Dhikr & Khalwah

What is Dhikr?

The rich history of the Shadhiliyya or Shadhuli path of Sufism has many practices to purify the heart. One of the cornerstone practices is the dhikr, or the remembrance, is the essential and foundational practice of a Sufi. This practice consists of simply remembering Allah, usually by repetition of His Name or qualities. The principal effect of dhikr is to bring the heart back to awareness of God. During remembrance, the person remembering invokes the essential light of God. This light fills the heart, eventually returning the Sufi to the reality of existence.

Allah says: “To Allah belongs all the beautiful names, so call out to Him with them.” (Surat al-A’raaf verse 180).

What is Dhikr?

The rich history of the Shadhiliyya or Shadhuli path of Sufism has many practices to purify the heart. One of the cornerstone practices is the dhikr, or the remembrance, is the essential and foundational practice of a Sufi. This practice consists of simply remembering Allah, usually by repetition of His Name or qualities. The principal effect of dhikr is to bring the heart back to awareness of God. During remembrance, the remembrancer invokes the essential light of God. This light fills the heart, eventually returning the Sufi to the reality of existence.

Allah says: “To Allah belongs all the beautiful names, so call out to Him with them.” (Surat al-A’raaf verse 180).

Dhikr and the resulting awe and awareness of Allah, blessed and exalted is He, underlies the process of surrendering one’s self or ego, nafs, to God’s will. Dhikr is fundamental in prayer for forgiveness, protection, insight and peace. Dhikr is the reminder to the believer that Allah is the bestower and provider of all our needs and stations.

Dhikr is the remembrance itself as well as the various practices of remembrance.

In the Shadhuli Way, dhikr is done by a group standing in a circle, fingers interlaced, chanting the name of God to evoke His light and allow Him to open and clean the participants’ hearts, minds, and spirits. This is a very powerful experience that brings the community together in celebration of Allah’s creation. This form of dhikr is held every Sunday and Thursday night at the Farm of Peace and in communities around the nation. Before or after dhikr there is a class where we offer teachings about the Sufi path and readings from Sidi’s books. There is no charge for the teaching or for dhikr.

What is Khalwah?
(all night prayer retreat)

Khalwah in most Sufi traditions means retreat or withdrawal from the world. For us this practice is an all-night silent vigil under the guidance of one of Sidi’s spiritual teachers This sacred offering is a means of walking deeply and letting go of old thought forms and patterns of the nafs, or ego.

The Sufis have always done many of their sacred traditions in the evening after sunset and in the darkest part of the night, considered the time when the dunya or the physical world is most settled down. Thus the unseen world is more unveiled and accessible. We do most of our khalwahs traditionally after Salat al-Magrib and continue until the early morning hours.

The Khalwah practice brings healing, inshallah, not only for those involved, but also those you pray for, your loved ones and our local area as well as prayers for peace in the world.

Here at the Farm of Peace, we often host a New Year’s khalwah, one during Ramadan at the night of Lailat al-Qadr, during some of the Islamic holidays and during our Sufi School East weekend retreat.

The usual practice is a specific number of rounds of the daily Wird, the traditional Shadhuli practice using the masbaha beads. The leader determines the number of rounds based on the preparedness of the group, and this number usually varies between five hundred and two thousand rounds of each of the three Arabic chants of our practice. Between each chant, we do two rak‘ah of Salah. Usually we do a half to one hour of remembrance with the eyes open looking at the written name of Allah, then a half to one hour of remembrance with the eyes closed.

It is our tradition to fast from eating during the khalwah. Water or tea may be taken, but only in an area away from the sacred space of the group.

Because this is a deep and powerful spiritual practice, it is important that anyone who does the khalwah has taken hand (bay‘ah) with either Sidi or one of the spiritual teachers. This places an individual in the spiritual vessel of the Guide and guarantees their safety during this deep spiritual practice.

There is also a donation involved, which has deep significance to an individual’s soul. We believe that charitable giving is one of the ways that individuals can purify themselves and this is especially important for the khalwah. Each person is asked to give a donation of between $250 and $700 that is used to buy food to feed the poor people in the Holy Land.

The sages have always taught that group spiritual practice heals not only those involved, but also the loved ones and the local region where the practice is done. This is the motive behind so many groups traveling to war-torn parts of the world to pray. In a similar sense, the entire tariqah, individuals, family members, and the local community feel the power of the khalwah also where it is done.