All words of praise and glory to Allah, extolling His Perfect Attributes of Power and Majesty, Beauty and Sublimeness, whether one utters them by tongue or says them silently in one's heart, are known as dhikr or remembrance of Allah. He has commanded us to remember Him always and ever. The Qur'an says: O you who believe! Celebrate the praises of Allah, and do so often; and glorify Him morning and evening. Qur'an 33.41
If anyone remembers Allah, He remembers that person: "Remember me, I shall remember you." Qur'an 2.152 In a hadith qudsi, the Prophet, peace be upon him, narrated: "Allah says: 'I am to my servant as he expects of Me, I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him to Myself, and if he remembers me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly better than his, and if he draws nearer to Me a hand's span, I draw nearer to him an arm's length, and if he draws nearer to Me an arm's length, I draw nearer to him a fathom length, and if he comes to me walking, I rush to him at [great] speed. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Allah has bestowed a special distinction upon those who remember Him. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "The devotees have surpassed all." They asked, "Who are these exceptional people (Mufarridun), O Prophet of Allah?" He replied, "Those men and women who remember Allah unceasingly." (Muslim) These are the people who are really alive. Abu Musa reported, "The likeness of the one who remembers his Lord and the one who does not remember Him is like that of a living to a dead person.'' (Bukhari)
Remembrance of Allah is the foundation of good deeds. Whoever succeeds in it is blessed with the close friendship of Allah. That is why the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to make remembrance of Allah at all times. When a man complained, "The laws of Islam are too heavy for me, so tell me something that I can easily follow," the Prophet, peace be upon him, told him, "Let your tongue be always busy with the remembrance of Allah." The Prophet, peace be upon him, 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!" The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Remembrance of Allah.'' (Reported by Tirmidhi, Ahmad, and Al-Hakim, who considers its chain of narrators sound)
Remembrance of Allah is also a means of deliverance from Hell Fire. Mu'adh reported, "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'No other act of man is a more effective means for his deliverance from the chastisement of Allah than the remembrance of Allah.'' (Ahmad) Ahmad reports that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Whatever you say in celebration of Allah's Glory, Majesty, and Oneness, and all your words of Praise for Him gather around the Throne of Allah. These words resound like the buzzing of bees, and call attention to the person who uttered them to Allah. Don't you wish to have someone there in the presence of Allah who would call attention to you?"
How Much dhikr is Required?:
Allah, the Exalted, ordered that He should be remembered a lot. Describing the wise men and women who ponder His signs, the Qur'an mentions, "those who remember Allah standing, sitting and on their sides,'' Qur'an 3.191 and "those men and women who engage much in Allah's praise. For them has Allah prepared forgiveness and a great reward.'' Qur'an 33.35 Mujahid explained, "A person cannot be one of 'those men and women who remember Allah much' as mentioned in the above verse of the Qur'an, unless he or she remembers Allah at all times, standing, sitting, or lying in bed."
When asked how much dhikr one should do to be considered as one of "those who remember Allah much," Ibn Al-Salah said that "much" is "when one is constant in supplicating, in the morning and evening and in other parts of the day and the night as reported from the Prophet, peace be upon him." Concerning the above Quranic verses 'Ali b. Abi Talha relates that Ibn 'Abbas said, "All obligations imposed upon man by Allah are clearly marked and one is exempted from them in the presence of a genuine cause. The only exception is the obligation of dhikr. Allah has set no specific limits for it, and under no circumstances is one allowed to be negligent of it. We are commanded to 'remember Allah standing, sitting and reclining on your sides,' in the morning, during the day, at sea or on land, on journey or at home, in poverty and in prosperity, in sickness or in health, openly and secretly, and, in fact, at all times throughout one's life and in all circumstances."
Dhikr as an Integral Part of Worship:
Sa' id b. Jubair said, "Anyone engaged in obeying Allah is in fact engaged in the remembrance of Allah." Some of the earlier scholars tied it to some more specified form. 'Ata said, "The gatherings of dhikr are the gatherings where the lawful and the prohibited things are discussed, for instance, selling, buying, prayers, fasting, marriage, divorce, and pilgrimage." Al-Qurtubi said, "Gatherings of dhikr are the gatherings for knowledge and admonition, those in which the Word of Allah and the sunnah of His Messenger, accounts of our righteous predecessors, and sayings of the righteous scholars are learned and practiced without any addition or innovation, and without any ulterior motives or greed."
Etiquette of Dhikr:
The purpose of dhikr is to purify hearts and souls and awaken the human conscience. The Qur'an says, "And establish regular prayer, for prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds, and remembrance of Allah is the greatest thing in life, without doubt.'' Qur'an 29.45 In other words, the remembrance of Allah has a greater impact in restraining one from shameful and unjust deeds than just the formal regular prayer. This is so because when a servant opens up his soul to his Lord, extolling His praise, Allah strengthens him with His light, increasing thereby his faith and conviction, and reassuring his mind and heart. This refers to "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.'' Qur'an 13.28
And when hearts are satisfied with the Truth, they turn to the highest ideals without being deflected by impulses of desire or lust. This underscores the importance of dhikr in man's life. Obviously it would be unreasonable to expect these results just by uttering certain words, for words of the tongue unsupported by a willing heart are of no consequence. Allah Himself has taught us the manner in which a person should remember Him, saying, "And do bring your Lord to remembrance in your very soul, with humility and in reverence, without loudness in words, in the mornings and evening, and be not of those who are unheedful.'' Qur'an 7.205
This verse indicates that doing dhikr in silence and without raising one's voice is better. Once during a journey the Prophet, peace be upon him, heard a group of Muslims supplicating aloud. Thereupon the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Give yourselves a respite, you are not calling upon someone deaf or absent. Surely He Whom you are calling upon is near you and He listens to all. He is nearer to you than the neck of your mount." This hadith underlines the love and awe a person should feel while engaged in dhikr.
A part of this etiquette is the requirement that a person wishing to do dhikr be clean in body and dress, and smell sweet and fragrant. This will give him a fresh zeal and he will feel invigorated. One should face the qiblah during dhikr, for the best assemblies are those that face the Ka'bah.
Excellence of Assemblies of Dhikr:
Joining the assemblies or circles of dhikr is a commendable practice as shown by the following hadith: Ibn 'Umar reported, "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'When you pass by a garden of Paradise, avail yourselves of it.' The Companions asked, 'What are the gardens of Paradise, O Messenger of Allah? ' The Prophet, peace be upon him, replied, 'The assemblies or circles of dhikr. There are some angels of Allah who go about looking for such assemblies of dhikr, and when they find them they surround them'."
Muslim reports that Mu'awiyyah said, "The Prophet, peace be upon him, went out to a circle of his Companions and asked, 'What makes you sit here?' They said, 'We are sitting here in order to remember Allah and to praise Him because He guided us to the path of Islam and he conferred favors upon us.' Thereupon he adjured them by Allah and asked if that was the only purpose of their sitting there. 'They said, By Allah, we are sitting here for this purpose only. ' At this the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'I am not asking you to take an oath because of any misapprehension against you, but only because Gabriel came to me and informed me that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, was telling the angels that He is proud of you'."
Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri and Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "When any group of men remember Allah, angels surround them and mercy covers them, tranquility descends upon them, and Allah mentions them to those who are with Him."
Excellence of Pronouncing La llaha illa-Allah Sincerely:
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "When a servant of Allah utters the words la ilaha illa'Allah (there is none worthy of worship except Allah) sincerely, the doors of heaven open up for these words until they reach the Throne of Allah, so long as its utterer keeps away from the major sins.'' (Tirmidhi, who says it is a hasan gharib hadith)
Abu Hurairah also reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Renew your faith." "How can we renew our faith?" they asked. The Prophet, peace be upon him, replied, "Say always, 'La ilaha ill-Allah'.'' (Reported by Ahmad with a sound chain of authorities)
Jabir reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "The best remembrance of Allah is to repeat La ilaha ill-Allah and the best prayer is alhamdu li-Allah (All Praise is due to Allah).'' (Reported by Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, and Al-Hakim, who considers its chain sound)
Excellence of Tasbih, Tahmid, Tahlil, Takbir and Other Supplications:
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "There are two phrases that are light on the tongue but heavy on the scale of rewards and are dear to (Allah) the Gracious One. These are, subhanallah wa bi-hamdihi (All Glory is to Allah and all Praise to Him), and subhanallah al-azim (Glorified is Allah, the Great).'' (Muslim, Bukhari, and Tirmidhi) Abu Hurairah also reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "I love repeating subhanallah, wal-hamdulillah, wa la-ilaha ill-Allah, wa-Allahu akbar (Glorified is Allah, all praise is due to Allah, and there is no God but Allah, Allah is the greatest) more than all that the sun shines upon.'' (Muslim and Tirmidhi)
Abu Dharr reported, "the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'Shall I tell you the words that Allah loves the most?' I said, 'Yes, tell me, O Messenger of Allah.' He said, 'The words most dear to Allah are subhan-Allah wa bihamdihi (Glorified is Allah with all praise due to Him)'." This is narrated by Muslim and Tirmidhi. In Tirmidhi's version, we also find the following: "The words most dear to Allah which He has chosen for His angels are subhana Rabbi wa bihamdihi, subhana Rabbi wa bihamdihi (Glorified is my Lord with all praise due to Him, Glorified is my Lord with all praise due to Him)."
Jabir reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Whoever says Subhan-Allah-al-Azim wa bihamdihi (Glorified is Allah, the Great, with all praise due to Him), will have a palm tree planted for him in Paradise.'' (Reported by Tirmidhi who considers it a sound hadith.)
Abu Sa'id reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Perform the enduring goods deeds more frequently." The asked, "What are these enduring deeds?" The Prophet, peace be upon him, replied, At-Takbir, (Saying Allahu akbar i.e., Allah is the greatest) At-Tahlil, (Saying la ilaha ill-Allah, i.e., there is no god but Allah) At-Tasbih, (Saying subhan-Allah meaning, Exalted and far removed is Allah from any weakness) al-hamdu 1i-Allah, (This means: All praise belongs to Allah alone) and la hawla wala quwwata illa billah. (There is no power nor any authority except with the permission of Allah) This is reported by An-Nasa'i and Al-Hakim, who consider its chain of authorities sound.
Abdallah reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "During the Night Journey I met Ibrahim who said to me, 'O Muhammad, convey my greetings to your ummah, and tell them that the Paradise is of pure land, its water is sweet, and its expanse is vast, spacious and even. And its plants are Subhan-Allah, wal-hamdulillah, wala ilah illallah, wa-Allahu akbar'.''
Samura ibn Jundab reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "The dearest phrases to Allah are four: Subhan Allah, (Glorified is Allah), al-Hamdulillah (All praise be to Allah), Wa la ilaha ill-Allah (There is no God but Allah), and Allah-o-Akbar (Allah is the Greatest). There is no harm in beginning them in any order you choose while remembering Allah.'' (Muslim)
Abu Mas'ud reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "If anyone recites the last two verses of Surat al-Baqarah, they will suffice for him,'' (Bukhariand Muslim) that is, these two verses will bring him a reward equivalent to that of a night prayer, and will safeguard him from any hurt during that night. Ibn Khuzaimah in his Sahih has also mentioned it under the chapter "The Recitation of the Qur'an Equivalent in Reward to a Night Prayer."
Abu Sa'id reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, asked, "Can anyone of you recite a third of the Qur'an during the night?" The Companions considered this rather difficult and they said, "Who among us can do so, O Prophet of Allah?" Thereupon the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "(Say:) He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is he begotten; and there is none like unto Him.'' (The reference here is to recitation of Surah 112 (Suratul Ikhlas) of the Qur'an, which the Prophet, peace be upon him, described as equivalent to reciting one-third of the Qur'an. This hadith is reported by Bukhari, Muslim, and Nasa'i)
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Whoever says, 'La llaha illa-Allahu wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahul-mulku wa lahul-hamd wa huwa 'ala kulli shai'in qadir' a hundred times during a day will have a reward equivalent to the reward for freeing ten slaves. Besides, a hundred good deeds will be recorded for him and a hundred bad deeds of his will be wiped off, and it will be a safeguard for him from Satan that day until evening, and no one will be better in deeds than such a person except he who does more than that.'' (Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Nasa'i, and Ibn Majah) In the version of Muslim, Tirmidhi, and Nasa'i, we find this addition: "And whoever says subhan Allah wa bi-hamdihi a hundred times during a day, will have all his sins wiped off even if they were as numerous as the foam on the surface of the sea."
Excellence of Istighfar:
Anas reported that he heard the Prophet, peace be upon him, saying that Allah says, "O son of Adam, whatever you asked Me and expect from Me I forgave - respecting that which you owed to Me - and I don't care [how great this was]. O Son of Adam, even if your sins pile up to the sky and then you seek My forgiveness I will forgive you, and O son of Adam, even if you have an earthful of sins but you meet Me without associating any other thing with Me I will forgive you.' (Reported by Tirmidhi, who considers it a hasan sahih hadith)
Abdallah b. 'Abbas said, "If one supplicates without fail for forgiveness from Allah, He finds a way out for him to get out of every distress and difficulty, and gives him sustenance through ways utterly unthought of.'' (Reported by Abu Daw'ud, Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, and Al-Hakim, who says its chain of authorities is sound.)
Some Comprehensive Forms of Dhikr:
Juwairiyah (One of the wives of the Prophet, peace be upon him) reported that one day the Prophet, peace be upon him, left her apartment in the morning as she was busy observing her dawn prayer in her place of worship. He came back in the forenoon and she was still sitting there. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said to her, "You have been in the same place since I left you?" She said, "Yes." Thereupon the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "I recited four words three times after I left you and if these were to be weighed against what you have recited since morning these would outweigh them, and these words are: Subhanallah wa bihamdihi 'adada khalqihi wa rida' nafsihi wa zinata 'arshihi wa midada kalimatihi (hallowed be Allah and praise is due to Him to the extent of the number of His creation and to the extent of His pleasure and to the extent of the weight of His Throne and to the extent of ink used in recording words for His Praise).'' (Reported by Muslim and Abu Daw'ud)
Sa'd ibn Abu Waqqas reported that once the Prophet, peace be upon him, saw a woman who had some date-stones or pebbles which she was using as beads to glorify Allah. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said to her, "Let me tell you something which would be easier and more excellent for you than that." So he told her to say instead Subhan-Allah 'adada ma khalaqa fil-ard wa subhan Allah 'adada ma khalaqa bayna dhalika wa subhan-Allah 'adada ma huwa khaliq wa Allahu akhar mithla dhalik wa la ilaha illa-Allahu mithla dhalik wa la hawla wa la quwwata illa mithla dhalik (Glory be to Allah as many times as the number of what He has created in Heaven, Glory be to Allah as many times as the number of what He has created on Earth, Glory be to Allah as many times as the number of what He has created between them, Glory be to Allah as many times as the number of that which He is creating, Allah is the most great a similar number of times, praise be to Allah a similar number of times, and There is no god but Allah a similar number of times, and there is no might and no power except with Allah a similar number of times).'' (Reported by the Compilers of the Sunan and Al-Hakim, who says it is a sound hadith according to the criterion of Muslim)
Ibn 'Umar reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, told them, "A servant of Allah said 'My Lord! All praise is for You as much as Your Glory and Sublime Majesty rightly deserve. ' This was too much for the two angels to record. They did not know how to record it. So they soared to the heaven and said, 'Our Lord! Your servant has said something which we don't know how to record?' Allah asked them--and, of course, He knew what the servant had said--'What did My servant say?' They said, 'He has said, "My Lord! All praise is for You as much as Your Glory and Sublime Majesty rightly deserve." Allah said to them, ' Write it down as My servant has said until he should meet Me and I reward him for it'.' (Reported by Ahmad and Ibn Majah)
Counting on One's Fingers is Better than Counting Beads:
Yusairah reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, commanded them (the emigrant women) to be regular in remembering Allah by saying, "Allah is the most great," "Glory be to Allah, the Holy," and "There is no God but Allah," and never to be forgetful of Allah and His Mercy, and to count them on their fingers, for the fingers will be questioned and will speak. (Reported in the Sunan and by Al-Hakim with a sound chain of authorities)
Abdallah b. 'Amr b. al-'As reported, "I saw the Prophet, peace be upon him, counting the glorifications of Allah on his right hand's fingers.'' (Reported in the Sunan)
Warning Against Sitting in Company Where Allah is Not Mentioned and Blessings on His Prophet are Not Invoked:
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "If peopie sit in an assembly in which they do not remember Allah nor invoke a blessing on the Prophet, it will be a cause of grief for them on the Day of Judgment." This is reported by Tirmidhi, who says it is a sound hadith.
In the version of Ahmad, however, we read, "If people sit in an assembly in which they do not remember Allah, it will be a cause of sorrow for them, and if a man is walking and does not remember Allah, it will be a cause of sorrow for him, and if a man lies down on his bed and does not remember Allah, it will be a cause of sorrow for him." Another version says, "It will be a sorrow for them, even if they are given Paradise in reward."
The author of Fath al-'Allam says, "This hadith proves that it is incumbent on one to remember Allah and invoke blessings on the Prophet while sittmg in an assembly, for whether we take the words 'cause of grief or sorrow' to mean torment of fire or any other chastisement, obviously a punishment is incurred only when an obligatory act is neglected or a forbidden act is committed, and here it is both the remembrance of Allah and the invoking of blessings on His Prophet that are apparently incumbent."
Atonement for Sitting in an Assembly:
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "If anyone sits in an assembly where there is much clamor and says before getting up to leave, Subhanaka Allahumma wa bihamdika, ashadu an-la illaha illa-anta, astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayka (Glory be to You, O Allah, and I begin with declaring all praise is due to You, I testify that there is no god but You; I ask Your pardon and turn to You in repentance), he will be forgiven any sin that he might have committed while in that assembly. (Tirmidhi and Al-Baihaqi, (Kitab ad-D'wat Al-kabir))
Atonement for Backbiting:
It is related that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "The atonement for backbiting [and slander] is to pray for forgiveness of the person who was slandered and to say, 'O Allah, forgive us and him'." The preferable course in this regard is to pray for forgiveness of the person who was the target of the slander and to mention his good qualities. This will wipe off the effects of such backbiting, and it is not necessary to announce such a thing.
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