“Verily, in the Remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” [Qur’an 13:28]
Muraqaba is a form of dhikr, which involves the act of turning one’s heart towards Allah through meditation and deep focus. By concentrating the heart solely upon the Creator, one is able to feel His Presence intensely and contemplate on His Remembrance. For the saalik (seeker of the spiritual path of Tasawwuf) this leads to an increase in Taqwa; it brings life to the heart’s core using the divine knowledge that, He is fully aware of our deeds and actions: “And Allah is [fully] acquainted with what you do.” [Qur’an 2:234] And that He is indeed also aware of the state of our hearts: “Allah knows well the secrets of your hearts.” [Qur’an 5:7]
The origin of muraqaba comes from the practice of the Beloved Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, who would frequently resort to the Cave of Hira at night to seek comfort in the Remembrance of Allah.
Sayyida Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, narrates:
“The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah’s Messenger was in the form of good dreams which came true like bright day light, and then the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him. He used to go in seclusion in the Cave of Hira where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before his desire to see his family…” [Bukhari: Vol 1, Book 1, Hadith no. 3]
From this, we can establish that the Beloved Messenger of Allah would isolate himself in the cave for days, described by his beloved wife Sayyida Aisha as ‘love of seclusion’, so that he could worship Allah in total submission and engage fully in dhikr.
Status of Muraqaba as a Form of dhikr
The Beloved Messenger of Allah says in a Hadith, “…If your state of mind is always the same as it is at the time of dhikr (remembrance of Allah), the Angels would shake hands with you and would greet you on the path by saying, ‘Assalamu alaykum.’” [Muslim: Book 37, Hadith no. 6624]
In his commentary of Sahih Muslim, Imam al-Nawawi says regarding this Hadith, “This kind of sight is shown to someone who persists in meditation (muraqaba), reflection (fikr), and anticipation (iqbal) of the next world.”
It is said that every saint performed muraqaba, attaining proximity to Allah through it, although not all saints prescribed it to their followers; some kept it private. The wisdom behind this is best left to the Shaykhs themselves; it could be that they gave preference to other forms of dhikr for their Mureeds (disciples, or those under their spiritual guidance).
Regarding the preference of silent dhikr, it is reported that the great Imam and Master of the Naqshbandi Tariqa, Khwaja Shah Baha’uddin al-Naqshband said, “There are two methods of Zikr: the silent and the audible. I preferred the silent because it is stronger and more advisable.”
It is said that ordinary people receive guidance in their dreams, the elite during Muraqaba (meditation), and the elite of the elite “in a waking state”.
This can be explained by the fact that through constant dhikr, one is able to reach such a level that his/her heart is constantly in deep contemplation (fikr or tafakkur) of Allah, which grants such a closeness to Him that they are enlightened by Him throughout their journey.
Such an example of guidance is reported in the Holy Qur’an regarding Sayyida Maryam, the greatest Walia or lady saint of God, during her time of hardship. Whilst she was enduring labour pains, she ran to a palm-tree in her anguish where she heard a Voice calling out to her with words of Guidance. Thus she received guidance from Allah in a waking state due to her piety, purity, patience and steadfastness in faith:
“And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: she cried (in her anguish), ‘Ah! Would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!’ But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the palm-tree: ‘Grieve not! For your Lord has provided a stream beneath you; And shake towards yourself the trunk of the palm-tree, it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and be contented…” [Qur’an 19:23-26]
Methods of Muraqaba
For muraqaba, it is advisable to sit quietly and alone in a dark peaceful room where one is able to focus all thoughts and attention on receiving enlightenment.
It is reported that Imam Junayd al-Baghdadi said, “My teacher in the Way of muraqaba is the cat: One day, I was passing in the street, and I saw a cat sitting and watching the hole of a mouse, so absorbed in it watching this hole that not one of its hairs was moving. I was bemused by its concentration and watchfulness, and felt a call within me: ‘O you with the lowly determination! Do not let Me be in your purpose less than the mouse, and you, in seeking, do not be less than the cat.’ So I awoke, adhered to this Way of muraqaba (i.e. complete focus and watchfulness), and achieved the results that I did.”
The main forms of Muraqaba taught in our Tareeqa, or spiritual chain, Naqshbandi Siddiqui Mujaddidi, are:
• Muraqaba-e-Isme Zaat or Tasawwur-e-Isme Zaat – Visualising the Sacred Name:
This is when one visualises the Name of Allah i.e. Allahu, upon his/her heart and therefore focuses on the attributes of Allah leaving no other thought but Him. All focus must be upon the Creator.
For this, the eyes must be closed, visualising the words ‘Allah’ engraved onto your heart. Some also prefer to visualise the Name of ‘Muhammad’ upon their hearts too as the Beloved Messenger is a Waseela/intermediary for us to Allah at all times. The one visualising must then recite ‘Allah’ in his/her mind whilst breathing in through the nose, and recite ‘Hu’ whilst exhaling through the mouth.
In this manner, the breathing of such a person becomes engaged in repeating ‘Allahu’ with every breath thus making the heart say the Name of God.
It is reported that Imam al-Ghazali said, “dhikr is, in its reality, the progressive Power of the Named One on the heart, while the dhikr itself wears away and disappears.”
This is in reference to the deep absorption and intensity which pure hearts are able to attain when involved in Muraqaba. Eventually only the Presence of Allah remains in such a heart, whilst the Name, having completed its purpose, fades away.
• Tasawwur-e-Shaykh – Visualising One’s Shaykh or Spiritual Guide
This is when a Mureed visualises their Shaykh’s face, allowing their own heart to reflect his spiritual light and guidance.
The Shaykh is often described as a bridge between this world and Almighty Allah; he is one who has journeyed through the difficult path of tasawwuf and has emerged successfully. It is through his knowledge and character that a Mureed is able to progress; therefore Tasawwur-e-Shaykh is extremely important.
This form of Muraqaba allows a Mureed to always be present with their Shaykh via the heart, and through this route, they can eventually reach the honourable presence of the Beloved Messenger, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him.
Tasawwur-e-Shaykhallows the Mureed to receive guidance from the Shaykh, opening a window of spiritual communication between teacher and student. For a true Wali (saint), there are no limits to his connection if such power and strength has permitted to him by the Beloved Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him.
Khwaja Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlvi states, that if a Mureed who may be thousands of miles away from their Shaykh, requires the Shaykh’s fayz (spiritual blessing), they should sit in a state of purity and in manner of respectful. Then they should turn their attention to their Shaykh in a state of Muraqaba, and visualise him through their heart. Having done so, the Mureed will be able to enter spiritually the very same gathering in which their Shaykh is present at, thereby receiving his fayz through this tasawwur (visualisation).
As the Mureed progresses through strengths of Muraqaba, they will experience different forms of communication from their Shaykh; once a connection has been established, one begins to hear their Shaykh guiding them, some may see their Shaykh, some experience the presence of other Shaykhs etc.
This all depends on the personal status or maqam of the Mureed in terms of their own progress on the path of Tasawwuf. Eventually, one who is thoroughly pure and focused at heart is able to reach the presence of the Beloved Messenger, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him.
Permission or Ijaza for Muraqaba
One must have the permission of their Shaykh before beginning on the journey of Muraqaba, or indeed any type of Wazaa’if (recitation); your Shaykh is your source of guidance, and he knows what is best for your current state and condition.
Khwaja Shah Baha’uddin al-Naqshband said regarding this, “The permission for the dhikr must be given by the Perfected One (your Shaykh), in order to influence the one who is using it; just as the arrow from a master of archery is better than the arrow thrown from the bow of an ordinary person.”