Keeping our Iman Strong with Dhikr |

Keeping our Iman Strong with Dhikr

Muslims believe that Allah is the Creator of everything that exists. We believe He is our Lord and Sustainer, and we believe He manages the affairs of His entire creation. We profess belief in Him with our tongues, but then we must strive to feel it in our hearts, and allow that feeling to be the catalyst for our actions. Although our verbal professions may remain relatively constant, the level of our iman (or faith) can and does change. It ebbs and flows. We, then, have to do the righteous actions that will maintain and increase our iman.

Acquiring and Increasing Iman

The majority of the scholars in Islam agree that iman is not static; it increases with obedience to Allah's commands and decreases with disobedience. Acquiring iman, therefore, is a process. It does not penetrate one’s heart simply because one is a Muslim by birth or by conversion. Iman is granted by Allah, as a result of His Mercy, to those who sincerely strive for it. When the nomadic Bedouin tribes came to see the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, they proclaimed, “We have faith.” But they were corrected and told:

“You do not have faith, but rather say 'We have surrendered in Islam,’ for faith has not entered your hearts. If you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not diminish anything from your deeds. Verily, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.’"

(Surah Hujurat, 49:14)

Iman consists of a belief in the heart, a statement of the tongue, and the actions of the limbs of our bodies. One of our goals as Muslims must be to acquire, maintain, and increase our iman. Our faith must be nurtured and protected. It must be fed the things that can sustain it. We should be constantly concerned about it like the early Muslims who often asked the Prophet questions about the status of their faith. Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

 “Renew your faith.” The companions asked, “How can we renew our faith?”  The Prophet replied, “Say always, ‘La ilaha ilAllah’ (there is none worthy of worship except Allah).” That repeated statement is an example of dhikr.

Dhikr – The Remembrance of Allah

Dhikr of Allah is one of the most beneficial behaviors for Muslims. In their most general sense, adhkar (plural of dhikr) are the good behaviors that remind us of Allah. More specifically, they are the words we say in remembrance of Him.

Throughout the Quran, Allah reminds us to regularly say words that praise Him, The All-Hearing. Allah commands us to be mindful of Him. He says:

“So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me, and do not deny Me.” 

(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:152)

Allah has ordered us to remember Him frequently. He says:

“O you who have believed, remember Allah with much remembrance.”

(Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:41)

Dhikr, however, goes beyond merely thinking about our Lord. This remembrance can be achieved internally, in the heart, but it is also manifest externally, with the tongue and limbs.

What Should We Say?

The best dhikr is that which is from the book of Allah because the book of Allah is the best speech that exists. After that, there are words and phrases that have been singled out in the Sunnah to be beneficial dhikr. For example, Jabir, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“The best remembrance of Allah is to repeat ‘La ilaha ilAllah,’ There is nothing worthy of worship except Allah.”

These are the same words we say when we accept Islam. These are the words we hope to implement in our lives. These are the same words we want to say as we lay dying,  inshaAllah, God-willing.

There are many other words to say when we dhikr. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“The most beloved speech to Allah consists of four. There is no harm with which one you begin: ‘Subhana Allaahi, wal hamdu lillaahi, wa la illaah ila Allaah, wa Allaahu akbar.’” 

(Sahih Muslim)

“Indeed the best dua is ‘alhamdulillah’ and the best dhikr is ‘la ilaha illAllah’.” 

(Tirmidhi #3383)

"Whoever says, 'Subhan Allah wa bihamdihi,' one hundred times a day, will be forgiven all his sins even if they were as much as the foam of the sea." 

(Sahih Bukhari #6405)

Also, Abu Umamah, may Allah be pleased with him, said: 

“The Prophet saw me moving my lips and he said to me, ‘What are you saying, O Abu Umamah?’ I said, ‘I am remembering Allah, O Messenger of Allah.’ He said, ‘Shall I not tell you of something better or greater than your dhikr of night and day (or of day and night)? You should say:

‘Subhan Allah ‘adad ma khalaqa. Subhan Allah mil’a ma khalaqa. Subhan Allah ‘adad ma fi’l-ard wa’l-sama. Subhan Allah mil’a ma fi’l-samai wa’l-ard. Subhan Allah mil’a ma khalaqa. Subhan Allah ‘adad ma ahsa kitabuhu. Subhan Allah mil’a kulli shay’in.’

[Glory be to Allah (Subhanallah), the number of what He has created. Glory be to Allah, filling what He has created. Glory be to Allah, the number of what is in earth and heaven. Glory be to Allah, filling what is in heaven and earth. Glory be to Allah, filling what He has created. Glory be to Allah, the number of what is written in His book.  Glory be to Allah filling all things.]

And then say 

Al-hamdu lillah…” likewise.’”

(Al-Silsilah al-Saheehah #2578)

These are just a few of the many adhkar that we can use to boost our iman. What is most important is that the words we say are heartfelt and permissible according to the Quran and Sunnah.

When Should We Make Dhikr?

There are certain times during the day when dhikr is highly encouraged. Allah, the Almighty, said:

"Celebrate (constantly) the praises of thy Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting." 

(Surah Ta Ha, 20:130)

Although dhikr may be associated with certain times of the day, like those that are offered after obligatory prayers, dhikr is appropriate during many other times. Allah praises the ones who remember him in all of the situations of their lives and describes them as being people of understanding. He then continueS;

“Those who remember Allah standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and [who] think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the Earth, (saying), 'Our Lord! You have not created this without purpose. Glory to You! Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire'” (Surah Al-Imran, 3:191)

When we witness miracles in nature, we should remember Allah. When we are afflicted with trials, we should remember Allah. When we are joyful and celebratory, we should remember Allah. Dhikr must become our habit if we are to increase our iman.

How Should We Make Dhikr?

The words we say in our adhkar must be said with the correct intention. We should strive to not only say the words with our tongues, but the words should come from our hearts and be followed up with actions that affirm our statements. In addition, Ibn al-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy on him, classifies these levels of dhikr, saying, “Dhikr is sometimes performed: 

  1. with the heart and the tongue, which is the best dhikr
  2. with only the heart, which ranks second
  3. with only the tongue, which ranks third.”1

Imam al-Ghazali, may Allah be pleased with him, similarly wrote that the remembrance of Allah “starts with dhikr of the tongue, then by the heart being pressed into remembering, and then by the heart remembering spontaneously.”2

What is the opposite of remembrance?

One way to understand a thing is by looking at its opposite. Surely, if the remembrance of Allah improves our iman, then its opposite – forgetfulness and neglect – has the opposite effect. When we fail to remember Allah with our words and deeds, we become susceptible to the whisperings of the Shaytan. Allah warns us:

"And whoever is blinded from the remembrance of the Most Merciful, We appoint for him a devil, and he is to him a companion." 

(Surah Az-Zukhruf, 43:36)

When we fail to remember Allah, we are vulnerable to the whispers of the Shaytan. If we sit in gatherings and don’t mention Allah, the gatherings will become devoid of blessings. Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“No people sit in a gathering in which they did not remember Allah, nor send blessings upon the Prophet, but that it will cause them grief on the Day of Resurrection, even if they are rewarded with entry into Paradise.” 

(Musnad Aḥmad #9965)

To not remember Allah with our words and deeds is a cause of misery and sadness.

Let's Dhikr to Strengthen Our Iman

If we want to strengthen our iman through dhikr, we should:

1. Recite the Quran often.

2. Repeat often the adhkar that are found in the Quran and Sunnah. 

3. Ask Allah, through prayer to facilitate that behavior for us. Say the prayers that are meant to increase iman and to facilitate our task, such as:

 “I am pleased with Allah as a Lord, and Islam as a religion and Muhammad, peace be upon to him, as a Prophet.” 

(Sunan of Abu Dawud #318)

“O, Allah! Rectify my religion for me, which is the safeguard of my affairs. Rectify my worldly [affairs], wherein is my livelihood. Rectify my afterlife, to which is my return, and make life for me [a means of] increase in every good and make death for me as a rest from every evil.”

(Saheeh Muslim #2720)

4. Be around the people who dhikr. Allah, the Exalted, says:

"And keep yourself patiently with those who call on their Rabb (i.e., your companions who remember their Rabb with glorification, praising in prayers, and other righteous deeds) morning and afternoon, seeking His Face; and let not your eyes overlook them.” 

(Surah Al-Kahf, 18:28)

5. Attend gatherings where Allah is remembered. Abu Hurairah  narrated that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

"Allah has angels that go from place to place searching for people [engaged in] the remembrance of Allah. So when they find a particular people mentioning Allah, they call out (to other angels), “Come here to your objective.” They then envelop them (the people) with their wings reaching up to the sky. Their Lord asks them, yet He is more knowing than they are. “What are My servants saying?” The angels reply, “They are glorifying you (saying Subhan Allah), declaring Your greatness (saying Allahu Akbar), praising You (saying: Alhamdulillah), and exalting You.” He asks, “Have they seen Me?” They reply, “No, by Allah, they have not seen You.” He asks, “And what if they saw Me?” The angels reply, “If they saw You, they would be even stronger in worshipping You, stronger in glorifying and praising You, and they would exalt You even more.” 

(Riyadus Saliheen #1447)

‘Antarah reported:

“I asked Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, ‘Which deed is best?’ Ibn Abbas said, ‘The remembrance of Allah is greatest.’” 

(Surah Al-Ankabut, 29:45 and Musannaf of Ibn Abī Shaybah #34777)

Our faith is a precious gift from Allah. May Allah increase us all in it through dhikr and other righteous acts.

End Notes

1 Al-Wabil al-Sayyib, Damascus: Maktabah Dar al-Bayan, 2006. P.176

2 Kitab al-Arba‘in fi Usul al-Din. Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2006, p. 87

Candice “Sister Islaah” Abd’al-Rahim reverted to Islam in 1976, and considers herself a student of knowledge. She has deep education credentials which include an M.A. in Teaching, a Certificate of Advanced Studies (Post-Masters) in Administration and Supervision, a B.S. in English, and experiences as a principal (in fact the first hijab public school principal in Maryland!), curriculum and staff developer, mentor, and classroom teacher of grades pre-K through 12. She is a former adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Graduate School of Education and is a doctoral candidate in Islamic Sciences at the International Online University. Islaah’s contributions to the field have earned her honors in the Who’s Who of Distinguished JHU Alumni. She is a wife, daughter, mother, and grandmother and is an active member of several Muslim communities in the Baltimore area.

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