God is present in every aspect of our daily lives. He did not create the world as an experiment, step back, and watch what would happen. He is intimately involved; and as Muslims we are called by the Quran and the example of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to always make dhikr and be aware of God’s presence.
Likewise, God created humans with free will, expressed primarily in our ability to accept or reject His messages and commands. You don’t have to pray, fast, or give charity; but not doing so will mean paying the consequences in both this life and the next.
The balance between free will and the ever-presence and dominance of God’s power is one that has perplexed scholars of theology for centuries. Different schools of thought formed around each position and were in existence before the coming of Islam with the ancient Greeks.
Over time Muslims, as we are also called to do in the Quran, developed a middle path; we accept both the ultimate power of God’s will as well as humanity’s ability (and necessity) to shape our own destiny.
In our current world, where individuality reigns triumphant over all other concerns, the importance of maintaining that balance has become ever the more critical.
The Quran has provided us with the key to resetting the scales and bringing our lives back to where they should be. Through the practice, known as Dhikr, or the remembrance of God, we can help train our minds and spirits to avoid obstacles to our faith and guide us back to the Straight Path of Islam.
Dhikr takes many shapes and forms. This article outlines just some of the ways that each of us can incorporate remembrance into our daily lives.
1- Reading the Quran
God’s words are, as mentioned by the Prophet Muhammad, the best of speech. I might suggest, as I have in the past, that dedicating time to reading passages of the Quran every day is an important practice. That still holds true; but even reciting the shortest of passages or chapters in a moment of tension can alleviate stress and help center yourself.
Take chapter Al-Ikhlas (Chapter 112), the shortest chapter of the entire Quran. Even though it contains only four verses, it constitutes one third of the message contained in the Quran:
God is absolute, One, without origin or progeny, and unlike anything else that exists in Creation.
This is the core of Tawhid (Unity of God) and one-half of everything that you need to become a Muslim (with the other accepting His Messenger).
2- Learning, Understanding, and Reciting the Names of God
Ninety-nine in total, the Names of God cover every aspect of His power and influence. Learn them, understand what they mean; use them regularly when calling out to God in your Du’a, or merely when you have a quiet moment alone.
One of the more interesting aspects you will realize about these names is their comprehensiveness. Unlike other religious traditions that see God as only a source for good in the world, you will find many names of God in Islam that seem to stand out differently like “The Most Proud (Al-Mutakabbir)” and “The Abaser (Al-Khafid).” This is because the focus is not the value judgement of God’s power; but rather understanding that God’s power is absolute, and that to find another source of power equal to or greater than God is to commit the sin of associating partners with Him.
3- Connect Yourself to the Prophet (PBUH)
As a moral example for all of humanity the life, sayings, and actions of the Prophet Muhammad act as an important way to grow in faith and remember God.
Pick up the famous book of 40 Hadith by Al-Nawawi for starters; learn what scholars for centuries have recommended as essential for every Muslim to know about their Prophet.
Learn what you can about the Prophet’s life and circumstances. Then, make simple adjustments to your life to incorporate the Prophet’s Sunnah. This could be something as simple as doing the “extras” when you perform wudu or prayer; or even smiling more and being calm and collected in times of tribulation.
4- Find a Community of Remembrance
Finally, re-establishing your balance with God can never be completed alone. Find yourself a community or a group of friends that help you focus on your faith.
For some people that means finding a Sufi circle that conducts regular Dhikr sessions. From those who want to sit quietly and remember God, to physically active groups that will have you sweating by the end of their sessions, there are Sufi groups for a range of different tastes. It doesn’t have to be this way and Sufi practices are not for everybody.
Keeping close to your local mosque community and gathering together for a dinner can be just as beneficial. Maintaining and fostering those connections to other Muslims, no matter how hard it can be at times, is also one of the best ways to remember God.
In conclusion, the lives we live are constantly thrown out of balance. The pressure is on almost everywhere to forget about God and others; and we focus only on pleasing our own personal material desires.
Only through Dhikr and the constant remembrance of God can this balance be re-established. There is no one specific way to accomplish this; and the Quran and Sunnah have given us a collection of tools.
Each one works for a different person at a different time, but all at the end of the day have one goal in mind: Helping you realize that it is not you that is the center of Creation, but God.
(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)