We have been commanded in more than one aayah of the Qur’aan to perform salaah and give zakaah. We have also been commanded to fast and perform hajj. There are a number of other obligatory or voluntary injunctions in the sharee’ah. Is there, however, any injunction which we were commanded to fulfill abundantly? On numerous occasions Allah Ta’aala said, ‘Establish salaah’, but never did he say, ‘Establish salaah abundantly. Similarly, He commanded us to pay zakaah, but He never said, ‘Pay zakaah in abundance’. The same is said about almost every other injunction of the sharee’ah. I say ‘almost’ because there is one injunction – only one – that we have been commanded to fulfill abundantly.   
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا اذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ ذِكْرًا كَثِيرًا
“O People of Imaan, make dhikr of Allah in abundance.”

Every act of ‘ibaadah has certain limits. Salaah may not be performed during sunrise, zawaal and sunset. Saum is not permissible during the days of ‘eid and the three days of tashreeq. Hajj may only be performed from the eighth to the twelfth of Dhil-Hijjah and that too, in Makkah only. Tilaawah of the Qur’aan is impermissible in the state of janaabah and there are only three days in the year for offering udhiyah. The only act of ‘ibaadah that has no limits is dhikr. Permissible throughout the year, at any hour of the day and night, it does not even require tahaarah. Let alone not having wudoo, it is permissible in janaabah also. Hence, the reason why we have been commanded to make abundant dhikr is its ease. Given the above explanation, is there any excuse for not making dhikr?  Thus, we have also been commanded:
اذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَى جُنُوبِكُمْ
“Make dhikr of Allah while standing, sitting and on your sides (lying down).”

The question is, ‘what is dhikr?’ Most people tend to confine dhikr to the utterance of certain formulae by means of which we glorify Allah. The truth, however, is that dhikr has a much broader meaning than generally understood. Let us look at a few examples to demonstrate what we are saying. 

    Encountering an atheist, you endeavour to prove to him the existence of Allah. Whatever you tell him in this regard is dhikr.
    Speaking to a mushrik (idolater), you attempt explaining to him tahweed (the Oneness of Allah). Doing so, you may quote the aayah:
لَوْ كَانَ فِيهِمَا آلِهَةٌ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ لَفَسَدَتَا
“If there were in the sky and earth deities other than Allah, both of them would be in chaos.”
Irrespective of what you say in this regard – even if it is not an aayah from the Qur’aan – your discussion is dhikr.
    You sometimes feel anxious of the future. Due to financial or other crises, you feel helpless. However, you suddenly remind yourself that ‘Allah has power over everything’, ‘everything happens according to the will of Allah’ and ‘Allah knows best’. Doing so remedies your anxiety and enables you to ‘pull through’.
ألا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ
“Behold, in the dhikr of Allah do hearts gain contentment.”
Thinking of Allah in such situations is also dhikr.
    Engrossed in your worldly activities – business or leisure – when the time of salaah enters, you take wudoo and perform salaah. Similarly, you shudder at the thought of missing a single Ramadaan fast, even if the days may be very long and the temperature may be blistering. Why do you do all this? Is it not because you fear accountability to Allah on the Day of Qiyaamah? 
رِجَالٌ لاَّ تُلْهِيهِمْ تِجَارَةٌ وَلا بَيْعٌ عَن ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَإِقَامِ الصَّلاةِ وَإِيتَاء الزَّكَاةِ
يَخَافُونَ يَوْمًا تَتَقَلَّبُ فِيهِ الْقُلُوبُ وَالأَبْصَارُ
“Men whom mercahandise and sale do not distract from the dhikr of Allah, establishment of salaah and payment of zakaah. They fear a day in which hearts and eyes will be overturned.”
Such fear of answerability to Allah and the resultant fulfillment of His commands also fall under dhikr. 
    Tempted to violate the command of Allah, you think of the severity of His punishment and constrain yourself. You contemplate Allah’s bounties and ask yourself, ‘Should I not feel shy to disobey Him?’
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا إِذَا مَسَّهُمْ طَائِفٌ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ تَذَكَّرُوا فَإِذَا هُمْ مُبْصِرُونَ
“When an evil idea from Shaytaan occurs to those who have taqwa, they remember Allah and see (their error).”
    You sometimes get ‘carried away’ and sin. However, you very soon realize your error and turn to Allah in tawbah.
وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا فَعَلُوا فَاحِشَةً أَوْ ظَلَمُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ ذَكَرُوا اللَّهَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا لِذُنُوبِهِمْ
“When they engage in indecency or wrong themselves, they remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins.”
    In the battlefield, you see the enemy and, overtaken by fear, you feel like fleeing. However, you then remember the rewards promised to the martyr and you think of the punishment for fleeing from the battlefield. Thus, you persevere. Is this not dhikr?
    Afflicted with some misfortune, you remind yourself not to fret and thereby show ingratitude for the innumerable favour’s of Allah that you have enjoyed and continue to enjoy. Thinking of Allah’s favours is also a form of dhikr. 
    In your childhood, you may have learnt a number of du’aas which are to be read on various occasions in your daily life; the du’aa when waking up, the du’aas before entering and upon leaving the toilet, the du’aas before and after eating etc. Reading these du’aas also constitutes dhikr. 
    You hear an appeal for funds. Contemplating whether you should make a donation or not, or maybe how much should you donate, the thought crosses your mind, ‘what about my family, do I have enough for them’ etc. At that moment, you recall the aayaat:
الشَّيْطَانُ يَعِدُكُمُ الْفَقْرَ وَيَأْمُرُكُمْ بِالْفَحْشَاءِ وَاللَّهُ يَعِدُكُمْ مَغْفِرَةً مِنْهُ وَفَضْلًا وَاللَّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ
“Shaytaan promises you poverty and commands you to be indecent. Allah promises you His forgiveness and grace. Allah’s bounties are vast and He is All Knowing.”
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا لَا تُلْهِكُمْ أَمْوَالُكُمْ وَلَا أَوْلَادُكُمْ عَنْ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ
وَمَنْ يَفْعَلْ ذَلِكَ فَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ
“O People of imaan, your wealth and your children should not hinder you from the dhikr of Allah. Whoever does so, they are the losers.”
Thinking in this manner is yet one more form of dhikr.
    In the mornings, you recite Surah Yaseen. In the evenings, you recite Surah Sajdah and Surah Mulk. Daily, you recite a certain portion of the Qur’aan. Recitation is a form of dhikr. After all, one of the names of the Qur’aan is The Dhikr.
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ
“Certainly we revealed the Dhikr and we will preserve it.”
    In the light of the Qur’aan, performance of salaah is also a form of dhikr.
أقِمْ الصَّلاةَ لِذِكْرِي
“Establish salaah for my remembrance.”
In fact, implementation of any injunction of the sharee’ah is an aspect of dhikr.

Ibn-ul-Qayyim (ra)
Ibn-ul-Qayyim (ra) divided dhikr into five categories in his book Al-Waabil As-Sayyib.
1.    Remembering Allah Ta’aala by (repeated) utterance of His names and attributes – For example:
سبحان الله و الحمد لله و لا إله الا الله و الله أكبر
سبحان الله و بِحمده
لا إله الا الله وحدَه لا شريكه له الْملك و له الْحمد وهو على كلّ شيء قدير
All the ahaadith that extol the virtue of dhikr refer to this type.
2.    Remembering Allah Ta’aala by discussing His names and attributes – For example:
Allah is All Hearing and All Knowing.
No action of man is hidden from Allah.
Allah has more mercy for man than his parents.
Allah’s treasures are limitless.
3.    Remembering Allah Ta’aala by discussing His commands and prohibitions – For example:
Allah commanded us to perform salaah five times daily.
He commanded us to fast in the month of Ramadaan.
He commanded us to follow the example of His Rasool sallallahu alaihi wasallam.
Allah prohibited us from theft and adultery.
He prohibited us from pride and jealousy.
4.    Remembering Allah Ta’aala while fulfilling His commands and abstaining from the things that He prohibited – Remember that there is a difference between remembering Allah Ta’aala’s command and remembering Him while fulfilling His command.)
5.    Remembering Allah Ta’aala by recalling His favours – This is among the greatest forms of dhikr. 

Although we mentioned in the beginning that the meaning of dhikr is not confined to the utterance of certain formulae, it is clear from the above that doing so is undeniably an integral part of dhikr and extremely meritorious.
From a Different Angle
Looking at dhikr from a different perspective, we could say that it comprises of three types:
1.    Dhikr of the tongue only – This is the weakest form of dhikr. Its benefits are few.
2.    Dhikr of the heart only – This is greater of dhikr than the previous one. It benefits are recognition and love of Allah, shyness to disobey Him, fear of His punishment and an overall All-consciousness. Thus, the dhaakir (one who makes dhikr) is deterred from negligence in His duties to Allah and indifference towards sin. None of these benefits is found when dhikr is made with the tongue only. Hence, it is a superior form of dhikr.
3.    Dhikr of the tongue and the heart simultaneously – This is obviously the most superior form of dhikr.  Regarding this form dhikr, Ibn Rajab (ra) writes that in the lover’s heart, the beloved’s name is never absent. Hence, if he is compelled to remove all thoughts of the beloved from his heart, he will be unable to do so. Similarly, if he is compelled to stop remembering him with his tongue, he will not be able to do so.
كيفَ ينسَى الْمُحِبّ ذِكرَ حَبِيب ، اسْمُه فِى فُؤادِه مَكتوبُ 
How can the lover forget a beloved whose name is written in his heart?
Due to persistent remembrance of Allah in the heart, a time comes when dhikr involuntarily flows from the dhaakir’s tongue. Thus, a certain pious person would be heard saying ‘Allah, Allah’ in his sleep. This explains why the dwellers of Jannah will make tasbeeh in the same manner that people breathe. There will be so much of divine recognition in their hearts that they would not have to be told to do so. It will be a natural process like breathing.       

•    When the heart of the dhaakir is saturated with divine love and recognition, he never stops making dhikr. Even when his tongue is not engaged in dhikr, his heart never stops thinking of Allah. Furthermore, when he hears somebody else taking Allah’s name, he gets restless and starts doing the same.

•    Nothing distracts such people from remembering Allah. Even when they are in the company of others, their hearts are ‘with’ Allah. ‘Physically with people, spiritually with Allah.’ Sayyiduna ‘Ali (ra) described them saying, “They live in the dunya with their bodies, but their hearts are attached to the highest station.” A poet said:

جسمى معى غير أن الوح عندكم ، فالجسم فِى غربة و الروح فِى وطن
My body is with me but my soul is with you
My body is not at home but my soul is

•    However, the Allah consciousness of some dhaakireen is so great that whenever they attempt taking the name of Allah, fear or awe prevents them from doing so. A pious man known as Abu Yazeed spent the whole night attempting to say لا إله الا الله but as much as he tried, fear and awe prevented him from doing so. When he relieved himself in the morning, he urinated urine. On another occasion, he tried to say الله أكبر but struggled to do so and began trembling with fear.  
و ما ذكرتكم إلا نسيتكم ، نسيان إجلال لا نسيان إهمال
Whenever I remember you, I forget you
Forgetfulness due to awe not indifference

In conclusion, we beseech Allah to include us among those who remember Him in abundance, with our tongues, bodies and hearts, aameen.

و آخر دعوانا أن الحمد لله رب العالمين
Abu Hudhaifah Muhammed Karolia
28 September 2013 / 22 Dhil-Qa’dah 1434
Al-Jaami’ah AL-Mahmoodiah
Persida, Springs