle sisters for these excellent tips).