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 Chapter Two

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PostSubject: Chapter 2   Chapter Two EmptyMon Jul 19, 2010 12:00 pm

bismillah1

CHAPTER TWO: A Life of Remembrance

In a verse of the Quran that I love very much, Allah, Most Gracious and Loving, commends:

Remember Me and I shall remember you. Be grateful unto Me and deny Me not.
[al-Baqara 2:152.]

Can you imagine a more gratifying state than this, where, when you remember Allah, the Creator, Sustainer and Lord of the Universe, He remembers you in return? The same exhortation has been beautifully conveyed in a hadith qudsi:

I treat My servant as he hopes that I would treat him. I am with him whenever he remembers Me: if he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him in My `heart'; if he remembers Me in a gathering, I remember him in a gathering far better than that gathering; if he draws near to Me a hand's span, I draw near to him an arm's length; 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 running. (Bukhari, Muslim)

Those who remember Allah standing, sitting and reclining and who reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth are highly commended in the Noble Quran. They are wise in that they fill their hearts with the remembrance of God in every, moment, in every circumstance and in every posture of their lives. [Ali Imran 3: 191]

The exhortation to remember Allah at all times is a reflection of Allah's all-embracing and overwhelming love for us. The door to Allah is always open to us: Remember Me and I will remember you. We need only find our way to and through that door.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Two   Chapter Two EmptyMon Jul 19, 2010 12:33 pm

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THE SIGNIFICANCE OF DHIKR


Regarding the significance of dhikrullah or the remembrance of God, Allah says in the Quran, itself the ultimate reminder (dhikr) to all the worlds [Sad 38: 87], the following:

Remember Allah. for He has guided you.
[al-Baqara 2.]

O you who believe! Remember Allah often with much remembrance. And glorify Him morning and evening. [Luqman 31: 41-42.]

And men who remember God much and women who remember - God has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.
[al-Ahzab 33: 35 ]

Hadith literature is similarly replete with references to the remembrance of Allah:

The servant cannot perform a better deed which will save him from God's punishment than the remembrance of God. (Malik.)

Whoever wishes to feast in the gardens of Paradise, let him remember God often. (Tirmidhi.)

Indeed, with regard to dhikr, the Quran concludes:

And the remembrance of Allah is the greatest deed without doubt. [al-Ankabut 29]

The significance of dhikr lies in the fact that it is God's own chosen and recommended mode by which the muminun or Believers show gratitude for having been shown the straight path. In addition, it is indeed the surest way of attaining God's forgiveness and achieving the ultimate reward of Paradise.
The importance of dhikr then is not difficult to understand. It is dhikr that purifies your qalb or heart and makes it sound. And you can only attain salvation and true success by having a pure and sound heart.

The qalb or `heart' referred to here is not the pump in your breast that pushes blood around your body but rather the centre or locus of your personality which pumps out your desires and motivations and which makes you conduct yourself as you do. It is this qalb that lies at your centre and dictates your actions which is the key to your ultimate success. Thus, with reference to the Day of Judgment, the Quran declares:

[It will be a Day) when neither wealth nor children shall profit [and when] only he [will be saved] who comes before God with a sound heart [free of evil]. [ash-Shuara 26-89.]

This point is more elaborately made in a hadith in which the Prophet says:

Listen [to me] carefully. There is a lump of flesh in the body - if it is set right and made good, the entire body becomes good and healthy; but if it becomes diseased, the entire body becomes diseased. Remember well - it is the Heart. (Bukhari.)

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If the heart is the key to ultimate salvation and success, it may, likewise, be the seat of much corruption and open doors to many evils. It may facilitate the corruption of political and economic
activities and ultimately the social institutions of a society. Where such a state prevails, the Quran suggests that it is because people, individually, have become diseased in their hearts. [al-Baqara 2.] In this state, people stop seeing and doing what is right. The Quran explains that this is not because they have become blind in their eyes but because their hearts have become blind. [al-Hajj 22: 46.] This blindness only draws them nearer to the ultimate chastisement.

It is the heart, as the decider of our ultimate fate, that must then be the starting point of any tazkiya programme, to purify this heart and then summon it to the service of mankind.

Ibn al-Qayyim, one of the great scholars of Islam, states in his Kitab al Adhkar (The Book of Remembrance), that 'the heart which is devoid of the remembrance of Allah is a heart that is dead'; it is dead even and long before the body carrying the heart reaches its grave. Indeed, this living body that carries the heart is the heart's grave. Ibn al-Qayyim's statement is reminiscent of the hadith of tire Prophet which states:

`The difference between someone who remembers His Lord and someone who does not is like the difference between the living and the dead.' (Bukhari.)

The statement is also reminiscent of the following verse of the Quran:

Do not become like those who forget Allah and Allah makes them forget themselves. It is they who are truly deprived. [al-Hashr 59.]

The purpose of tazkiya is to ensure that the heart never falls into a sorry state of being and that it is always alive with the remembrance of God.

Prosperous indeed is one who purifies himself and remembers the name of His Guardian-Lord, and prays [unto Him]
. [al-Ala 87: 14-15.]

The Prophet further emphasised the importance of dhikr when he said to his Companions:

'Shall I not inform you of the best of your actions, the purest in the sight of your Lord, which raises your rank to the highest, which is better for you than spending gold and silver, better than meeting your enemy so that you strike at their necks and they strike at yours?' They replied: 'Yes, indeed,' and he said: 'It is the remembrance of Allah.'
(Tirmidhi.)

Strive then, to fill all your moments, all your thoughts and all your actions with His remembrance. Recite tasbih or words of glorification and praise to punctuate all your actions and achievements.
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THE MEANING OF DHIKR


What is the precise meaning of 'dhikr'? What is its scope and what does it entail? Does it simply involve certain utterances of the tongue, like Subhanallah (I glorify Allah's absolute perfection), Alhamdu lillah (All praise be to Allah), Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest), La ilaha illallah (There is no god but Allah) and the recitation of some other selected verses of the Quran, or is there more to it? Of course, such utterances of the tongue and recitation of verses of the Quran are important. In fact they are very important forms of dhikr for, indeed, the best forms of remembrance are those that involve both the heart and the tongue. You must understand, however, that the scope of dhikr is considerably wider.

Dhikr must not only be felt by the heart and uttered with the tongue, but must also affect and effect amal salih, or good deeds. Significantly, Ibn al-Qayyim suggests that dhikr encompasses `any and every particular moment when you are thinking, saying or doing things which Allah likes: Hence, if your conversation is filled with the words of God, this is dhikr and if all your actions are in accordance with His will, this is dhikr. Indeed Allah commends that we remember Him while standing, sitting and even while reclining. This is only possible if dhikr embraces every single aspect of life. Consider for example the following verse of the Quran where dhikr is emphasised in both Prayer and business activity:

O Believers, when the call to Payer is sounded on the Day of Congregation, hasten to Allah's remembrance and leave all worldly commerce. This a for your own good, if you but knew . And when the Prayer it finished then disperse through the land, and seek of the bounty of Allah; and remember Allah frequently that you may prosper. [al-Jumua 62:9-10]

Attending the Salat al-jumua, listening to the khutba or sermon and performing the congregational Prayer are all well known as forms of dhikr. But in our worldly pursuits as well we are urged to remember Allah even more often.

We may thus conclude, that attending to your personal needs, earning a livelihood and spending on your family are all forms of dhikr. But of course, they can only be dhikr if, alongside with the relevant adhkar or supplications in the heart and on the tongue, they are done in obedience to Allah, for His pleasure, to attain Janna. Otherwise, as the Quran warns us, far from being dhikr, they may have the opposite effect:

Let not your worldly possessions and your children make you neglectful of Allah's remembrance. But spend in the way of Allah. [al-Munafiqun 63:9-10.]
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THE METHODS OF DHIKR


We have thus far discussed the significance, meaning and scope of dhikr. Let us now turn to the various forms and methods of dhikr. How do we remember Allah in the morning and evening, during the day and at night and while standing, sitting or reclining.' There are basically two forms of dhikr. The first involves continuous and sustained inner awareness of Allah in all that we say and do in our daily lives. The second involves mechanisms, whether performed individually or collectively, that help to develop the first.

1. Sustained Awareness of Allah

Let us begin with a discussion of the first form and its methods. How can you remember Allah throughout the normal course of your day without withdrawing from the routine of your daily worldly life? How can you ensure that your personal life, family life, professional life and other activities all continue in full swing, and yet, at the same time, ensure that your life as a whole - every moment of it - is permeated with remembrance of Allah? Such an all-pervading dhikr can be an onerous task, but one you can accomplish - with some ease. Let me remind you of four states of consciousness that you must strive to develop by remembering certain things, absorbing them and reminding yourself of them often.
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ONE: Say to yourself: I am in Allah's presence; He is watching me.


If ever you are alone, He is the second and that if you are two, He is the third. He is with you wherever you are.
[al-Mujadala 58: 7.]

He is nearer to you than your-jugular vein. [Qaf 50: 16-18.]

He is watching everything that you do and hearing everything that you say. He is ever present and His knowledge is all encompassing. Remind yourself of this as often as you can, and throughout the day- every time you begin a new task, and every time you speak. Indeed, your aim should be to impress this on your heart in such a way that it ultimately becomes your very breath. When the Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa was asked by a Companion about the best method of purifying himself, he replied:

`You should always remember that Allah is with you wherever you are.' **(Tirmidhi.)
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TWO: Say to yourself: Everything I have has been given to me by Allah.

All that there is - surrounding you, on you and in you - comes from Allah alone. There is none that creates or gives anything but Allah. [an-Nahl 16:78; Ya Sin 36:33-35.]

Therefore, reflect upon all the baraka or blessing that He has created you with and be thankful to Him. In all the adhkar that the Prophet has taught us, hamd or gratefulness to Allah is a constant theme. Many of these adhkar are simple to learn, and indeed, it was the most simple of his adhkar that he used most frequently. When the Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa rose in the morning, he would say Alhamdu lillah; whenever he ate or drank he would say Alhamdu lillah; and even when he relieved himself he would give thanks to Allah. Learn as many of the adhkar as you can, and throughout the day, as you witness all that Allah has blessed you with, punctuate your day with these adhkar.

If ever you appear to be short of things to be thankful for, recall the hadith of the Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa : `There are 360 joints in the body and for each joint you must give a sadaqa [thanks or charity] each day.' (Bukhari.)

You must give a sadaqa for each one of them because without any one of them you will be incomplete and handicapped. You must do this on a daily basis for should any one of them become damaged one day, you will similarly become incapacitated.

Additionally, you may remind yourself that, as we now know from our knowledge of human physiology, your heart beats 72 times a minute. Every time it beats, it does so with the permission of Allah. The moment He withdraws that permission, the heart will stop beating and your life will certainly come to an end. If you feel that there is nothing else to thank Allah for, then thank him for the life that He has given you - for, so long as there is life, there is hope.
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THREE: Say to yourself: Nothing in this world can happen without His permission.

Everything lies in the hands of Allah. No harm can befall you and no benefit can reach you except as Allah ordains. It is as the Quran informs us:

If God should touch you with misfortune, none can remove it but He, and if He should touch you with good fortune, He has power over all things. He alone holds sway over His creatures; He is the All-wise, the All-aware. [al-Anam 6: 17-18.]

The Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu aleihi wa would supplicate to Allah after each Prayer:

O Allah, whatever You want to give me, no one can stop it from coming to me and whatever You want to prevent from coming to me, nobody can give to me.

Prayer after Prayer, you should recite these beautiful words. And beyond that, remind yourself as much as you can and throughout the day, especially as you expect something to happen, or not to happen, that everything happens only as He commands, and by His permission.
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FOUR: Say to yourself: I am going to return to Allah one day and that day could be today.


You do not know when you will leave this world. It may be that the coming morning is your last morning, or perhaps the coming evening is your last evening. Indeed, it may be that this hour is your last hour, or even, that this moment is your last moment. Such an uncertainty does not, of course, justify a complete withdrawal from this life so as to prepare for the Next in some monastic fashion. It is important, however, that you are always conscious of this uncertainty, to the extent that it motivates you to spend every moment of your remaining life seriously, considering it as a gift from Allah and spending the resources He has blessed you with - time, ability and energy - as He has advised. Then, and only then, will your life have achieved what is required of it, and your return will achieve what is required of it. To help you attain this state of consciousness, recall and reflect upon the following Quranic verse as much as you can and throughout the day:

Chapter Two Innaas10
[al-Baqara 2:156]

These are the four states of consciousness that can help us achieve a life completely devoted to the remembrance of Allah. To try to reach these four states simultaneously, and with sincerity, can only purify you. To try in a determined fashion to reach these four states will lead you inevitably to Paradise.

Chapter Two 72791
**Allaah is with us by His knowledge and not by physical presence. sister Khadija's note
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2. Specific Methods of Dhikr

For us to achieve a continuous and sustained awareness of Him, Allah, in His Wisdom and Mercy, has
taught us some very specific mechanisms of dhikr. These include: the formal ibada-Salat, Sawm, Zakat and Hajj; tilawa of the Quran, dua, istighfar and tawba, seeking the company of the righteous and dawa. Together these mechanisms or methods constitute what we have classified above as the second form of dhikr, but here we may sub-divide them into two groups: those that can be performed individually and those that are performed collectively.
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3. Methods of Individual Dhikr

The foremost of the specific methods pertaining to individual dhikr include the fard or obligatory ibada. Allah has said in a hadith qudsi:

My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved by Me than what I have made obligatory. (Bukhari.)

Each specific formal ibada or act of servitude to God, has been ordained as an instrument of self development. When we observe our Salat regularly at the proper times, together in congregation whenever possible, with clear intentions and sincerity; when we fast in the month of Ramadan with awareness and resolve; when we give Zakat as soon as it falls due with a generous heart; and when we fulfill the obligations of Hajj as soon as we have the means, we will gain that special closeness to Allah that He has promised. Indeed, we may get even closer to God through additional observance of these specific formal acts of servitude, for Allah continues in the hadith qudsi:

My servant continues to draw nearer to Me with additional devotions until I love him. When I love him, I become the hearing with which he hears, the sight with which he sees, the hand with which he strikes and the foot with which he walks. Were he to ask for something I would surely give it, and were he to ask for refuge, I would surely grant him refuge. (Bukhari.)

For each specific fard ibada, there is an additional nafl or superogatory equivalent. These are as follows:
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The Sunna Salat - these include the additional Prayers before and after the five obligatory ones, but just as importantly the Tahajjud Prayer.
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The Sunna Fasts - as recommended by the Prophet and to be practised on Mondays and Thursdays of each week, the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth day of each lunar calendar month, and other recommended days in the Islamic year.
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Sadaqa fi Sabilillah - the giving of voluntary charity, however much and whenever one can afford, for the pleasure of Allah.
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The Umra - performance of the voluntary short pilgrimage.

In addition to the fard and their related nafl ibada, there are two further specific methods of individual dhikr: the first is the daily recitation of the Quran, and the second, frequent dua or supplications to Allah for forgiveness, guidance and fulfillment of needs.

Let us explore each of these specific methods pertaining to individual dhikr in more detail, particularly as instruments of tazkiya and dhikr
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A. Salat

Salat is the foremost form of ibada that Allah Himself has prescribed for us. In His own words He commands:

Establish regular Prayer that you may remember Me. [Ta Ha 20.]

The whole purpose of Salat is to be ever conscious of Allah, the Creator, Lord and Sustainer of all things. When we perform Salat we involve our tongue, our heart, our mind and indeed our whole body. In this sense, Salat is indeed, one of the most comprehensive forms of dhikr. It is perhaps for this reason that Allah states in a hadith qudsi:

`Out of all the ways through which My servant gets closer to Me, Salat is the dearest to Me.' (Bukhari.)

It is unfortunate, therefore, that we do not always take full advantage of this gift. We may pray five times each day but few of us remain conscious for long that in Prayer we have the best means to develop a strong connection with Allah. We may compare the obligatory Salat to bathing five times a day. If after such frequent bathing, your body remains dirty, then we may question the usefulness and efficacy of such bathing.

Similarly, if after regular observance of Prayer your heart remains unmoved, your morals remain corrupt and your conduct remains unaffected, we may question the usefulness and efficacy of your Prayer? If you enter into Salat and come out of it the same person, then you have missed something, and you may have missed a golden opportunity to achieve something great.

Remember, though, Salat is an obligation. Whether your heart is attentive or not, it must be performed. You cannot give up Prayer because to you it appears useless. Don't give up the obligation but try to infuse it with the purpose it seeks to serve - remembrance of Allah.

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How can you improve the quality of your Salat? Remember, first and foremost, that as soon as you commence your Salat, Shaytan makes it his duty to fill your mind with anything and everything but thoughts of Allah. [al-Araf 7: 16-17.] For, Shaytan is aware that your remembrance of Allah will draw you closer to Him, so he tries ceaselessly to disengage your mind and heart from such remembrance, so that you may never achieve that closeness. The most important hurdle to overcome from the outset, therefore, is absentmindedness. It is this that destroys the quality of your Prayer, for Allah does not accept the Prayers of a wandering mind. The Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu aleihi wa said:

God does not accept the Prayers of an individual until his heart achieves in it what his body has achieved. [Al-Ghazali in Ihya. See Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship, Islamic Foundation, Leicester, p. 29.]

The ability to concentrate in Prayer may be improved by undertaking adequate psychological, mental and physical preparation before the Prayer and by utilising certain techniques whilst performing the Prayer. Below we discuss some of them.

i. Psychological and Mental Preparation
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The planning of your daily activities should revolve around the five daily Salat. [al-Ma'arij 70: 22-23.] Do not plan everything else and then try to fit Prayer into your busy schedule.
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Ensure that you are conversant with all the rules and regulations governing your Prayer. Research in depth the Quranic verses and ahadith relating to the virtues of Salat.
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Be punctual with your Prayer. [an-Nisa 4] Get into the habit of praying at the earliest hour. Do not procrastinate. The Prophet said, `the deed most loved by Allah is Prayer performed on time.' (Muslim.)
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Pray as much of your fard Salat in jama'a or congregation as is possible. [al-Baqara 2: 43.]
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Avoid praying in a state in which you are mentally and physically fatigued. [an-Nisa 4: 43]
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Rid your mind of all evil thoughts and ideas. [al-Maun 107: 4-6.]
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Keep your mind free of worldly worries and engagements.
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Plan what ayat / duas you are going to recite.
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If you do not understand Arabic learn the meaning of what you recite in your Prayer.
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Remind yourself that engaging in Prayer offers you an opportunity to release yourself from the pressures and tensions of this world. The Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa has said that in Prayer was placed the comfort of his eyes. Therefore cherish the opportunity to remove the shackles and burdens of this world from your shoulders. [al-Baqara 2: 45.]
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Use your Prayer to remain focused on your mission in life to bring your entire being to serve only Allah.
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Use your Prayer as a source of strength, inspiration and enthusiasm for your life and activities.

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ii. Physical Preparation
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Fulfill all your personal needs before you commence your Prayer, for example, thirst, hunger and calls of nature.
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Pray in a pure physical state. Perform your wudu with care and perfection. [al-Maida 5: 6.]
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Although the whole earth is a masjid or a place of worship, choose a place that is clean.
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Pray in an environment free of noise and one where there is no distraction.
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Adorn yourself with clean and respectable clothes for Allah has said:
O Children of Adam, wear your best clothes at every place of worship. [al-Araf 7.]

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iii. Performing Your Prayer
-
Assess your mental readiness for Prayer before its commencement, during the various postures with its attendant recitations, after each raka and ultimately at the end- Try to make improvements at each stage
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Pray with humility both in your mental state and in your physical manner. Pray with hope and awe, asking Allah for His mercy and forgiveness.
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Remind yourself continually that you are talking to the most important `Being' in your life - your Creator and Sustainer. He is in front of you. You are facing Him and you are involved in a dialogue with Him. [al-Alaq 96: 19.]
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Commence your Prayer by seeking Allah's help and protection from the influences of Shaytan. [an-Nahl 16: 98.]
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Lower your gaze while praying and do not allow the physical environment to distract you. Anas related that the Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa said:
`My dear son, be sure to avoid being distracted during Prayer, for, to become distracted while praying is a disaster.' (Tabarani.)
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Use a variety of Quranic verses and duas in your Prayer to achieve greater concentration and awareness.
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Adopt a whispering technique in your recitation. This will increase your ability to remain focused on what you are saying. [al-Isra 17.]
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As you recite the Quran, translate it into your own language so that your attention is held. As you concentrate upon the meaning and implications of the words, insha Allah, all thoughts of worldly ideas will disappear.
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On each occasion that you recite the Sifat or attributes of Allah in ruku and sajda, consider how indebted you are and how grateful you should be to Allah and express your true emotions.
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Utilise the occasion of sajda to make additional dua to Allah. The Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa said:
' A servant is nearest to his Lord when he is in sajda, so increase your supplication when in sajda.' (Muslim.)
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Make your Prayer of moderate duration so that you do not become physically and mentally tired but be aware that while in Prayer you must take your time praying.
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Give due regard to the proper performance of all the physical postures.
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Pray as if it is your last Prayer. The Messenger of God Sallalahu aleihi wa said:
`When you stand up to pray, perform your prayer as if it were your last, do not say anything you will have to make excuses for tomorrow, and resolve to place no hope in what is in the hands of men.' (Ahmad.)
Performing your prayer in a satisfactory manner should lead to a radical change in the way you lead your daily life. Salat must be as the Quran states:
Surely, Salat prevents indecency and evil [al-Ankabut 29: 45.] Your improved and more disciplined life will in turn help the quality of your Prayer to increase even more. The two should feed one another and continuously reinforce each other.

Note that there is punishment for a Prayer not performed satisfactorily. It will be a witness against you rather than a witness for you on the Day of Judgment. However, the reward for a Prayer well performed is immeasurable. The Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa said:
`If a man performs two rakas of Salat without the distraction of any worldly thought, all his previous sins will be forgiven.' (Bukhari.)

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iv. Tahajjud Salat

Even though it is not obligatory, try to establish Tahajjud Salat as part of your nightly activities. The Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa said: `The best Prayer after the fard Prayer is the night Prayer.' (Muslim.)
One of the characteristics of the Ibadur Rahman or Servants of the Most Merciful, is that they get up at night and perform Tahajjud Salat. [al-Furqan 25: 64] Qiyam al-layl or night vigil is a source of great spiritual energy. The Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa has said:

Keep up qiyam al-layl. It was the way of the virtuous who came before you, it draws you nearer to your Lord, atones for your sins, forbids you from evil and protects the body from sickness. (Tirmidhi.)

When a man wakes up his wife at night and they pray two rakas (units) together, they are written down among the men and women who remember Allah. (Abu Dawud)

The Quran also commends the one who utilizes the early hours of each day to engage in remembrance of Allah:

Is one who worships devoutly during the hours of night prostrating himself or standing [in adoration] and who places his hope in the mercy of His Lord - [like one who does not]? Say: ‘Are those equal - those who know and those who do not know?’ It is those who are endowed with understanding that receive admonition. [Az-Zumar 39]


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B. Sawm

Sawm or fasting is another important instrument of tazkiya. It holds a unique status among all other forms of ibada. In a hadith qudsi we are told: Every good deed of a man is granted manifold increase, ten to seven hundred times. But Allah says: Fasting is an exception; it is exclusively for Me, and I will give reward for it as much as I wish. (Bukhari, Muslim.)

The fruit of fasting ought to be that rich inner quality which the Quran calls taqwa:

O Believers! Fasting is ordained for you, even as it was ordained for those before you, that you might attain taqwa.
[al-Baqara 2:183]

Taqwa is the most basic prerequisite for being guided by Allah. It entails God-consciousness, a sense of responsibility, accountability, dedication and awe. It is that which prompts and inspires us to fulfill our responsibilities towards the Creator. Taqwa is the main criterion by which Allah values the deeds of a Muslim. The Quran states:

Surely the noblest among you in the sight of God is the most God-fearing of you. Verily God is all-Knowing and all-Wise. [al-Hujurat 49: 13.]

We must strive to the utmost to inculcate taqwa in our lives as Allah has ordained:

Take provisions with you, but the best of provisions is taqwa. So remain conscious of Me, O you who are endowed with insight. [al-Baqara 2:197]

Fasting teaches us to remember Allah. It helps to instill in us certain attributes and qualities which develop our taqwa. We discuss some of these below.

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i. Fulfilling Allah's Wishes

While fasting, the most basic physical needs - Food, water and sleep - are readily and joyfully sacrificed. Hunger and thirst are no longer harmful; Allah's displeasure is harmful. Physical pleasures no longer hold any lure; Allah's rewards do. The scale of values is turned upside down. The measures of comfort and pain, success and failure are radically changed. However, whatever the physical discomfort, the mortification of the flesh is certainly not the desired object. The gifts of Allah are there to be enjoyed but limits by Him must also be strictly observed. Once the sun has set, the fast must be broken and the sooner the better. All that was forbidden during the fasting hours, at His command, becomes permissible again, at His command. Similarly, eating before dawn is strongly encouraged even though the hour is early for it provides the necessary strength for the rigours of the day ahead. Fasting and praying are obvious acts of worship but eating also constitutes a form of worship.

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ii. Willpower

Fasting strengthens our willpower. The Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa has said: 'Sawm is a shield [or a screen or a shelter from the Hell-fire].' (Bukhari.) The regime of dawn-to-sunset abstinence from food, drink and sex, for the sake of Allah alone, internalises the lesson that we must never enter, acquire or even touch that which does not belong to us under the law of Allah. A man can no longer remain a slave to his own self-indulgence as he prepares for the arduous journey on the road to His Lord.

For many, it is difficult to see the value of long hours of hunger, thirst and sleeplessness. Productivity losses are difficult to accept in an age that has tried to promote economic growth at all costs. According to Islam, however, we are created to live a life of total submission to the One and Only Allah, and this purpose must be paramount in all scales of values. Fasting is crucial to this understanding. It shows that its purpose, like Allah's guidance through His Prophets and Books and all the rituals of worship, is to train us how we must live totally and unreservedly in submission to Allah.

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iii. Protection From Shaytan

Fasting enables us to protect ourselves from the evil influences of Shaytan. While fasting:

`Eyes should refrain from seeing evil, ears from hearing evil, tongues from speaking evil and hearts from reflecting evil.' (Bukhari.)

The Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa also said:

`Five things break a man's fast: lying, backbiting, scandal-mongering, perjury and a lustful gaze.' (Azdi.) [ Cited by al-Ghazali in Ihya Ulum al-Din. See Inner Dimension of Islamic Worship, Islamic Foundation, Leicester, P. 76.]
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C. Tilawa of the Quran

The most important nourishment for the qalb or heart is the Quran. Those who lived in the time of the Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa received their training and inspiration from the Quran. It was their guide, their light and their leader. Likewise, it must be your constant companion.

The Quran contains a treasure house of soul-stirring inspiration and wisdom. We can and should spend hours in understanding the Quran. There are thousands of pages of tafsir or Quranic exegesis to read. But we must know that the real test of benefiting from the Quran lies somewhere else. The Quran says that when people really listen to it, their faith must increase:

Believers are those who, when God is mentioned, feel a tremor in their heart, and whenever His Messages are conveyed to them their faith is strengthened. [Al-Anfal 8: 2.]

Where there is a fire, there is smoke. If the `fire' of iman has been lit inside the heart, there must be smoke, and you will see that those who truly listen to the Quran, their eyes begin to well up with tears which trickle down their cheeks.

Nowadays, when we listen to the Quran or read it, our hearts are not moved, nor do our lives change. It is as if water is felling on a rock and flowing away. Our task is to replace this hard rock with soft absorbent soil so that the Quran may nourish the seed that has been planted. We should always study the Quran as if it is being revealed to us today. One of the greatest injustices we do to the Quran is that we read it as if it were something of the past and of no relevance to the present.

Remember that the whole purpose of the man is to guide you and to change you by bringing you into submission to Allah. As you read it, also try to live by what it invites you to. If it does not have any impact upon your actions and if you do not observe what it enjoins and avoid what it prohibits, then you are not getting anywhere nearer the Quran. In fact, one who reads the Quran and does not try to act upon it may be more likely to be cursed and punished by Allah. The Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa said:

Many of the hypocrites in my Umma will be from among the reciters. (Ahmad.)

He is not a Believer in the Quran who makes halal or lawful what has been made haram or prohibited. (Tirmidhi.)

It is also narrated that many Companions, like Uthman and Abdullah ibn Masud, once they learnt ten verses from the Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa did not move further unless they had `learnt' it fully both in understanding and in action; that is how they sometimes spent years in learning only one sura or chapter.

If you sincerely start changing your life according to the Quran, Allah will certainly help you and make the path easy for you. Allah reassures us in the Quran:

Those who say, `Our Lord is Allah,' and continue upon the straight way, the angels descend upon them: Do not fear, nor be grieved, and receive glad tidings of the Garden which you were promised. We are your supporters in this world and in the Hereafter. And for you therein is whatever your souls desire, and for you therein is whatever you ask for.' [al-Fussilat 41-31.]

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i. The Method of Tilawa

Tilawa or recitation is an act in which your whole person - soul, heart, mind, tongue and body - should participate. Thus, to recite the Quran, as it deserves to be recited, is not a light task; but neither is it impossible nor difficult. Otherwise, the Quran could not have been meant for everyone; nor could it be the mercy and the guidance that it surely is. There are a few obligations regarding recitation of the Quran which you should keep in mind.
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Read the Quran every day; in fact do not consider a day complete without it. It is better to read regularly, even if it be a small portion, than to read large sections, but only occasionally.
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Everyday you must also find time to memorise as much of the Quran as you can. You can start with small Suras and short passages and then move on to longer portions.
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Read as much of the Quran in Prayer as you can, especially during the night, after the Isha, before the Fajr and in the Fajr, as nothing is more effective in making you attuned to the Quran and ensuring you absorb it than reading it in the night or in the morning. Indeed, the early hours of the morning is a particularly blessed time to recite the Quran:

Indeed, the recitation of the Quran at dawn is ever witnessed. [al-Isra 17]
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Read the Quran in a good voice, as we have been told:
`Beautify the Quran with your voices' (Abu Dawud); but also remember that the real beauty is the beauty that comes with the fear of Allah in the heart: `His recitation and voice are the most beautiful so that when you hear him, you think he fears Allah.' (Darimi.)
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Read the Quran with concentration and understanding. The Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa told Ibn Umar radiyallahu anhu: not to finish reading the Quran in less than a week He also said that one who finishes it in less than three days does not understand any of it. One companion said that he preferred to read a short Sura like al-Qaria with proper understanding than to hastily finish long ones like al-Baqara and Al-Imran.

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ii. Your Constant Companion

The Messenger of Allah,Sallalahu aleihi wa has said,

`I am leaving you with two murshids.'

The term murshid refers to the one who guides to the right path. The first is the talking murshid, the Quran, mid the second is the silent murshid, mawt or death. As much as you keep in touch with the Quran and as long as you keep in touch with the idea that you are going to return to Allah and give an account of your actions, so you will stay on the right path. You don't need any other training programme or another `person' to guide you. These two murshids are enough and everyone has them at his disposal.
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D. Dua

Dua, supplicating to Allah, is `the spirit of ibada.' (Tirmidhi.) Indeed, it is a demand of Islam. The Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa has exhorted us:

`Allah is angry with him who does not ask [anything] from Him.' (Tirmidhi)

Each of your duas must capture the spirit of your goals and ambitions. You must offer them with humility and sincerity. The Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu aleihi wa has taught us some of the most beautiful supplications - said in beautiful words, encapsulating beautiful ideas, through beautiful ways of asking. Reflect upon the following dua as an example:

I am Your servant, I am at Your door. I am a poor man, I am at Your door. I am a helpless man, I am at Your door. I am a sinner, I am at Your door. l am Your guest, You invited me to come, I am at Your door. So have mercy on me.

There are many similar duas that move the heart and make tears flow from one's eyes. Additionally, there are duas that were part of the Prophet's daily routine Sallalahu aleihi wa : Prayers said while eating, drinking, sleeping, entering and leaving home. All of these duas must be memorised and utilised, for they remind us of Allah and His Omniscience.

But how exactly can these duas be used by us to remember Allah? Allow me to share with you one method, which can be utilised on a daily basis. The Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu aleihi wa taught us in one hadith:

After performing the dawn [Subh] Prayer, before you utter another word, say: O Allah, save me from Hell-fire

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seven times. If you die that day, Allah will decree that you be saved from Hell-fire. After performing the sunset [Maghrib] Prayer, before you utter another word, say: O Allah, save me from Hell-fire, seven times. If you die that night, Allah will decree that you be saved from Hell-fire-
(Abu Dawud.)

Whenever I recite this dua, I use a method of recitation and reflection which helps me remember the final meeting with my Lord. For each of the seven times I recite this dua, I reflect on one of the stages from the Quran of the Akhira: the time of death; the sojourn and questioning by the angel in the grave; the time of rising and standing before Allah; the time of giving an account of all that has been done and seeing our actions displayed before us; and the passage over the Sirat or Bridge, then entering either Paradise or Hell.

All of these are stages of the journey. Each time that I bring to my mind one of those stages, even for the briefest moment, I supplicate to Him: `O Allah save me from the fire'.

This exercise in supplication takes me about five minutes after both Salat al-Fajr and Salat al-Maghrib. There is, however, no prescribed format to follow. You can select and form your own short course of duas based on the Prophetic traditions and use this as part of the regular way in which you remember Allah.

Finally, it is important for us to observe the etiquette of dua so that we may derive maximum benefit from them. These have been beautifully summarised by Imam al-Nawawi, where he lists ten prime conditions and dispositions that we should observe:
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Seek out the blessed times of Prayer: The Day of the Standing on the plain of Arafat [during Hajj]; the month of fasting [Ramadan]; Fridays [days of congregational prayers]; and during the night [especially the last third of it].
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Seek out the blessed moments for Prayer when the heart is receptive and tender: immediately after the five daily prescribed Prayers; between the call to Prayer (adhan) and the final call to Prayer (iqama); when breaking fast; while on the field of battle; when rainfall occurs; and when bowing down [sujud] in Prayer, for the Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa said, `The worshipper is closest to his Lord while bowing down. So pray much then.' (Muslim.)
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Face the direction of Makka and raise the hands [with palms spread upward] to the level of the shoulders.
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Voice supplications in a moderate tone that is neither too loud nor too soft.
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Prayers need not be said in a forced rhymed prose [an often natural form in Arabic].
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Implore God with humility and reverence.
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Be fervent in Prayer and optimistic of the answer. Sufyan ibn Uyayna stated: What a person knows of himself should never stop him from supplicating to God for He answered the most evil creatures, Iblis [Shaytan], when he said,
`Give me respite until the Day they are resurrected. God said, You are of the respired ones.' [al-Araf 7: 14.]
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Repeat requests, preferably three times, and don't be impatient or despondent in waiting for an answer.
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Begin supplication with the mention of God [His Names, praises and attributes] before asking of Him, and entreat God to send His blessings and peace upon the Prophet.
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Strive for inner purity with repentance and sincere devotion.
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E. Istighfar and tawba


The process of dhikr must involve the recognition and confession of our faults, mistakes and aberrations and turning to Allah in asking for forgiveness with the expectation of his rahma or mercy. Istighfar is seeking forgiveness while tawba is taming away from our faults and returning to Allah, to His Path. When Allah desires good for a Believer, He gives him awareness of his faults. The Messenger of Allah Sallalahu aleihi wa when questioned about the nature of virtue and sin replied:

`Virtue is to have good morals, sin is what pricks your heart and you dislike what people come to know about it.' (Muslim.)

Likewise, whenever we are faced with a dilemma or uncertainty in our daily life we have been exhorted by the Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa :to observe the following guidelines:

Seek a verdict from your heart

Virtue is that which your soul and heart feel satisfied with. Sin is that which troubles the soul and about which the heart is uneasy and confused, even though people may give their legal opinions in its favour.
(Muslim.)

But what exactly does the process of istighfar and tawba entail? Ali ibn Abi Talib, radiyallahu anhu: once saw a Bedouin repeating words of repentance in a great hurry. `This is fake repentance', remarked Ali ibn Abi Talib. The Bedouin asked, `What is true repentance?' Ali ibn Abi Talib explained that there are six elements in an act of true repentance:
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You should regret what has happened.
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You should discharge the duty which you have neglected.
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You should restore the right that you have misappropriated.
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You should apologise to the one whom you have caused injury.
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You should resolve not to repeat the act.
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You should dedicate yourself entirely to the service of Allah so that you may experience the rigours of obedience as you may have relished the pleasure of transgression.

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We may now ask the question - when is the best time during the course of the day to perform istighfar? There is of course no special time to seek the forgiveness of Allah. But perhaps one of the best occasions is the early hours of each day which the Quran declares is the time utilised by true Believers to draw closer to their Lord: they forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope. [as-Sajda 32: 16.]

The significance of this early part of each day has also been explained by the Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa as follows:

Our Lord descends every night to the nearest Heaven when only the last third of the night remains, and says: `Is anyone praying that I may answer him? Is anyone seeking forgiveness that I may forgive him? Is anyone asking that I may give to him?' And this continues until dawn. (Tirmidhi.)

You should therefore start each day by taking an account of yourself: seek forgiveness for the wrongs you have done and make the intention not to repeat these mistakes. In this way you shall become free from these sins. Every day you may commit a sin, but if every day you come sincerely to Allah, then every day He will forgive you. Such is His love and blessings for us. Allah reminds us:

When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed close [to them]. I listen to the prayer of every supplicant when he calls on Me. Let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me so that they may walk in the right way. [al-Baqara 2: 186.]

While seeking the forgiveness of Allah, you must place your full trust and confidence in Allah for He always listens and answers the Prayers of His servants. In one hadith qudsi, Allah has reassured us:

Son of Adam, so long as you keep calling upon Me and hoping for good from Me, I shall forgive you whatever you have done, and I do not mind. Son of Adam, were your sins to rise as high as the sky, and were you to ask Me for forgiveness, I would forgive you. Son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins as large as would fill the earth, and meet Me having ascribed no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness as great as your sins. (Tirmidhi.)
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4. Methods of Collective Dhikr

A. Seeking the company of the righteous

Dhikr can also be performed collectively. The Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa told us that the baraka or blessing of Allah is with those who gather and work as a unified jama'a for the cause of Islam:

'Allah's hand is upon the jama'a.' (Tirmidhi.)

Indeed engaging in remembrance of Allah collectively is encouraged in many ahadith. The Prophet Sallalahu aleihi wa is reported to have said:

If a group of people sit together remembering Allah, the angels will circle them, mercy will shroud them, peace will descend onto them and Allah will remember them among those with Him.
(Muslim.)

Dhikr in a group may help teach those who do not know the desired adhkar and bring hearts together and strengthen their noble ties. To ensure that our company is always filled with remembrance of Allah, it is of paramount importance that we continuously seek the company of the righteous if we wish to be elevated in the eyes of Allah. Hasan al-Basri said in this regard:

Sit in the company of scholars. They will be pleased to see your virtues and will forgive your mistakes. They will not rebuke you when you commit mistakes; rather, they will provide clear guidance. When it is necessary to testify, they will bear true testimony to your advantage.

You must be careful with the selection of friends, for your companionship can and must be a form of dhikr. The Messenger of God Sallalahu aleihi wa said:

`The best friend is the one who makes you remember Allah when you see him.'

Also: 'Whosoever Allah wishes good for, He will grant him a righteous friend who will remind him if he forgets and aid him if he remembers'. And the Quran says:

Bind yourself with those who call upon Allah morning and evening. [al-Kahf 18: 27-28.]

As soon as you see the seed of iman planted in your heart and you recognise it in someone else's and you find that he agrees with you, you will feel ten times stronger. Social scientists have also discovered that group life is one of the most powerful forces to stimulate and improve the human being.

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B. Witnessing Unto Mankind

Life can only be filled with dhikr if you strive and invite others to the path of Allah, the same path that you have found. This is a necessary outcome of your faith in Allah. The Quran advises:

Make it [the truth] known to mankind, and do not conceal it! [Ali Imran 3: 187]

Help one another to righteousness and taqwa and do not help one another to sin and transgression. [al-Maida 5:2]

Encourage one another in the truth, and encourage one another in patience [al-Asr 103: 3.]

Remind [others of the truth] in the event that this admonition profits. Tire reminder will be received by he who stands in awe [of God]. [al-Ala 87: 9-10.]

As your iman increases, you will yearn to share with everybody what you think and know is right and call upon them to join your mission and the jama'a for who is better in speech than one who calls to God acts righteously and says:

I am of those who surrender [unto Him].' [al-Fussilat 41: 33.] Moreover, as the jama'a grows, your commitment to Allah will grow as well, each reinforcing the other. That is how the whole of life will become integrated in finding a path to Allah.
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ORGANISING YOUR DHIKR


To benefit fully from all of the specific methods of dhikr whether individual or collective that we have discussed, you must strive to implement them in a daily programme of devotions, study and reflection. Set aside some periods each day to devote yourself completely to these tasks and do not allow anything to interfere with them. Spending even a small amount of time each day will bring within you a feeling of closeness to Allah and familiarity with His Din or way of life.

You should begin each day with some dhikr after Salat al-Fajr and make the intention that your whole day will be spent in serving Allah. Follow up the dhikr with a dua seeking provisions for the day. Allah Himself has exhorted us in the Quran:

O you who believe, celebrate the praises of Allah and do so often; Glorify Him in the morning and the evening. [al-Ahzab 33:41.]


After the dhikr and dua spend some time reciting, memorising and studying passages from the Quran for indeed the reading [of the Quran] at Fajr as witnessed.
[al-Isra 17:78]

If it is not possible to perform this task just after your Fajr Prayer then you may do it later, but you should make an effort to ensure that no day passes by without at least some reading and study of the Quran. Allocate some time also to study from a comprehensive syllabus which covers all the major aspects of Islam including Quran and hadith sciences, Sharia or Islamic law, Fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence, Sira or the life history of the Prophet Muhammad and Islamic history.

Perhaps the best way to learn about Islam is to learn from those who have more knowledge than you. You should therefore strive to attend Islamic study circle sessions, camps and courses whenever you can. At the same time, as much as you learn and improve your understanding of Islam, do not forget your obligations towards your family and those around you. Set aside a period also to teach them about Islam.

As night falls just after the Salat al-Maghrib, it is again recommended to make dhikr, seeking protection for the coming night. And then to complete the day, just before retiring, reflect on what you have accomplished - where you have succeeded and where you have failed. As for your successes thank Allah that He has enabled you to do whatever you may have accomplished. For your failures, you must ask for His forgiveness with humility and sincerity. Close the day with Prayers for help and guidance to overcome your weaknesses and to develop your strengths.

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SUMMARY


Your salvation and true success lies in the purification of your heart. The key to gaining a sound heart is remembrance of Allah.

There are basically two forms of dhikr. The first involves continuous and sustained inner awareness of Allah in all that we say and do in our daily lives through development of certain states of consciousness. They include a continuous realisation that Allah knows everything, that everything you possess has been given to you by Him; that He has power and control over everything; and ultimately, that you are going to return to Him. The second involves specific methods of dhikr, some of which may be performed individually and others which must be done collectively. Each of these
specific methods helps to develop the other. When they are implemented in an organised programme of daily devotions, they will, Insha Allah, lead to a life of continuous remembrance of Allah.


May Allah enable us all to remember Him often and much and may He enable our hearts to find the satisfaction that we seek for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah hearts do find satisfaction.
[ar-Rad 13:38.]
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