Saturday, February 4, 2017

'Zikr': The Pathway to God

In the course of his recently concluded Tour of India in the second half of January 2017, Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius spoke profoundly and movingly on themes of spiritual discipline and progress, addressing both his disciples and other seekers of higher spiritual wisdom. Over the course of several sessions of engagement with his disciples, Hadhrat Khalifatullah (atba) elaborated on the subject of 'Zikrullah', arguably the most important method for the spiritual elevation of the human soul. Based on deep personal experiences of being in a state of 'Zikr' and being vouchsafed with frequent Divine revelations, Hadhrat Khalifatullah (atba) explains the subtle points of practical wisdom to be deployed in the human quest for acceding to the Higher Presence and exhorts one and all to partake of the Divine treasures by following the ways and means of 'Zikr' elaborated here. 

Reproduced below is the main text of the Speech delivered on the morning of January 17, 2017 at the Noor'ul Islam Masjid, Mathra

My dear disciples and seekers of truth,
May the Peace and Blessings of God Almighty (Allah) be upon you.

I have chosen today to address you through one of the revealed texts I received from Allah on the Remembrance of God Almighty (in Arabic, the personal name for God is Allah, whose name literally means The One without any associate, without any partner). Holy is His name and most powerful is He above all creations.

O Allah! Pour down Your blessings on Muhammad (peace be upon him), his family and his companions, and may them be in peace always! Praise be to Allah Who opens sealed hearts by His remembrance, His thoughts, the Zikr of His name.

Zikrullah, that is, the Remembrance of God Almighty is the greatest Zikr (that is, Remembrance) which can exist.

Verily, the remembrance of Almighty Allah is the key to salvation; it is the light, the lamp which illumines the soul by the grace of Allah, the Generous One, the Victorious One. The remembrance of Allah is the foundation of the path leading to Allah. It is the central pivot which holds fast to the wise people who have realised the existence of Allah.

The remembrance of Allah represents liberation from the state of ignorance, forgetfulness and insouciance by an ever constant presence of our heart before the Truth, Reality. We can describe Zikr as being the repetition of the name of the One whom we are thinking about, with our heart and tongue.

Whenever we are remembering Allah Himself, or remembering Him by one of His attributes, one of His commandments, or one of His marvels, and so on, all these are one and the same; that is, they form part of Zikr. The remembrance of Allah can take the form of a supplication to Allah, it can take the form of the remembrance of His messages, His prophets, His saints or anybody who have deep connection with Allah, or who is close to Allah. It can take the form of a deed such as the recitation of the Holy Quran, a poem or an anecdote in relation to the religion of Allah.

Therefore, according to the extended definition of the word Zikr, we can relatively say that the theologian, that is, the one who is interested in acquiring divine knowledge, a person who remembers Allah a lot, is a Muslim jurist (fuquha) filled with the thought of Allah in everything he does. Anyone who meditates on the Grandeur, Majesty and Absolute Power of Allah the Almighty, and also meditates on His signs in the heavens and earth, he is someone who is filled with the thoughts of Allah. Anyone who observes faithfully all commandments of Allah, and stays far away from the divinely-instructed forbidden things, is someone who holds the name of Allah dear to his heart, remembering Him with the same fervour as he takes in his every breath.

One can do Zikr with the tongue, heart, or other parts of the body. He can engage himself in it secretly or openly, but the one who combines in himself all forms of Zikr, brings Zikr to its perfection.

When we talk about Zikr with the means of the tongue, we understand from it that the names of Allah are pronounced without the presence of the mind. We call it the “Outer Remembrance”. According to the Quran, Hadiths and my own personal analysis, this “Outer Remembrance” is of utmost importance, and holds great virtues and merits.

Zikr: Two categories

We can classify Zikr in two categories, according to their limits judged by time and place or without defining the limits of time and place.

The first category, that is, Zikr limited by time and place, we can find: the five daily prayers, the pilgrimage to Mecca, Zikr before going to sleep, Zikr when waking up, before we eat, or when entering a vehicle etc.

The second category, that is, Zikr which is not limited by time and place (that is, your spiritual state), we can count the Zikr which is related to the glorification or praise of Allah, for example: Soubhan Allah (Glory to Allah), Alhamdolillah (Praise to Allah), La Ilaaha Illallah (There is no god save Allah), Allahu Akbar (Allah is Great), La hawla wa la quwwata illa billahil Aliy-al-Azim (There is neither power nor force except through Allah).

In this second category, we can include also supplications, invocations which are found in the Quran, the Darood (sending of blessings upon the Holy Prophet of Islam) or personal prayers and invocations. This form of Zikr has a greater impact on the heart of the people who have just begun this spiritual exercise for through these practices they feel closer to the One whom they are supplicating. This form of Zikr touches more easily their hearts and plunges them in a reverential state which is associated with fear of Allah.

Moreover, we can include in the second category what we call the “state of vigilance”. We can illustrate this by different situations when we begin reflecting profoundly in the state of meditation on certain realities like “Allah is with me”, “Allah is seeing me”, or “Allah is watching me”.

Verily, Zikr is an extraordinary means to reinforce, to give all the more strength to the materialisation of our actual presence before Allah the Almighty, to establish and maintain an appropriate conduct before Allah. It is an extraordinary means to assure protection against forgetting Allah, against insouciance. It is a refuge against evil; it is an extraordinary help to sharpen our concentration and attention during Ibaadat, the acts of worship.

There is no form of Zikr which does not have a specific result which is associated with it, and whatever form you engage yourselves in will give you aptitude, and power, characteristics which it holds. Zikr done in a state of vigilance and receptivity brings to illumination, but only in relation to the Zikr which is being done.

Zikr is an interior reality, in which the one whom we are thinking or meditating about, that is, Allah, takes possession of our heart, whereas at the same time, we feel completely detached from this world, we feel non-existent, that is, if we may say, we cease to exist. The heart deep in Zikr constitutes of a seed covered by three shells, one over the other. The heart is found beyond these shells, but the shells are important, for you must pass through them before gaining access to the heart.

The exterior shell is Zikr of the tongue only. The one engaging himself in Zikr must continue to do so with the tongue and at the same time by furnishing the necessary efforts to make the heart participate in harmony in Zikr. The heart must acknowledge its presence in Zikr. If we let the heart free in its own nature, then definitely it will err, and lose itself in the world of imaginations. Thus with Zikr, it will pursues all sorts of thoughts, till it will finally merge with the tongue’s exercises. When this happens, the light of the heart will burn all passions and evil. Little by little Zikr of the heart will gain more and more value and will dominate the now weakened Zikr of the tongue. The body and soul will be filled with light, and the heart will be purified, and will rid itself of all that which is not of divine origin. When we reach this stage, all temptations lose their power and there remains no place for evil. The heart undergoes a transformation and becomes a recipient of divine inspirations; it becomes a clear mirror which reflects divine revelations and deep knowledge. When Zikr invades the heart and the whole body, then each particle of the body is absorbed in Zikr, depending on the state of spiritual which you are in.

Zikr is like fire which neither stays in the same place nor spread. When it enters a home, it says: “It’s Me, there is no one besides Me.” This in fact is another way to express: “Laa Ilaaha Illallah” (There is no god except Allah). If it sees straws or bits of wood which can light fire, it will burn and fire will be ignited. If it sees darkness, Zikr will become light and brighten the whole house. If there is already light in this house, then Zikr will become “a light upon light”.

By analogy, we can describe the same thing for a body. Zikr removes impurities which soil the body in the aftermath of intemperance (indiscipline) in the act of eating or in the consumption of forbidden food. Zikr does not defile that which is legal (Halal). When negative elements have been removed by Zikr, each part of the body will participate in Zikr (as if the Hour has come).

At first, it is in the mind which Zikr takes place. Thus it is in this part of the body which you will experience the sound of the like of cymbals and trumpets. Zikr has strength in itself. When it alights in a place, it awakens it with trumpets and cymbals for it opposes all except Truth. When Zikr establishes itself in a place, it works hard to repulse all evils, all negative sounds and impulses just like water extinguishes fire. Just like the rushing of water, the sound of the sweet breeze, sounds of fire, and leaves etc. can be heard.

These experiences are found in the fact that man is composed of all elements, be them noble substances or vile ones; such elements as water, air, sky and earth – sounds come from these sources (nature). All fundamentals of nature extract their essence from these substances. The one who gets to hear something out of these sounds glorify Allah and declares with his tongue that Allah is Holy. He does so with full confidence and intense absorption. When arriving at this stage, it may be that the servant stops practicing Zikr with his tongue, but instead makes his heart absorb completely in Zikr, just like the movements of a child in the womb of its mother.

The heart is the reflection of our love for Allah and His Messenger Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Zikr is pure milk nourishing that heart. When the heart expands and gains in strength, then a desire to know the Truth begin to develop naturally in it. Then, signs and sorrows of desires in Zikr becomes apparent in the quest of the one whom the heart is seeking, and in the present case, the purpose, the aim, the goal is Allah in all His glory. The Zikr of the heart is like the buzzing of bees, which is neither too loud nor too low. When the one whom we are remembering (that is, Allah) possesses our heart, and Zikr disappears, the one engaging himself in Zikr must not consider the Zikr and his own heart. If he does so, this will distance him from the aim of his Zikr (that is, Allah). This will become like a veil barring his way from perceiving Allah.

That is what we call disappearance of ego (fana): he loses himself (in Allah), that is he forgets all about himself to concentrate on the purpose of his Zikr. He stops feeling his own body and surroundings, but rather takes conscience in the first stage of his voyage towards his Creator, then he takes conscience of himself. Self-effacement is in a way the beginning of the path: this is the journey or rather the voyage towards Allah the Most High. “Guidance” comes afterwards. By the word “Guidance”, we understand that it is the guidance from Allah, like described by the Friend of Allah, the Khalillullah Hazrat Ibrahim (on him be peace): 

“I am going to my Lord; He will guide me.” (Surah 37, Verse 100)

It is rare that the state of complete absorption last. If the one engaging himself in Zikr persists in his efforts, he will develop a habit which is firmly rooted in him, and it develops in a permanent state where the person can fly into higher worlds. In this state of absorption, he can perceives the Pure and Real Being (that is, Allah), and the reality of the invisible world (al-Malakut) can be felt in him, and the holiness of divinity can be revealed to him.

The first thing in this domain which is manifested to him who does Zikr is the essence of angels, the spirits, the souls of the prophets and saints, and all these in beautiful forms, and through which some truths and realities are revealed to him. This is only the beginning, then the degree of his realisation becomes more important in nature till it exceeds all forms, and comes to recognise the essence of Truth in all things.  

This is in brief the fruit of the essence of Zikr. Its beginning concerns the tongue only; then we have Zikr of the heart, but this is attained with a little more effort, then comes Zikr with the heart which comes naturally (without efforts), and then comes the possession of the heart by Allah and complete effacement of the one engaging himself in Zikr. This is the secret found in the Hadith of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) who says: “The one who desires to participate in the festivities held in the gardens of paradise, must remember Allah frequently.” There is another Hadith which states:“Secret Zikr, which is hidden, is seventy times better than Zikr which the angels (guardians) hear (and note down).”

The sign which indicate that Zikr has attained the profound secret of the interior of man is the absence of the one doing Zikr in his Zikr. The Zikr of the profound interior becomes ecstasy, total immersion in ecstasy. Amongst its signs we find out that if one abandons Zikr, on the other hand, Zikr does not leave him. This is called the exalted state of Zikr which this person experiences which is inside him, which removes him from a state of insouciance, absence to reality to make him feel the presence of Reality. Another sign is the feeling that you are tied up, body and mind, in chains. Moreover, its flame never extinguishes and the spiritual light never fades away. All the time you witness the rise of divine light, whereas other lights are made to fade, and at the same time you feel the heat of a sacred and pure fire around you. When Zikr attains the profound of a person’s being, at that moment this Zikr becomes like a needle which pierce the tongue, and one feels Zikr pervading his whole being with an ever intense light.

Zikr and the three types of souls:

There are three kinds of souls:

1) An-Nafs al-Amaarah bi’s-su (the soul prone to evil)
2) An-Nafs al-Lawwamah (the self accusing soul)
3) An-Nafs al-Mutmainah (the soul at peace)

1.      An-Nafs al-Amaarah bi’s-su (the soul prone to evil)

The soul prone to evil directs man to follow his instincts or physical natural, and it forces you to engage in activities liable to satisfy only his physical and sensual appetite. As for its effect on the heart, it abases it in a world of vices, immorality and evil. This is the soul of the majority among mankind. This soul is filled with obscurity, and thus for it, Zikr represents a light-giving lamp, ready to fill its realm with divine light, and casting aside this dreaded darkness.

2.      An-Nafs al-Lawwamah (the self accusing soul)

This is the soul which is brightened with the light of the heart, which is proportional with the degree of its conscience and oblivion. This soul is self-caring and begins to bring a change in its situation, which vacillate between Allah and creatures. Each time that something bad comes out from this soul which blames itself, due to its nature and its dark character, the “beware” divine light comes upon him, and thus it begins to blame itself. The soul feels regrets, repents for all its mistakes, and asks Allah to forgive it. It stays before the door of Allah the All-Forgiving, Ever Merciful. For this reason, Allah respects it and mentions on its account: “I swear by the Day of Judgement Day; I swear by the self-accusing soul.”)

It is as if this soul finds itself in a house where there are lots of bad things, like filth, pigs etc., but then it starts working hard, with patience to eliminate all these wrongs and filth. But sometimes, while cleaning the “house” from all filth, he gets contaminated with this filth. When this happens, the soul reproach itself, and continue to recall Allah in Zikr and turn to Him in repentance till the power of Zikr overcomes the wrongs and eliminate them.  The soul comes close to the state of acquiring peace, and continues to furnish and decorate its house with beautiful and clean things, till the house brightens with a special light, and become a real home. When this happens, the Sovereign Lord (Allah) descends upon such soul, and Truth manifests through it, and thus is born a united soul (where the duality between Creator and creature disappear); and thus the soul ultimately finds peace.

3.      An-Nafs al-Mutmainah (the soul at peace)

This soul is illumined by the light of the heart in such a way that all bad qualities and blemishes leave it and other virtuous qualities replace them. The soul turn itself completely in the direction of the heart, and these virtuous qualities remains with it till its ascension in the world of holiness (alam-al quds) which is far away from all impurities, whereby the soul is completely under the obedience of Allah, in a state of peace and tranquillity in the presence of “The One who elevates ranks” till its Lord addresses it as thus: 

“O soul at peace! Return towards your Lord, happy with Him and Him happy (satisfied) with you; enter therein amongst My pious servants in the Garden (of Paradise).”

These are the stages in Zikr and the stages of the soul which each one of you should strive to go through and overcome so that you may reach the highest stage which is possible for you to attain in this era of Divine Manifestation. You are light-bearers; bearers of the good news of the manifestations of Allah through the advent of a Messenger of Allah. 

The one who truly wants to connect to Allah should strive to follow this advice of mine, for he does Zikr in the right was as prescribed, then he shall accede to the hidden world, step by step, as allowed to him by Allah, to discover the beauty of Zikr, and the nearness of Allah. May Allah enable you to do so, and fully understand the practice of His Zikr and illumine your pathway leading to Him. Insha-Allah, Ameen.