Dhikr in Islam, Definition, Meaning and Importance

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The meditation-like remembrance of Allah is a basic practice for the Islamic Community. Within the Sufi Muslim community is known as Dhikr (and other pronunciations i.e. Zikr, Thikr, etc). Simply said, Dhikr is the remembrance of God. This remembrance is done to get closer to God / Allah, and is a way to help attain spiritual awakening. In this blog post, we will explore what this practice looks like for Muslims and share its importance!

Big sufi order doing dhikr

Remembrance of Allah – An Islamic Practice

Dhikr consists of repeating short phrases, words, or verses from the Quran, usually accompanied by physical gestures (i.e. hand movements or prostrations).

It can mean reciting verses from the Holy Quran or phrases from a Hadith (sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, Praise be upon Him).

Dhikr with sufi teacher in center

Dhikr can be performed individually as an act of personal remembrance of Allah, or meditatively for divine guidance. More commonly the practice of Dhikr is in groups.

As a group activity, certain Muslim communities find the activity allows believest are able to share spiritual space openly without the fear of being judged.

Origins of Dhikr

Dhikr has been practiced for centuries in the Islamic community, in order to help believers get closer to and remember Allah and Allah’s qualities, learn more about their faith, and improve their moral character.

The word Dhikr comes from the Arabic root Dh-K-R which means “to mention something with great care and respect”. The sufiana meaning is similar.

Sufi students following in dhikr

Moosa Raza, a scholar and author, has shared the example of a person who said to the Prophet (may peace be upon him) that the demands of Islam are a lot. What is something I can grasp? Prophet Muhammad said “Let your tongue never cease to be moist from invoking Allah”

How to do Dhikr?

Dhikr can be broken down into two main categories: Dhikr Assalam and Dhikr Dhohar. Dhikr Assalam consists of reciting verses from the Quran, which is considered to be a sacred act when done with intention. Dhikr Dhohar includes any other acts that include remembering Allah such as prayer, reflection on His creations, and more.

Dhikr congregation

In the first category, Dhikr is done by repeating Allahu Akbar (God is great) or Alhamdulillah (praise be to God) in order to achieve spiritual purification. Dhikr can also be accomplished by remembering verses from the Qur’an. Other phrases that could be said include Huwa Allah alladhi la ilaha illa hu (i.e. meaning “He is God, there is no God but Allah” or al-Mu’min (i.e. meaning “faithful”). At times the Duff, or other Sufi instruments can be used for effect.

In South Asia, Dhikr is referred to as Zikr which means to utter or mention. During a sitting of Zikr/ Dhikr, the whole group recites an Islamic phrase together. To begin, the phrase is recited slowly and each syllable is emphasized. With time, the tempo of the repetition increases.

For the recitation and to remember the number of times God’s name is recited, the focus of a human being should on the remembrance of Allah. So, one can use their hands or prayer beads.

Related: Importance of Sufi aesthetic according to Arieb

Common Misunderstandings of Dhikr Allah

Lack of understanding

This is a religious act. There are guidelines, specific deeds, related activities. When that understanding is not there, Dhikr can not be performed.

Lack of intent

Dhikr can bring you close to the Lord. It is a form of prayer. But if you are not clear as to the intent of this prayer, the person can not benefit.

Lack of presence

While performing Dhikr, one should be focused on one thing and one thing only: to remember Allah. No distractions. One should not be concerned or distracted with the doing.

Lack of the purpose for the meditation

One must have an understanding of the purpose of meditation. The Prophet said 1 hour of contemplation is worthy of more reward than 70 years of worship.

Riyaaz Qawwali