Dhikr (Remembrance Of God)

From Nuzhat Al-Majalis

God, the Exalted, said: "Verily in the remembrance of God (dhikr Allah) do hearts find rest!" [13:28]. If it is asked: How is the meaning of this verse reconciled with that of His saying: "They only are the true believers whose hearts feel fear (wajilat = tremble or shake) when God is mentioned (dhukir Allah)" [8:2], the answer is that in the latter the purpose of God's mention is to bring to mind His greatness and the intensity of His vengeance against those who disobey Him. This verse was revealed at a time when the Companions had a disagreement concerning the spoils of the battle of Badr. Therefore the mention or the remembrance of what is fearsome became appropriate. As for the former verse, it concerns whoever God guided and who has turned to God with love. Therefore the mention of God's mercy became appropriate.

The two meanings (of fearsomeness and mercy) are reunited in Surat al- Zumar: "God hath now revealed the fairest of statements, a Scripture consistent, wherein promises of reward are paired with threats of punishment, whereat doth creep1 the flesh of those who fear their Lord, so that (thumma = and then) their flesh and their hearts soften to God's reminder (or: to the celebration of God's praises; or: to God's remembrance)" (39:23), meaning, to God's mercy and generosity.

The Prophet (s) said: "He who remembers God much (man akthara dhikr Allah), God loves him (aHabbahu Allah)," and he said: "The night that I was enraptured to my Lord (laylata usra bi) I passed by a man extinguished within the light of God's Throne (mugheeb fi noor al-`arsh). I asked, Who is this, and is he an angel? I was told No, and I asked again, Is it a Prophet? I was told No, and I said, Who then? It was said: This is a man who, while he was in the world, his tongue was (constantly) moist with the mention of God and his heart was attached to the mosques."

On the authority of Mu`adh ibn Jabal (r), the Prophet (s) said that God said: "No servant of Mine mentions me in himself (fi nafsihi) except I mention him in an assembly of My angels, and he does not mention Me in an assembly except I mention him in the Highest Friend (fi al-rafeeq al-a`la)."

On the authority of Abu Hurayra (r) who said: "While on the road to Mecca the Prophet (s) passed on top of a mountain called Jumdaan (= frozen in its place), at which time he said: Move on (seeru), for here is Jumdaan which has overtaken the single-minded (al-mufarridoon). They said: What are the single-minded? He said: The men and women who remember God much (al-dhaakiroon Allah katheeran wa al-dhaakiraat)." Muslim related it.

The version in Tirmidhi has: "It was said: And what are the single-minded? He replied: Those who dote on the remembrance of God and ridiculed because of it (al-mustahtaroon bi dhikr Allah), whose burden the dhikr removes from them (yaDa`u `anhum al-dhikru athqaalahum), so that they come to God fluttering (fa ya'toon Allaha khifaaqan)!"

(Al-Mundhiri) said in al-thargheeb wa al-tarheeb [The Encouragement to Good and the Discouragement from Evil]: "The single-minded and those who dote on the dhikr and are ridiculed for it: these are the ones burning with the remembrance of God (al-muwalla`oon bi dhikrillah)."

[Nawawi writes in SharH SaHeeH Muslim, Bk. 48, Ch. 1, Hadith 4: "Some pronounced it mufridoon (= those who single out themselves)... Ibn Qutayba and others said: 'The original meaning of this is those whose relatives have died and they have become single (in the world) with regard to their passing from them, so they have remained remembering God the Exalted.' Another narration has: 'They are those who (perpetually) shake at the mention or remembrance of God (hum al- ladheena ihtazzu fi dhikrillah),' that is, they have become fervently devoted and attached to His remembrance (lahaju bihi). Ibn al-I`raabi said: 'It is said that "a man becomes single" (farada al-rajul) when he becomes learned, isolates himself, and concerns himself exclusively with the observance of God's orders and prohibitions (tafaqqaha wa i`tazala wa khala bi muraa`aat al-amr wa al-nahi).'"]

[Dhikr in isolation or seclusion (khalwa) is corroborated by the hadith in Bukhari: "Seven people will be shaded by God..." The seventh is: "A person who remembers God in seclusion (dhakara Allaha khaaliyan) and his eyes get flooded with tears." 2:290]

[Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi writes in SharH SaheeH Tirmidhi, Book 45 (da`awaat), Ch. 4: "If it is said that the times have become so corrupt that there is nothing better than isolating oneself, we say: one isolates oneself from people in one's actions, while he keeps mixing with them with his physical body, however, if he cannot succeed, then at that time he isolates himself from them physically but without entering into monasticism (ya`taziluhum bi badanihi wa la yadkhulu fi al-rahbaaniyya) which is condemned and rejected by the Sunna."]

[Shaykh Hisham Kabbani's commentary from his book Dhikr in Islam p. 20: "The mountain has overtaken the people because the mountain is reciting dhikr also. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (in Madaarij al-saalikeen) explains that the term mufarridoon has two meanings here: either the muwaHHidoon, the people engaged in tawheed (i.e. who declare God's Oneness) as a group (i.e. not necessarily alone), or the aaHaad furaada, the same people as (single) individuals sitting alone (in isolation). From this example it is evident that... in the explanation of Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya the Salafi teacher, sittings of dhikr can be in a group, and can be all alone. In another explanation of mufarridun (cited by Ibn Qayyim) we have 'those that tremble from reciting dhikrullah, entranced with it perpetually, not caring what people say or do about them.' This is because the Prophet (s) said: 'Recite dhikrullah' -- and, as we said, the best dhikr is LA ILAHA ILLALLAH -- as much as you want, 'until people say that you are crazy and foolish' (Ahmad, Ibn Hibban, Hakim); and do not care about them!"]

The Prophet (s) said:

"The-one-who-mentions-or-remembers-God (dhaakirullaah) among those who forget Him is like a green tree in the midst of dry ones";

"The one who mentions or remembers God among those who forget Him, God shows him his seat in Paradise during his life";

"The one who mentions or remembers God among those those who forget Him is like the fighter behind those who run away";

"The one who mentions or remembers God among those who forget Him, God looks at him with a look after which He will never punish him";

"The one who mentions or remembers God among those who forget Him is like a light inside a dark house";

"The one who mentions or remembers God among those who forget Him, God forgives him (sins) to the amount of every eloquent and non-eloquent speaker," that is, the number of animals and human beings;

"The one who mentions or remembers God in the the marketplace, will have light in every hair of his on the Day of Resurrection."

The Sufis say that: - dhikr has a beginning, which is a truthful application (tawajjuh Saadiq); - it has a middle, which is a light that strikes (noor taariq); - its has an end, which is a piercing difficulty (Haarr khaariq);

[Note: Truthfulness should not be confused with sincerity, since it is possible to act with sincerity but not to reach truthfulness, as Nawawi explained in his commentary to the second of his "forty hadiths" (hadith about islaam, imaan, iHsaan). Ibn al-Jawzi relates in Sifat al-Safwa (4:98): "ManSoor said: I heard Moosa ibn `Eesa say: I heard my uncle say: I heard Aba Yazeed (al-Bistami) say: ߾If one time I could utter purely LA ILAHA ILLALLAH (there is no god except God alone), I would not care about anything after that' (law Safat li tahleelatun ma balaytu ba`daha bi shay')."]

- it has a principle (aSl), which is purity (al-Safaa'); - it has a branch, which is loyalty (al-wafaa'); - it has a condition (sharT), which is presence (Hudoor); - it has a carpet (bisaaT), which is righteous action (al-`amal al-SaaliH), - it has a peculiar characteristic (khaaSSiyya), which is the Manifest Opening (al-fatH al-mubeen) [cf. 48:1].

Abu Sa`eed al-Kharraaz (r) said: "When God desires to befriend (yuwaali) a servant of His, He opens the door of dhikr for that servant. After the latter takes pleasure (istaladhdha) in dhikr, He opens the door of proximity (al-qurb) for him. After that, He raises him to the meetings of intimacy (majaalis al-uns) and after that he makes him sit on a throne of Oneness (kursi min al-tawHeed). Then He removes the veils (al-Hujub) from him and He makes him enter the abode of Singleness (daar al-fardaaniyya) and unveils Majesty (al-jalaal) and Sublimity (al-`aZama) to him. When the servant beholds Majesty and Sublimity, he remains without "he" (baqiya bila hu). He becomes extinguished (faani), immune (baari') to the claims and pretensions of his ego (da`aawa nafsihi), and protected for God's sake (maHfooZan lillaah)."

[Abd al-Hakeem Muraad: Ahmad ibn `Isa Abu Sa`eed al-Kharraaz (d. 277/890-1) was an important Sufi who, according to Huwjiri, was "the first to explain the doctrine of annihilation (fana') and subsistence (baqa')." He was the close companion of Dhul-Nun, Bishr al-Hafi, and al-Sari al-Saqati, and was renowned for the emphasis he placed on `ishq, the passionate love of God, and upon the scrupulous observance of the Law. Sources: Sulami, Tabaqaat al-Soofiyya 223-228; Qushayri, al-Risaala 1:161-162; Brockelmann, 1:646.]

Someone else said: "Dhikr is the medicine (lit. tiryaaq = triacle) of the sinners, the familiarity of the estranged (uns al-munqaTi`een), the treasure of those who practice reliance (kanz al-mutawakkileen), the repast of those who possess certitude (ghidhaa' al-mooqineen), the adornment of those who are connected (Hilyat al-waaSileen), the starting-point of knowers (mabda' al-`aarifeen), the carpet of those brought near Him (biSaat al-muqarrabeen), and the intoxicant of lovers (sharaab al-muHibbeen)."

The Prophet (s) also said: "Remembrance of God is certain knowledge of one's belief (`ilm al-eemaan), immunity from hypocrisy (baraa'at min al- nifaaq), a fortress against satan (HuSn min al-shayTaan), and a guarded refuge from the fire (Hirz min al-naar)." It was mentioned by (al-Layth) al-Samarqandi.

Ibn al-SalaaH (rah.) was asked about the measure by which the servant is estimated to be among those who remember God much. He said: "If he perseveres in the (forms of) dhikr inherited (in the Sunna) morning and evening (and) in the various times (of the day), then he is of those who remember God much."

Moosa (as) said: "O my Lord! Are you near, so that I may speak to you

intimately (aqareebun anta fa unaajeeka) or are you far, so that I may call out to you (am ba`eed fa unaadeeka)?" God inspired to him: "I am sitting next to the one who remembers Me." He said: "O my Lord, we are sometimes in a state of major impurity (janaaba) and we exalt You from remembrance or fear to remember You (najilluka an nadhkuruka)." He replied: "Remember me in every state." Ghazaali mentioned it in the Ihya.

(`Abd al-Rahim ibn al-Hasan) al-Isnawi (al-Shaafi`i, 1305-1370 M) said in his Alghaaz (Riddles): "A man in a state of minor impurity (Hadath) is forbidden from certain forms of dhikr, as illustrated by (the nullification of the act of worship incurred when) entering such a state during the Friday sermon (khuTba), because ritual purity (Tahaara) is a condition (sharT) for its validity."

Someone related in Qushayri's Risaala (Treatise on tasawwuf) that he entered a jungle and found a man remembering God while attended by a huge beast. He asked: "What is this?" The man replied: "I have asked God to empower one of His dogs to watch me in case I became heedless (ghafaltu) from remembering Him."...

Ibraaheem al-Nakha`i said concerning Allah's saying: "There is not a thing but hymneth his praise" [17:44]: "Everything praises Him, including the squeaking of the door."

[`Abd al-Hakeem Muraad: I. ibn Yazeed al-Nakha`i (d. c96/714-5) was a devout and learned scholar of Koofa who opposed the writing of hadeeth as an unjustified innovation. He studied under al-Hasan al-BaSri and Anas ibn Maalik, and taught Abu Haneefa, who may have been influenced by his extensive use of personal judgment (ra'y) in matters of jurisprudence. Sources: Ibn Hibbaan, Mashaaheer `ulama al-amSaar 101; M.M. Azami, Studies in Early Hadith Literature 65-66; Ibn al-Jazari, Ghaayat al-nihaaya 1:29.]


On the Dhikr of Inanimate Objects

"The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein praise Him, and there is not a thing but hymneth his praise; but ye understand not their praise. Lo! He is ever Clement, Forgiving." [17:44]

Ibraaheem al-Nakha`i said concerning God's saying: "There is not a thing but hymneth his praise": "Everything praises Him, including the squeaking of the door." Someone else said: "The verse is general, and it applies particularly to the one endowed with speech (al-naaTiq), as in God's saying: "Everything (kullu shay') was destroyed," whereas the houses of `Aad were not destroyed,* and in His saying concerning Sheba (Balqees): "And I have been given all things" whereas she had not been given Sulayman's kingdom."

* 46:25: "Destroying all things by commandment of its Lord. And morning found them so that naught could be seen save their dwellings. Thus do we reward the guilty folk."

It was also said that the verse [17:44] has a universal meaning whereby the one endowed with speech glorifies God by word, while the silent one glorifies through (his) state (bi al-Haal). This is by virtue of his being in existence: he testifies to His Maker through having been made.

I have seen in (Taj al-Din) Ibn al-Subki's Tabaqaat (al- shaafi`iyya al-kubra), may Allah be pleased with him, that the interpretation favored by our school (Shafi`is) is that all things make glorification through actual utterance (bi lisaan al-maqaal), because such a thing is not impossible and it is indicated by many proof-texts. God the Exalted said: "We have placed the mountains under his dominion, they praise (God) at nightfall and at sunrise." The mountains' glorification through actual utterance does not necessitate that we hear it. I have seen in al-wujuh al-musfira `an ittisaa` al-maghfira [The Faces Made Radiant By the Vastness of Mercy] (the following commentary): "It is more likely that they literally glorify, except that this phenomenon is hidden from the people and is not perceived except through the rupture of natural laws (kharq al-`aada). The Companions (r) heard the glorification of food and other objects placed before the Prophet (s).

"Concerning God's saying at the end of the verse: "Lo! He is ever Clement, Forgiving": it applies to the state of those addressed by the verse in three ways. First, in the vast majority of cases people are distracted from glorifying God the Exalted, unlike the heavens and the earth and all that is therein: these distracted ones become in need of clemency and forgiveness. Second, they do not understand the praise of all these objects, and this may be because they do not sufficiently contemplate and reflect upon them: they become in need of clemency and forgiveness. Third, the fact that they do not hear their praise may cause them to feel contempt towards them and drive them to neglect their rights: they again become in need of clemency and forgiveness.

"There is no doubt that he who beholds with full understanding the glorification of things in existence (al-mawjudaat), honors and magnifies them in respect to this glorification, even if the Lawgiver ordered him to disdain them in another respect."

The he (the author of al-wujuh al-musfira) cited the following story: "One of God's slaves sought to perform the purification (from going to stool) with stones. He took one stone, and God removed the veil from his hearing so that he was now able to hear the stone's praise. Out of awe he left it and took another one, but he heard that one praising God also. And every time he took another stone he heard it glorifying God. Seeing this, at last he turned to God so that He would veil from him their praise to enable him to purify himself. God then veiled him from hearing them. He proceeded to purify himself despite his knowledge that the stones were making tasbeeh, because the one who reported about their tasbeeh is the same Law-giver (s) who ordered to use them for purification. Therefore in the concealment of tasbeeh there is a far-reaching wisdom."

This is true, and I also saw in (Fakhr al-Din) Razi's Tafsir (Koranic commentary entitled Mafatih al-ghayb) that what the scholars have agreed upon is that whoever is not alive is not empowered with speech (man lam yakun Hayyan lam yakun qaadiran mutakalliman), and it has been firmly established that inanimate objects praise God through the medium of their state (bi lisaan al-Haal). And God knows best.

[Note: The Shaykh of our Shaykh was told by his Shaykh that even when removing an obstacle from the road such as a stone according to the saying of the Prophet "Belief has seventy-odd branches, the lowest of which is to remove something harmful from the road," the God-wary one is not to kick the stone away but to pick it up and displace it by hand out of respect for its glorification of God.]


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1taqsha`irr = shudder or shiver