Welcome to part 3 in the Living a better life series. This week we're looking at the value of dhikr, reading the Qur'an and maintaining kinship in Islam. We'll explore the methods of remembering Allah found in the Qur'an and in hadith, how to learn Arabic quickly at home and why we should keep in contact with family members even when it's challenging. If you missed earlier parts which covered the importance of prayer and the benefits of fasting and charity, you can read them through the links below.
Part 1: The importance of prayer and thoughts from Imam Ghazali
Part 2: Recognising the benefits of fasting and charity
So far we've covered the following tips:
1. Be more present in your salah
2. Pray more
3. Make fasting a habit
4. Eat less
5. Give frequently and unconditionally
And gave ourselves the following challenges:
1. Pray tahajjud once a week, for a month, or use the time to make up missed prayers if you have any
2. Fast on Mondays for a month
3. Wait until you actually feel hungry before eating, try it for a week
4. Give unconditionally (and nonjudgmentally) to the next 5 needy (including homeless, etc) people you encounter
How are you getting on with the challenges? Let's talk about them in our private Facebook group.
This week covers tips 6 to 8 and next week will be the final article in the Spiritual Well-Being part of the series, in sha Allah. This article addresses things that don't take up too much time or really take any significant effort in comparison to other tips, and can be easily incorporated into our day or our week.
6. Designate time for focusing on dhikr
The importance of dhikr and the rewards in it have been made clear to us through explicit ahadith of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayi wa sallam. Dhikr is when we mention Allah, remembering him when we say phrases like "in sha Allah" or "Alhamdulillah" and when we dedicate time to repeat words and phrases glorifying Allah. Time for focusing on dhikr, free from distractions, should be part of our daily routine. It could be 5 minutes in the morning or evening, and a couple of minutes after each salah. Women can do dhikr when they are not permitted to pray. Below are some ayat of Qur'an and ahadith about dhikr of Allah and its benefits and rewards.
So remember Me; I will remember you. Be thankful to Me, and never ungrateful. (2:152)
This short ayah gives us a powerful reminder. Even when we are feeling at our lowest, we should remember these words from Allah. If we find ourselves in a place where we are overwhelmed in negative emotions or struggling in difficult situations, we must remember that Allah is with us; if we remember Him, He will remember us. We should be thankful for all we experience in its divine wisdom, and try to never be ungrateful even when facing hardships.
We should also seek to spend time remembering Allah with others:
The Prophet ﷺ said: "No people sit in a gathering remembering Allah, But the angels surround them, mercy covers them, tranquillity descends upon them and Allah remembers them before those who are with Him." (Sahih Sunan Ibn Majah)
SubhanAllah, how valuable the act of remembering Allah is! How can we not indulge in it?
One of the Companions said, "O Messenger of Allah. There are many injunctions of Islam for me. So tell me something to which I may hold fast." He ﷺ said, "Keep your tongue wet with the remembrance of Allah." (At-Tirmidhi)
The Prophet ﷺ said, "For him who says: 'Subhan-Allahi wa bi hamdihi (Allah is free from imperfection, and I begin with praising Him, and to Him),' a palm-tree will be planted in Jannah." (At- Tirmidhi)
As discussed in Part 2, in order to gain the true benefits of dhikr we should learn to control our desires, as Imam Ghazali describes:
How often remembrances (dhikr) flow on the tongue with the presence of the heart but there is no delight for the heart nor any satisfaction because it is screened by coarseness. Occasionally the heart might soften under certain circumstances permit dhikr a greater impact there on; indeed, it might even delight in contemplation. A precondition for this experience however is an empty stomach.
What can I say as a form of remembrance?
The Most Excellent Names belong to God: use them to call on Him, and keep away from those who abuse them- they will be requited for what they do. (7:180)
Our Prophet ﷺ has told us of several words and phrases to say as dhikr and the great rewards attached to them:
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said to me, "Shall I not guide you to a treasure from the treasures of Jannah?" I said: "Yes, O Messenger of Allah!" Thereupon he (ﷺ) said, "(Recite) 'La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah' (There is no change of a condition nor power except by Allah)." (Sahih Sunan Ibn Majah)
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "There are two expressions which are very easy for the tongue to say, but they are very heavy in the balance and are very dear to The Beneficent (Allah), and they are, 'Subhan Allah Al- `Adhim and 'Subhan Allah wa bihamdihi.'" (Sahih Bukhari)
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "Whoever says, 'Subhan Allah wa bihamdihi,' one hundred times a day, will be forgiven all his sins even if they were as much as the foam of the sea. (Sahih Bukhari)
La ilaha illallah
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "The uttering of the words: SubhanAllah (Allah is free from imperfection), Alhamdulillah (all praise and thanks is due to Allah), La ilaha illallah (there is no god except Allah) and Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest) is dearer to me than anything over which the sun rises." (Muslim)
La ilaha illallahu, wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahul-mulku wa lahul-hamdu, wa Huwa 'ala kulli shai'in Qadir
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "He who recites after every prayer: SubhanAllah thirty-three times; Alhamdulillah thirty-three times; Allahu Akbar thirty-three times; and completes the hundred with: La ilaha illallahu, wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahul-mulku wa lahul-hamdu, wa Huwa 'ala kulli shai'in Qadir (there is no true god except Allah. He is One and He has no partner with Him. His is the sovereignty and His is the praise, and He is Omnipotent), will have all his sins pardoned even if they may be as large as the foam on the surface of the sea." (Sahih Muslim)
7. Read Qur'an regularly
We have made it easy to learn lessons from the Qur'an: will anyone take heed? (Qur'an 54:17)
In the Qur'an We have presented every kind of description for people but man is more contentious than any other creature (Qur'an 18:54)
Read more about this ayah here.
The Qur'an is a guide to life for every person and we should give it its due part of our time to learn it and learn from it. When memorising the Qur'an in full or specific surahs to recite in salah, we should make sure to recite it regularly in order to not forget it.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Read the Qur'an regularly. By the One in Whose Hand Muhammad's soul is, it escapes from memory faster than a camel does from its tying ropes." (Sahih Muslim)
If we can read Arabic we should read often and consistently making effort to remember it. If you cannot yet read Arabic, I recommend reading this post about how to learn to read Arabic in few weeks, at home at your own pace using Bayyinah TV. Remember there is double the reward for those who read with difficulty.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Such a person who recites the Qur'an and masters it by heart, will be with the noble righteous scribes (in Heaven). And such a person who exerts himself to learn the Qur'an by heart, and recites it with great difficulty, will have a double reward." (Sahih Bukhari)
If you can't understand Arabic, then reading a translation in order to understand the meaning can also be part of your routine. Even if just a few pages a day. I recommend this English translation by Abdel Haleem. (affiliate link)
8. Maintain and revive kinship
Being distant or estranged from family is a difficult position for anybody to be in. It can happen for many reasons and sometimes these relationships never even formed to begin with. Nonetheless, we are warned never to sever the ties from kinship.
People, be mindful of your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them spread countless men and women far and wide; be mindful of God, in whose name you make requests of one another. Beware of severing the ties of kinship: God is always watching over you. (Qur'an 4:1)
Family ties and knowing our linage is important in Islam, it's so integral that we're instructed to keep our fathers' names, as Allah says in the Qur'an:
Name your adopted sons after their real fathers: this is more equitable in God’s eyes––if you do not know who their fathers are [they are your] ‘brothers-in-religion’ and proteges. You will not be blamed if you make a mistake, only for what your hearts deliberately intend; God is most forgiving and merciful. (Qur'an 33:5)
We are also told to treat our family well, particularly our parents.
Your Lord has commanded that you should worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say no word that shows impatience with them, and do not be harsh with them, but speak to them respectfully (17:23)
So as challenging as it can be, if we are to follow the instructions of our Lord and examples found in the sunnah we should treat our family well and make efforts to maintain ties with them regardless of our situation, their religion or their characters, in sha Allah. This could be as small a task as making a phone call to a relative who you don't speak to often and recognise the distance is growing, or it could be defining a more strategic approach for reconciliation with a relative with which there is more complex history.
1. Schedule time for reading dhikr daily
2. Schedule time for reading Qur'an 3 times a week, in Arabic and a language you understand
3. Make contact with a family member who you don't communicate with often