Remember Allah – Dhikr of the Heart

dhikr beads form interlocking loops like a heart
Shane Atkinson discusses how we make dhikr at all times.

Traditionally, many think of Dhikr as something that you do.  Here, Shane Atkinson looks at Dhikr as a state of being.

By Shane Atkinson (adapted from Key to the Garden by Habib Ahmad Mashhur al Haddad)

Imam Shane Atkinson stands outside of UNC Chapel Hill hospital doors where he is an active chaplain.
Imam Shane Atkinson urges all Muslims to maintain the practice of dhikr and Remember Allah.

Today I wanted to address some concerns folks in the community may have. All the concerns we have can be addressed and solved by being vigilant and paying very close attention to one concern. And that concern is to remember God is with us where ever we go. Absorb the concept of Dhikr as a perpetual mental state, a condition of being mindful of maintaining the remembrance of Allah.

I’m not saying we sit in the house and only meditate on God. We still have to go out in the world, interact with people, pay bills and so on. We also have to speak out against injustice in the world, most recently that injustice is represented by the white supremacy that led to church shootings in South Carolina and church arsons across the country. We took our kids out to a protest in Durham to show solidarity with the people of Charleston and teach the kids we have to stand against injustice with our bodies, words and hearts.

However, we can’t carry this weight on our own; we aren’t built for that. We can’t emotionally, psychologically or physically deal with all this trouble. We have to rely on God to make it through. As these issues happen, our minds become so preoccupied with the rent, car payment, shootings, social discord, getting the kids’ school items done and so on that we often forget to put God at the top of that list of things we have to be concerned about. That relationship, if it’s taken care of, nourishes all the other relationships. That relationship, if it’s nourished, can make a way out when we can’t see a solution in sight. We have to constantly keep bumping God back up to the top of that mental list so we are given the strength to handle all we have to deal with. There is one Only God that everyone is in need of, and God is not in need of anything.

Folks that reflect on life see that the world is constantly changing and that this world is a road that leads on to the next life. The first leg of the journey is the womb and the last leg is the grave. The destination is either the Garden or the Fire. A lifetime is the distance to be covered. Time and days are our provisions, and our desires and inclinations are the thieves. Success is to meet God and attain everlasting happiness. And losing is to be veiled from God while stuck in the pain of the fire.

This is the reason the reason the intelligent believer turns each breath into an act of obedience and fills them with the remembrance of God, dhikr, etched on our hearts and minds. When we are careless or forgetful, even for a minute, we expose ourselves to endless regret and harm that can’t be repaired. This is why the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), said “The single-hearted are the foremost” (in first place) he was asked “Who are the single-hearted” and he replied “The men and women who Remember God constantly.”

These are the folks that single themselves out from other people by committing themselves to God and devoting themselves to His worship in the way He desires and how He commanded the believer to act when God says in the Holy Qur’an 13:28, “Those who believe and whose hearts find tranquility in the Remembrance of God, indeed it is in the Remembrance of God that hearts find tranquility.” In other words you find serenity and contentment. Serenity comes out of certainty, just like restlessness comes out of doubt. The remembrance of God brings peace to the heart of the believer and allows certainty to live inside.

Remembrance is to feel the presence of the “One Remembered” in your heart and to free yourself from distraction and forgetfulness. We do this by keeping our heart attentive, remembering God with our tongue and leaving the cage of unawareness for wide open space of witnessing. This remembering God goes with and gives life to our actions. God links remembrance with prayer since prayer is considered the best act of worship as God reminds us, “Establish the prayer for My Remembrance.” (Qur’an 20:14)

Therefore, do not relegate dhikr to a mere act that one does after salaat or in groups. Those times are important because they reinforce the type of dhikr that we should have at all times. The teaching that we must remember Allah is not confined to a single space in time or a single action. Rather the concept of dhikr is a remembrance of Allah that should be maintained at all times and in all deeds and acts of worship in order to achieve God-Consciousness and success as Muslim Americans.

May God bless us with wholesome hearts, grateful tongues, and obedient bodies. May we not be forgetful of Him and may we never deny His Love for us. Keep God in mind and make du’a that He will preserve and protect you with his mercy as you remember Him at all times.

Shane Atkinson is from a Southern Baptist background and grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. He was introduced to the teachings of Malcolm X through Hip-Hop music in the late eighties. Shane sat with spiritual teachers from the major religious traditions over a ten year period. At a festival in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1999 Shane met an American scholar who was the catalyst for him accepting Islam. Shane sat with teachers from various Islamic countries for the next decade. He began volunteering as a Chaplain at Duke Regional Hospital in 2011 and, after twenty years in the field of Orthotics and Prosthetics, began studying Chaplaincy at UNC hospital in 2015. Shanes hobbies include tinkering with his 1979 Chevy truck.

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