The Prophet, peace be upon him, would often tell his Companions, "Shall I tell you about the best of deeds, the most pure in the sight of your Lord, about the one that is of the highest order and is far better for you than spending gold and silver, even better for you than meeting your enemies in the battlefield where you strike at their necks and they at yours?" The Companions replied, "Yes, O Messenger of Allah!" The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Remembrance of Allah." (Narrated by Tirmidhi, Ahmad, hadith hasan)
Allah (SWT) has commanded us to remember him always. He says: "Remember me, I shall remember you." (Qur'an 2:152)Thus it is very important for us as Muslims to zikr, or remembrance, of Allah (SWT).
The word zikr has many meanings. It means: Allah's Book and its recitation, Prayer, Learning and teaching, Du'aa, Remembrance of Allah in the heart, or in both the heart and the tongue, and even pondering over Allah's creation.
The Qur'an says: "And establish regular prayer, for prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds, and remembrance of Allah is the greatest thing in life, without doubt." (29:45) In other words, zikr has an even greater impact in protecting us from shameful and unjust deeds than regular prayers do. This is because when a person opens his heart to Allah (SWT) and utters words in His praise, Allah (SWT) fills him with strength and inner peace, comforting his mind and his heart. The Prophet (PBUH) once said, "When any group of men remember Allah, angels surround them and mercy covers them, tranquillity descends upon them, and Allah mentions them to those who are with Him." (Sahih Aljami',#5608). When people do zikr, their hearts turn to the highest ideals and are free from the temptations of sin. Obviously this is true only if the words come from the heart and not just from the tongue.
Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) said, "The similitude of one who remembers his Rubb and one who does not remember Him, is like that of the living and the dead.'' [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
A person may ask, ‘How can we do Zikr all the time whilst we have so many things to do in life such as we go to work, feed the family, pay bills, etc.? Well, the answer to this is that, firstly, it is the Sunnah of Allah's Messenger to work and feed the family which is rewarded by Allah and, secondly, that when a person is working this does not mean that he should stop remembering Allah while he is working, while he is serving his customers or while he is programming his computer. In fact the heart of the believer should be attached to Allah's remembrance throughout his day to day activities such that he protects himself from falling in love with the materials and temptations of this world and that his love for Allah and his Messenger becomes stronger and stronger as time goes by. When a person begins to remember Allah all the time it is then that he becomes conscious of his actions.
"... And the men and the women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues. Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e., Jannah).'' (33:35)
Etiquettes of Zikr:
It is better to count the phrases on the fingers than counting beads because the fingers will be questioned and will speak on your behalf on the Day of Judgment.
Zikr has been given much importance in Islam, and thus it is better to follow a certain etiquette of zikr. One should face the Ka'bah when doing zikr, for the best assemblies are those that are facing the qiblah. (eg. when reciting Quran).
The Prophet (PBUH) once happened upon a group of Muslims doing zikr out loud. He then 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." This hadith also emphasizes the love and closeness to Allah (SWT) that a person should feel when doing zikr.
Doing zikr in a group is even better than doing it by oneself. Ibn Umar has narrated that "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'When you pass by a garden of Paradise, avail yourselves to it.' The companions asked, 'What are the gardens, O Messenger of Allah?' The Prophet, peace upon him, replied "The assemblies or circles of zikr. There are some angels of Allah who go about looking for such assemblies of zikr, and when they find them they surround them.'" (Sahih elTargheeb). Often times people gather in a group and talk about trivial and irrelevant matters. Participating in such vain conversations is clearly looked down upon in Islam. Therefore, we should constantly remember Allah (SWT) and do zikr. The Prophet (PBUH) said: "If people sit in an assembly in which they do not remember Allah nor invoke blessing on the Prophet, it will be a cause of grief for them on the Day of Judgment." (Silsilah ElSahiha, #77)
Virtues of zikr:
- It induces love for Allah. He who seeks access to the love of Almighty Allah should do zikr profusely. Just as reading and repetition is the door of knowledge, so zikr of Allah is the gateway to His love.
- Zikr involves muraqaba or meditation, through which one reaches the state of ihsan or excellence, wherein a person worships Allah as if he is actually seeing Him (Ihsan).
- The gatherings for zikr are gatherings of angels, and gatherings without zikr are gatherings of Satan.
- By virtue of zikr, the person doing zikr is blessed, as also the person sitting next to him.
- In spite of the fact that zikr is the easiest form of worship (the movement of the tongue being easier than the movement of any other part of the body), yet it is the most virtuous form.
- Zikr is a form of Sadaqa -- charity. Abu Dharr al-Ghifari said: "The Messenger of Allah said: "Sadaqa is for every person every day the sun rises." I said: "O Messenger of Allah, from what do we give sadaqa if we do not possess property?" He said: "The doors of sadaqa are takbir (i.e.: to say Allahu Akbar, Allah is Greater); Subhan Allah (Allah is exalted high); al-hamdu lillah (all praise is for Allah); La ilaha illallah (there is no god other than Allah); Astaghfirullah (I seek forgiveness from Allah); enjoining good; forbidding evil.... These are all the doors of sadaqah from you which is prescribed for you, and there is a reward for you even in sex with your wife." Narrated by Ahmad and Ibn Hibban, and there is something of similar effect in Muslim.
In conclusion, to feel the importance and see the benefits of zikr, this hadith has been provided: The Prophet narrated: "Allah (SWT) says: 'I am to my servant as he expects of Me, I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers me in his heart, I remember him to Myself, and if he remembers Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly better than his, and if he draws nearer to Me a hand's span, I draw nearer to him an arm's length, If he comes near Me a Cubit, I draw nearer to him a fathom length, and if he comes to me walking I rush to him at [great] speed." (Sahih elJam', 8138).