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Gatherings of collective Remembrance of Allah (dhikr) aloud

The previously quoted hadith qudsi, beginning "Those that remember Me in a gathering," presents gatherings of collective, loud dhikr as the gateway to realizing Allah's promise "Remember Me, and I shall remember you." It is no wonder that such gatherings receive the highest praise and blessing from Allah and His Prophet (saw) as narrated in many authentic hadiths.

According to Bukhari and Muslim: The Prophet (saw) said that Allah has angels roaming the roads to find the people of dhikr [and in another version of Imam Muslim, majalis, "gatherings" of dhikr]. When they find a group of people (qawm) reciting dhikr [in a version of Imam Muslim they sit with them], they call each other and encompass them in layers reaching up to the first heaven.27 Allah asks His angels, and He knows already,28 "What are My servants saying?"29 The angels say, "They are praising You (tasbih) and magnifying Your Name (takbir), and glorifying You (tahmid), and giving You the best Attributes (tamjid). Allah asks, "Have they seen Me?" The angels answer, "0 our Lord! They did not see You." He asks, "What if they saw Me?" The angels answer, "O our Lord, if they saw You they would be even more fervent in their worship, tamjid, and tasbih. He asks, "What are they asking?" The angels say, "They are asking for Your paradise!" He asks, "Have they seen paradise?" They say, "O our Lord, no, they have not seen it." He says, "And how would they be if they saw it?" They say, "If they saw paradise, they would be more attached and attracted to it!" He asked, "What do they fear and run away from?"30 They say, "They fear and run away from hellfire." He asks, "And have they seen helfire?" They say, "O our Lord, no, they did not see hellfire." He asks, "And how will they be if they see hellfire?" They say, "If they see Your fire, they will run from it more and more, and be even more afraid of it." And Allah says, "I am making you witness31 that I have forgiven them."32 One of the angels says, "O my Lord, someone was there who did not belong to that group, but came for some other need."33 Allah says, "These groups are such that anyone who sits with them will also have his sins forgiven."

The late Imam Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad (d. 1416/1995) said in his book Miftah al-janna:

This hadith indicates what merit lies in gathering for dhikr, and in everyone present doing it aloud and in unison, because of the phrases, "They are invoking You" in the plural, and "They are the people who sit," meaning those who assemble for remembrance and do it in unison, something which can only be done aloud, since someone whose dhikr is silent has no need to seek out a session in someone else's company.

This is further indicated by the hadith qudsi which runs, "Allah says, I am to My servant as he expects of Me, I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him to Myself, and if he remembers Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly better than his . . ." (Bukhari and Muslim). Thus, silent dhikr is differentiated from dhikr said out loud by His saying: "remembers Me within himself," meaning, "silently," and "in an assembly," meaning "aloud."

Dhikr in a gathering can only be done aloud and in unison. The above hadith thus constitutes proof that dhikr done out loud in a gathering is an exalted kind of dhikr which is mentioned at the highest assembly (al-mala al-ala) by our Majestic Lord and the angels who are near to Him, "who extol Him night and day, and never tire" (21:20).

The affinity is clearly evident between those who do dhikr in the transcendent world, who have been created with an inherently obedient and remembering nature, namely the angels, and those who do dhikr in the dense world, whose natures contain lassitude and distraction, namely, human beings. The reward of the latter for their dhikr is that they be elevated to a rank similar to that of the Highest Assembly, which is a sufficient honor and favor for anyone.34

Allah has bestowed a special distinction upon those who remember Him. Abu Hurayra said:

While on the road to Makka the Prophet (saw) passed on top of a mountain called Jumdan [= frozen in its place], at which time he said, 'Move on (siru)! Here is Jumdan Mountain, and the single-minded (al-mufarridun) are foremost.' They asked, 'Who are the single-minded, O Messenger of Allah?' He said, 'The men and women who remember Allah unceasingly (al-dhakirun Allah kathiran wa al-dhakirat).'35

The mountain has overtaken the people because the mountain is reciting dhikr also. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya explains that the term mufarridun has two meanings here: either the muwahhidun, the people engaged in tawhid who declare Allah's Oneness as a group (i.e. not necessarily alone), or those whom he calls ahad furada, the same people as (single) individuals sitting alone.36 From this example it is evident that in Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya's explanation, sittings of dhikr can be in a group or alone. In another explanation of mufarridun, also cited by Ibn Qayyim, the reference is to "those that tremble from reciting dhikr Allah, entranced with it perpetually, not caring what people say or do about them." This is because the Prophet (saw) said, udhkur Allaha hatta yaqulu majnun "Remember and mention Allah as much as you want, until people say that you are crazy and foolish."37

The mufarridun are the people who are really alive. Abu Musa reported, "The likeness of the one who remembers his Lord and the one who does not remember Him is like that of a living to a dead person."38

Ibn Umar reported that the Prophet (saw) said, "When you pass by the gardens of paradise, avail yourselves of them." The Companions asked, "What are the gardens of paradise, O Messenger of Allah?" He replied, "The circles of dhikr. There are roaming angels of Allah who go about looking for the circles of dhikr, and when they find them they surround them closely."39

Abu Said Al-Khudri and Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet (saw) said, "When any group of men remembers Allah, angels surround them and mercy covers them, tranquility descends upon them, and Allah mentions them to those who are with Him."40

Muslim, Ahmad, and Tirmidhi narrate from Muawiya that:

The Prophet (saw) went out to a circle of his Companions and asked, 'What made you sit here?' They said, `We are sitting here in order to remember and mention Allah (nadhkurullaha) and to glorify Him (wa nahmaduhu) because He guided us to the path of Islam and he conferred favors upon us.' Thereupon he adjured them by Allah and asked if that was the only purpose of their sitting there. They said, `By Allah, we are sitting here for this purpose only.' At this the Prophet (saw) said, 'I am not asking you to take an oath because of any misapprehension against you, but only because Gabriel came to me and informed me that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, was telling the angels that He is proud of you!'

Note that the hadith stated jalasna, or "we sat," in the plural, not singular. It referred to an association of people in a group, not one person.


The above shows evidence for the permissibility of dhikr, out loud, group dhikr, and the understanding of dhikr as including admonishment and the recounting of stories that benefit the soul.

(The next page is about the required amount of dhikr.)

27 This is to say, an unlimited number of angels are going to be over that group. He did not say, "When they find one person." Therefore it is a must to be in a group to get this particular reward.
28 He asks in order to place emphasis on what His servants are doing and to facilitate our understanding.
29 He did not say "servant," but ibadi, "servants" in the plural
30 When one says, "Ya Ghaffar (0 Forgiver), Ya Sattar (0 Concealer)," it means one fears Him because of his or her sins. One is asking Him to hide his or her sins and forgive him or her.
31 Allah needs no witness since He said, "Allah is sufficient as witness" (4:79, 4:166, 10:29, 13:43, 29:52). "Making you witness" here means, "Assuring you."
32 Allah has forgiven them because, as the beginning of the hadith states, they are a group of people reciting the Names of Allah and remembering Him with His dhikr.
33 That person came for some other purpose than dhikr, to ask someone for something.
34 Imam Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad, Miftah al-janna. trans. Mustafa Badawi, Key to the Garden, Quilliam Press p. 107-108.
35 Narrated by Tirmidhi and Muslim, in his Sahih, beginning of the book of Dhikr.
36 Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Madarij al-salikin.
37 Narrated by Ahmad in his Musnad, Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, and al-Hakim who declared it sahih.
38 Bukhari.
39 Tirmidhi narrated it (hasan gharib) and Ahmad.
40 Narrated by Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ahmad, Ibn Majah, and Bayhaqi

(May Allah (swt) forgive me for any errors I may have introduced through transcription or editing of this text.)