Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu alaykum
1. When I make dhikr for example, is it obligatory to move my tongue in order to be rewarded or is it sufficient if I just do it in my head? will it still be counted as good deeds?
2. If I make istighfar, how do I know that I have been forgiven?
Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam, Jazakum Allah khayran for your questions.
1. Dhikr (Remembrance)
Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi has explained dhikr of the tongue, heart and limbs as:
1. The dhikr of the tongue is the expressions that stand for exaltation, praise, and glorification.
2. The dhikr of the heart is in reflection of Allah’s essence and His attributes, on obligations including what is enjoined and what is forbidden, and on the secrets of Allah’s creation.
3. The dhikr of the limbs consists in their being immersed in obedience.
Dhikr, as Imam al Nawawi mentions, ‘’May be in the heart, or on the tongue, but the best is that which is both in the heart and on the tongue. If it is limited to just one of them, then the heart is better.’
Some scholars held that dhikr made with the heart alone, or dhikr not said loud enough such that one cannot hear themselves, is not rewarded. However, as Ibn Hajr al Haytami explains, ‘We should understand these words [of some of our scholars] that there is no reward as pertaining to specific [legislated] dhikr. As for the preoccupation of the heart with the meaning of it [dhikr but without utterance] … there is no doubt, based upon what the evidence necessitates, is that one is rewarded for it.’
This nuanced understanding of the opinion of some scholars that dhikr of the heart alone is not rewarded correlates with what Imam al Nawawi also mentions, ‘Know that specifically legislated dhikr in prayer or other, whether obligatory or recommended, is not counted or deemed valid unless expressed with the tongue such that the person can hear himself, if sound of hearing.’
Specifically legislated dhikr means specific adhkar (plural of dhikr) which have been handed down to us and we have been obligated or encouraged to say, through the Quran, Sunna or other legally binding means, in specific situations. For example, saying the Basmalah before eating, or the Tashahud in prayer.
In summary then, dhikr can be in the heart alone and by the tongue alone, but combining them is optimal. The reliable opinion is that dhikr of the heart alone is rewarded except in specifically legislated dhikr, in which the dhikr must be said with the tongue in order to be considered valid and rewarded. The minimal of saying dhikr with the tongue is that one can hear themselves saying the words. And Allah knows best.
[al Adhkar, Tafsir al Razi, al Fatawa al Hadithiyya]
2. Al Istighfar (Seeking forgiveness)
One takes comfort in the boundless Mercy of Allah when making Istighfar, because He has told us Himself, ‘O son of Adam! I shall go on forgiving you so long as you pray to Me and aspire for My forgiveness whatever may be your sins. O son of Adam! I do not care even if your sins should pile up to the sky and should you beg pardon of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam! If you come to Me with an earthful of sins and meet Me, not associating anything with Me in worship, I will certainly grant you as much pardon as will fill the earth’ [al Tirmidhi]. There are many other similar ahadith.
Glory be to our Lord, who forgives and forgives and never tires of forgiving!
The scholars have mentioned that forgiveness is conditioned by the following:
1. One is sincerely sorry for their mistake
2. One resolves in their heart that they will not return to the mistake (even if they actually do slip, as long as they are sincere in their repentance each time).
3. That if the sin involves the right of another human being, then one first restores the person’s right.
After this, one assumes one has been forgiven, and has only a high opinion of Allah.
May Allah keep our hearts and limbs engaged with His remembrance always, and forgive us through his loving Mercy.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.