Invocation and “Remembrance” of God

Dhikr-i-Ulûhîyat

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ ذِكْرًا كَثِيرًا 

“O Believers! Remember Allâh with much remembrance” (33:41)

Thus, the Command of dhikr ذِكْر is for the believers.  Dhikr ذِكْر, derived from dhakara ذِكْر, literally means to remember and mention someone. If you are in love with someone, you remember and mention that person again and again. He says:

فَاذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ كَذِكْرِكُمْ آبَاءَكُمْ أَوْ أَشَدَّ ذِكْرً

“…remember Allâh with praises as your lauding of your parents or yet more earnest devout lauding” (2:200)

To remember someone is an expression of love similar to the love you have for your parents, or even stronger and more earnest.  Ibn Manzûr, in his monumental Lisân al-‘Arab, writes that dhikr, in religious terminology, is thankfulness and obedience; dhikr is the glorification of the Lord and is the invocation of Him. Dhikr is also reciting and pondering over the verses of the Holy Qur’ân (3:58; 12:104; 15:9; 16:44; 36:69) and dhikr is enjoining good, and rejecting evil”.  

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّىٰ وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى

 Verily, that person who purifies himself truly will succeed (both in this life and in the Hereafter), And remembers and extols the name of his Lord and offers Prayers (87:14)

Thus, dhikr is part of divine worship. Dhikr of Allâh is to remember and reflect over Allâh’s Names and invocate His favours and blessings, and to glorify and pay homage to Him (7:206). Dhikr of Allâh is to bring to our consciousness His Attributes that subsist in His Eternal Light; remembering and reflecting over them in our mind with humility and awe (7:205). It is the repeated confession that Allâh is our true Lord, who is Rabb al-‘Âlamîn رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ – the Creator, Sustainer and Evolver of all the worlds of matter and spirits. He is Al-Rahmân الرَّحْمَـٰنُ; all the mainstay of life proceeds from His Rahmânîyyat and all, good or bad, are benefiting from it according to their needs and capacities. He is Al-Rahîm الرَّحِيم; the One Who causes good results to follow on good deeds, and would not nullify anyone’s work and labour, and He is Mâlik-i-Yaum  al-Dîn مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ – Master of the Day of Judgment. He can forgive or give more than the due and show mercy wherever and in whatever manner He may like. He is Mâlik مالك, He has full authority to dispense reward or punishment as he may determine. There is no room for anyone to object or find fault with that what He decides and why He decides.  He is not the judge who is under obligation to decide and announce his verdict under some law. He is free from all such obligations.

The remembrance of Allâh is not limited to the acts of ritual Prayer, as the verses 87:14-15 and 3:191192 inform us:  

الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللَّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىٰ جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَـٰذَا بَاطِلًا سُبْحَانَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ مَن تُدْخِلِ النَّارَ فَقَدْ أَخْزَيْتَهُ

“These are the persons who remember Allâh standing, and sitting and (lying) on their sides and reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth (and say,) Our Lord! You have not created (all) this in vain. Glory be to You, save us from the punishment of the Fire. Our Lord! Whomsoever You cause to enter the Fire, You have truly disgraced him.” (3:191–192)

Istighfâr (- desire to suppress and cover up ones weaknesses) and Taubah (repentance and turning to Allâh in all humility), are all form of remembrance. If you do not worship Him and reflect over His favours, if you do not glorify His Name and call on Him and prostrate before Him, Allâh will not attend to you, because  “Allâh is Independent of the worlds” (3:97). If you want to know your place with Allâh, you must find Allâh’s place in your heart and on your tongue, in your remembrance. For certainly Allâh shall give precedence to His servant in this world and in the hereafter according to the precedence that the servant assigned to Allâh.

Dhikr is a means to rise to eminence (80:11-12). Therefore there is a repeated exhortation in the Holy Qur’ân to dhikrذكر (7:205-206; 2:152; 87:15). Its practice underwent many elaborations beyond the divine worship associated with ritual Prayer in solitude. These elaborations included various body movements, music, meditations, breathing, and repetitions of few religious words. All such trappings are definitely not dhikr in a real sense, however. What is meant by dhikr is explained in the Holy Qur’ân in the following words:

وَاذْكُر رَّبَّكَ فِي نَفْسِكَ تَضَرُّعًا وَخِيفَةً وَدُونَ الْجَهْرِ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآصَالِ وَلَا تَكُن مِّنَ الْغَافِلِينَ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ عِندَ رَبِّكَ لَا يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِهِ وَيُسَبِّحُونَهُ وَلَهُ يَسْجُدُونَ

Keep on remembering your Lord in your mind with humility and awe and in a voice not loud, in the mornings and the evenings, and do not be of the heedless. Verily, those who are near to your Lord, (and feel His presence with them), do not wax too proud to worship Him but they glorify Him and prostrate themselves in obedience to Him (7:205–206)  

Thus, remembrance of Allâh must be with presence of mind, with no discrepancy between your words uttered and your inner state. It must be with humility and in a voice not loud (دُونَ الْجَهْرِ), in secrecy, and there are no fixed times for it. It should be a part of worship accompanied with prostrations of ritual prayers. The dhikr of Allâh involves remembering, reflecting, and invoking divine favours and blessings, and glorifying and paying homage to Him (7:206).  

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

“Keep yourself attached to those who call upon their Lord morning and evening, constantly seeking His pleasure, and do not let your eyes turn away from them to pursue the glamour of the present life and do not follow him whose heart We have declared unmindful of Our remembrance.” (18:28)

Remembrance (dhikr) of Allâh is to bring into your consciousness His Attributes, which subsist in His Eternal Light, remembering and reflecting over them in your “mind with humility and awe” (7:205). He promises to bestow on you His special favours (87:14-15).

فَاذْكُرُونِي أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِي وَلَا تَكْفُرُونِ

“So glorify Me and I will grant you eminence and be thankful to Me, and be not ungrateful to Me (for my favours to you)” (2:152)

Consider the rank and the sublimity of dhikr, and to the degree of dignity that it brings to the one who obeys His Command “glorify Me!” فَاذْكُرُونِي. What great honour is bestowed upon you when the Exalted and the Supreme Lord, says: “I will grant you eminence” أَذْكُرْكُمْ, and when He bestows His special favours on you for remembering Him, He reminds you to “be not ungrateful” وَاشْكُرُوا لِي.

Divine Remembrance (dhikr) has guided many to a state of holy life. It can be said that the Light of Allâh’s acceptance has been engendered in them, and that their faces reflect the Light of Divine Glory (80:3839). Such beaming and smiling faces have appeared in every age among the followers of the path prescribed by Him. Whosoever remembers and glorifies Allâh sits with Allâh and Allâh with him. Now, the one who in the presence of Him and are perceptive will be able to see his Companion with his inner eye. If he cannot see Him, then at least he is worshipping Him and he is in Divine Discourse with Him. And if he is worshipping Him, he should be able to see Him. He can also listen to Him, since he is in Divine Discourse with Him. Shiblî once said:  “I Remember You, O Allâh! Not because I ever forgot You, but because Your name comes off my tongue. Without the ecstasy of Your remembrance, I nearly died of yearning. When the ecstasy showed me that You were near, my heart within me became restless. I witnessed that You exist in every place. I perceived something known near me without seeing it and my heart found its peace.”  Thus, remembering Allâh is not to recall Him because you had forgotten Him, but it is an expression of adoration, a means to fly towards a secret sky and to make fall a hundred veils that had hidden Him. Ibn al-‘Arabî said: “For the sight, it is vision at the time of remembrance and contemplations. At the time of the discourse with Allâh, it is the hearing of the ear. Look at Him with the eye of union, and you shall find Him.” So listen carefully to what He might be saying in response to your acts of worship. It is said that no angel presents to Allâh the act of remembrance, because no angel has any awareness of it when Allâh’s servant is engaged in dhikr. It is a secret between the servant and Allâh, the Glorious.

You will one day stand before your Lord, waiting for His Judgment. Then, on that Day, the forgetful souls shall finally remember: “But of what (avail) will their abomination be to them (and how will they be able to repent) when it actually comes upon them (all of a sudden)” (فَأَنَّىٰ لَهُمْ إِذَا جَاءَتْهُمْ ذِكْرَاهُمْ , 47:18), says Allâh. “Time is passing, and abundant water from the river of His Love is flowing away. The thirsty and the forgetful should therefore dip their empty jug into the vast and sweet ocean of His love. When the jug becomes heavy, they shall know with certainty that some water has gone into the jug that will save them”  (Rumî), and finally and above all

أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

 “It is in the remembrance of Allâh alone that the hearts really find peace” (13:28)