The Method of Zikr
Translated Speech of
His Eminence Ameer Muhammad Akram Awan
Shaikh Silsilah Naqshbandiah Owaisiah
According to the Quran, all of entire creation bears witness to Allah's Magnificence. Each element and every particle of this universe is a masterpiece of creation and a marvellous manifestation of Allah's Greatness. His Glory expresses itself generously and overtly in the multifarious nature of creation. The earth and the heavens, along with their peculiar characteristics, and the creation they sustain, under regular systems and patterns set since the Beginning, contain innumerable signs pointing towards Allah's Greatness. Why then, despite this explicit expression, does the majority of mankind fail to envision His Greatness, feels no attraction towards Him, as well as disregards His authority?
Allah has answered this question Himself, in that it requires a certain level of vision and wisdom to see, understand and correctly interpret these signs; this vision, perception and wisdom is produced by Allah's Zikr. The brain is a material creation, so therefore it can only perceive and address something tangible. It can discover the properties of various objects and blend them to make something new, i.e., mixing colours to create a rainbow, mixing different ingredients, even in a specific ratio, to prepare delicious foods. It can arrange bricks and mortar to make beautiful homes, or assemble various parts and invent machines. The brain can discover the needs and realise the comforts of its own body, as well as suggest the means to do so. It can also diagnose diseases of its body and even of itself and recommend their cures. In short, it can address everything that is associated with matter. But it cannot perceive anything beyond the Realm of Creation like the Divine Being, Divine Attributes, or other sublime realities. If the intellect could perceive them, it would be possible for every human being to realise Divine Greatness and there would be no further reason or requirement to depute Prophets.
A human being can attain to any level of material progress and excellence but he can never comprehend the sublime truths of the Transcendent World, such as the Hereafter, Angels, Reward or Retribution. Nor can he answer the most basic questions embedded in his subconscious about his own origin and destination. Where do billions of these people come from and wither do they perish after death? The human intellect simply has no answer! These fundamental issues were discussed only by Prophets who provided their logical and satisfactory answers, easily understood and accepted by the human intellect. Religion most naturally and effectively satiates the whole range of intellectual scrutiny; therefore, Islam is the most natural and logical of religions. But by itself the human intellect cannot discern religion's sublime wisdom and reason without Prophetic blessings, which unveil Transcendental truths to be perceived and accepted by the intellect. Only Prophetic lights can establish the human-Lord relationship through His constant Zikr.
It is not possible to fully comprehend the blessings and beneficence of the holy Prophet‑saw. A glimpse of his greatness is reflected in the fact that his company instantly infused Allah's Zikr in each cell of a believer's body. Every drop of blood, every limb and the entire skin of a believer’s body was charged with Allah's Zikr. The Quran describes the condition of his-saw Companions, “So that their flesh and their hearts soften at Allah's remembrance,” - 39:23. It means that each cell of their bodies, from their outermost skins to the core of their hearts, started remembering Allah. Indeed, it is Allah's Zikr that bestows the vision to observe His greatness in every creation. Just by looking at a product you can appreciate the wisdom and ingenuity of the designers of cars, watches, houses and other machines; similarly, the lights and blessings of Allah's constant Zikr enlighten the human heart to observe Divine Glory in each straw and particle, the changing of the seasons, the movement of celestial bodies, the rise and fall of nations and all of the events of the world portray different shades of Divine Greatness before mankind. To observe the Creator in creation, however, one should be necessarily blessed with Prophetic beneficence gained through Allah's constant Zikr.
According to the Quran, the miraculous properties of the earth, the sky shading-over without support, the innumerable species of creatures residing within, the alternation of day and night and the unfailing, vast, miraculous universal system, all point towards the greatness of their Creator; but only for the one blessed with wisdom, “Those who constantly remember Allah, standing, sitting or reclining.” A human being will always be in one of these postures. This Divine verse implies that they are always engaged in Allah's Zikr under all conditions, at all times. Religious scholars have thus concluded that the alluded to verse doesn't refer to oral Zikr because the tongue cannot do Allah's Zikr all of the time; it has to translate many other human requirements, besides doing Zikr. Even if somebody doesn't speak a word except Allah's Zikr, his tongue will certainly remain quiet during his sleep. The only organ that can permanently perform Allah’s Zikr is the human heart and only Zikr-e Qalbi (Zikr by the heart) can fulfil the condition of constant Zikr. Once the heart learns Allah's Zikr, it never stops at any time, under any circumstances. During the time of the holy Prophet-saw, a moment of his company was enough to acquire this blessing. His Companions similarly blessed the Taba’in and they in turn passed these blessings to the Tab’a Taba’in. The mere company of these exalted souls was sufficient to transfer this blessing or Barakah to their visitors. No further effort was required to achieve this excellence. However, after this glorious era, the strength of the teacher and absorption of the seeker both decreased. It therefore became necessary, as determined by the Mashaikh (spiritual teachers) that the teacher and the student must sit together. The teacher should perform Zikr on his Lataif and focus the Divine lights attending him, towards the seeker. This process is known as Tawajjuh (spiritual attention). The holy Prophet-saw didn't require giving special, conscious attention to any one. The sun doesn't have to make any effort to deliver its light, a person has only to come out to receive it. Similarly, the holy Prophet-saw didn't have to make any particular effort to give spiritual attention, the seeker had only to come to him to receive Prophetic Barakah. This spiritual power was retained by the Companions, the Taba’in and the Tab'a Taba’in, whereupon ended the period of automatic transfer of these blessings. Now a seeker had to strive hard to acquire them. The teacher and the seeker both engaged themselves in Zikr, the former gave spiritual attention and the latter tried to absorb the Barakah in his heart.
The Mashaikh adopted different methods of Zikr. The method adopted by our Order is called ‘Pas Anfas’ or ‘The Guarded Breath’. Each ingress should carry the word 'Allah' to the core of heart and every egress should bring the word 'Hu' out to strike the heart or the desired Latifah. That would create a rhythm of Allah Hu in every breath. You should however, not try to make these words with the sound of your breath, because the Zikr is not done with the breath. Do take a careful note that we do breathe vigorously, but only perform Zikr with the heart. Zikr is always done with the heart and never with the breath - breathing is one of the means. Now you may ask, ‘If we do Zikr with the heart, then why do we breathe vigorously?’ The reason is simple, the absorption of Divine lights in the blood is directly related to the body’s temperature - cold bodies do not absorb these lights. Someone can give spiritual attention to a dead person and illuminate each cell of his body, but as soon as their attention is withdrawn, all of the lights would be instantly gone - because the body has lost its heat. Similarly is the case of a living person, the heat already present in the body is not sufficient to accept and absorb these lights. If you breathe normally during Zikr, you would require considerable time, probably years, to absorb the lights and illuminate your Lataif. That too, if you engage in constant Zikr and your teacher possesses adequate spiritual power. “The fountain must contain sufficient water to saturate the flowerbed. “
The Owaisiah Order has the closest and most direct connection with the holy Prophet‑saw and enables the seeker to access and absorb unlimited Barakah. Therefore the Mashaikh (spiritual teachers) of this Order have prescribed that the seeker should breathe rapidly and vigorously to generate sufficient heat in the blood to illuminate, not one but all of the Lataif in a single Zikr session. It is not possible to hear Allah Hu in the sound of the breath. We breathe freely and spiritually perceive that each breath is carrying the word Allah inside and bringing the word Hu out. The vigorous breathing, coupled with body movement and mental concentration, generates ideal conditions for the heart's Zikr. Unless these three factors combine rhythmically, one doesn't fully benefit from Zikr. The absurd criticism of ignorant people about our method of Zikr does not merit any consideration because such critics do not possess the basic knowledge and comprehension. It requires a thorough knowledge of a subject to fully comprehend its details and to generate meaningful criticism.
I am addressing those who are blessed by Allah's grace and emphasise that Zikr is not done with the breath but by the heart. The breath is drawn in vigorously to generate heat in the blood and complete attention is to be focused on Zikr - that is important. Otherwise you would be physically engaged in Zikr but mentally wandering elsewhere. The rhythm of body movement and along with mental concentration both combine with the heat generated by vigorous breathing to absorb the Barakah of the Shaikh in each cell of the body. For that reason, all distracting acts are prohibited during Zikr. If someone loses concentration or starts coughing or speaking or reciting Quranic verses or poetry during Zikr, the flow of Divine lights is immediately interrupted, therefore, it is extremely important to perform Zikr attentively and silently. One’s entire attention should be focused on the breath taking the word Allah inside and bringing the word Hu out.
I was amazed to hear someone explain the method as, "Raise the word Allah from your heart up to the heavens and strike Hu down on your heart" - this is absolutely wrong! Our Zikr method is very simple, every ingress takes the word Allah inside and every egress brings out Hu to strike the Latifah under Zikr, while vigorous and fast breathing generates heat in the body. At times, one feels disturbed by the heat and coughs or speaks to lessen its effect, while such acts and distractions no doubt reduce the heat, they also decrease the absorption of Divine lights. Heat is necessary to weld pieces of metals like iron and gold or melt them for fusion. Similarly, a certain degree of body heat is required to absorb Allah's lights that actually belong to the Ruh (the Spirit), the body serves only as its abode. Unless the body absorbs these lights, the Ruh cannot be illuminated and conversely, a radiant Ruh lights up the body. It just cannot happen that one of them is bright and the other is dark. They are so intimately united that they always undergo similar experiences. Whenever any member of the Order engages in Zikr in any corner of the world, he instantly starts receiving the spiritual attention (Tawajjuh) of the Mashaikh. Now, it shall be up to him to absorb that Tawajjuh in his Lataif. The more he coordinates his breath, body movement and mental concentration, the greater shall be his absorption and the more he absorbs the greater would be the flow of lights towards him.
That, in brief, is our method of Zikr. Those who hold the Robe of Permission (Sahib-e Majaz) and others who conduct Zikr sessions need most to understand the whole process properly. I have heard them explain different methods based on their own understanding and interpretation. Those who are present should listen carefully and convey to others that we do Zikr with the heart and not with the breath; we breathe quickly to generate heat in the blood to absorb Divine Lights. The mind also joins the process by modulating 'Allah Hu' on every breath, so if the mind is inattentive the capacity of absorption decreases and the desired result is not achieved. It should be understood that reward and inner feelings are two different entities. A person who offers Salah according to its prescribed form at its proper time, even under compulsion and with total absence of mind and heart, will still deserve some Divine reward for fulfilling a religious obligation. But it is an entirely different experience to receive and absorb Divine lights related to this sublime worship. If anyone wants to feel and enjoy the Divine Presence in each moment of his Salah, he shall certainly need to devote greater attention and effort. Similarly, we don't only expect a reward for Allah's Zikr, we also desire a Divine Communion and the Light of His Countenance. We aspire to realise the Divine Presence as stated by the holy Prophet-saw, "Worship Allah as if you see Him.” We want to experience and eternalise the observation of the Divine Beatitude. The person, who doesn't want it, naturally doesn't have to put in any extra effort.
Allah has not ordained any particular method of Zikr, “Those who remember Allah, standing sitting and reclining “ - 3:191. There shall only be one restriction. Any form of Zikr which prejudices any religious injunction or causes any distraction or disturbance for others is not allowed. Except those particularly prohibited by the holy Prophet-saw, all other methods are permitted; nobody has the right to object to any of these. The Mashaikh of various Orders adopted different methods considering their relative usefulness in the light of their experiences. It is not proper to criticise any method that remains within the prescribed limits of Shari‘ah. We have no right to criticise others and similarly, nobody has the right to criticise us. It is necessary to criticise and stop anyone who crosses the religious limits under the pretext of Zikr but it is highly improper to object for the sake of objection. We are not obliged to satisfy such critics, nobody has the time and energy to tell and teach someone who doesn't want to know and learn.
Avoid such frivolity and devote your full attention to Zikr by your heart. Concentration, breathing and body movement should be rhythmically combined. Allah should accompany each in-coming breath to the depths of the heart and Hu should strike the Latifah under Zikr with each out-going breath, that is a simple way to explain our method of Zikr. Don't lose your attention or go to sleep during Zikr, that also precludes beneficence and interrupts the flow of Barakah. Do the Zikr attentively, vigorously; with speed and force, greater absorption would attract far greater blessings.
May Allah be with you and protect you. Ameen!