Six Benefits of Dhikr (Remembrance of Allah)

03 February 2012

 1.    The Ranks of Dhikr

    One of the commentators of Qur'an said concerning Allah's saying: "But among them are some who wrong themselves and among them are some who are lukewarm, and among them are some who outstrip others through good deeds, by Allah's leave" (35:32) that they are respectively the rememberer by tongue, the rememberer by heart, and the one who never forgets his Lord.

    Ibn `Ata' Allah6 said: "The one who utters the Word of Oneness needs three lights: the light of guidance, the light of sufficiency, and the light of divine help. Whoever Allah graces with the first light, he is immune (ma`sum) from associating a partner to Allah; whoever Allah graces with the second light, he is immune from committing great sins and indecencies; and whoever Allah graces with the third light, he is protected (mahfuz) from the corrupt thoughts and motions that typify those given to heedless actions. The first light belongs to "the ones who wrong themselves," the second to "those that are lukewarm," and the third to "the ones who outstrip others through good deeds."

    Al-Wasiti7 was asked about the remembrance of Allah, may Allah have mercy on him. He said: "It is the exiting from the battlefield of heedlessness into the outer space of direct vision (mushahada) on the mount of victory over fear and intensity of love."

    One of the special attributes of the remembrance of Allah is that it has been placed in direct correspondence with Allah's own remembrance of us. Allah the Exalted said: "Remember Me, and I shall remember you" (2:152). Musa said - peace be upon him: "O my Lord, where do you dwell?" He replied: "In the heart of my believing servant."8 The meaning of this is the heart's rest brought about by His remembrance. Something like this will be mentioned in the last chapter on love (mahabba) insha Allah.

    Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya9 said - may Allah be well pleased with him: "Verily the angels lower their gaze in the presence of the rememberer of Allah, just as the people lower their gaze before lightning."

 2. Remittance of Sins Through Dhikr

    It is related that a servant of Allah will join the gatherings of dhikr with sins the like of mountains and then rise and leave one such gathering with nothing left of them to his name. This is why the Prophet called it one of the groves of Paradise when he said: "If you pass by the groves of Paradise, be sure to graze in them," and someone said: "What are the groves of Paradise?" to which he replied: "The circles of dhikr." It will be mentioned again in the chapter on Allah-wariness (taqwa) insha Allah.

    `Ata' said - may Allah the Exalted have mercy on him: "Whoever sits in a gathering in which Allah is remembered, Allah will remit for him ten evil gatherings of his."

    Abu Yazid al-Bistami was told - may Allah be well pleased with him: "I have entrusted you with a secret for which you shall render Me an account under the Tree of Bliss (shajarat tuba)," whereupon he said: "We are under that tree as long as we remain in the remembrance of Allah."10

    It is related on `Ali's authority - may Allah be well pleased with him - that Allah manifests Himself (yatajalla) to the rememberers during dhikr and the recitation of Qur'an. The Prophet said: "No group gathers and remembers Allah seeking nothing other than Him except a caller from heaven calls out to them: "Arise forgiven, for your bad deeds have been turned into good ones!"" Abu al-Darda' said that the Prophet said: "Allah verily will raise on the Day of resurrection people bearing light in their faces, carried aloft on pulpits of pearl, whom the people will envy. They are neither prophets nor martyrs." Upon hearing this a beduin Arab fell to his knees and said: "Show them to us (ajlihim), O Prophet of Allah!" - that is: "describe them for us." He replied: "They are those who love one another for Allah's sake alone. They come from many different tribes, countries, and cities. They gather together for the remembrance of Allah the Exalted, remembering Him."

    Someone said concerning Allah's saying with reference to Sulayman -- peace be upon him: "I verily will punish him with hard punishment" (27:21) that it means: "Verily I shall drive him far from the gatherings of dhikr"... Al-Junayd said -- may Allah be well pleased with him -- concerning Allah's saying: "And (He is the One) Who causeth me to die, then giveth me life again" (26:81), that this means: "He causes me to die with heedlessness (of Him), then He causes me to live with remembrance (of Him)." Al-Hasan al-Basri said -- may Allah have mercy on him: "No people sit remembering Allah the Exalted with one of the people of Paradise in their midst except Allah grants him to intercede for all of them."
3. Dhikr of the Frogs

    Dawud said - peace be upon him: "I shall praise Allah with a kind of praise that none among his creatures ever used before." Thereupon a frog called out to him: "Do you pride yourself before Allah for your praise, while for seventy years my tongue has been moist from remembering Him, and I have eaten nothing in the past ten nights because I kept busy uttering two words?" Dawud said: "What are these two words?" The frog replied: "O Praiser of Thyself with every tongue, O remembered One in every place!"

    It is related in Nuzhat al-nufus wa al-afkar [The Recreation of Minds and Thoughts] that an angel once said to Dawud: "O Dawud, understand what the frog is saying!" whereupon he heard it saying: "Glory and praise to You to the farthest boundary of Your knowledge!" Dawud said: "By the One Who made me a Prophet, verily I shall sing my Lord's praise in this way." The commentators have said that the frogs' words are: "Glory to the King, the Holy One!" (subhan al-malik al-quddus) while al-Baghawi has: "Glory to my Lord Most Holy!" (subhana rabbi al-quddus), and of `Ali's words - may Allah be well pleased with him - is "Glory to the One Who is worshipped in the abysses of the sea!"
4. Dhikr of the Prophet Jonah

    `Ali said - may Allah be well pleased with him: "In the time of Jonah - peace be upon him - was a frog which had lived past the age of four thousand years. It never rested from glorifying Allah. One day it said: "O my Lord, no-one glorifies You like I do!" Jonah said: "O my Lord, I say what it says!" and he said: "Glory to You by the number of times each of your creatures says "Glory to You," and glory to You by the number of times each of Your creatures does not say "Glory to You," and glory to You according to the expanse of Your knowledge and the light of Your countenance and the adornment of Your throne and the reach of Yours words!"
5. The Plagues of Egypt

    The frog in a dream represents the righteous person. The frog poured water over Ibrahim's fire - peace be upon him - to help put it out. As for a multitude of frogs, they represent punishment.

    The Exalted said: "So We sent them the flood and the locusts and the vermin and the frogs and the blood -- a succession of clear signs. But they were arrogant and became guilty" (7:133). Al-Razi said: "... The nation of Pharaoh said to Musa - peace be upon him: "Whatever signs you bring us, to us it is nothing other than mere magic and we shall not believe in you." Musa invoked Allah against them, and Allah sent down the flood upon them day and night. They sought help from Pharaoh, who sought help from Musa, who sought help from Allah. Allah then withheld the rain from them and sent down the winds. The earth grew vegetation and fruit in over-abundance. When they saw this they said: "Is this what we were anxious about? It is a great good for us!" and they disbelieved again. Allah then sent the locusts upon them, and they ate up all the vegetation until hardship became extreme and the sun was covered by the swarm of locusts. They sought help from Musa who sought help from his Lord. Allah then sent a wind which hurled the locusts into the sea. At this they said: "Whatever is left from what we had planted is enough for us," and they disbelieved again. Allah then sent the lice upon them. Sa`id ibn Jubayr said this is the maggot which issues from wheat. Tha`labi said it is a kind of tick. `Ata' al-Khurasani said it is the well-known lice, and it was also said that it means mosquitoes, and also wingless locusts. They did not leave a single green leaf except they ate it, and something like smallpox smote the bodies of the people. They sought help from Musa who sought help from his Lord. Allah sent a hot wind which burnt the lice. They still did not believe, so Allah sent upon them a swarm of frogs as thick as a pitch-dark night. The frogs entered their plantations, their food, and their beds cubit by cubit. They sought help from Musa again, and he sought help from his Lord. Allah caused the frogs to die and he sent down rain which carried them to the sea. They still disbelieved. Allah then sent down blood upon them so that their rivers ran red with blood. It is also said that Allah inflicted a state of permanent nosebleed upon them. For seven days they drank blood. Then they said: "O Musa, if you remove the filth (al-rijz) from us verily we shall pledge our belief for you." [Cf. 7:134: "If thou removest the terror from us we verily will trust thee and will let the Children of Israel go with thee."] Sa`eed ibn Jabir said that the "filth" (or "terror") was a sixth kind of punishment which is the plague, while others said that it is an expression for the five kinds already mentioned. Al-Razi said - and this is the strongest opinion: "Wahb said that they underwent each affliction for a period of forty days."

   6.  Lengthening the Pronounciation of LA ILAHA ILLALLAH

    Ibn `Abbas said -- may Allah be well pleased with him and his father -- that the Prophet said: "The day Allah created the heavens and the earth he created an angel and ordered him to say: "There is no god except Allah alone" (LA ILAHA ILLALLAH). The angel lengthens his delivery as he utters it and will not rest from this until the trumpet is blown." One of the Companions said that whoever says: "No god except Allah" and lengthens his pronounciation intending thereby to magnify Allah, Allah will remit four thousand grave sins for him, and if he did not commit four thousand, Allah will remit the difference for his family and neighbors. It is related in the hadith: "Whoever says "No god except Allah" and lengthens his pronounciation intending thereby to magnify Allah, four thousand of his sins are struck thereby from the register of his sins." Hence it is praiseworthy to lengthen one's pronounciation upon uttering it, as Nawawi said, may Allah the Exalted have mercy upon him. The Prophet also said: "Whoever lengthens his pronounciation upon saying "No god except Allah," Allah will make him dwell in Paradise in the Abode of Majesty by which he has named Himself when He said: "There remaineth but the countenance of thy Lord of Might and Glory" (55:27), and Allah will grant him to behold His gracious countenance."

    Anas ibn Malik said - may Allah be well pleased with him - from the Prophet: "O human beings! Whoever says "No god except Allah" in astonishment at something, Allah creates from each letter of his utterance a tree with as many leaves as the days of this world, each leaf asking forgiveness for him and praising Allah on his behalf until the Day of judgment."... It has been related that this phrase has on the side of Iblis the effect which a gangrenous sore would have on the side of a human being. al-Qadi `Iyad11 relates in the "Shifa" from Ibn `Abbas that written on the door of Paradise is the inscription: "There is no god but Allah alone, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah: Whoever says this, I shall not punish him."

    I saw the following account as part of the explanation of Allah's saying: "And speak (O Musa and Aaron) unto him (Pharaoh) a gentle word" (20:44): Musa said: "O Lord, how can a word be gentle?" Allah replied: "Say to him: "Would you like a good compromise? You have followed your own self for four hundred and fifty years; follow our intent but for one year, and Allah will forgive you all your sins. If not one year, then one month; if not, one week; if not, one single day; if not, one single hour. If you do not (wish to humor us) for all of an hour, then say in a single breath: "There is no god but Allah" so that I shall be able to bring peace to you."

    After Musa conveyed the message, Pharaoh gathered his armies and said to them: "I am your Most High Lord!" (79:24) At this the heavens and the earth shook and pleaded before Allah the Glorious and Exalted that Pharaoh be put to death. Allah said: "He is like the dog: only the stick is good for him. O Musa, cast your staff" (cf. 7:117, 27:10, 28:31). Musa cast his staff (which became a huge snake) and the magicians (of Pharaoh's court) immediately submitted. Pharaoh fled to his bedchamber. Musa said: "If you don't come out, I shall order it to enter where you are." Pharaoh said: "Give me a little respite." Musa answered: "I have no permission to respite you." But Allah the Exalted inspired to him: "Respite him, for verily I am the Clement, I do not hasten to punish."

    Pharaoh began to relieve himself forty times a day while previously he would relieve himself only once every forty days. Musa gave him a respite. When the day came Pharaoh exceeded his bounds and rebelled. Allah therefore "seized him and made him an example for the afterlife and the former" (79:25); that is, He punished him with drowning because of his former word ("I am your Most High Lord") and He punished him with Gehenna because of his latter word, when he said: "I know not that ye have a god other than me" (28:38). Ibn `Abbas said: "This is the former word, while the other came later, and between them lay forty years."

    I saw mentioned in the book Zumrat al-`ulum wa zuhrat al-nujum (The Array of the Sciences and the Brightness of Stars) from the Prophet: He said: "Gabriel told me: "I stood in wait before Allah at the time Pharaoh said: "And what is the Lord of the Worlds?" (26:23) whereupon I outstretched two of my wings to smite him with punishment, but Allah the Exalted said: "Wait, O Gabriel! He hastens to punish who fears the lapse of time."

    It was also mentioned in that book that when Pharaoh said: "I am your Lord the Most High" (79:24) Gabriel wanted to shake the earth from under his feet, but when he sought permission from his Lord the Exalted He did not give it to him and ordered him to ignore Pharaoh instead.

    Al-`Ala'I12 said in his explanation of the sura of the Story (al-qasas) that Iblis entered Pharaoh's presence as the latter was in the bath and said: "O Pharaoh, I enticed you with every transgression, but I never told you to claim absolute Lordship!" Then he gave him forty lashes and left him in anger. Pharaoh said to him: "O Iblis, should I take back this claim?" He replied: "It would not be right for you to take it back after making it."

    A group of the disbelievers of Quraysh gathered among whom was the Pharaoh of this Community -- Abu Jahl -- at Abu Talib's house during the latter's last illness. Abu Jahl said to him: "You know what has taken place between us and your brother's son. Therefore obtain what is rightfully ours from him and what is righfully his from us before you die." Abu Talib called the Prophet and said: "O my nephew, these are the nobility of your people, so leave them be and they shall leave you be." He replied: "Do they agree to obey me if I ask them to say but one word?" Abu Jahl said -- may Allah curse him: "Nay, we shall obey you if you ask us to say ten!" The Prophet then said: "Say: La ilaha illallah," whereupon they said: "Are you asking us to reduce all our gods to only one? Truly you are asking us for the strangest thing!" and they dispersed. Abu Talib said: "O Muhammad, you have asked them for nothing excessive." That is: You have not asked them for anything difficult.

    Concerning Allah's saying: "Judge aright between us and be not unjust (lit. do not exceed the proper bounds)" (38:22) -- that is: Do not swerve in your judgment -- the Prophet hoped that his uncle would profess Islam, so he said to him: "Say it (the phrase: There is no Allah but Allah alone), so that I will be permitted to intercede for you on the Day of the rising." Abu Talib replied: "Were it not that people -- that is: the Quraysh -- might think that I said it out of fear (of death), indeed I would say it." More will be said about this matter in the section on the Prophet's miracles insha Allah.

    Al-Razi said in his explanation of the sura of Cattle (al-an`am): "Abu Talib said: "Ask me to say other than this because your people hate it." The Prophet replied: "I will never say other than this even if they were to dislodge the sun from its place and put it in my hand." They said: "Then stop cursing our gods, otherwise we will curse you and Him Who orders you to do this," whereupon Allah's saying was revealed: "Revile not those unto whom they pray beside Allah lest they wrongfully revile Allah through ignorance" (6:109).

    If it is said: "To curse the idols is among the most meritorious acts of obedience to Allah; why then did Allah forbid it?" The answer is: Allah forbade it because cursing them might lead to the gravest of transgressions -- exalted is Allah far above the saying of wrong-doers -- namely cursing Allah and His Messenger, and it is an obligation to take precautions against it.