Remembrance of God

Editorial Board

October 24, 2013

“The example of the one who remembers his Lord and the one who does not remember Him is like the example of the living and the dead.” (1)

One of the companions came to the Prophet, God bless him and grant him peace, and said, “Oh Messenger of God, I want to be with you in Paradise.” The Prophet, God bless him and grant him peace, replied, “Help me against your self (nafs) by making much prostration.” Among the many lessons to be taken from this Hadith is that remembrance of God – abundant remembrance of God – is a necessary condition for truly benefiting from suḥba. God constantly reminds us of the importance of remembering Him in His Glorious Book. He says, “There has indeed been for you in the Messenger of God an excellent example – for those whose hope is in God and the Last Day and remember God abundantly (33:21). And He says, …and remember God abundantly in order that you may be successful.” (2) And He says, “…and the men and women who remember God abundantly, God has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward. (3)

Indeed, many verses of the Qur’ān and Prophetic Hadiths point to the fact that the essence of all acts of worship is the remembrance of God. God says, “…and establish prayer for my remembrance. (4) And He says, Oh you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you in order that you may be wary of God.” (5) And He says concerning the Hajj, “And remember God during appointed days…” (6)

Remembrance of God lies at the very heart of Islam, and it is the means by which the seeker reaches the knowledge of God and the station of iḥsān. It is related from Imam al-Junayd (7) that he said, “The one who has been given remembrance has been given the proclamation (8) of wilāya [sainthood].” Imam Ibn al-Qayyim comments on this statement as follows, “Remembrance is the proclamation of sainthood – whoever receives it arrives and whoever is deprived from it is cut off. It is the provision of the hearts of the Sufis (al-qawm) – when it departs from them their bodies become mere graves. It is the flourishing of their lands which become as mere wasteland if it ceases. It is their sword with which they battle the thieves on their path. It is their water with which they put out the raging of fire. It is the cure for their diseases – their hearts relapse into sickness if deprived from it. It is the rope and the connection that exists between them and the Knower of the Unseen.”

The aim of the Justice and Spirituality School is to renew both the imān of the individual Muslim and the dīn of the entire ummah as a whole. What then is the role of remembrance in this process of renewal? Abu Hurayrah relates that the Messenger of God, God bless him and grant him peace, said to some of his companions, “Renew your imān.” They asked, “O Messenger of God! How do we renew our imān?” He said, “Say lā ilāha illa Allah [there is no god but God] abundantly.” (9) God also describes the believers as follows, “…and when our signs are rehearsed to them they increase them in imān…” (10)

In the Justice and Spirituality School change begins at the level of the individual, and changing the individual begins with the renewal of his or her imān. For this reason, remembrance of God occupies a central place in the School’s practical application, and in its absence no significant progress can be made. We began by mentioning lā ilāha illa Allah and recitation of the Qur’ān here because they are the two greatest types of remembrance and have a special effect in renewing and increasing imān. This does not mean, however, that they are the only types of remembrance that a follower of the School should practice. In addition to lā ilāha illa Allah and recitation of the Qur’ān, one should fill his days and nights with sending blessings upon the Prophet, God bless him and grant him peace, calling upon God, the invocations [adhkar] of the morning and the evening, and all the other various types of remembrance that the Prophet, God bless him and grant him peace, taught to the ummah, and that Imam Yassine discusses in The Day and Night Schedule of the Believer.

The remembrance that we have discussed thus far is necessary for the one who hopes to build his relationship with God and draw near to Him, but he will be building without a foundation and his efforts will be lost in vain if he does not perfect his basic ritual obligations of purification, salāt, fasting, etc… In one of Imam Yassine’s letters he writes:

“I will talk to you of God’s remembrance in its general sense, especially establishing the regular prayers in congregation. For there are some brothers and sisters who think that the stations of spiritual excellence [iḥsān] can be earned by jumping over the requisites of Islam and the Branches of Faith [imān]. By no means! Your heart will never be fit to host God’s spiritual bounties if you fail to perform the personal acts of worship that God -Glorified be He- prescribed for you, ahead of which come establishing the regular prayers, namely the Dawn Prayer [Salāt as-Sobh] in the mosque, the supererogatory prayers, as well as the obligatory and supererogatory acts of God’s ritual remembrance [ad-Dhikr]. Only then may we talk about your efforts to serve God’s cause within the community of the believers and acquire the other Branches of Faith.

There is no god but God [lā ilāha illa Allah] is the highest branch of faith. What will they say, the man and woman who join our sessions but have no daily Wird of God’s remembrance [ad-Dhikr], nor sit in a session in the first moments of dawn [as-Sahar] to ask God forgiveness [Jalsat al-Istighfār]?

How can you expect those who fail to observe the Night and Day Schedule of the Believer to ascend up to the station [maqām] of remembering God and imploring Him humbly permanently, and asking Him constantly the greatest of rewards, that of contemplating His Face for all eternity?

Our initial request to God to grant us the greatest reward of contemplating His Face eternally may be slackened, and our determination to worship Him earnestly may be undermined if we do not have the determination to maintain the spiritual ties that link us to Him through the daily Wirds.

Only then may we talk of exerting efforts to serve God’s cause in social and political activism. – not before.”


1Related by al-Bukhari.
2Qur’ān, 62:10.
3Qur’ān, 33:35.
4Qur’ān, 20:14.
5Qur’ān, 2:183.
6Qur’ān, 2:203.
7Imam al-Junayd was one of the great early scholars and Sufi Master and is generally regarded as one of the most important early Sufis. There is a consensus among Sunni scholars that he was a rightly-guided Imam.
8Manshur, in Arabic, was used at the time of al-Junayd to refer to a letter from the Sultān that contained an announcement of someone being appointed to a rank of honor.
9Related by Imam Ahmad and al-Tabarani with a good (hasan) chain of narration.
10Qur’ān, 8:2.