Thursday, 16 September 2010
Consistency in Dzikr: The Advice of Scholars
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
The following is adapted from “Consistency in Dzikr: the Advice of Scholars & Recommended Books” from 16th September, 2010, by Ustadz Afroz Ali.
We always hear about how we should establish regular habits and times of dzikr, the remembering Allah (s.w.t.) in our lives, such that it becomes a regular part of our day that we never leave. What is the best way to do this, practically, in terms of picking the best times of day, and the best dzikr for that time, based on the sunnah?
Firstly, to highlight the importance and purpose of dzikr, Allah (s.w.t.) Reveals:
O ye who believe! Celebrate the Praises of Allah, and do this often; and glorify Him morning and evening. (Surah al-Ahzab:41-42)
And Allah (s.w.t.) Reveals to us:
And when the prayer is finished, then may ye disperse through the land, and seek of the Bounty of Allah: and celebrate the praises of Allah often (and without stint): that ye may prosper. (Surah al-Jumu’ah:10)
It is of significance to reflect on the verse which follows the one just mentioned:
But when they see some bargain or some amusement, they disperse headlong to it, and leave thee standing. Say, “The (Blessing) from the Presence of Allah is better than any amusement or bargain! And Allah is the Best to provide (for all needs).” (Surah al-Jumu’ah:11)
It is significant to reflect on al-Jumu’ah:11, firstly because of the cause of its Revelation, which was due to some who dispersed during the Friday sermon given by the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), when they saw a caravan of goods arriving. It is significant secondly, because it highlights for us how quickly one can be heedless of Allah (s.w.t.) and be absorbed with other than Allah (s.w.t.). This verse emphasises the fact that Allah (s.w.t.) does Intend for us to seek the abundant bounties that He has Created for our benefit and enjoyment, but the point is that we ought to be mindful of its place, it being a means and not the end.
A man came to the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) and said, “O Messenger of Allah, the laws of Islam have become many for us, so give us a means of access which is comprehensive to which we can cling.”
The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said, “Let not your tongue cease to be moist with the remembrance of Allah, The Glorious, The Magnificent.” This was reported by Imam Ahmad (r.a.) and Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.).
The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) also said, “Allah the Almighty says, ‘I Am as My servant thinks of Me, and I Am with him when he remembers Me. If he mentions Me within himself, I Mention him within Myself. If he mentions Me in a gathering, I Mention him in a better gathering.’” This was recorded in the books of Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.), Imam Muslim (r.a.) and Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.).
In Imam Ahmad’s (r.a.) Kitab az-Zuhd, it is recorded that Salman al-Farsi (r.a.) was sitting in a congregation that was engaged in the remembrance of Allah (s.w.t.) when the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), passed by them and the companions stopped. He asked them, “What were you saying?”
They replied, “We were mentioning Allah the Almighty.”
The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) replied, “I saw Mercy Descending upon you and loved to take part in it with you!” Then the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) added, “Praise be to Allah the Almighty Who Made such people among my ummah and Commanded me to keep myself content with them!”
Mu`adz ibn Jabal (r.a.) said that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “The People of Paradise will not regret except one thing alone: the hour that passed them by and in which they made no remembrance of Allah.” This was recorded by Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.) and Imam at-Tabarani (r.a.).
Those reminders above shall suffice regarding the fact that dzikr is crucially important. What then is the primary, and ultimate, importance of dzikr? Simply put, it is to seek nearness of Allah (s.w.t.) through consciousness of Him by being grateful to His Mercy and Favour upon us. ibn Mas’ud (r.a.) said of the verse of the Qur’an:
O ye who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared ... (Surah Ali ‘Imran:102)
Remembrance of Allah (s.w.t.) effects consciousness of Allah (s.w.t.) in one’s heart so that he does not disobey Allah (s.w.t.) and is busy with obeying Him. Dzikr is amongst the loftiest of ways to be under the Mercy and Protection of Allah (s.w.t.) for which any person would be grateful for. One of the seven whom Allah (s.w.t.) will Shade in His Shade on the Day of Judgment when there is no other shade but His, is a person who remembered Allah (s.w.t.) while alone, such that his eyes would overflow with tears.
The best of ways to remember Allah (s.w.t.), to make dzikr of Allah (s.w.t.), is to start with sincerity to Allah (s.w.t.) in one’s purpose of engaging in anything at all. This is called intention, and every action is valued by the intention one holds in doing them. Learn the various invocations taught by the Messenger of Allah (s.w.t.), upon whom be peace and blessings of Allah (s.w.t.) that precede our actions to aid in the certainty of our intentions, when entering or leaving your home, going to a journey, starting and finishing eating. Recite them to invoke Allah (s.w.t.) and not only as a routine. And the best way to avoid falling into routines is to simply be conscious of the importance of what you are doing or saying. Dzikr, really, is a dynamic and continuing habit of the righteous that he looks forward to all waking moments of living.
The great Gnostic, the Imam, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Alawi al-Haddad (q.s.) said in his Book of Assistance, “You should have a litany (wird) of reflection in every twenty-four hours, for which you should set aside one or more hours. The best time for reflection is the one in which are the least pre-occupations, worries, and more conducive for the heart to be present, such as the depths of the night. Know that the state of one’s religious and worldly affairs depend upon soundness of one’s reflection. Anyone who has a share of it has an abundant share of everything good. It has been said, ‘An hour’s reflection is better than a year’s worship.’ ‘Ali, (k.w.) has said, ‘There is no worship like reflection.’ And one of the gnostics said, ‘Reflection is the lamp of the heart; if it departs the heart will have no light.’”
The great scholars frequently refer to and advice us of the greatly encouraged time to set aside exclusively for dzikr – after fajr until sunrise and after ‘asr until sunset. The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said, “That I sit with a congregation who remember Allah The Almighty after the dawn prayer until sunrise is dearer to me than the whole world over which the sun rises! Similarly, that I sit with a congregation who remember Allah The Almighty after the afternoon prayer until the sun sets is dearer to me than the world and all it contains.” This was from Sunan al-Bayhaqi and al-Mu’jam al-Kabir by Imam at-Tabarani (r.a.).
Another preferred time to set aside for dzikr is after ‘isha prayer. Regardless, as Imam Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad (q.s.) himself permitted for example, for the Ratib ash-Shahir, that if one cannot make these preferred times, to do so when one is able in the 24 hours of the day.
All of this is predicated upon the fundamental obligation of prayer in their prescribed times, and increasing the recitation of the Qur’an. Further, it is a high recommendation to also perform the sunnah prayers prescribed before and after the daily obligatory prayers.