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Dhikr (or Zikr, "Remembrance [of God]", "pronouncement", "invocation"; Arabic: ذکر ḏikr, plural أذكار ʾaḏkār, Arabic pronunciation: [ðɪkr, ʔæðˈkɑːr]), is an Islamic devotional act, typically involving the recitation—mostly silently—of the Names of God, and of supplications taken from hadith texts and Qur'anic verses, according to Sunni Islam. Essentially, the practice of dhikr is a form of prayer in which the Muslim will express his or her remembrance of God either within or overtly; this may come in the form of recitation or simply always remembering God in one’s heart. The word dhikr is commonly translated as "remembrance" or "invocation".
There are several verses in the Qur'an that emphasize the importance of remembering the Will of God by saying "God Willing," "God Knows best," "if it is Your Will," and so on. This is the basis for dhikr. Sura 18 (Al-Kahf), ayah 24 states a person who forgets to say, "God Willing," should immediately remember God by saying, "May my Lord guide me to do better next time." Other verses include sura 33 (Al-Ahzab), ayah 41, "O ye who believe! Celebrate the praises of Allah, and do this often;", and sura 13 (Ar-Ra'd), ayah 28, "They are the ones whose hearts rejoice in remembering God. Absolutely, by remembering God, the hearts rejoice." Muhammad said that "the best [dhikr] is that of la ilaha illa’llah, and the best supplicatory prayer is that of al-hamdu li’llah," which translate to "there is no god but God" and "praise to God" respectively.
The majority of Sunni Muslims deem Dhikr to be a private and silent worship and this is the widely accepted form of Dhikr. Remembering Allah is the fundamental of Dhikr as a form of worship and expression of gratitude. The Sunni Muslims perform Dhikr as a form of private and silent worship while a few sects perform extended Dhikr ritual that Wahhabis/Salafis consider as innovation or Bid‘ah. There are two basic opinions on the methods which Dhikr is to be performed. First, it is a private, individual and silent practice, anyone can be aware of Allah, grateful and thankful to Allah and fearing of Allah in conduct. Remembrance during trials and tribulations expecting help and patience is a part of one's Iman. Remembering Allah in good times is a sign of gratitude. Silently glorifying Allah with the phrases approved by Qur'an and Hadith is another basic form of worship.
Second, Qur'anic recital is viewed as another form of Dhikr. Many Muslims engage in collective recital of the Qur'an which is particularly common in North Africa and has resulted in a very high level of memorization amongst the common people.
Phrases read during Dhikr
There are several phrases that are usually read when remembering Allah. Here are a few:
- Allahu Akbar - الله أَكْبَر means "Allah is Greater" or "Allah is the Greatest"
- Subhan'Allah - سبحان الله means "Glory be to Allah" or "How pure is Allah" or "Exalted be Allah [far above is Allah from any shortcoming or imperfection]"
- Alhamdulillah - الحمد لله means "All praise is due to Allah", an expression of gratitude
- La ilaha ilallah - لا إله إلا الله means "There is no god but Allah"
- La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah - لا حول ولاقوة إلا بالله means "There is no power or strength except with Allah."
- Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem- means "In the Name of God, The Gracious, The Merciful" said before anything of spiritual significance ; e.g. eating, wudhu, salaat, rising from and going to sleep, before work, etc.
Ahadith mentioning virtues/importance of dhikr
- Also see: Dua
Muhammad would often tell his companions, "Shall I tell you about the best of deeds, the most pure in the Sight of your Lord, about the one that is of the highest order and is far better for you than spending gold and silver, even better for you than meeting your enemies in the battlefield where you strike at their necks and they at yours?" The companions replied, "Yes, O Messenger of Allah!" Muhammad said, "Remembrance of Allah." From Sunan al-Tirmidhi
Abu Hurairah narrated that Muhammad said, "People will not sit in an assembly in which they remember Allah without the angels surrounding them, mercy covering them, and Allah Mentioning them among those who are with Him." From Sahih Muslim
Mu’adh ibn Jabal said, “There is nothing that is a greater cause of salvation from the punishment of Allah than the remembrance of Allah.” Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Book of Supplications, Number 3377, Hasan.
Verses of the Qur'an recommending Dhikr
- 1. Sura 13 (Ar-Ra'd), ayah 28:
- الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللّهِ أَلاَ بِذِكْرِ اللّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ
- Transliteration: Alladhīna amanū watatmainnu qulūbuhum bithikri Allāhi ala bithikri Allahi tatmainnu alquloobu
- Translation: Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction.
- 2.Sura 3 (Al-i-Imran), ayah 191:
- الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىَ جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذا بَاطِلاً سُبْحَانَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
- Transliteration: Allatheena yathkuroona Allaha qiyaman waquAAoodan waAAala junoobihim wayatafakkaroona fee khalqi alssamawati waalardi rabbana ma khalaqta hadhā bātilān subhānaka faqinā 'adhāba alnnāri.
- Translation: Men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (With the thought): "Our Lord! not for naught Hast Thou created (all) this! Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire.
- 3. Sura 33 (Al-Ahzab), ayah 35:
- إِنَّ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَالْمُسْلِمَاتِ وَالْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَالْقَانِتِينَ وَالْقَانِتَاتِ وَالصَّادِقِينَ وَالصَّادِقَاتِ وَالصَّابِرِينَ وَالصَّابِرَاتِ وَالْخَاشِعِينَ وَالْخَاشِعَاتِ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقِينَ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقَاتِ وَالصَّائِمِينَ وَالصَّائِمَاتِ وَالْحَافِظِينَ فُرُوجَهُمْ وَالْحَافِظَاتِ وَالذَّاكِرِينَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا وَالذَّاكِرَاتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّهُ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا
- Transliteration: Inna almuslimeen waalmuslimati waalmumineena waalmuminati waalqaniteena waalqanitati waalssadiqeena waalssadiqati waalssabireena waalssabirati waalkhashiAAeena waalkhashiAAati waalmutasaddiqeena waalmutasaddiqati waalssaimeena waalssaimati waalhafitheena furoojahum waalhafithati waalththakireena Allaha katheeran waalththakirati aAAadda Allahu lahum maghfiratan waajran AAatheeman
- Translation: For Muslim men and women,- for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise,- for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.
- 4. Sura 87 (Al-Ala), ayat 14-15:
- قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّى وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى
- Transliteration: Qad aflaha man tazakka, Wathakara isma rabbihi fasalla
- Translation: But those will prosper who purify themselves,And glorify the Name of their Guardian-Lord, and (lift their hearts) in prayer.
- 5. Sura 63 (Al-Munafiqun), ayah 9:
- يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تُلْهِكُمْ أَمْوَالُكُمْ وَلَا أَوْلَادُكُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَمَن يَفْعَلْ ذَلِكَ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ
- Transliteration: Ya ayyuha allatheena amanoo la tulhikum amwalukum wala awladukum AAan thikri Allahi waman yafAAal thalika faolaika humu alkhasiroona
- Translation: O ye who believe! Let not your riches or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. If any act thus, the loss is their own.
- 6. Sura 18(Al-Kahaf), ayah 28
وَاصْبِرْ نَفْسَكَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُم بِالْغَدَاةِ وَالْعَشِيِّ يُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَهُ ۖ وَلَا تَعْدُ عَيْنَاكَ عَنْهُمْ تُرِيدُ زِينَةَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَلَا تُطِعْ مَنْ أَغْفَلْنَا قَلْبَهُ عَن ذِكْرِنَا وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ وَكَانَ أَمْرُهُ فُرُطًا
- Translation: And keep yourself patient [by being] with those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening, seeking His countenance. And let not your eyes pass beyond them, desiring adornments of the worldly life, and do not obey one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance and who follows his desire and whose affair is ever [in] neglect.
Followers of Sufism often engage in ritualized dhikr ceremonies, the details of which sometimes vary between Sufi orders or tariqah. Each order, or lineage within an order, has one or more forms for group dhikr, the liturgy of which may include recitation, singing, music, dance, costumes, incense, muraqaba (meditation), ecstasy, and trance. Though the extent, usage and acceptability of many of these elements vary from order to order - with many condemning the usage of instruments (considered unlawful by most scholars) and intentional loss of control. In addition, costumes are quite uncommon and is almost exclusively unique to the Mevlavi order in Turkey - which is an official cultural "heritage" of the secular Turkish state. Dhikr in a group for Sufi practitioners does not necessarily entail all of these forms however.
The most common forms of Sufi group dhikr consist in the recital of particular litanies (e.g. Hizb al-Bahr of the Shadhilis), a composition of Qur'anic phrases and Prophetic supplications (e.g. Wird al-Latif of the Ba `Alawis), or a liturgical repetition of various formula and prayers (e.g. al-Wadhifa of the Tijanis ). All of these forms are referred to as a "hizb" (pl. "ahzab") or a "wird" (pl. "awrad"). This terminological usage is important as some critics often mistakenly believe that the word hizb only refers to a portion of the Qur'an. In addition, many recite extended prayers upon Muhammad (known as durood) of which the Dala'il al-Khayrat is perhaps the most popular. Though common to almost all Sufi orders, some (such as the Naqsbandis) prefer to perform their dhikr silently - even in group settings. In addition, most gatherings are held on Thursday or Sunday nights as part of the institutional practices of the tariqah (since Thursday is the night marks the entrance of the Muslim "holy" day of Friday and Sundays are a convenient congregational time in most contemporary societies) - though people who don't live near their official zawiya gather whenever is convenient for the most amount of people.
Another type of group dhikr ceremony that is most commonly performed in Arabic countries is called the haḍra (lit. presence). The haḍra is a communal gathering for dhikr and its associated liturgical rituals, prayers, and song recitals, performing both in private or public. Though the haḍra is popular (in part because of the controversy surrounding it), it is mostly practiced in North Africa, the Middle-East and Turkey. In Turkey this ceremony is called "Zikr-i Kiyam" (Standing Dhikr) and "imara" in Algeria and Morocco. In places like Syria where Sufis are a visible part of the fabric and psyche of society, each order typically has their private gathering on one day and will participate in a public haḍra at a central location to which both the affiliated and unaffiliated alike are invited as an expression of unity. Similar public ceremonies occur in Turkey, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco.
For those who perform it, the haḍra marks the climax of the Sufi's gathering regardless of any teaching or formal structure - it often follows a formal teaching session as a way of internalizing the lessons. Musically, the structure of the haḍra includes several secular Arab genres (each of which expresses a different emotion) and can last for hours. It is directed by the sheikh of the tariqa or one of his representatives; monitoring the intensity, depth and duration of the phases of the haḍra, the sheikh aims to draw the circle into deep awareness of God and away from the participants own individuatedness. The dhikr ceremonies may have a ritually determined length or may last as long as the Sheikh deems his murids require. The haḍra section consists of the ostinato-like repetition of the name of God over which the soloist performs a richly ornamented song. In many haḍras, this repetition proceeds from the chest and has the effect of a percussion instrument, with the participants bending forward while exhaling and stand straight while inhaling so that both the movement and sound contribute to the overall rhythm. The climax is usually reached through cries of "Allah! Allah!" or "hu hu" (which is either the pronoun "he" or the last vowel on the word "Allah" depending on the method) while the participants are moving up and down. Universally, the haḍra is almost always followed by Qur'anic recital in the tarteel style - which according to al-Junayd al-Baghdadi, was a prophetic instruction received through a dream.
More common than the haḍra is the sama` (lit. audition), a type of group ceremony that consist mostly of the audition of spiritual poetry and Qur'anic recitation in an emotionally charged manner; and thus is not dhikr is the technical sense the word implies. However, the same debate over certain matters of decorum apply as exists with the haḍra. Even though group dhikr is popular and makes up the spiritual life of most Sufi adherents, other more private forms of dhikr are performed more routinely - usually consisting of the order's wird (daily litany) - which adherents usually recite privately, even if gathered together. So although group dhikr is seen as a hallmark of Sufism, the Sufis themselves practice the same private forms of worship that other Muslims practice, though usually more frequently and methodically; group dhikr is a less-frequent occurrence and is not the end-all-and-be-all of Sufism, as some Sufi orders do not even perform it.
Dhikr takes on a wide range and various layers of meaning. In some Sufi orders it is instituted as a ceremonial activity. In tasawwuf (Islamic mysticism or Sufism) dhikr is most likely the most frequent form of prayer. Among the orders of Muslims that practice dhikr, there are some who advocate silent, individual prayer, while others join together in an outward, group expression of their love for God. There are also a number of hadiths that give emphasis to remembrance of God.
Dhikr in Sufism
Dhikr is given great importance by some Sufi writers, among them is Najm-al-Din Razi who wrote about dhikr in the context of what it combats. In contrast to the virtues of remembrance, Razi uses the perils of forgetfulness to show the importance of dhikr. The soul and the world are veils that make people forget God. The Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order of America says this about dhikr;
Dhikr is the means by which Stations yield their fruit, until the seeker reaches the Divine Presence. On the journey to the Divine Presence the seed of remembrance is planted in the heart and nourished with the water of praise and the food of glorification, until the tree of dhikr becomes deeply rooted and bears its fruit. It is the power of all journeying and the foundation of all success. It is the reviver from the sleep of heedlessness, the bridge to the One remembered.
There are some Sufi orders, such as the Shadhili, that perform a ritualized form of dhikr in groups termed "haḍra" (lit. presence) - the details of which are discussed below. Another method of dhikr, but which is most commonly associated with Sufism, is the repetition of the Arabic name "Allah". For instance, in the Qadri Al-Muntahi Sufi tariqa, originated by Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi, their particular practice of dhikr is called Zikar-e-Qalbi (remembrance of Allah by Heartbeats). In this ritual, the aspirant visualizes the Arabic name of God, Allah, as having been written on the disciple's heart. Other Sufi orders have similar practices - some with similar visualizations and others choosing to focus only on the attachment of their heart to the One they are invoking. Though this is associated almost exclusively with Sufism in modern times, many of the Qur'anic exegesis of the past approved of the practice (e.e. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi in his Mafatih al-Ghayb), which confirms that it has a basis in orthodoxy.
Known also as Tasbih, these are usually Misbaha (prayer beads) upon a string, 99 or 100 in number, which correspond to the names of God in Islam and other recitations. The beads are used to keep track of the number of recitations that make up the dhikr.
When the dhikr involves the repetition of particular phrases a specific number of times, the beads are used to keep track so that the person performing dhikr can turn all of their focus on what is actually being said - as it can become difficult to concentrate simultaneously on the number and phrasing when one is doing so a substantial number of times.
Some Islamic scholars argue that using the beads are forbidden, insisting that the usage of the fingers to count as what was practiced by Muhammad precludes the use of anything else. The vast majority of scholars, however, do not believe it is an either/or proposition and cite the documented usage of stones and pebbles by the Muhammad's Companions as evidence for their inherent lawfulness.
In the United States, Muslim inmates are allowed to utilize dhikr beads for therapeutic effects. This was a result of a successful action brought pursuant to 28 USC @ 1983 (by Imam Hamzah S. Alameen in the State of New York against Thomas A. Coughlin III, the Department of Corrections) arguing that prisoners have a First Amendment Constitutional right to pursue Islamic healing therapy called KASM which uses Dhikr beads. Imam Alameen, is a student of the late Shaykh Ismail Abdur Rahim, who was the Islamic Supervisor at Arthur-kill C.F., and was finally promoted to M.C.P for NYSDOC. The Dhikr was used to rehabilitate inmates suffering from co-occurring mental health challenges, and substance abuse issues. The dhikr Alameen developed was used to assist the successful recovery of hundreds if not thousands of inmates in the 90's. It became controversial when gang-members began carrying dhikr beads to identify themselves (as they come in a wide range of colors) after Muslims and Catholics were allowed to use their respective prayer beads inside the prisons - arguing that their freedom of religion was being violated when the prison administration forbade their possession as contraband in the penal system.
- Quran 18:24
- Quran 33:41
- Quran 13:28
- Razi, Najm al-Din. The Path of God’s Bondsman: From Origin to Return. Trans. Hamid Algar. North Haledon, New Jersey: Islamic Publications International, 1980. Print.
- Keller, Nuh Ha Mim. "The Concept of Bid`a in the Shari`a".
- Quran 3:191
- Quran 33:35
- Quran 87:14–15
- Quran 63:9
- Friedlander, p. 20.
- Touma, p.162.
- In his "The Whirling Dervishes and Orthodox Islam" the Nuh Ha Mim Keller (an indisputed shaykh of the Hashimi-Shadhili order) criticizes the common usage of music by the contemporary Turkish branch of the Mevlavi order in particular - arguing that the Sufis are not exempt from following Islamic law. See The Whirling Dervishes and Orthodox Islam
- "The Litany of Tijani Prayers". Retrieved 15 September 2011.
- For instance, Ahmad al-Tijani is often unfairly criticized for saying that the Salat al-Fatih which he instructed his students to recite is "more vauable than a hizb". This "hizb" that he was referring to was not a hizb of the Qur'an, but a hizb of the Dala'il al-Khayrat which was so commonly recited in Tijani's time that many people recited the entire composition several times a day.
- Ahmad, Zulfaqir. Wisdom for the Seeker. Concerning the Dhikr of the Naqsbandi-Mujaddid Tariqa.
- In earlier orders, the "presence" referred to was that of God, but since the 18th century it has been considered to be the spiritual presence of Muhammad (John L. Esposito, "Hadrah." The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Web. 3 Apr. 2010.) The shifting focus, however, is not shared by all and is a result of the Sufi reforms which sought to mitigate the heretical belief of theopanism committed by some Sufi claimants through a greater focus on the spirit and active life of Muhammad instead of a metaphorical union with God.(Ira Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies, p. 210)
- Touma, p.165.
- Abdullah Jawadi Amuli, Dhikr and the Wisdom Behind It.
- Gardet, L. Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill, 2010. Web. 4 Apr. 2010.
- Naqshbandi Sufi Way. Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi Order of America, 2010. Web. April 3, 2010.
- Naqshbandi Sufi Way. Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi Order of America, 2010. Web. 3 Apr. 2010.
- Geels, Antoon. "A Note on the Psychology of Dhikr: The Halveti-Jerrahi Order of Dervishes in Istanbul." the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 6.4, 229-251 (1996). ATLA. Web. 3 Apr. 2010.
- What is Remembrance and what is Contemplation?
- Worship and Jurisprudence: "At-Tasbih with Beads (Al-Misbahah)", FatwaIslam.Com.
- "Are prayer beads an innovation?".
- Shareef, Shukheel. "Prayer Beads: Muslim Unity Hanging by a Thread". Retrieved 15 September 2011.
- United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
- Friedlander, Ira (1975). The Whirling Dervishes. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-02-541540-9.
- Touma, Habib Hassan (1996). The Music of the Arabs, trans. Laurie Schwartz. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0-931340-88-8.
- Algar, Hamid, trans. The Path of God's Bondsmen: From Origin to Return. North Haledon, NJ: Islamic Publication International, 1980.
- Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina P, 1975.
- Gardet, L. Dhikr. Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill,2009. Brill Online.
- Jawadi Amuli, Abdullah. Dhikr and the Wisdom Behind It
- Privratsky, Bruce, Muslim Turkistan: Kazak Religion and Collective Memory., p. 104.
- Naksibendi daily Dhikr
- Video of Naksibendi Dhikr at NY Dergah
- Complete Guide & Introduction to Zikr
- Scottish Naqshbandi Dhikr
- Sufi Live
- Virtues of Dhikr
- Dhikr Tracking App
- Simple Dhikr Counter & Tracker for iPhone
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