What is meant by remembrance of Allah, Dhikr?
When we speak about the remembrance of Allah, we are talking about all of the aspects. We are not talking as some people, who mistakenly think it is only referring to repeating names of Allah over and over again. And actually from the sunnah you will not find any form of remedy in any authentic narration which the Prophet (ﷺ) said to repeat the name of Allah over and over again, though it is the common understanding of people today.
In fact we even have books on the ninety nine names of Allah. In which you are told to say this name of Allah so many times and this is going to happen for you. Your wife can’t have a baby, she says this name so many times, and she will get a baby. Your business is failing, you say that name so many times, and you will get success. These are the great promises in these books but of course these books should be burnt because they are lies. They are falsehood. It is not found in any authentic hadeeth. Whenever the Prophet (ﷺ) told to make dhikr of Allah, he gave us phrases, statements. Such as; SubhanAllah, Glorify be to Allah. These are statements which have meaning. Not a word repeated over and over and over again. Even common sense tells us that this is not logical, it is not reasonable. Somebody wants to call on you. They want to ask you for help to do something for them. But they just keep repeating your name over and over again. Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad! You are going to say this person has lost his mind. What is it that you want? Repeating my name is not going to achieve anything. So we can understand that in common terms in our own lives then surely it must be obvious to us with regards to Allah. And this is why, when we look in the sunnah we will not find that. We will only find the Prophet (ﷺ) telling us to make meaningful statements.
Ibn Taymiyyah in his ‘Essay on the Heart’ says:
“As a result of that, a Syrian sage of the past, I believe it was Sulaiman al Khawas May Allah have mercy on him said: “ Remembrance of God in relationship to the heart is like nourishment relative to the body, thus as the body cannot find pleasure in food when it is sick, likewise the heart cannot find sweetness of remembrance of Allah, when it is in love with the material world or something to that effect.”
This is not a hadith. This is a statement Ibn Taymiyyah who believes, it is attributable to Sulaiman al Khawas. Sulaiman al Khawas was among the leading ascetics of Syria and a contemporary of Ibrahim ibn Adham. He used to attend the classes of Imam al Awza’ii in Lebanon. On one occasion, Sa’eed ibn Abdul Aziz attended a class of al Awza’ii, in which he mentioned the ascetics and said: “we need to be like these people.” Ascetics are people who are focused on the remembrance of Allah, living simple lives, etc., but staying within the bounds of the shari’ah. Without realizing that Sulaiman al Khawas was present, Sa’eed, this person who narrated this, commented on Sulaiman al Khawas saying: “I have not seen anyone more ascetic than Sulaiman al Khawas.” At this point Sulaiman who was sitting there in the gathering heard him say that, he covered his face with his turban, got up and left. Al Awza’ii then went to Sa’eed and said: “Do you think about what comes out of your head? You have harmed one of the attendees by praising him to his face.” Sa’eed later visited Sulaiman in his house in Beirut at night and found him in darkness. When he asked him why? Sulaiman replied that the grave would be darker. Then Sa’eed asked him why he was alone in the house without any companion. He replied, he disliked having a companion who he was unable to serve. Meaning he did not have enough money, so he would not like to bring people into his house. He could not do anything for them. So Sa’eed offered him some dirhams but he refused saying that whatever little he had was a result of great effort and he disliked making himself get used to easy money.
The statement of Sulaiman, Remembrance of Allah in relationship to the heart is like nourishment relative to the body. Which type of remembrance is true nourishment for the heart? People think dhikr or remembrance in the narrow sense, repeating certain prescribed statements of remembrance. However, dhikr is in fact the heart’s remembrance and consciousness of Allah which should accompany every believer’s actions and statements. Sa’eed ibn Jubair said: “dhikr is obedience to Allah. Whoever obeys Allah has in fact remembered Him. Whoever does not obey Him, he is not one who remembers Him. Even if he says tasbih, SubhanAllah and recites the book a lot.”
Ibn Taymiyyah also stated in his Majmoo’ al Fatawa:
“Every statement made by the tongue and conceived by the heart, which takes one closer to Allah including learning knowledge, teaching and commanding the good and forbidding evil is a form of dhikr of Allah. This mindfulness of Allah is the nourishment of the heart. While the formal form of dhikr wherein a person remembers Allah with specific words at specific times as defined by the Sunnah aids and develops the true remembrance of Allah. “
Furthermore, since dhikr is the nourishment of the heart, a heart which lacks it is dead. And the Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“The similitude of one who remembers Allah and one who does not remember his Lord is like the similitude of death and life.”
Dhikr is the obedience to Allah. Whoever obeys Allah has in fact remembered Him. Whoever does not obey Him he is not one who obeys Him even if he says SubhanAllah and recites the Qur’an often.” It is a thought which is worth reflecting on.
 [Narrated by Albukhari (6407) on the authority of Abu Mussa al’Ashaari.]< Back to Questions