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Special Prayers

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Dhikr – The Most Common Prayer of Islamic Mystics (Sufis)

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Dhikr is the most common prayer practice of Islamic mystics, or Sufis. It means, the recollection of God. Dhikr brings one into a state of purity and tranquility, as the Koran proclaims: "In the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest"

Through the centuries, Sufis practicing dhikr have developed a rich technology of brief vocal prayer. In its most basic form, the word "Allah" is repeated over and over again. This act is believed to bring the person who prays directly into the divine presence. In some Sufi circles, "Allah" is repeated rapidly and eventually shortened until only the final syllable, pronounced "Hu," remains. Eventually even the "Hu" is dropped and only breathing remains, the ground of life itself, the essence of Allah. Alternatively, a Muslim might repeat "La ilah illa Allah," rejoicing in the liquid alliteration of this first part of the Muslim profession of faith, "There is no god but God."

Unlike the five daily periods of ritual prayer in Islam, dhikr can be practiced anywhere and anytime. It may be said loud or silently. The Koran counsels a middle course: "Be not loud voiced in thy worship nor yet silent therein, but follow a way between" Traditionally, a Sufi doing dhikr will sit cross-legged, right leg on top of left leg, right hand on top of left hand. The prayer may be said in rhythm with the breath, "Allah" being recited on every out-breath.

With practice, Sufis say, dhikr passes from the tongue into the heart and becomes part of the innermost being; some speak of the prayer passing into every limb of the body, so that "the seeker becomes, eventually, completely heart; every limb of his is a heart recollecting God." Finally silence reigns, as the seeker's ego is extinguished and only God remains. "True dhikr is that you forget your dhikr," goes the saying.

Notice the similarity between dhikr and Jesus Prayer described before. It also follows the meditation and relaxation response.

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