Vocalised Remembrance.

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Submitted: November 05, 2016

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Submitted: November 05, 2016



Zhikr Jahri- Vocalised Remembrance.

Zhikr-Jahri means vocalised remembrance. The Sufi orients the Nafs towards the Quraan. The Recital revealed to the Prophet (saws) when he was in an unlettered, or virgin state. All of Sufism can be traced to the Quraan. It's most important role to the Sufi, is as the source of Zhikr-Remembrance, and Ibaarah-Evocation. It leads to a final emptiness (Al Khala'), and spiritual "Death", or anihilation (Fa'na). Sufyan al Thawr said: "Allah the Exalted has created a breeze which blows in the early hours of the morning, that carries the "Zhikr" and the supplications to the Supreme King (Malikul-Mulk)". "Zhikr" means the Remembrance of Allah Subhana wa ta'ala. The Quraan 13:28 tells us: "Surely in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest". Allah Subhana wa ta'ala has promised in the Holy Quraan 2:152; "Al kuruni al kurkum", or "Remember me and I will remember you". The best type of remembrance traditionally is the reciting of the Quraan, because this contains remedies to cure the Heart of all illnesses. Allah Subhana wa ta' ala has said in the Holy Quraan10:27: " O Mankind, there has come to you a protection from your Lord, and a healing for what is in your Hearts, and for those who believe, a guidance and a mercy".
Abdullah Ibn Busr related that a man once told the Prophet Muhammad (saws): "The roads to good are many and I am unable to take all of them, so please tell me something to which I can hold fast, but do not overburden me lest I forget it". Allah's Messenger (saws) told him: "Make sure your tongue is moist and supple with the remembrance of Allah". A man once asked Salman the Persian which deeds are the best. Salman's reply was Quraan (29:45): "And the remembrance of Allah is greatest".
The practise of Zhikr is the equivalent of Japa Yoga, as such a "zhikr" is a "mantra", generally a continuous recital of God's name, or names. Sidi Ali al Jamal promises us: "Just say 'Allah !', and you will witness wonders".  Zhikr is a remedy for hardness of Heart. A man once complained to Abu Sa'id about the hardness of his own Heart. Abu Sa'id told him: "Soften it with remembrance of Allah".  Makhul said: "Remembrance of Allah is a sign of health, while remembrance of people is like a disease (Marad)". Ibn Taimiyya wrote: "Remembrance of Allah is to the Heart what water is to fish. What happens to fish when it is taken out of water ?". Zhikr or remembrance of Allah is sustenance for both Heart, and Soul, deprived of it, they become as frail as a body starved of food.
Zhikr subdues the ranting of the Ego-Nafs, it dispels worry and melancholy from the Heart, adorns the prayer niche of the Heart with joy and ease, calls down Allah's baraka (blessings), and cloaks the reciter in the shawl of humility, gentleness, and freshness. Remembrance is the rescuing palm oasis of the Heart, and the Soul's cleansing fountain of abundance. You can drink from the cup-Fingan of Zhikr till you are  intoxicated (Sukr), or you can drink yourself sobre (Sahw).

Vocalised remembrance is one of the most elevating of disciplines (Riyada). In terms of generic form in Islam, musical forms follow architecture in the sense that the laws of expression are based on interpretation, and improvisation, but the form remains on an archetypal level to be called upon, and activated by the Zhakir, one who is engaged in Zhikr. Melody is inner architecture in the sense that, it is a spatial connection system. The central melody of a Zhikr, the Sha Gusha, has a root note that is called Shahid, or the witnessing note. The melody or tonal system provides the model, and rhythmic features of a composition. It shapes the melody, by giving it mood and  character. It provides something more than the sum of it's parts. It is a sonic Gestalt patterning, according to Layleh Bakhtiar.  Traditional Zhikr forms, relate to melodies (Gusha-ha), rather than scales (Dastagh). They are related to "Space",  as the basis of a composition, as opposed to "Shape". It's the symetrical repetition, like the living waves of the Sea, that illustrate the Rythm in Nature, which help the Zhakir escape the prison of Time, and arrive at the Now (al Waqt). Beautiful harmonious sound sets this hidden force of Zhikr into motion.
Beautiful sounds penetrate into one's heart, because the Heart (Qalb), and  Soul (Ruh), have a connection with their Creator (Al Khaliq), and Allah Subhana wa ta' ala loves beauty. Zhikr is like a magic carpet that carries the Soul across the heavens by the beauty of the Heart's intention (Niyyat). Imam Ghazali (ra) has explained for us how beautiful, rhythmic, harmonious sounds have an opening effect on the Heart or Qalb. He tells us how the beautiful voice increases the love within the Heart, and how: "Hearts that obey, and have love for Allah Subhana wa ta'ala become pure and strong".
Zhikr, The Remembrance of Allah, The Presence Second to None, polishes and purifies the Heart's inner chamber and prepares it to receive Allah's Blessings (Baraka), if that is Allah's Will (Shaa').  It helps facilitate Birr (doing good), and Taqwa (steadfastness), this helps purify the Heart. As Rasul-Ullah (saws) reminded us: "Even the smallest good deed will suffice". If the Zhikr is performed right it will recite you, and you will lose all sense of Ego-Nafs. Your tongue starts doing the Zhikr, until your breath takes over, then the Zhikr recites you, and you become the Zhikr. Closer to your Soul-Ruh, and beyond the reach of your Ego-Nafs, and it's attendant baggage. You fall in with the rhythmic flow of Life (Madad), and you become that flow, and you can let your personal pride go. As Abu Madyan describes it: "Abandon thyself to God until His Zhikr triumphs over thy Zhikr". Allah Subhana wa ta' ala is always al Qa'il, the Speaker.
Sufi sage Ibn Ata'Allah has stated: "Invoke the all embracing name which is Allah ! Allah ! Allah ! But don't violate this remembrance by letting your tongue pronounce this name while something else is in your Heart. Let your Heart speak and your ear witness, until the speaker becomes your true Self “. Abu Bakr Siraj ad-Din tells us that; “A good word is a Divine name, recalled, remembered, and invoked in an upward aspiration toward Truth. It is like a tree, firmly rooted in the Zhikr- the invocation, prayer or mantra. Like branches, the tremendous meaning of all invocation grows upward through the Universe; like rich fruit is the reality of the harvest it provides”. The Cloak of Humility descends with The Sacred Presence. Remembrance is the Soul's Gateway to the Now (al Waqt). Ghafla or forgetfulness, is letting your Ego's habitual programming take over, and not being fully present in the Now(al Waqt). When asked the question " How will I know when I have performed enough Zhikr ?", the traditional answer is: "When they say you are mad !".
There are three main kinds of Sufi zhikr. Zhikr of the heart, zhikr of the tongue, and zhikr of the heart and tongue combined. They are also seven main varieties of Sufi zhikr.

1) Tahlil.  Tahlil is short hand for "La ilaha ila Allahu" (There is no God, But the One God). A modern translation is "Everything that is ! Is One !". Tahlil is the key to awakening the Heart.  Tahlil is less about becoming something, and more about becoming "Nothing", La Shay !.Silent.  Sweet Non-Existence. Void. Empty. Still. Sakinah. As Chief Black Elk stated: "Silence is the voice of the Great Spirit". Thought combined with breath becoming a silent Zhikr echoing deep within the heart, resounding harmoniously on it's own, as you become the Listener (As Sami'). Tahlil brings forth a renewal of one's special Tauhid. It strengthens Faith (Iman), and builds uprightness in the Heart (Taqwa).  Tahlil is often recited as this extended mantra: "La ilaha ila Allahu. La ilaha ila Allahu. La ilaha ila Allahu. Muhammadur Rasul-Ullahu".

2) Takbir. Allahu Akbar means God is Most Great, this is Takbir . Takbir is magnification of Allah's Name. It inspires reverence in Him who is the Possessor of Majesty (Zhu'l-Jalal)

3) Tahmid. Alhamdulillah means All Praise is due to Allah Subhana wa ta'ala. This brings the devotee closer to  Gratitude (Shukr), Firm Hope (Quwwat al Raja), and a place of Love (Mahabba).

4) Tasbih..Subhan Allah, Glory be to God The Transcendent. This is the Glorification of Allah. Whoever exalts Allah's Name, Allah will exalt his. Subhanallah is often used as part of the litany. "Subhan-Allah. Alhamdulillah. Lailaha Ilallahu--Allahu-Akbar. Allahu-Akbar ! Lahowa ala kulli sha'in qadir".

5) Hawqala & Hasbala.. Hawqala and Hasbala are both concerned with total reliance, and dependence on Allah Subhana wa ta'ala, this is called Tawakkul.
Hawqala: "Bismillah Tawakkaltu ala-Allah. La howla wala Quwatta ila billah!" / " In the Name of Allah, I depend on Allah. There is power nor ability save by leave of Allah!".
Hasbala: "Hasbuna'Allahu wa Ni'ama-al Waqi ! " "Allah is suffiecient & He is a great Guardian".

6) Istighfar. Istighfar is a plea for Allah's forgiveness. "Astaghfir-ul-Azhim " or "I seek Forgiveness from the Mighty, The Tremendous in Might and Power", this is a form of Istighfar. The most common one being Astaghfir-Ullah or "I seek Forgiveness from Allah". Often recited a specific number of times, with prayer beads, or in Sujud, prostration.

7) Shukr. Shukr is a remembrance of ones need for gratitude towards Allah. It usually takes the simple form of "Shukran-Allah !" or "Thank you God !", and is often recited a specific number of times, with prayer beads, or in Sujud, prostration.

Zhikrs that Accompany Daily Routines.

Salam aly koum: Peace be Upon You. The traditional Islamic greeting to be invoked on meeting somebody, or parting company.

Bismillah:  In the Name of Allah. Before eating, drinking, reading, stepping onto transport, leaving home, or taking any sort of action.

Insha'Allah:  If Allah Wills it. Recited when making plans for the future, all plans being contingent on the Will of Allah, as Hadeeth tells us: "Man plans and Allah plans, and Allah is the best of planners".
Mashallah:  As Allah meant it to happen. Often said in modesty as the repons to a compliment.

Hasbunallah:  Allah is enough for me. Invoked at times of hardship, and distress. A sign of reconcilliation.

Fisabillah: For the sake of Allah. This invocation often accompanies an act of charity, or a self-less action.

Tanasub / Harmony.

One of the key maxims of Islamic artistic philosophy is Tanasub, or the concept of Harmony. The beauty of Harmony is that it is connected to Rhythm. The intention is always to create harmony between mind, body and soul, and harmony between individuals. Harmony within the Human being, and between Human beings is a transient state of affairs. It amounts to a continual work in progress. Harmony is a fact of life.  Anything that points towards the Unity (Tauhid) of Allah's creation (Makhluqat), points to the Unity of Allah, and this is a form of Zhikr. The cyclic movement of Sun and the Moon, the regular alternation of morning, evening, noon and night  are all part of the music of nature, all part of the Rhythm of Life which is harmonious. The thing that unites this World of opposites is Harmony (Tanasub).
As a poet, and a musician, I sought for beauty in the text. According to Arab poetics, poetry is always sung by it's composer, who alone knows the secret of it's beauty. The beautiful text is the one that the spirit can approach in all manner of ways. According to early Arab poetics the beautiful text is an open text, capable of multiple meanings,  something that is still valued in Sufi poetry. The most beautiful form of expression beyond all poetry being the Qur'an, a text of universal spiritual, and intellectual dimensions, a text of comprehensive spiritual and intellectual vision. The Quraan teaches us that the reason why we see something as beautiful, is linked to it's capacity to create harmony within us.
Sufi's say that Harmony is the source of manifestation, the cause of its existence, and the medium between Allah and man. The Peace for which every Soul strives, and which is the true nature of Allah ,  as-Salaam  (The Flawless, Tranquil Peace). The utmost goal of man, is but the outcome of Harmony. This shows that all life's attainments without a sense of harmony are but vain. It is the attainment of harmony which is called Heaven, and it is the lack of it which is termed Hell.
Eternal harmony is the harmony of consciousness inherent within Al Waqt (The Now),  as it is in itself Eternal, all things and beings live and move in it; yet it remains remote, undisturbed and peaceful. This is the Allah of the Believer and Allah of the Knower. All vibrations, from the finest to the grossest, as well as each atom of manifestation, are held together by this harmony. This is the music of the spheres. Harmony ultimately attracts (Jadhb) each being towards the Peace of Allah. We are all part of the most amazing symphony. Each of our lives is a solo of the utmost virtuosity. Each moment we breath creating a note in a melodic chain of rhapsody that dances across Allah's Cosmic harmonic chord structure. If one being or thing, however apparently useless, were missing in this Universe of endless variety, it would be as if someone dropped a note from a well known song.

A Musicians Zhikr.

This is a chromatic singing zhikr. It's a four part version of Tahlil set to an Ethiopian Raga, that a musician friend taught me many years ago.  Each of the four parts has a different Rhythm. In each section of the zhikr words are left out so the zhikr  gets gradually shorter: 1) La ilaha ila Allahu !  2) Ila Allahu  3) Allahu !  4) Hu !
The melody gets sparser with each shortening of the zhikr, and the rhythm changes from 4/4, to 3/4, to 2/2, to 2/2.  With each section the "Hu !" is becoming more and more pronounced. Until it takes over and there is only "Hu !" ( Is!).  Singing zhikr combines physical discipline or Hatha Yoga, as posture is important. It combines mental discipline as in Jnana Yoga, and through visualisation, elements of Bhakti Yoga.
Part one is called "The Love Song": "No Other God is ! God Alone Is !"
Part two is the Bluesy "Yearning Call for The Presence": "God Alone Is !"
Part three is "The Joy of Redemption" : "God Is !". Part four is The Reality alone. The Haqiqa. When the fearful Ego-Nafs in no longer there. No Mind. Just a sense of Being. The Isness. The paradox of None Being and the Presence. Egoless. The journey from "I love God" to "God is and I am not". The final part being the very powerful word "Is !" or "Hu !". The one name of Allah that contains all His other names. Hu the all pervading sound of space. It's resonance Low C.
When the voice makes the tone, and creates the vibration, let your body, your feelings, your whole being resonate with that One vibration. Feel the Soul in it. It comes from deep down inside of You. It is your direct link to the Universe outside, and the Creator within. The notes are C , C sharp,  D sharp, F, D sharp, D sharp, C sharp, C, B flat, C.  Those of you who are musical, if you improvise around that scale using the vowel sounds, you'll eventually get the feel of it, if Allah wills.
This zhikr is the cry at the Heart of Jazz, the yearning of the Spirit in Soul music, it's the Good News that Gospel brings, it's the pain of the Blues being transmuted through Love and Light into the Bliss of Universal Harmony and Peace. Sufi sage Kabir compels us: "So plunge into the Truth (al Haq), find out who the Teacher is, Believe in the Great Sound".
I first learnt this melody from a friend of mine who plays saxophone, he taught it to me as a folk song from the borders of Turkey and Russia. It's also reminiscent of the opening bars of Dexter Gordon's "Around Mid-nite", it can also be found in Indian via Hadrat Innayat Khan’s teachings, and Ethiopia.Most of the World's Ancestral music runs into each other, melodic patterns then truly become spatial connections within the world of the pentatonic, as John Coltrane discovered in this way Tauhid can be observed. The Nur or Inner Light of the form comes from the mystical coordination of the melodic scale (Raga or Dastagh), and the constant rhythmic patterns, that accompany, and give Human feeling to the Sacred words. It is offered as a humble invitation for Allah to bless us with His baraka. Swaying bodily, and moving the head from left to right helps transcend Mind through Body presence.  As Sanai says: "When the eye is pure it sees purity".
Next, let the eyes trace a visualised circle of Light during each cycle of the zhikr, the centre of the circle is the Heart Centre . A gentle rotation of the body from left to right, in harmony with the rhythmic pulse of the zhikr, helps connect Mind, Body, and Soul. "La" is negation, this is the cleansing of the Heart. We turn to the right saying "La ilaha"-"There is nothing !" to the Dunya. We turn our heads down and to the left we recite "Illallahu"-"But Allah !". This invokes Allah's Presence in His house. Allah who is so vast (al Wasir), that He can not be encompassed in all the Universes, the heavens and the earth, makes His dwelling within the depths of the Human Heart. This is the secret of al Qalb. The limitless capacity for growth within the Human Heart is called "Wus'".

Asma-ul-Husna / The Most Beautiful Names.

Adam was the first Sufi. The Holy Qur'an tells us that " God taught Adam all the Names" (Surah al Baqara:30). The 99 Most Beautiful Names, are the archetypes of every possibility of Human existence (isti'daad ). Each Human individual reflects every one of these 'Divine' attributes to some degree . During our life journey these names, or attributes manifest themselves in many evolving, unfolding variations, as we discover more and more of our inner-nature, and reconfigure our external self to receive the updates. The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), has stated that;"God has nine and ninety virtues; whosoever puts on one of them will surely enter the Garden".
The 99 Most Beautiful Names are the many faces (Wajh), or names of God, that we all have the power to manifest. When we understand these attributes in terms of Human nature we appreciate the 'gift of free-will' Ikhtiyar. As Human beings, we are forming, becoming, and we can become anything we focus on. Humanity has no fixed station, it can ascend to it's highest aspiration, or descend to it's lowest concept of itself.
Remembering, reciting, and contemplating these 99 Most Beautiful Names, and their meanings, transports us beyond the limitations of the spatio-temporal world (Dunya). Our concept of the Human self blossoms, rose-like into a limitless world, as equally dependant on creativity and imagination, as it is on the intellect, and the 'self evident truths' (Daruriyyat), of our often painful, and unsavoury physical, and material existence as Human beings.
The Holy Qur'an says in Surah A'raf:180; "Allah's are The Most Beautiful Names; So call upon Him thereby". There are many traditionally accepted uses of "The Divine Names" as the means to cure many Human illnesses of the heart, like anger, jealousy, or sloth. Here are a few examples of how they have been used traditionally to form small du'a, or supplications.  The Holy Qur'an says in Surah al Isra':10; " So call upon Allah or call upon the Most Compassionate (Ar-Rahman): by whatever name you call upon Him, to Him belong The Most Beautiful Names !".
Ar-Rahman, The Most Compassionate is Allah's most powerful attribute, and the most praiseworthy to be found amongst Human attributes, when it manifests as 'mercy'. The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) has stated in hadith that: "Allah has created the Human being in the form of his Mercy (Rahma)". Sufi tradition states that whoever recites this name constantly with the right intention, will receive their portion of Mercy from The Most Merciful. Noone is excluded from this promise as it states in Qur'an in Surah A'raf:156: "My Mercy encompasses everything".
To aid memorisation tradition prescribes that one should recite the names al Hayy-al Qayyum, (The Living-the Eternal), as part of the following du'a (supplication),16 times in solitary place with purity of purpose, and sincere intention: "Alif, Lam, Mim. Allahu Lailaha-ilallahu al-Hayy-ul-Qayyum,( A.L.M. God. There is no God but God. The Living-The Eternal". To recite "Ya Karim !" (Oh The Most Generous One) 270 times daily, and if Allah wills it you will be freed from your debts by some means or another. To recite it at night until you fall asleep, and tradition states that you will be appreciated, helped, and one's well being will be enhanced. When one recites this name as the du'a: "Astagfir-ullah ! Ya Karim !" (I seek forgiveness in God The Most Generous) , they are rewarded with a feeling of safety, and forgiveness from Allah. These are just a few of the traditional applications of The Most Beautiful Names of God, when used as zhikr (remembrance), Wazifa, mantras, or affirmations.
Hu !“Hu !” simply means “He !”. A formidable invocation is "La Hu ! Illa Hu !". Say it as if you were addressing your bodily parts, telling them that only Allah exists, only Allah is real.As Rumi says; “ Please Universal Soul, practise some song or something through me”

© Copyright 2018 E.S.Lange. All rights reserved.

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