What is the ruling on circles of dhikr?
What is the ruling on circles of dhikr?
Circles of dhikr (remembrance of God) is a sunna that is established by evidences in the Shari’ah (Islamic law). God ordained it in the Qur’an by saying, “Restrain yourself along with those who cry unto their Lord at morning and evening, seeking His Countenance” [Al-Kahf:28], and the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said, “God Most High has angels who roam the earth seeking out gatherings of dhikr. When they find a group of people invoking God they call out to each other and say, ‘Come to that which you seek!’ and they enfold them with their wings stretching up to the sky…And God says [to the angels], ‘You are My witnesses, I have forgiven them.’ The angels say, ‘So-and-so is not one of them, he only came for a personal need.’ God replies, ‘The one who sits with them will not be wretched.’ ”
According to Mu’awiyah, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) came upon a gathering of his Companions and asked them, “What has brought you together here?” They replied, “We have gathered to invoke and praise [God] for guiding us to Islam and blessing us.” He said, “Jibril came and told me that God is boasting to the angels about you.” In his book Riyad Al-Salihin, al-Nawawi placed the first hadith under the chapter heading, “Circles of Dhikr.”
Dhikr has many meanings in Islamic legal terminology. These include: the mere mention of God’s essence, attributes, actions, or rulings; the recitation of Qur`an; supplicating and beseeching God and praising Him through His sanctity and exaltation, unity, praise, thanks, and glorification. There is no evidence to support the claim that the sessions of religious study is what is intended here by circles of dhikr.
Al-San’ani mentions the hadith recorded by Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurayrah who said, “The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘No group of people gathers to invoke God except that angels surround them, mercy descends upon them, and God mentions them to those in His presence.” Then he [al-San’ani] says, “This hadith indicates the virtues of gathering for the purpose of making dhikr. Al-Bukhari recorded that, “Angels roam the earth seeking gatherings of dhikr. When they find a group of people invoking God they call out to each other, ‘Come to that which you seek!’ and they enfold them with their wings stretching up to the sky… .” So one of the virtues of gatherings for the purpose of making dhikr is that the angels are in attendance after having sought them out. What is meant by dhikr is the glorification and praise [of God], the recitation of Qur`an, and similar acts of worship.
In the hadith narrated by al-Bazzar, God Most High asks the angels, “What are my servants doing?” Even though he knows better than they, they reply, “They glorify Your divinity, recite Your Book, pray for Your prophet, and ask of you concerning their worldly lives and their afterlives.”
The literal meaning of dhikr is invocation made by the tongue, and whoever utters it is rewarded. It is not a condition to be conscious of the meaning [of dhikr]; rather it is a condition not to intend other than God in one’s dhikr. It is more optimal to add the invocation of the heart to the invocation of the tongue. Adding to this a consciousness of the meaning of the invocation along with what it comprises of glorifying God and negating all shortcomings on His behalf. This is even more optimal if this occurs during a mandatory act of righteousness, like prayer, jihad, and the like. It is most optimal if it is done sincerely for God.
Based on the above, gathering to invoke God by reciting Qur`an, studying religious knowledge, or glorifying God [by saying ‘subhan Allah’], acknowledging His Oneness [by saying ‘la ilaha illa Allah’], and praising Him [by saying ‘al-hamdu lillah’] is one of the sunnas that our Lord encouraged us to perform in the Qur`an, and is the correct and incontrovertible sunna of His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
And God is Most High and Knows best.