Muslims realize that Islam is more than a religion, it is a way of life. The demands, expectations, and benefits of being Muslim stem greatly from our ability to worship Allah and remember Him constantly. The aspect of Zikr, the remembrance of Allah, is part of "what sets apart the living from the dead" (Bukhari).
While many aspects of Zikr are specifically defined for us, such as Hajj once in our lifetime, fasting in Ramadan once a year, praying in congregation at least once a week (on Friday) and praying five times a day, the times between are not meant to be void of thoughts of Allah.
Here are some ways to incorporate and ensure Zikr in our everyday lives:
1. If you want or need or desire something, regardless of what it is, ask Allah for it first
Allah says in the Holy Quran, "Call on Me. I will answer your prayer, but those who are too arrogant to serve me will surely find themselves humiliated in Hell" (40:60). Taking the time to remember and ask Allah, serves not only as humbling experiences, but forces you to realize that Allah wants us to remember Him, to ask of Him, and put our trust in Him.
Whether it is in times of distress or in times of joy, creating a habit of sincere supplication toward Allah increases your Zikr According to Abu Huraira, "The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, reported that, whoever wants Allah to answer his prayers during difficult times, should supplicate to Him more and more in times of ease."
2. Be aware of your words
It becomes second nature for many Muslims to say "Assalam Alaikum" (Peace and blessings be upon you) when they meet a fellow Muslim, or to say Alhumdu lillah (all thanks be to Allah) without ever really thinking about what it means. While it is good to say these words, if we put our hearts into them, we will be humbling ourselves and performing Zikr at the same time.
So use words like Insha Allah (God willing), Maa shaa Allah, when you are praising something and Bismillah (in the name of God) before you begin anything. Being aware of Allah at all times will help keep you from doing something unIslamic.
Abu Huraira reported that the Prophet said, "Renew your faith." "How can we renew our faith?" they asked. The Prophet replied, "say always, 'La ilaha ill-Allah' (there is none worthy of worship except Allah).".
Jabir reported that the Prophet said, "the best remembrance of Allah is to repeat La ilaha illa Allah and the best prayer is Alhumdu lillah (all praise is due to Allah).".
3. Surround yourself with those that remember Allah
What we discuss when we are in congregation can also be Zikr. Said b. Jubair said, "anyone engaged in obeying Allah is in fact engaged in the remembrance of Allah."
Some early scholars according to Fiqh us-Sunnah said, "the gatherings of Zikr are the gatherings where the lawful and the prohibited things are discussed, for instance, selling, buying, prayers, fasting, marriage, divorce, and pilgrimage."
The Prophet reportedly told ibn Umar that, "There are some angels of Allah who go about looking for such assemblies or circles of Zikr, and when they find them they surround them."
"When any group of men remember Allah, angels surround them and mercy covers them, tranquility descends upon them, and Allah mentions them to those who are with Him" (Abu Huraira and Abu Said Al Khudri).
Thus, surrounding yourself with other people remembering Allah contributes and heightens the purpose of Zikr, which is to purify ones heart and soul and to awaken the human conscience.
4. Do charity
Often times, we need to see how blessed we are, by helping those who are not as fortunate. Whether it is volunteering at a homeless shelter, teaching small children or visiting with the elderly, by taking time out of our lives to help others for the sake of Allah, we better ourselves.
The Holy Quran says, remembrance of Allah "is wider than Prayer: it includes silent contemplation, and active service of Allah and His Creatures. The regular Prayers and regular charity are the social acts performed through the organized community" (24:37).
We also need to realize the role we should play in our communities such as cleaning up a park, planting trees or helping our neighbors. By doing charity for those around us, we realize all the blessings bestowed upon us by Allah and remember Him in a more appreciative manner.
The Prophet said, "Charity is obligatory every day on every joint of a human being. If one helps a person in matters concerning his riding animal by helping him to ride it or by lifting his luggage onto it, all will be regarded as charity. A good word, and every step one takes to offer compulsory congregational prayer, is regarded as charity; and guiding somebody on the road is regarded as charity (Abu Huraira).
Keeping the importance of charity in mind and performing it for the sake of Allah, keeps Him in our thoughts and heart at all times.
6. Do Dawa work
It is the responsibility of Muslims to teach and invite non Muslims into the fold of Islam. In order to do this, we, ourselves, must be thinking of Allah, thanking Allah, remembering Allah, asking Allah for help, and constantly being aware of Allah if we are to be successful in our Dawa work (inviting others to Islam).
The more Dawa work we do, the more we will remember Allah. Teaching others and performing Zikr brings us closer to Allah and toward happiness. The Quran says, "those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah, for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction" (13:28).
When a servant opens up his soul to his Lord, extolling His praise, Allah strengthens him with His light, increasing thereby his faith and conviction, and reassuring his mind and heart (Fiqh us-Sunnah).
As we all strive to earn the favor of Allah, we cannot forget the importance of Zikr and work to incorporate it into every aspect of every moment in our everyday lives. Whether it is through our supplication toward Allah, the words we say, the company we keep, the charity we do or the Dawa work we participate in, there is always more Zikr that can be done and countless ways to draw ourselves closer to the path of Allah.
"The Great Umayyed Mosque of Damascus, Syria - 9" by James Gordon from Los Angeles, California, USA - The Great Umayyed Mosque of Damascus, Syria. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Great_Umayyed_Mosque_of_Damascus,_Syria_-_9.jpg#mediaviewer/File:The_Great_Umayyed_Mosque_of_Damascus,_Syria_-_9.jpg