[These are the rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in Stanger Masjid, South Africa on Jul 10, 2015]
[Audio is available here]
Previously we had told you our mashaikh-e-Naqshband explained that there are three major things: It’teba-e-Sunnah, Kathrat-e-Dhikr and Suhbat-e-Shaykh, on the path of sulook. Today we are going to talk about Kathrat-e-Dhikr.
Kathrat-e-Dhikr means to remember Allah swt a lot; to remember Allah swt abundantly; to remember Allah swt excessively; to remember Allah swt so much that no ghaflah remains. That is how much you have to remember.
In the first few sessions, we told you to make dhikr for ten or twenty minutes. Then we started telling you to make dhikr for one hour, then two hours. Now we are going to tell you more. It is not about hours.
Three Ways of Kathrat-e-Dhikr
There are three ways in which we can think of kathrat-e-dhikr. First is the beginner. The beginner is told to do it twenty minutes in a day. That is not kathrat, but it is what they are told to do initially.
Generally the bare minimum of kathrat is considered fifty to sixty minutes. That is considered that you did something properly. Understand this from an example: you will not find it worth mentioning it to me if you study for fifteen or twenty minutes a day.
Understanding “Kathrat” in Kathrat-e-Dhikr
Kathrat what does it mean? It is in your own understanding that what you consider significant. Another way to describe it is to make the dhikr of Allah swt significantly. Ten to fifteen minutes is not even worth a mention. That is insignificant. But normally if you do something for an hour, and you do it for one hour everyday, then you feel that okay this is something. Now you can actually say I am doing that. it’s worth something.
If someone says that I study for one hour a day, then I will say yes you are a student. If you say I memorize Qur’an one hour everyday and I am going to do it for years, I will say okay you are a student. In one hour, generally in terms of our own human sensibility and understanding, we feel that yes that is significant. That is something. If you do not get the feeling about dhikr that what you are doing is something, then it means it is nothing.
When you come and say I make five to seven minutes of muraqaba, then our feeling is that it is nothing. What is there even to mention? That is unremarkable. It is not worthy of mention.
Now we have told you our secret: we trap you by saying do it for ten or twenty minutes a day. Once we have caught you, we say do it for an hour a day.
Third Level of Dhikr: Reaching Your Goal
Then there is a third level. Third level is not about one or two hours. Third level means make as much dhikr as you need to in order to fill your heart with the love for Allah swt, and that all the ghaflah goes away.
For example, in aftar, did you set a time limit for yourself that I will eat for ten minutes? No, you will say I will eat until the hunger goes away. So the third level of dhikr is to make dhikr until the ghaflah goes away. That depends on you now.
If you are already a dhakir person, you are connected to Allah swt, it might mean a few minutes. It might mean a few hours. Or it might mean that even a few hours cannot do it. Make as much dhikr as required to make the ghaflah go away, just like you eat as much as you require to make the hunger go away; you drink as much as required to make the thirst go away.
Another way to understand the third level is what is the purpose of dhikr? You want that your heart should be connected to Allah swt. You want that your heart should remember Allah swt in salah. So you should just keep making more dhikr. Keep on making more dhikr until you reach your goal.
Let’s imagine that a person has a heart that if he remembers Allah swt for seven-hundred hours then his heart will open up. Now it is up to you; if you do it for an hour a day, it will take you seven-hundred days to reach that opening.
If you do it for half an hour a day, it will take you fourteen-hundred days to reach that opening. That is pretty much the reality. For most of us it is like that there is a certain amount dhikr that we need to do so that it opens up. You do not know what it is though. So keep doing it until it opens up.
Example of a Gold Digger
Normally we give another example like this; if you tell a person that there is gold in this place, and you tell him with yaqeen and absolute certainty that we have done some type of scanning deep underground, and that we can tell you with certainty that there is gold, but we cannot tell you how deep it is.
Is that going to be a problem for him? He does not care, he says you are certain that there is gold here? I say yes. You do not know how deep it is? I say no. He says, no problem. I do not care how deep it is. If it is there, I am digging. So he starts digging.
The first day when he digs, he does not find gold. So second day he will come back again and dig. He will keep digging for days and weeks and months; it does not matter. He will keep on digging until he strikes gold.
Just like that you have imaan, so the noor is there. But you need to start digging. You should keep digging. It is a matter of yaqeen – you will reach it. Do not think that I sat in muraqaba and I could not feel anything. You will reach it.
But you just have to dig more. Dig longer. Dig harder. Maybe some of you might not reach in ten days of it’ikaf. It depends on how high you are; the altitude of your ghaflah also effects the depth of your dhikr.
Climbing Down from the Mountains of Ghaflah Before Digging the Gold of Dhikr
If you have reached the heights of ghaflah, then first you will have to climb down from the heights of ghaflah; that itself may take ten days. And then the digging may start. Do not think this does not have an effect on you; everything has an effect on you. Because you did all year long surfing, chatting, misdirecting gaze; and not only year long, but for several years. That has had an effect on you.
All of this has put you back. You are not even starting at the beginning. You have climbed the heights of ghaflah, like we climb the mountains of sins, so first we have to come down from all of that even before the digging can begin.
When you sit in muraqaba, something is happening. But it is not the gold right now. It is not the gold-digging, rather it is descending from your ghaflah. So do not think that nothing happened. You say that I sat for twenty minutes and say I felt nothing.
Something did happen, it is impossible that nothing happens. I am telling you this sitting in masjid in wudhu that it is impossible that nothing happens. You might feel nothing. Your feeling nothing is different and nothing happening is something different.
A Beautiful Example of Travelling Without Being Aware of it
Once our Hadrat Jee gave a beautiful example. He said that when a person is travelling in an airplane, there are some people who have the window seat, so they see things. Other people have middle seat in the middle section, they see nothing. But the fact that they do not see anything does that mean that there is no travelling taking place? They are also travelling but they do not see anything.
Progressing despite not feeling anything in Dhikr: Possible?
When you are sitting in muraqaba, you are travelling on the path of getting closer to Allah swt even if you feel nothing. The proof for this is in Qur’an:
Allah swt says in the Qur’an that you make dhikr of Me, and I Allah will make dhikr of you. So the travelling was not actually based on your dhikr of Allah swt to begin with. The travelling is based on Allah swt’s dhikr of you.
You sit in muraqaba and feel nothing, Allah swt still makes dhikr of you. You sit in muraqaba and fall asleep, Allah swt still makes dhikr of you. You sit in muraqaba and have worldly thought, Allah swt still makes dhikr of you. You sit in muraqaba and make niyyah of dhikr, you end up having sinful thoughts, even then Allah swt makes dhikr of you.
The only one condition to be successful in muraqaba is that you begin with the niyyah of dhikr. If you begin with the niyyah of dhikr, after that what happens does not make a difference. It makes a difference in the quality, but it means that you can never be deprived entirely as long as your initial niyyah was of dhikr. And that it is. That is why you will see that when our mashaikh conduct muraqaba, they warm you up a little bit. They say some sentences to make sure that you get the niyyah of dhikr. Then they stay quiet. We did our job; we told you bow your head, go deep in your heart, make the intention that you are remembering Allah swt, that is it. You made the niyyah of dhikr.
Actions are based on Intentions
Nabi sws has said that actions are based upon intentions and everybody will have that which they make intention for. That you all are able to do.
You may come back and say that I sat in muraqaba and felt nothing. But if I ask did you make niyyah of dhikr in the beginning? You would say yes of course I made niyyah. Look at this part of it. You are good to go. If you made niyyah of dhikr, you are doing well. Any and every time you sit in the niyyah of dhikr, something happens. You may not be aware of it. Are you doing dhikr for your awareness of that happening? No, if you are doing it, it happens.
Are you travelling so that you are aware of moving? In plane travel sometimes you do not even feel like you are moving. You feel like you are sitting still. Our kids ask that Baba when is the plane going to move. I would tell them it has already taken off. We are flying; we are moving. But they do not know; they do not feel it. It is the same in your muraqaba.
Importance of Making an Intention Before Dhikr
Now it is easier; you just have to sit with the niyyah of dhikr for one hour. Sit for an hour having made the niyyah of dhikr at the start of the dhikr. That is the beginning, but overtime you will become more focused, more aware, less sleepy, you will have less thoughts. But that is a process. It takes even more than ten days to do that. Let me make the visitors happy, three days nafl it’ikaf – may Allah swt accept my word – is enough to make the process start, inshaAllah.
It depends on your ikhlas. Niyyah does not take time. The success of niyyah is based on ikhlas. The success of intention is based on how sincere that intention was. Even if someone comes in one majlis, for one night, but they came for the right reason, they came with a sincere intention, they have khulus-e-niyyah, even that one majlis would be enough.
Importance of Having Sincerity in Intention
Actually it is the barakah of your ikhlas, not the barakah of your Shaykh. Why else would we come in a masjid other than the intention to remember Allah swt; other than the intention of wanting to connect to Allah swt? It is the niyyah that you have to make. You sit with that intention and you keep sitting.
I was giving the example of digging for gold. You keep digging. Let’s say that I tell you it will take you one year. The gold digger will say no problem, I will give one year of my life if I get gold. This dhikr of Allah swt is infinitely more priceless than gold. Because the particular dhikr that you are trying to get in muraqaba, you are making dhikr of Allah swt’s name, that is called fana.
And remember the name of your Lord, and devote yourself to Him with exclusive devotion. [73:8]
Tabattul tabteel means that you focus on Allah swt so much that everything else goes out of focus. You remember Allah swt so much that you forget everything else. That is gold. That is not an ordinary dhikr. Muraqaba is that path that is leading to the pure gold dhikr; which is called fana, istighraq, mahw – that you erase yourself when and you are aware of only Allah swt. Yes, that path is a little bit long. It will take sometime.
Simply speaking, just keep sitting. That is what the gold digger does; he keeps digging and keeps on digging more and more. That is all you have to do.
Another example is that when you are in a state of it’ikaf, or if you go for Umrah, you do not need to analyze. You must stop analyzing now. You must stop thinking that why this, and why that. You simply scrub.
Scrubbing without Analyzing: Example of a Launderer
When the dirty clothing goes to the launderer, he does not analyze why did this stain come, where is the stain from, how long has the stain been here. Rather when he sees a stain, he starts scrubbing. He does not think anything else. He is not interested in the history of the sin, he is not interested in the anatomy of the sin, he is just scrubbing.
If the stain does not go out, he adds soap. He does not pause or ask questions. He adds soap and water and scrubs more. If the stain is still there, he adds more soap, and scrubs more. This is what you are doing. You are washing your heart. You just have to add more soap. The soap is the dhikr of Allah swt. No need to sit here and think that why can I not focus, what sin did I do. When you are here, do not think, do not analyze. Just scrub.
How to Motivate Yourself when you do not Feel Anything in Dhikr
It is this desire of yours that you must keep presenting to Allah swt. Why do you sit in dhikr everyday? People say that I cannot sit everyday because after three or four days of feeling nothing, I find it hard to motivate myself to sit. That is true that is how you feel.
Understand how you can motivate yourself. You want to sit and express this niyyah to Allah swt everyday. You want to present this wish to Allah swt everyday. You want to pick up the shovel and show that you want the gold.
Importance of Being Regular in Muraqaba
You should think how can I skip even a day to show Allah swt that I want this. This is what will make you keep going. Everyday when you sit with this niyyah and talab, and you keep having this desire and intention so many times; so many times you try to dial your heart, one day it will pick up. It will not be able to resist taking your call if you call it everyday.
This is called istaqamah; perseverance. Perseverance is not in your ability to focus, rather persevere in your desire, in your thirst and wish to remember Allah swt, and persevere in presenting that wish by sitting in muraqaba. This is why you must sit everyday. And the longer you sit, the better.
Learning Muraqaba Takes Time
We have also explained this to you that you are learning muraqaba. And when you are learning something, you have to give it more time. We are not claiming to make you into dhakireen in an instant. We are making you learners of dhikr.
That can be done in three, four or ten days. We want you to get so hooked on it, that it stays with you when you leave. Then you will have to keep on doing it when you leave and then it will open up for you. If nothing else, then it is time better spent than surfing, chatting, extra sleeping.
You will get reward of dhikr, but you will also get qurb; you will draw near to Allah swt. That is why while making dhikr you have to make niyyah that Ya Allah I am making dhikr because I want to be closer to you. I want my heart to fill up with love for you. Allah swt pours that love in the heart of that person.
A Beautiful Saying of Mualana Rum rah
Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi rah expressed this in a beautiful way; he said that water is thirsty for the one who thirsts for it. You will succeed when the water becomes thirsty for you. What you have to do is that everyday you have to express your thirst for it. Everyday when you are sitting in muraqaba, you are expressing your thirst for Allah swt. That is not so difficult to do.
You must inculcate and ingrain this habit in yourself while you are here. We want that when we walk into the masjid, we see people always doing muraqaba. What happens is when we go for a walk, we always see some who are chatting, or some who are this or some who are that. Make more dhikr-e-qalbi.
Boot Camp of Dhikr
When we come to it’ikaf we realize how weak we are. Have you ever seen an athlete in intensive training say that they can not train? Have you ever seen someone who goes for the spring training to a camp who says I am not able to do it? Have ever you seen a soldier in boot camp who says I cannot do it?
It’ikaf is like boot camp. It is intensive training. We do push you, but we do it out of love for you. I know you can do it.
Proof that all of you can do Dhikr-e-Katheer from Qur’an
Allah does not obligate anyone beyond his capacity. [2:286]
And Allah swt told us:
If Allah swt told us to remember Him excessively, that very same Allah swt has already placed in us the ability to remember Him excessively. Allah swt never commanded us to do something that we are not capable of doing. Do not think that there maybe some people who can make dhikr-e- katheer, but that is not me.
Tasawwuf is for Everyone
Every single one of “Alazeena aamano” is capable of doing dhikr-e-katheer. Tasawwuf is not for some unique and special people who have a temperament of dhikr. The only question is that are you “alazeena aamano” or not? It is not a question of whether I am a dhikr type of person, or am I an ilm type of person, or am I a tabligh type of person, or am I a khidmah-al-imdad type of person.
Deen came to finish this that what kind of a person you are. Deen came to make you the type of person who is a mu’min. When Allah swt says “Ya ayyuhal lazeena aamano” Allah swt says, do this, feel this. That is who we are supposed to become.
Why are you worried about who you are? Look ahead at what you are supposed to become. Look at what Allah swt wants you to become. So when Allah swt says “Ya ayyuhal lazeena aamano”. You know when you would want to hear this? You would want to hear this on the Day of Judgment.
You would want your Allah swt to call you and say: Ya ayyuhalazeena aamano – O you who had imaan! In this world when you heard my Qur’an, and you heard me say “ya ayyuhal lazeena aamano”, you responded; you did it. So now on Day of Judgment, Allah swt will call you “ya ayyuhal lazeena amano”; O you who had imaan! You said labbaik to this call in the dunya, now I ask you to come inside Jannah.
How we should feel about Allah swt Addressing us in Qur’an
Our whole life is for the sake of this call “ya ayyuhal lazeena aamano”. We should be so happy that Ya Rabb e Kareem! You even addressed us; You honored and graced us by choosing to address us. We were nothing. We are mortal creature. We are impure and deficient.
We should think:
Ya Allah you want me to remember You? This is the vision you have for me? This is what you think I should be doing; that I remember You? Ya Allah I got deluded!
The world was telling me I should remember it. The actors were telling me that I should remember them. The celebrities were telling me that I should remember them. The news was telling me that I should remember it. The cars were telling me that I should remember them. Everything was calling me to remember them.
But ya Allah now that I know that you called me to remember You, I do not hearken or heed anybody else’s call anymore. I have no interest in those other things. Now all I want is to remember You.
A Sweet Invitation from Allah swt
Allah swt is saying remember Me a lot; remember Me when you are alone; remember Me in gathering; remember Me when you are sad; remember Me when you are happy; remember Me in masjid; remember Me in home; remember Me all the time. That is what I want you to do. It is a sweet invitation from Allah swt. Such a kind and merciful Allah swt.
Why do You Allah swt want us to remember You? I want you to remember Me, because actually I want to remember you.
Allah swt tells us that if you remember Me I will remember you, and I want you to remember Me a lot.
Secret Comes Out
The secret comes out that Allah swt wanted to remember us a lot. Allah swt wants to remember us all the time. What a kind and wonderful Allah. How can we not remember that Allah who wants to remember us?
Dhikr is a way of life. It is not something that you do for five or ten minutes. That is why the people who make dhikr are called dhakireen; Allah swt makes it clear in Qur’an that there will be people who take this call and make it their way of life.
وَٱلذَّٲڪِرِينَ ٱللَّهَ كَثِيرً۬ا وَٱلذَّٲڪِرَٲتِ
…and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember (Him)… [33:35]
There are people who did it; they remembered Allah swt excessively. Their whole life became dhikr. Their prayer became dhikr, their home became dhikr, their family became dhikr, their work became dhikr. That is how deep this deen is. We do not realize, we are so caught up in the world, we have navigated the depths of dunya but we do not even know the surface of deen.
We are plunging deep into our careers and professions; knowledge; ideas; wishes. You have to go deep in deen. The way to go deep in deen is by making dhikr of Allah swt.
The Reason we need Mashaikh
All of those verses were there in Qur’an. But this is why we need mashaikh. Just like these verses are in Qur’an but we need fuqaha and mufti to take those verses and extract for us the laws of Shari’ah, and to guide us through fatwa. Similarly, we need our mashaikh and awliya ullah, to take these verses of Qur’an and extract the teachings of hidayah, tazkiyah.
We could have never figured this out on our own. We would have just kept reciting that verse in tarawih or in our own individual recitation. Some people recite the verses in Qur’an that begin with “ya ayyuhal lazeena aamano” but it does not even occur to them that my Allah swt is talking to me; my Allah swt is inviting me; that my Allah swt is asking something of me.
We need guidance and help. We need to be shown, the mashaikh just point the way. They guide and explain and they have made it so clear for us. When we sit with our mashaikh and learn from them, this path of dhikr becomes clear. So much so that we think that ya Rabb, where was I all this time? What have I been doing all these years? Howcome I never learnt this before?
You have to make dhikr of Allah swt as much as you can. make this muraqaba as much as you can. Once it opens up, then there will be a new phase. What happens when you touch gold? Then you get something called yaqeen; you get mushahada; you get that experience.
Absolute Certainty in Faith lies with People of Tasawwuf – Imam al Ghazali rah
This is what Imam al Ghazali rah wrote in his Munqidh you get yaqeen that Allah swt exists because you would have experienced the dhikr of Allah swt. You would know He is real, you would know He is Haqq. It is a great yaqeen. Once you touch that gold then there is no skepticism, agnosticism, doubt, atheism that can ever touch you.
You can be locked up with an atheist for a thousand years, and you can listen to him for a thousand years, it will still not effect you. Because you would have experienced it. You get yaqeen.
That is why Imam al Ghazali rah said that yaqeen lies with the ahl-e-tasawwuf. The greatest yaqeen lies with the anbiya. Obviously none of us can get that. So he said that I went searching to see who next has this yaqeen. And he said that I found the Auliyah Ullah they next had this yaqeen. He has written in his works the name of his own shaykh Hadrat Khwaja Abu Ali Farmadi rah. He taught Imam al Ghazali rah this yaqeen.
When you strike this gold, you get yaqeen. Then you do not have to force yourself to sit anymore. Then you will want to sit. A new phase will start.
A Unique Reason to Pray Salatul Hajah
Our own Shaykh had this practice when he was a young man, that he before making muraqaba he would pray two raka’at Salatul Hajat and then make dua that Ya Rabb e Kareem my need is that no one should disturb me in dhikr. And then he would sit for hours.
We thought Salatul Hajat was only for worldly needs. People pray Salatul Hajat when they have a financial difficulty, or a court case. Our mashaikh understood that the greatest need we have is of deen. Our greatest need is that we need Allah swt.
That is also something that you can do in it’ikaf; pray salatul Hajah in the middle of the night and tell Allah swt You are my need. You are my be all end all. If you start talking to Allah swt like that you will see things happen. Allah swt answers the call of the caller. Allah swt answers the yearning of the one who yearns for Him.
Example of a Saqi: Presenting our Hearts to Allah swt
Like Maulana Rum rah said that water is thirsty for the one who thirsts for it. All you have to learn is this thirst. You do not even need to learn how to drink. You just need to learn the thirst, Allah swt Himself will give you to drink.
In Arabic-Persian they have a word for this called “Saqi”. Saqi is the one who gives to drink. In Arabic/Persian poetry they talk about Saqi. Saqi means Allah swt. And the bowl or the cup is your heart. You have to present the cup to the One who gives to drink. That is muraqaba. You are just sitting and presenting your cup.
May Allah swt reward our mashaikh-e-Naqshband that they opened up this path of dhikr-e-qalib. It is so clear from Qur’an. It is a Qur’anic dhikr. May Allah swt accept us for this path. May He make us true to our mashaikh. May Allah swt accept me to teach you properly the teachings of our mashaikh. May you get everything pure and prestige from their teachings. May Allah swt help and guide you on this path.