Translation from Ibn Al-Qayyim’s Madarij Al-Salikin (Steps of the Seekers) | The Station of Remembrance (Thikr) | Part1

AMONG THE STATIONS of worship and reliance is the station of remembrance.

Remembrance is the great station of the people [of the divine path]. From it, they take [provision] for their journey. In it, they deal. And to it, they constantly return.

Remembrance is the passport to Allah’s friendship, walâyah. Whoever is given it makes it through. Whoever is denied it is dropped. It is the nourishment of the hearts of the people of the path—that if absent turns bodies into graveyards for their hearts. It is the life of their dwellings—which if absent turns them into wilderness. It is their armaments with which they combat the bandits on the path. It is their water—with which they quench their thirst in the journey. It is the medicine for their illness—which, when denied, causes their heartbeat to sink. It is the rope and the link between them and the Knower of All Secrets.

Your remembrance alleviates our pain in illness

From time to time, we fail to remember and our hearts sink.

Through remembrance they repel calamities, relieve their suffering, and ease their afflictions. It is their refuge and sanctuary when struck with hardship. It is the chamber of their gardens wherein they receive guests. It is the capital of the joy in which they trade. It turns sadness into happiness and takes the one remembering to the One being remembered—indeed, turns the remembering into the remembered [for Allah Himself ‘remembers’ those remembering Him].

Every organ has its worship due at a given time. Remembrance is the worship of the heart and the tongue that is not limited by time. They encourage the remembrance of their beloved God in every state, standing, sitting, and reclining. Just as Paradise is a plain field whose planting is remembrance. This is in reference to a report in Tirmithi and Riyâ\ Al-ßâli^în:

Ibn Mas¢ûd g reported that the Messenger of Allah œ said:

I met Ibrâhîm ∑ on the Night of Ascension, and he said to me: “O Muhammad! Convey my greetings to your Ummah, and tell them that Paradise has a vast plain of pure soil and sweet water. It is a plain field whose planting is [remembrance of Allah by saying] Sub^ân’Allâh, Al-^amduli’llâh, Lâ ilâha illaAllâh and Allâhu Akbar” [meaning: Allah is free from imperfection; praise be to Allah; there is no true god except Allah; and Allah is Greatest].

Hearts are a wasteland, a wilderness, and remembrance is their life and their foundation. It is the polish of the heart and its medicine when it is overwhelmed by ailments. The more one drowns in one’s remembrance, the more the One being remembered loves to meet that one. If the one remembering lowers his heart to his tongue in remembrance, he forgets everything else and Allah protects for him everything, and it becomes for him replacement for everything.

Through remembrance, the [spiritual] deafness of the ears, muteness of tongues, and dimness of the eyes are cured. Allah adorns the tongues of those who remember, just like He adorns the eyesight with light, for a tongue heedless of Allah’s remembrance is like a blind eye, or a deaf ear, or a paralyzed hand. It is the greatest door to Allah, and it is ever open between Him and His servants, so long as the servant does not shut it through his heedlessness.

Al-±asan Al-Ba|rî, Allah have mercy on him, said:

Search for sweetness in three things: In prayers, in remembrance, and in the recitation of the Quran; and if still you find it not, know that the door is closed.

It is by way of remembrance that a servant overcomes Satan, just like Satan overcomes those given to heedlessness and neglect. One of the salaf, our pious predecessors in faith, said that when remembrance is established in his heart, the human being can overcome Satan, just as Satan overcomes humans: when satans gather around him and ask, “What has happened to him [one of the satans]?” then it is said: “A human being has touched him!”

Remembrance is the soul of all righteous deeds. When devoid of remembrance, deeds are like a body abandoned by the soul.

Remembrance (Thikr) is Mentioned in the Quran in 10 Ways:

  1. It has been commanded without qualification in general, as well as in particular, circumstances.
  2. Its opposites, heedlessness and neglect, are forbidden.
  3. Success is linked to constant and frequent remembrance.
  4. Those given to it are praised and given tidings of what Allah u has prepared for them of Paradise and of forgiveness.
  5. Tidings of loss are given to those devoid of it.
  6. The Exalted has made His remembrance of those [who keep His remembrance] a reward for their remembrance of Him.
  7. The Exalted gives tidings that remembrance is greater than anything else.
  8. He has made it the seal of righteous deeds, just as He has made it the key to them.
  9. Allah u has declared that only the people of remembrance may benefit from His signs and verses, and they are the ones possessed of intelligence.
  10. He has made remembrance the companion of all righteous deeds, and deeds that lack it are like bodies without souls.

The Exposition of These Statements

  1. The Almighty said: O believers! Remember Allah oft, and give Him glory at the dawn and in the evening. It is He who blesses you, and His angels, to bring you forth from the shadows into the light (Sûrat Al-A^zâb, 33:41-3). And the Almighty said: Remember thy Lord in thy self, humbly and fearfully, not loud of voice, at morn and eventide. Be not thou among the heedless (Sûrat Al-A¢râf, 7:205). On this there are two opinions, one that it means to mention Allah u secretly and in one’s heart, and the other that it is to do so with one’s tongue so that one can hear oneself.
  2. Its opposite is prohibited, for it is commanded to not be among the heedless. The Almighty said: Be not as those who forgot Allah, and so He caused them to forget themselves (Sûrat Al-±ashr, 59:19).
  3. As for the linking of success to frequent remembrance, it is in the words of Allah u: And remember Allah frequently, haply you will prosper (Sûrat Al-Jumu ͑ah, 62:10).
  4. As for the praise of the people of remembrance and its rewards, the Almighty said: The men and women who have surrendered…men and women who mention Allah oft…for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a mighty reward (Sûrat Al-A^zâb, 33:35).
  5. As for the ruin of those who abandon it, the Almighty said: O believers! Let not your possessions, neither your children, divert you from Allah’s remembrance; whoso does that, they are the losers (Sûrat Al-Munâfiqûn, 63:9).
  6. As for His remembrance of them being a reward for their remembrance of Him, the Almighty said: So remember Me, and I will remember you; and be thankful to Me; and be you not ungrateful toward Me. (Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:152).
  7. As for His declaration of what is greater than all else [remembrance], the Almighty said: Recite what has been revealed to thee of the Book, and perform the prayer; prayer forbids indecency and dishonor. Allah’s remembrance is greater (Sûrat Al-¢Ankabût, 29:45). On this, there are four opinions1) That Allah’s remembrance is greater than anything in that it is the highest act of righteousness. For the ultimate goal of all acts of worship is to enact Allah’s remembrance. Thus it is the secret and the soul of all righteous deeds; 2) That Allah’s remembrance of you is greater than your remembrance of Allah u. Thus, “remembrance of Allah” here may mean “remembrance by Allah of you.” Thus, the possessive particle is interpreted to refer to the subject rather than the object being remembered; 3) That Allah’s remembrance is too lofty to coexist with any indecency and evil. Thus your remembrance of Him will erase all errors and sins, and this is what the mufassirîn (Quran commentators) have mentioned—if you remember Him; 4) I have heard Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, Allah have mercy on him, say that the meaning of this verse is that in prayer there are two great benefits: A) That it prevents indecency and evil; and B) That it consists of and includes remembrance of Allah—and its inclusion of the remembrance of Allah is greater than its prevention of indecency and evil.
  8. As for it being the seal of righteous deeds, it is as if He sealed the act of fasting with it—as in His words: So that you may complete the days and glorify Allah, for what He has guided you to and so that you may be thankful (Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:185). And [it is as if He] ended prayer (|alâh) with it—as in His words: When you finish the prayers, remember Allah standing, sitting, and reclining (Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:103). And [it is as if He] sealed with it the Friday Congregational Prayer, as in His words: When you are finished with the prayer, spread about in the earth and seek from Allah’s bounty, and remember Allah oft so you may be successful ((Sûrat Al-Jumu¢ah, 62:10). The same is true of the end of the life of this world: If the last words of the servant are of [His] remembrance, Allah u enters him into Paradise.
  9. As for singling out those given to remembrance as beneficiaries of Allah’s signs or verses and as being possessors of intelligence and reason, the Almighty said: Surely in the creation of the heavens and earth and in the alternation of night and day there are signs for men possessed of minds who remember Allah, standing and sitting and on their sides… (Sûrat Âl ¢Imrân, 3:190-1).
  10. As for remembrance being the companion and the soul of all righteous deeds, the Exalted has associated it with prayers (pl. |alawât, sing. |alâh), as in His words: And establish prayers for my remembrance (Sûrat >â Hâ, 20:14). Moreover, He linked it to fasting (|awm), pilgrimage (±ajj) and its various rites, and, indeed, made it the very soul, the essence, and the purpose of pilgrimage, as the Prophet œ said: Circumambulating the House (the Ka¢bah), running between As-ßafâ and Al-Marwah (sâ¢î) and stoning of the pillars (ramî al-jamarât) are meant for the remembrance of Allah (Abû Dâwûd). Moreover, he associated it with jihad and commanded its mention upon meeting the opponents and striving against the enemy, the Almighty thus said: O believers! Whenever you encounter a host, then stand firm, and remember Allah frequently; haply so you will prosper (Sûrat Al-Anfâl, 8:45). In a divine pronouncement (^adîth qudsî) Allah Almighty says: My servant is every servant that remembers me while meeting his opponent. I have heard Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, Allah sanctify his soul, invoke this as evidence and say: “Lovers take pride in remembering their beloved in this state, as ¢An~ara said:

I remembered thee at a time when lances,

Like well-ropes, were sinking into the breast of my black steed

Another said:

I remembered thee while steps went around us

And drank from us the swordsmen of the mountain

¢An~ara also said:

I remembered thee while lances rushed

Toward me, and my blood dripped down Indian swords

There are many instances of this [association of remembrance in times of opposition and striving] in the [genre of lovers’] poetry, for the remembrance of the beloved in such situations when a man tends to think only about himself is an evidence that the lover holds the beloved as dear as himself, if not dearer, and such is true love.

And Allah knows best.

 

 

Written By

Uwaymir Anjum is the Imam Khattab Chair of Islamic Studies at the Department of Philosophy, University of Toledo. He is also professor of Islamic Intellectual History at Qatar University. He studies the connections between theology, ethics, politics, and law in classical and medieval Islam, with a subfocus on its comparisons with western thought. Related fields of study include Islamic philosophy and Sufism. His dissertation, published in 2012 by Cambridge University Press, is entitled Politics, Law, and Community in Islamic Thought: The Taymiyyan Moment. His translation of Ibn al-Qayyim’s Madârij Al-Sâlikîn is forthcoming.

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1 Comment

  • Asalam Alekum

    Dear respected Dr. Anjum,

    where can we purchase the full translation of the book, have you completed this translation or still in progress? if so then when will it be available, kindly let us know because many many many people are waiting in anticipation for a long long long time now.

    JzakAllah

    Your brother
    Sajjad

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