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Qur’anic Gems: Juz’ 4

Welcome to a new interesting episode of Qur’anic Gems series with Nouman Khan.

Here Nouman Reflects on the verse number 92 of Surat Aal-`Imran (the third chapter of the Qur’an)

He begins his talk by shedding some light on the merit of charity and spending on all faces of goodness. If you wish to have goodness in both this worldly life and the hereafter, you have to spend from what you love.

Follow us on this talk to know more about charity and how to have
goodness.

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True Faith and Personal Responsibility

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To be rewarded you must do what is expected of you by Allah by yourself.

As you proceed on your journey along the new path, in quest of the ultimate goal of Paradise, you will encounter difficulties and hardships. These may often seem insurmountable.

Overcoming them may be made easier by a good early grasp of the prerequisites of tazkiyah (purification). These are as follows:

Tazkiyah: Your Personal Responsibility

You must accept that tazkiyah is a highly personal process and that it demands taking personal responsibility for carrying it forward. You can only see the results of tazkiyah through your own realization, your own personal efforts and your own exertions.

No one else can perform tazkiyah for you. No organization, no leader and no teacher can replace your own responsibility. God says:

And no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden; and if one weighed down by his load calls upon (another) to help bear carry it nothing thereof may be carried (by that other), even if it be one’s near of kin. (Fatir 35:18)

This sense of personal responsibility is basic to the whole purpose and approach of Islam. Ultimately, we are judged individually for discharging our own responsibilities. If someone else fulfills your obligations, then it should be he that is rewarded, not you. To be rewarded you must do what is expected of you by Allah by yourself:

Whoever strives hard in God’s cause does so only for his own good: for, verily, God does not stand in need of anything in all the worlds! And as for those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds, We shall most certainly efface their bad deeds, and shall most certainly reward them in accordance with the best that they ever did. (Al-`Ankabut 29:6-7)

Some people allow themselves to be dictated by others. The Qur’an states that the weak will say on the Day of Judgment that they were coerced into following the dictates of others, but that Allah will reply that the excuse is not legitimate for the decision to deviate from the Straight Path was their own.

Who set up another god beside Allah: Throw him into a severe penalty. His Companion will say: ‘Our Lord! I did not make him transgress, but he was (himself) far astray.’ He will say: “Dispute not with each other in My Presence: I had already in advance sent you Warning”. (Qaf 50:26-28)

Even Satan will stand up on the Day of Judgment saying: ”I invited you and you responded to me, so don’t blame me, blame yourselves“ (Ibrahim 14:22). Ultimately, then, the blame and the reward will be yours, because the responsibility was yours:

On that Day all people will come forward, cut off from one another, to be shown their deeds. And so, he who shall have done an atom’s weight of good shall behold it; and he who shall have done an atom’s weight of evil, shall behold it. (Az-Zalzalah 99:6-8)

Taking charge of your own affairs may certainly seem a daunting task, but one which you will accomplish with distinction if you appreciate and take advantage of the tremendous human potential that Allah has blessed you with. Allah says in the Qur’an:

Verily, We created man in the best conformation, and thereafter We reduced him to the lowest of the low – excepting only such as attain to faith and do good works: and theirs shall be a reward unending! (At-Tin 95:4-6)

fiqh books-knowledge

To inculcate true faith you must start by acquiring a sound knowledge of Islam

True Success… True Faith

Tazkiyah does not consist simply of ideas, but of life, behavior and conduct. The key to success, according to the Qur’an, lies in having true faith.

To inculcate true faith you must start by acquiring a sound knowledge of Islam through a dedicated study of the Qur’an and Sunnah. You must then translate your knowledge into practice. For this to occur, you need to have firm resolve and determination. This, in turn, will produce righteous conduct.

To aid you in your task, you must seek the company of those who are also striving to please Allah. They will encourage you towards righteousness and correct you when you deviate from the true Path.

Your company also includes your mental and psychological company- the ideas you entertain, the ambitions you nurture, the sensitivities and sensibilities you develop and the books you read.

All of these represent a form of company because they are your companions in solitude.

Genuine Effort

In order to succeed, you must have a deep desire to make a genuine effort to fulfill your obligations as a Muslim:

But as for those who strive hard in Our cause – We shall most certainly guide them onto paths that lead unto Us: for, behold God is indeed with the doers of good. (Al-`Ankabut 29:69)

With desire, of course, come actions. But know that it is not solely the results of your endeavors that count; what matters most is that you made your best effort.

This is a very important point to appreciate because without genuine effort nothing can happen. Those who think that prayer alone can work miracles are not living in a realistic world. Prayers are part of the effort, but prayers are not the whole answer.

If you pray, ”Allah! Guide me and make me good”, it is not going to bring you any benefit unless you are also determined to become good and make an effort towards becoming good.

Once you have done the latter two things, then, of course, prayer will be a source of barakah or divine grace that will further inspire and strengthen your efforts. The initial desire and the ensuing effort to do and become good, is part of the continuing process of self development, a process that may begin at any point in life that you choose and continue till your last breath:

O you who have attained to faith! Be conscious of Allah with all the consciousness that is due to Him, and do not allow, death to overtake you until you have surrendered yourselves unto Him. (Aal `Imran 3:102)

There will never be a point when you will be able to say that you are now a perfect person or that you have achieved your full potential. If at any point you feel so, then be sure that is the starting point of your downfall.

On the other hand, you may find that the greater your desire to fulfill your obligations as a Muslim the more you feel beset or plagued by frustration, despondency and despair in your heart and mind.

All of us, whether young or old, have experienced these diseases, and often just give up. What we should try to remember at such times is that it is the intention and effort that matters, not the result. This effort must be a continuing process:

Be not, then, faint of heart, and grieve not: for you are bound to rise high if you are believers. (Aal ‘Imran 3:139)

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The article is excerpted from the author’s book In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development.

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Willpower between Reliance on God and Self-Confidence

By Khurram Murad

To achieve the ultimate goal in life requires a sustained determination to do so, a willpower that is forever responsive and strong. In Qur’anic terminology this is called iradah. Iradah is basic to all our efforts. Without willing to do something you cannot do anything.

flowers-nature

Self-confidence is borne from the believer’s intimate knowledge and understanding that Allah is ever ready to assist those who strive in His way

Iradah is very different from desire. You always hear people reflecting upon unfulfilled aspirations. One of the main reasons why aspirations and dreams remain unfulfilled is that they are no more than desires which faded to assume the status of iradah.

The Qur’an explains that one of the basic weaknesses in human nature which impedes self-development is the weakness of will. While narrating the story of Adam, Allah informs:

And, indeed, long ago We made Our covenant with Adam; but he forgot and We found no firmness of purpose in him. (Ta-Ha 20:115)

Iradah requires strength and consistency and is indeed the antithesis of doubt, hesitation or lethargy. Once iradah is firmly in place, then you must have no doubts and you must not hesitate.

Now, what purpose should iradah serve? The Qur’an makes it clear that this will power must be a firm resolve to seek the pleasure of Allah because this is the part of the bargain that you must deliver:

And whoever desires (arada) the Life to Come, and strive for it as it ought to be striven for, and are (true) believers withal-they are the ones whose striving finds favour (with God). (Al-Isra’ 17: 19)

Reliance on Allah

Self-confidence is borne from the believer’s intimate knowledge and understanding that Allah is ever ready to assist those who strive and struggle in His way. Self-confidence comes from depending upon Allah and knowing that He is there to help you, protect you and shower His mercies upon you:

So he who gives (in charity) and fears (Allah) and (in all sincerity) testifies to the best- We will indeed make smooth for him the path to Bliss. (Al-Layl 92:5-7)

Self-confidence also emanates from knowing that Allah in His infinite mercy has equipped you with all that you require to undertake the tasks set before you. It is not characteristic of the One that is Most Just and Most Merciful to prepare you for a duel without equipping you with the necessary tools.

Self-confidence is thus borne of total reliance and trust in Allah. It is knowing that at every step of your journey Allah is there assisting you. If you constantly hold yourself back believing that you are weak and incapable and blame your incompetence on minor inadequacies, then you are bound to fail. You must never allow yourself to believe or feel that Allah has treated you unfairly or that He has placed upon you a burden you cannot shoulder for “on no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear”. (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

Likewise, hope is central to your efforts and your success. You must sincerely hope and believe that everything you do to earn the pleasure of Allah will lead you to fulfillment. A superiority complex negates the task of self-development. An inferiority complex is derived from a lack of confidence in Allah and oneself. You should never allow yourself to believe that you cannot fulfill your obligations nor should you despair of the mercy of Allah.

Confidence, hope and determination are all important ingredients for your success:

Those unto whom men said: Lo! the people have gathered against you, therefore fear them. But it only increased them in faith and they cried.. Allah is sufficient for us! Most Excellent is He in Whom we trust! (Aal `Imran 3:173-174)

You must be wary, however, of the kind of self-confidence that causes a person to proclaim himself self-sufficient. Modern concepts of self-sufficiency are indeed an evil form of shirk or polytheism. To ascribe self-sufficiency to one’s self is to assume for oneself an attribute reserved only for Allah.

For the Muslim, self-confidence is wholly dependent upon the trust one places in Allah; it is not an arrogant proclamation of complete independence from Allah. Allah alone is self-Sufficient. All else is reliant upon Him for existence.

The Best Use of Time

Time is not money or gold; it is life and it is limited. You must begin to appreciate every moment of your life and always strive to make the best use of it. With all the demands of worldly life on your time, you will yet need to find time for self-development and maximize its potential.

The better route towards self-development is, of course, to integrate all your efforts into a structured daily life. Imam Al-Ghazali, may God have mercy on him, in his great work, Ihya’ `Ulum Ad-Deen, gives the following advice:

“You should structure your time, arrange your regular devotions and assign to each function a set period of time during which it is given first priority but which it does not overstep. For if you abandon yourself to neglect and purposelessness, as cattle do, and just do anything that may occur to you at any time it happens to occur to you, most of your time will be wasted. Your time is your life, and your life is your capital; it is the basis of your transactions (with God), and the means to attain to everlasting felicity, in the proximity of God the Exalted. Each of your breaths is a priceless jewel, and when it passes away it never returns.”

Remember also that “the deeds most loved by Allah (are those) done regularly, even if they are few.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

While you must always strive to make the best use of your time, you must always aim for excellence in everything you undertake, whether at school, at home, at work or at play. Indeed, the Prophet has said, “Verily Allah has prescribed ihsan (proficiency and excellence) in all things”. (Muslim.)

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The article is excerpted from the author’s book “In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development”.

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Self-Purification: How & What For?

light-stones

Approached as a comprehensive and all-embracing process, you will find that each part of your life will complement some other part.

The most comprehensive goal for a Muslim is the single-minded desire to attain Paradise. This desire to seek Paradise is a life-long process which can be sparked in a moment- and this desire will provide the means and the momentum to reach the goal.

Your model for self-development is that of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In your quest for Paradise, you must personally take charge of your responsibilities, develop the willpower to perform and make a genuine effort to fulfill your obligations, ensure that you make the best use of your time and adopt a balanced approach to life.

All-embracing Process

Islam does not subscribe to the type of asceticism where we purify our hearts and yet remain immersed in political, economic or social corruption. Tazkiyah must encompass our entire life – the privacy of our thoughts as well as their social manifestations in our daily life. Everything must be in conformity with Allah’s will.

This will of God also requires you to seek and maintain a delicate balance between the various obligations that demand your attention; between your obligations to Allah, your obligations towards others and your obligations towards yourself The Prophet advised us against extremism of any kind. It is reported that he said to `Abdullah ibn `Amr:

“Have I heard right that you fast every day and stand in prayer all night?” `Abdullah replied, “Yes, O Messenger of God.” The Prophet said, “Do not do that. Fast, as well as eat and drink. Stand in prayer, as well as sleep. For your body has a right upon you, your eyes have a right upon you, your wife has a right upon you, and your guest has a right upon you”. (Bukhari & Muslim)

Unless you approach tazkiyah as an all-embracing process, you will find that your life is compartmentalized, certain parts impeding the development of others. This can only result in a life of disharmony and unhappiness.

Approached as a comprehensive and all-embracing process, however, you will find that each part of your life will complement some other part. This should, God willing, make your struggle on the path to God and Janna, easier and full of grace.

As you struggle to make headway on the path to God, always remember that you have an excellent example before you. This is the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Often we would like to emulate our sports heroes, our parents, our teachers, our friends or others who attract our attention. For your spiritual development, however, the most beautiful example is that of the Prophet. Allah says in the Qur’an:

You have, indeed, in the Messenger of God an excellent exemplar, whoever places his hopes in God and the Final Days and who remembers Allah much. (Al-Ahzab 33: 21)

The Ultimate Goal

The decision to purify and develop yourself requires that you clearly define the path and consider the ways and means to achieve Paradise. This whole process will not only purify your heart, but also affect your entire life and the will of Allah will become so much easier for you to follow.

Following the Divine Will is, of course, tazkiyah itself, soon, all your efforts will be directed towards the ultimate goal – the pleasure of Allah and Paradise:

Know that every sin can be effaced through forgiveness, and forgiveness is a sure way to Paradise. As you strive to better yourself, then, simultaneously and continuously pray for forgiveness for all your shortcomings. God says: And whoever repents and believes and works righteous deeds, God changes evil deeds into good ones, and God is Ever-Forgiving, Merciful. (Al-Furqan 25:70)

It is a misconception to believe that simply by setting up Paradise as the ultimate goal, one can get there without any further effort. It is also a misconception that Paradise can solely be achieved by concentrating only on certain aspects of life, the ‘religious and the spiritual’.

The very fact that Paradise is the ultimate objective means that tazkiyah must be pursued in all aspects of life, and in life as a whole. Consider, for example, the following:

– Is not honesty a means to enter Paradise?

– Will not a sense of responsibility enable me to enter Paradise?

– Will not striving to fulfill the needs of fellow human beings make me deserve Paradise?

– Will not abstaining from vain talk and aimless actions, bring me closer to Paradise?

– Is not consciousness of the best use of my time a key to Paradise?

– Will not keeping promises and offering salah on time, which are distinguishing traits of the righteous, put me on the highway to Paradise?

– Must not all of the above be sought to attain Paradise?

Every effort that is legitimate and is aimed at attaining Paradise is also an integral part of the process of tazkiyah.

In sha’ Allah (God-willing), if you take heed of all the prerequisites, blessings and benefits of tazkiya, you will surely find the right environment, the true companionship and brotherhood and the most appropriate training programs to make the task of self-development easier and more rewarding.

So give the good news to My servants who listen to the word [of God], then follow the beauty in it. Such are they whom God has guided And such are they who are endowed with understanding. (Az-Zumar 39: 17-18)

Through the Guidance of God

Remember that every effort that is legitimate and is aimed at attaining Paradise is also an integral part of the process of tazkiyah and that every sin can be effaced through forgiveness – and that forgiveness is the sure way to Paradise.

And as for the one who fears to stand before his Lord and who restrains himself from base desires, the Garden is surely the abode. (An-Nazi`at 79: 40-41)

May Allah enable us to be among those who purify themselves for it is “God Who causes whomever He wills to grow in purity; and none shall be wronged by as much as the husk of a date stone” (An-Nisaa’ 4: 49).

Were it not for God’s favor upon you and His grace, not one of you would ever have remained pure. For it is God who causes whomever He wills to grow in purity: for God is all-Hearing all-Knowing. (An-Nur 24:21)

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The article is excerpted from the author’s book “In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development”.

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Dhikr: God’s Always Open Door

dhikr

Dhikr purifies your heart and makes it sound. And you can only attain salvation and true success by having such a heart.

In a verse of the Qur’an that I love very much, Allah (Most Gracious and Loving) commends:

Remember Me and I shall remember you. Be grateful unto Me and deny Me not. (Al-Baqarah 2:152)

Can you imagine a more gratifying state than this; where, when you remember Allah, the Creator, Sustainer and Lord of the Universe, He remembers you in return?

The same exhortation has been beautifully conveyed in a hadith qudsi:

“I treat My servant as he hopes that I would treat him. I am with him whenever he remembers Me: if he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him in My `heart’; if he remembers Me in a gathering, I remember him in a gathering far better than that gathering; if he draws near to Me a hand’s span, I draw near to him an arm’s length; if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Those who remember Allah standing, sitting and reclining and who reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth are highly commended in the Noble Quran. They are wise in that they fill their hearts with the remembrance of God in every, moment, in every circumstance and in every posture of their lives. (Aal `Imran 3:191)

The exhortation to remember Allah at all times is a reflection of Allah’s all-embracing and overwhelming love for us. The door to Allah is always open to us: Remember Me and 1 will remember you. We need only find our way to and through that door.

The Significance of Dhikr

Regarding the significance of dhikr (of Allah) or the remembrance of God, Allah says in the Qur’an, itself “the ultimate reminder (dhikr) to all the worlds”. (Sad 38:87), the following:

Remember Allah. for He has guided you. (Al-Baqarah 2:198)

O you who believe! Remember Allah often with much remembrance. And glorify Him morning and evening. (Luqman 31:41-42)

And men who remember God much and women who remember – God has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward. (Al-Ahzab 33:35)

Hadith literature is similarly replete with references to the remembrance of Allah:

“The servant cannot perform a better deed which will save him from God’s punishment than the remembrance of God.” (Malik)

“Whoever wishes to feast in the gardens of Paradise, let him remember God often.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Indeed, with regard to dhikr, the Qur’an concludes: “And the remembrance of Allah is the greatest deed without doubt.” (Al-`Ankabut 29:45)

The significance of dhikr lies in the fact that it is God’s own chosen and recommended mode by which the believers show gratitude for having been shown the straight path. In addition, it is indeed the surest way of attaining God’s forgiveness and achieving the ultimate reward of Paradise.

The importance of dhikr then is not difficult to understand. It is dhikr that purifies your  heart and makes it sound. And you can only attain salvation and true success by having a pure and sound heart.

Heart-based Process

The ‘heart’ referred to here is not the pump in your breast that pushes blood around your body but rather the center or locus of your personality which pumps out your desires and motivations and which makes you conduct yourself as you do. It is this heart that lies at your center and dictates your actions which is the key to your ultimate success. Thus, with reference to the Day of Judgment, the Qur’an declares:

(It will be a Day) when neither wealth nor children shall profit (and when) only he (will be saved) who comes before God with a sound heart (free of evil). (Ash-Shu`ara’ 26:88-89)

This point is more elaborately made in a hadith in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) says:

“Listen (to me) carefully. There is a lump of flesh in the body – if it is set right and made good, the entire body becomes good and healthy; but if it becomes diseased, the entire body becomes diseased. Remember well – it is the Heart.” (Al-Bukhari)

If the heart is the key to ultimate salvation and success, it may, likewise, be the seat of much corruption and open doors to many evils. It may facilitate the corruption of political and economic activities and ultimately the social institutions of a society. Where such a state prevails, the Qur’an suggests that it is because people, individually, have become “diseased in their hearts”. (Al-Baqarah 2:10)

In this state, people stop seeing and doing what is right. The Qur’an explains that this “is not because they have become blind in their eyes but because their hearts have become blind.

Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts. (Al-Hajj 22:46)

This blindness only draws them nearer to the ultimate chastisement.

It is the heart, as the decider of our ultimate fate, that must then be the starting point of any tazkiyah (purification) program, to purify this heart and then summon it to the service of mankind.

Ibn Al-Qayyim, one of the great scholars of Islam, states in his Kitab Al Adhkar (The Book of Remembrance), that “the heart which is devoid of the remembrance of Allah is a heart that is dead’; it is dead even and long before the body carrying the heart reaches its grave. Indeed, this living body that carries the heart is the heart’s grave.”

Ibn Al-Qayyim’s statement is reminiscent of the hadith of tire Prophet which states: “The difference between someone who remembers His Lord and someone who does not is like the difference between the living and the dead.” (Al-Bukhari.)

The statement is also reminiscent of the following verse of the Qur’an: “Do not become like those who forget Allah and Allah makes them forget themselves. It is they who are truly deprived.” (Al-Hashr 59:19)

The purpose of tazkiyah is to ensure that the heart never falls into a sorry state of being and that it is always alive with the remembrance of God. Prosperous indeed is one who purifies himself and remembers the name of His Guardian-Lord, and prays (unto Him). (Al-A`la 87:14-15)

The Prophet further emphasized the importance of dhikr when he said to his Companions:

“Shall I not inform you of the best of your actions, the purest in the sight of your Lord, which raises your rank to the highest, which is better for you than spending gold and silver, better than meeting your enemy so that you strike at their necks and they strike at yours?’ They replied: ‘Yes, indeed,’ and he said: ‘It is the remembrance of Allah.’” (At-Tirmidhi)

Strive then, to fill all your moments, all your thoughts and all your actions with His remembrance. Recite tasbeeh or words of glorification and praise to punctuate all your actions and achievements.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development.

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How to Develop Your Level of Faith through Dhikr

nature-sunrise

Dhikr must not only be felt by the heart and uttered with the tongue, but must also affect and effect good deeds.

What is the precise meaning of ‘dhikr’? What is its scope and what does it entail? Does it simply involve certain utterances of the tongue, like Subhanallah (I glorify Allah’s absolute perfection), Alhamdulillah (All praise be to Allah), Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest), La ilaha illa Allah (There is no god but Allah) and the recitation of some other selected verses of the Qur’an, or is there more to it?

Of course, such utterances of the tongue and recitation of verses of the Qur’an are important.

In fact they are very important forms of dhikr for, indeed, the best forms of remembrance are those that involve both the heart and the tongue. You must understand, however, that the scope of dhikr is considerably wider.

Dhikr must not only be felt by the heart and uttered with the tongue, but must also affect and effect good deeds.

All Aspects of Life

Significantly, Ibn Al-Qayyim suggests that dhikr encompasses ‘any and every particular moment when you are thinking, saying or doing things which Allah likes: Hence, if your conversation is filled with the words of God, this is dhikr and if all your actions are in accordance with His will, this is dhikr.

Indeed Allah commands that we remember Him while standing, sitting and even while reclining. This is only possible if dhikr embraces every single aspect of life. Consider for example the following verse of the Qur’an where dhikr is emphasized in both Prayer and business activity:

O Believers, when the call to Payer is sounded on the Day of Congregation, hasten to Allah’s remembrance and leave all worldly commerce. This a for your own good, if you but knew . And when the Prayer it finished then disperse through the land, and seek of the bounty of Allah; and remember Allah frequently that you may prosper. (Al-Jumu`ah 62:9,10)

Attending the Jumu`ah Prayer (Friday Prayer), listening to the khutbah (sermon) and performing the Congregational Prayer are all well known as forms of dhikr. But in our worldly pursuits as well we are urged to remember Allah even more often.

We may thus conclude, that attending to your personal needs, earning a livelihood and spending on your family are all forms of dhikr.

But of course, they can only be dhikr if, alongside with the relevant adhkar (supplications) in the heart and on the tongue, they are done in obedience to Allah, for His pleasure, to attain Jannah. Otherwise, as the Qur’an warns us, far from being dhikr, they may have the opposite effect:

Let not your worldly possessions and your children make you neglectful of Allah’s remembrance. But spend in the way of Allah. (Al-Munafiqun 63:9,10)

Methods of Dhikr

There are basically two forms of dhikr. The first involves continuous and sustained inner awareness of Allah in all that we say and do in our daily lives. The second involves mechanisms, whether performed individually or collectively, that help to develop the first.

Sustained Awareness of Allah

Let us begin with a discussion of the first form and its methods. How can you remember Allah throughout the normal course of your day without withdrawing from the routine of your daily worldly life?

How can you ensure that your personal life, family life, professional life and other activities all continue in full swing, and yet, at the same time, ensure that your life as a whole – every moment of it – is permeated with remembrance of Allah?

Such an all-pervading dhikr can be an onerous task, but one can accomplish – with some ease. Therefore, there’re four states of consciousness that you must strive to develop by remembering certain things, absorbing them and reminding yourself of them often.

1- Say to yourself: I am in Allah’s presence; He is watching me

Have you not seen that Allah knows all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth? There is no secret conference of three but He is their fourth, nor of five but He is their sixth, nor of less than that or more but He is with them wheresoever they may be. (Al-Mujadilah 58:7)

He is nearer to you than your-jugular vein. (Qaf 50:16,18)

He is watching everything that you do and hearing everything that you say. He is ever present and His knowledge is all encompassing.

Remind yourself of this as often as you can, and throughout the day- every time you begin a new task, and every time you speak. Indeed, your aim should be to impress this on your heart in such a way that it ultimately becomes your very breath.

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked by a Companion about the best method of purifying himself, he replied: “You should always remember that Allah is with you wherever you are.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

2- Say to yourself: Everything I have has been given to me by Allah

All that there is – surrounding you, on you and in you – comes from Allah alone. There is none that creates or gives anything but Allah.

And Allah brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers knowing nothing, and gave you hearing and sight and hearts that haply ye might give thanks. (An-Nahl 16:78)

A sign for them is the dead earth. We revive it, and We bring forth from it grain so that they eat thereof; And We have placed therein gardens of the date-palm and grapes, and We have caused springs of water to gush forth therein, that they may eat of the fruit thereof, and their hands made it not. Will they not, then, give thanks? (Ya-Sin 36:33-35)

Therefore, reflect upon all the blessing that He has created you with and be thankful to Him.

In all the adhkar that the Prophet has taught us, gratefulness to Allah is a constant theme. Many of these adhkar are simple to learn, and indeed, it was the most simple of his adhkar that he used most frequently.

When the Prophet rose in the morning, he would say Alhamdulillah; whenever he ate or drank he would say Alhamdulillah; and even when he relieved himself he would give thanks to Allah.

Learn as many of the adhkar as you can, and throughout the day, as you witness all that Allah has blessed you with, punctuate your day with these adhkar.

If ever you appear to be short of things to be thankful for, recall the hadith of the Prophet: “There are 360 joints in the body and for each joint you must give a sadaqah (thanks/charity) each day”. (Al-Bukhari.)

You must give a sadaqah for each one of them because without any one of them you will be incomplete and handicapped. You must do this on a daily basis for should any one of them

become damaged one day, you will similarly become incapacitated.

Additionally, you may remind yourself that, as we now know from our knowledge of human physiology, your heart beats 72 times a minute. Every time it beats, it does so with the permission of Allah. The moment He withdraws that permission, the heart will stop beating and your life will certainly come to an end.

If you feel that there is nothing else to thank Allah for, then thank him for the life that He has given you – for, so long as there is life, there is hope.

3- Say to yourself: Nothing in this world can happen without His permission

Everything lies in the hands of Allah. No harm can befall you and no benefit can reach you except as Allah ordains. It is as the Qur’an informs us:

If God should touch you with misfortune, none can remove it but He, and if He should touch you with good fortune, He has power over all things. He alone holds sway over His creatures; He is the All-wise, the All-aware. (Al-An`am 6:17,18)

The Prophet Muhammad would supplicate to Allah after each Prayer:

“O Allah, whatever You want to give me, no one can stop it from coming to me and whatever You want to prevent from coming to me, nobody can give to me.”

Prayer after Prayer, you should recite these beautiful words. And beyond that, remind yourself as much as you can and throughout the day, especially as you expect something to happen, or not to happen, that everything happens only as He commands, and by His permission.

4- Say to yourself: I am going to return to Allah one day and that day could be today

You do not know when you will leave this world. It may be that the coming morning is your last morning, or perhaps the coming evening is your last evening.

Indeed, it may be that this hour is your last hour, or even, that this moment is your last moment. Such an uncertainty does not, of course, justify a complete withdrawal from this life so as to prepare for the Next in some monastic fashion.

It is important, however, that you are always conscious of this uncertainty, to the extent that it motivates you to spend every moment of your remaining life seriously, considering it as a gift from Allah and spending the resources He has blessed you with – time, ability and energy – as He has advised.

Then, and only then, will your life have achieved what is required of it, and your return will achieve what is required of it. To help you attain this state of consciousness, recall and reflect upon the following Qur’anic verse as much as you can and throughout the day: “from Allah we came and to Him we shall return”. (Al-Baqarah 2:156)

These are the four states of consciousness that can help us achieve a life completely devoted to the remembrance of Allah. To try to reach these four states simultaneously, and with sincerity, can only purify you. To try in a determined fashion to reach these four states will lead you inevitably to Paradise.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development.

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Dhikr: Closeness through Worship

How can one get closer to God through specific acts of worship? Is it through obligatory or supererogatory acts we may reach such closeness? God says:

Closeness to God

For each specific obligatory `ibadah, there is an additional nafl or supererogatory equivalent.

Remember Me and I shall remember you. Be grateful unto Me and deny Me not.” (Al-Baqarah 2:152)

For us to achieve a continuous and sustained awareness of Him, Allah, in His Wisdom and Mercy, has taught us some very specific mechanisms of dhikr. These include: the formal `ibadah (worship) like salah (prayer), sawm (Fasting), Zakah and Hajj; tilawah of the Qur’an, du`aa’, istighfar (asking for forgiveness) and tawbah, seeking the company of the righteous and da`wah.

Together these mechanisms or methods constitute what we have classified above as the second form of dhikr– coming after dhikr as a way of continuous and sustained awareness of God– but here we may sub-divide them into two groups: those that can be performed individually and those that are performed collectively.

Methods of Individual Dhikr

The foremost of the specific methods pertaining to individual dhikr include the fard or obligatory `ibadah. Allah has said in a hadith qudsi (Divine hadith):

My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved by Me than what I have made obligatory. (Al-Bukhari)

Each specific formal `ibadah or act of servitude to God, has been ordained as an instrument of self-development. When we observe our salah regularly at the proper times, together in congregation whenever possible, with clear intentions and sincerity; when we fast in the month of Ramadan with awareness and resolve; when we give zakah as soon as it falls due with a generous heart; and when we fulfill the obligations of Hajj as soon as we have the means, we will gain that special closeness to Allah that He has promised.

Closeness through Worship

God says:

Those who remember Allah standing, sitting and reclining and who reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth are highly commended in the Noble Qur’an. They are wise in that they fill their hearts with the remembrance of God in every, moment, in every circumstance and in every posture of their lives. (Aal `Imran 3:191)

Indeed, we may get even closer to God through additional observance of these specific formal acts of servitude, for Allah continues in the hadith qudsi:

My servant continues to draw nearer to Me with additional devotions until I love him. When I love him, I become the hearing with which he hears, the sight with which he sees, the hand with which he strikes and the foot with which he walks. Were he to ask for something I would surely give it, and were he to ask for refuge, I would surely grant him refuge. (Al-Bukhari)

For each specific obligatory `ibadah, there is an additional nafl or supererogatory equivalent. These are as follows:

The Sunnah Prayers

These include the additional prayers before and after the five obligatory ones, but just as importantly the Tahajjud Prayer (optional late night Prayer).

The Sunnah Fasts

As recommended by the Prophet (peace be upon him) and to be practiced on Mondays and Thursdays of each week, the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth day of each lunar calendar month, and other recommended days in the Islamic year.

Sadaqah

The giving of voluntary charity, however much and whenever one can afford, for the pleasure of Allah.

The `Umrah

Performance of the voluntary short pilgrimage.

In addition to the obligatory and their related supererogatory `ibadah, there are two further specific methods of individual dhikr: the first is the daily recitation of the Qur’an, and the second, frequent du`aa’ or supplications to Allah for forgiveness, guidance and fulfillment of needs.

These specific methods of dhikr are instruments of tazkiyah (purification of the heart), dhikr, and  true closeness to God.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development.

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