Indeed in the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and day are signs for men of understanding. Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth; our Lord! You have not created all this in vain. Hallowed be You! Save us You from the torment of the Fire. (3:190-191)
Apparently, the world is touching the zenith of advancement, but does material progress, beautification of the body, abundance in food and wealth represent the pinnacle of human excellence? Is man just the name of a body alone? No, not at all! Man is a magnificent creation of Almighty Allah. The human body has a role in worldly affairs only, while the reality lies within this visible form. It permeates every cell of the body and is called the Ruh (spirit) – a wonder of Divine creation. When the holy Prophet‑saws was questioned about it, the reply was given by Almighty Allah, Say:
the Ruh is by my Lord’s Command. (17:85)
Command is an Attribute of Allah. How then was the Ruh created from this Sublime Divine Attribute? Was it created through its image or reflection? In response, it was said,
And of knowledge you have been given but a little. – 17:80.
It is beyond human intellect to comprehend this point, you haven’t been granted the ability to understand it.
The real human dwells inside this body, a body which is made from the earth and its clothing, food and medicines all come from the earth. It can sustain itself even with the minimum of provisions and can live on ordinary food, cheap clothes and cheap shelter. But can it survive if its connection with the earth is totally severed? The Ruh is a creature of the Realm of Command. When its connection with the Realm of Command breaks, it resembles a body whose connection with the earth is severed; it cannot remain alive. When the Ruh of a person is not alive…what is the life of the Ruh? The body gets its life when the Ruh flows into it. Similarly, the Ruh gets its life when the light of Faith flows into the Qalb. The Ruh of a person is dead whose heart is without this light or is filled with Kufr. If you watch a Kafir, he would be more like an animal and less like a human being. He would be selfish, immoral, wicked and be inclined, like a snake, to bite and destroy fellow creatures. If we look at our society the question becomes, ‘Why has everybody turned against each other, why is it that everyone is out to harm others?’ The basic reason is that the Ruh has died.
Prophets were sent to teach human qualities to the children of Adam-as. The word insan (human) is derived from uns (love). When life flows into Ruh, it generates love and kindness. One starts thinking about the good of Allah’s creation: how can I help a human being, how can I benefit others? This is the difference between the life and death of the Ruh. When the Ruh is given life, a special consciousness develops, the thought process is modified, horizons of perception are broadened and one’s conduct is reformed. This extended perception does not remain confined to this world only, even the Last Day can be perceived. When the Ruh becomes unconcerned with the apparent form of deeds and instead envisions their consequences in the Hereafter and on the Day of Judgement, it certainly reforms its conduct. But what keeps the Ruh alive, healthy and strong? The holy Quran has emphasised on numerous occasions that your most common action in life should be Allah’s Zikr:
Perform Allah’s Zikr most frequently. – 33:41.
Now taking food is an act, earning livelihood is an act, going about is an act, maintaining relations and doing business are also acts, but there are other actions that we keep on doing throughout our lives. We breathe without interruption and our hearts beat without a break – life halts when these stop. If we have to perform ‘most frequent Zikr’, we will have to do it more than our breathing and more than our heartbeats – but how is this possible?
It is a living miracle of the holy Prophet-saws that he made possible this ‘impossibility’. When those people who attended his blessed company and came to be known as the Companions went to him, the light reflected by his blessed Qalb instantly illuminated each cell of their bodies –
Then mellowed their skins and hearts towards Allah’s Zikr. – 39:23.
The reflection of Prophetic lights infused them, from the outermost to the innermost parts of their bodies, with Allah’s Zikr and each cell of their bodies began performing Allah’s Zikr. Now, one can only breathe once at any given moment, but at that same moment, there would be billions of cells performing Allah’s Zikr. This way, Allah’s Zikr would accordingly exceed respiration. Similarly, the heart may beat only once in a moment, but the billions of cells that it is made of, alongwith the countless cells of the rest of the body, would be performing Allah’s Zikr. Within that one heartbeat, the body would perform Allah’s Zikr zillions of time. But there is only one way – only one: attain those blessings from the holy Prophet Muhammad-saws! Allah says there are signs in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of days and nights, for a person with the Light of Faith, the one whose nature is still pure, who hasn’t yet turned into an animal and still retains some human qualities.
The creation of the heavens and earth, the days and nights, the unending process of creation that produces innumerable forms of life on earth every moment, fruits that ripen, trees that bloom, crops that grow and the blades of grass that take root, all of these contain visible signs. Nobody can count the things that are being created or destroyed each moment. The continuous process of change, creation and extinction contain magnificent signs of Allah’s Greatness for the wise. Who are these wise men? The holy Quran explains, ‘Wise are … those who remember Allah standing, sitting and reclining’; that is, they remember Allah at all times, in all the states, not even a moment is spent without Allah’s Zikr – they are the wise! When this constant Zikr is achieved, the vision is broadened ‘and they reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth.’ They acquire wisdom and reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth, the systems supporting the universe, life and death, and the phenomenon of ‘rise and fall’. The sun rises pale, turns into a fireball at noon and turns pale again as it sets. Similarly, the seeds sprout, grow into huge trees and finally fall to become firewood. Crops grow and sway in the fields like waves, to finally dry and perish. It is a cycle, permanent and continuous, without the slightest bit of deviation. The world has been in existence since time immemorial, yet if only a single ray of sunlight had been extinguished everyday, by now the sun would have become cold and the solar system frozen; if only one ray (of sunlight) had been increased each day, the solar system would have been incinerated by now. But there is someone…someone who has kept in check everything under His Command, so that nothing happens before or after its appointed time. These are signs for the wise, they will reflect, they will understand; the faculty of contemplation would develop with them; but how… ‘those who remember Allah standing, sitting and reclining.’ Zikr is a vast term and in plain words it means ‘to remember’. All of our actions that are in accordance with Shari’ah comprise Allah’s Zikr. That is Zikr by deeds or practical Zikr, whether it be earning a livelihood, doing business, maintaining relationships, carrying out Jihad, fighting on the battlefield or living within the family. If our verbal communication is in accordance with the Shari’ah, it is oral Zikr. We may read Darud Sharif, engage in Allah’s Tasbeeh, recite His Book, worship or may talk about Him, etc, all of this is included in oral Zikr. But there are times when all deeds get suspended. Man is a strange machine, he requires as much time to rest as he does to work. He works during the day and rests at night for the natural maintenance of his body. A loss of energy due to work is recouped; bones, flesh, veins and nerves are refreshed and toned up again and when he gets up in the morning, he is ready to work again. Now during this period of rest, he has not done any Zikr by way of deeds. Therefore, practically, constant Zikr by deeds is not possible. Even for oral Zikr, it is not possible that all of his talking during the day comprises Allah’s Zikr. If we write down all that we say during the day and review it in the evening, we would realize how we have wasted our day because there may be only a few sentences of any worth or value. Then, when we go to sleep, oral Zikr also stops but the breathing continues and so does the heartbeat. Similarly, if one gets sick or falls unconscious, the tongue may get tied, eyes may close, hands and feet may stop working but even then, the breathing would continue and so would the heartbeat.
The Prophetic way of beneficence was that, anyone who went to the holy Prophet‑saws with the light of Faith was immersed in an ocean of light, each organ and cell of his body started performing Zikr. These blessings were there during the time of the Companions and anyone who went to them became a Tab‘i. They were distributed in a similar manner during the time of the Taba‘in and anyone who attended their company came to be known as a Taba‘ Tab‘i. These three periods are known as Khair ul-Quroon – the best of all times. The holy Prophet-saws said, ‘My time, the time that follows it and the time after that are, respectively, the best of all times.’ After Khair ul-Quroon, religious knowledge was categorised, righteous scholars compiled and then organised the traditions of the holy Prophet‑saws – the Ahadith, and the Book of Allah was translated into the native languages of the countries that it reached. Scholars fulfilled their duty of spreading religious knowledge to the masses in a most befitting manner and are discharging their blessed duty even today – may Allah forevermore keep this nation under their patronage! It is their favour that they expound Allah’s Message and the holy Prophet’s‑saws traditions to people. There was another category that also came into being which, alongwith knowledge, strove to acquire Prophetic blessings and spent a lifetime in absorbing Prophetic lights, radiated by the blessed bosom of the holy Prophet-saws into their bosoms. They came to be known as Sufis and Mashaikh. Such people were rare because the commodity they possessed was extraordinarily precious. You can find a grocery store around the corner of every street but if you want to buy diamonds, you won’t find them at every store, even in big towns there won’t be many jewellers. These Prophetic lights and blessings that radiated from the blessed bosom of the holy Prophet‑saws were incomparably more precious than diamonds and therefore were very rare. Fortunate were those who searched across the globe for their bearers and acquired these blessings from them.
How much did people strive for these blessings…this you can comprehend from a small incident. There is a tomb of a saint near our lands here and in the 6th century he travelled to Baghdad on foot, as no other means of transport were available then. There, he became a student of the grandson of Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani-rua. He stayed there for many years, learnt Allah’s Zikr, initiated his Qalb and body with Zikr and finally returned after an arduous journey of an indefinite period. During that time there were no telephones, telexes or televisions, it was impossible to know where to find such a person. People would set out in their pursuit from village to village and if they found someone they would stay, else they would carry on to the next village and then the next. He went from here to Baghdad on foot and returned on foot – isn’t it strange? But these people are somewhat different. He had built a small mosque near here and though centuries have passed by, nearby inhabitations have vanished and generations have gone by, nobody knows who had ever lived there, since there is no one to tell, yet the mosque still stands. Someone would just come and repair it. The mosque in which he remembered Allah is still there.
So my brother, Zikr is important for the reason that without Zikr, without constancy in Zikr, it is not easy to reform one’s conduct and deeds. It is not easy to keep the Ruh alive and retain the spiritual qualities that make a human being humane and generate humanity. You were enemies (of each other), and he (My Prophet) joined you hearts together. – 3:103. We who beg door to door for a piece of bread and endure insults while seeking a livelihood; shouldn’t we try to knock on a door where this Divine favour is available – the blessings of the holy Prophet Muhammad-saws? Shouldn’t we look for someone who gives us Allah’s Zikr, suffusing us in the same way as water saturates each particle of a flowerbed? These blessings should not only illuminate the Qalb and the whole bosom, but also initiate Allah’s Zikr in every cell of the body, in every piece of flesh, skin and bones and in every drop of blood. If one gets to this level of Zikr, it is only then that he starts to understand the reality of human life and humanity. Vision is diverted towards the creation of the heavens and contemplation is stimulated. One starts recognising Allah, according to one’s capacity, and feels like prostrating before Him and starts enjoying worship, one likes being in the Divine Presence and starts enjoying it. One feels like undertaking Jihad in His Cause and takes pleasure in getting his throat slit and his chest slashed. Such pleasure is the lot of a believer only and has shaken the Western world, they cannot understand why a Muslim sets out of his home only to die. It is strange. People join wars to capture booty, to get a salary and to earn money, for as the saying goes, ‘It is better to die rich than a pauper.’ But this army is strange, they say, ‘Take everything from us, just let us fight and let us die, our goal is to die.” What do they get in death? The West cannot understand this philosophy, because they don’t believe in Allah, they don’t know His beloved Prophet-saws. Allah says, ‘It is not death, it is the death of death! It is eternal life for the dead.’
Do not call those slain in Allah’s Cause as dead. – 2:154.
The interpreters have explained that those ‘people of God’, whose hearts and bodies get saturated with Allah’s Zikr, those who achieve continual Zikr, may meet death in any form but they are granted the status of Shahadat (martyrdom) and they achieve eternal life. This is because their total effort in life is devoted to Allah, seeking His Good Pleasure. They are the ones who have lost their lives during life. They can lay down their lives, but they cannot neglect Allah’s Zikr. They can die but cannot leave His Zikr.
Someone asked a question through an email the other night, ‘Doesn’t one practically remain in Allah’s Zikr all of the time? One utters His Name every now and then, during work one would say, ‘God willing, this would be done’, one would remember Allah when meeting friends or parting with them. That way, one always remains engaged in Allah’ Zikr in some form or the other.’ Basically the contention is correct; belief in Allah is also a form of Zikr. All deeds within the framework of Shari’ah also constitute Zikr, but performing Zikr that gives a taste of acquaintance is something totally different. Spending one’s life is one thing, but to enjoy the pleasures of life is something else. Reciting Allah’s Name every now and then is one thing, but the simultaneous vibration of billions of cells with His Zikr, that transform a human being into an ocean of Divine Refulgence is something absolutely different – it is an experience in itself! The one who tastes this does not differentiate between life and death, wealth and affluence lose their charm. The concept of union or separation loses its meaning and each moment of his life remains in the Divine Presence; every breath whispers a saga of Divine Greatness. This pleasure is known only to him who has tasted it- by Divine Grace.
So in my opinion, my brother, from what I have understood from the Book of Allah, the traditions of the holy Prophet-saws and the knowledge of a lifetime granted by Allah, life without Zikr is no life, it is only a pastime. The real taste and pleasure of life is in Allah’s Zikr. My suggestion, for the one who wants to know more, is that he should start performing Zikr himself. The Mashaikh have defined numerous ways of performing Zikr, and all of the methods that are not contradictory to the Shari’ah are permitted. Nevertheless, being permitted is one thing, the method that draws more lights, blessings and beneficence is another matter. When someone asks us, naturally we would talk about and teach him our method that we have adopted for a lifetime, but he may perform Zikr by any other method that he likes – performing Zikr is mandatory. However, no restriction has been laid on the method of Zikr either by Allah or by His holy Prophet‑saws. Therefore, no one can impose any such restriction by one’s own opinion. Learn it from any Shaikh, learn it from any ‘man of God’, but my earnest recommendation is that if you really want to enjoy life, you must learn Allah’s Zikr. You will be able to taste its pleasure once it gets absorbed into your being and you would also understand how tasteless life is without Zikr.
May Allah favour everybody to do His Zikr. May He illuminate our hearts, bosoms and bodies, and forgive us our mistakes and sins.