Dhikr: Your Most Effective Means for Stress Relief

Dhikr The Most Effective Stress Relief - GSalam.Net

Outline

Introduction

Alhamdulillah… Infinite praise and thanks are due to the Almighty Allah, who has promised forgiveness and great rewards for those who engage in regular dhikr. Complete blessings and salutations go to the best man who ever engaged in dhikr, Sayyidinā Muhammad, his household, his companions, and all those who follow his guided path until the end of time.

Stress has always been a part of the human exprience. But life has never been more stressful than it is today. According to the UK’s Daily Mail, a key study by the Office of National Statistics found that one in ten children in the UK suffer from mental health problems, including stress, anxiety and depression. Children are taken care of by adults and should be enjoying their childhood with nothing to be worried about. If children are complaining about having a stressful life, what about their adult caregivers?

Too much stress has many negative implications. Stress leads to anxiety and depression, which can generate mental and physical health problems. Thus, the need for helpful means to deal with stress is a necessity and not merely a luxury.

This article presents a very effective stress relief, namely dhikr. After defining dhikr, the article outlines eight benefits of dhikr, as well as five forms of dhikr. But before doing that,  the article will discuss the relationship between spirituality and relaxation.

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Relaxation and Spirituality

Stress relief is achieved through relaxation. People seek relaxation through many ways, such as physical stretching and exercise. Having a good sleep is also a good way to achieve relaxation. Some listen to music while others talk to trusted friends in order to de-stress.  Some take drugs for relaxation. Although all of the above may be effective to some certain degrees, the most effective means to achieve relaxation is, in fact, spiritual in nature.

Spirituality has everything to do with faith, belief and the unseen. It’s believed that there’re some unseen forces that assist us when we become physically helpless. Like happenings in the seen world, happenings in the unseen world can be good or evil, depending on the means followed to attain them and depending on the forces backing them.

This explains when Sayyidunā Mūsā and his followers escaped from the oppression of Fir‘aun through the Red Sea. Sayyidunā Mūsā and his followers were exhausted and had reached the limit of human capacity. Then, when his followers almost gave up, Sayyidunā Mūsā activated his means of the unseen energy. He referred to the support of Allah (the unseen force). In a blink of an eye, and to the surprise of everyone, including the tyrants, Fir’aun and his supporters, the sea opened, creating still and high walls, paving a clear and dry path for Mūsā and his followers to pass through.

Fir‘aun used magic (evil) as his spiritual means for aid, but he didn’t hesitate from following Mūsā and his followers through the ‘just-emerged’ walls in the sea. He failed to realize that the unseen forces that backed him were not coequals to those backing Mūsā and his followers.

This incident, likewise as well as numerous similar incidents, remain as the most undoubted lessons for anyone seeking the truth.  It also shows that spirituality can be good or evil, depending on its sources and motives.

When you are stressed out, you think about taking a break. When you take a break, you probably go to the Maldives, the Caribbean, Mauritius or you escape to Madagascar. Your change of mind probably goes for Korea, Japan or Paris. Not long after you return from your holidays, however, you once again begin accumulating more stress. The problem is, but you are not always aware of it, you accumulate stress every day. But you cannot take a holiday every time you wish to reduce your stress levels.

Similarly, you probably can’t afford to work out every day, so to have a good sleep and possibly wake up to a fresh morning and a productive day.  However, you can practice spiritual stress relief activities every day, and remain in a state of relative contentment.

It’s not a coincidence that the Qur’an enjoins us to engage in constant remembrance of Allah. For that earns us the good we know and the good we know not. The good we know includes, primarily, peace of mind; a crucial element and outcome of relaxation. This is understood from the verse of Sūrah al-Ra‘d, 13:28, where Allah says:

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ، أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

“Those who believe and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah, surely in the remembrance of Allah hearts can find comfort.”

Modern day motivational speakers encourage us to generate positive vibes with which we can overcome our negative vibes and thus reduce stress and achieve peace of mind.

It’s important to note that how you generate positive vibes varies from one mentor, teacher, trainer, or coach to another. In other words, some means of generating positive vibes may be permissible in Islam, while some may not. If the means you follow to generate your positive vibes is permissible in Islam, then the vibes are good and should be positive. But if the means followed is otherwise, then the vibes you generate can’t be good, and it’s therefore negative. Anything which has been made impermissible by Allah is ultimately not good for us.  However, engaging in regular dhikr generates positive vibes and earns you benefits far beyond merely generating positive vibes.

So what is dhikr and what makes it significant?

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What is Dhikr?

Dhikr (ذِكْر) is an Arabic word. It refers to remembrance. The complete phrase used to refer to Allah-remembrance is dhikrullāh/dhikr Allāh (ذِكْرُ الله).

Although dhikr means remembrance of Allah, it doesn’t apply when someone mentions Allah for the evil reason, either to misguide, mislead or cheat others. It’s also not applicable when someone mentions Allah in a disobedient or challenging manner, instead of worshiping Him.

The opposite of dhikr (remembrance) is ghaflah (heedlessness).

In my article, secrets of Dhikr, I mentioned some secrets and why there is such a strong emphasis on performing dhikr.  The article also discusses the importance of dhikr, as it highlights why we’re encouraged to make dhikr at the marketplace and even during war. Two crucial situations if you ever find yourself in. Please check that article out here.

Now, let’s look at some of the benefits of dhikr.

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Some 8 Benefits of Dhikr

The benefits of generating positive vibes lies in overcoming the negative ones. Similarly, any form of relaxation, be it meditation, physical exercise, holidaying, talking to a friend or the like, may be effective, depending on how it’s done, and the possible motives behind it. But no matter how effective they can be, the effectiveness of dhikr is more impactful and everlasting.

Additionally, the benefits of dhikr gives you many rewards in this life as well as the hereafter. The rewards you reap in both worlds equally consist of the good we know and the good we know not.

The following are eight benefits one can reap by engaging in continual dhikr.

#1: Dhikr Purifies Your Soul

Purification of the soul (tazkiyah al-nafs) ensures your heart desires that which is permissible and lawful. Your heart also quietly rejects all sorts of evil. With a purified heart, you can easily overcome bad heart traits, i.e., hatred, jealousy, hypocrisy, arrogance, pride, and lust. It’s very difficult to make dhikr genuinely while one embraces a sinful act or persists in committing immoralities! This takes place after one has successfully reclaimed his heart.

Furthermore, one can’t put his full trust and confidence in dhikr until he has developed a sound awareness of the very first pillar of Islam:

لا إله إلّا الله

There’s no god worth of worship except Allah.

The heart becomes ready for purity and purification after everything we can think of becomes less liked and less important, if compared to the love of Allah and for Allah in our hearts.

#2: Dhikr Grants You Tranquillity and Calmness

Imagine you just had to talk to your boss. You were anxious before the meeting. Perhaps you couldn’t predict the outcome of the meeting, considering how difficult, critical and ‘fault-finding’ your boss is. Also, considering how poor your performance addmittedly is, you may feel quite anxious. Fortunately, your boss reassured you that your performance is up to his or her expectations. How do you feel? At ease? Confident? Calm? Hopeful? Energetic? Even more than that. Right? Tonight, you will surely enjoy a very sound sleep. Believe me!

You’ve earned tranquillity and calmness after talking to your boss. You’re now at ease. Your mind is at peace. Just by talking to a fellow human being.

Tranquillity composes you and calms you during challenges, tribulations, calamities and uncertainties. If good news can bring you tranquillity, then rest assured that engaging in dhikr will bring you even more than that. In fact, dhikr enables you to be productive in a way that earns you the trust and confidence of your boss. So, the next time you must meet up with him or her, there will be no reason for you to be anxious, inshā Allah!

With reassurance from Allah, you can’t be but optimistic. You become positive and hopeful. In addition, you also become a source of inspiration to others.

#3: Dhikr Makes Your Thoughts Positive

With peace of mind, your worries have disappeared. Your anxieties are no more. Your morale is high. Your thoughts are more positive than ever.

With positive thoughts, you can appreciate life and be happy. How can your thoughts be anything but positive when you are mindful of Allah and are engaged in His remembrance?

With positive thoughts, you can help yourself and those around you to look at things from a more positive perspective.

#4: Dhikr Renders You Happy

Dhikr fills your heart with happiness, the way not even your morning coffee or the pleasure of shopping can earn you. It’s divinely given. In other words, dhikr earns you the sweetness of Imān. This is to say, when purity of the heart meets with tranquility, and both meet with positive thoughts, you lead a happier life; both physically and spiritually.

Waiting time at bus or train stations and airports can be boring. Staying awake in the bus, train or flight during a long trip is equally boring. The longer you feel it, the more boring it becomes. But with dhikr, you’ll no longer feel bored in your waiting times or longer trips. Boredom takes away happiness, but dhikr brings it back.

#5: Dhikr Brings You Closer to Allah

The more you think of someone, the closer you become or desire to be with that person. If this is true in the case of human-to-human relations, then it’s truer in Allah-to-human relations. In a ḥadīth al-Qudsī reported by Imām al-Bukhārī and Muslim from the narration of Sayyidunā Abū Hurayrah raḍiya Allāhu ‘anhu, the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam says:

يَقُولُ الله تَعَالى: أَنَا عِنْدَ ظَنِّ عَبْدِي بِي، وَأَنَا مَعَهُ إِذَا ذَكَرَنِي، فَإِنْ ذَكَرَنَي فِي نَفْسِهِ، ذَكَرْتُهُ فِي نَفْسِي، وَإِنْ ذَكَرَنِي فِي مَلَإٍ ذَكَرْتُهُ فِي مَلَإٍ خَيْرٍ مِنْهُمْ

“Allah subḥanahū wa ta‘ālā says: ‘I am as my slave expects me to be, and I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers Me inwardly, I will remember him inwardly, and if he remembers Me in an assembly, I will remember him in a better assembly (i.e., in the assembly of angels).”

#6: Dhikr Protects You from all Sorts of Evil

Dhikr grants you protection against any kinds of evil. This is regardless of whether the dhikr you constantly engage in is prescribed for protection or not.

The protection dhikr grants you can be physical as well as spiritual. You are protected from deadly accidents, unless it’s a decreed for you in advance. Even if you have an accident, you are saved miraculously. Also, you’re protected from the evil of others.

#7: Dhikr Grants You Greater Rewards

Any of the above-mentioned benefits stand as a reward for engaging in constant dhikr. But that’s just the beginning. In Sūrah al-Ahzāb, 33:35, Allah says:

وَالذّٰكِرينَ اللَّـهَ كَثيرًا وَالذّٰكِرٰتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّـهُ لَهُم مَغفِرَةً وَأَجرًا عَظيمًا

“and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.”

As for forgiveness (maghfirah), we know that it’s attained after sin has been committed by the son of Adam, and who among us commits no sins? The Arabic word used to refer to reward (ajr) implies any form of reward that can replace, suffice or encompass an effort put in by a person. This means, your reward for a constant engagement in dhikr comes in many forms, not only in the form of stress relief.

And in the next life, you will be welcomed with better rewards.

وَلَدارُ الآخِرَةِ خَيرٌ وَلَنِعمَ دارُ المُتَّقينَ

“But the abode of the Hereafter is even better. The home of the righteous is indeed excellent” (Sūrah al-Naḥl, 16:30).

#8: Dhikr Grants You Success

Engaging in dhikr is one of the various qualities that makes you successful in the sight of Allah, the Almighty. This is understood from the verse of Surah al-Jumu’ah, 62:10, where Allah says:

وَاذكُرُوا اللَّـهَ كَثيرًا لَعَلَّكُم تُفلِحونَ

“And remember Allah often that you may succeed.”

Let us now consider some forms of dhikr.

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Some 5 Forms of Dhikr

There’re several forms of dhikr. Some are prescribed and required, while the rest are optional. But all of them have been practised and or taught by our beloved Prophet, ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam. These forms include, prayers, Qur’an recitation, sending peace and blessings to the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, glorifying Allah in open-ended dhikr, making du‘ā’ and thinking about Allah’s creation.

#1: Prayer

Your boss has tasked to do something. It was a challenging task indeed. But you managed to accomplish it on time. How do you feel? You feel happy. Don’t you? You love yourself for being trustworthy and responsible. You hope to be rewarded fairly, if not abundantly.

Moreover, your stress levels have dropped significantly. Now you look forward to meeting your boss. That’s right. This is exactly how it feels when you show responsibility in responding to Allah’s call to observe and establish prayers timely.

This is to say, punctuality in observing the prescribed prayers is one of the most effective forms of remembering Allah (dhikr). You are not only remembering Him, but you’re also responding to His divine instruction.

Additionally, the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam would hurry to prayer whenever any thought (affair or matter) troubled him.

We attain stress relief in prayers if the prayer is a focused one. Relaxation requires that one switches off from his hectic routine and tune in to a total different activity. It’s called prayer.

One should also plan the verses and supplications he is going to recite in every prayer before hand. This will make your prayer a focused one and merely automated.

In automated prayers, you likely read the same shorter chapters and verses in every prayer. Also, you likely don’t remember if you ever recited any supplication at all. Although you did. You are likely to start an automated prayer with a yawn, after your takbīrah al-iḥrām.

#2: Qur’an recitation

In addition to your work-related stress, you were angered by an incident which has brought you down emotionally. After that, you met up with a trusted friend of yours to whom you poured out all your feelings. He calmed you down with comforting and reassuring words. How do you feel now? You feel relieved. You feel better. You’ve recollected yourself.

What you achieve when you read the Qur’an is more than what you’ve just achieved after speaking to your trusted friend. No matter what problem you’re undergoing, reading a chapter of the Qur’an will heal your inner wounds and elevate your morale.

It will be wise to develop a daily Qur’an recitation habit. Doing so will contribute to your stress relief.

You may not understand what you read in the Qur’an. Although we should seek to learn to understand the Qur’an, and put it into practice accordingly, understanding is not a prerequisite to reading the Qur’an. In fact, it’s reading which is a prerequisite to understanding the Qur’an. You should read something from the Qur’an every day, even if one doesn’t understand it. Here is why.

#3: Sending Blessings and Salutations to the Prophet Ṣallā Allāhu ‘Alayhi wa Wallam

Sending blessings and salutations on Prophet Muhammad ṣallā Allāhu alayhi wa sallam is one the greatest forms of dhikr the Muslim is encouraged to observe. In fact, Allah enjoins every believer to send blessings and salutations to the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He says in Sūrah al-Aḥzāb, 33:56:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ وَمَلـٰئِكَتَهُ يُصَلّونَ عَلَى النَّبِىِّ يـٰأَيُّهَا الَّذينَ ءامَنوا صَلّوا عَلَيهِ وَسَلِّموا تَسليمًا

“Allah and His Angels bestow blessings on the Prophet. O believers, you also should invoke blessings on him and give him greetings of peace.”

Also, Imām al-Tirmidhī reports from the narration of Sayyidunā Abū Hurayrah raḍiya Allāhu ‘anhu, that Rasūlullāh ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam says:

مَنْ صَلَّى عَلَىَّ صَلاَةً صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ بِهَا عَشْرًا

“Whoever sends one ṣalāh (prayer) upon me, Allah sends ṣalāh upon him ten times.”

There’s no way your stress won’t be relieved if Allah sends ṣalāh upon you. So, make it a habit to send blessings and salutations on the Prophet as frequently as possible. After all, sending him blessings and salutations also serves as evidence of your true love for him, ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

#4: Glorifying Allah with Open-Ended Dhikr

The difference between du‘ā’ and ‘open-ended’ dhikr is that we use open-ended dhikr to sing Allah praises, no matter how long it takes, without asking for a specific need to be fulfilled. With open-ended dhikr, we admit to our weakness, our sins, disobedience, ignorance and our need to Him always, as in contrary to His nature of everlasting, power, and kingdom.

The best person who ever glorified Allah is Prophet Muhammad ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Despite that, he acknowledges that the best degree to which Allah can be glorified is known by Allah Himself alone.

Also, remembering Allah’s bounties on you is a form of glorifying Him. The same thing applies to reflecting on His creation with a view to realizing His magnitude and oneness.

Some Examples of Open-ended Dhikr

The following are some forms of open-ended dhikr which the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam observed and enjoined on us as well:

أَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ

“I seek forgiveness from Allah.”

سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ وَبِحَمْدِهِ.. سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ العَظِيمِ

“High, glorified and praised is Allah… High and glorified is Allah, the Great.”

اللهُ أَكْبَرُ كَبِيراً، وَالـحَمُدُ لِلَّهِ كَثِيراً، وَسُبْحَانَ الله بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلا

Allah is truly Great, praise be to Allah in abundance. Glory be to Allah in the morning and the evening.

لاَ حَوْلَ وَلاَ قُوَّةَ إِلاَّ بِاللَّهِ

“[We have] no ability nor power, except with Allah.”

حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الوَكِيلُ

“Allah is sufficient for us. And the best trustee is He.”

لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ

“No god [deserves to be worshiped] but Allah.”

#5: Making du’ā’

Du‘ā’ is an act of worship through which man humbles himself before His creator and presents his needs before Him alone. An effective du‘ā’ requires that one supplicates to none other than Allah.

Despite the importance of du‘ā’, any form of Dhikr mentioned above suffices. But du‘ā’ doesn’t suffice any of them. One can focus in his prayer as prescribed and performed by the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and make no du‘ā’ afterward and he will still be fine. The same applies to Qur’an recitation, sending salutations to the Prophet and glorifying Allah.

Having said that, you’ll hardly come across a person who is committed to prayers, Qur’an recitation, ṣalawāt, open-ended dhikr, and yet takes it lightly when it comes to making du‘ā’. In other words, indulging in du‘ā’ in its proper way, and in accordance to its etiquettes, makes you a complete Muslim.

You may also find the article 7 Duas You Should Know by all Means. It consists of seven authentic du‘ā’s from the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, which you can’t afford to overlook. Find them here.

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Prescription of Acceptable Dhikr

Ultimately, whatever the Muslim does should be connected to Allah. His actions should lead him to be closer to Allah. Dhikr is not an exception to this rule. In fact, dhikr is paramount. This is in addition to the fact that dhikr is one form of the many prescribed acts of worship. Some of its forms are to be observed during prescribed and obligatory acts of worship, i.e., the adhkar we say during prayers, ḥajj and ‘umrah.

Some are observed outside the decreed acts of worship. Examples include the supplication we make after waking up from sleep, as well as du‘ā’ for going to bed. It also includes morning and evening adhkār, what we say upon entering our homes and upon leaving our homes, what we say before entering restrooms and when going out of restrooms. This also includes du‘ā’ for entering and leaving the mosque, as well as what we say when travelling. There is a dua for almost every situation the believer encounters in daily life.

And some are observed in both situations: during prescribed acts of worship and outside them. For instance, recitation of the Qur’an is a requirement for the validity of your prayer. It’s also something the Muslim is encouraged, but not obliged, to do daily outside prayers. Sending ṣalawāt on the Prophet is part of the prayer. It’s also encouraged on Fridays and outside the prayer.

Since dhikr is an act of worship, one must do it for the sake of Allah and not for any worldly gains.

Moreover, since dhikr is an act of worship, we must ensure any form of it we choose to observe outside prescribed prayers has its source in the Qur’an and the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

It should also be noted that except du‘ā’, all forms of dhikr are primarily in the Arabic language.

In a ḥadīth reported by Imām Abu Dāwūd and al-Nasā’ī, the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam once told Mu‘ādh ibn Jabal raḍiya Allahu ‘anhu how much he loved him. As a token for that love, he, ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam taught his beloved companion a special du‘ā’. You can guess the implication of the du‘ā’. It says:

اللَّهُمَّ أَعِنِّي عَلَى ذِكْرِكَ وَشُكْرِكَ وَحُسْنِ عِبَادَتِكَ

“O Allah, help me to remember You, be grateful to You and worship You in a better way.”

This means, having the conscience and consciousness to constantly engage in dhikr is a blessing by itself. It’s something you should be thankful to Allah for.

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Related Resources for Dhikr

There are countless number of books and mobile apps that present compilations of authentic dhikr from the Qur’an and Sunnah. As for books, you have Kitāb al-Adhkār (The Book of Remembrance) by Imām al-Nawawī and Ḥiṣn al-Muslim (The Fortification of the Muslim) by Dr Sa‘īd al-Qaḥṭānī. The former comes in a hardcover book, while the later comes in a pocket size.

Imām al-Nawawī’s book is good for home and family learning. Dr al-Qaḥṭānī’s Ḥiṣn is also good for one’s everyday activities.

Electronically, iPhone users can find Ḥiṣn al-Muslim on iTunes here or here. Android users can find it on Google Play here. It’s advisable to search and locate something or a developer of your comfort.

If you are looking for dhikr images, that can help you ‘Keep Calm’ and make your kids love dhikr, you can follow Azkar Board on Pinterest.

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Conclusion

Allah loves those who repent of their sins. But He loves even more those who are constantly engaged in dhikr. This simple and effortless activity is your ticket to becoming an ally (waliyy) of Allah.

Any form of meditation you choose to adopt may have its benefits to a certain degree, and you can practise them if they do not contradict with Islamic teachings. However, the benefits of dhikr, regardless of which form of it you choose, has unlimited blessings, which can’t be compared to other forms of relaxation.

In a nutshell, Allah tells us that true success lies in abundance remembrance of Him:

وَاذكُرُوا اللَّـهَ كَثيرًا لَعَلَّكُم تُفلِحونَ

“and remember Allah often that you may succeed” (Sūrah al-Jumu‘ah, 62:10).

Above everything and anything, the dhikr you make is the best savings that any Muslim can take along with him to meet Allah.

المالُ وَالبَنونَ زينَةُ الحَيوٰةِ الدُّنيا ۖ وَالبـٰقِيـٰتُ الصّـٰلِحـٰتُ خَيرٌ عِندَ رَبِّكَ ثَوابًا وَخَيرٌ أَمَلًا

“Wealth and children are an ornament of the life of this world. But deeds of lasting merit are better rewarded by your Lord and a far better source of hope.”

The summary of Scholars opinion in the meaning of the ‘lasting merit’ conclude that it is dhikr.

O Allah! I ask You to enable me, and anyone who reads this to constantly remember You, be grateful to You and worship You in a better way.

اللَّهُمَّ أَعِنَّا عَلَى ذِكْرِكَ وَشُكْرِكَ وَحُسْنِ عِبَادَتِكَ

Let the discussion continue on Facebook. To receive updates from GSalam.Net delivered right to your inbox, click here. If you know a friend or an acquaintance who may benefit from this article, there will be no harm sharing it with him, inshā Allah.

Allah knows best.
Allahu Hafiz 🙂

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