The Arabic word for the human being, ‘insan’, is thought by some to come from the same root word as ‘nisyan’ which means ‘to forget’. ‘Nisyan’, which is the opposite of ‘zikr’ (remembrance) implies forgetfulness which is one of the greatest weaknesses of mankind. In order to make up for the harm caused by this ‘nisyan’, which is part of human nature, he needs zikr in order to keep ‘Allah’ and his perception of himself as ‘the servant’, constantly active and aware in mind. Because repetition strengthens the comprehension and understanding of the thing that is repeated.
The word ‘zikr’ occurs more than 250 times in the Qur’an, which indicates its particular importance in the duty of the servant. The servant needs to be a slave to Almighty Allah in the true sense of the word and reach the degree of ‘marifetullah’ (knowledge of Allah). But this will only occur to the degree of the depth of the rank and feelings that the heart gains through remembrance. This is why our Sustainer has said:
“Remember your Lord in yourself humbly and fearfully, without loudness of voice, morning and evening. Do not be one of the unaware”(A’raf 7:205)
“And remembrance of Allah is indeed the greatest good”(Ankabut 29:45)
“For people with intelligence; those who remember Allah, standing, sitting and lying on their sides…”(Al’i imran 3:191)
Once the heart, which is the ruler of the body, has come back to life through remembrance of Allah, and become enlightened enough to distinguish between truth and falsehood, it becomes like a compass guiding the body to the truth and to goodness. It gives appropriate directions to all of the members of the body that are under its command. In the end it reaches a state of servant hood with which Allah is most pleased.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) explains the virtues of remembrance of Allah as follows:
“The comparison of the one who remembers Allah with the one who does not, is like the difference between the living and the dead” (Bukhari, Dawat, 66)
Likewise those people who are far from the remembrance of Allah are also far from being the recipients of Allah’s love and are thus under divine threat. The Holy Qur’an says:
“You who have faith! Do not let your wealth or children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. Whoever behaves thus, they are the losers” (Munafikun 63:9)
“…Woe to those whose hearts are hardened against the remembrance of Allah… (az Zumar, 39:22)
If someone shuts his eyes to the remembrance of the All-Merciful, We assign him a shaytan who becomes his bosom friend “ (az- zuhruf, 43:36)
“But if anyone turns away from My reminder, his life will be a dark and narrow one and on the Day of Rising We will gather him blind”.(Taha, 20:24)
Because of the grave danger of remaining heedless of performing zikrullah (the remembrance of Allah) Almighty Allah has repeatedly warned his slaves about this matter. In one of these warnings He says:
“Is it not time that the hearts of all who have attained to faith should feel humble at the remembrance of Allah and at the truth He has sent down”(Hadid 57:16)
This verse was revealed as a warning to certain of the Companions who, having lived a painful and distressing life in Mecca, began to slacken once they had attained to bountiful provision and favour after the migration to Madina. (See Suyuti, Lubab, II, 151-52).
Even though Moses and Aaron (upon them be peace) were both prophets, Almighty Allah yet warned them when he sent them to preach to the Pharaoh as follows:
“Go, you and your brother, with My Signs and do not slacken in remembering Me” (Taha 20:42)
In this way by warning even these prophets of not distancing themselves from doing zikr, He willed them to be a lesson and an example (for mankind).
In speaking of the necessity of always being in a state of zikrullah and murakaba (vigilance), Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said:
“Do not delve into unnecessary talk and forget Allah. Because excessive talk that is done forgetting Allah, hardens the heart. And the one who is the furthest from Allah is the one with a hard heart”. (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 62/2411).
The way that the hearts of the believers reach a state of sensitivity that will allow them to be free of the hardness of heedlessness and gain the pleasure of Allah passes through continual remembrance. This is not however a temporary period or a phase; this is for a lifetime, and is only possible by being conscious of zikrullah in every breath taken, for it is only in this way that spiritual awakening can come about.
The Prophet’s wife, Aisha has said:
“Every state of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was a state of remembrance of Allah”. (Muslim, Hayz, 117).
Ibn-I Abbas , said the following about the verse:
“O you who have faith! Remember Allah with unceasing remembrance”(Ahzab, 33:41)
“Allah Most High has determined a limit for every act of worship that He has made obligatory for His slaves. He has accepted the excuse of those who are exempt (for whatever reason). The exception is zikr. Allah Most High has not set a limit that one can reach when it comes to zikr. He does not accept the excuse of anybody who abandons remembering Allah, except for the one whose mind has become disturbed. Almighty Allah has commanded all people to be in a state of zikr under all circumstances. (Taberi, Jamiu’l Beyan an Te’vili Ayi’l Qur’an, Beirut, 1995, XXII, 22; Kurtubi, XIV, 197).
In order to encourage the performance of zikr and being with the people of zikr the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has said:
“To sit from the morning prayer until the sun rises with a group of people that remember Allah, is more pleasing to me than rescuing four slaves from the tribe of the sons of Ishmael. Likewise to sit with a group of people who remember Allah from the time of the afternoon prayer until the sun sets, is more pleasing to me that freeing four people”. (Abu Dawud, Ilim, 13/3667).
In addition, the benedictions that we utter for the Prophet are among the statements of zikr. Almighty Allah states:
“Allah and His angels call down blessings on the Prophet. O you who have faith! Call down blessings on him and ask for complete peace and safety for him”(Ahzab, 33:56).
The Prophet explained the worth of these benedictions as follows:
“Whoever sends peace and blessings upon me once, Allah Most High has mercy on him ten times over, wiping away ten of his mistakes and raising his rank ten degrees”(Nasai, Sahv, 55)
“Those people who will be the closest to me on the Day of Judgement are those who send much blessings and peace upon me” (Tirmidhi, Vitir, 21/484)
In addition, acts of worship such as performing the prescribed prayer, tasbih (glorification), tahmid (praise), takbir (exaltation) , tahlil (pronouncing the oneness of Allah) and istigfar (seeking forgiveness), and in particular reading the Qur’an and reflecting on its verses, are also considered zikr.
Scenes of Virtue
The Prophet’s wife, Aisha informs us that when the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) woke up at night for worship he would pray and supplicate by reciting 10 times each “Allahu akbar” (Allah is the Greatest), “Alhamdulillah” (Praise be to Allah), “Subhanallahi wa bihamdih” (Glory be to Allah and praise belongs to Him), “Subhana’l maliki’l quddus” (Glory be to Allah, The King and Holy One) “Astagfirullah” (I ask Allah for forgiveness), “La ilaha illallah” (there is no god but Allah) and then he would say ten times:
اَللّهُمَّ إنِّى أعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ ضَيقِ الدُنْيَا وَ ضَيقِ يَومِ القِيَامَ
“O Allah! I seek refuge in You from the distress and narrowing of this world and the hereafter”
The Prophet would then begin his salat”. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 101/5085).
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would prefer zikr and prayers that were concise but deep in meaning. One day the Prophet’s wife, Juwayriya prayed the early dawn prayer and then sat in the spot where she prayed. The Prophet (pbuh) left the house early and when he returned later that morning he found Juwayriya still sitting where he had left her.
“Have you been sitting here doing zikr since the time I left you?” he asked her. When she replied yes, the Prophet (pbuh) said:
“If the four statements that I said three times each after parting from you were weighed against all of the zikr that you have said since morning you will find that they are equal in terms of reward:
سُبْحَانَ اللَهِ وَبِحَمْدِهِ عَدَدَ خَلْقِهِ وَرِضَا نَفْسهِ وَزِنَةَ عَرْشهِ وَمِدَادَ كَلِمَاتِِهِ
“I absolve Allah from all defects that do not suit His station of divinity and I praise Him to the number of creatures, and till He is pleased, to the weight of the earth and to the number of words that never run out”(Muslim, Zikr, 79).
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has said:
“There are two statements that are light on the tongue, but heavy when weighed on the scales and that are pleasing to Allah, the Merciful:
سُبْحَانَ اللَهِ وَبِحَمْدِهِ سُبْحَانَ اللَهِ العَظِيمِ
“I absolve Allah of all attributes that do not suit His position of divinity and I praise Him. I again absolve Allah, the Great One, of all attributes that do not suit His station of divinity”(Bukhari, Dawat 65, Ayman, 19, Tawheed 58; Muslim, Zikr, 31).
Almighty Allah desires that the heart of His slave is together with Him at every moment. In the following verse, these people are described as being “those who remember Allah, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, (Al’i Imran, 3:191)…
The above hadiths express the virtue of this tasbihat (prayer of glorification) that is carried out and the greatness of its reward. That is, in one aspect it is for encouragement and persuasion. However, we should not limit the remembrance of Allah to this tasbihat but we should be in a continual state of zikr. This is essential as is required by the Qur’an and the hadith.
Abdullah bin Busr narrates:
“Two Bedouins came to the Messenger of Allah to ask him a question. One of them asked:
“O Messenger of Allah! Who is the best of people?” The Messenger of Allah replied:
“The one who has a long life and whose deeds are righteous”. The other asked:
“O Messenger of Allah! The rulings of Islam have increased become numerous. Tell me one deed that I can adhere to”.
“Let your tongue be ever moist with the remembrance of Allah” (Ahmad, IV, 188).
As the Prophet said to be in a continual state of zikr is protection against heedlessness and forgetfulness for the believer. It is a means of increasing one’s obedience and submission to the commands and prohibitions of Allah. That is zikr is also a means of prosperity and spiritual reinforcement that increases the believers enthusiasm for the religious rulings.
One Companion came to the Messenger of Allah and asked:
“Which jihad has the greatest reward?” The Prophet replied:
“The jihad of the one who remembers Allah much”. The man then asked:
“Which fast has the greatest reward?”. The Prophet replied:
“The fast of the one who remembers Allah the most”.
After that the man asked the same question about the one who prays, who gives almsgiving, who goes for the pilgrimage and who gives charity. The answer was the same for each of these:
“The one who remembers Allah most”.
Upon this Abu Bakr said to Omar :
“O Omar! Those who remember Allah have taken the entire share of goodness”. The Prophet (pbuh) then turned towards them and said:
“Yes, that is true”. (Ahmad, III, 438; Haysami, X, 74).
In all cases then, we will profit greatly if we train ourselves to be in a constant of zikr.
Muadh bin Jabal narrates:
“I once said to the Prophet (pbuh):
“O Messenger of Allah! Give me some advice”
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) replied:
“Have fear of Allah to the best of your ability. Remember Allah wherever you are, next to a stone or a tree. And for the sin that you have done in secret, seek forgiveness in secret, but for the one you have done openly, seek forgiveness openly. (Haysami, X, 74).
One day the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was telling his companions about the virtue of gatherings of zikr:
“When you come to the gardens of Paradise make sure to benefit from them properly”
“What do you mean by the gardens of Paradise o Messenger of Allah” they asked him.
The Prophet replied:
“The gatherings of zikr” (Tirmidhi, Deavat, 82/3510).
Whenever Abdullah bin Rawaha came across one of the Companions he would say:
“Come my brother! Let us sit for a while for Allah and refresh our faith in our Sustainer (Let us do zikr)”.
One Companion who did not understand what this meant went to the Prophet and informed him of the situation. The Prophet said to him:
“May Allah have mercy on Abdullah bin Rawaaha. He loves the chains of zikr which the angels praise” (Ahmad, III, 265).
Abdullah bin Shaddad narrates:
“Three people from the tribe of Bani Uzra came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and became Muslim. The Messenger of Allah asked:
“Who will undertake the care of these?
“I will o Messenger of Allah”.
While they were with Talha, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) dispatched a small troop of soldiers. One of the three of these people came out of this unit and was martyred. Then he sent another small troop. From this the second person came out, but was also martyred. The third person died in his bed a little while later.
“I saw these three people who were staying with me in Paradise. The one who died in his bed was foremost, then the second martyr, then last came the person who was martyred first of all. I was surprised and a little upset at this situation. I immediately told the Prophet of Allah what I saw. He said:
“This is nothing to be surprised about. There is no one in the eyes of Allah who is of more virtue than the believer who constantly performs glorification of Allah, takbir, and tahlil and who lives his life based on Islam. (Ahmad, I, 163).
One day Uftade went out to the countryside with his students for a talk. Following orders, all of the derwishes walked around the most beautiful parts of the countryside and brought a bunch of flowers for their teacher. However in the hands of the old Judge of Bursa, Mahmud Efendi, who would later find fame as Aziz Mahmud Hudayi, brought back a withered flower whose stem had been broken… After the others presented their flowers to their teacher with happiness, Mahmud Efendi, presented his broken and withered flower to Uftade his head bowed down. Amongst the curious looks of the other students, Uftade asked:
“Mahmud my son! Why, when everyone brought bouquets and bouquets of flowers, did you bring a withered broken flower?”
With great modesty of manners, Mahmud Efendi bowed his head and answered:
“Master! Whatever I present you would never be enough. But whichever flower I bent down to pick I found it in a state of remembrance of its Lord, and saying ‘Allah, Allah’. My heart couldn’t bear to hinder this remembrance of theirs. Helpless I was compelled to bring this flower which was unable to continue its zikr”.
For those with a soft heart, every atom in the universe consists of lessons to take heed from. All things, whether they be living or non-living perform zikr of Allah. It is stated in Quranic verse:
“The seven heavens and the earth and everyone in them glorify Him. There is nothing which does not glorify Him with praise but you do not understand their glorification. He is All-Forbearing, Ever-Forgiving.(Isra, 17:44).
And so man must be conscious of his true duty by taking heed from this magnificent scene in the universe and should not remain heedless of remembering his Lord.
The most virtuous of our zikr is
salawat – i sharif. A believer will benefit spiritually to the degree that he sends peace and blessings upon the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). This is because the value of our Prophet in the eyes of Allah is most high.
Firstly our Lord personally performs prayers on the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and has raised him in degree through his mercy and pleasure and has bestowed upon him mercy.
One of the times when we send blessings upon the Prophet (pbuh) is during the prayer, when we read the Tahiyyat prayer. According to what has been transmitted, the Prophet said:
“On the night of the Ascension, I saw our Lord with the eye of my heart. Allah Most High said to me:
“Speak to me o beloved!”
I was frozen in my astonishment. Then Allah Most High inspired my heart to say the following words:
اَلتَّحِيَّاتُ لِلهِ وَالصَّلَوَاتُ وَالطَّيِّبَاتُ
“All of worship, be it verbal like praise, active like prayer and fasting or financial such as the alms-giving, is particular to Allah – Most Glorious and Exalted”.
Upon this Allah Most High said:
َلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكَ أَيُّهَا النَّبِىُّ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ
“O Most Honoured Prophet! May the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you”.
In response I said:
اَلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْنَا وَ عَلَى عِبَادِ اللهِ الصَّالِحِينَ
“May the peace of Allah be upon us and upon all of Allah’s righteous slaves”.
Allah Most High then said:
“O My Prophet! I removed even Gabriel from between us. You have not removed your community from amongst us”.
Hearing these words intended to be humorous, Almighty Allah, Gabriel said:
أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللهُ وَأَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُه
“I bear witness that there is no god who is worthy of worship other than Allah. And I also bear witness that Muhammad the Trustworthy is His slave and Messenger”(See Qurtubi, III, 425).
Ubayy bin Ka’b narrates:
“One time when one third of the night had passed, the Messenger of Allah awoke and rose and said:
“O people! Remember Allah! Remember Allah! The first trumpet will be blown and will upheave the earth from one place to another. Then the next trumpet will be blown. Death will come and strike in all of its intensity. Death will come and strike in all of its intensity”.
I asked the Prophet:
“O Messenger of Allah! I send abundant blessings and peace upon you, but I wonder, should I do more? [how much is enough]?”
“Do as much as you wish”, he said.
“If I allot a fourth of my prayer to sending blessings and peace upon you, would that be sufficient?” I asked.
“Allot as much as you wish. But if you do more, that will be better for you” he said.
“In that case I will assign half of my supplication to sending blessings and peace upon you” I said.
“Do as much as you wish. But if you do more, than that will be better for you”.
“In that case will two-thirds be enough?” I asked.
“As much as you like. But if you increase, it will be much better for you” he said.
When I said:
“In that case what if I assign all of my supplication to sending peace and blessings upon you?”, he replied:
“In that case Allah will remove all your distress and forgive you your sins”. (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 23/2457).
One time when the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) saw one of his Companions begin his supplication by praising Allah and sending blessings upon the Prophet, he praised him and said:
“O you who performs the prayer! Supplicate (as long as you begin your supplication with praise and prayers upon me), and your prayers will be answered” (Tirmidhi Dawat, 64, 3476).
Omar bin Khattab said:
“(On its own), the supplication you make stands between the heavens and the earth. If you do not send blessings upon the Prophet, not one of your prayers will rise to Allah” (Tirmidhi, witr, 21/486).
Ka’b bin Ujra narrates that one day we said to the Messenger of Allah:
“O Messenger of Allah! We have learned how to send peace upon you, but we don’t know how to send blessings upon you”. He responded:
Say these words:
اَللَّهُمَّ صَلَّى عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ كَمَا صَلَيْتَ عَلَى (إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَعَلَى)
آلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّكَ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ اَللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ كَمَا بَارَكْتَ عَلَى (إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَعَلَى) آلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّكَ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ
“O Allah! Have mercy on Muhammad and his family just as you had mercy on Abrahim and his family. Truly You are worthy of praise and most exalted. O Allah! Bestow goodness and bounty on Muhammad and on the family of Muhammad just as you bestowed goodness and bounty on Abraham and on the family of Abraham. Truly You are worthy of praise and most exalted”.(Bukhari, Deawat, 32, Tirmidhi, Witr, 20; Ibn-I Majah, Iqama, 25).
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:
“The most virtuous of your days is Friday… For this reason, you should send much blessings and peace on me on this day, the day when they will be presented to me”.
Upon this the Companions asked:
“O Messenger of Allah! How can our salat-u salam be presented to you once you have passed away and there is no trace of you”. The Prophet replied:
“Allah Most High has forbidden the earth to decompose the bodies of the prophets”. (Abu Dawud, Salat 201/1047, Witr, 26)
Ali has the following to say about the virtue of sending peace and blessings on the Prophet on a Friday:
“Whoever sends one hundred blessings on the Prophet on a Friday, will appear at the gathering on the Day of Judgement with a beautiful and radiant face. The people will ask each other longingly: “I wonder which deed this man used to perform”. (Bayhaki, ShuAbu’l Imam, III 212)
Ka’b bin Ujra narrates:
“One day the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) told us to approach the pulpit. We did so. He climbed the first step, then said “amen”. He climbed the second step and said “amen”. He climbed the third step in the same way, saying “amen”.
When he had come down from the pulpit we asked:
“O Messenger of Allah! We have heard some things from you today that we have never heard before. (What is the wisdom in this”).
“Gabriel came to me and said: Let the one who reaches the month of Ramadan without having his sins forgiven be far from mercy”. I said “amen”. When I had climbed the second stair, he said:
“Let the one who hears Your name but does not send blessings upon You be far from mercy”. I said “Amen”. When I had climbed the third step he said:
“Let the one who has not been able to gain Paradise because his mother or father, or both have reached old-age beside him but he has not been able to please them. And I said: amen”.(Hakim, IV, 170/7256; Tirmidhi, Deawat, 100/3545).
It has been reported by a righteous individual:
“I once had a neighbour who used to make copies of the books of scholars by writing them out himself. When he died I saw him in my dream. I asked him:
“How did Allah Most High treat you”. He said:
“He has forgiven me”.
“Which deed of yours was the means for this” I asked.
“Whenever I used to write the blessed and honourable name of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in a book I would never fail to send blessings and peace upon him. And so my Lord has bestowed upon me favours that no eye has ever seen, no ear has heard of, and no person has ever been able to imagine”. (Nebhani, Saadet’ul Dareyn, pg 101).
It has been narrated that an individual who had failed to adopt the character of the Prophet (pbuh) saw him in his dream one night. The Messenger of Allah ignored him. Sadly he asked:
“O Messenger of Allah! Are you upset with me?”
“In that case why are you ignoring me?”
“I don’t know who you are”.
“How can that be o Messenger of Allah! I am from your community. The scholars say that you can recognise members of your community better than a mother recognises her own child…”
“That is true. However, I do not see any trace of my character on you. In addition, no blessings or peace have ever come to me from you. Know that I only recognise those of my community to the degree that they have taken on my character”.
On awakening from his sleep deeply saddened, this believer then repented for his former state and took on the praiseworthy character of the Prophet. He spent a great portion of his time sending peace and blessings on the Prophet. A little while later he saw the Messenger of Allah in his dream once more. This time the Messenger of Allah said to him:
“Now I know you and I will intercede for you”…
In short, the Prophet (pbuh) has said:
“A person will be together with the one he loves”. (Bukhari, Adab, 96). According to the principle ‘the lover loves everything about their beloved’, we must follow the Prophet (pbuh) in all our actions and states. It is such that the love and ardour in this matter is like the backbone of love of Allah. All love contrary to this love has been invalidated by the way of the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
The only way to reach Almighty Allah, that is to be reunited with Him is achieved by love of His Beloved Prophet.
Zikrullah and salawat-I sharif are nourishment for our spiritual existence and assurance for our eternal happiness. The worlds of our heart and soul find completion with zikr (remembrance of Allah). Almighty Allah has said:
“Only in the remembrance of Allah can the heart find peace”.(Ar Rad, 13:28).
The way to being a servant who is dear to Allah passes through continual zikr (remembrance). It is only through this way that our lives can gain spiritual pleasure and sweetness. May Allah let us all partake of it. Amen…
. Muslim, Salat, 70
. This is the prayer that is said whilst in the sitting position of salat (translator’s note)