Sufism is described by its adherents as an inner mystical dimension of the Islamic religion. Those who practice this tradition are usually referred to as Sufi or Dervish. Classical scholars of Sufi have defined the tradition as a science whose aim is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from everything else but God. This science provides a path that one can use to travel into the Divine presence, purify their inner self from any filth and beautify themselfs using a variety of traits that are praiseworthy. A Sufi is a mystic who is in constant strive to be in eternal communion with God. Sufism is believed to have come onto existence around the eighth and ninth century. This is believed to be as a result of the formal and impersonal nature of Islam. Pietistic asceticism initiates the search for a deeper meaning which eventually led to Sufism developing. The Sufi are said to follow their path to fulfillment by means of love towards God. The different orders of the Sufi’s hold various rituals and principles which give them their distinctions. This paper seeks to look at the practice of Sama and Zikr, their significance to Sufism and how they facilitate the Sufi’s fulfillment of key aims presented by the path. It also looks at how these practices contribute to the distinct identities of the different orders of Sufism.
Zikr is a central feature and principle in all of the Sufi orders. This term is the Arabic term for the devotional practice that comprises of the remembrance of God. Zikr is performed though the repeated invocation of the attributes and Names of God. The practice is based ob verse in the Quran where God says “remember me and I will remember you”. During the practice of Zikr, the practitioner concentrates on six subtle body points. However, the practice of Zikr often varies with the order of Sufism. The ultimate objective however is to create a love for God as well as a spiritual awareness for God. Zikr can be practiced individually or as a group collectively. Some orders perform it loudly which is known as Jali while the Khafi form is practiced silently (mentally or in a low voice). However, all practice it under the direction of a Sufi master (Louw 110).
The Naqshbandiyaj Order of the Faqirs usually performs the Khafi version while the Qadiriyah and Chishtiyah orders celebrate the Jali. The exercise of Zikr usually comprise of different procedures, however each of them is similar in character as their main features. According to the book Qaulu ‘l-Jamil by Maulawi Shah, Zikr Jali is comprised of: the worshipper sitting in their usual sitting posture and then shouts ‘Allah’. He draws his voice from the left side of his body and then from the throat. Sitting in the normal prayer position, he then repeats the word ‘Allah’ in an louder voice than before, the initial word is drawn from his right knee and then from the left side of his body. The practitioner then sits folding his legs beneath himself and repeats ‘Allah’ in a louder voice still, initially from his right knee and then from the left side of his body. Remaining in this same position, he again shouts ‘Allah’ but this time from his left knee and then from the right knee. He does this from the left side of his body and then finally from the front still in a louder voice. Sitting as if in prayer, the practitioner faces towards Makah, closes his eyes and says the word “La”. The sound is drawn from the navel up to the left shoulder. He then says the word “ ilaha” as if he is drawing he sound from the brain and at last says “ illa ‘illahu’ which is repeated from the left side with a lot of energy. Each of these stages is referred to as zarb and is repeated many times over with the same variations in motion and sound (Benningsen and Wimbush 80).
The Zikr Khafi is performed either mentally or in a low voice. The Nuraqabah is another act of devotion which often accompanies the Zikr. This is usually a form of mediation/ having performed the Zikr, worshipper will often proceed to meditate upon the verses or a verse of the Quran. The Qadiryal Faqirs recommend the Suratu ‘l-Hadid (57.3), Suratu ‘l-Hadid (57.4), Suraty Qaf (50:16), Suraty ‘l-Baqarah (2:109), Suratu ‘n-Nisa (4:125) and Suratu ‘r-Rahman (55:26,27) as they are considered the most spiritual and devotional by Muslim mystics.
It is common for most teachers to teach their disciples that there are two doors into the heart. One is freshly that is opened by the zikr jail and the other is spiritual and is opened the zikr khafi. This is so that the worshipper may be enlightened. To those not initiated, this ceremony may appear a meaningless ritual. However, to a sufi, this is a calculated principle to convey great benefit to one’s inner man as it is the union between the tongue and the heart in one effort of calling the name of God (Hughes 2).
The Chishtiyah order holds a superstitious belied that if one performs this devotional exercise and seizes with ones toes the kaimas vein located under the leg while sitting cross-legged, this is believed to give peace to ones heart if it is accompanied by the Zikr of “There is no deity but God”. The most common Zikr form is however the recital of God’s ninety-nine names. This is because Mohammed promised that those followers who recited them would be surely granted an entrance into paradise. To facilitate these names recital, the recite (zakir) uses a rosary (tasbih) (Hughes 4).
The zikr is also comprised of three other forms of zikr: Tahmis, Tasbih and Takbir. This are usually an exclamation of surprise and joy as well as used for Zikr’s devotional practice. Tasbih is an expression of Holiness of God. While Tahmid is Praise to God and the Tkbir is the expression that God is great. The Tahmid and Tasbih are usually recited together and is usually related to Muhammad’s Hadis which states that whomever recites the sentence a hundred times in the morning and evening will have their sins forgiven. According to Muhammad, reciting the Tasbih a hundred times grants the worshippers a thousand virtues which are recorded by God, with each repetition holding ten virtuous deeds. The Zikr is especially of important consideration as it holds the authoritative sanction of Muhammad himself (Hughes 7).
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This importance is further strengthened by the injunctions made by the prophet on the subject. According to him, whenever people sit together and remember God, angles surround them and cover them with favor from God, and the peace of God descends upon the. God remembers them in that particular assembly which is close to him. In the same light, there are angles moving around and seeking for those who remember God. The angles then cover them using their wings as far down as the lowest heaven, region. Then the angles return to God and on asking them what His servants are saying and doing, they answer that the devotees are reciting the Takbirm the Tasbih and the Tamjid. God is then merciful in pardoning their sins. This remembrance of God is said to offer redemption from God than any other act. The actions of remembering God are said to be more significance that the Jihad, the fight with infidels. The nest action is believed to be when one is separate from the world and die while his tongue is repeating God’s name. This is the way by which one may get hold of their reward. As such, the zikr represent a sure way through which Sufis can enter into heaven (Bieman 11).
The Sama is the most relatable ritual when one thinks about dervishes. Sama is the musical audition and the movements which are dance-like that are particularly associated with the “Whirling Dervishes” spinning that is practiced by the Sufi order of Mevlevi. It is also a popular form of worship amongst the Christi order located in the Indian subcontinent. This Sufi practice has managed to maintain its charms as well as its highly symbolic content over the years. It is usually performed as dhikr where Sama refers to listening and dhikr refers to remembrance (Louw 110).
Sama falls into a legal classification of acts that are technically referred to as “Mubah”. This means that practicing Sama is permitted by the Shariah. However it holds no religious significance or value. It is legally permissible for a good purpose but becomes forbidden if it is to be used for an evil or undesirable purpose. As such, Sama or Qawwali as it is sometimes referred to as falls into the neutral category. It is therefore no doubt that Sama practice has held a place of contradiction in the practice of Sufi over the years. The practice involves the listening of music with the aim of altering the consciousness state of self. Sama has been described as challenging the harmonious relationship of existence between the Sufis and the ordinary believers as it involves courting the divine through performing music which in turn leads to expression of ecstasy in public (Ali 2). During the early days of the tradition of Sufis, practitioners of Sama often faced a dilemma. To be able to practice and defend Sama involved the assertion of the supremacy of the love relationship over all the other religious obligations. Being devout Muslims, Sufis held that both love and music as all aspects of their kife were subject to be experienced within the world view of Islam and as such had to uphold the Quran, the Sunnah or the traditions of the Sharia the Prophet or the rudiments of the Law of Islam (MacDonald 197).
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This dilemma premised, even though at the same time it privileged m the ambiguity of the relationship between the lover and the beloved. The first situation of Sam is the category of pleasure and entertainment, according to the Shariah, it is not corrects to forbid Sama just because it pleases the heart and because one gets happiness and pleasure from it. This is because not all pleasures are haram/ forbidden as only those that have potential for evil are. It is therefore not haram to participate in listening and dancing to melodious songs that are aimed at pleasing our hearts. Sahih Ahadith which is part of the Prophet’s (pbuh) tradition makes this point a little more clearly. The prophet is said to have watched for a while together with Bibi Aisha a song and dance performance which was given by some Abyssinians in the premises of the Mosque in Medina on Eid day. The Sama is forbidden where it is listened with undesirable thoughts in a person’s mind or where there is evil passion in his heart. However when the reverse of this occurs, that is, the mind and heart of the listener are not polluted by evil passions and thought, the Sama is not haram. This is because Sama would act to enhance the good qualities that the listener holds and only act to influence the listener to pursue the intended course that is driven by good and praiseworthy intentions and thoughts. This could include such actions as jihad, Hajj and fulfillment of obligatory duties in a Sufis life such as Salat. Sama is also seen as enhancing the consciousness as well as awareness of ones transgressions and sins. The melancholic feeling is believed to bring one to tears and make them ask for the forgiveness of their sins. Holding Sama on a pleasant occasion or festival such as a wedding or walima festival enhances the joy and also increases the enjoyment of implied pleasure. This results in thee favors and joys of Allah ta’ala. The best authority for this is the occasion of where the Holy Prophet would return from journeys to Medina. The people of Median would often welcome him back with songs accompanied by Duff drums. As such, Sama is permitted during festive occasions such as Eid or when relatives and friends meet together to share food and eat where there is mutual love, comradeship and affection as it enhances the happy moments making them more enjoyable and happier (Qureshi 82).
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The fourth form of Sama is usually referred to as real Sama. This usually relates to where the love of Allah Ta’ ala has advanced to the point of being ardent love or Ishq. Here, Sama not only becomes permissible but is also extremely significant for such a believer. The Sufis attach so much importance to Sama as it is essential increases the love or friendship of Allah Ta’ala. Sama acts as a means through which a believer can increasingly brightened the light from the burning flame that is the love of Allah. It is believed to hold tremendous effect spiritually to the listeners. Sufis are often said to undergo as state of unveiling of the mysteries of spiritual divine. This results in spiritual ecstasy or ‘wajd’ as it is a state of spiritual transformation that is derived from the world that we cannot see. Since man and the spiritual celestial world hold a special connection that is often a mystery the Sama is seen as moving and activating the mystical element of the listener so that they he is made un aware of the phenomenal world that surrounds him and taken to some other reality. Sama is said to at times have such profound effects that the strength and energy of the listeners’ limbs are suspended and he becomes unconscious. A very high spiritual awareness is achieved when one is able to remain intact after passing such a deep ecstasy state (Ali 3).
Both the practice of Zikr and Sama hold a significant position in the practice of Sufism and ensuring that the believers stay on the path to accomplishing the fulfillment of Sufism principles. Although these practices are distinctly different depending on particular manners they are practiced in the Sufism’s orders, these difference give the various orders their distinctions.