What is the meaning of muraqaba? The implicative meaning of muraqaba is to take care of something or to guard it carefully, according to Bab al Mufayalater Masder.
by Mufti Ahsan Ahmed
Wa kana Allahu A’ala kulli shay-in raqeeba
“and Allah doth watch over all things” (Qur’an 33:52)
According to the venerable Sufis, it is to recite the names of Allah, the kalam (word) of Allah or ayat (verses) of the Qur’an with tafakkur (deep reflection) in the hope to be aware of its substance, or to enquire about how the manifestation of this substance can take place with deep concentration so that nothing apart from this thought enters the mind except it, and to lose one’s self-awareness while focusing on the thought.
The general meaning of muraqaba :
To reflect upon the sifat (attributes) of Allah most High in such a way that the existence of all things disappear and only the existence of Allah remains in the mind. When one is able to hold on to the thought, forgetting the self in such a way, attaining the state of fana for a given time then this is known as muraqaba.
For either most of the time or for a limited period of time, to keep vigil of the holy essence of Allah, or His Sifat, or some other aspect in the mind with devotion that this becomes a practice is known as muraqaba. This is an intentional practice of the qalb (heart). With this muraqaba the weak and incomplete ideas take root and strengthen in the heart. This strengthening of ideas is supported by the pirs and mashayekh (saints and the learned) and common people. ( Taleem ud-Deen, Al Takashawuf, Anfas al-‘Esa).
Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day,- there are indeed Signs for men of understanding,
Men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (With the thought): “Our Lord! not for naught Hast Thou created (all) this! Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire. (Qur’an 3:190-191)
In the commentary of Tafsir Ruhul Bayan referring to the above mentioned ayat it is mentioned:
“The intelligent people take lessons from the creation of the sky and the earth and it is only instructed to think about the creation.
The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “ponder about the creation, and do not ponder about the Creator.” The Prophet’s instruction to only think about the creation is that it is impossible for humans to fathom the depth of Godhead, therefore it is not beneficial to ponder on it. That is why this aya has limited it to the creation only.”
This aya mentions two characteristics of the intelligent people:
1. Those who are continuously engrossed in the remembrance of Allah
2. Those who ponder and reflect on the creation of Allah
In the language of the reverend Sufis this is what is known as muraqaba.
The rewards for Muraqaba
In the commentary of Tafsir al Khusalat regarding this aya it is related that Hazrat Hassan al-Basri, May Allah have mercy on him, quoted a hadith: “one hour’s muraqaba on the creation is better than the whole night’s worship.” This hadith is also quoted in Tafsir Ruhul Bayan through the narration of Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him.
Hazrat Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him has narrated, “The Prophet, peace be upon him said, ‘to reflect for an hour is better that 60 years of nafl (supererogatory) worship.’”
Hazrat Anas, may Allah be pleased with him narrated, “to reflect for an hour is better 80 years of nafl worship.”
The greatness of Muraqaba
In the Tafsir of Ruhul Ma’ani there is a hadith narrated through Hazrat Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, “one person lying on his bed, looking at the sky and the stars says, “I know you have a Creator.” This causes the flames of love of the Creator to rise in his heart so he prayed, “O merciful Lord forgive me” so the Lord forgave him.”
Hazrat Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him has narrated the Prophet, peace be upon him said, “On the day of judgement an announcement will be made, ‘where are the intelligent ones?’ so the people will ask, ‘who are the intelligent?’ The answer will be about the people mentioned in the above aya. Then a flag will be raised for them and they will gather around this flag. Then they will be allowed to enter the jannah (garden, paradise) for eternity.” (Al Taghrib)
Ayesha Siddiqa, may Allah be pleased with her, was asked, “O mother of the believers, can you inform me about a special incident about the Prophet, peace be upon him?” She replied that which of his incidents were not special? “But listen, one night the Prophet, peace be upon him, came to rest with me, then said to me, “O Ayesha, I will now worship my Lord.” He got up made his wadhu (ablution) and stood up to pray and then started to profusely cry that his beard was wet through the tears. This he continued during his bowing and prostration throughout the whole night. At last Bilal, may Allah be pleased with him (Mu’ezzin of the Prophet), had arrived at the mosque to announce the Fajr (morning) prayer. Seeing this, I asked, “O Prophet of God, you are completely sinless and pure and then you cry so much?” He replied, “Should I not be a grateful servant of Allah? And why should I not cry because just now this aya has been revealed.” Then he said, “Destruction for this person who recites this aya but does not do muraqaba.” (Fazail Fikr 42)
Hujjat al Islam, Imam Ghazzali, may Allah have mercy on him, has written that reflection and pondering (fikr) has been made a superior mode of worship because not only it includes zikr (or dhikr, remembrance of Allah) but two other aspects as well. It contains:
1. Allah’ marifah (gnosis, awareness) and the key to marifah is reflection and thinking
2. The love of Allah is deeply established through this thinking and fikr, and this is known as muraqaba.
Apart from the evidence mentioned above he has explained the concept of ‘ihsan’ on the commentary Hadith Jibril that one “should worship Allah in such way that you are able to see Him. If that is not possible then think that Allah is watching you.” Our master, the Prophet, peace be upon him, has implied two things through this tradition:
1. The lofty state of Mushahada (witnessing) those who worship Allah by witnessing Him
2. The lower state of muraqaba (concentration)
Sanureehim ayatina feeal-afaqi wafee anfusihim hatta yatabayyana lahum annahu alhaqqu awa lam yakfi birabbika annahu A’ala kulli shay-in shaheed
Soon will We show them our Signs in the (furthest) regions, and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. Is it not enough that thy Lord doth witness all things? (Qur’an 41:53)
“afaqi” means everything around the earth and the sky up to throne (arsh)- this is known as alam al kabir.
“anfus” means all that is in human – this is known as alam al sagir.
Whatever is contained in alam al kabir is also present in the human body, the merciful Lord has hinted towards meditating on this reality.
To meditate in such ways are known as zikr and muraqaba according to the Sufis who follow the tarika (path, pl. turuk = paths). To meditate on the physical universe, according to them is “anwar al sair al afaqi.”
The muraqaba (meditation) of internal latifa (subtlety pl. lataif=subtleties internal faculties of perceptions), according to them is “anwar al sair al anfusi.”
To be able to meditate on the batin (hidden) illumination of God’s sifat on inhabitants of the universe, this muraqaba is known as wilayat al sughra (lesser sainthood).
To be aware of how God is close to humanity, how He loves the pious people and how He enlightens the hearts – to meditate and think about these subjects or meditate about His zahir sifat (manifest attributes)is known as wilayat al kubra (greater sainthood). And to be able to meditate on His batin sifat (hidden attributes) and Names is known as wilayat al Uliya (higher sainthood).
After meditating for a while on nubuwwat (prophethood) risalat (messengerhood, those prophets given divine books), ulul azam, Qaba, ritual prayers, and the Qur’an Allah most High opens the internal perceptive faculties of the salik (traveller) and they receive spiritual light with which they see many mysteries, knowledge and hidden entities. Those who attain complete faiz (arcane spiritual knowledge) become known as wali, abdal and muqarrar.
An example of muraqaba during the ritual prayer:
There are a few ways to keep the mind focused and present during prayer:
a) To keep in mind that I can see Allah
b) Allah can see me
c) To keep an eye on the meaning of the words
d) To keep an eye on each word of the tasbih and qir’at with the presence of mind, and not just reciting from memory
e) To think that this may be my last prayer, my life may end now
Of these methods one may choose any which is easy for him or her to follow. (Taleem al Deen, Qaql al Jamil)
It is narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, “two cycles of prayer with presence of mind (muraqaba) is better than whole night of inattentive prayers.” (Tasfir Nur al Qur’an 284)
To believe in the names of the lataif and the methods zikr prescribed by the pirs and mashayekhs of tarika and follow these paths can bring one to the pleasure of Allah and to the knowledge of His mysteries Insha Allah (God willing).
fas-aloo ahla az zikri in kuntum la ta’lamoon
Ask the people of ‘zikr’ if ye realise this not (21:7)
This means that ask the reverend Sufis, the pir al-kamil, ahl al Rabbani, ‘alim al haqqani.
Let us be enabled by Allah most High to practice muraqaba more often. Amen.
Mufti Moulana Ahsan Ahmed
(Imam of Euston Mosque)
Khanaqah Furfura Shorif (London)
 from ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, there is that he said, “While we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless with him and grant him peace, one day a man came up to us whose clothes were extremely white, whose hair was extremely black, upon whom traces of travelling could not be seen, and whom none of us knew, until he sat down close to the Prophet, may Allah bless with him and grant him peace, so that he rested his knees upon his knees and placed his two hands upon his thighs and said, ‘Muhammad, tell me about Islam.’ The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless with him and grant him peace, said, ‘Islam is that you witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and you establish the prayer, and you give the Zakat, and you fast Ramadan, and you perform the hajj of the House if you are able to take a way to it.’ He said, ‘You have told the truth,’ and we were amazed at him asking him and [then] telling him that he told the truth. He said, ‘Tell me about iman.’ He said, ‘That you affirm Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and that you affirm the Decree, the good of it and the bad of it.’ He said, ‘You have told the truth.’ He said, ‘Tell me about ihsan.’ He said, ‘That you worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you don’t see Him then truly He sees you.’ He said, ‘Tell me about the Hour.’ He said, ‘The one asked about it knows no more than the one asking.’ He said, ‘Then tell me about its tokens.’ He said, ‘That the female slave should give birth to her mistress, and you see poor, naked, barefoot shepherds of sheep and goats competing in making tall buildings.’ He went away, and I remained some time. Then he asked, ‘Umar, do you know who the questioner was?’ I said, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He said, ‘He was Jibril who came to you to teach you your deen’.”