Thursday, January 23, 2014

Importance and Effects of Remembrance (dhikr) in Socio- Psychological Terms


mystic orders, be it an individual or a group, recite certain words
and phrases in given quantities at various places and according to a predefined
set of rules and manners. In tasawwuf, dhikr in the true sense happens
when the dhakir goes ecstatic, remembering only Allah, and forgetting every-
1 Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-Arab, ns. Yousef Khayyat- Nadim Mar’asli, Dar al-Lisan al-Arab, Beirut, ts.
v. IV, p. 308; Firuzabadi, Mohammed Ibn Yaqub, al-Kamus al-Muhid, Egypt, 1952.v. II, p. 34;
Asim Efendi, Kamus Tercumesi, Matca-i Osmaniye, Istanbul, 1304–1305, v. II, p. 346.
AÜÝFD XLIX (2008), sayý II, s. 217-236

thing else.2 In dhikr, the intended target is to exert an effort for remembering
what was long forgotten, and for keeping it in mind and heart for good.
The outcome is a maturing of the divine connection and experience experienced
internally by the individual. If one is enriched internally through dhikr,
he will remember the creator of the universe with everything in it.
Although the term means ‘remembering, reciting’ in the Qur’an al-Karim,
it is also employed in ways to mean salaah3, Qur’an4, men of wisdom,5
advice,6 and tafaqqur (reflection)7 sometimes. In the Qur’an al-Karim, the
word dhikr is mentioned in two hundred and ninety-one places together
with its derivatives.8 Emphasized by the Qur’an al-Karim as well, dhikr is
one of the crucial functions of the heart. Because it is dhikr that brings
about the peacefulness of the heart (Fath, 4). Dhikr is used within the Qur-
’an al-Karim in the following meanings: Qur’an (Hijr, 9), salaah (Juma, 9;
Ankabut, 45), people of the book (Anbiyya, 7), and remembering Allah.
(Baqara, 152; Anbiyya, 20, Ahzab, 35, 41, 42). In addition, while dhikr
bears such meanings as abstaining from evil, being just, not falling for the
world, and always remembering Allah’s orders (A’raf, 205; Kahf, 24; Munafiqun,
9; Nur, 37; Rad, 28; Ta Ha, 24), it is also used for religious practices
like hajj (pilgrimage) and other similar practices (Baqara, 198-203).
The Qur’an says: “They remember Allah standing up, sitting down and
lying on their side.”9 Accordingly, one understands that dhikr is not restricted
in terms of time and state. Another verse says: “Remember Me, so that I
remember you,”10 which points at the honor and pride that dhikr would bring.
On the importance of dhikr, the Prophet (pbuh) says: “The relation between
the one who remembers Allah and the one who does not is like that between
an alive person and a dead person.”11 Another account is as follows: “How
would you like if I told you that the most beneficial deed of all is to remember
2 Abd al-Karim Qushayri, Al-Risalah, Egypt 1940, pp. 221-226; Abu Hamid Ibn Mohammed Ghazali,
Ihya Uloom al-Din, Beirut 1982, v. I, pp. 390-402; Suleyman Uludag, “Zikir” (Dhikr), IA,
MEB, Istanbul, 1993, XIII, p. 561-563.
3 Ankabut, 45/9.
4 Hijr, 15/9.
5 Nahl, 16/43; Anbiyya, 21/7.
6 A’raf, 7/3; Isra, 17/41; Nahl, 16/43-44.
7 Baqara, 2/269; Ra’d, 13/19.
8 Abd al-Baki, Mohammed Fuad, al-Mu’jam al-Mufahras li Elfaz al-Qur’an al-Karim, Istanbul 1990,
pp. 271-275.
9 Ali Imran, 3/191.
10 Baqara, 2/152.
11 Bukhari, Daawat, 66.
12 Tirmizi, Daawat, 6.
Bearing a broader meaning across the Qur’an, this word is attributed a
different and outward meaning by the commentators then that attributed
by mystics. Commentators usually construe relevant verses in a way to mean
“remembering Allah, observing His orders in one’s acts,” and they do not
perceive it as a recital of certain predefined words and phrases, either individually
or in groups, in accordance with some normative rules. They hold
dhikr equivalent to remembering Allah and all other religious deeds like
praying, fasting and helping the poor.13 On top of that, it is also recognized
as dhikr when one waives an opportunity to commit wrong deeds. According
to commentators, happiness occurs when salaah is fulfilled in a genuine
manner. When salaah is performed is a genuine way, one will be safe
from all vice.14 If one thinks that he is in the presence of Allah during salaah,
he will realize his inner connection with salaah. Otherwise, salaah is isolated
from his soul, which is forgetfulness. Being the opposite of forgetfulness,
if dhikr is incapable of eliminating forgetfulness, one has to assume
that dhikr is not taking place properly. Denouncing those that perform the
salaah in forgetfulness (Ma'un, 4-5), Allah praises those who do it in deep
reverence (Mu'minun, 1-2). Having Allah in mind during salaah will affect
the soul, bringing the performer of the salaah closer to good deeds, driving
him away from evil.15
According to commentary writers, another important point meant by
dhikr is the Qur’an al-Karim itself. Hearts will find peace only in reciting
and performing duties defined by the Qur’an al-Karim. Man can achieve
psychological and physical happiness only by surrendering to the Qur’an al-
Karim, which is the greatest remembrance of Allah. Remembering Allah
means reciting His name in every moment, and surrendering to Him with
the full understanding that one is under His control.16
Dhikr is one of the most fundamental requirements in tasawwuf, and a
strongest principle on the path to Greatest Truth.17 According to Sufis,the
essence of dhikr, which is the opposite of forgetfulness, is to keep Mawla
present in the heart at all times, and to avoid anythingthat may cause one to
forget about Him. Sufis take the performing of farz (obligatory), wajib (essential)
and sunnah(act of the Prophet) deeds as the greatest forms of re-
13 Abu al-A’la al-Mawdudi, Tafhim al-Qur’an, Istanbul, 1988, v. IV, p. 229.
14 Elmalili Hamdi Yazir, Hak Din-i Kur’an Dili (True Religion: The Koranic Language), Istanbul,
1997, v. VIII, p. 230.
15 Suleyman Ates, Kur’an-i Kerim Tefsiri (Koran Commentary), Istanbul, 1995, IV, p. 1975.
16 Mawdudi, age., v. V, p. 236; .
17 Qushayri, Al-Risalah, p. 110.
membering Allah, in which way they universalize the domain of dhikr by
making it the common denominator of all religious deeds. Qushayri says
the following about this: “One of the important characteristics of dhikr is
that it is not restricted to a certain time. The subject is obliged to remember
at all times. There is no time when dhikr is not performed as a farz or nafilah
(voluntary). While salaah is the most honorable of all deeds, it is not
allowed at certain times. Yet, dhikr done in the heart can continue regardless
of time or place.”18 Therefore, dhikr is a broad concept which, according
to one's intention, can transform any physical or non-physical act into a
religious deed.
According to Sufis, kalimat al-tawhid is the most virtuous of all dhikrs as
it holds in itself the very essence of religion. There is no other means or way
that is this effective for cleansing and taming the carnal self. This dhikr
helps one strengthen his faith, enlighten his heart, and grow more mature;
it helps achieve the attraction of Qayyumiyyah al-Zatiyyah, and spiritual
awareness and caution. Tawhid is a dhikr that renews the faith of believers.
It is a ritual that eliminates all doubts and conflicts from the heart of the
Sufi. Any person who performs the dhikr of tawhid in a sincere manner will
achieve union with the Beloved without the need for an intercessor or a
mediator. Any person that joins the circle of tawhid has made friends with
Haqq. The dhikr of tawhid is the most effective among the self-control disciplines
that the Sufi chooses in order to unite with the One.
The greatest of all names and recitals is the name Allah. All names and
attributes are brought together in this name. Performing dhikr with this
name helps one achieve the virtue of reciting Allah with His unlimited number
of names and attributes. Those who recite the name Allah frequently
will experience a state of extreme spiritual enthusiasm. Such state is balanced
by a teacher who has perfected himself. In this sense, Ibrahim Hakki of
Erzurum explains that, during dhikr, the dhakir dives deep into an ocean of
ecstasy, where he sometimes cannot stand the full splendor of the dhikrullah,
going into a state of lunacy.19 Just like it is impossible to make good
again a rotten egg, reversing such disturbance is impossible even for ordained
saints. As one can understand, each dhikr affects the spiritual structure
of an individual in a different way depending on its inherent quality. Out of
these, the kalimat al-tawhid has no adverse effects on the spiritual structure
of man. Getting deeper in this dhikr, the structure of consciousness gets
more peaceful, and one's soul journeys toward perfection. But if those dha-
18 Same work, p. 368.
19 Erzurumlu Ibrahim Hakki, Marifetname (The Book of Gnosis), Istanbul 1984, v. 2, p. 691.
20 Safi, Ali Ibn Hussein Waiz Kashifi, Tarjama al-Rasakhat al-Ayn al-Khayat, Istanbul 1292, p. 66.
21 Same work, p. 25.
22 Same work, pp. 30-31.
23 R. Nicholson,, The Mystics of Islam, Arkana, 1989, p. 45.
kirs who recite the name Allah, which is like a summary of all names, recite
this name too much without being aware of his own spiritual capacity, he
may experience some spiritual instability. This dictates that dhikr be within
the limits of one's individual capacity. Because any overload that is beyond
one's limits will, just like circuit breakers in a power circuit, trip the switches
in one's spiritual world, seriously disrupting the spiritual balance. At this
very point, the perfected murshid (teacher) plays a crucial role in tasawwuf
as he defines which disciple should engage in which dhikr and in what quantities
according to the capacity and character of each. Keeping the disciple
under check, he helps him maintain his inner balance with dhikr. In this
context, Ali Ramitani draws an analogy between the murshid and a birdkeeper
who knows how much seed each bird is to eat every day and feeds all
birds accordingly. In the same way, the murshid must take into consideration
the capacity of each disciple when he is training them.20 Another principle
the Naqshbandi order uses for achieving a lasting state of remembrance is
wuquf al-adadi which is one of the main principled collectively called the
usul al-ashara. It means observing the number.21 At this point, Baha al-Din
Naqshband points out the importance of observing numbers in dhikr by
saying, "Observing the number in dhikr is for bringing unity to a fragmented
inner world," and "wuquf al-adadi is the first station of secret wisdom."22
Importance and effects of dhikr in socio-psychological terms
Being at the heart of Sufi practices, dhikr is an important means for spiritual
training. More than remembering or reciting Allah’s names and attributes in
a certain harmonious way, dhikr is a verbal expression of a sort of devotion
that has its roots in surrender of the heart. It is therefore that all Sufis have
regarded dhikr as the keystone of applied religion.23 Primary purpose of
tasawwuf and all other mystical activities is ensuring victory over Satan of
the soul that resides in human heart and represents Allah. That is to say,
ensuring superiority of the soul over nafs (the carnal self), and achieving
full control over the nafs which is identical to the worldly plane. This is
because nafs is one of the principal themes in tasawwuf. The struggle of
tasawwuf is a struggle for eliminating the nafs. Human nature is based on a
constant battle between the “nafs” and the “soul.” The target that dhikr
aims at in this battle is to distinguish between the physical and spiritual
being of man, enabling free movement of this spiritual being toward Allah.
Dhikr is to concentrate thought on one place in order to release the spiritual
powers that will assist one make progress on the path. Dhikr is generally
regarded from this perspective in tasawwuf.
Playing a dominant role in tasawwuf, dhikr, as pointed out earlier, is found
in many places in the Qur’an. Qur’an al-Karim talks about the beneficence
of dhikr for humans directly in over sixty verses, and indirectly in two
hundred and fifty-six verses.24 Emphasized this much by Qur’an, dhikr is an
inner activity of man. With the verse, “And remember your Lord by your
tongue (and within yourself), humbly and with fear without loudness in words
in the mornings, and in the afternoons and be not of those who are neglectful.”
(A’raf, 205), Allah orders that dhikr is performed in a sincere and humble
manner. Remembering Allah at all times is a quality of sincere Muslims.
Taking one step further in showing their sincerity, Sufis claimed that the
heaven or hell is not the true objective for them. They care about neither
getting closer to heaven, nor away from hell. They are just people who are
madly in love with the idea of becoming one with Allah.25 And some Sufis
desired heaven merely as a means for uniting with and seeing Allah.26
Inner performance of dhikr depends on the condition of the heart. What
is important in dhikr is not the action of the tongue, but that the heart
moves with Allah. By just reciting Allah’s name, the tongue helps dhikr settle
deep in the heart and the heart participates in the dhikr27. When dhikr
takes the heart under its control, it enlightens all feelings of one with heavenly
light, who becomes the addressee of Allah following appraisal: “
We have removed from you your veil, so your sight today is sharp.” (Qaf, 22).
Any person who is the recipient of such appraisal sets an example of the
“perfect man” which is desired by individuals and societies alike. Increase in
the number of such people will create a livable society. Presence of people
of such high character proves the significant impact dhikr has over human
psychology. According to Sufis, failure to remember or fulfill dhikr will result
in the death of the heart. Forgetting is one of the feeblenesses of limited
man. This feebleness is manifested in remembering Allah, too. The Qur'an
explains the situation of those who forget Allah with the verse, "...woe to
those whose hearts are hard against the remembrance of Allah..." (Zumar, 22.).
24 Abd al-Baqi, Mu’jam, p. 273-274.
25 Yunus Emre, Divan, ed. Abdulbaki Golpinarli, Istanbul, 1964, p. 257.
26 A. Schimmel, “Mystic Prayer and Invocation in Islam,” AUIFD, Ankara, 1953, issue ??-???, p.
27 Maqqi, Abu Talib, Qut al-Qulub, Cairo 1982, p. 248.
When the heart is deprived from dhikr, the soul is devoid of love. A heart
that is far from Allah's love will befriend the nafs.28
Such feebleness are seen at times among Sufi orders during practices of
asceticism. Extremist behaviors of some disciples during dhikr sessions are
not acceptable. Thus, remembering Allah has something to do with neither
the way one dresses nor his posture. Remembering Him is about heart and
intention. Holding certain postures above others, or cladding one’s self in
certain ways is against the spirit of the Qur’an al-Karim. Dhikr should tread
an internal path of destitution and secrecy. Vocalizing it, or crying out loud
in frenzy is merely a result of forgetfulness.29 Allah must be remembered in
order to be safe from forgetfulness and petrifaction of the heart. Keeping
Him in mind and heart at all times will ensure balance between the soul and
the body, keeping the soul in a constant state of aliveness and alertness.30 In
saying, “Do not belong to the forgetful,” the Qur’an al-Karim requires that
Allah is never forgotten, and that the dhikr of the heart is unwavering.
Dhikr is a door between Allah and His subjects, which door is open at all
times. It is a word from the subject to Allah which is uttered at the time, in
the place and in the language of preference of the subject. Qur’an does not
talk about a specific posture for dhikr. Like all Muslim religious practices,
Qur’an liberates people in relation to dhikr, without forcing them to conform
to strict formalities. “Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and
lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth.”
(Ali Imran, 191) If one is still unable to enjoy dialogue with Allah, in
spite of such tolerance in relation to the posture during dhikr, such person’s
heart is for sure “closed to divine transmitters.” The practice of dhikris an
act of both the tongue and the heart which is regardless of time.31
Once dhikr is integrated with thinking and becomes automatic without
the need for any effort, the stage of higher dhikr is reached, which shows
that the differentiation of thought and body is overcome. When the heart is
rusted for not remembering Allah, and goes astray from the divine path, its
only cure is dhikr. This important cure is underlined by Qur’an as follows:
“Remember your Lord often, recite His name in the morning and in the evening.”
(A’raf, 205) Dhikr polishes the heart, surrounds the heart shining
with Allah’s light with love towardthe “Absolute Being.” The disciple perishes
against the unmatched beauty of the Beloved. Greatest desire of the
28 Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Madaric al- Saliqin trans. committee, Istanbul, 1994, ??, p. 331.
29 Same work, p. 118.
30 Elmalili, Hak Dini. (True Religion.), v. VII, p. 458.
31 Ibn Qayyim, same work, v. ??, p. 332.
lover is to reach that unprecedented beauty. All he wants is to be with Him,
and live with Him. This state shows that the heart of the disciple is filled up
to the brim with love. He surrounded by love on so many coasts that He
becomes his ears, eyes, will and senses. Forgetting everything other than
Allah, persons who place nothing but Allah's love in their hearts prevent
both individual and social degradation.
Having a significant impact on the social formation of man, dhikr is a
spiritual rebirth and the start of a brand new life. Because the first step in
dhikr is to forget about the “self,” to think only about the “Absolute Being”
which treats all subjects equally, and to become a recipient of the manifestation
of His attributes. As dhikr is continued, the disciple feels himself with
Allah alone. This is a state whereby all human wrongdoing and sins are
abandoned, and one’s entire senses are filled with divine love. The disciple
reaches such a level that he no more has the feeling that all of his behaviors
are being witnessed. Perishing in his own dhikr, he reaches such a state that
he does not go back to the nafs (the limited, carnal self). This is the traditional
passage from the lower self to the universal self.32 With the manifestation
of Allah, he gains an universal quality which goes beyond the social
being. He is now a person of higher character who embraces all people with
love and caring.
Done everyday or at least one day every week, dhikr is a ritualistic activity
that helps people socialize and get closer. This important activity has
meanings that go beyond being a means for remembering Allah. With its
unifying quality, it provides morale and motivation against degraded moral
and human relations. According to some disciples, dhikr is the ability to
withstand a decayed world. Dhikr is the most effective cure against the hardships
and problems one encounters in the course of day-to-day life. And for
some, it is the only effective way of treatment against modern-day problems
like depression, deprivation of love, unhappiness, injustice and negativities
experienced by most people, against disrupted human relationships, and all
other social inconveniences. In the same time, dhikr stops one from spending
his time on useless activities, preventing him from wasting his energy.
It gives the disciple a spirit of solidarity in both internal and external relations.
Reciting person gets to know his being through the power of the recited
words. With dhikr, the Sufi lives in an infinite time and an eternal being.
Through dhikr, the dhakir is liberated from the mundane day-to-day reality
32 A. Riza Arasteh, Askta ve Yaraticilikta Yeniden Dogus (Rebirth in Love and Creativity), trans.
Bekir Demirkol- Ibrahim Ozdemir, Ankara, 2000, p. 85.
of matter-spirit interactions, and from the individual self, engaging in an
intimate relationship with the "Absolute Being" which transcends and entirely
encloses his own being. Through dhikr, which is the sayr al-suluq station
of the journey, and through other Sufi training methods, the individual
undergoes a process of social and psychological change in the earlier stages.
Abandoning his former habits and forms of behavior, the disciple engages in
a new practice in his life. Exercises and practices that are performed in groups
help one make new practices more systematic. According to Sufi thinking,
residing in man's heart, Allah causes one's divine character to manifest.
Hurting, offending and humiliating other people is the greatest crime
one could commit against Allah. Being tender and merciful toward people
is a result of an intelligence that is acquired through the heart. If the disciple
feed his heart with the remembrance of Allah, loving and respecting humans
is no different from loving and respecting Allah.
Starting out from the verse, “Remembering is for sure the greatest deed of
all.”(Ankabut, 45), Sufis hold dhikr to be more important than salaah and
tafaqqur. Because this deed can be performed only by higher souls. On this,
the Prophet (pbuh) says that “Best deed is dhikrullah (remembering Allah).”33
For a person to be able to perform dhikr, the heart-tongue balance must be
fully in place. Being a form of invocation, dhikr happens when the tongue
reveals the feelings that are held in the heart. Sufis take tongue to be the
translator of the heart.34 It is therefore that one cannot sincerely perform
dhikr without harmony between the tongue and the heart. Sincere dhikr
protects the individual from deviations and from making mistakes against
Allah. This process of protection is among the most important tasks of the
Sufi. The Sufi must remember and keep in mind Allah at all times. When He
is remembered, the heart will be steered by Him and will be safe from slips.
It is therefore that a continuous benefit is to be found in reminding. Because
Allah says, "Remind, because there is good in reminding for true believers"
(Zariyah, 55).
The evergreen desire of the Sufis is to reach Allah. Longing to become
one with Allah, Sufis want to reach Allah as soon as possible. Reaching
happens as a product of love for Allah. The love for the Beloved increases
even more as His name is recited. Every time the lover remembers the Beloved,
his heartbeats will accelerate, he will get excited and start sweating.
Remembering the beloved causes an increase in the for Him. If it is not for
dhikr, love connection will not form between Allah and the subject. Thanks
33 Ibn Maja, Adab, 53; Tirmizi, Daawat, 6.
34 Ibn Qayyim, Madaric, p.332.
to love, thanks are given to Allah, helping the heart find lasting peace. This
peace is explained by Qur’an as follows: “They alone are true believers whose
hearts are deeply moved when they hear Allah’s name and whose faith is strengthened
when its laws are communicated to them,” (Anfal, 2). On the Sufi
path, truths are found only through love. If one wants to remember Allah in
the true sense, he must fulfill his biddings, and constantly serve with Him in
his mind. One can understand a person better only when his love for such
person is deepened.35 Just like the lover needs to perish in the love of the
beloved in order to reach her, the subject also needs to perish in Allah's love
for becoming one with Him.36 Dhikr is to forget about everything other than
the subject of dhikr. That means excluding from himself all physical universe
which is not Allah. Dhikr is the first step on the path of love; because if
one loves another, he always wants to spend time with and remember and
recite the beloved. As a result of such remembrance, heart filled with love
for Allah will become the house of dhikr every moment, achieving true happiness.
Allah explains the same as follows: "Be awake, for hearts find satisfaction
only through the remembrance of Allah."(Ra'd, 28)
A sincere Sufi remembers Allah at all times in order to cleanse his soul,
to have his sins pardoned, to perish in the being of eternal God, and to go
ecstatic with the virtues of divine love. Remembering Allah happens first by
closely watching Him and His works. Witnessing Allah’s works in an attentive
and continuous manner, that is to say observing his signs in the physical
plane is called muraqabah. In doing muraqabah of small and big things, it is
also dhikr to understand all aspects of the created, being alert and attentive
as to their evidences, to take lessons and to think about and remember the
Creator. In the history of tasawwuf, we find in the lives of many Sufis a great
desire for becoming one with Allah. They wanted to be with Allah at all
times and places. The last wish of Rabia, whose has name has come to be
associated by Sufis with the love for Allah, was to be with Allah.37 Yunus
asked that the limited being be taken away from him, and he be filled with
Allah’s being. Similarly, many Sufis asked that the "being" between Allah
and themselves be lifted. Sufis believe that man is alone but Allah when he
dies and is placed in the grave, and that spouses, children, relatives or friends
are not there in the grave, and that the only thing that does not leave
one alone in the grave is dhikr. Dhikr is such a prescription for salvation that
it gives man both worldly happiness and gives him his Beloved in the after-
35 Suzregelman, Inayat Khan, Fernandez, Jungian Psychology and Sufism, Istanbul, 1994, p. 31
36 Ghazali, Ihya., v. ?, p. 428
37 Smith, Margaret, A Woman Sufi: Rabia, trans. Ozlem Eraydin, Istanbul, 1990, p. 110.
life. He tasted all pleasures and joy through dhikr, reaching the long desired
thanks to dhikr. On a day that everybody else has deserted him, he is with
Allah, which is the one Person that all men want to be with on that day.
In brief, dhikr is the only sword the disciple can thrust at perils on his
journey.38 At times, dhikr is a sledgehammer for crushing petrified hearts.
Dhikr is a brush for polishing Sufi hearts. For the dhakir, Allah is food for the
heart, which food comes through dhikr. Apart from being the food for hearts,
dhikr is also the most important pillar on the path leading to Allah.39 To
them, dhikr is freedom from disasters, troubles,40 a garden of Eden in which
they can stroll around with joy and laughter. To be brief, no one can find
peace without remembering Him, and reciting His name. Dhikr cleans the
heart from all worldly desires, polishing and filling it with love of Allah. It is
the only protection against the attacks of the Satan.
While Islam does not impose any limitation of time or place for remembering
Allah, the “official” dhikr in orders must be done after certain preparations
are in place.41 The sheikh decides which type of dhikr is appropriate
for the spiritual station of the disciple. There are different types of dhikr
depending on the spiritual status of the disciple: There is the “dhikr al-lisani,”
which is performed by just the tongue without the participation of the
heart; or there is the “dhikr al-qalbi,” which is performed in the heart; or
there is the dhikr that is performed by both. In addition to these, there is the
dhikr al-sirr, dhikr al-khafi, and dhikr al-akhfa. The last one being the most
difficult of all, it can be duly performed only by those who are in advanced
stages of the journey.42 The disciple is obliged to fulfill the dhikr within the
rules set by his sheikh. He must make an effort to control and beautify his
behaviors and morals. As a ritualistic activity, dhikr sessions both help “remember
Allah,” and also have many unifying and socializing functions. These
38 Qushayri, Al-Risalah , p.37.
39 Schimmel, A., Mystical Dimensions of Islam, trans. Ender Gurol, Istanbul, 1982, p. 151; Necmuddin
Kubra, Tasavvufi Hayati (His Sufi Life), ed. Mustafa Kara , Istanbul, 1980, p. 79.
40 Qushayri, age., p. 221.
41 See Abdurrahman Memis, Halid Bagdadi ve Anadolu’da Halidilik (Khalid Baghdadi and the Khalidiyyah
Order in Anatolia), Istanbul, 2000, p. 269-272; Dilaver Gurer, Abdulkadir Geylani: Hayati,
Eserleri, Gorusleri (Abd al-Qadir al-Gaylani: His Life, Works and Views), Istanbul, 2000 p.
338; Himmet Konur, Ibrahim Gulseni: Hayati, Eserleri, Tarikati (Ibrahim Gulseni: His Life, Works,
and Order), Istanbul ,2000 p. 160; Sadik Vicdani, Tarikatlar ve Silsileleri (Orders and Their
Lines of Descent), simp. Irfan Gunduz, Istanbul, 1996 p. 39; Rahmi Serin, Islam Tasavvufunda
Halvetilik ve Halvetiler (Khalwatiyya Order and Khalwatis in Islamic Mysticism), Istanbul, 1984,
p. 132; H. Kamil Yilmaz, Aziz Mahmud Hudayi ve Celvetiyye Tarikati (Aziz Mahmud Hudayi and
the Jalwatiyya Order), Istanbul, 1980, p. 188-197.
42 Haci Muharrem Hilmi Efendi, Kadiri Yolu Saliklerinin Zikr Makamlari ve Zakirlere Hediye (Dhikr
Stations of Qadiri Disciples and Gift to Dhakirs), ed. Suleyman Ates, Istanbul, 1982, p. 139.
are environments where their members interact at individual and society
Categories of dhikr
Sufis have categorized dhikr in various ways. For example, at one place
dhikr is discussed in three forms; the firs one is dhikr performed by the
tongue with a forgetful heart. This is called dhikr in numbers. This is regarded
as the dhikr of the commoners. The second is dhikr performed with
peace of heart, which is done for servitude. Being the dhikr of the chosen
ones, the fruit of this dhikr is good deeds. The third is dhikr performed by all
organs, which is the dhikr of the chosen of the chosen, the outcome of which
is inexplicable. The true nature of this kind of dhikr, which belong to those
subjects who are madly in love with Allah, can only be appreciated by the
Haqq. Being the opposite of forgetfulness, if dhikr cannot eliminate forgetfulness,
it means that dhikr is not properly performed. According to Him,
love between God and the subject is mutual because He says, “…remember
Me, I will remember you.” (Baqara, 152). Therefore the disciple must observe
time in remembering Allah continuously. Remembering Allah means taking
part in conversations about Him, which conversation is the most virtuous
of all. All deeds are defined to remember Allah and only Allah, to keep
him in mind, and to not be attracted to anything but Him. Because Allah
says: "…keep up prayer for My remembrance..." (Ta Ha, 14.)
Tafaqqur (Reflection)
Tafaqqur is an advance state for the maturing of reflection. As Sufis also
point out, the truth of dhikr is distant to letters and sounds; it is the affection
in one’s essence of heart toward the One Truth (Haqq). Qur’an invites
one to tafaqqur as well as to dhikr. Qur’an defines dhikr and tafaqqur as an
inseparable whole that is the most important virtue of a true believer. “Most
surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the
night and the day there are signs for men who understand. 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! Thou hast not created this in
vain! Glory be to Thee; save us then from the chastisement of the fire: Our
Lord! surely whomsoever Thou makest enter the fire, him Thou hast indeed
brought to disgrace, and there shall be no helpers for the unjust.” (Ali Imran,
Referenced Qur’anic verses suggest that there is a very close relationship
between dhikr and tafaqqur, and one could think that tafaqqur is a an upper
state of dhikr. In support of this notion, the Prophet (pbuh) points out that
one moment of tafaqqur equals sixty years spent in any other form of religious
The most important outcome of dhikr the purification of the heart from
limited self identification of the ego, excessive desire and avarice, and to
disappear in the Truth (Haqq). In this case, an important precondition of
peaceful heart is dhikr. Peaceful heart means freedom of heart from ignorance
and lowly morality. This means a surrendering of the heart to Allah,
finding peace in facing away from attributing partners to Allah, and from
lowly desires and worldly conversation.44
Qur’an saying that hearts can be satisfied only through the remembrance
of Allah45 is a clear indicator that the heart can be saved and fed through
dhikr, which suggests that diseases of the heart can be remedied only throughdhikr.
Because in mental diseases, the root cause of the disease is negligence
of the fundamental needs of the soul46. In the same way, love, which
is the most fundamental need of human beings finds its deserved place
through dhikr. Because it creates a special connection between Allah and
the subject, and the subject develops ability toward the blessing and granting
of Allah. At the same time, dhikr enlightens one on the inside and outside,
while eliminating the mass and density of the physical structure. But in
order to achieve such outcome of dhikr, one needs to be able to protect the
heart from assaults of memories and apprehension. It may not be possible
to salvage one’s self from this situation in the beginning. Therefore until
peace and spiritual integrity is ensured, the task of the disciple will be to do
his best to keep memories and apprehensive feelings out of the heart, and to
obtain the consciousness of benefaction.
While, during the process of dhikr, all sorts of memories, thoughts and
apprehension will naturally haunt the disciple, dhikr will bear its fruits in
time as a result of zeal and hard work. In this context, Ibn Ataullah mentions
that dhikr consist of two shells and one nucleus. This could be explained
as follows: the dhikr that the disciple engages in the beginning is a
verbal form of dhikr (recitation). Even if the heart is not synchronized with
this dhikr, it should at least approve of it so that the verbal dhikr can be
sound. In time, the heart will grow harmonious to the verbal recitation,
which completes the shell. And at the third stage, dhikr starts to spread
43 Shah Waliullah Dahlawi, Hujjatullah al-Baaligha, Cairo, ts, II, 591.
44 See Fahr al-Din Rhazi, Mafatih al-Ghayb al-Tafsir al-Kabir, Beirut, 1990, v. XXIV, p. 130.
45 Rad, 13/28.
46 Fromm, Erich, Psychoanalysis and Religion, trans. A. Aritan, Istanbul 1982, p. 19.
from the heart to the organs. Virtually each organ starts remembering Allah
in its own way. This completes the nucleus, which is the essence, and one
will achieve a state of constant remembrance in time.47
This suggests that, until one is fully matured through dhikr and becomes
a man of caution, fana and baqa will follow one another, and there may be
alternating states of jazba and sakr experienced along the way. But one can
again be saved by dhikr from such transitional states as it is stated in Qur-
’an: “When you forget, remember your Lord.”48 That is to say, even in the
state of dhikr, one is invited to a target state whereby he achieves lasting
dhikr of the soul and the heart in the true sense. Dhikr is a milestone in
contacting the Creator. Because Allah will not grant the taste and joy of
engaging in dhikr and its thought to those whom he does not favor, and to
those to whom he will not give his blessings. That is to say, if one loves
Allah, a good indicator is that he keeps himself busy with dhikr. An indicator
of Allah’s love for His subject is that the subject gets to spend time with Him.
In the verse,“…remember me, and I will remember you…” one can understand
how the subject remembers Haqq, but how does Haqq remember the
subject? According to Sufis, when Haqq remembers His subject, he makes
his remembering subject constantly ascend to the top of his station of dhikr,
enabling him to continue with His dhikr, which greater than every thing
else. And this is the greatest blessing. What is emphasized here that one,
during his spiritual journey, gets to know his nafs depending on the unfolding
created by dhikr, and becomes the recipient of his Lord's contentment
and intimate friendship by alizing himself, that is to say, discovering and
realizing the potential he holds.
Dhikr has both worldly and heavenly aspects. From a worldly point of view,
true dhikr occurs when one reflects with all organs,49 eliminates forgetfulness
from his heart, and removes all but Allah from the domain of the heart. Heavenly
aspect of dhikr is the blessing, honor and highness one is endowed in the
afterlife, the nature of which is obscure to limited intellect like ours.
During the dhikr of the Sufis, exercises like holding, increasing the pace
of or moving (vibrating) the breath function in a way that is similar to the
halotropic breathing techniques employed in psychology. Such halotropic
breathing exercise automatically resolve any troubling feelings and physical
appearances that are rooted in the subconscious.50 It is observed that dhikr
47 Eskandari, Ibn Ataullah, Miftah al-Falah wa Misbah al-Arwah, Cairo 1993, pp. 9-10.
48 Kahf, 18/24.
49 Rushdi, Malfuzat, Qulliyat al-Baki Billah, Lahor 1967, pp. 19-68.
50 Grof, Stanislav, Psychology of the Future, trans. Sezer Soner, Izmir 2002, p. 269.
helps overcome certain phobias and consuming negative emotions, resulting
in an increase in self-confidence and self-respect; observation also suggests
that chronic infections (sinusitis, angina, bronchitis) are improved and serious
psychosomatic headaches like migraine are not experienced after the new
on-charge of energy opens blood circulation in the body.51 Every psycho-spiritual
system that has studied the nature of man since the beginning of history
has regarded breath as a vital bond connecting the body, mind and the heart.
52 In Sufi training of dhikr, manner and order of breathing is critical for
activating both the physical and the subconscious structure.
Badr al-Din Kashmir of the Sufis53 (10th/16th century) lists a separate
piece of intelligence for each stage of the practice of dhikr, which is done by
holding one’s breath and hitting it against the qalb (heart). For instance,
pulling the captured breath upward under the belly, the sword of “La…”
cuts the physical and psychological ties that have an influence on the heart.
Pulled upward, the breath melts being against the heart. When saying “…ilaha…,”
the breath on the right side transforms being into nothingness against
the heart. When saying “…illallah,” hitting the breath on the heart from
right to left will affect the other body organs as well. When the physical
universe disintegrates into nothingness, the heart becomes the recipient and
the place of peace in proving the Truth. So one could say that this Sufi
method is one that is valid for all people.
Through repetition of these dhikrs, the inner structure of man is settled.
Because there is creative power in the vibration of a voice. For instance we
call each other things like “sugar, honey, angel,” and these words create a
positive impact on their addressees, and in this way, said person will start
displaying that respective quality54. Weakening words like “sneaky, evil, liar,
difficult, bloody...” decrease our psychological energy every time we utter
them, creating images in our mind that diminish enthusiasm. Strong words
like “secret, love, respect, help...” strengthen our soul, and modify our feelings.
55 Through repeated dhikrs, we make references to our subconscious,
rising from unawareness to higher planes of consciousness and awareness.56
51 Same work, p. 279.
52 Same work, p. 256.
53 Kashmiri, Badr al-Din Ibn Abd al-Salam Husseini, Siraj al-Salihin, ed. Sayyid Siraj al-Din, Islamabad
1376/1997, pp. 157-158. See Tosun, Necdet, Bahaeddin Naksbend Hayati, Gorusleri,
Tarikati (Bahaeddin Naqshband: His Life, Views and Order), Istanbul 2002, pp. 304-305.
54 Fernandez, Tasnim, “In Search Of A Name,” Jungian Psychology and Sufism, trans. Kemal Yazici-
Ramazan Kutlu, Istanbul 1997, p. 33.
55 Bozdag, Mohammed, Dusun ve Basar, Istanbul 2000, p. 70.
56 Dorst, Brigitte, Jungian Psychology and Sufism (Sufi Relations Today), trans. Kemal Yazici-Ramazan
Kutlu, Istanbul 1997, p. 22.

As the Upanishads say, in time “a person will turn into what he thinks.” We
identify with the purpose of our thought, and now our thoughts are our own
property, our own characteristic.57 In this way, dhikr serves as a key to enable
us feel Allah internally, being painted in His colors. Through the positive
energy of dhikr, the heart is conquered and the virus of conceit is killed. And
it becomes possible to defeat the nafs al-ammarah, which is a soldier of the
On the other hand Stanislav Grof explains: “a person whose existence is
limited to the boring level of day-to-day consciousness, who has never accessed
the transcendent and awe-inspiring experience of reality, will have a great deal
of difficulty in conquering the deeply-penetrated fear of death, and find a deeper
meaning in life. Under such circumstances, a major part of everyday behavior
will be directed by the needs of the false ego, resulting in the meaningful
aspects of life becoming reactive, and not authentic. It is therefore that we need
to integrate political activities with certain systematic spiritual practices that
offer experiential access to transcendent planes.”58.
In tasawwuf, such spiritual practices usually refer to dhikr in the general
sense. Through dhikr, one grasps the meaning of life and the purpose of
existence. Because dhikr helps us access the inner depths of our souls, which
come from Allah, giving us an understanding of the backstage of existence.
A person who has reached the true reality will gradually break free from
false identities, and will, after a while, become authentic by realizing himself.
In other words, he reverts to his original self. In this context, J. Paul
Sartre says, as one of the fundamentalprinciples of existentialism, that “a
person is such as he makes himself.”59 In this very sense, a Sufi uses dhikr to
direct his being to Allah to be Allah-like, to educate himself with Allah’s
moral values, to paint himself in His colors. Because he constantly bombards
the sub-conscious with Allah through dhikr. To the extent of his sincerity,
this practice of dhikr shape his inner contingencies in an Allah-like
manner. Hadith al-Sharif says the following on this matter: "...We become his
seeing eye and hearing ear..."60
In conclusion, dhikr is the most important elixir for the making of the
Perfect Man. Taking root in man’s heart with dhikr, Allah’s love universalizes
all acts and thoughts of man (by means of taking root in time). It causes
57 Tweedie, Irina, “Sufi Spiritual Training Is The Universal Process Of Becoming An Individual”,
Jungian Psychology, p. 103.
58 Grof, Stanislav, cited work, p. 398.
59 Sartre, J. Paul, Existentialism, trans. Asim Bezirci, Istanbul 1980, p. 57.
60 Tirmizi, Daawat, 80.
a structuring toward awareness of servitude and perfection in one’s behaviors.
In brief, dhikr shoulders a vital role in the making of the Perfect Man.
Solitude and dhikr
Sufis are people who enlighten themselves by turning into light the feeling
that gives birth to “solitude,” which is nothing like the loneliness created
and invented internally by others. As they live, they give meaning to life
rather than oppose it. One could conclude that men catch the disease of
“loneliness” only when they forget that “they are not alone,” or forget about
the Rule of the Creator. This brings us back to the dhikr ritual of the Sufis,
which means “remembering at all times in order not to forget.”
According to Western psychologists, people who live in solitude lead more
organized lives, in terms of self-realization and communication, compared
to the population of peers who live together.61
Otherwise it is not a physical separation and seclusion from people. Here,
the Sufi turns to dhikr and deep reflection for increasing intimacy with Allah
with whom he is left alone, abstracting his heart from people in order to
enjoy the heart connection established with his Lord.62 This inner separation
will bring one happiness at both individual and society level. Turning his
back to offending language and actions, he will stand, in his individual and
social life, against all words and deeds that are to the detriment of people.
Sufis emphasize the importance of uzlat from the continuance of deeds point
of view. He believe that those who discontinue uzlat and get back with
the people are doomed to a shameful end.63 According to Mawlana, darkness
of a water well is preferable to the darkness of a crowd. Because those
who are stuck in the crowd cannot save themselves.64
During the period of uzlat (isolation) or halwat (seclusion) spent with
dhikr, the heart of the Sufi will be filled with grace and refinement, because
hearts of those who remember the Lord taste the divine light.
Some Sufis like Ataullah al-Eskanderi (d.1309) saw uzlat as a cure for
the heart. They believe that there is no other act that is comparable to uzlat
in enlightening the heart of the Sufi with love, tafaqqur and dhikr. It is only
through uzlat that Sufis can dive deep into the world of tafaqqur, or reflection
in order to find one’s own self, and to stay in solitude with and be inspi-
61 Katharina Zimmer, The Art of Living in Solitude, trans. Bilgehan Karatas, Gendas Kultur, Istanbul,
2005, p.16.
62 Maqqi, Qut al-Qulub, v. I, 97.
63 Al-Isfahani, Hilyah al-Awliyya, v. II, 381.
64 Mawlana, Masnawi, v. I, 1299.


red by God.65 Cut off from everything else, he stays out of sight in the company
of Haqq,66 in a state of exchange through dhikr and tafaqqur. Being
alone with God, the subject cleanses his heart from all other things, after
which he can focus on the ideation of Allah with a peaceful heart and mind.67
Dhikr sessions are places of uzlat. Because the Sufi is with Him day and
night. And the Sufi engages in uzlat because those sessions are promising of
Haqq. The Sufi searches for solitude with his Lord amidst masses. In circles
of Haqq, such solitude is not to be found. He is in constant search of a friend
who can understand him and share his secret at all times.
Marifah (Gnosis)
The Sufi must acquire marifah (gnosis) through sincerity and consciousness
of Allah, asceticism, nafs training and continuous dhikr in his deeds and
practices. Another important means for acquiring marifah is to constantly
keep Allah in mind, which is also possible through dhikr. Man will achieve
marifah if he is able to suppress the animalistic feelings inside, that is to say,
if he trains and keeps under check the primal feelings that he was created
with. He sees dhikr and the ilm al-wuslah as two main cornerstones. He
regards both as vital for the initiated/disciple, and expects that they do it
constantly. There are three main points to help realize the contiguity of the
Sufi, which cannot be discussed separately. These are the main principles in
the maturing, suluq, and reaching Haqq of the Sufi, which are dhikr/tafaqqur,
marifah and muhabbah, which concepts are severally connected to one
another. Due to this philosophy, the Sufi has to keep Haqq in mind for the
enlightenment of his inner world. The station of the Gnostic depends on
this enlightenment, and not on becoming an expert of the Arabic language,
or mastering other forms of wisdom. Because since the Gnostic stands closer
to Haqq and away from the people, namely the nature, things of the
physical world are not dear or interesting to his heart. The being, as it is
related to anything other than Haqq, holds no value compared to Him. To
the Sufi, dhikr means realizing the constant "moment" in order to access the
secret of participating in the everlasting being, and to live with the creating
power.68 Because realizing the moment for the Creator in this sense, that is
65 See Ataullah al-Eskanderi, Abu al-Abbas Taj al-Din Ahmad Ibn Mohammed Ibn Abd al-Karim
Ibn Ala al-Allah (1309), Al-Hikam al-Ataiyyah, Cairo (Bulak), 1868.
66 Asim Efendi, Kamus Tercumesi, v. III, p. 805.
67 Necmuddin-i Kubra, Tasavvufi Hayati: Usulu Asere Risale ile’l-Haim, Fevaihu’l-Cemal (His Sufi
Life: Usul al-Ashara Risale ila al-Haim, Fawaihu al-Jamal), trans. Mustafa Kara, Dergah Yay.,
Istanbul, 1980, p.76.
68 Qushayri, Al-Risalah, p. 5.
to say living "the moment" constantly is only possible through saving the
self from being limited and veiled by the past and the future, which is done
by remembering/reciting Allah at all times. The Sufi school of thought names
this as "wakf," in other words, fulfilling the rule of the current time, or
experiencing "the moment" constantly by remembering the Creator at all
times. In fact, the Sufi remembers God in everything he sees on an "ayn alyaqin"
basis, living with Him at all times. When the Sufi hears the sound of
animals, the crackling of trees, the splashing of waters, the chirping of birds,
the blowing of the wind, or the sound of the thunder, he is reminded by all
these of the singleness of the Creator, providing evidence for His unmatched
beauty.69 Because dhikr is the most effective of all the paths that lead to
Allah.70 Any moment that goes by without remembering him is wasted.
Dhikr is such a practice that it penetrates into the whole being of the Sufi. In
this state, he remembers of nothing. Any person who remembers Allah will
forget about others in that moment of remembering. Because to them, Haqq
is worth everything.71 Through dhikr, the Sufi will be so intimate with Allah
that he will even forget about his own dhikr. That is true dhikr.72
The opening of the third eye, and the acquisition of the knowledge of
yaqin (certainty) is also through dhikr. Dhikr is neither something passive,
nor a mere unaware repetition of Haqq’s name. According to him, dhikr is
when the disciple remembers his creator with his whole being. Dhikr is also
when the disciple orientates his entire self toward Allah for the purpose of
communication, looses himself in Him, focusing all receivers on divine will
and divine transmitters. Dhikr is the moment when the disciple experiences
togetherness with Allah at a level of perfection, is not forgetful of Him, and
is cut off from everything else. It is the moment when love, enlightenment
and ecstasy reach the highest level, drowning the dhakir (he who remembers)
in a sea of love. To the disciple, Haqq is not an insipid, dull or loveless
divinity stuck between the beads of a rosary. He manifests in all beings in
the eyes of a love-struck disciple.73
In conclusion, dhikr is not a form of asceticism that is restricted to Islam
or tasawwuf only; it has an important place in other religions and faiths.
Throughout the course of history, man felt the need to believe in a higher
power. Believing is a natural need for humans. They tried to saturate this
69 Isfahani, Hilyah, v. IX, 942.
70 Qushayri, Al-Risalah, p.35.
71 Attar, Tazkirat al-Awliyya, p.411.
72 Sarraj, Luma, p.220.
73 Nicholson, Mystics, p. 83.

need by believing in God or another power. Be it heavenly or not, there is a
power that people take as sacred, attach value to, and even die for. Many
rituals and religious practices were done, and sacrifices made for such sacred
powers. One cannot deny these forms of belief which are actually experienced,
adopted by people, and have become institutionalized with their
practices, moral values and belief systems. In heavenly religions, there are
many approaches that take one to divine power, one of which is the mystical
way. Mysticism is the inner dimension of all religions, and it is a common
characteristic in heavenly religions which share the same single source. For
the whole course of human history, similar my

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