Dhikr originally comes from the word dha-ka-ra. Linguistically, dhikr means to remember something and to not forget it. It usually refers to something honorable.
Dhikr and dhukr are the root of the word. Dhukr is related to remembering something and dhikr is mentioning something. Dhukr refers to an act of your mind or heart. Dhikr is an act of the tongue. It is the thing you think about when you don’t pronounce it or do pronounce it. When you mention with your tongue, it is something already in your mind or heart. Dhikr is initiated by your mind or heart and followed by mentioning with your tongue. If you just think and don’t mention, then this is contemplating about Allah. This is takaffur, which is an act of worship, but it is not dhikr. The pronunciation does not have to be out loud but can include the movement of the tongue. Dhikr is related to something you say intentionally because you are thinking about it. Dhikr usually refers to something honorable. This is why Allah calls the Qur’an dhikr.
Meaning of Wird
There is another word Arabs used to mention Allah (subhanahu wa ta‘ala): wird. Wird is something that you recite frequently. The Arabs used the word wird originally to refer to bringing cattle to the water to drink. This act of bringing them to the water is called wird. What is the connection between this meaning and dhikr? Without your daily adhkar and daily recitation, what will happen to you is what will happen to the cattle if you don’t provide water to them.
In Sahih Muslim: The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “You will burn yourself during the daytime until zuhr time comes and you come back pure and clean again. You will burn yourself until ‘asr comes and then you pray and refresh.”
Du’a’ comes from the word da’aw which means to “call out” or to “summon”. Du’a’ is an act of invocation and supplication. Arabs used this word to have things come towards you. For example, you say, “O Allah, I want Jannah” because you want it to come to you.
Dhikr is to remember Allah by thinking about Him or mentioning His Names and Attributes or His rulings. ‘Ulema’ said this because dhikr of Allah is about one of three things:
Remembering and mentioning Allah by His Names and Attributes. This can be done in two ways:
1) Praising the Names and Attributes of Allah.
Example: saying subhanallah, alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar.
2) Telling people about the meaning of His Names and Attributes.
Think about the meaning of it and apply it to your daily life. This means that you think about Allah’s Mercy and are merciful to people. You think about how Allah is Generous so you are generous to people. You make dhikr of Allah being Al-Muhsin and try to do things perfectly. You remember the Attributes or Names of Allah and apply it to your daily life.
Remembering the rulings and orders of Allah. (What He loves/hates and likes/dislikes, the halal and haram). This can be done in two ways:
Dhikr means the Islamic rulings. Allah (subhanahu wa ta‘ala) said, “If you don’t know, ask the people of dhikr.” The people of dhikr are the people of knowledge – those who know the halal and haram and what is right and what is wrong.
1) Telling people about it.
The scholars are called the people of dhikr because they remind people about what Allah loves and dislikes and what Allah wants us to do and does not want us to do. A great scholar once said, “Majalis’l-dhikr (the gathering of dhikr) is the place where people study the halal and haram.”
We never come across a single time when the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) gathered the companions together to make dhikr.
A great tabi‘i said, “The gathering of dhikr (majalis’l-dhikr) means the gatherings where people learn the halal and haram. They learn what is permissible and what is not permissible. It is a gathering where the din of Allah is taught.”
Note: this is the meaning that only the Sunnis believe in. Innovators refuse to consider this as a meaning of dhikr.
Abu Suwad al-Adawi, one of the successors, was sitting and teaching. A man in the gathering said in a loud voice, “Let’s make this a gathering of dhikr. Say, ‘subhanAllah.’” Abu Suwad was very angry and said, “What do you think we are doing? We are gathering and teaching knowledge. If it's not a gathering of dhikr, then what is it?” A way of making dhikr is to read a book or to teach knowledge.
2) Remembering the rulings yourself when they are needed. When you see what is haram, you remember what Allah said about it.
Example: you remember what time zuhr starts. Applying the rule in itself is a form of dhikr.
Remembering Allah during the time of calamities or when you see the uniqueness of His creation. This can be done in two ways:
1) When you see the greatness of His creation and you mention Allah. This makes you thankful to Allah.
2) Remembering Allah (subhanahu wa ta‘ala) in a time of calamity. This makes you a person of patience. The first thing that comes to your mind should be: alhamdulillah ‘ala kulli hal.
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said that iman is made of sabr and shukr. If you have sabr and shukr, your iman is complete. What brings you sabr and shukr? Dhikr of Allah.
Al - Du’a’ is to invoke Allah and to supplicate to Him by calling upon Him, or worshipping Him.
Du’a’ refers to the act of worship. It means you are staying away from the way of Shayṭan and coming towards Allah and leaning towards Allah. How do you call upon Allah? You can call upon Allah directly by saying Ya Allah, Ya Al-Rahman. This is the most common meaning for du’a’ for us. You also call upon Allah by worshipping Him. Du’a’ al-mas’alah is when one is asking for fulfillment of need because he wants something to happen, something to be removed, something good, or something evil to be protected from, etc. This is the most straightforward meaning, which is very common to us. Du’a’ al-‘ibadah represents a very broad concept in Islam. Every single act of worship includes this type of du’a’.
What is the relationship between du’a’ and dhikr? Which is more general and which is more specific? When a technical definition has different meanings, we need to ask which meaning we are talking about. Du’a’ as ‘ibadah is more general. In regards to du’a’ al-mas’alah, dhikr is more general and du’a’ is specific.
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