TIMES are tough. Both domestically and abroad there is a tidal wave of bad news ready to drown one in a sea of depression. Wars, disease, political and economic instability have seemingly interlinked to create the perfect storm.
In such times of trouble, what solutions does Islam offer to help mankind deal with this torrent of misfortune? Of course, there are societal-level solutions, but here let us focus on the individual. The Holy Quran offers a solution that is apparently so simple, yet so innately beautiful. In Surah Raad, Ayat 28 it is stated that “for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction”.
The Arabic word used in the aforementioned verse for remembrance is ‘dhikr’, pronounced ‘zikr’in South Asia, Turkey, Iran etc. Zikr has a wide-ranging meaning but is most often associated with repeating the names of Allah or verses of the Holy Quran. This can be done during the obligatory daily prayers, during the taaqibat right after performing the obligatory prayers (especially the tasbih of Hazrat Fatima Zehra) or while engaged in any activity throughout the day.
The point and goal of the exercise is that through zikr, one gets ‘closer’ to the Almighty — not in the physical sense as Allah has no physical form, but in the spiritual. For after all, particularly during times of crisis, maintaining spiritual equilibrium and ‘tranquil hearts’ is essential for one’s well-being.
What solutions does Islam offer to deal with misfortune?
Throughout history, mystics, Sufis and travellers of the esoteric path have sought to ‘taste’ the halawat, or sweetness of the Almighty’s zikr. Many Sufi orders engage in hypnotic communal chanting of zikr, while other mystics prefer quieter recitation and reflection on the Asma Al-Husna —the beautiful names of Allah. As for the many effects of zikr, in a hadith related by Imam Jafar Al Sadiq, the zikr of Allah results in one “becoming humble, modest and prudent”. What more can one ask for in a world engulfed by pride, vanity and deceit?
For example, when one repeats the zikr ‘Al Rahim’ (the Most Merciful), this should inculcate within the self a sense of mercy towards all living beings. Indeed, in our fractured society, most people seem to be devoid of all mercy. Relatives steer clear of each other; neighbours are often at daggers drawn, while our relationships with others are mostly transactional. If we remember that our Creator is the Most Merciful, perhaps it will help us behave with mercy and compassion towards all others.
Another of the Asma Al-Husna is ‘Al Razzak’ (the Sustainer, the Provider). Of course, the Almighty is the Sustainer of all of creation and has provided rizq (sustenance) from the tiniest of organisms up to the largest of beasts. Moreover, he has made man Ashrafal Maqhluqaat — or the crown of creation — a waseela or sentient link to spread His bounties across the earth. Therefore, as the servants of Al Razzak, it is our duty to ensure that all our fellow humans have food on the table.
Particularly for those who have been blessed with plenty, it is incumbent upon them to get provisions to the less fortunate in a dignified manner to help them weather the storm of inflation. After all, it is morally reprehensible in Islam that one goes to sleep with a full stomach while one’s neighbour sleeps hungry.
Moreover, we should remember that the Almighty is Al Qavi (the Strong One) and Al Aziz (the Mighty One). The remembrance of these sacred names is particularly needed for those who walk the earth in an arrogant manner, trampling on the rights of others, particularly the weak and defenceless. In fact, one can choose to recite and reflect upon any one of the Asma Al-Husna or the verses of the Holy Quran in order keep one’s feet planted firmly on the ground, and remember the hereafter.
But perhaps one of the most powerful azkaars (plural of zikr) is the Tasbihat-i-Arba: “SubhanAllah; Alhamdulillah; La Ila Ha Ila Allah; Allah-ho-Akbar.” Mystics and scholars of all ages have concurred that these four tasbihat are one of the most effective ways of attaining spiritual elevation and inner peace.
And when discussing zikr, how can one forget to mention salawat/durood,citedin some ahadith as “the best supplication”? Salawat basically consists of sending salutations upon the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his Aal/Ahlul Bayt. This zikr has been ordered by the Almighty in the Quran (Surah Ahzab, Ayat 56), while all schools of thought agree that the obligatory prayers are void unless salawat is recited.
The recitation of zikr strengthens the heart and soul and gives one the spiritual power to fend off even the strongest of challenges. Moreover, remembering the Almighty gives tremendous inner peace and satisfaction to the believer and ultimately, as stated in the Holy Book, if one ‘remembers’ Allah, Allah will ‘remember’ him (Al Baqarah, Ayat 152).
The writer is a member of staff.
Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2022