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Zikr (1st March 1978)
Zikr, which is one of the important practices of the Sufis means remembrance, but generally when we talk about remembering somebody, we mean simply with our minds. Zikr means more than this, it means remembrance and recollection. Recollection in the sense in which religious people in the West have used that word, that is, to collect one's faculties in one place.
It means remembering Allah not simply with the mind as you remember a past event, but as remembering somebody whom you loved very dearly and who is distant from you, then you remember him with your whole soul. Your whole soul is, so to speak, yearning for that person. Remembrance (Zikr) is also by taking His name, as if a person is completely overwhelmed with this feeling of separation, so he would again and again take the name of the person from whom he was separated. Here we take the name of Allah.
Allah's name is not a meaningless word. Allah is a name which He has given Himself and by Allah He has defined Himself in the Qur'an. When we hear the word Allah it comes to our mind that Supreme being with all His attributes as described in Islam.
When we think of a person, or his name is taken, a sort of collectivised idea comes to us, and we necessarily don't think of all his attributes separately. We then think of him as so and so, Umer or Ali. That gives a sort of integrated idea of that person. When we take the name, Allah, we think first of that Supreme Being who has brought everything into creation including ourselves, and who is above all limitations of what we know as created beings - something Supreme.
When we come to His attributes, they are also supreme. In every respect they are perfect. We understand the attributes, of course, through our own very limited intelligence. That is why to our limited intelligence, Allah has explained Himself. For instance, He has said, I am seeing, I am hearing and I am knowing, which are faculties which man understands because he also has them in a certain measure. But of course His is the perfection of seeing and the perfection of hearing and the perfection of knowing. Ours is a very faint reflection of that, one can say, hardly comparable.
Some of the scholastics in fact have said that they are absolutely incomparable. Comparison in the sense that the name is the same, otherwise the thing, the attribute itself, is simply not the same. That is rather an extreme thing to say, but any way it is true in a certain respect. But in a certain respect there is a comparison, otherwise Allah would not have used this word. So there must be some sort of connection, however faint it is, because obviously to compare our being and Allah's being is something, you can say to a certain extent, incomparable. From another view you can say that however faint, there is some comparison.
The attributes of perfection which He has described in the Qur'an - hearing, seeing, knowing, forgiving and covering up people's faults, punishing those who deliberately oppose His command, capable of giving the greatest reward, and also capable of completely eliminating the universe if He wishes, that is to say He is All powerful. So all these attributes are included, so to speak, in this name Allah. When we say Allah we according to our own capacity of understanding, may just think of this Supreme essence or being without thinking the details of the attributes and sometimes we may think of the attributes or even one particular attribute but still it will all be Allah. It would be Allah in the capacity of some particular attribute. When we say Allah, we just don't call a being who is some character of history. For instance, if a person is very much impressed by reading some history of Caesar or Khusroe or somebody else, he might take his name but this would obviously have no meaning. When we call Allah we are calling a being who is present and living and who very much is.
When we say remembrance we don't mean just using the faculty of memory. It means collecting up our whole soul and bringing it to Him. That is to say filling our whole soul with this thought and this conception of feeling of Allah.
In the Surah AI Muzammil, Allah has himself commanded the Prophet (may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) to remember Him: "wazkur isme rabbika wa tabattal ilaihi tabteela". It means to remember the name of thy Rab, Master. He has mentioned the word "name" particularly. He has not just simply said to remember Allah but remember the name. So this is significant. There is some hidden purpose in taking the name. Whether you take it aloud with your voice or you say it with the inner voice which we have. We can say something with an inner voice, with no outward expression, still the name is there where words are formulated. We can formulate words in the heart too. There is a definite purpose in the name. That is why to begin with, people are given this teaching of repeating the name of Allah. Simply repeating it as a word or a sound of course is not the aim, the aim is to fill one's soul with this feeling of His presence, to become perfectly conscious of His presence. This is possible in this way because when we call upon Allah, He is present.
is in the Qur'an "Ud'uni astajib lakum", (call upon Me then I will reply). In the Hadis, Prophet (may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) has made it clear to us, in fact he has given it in the words of Allah that Allah says that I am with that person who remembers Me. "Ana ma". man zakarani ... Ana ma' azakireen" words of this kind that I am with that person who remembers Me. That means to say that He then comes. You call Him so He comes. He is present. It is not only our own effort; if it were our own effort then we can call and call and we would never gain anything by it. But its not like this, when we call then He comes and by this attempt we try to fill ourselves with His consciousness, this is really done by Him not by us.
What is required is - there are so many expressions. One speaks of self-sacrifice, self-abnegation. Abnegation of course means to deny oneself. Although usually self-abnegation means to deny oneself the things which one likes, here I am using the word in a different sense. That is to deny oneself altogether. People talk about some other expression like self-annihilation and self-obliteration. What one has to do is to try to remove these thoughts of self that I want this and I want that, I feel this and so on. Try to feel Allah only.