4. Methods of Collective Dhikr
A. Seeking the company of the righteous
Dhikr can also be performed collectively. The Prophet told us that the baraka or blessing of Allah is with those who gather and work as a unified jama'a for the cause of Islam: 'Allah's hand is upon the jama'a.' (Reported by Tirmidhi.) Indeed engaging in remembrance of Allah collectively is encouraged in many ahadith. The Prophet is reported to have said:
“If a group of people sit together remembering Allah, the angels will circle them, mercy will shroud them, peace will descend onto them and Allah will remember them among those with Him.” (Reported by Muslim.)
Dhikr in a group may help teach those who do not know the desired adhkar and bring hearts together and strengthen their noble ties. To ensure that our company is always filled with remembrance of Allah, it is of paramount importance that we continuously seek the company of the righteous if we wish to be elevated in the eyes of Allah. Hasan al-Basri said in this regard:
“Sit in the company of scholars. They will be pleased to see your virtues and will forgive your mistakes. They will not rebuke you when you commit mistakes; rather, they will provide clear guidance. When it is necessary to testify, they will bear true testimony to your advantage.”
You must be careful with the selection of friends, for your companionship can and must be a form of dhikr. The Messenger of God said: “The best friend is the one who makes you remember Allah when you see him.” Also: “Whosoever Allah wishes good for, He will grant him a righteous friend who will remind him if he forgets and aid him if he remembers”.
And the Qur’an says: “Bind yourself with those who call upon Allah morning and evening.” [Surah al-Kahf, 18: 27-28.] As soon as you see the seed of Iman planted in your heart and you recognise it in someone else's and you find that he agrees with you, you will feel ten times stronger. Social scientists have also discovered that group life is one of the most powerful forces to stimulate and improve the human being.
B. Witnessing Unto Mankind
Life can only be filled with dhikr if you strive and invite others to the path of Allah, the same path that you have found. This is a necessary outcome of your faith in Allah. The Qur’an advises: “Make it [the truth] known to mankind, and do not conceal it!” [Surah Al-‘Imran, 3: 187] “Help one another to righteousness and taqwa and do not help one another to sin and transgression.” [Surah al-Ma’ida, 5:2] “Encourage one another in the truth, and encourage one another in patience.” [Surah al-‘Asr, 103: 3.] “Remind [others of the truth] in the event that this admonition profits. Tire reminder will be received by he who stands in awe [of God].” [Surah al-A’la, 87: 9-10.]
As your Iman increases, you will yearn to share with everybody what you think and know is right and call upon them to join your mission and the jama'a for “who is better in speech than one who calls to God acts righteously and says: I am of those who surrender [unto Him].” [Surah al-Fussilat, 41: 33.] Moreover, as the jama'a grows, your commitment to Allah will grow as well, each reinforcing the other. That is how the whole of life will become integrated in finding a path to Allah.
Organising Your Dhikr
To benefit fully from all of the specific methods of dhikr whether individual or collective that we have discussed, you must strive to implement them in a daily programme of devotions, study and reflection. Set aside some periods each day to devote yourself completely to these tasks and do not allow anything to interfere with them. Spending even a small amount of time each day will bring within you a feeling of closeness to Allah and familiarity with His Din or way of life.
You should begin each day with some dhikr after Salat al-Fajr and make the intention that your whole day will be spent in serving Allah. Follow up the dhikr with a dua seeking provisions for the day.
Allah Himself has exhorted us in the Qur’an:
“O you who believe, celebrate the praises of Allah and do so often; Glorify Him in the morning and the evening.” [Surah al-Ahzab, 33:41-42.]
After the dhikr and dua spend some time reciting, memorising and studying passages from the Qur’an for “…indeed the reading [of the Qur’an] at Fajr as witnessed.” [Surah al-Isra, 17:78]
If it is not possible to perform this task just after your Fajr Prayer then you may do it later, but you should make an effort to ensure that no day passes by without at least some reading and study of the Qur’an. Allocate some time also to study from a comprehensive syllabus which covers all the major aspects of Islam including Qur’an and hadith sciences, Sharia or Islamic law, Fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence, Sira or the life history of the Prophet Muhammad and Islamic history.
Perhaps the best way to learn about Islam is to learn from those who have more knowledge than you. You should therefore strive to attend Islamic study circle sessions, camps and courses whenever you can. At the same time, as much as you learn and improve your understanding of Islam, do not forget your obligations towards your family and those around you. Set aside a period also to teach them about Islam.
As night falls just after the Salat al-Maghrib, it is again recommended to make dhikr, seeking protection for the coming night. And then to complete the day, just before retiring, reflect on what you have accomplished -where you have succeeded and where you have failed. As for your successes thank Allah that He has enabled you to do whatever you may have accomplished. For your failures, you must ask for His forgiveness with humility and sincerity. Close the day with Prayers for help and guidance to overcome your weaknesses and to develop your strengths.
Your salvation and true success lies in the purification of your heart. The key to gaining a sound heart is remembrance of Allah.
There are basically two forms of dhikr. The first involves continuous and sustained inner awareness of Allah in all that we say and do in our daily lives through development of certain states of consciousness. They include a continuous realisation that Allah knows everything, that everything you possess has been given to you by Him; that He has power and control over everything; and ultimately, that you are going to return to Him. The second involves specific methods of dhikr, some of which may be performed individually and others which must be done collectively. Each of these specific methods helps to develop the other. When they are implemented in an organised programme of daily devotions, they will, Insha Allah, lead to a life of continuous remembrance of Allah.
May Allah enable us all to remember Him often and much and may He enable our hearts to find the satisfaction that we seek for “without doubt in the remembrance of Allah hearts do find satisfaction.” [Surah ar-Rad, 13:38.]
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