Virtues of Zikr
Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (Radhiyallaho anho) narrated that Rasulullah () has said, “Almighty Allah says, I treat my slave (man) according to his expectations from Me, and I am with him when 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 better and nobler gathering (i.e. of angels). If he comes closer to Me by one span, I go towards him a cubit’s length, if he comes towards Me by a cubit’s length, I go towards him an arm’s length, and if he walks towards Me, I run unto him.”
Note: There are several points elaborated in this Hadith. The first point is that Allah deals with a man according to his expectations from Him. One should therefore always be hopeful of the mercy and benevolence of Almighty Allah and never be despondent of His blessings. Certainly, we are extremely sinful and justly deserve punishment on account of our evil deeds, yet in no case should we feel despondent of the mercy of Allah, as He may perhaps totally forgive us.
“Lo! Allah forgiveth not if a partner be ascribed unto Him and forgiveth all save that to whom He will.”
But Almighty Allah may or may not forgive; that is why the Ulama say that true belief lies in between hope (of forgiveness of Allah) and fear (of His wrath). The Holy Prophet () once visited a young Sahabi, who was breathing his last, and asked him how he was feeling. He replied, “O! Messenger of Allah, I am hopeful of the mercy of Allah, and yet I am afraid of my sins.” Thereupon the Holy Prophet () said “When the heart of a believer is filled with these two feelings of hope and fear, Almighty Allah fulfils his hope and saves him from what he is afraid of.”
It is mentioned in one Hadith that a believer thinks of his sin, as if he is sitting under a huge rock that is threatening to fall on him, while for a transgressor his sin is no more than a fly which is easily scared off, i.e., he takes his sins very lightly. In short, one should be appropriately afraid of ones sins, and at the same time remain hopeful of Allah’s mercy.
Hadhrat Mu’aaz (Radhiyallaho anho) died of the plague and, in the moments of death’s agony, he fainted many times. Whenever he regained consciousness for a moment, he would say, “Oh Allah! Thou knowest that I love Thee. By Thy Honour and Glory, Thou knowest this very well.” Just before breathing his last, he said, “0 Death, you are a welcome guest but have come at a time when there is nothing in the house to eat.” Then he said, “0 Allah! Thou knowest very well that I always feared Thee, and today I die hopeful of Thy forgiveness. 0 Allah! I enjoyed life, not in digging canals and planting gardens, but in remaining thirsty in the hot weather, in undergoing hardships for the sake of Islaam, and in taking part in the gatherings engaged in zikr under the supervision of the Ulama.”
Some Ulama have written that the fulfillment of expectations promised by Almighty Allah in the aforesaid Hadith is in its most general sense. It carries assurance not only in respect of forgiveness but also in respect of prayers, health, wealth and safety. For instance when a person prays to Allah and sincerely believes that Allah shall accept his prayer, then his prayer is actually accepted, but if he has doubt (that his prayer would not be accepted], it is not accepted. Thus, in another Hadith it is stated that the prayer of a person is granted so long as he does not say that his prayer is not granted. The same is true in the case of all blessings relating to health, prosperity, etc.
According to one Hadith, if a destitute person discloses his hunger to everybody, he is not relieved of his poverty, but if he shows submission to Gracious Allah, his condition may soon change for the better. However, hoping for the better from Almighty Allah is one thing, and being over-confident of His help and forgiveness is another thing. Almighty Allah has warned us against such an attitude in several verses of the Holy Qur’an e.g.
“Let not the deceiver (the Satan) beguile you in regard to Allah” i.e. one should not be misled by the devil to commit sins just because Allah is the most Merciful and the Forgiver”.
There is another verse,
“Hath he knowledge of the Unseen, or hath he made a pact with the Beneficent. No, never.”
The second point in this Hadith is “Whenever a slave of mine remembers Me, I am with him.” In another Hadith, it is stated, “So long as one’s lips move in My remembrance I remain with him” i.e. Almighty Allah bestows His special care and mercy on him during all this time.
The third point is that Almighty Allah mentions him with a favour to the angels, which signifies the value of zikr. Firstly, this is because Allah created man such that inherently he is liable to be good as well as to go astray, as given below in Hadith No. 8. Submission on his part therefore deserves special appreciation. Secondly, at the time of Aadam’s creation, the Angels (who have no instinct for doing evil) could not understand the creation of man and had contended that he would cause blood-shed and trouble in the world, while they are always there to praise and glorify Almighty Allah.
Thirdly, man’s worship of Allah and submission to His will is more commendable than that of the Angels, because he does so on account of his faith in the unseen which, however, is actually seen by the angels. It is to this fact that Allah refers in the Holy Book: “How would man not have worshipped if he had actually seen the Paradise and the Hell.” It is for this reason that Almighty Allah praises the noble deeds of those who worship and glorify Him without seeing Him.
The fourth point contained in the above-mentioned Hadith is that if a man increases his devotion to Almighty Allah, the increase in His mercy and kindness upon him is proportionately far greater. “Getting near” and “running” signify immediate increase in His blessings and mercy. Thus, it is up to a person that, if he wants to enjoy more kindness and favours from Almighty Allah, he should increase his devotion to Him.
The fifth point in the above mentioned Hadith is that the Angels have been stated to be superior to man, while it is commonly known that man is the best creation of Allah. One reason for this has already been explained in the translation (of the Hadith), that the angels are superior because they are innocent and are unable to commit sins. Secondly, they are superior because they are better than the majority of men, including even the majority of believers; and yet some selected Believers like the Prophets (Alaihimus salaam) are superior to the angels.
There are other reasons as well, which are however left out in order to prevent the discourse from getting too long.
A Sahabi once said, “0, Rasulullah, (), I know that the commandments of Sharee-at are many, but of these tell me the one that I may practice assiduously throughout my life.” The Prophet, (), replied, “Keep your tongue always moist (i.e. busy) with the zikr of Allah.” According to another Hadith, Harat Mu’aaz (Radhiyal-laho anho) has said, “Once at the time of my departure from Rasulullah (), I asked him to advise me of that action which is most pleasing to Almighty Allah: whereupon he replied, “At the time of your death, your tongue should be busy with zikr of Almighty Allah.”
Note: By “my departure”, Hadhrat Mu’aaz (Radhiyal-laho anho) refers to the occasion when he was appointed by the Holy Prophet () as the Governor of Yemen and sent there for teaching and propagating Islaam. It was at the time of that farewell that Rasulullah () had given him some parting instructions.
By saying that “the commandments of Sharee-at are many”, the Sahabi had meant that although observance of every commandment is imperative, to specialize and attain perfection in each and every one is difficult; and so he wanted that Rasulullah (), may recommend him something of over-riding importance which he might hold fast to, and practice at all times and in all conditions of sitting, standing or walking.
According to another Hadith, a person who possesses the following four things is truly blessed, from the worldly as well as spiritual point of view:— 1. A tongue ever absorbed in the zikr of Almighty Allah.
2. A heart filled with gratitude of Allah.
3. A body capable of undergoing hardships.
4. A wife who does not betray her husband’s trust in respect of her chastity and his wealth.
The phrase “moist tongue” according to some Ulama means excessive utterance (of zikr) and, idiomatically, it is used to convey excessive glorification and praise. But in my (the author’s) humble opinion it can have another meaning as well. It is always very sweet and pleasant to talk of one’s beloved, as is the common feeling and experience of every lover. On this basis, the phrase “moist tongue” would, therefore mean that one should glorify with love the name of Almighty Allah, so as to feel love’s sweetness in the mouth.
I have observed many times that when some of my religious elders do zikr aloud, the flavour of the sweetness enjoyed by them is so transmitted to the listeners that their mouths also feel the sweetness and they share the ecstasy likewise. But this phenomenon is possible only where there is a genuine yearning for zikr, and the tongue is accustomed to excessive zikr. It is stated in one Hadith that the proof of one’s love for Almighty Allah lies in one’s love for the zikr of Allah, and in the same way lack of zikr betrays lack of attachment with Almighty Allah.
Hadhrat Abu Darda (Radhiyallaho anho) said that those who keep their tongues wet with the zikr of Allah, will enter paradise smiling.
Hadith Qudsi on Zikr
Allah has supernumerary angels who rove about seeking out gatherings in which Allah’s name is being invoked: they sit with them and fold their wings round each other, fillin that which is between them and between the lowest heaven. When [the people in the gathering] depart, [the angels] ascend and rise up to heaven. He (the Prophet ) said: Then Allah asks them – [though] He is most knowing about them: From where have you come? And they say: We have come from some servants of Yours on Earth: they were glorifying You (Subhana llah), exalting you (Allahu akbar), witnessing that there is no god but You (La ilaha illa llah), praising You (Al-Hamdu lillah), and asking [favours] of You. He says: And what do they ask of Me? They say: They ask of You Your Paradise. He says: And have they seen My Paradise? They say: No, O Lord. He says: And how would it be were they to have seen My Paradise! They say: And they ask protection of You. He says: From what do they ask protection of Me? They say: From Your Hell-fire, O Lord. He says: And have they seen My Hell-fire? They say: NO. He says: And how would it be were they to have seen My Hell-fire: They say: And they ask for Your forgiveness. He (the Prophet ) said: Then He says: I have forgiven them and I have bestowed upon them what they have asked for,and I have granted them sanctuary from that from which they asked protection. He (the Prophet ) said: They say: O Lord, among then is So-and-so, a much sinning servant, who was merely passing by and sat down with them. He (the Prophet ) said: And He says: And to him [too] I have given forgiveness: he who sits with such people shall not suffer.