Dhikr - Remembrance of Allah
by Zainub Habib
The word dhikr means remembrance and in the Islamic context, it is used in the sense of remembrance of Allah.
Allah (swt) tells us in the Quran (Translation):
“O you who believe! Remember Allah with much remembrance.” (33:41)
Our Prophet ﷺ 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 up 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:
“Then remember Me, I will remember you.”(2:152)
Our Prophet ﷺ told us that Allah has said:
“I am with My servant when he remembers Me and his lips move making mention of Me.” (Bukhari)
Our Prophet ﷺ also said:
“A man does nothing more calculated to rescue him from Allah’s punishment than making mention of Allah.” (Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)
In addition to our ritual acts of worship including the most frequent one i.e. salat-prayer, there are many other ways of remembering Allah. Of these, reading and reciting the Quran is the foremost. Allah refers to the Quran as ‘Adh-dhikr’ i.e. ‘The Remembrance’ or ‘The Reminder’ in as many as 55 places in the Quran. In Surah Saad, Verse 1, he tells us: “By the Quran, full of dhikr.” And in verse 49: “This (the Quran) is no less than a dhikr for all the worlds”. Reading, understanding, reflecting and pondering on Allah’s words is the most effective way of remembering Him.
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 ﷺ has taught us the appropriate supplications for every occasion and if we can recite these with understanding, all our activities will, Inshallah, 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 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 ﷺ 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 ﷺ. When we glorify Him by saying Subhanallah (How perfect is Allah), when we praise Him by saying Alhamdulillah (All praise is for Allah), when we magnify Him by saying Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest), all this is dhikr. When we say Astaghfirullah (I seek Allah’s forgiveness), when we say La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah (There is no power nor might except with Allah), all this is dhikr. Our Prophet ﷺ also said:
“(There are) Two words, (which are) light on the tongue, heavy on the Scale and beloved to The Most Gracious: “SubhaanAllaahi wa bihamdihi. Subhaan Allaahil azeem.” (How perfect Allah is and I praise Him. How perfect Allah is, The Supreme.)
We have also been taught the prescribed dhikr for the mornings and evenings. Allah tells us in the Quran regarding prayers and dhikr (Translation):
“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 ﷺ 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.” (Bukhari)
When we supplicate to Allah earnestly, this is also dhikr. Dhikr can be done anywhere and at anytime. Allah tell us in the Quran:
“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 ﷺ 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 ﷺ 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)
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 ﷺ 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 ﷺ 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 (Translation):
“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 (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.”(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 Quran amongst the categories of people that are dear to Allah. We have been told about them (Translation):
“And for men and women who engage much in Allah’s remembrance. For them has Allah prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” (33;35)