A short note on Fikr and Zhikr Meditation

I was asked recently about the types of meditation in Islam. I felt my response to the question might be useful for others, so I include it here as a quick Q& A with appropriate Usool (references):

Q: I want to learn more about the Islamic meditative practices supported in the Sunnah. Can you explain them to me?

A: I will share with you a little on our meditations. They are rooted in the methodology of “Knowing Oneself, Knowing Allah” (based on the hadith: “If the servant knows himself, he knows his Rabb” or: man ‘arafa nafsahu faqad ‘arafa Rabbahu (as-Suyuti, Mawardi, Al-Jarrahi; also attributed to Yahya b. Mu’adh ar-Razi.).

As I said, core Islamic meditation inculcates the two practices of: Fikr on the one hand, and Zhikr on the other.

In the domain of Fikr, our greatest Fikr is to come to know our own selves. With this in mind, the learned Shuyook have come to understand the human being to be made of seven components: 1. Brain (repository of all sensory memory and ‘learned understanding’ 2. the Heart (the CPU of the human and ‘steering wheel’ toward good or evil actions’ 3. Nafs (the ego, the extract of the material world) 4. the Rooh (the soul, the breath from Allah which seeks to return to its Rabb) 5. The sheytan (the encourager of ill will and bad deeds who seeks to draw you to remoteness) 6. The angel ( the encourager of good deeds and who seeks to draw you near to Allah; and finally 7. The spiritual nourishments of the Soul (which are specific Ibadaat that increase your Iman, purify and enlighten your heart, and refine your Rooh).

The heart is a battlefield wherein Sheytan and the Angel fight for control over your decisions. (Surahtul Nass illustrates the actions of Sheytan and there are ayats regarding how the angels interact with us (one such verse being 13:11) and Imam Ghazzali mentioned that with the increase of good deeds and submission to Allah, angels gather and alight on the heart of the believer. Thus by increasing our zhikr and fikr, the angels begin to predominate on our hearts, and through Ghaffla, pride, consumption of haram; the devils predominate. Proof of the battle that rages in the heart of man is that sometimes a generally good person will go and ‘do something stupid’ and why sometimes an overall bad person will sometimes do something merciful.

Now, it is our understanding from a hadith of Abu Hurayra (ra) that: “One minute of fikr is equivalent to a year of worship, and one hour of Fikr competes with 60 years of worship.” With this in mind, we seek to deeply study the components of ourselves and how to gain mastery over these components to orient ourselves toward the Creator in the sincere hope of drawing near to him.

Another Fikr I recommend, is to look and observe the spring as it begins to arrive and develop around you. Notice how the earth has been dead and frozen for so long, and how the trees begin budding, the birds begin returning and singing, and the flowers slowly burst forth. Allah talks alot about the rejuvenation of the land in the Qur’an and relates it to the resurrection (see sura Ya Sin). As we practice these methods, we will begin to see a resurrection within our own hearts, inshAllah.

Q. Brother, you’ve well-introduced the need for Fikr as a practice and its purpose and benefits. Can you please explain the zhikr side of meditation?

A. Zhikr as a practice is designed to draw you nearer to the One whom you are remembering per the ayat:

“Remember Me and I will remember you” (2:152)

and also the Hadith Qudsi:

“I am as My servant thinks I am (1). I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assemble better than it. And 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 at speed.”

Zhikr is the foundational practice that Prophet Muhammad (saw) left us in his sunnah as a means of purifying our inner (our hearts) and drawing near to our Rabb (Lord).

Before getting more deep into specific zhikr meditations, I recommend anyone to start out lightly with some common ones that all Muslims know and which are excellent in cultivating our inner focus. I would recommend a light mix of two for daily recitation: la-illaha ill Allah and Astaghfirullah.

The Usool for this simple practice is founded on the following:

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Renew your faith!” It was said, “O Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), who do we renew our faith?”
He replied (Allah bless him and give him peace), “By saying la ilaha ill Allah (‘There is no god but God’) a lot” [Ahmad and Hakim]

Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet said: “When a servant of Allah utters the words la ilaha illallah (there is no god except Allah) sincerely, the doors of heaven open up for these words until they reach the Throne of Allah, so long as its utterer keeps away from the major sins.” (Narrated by Tirmidhi)

Jabir reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “The best remembrance of Allah is to repeat la ilaha illallah.”

Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard Allah’s Apostle saying.” By Allah! I ask for forgiveness from Allah and turn to Him in repentance more than seventy times a day.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari – Book 75 Hadith 319

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle salallahu alaihi wasallam said, “Our Lord, the Blessed, the Superior, comes every night down on the nearest Heaven to us when the last third of the night remains, saying: “Is there anyone to invoke Me, so that I may respond to invocation? Is there anyone to ask Me, so that I may grant him his request? Is there anyone seeking My forgiveness, so that I may forgive him?”
Sahih Al-Bukhari – Book 21 Hadith 246

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “When Allah created the creations, He wrote with Him on His Throne: ‘My Mercy has preceded My Anger.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari – Book 93 Hadith 545

Narrated by Anas ibn Malik
Anas heard the Prophet salallahu alaihi wasallam say: Allah, the Exalted, has said: “O son of Adam! Certainly I shall continue to pardon thee so long as thou supplicatest Me and hopest (for My forgiveness), whatever may be thy faults and sins, I don’t care. O son of Adam, even if thy sins pile up as high as the sky, and thou askest for My forgiveness, I will forgive thee. O son of Adam, if thou comest to Me with an earthful of defaults and meetest Me, not associating anything with Me, I will come to thee, with an earthful of forgiveness.”
Al-Tirmidhi – Hadith 442

Dear brother or sister, jazakAllah Khayr for spending the time to read this short post and pray that Allah gives you insight into His ayats and makes your tests easy on you, AMIN

6 Responses to “A short note on Fikr and Zhikr Meditation”

  1. Maulana Yusuf Ludhianwi writes in the Safarnamah that in the modern times, due to the preponderance of materialism, Beliefs have become shaky, the value of righteous deeds have dwindled and the attributes of Yaqeen, Ikhlas, Ihsaan and Zikrullah have all but departed from the hearts of people. The Khanqahs are vacant and forsaken, as a result of which the Ummah is deprived not only of the wealth of Ta’alluq-ma’allah (attachment with Allah) but even in the external forms of dress, appearance, mannerism, social customs, practices, ideology and thoughts; it has become difficult to distinguish between a Muslim and non-Muslim. This pitiable and miserable condition of the Ummah is sufficient to fill the heart of every sensitive person with worry and concern for the Ummah. What could then be said about the extent of grief and worry for the Ummah of that person who was the carrier of the combined spiritual force of the Akaabireen (spiritual elders) and their spokesperson, Shaikh Zakariyya (R)? Like an expert specialist doctor, he was able to diagnose the spiritual diseases and disorders of the Ummah and prescribe its effective treatment and cure. Therefore, in the latter part of his life, he was passionately consumed by the mission of reviving the system of Zikrullah and to join the broken ties of the creation with the Creator. This was the actual panacea of this spiritual sickness. It was for this purpose that Shaikh Zakariyya (R) undertook his arduous journeys; this was the main topic of discussion in his gatherings, the primary subject of all his letters and correspondences; all of this was to enliven the Majalis of Zikr and to get maximum participation of people for these gatherings of Zikr.

  2. This verse indicates that doing zhikr in silence and without raising one’s voice is better. Once during a journey the Prophet, peace be upon him, heard a group of Muslims supplicating aloud. Thereupon the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Give yourselves a respite, you are not calling upon someone deaf or absent. Surely He Whom you are calling upon is near you and He listens to all. He is nearer to you than the neck of your mount.” This hadith underlines the love and awe a person should feel while engaged in zhikr.

  3. The heart is a battlefield wherein Sheytan and the Angel fight for control over your decisions. (Surahtul Nass illustrates the actions of Sheytan and there are ayats regarding how the angels interact with us (one such verse being 13:11) and Imam Ghazzali mentioned that with the increase of good deeds and submission to Allah, angels gather and alight on the heart of the believer. Thus by increasing our zhikr and fikr, the angels begin to predominate on our hearts, and through Ghaffla, pride, consumption of haram; the devils predominate. Proof of the battle that rages in the heart of man is that sometimes a generally good person will go and ‘do something stupid’ and why sometimes an overall bad person will sometimes do something merciful.

  4. francesca says:

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  5. ANON says:

    @Frances, the hadith you mention has a context. In it, the sahaba were on the battlefield and were doing out loud zhikr so intensely that Prophet Muhammad (saw) was concerned for two things: 1. Such zhikr would give away their position to the enemy, and 2. They were making zhikr so intensely that it was sapping their strength, which they needed for the upcoming battle. Hence Prophet Muhammaad (saw) stated the hadith you reference. Gob bless you for bringing it up! There are however other hadith and ayat which encourage very loud zhikr.

  6. Jazakallah khair for this article. May Allah bless all of us and forgive our sins.

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