Invocation (Dhikr)

Just as our physical body entails nutritive diet to stay healthy, our esoteric self (soul) also needs nourishing to stay in good health. The nourishment to our esoteric self is the invocation (dhikr/ zikr) of Allah. It is the saying of Allah:

 اَلَا بِذِکۡرِ اللّٰہِ تَطۡمَئِنُّ الۡقُلُوۡبُ.  الرعد     (28)

Meaning: Know that it is the remembrance of Allah alone that brings calm to the inwards.  (Al-Ra’d 28)

What is invocation (dhikr)? Sultan Bahoo says about this:

  • Invocation (dhikr) is a Divine light (an-Nur) which grants Divine presence.
  • Invocation is an everlasting ecstasy which grants people of invocation the union with Allah. (Nur-ul-Huda Kalan)

Shah Sayyid Mohammad Zauqi says:

Remembering Allah with the presence of inward by forgetting everyone hindered in His remembrance in an effort to gain divulgence of His closeness and company is known as invocation. (Sirr-e-Dilbaran)

Evidence of invocation in Quran

Several verses of the Quran provide evidence on the importance of invocation (dhikr). Below we reference a few:

فَاذۡکُرُوۡنِیۡۤ اَذۡکُرۡکُمۡ   (البقرہ      152)

Meaning: So remember Me, (and) I shall remember you. (Al-Baqarah 152)

یٰۤاَیُّہَاالَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوا اذۡکُرُوا اللّٰہَ ذِکۡرًا کَثِیۡرًا۔وَّ سَبِّحُوۡہُ بُکۡرَۃً وَّ اَصِیۡلًا۔  (  الاحزاب   42۔41)

Meaning: O believers! Keep remembering Allah abundantly. And glorify Him morning and evening. (Al-Ahzab 41-42)

وَ الذّٰکِرِیۡنَ اللّٰہَ کَثِیۡرًا وَّ الذّٰکِرٰتِ ۙ اَعَدَّ اللّٰہُ لَہُمۡ مَّغۡفِرَۃً وَّ اَجۡرًا عَظِیۡمًا.   (الاحزاب    35)

Meaning: And the men who remember Allah abundantly and the women who remember Allah very much, Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a mighty award. (Al-Ahzab 35)

وَ اذۡکُرۡ رَّبَّکَ کَثِیۡرًا وَّ سَبِّحۡ بِالۡعَشِیِّ وَ الۡاِبۡکَارِ .   (آل عمران    41)

Meaning: And remember your Lord abundantly and glorify Him persistently, evening and morning. (Al Imran 41)

Hadiths mentioning the virtues of invocation

  • In a Qudsi Hadith, Allah says:

The invokers are my companions. (Musnad Imam Ahmad)

Numerous Hadiths of the Holy Prophet sall’ Allahu alayhi wa’alihi wassallam also indicate the importance of invocation (dhikr). Few are mentioned below:

·         An invoker of Allah and a non-invoker are not the same

Abu Musa al-Ashari razi Allah anhu relates that the Holy Prophet said:

The one who invokes the name of his Lord and the one who does not, are like the living and the dead. (Bukhari and Muslim)

·         Better are the gatherings of invocation

It is related by Anas ibn Malik razi Allah anhu that Prophet Mohammad said:

“When you come upon the gardens of Paradise, then feed on them.”

The Companions asked:

“O Messenger of Allah! What are the gardens of Paradise?”

The Holy Prophet then answered:

 “Indeed they are the gatherings of invocation (dhikr).” (Al-Tirmidhi)

·         Men and women who invoke excessively

Abu Huraira narrates that Prophet Mohammad was walking through a street of Makkah when he happened to pass by a mountain called Jumdan. He said:

“Proceed on, it is Jumdan, Mufarradun have gone ahead.”

The Companions asked, O Messenger of Allah! Who are Mufarradun?

He replied:

“Those men and women who invoke Allah abundantly.” (Muslim)

·         Most excellent of all the deeds is the invocation

Abu Darda narrates that Prophet Mohammad said:

“Shall I not tell you about your best deed which is most pure near your Lord and also raises your ranks, is better than spending gold and silver in the way of Allah and even better than fighting with your enemy while you behead them or they behead you?”

The Companions said:

“Yes, O Messenger of Allah.”

 The Holy Prophet then said,

“It is the invocation of Allah.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

·         Invocation is the source of salvation from the punishment of Allah

Mu’adh ibn Jabal razi Allah anhu narrates that the Messenger of Allah said:

 There is nothing that is greater cause of salvation from the punishment of Allah than invocation of Allah. (Al-Tirmidhi)

·         I am as My slave thinks of Me

Allah says in a Qudsi Hadith:

I am as My slave thinks of Me. When he remembers Me, I am with him. If he remembers Me within himself, I also remember him within Myself. When he remembers Me in a gathering, I also remember him in a gathering better than it. If he draws closer to Me a hands length, I draw closer to him a cubit. When he steps towards Me a cubit, I step towards him a fathom. If he comes to me walking, My Compassion goes to him running. (Muslim, Kitab al-Dhikr, Kitab al-Tauheed, Bukhari, Al-Tirmidi)


Importance of invocation

from the quotes of Saints and scholars

Sultan Bahoo

  • Invocation is a favour bestowed upon the invoker from Allah’s court and is also a persuasion from the court of the Holy Prophet sall’ Allahu alayhi wa’alihi wassallam.
  • The one who remains occupied in the invocation of Allah becomes second of the Khidr and the one who remains oblivious eventually becomes even more abandoned. (Nur-ul-Huda Kalan)

Ibn Ata Allah al-Iskandari

As a result of invocation inward gains eternal presence of Allah’s court, and hence liberation from forgetfulness and oblivion. It is also stated that invocation means to invoke the personal name of Allah (Ism-e-Allah Zaat) or any of His attributive names repetitively. Similarly obeying His commands, actions and all other acts which are a source of gaining His closeness are forms of invocation. (Miftah Al-Falah Pg 4)

Imam Abu al-Qasim Tasheeri

Invocation is indeed a charter of sainthood, pillar of the union with Allah, indication of travelling the path of Faqr, and also a sign to reach the destination. In brief, nothing is superior to invocation. In fact, all mannerly habits, which return from invocation, in fact originate from invocation. (Tasawwuf Ky Roshan Haqaiq)

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya

Undoubtedly inward becomes rusted like gold and copper. Its sanctification is thus possible through invocation which makes inward like a shiny mirror. But when one relinquishes the invocation, it becomes rusty again. Inward becomes rusted for two reasons namely:

  • Oblivion
  • Sin

And it can be sanctified also with two things:

  • Seeking forgiveness
  • Invocation

Imam Fakhruddin al-Razi

The cause of entering hell is the obliviousness from invocation of Allah, whereas salvation from hell punishment is possible only through invocation. Moreover, people of love and passion say:

When inward becomes forgetful of the remembrance of Allah, it eventually becomes entangled in lust and greed by turning towards the world and its desires. Then it moves from one affection to another and from one desire to another desire to the point where darkness surrounds it.  But when the door of invocation and gnosis of Allah opens on the inward, one gains salvation from all these troubles and problems and acquires sense of gnosis of Allah. (Tafsir al-Kabir, Imam al-Razi Vol 4 Pg 274)

Shaikh Ahmad Zarruq

The importance of maxims, actions and grandees are a proven reality, but the importance of invocation is evident to be above all of them. That is to say, no deed is superior to invocation in protecting one from Allah’s punishment. (Qawa’id Tasawwuf-Ahmad Zarruq)

Ahmad ibn Ajiba

One reaches the state of submission to Allah’s will only when he covers these initial stages of Faqr:

1) He remains engrossed in the invocation of Majesty’s name (Allah). But this is possible only for the one who has gained permission of invocation from a perfectly accomplished spiritual guide.

2) He has also attained then company of invokers.

3) He acts strictly in accordance with sharia of Prophet Mohammad. (Tasawwuf Ky Roshan Haqaiq)

In the light of Quran and Hadiths and also from the sayings of Saints, it is clear that the practical way of gaining Divine gnosis and submission to Allah’s will is remembering Allah excessively and adopting the company of invokers. It is to emphasize that their company truly removes the evils of inciting innerself due to which inward becomes like a clean mirror and hence witnesses Divine theophanies of gnosis of Allah.


Forms of Invocation

While discussing the forms of invocation, Shaikh Abu Saeed says:

There are three categories of invocation:

  • In the first category, the invoker invokes habitually. That is, he invokes with tongue, but his inward remains unaware of the invocation.
  • In the second category, the invoker invokes with tongue while inward also remains present in the invocation. To clarify, the seeker of Allah, however, does not benefit even through this kind of invocation.
  • Third category of invocation is where inward invokes while the tongue remains silent. The importance of this way of invocation is not known to anyone except Allah. (Sultan-ul-Waham)

Shaikh Abdul Qadir Isa Shazli explains in Haqaiq ‘an Tasawwuf the two types of invocation:

1) Secret and loud invocation

2) Inward invocation and the invocation with tongue

Secret and loud invocation

Allah Almighty says:

And invoke your Lord with your breath. With humility and tearful submissiveness and secretly and without loud voice. (Al-A’raf 205)

The above-mentioned verse provides evidence of secret invocation.

Ibn Abbas relates that in the era of Prophet Mohammad sall’ Allahu alayhi wa’alihi wassallam loud invocation was common after mandatory prayers. He says:

“When I used to hear the voice of invocation, I would know that people were coming from after offering the prayer.” (Hadith)

Some scholars are of the view that invocation can be done partially in a loud voice and partially in a silently. Because when the invoker gets tired by invoking silently, he should gain energy by invoking loudly and when he gets tired by invoking loud, he can then continue silently.

Both silent and loud invocations are permissible

Invocation of Allah is indeed permissible both silently and in a loud voice. Prophet Mohammad drew attention towards both kinds. Various Hadiths persuade invocation in loud voice while others encourage silent invocation. The scholars of Sharia are of the view that loud invocation is better as long as it is free from show off and also when it doesn’t cause pain to someone praying, reciting, or sleeping. (Tasawwuf Ky Roshan Haqaiq)

Divine vision is possible through invocation

Invocation is in fact the essence of Divine vision. The invocation through which the invoker does not gain Divine vision is a mere imagination.

Sultan Bahoo says:

ذکر بہ رساند بہ دیدارِ خدا

جز بدیدارش ذکر کی باشد روا

Meaning: Invocation grants the vision of Allah. How is an invocation beneficial if it does not grant the vision of Allah (Nur-ul-Huda Kalan)

Furthermore, he says:

Only an invocation which is done with concentration is better and bears beneficence. People of invocation (Fakirs) are bestowed with such invocation since pre- existence. (Nur-ul-Huda Kalan)

Invocation done without concentration is a wastage of time

Without concentration, invocation with tongue in a loud voice is only a wastage of time and energy. Moreover, the inward of an invoker is not enlightened with such invocation rather it becomes dark and arrogant. Hence an invocation that does not grant the invoker, the gnosis of Allah, must be repented thousand times. It is important to realize that an invocation without concentration causes the invoker to fall on face.

As stated in the Hadith below:

اَلذِّکْرُ بِلَا فِکْرِ کَصَوْتِ الْکَلْبَ۔

Meaning: Invoking (verbally) without reflection is like the barking of a dog. (Ain-ul-Faqr)

Remember Allah with love and submission

Innovation is the remembrance and a praise of Allah Almighty. How could a remembrance without love, and a praise without reverence be beneficial to the invoker? Consider, for example, all humans whether a child, young or old, value their self-respect highly. Everyone desires to be addressed politely and softly. Being called out loud and in harsh tone is displeasing, which as a result, escalates the situation instead of diffusing it. Now when an ordinary human is so possessive about his self-esteem then how is it better to call Allah, the Lord of the worlds, in a loud voice without keeping the etiquettes of humility? In addition, invoking in a loud voice calls for an element of show-off.

To clarify, we state the quote of Sultan Bahoo:

Invocation is not related to voice. Had it been related to voice then pigeons, doves, parrots, and other birds also invoke Ya Hoo with voice. (Nur-ul-Huda Kalan)

Sultan Bahoo also writes in his book Sultan-ul-Waham:

The Holy Prophet said that Allah will by angry with the person who does the invocation of Allah just verbally and his inward is not involved in this invocation.  Prophet Mohammad also said: Curse upon the person who prays Allah just physically and his esoteric self and soul are not with him. (Sultan-ul-Waham)

Inward invocation

and the invocation with tongue

Imam Nawawi says:

Invocation can be performed inwardly as well as verbally. However, the admirable invocation is to invoke inward and verbal invocation simultaneously. The better among these two is nonetheless the inward invocation. But along with invoking, the sole intention and purpose of invoker should be to submit to Allah’s will. (Tasawwuf Ky Roshan Haqaiq)

Al-Ghazali says:

It is revealed upon the people of discernment that most excellent of all actions is the invocation. However, it is covered in three layers after which is the essence.  These layers which are mentioned below are significant because they are a pathway to the essence:

1) Verbal invocation (lisani dhikr)

2) Inward invocation, whereas it must be in accordance with the inward to the point that the inward remains present. If the inward is not present in invocation it would eventually be lost in the dales of thoughts.

3) Invocation becomes so strengthened and dominant in the inward that it would require an effort to turn the inward towards a stranger (anyone except Allah), just like otherwise it would require an effort to turn the inward towards invocation. (Tasawwuf Ky Roshan Haqaiq)

Which invocation is better?

About this Prophet Mohammad said:

اُذْکُرُوْا ذِکْرًا خَامِدًا اَیْ خُفْیًا۔

Meaning: Invoke Allah silently and secretly.

Sultan Bahoo also tells about the greatest invocation:

Shaikh Aminuddin Kazrooni mentions in his book that the Holy Prophet said:

خَیْرُ الذِّکْرُ الْخَفِی

Meaning: The greatest invocation is the secret invocation (invocation without voice, i.e., through breaths).

If someone asks about the secret invocation and wants to know whether the secret invocation is better or the loud, then I will answer him that the secret invocation is better, but it does not mean that you invoke in low tones or without making sound. If you are invoking with your tongue, even if you are not making sound (i.e. in the form of whispering), it is the invocation of tongue not the secret invocation. In fact, secret invocation is better and above than the invocation of heart (cardiac muscular organ placed on the left side of chest), invocation of soul and even the invocation of core. (Sultan-ul-Waham)


Commandment of Invoking Ism-e-Allah Zaat

Since there are different words (kalimat) for invocation and each word has its own specific influence and efficacy on the inward, hence the Saints who are physicians of soul and successors of the Holy Prophet in education and training, allow their disciples to invoke a certain invocation.  What is this invocation? It is the invocation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. Allah says in the Quran:

وَ اذۡکُرِ اسۡمَ رَبِّکَ بُکۡرَۃً وَّ اَصِیۡلًا    (الدَّھر۔25)

Meaning: And remember the Name of your Lord (Ism-e-Allah Zaat) morning and evening. (Al-Dahr 25)

The Holy Prophet thereupon said:

Doomsday will not occur until there remains invocation of Allah on this Earth.

Shaikh Junayd of Baghdad says:

The invoker of Ism-e-Allah Zaat remains unaware of his existence and united with his Lord. Therefore, he remains in strict accordance with the commands of Allah, and his esoteric self remains occupied in Divine observations to the point that these observations of Divine light and theophanies burn his human attributes. (Tasawwuf Ky Roshan Haqaiq)

Invocation is the essence of all worships

Sultan Bahoo says about invocation (dhikr):

Invocation (dhikr) is the real worship. It is the foundation of union with Allah. Invocation (dhikr) is the gnosis of Allah. It is the observation of Miraj. The contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat is an invocation which blesses the invoker with Divine observation and observation of Divine light of vision. (Nur-ul-Huda Kalan)

He further says:

Whoever desires to be an invoker of Allah must always remain exalted in Divine vision in Allah’s court by staying occupied in the invocation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. (Nur-ul-Huda Kalan)

How to Invoke Ism-e-Allah Zaat?

Now the point to ponder is how to invoke and contemplate the name of Allah? To answer this Allah says in the Quran:

Meaning: So (O Muslims,) when you have finished your Prayers, invoke Allah (in all postures) standing, sitting, and (lying down) on your sides. (Al-Nisa 103)

In the explanation of this verse, the perfect spiritual guide of the present time Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman writes:

In this verse ‘lying on your sides’ refers to ‘sleeping’, i.e. one has to invoke while sleeping also. During sleep only the invocation through breathing is possible because the breath does not stop even while sleeping. (Haqeeqat-e-Ism-e-Allah Zaat)


Most excellent invocation

is the invocation with breaths

The best invocation (dhikr) is the invocation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat and the best way is to invoke with breaths.

The Holy Prophet says about this:

Breaths are few and the breath exhaled without the invocation of name of Allah is dead.

While explaining the aforesaid Hadith Sultan Bahoo says:

جو دَم غافل سو دم کافر، سانوں مرشد ایہہ پڑھایا ھُو

Explanation: The spiritual guide has taught me that a breath without the invocation of Allah is heathen.

Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman says in his book:

 With the invocation of breaths (invoking and contemplating Ism-e-Allah Zaat with breaths), the invoker’s opprobrious acts are converted into noble qualities. Thus his disposition becomes pure and he gets attributed with the attributes of Allah, thereupon, becoming eligible for Allah’s proximity, union, and vision. Allah then annihilates him in His Divine light and he then ever stays with Allah esoterically. As a result, he reaches at the station of annihilation in Allah and becomes immortal with Him. (Haqeeqat-e-Ism-e-Allah Zaat)

Invocation with breaths opens the doors of spiritual world (the path of Faqr)

Though invocation (dhikr) by tongue is a source of getting reward and higher ranks in heaven but the invocation that truly opens the doors of spiritual world is the invocation (dhikr) with breaths (pas infas) and is known as king of invocations (Sultan-ul-Azkar) (Haqeeqat-e-Ism-e-Allah Zaat)

It becomes clear in the light of Quran, Hadiths, and the sayings of perfect Fakirs that the seeker of Allah cannot gain Divine closeness and vision until his esoteric self is purified of inciting innerself, world and Satan through the invocation (dhikr) and contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. Physical deeds certainly are a source of gaining rewards but not the gnosis of Allah. For this reason, the seeker of Truth should search for a Sarwari Qadri perfect and accomplished spiritual guide who shall grant his disciple (invocation) of Ism-e-Allah Zaat the very first day of oath of allegiance. Thus when one finds such a spiritual guide, he must adopt his slavery with submissiveness and sincerity so that he could gain the beneficence of invocation (dhikr) and contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat with the benevolence of his spiritual guide.

Where to get the beneficence of invocation and contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat

Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman is the spiritual successor of Sultan-ul-Faqr VI Sultan Mohammad Asghar Ali. He is the 31st perfect Shaikh of Sarwari Qadri order and is truly on the footsteps of the Holy Prophet. Thousands of fortunate seekers of Allah from all over the world have gained beneficence of gnosis of Allah by taking oath of allegiance on his hands and obtaining invocation (dhikr) and contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. Thousands are traveling the stages of the path of Faqr. May Allah prosperous his beneficence, health and well-being and grants us his submissive and sincere slavery. Ameen

ذکر is an Urdu article of the magazine “Mahnama Sultan-ul-Faqr Lahore” for the month of July 2019. Originally penned by Anila Yaseen Sarwari Qadri is presently in English by Sofia Sultan Sarwari Qadri exclusively for the website. Do not forget to visit the original article to which you only have to click the link:

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