Zikr is practised as a panacea for the spiritual ills. It is the most effective means to achieve peace and solace within the soul. To reach the higher culmination of this blissful experience, one needs the divine knowledge of Zikr, which is acquired by dint of hard work, rigorous spiritual training, contemplation and reflection.
Primarily, there are two forms of Zikr: Zikr-e-Jali, that is recited aloud and Zikr-e-Khafi, which is performed by heart or secretly by tongue. Some Sufi disciplines stress the former, while others prefer the latter. However, both offer a “healing touch” to one’s heart and mind.
Just as Zikr-e-Jali disassociates us with the afflictions caused by the mundane thoughts of this world, Zikr-e-Khafi draws us closer to the realisation of eternal salvation in the hereafter (uqba). Both are solely aimed to purify our tongues, hearts and souls and purge our minds of the baser instincts. The ultimate purpose is to awaken our conscience to feel and fathom the reality of the divine presence in all aspects of existence — spiritual, physical and emotional.
A living Sufi practitioner in Malaysia Shaykh Ismail bin Qasim, who belongs to the Chishti tradition of Indian Sufism, recently visited our country and exhorted: “The simplest and the most effortless way of remembering the Lord is through your natural breath.”
It is a common knowledge that a human being breathes only one kind of air. Similarly, the soul recognises only one life material from the heavenly realm. This helps us realise that the way for mental peace and tranquility leads us to the one and only, the creator of mankind who is al-salaam, the source of peace. This is precisely why the Quran has exhorted: “Only in the remembrance of Allah (Zikr) will your heart find peace.”
But the question arises: why many people complain against the spiritual dissatisfaction albeit their constant engagement in Zikr. In this age of growing disorder in life, scores of people engage in Zikr day in and day out, in a hasty bid to find tranquility and instant relief from various worldly pains. But, over a time, they are fated to realise that peace evades them despite their continued recitals of Zikr. The reason is not difficult to find. Those who only recite the verbatim Zikr without augmenting the divine essence embedded in it, face this spiritual dilemma.
So what is the deeper divine notion of Zikr or remembrance of God for human hearts striving to be at peace In fact, Zikr is an individual spiritual duty for a seeker. And s/he has to perform it both in words and actions. It has to be recited not just with the tongue but also with the heart and other faculties of conscience. A mystically inclined exegete of the Quran, Fethullah Gülen has evolved a coherent spiritual narrative of Zikr. He propounds that “verbal recitation ranges from mentioning God almighty with all his beautiful names and sacred attributes; praising, exalting and glorifying him; proclaiming one’s helplessness and destitution before him in prayer and supplication; and voicing his signs in nature ”
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is an alim (classical Islamic scholar) and a Delhi-based writer. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org