Translation from Ibn Al-Qayyim’s Madarij Al-Salikin (Steps of the Seekers) | The Station of Remembrance (Thikr) | Part 2

The Example of the Focused

THE PEOPLE OF remembrance are ahead of all others.

This is as Muslim narrated in his ßa^î^ in the ^adîth of Al-¢Alâ’, on the authority of his father, who reported on the authority of Abû Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah œ was on the way to Makkah when he passed a mountain called Jumdân, and said:

Proceed on. This is Jumdân. The single-minded (mufarridûn) have gone ahead.

They said: O Messenger of Allah œ: Who are the single-minded?

He said: They are those men and women who remember Allah much. (Muslim) ‘Al-Mufarridûn’ in this instance either means “those who express Allah’s Oneness (muwa^^idûn)” or “the rare and few.

In the Musnad (of A^mad ibn ±anbal), the Prophet œ said, in the ^adîth of Abû Al-Dardâ’:

Shall I tell you about the best of your actions, the purest before your Master, highest in rank, and better for you than giving away gold and silver and meeting the enemy in the battlefield and killing and being killed [in the cause of Allah?

They said: And what could that be, O Messenger of Allah?

He said: Remembrance of Allah, Exalted and Magnificent. (A^mad, Tirmithi, graded |a^î^ by corroboration)

Shu¢bah related from Abû Is^âq, who said he heard from Al-Agharr, who said, I witness from Abû Hurayrah and Abu Sa¢îd Al-Khudrî j, who both bore witness that the Messenger of Allah œ said:

No group of people sit in remembrance of Allah, save that the angels surround them, mercy covers them, tranquility descends upon them, and Allah mentions them to those in His presence. This is also in ßa^î^ Muslim.

What more could be said concerning the status of remembrance than that Allah mentions it with pride to His angels! This is reported in ßa^î^ Muslim on the authority of Mu¢âwiyah:

The Messenger of Allah œ went out to his Companions seated in a circle. He asked what they were sitting for, to which they said: “We sit to remember Allah and thankfully praise Him for guiding us to Islam and favoring us with it.

Thereupon he said: By Allah! Is it this you sit together for and nothing more?

They said: By Allah, that is all that we sit together for.

He said: I meant not [by my interrogation] to accuse you, but [the Arch-Angel] Gabriel came to me and told me that Allah is mentioning you proudly to His angels.

Similarly, a Bedouin asked the Messenger of Allah:

Which deed is the most virtuous? He said: That you leave this world [at the moment of death] in such a state that your tongue is moist with Allah’s remembrance.

Again, a man asked him:

The Laws of Islam have become too many for me. Tell me something I can hold on to? He said: “Your tongue should but be moist with Allah’s remembrance. (Tirmithî, graded ^asan-gharîb, meaning the Text of the report has no fault of oddity in it, but the chain of narrators has some fault.)

In Musnad [A^mad] and elsewhere in the ^adîth of Jâbir, he said that the Messenger of Allah œ came out to us and said:

O people! Pick from the courtyard of Paradise.

We said: O Messenger of Allah! And what are the courtyards of Paradise? He said: Gatherings of remembrance. (Tirmithî, graded ^asan-gharîb)

He also said:

Remember Allah in the morning and evening. Whosoever wishes to know his place with Allah should look at the place of Allah with him, for Allah gives a servant the place that he gives Allah. (±âkim, weak)

The Prophet œ reported from his forefather [prophet] Ibrahim ∑, on the Night of the Journey (Al-Isrâ’):

Convey my greetings to your Ummah, and tell them that Paradise has pure soil and sweet water. It is a plain, a leveled field [ready for planting]. The plants grow there by uttering: Sub^ân’Allâh, Al-^amdulillâh, Lâ ilâha illAlllâh and Allâhu Akbar (Transcendent is Allah; all praise is for Allah; there is no god but Allah; and Allah is Greatest) (Tirmithî, ^asan).

The two ßa^î^s (Bukhârî and Muslim) include a ^adîth of Abû Mûsâ on the authority of the Prophet œ:

The likeness of one who remembers Allah and one who does not is that of one who is living and one who is dead. (Bukhâri, Muslim) The wording of Muslim is as follows: The likeness of the house in which Allah is remembered and one in which Allah is not remembered is that of one who is living and one who is dead. (Muslim)

Thus, he likened the house of the one who remembers Allah to the house of one who is living and the house of the one who is heedless of Allah’s remembrance to that of one who is dead, which is to say the grave. In the wording of the former report, he called the one who remembers Allah as living and the heedless as dead. The two put together mean that the heart of the one who remembers Allah is like one who is living in a house teaming with life, whereas the heedless is like one who is dead in the house of the dead. No doubt the bodies of those heedless of Allah are the graveyards of their hearts. Their hearts therein are like corpses. As it has been said [in a couplet]:

Forgetfulness of Allah is the death of their hearts

            Their bodies are graves before they reach graves

Their souls are aliens in their bodies

            No resurrection is there for them until the Resurrection

It has been said, as well:

Forgetfulness of Allah is the death of their hearts

Their bodies are ruins of graveyards

Their souls alien to their loved One

But to wretchedness, they are friends

Remembrance of Allah and Allah’s Remembrance

In a Divine Pronouncement (±adîth Qudsî), Allah Almighty says: If my servant is overwhelmed by My remembrance, he loves Me and I love him.

In another:

O Son of Adam! You have been unfair to Me. I remember you, but you forget Me. I call you, and you run to another. I remove afflictions from you, but you insist on devotion to your errors. O son of Adam! What shall you have to say tomorrow when you come to Me?

In another:

O Son of Adam! Remember Me when you are angry, and [if so,] I shall remember you when I become angry. [Rather,]Be pleased with my succor to you, for it is better for you than your own succor to yourself.

It is reported that the Messenger of Allah œ relates from his Lord, Almighty and Blessed:

Whosoever remembers Me in the privacy of his heart, I shall remember him to myself.[1] Whoever remembers Me in company, I remember him in a company better than his company. (Muslim)

We have mentioned nearly one hundred benefits of remembrance of Allah in our treatise al-Wâbil Al-ßayyib wa Râfi¢ Al-Kalim Al-ayyib (The Torrential Cloud and the Uplifter of the Goodly Word).[2] Therein we have mentioned the great secrets of remembrance, its tremendous benefits, and its bounteous fruit.

Therein we have also stated that remembrance is of three kinds: (1) The remembrance of the Divine Names and Attributes—reflecting on their meanings, praising Allah and upholding Allah’s Oneness through them; (2) the remembrance of divine commandments and prohibitions or the licit and the illicit; and (3) the remembrance of divine blessings, bounties, favors, and succor. This last is itself of three types: (i) Remembrance that has pierced the tongue as well as the heart, and this is the highest; (ii) remembrance by heart alone, and this is the second level; and (iii) remembrance by the tongue alone, which is the third and lowest level.

To be continued


[1] I translate ‘nafs’ in a theologically minimalist way as ‘self.’ Thus nafsî is simply ‘myself,’ rather than ‘my soul.’ The concept of soul as a distinct entity did come to exist in Islamic tradition, but it is not clearly distinct in the Quran, and when it does appear in ^adîth literature, it is usually referred to as ‘rû^’ rather than ‘nafs.’ For more elaborate distinction between the two concepts after Hellenistic and Neo-Platonist influence, see Nahyan Fancy, Science and Religion in Mamluk Egypt: Ibn al-Nafis, Pulmonary Transit and Bodily Resurrection (Routledge, 2013).

[2] A brief treatise by Ibn Al-Qayyim, expounding on Ibn Taymiyyah’s collection of spiritual prayers (awrâd), translated as The Invocation of God by M. Abdurrahman Fitzgerald (Cambridge) UK: Islamic Texts Society, 2000). Ibn Taymiyyah’s original collection, Al-Kalim Al-ayyib has also been translated by Ezzedin Ibrahim and Denys Johnson-Davies as The Goodly Word (Islamic Text Society, 2010).

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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