Culture of remembrance
"Dhikr" or "Zikr" is an Arabic word, meaning the highest state in which an individual can submit himself in the will of his Creator (Almighty), in other words it relates with remembrance of something. Dhikr is not just associated with Islam or one of its branch – Sufism but with all other religions as well. However, Dhikr became popular with the advent of Sufism from seventh century till late sixteenth century. From centuries, the Sufi culture contributed in reshaping the form of Dhikr and adorned it with their ideology. Sufi culture is still trending in the contemporary period as well but I will prefer calling it Universal Sufism or Modern Sufism. Through Dhikr one can enable itself to meet its Creator (Almighty) virtually in a divine manner.
This is a part of Sufi Dhikr which most of the people knew already, it is usually believed that Dhikr, practice of divine remembrance of God is only confined to Sufism but in reality it is almost confined to every section of people from every religion or cult except atheists because obviously atheists deny the fact that there is someone called God who is their Creator (Almighty). Dhikr is a way to remember God with utmost devotion in heart which can also be performed in a single word of remembrance with utmost devotion to Almighty. However, at the peak time of rising Sufism the practice of Dhikr was regarded holy and practiced extensively. Dhikr in its true sense is divided among three to four parts which I am going to elaborate further below. The first stage and the most important out of the four stages is further elaborated below:
The first stage - Shariah – “to be the one, or to become one”
It is the first stage in which the Dhakir (the one who use to do Dhikr) has to abide by the Qur’anic laws of Sharia.
"Shariah" or "Sharia" are the Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet (Hadith and Sunnah), prescribing both religious and secular duties and sometimes retributive penalties for lawbreaking.
At this stage the Dhakir has to abide by the Sharia values in his life and at the same time he has to discard the corrupt nature of worldly life. The whole purpose is to prove one's love to God by rigorous self-discipline and constant attention to its conduct. It includes performing rigorous prayers around thirty to forty times in a day, it goes to an extent of performing series of prayers four hundred to eight hundred times in a whole span of twenty-four hours. If we talk about one of the disciple of this Tariqah, we came to know that the famous Sufi Saint Shiekh Abdul Quddus used to perform rigorous prayers to find the first stage of Dhikr. At the beginning of his religious life, he was in the habit of performing four hundred Raka’at (steps included in performing Muslim prayer), additional to those which are obligatory, every day and four hundred every night. He was never distracted from his prayers by the mice, snakes and ants who shares his Hujrah (Cell) as well.
While researching on the concept of Dhikr I found out that, there are almost four stages of doing Dhikr which leads the disciple to become the finest Dhakir in remembrance of his Creator (Almighty), the first stage is called the Hidayah (Enlightened Stage) in which the disciple gets enlighten through a series of action which are beneficial in the cause of religion or his culture, chances of getting Hidayah is very unlikely. The person who wants Hidyah in his life should seek the truth which ultimately leads him to its Creator (Almighty). After Hidayah, then comes the Ibadah (devotion along with prayer), at this stage the disciple start to acknowledge the niyamah (intangible or tangible blessings) of his Creator (Almighty).
Impressed by the fruit of Ibadah that is Niyamah the disciple starts to do Dhikr and Adhkar even more just to seek attention of his Creator (Almighty). After Ibadah, there comes the next level which is called Ishq and this Ishq should not be mistakenly understood as ‘Physical attraction’. This is to be noted that there are two form of Ishq here, the first one is Ishq-e-Majazi (Worldly Love) and the second one is Ishq-e-Haqiqi (Love of the truth). The disciple should follow the latter one in order to form an intimate relationship with its Creator (Almighty), the self should be dedicated to the beloved and the heart should become ecstatic in persuading the will to meet the Creator (Almighty).
The second thing to be noted that Dhikr is a way to remember the beloved that is the almighty so it should not be presented as a “pretending love” the truthful love is not the pretending one rather it is ‘Just’ in its form – it has no show off and it secludes one from being in the company of people who do Dhikr just to show off and pretend as if they have found the beloved that is the Creator (Almighty). The next stage happens when the Creator (Almighty) itself starts to show signs of love to his beloved in response of his Dhikr and that is called Aashiqan (Lovers). In this stage the lover and the beloved came to know about their relation as pure and in order to achieve its highest form the beloved that is the Creator (Almighty) started to show signs of its Vajood (Existence). At this stage the Dhakir used to find the signs of its Creator (Almighty) in every form whether it is natural or artificial, the only mission which the Dhakir has in his mind is to follow the Creator (Almighty) in order to maintain the relation which he has formed after stepping upon each level – now Dhakir will not tolerate separation in any form.
The last stage is actually a controversial part which most of the scholars of this thought would not tolerate or will not agree upon. I have named the last stage as Abd’il (In the state of slavery or enslaved). In this stage both the Dhakir and the Creator(Almighty) become enslaved to each other. It is like saying that “my lord is a slave of mine and I am his master” because in this stage the Creator(Almighty) becomes so much compassionate towards the Dhakir that he himself testimonies the Dhikr of the Dhakir.
In the next part, I will explain the concept of Haqiqah (Truth) and how the Almighty desperately wants his follower to understand that the Truth is the ultimate part of Dhikr and why he wants his followers to testify his presence before the ones who deny.