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Should One Make Dhikr With One's Tongue Although The Heart Is Not Truly Present?

3rd September 2013

Although at first when the word dhikr is mentioned it is usually thought of as a mentioning by the tongue, Imam al-Qurtubi رحمه الله states that the original meaning of the word dhikr implies an alertness or realisation in the heart. In other words, mentioning something by the tongue is called dhikr only because it is supposed to be an indication that the thing mentioned is being thought of in the mind and heart. [1]

In fact, Imam an-Nawawi رحمه الله said, "The purpose of dhikr is the presence of the heart. This must be the goal of the one making remembrance and he must be keen to achieve that, to ponder over what he is stating and recognise its meaning." [2]

Hence, the important question arises as to whether one should continue to make dhikr although one's heart is not present and whether or not such an act would still be pleasing to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى. This is a question that has been answered differently by different people.

Karzoon and ar-Ramly, for example, argue that making dhikr while the heart is not present is better than remaining silent, this is because one is using one's bodily part in an act of obedience to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى. They say that at the very least the person is keeping his tongue from doing something forbidden, such as backbiting. [3]

Hence, dhikr, even with heedlessness, protects the tongue from destructive acts. Furthermore, it is possible that the heart may be affected with some form of feeling at one time or another while making dhikr in such a manner. Indeed, one may even move to a state where he is completely cognisant and considering what he is saying. They also argue that if the tongue stops making dhikr, then the heart will become even more heedless than when the tongue makes dhikr. [4]

The above view is a view that has been held by many of the scholars throughout the history of Islam. [5]

Imam Ibn al-Qayyim رحمه الله, for example, wrote, "Mentioning the name of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى with heedlessness in any case is better than a complete forgetfulness. Whenever the tongues abandon the mentioning of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى - who is their beloved - it becomes occupied with mentioning what is hated and despised to Him." [6]

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya رحمه الله also noted, "Dhikr can be with the tongue of the person. His heart will have some portion of that as the bodily parts do not move save by the intention of the heart. However, heedlessness may dominate his act. In any case, that speech is better than its non-existence and Allaah سبحانه و تعالى loves it has ordered it." [7]

On the other hand, al-Maraaghi wrote, "Dhikr by the tongue only without the remembrance in the heart and noting the meaning of the statement does not produce any benefit. How many supplications and words of remembrance of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى do we see people repeating in hundreds or thousands yet they do not benefit them in knowing Allaah سبحانه و تعالى and realising Allaah's watchful presence over them? This is the case because such has become a customary act for those people, accompanied by other objectionable customary acts. Therefore, it is obligatory to combine together the remembrance in the heart with the mentioning by the tongue." [8]

Dhiyaa ad-Deen al-Izzi also argues that dhikr without the presence of the heart and without the feeling of humility and submission to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى can have detrimental results. First, such dhikr produces hardness in the heart that can then lead to clear misguidance. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says,

"Is he whose breast Allah has opened to Islam, so that he is in light from His Lord (as he who is non-Muslim)? So, woe to those whose hearts are hardened against remembrance of Allah! They are in plain error!" (Soorah az-Zumar, 39:22)

It also develops an estrangement in the soul from the acts of worship. Finally, it opens the door to acting for the sake of show and leads to hypocrisy in the heart, as Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says about the hypocrites,

"Indeed, the hypocrites [think to] deceive Allaah, but He is deceiving them. And when they stand for prayer, they stand lazily, showing [themselves to] the people and not remembering Allaah except a little." (Soorah an-Nisaa', 4:142)

Those who remember Allaah سبحانه و تعالى by their tongues only, while not understanding or pondering over what they say, do not have any real fear of Allaah or humility towards Him in their hearts at that time. Therefore, the result is the opposite of what should be hoped for. It is, thus, clearly harmful for the individual. Since they are being heedless and forgetful of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى by definition (since their dhikr is not present in the heart and mind), hardness instead of calmness descends into his heart. Instead of remembering Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, they are thinking of their wealth, children, wife, work and so forth while Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has not placed "two hearts" in the chests of anyone. (see Qur'an, 33:4) [9] [10]

Although the phenomenon al-Maraaghi described is certainly true, al-Izzi's arguments are not completely convincing. Perhaps the correct response to this question, Allaah سبحانه و تعالى knows best, deals with the intention of the person. The Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم said, "Surely, all actions are but driven by intentions and, verily, every man shall have but that which he intended." [11]

The person who is making dhikr without giving any true thought and without even realising what he is saying may be similar to the person who after washing his hands automatically, without any conscious intention, starts to perform the acts of ablution. He completes the ablution without even realising what he was doing because so often after washing his hands he makes ablution. Such an ablution, without any intention, is not a valid ablution. [12]

Similarly, if a person makes dhikr after the prayer, for example, but it is simply a matter of his tongue moving on to something that he customarily does at that time without his heart being present and a true intention behind that act, the person may receive nothing for that act of dhikr.

On the other hand, if a person consciously intends and wants to make dhikr and starts on that process but while making that dhikr his heart wanders and he is not truly cognisant of what he is saying, then, perhaps, in that case he will be rewarded for his act due to his good intention and because at the very lease he has set his tongue on a good deed that is better than remaining silent and better than doing sinful acts.

In sum, there are different levels of proper dhikr. However, if done with the proper intention, Allaah سبحانه و تعالى willing, all of them will bring about benefit and assist the person in his process of purification. These levels include:

1) Simply stating the words of remembrance without the heart being truly attentive;

2) Stating the words of remembrance with the heart realising what one is saying;

3) Stating the words of remembrance with the heart not simply realising what is being stated but also contemplating over the meaning and ramification of that statement;

4) Stating the words of remembrance, contemplation in the heart accompanied by a strong feeling of the greatness of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى and a deep understanding of what one is saying, in turn leading to living one's life in the shade of what one has remembered and contemplated. [13]


[1] Al-Qurtubi, al-Jaami', vol. 2, p. 171

[2] Quoted in Karzoon, vol. 1, p. 309

[3] For more on backbiting, see: Guard Your Tongue! - and Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Tongue -

[4] Cf, Karzoon, vol. 1, p. 320; Muhammad Shoomaan ar-Ramli, Al-Mushawwiq ila Dhikrillaahi Ta'aala (Ad-Dammaam, Saudi Arabia: Daar Ibn al-Qayyim, 1421 A.H.), p. 21

[5] Cf, ar-Ramli, al-Mushawwiq, pp. 14-22

[6] Ibn al-Qayyim, Madaarij as-Saalikeen, vol. 3, p. 45

[7] Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya, al-Istiqaamah (Maktabah at-Taulyah al-Islaamiyyah li-Ihyaa at-Turaath al-Islaami, n.d.), vol. 2, p. 17

[8] Ahmad Mustafa al-Maraaghi, Tafseer al-Maraaghi (Beirut: Daar Ihyaa at-Turaath al-Arabi, n.d.), vol. 9, p. 156

[9] Dhiyaa ad-Deen al-Izzi, Silat al-Insaan bi-laah min Wajhah Nadhar al-Qur'an al-Kareem was-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ubaikaan, 1997), pp. 137-138

[10] See also for an interesting explanation of this verse (33:4) by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan

[11] Saheeh al-Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim

[12] Note: According to the Hanafi Madh-hab, it is written in Nur al-Idah (Arabic-English), pp. 51-52: "The intention of wudu is sunna. Though Malik رحمه الله and Shafi'i رحمه الله said that it is compulsory because it is an act of worship which is not valid without it, as in the case of tayammum. Our argument is the words of Allah, [O you who believe! When you prepare for prayer wash your face...] (Soorah al-Maa'idah, 5:6) and there is no mention of intention. Abu Hanifa رحمه الله said if one does not intend, then the wudu is valid, but the rewards are less. Another argument is: the reason it is obligatory in tayammum is because the soil is not an original source where by one can attain purification. It is therefore essential to make the intention to render the soil pure, whereas with wudu, purification has been achieved through a purifying substance, namely water. (An example of how one may attain wudu without intending is by inadvertently falling in a river or the like during which the parts required for wudu become wet.)

[13] Purification of the Soul: Concept, Process and Means

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posted by Seifeddine-M on 3rd September 2013 - 0 comments


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