“The essential practice in Sufism is ‘zikr’ which means ‘remembrance’ — remembrance of God, remembrance of the source and goal of all being, remembrance of our true home… Flowing endlessly from this One the Sufi discovers a force, an emotion, which will not fit into the narrow boxes of human language. The closest we can come to naming it is to speak of Love.
There is no higher calling than to make one’s life a pure channel for this primal force, the compassion and yearning that has given rise to all that is. Sufism is the path of purification and remembrance by which the heart is made its vessel.” – Pir Zia Inayat-Khan
The Sufi practice of zikr is directed towards the invocation and experience of Divine Presence. The most common forms involve:
- practice alone at the direction of one’s Sufi guide, or, as a group practice under the direction of an experienced Zikr leader;
- using a formal mantric phrase or series of phrases, especially the Arabic “La Ilaha illa’llah” (There is no god but God, or There is no reality but the Divine Reality) along with the asma al-husna or ‘Beautiful Names of God”;
- words sung, spoken or repeated inwardly ‘on the breath’ (fikr);
Zikr is most commonly experienced in a sitting circle, but is also done in spiritual walk and dance in a group or by oneself. Ultimately, the zikr is intended to cultivate an ever-present consciousness of Divine Presence, and to that end one can bring Zikr repetition into one’s everyday life in informal ways in addition to the more formal structures of Zikr. Whether alone or in a group, the practice of Zikr leads one towards deep personal inner experience of purification and connection to the One Being.
Zikr practice is a frequent element in many Sufi Group meetings alongside other practices such as breathing practices, prayer and meditation. Further useful Zikr resources:
- Adab in Group Zikr by Pir Zia Inayat-Khan (in this context Adab has a similar meaning to attunement and respect).
- The Stages of Zikr – 7-minute audio by Pir Zia Inayat-Khan
- Zikr overview by Imam Bilal Hyde
For a more thorough exploration of Zikr adab, please read the transcript of a talk Pir Zia gave on the subject, or watch a YouTube video of Pir Zia talking about zikr: