The remembrance and utterance of the name of the Creator of the Universe is prescribed in all the religions of the world. The Psalms, the Torah, the Bible and the oldest scriptures of the world — the Vedas – sing hosanna to the Divine Creator. The tradition of uttering the name of God is also found in other religions like Manichaeism which was in vogue in Iran in the ancient times. The prophet of Manichaeism was Mani. Many modern folk religions like Sikhism, Nath Panth, Kabir Panth and Vaishnavism etc. give importance to remembrance of God, rather remembrance and utterance of the name of God forms the basic practice of these religions. In these religions, remembrance alone is considered the means of salvation. Therefore, remembrance of God is the true means of attaining union with God.
The Quran attachment so much importance to Zikr that it appears that Zikr or remembrance is also a fundamental pillar of Islam though Zikr is not mentioned as one of the five pillar of Islam. Any time for remembrance is also not prescribed as is done in the case of Namaz or prayers. However, the importance of Zikr can be gauged in some verses of the Quran. “O ye who believe! Celebrate the praises of Allah, and do this often; And glorify Him morning and evening. “(Al Ahzab: 41-42)
This universe is the creation of God and the entire universe sings His praise all the time, whether it be the mountains, plants or birds or insects. They all praise God and prostrates before Him in their own way and human beings do not understand their prayers. Mountains and birds used to praise God along with Prophet David. Another verse of the Quran says that everything on earth praises God in its own way. “Seest thou not that it is Allah Whose praises all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread? Each one knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise. And Allah knows well all that they do. “(Al Nur: 41)
Since God has created this universe and He is the Absolute Authority, He deservedly wishes that the entire universe should sing hosanna to Him and acknowledge His greatness and His blessings and bounties showered on man and all the beings on earth and in the heavens.One gift of remembrance is that it clears man’s heart of the mischief of Satan and man’s conscience is purified. A pure heart free of satanic mischief leads man to live a pious life full of purpose and spirit of humanity. God’s remembrance also saves man from egotism, self-conceit and arrogance which are a hindrance in his union with God. That is the reason, Sufis and saints found solace in Zikr (remembrance) and mysticism or Sufism became synonymous with Zikr. Zikr is the quintessential part of Sufism or mysticism. Zikr is done in two ways— aloud and silently. In Arabic, they are called Zikr-e-Khafi and Zikr-e-Jali. In Sanskrit they are called Jap and Samadhi.
According to intensity and depth, Zikr also named according to the degree of absorption and intensity. The highest degree of Zikr is called Sultan ul Azkar in which the whole body sings praise to God all the times, even during sleep. The heart always remains aware of the existence of God and such a person becomes very soft hearted. A verse in the Quran hints at this kind of Zikr: “Allah has revealed (from time to time) the most beautiful Message in the form of a Book, consistent with itself, (yet) repeating (its teaching in various aspects): the skins of those who fear their Lord tremble thereat; then their skins and their hearts do soften to the celebration of Allah’s praises. “(Al Zumar: 23)
Islam does not approve of life of celibacy but at the same time it prevents Muslims from being attached to the material life on earth. Leaving everything and coming towards God means preferring the remembrance of God and holding on to the laws of Shariah fast so as not to get swayed by earthly desires. The Sufis adopted the practice of service to the mankind and loving remembrance of God.