Zikr and thinking are the beginning of the journey to iman. They are also the only actions we can perform in the final minutes of our lives, even when our bodies are too feeble for physical worship and good deeds. Many are unable to utter a simple "la ila ha ilallah" in their dying breath, because at the moment of death, the truth of the aggregated actions in life will be laid bare, and by that time, the tongue will only be able to verbalise the truth in their hearts.
Those who, with Allah's will, are given the ability to engage in zikr of Allah, even while they are struggling or suffering in the final chapters of their lives, are the ones that Allah identifies as the true believers.
Zikr is not a series of verbal narratives, but extends to other aspects of behaviour and worship, which our limbs translate to action. There are different levels of zikr:
- The eyes, with tears when remembering Allah
- The ears, with listening to goodness for the sake of Allah
- The tongue, with praising and thanking Allah
- The hand, by performing good deeds and charity
- The body, by striving for Allah and being patient and compassionate
- The heart, with fear of Allah and hope of Allah's mercy
- The soul, being the highest level, with complete surrender and contentment to Allah.
Zikr is a branch of obedience. If a trustworthy manager instructs his team to perform a task, his instructions would be fulfilled to the last letter by those who are the most loyal and respectful to him. He does not even need to be there to supervise the work. The loyal employee would willingly go the extra mile for him, because he trusts the boss's guidance, quality and vision. If we do not have trust or respect for the manager, once he is out of sight, our work would be half hearted and mediocre. It is because we do not trust in him or his vision.
If we truly trust Allah, obedience to Him would be second nature, and those who yearn closeness to Him would go that extra mile, at any given time and from any aspect of his abilities. A waiter, for example, can give basic service – he will get your order right but there is nothing outstanding about him. Another waiter is prompt, attentive, gives service with a smile, remembers what your favourite dishes are, and waits on you enthusiastically. Both are doing the same job, but which waiter will appeal to you more?
In a healthy marriage, each spouse would dedicate time and effort to please the other, in whatever way possible. It can be reflected through mutual generosity, adopting a loving and respectful attitude, or being considerate to the needs of the other. The appreciation and remembrance of the spouse makes the task of prioritizing them pleasing, rewarding and even natural. The stronger the marriage, the higher the enthusiasm of each spouse to serve and give the best to the other.
What about servitude to Allah, where if you serve and please Him, He reciprocates exponentially, dunia and akhirah?
The Qur'an prescribes many ways we can establish remembrance of Allah – and we will note from the following verses that remembrance of Allah is the ultimate goal in worship.
- Constantly remembering Him in all your actions:
Indeed, I am Allah. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance. (Ta Ha, verse 14)
- Through our prayers, including Friday prayers:
"Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrong doing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do". (Al Ankabut, verse 45)
"O you who have believed, when [the adhan] is called for the prayer on the day of Jumu'ah [Friday], then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade." (Al Jumu'ah, verse 9).
- During Ramadhan, where Allah says:
Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful. (Al Baqarah, verse 185)
- Upon the completion of Hajj, Allah says:
"And when you have completed your rites, remember Allah like your [previous] remembrance of your fathers or with [much] greater remembrance." (Al Baqarah, verse 200)
- Remembrance at all times. The remembrance of Allah attracts the most magnificent rewards, which is Allah's attention and guidance.
In verse 152 of Surah Al Baqarah, Allah gives us a very clear reminder: "So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me."
Once we are in remembrance of Allah, Allah assures us: "Call upon Me; I will respond to you." (Ghafir, verse 60)
In Surah Al Ankabut, verse 69, Allah says – "And those who strive for Us - We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good."
- Zikr can be personified through actions and attitude, and patience is a form of zikr. Allah will abundantly reward the one who is patient with His decree.
"Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account." (Az Zumar, verse 10)
"So be patient, [O Muhammad], over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting." (Qaf, verse 29)
- Reliance on Allah, because reliance on Allah can only occur upon remembrance, respect and value to Him:
And whoever relies upon Allah - then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent. (Al Talaq, verse 3)
- Repentance. Whoever remembers Allah and believes in His merciful qualities will be inclined to make tawbah and istighfar in trust and reliance of those divine qualities. Many of us hesitate and delay our repentance, which indicates that we are doubting Allah's ability and capacity to forgive.
And whoever does a wrong or wrongs himself but then seeks forgiveness of Allah will find Allah Forgiving and Merciful. (Al Nisa, verse 110)
Then exalt [Him] with praise of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him. Indeed, He is ever Accepting of repentance. (An Nasr, verse 3)
Abu Darda (RA) reported: The Prophet (SAW) said, “Shall I not tell you of the best of your deeds, which is the purest to your King, which raises you among your ranks, which is better for you than spending gold and money in charity, and which is better for you than meeting your enemy and striking the necks of each other?” They said, “Of course!” The Prophet said, “It is the remembrance of Allah Almighty.” (Tirmidhi)
Allah's reciprocal remembrance of a person is much greater than that person's remembrance of Him. We should remember Allah abundantly all the time, regardless of our circumstances and situation.