The term ذكر 'Dhikr' means remembrance and in the Islamic context, it is used in the sense of remembrance of Allah.
Allah Almighty tells us in the Quran:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ ذِكْرًا كَثِيرًا
"O you who believe! Remember Allah with much remembrance." (33:41)
Our Prophet (peace be upon him) also told us: "He who remembers his Lord and he who does not are like the living and the dead." (Bukhari & Muslim)
Dhikr is an all-embracing term that, in addition to including the ritual acts of worship, covers an array of activities of the tongue and heart. It involves thinking of and making mention of Allah at all times and in every area of our lives. This is the worship that has no special time, but is performed constantly so that it permanently links man’s life with Allah and His service.
The importance of constant Dhikr cannot be emphasized enough, particularly if we desire to be on the receiving end of Allah’s attention, Grace and Mercy.
Allah tells us in the Quran:
فَاذْكُرُونِي أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِي وَلَا تَكْفُرُونِ
"Then remember Me, I will remember you." ( 2:152 )
Our Prophet (peace be upon him) told us that Allah has said:
"I am with My servant when he remembers Me and his lips move making mention of Me." (Saheeh Al-Bukhaari)
Our Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: "A man does nothing more calculated to rescue him from Allah’s punishment than making mention of Allah."(Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)
Reciting & Reading Qur'aan is Dhikr
In addition to our ritual acts of worship including the most frequent one i.e. Salaat -prayer, there are many other ways of remembering Allah. Of these, reading and reciting the Qur'aan is the foremost.
Allah refers to the Qur'aan as ‘Adh-Dhikr’ i.e. ‘The Remembrance’ or ‘The Reminder’ in as many as 55 places in the Qur'aan. In Surah Saad, Verse 1, he tells us:
ص ۚ وَالْقُرْآنِ ذِي الذِّكْرِ
"By the Qur'aan, full of Dhikr."
And in verse 49:
"This (the Qur'aan) is a Dhikr ".
Reading, understanding, reflecting and pondering on Allah’s words is the most effective way of remembering Him.
Dhikr All Day, Everyday
Dhikr also includes remembering Allah when one gets up in the morning, on starting to do anything, on eating, leaving the house, on entering various places and before performing so many other activities. Our Prophet (peace be upon him) has taught us the appropriate supplications for every occasion and if we can recite these with understanding, all our activities will, Allah Willing, amount to His remembrance and worship. With a little effort these can be learnt; but if for any reason one cannot remember the appropriate one, then even saying بسم الله 'Bismillah' and being conscious of Allah amounts to Dhikr and will be a source of barakah (blessing) in everything we do.
When a man said: "O Messenger of Allah the ordinances of Islam are too many for me, so tell me something that I may cling to", he (peace be upon him) replied:
"Your tongue will continue to be supple by making mention of Allah." (Tirmidhi & Ibn Majah)
There are so many ways of remembering Allah, taught to us by our Prophet (peace be upon him). When we:
- Glorify Him by saying: سبحان الله 'Subhanallah' (How perfect is Allah);
- Praise Him by saying: الحمد لله 'Alhamdulillah' (All praise is for Allah);
- Magnify Him by saying: الله أكبر 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is the Greatest);
- When we say: أستغفر الله 'Astaghfirullah' (I seek Allah’s forgiveness);
- when we say: لا حول ولا قوة إلا بالله 'La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah' (There is no power nor might except with Allah)
- all this is Dhikr.
Our Prophet (peace be upon him) also said:
كلمتان خفيفتان على اللسان، ثقيلتان في الميزان، حبيبتان إلى الرحمن:
"(There are) two words, (which are) light on the tongue, heavy on the scale and beloved to the Most Gracious:
سبحان الله وبحمده، سبحان الله العظيم
SubhaanAllaahi wa bihamdihi. Subhaan Allaahil adheem.
How perfect Allah is and I praise Him. How perfect Allah is, The Supreme." [Saheeh Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]
We have also been taught the prescribed Dhikr for the mornings and evenings. Allah tells us in the Quran regarding prayers and Dhikr:
فَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ حِينَ تُمْسُونَ وَحِينَ تُصْبِحُونَ
وَلَهُ الْحَمْدُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَعَشِيًّا وَحِينَ تُظْهِرُونَ
"So glorify Allah when you come up to the evening and when you enter the morning. And His are all the praises and thanks in the heavens and the earth; and in the late afternoon and when you come up to the times when the day begins to decline." (30; 17-18)
This morning and evening Dhikr should also include seeking Allah’s protection from Satan’s machinations and whisperings and all those things that can harm us. Our Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
"The devil is encircling the heart of the son of Adam, when he mentions Allah, he withdraws; but when he is neglectful, he makes evil suggestions." (Bukhaari)
When we supplicate to Allah earnestly, this is also Dhikr. Dhikr can be done anywhere and at anytime. Allah tell us in the Quran:
الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللَّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىٰ جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ
رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَٰذَا بَاطِلًا سُبْحَانَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
"Men who remember Allah standing, sitting and lying down on their sides and contemplate the (wonders of) creation." (3:191).
Ablution is not a prerequisite for Dhikr and Dhikr can be pronounced with the tongue or done silently. However, when one is saying it, one must not do it with a careless and inattentive heart and try to be conscious of what one is saying.
Dhikr is not only to remember and mention Allah when one is on one’s own but also when one is amongst people i.e. in assemblies. Our Prophet (peace be upon him) told us that that Allah said: "I am present when My servant thinks of me, and I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers Me inwardly I shall remember him inwardly and if he remembers Me in people, I shall remember him among people who are better than they." (Bukhari & Muslim) Our Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: "People will not sit remembering Allah without the angels surrounding them, mercy covering them, peace descending on them and Allah mentioning them among those who are with them." (Muslim)
Ibn 'Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said,
"لا تكثروا الكلام بغير ذكر الله، فإن كثرة الكلام بغير ذكر الله تعالى قسوة للقلب! وإن أبعد الناس من الله القلب القاسي".
"Do not indulge in excessive talk except when remembering Allah. Excessive talking without the Remembrance of Allah hardens the heart; and those who are the farthest from Allah are those whose hearts are hard." [At-Tirmidhi]
Isa ibn Maryam used to say,
لاَ تُكْثِرُوا الْكَلاَمَ بِغَيْرِ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ فَتَقْسُوَ قُلُوبُكُمْ فَإِنَّ الْقَلْبَ الْقَاسِيَ بَعِيدٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ
وَلَكِنْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ وَلاَ تَنْظُرُوا فِي ذُنُوبِ النَّاسِ كَأَنَّكُمْ أَرْبَابٌ وَانْظُرُوا فِي ذُنُوبِكُمْ كَأَنَّكُمْ عَبِيدٌ
فَإِنَّمَا النَّاسُ مُبْتَلًى وَمُعَافًى فَارْحَمُوا أَهْلَ الْبَلاَءِ وَاحْمَدُوا اللَّهَ عَلَى الْعَافِيَةِ
"Do not speak much without the mention of Allah for you will harden your hearts. A hard heart is far from Allah, but you do not know. Do not look at the wrong actions of people as if you were lords. Look at your wrong actions as if you were slaves. Some people are afflicted by wrong action and some people are protected from it. Be merciful to the people of affliction and praise Allah for His protection." (Muwatta Imaam Maalik)
Gatherings where people assemble to learn and teach religion and to remember Him are greatly encouraged and valued in Islam. Allah has angels who go about seeking those who remember Allah. Our Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "When you come upon the pastures of Paradise, feed on them." When asked what the pastures of Paradise were he replied that they were circles where Allah is remembered. (Tirmidhi)
Even when people come together for social purposes, it is important to remember Allah in some way. Our Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "People who arise from an assembly in which they do not remember Allah will be just as if they had got up from an ass’s corpse and it will be a cause of grief to them." (Abu Dawud).
There are many prescribed ways of Dhikr that are acceptable and praiseworthy in our religion. It is important to remember that Dhikr must be done in these prescribed ways as Allah tells us:
وَاذْكُرُوهُ كَمَا هَدَاكُمْ
"And celebrate His praises as he has directed you." (2;198)
Thus creating one’s own ways of Dhikr for e.g. reading something or reading something for a specific number of times, unless there is evidence of it in the Quran and the Sunnah, is to be avoided as it may result in the wastage of one’s good deeds.
Dhikr is a means of blessings and reward from Allah and also results in peace of mind. Allah tells us in the Quran:
الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ
"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."(13;28)
It is vital for our salvation that we remember Allah at all times, both in private and when amongst people. The men and women who remember Allah have been specially mentioned in the Qur'aan amongst the categories of people that are dear to Allah. We have been told about them:
وَالذَّاكِرِينَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا وَالذَّاكِرَاتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّهُ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا
"And for men and women who engage much in Allah’s remembrance. For them has Allah prepared forgiveness and a great reward." (33;35)
May Allah make us of those who remember Allah much in times of happiness and sorrow, aloud and in solitude. Aameen.