Known also as tasbih, these are usually beads upon a string, 99 or
100 in number, which correspond to the ninety-nine names of God and
other recitations. The beads are used to keep track of the number of
recitations that make up the dhikr.
Some Islamic scholars argue that using the beads are forbidden,
however. Many claim that the usage of the fingers to count is better
as that is what was practiced by Muhammad S.A.W. The
issue is still hotly debated in some communities and there are a
number of differing opinions on the matter.
The Sufi orders engage in ritualized dhikr ceremonies. Each order or
lineage within an order has one or more forms for group dhikr, the
liturgy of which may include recitation, incense, meditation, ecstasy, and
trance. Dhikr in a group is not limited to these rules but
most often done on Thursday and/or Sunday nights as part of the
institutional practice of most orders. Dhikr is sometimes
accompanied with traditional instruments such as the Daf, Ney,
Dombak, Tar (lute), Setar (lute), Santur, and so on. Recently,
modern instruments have also been used to perform dhikr.
A group dhikr ceremony in Arabic countries is usually called the
hadrah. The hadrah marks the climax of the Sufi's gathering
regardless of any teaching or formal structure. Musically this
structure includes several secular Arab genres and can last for
hours. (ibid, p.165)
The hadrah section consists of the ostinato-like repetition of the
name of God over which the soloist performs a richly ornamented
song. Often the climax is reached through cries of "Allah! Allah!"
or "hu hu" ("He! He!"), with the participants bending forward while
exhaling and stand straight while inhaling. The articulation of the
name of God progresses as follows, with upward beams indicating inhalation.
Turkic View of the Zikr
The dhikr had been practiced in Turkistan up until the 1950's,
however the practicing of the public dhikr was suppressed in the
1930's. These dances of praise took place every Friday at the local
Yasawi Shrine. By the end of the 20th century, the dhirk was all but
a memory to the Turks and the actual word "zikir" became confused
with the performance of the Kazak baqst, which derived itself from
the mimicking of Islamic termonology and forms by shamans.
Much like the other practices of the dhikr, this practice includes
the verbal chanting of Quranic praises to God, the spinning
trance-like state of the dancer, hyper-ventilation, and ecstacy.In
Turkistan practices the dance accompanying dhikr increases in spead
as the chanting increases in speed. These factors contributed to the
final ban of the dhikr in Turkistan. Many Kazaks in Turkistan did
not praise God in accordance with the Islamic tradition of the Five
Pillars of Islam, but praticed soley the dhirk in the privacy of
their own homes. The positiion of the God in the common phrase of
the dhirk, "Allam zikir qilu", shows that God is the direct object
of the verb "to do zikir", and that zikir means "remembering".
Modes of Zikr
Depending upon the mode of dhikr, it has been divided into 3 kinds:
Dhikr-e-Jalli — Dhikr with tongue loudly
Dhikr-e-Khaffi— Dhikr in heart (hidden dhikr - i.e not from tongue)
Sufis further divide the mode of meditative dhikr according to the
Latifa in which they are done. These include:
Forms of Zikr
Different Sufi Orders have different syllabus of dhikr. Most common
ones are as follows:
Allah (The name of God)
Ya-Hayyu-Ya-Qayyum (O Living & Giver of life)
La illaha illallah (There is no god but God)
Allah Hu (God Is)
99 Names of God
Verses from Qur'an
Poetry of the Sufi Masters
Darud Sharif (Asking God to send peace & blessings upon Muhammad)
Istaghfar (Asking forgiveness from God)
Muraqaba is the Sufi word for meditation. Literally it means "to
watch over", "to take care of", or "to keep an eye". Metaphorically,
it implies that with meditation, a person watches over or takes care
of his spiritual heart (or soul), and acquires knowledge about it,
its surroundings, and its creator.
Stages of Muraqaba
Following are the maqamat (stages) in which sufis have broadly
categorised their journey of ascension. This categorization is an
arbitrary one, and each level is generally further divided into
several sub-levels. During the process of enlightenment, some stages
can merge or overlap each other.
Gnosis of self
Ghanood (Somnolence)- This is the starting level of meditation. When
a person starts meditation, he enters into a somnolent or sleep
state often. With the passage of time, the person goes into a state
between sleep and wakefulness. So the person can remember that he
saw something, but not specifically what it is.
Adraak (experience)- With continuous practice of meditation, the
sleepiness from meditation decreases. When the conscious mind is not
suppressed by sleep and is able to focus, the person can receive the
spiritual knowledge from his subconscious mind. At this stage, the
person is unable to see or hear anything, but he is able to
experience or perceive it.
Warood (coming, beginning)- When adraak (experience) becomes deep,
it is exhibited as sight. The stage of warood starts when mental
concentration is sustained and somnolence is at its minimum. As soon
as the mind is focused, the spiritual eye is activated. The
conscious mind is not used to see through the spiritual eye, so
concentration comes and goes. Gradually, the mind gets used to this
kind of visions and the mental focus is sustained. With practice,
the visions/experience becomes so deep that the person starts
considering himself a part of the experience rather than considering
himself an observer.
Gnosis of the universe
Kashaf/Ilhaam (unveiling of arcane knowledge)- Kashaf, or Ilhaam is
the stage where man starts getting information that most people are
unable to observe. In the beginning, this condition occurs suddenly
without personal control. With practice, the mind gets so energized
that it can get this knowledge by will.
Shahood (evidence)- When a person can get any information about any
event/person with his will, this condition is called Shahood. This
stage is broadly categorized according to activation of the senses:
The person can see things anywhere in the universe
The person can hear things anywhere in the universe
The person can smell things anywhere in the universe
The person can touch things anywhere in the universe (hadith)
Fatah (opening, victory)- The peak of Shahood is called Fatah. At
this stage, the person doesn't need to close his eyes for
meditation. Here the person is freed from both space and time. He
can see/hear/taste/touch anything that are present anywhere in time
Gnosis of the creator
annihilation)- Through a series of stages (maqamat)
and subjective experiences (ahwal), this process of absorbation
develops until complete annihilation of the self (fana) takes place
and the person becomes al-insanul-kamil, the "perfect man". It is
the disintegration of a person's narrow self-concept, social self-
and limited intellect (feeling like a drop of water aware of being
part of the ocean). The stage is also called Fana fit tawheed
("extinction with the unity"), and Fana fil Haq (Extinction in the
Sair illallah (journey towards the
God)- Here the person starts his
spiritual journey towards the ultimate reality of the universe, i.e.
God. Also called Safr-e-Urooji
Fana fillah (Extinction of the self in God)- One of the important
phases of mystical experience which is attained by the grace of God
by a traveler on the mystical path is the state of fana fi Allah,
"extinction of the self in God". This is the state where the person
becomes extinct in the will of God. It is important to mention that
this is not incarnation or union. Most Sufis, while passing through
this experience, have preferred to live in the greatest depth of
silence which transcends all forms and sounds, and enjoy their union
with the beloved
The highest stage of fana is reached when even the consciousness of
having attained fana disappears. This is what the Sufis call "the
passing-away of passing-away" (fana al-fana). The mystic is now
wrapped in contemplation of the divine essence.
Since it is a state of complete annihilation of carnal self,
absorption or intoxication in God, the pilgrim is unable to
participate in worldly affairs, he is made to pass into another
state known as Fana-al-Fana (forgetfulness of annihilation). It is a
sort of oblivion of unconsciousness. Since two negatives make one
positive, the pilgrim at this stage regains his individuality as he
was when he started the journey. The only difference is that in the
beginning he was self-conscious, but after having reposed in the
Divine Being, he regains that sort of individuality which is
God-consciousness or absorption in God. This state is known as Baqa-bi-Allah
— living or subsisting with God.
Sair min allah (journey from the
God)- ere the person comes back to
his existence. Also called Safr-e-Nuzooli.
No one can subsist with The Supreme Creator and to believe as such
is shirk. What really happens is the person's awareness of Allah
increases so much so that he forgets his own self and is totally
lost in Allah's magnificence.
Baqaa billah (eternal life in union with
God)- This is the state
where man comes back to his existence and God appoints him to guide
the humans. This is a state in which the individual is part of the
world, but unconcerned about his or her rewards or position in it.
This doctrine is further explained in an authentic tradition of the
prophet which states that God said:
And the most beloved things with which My slave comes nearer to Me,
is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming
closer to Me through performing Nawafil (praying or doing extra
deeds besides what is obligatory) till I love him, so I become his
sense of hearing with which he hears, and his sense of sight with
which he sees, and his hand with which he grips, and his leg with
which he walks.
There is another verse from Qur'an , that is used to explain this
We (Allah) are nearer to him (man) than his jugular vein.(50:6)
When Sufis have come out of the Fana fillah state and enter Baqa
billah, many of them have produced works of unsurpassed glory,
especially in the fields of philosophy, literature, and music. These
works have crowned the culture of the entire Islamic world and
inspired Sufis and non-Sufis for generations. As the great Persian
Sufi poet, Hafiz of Shiraz, who is fondly remembered as the "tongue
of the unseen", said centuries ago: "He whose heart is alive with
love, never dies.". Allah says about these people in the Qur'an:
"Lo, indeed, the friends of God have no fear, nor are they grieved."
Types of muraqaba
There are many different kinds of muraqaba that are practiced in
various Sufi schools in different parts of the world. Following is a
list of the ones commonly practiced.
Beginner level muraqabas
Muraqaba of light
These are usually used for beginners, or for cure of various
Noor (Invisible Light)
Haatif-e-Ghabi (Unhearable sound of Cosmos)
Names of God -- For getting acquaintance with attributes of God
Allah (Proper name of God)
-- Final level of Muraqaba of names of
Middle level muraqabas
Moat (Death) -- For getting acquaintance with life after Death
-- For getting acquaintance with Spiritual Heart
Wahdat (Unity) -- For getting acquaintance with the reason behind
cosmic unity i.e. God's will
La (Nothingness) -- For getting acquaintance with material lessness,
or non-material universe
-- Annihilation of Self, getting acquaintance
with the alpha and omega of universe.
High level muraqabas
(Focussing mind on master) -- To facilitate the
transfer of spiritual knowledge from master to student.
Tasawwur-e-Rasool (Focussing mind on prophet) -- To facilitate the
transfer of Faiz (arcane spiritual knowledge) from prophet to
student. For Muslims, this focussing of mind is done on Muhammad.
For people following other religions, their particular holy figures
are used to focus mind upon.
Tasawwur-e-zat-e-Ilaahi (Focussing Mind on God)
-- With the help of
this Muraqaba, the student experiences the Tajalli-e-Zaat of God.