Benefits of Zikr
Sura Al-Baqara [2:152]
Then do ye remember Me; I will remember you. Be grateful to Me and reject not faith.
The word “remember” is too pale a word for zikr, which has now acquired a large number of associations in our religious literature, especially Sufi literature. In its verbal signification it implies: to remember, to praise by frequently mentioning; to rehearse; to celebrate or commemorate; to make much of; to cherish the memory of as a precious possession.
In Sufi devotions zikr represents both a solemn ritual and a spiritual state of mind or heart, in which the devotee seeks to realise the presence of God. Thus there is zikr of the mind and zikr of the heart. For beginners the one may lead to the other, but in many cases the two may be simultaneous. There is a subtler distinction, between the zikr that is open, and the zikr that is secret, corresponding to the two doors of the heart, the fleshly and the spiritual. In English some account (very imperfect) of zikr will be found in Hughes’ Dictionary of Islam [see below], covering over 14 columns.
The following article is an entry under “Zikr” from the “Dictionary of Islam” by T.P. Hughes. T.P. Hughes was an eminent Christian missionary in India in 1888 C.E. We have meddled very little with the original idiom in this essay so as to preserve its old-style ambience. However, the grammatical use of (sic) has been used where we obviously have disagreed with the author.- Editor
ZIKR Lit. “Remembering.” The religious ceremony, or act of devotion, which is practised by the various religious orders of Faqirs, or Dervishes. Almost every religious Muhammadan is a member of some order of Faqirs, and consequently the performance of zikr is very common in all Muhammadan countries; but it does not appear that any one method of performing the religious service of zikr is peculiar to any order.
Zikr Jali (Zikr recited aloud)
Zikrs are of two kinds: zikr jali, that which is recited aloud, and zikr khafi, that which is performed either with a low voice or mentally.
The Naqshbandiyah Order of Faqirs usually perform the latter, whilst the Chishtiyah and Qadiriyah orders celebrate the former. There are various ways of going through the exercise, but the main features of each are similar in character. The following is a zikr jali, as given in the book Qaulu ‘l-Jamil, by Maulawi Shah Waliyu ‘Ilah of Delhi: -
“The worshiper sits in the usual sitting posture and shouts the word ‘Allah’ (God), drawing his voice from his left side and then from his throat.
Sitting as at prayers he repeats the word ‘Allah’ still louder than before, first from his right knee, and then from his left side.
Folding his legs under him, he repeats the word ‘Allah’ first from his right knee and then from his left side, still louder!
Still remaining in the same position, he shouts the word ‘Allah’, first from the left knee, then from the right knee, then from the left side, and lastly in front, still louder!
Sitting as at prayer, with his face towards Makkah, he closes his eyes and says “La” – drawing the sound as from his navel up to his left shoulder; then he says “ilaha” drawing out the sound as from his brain; and last “illa ‘llahu,” repeated from his left side with great energy.
Each of these stages is called a zarb. They are, of course, recited many hundreds of times over and the changes we have described account for the variations of sound and motion of the body described by Eastern travellers who have witnessed the performance of a zikr.”
Zikr Khafi (Zikr recited in a low voice or mentally)
The following is a zikr khafi, or that which is
performed in either a low voice or mentally.
Closing his eyes and lips, he says, “with the
tongue of the heart,”
Allahu Sami’un, “God the Hearer.”
Allahu Basirun, “God the Seer.”
Allahu ‘Alimun, “God the Knower.”
The first being drawn, as it were, from the navel to the brain; the second, from the breast to the brain; the third, from the brain up to the heavens; and then again repeated stage by stage backwards and forwards.
He says in a low voice, “Allah,” from the right knee, and then from the left side.
With each exhalation of his breath, he says, “la ilaha,” and with each inhalation, “illa ‘llahu.”
This third zarb is a most exhausting act of devotion, performed, as it is, hundreds or even thousands of times, and is therefore considered the most meritorious.
It is related that Maulawi Habibu ‘llah, living in the village of Gabasanri, in the Gadun country, on the Peshawur frontier, became such an adept in the performance of this zarb, that he recited the first part of the zikr ‘la ilaha’ with the exhalation of his breath after the mid-day prayer; and the second part, ‘illa ‘llahu,’ with the inhalation of his breath before the next time of prayer, thus sustaining his breath for the period of about three hours!
Muraqabah (meditation) as a form of Zikr
Another act of devotion, which usually accompanies the zikr, is that of Muraqabah, or meditation.
The worshiper first performs zikr of the following: -
Allahu haziri, “God who is present with me.”
Allahu naziri, “God who sees me.”
Allahu ma’i, “God who is with me.”
Having recited this zikr, either aloud or mentally, the worshiper proceeds to meditate upon some verse or verses of the Koran. Those recommended for the Qadiriyah Faqirs by Maulavi Shah Waliyu ‘llah are the following, which is considered most devotional and spiritual by Muslim mystics: -
1. Suratu ‘l-Hadid (57:3)
“He (God) is first. He is last. The Manifest, and the Hidden, and who knoweth all things.”
2. Suratu ‘l-Hadid (57:4)
He (God) is with you wheresoever ye be.”
3. Suratu Qaf (50: 16)
“We (God) are closer to him (man) than his jugular vein.”
4. Suratu ‘l-Baqarah (2:109)
Whichever way ye turn, there is the face of God.”
5. Suatu ‘n-Nisa (4:125)
“God encompasseth all things.”
6. Suratu ‘r-Rahman (55:26,27)
“All on earth shall pass away, but the face of thy God shall abide resplendent with majesty and glory.”