To Practice Zikr

The Ceremony of Remembrance

Zikr means remembrance of God (Allah). The Qur'an tells us to practice Zikr in order to expand our aliveness, increase our spiritual attunement and find rest for our hearts. In doing so, we invoke the immediate experience of divine attributes, specifically activating the energies of compassion and mercy and drawing blessings from the angelic realm.

Zikr offers us the opportunity to express and reinforce our conscious alignment with the reality that Allah is our creator and that our position in the natural order is that of the created, and that we are dependent upon Allah's mercy for our very existence.

Finally Zikr creates in us the habit of remembrance. Habit is the language of the physical body which is like a child that takes comfort in repetition. Zikr allows us to establish in our bodies a habit that nourishes our heart at a deep level.

Getting Ready For Zikr

Before Zikr the Shaykh's lambskin, called the Post, is set on the floor with special prayers. The skin represents surrender, as the lamb has this character. We read Al Fatiha (the opening chapter of Holy Qur'an) at the head of the Post for Muhammad (peace be upon him) and then for Imam Hasan, Imam Hussayn, and Hazreti Fatimah (May Allah be pleased with them). [These people, who epitomize surrender to Allah, will be discussed in subsequent issues.] After this we pray the fardz (obligatory) prayer, usually Isha, the evening prayer.

As a way of announcing that Zikr is about to begin, we sing Selatul Kemaliya, a type of salawat, which is our asking Allah to send His peace and blessings upon the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

The Opening


We start by asking our Pirs to give us permission to do Zikr.

Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim (In the name of Allah, the most Compassionate, the most Merciful) We rock back and forth as we repeat Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim. There are certain movements that accompany the words that we say during Zikr. These are in part based on the movements that are found in nature. The way we move is also based on how the other prophets have moved. For example, the Jewish people have a way of rocking forward and back in their worship as we do in Zikr. Our movements combine those of all these religions, which are in fact only one religion. Estaughfirullah, tubtu ila 'llah, wa na `aytu qalbi an ma siwa 'llah. (Allah forgive me, please cleanse my heart of everything but You.)

In the beginning, we were with Allah. Then we descended to this material world with the promise to Allah that we would remember Him. But in this world, we forgot our Creator. When we realize this, we ask Allah for forgiveness, so that He will show us how to get back to him. Zikr represents our ascension back to Allah.

Allah humma salli ala Sayadinna Muhammadin wa ala alihi was-sahbihi wa sallim. (May Allah give blessings and peace to the Prophet Muhammad and on his family and companions, peace.) Allah appointed a guide in Muhammad, peace be upon him. Allah said that we should send peace and blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad. Then Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) shows us what Allah taught him.

The Body


After the opening we ask for permission again. La ilaha illa 'llah (There is no god, but God.) As we repeat La ilaha illa 'llah one movement is to sway from side to side, turning the head to the right and to the left. This comes from Yunus Emre, the Sufi poet, among other sources. We say, "La ilaha..." while turning the head to the right, which represents the nafs, our body and the material world. We are saying that it is not god. We say, "...illa 'llah" while turning the head to the left, toward our heart, which is where Allah's Essence lives in us. Appearance is not god, the Essence is God. Another way we move to La ilaha illa 'llah is forward to the right, back to center, then forward left and back to center. This repetition represents the wheat field submitting to the wind, among other things. We always come back to the center so as to say that everything ends in us. Allah, of course, is everywhere, but we don't need to look outside to find Him. We can find Him within us.

Allah, Allah

One movement is of the head from right to left, with a quick breath between each Allah. This becomes like a sawing sound. It is based on the story of the Prophet Zachariah, who while being pursued cried to a tree to conceal him. The tree opened up and he entered, but he was soon discovered by his pursuers. As they began to saw down the center of the tree, Zachariah realized his mistake; he should have called upon Allah to save him, not the tree. So as the saw came closer and closer, he repeated over and over, "Allah, Allah, Allah." Our repeating Allah in Zikr reminds us to seek refuge only in Allah.

Allah Hu, Hu Allah

We move the torso in a circular fashion. This represents the angels moving in a circle around Allah's Throne, Arsh.

All of the above is done while sitting down. Then we stand up. This is because Allah says in Qur'an-i-Kerim, "Remember Me much sitting, standing, and reclining and look into the space and contemplate and say, 'O Allah, you didn't create all this for nothing, and protect me from the torment of fire.'"

Allah, Allah Haqq (Haqq means Truth/Reality)

We bend at the waist and move the torso to the right and back to the center, then to the left and to the center. This is similar to the previous motion which connotes the wheat field.

Ya Hayy (Living)

At this time we may join hands in the circle. This is to reinforce unity in Allah. Actually, it is traditional during the sitting portion to lock arms. We haven't done that yet because Americans like to have room; it is more comfortable for them. But with everyone locked arm in arm, men and women separately, this really builds brotherhood. Everyone's energy level rises with the group. If there is love in someone's heart, you get the benefit of that love. There is more power in moving together.

Allah Hayy, Ya Qayyum (Allah ever-living, the Self-Existing One)

We turn the whole body with feet planted firmly. At Allah Hayy... we turn to the right, and at ...Ya Qayyum to the left. In every direction is Allah. In all of these movements we are trying to develop a body language. What we want to do is make Zikr with body, heart, soul, and mind. Each time you do Zikr you should do it with all your being.

Ya Wadud, Ya Salaam (O Love, O Peace)

We make the same movement as above. This time we are activating Allah's love and peace in the universe. In this world love and peace are not usually together. The only time when love and peace are together is when nafs is not around. When there is love, there is fire, frustration, disappointment, expectation. Only in Divine Love are peace and love together. This is what we are trying to attract, with Allah's permission, to the universe.

Hu -- (You, referring to Allah, in Arabic, 3rd person singular, not male or female)

After such an active Zikr people get tired, and with Hu we relax. At the same time, Hu sums everything up. At this time we also sing a song which sends salaams (blessings) to all the members of our silsilla (Our Pirs, the Lineage). At this time the Shaykh goes into the center of the circle, turns, and talks to the Prophet (pbuh). We send salaams to him and to the whole universe. We sing his salawat in all directions. Then we end Zikr.

The Closing

After Zikr we make dua (personal prayer). In this we also follow the example of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Allah asked him what he wanted. He asked Allah to forgive his people. Then Allah asked him what he wanted for himself. He asked that Allah not dismiss him from His service. Allah wants us to make dua because He wants to give us something. By making dua we are also confirming that Allah is Lord and we are not. In this way we return to being His bondsman. Allah said, "Irji", which means "Return". We make the trip to Allah during Zikr, and then He wants us to return to the world. It is Allah's desire that we should be in this body, serving Allah in this world. Songs, Turning, and Prayers

Some dervishes turn during Zikr. Turning did not start with the Mevlevis. Shams was a student of Abdul Qadir al Geylani. He wore the Qadiri color of green and he turned. From the beginning we turned.

Prostration is also a part of Zikr. Allah said "Prostrate," so we prostrate to show respect at various times throughout the ceremony.

We say Al Fatiha several times during Zikr. Fatiha means Opening. We open and close Zikr with this sura (verse), and recite it during transitions. Just prior to closing, we recite the three last suras of Qur'an. These are like a summary of the whole Qur'an, and reciting these is traditional in virtually all religious ceremonies. These suras are a protection for us who have had this meeting, against the evils of shaytan and evil jinns. Shaytan's job is to take us away from the path or to stop us from progressing. So he could be waiting right outside the door to tempt us with doubt or confusion or fighting.

During Zikr we also sing certain songs which are designed to provide motivation. These songs tell us of our philosophy, of the wisdom of Sufism. For example, one of them says, "You cannot reach the High Headquarters with vanity. You have to leave what you have and what you have not. Then, come."


from a Zikr Meditaton student

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