By Aftab Ahmad, New Age Islam
30 January, 2015
And whoever turns away from My remembrance - indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind."He will say, "My Lord, why have you raised me blind while I was [once] seeing?" [ Allah ] will say, "Thus did Our signs come to you, and you forgot them; and thus will you this Day be forgotten." And thus do We recompense he who transgressed and did not believe in the signs of his Lord. And the punishment of the Hereafter is more severe and more enduring.(Taha: 124-127)
In the verses quoted above, God warns those who turn away from His remembrance of a miserable life in the world and of gathering him on the Day of Resurrection blind.
The questions is: what is meant by Zikr? Is it the chanting of the name of God by the Sufis or the revelations of God on the whole or only the holy Quran? The Quran has used some words in a comprehensive way and so more than one explanation of those words is possible. Here the punishment for turning away from God’s remembrance makes the believer shiver with fear and he wants to know the true meaning of the word.
In Surah Ambiya too, the word zikr has been mentioned a number of times.
No mention (Message, word) comes to them anew from their Lord except that they listen to it while they are at play (2)
And We sent not before you, [O Muhammad], except men to whom We revealed [the message], so ask the people of the message if you do not know. (7)
And We had already given Moses and Aaron the criterion and a light and a reminder for the righteous. (48)
And this [Qur'an] is a blessed message which We have sent down. Then are you with it unacquainted?(50)
From all the verses above, it is clear that zikr means revelations of God. The second verse makes it clear that all the prophets were people of zikr. Therefore, the word zikr is used for the word or revelation of God collectively. Zikr has also been used to mean specifically the Quran.
It should be noted that in the Quran the word zikr is used both for the sacred scriptures revealed before the Quran and the Quran itself and people have been warned of severe torment against turning away from all of them.
In Surah Baqarah, the Quran has been declared the source of guidance and people have been promised rewards and blessings for believing in what came before the Quran and what was revealed to them.
In fact, the people of the age of the Quran were directed to believe in the scriptures that were revealed before and people before Quran were told to turn towards the Quran. In this way, the Muslims should strengthened their bond with the Psalms, the Torah and the Bible and the religious communities belonging to the age before Prophet Muhammd pbuh should strengthen their bond with the Quran. Only this through this the absoluteness of the revelations (wah’y) can remain intact. Thus zikr means the absolute (collective) revelations of God and the punishment which has been mentioned for turning away from zikr is for turning away from the whole revelations.
The traditions of Deen have been extended from the first prophet to the last. The Quran, the Psalms, the Torah and the Bible are all sacred scriptures of Deen and all the prophets are the foundation stones of Deen. The prophets have been assigned different status and ranks by God and the rank and position of the sacred scriptures are also different in the eyes of God but we have been ordained not to discriminate between prophets considering some as superior and some as inferior and respect all the books of Deen. Turning away from this point of view will be akin to turning away from Zikr and obviously the life of such people will be miserable in the world and a severe torment will await them in the Hereafter. They will be raised as blind persons on the Day of Judgment.
In his exegesis, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad has expressed his view that Deen is only one, not two or three and that all the prophets together complete the circle of Deen; all the revelations taken together complete the structure of Deen. In this situation, by separating the Quran (bima unzila elaik) from what was revealed before (bima unzila min qablik), discriminating between prophets and driving a wedge between religious communities will only damage the concept of Deen.
In fact, all the prophets of Deen, their sacred traditions and all the sacred scriptures are our sacred legacy. Finding fault with and turning away from anyone of them is akin to turning away from revelations of God. The collective legacy of Deen is called Zikr.
Those who forgot and ignored the verses of God and turned away from His remembrance will be leading a life of misery and penury in the world and wandering blindly on the Day of Judgment without a leader. The blindness on the Day of Judgment will be very distressing and ugly. May God bless us with the understanding of Zikr.