I seek refuge with Allah, from Shaitan the Outcast. With the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. All Praise is for Allah-swt, the Creator of the Universe and the Source of all knowledge. He-swt, Who has concealed so many mysteries in every particle that no creature can claim to know everything, this (claim) suits His Majesty alone. Creation can know only as much as He-swt grants to whomsoever He-swt wills. Man is the masterpiece of His creation. Every straw, leaf and particle houses countless secrets within itself and each secret is a witness to Allah-swt Greatness. The more the revelation of such mysteries to a person, the more he acknowledges the greatness of Allah-swt, provided his human nature has not been corrupted. However, if his nature has been contaminated, every medicine will produce the opposite effect and the revelation of each mystery will mislead him and inflate his ego. May Allah Kareem grant protection from this malady! By Allah-swt Grace, I wish to put across some basic points. Possibly these may serve as a guide for a true seeker and help in the attainment of Salvation. I have no capability except that granted by Allah-swt . Tasawwuf(Sufism) and Sulook(Spiritual Path) is a subject that is as important as it is unique. It deals with the feelings of faith and belief and the inspirations on the Qalb(Heart). Many scholars have written that these people (the Soofis) wore woollen clothing (soof) and thus came to be known as Sufis. However, my opinion is different. In my view, Tasawwuf(Sufism) is the Persian translation of the Quranic word ‘Tazkiyah’(Purification), which means cleansing of the heart, it is included within Prophetic blessings and, in reality, something one cannot do without. I don’t want to write anything as its proof, since beginning with the Companions and the Khair ul Quroon, countless scholars have written about Tazkiyah(Spiritual Purification) and have proved it as the essence and the most important part of the Deen. If someone isn’t convinced by their writings, then what is my position and what difference will my writing make to him? The present day situation is reflected in the letter of a friend from India. He wrote that he visited Dar ul Uloom Deoband but did not find anyone there who knew about Zikr-e Qalbi(Remembrance by heart); I was shaken when I read this letter. The scholars, who laid the foundations of this institution, were all, till the very recent times, Sufis. However, their successors have shelved their works that not only contained the evidence of Sulook(Spiritual Path), but also contained substantial material on different methods of Zikr(Remembrance) and on guidance for seekers. From Hadhrat Nanotvi to Maulana Thanvi, which scholar was not a Zakir and a teacher of Zikr(Remembrance), and who did not write about the various forms and methods of Zikr? Our Shaikh ul Mukarram-rua himself made a valuable and worthy contribution to this resource in the form of Dalael us-Sulook. I wish to mention just a few of the books that are available in the library of Dar ul Irfan (as the whole list would be very lengthy). In addition to this, every Mufassir and Muhaddith has written about it in his works on Tafsir or Hadith. The few words that I wish to pen down here deal only with the feelings of the Lata‘if(Spiritual Organs) and the Maraqbaat (meditations), their effect on practical life and the ways to find or determine the reality of the Lata‘if(Spiritual Organs) and the Maraqbaat(Meditation). It is a very delicate subject and has probably never been addressed in this manner before. Every age has its own requirements and probably this hasn’t been a requirement of the previous times. When we learnt Sulook(Spiritual Path), we would not dare to even speak to Shaikh ul Mukarram-rua. Rather, at times, when two of us realized a spiritual feeling differently (although the difference was only in its detail and interpretation, not in its essence), we kept to our individual version for the rest of our lives, but wouldn’t dare to ask the Shaikh-rua(Spiritual Teacher). Today, the time and its people have changed. They want to know the logic and the reason behind everything and ask for its interpretation and explanation. This change occurred in front of us and we have to put up with it. Therefore, with Allah’s Grace, this Faqeer (humble soul) is trying to write, to an extent, about those feelings. The purpose is not to convince those who deny, but that the travellers of this Path may be guided and enabled to understand the feelings of their Qalb(Heart) and their effects. A list of books is attached for those who want proof; they can benefit. Those are only a few tittles of the books in the Dar ul Irfan library; indeed, there should be many more treatises on the subject. Along with the above, is a topic that requires much attention and that is about Kashf and Mushahidah (spiritual visions and observations). These (spiritual visions and observations) are not integral or necessary elements (of Tasawwuf), but belong to the category of rewards bestowed by Allah-swt. It someone is blessed with Kashf, he should consider it a Divine blessing and not an indication that his Zikr(Remembrance) is being accepted. Indeed, it is the feelings and effects noticed in one’s practical life that are the criteria for acceptance, since the results of an effort that is accepted, which in turn depends upon one’s sincerity of intention and purity of faith, most certainly become visible in one’s conduct; and this is a special Divine Favour. Some friends remain under the misunderstanding that as they have not been blessed with Mushahidah(Spiritual Vision), their Lata‘if(Spiritual Organs) are not illuminated; this is not the right impression. What is essential is that the effect of the Lata‘if(Spiritual Organs) and the Maraqbaat(Meditation) is reflected in one’s character.
The holy Quran invariably associates guidance with illumination and reformation of the heart. It always ascribes the delusion of previous nations to the gloom of their hearts and also indicates the factors that contribute towards this malady. Similarly, it attributes guidance to heart’s reformation and also suggests the methods of its attainment. This point has not just been mentioned casually but this is the fundamental and focal point of all its teachings.
Different exercises are prescribed to keep each body organ healthy and fit. These exercises are practically taught in special schools of physical education. The patients who cannot do any other exercise are advised to stroll in their rooms to keep their organs agile and active. But it is amazing that we devote whole attention to our bodies and do not care about the health of our hearts. On the other hand, this important point has been repeatedly stressed in the Quran and it forms the basis of salvation in the Hereafter. The Muslim masses in general and the religious scholars in particular, ignore this important aspect as if it would come automatically. In our practical lives we never expect anything to happen by itself. No body leaves his children at large, hoping that they would be automatically educated by the society. On the contrary, he spends a lot of time and money to select a good school for them and despite best efforts, always remains concerned about the standard of their education. If you want to learn any profession, you would certainly have to devote a lot of time and effort. To learn a simple profession like masonry, driving, tailoring or shoe making, you would have to look for an expert and get his instructions. No body has ever argued that he can learn it on his own because all these professions are already being practised in the society. Had that been a correct contention, we would have learned to stitch our clothes, make our shoes or construct our houses, all by ourselves. No body believes this theory in his practical life. When we don’t expect even the smallest event to happen by itself, how can we ignore the most important task, which is the key to eternal bliss, and expect to acquire it without any effort.
The holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o Alaihi wa Sallam) has stated that there is a lump of flesh in the human body whose health reforms the entire body and its malady disturbs the whole physical balance. “Hearken”, he said “that is the Qalb” (heart). It is a miracle of the Prophets that the heart of every believer who attends their august company, attains to the acme of human excellence in a single moment. Even then, we find many Companions who specifically requested the holy Prophet-saw to give special attention to their hearts for greater reformation. Some requested him to move his blessed hand over their chest. In the words of Quran, every cell of a Companion’s body resonated with Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance). On their part, however, they didn’t feel satisfied about their achievement and remained worried about their shortfalls. Once the holy Prophet-saw praised Hadhrat Abu Bakr Siddiq-rau and said, “He is not superior to you because he excels you in worship but because of what I have poured from my heart into his. No other heart can acquire what his heart has acquired from mine.”
The indifference shown to this most important aspect is the malady of our modern times only. During the yesteryears even the common Muslims tried to require this blessing. If you read the biography of previous scholars, you would discover that each one of them, without exception, after completing his education, remained in the company of some Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher) for a definite period of time. It had been a regular practice of the religious institutions and scholars to dispatch their students to some Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher) for spiritual enlightenment and self reformation.
Some people object to our method of Zikr(Remembrance). We uphold their objection and concede that our method may not be necessarily correct. They should however, not stop us from Zikr (Remembrance) but tell us the correct method and the number of people reformed by their way. Otherwise, we would be justified to conclude that they are only trying to undermine the efforts of those who are serving this cause. Actually, Allah and His Prophet-saw have not forbidden any particular method of Zikr (Remembrance) . There is only one restriction; the form of Zikr (Remembrance) should not cross the bounds of Shari‘ah. No one can adopt a method of Zikr(Remembrance) which is evil or prejudices the rights of others or violates any injunction of the Shari‘ah. All forms of Zikr(Remembrance) which remain within these prescribed limits are permissible. You can perform Zikr (Remembrance) sitting, standing, walking or reclining. When Allah has given the permission, how can anyone else impose any restrictions? The form and frequency of Salah (prayers), Zakat (poor due) and Hajj have been defined by the Shari‘ah but no form has been prescribed for Zikr(Remembrance) . The Divine Command enjoins the believers to perform Zikr (Remembrance) continuously. It should be done at every moment and under all conditions, standing, sitting, reclining, sleeping and while awake. There is only one restriction. You cannot violate the limits defined by the holy Prophet-saw.
We are neither authorised to compel others to adopt our method nor declare a particular form as wrong. Similarly, no body has the right to ask us to leave our method. It is not the method of Zikr (Remembrance) which really matters, but the spiritual attention of the Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher) received by the seekers during Zikr (Remembrance) . That is the real blessing. Without this attention, continuous Zikr (Remembrance) of a whole lifetime cannot illuminate even the first Latifah (subtlety) Qalb(Heart). It simply cannot happen by itself. If someone has the land, water for irrigation, fertilisers and cultivation equipment, he still cannot grow any crop unless he sows the seed. Without the seed, his efforts would bring no fruit. The spiritual attention is akin to this seed. Even with the best of efforts, no spiritual growth can even be imagined without this attention. Reformation of the soul is one of the duties of Prophethood. The Taba’in reformed themselves in the company of the Companions and the Tab’a Taba’in acquired it from them. Just as a person has to go to a scholar to acquire knowledge, one has to similarly remain in the company of an accomplished Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher) and strive earnestly to acquire spiritual blessings.
Allah has mentioned that these people are not the first ones to inhabit the earth. Many generations have passed before them. Their predecessors also governed mighty empires and possessed huge property. Where have they all perished? If their forefathers could not perpetuate their existence, can these people live for ever? If they are following in the footsteps of their elders then have they prepared themselves for their onward journey? This single example is sufficient to teach a lesson. An infant spends his childhood in a family, becomes a father one day and ultimately a grandfather. His children know nothing about his grandparents, who had died much before the birth of his children. He doesn’t realise that after a couple of generations no body will remember him. Only those, who are in his own lap, know him, but he would cease to exist in the memory of his grandchildren.
Allah has warned mankind that He can grasp them instantly, if He so desires. Allah’s grasp is always instant but people do not perceive. Apparently, the heavens do not fall and the earth is not torn asunder, but actually, an extremely important change takes place unnoticeably: hearts of the evil doers are sealed; they do not perceive and cannot differentiate between right and wrong. It is not necessary that the Divine wrath should descend in the form of a visible calamity, as for the previous generations. The sealing of hearts and the loss of sense of discrimination is an equally grave punishment, because no amount of good advice can ever reform such a person. This deprivation, when accompanied by worldly affluence, has been graded as the greatest curse by the Quran. These townships, whose fables are included in the folk lore, similarly sailed to their ultimate perdition. A darkened heart cannot perceive. Although a person retains his outwardly human form, but inwardly, he turns more beastly than an animal. By Allah’s grace we are Muslims. Despite being delinquent, we still retain some honour and shame. But these human values are almost totally extinct in the non-Muslim societies. Their habits and relationships are not based on mutual human respect and consideration, but are driven by the animal instincts of selfishness, oppression, immodesty and the like. Apparently they are healthy, wealthy and strong people but their hearts are unclean. Like animals, they possess no sense of shame.
The Divine Book informs us that Allah never destroyed the earlier people before sending them guidance. His Messengers brought clear proofs to them but they refused to believe. Allah’s Book and words of the Prophets do not impress a heart that has lost its faculty of perception. How can that heart be affected by any other preaching, advice or book? Such people with ruined hearts do not remain trustworthy. Their loyalty keeps swaying between Faith and Kufr (disbelief), and they are blinded by the frenzy to satisfy their vain desires. Their hearts take to vice. Perversion of thought and practice completely shrouds their lives.
We know that the symptoms of physical diseases are similar throughout the world. No disease is restricted to a particular area but would definitely develop at every conducive place. AIDS is not restricted to UK or USA alone; if we don’t protect ourselves, it can invade our society also. The diseases are not related to colour, area or religion. They have the same effect everywhere. Similarly, when the hearts are ruined, they produce the same spiritual maladies at every place. We feel secure by presuming that only those nations whose heats are ruined will ultimately face their consequences. That is not a correct concept. If we fear the spread of physical epidemics and apprehend similar disaster as in other countries, why don’t we realise that this spiritual epidemic can also engulf us? The maladies of hearts can import the same disaster from other countries.
We have seen the effect of Tabligh (preaching) day and night. Although preaching is a religious obligation, whose importance cannot be undermined, but actually it is the vehicle to acquire the reformation of heart. If you keep preaching about food but don’t give someone a morsel throughout life, what good is your preaching for? I feel greatly surprised about the religious scholars. They accept the importance of heart reformation in their books and lectures but out rightly deny it in their practical lives.
When the Tartars ransacked Baghdad, it was a seat of great religious learning. Every street resounded with religious discussions and meetings. Its libraries stocked the most valuable religious books. But despite all religious preaching what was the end result? The entire city along with its people, libraries and civilisation was completely destroyed. The whole Ummah still laments the destruction of its literary treasure. Why did all this happen? It happened because their hearts had been completely ruined. They rendered only lip service to religion, without absorbing its blessings in their hearts, least realising that it is the heart and not the tongue which generates effect.
The same principle has been recounted here. Earlier generations and civilisations were destroyed as a sequel to the ruination of their hearts. Human beings of today should also examine their own hearts. Are their hearts alive? A live heart would try to obey Allah; that is actually its food, without which it cannot survive. If it does not demand this food, then it would at least be unconscious or sick, if not totally dead. No one can really succeed unless he devotes proper attention to the reformation of his heart. That is what I have understood by Allah’s grace. May Allah make it easy for us! Ameen!
Shaikh Allah Yar Khan was born in Chakrala, a remote village of Mianwali District of Pakistan, in 1904. He completed his religious education in 1934. The same year, he met Shaikh ‘Abdul Rahim, who took him to the shrine of Shaikh Allah Deen Madni. By Divine Will his spiritual connection was immediately established with the saint of the 10th century Hijra (sixteenth century CE) and he started receiving spiritual beneficence. His sublime education in Sufism, signifying progressive spiritual growth and advancement, continued for about twenty-five years, after which he was directed to undertake the propagation of Prophetic blessings – a noble mission that he accomplished with singular zeal and dedication for a period spanning half a century. Anybody who visited him was duly rewarded with a share of spiritual bliss commensurate with his/her sincerity and capacity. Shaikh Allah Yar Khan’s mission produced men and women of deep spiritual vision and eminence.
He authored eighteen books, the most distinguished being Dalael us-Sulook (Sufism – An Objective Appraisal), Hayat-e Barzakhiah (Life Beyond Life) and Israr ul-Haramain (Secrets of the two holy Mosques). He was undoubtedly one of the most distinguished Sufi saints of the Muslim Ummah and a reviver of the Naqshbandiah Owaisiah Order.
He passed away on 18 February 1984 in Islamabad at the age of eighty. Six months before his death, he nominated his most illustrious and spiritually gifted student, Muhammad Akram Awan, as his successor to lead the Naqshbandiah Owaisiah Order.
Islam, as a complete code of life or Deen, was perfected during the life of the holy Prophet Muhammad-SAWS. He was the sole teacher and his mosque was the core institution for the community. Although Islam in its entirety was practiced during that blessed era, the classification and compilation of its knowledge into distinct branches like ‘Tafsir’ (interpretation of the Quran), Hadith (traditions or sayings of the holy Prophet-SAWS), Fiqh (Islamic law), and Sufism (the soul purification) were undertaken subsequently. This Deen of Allah passed from the holy Prophet-SAWS to his illustrious Companions in two ways: the outward and the inward. The former comprised the knowledge defined by speech and conduct, i.e., the Quran and Sunnah. The latter comprised the invisible blessings or the Prophetic lights transmitted by his blessed self. These blessings purified the hearts and instilled in them an ardent desire to follow Islam with utmost love, sincerity and devotion. Sufism is the effort to acquire these Barakah (Blessings).
The Companions handed down his-SAWS teachings as well as blessings to the Taba’in. Their strong hearts were capable of infusing these blessings into the hearts of their followers. Both aspects of Islam were similarly passed on by the Taba’in to the Tab’a Taba’in. The compilation of knowledge and its interpretation led to the establishment of many schools of religious thought; famous four being the Hanafi, the Hanbali, the Maliki, and the Shafa’i, all named after their founders. Similarly, in order to acquire, preserve and distribute his blessings, an organized effort was initiated by four schools of Sufism: The Naqshbandiah, the Qadriah, the Chishtiah, and the Suharwardiah. These schools were also named after their organizers and came to be known as Sufi Orders. All these Orders aim at purifying the hearts of sincere Muslims with Prophetic lights. These Sufi Orders also grew into many branches with the passage of time and are known by other names as well.
The holy Quran has linked success in this life and the Hereafter with Tazkiyah (soul purification).
He, who purified, is successful. (87: 14)
Sufi Orders of Islam are the institutions where the fundamentals of Tazkiyah (soul purification) and its practical application are taught. They have graded programs in which every new seeker is instructed in Zikr-e Lisani (oral Zikr) and is finally taught the Zikr-e Qalbi (Remembrance in heart). However, in the Naqshbandiah Order, Zikr-e Qalbi is practiced form the very beginning.
Adherence to the Sunnah (Prophet’s way of life) is greatly emphasized in this Order, because the seeker achieves greater and quicker progress through its blessings. The essence of Zikr(Remembrance) is that the Qalb(Heart) should sincerely accept Islamic beliefs and acquire the strength to follow the Sunnah with even greater devotion.
‘If the heart is acquainted with Allah and is engaged in His Zikr(Remembrance); then it is filled with Barakaat-e Nabuwwat (Prophetic blessings) which infuse their purity in the mind and body. This not only helps in controlling sensual drives but also removes traces of hatred, greed, envy and insecurity from human soul. The person therefore becomes an embodiment of love, both for the Divine and the corporeal. This is the meaning of a Hadith, “There is a lump of flesh in the human body; if it goes astray the entire body is misguided, and if it is reformed the entire body is reformed. Know that this lump is the Qalb(Heart)”.’
(Asrar at-Tanzil by Ameer Muhammad Akram Awan [RH])
I would like to discuss Tasawwuf(Sufism) in this sitting; what is its definition, need and reality? Allah has gifted man with immense intellectual ability and he has invented innumerable machines and gadgets to make life comfortable. These machines do the routine jobs of his life and they have relieved him of much of his workload but they haven’t brought him any peace. When he was doing all of his own work, he still had time to relax and reflect, but now, after operating and maintaining these machines, he has no time left at all. This busy life leaves him with no time to attend to his mandatory obligations. It is becoming increasingly difficult for him to find time for religion, family or even rest. In such a situation, what is the need or rationale to burden him with yet another obligation such as Zikr(Remembrance), which would certainly demand some portion of his scarce time and attention?
By nature, a human being seeks and trusts the opinion of experts and specialists for his problems relating to every aspect of his life. He would refer his health problems to a doctor, although it is his own body. He would similarly trust economists for his business and engineers for the construction of his house. Exactly on the same analogy, he must ask questions about human life from a specialist of this field. Questions about the origin and end of life, the Creator, His Attributes, the nature of His relationship with man, the reality of life and death, and the nature of life beyond life, could never be answered by an historian, philosopher, scientist, or for that matter, any expert of any field, because these are beyond the realm of their knowledge and perception. Their total knowledge about human life is bracketed between ones’ own birth and death; what is before birth and after death, they cannot answer. All these questions and many more like them are answered by a distinct class of specialists known as Prophets and Messengers. They don’t acquire this knowledge from any college or university because no such institution exists in the world. All institutions necessarily get this type of knowledge from Prophets, yet there is no institution where one could learn this subject and become a Prophet. The Prophets and Messengers are directly educated by Almighty Allah Himself. Now, as a matter of rule, the opinions and advice of these specialists should be trusted and followed in all matters relating to human life.
There is a fundamental difference between a specialist of worldly knowledge and a Prophet. A specialist can explain the theoretical aspects of his particular subject, but can never inspire anyone to acquire that knowledge. A technician, scientist or a doctor for example, can explain even the minutest details of their speciality but cannot produce an urge in your heart to adopt their professions. On the contrary, a Prophet doesn’t discuss theory alone, but along with it he also inspires very special feelings in the heart. For example, if someone believes a Prophet about the Unity of Allah, the Prophet has instilled a sublime feeling in the depths of his heart. Thereafter, even if the whole universe tries to negate him, he would remain firm about the truth of his conviction. That is the basic difference between a Prophet and a worldly expert.
The holy Quran describes this process as Tazkiyah (purification) and mentions that the holy Prophet-SAW invites mankind towards Allah by reciting Divine Revelation unto them. Then he infuses a sublime feeling deep into the hearts of those who accept his-SAW invitation which produces a remarkable change within them. It inspires in them the desire to achieve Divine Nearness, for which they don’t hesitate to make any sacrifice. We too make many sacrifices for comfort and status. There is hardly a family in this country whose members weren’t killed in the Second World War, some died in Hong Kong, some in Singapore, some lost their lives in the Arabian deserts, while some became POWs in Germany and Japan. The majority of them hailed from urban areas, simple village folk who had no interest in world politics. Then why did they stake their lives for a foreign government – the British? The reason was that they wanted to earn even a small salary for their families in order to live honourably. This is because worldly requirements and demands have a definite significance in our hearts and minds. We learnt about their importance from our elders and confirmed it through our personal knowledge and experience – we can see only that far. Therefore we endure many sacrifices for their fulfilment. When someone’s relationship with his Prophet grows stronger, it extends his vision to perceive and realise the facts and requirements of the next world also. A common Muslim, even an illiterate shepherd living in a jungle, knows for sure that he has been created by Allah and that death is not the total end of life but an entry to the next life where he would be confronting the consequences of his worldly actions. This realisation brings a revolutionary change in the life of a believer and rearranges his priorities in life. The sphere of his effort no longer remains restricted to this world but it extends to cover the comfort and honour of the next eternal life. He desires similar eternal peace and respect for his family, friends and all. This realisation flows into him through his connection with the holy Prophet-SAW and motivates him to make sacrifices not for the good of this world but for the betterment of the next. The effort to acquire this inner feeling and realisation which establishes the importance of the next life over this life and inspires a man to sacrifice his comfort, status and even this life for the next, has been described as Tazkiyah by the holy Quran.
Tazkiyahis the focal point of all Quranic teachings. The holy Quran mentions it before knowledge, saying that the Prophet-SAW of Allah first purifies the believers and then teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, so that they can realise and comprehend that world which the Quran exhorts them to strive for. It is natural that human effort is directly proportional to the realisation of a requirement. Is not a mad person the one who doesn’t realise his needs; he doesn’t bother to eat, sleep or dress! If you try to convince him about the importance of food or sleep or dress, you would certainly gain nothing because he cannot comprehend his needs. The holy Quran has adopted a unique style which has first given the importance of a requirement and then enumerated the ways for its fulfilment. ‘Tazkiyah’ is the realisation of this requirement to achieve comfort and honour in eternal life, it is the building block of Quranic teachings. Without this realisation, the effect of Quranic teachings is no different than a lecture to a mad person, which is unlikely to achieve anything. Tasawwuf(Sufism) is the translation of Tazkiyah(Purification).
Those who are allergic to the word Tasawwuf might as well leave it – the word has not been revealed by Allah; yet nobody can ever deny the importance of Tazkiyah. If its significance is undermined, it would adversely reflect on Prophethood and the religion, and would practically render the whole system meaningless. How did the Prophets-AS purify their followers? Allahblesses every Prophet-AS with a strength and a light in his heart that can instantly illuminate the heart of anyone who decides to accept his invitation. The light is so strong that Prophet Musa-AS said to Pharaoh, “Do you want me to purify your heart, so that you can start seeing the path leading to your Lord? So that your heart may also establish a connection with Allah so that you will prefer His Pleasure over everything else and dread His Anger?” Which means that even a person like Pharaoh still retains the right to choose guidance for himself. Allah has given two basic rights to every human being, the first is the right to live – which means that nobody can kill a human being except by Allah‘s leave. If someone kills a person, for any reason or way other than the one permitted by Allah, it is … As if he killed the entire mankind (5:32). He shall be made to account for the murder of the whole of humanity. It is because the right to live has been granted to every soul by Allah and He Alone can take it back – we can’t deprive anyone of this right. The second human right is the freedom to accept religion. Allah Alone creates and provides for every soul, He blesses everyone with different qualities and gives them health or disease and whenever He desires, causes them to die. If He wanted to compel human beings to obey Him, could anybody ever stop Him? On the contrary, He chose to bless man with a unique capability of perceiving Him. The holy Quran mentions that Allah offered this sublime attribute to the earth, the heavens and the mountains, but they all expressed their inability and inadequacy to accept. However, man accepted the grand challenge, saying, ‘Give it to me. I shall observe Your Splendour and Greatness, and I shall try to gain Your Nearness.’
Every human being can thus perceive the Divine Being and His Attributes according to his own capacity. He can realise Divine Greatness vis-a-vis his own humbleness and decide to submit before his Lord and this independent decision grants him the ability to accept the truth. If he then finds the company of a Prophet-AS he becomes a Companion and within no time, can rise to the highest level of human greatness after Prophets. Companionship is not a mere adjective, it denotes that level of human excellence in belief, honesty, reliability, piety, Divine Nearness and Presence which a non-Companion can never achieve. In an instant, the most sublime human attributes are poured into his heart.
The earliest group to respond to the call of the holy Prophet-SAW in Makkah comprised of weak and poor people who had remained slaves for generations. They were the most down trodden class who could never dream of raising their heads in front of their masters. However, Islam infused great strength in them. It enabled them to perceive the Greatness of their Lord and they realised that they had no reason to fear their ‘so called’ masters who were also human beings like themselves. They also had to try to build the correct relationship with their Lord; if they had to face death, it didn’t really matter – it had to come anyway. This realisation made them so strong that all efforts by the Makkan chieftains miserably failed to break them.
Imagine the scene when Pharaoh called the magicians to compete with Prophet Musa-AS before a huge crowd wherein Allah blessed the magicians with the light of faith. We won’t divert from our subject to discuss the reason for this Divine Favour, because that is a complete topic in itself, but we will address only the relevant portion. The magicians received no opportunity to learn even the basic beliefs of their religion, they just cast their ropes which became snakes. Prophet Musa-AS also threw his staff which turned into a bigger serpent and swallowed all their snakes. Seeing this, they fell prostrate saying, ‘We believe in the Lord of Musa andHarun.’ That immensely annoyed Pharaoh, because just moments earlier, the same magicians were humbly requesting his favours as a reward for their victory in this grand competition and he had promised them seats of distinction and honour near his throne in his court. Previously they were reposing all their hopes in Pharaoh but as soon as they accepted Faith, the reflection from Prophet Musa’s heart to their hearts changed their priorities. When Pharaoh threatened them with dire consequences for their disloyalty saying, “I shall punish you severely and you will soon come to know who is more powerful. I shall cut your hands and feet on alternate sides and hang you on palm trunks.” they simply replied, “Do what you may. We don’t desire the power and wealth of this world but we want to please our Lord, Whom we have been disobeying so far.” No doubt it was the same Pharaoh with his might, awe and wealth for whom they were ready to sacrifice their lives only a short while ago, but now they were talking to him in a completely different tone. They said, “We can see what you can’t. Death is a reality which may come just now or after a while. Allah has given you the authority to kill us but our death will surely earn us Allah‘s good Pleasure and that is not a bad bargain – we are ready for it.” Those who had come for the reward of this life were now eager to embrace death. The rising sun had seen them bowing before Pharaoh but the setting sun found them slain in the way of Allah. The holy Quran has recorded their conversation with the Pharaoh. They told him, “We have to return to our Lord and account for all our deeds. It will be good that your swords cut our hands and feet which have been disobeying our Lord and you hang us by our necks, maybe that way we can attract His Mercy and earn His good Pleasure.” But who taught them about the Hereafter and the Final Accountability? It was the sublime reflection from the heart of Prophet Musa-AS which carried this knowledge to their hearts. They became the custodians of Prophetic knowledge and started talking about those facts which Prophet Musa-AS had not yet spoken. That is the difference between a Prophet and other experts. A Prophet does not only impart theoretical knowledge, he also saturates the hearts of believers with sublime feelings. The holy Quran calls these feelings as Tazkiyah and it has been translated as Tasawwuf.
People say Tasawwuf is not required, Tasawwuf may not be required but every Muslim certainly requires Tazkiyah which has been prescribed for him by the holy Quran. Now, what was the effect of Tazkiyah? It filled the purified heart with Allah‘s Zikr and His Lights forever and its every beat reverberated with His Name. The thought, speech and conduct of such a person reflected his realisation of Divine Greatness. His entire personality underwent a complete transformation. If you look at the lives of the earliest Muslims in Makkah, you will find that even though they were slaves or poor people, they were living quite peacefully before accepting Islam. But the three years of Shoab-i Abu Talib, following the acceptance of Islam, brought them intolerable hardships. They were compelled to live under the open sky in the scorching heat of the desert. They were driven to the extreme limits of thirst and hunger, where they had to eat the ashes of old and dry hides. They were the same people who could never dare to annoy the Makkan chieftains even for a moment but now they withstood their entire wrath patiently. They said, “We can endure every hardship but we can’t give up our relationship with Allah, for which we are being punished, in exchange for better food, drink or dress”. After all, there must be something that had changed the priorities of their lives.
That is the distinction of a Prophet that he pours these feelings into the hearts. The custodian of these feelings is known as a Companion. The holy Prophet-SAW transferred the whole religion to his Companions before his departure from this world. He-SAW didn’t teach them only theory, but he filled their hearts with these feelings and realisation. Similarly the Companions didn’t pass down only religious knowledge of the Book and Sunnah but they also transferred these feelings to those who visited them. Their hearts were also purified and they came to be known as the Taba’in. Anyone who couldn’t get the company of the Companions might have become a very good Muslim otherwise but he couldn’t become a Tab’i. He couldn’t remotely achieve the state that was produced in the presence of a Companion, he was like the one who couldn’t meet the holy Prophet-SAW. He may have become a good Muslim warrior, scholar or a pious person, but he couldn’t become a Companion – it is a reflective process of the hearts. Only that heart which came near, absorbed the reflection – others could not. The group of Tab’a Taba’in is similarly distinguished in the Ummah. Their qualification was that they had met the Taba’in and their hearts had also absorbed the excellence radiated by the hearts of the Taba’in. After their time, the religious knowledge was classified into various branches like Tafsir, Hadith, Fiqh and many people devoted their whole lives to learn each branch. You will however, observe that each one of them, without exception, whether a Mufassir, Muhaddith or Faqih, also acquired these inner feelings of the heart. Name any of them, Imam Abu Hanifah or Imam Ghazali-RUA(call them Sufis or not) they all were the custodians of these feelings – Tazkiyah has always remained a prerequisite. If you study the life of religious scholars, you shall find that after completing their religious education, all of them spent some time in the company of an accomplished Shaikh. The point to ponder is that if they had already acquired complete religious knowledge, why did they waste their time with a saint? In fact they didn’t waste their time, but tried to get the blessings radiated by him, which he had in turn acquired from his Shaikh, so that their knowledge could be transformed from abstract information into perceptible feelings or an inner state of the heart. There is certainly a lot of difference between knowledge, news or information. According to a Persian proverb, Knowledge which does not lead to truth, is actually ignorance.
We have some friends from the press here journalists who collect news about the whole world, and everyday they receive assorted news about numerous murders, robberies, marriages, deaths, changes in governments, political victories and the like. All of this is nothing more than news which they write only to sell their papers. They collect and convey this information as a matter of routine, it doesn’t affect them any way. They neither cry over any death nor rejoice about any marriage. Similarly, someone may learn all of the knowledge of this world but if it fails to affect his practical life or produce any feelings within him, that is not really knowledge but information. Knowledge is that information which produces specific feelings in the heart, may it be a small sentence. Sad news causes grief and happy news fills the heart with joy. Information about something good arouses the desire to acquire it, and the news of an impending danger produces the urge to protect oneself against it – that is real knowledge. The collection of information is not knowledge but it requires Tazkiyah to convert that information into knowledge. Some fortunate ones found Tazkiyah from the same teacher from whom they had gone to get knowledge. However, those who couldn’t find them both at one place, went to an accomplished Shaikh for Tazkiyah after completing their education, and the information that they had gained was then converted into real knowledge. During the present time when we have become extremely busy in the pursuit of our requirements, the importance of Tazkiyah has also multiplied manifold; only that person whose heart contains some Tazkiyah will remain on the right track. It is not correct to argue that Tazkiyah is an extra obligation; on the contrary, it is the base and the foundation. It has assumed an even greater importance today, because a human being won’t then forget himself and his Lord in this busy life, and will then acquire the strength to reform his conduct according to the Will of his Master. New ideologies, orders and revolutions of the world should fail to impress him and his heart should remain occupied by only those thoughts and feelings which please his Lord.
You can see that since the time our hearts are bereft of these feelings, nothing seems to affect us. We are neither reformed by Tabligh (preaching) nor Hajj, our prayers also fail to influence our practical life, we only discharge our religious obligations as a matter of routine. Isn’t it correct that when we go to the market, we expect a similar level of honesty from two shopkeepers, the Hajji as well as the thief? There should have been at least some difference between a person who has performed Hajj and offers Salah, and the one who gambles and never prays. However, our apprehensions about both of them are absolutely similar and we don’t feel confident to trust either one of them. Above all, why isn’t there any difference between the two? The reason is that neither one of them has passed through the process of Tazkiyah. Therefore, the hearts of both of them are possessed by the lust of this world. The first one was weak and mild, so he chose the safe and easy way to earn the world; while the second one being courageous, adopted the difficult course to the same goal. We praise the first and condemn the second, whereas in actual fact their aim had been similar, only the methods were different. Their hearts remained alien to the feelings which Allah, His Messenger-SAW, and Islam wanted to infuse, for that reason, their conduct remained identical in practical life. However, if you pass the same thief through the process of Tazkiyah, it would reform his heart, correct the priorities of his life and purify his intentions. He will remain a thief no more, but will become better than many pious people.
The earliest people who were transformed by Islam, were neither imported from abroad nor created from any different material, and as such, were given to the holy Prophet-SAW. They were the same people who belonged to the most notorious society of the world. But when Tazkiyah set in their hearts, they became the torch bearers of civilisation and spread the light of peace and justice to all corners of the globe. This grand edifice of excellence was erected on the strong foundation of Tazkiyah. If you discard the word Tasawwuf and adopt the actual word Tazkiyah, it would further enhance its importance and necessity. The fruit borne by Tazkiyah is described by the Quran as, ‘Their skins and hearts soften at Allah‘s remembrance’. It indicates that Allah‘s Name didn’t penetrate only their hearts but it suffused each cell of their bodies right from the outer most skins to the inner most self. That was the fruit of Tazkiyah. It is an established law of nature that the fruit of every tree is also its seed. In the case of the Companions, the seed of Prophetic blessings bore the fruit of continuous Zikr. Therefore, Allah ordained continuous Zikr for all Muslims, including the Companions, to acquire the fruit of Prophetic blessings. Each chapter and page of the holy Quran contains an explicit or implicit Divine Command to perform Allah‘s Zikr, and also highlights the disadvantages of eluding Zikr.
While discussing Zikr, the Quran addresses the whole of humanity and not men alone. Once some women submitted to the holy Prophet-SAW that the Quran addresses only men and not women. He-SAW replied that the Quran, being a book of guidance for the entirety of mankind, addresses humanity as a whole, therefore, men and women are both equal members of the human race. Allah liked their observation and the Quran included women in the detailed description of laudable human attributes. It began with, Men who surrender (to Allah) and women who surrender, and men who believe and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth, and men who persevere (in righteousness) and women who persevere, and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and it climaxed at, Men who remember Allah much and women who remember, for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and immense reward (33: 35). The Quran recounted these praiseworthy qualities like prayers, fast, piety, honesty, trust and modesty as the root, trunk, leaves and flowers of a tree, and compared Allah‘s Zikr with its fruit, thereby implying that Allah‘s Zikr is the fruit of all worship. Here, the Quran has placed men and women as equal because both are human beings. Their duties and responsibilities may be different but as human beings both are equally important and answerable and their deeds will be judged under the same law, by the same Lord.
We forgot the basic concept of leadership given by Islam that the departing Amir or the public should appoint the most suitable and capable person to manage the affairs of the state. Islam had prescribed ability alone and neither colour nor creed as the pre-requisite of leadership. But once one of us seized power he ensured that it was passed down his line. This practice introduced all sorts of good and bad people who affected the system in their own way. We treated Tasawwuf in exactly the same way. When a real eminent Shaikh, who illuminated the hearts of a host of people with his enlightened heart died, we didn’t bother to appoint his best student to succeed him, but brought his son to succeed the father in spite of the fact that the son never cared to even greet his father and acquired nothing worthwhile from him. Such successors who didn’t possess anything real, had to portray something, so they concocted baseless rituals and customs. They introduced music, songs, feast and the like. Truth was relegated to the background and rituals and ceremonies dominated the scenario. Such rituals certainly caused damage and the knowledgeable scholars rightly criticised them. This criticism spread so far and wide that now Tasawwuf appears to us to be the root cause of all evil. Actually, our actions which cast evil effects are diametrically opposite to the teachings of Tasawwuf and Tazkiyah, but we hold Tasawwuf responsible for all our problems and advocate its discard. On the contrary, Tasawwuf offers the fundamental protection against this nonsense. It is the real attribute of a Muslim which makes him a better human being. A Muslim is not a recluse, but an outstanding member of his society who maintains an excellent relationship with Allah and His creation, while a Wali is an outstanding Muslim who has an even better relationship with Allah and His creation.
Tasawwuf was our basic necessity. It was the guarantee for our survival and the nectar of our life, without which we can never exist as good Muslims or good human beings. It has assumed an even greater significance in the commotion of the present time. You can try it yourself. If you start performing Zikr, you will certainly feel the difference. Those of your friends, who may have been offering Salah since a long time, would also discern the difference of feelings in their prayers after performing Zikr. The criterion for the delinquents like me is that, if I start committing nine sins daily instead of ten, I have started improving. My journey towards the good has begun and I can see a ray of hope at the far end of the tunnel. For a healthy person, a temperature of 102 degrees will signify high grade fever but for a patient who has been running 104 degrees for years, it will indicate a sure sign of recovery. Everyone doesn’t transform into an angel overnight, a human being shall always remain a human being, ever prone to error. The process of Tazkiyah will however, revive within him the realisation of his relationship with his Creator and would inspire him from within to strive for His Pleasure. Previously, we unwillingly forced ourselves to offer Salah, but now we will feel an urge to pray because that is our requirement. We may not have been telling the truth in the past but now it will become our natural habit. We may have been dodging work and wasting our time, unwatched at the office, but the light of Tazkiyah revives the sense of responsibility and bestows the realisation that The Omnipresent, before Whom I am answerable, is always watching me. This realisation redirects life on the path of goodness. I think Tazkiyah is our essential requirement, without which a Muslim can’t really survive. In the absence of Tazkiyah, we can’t fully absorb and adopt the grace and excellence that Islam bestows on us. Although our names are still like Deen Muhammad, but we have seen that, without Tazkiyah, the essence of the Deen of Muhammad-SAW has disappeared from our lives. Tazkiyah is our requirement which has become even more important for us today. May Allah grant us this realisation, faculty and blessing!
1. Acceptance of the Faith is an act. Remembrance of Allah-swt is present in it, hence it is Zikr(Remembrance).
2. Acquisition of knowledge about the Deen is an excellent act and it contains the Remembrance of Allah, hence it is Zikr (Remembrance) .
3.(a). Every action whether it is a Farz (Obligatory), Wajib (Necessary), Sunnah, or Mubah (proper/permissible), includes the Remembrance of Allah, and is therefore Zikr (Remembrance) . This covers everything from worship to worldly affairs, and is known as Zikr-e Amli (Practical Zikr). It also includes Zikr-e Lisani (Oral Zikr), as recitation during Salah(Prayer) and Tasbihaat(Recitals) are Zikr-e Lisani. Similarly, studying and teaching Deen, Tableegh (preaching) are all included in Zikr, because Remembrance of Allah-swt is present in all of them. (b). The next form is Zikr-e Lisani; Tasbihaat, Darood Sharif and Recitation of the Quran are all included in Zikr-e Lisani.
(c). Further, the third form is Zikr-e Qalbi(Remembrance of Heart). Qalb(Heart) is a subtle body placed within the lump of flesh about which the Holy Prophet-saws reportedly said, „There is a lump of flesh in the body; if that is healthy the whole body is healthy, and if that is sick the whole body is sick. Know that it is the heart (Qalb)‟, (or as said by the Messenger-saws of Allah-swt). Divine Injunctions about this (Zikr-e Qalbi) are also present, so much so that the author of Tafseer-e Mazhari has written that acquisition of Zikr-e Qalbi(Remembrance of Heart) is mandatory for every Muslim man and woman, and he has presented just two references of Divine Commands: 1) The command of Allah-swt, when dispatching Hazrat Musa-as and Hazrat Haroon-as to Fir„aun (Pharaoh): And slacken not in keeping Me in Remembrance. (Ta Ha: 42)…meaning My Zikr (Remembrance) should not become secondary in your attention. Now, every cell of a Prophet‟s body is not only a Zakir (engaged in Allah-swt‟s constant Zikr) in itself, but it is a Zakir-maker, as anything that touches him also becomes a Zakir. Therefore, it is not possible for a Prophet‟s greatness to be ever unmindful of Zikr. However, to invite Firaun(pharoah), a cruel despotic ruler and a self-proclaimed god, possessor of pomp and splendor, and grandeur and might, to accept the Unity of Allah-swt – that too, from a position of want and poverty; this task could only be undertaken by a Prophet of Allah-swt . It was emphasized (by Allah Kareem) that even in that situation, the primary attention should be focused towards His Zikr (Remembrance) , and the conversation with Fir„aun be consigned a secondary status. This state can be none other than Zikr-e Qalbi.
2) The other reference is found in Surah Muzzammil(Chapter of Quran): the Holy Prophet-saws is addressed: Remember the Name of your Rabb and devote yourself to Him wholeheartedly. (Al Muzzammil: 8) That is, keep on doing the Zikr (Remembrance) of your Rabb‟s Name, keep repeating „Allah Allah Allah‟ to such an extent that there remains no other awareness except that of Allah-swt. Here, the Command to recite the Quran has already been given separately. Therefore, this reference is only to the Zikr (Remembrance) of the Personal Name and to Zikr-e Qalbi. Yes, it is with Allah-swt, to grant the capacity to understand this.
According to the Quran, all of entire creation bears witness to Allah’s Magnificence. Each element and every particle of this universe is a masterpiece of creation and a marvellous manifestation of Allah’s Greatness. His Glory expresses itself generously and overtly in the multifarious nature of creation. The earth and the heavens, along with their peculiar characteristics, and the creation they sustain, under regular systems and patterns set since the Beginning, contain innumerable signs pointing towards Allah’s Greatness. Why then, despite this explicit expression, does the majority of mankind fail to envision His Greatness, feels no attraction towards Him, as well as disregards His authority?
Allah has answered this question Himself, in that it requires a certain level of vision and wisdom to see, understand and correctly interpret these signs; this vision, perception and wisdom is produced by Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance). The brain is a material creation, so therefore it can only perceive and address something tangible. It can discover the properties of various objects and blend them to make something new, i.e., mixing colours to create a rainbow, mixing different ingredients, even in a specific ratio, to prepare delicious foods. It can arrange bricks and mortar to make beautiful homes, or assemble various parts and invent machines. The brain can discover the needs and realise the comforts of its own body, as well as suggest the means to do so. It can also diagnose diseases of its body and even of itself and recommend their cures. In short, it can address everything that is associated with matter. But it cannot perceive anything beyond the Realm of Creation like the Divine Being, Divine Attributes, or other sublime realities. If the intellect could perceive them, it would be possible for every human being to realise Divine Greatness and there would be no further reason or requirement to depute Prophets.
A human being can attain to any level of material progress and excellence but he can never comprehend the sublime truths of the Transcendent World, such as the Hereafter, Angels, Reward or Retribution. Nor can he answer the most basic questions embedded in his subconscious about his own origin and destination. Where do billions of these people come from and wither do they perish after death? The human intellect simply has no answer! These fundamental issues were discussed only by Prophets who provided their logical and satisfactory answers, easily understood and accepted by the human intellect. Religion most naturally and effectively satiates the whole range of intellectual scrutiny; therefore, Islam is the most natural and logical of religions. But by itself the human intellect cannot discern religion’s sublime wisdom and reason without Prophetic blessings, which unveil Transcendental truths to be perceived and accepted by the intellect. Only Prophetic lights can establish the human-Lord relationship through His constant Zikr (Remembrance) .
It is not possible to fully comprehend the blessings and beneficence of the holy Prophet‑saw. A glimpse of his greatness is reflected in the fact that his company instantly infused Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance) in each cell of a believer’s body. Every drop of blood, every limb and the entire skin of a believer’s body was charged with Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance) . The Quran describes the condition of his-sawCompanions, “So that their flesh and their hearts soften at Allah’s remembrance,” – 39:23. It means that each cell of their bodies, from their outermost skins to the core of their hearts, started remembering Allah. Indeed, it is Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance) that bestows the vision to observe His greatness in every creation. Just by looking at a product you can appreciate the wisdom and ingenuity of the designers of cars, watches, houses and other machines; similarly, the lights and blessings of Allah’s constant Zikr (Remembrance) enlighten the human heart to observe Divine Glory in each straw and particle, the changing of the seasons, the movement of celestial bodies, the rise and fall of nations and all of the events of the world portray different shades of Divine Greatness before mankind. To observe the Creator in creation, however, one should be necessarily blessed with Prophetic beneficence gained through Allah’s constant Zikr (Remembrance) .
According to the Quran, the miraculous properties of the earth, the sky shading-over without support, the innumerable species of creatures residing within, the alternation of day and night and the unfailing, vast, miraculous universal system, all point towards the greatness of their Creator; but only for the one blessed with wisdom, “Those who constantly remember Allah, standing, sitting or reclining.” A human being will always be in one of these postures. This Divine verse implies that they are always engaged in Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance) under all conditions, at all times. Religious scholars have thus concluded that the alluded to verse doesn’t refer to oral Zikr(Remembrance) because the tongue cannot do Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance) all of the time; it has to translate many other human requirements, besides doing Zikr(Remembrance) . Even if somebody doesn’t speak a word except Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) , his tongue will certainly remain quiet during his sleep. The only organ that can permanently perform Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) is the human heart and only Zikr-e Qalbi (Zikr by the heart) can fulfil the condition of constant Zikr (Remembrance) . Once the heart learns Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance) , it never stops at any time, under any circumstances. During the time of the holy Prophet-saw, a moment of his company was enough to acquire this blessing. His Companions similarly blessed the Taba’in and they in turn passed these blessings to the Tab’a Taba’in. The mere company of these exalted souls was sufficient to transfer this blessing or Barakah to their visitors. No further effort was required to achieve this excellence. However, after this glorious era, the strength of the teacher and absorption of the seeker both decreased. It therefore became necessary, as determined by the Mashaikh (spiritual teachers) that the teacher and the student must sit together. The teacher should perform Zikr(Remembrance) on his Lataif(Spiritual Organs) and focus the Divine lights attending him, towards the seeker. This process is known as Tawajjuh (spiritual attention). The holy Prophet-saw didn’t require giving special, conscious attention to any one. The sun doesn’t have to make any effort to deliver its light, a person has only to come out to receive it. Similarly, the holy Prophet-saw didn’t have to make any particular effort to give spiritual attention, the seeker had only to come to him to receive Prophetic Barakah(Spiritual Blessings). This spiritual power was retained by the Companions, the Taba’in and the Tab’a Taba’in, whereupon ended the period of automatic transfer of these blessings. Now a seeker had to strive hard to acquire them. The teacher and the seeker both engaged themselves in Zikr(Remembrance) , the former gave spiritual attention and the latter tried to absorb the Barakah in his heart.
The Mashaikh(Spiritual Teachers) adopted different methods of Zikr(Remembrance) . The method adopted by our Order is called ‘Pas Anfas’ or ‘The Guarded Breath’. Each ingress should carry the word ‘Allah’ to the core of heart and every egress should bring the word ‘Hu’ out to strike the heart or the desired Latifah(Spiritual Organ). That would create a rhythm of Allah Hu in every breath. You should however, not try to make these words with the sound of your breath, because the Zikr (Remembrance) is not done with the breath. Do take a careful note that we do breathe vigorously, but only perform Zikr (Remembrance) with the heart. Zikr (Remembrance) is always done with the heart and never with the breath – breathing is one of the means. Now you may ask, ‘If we do Zikr(Remembrance) with the heart, then why do we breathe vigorously?’ The reason is simple, the absorption of Divine lights in the blood is directly related to the body’s temperature – cold bodies do not absorb these lights. Someone can give spiritual attention to a dead person and illuminate each cell of his body, but as soon as their attention is withdrawn, all of the lights would be instantly gone – because the body has lost its heat. Similarly is the case of a living person, the heat already present in the body is not sufficient to accept and absorb these lights. If you breathe normally during Zikr (Remembrance) , you would require considerable time, probably years, to absorb the lights and illuminate your Lataif(Spiritual Organs). That too, if you engage in constant Zikr (Remembrance) and your teacher possesses adequate spiritual power. “The fountain must contain sufficient water to saturate the flowerbed. “
The Owaisiah Order has the closest and most direct connection with the holy Prophet‑saw and enables the seeker to access and absorb unlimited Barakah(Spiritual Blessings). Therefore the Mashaikh (spiritual teachers) of this Order have prescribed that the seeker should breathe rapidly and vigorously to generate sufficient heat in the blood to illuminate, not one but all of the Lataif(Spiritual Organs) in a single Zikr (Remembrance) session. It is not possible to hear Allah Hu in the sound of the breath. We breathe freely and spiritually perceive that each breath is carrying the word Allah inside and bringing the word Hu out. The vigorous breathing, coupled with body movement and mental concentration, generates ideal conditions for the heart’s Zikr (Remembrance) . Unless these three factors combine rhythmically, one doesn’t fully benefit from Zikr (Remembrance) . The absurd criticism of ignorant people about our method of Zikr(Remembrance) does not merit any consideration because such critics do not possess the basic knowledge and comprehension. It requires a thorough knowledge of a subject to fully comprehend its details and to generate meaningful criticism.
I am addressing those who are blessed by Allah’s grace and emphasise that Zikr (Remembrance) is not done with the breath but by the heart. The breath is drawn in vigorously to generate heat in the blood and complete attention is to be focused on Zikr (Remembrance) – that is important. Otherwise you would be physically engaged in Zikr (Remembrance) but mentally wandering elsewhere. The rhythm of body movement and along with mental concentration both combine with the heat generated by vigorous breathing to absorb the Barakah(Spiritual Blessings) of the Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher) in each cell of the body. For that reason, all distracting acts are prohibited during Zikr (Remembrance) . If someone loses concentration or starts coughing or speaking or reciting Quranic verses or poetry during Zikr (Remembrance) , the flow of Divine lights is immediately interrupted, therefore, it is extremely important to perform Zikr (Remembrance) attentively and silently. One’s entire attention should be focused on the breath taking the word Allah inside and bringing the word Hu out.
I was amazed to hear someone explain the method as, “Raise the word Allah from your heart up to the heavens and strike Hu down on your heart” – this is absolutely wrong! Our Zikr (Remembrance) method is very simple, every ingress takes the word Allah inside and every egress brings out Hu to strike the Latifah(Spiritual Organ) under Zikr (Remembrance) , while vigorous and fast breathing generates heat in the body. At times, one feels disturbed by the heat and coughs or speaks to lessen its effect, while such acts and distractions no doubt reduce the heat, they also decrease the absorption of Divine lights. Heat is necessary to weld pieces of metals like iron and gold or melt them for fusion. Similarly, a certain degree of body heat is required to absorb Allah’s lights that actually belong to the Ruh (the Spirit), the body serves only as its abode. Unless the body absorbs these lights, the Ruh cannot be illuminated and conversely, a radiant Ruh lights up the body. It just cannot happen that one of them is bright and the other is dark. They are so intimately united that they always undergo similar experiences. Whenever any member of the Order engages in Zikr (Remembrance) in any corner of the world, he instantly starts receiving the spiritual attention (Tawajjuh) of the Mashaikh. Now, it shall be up to him to absorb that Tawajjuh in his Lataif(Spiritual Organ). The more he coordinates his breath, body movement and mental concentration, the greater shall be his absorption and the more he absorbs the greater would be the flow of lights towards him.
That, in brief, is our method of Zikr(Remembrance) . Those who hold the Robe of Permission (Sahib-e Majaz) and others who conduct Zikr (Remembrance) sessions need most to understand the whole process properly. I have heard them explain different methods based on their own understanding and interpretation. Those who are present should listen carefully and convey to others that we do Zikr (Remembrance) with the heart and not with the breath; we breathe quickly to generate heat in the blood to absorb Divine Lights. The mind also joins the process by modulating ‘Allah Hu’ on every breath, so if the mind is inattentive the capacity of absorption decreases and the desired result is not achieved. It should be understood that reward and inner feelings are two different entities. A person who offers Salah according to its prescribed form at its proper time, even under compulsion and with total absence of mind and heart, will still deserve some Divine reward for fulfilling a religious obligation. But it is an entirely different experience to receive and absorb Divine lights related to this sublime worship. If anyone wants to feel and enjoy the Divine Presence in each moment of his Salah, he shall certainly need to devote greater attention and effort. Similarly, we don’t only expect a reward for Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) , we also desire a Divine Communion and the Light of His Countenance. We aspire to realise the Divine Presence as stated by the holy Prophet-saw, “Worship Allah as if you see Him.” We want to experience and eternalise the observation of the Divine Beatitude. The person, who doesn’t want it, naturally doesn’t have to put in any extra effort.
Allah has not ordained any particular method of Zikr (Remembrance) , “Those who remember Allah, standing sitting and reclining “ – 3:191. There shall only be one restriction. Any form of Zikr (Remembrance) which prejudices any religious injunction or causes any distraction or disturbance for others is not allowed. Except those particularly prohibited by the holy Prophet-saw, all other methods are permitted; nobody has the right to object to any of these. The Mashaikh(Spiritual Teachers) of various Orders adopted different methods considering their relative usefulness in the light of their experiences. It is not proper to criticise any method that remains within the prescribed limits of Shari‘ah. We have no right to criticise others and similarly, nobody has the right to criticise us. It is necessary to criticise and stop anyone who crosses the religious limits under the pretext of Zikr (Remembrance) but it is highly improper to object for the sake of objection. We are not obliged to satisfy such critics, nobody has the time and energy to tell and teach someone who doesn’t want to know and learn.
Avoid such frivolity and devote your full attention to Zikr (Remembrance) by your heart. Concentration, breathing and body movement should be rhythmically combined. Allah should accompany each in-coming breath to the depths of the heart and Hu should strike the Latifah(Spiritual Organ) under Zikr (Remembrance) with each out-going breath, that is a simple way to explain our method of Zikr (Remembrance) . Don’t lose your attention or go to sleep during Zikr (Remembrance) , that also precludes beneficence and interrupts the flow of Barakah(Spiritual Blessing). Do the Zikr (Remembrance) attentively, vigorously; with speed and force, greater absorption would attract far greater blessings.
With complete concentration and attention, breathing should be so managed that the Personal Name ‘Allah’ should descend into the depths of the heart (Qalb) with every breath going in and the word ‘Hoo’ should strike the Qalb(Heart) with every breath coming out. When doing the second Latifah(Spiritual Organ), the Personal Name Allah should descend into the depths of the Qalb(Heart) with every breath going in and the word ‘Hoo’ should strike the second Latifah (Spiritual Organ) with every breath coming out. Similarly, when doing the third, fourth and the fifth Latifah(Spiritual Organ) , the Personal Name Allah should descend into the depths of the Qalb(Heart) with every breath going in and the word ‘Hoo’ should strike the Latifah (Spiritual Organ) under Zikr(Remembrance) with every breath coming out. The Method of doing Zikr(Remembrance) on the Sixth Latifah (Spiritual Organ) The Personal Name Allah should descend into the depths of the Qalb(Heart) with every breath going in and a flare of ‘Hoo’ should come out of the forehead with every breath coming out. The Method of doing Zikr(Remembrance) on the Seventh Latifah (Spiritual Organ) The Personal Name Allah should descend into the depths of the Qalb(Heart) with every breath going in and a flare of ‘Hoo’ should come out of every cell and pore of the body with every breath coming out. After doing Zikr(Remembrance) on the seventh Latifah (Spiritual Organ) , the first Latifah (Spiritual Organ) is done again, whose method had been given in the beginning. During Zikr(Remembrance) the breathing should be rapid and forceful, accompanied by the movement of the body, which starts automatically with rapid breathing. It should be borne in mind that no breath is left without Zikr(Remembrance). Attention should be focused on the Qalb(Heart) and the continuity in Zikr (Remembrance) should not break.
Indeed in the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and day are signs for men of understanding. Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth; our Lord! You have not created all this in vain. Hallowed be You! Save us You from the torment of the Fire. (3:190-191)
Apparently, the world is touching the zenith of advancement, but does material progress, beautification of the body, abundance in food and wealth represent the pinnacle of human excellence? Is man just the name of a body alone? No, not at all! Man is a magnificent creation of Almighty Allah. The human body has a role in worldly affairs only, while the reality lies within this visible form. It permeates every cell of the body and is called the Ruh (spirit) – a wonder of Divine creation. When the holy Prophet‑SAWS was questioned about it, the reply was given by Almighty Allah, Say: the Ruh is by my Lord’s Command. (17:85). Command is an Attribute of Allah. How then was the Ruh(Soul) created from this Sublime Divine Attribute? Was it created through its image or reflection? In response, it was said, And of knowledge you have been given but a little. – 17:80. It is beyond human intellect to comprehend this point, you haven’t been granted the ability to understand it.
The real human dwells inside this body, a body which is made from the earth and its clothing, food and medicines all come from the earth. It can sustain itself even with the minimum of provisions and can live on ordinary food, cheap clothes and cheap shelter. But can it survive if its connection with the earth is totally severed? The Ruh (Soul) is a creature of the Realm of Command. When its connection with the Realm of Command breaks, it resembles a body whose connection with the earth is severed; it cannot remain alive. When the Ruh (Soul) of a person is not alive…what is the life of the Ruh? The body gets its life when the Ruh(Soul) flows into it. Similarly, the Ruh (Soul) gets its life when the light of Faith flows into the Qalb(Heart). The Ruh (Soul) of a person is dead whose heart is without this light or is filled with Kufr. If you watch a Kafir, he would be more like an animal and less like a human being. He would be selfish, immoral, wicked and be inclined, like a snake, to bite and destroy fellow creatures. If we look at our society the question becomes, ‘Why has everybody turned against each other, why is it that everyone is out to harm others?’ The basic reason is that the Ruh (Soul) has died.
Prophets were sent to teach human qualities to the children of Adam-AS. The word insan (human) is derived from uns (love). When life flows into Ruh, it generates love and kindness. One starts thinking about the good of Allah’s creation: how can I help a human being, how can I benefit others? This is the difference between the life and death of the Ruh (Soul) . When the Ruh (Soul) is given life, a special consciousness develops, the thought process is modified, horizons of perception are broadened and one’s conduct is reformed. This extended perception does not remain confined to this world only, even the Last Day can be perceived. When the Ruh (Soul) becomes unconcerned with the apparent form of deeds and instead envisions their consequences in the Hereafter and on the Day of Judgement, it certainly reforms its conduct. But what keeps the Ruh (Soul) alive, healthy and strong? The holy Quran has emphasised on numerous occasions that your most common action in life should be Allah’s Zikr(Remember): Perform Allah’sZikrmost frequently. – 33:41. Now taking food is an act, earning livelihood is an act, going about is an act, maintaining relations and doing business are also acts, but there are other actions that we keep on doing throughout our lives. We breathe without interruption and our hearts beat without a break – life halts when these stop. If we have to perform ‘most frequent Zikr’, we will have to do it more than our breathing and more than our heartbeats – but how is this possible?
It is a living miracle of the holy Prophet-SAWS that he made possible this ‘impossibility’. When those people who attended his blessed company and came to be known as the Companions went to him, the light reflected by his blessed Qalb(Heart) instantly illuminated each cell of their bodies – Then mellowed their skins and hearts towards Allah’s Zikr. – 39:23. The reflection of Prophetic lights infused them, from the outermost to the innermost parts of their bodies, with Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance) and each cell of their bodies began performing Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) . Now, one can only breathe once at any given moment, but at that same moment, there would be billions of cells performing Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance) . This way, Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance) would accordingly exceed respiration. Similarly, the heart may beat only once in a moment, but the billions of cells that it is made of, alongwith the countless cells of the rest of the body, would be performing Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance) . Within that one heartbeat, the body would perform Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance) zillions of time. But there is only one way – only one: attain those blessings from the holy Prophet Muhammad-SAWS! Allahsays there are signs in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of days and nights, for a person with the Light of Faith, the one whose nature is still pure, who hasn’t yet turned into an animal and still retains some human qualities.
The creation of the heavens and earth, the days and nights, the unending process of creation that produces innumerable forms of life on earth every moment, fruits that ripen, trees that bloom, crops that grow and the blades of grass that take root, all of these contain visible signs. Nobody can count the things that are being created or destroyed each moment. The continuous process of change, creation and extinction contain magnificent signs of Allah’s Greatness for the wise. Who are these wise men? The holy Quran explains, ‘Wise are … those who remember Allah standing, sitting and reclining’; that is, they remember Allah at all times, in all the states, not even a moment is spent without Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) – they are the wise! When this constant Zikr (Remembrance) is achieved, the vision is broadened ‘and they reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth.’ They acquire wisdom and reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth, the systems supporting the universe, life and death, and the phenomenon of ‘rise and fall’. The sun rises pale, turns into a fireball at noon and turns pale again as it sets. Similarly, the seeds sprout, grow into huge trees and finally fall to become firewood. Crops grow and sway in the fields like waves, to finally dry and perish. It is a cycle, permanent and continuous, without the slightest bit of deviation. The world has been in existence since time immemorial, yet if only a single ray of sunlight had been extinguished everyday, by now the sun would have become cold and the solar system frozen; if only one ray (of sunlight) had been increased each day, the solar system would have been incinerated by now. But there is someone…someone who has kept in check everything under His Command, so that nothing happens before or after its appointed time. These are signs for the wise, they will reflect, they will understand; the faculty of contemplation would develop with them; but how… ‘those who remember Allah standing, sitting and reclining.’ Zikr(Remembrance) is a vast term and in plain words it means ‘to remember’. All of our actions that are in accordance with Shari’ah comprise Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) . That is Zikr (Remembrance) by deeds or practical Zikr (Remembrance) , whether it be earning a livelihood, doing business, maintaining relationships, carrying out Jihad, fighting on the battlefield or living within the family. If our verbal communication is in accordance with the Shari’ah, it is oral Zikr (Remembrance) . We may read Darud Sharif(Salutations on Holy Prophet SAW), engage in Allah’s Tasbeeh, recite His Book, worship or may talk about Him, etc, all of this is included in oral Zikr (Remembrance) . But there are times when all deeds get suspended. Man is a strange machine, he requires as much time to rest as he does to work. He works during the day and rests at night for the natural maintenance of his body. A loss of energy due to work is recouped; bones, flesh, veins and nerves are refreshed and toned up again and when he gets up in the morning, he is ready to work again. Now during this period of rest, he has not done any Zikr(Remembrance) by way of deeds. Therefore, practically, constant Zikr(Remembrance) by deeds is not possible. Even for oral Zikr (Remembrance) , it is not possible that all of his talking during the day comprises Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance) . If we write down all that we say during the day and review it in the evening, we would realize how we have wasted our day because there may be only a few sentences of any worth or value. Then, when we go to sleep, oral Zikr (Remembrance) also stops but the breathing continues and so does the heartbeat. Similarly, if one gets sick or falls unconscious, the tongue may get tied, eyes may close, hands and feet may stop working but even then, the breathing would continue and so would the heartbeat.
The Prophetic way of beneficence was that, anyone who went to the holy Prophet‑SAWS with the light of Faith was immersed in an ocean of light, each organ and cell of his body started performing Zikr(Remembrance) . These blessings were there during the time of the Companions and anyone who went to them became a Tab‘i. They were distributed in a similar manner during the time of the Taba‘in and anyone who attended their company came to be known as a Taba‘ Tab‘i. These three periods are known as Khair ul-Quroon – the best of all times. The holy Prophet-SAWSsaid, ‘My time, the time that follows it and the time after that are, respectively, the best of all times.’ After Khair ul-Quroon, religious knowledge was categorised, righteous scholars compiled and then organised the traditions of the holy Prophet‑SAWS – the Ahadith, and the Book of Allah was translated into the native languages of the countries that it reached. Scholars fulfilled their duty of spreading religious knowledge to the masses in a most befitting manner and are discharging their blessed duty even today – may Allah forevermore keep this nation under their patronage! It is their favour that they expound Allah’s Message and the holy Prophet’s‑SAWS traditions to people. There was another category that also came into being which, alongwith knowledge, strove to acquire Prophetic blessings and spent a lifetime in absorbing Prophetic lights, radiated by the blessed bosom of the holy Prophet-SAWS into their bosoms. They came to be known as Sufis and Mashaikh. Such people were rare because the commodity they possessed was extraordinarily precious. You can find a grocery store around the corner of every street but if you want to buy diamonds, you won’t find them at every store, even in big towns there won’t be many jewellers. These Prophetic lights and blessings that radiated from the blessed bosom of the holy Prophet‑SAWS were incomparably more precious than diamonds and therefore were very rare. Fortunate were those who searched across the globe for their bearers and acquired these blessings from them.
How much did people strive for these blessings…this you can comprehend from a small incident. There is a tomb of a saint near our lands here and in the 6th century he travelled to Baghdad on foot, as no other means of transport were available then. There, he became a student of the grandson of Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani-RUA. He stayed there for many years, learnt Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) , initiated his Qalb(Heart) and body with Zikr (Remembrance) and finally returned after an arduous journey of an indefinite period. During that time there were no telephones, telexes or televisions, it was impossible to know where to find such a person. People would set out in their pursuit from village to village and if they found someone they would stay, else they would carry on to the next village and then the next. He went from here to Baghdad on foot and returned on foot – isn’t it strange? But these people are somewhat different. He had built a small mosque near here and though centuries have passed by, nearby inhabitations have vanished and generations have gone by, nobody knows who had ever lived there, since there is no one to tell, yet the mosque still stands. Someone would just come and repair it. The mosque in which he remembered Allah is still there.
So my brother, Zikr (Remembrance) is important for the reason that without Zikr (Remembrance) , without constancy in Zikr (Remembrance) , it is not easy to reform one’s conduct and deeds. It is not easy to keep the Ruh(Soul) alive and retain the spiritual qualities that make a human being humane and generate humanity. You were enemies (of each other), and he (My Prophet) joined you hearts together. – 3:103. We who beg door to door for a piece of bread and endure insults while seeking a livelihood; shouldn’t we try to knock on a door where this Divine favour is available – the blessings of the holy Prophet Muhammad-SAWS? Shouldn’t we look for someone who gives us Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) , suffusing us in the same way as water saturates each particle of a flowerbed? These blessings should not only illuminate the Qalb(Heart) and the whole bosom, but also initiate Allah’s Zikr(Heart) in every cell of the body, in every piece of flesh, skin and bones and in every drop of blood. If one gets to this level of Zikr(Heart), it is only then that he starts to understand the reality of human life and humanity. Vision is diverted towards the creation of the heavens and contemplation is stimulated. One starts recognising Allah, according to one’s capacity, and feels like prostrating before Him and starts enjoying worship, one likes being in the Divine Presence and starts enjoying it. One feels like undertaking Jihad in His Cause and takes pleasure in getting his throat slit and his chest slashed. Such pleasure is the lot of a believer only and has shaken the Western world, they cannot understand why a Muslim sets out of his home only to die. It is strange. People join wars to capture booty, to get a salary and to earn money, for as the saying goes, ‘It is better to die rich than a pauper.’ But this army is strange, they say, ‘Take everything from us, just let us fight and let us die, our goal is to die.” What do they get in death? The West cannot understand this philosophy, because they don’t believe in Allah, they don’t know His beloved Prophet-SAWS. Allah says, ‘It is not death, it is the death of death! It is eternal life for the dead.’ Do not call those slain in Allah’sCause as dead. – 2:154. The interpreters have explained that those ‘people of God’, whose hearts and bodies get saturated with Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance) , those who achieve continual Zikr(Remembrance) , may meet death in any form but they are granted the status of Shahadat (martyrdom) and they achieve eternal life. This is because their total effort in life is devoted to Allah, seeking His Good Pleasure. They are the ones who have lost their lives during life. They can lay down their lives, but they cannot neglect Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) . They can die but cannot leave HisZikr (Remembrance) .
Someone asked a question through an email the other night, ‘Doesn’t one practically remain in Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) all of the time? One utters His Name every now and then, during work one would say, ‘God willing, this would be done’, one would remember Allah when meeting friends or parting with them. That way, one always remains engaged in Allah’ Zikr (Remembrance) in some form or the other.’ Basically the contention is correct; belief in Allah is also a form of Zikr (Remembrance) . All deeds within the framework of Shari’ah also constitute Zikr (Remembrance) , but performing Zikr(Remembrance) that gives a taste of acquaintance is something totally different. Spending one’s life is one thing, but to enjoy the pleasures of life is something else. Reciting Allah’s Name every now and then is one thing, but the simultaneous vibration of billions of cells with His Zikr (Remembrance) , that transform a human being into an ocean of Divine Refulgence is something absolutely different – it is an experience in itself! The one who tastes this does not differentiate between life and death, wealth and affluence lose their charm. The concept of union or separation loses its meaning and each moment of his life remains in the Divine Presence; every breath whispers a saga of Divine Greatness. This pleasure is known only to him who has tasted it- by Divine Grace.
So in my opinion, my brother, from what I have understood from the Book of Allah, the traditions of the holy Prophet-SAWS and the knowledge of a lifetime granted by Allah, life without Zikr (Remembrance) is no life, it is only a pastime. The real taste and pleasure of life is in Allah’s Zikr(Remembrance) . My suggestion, for the one who wants to know more, is that he should start performing Zikr (Remembrance) himself. The Mashaikh(Spiritual Teachers) have defined numerous ways of performing Zikr (Remembrance) , and all of the methods that are not contradictory to the Shari’ahare permitted. Nevertheless, being permitted is one thing, the method that draws more lights, blessings and beneficence is another matter. When someone asks us, naturally we would talk about and teach him our method that we have adopted for a lifetime, but he may perform Zikr (Remembrance) by any other method that he likes – performing Zikr (Remembrance) is mandatory. However, no restriction has been laid on the method of Zikr(Remembrance) either by Allah or by His holy Prophet‑SAWS. Therefore, no one can impose any such restriction by one’s own opinion. Learn it from any Shaikh(Spiritual Teacher), learn it from any ‘man of God’, but my earnest recommendation is that if you really want to enjoy life, you must learn Allah’s Zikr (Remembrance) . You will be able to taste its pleasure once it gets absorbed into your being and you would also understand how tasteless life is without Zikr(Remembrance) .
May Allah favour everybody to do His Zikr (Remembrance) . May He illuminate our hearts, bosoms and bodies, and forgive us our mistakes and sins.