Ansari Qadiri Rifai Sufi Order

Zikr – Remembrance of Allah


One of the most treasured practices of the Sufi path is zikr, the remembrance of Allah. To be in unity with Allah is to be in a constant state of remembrance of the source of all creation. In the sense that unity is the deepest state of surrender to Allah, this is the true zikr, and is the goal of the Sufi path. As a means to achieve that state, zikr as a ritualized practice was bequeathed to students of tasawwuf (Sufism) by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Hazrati Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was the first one to ask the Prophet (pbuh) about the path of zikr. He asked him to teach him the closest, most precious, and the easiest way. Upon this, the Prophet (pbuh) waited for the angel Jibril (Gabriel, [pbuh]) to come. Jibril (pbuh) came and he inculcated “La ilaha illallah” into the Prophet’s (pbuh) heart three times. Our Prophet (pbuh) repeated this the same way and then taught it to Hazreti (Honorable) Ali.

Shaykh Taner and murids in zikr ceremony

There are two forms of ceremonial zikr: jahri, or outward zikr, in which one's voice can be heard by others, and khafi, or silent zikr, in which it can be heard only by oneself. The jahri style was taught by the Prophet (pbuh) to Hz. Ali and the khafi style to Hz. Abu Bakr.

ecstatic zikr turning

The ritual ceremony of zikr is traditionally held in a Sufi gathering-place known as the dergah or tekke. In this setting the members of a Sufi tariqa (order) together intone certain Names of Allah, thereby invoking the characteristics represented by those Names into the hearts of the congregation. There is a traditional order in which Allah’s Names are mentioned in zikr, and each one is repeated several, often hundreds of times in unison by the group. Certain movements, such as swaying back and forth or turning from right to left, are incorporated into the activity during the intonations, and are likewise performed in unison. In some tariqas a prayerful rotation of the whole body, arms extended while pivoting on one foot, is traditional.

(This lamp is found) in houses which Allah has allowed to be exalted and that His Name will be remembered therein. In them He is praised in the mornings and evenings. (Qur'an 24:36)

Each of the Beautiful Names invoked during zikr is a key to a spiritual level within the heart. In the midst of such spiritual concentration, participants sometimes travel to profound dimensions of reality. This refreshment to the soul helps to provide encouragement to the murid (Sufi student) in his sometimes difficult journey to Allah. The effect of zikr in the group is to enable each one present to benefit from the augmentation of spiritual energy that a unified effort achieves. In such an atmosphere of concentrated spiritual energy, it is not uncommon for unseen beings such as angels and other spiritual personages to attend the proceedings, thereby bringing additional blessings from Allah.

Murids who have been initiated into tariqa are assigned a personal zikr, called wazifa, by their shaykh or shaykha. The wazifa is a personal spiritual prescription designed to bring the student through the levels of nafs (egoistic or animalistic nature) and to an abiding close relationship with Allah. Over time, and in response to the murid’s progress, the particularities of the wazifa may change.

hand making zikr with tasbih

Everything in the Universe is Making Zikr

by Shaykh Taner Ansari

Whether you see it or not, whether you believe it or not, everything in the universe is praising Allah. When you find the truth, you can see it. All things are praising Allah, by turning, by vibration, by motion. So are you, all human beings, all of the animals, everybody. Your heart says Al-lah, Al-lah, Al-lah – this is how it beats.

Can you live without breathing? You cannot. Allah says in Quran-i Karim (Generous Qur’an), “We put the summary of what you do around your neck.” What do we have around our necks? There’s a voicebox and an air passage. Each time we breath: hhhu, hhhu, hhhu – this hhhu is the name of Allah, Hu. In Judaism it’s Ya Hu Wah, in Islam, Ya Hu. You are saying His name, whether you want to or not. This is the way your body makes zikr, the remembrance of Allah. Allah gave you the ability to control some things, and expects you to join the cosmos and use your body willingly, consciously, and knowingly by making zikr. Although you are already making zikr involuntarily, put your consciousness there now: Hu, Hu, Hu. Alter it a little bit and make it your own. This is what Allah is expecting from you.

When you know the truth – that there is God and there is you – you have a responsibility to uphold the truth. Allah created the whole universe for a purpose, including you. If you know this purpose, and act according to it, you will be in harmony with Allah’s purpose and you will be happy. Happiness is centered in the heart. It is the heart taking control of the brain. If your heart is happy, everywhere else within you is happy. Allah says in the Holy Qur'an, “Hearts find peace only with the zikr of Allah.” If you want peace in your heart, you have to make zikr. If you want peace in your brain, you have to surrender. Shut the mind up and surrender it to your heart.

Hz. Abdul Qadir Geylani on Zikr

Allah the Most High says: “Make zikr of Him as he has guided you.” (2:198)

This generous ayat (verse of the Qur’an) shows the way to the ones who want to make zikr (remembrance) of Him. Another meaning of this ayat is to make zikr of Him in accordance with your spiritual level.

The following hadith sharif (honorable tradition) was granted by our Prophet, peace be upon him: “The most valuable zikr is the one done by me and the prophets before me: La ilaha illallah.”

This shows us the best zikr. It means there is no other Allah (God), but Allah Himself.

There are levels special to each station of zikr. These zikrs are either done jahri (outwardly; aloud) or khafi (silently; hidden), in other words, either with open voice or by the heart.

Zikr is made first by the tongue, then it passes to the nafs (egoistic or animalistic nature). Next it comes to the heart, then it passes to the ruh (spirit; soul). Then it happens in the realm of sirr (the secret), deeper even than the heart, then in khafi (the hidden) and later in the khafi of khafi. These zikrs are given degrees in accordance with Allah’s guidance.

The zikr done with the tongue is similar to the one done with the heart. If it is being done through the tongue, it is known that Allah is not forgotten in your heart.

When the zikr is done through the nafas (breath), zikr is done inwardly. There is no letter, and no voice is heard. It is done with inner motion and feeling.

The zikr of qalb (the heart) is to feel the manifestation of Jamal (Allah's Beauty) and Jalal (Allah's Power) in the heart’s essence.

The product of the zikr done with ruh enables you to attain the light manifestation of Allah’s Jalal and Jamal attributes.

The zikr done in the realm of sirr takes you to observance of the divine attributes.

The khafi zikr (silent zikr done by the heart) brings you to the observance of the light that shines at the zat (essence; person) of ahadiya (level of unique oneness), at the headquarters of the righteousness of the mighty Sultan. The zikr that is called the secret of secrets allows you to reach the reality of the station of haqq al-yaqin (sure knowledge received in the heart directly from Allah). You must know that no one besides Allah can peer into this secret of secret state, which is called khafi al-akhfa (secret of the secret state). The following generous ayat relates this as: “He knows the secret and the deeper secret.” (20:7)

This phenomenon encompasses all of the ilms (kinds of knowledge), and all of the [spiritual] purposes [or intentions] reach there.

As a consequence of making the zikrs described above, a different kind of ruh finds a chance for manifestation. It is more latif (subtle; pleasant; gracious) than all of the other ruhs related above. They call this tifl-i maani (child of the spirit or heart; spiritual child).

Furthermore, it is the host who invites you to attain the stations and states described above, and from there to the zat of Allah.

This spiritual state is not found in everyone, but only in the khawas (distinguished) servants. The following ayat-i karim (generous verse of the Qur’an) explains this to us: “He places that ruh into the hearts of his servants He chooses.” (40:15)

This ruh is stationed in the realm of Power. It occupies space in the realm of mushahada (observation; witnessing). It is also a property of the realm of haqiqa (reality; truth). It does not show any tendency toward anything except the zat of Allah. Our Prophet, peace be upon him, says the following to explain these phenomena:

Dunya (the material world) is forbidden [unlawful] to the people of akhira (the hereafter). Akhira is unlawful for the people of dunya. Dunya and akhira both are unlawful to those who would want Allah’s zat.”

This ruh is tifl-i maani. Reaching Allah happens through this.

In order to protect the decrees of sharia (Islamic canonical law), it is necessary to make the body follow the straight path. It is necessary to continue doing the zikrs of Allah openly or secretly, day or night. It is fardz (obligatory) to do zikr of Allah for those who are seeking the path to Haqq (The True; Allah’s name or attribute Al Haqq). The following generous ayat shows us why this is necessary: “Do zikr of Allah standing, sitting, and reclining.” (4:103)

He grants again: “They do zikr of Allah standing, sitting and reclining, and contemplate the wisdom of the creation of the heavens and the earth.” (3:191) – from Secret of Secrets, translated by Shaykh Taner Ansari in Grand Masters of Sufism