Islamic Sufism Spirituality

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Dhikr of Allah is the most excellent act of Allah’s servants and is stressed over a hundred times in the Holy Qur’an. It is the most praiseworthy work to earn Allah’s pleasure, the most effective weapon to overcome the enemy, and the most deserving of deeds in reward. It is the flag of Islam, the polish of hearts, the essence of the science of faith, the immunization against hypocrisy, the head of worship, and the key of all success.There are no restrictions on the modality, frequency, or timing of dhikr whatsoever. The restrictions on modality pertain to certain specific obligatory acts which are not the issue here, such as Salat. The Shari`a is clear and everyone knows what they have to do. Indeed, the Prophet said that the People of Paradise will only regret one thing: not having made enough dhikr in the world! Are not those who are making up reasons to discourage others from making dhikr afraid of Allah in this tremendous matter?

Allah says in His holy Book: “O Believers, make abundant mention of ALLAH!” (33:41) And He mentions of His servants “Those who remember their Lord standing, and sitting, and lying on their sides” (3:191), in other words at all times of the day and night. He said (3:190-191): “The creation of heaven and earth and the changes of night and day are signs for people who have wisdom: — consider who is described as having wisdom — Those who remember (and recite and call) Allah standing up, sitting, and lying on their sides.” `A’isha said, as narrated by Muslim, that the Prophet mentioned/remembered Allah at all times of the day and night.

The Prophet said: “If your hearts were always in the state that they are in during dhikr, the angels would come to see you to the point that they would greet you in the middle of the road.” Muslim narrated it. Imam Nawawi in his Sharh sahih muslim commented on this hadith saying: “This kind of sight is shown to someone who persists in meditation (muraqaba), reflection (fikr), and anticipation (iqbal) of the next world.”

Mu`adh ibn Jabal said that the Prophet also said: “The People of Paradise will not regret except one thing alone: the hour that passed them by and in which they made no remembrance of Allah.” Narrated by Bayhaqi in Shu`ab al-iman (1:392 #512-513) and by Tabarani. Haythami in Majma` al-zawa’id (10:74) said that its narrators are all trustworthy (thiqat), while Suyuti declared it hasan in his Jami` al-saghir (#7701).

Allah placed His remembrance above prayer in value by making prayer the means and remembrance the goal. He said:

“Lo! Worship guards one from lewdness and iniquity, but verily, remembrance of Allah is greater/more important.” (29:45)

“He is successful who purifies himself, and remembers the name of his Lord, and so prays.” (87:14-15)

“So establish prayer for My remembrance.” (20:14)

Ibn Hajar in his Fath al-bari (1989 ed. 11:251) relates Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn al-`Arabi’s explanation that there is no good deed except with dhikr as a precondition for its validity, and whoever does not remember Allah in his heart at the time of his sadaqa or fasting, for example, then his deed is incomplete: therefore dhikr is the best of deeds because of this.

Dhikr is, therefore, something of tremendous importance. Abu Hurayra said that the Prophet said, Peace be upon him: “The earth and everything in it is cursed, except for dhikr and what attends dhikr, and a teacher (of dhikr) and a student (of dhikr).” Narrated by Tirmidhi who said it is hasan, Ibn Majah who said the same, Bayhaqi, and others. Suyuti cites it in al-Jami` al-saghir from al-Bazzar’s similar narration from Ibn Mas`ud and he declared it sahih. Tabarani also narrated it in al-Awsat from Abu al-Darda’.

By the words “the world and everything in it” is meant here all that claims status or existence apart from Allah instead of in Him. In fact, all creation does dhikr because Allah said that all creation does praise to Him constantly, and tasbih is a kind of dhikr. Allah said of the Prophet Yunus, when the whale swallowed him: “Had he not been one of My glorifiers (musabbihin), he would have remained inside the whale’s stomach until Judgment Day.” (37:143-144)

The one who engages in dhikr has the highest rank of all before Allah. The people who call on Allah without distraction have been mentioned in Qur’an, as well as the effect that calling has on their heart: “In houses which Allah has allowed to be raised to honor and for His Name to be remembered in them; He is glorified there day and night by men whom neither trade nor sale can divert from the rememberance of Allah” (24:36-37). “Those who believe, and their hearts find satisfaction in the rememberance of Allah: By remembering Allah, truly satisfaction comes to the heart” (13:28).

During the night of Isra’ and Mi`raj, the Prophet was taken up to a point where he heard the screeching of the Pens (writing the divine Decree). He saw a man who had disappeared into the light of the Throne. He said: “Who is this? Is this an angel?” It was said to him, no. He said: “Is it a Prophet?” Again the answer was no. He said: “Who is it then?” The answer was: “This is a man whose tongue was moist with Allah’s remembrance in the world, and his heart was attached to the mosques, and he never incurred the curse of his father and mother.” Shaykh Muhammad `Alawi al-Malaki cited it in his collated text of the sound narrations on that topic entitled al-Anwar al-bahiyya min isra’ wa mi`raj khayr al-bariyya.

In Ahmad, Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, and Ibn Hibban declared it fair (hasan): A man came to the Prophet and said, “O Rasulallah, the laws and conditions of Islam have become too many for me. Tell me something that I can always keep (i.e. in particular, as opposed to the many rules and conditions that must be kept in general).” By reading that the man said there were too many conditions to keep, one must understand that he was unsure that he could keep them all. He wanted something that he would be sure to keep always. The Prophet said: “(I am advising you in one thing:) Keep your tongue always moist with dhikrullah.”

It is well-known in Islam that the best work in the path of Allah is jihad. Yet the Prophet, Peace be upon him, placed dhikr even above jihad in the following authentic hadiths.

Abu al-Darda’ narrates: The Prophet once asked his companions: “Shall I tell you about the best of all deeds, the best act of piety in the eyes of your Lord, which will elevate your status in the Hereafter, and carries more virtue than the spending of gold and silver in the service of Allah or taking part in jihad and slaying or being slain in the path of Allah? The dhikr of Allah.” Related in the Malik’s Muwatta’, the Musnad of Ahmad, the Sunan of Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and the Mustadrak of Hakim. Al-Bayhaqi, Hakim and others declared it sahih.

Abu Sa`id narrates: The Prophet was asked, “Which of the servants of Allah is best in rank before Allah on the Day of resurrection?” He said: “The ones who remember him much.” I said: “O Messenger of Allah, what about the fighter in the way of Allah?” He answered: “Even if he strikes the unbelievers and mushrikin with his sword until it broke, and becomes red with their blood, truly those who do dhikr are better than him in rank.” Related in Ahmad, Tirmidhi, and Bayhaqi.

`Abd Allah ibn `Umar said that the Prophet used to say: “Everything has a polish, and the polish of hearts is dhikr of Allah. Nothing is more calculated to rescue from Allah’s punishment than dhikr of Allah.” He was asked whether this did not apply also to jihad in Allah’s path, and he replied: “Not even if one should ply his sword until it breaks.” Bayhaqi narrated it in Kitab al-da`awat al-kabir as well as in his Shu`ab al-iman (1:396 #522), also al-Mundhiri in al-Targhib (2:396) and Tibrizi mentions it in Mishkat al-masabih, at the end of the book of Supplications.

Meanings of Dhikr

The word dhikr has many meanings. It means:

– Allah’s Book and its recitation;

– Prayer;

– Learning and teaching: The author of Fiqh al-sunna said:

Sa’id ibn Jubayr said, “Anyone engaged in obeying Allah is in fact engaged in the remembrance of Allah.” Some of the earlier scholars tied it to some more specified form. `Ata said, “The gatherings of dhikr are the gatherings where the lawful and the prohibited things are discussed, for instance, selling, buying, prayers, fasting, marriage, divorce, and pilgrimage.”

Qurtubi said, “Gatherings of dhikr are the gatherings for knowledge and admonition, those in which the Word of Allah and the sunnah of His Messenger, accounts of our righteous predecessors, and sayings of the righteous scholars are learned and practised without any addition or innovation, and without any ulterior motives or greed.”

– Invocation of Allah with the tongue according to one of the formulas taught by the Prophet or any other formula;

– Remembrance of Allah in the heart, or in both the heart and the tongue.

We are concerned here with the last two meanings, that of mention of Allah, as in the verse, “The believers are those who, when they hear Allah mentioned, their hearts tremble” (al-Anfal), and the Prophet’s saying in Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah from Ibn Jubayr: “The best dhikr is La ilaha illallah.” The Prophet did not say, “the best dhikr is making a lecture”; or “giving advice”; or “raising funds.” We are also concerned here with the meaning of remembrance through the heart, as in the verse: “The men and women who remember Allah abundantly” (33:35). The Prophet both praised and explained what is in the latter verse when he said, as it is related in Muslim, “The single-hearted are foremost.” When he was asked, “O Messenger of Allah, who are the single-hearted?” he replied, “The men and women who remember Allah abundantly.” The Prophet further elucidated the role of the heart in effecting such remembrance when he said to Abu Hurayra: “Go with these two sandals of mine and whoever you meet behind this wall that witnesses that there is no god except Allah with certitude in his heart, give him glad tidings that he will enter Paradise.” (Narrated by Muslim.)

Dhikr may sometimes mean both inner remembrance and outward mention, as in the verse “Remember Me, and I shall remember you” (2:152) when it is read in the light of the hadith qudsi, “Those that remember Me in their heart, I remember them in My heart; and those that remember Me in a gathering (i.e. that make mention of Me), I remember them (i.e. make mention of them) in a gathering better than theirs.” We return to the explanation of that important hadith further below. Suffice it to say that, broadly speaking, there are three types of dhikr: of the heart, of the tongue, and of the two together.

Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari (1989 ed. 11:251) explained that what is meant by dhikr in Abu al-Darda’s narration of the primacy of dhikr over jihad is the complete dhikr and consciousness of Allah’s greatness whereby one becomes better, for example, than those who battle the diebelievers without such recollection.

In another hadith narrated by Bukhari, the Prophet compared doers of dhikr among non-doers, to those who are alive among those who are dead: mathalu al-ladhi yadhkuru rabbahu wa al-ladhi la yadhkuru rabbahu mathalu al-hayyi wa al-mayyit. (Book of da`awat ch. 66 “The merit of dhikrullah“) Ibn Hajar comments it thus in his Fath al-Bari (1989 ed. 11:250):

What is meant by dhikr here is the utterance of the expressions which we have been encouraged to say, and say abundantly, such as the enduring good deeds — al-baqiyat al-salihat — and they are: subhan allah, al-hamdu lillah, la ilaha illallah, allahu akbar and all that is related to them such as the hawqala (la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah), the basmala (bismillah al-rahman al-rahim), the hasbala (hasbunallahu wa ni`ma al-wakil), istighfar, and the like, as well as invocations for the good of this world and the next.

Dhikrullah also applies to diligence in obligatory or praiseworthy acts, such as the recitation of Qur’an, the reading of hadith, the study of the Science of Islam (al-`ilm), and supererogatory prayers.

Dhikr can take place with the tongue, for which the one who utters it receives reward, and it is not necessary for this that he understand or recall its meaning, on condition that he not mean other than its meaning by its utterance; and if, in addition to its utterance, there is dhikr in the heart, then it is more complete; and if there is, added to that, the recollection of the meaning of the dhikr and what it entails such as magnifying Allah and exalting Him above defect or need, it is even more complete; and if all this takes place inside a good deed, whether an obligatory prayer, or jihad, or other than that, it is even more complete; and if one perfects one’s turning to Allah and purifies one’s sincerity towards Him: then that is the farthest perfection.

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi said: “What is meant by the dhikr of the tongue is the expressions that stand for tasbih, tahmid, and tamjid — exaltation, praise, and glorification. As for the dhikr of the heart, it consists in reflection on the proof-texts that point to Allah’s essence and His attributes, on those of the obligations including what is enjoined and what is forbidden so that one may examine the rulings that pertain to them, and on the secrets of Allah’s creation. As for dhikr of the limbs, it consists in their being immersed in obedience, and that is why Allah named prayer: “dhikr” when He said: “When the call is proclaimed on Jum`a, hasten earnestly to the dhikr of Allah” (62:9). It is reported from some of the Knowers of Allah that dhikr has seven aspects:

dhikr of the eyes, which consists in weeping (buka’);

dhikr of the ears, which consists in listening (isgha’);

dhikr of the tongue, which consists in praise (thana’);

dhikr of the hands, which consists in giving (`ata’);

dhikr of the body, which consists in loyalty (wafa’);

dhikr of the heart, which consists in fear and hope (kawf wa raja’);

dhikr of the spirit, which consists of utter submission and acceptance (taslim wa rida’).”

Loudness in dhikr

The Prophet praised a man who was awwah — literally: one who says ah, ah! — that is: loud in his dhikr, even when others censured him. Ahmad narrated with a good chain in his Musnad (4:159) from `Uqba ibn `Amir: “The Prophet said of a man named Dhu al-bijadayn: innahu awwah, He is a man who says ah a lot. This is because he was a man abundant in his dhikr of Allah in Qur’an-recitation, and he would raise his voice high when supplicating.”

Allah said of the Prophet Ibrahim: “Verily, Ibrahim is awwah and halim” (9:114, 11:75), that is, according to Tafsir al-jalalayn: “Crying out and suffering much, out of fear and dread of his Lord.” [halim = merciful, gentle.] The Prophet prayed to be awwah in the following invocation: rabbi ij`alni ilayka awwahan, “O Allah, make me one who often cries out ah to you.” Narrated by Tirmidhi (book of da`awat #102, hasan sahih), Ibn Majah (Du`a’ #2), and Ahmad (1:227) with a strong chain [Yahya ibn Sa`id al-Qattan < Sufyan al-Thawri < Shu`ba < `Amr ibn Murra < `Abd Allah ibn al-Harith < Taliq ibn Qays al-Hanafi < Ibn `Abbas] with the following wording:

The Prophet used to supplicate thus: “O my Lord! help me and do not cause me to face difficulty; grant me victory and do not grant anyone victory over me; devise for me and not against me; guide me and facilitate guidance for me; make me overcome whoever rebels against me; O my Lord! make me abundantly thankful to You (shakkaran laka), abundantly mindful of You (dhakkaran laka), abundantly devoted to You (rahhaban laka), perfectly obedient to You (mitwa`an ilayks), lowly and humble before You (mukhbitan laka), always crying out and turning back to You (awwahan muniban)!….”

Gatherings of Collective, Loud Dhikr

The hadith qudsi already quoted, “Those that remember Me in a gathering,” makes gatherings of collective, loud dhikr the gateway to realizing Allah’s promise “Remember Me, and I shall remember you.” It is no wonder that such gatherings receive the highest praise and blessing from Allah and His Prophet, Peace be upon him, according to many excellent and authentic hadiths.

In Bukhari and Muslim: The Prophet said that Allah has angels roaming the roads to find the people of dhikr, i.e. those who say La Ilaha Illallah and similar expressions, and when they find a group of people (qawm) reciting dhikr, they call each other and encompass them in layers until the first heaven — the location of which is in Allah’s knowledge. (This is to say, an unlimited number of angels are going to be over that group. He didn’t say: “when they find one person.” Therefore it is a must to be in a group to get this particular reward.) Allah asks His angels, and He knows already (but he asks in order to assure it and make it understandable for us) “What are my servants saying?” (He did not say “servant,” but `ibadi, “servants” in the plural.) The angels say: “They are praising You (tasbih) and magnifying Your Name (takbir) and glorifying You (tahmid), and giving You the best Attributes (tamjid).” (Can you say that all this is a lecture or a study group? Can you say that this is silent? Rather, this is saying “Alhamdulillah” and all kinds of other dhikr.) Allah says: “Have they seen Me?” The angels answer: “O our Lord! They did not see You.” He says: “(They are praising Me without seeing Me,) what if they see Me!” The angels answer: “O our Lord, if they saw You, they are going to do more and more worship, more and more tasbih, more and more takbir, more and more tamjid!” He says: “What are they asking?” Angels say: “They are asking Your Paradise!” He says: “Did they see Paradise?” They say: “O our Lord, no, they have not seen it.” He says: “And how will they be if they see it?” They say: “If they see Paradise, they are going to be more attached and attracted to it!” He says: “What are they fearing and running away from?” (When we are saying, “Ya Ghaffar (O Forgiver), Ya Sattar (O Concealer),” it means that we are fearing Him because of our sins. We are asking Him to hide our sins and forgive us.) They say: “They are fearing and running away from hellfire.” He says: “And have they seen hellfire?” They say: “O our Lord, no, they did not see hellfire.” He says: “And how will they be if they see fire and hell?” They say: “If they see your fire, they are going to be running from it more and more, and be even more afraid of it.” (Now listen to this carefully:) And Allah says: “I am making you witness (and does Allah need witnesses? He needs no witness since He said: “Allah is sufficient as witness.” Why make the angels witnesses? Does Allah change His word? “Making you witness” here means, “Assuring you”) that I have forgiven them.” (Why has Allah forgiven them? Because, as the beginning of the hadith states, they are a group of people reciting the Names of Allah and remembering Him with His dhikr.) One of the angels says: “O my Lord, someone was there who did not belong to that group, but came for some other need.” (That person came for some other purpose than dhikr, to ask someone for something.) Allah says: “Those are such a group that anyone who sits with them — no matter for what reason — that person will also have his sins forgiven.”

The late Imam Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad (d. 1416/1995) said in his book Miftah al-janna (cf. transl. Mostafa Badawi, Key to the Garden, Quilliam Press p. 107-108):

This hadith indicates what merit lies in gathering for dhikr, and in everyone present doing it aloud and in unison, because of the phrases: “They are invoking You” in the plural, and “They are the people who sit,” meaning those who assemble for remembrance and do it in unison, something which can only be done aloud, since someone whose dhikr is silent has no need to seek out a session in someone else’s company.

This is further indicated by the hadith qudsi which runs: “Allah says: I am to my servant as he expects of Me, I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him to Myself, and if he remembers me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly better than his…” (Bukhari and Muslim) Thus, silent dhikr is differentiated fron dhikr said outloud by His saying: “remembers Me within himself,” meaning: “silently,” and “in an assembly,” meaning “aloud.”

Dhikr in a gathering can only be done aloud and in unison. The above hadith thus constitutes proof that dhikr done outloud in a gathering is an exalted kind of dhikr which is mentioned at the Highest Assembly (al-mala’ al-a`la) by our Majestic Lord and the angels who are near to Him, “who extol Him night and day, and never tire” (21:20).

The affinity is clearly evident between those who do dhikr in the transcendent world, who have been created with an inherently obedient and remembering nature, namely the angels, and those who do dhikr in the dense world, whose natures contain lassitude and distraction; namely, human beings. The reward of the latter for their dhikr is that they be elevated to a rank similar to that of the Highest Assembly, which is sufficient honor and favor for anyone.

Allah has bestowed a special distinction upon those who remember Him. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “The single-hearted (al-mufarridun) have surpassed all.” They asked, “Who are these single-hearted people, O Prophet of Allah?” He replied, “Those men and women who remember Allah unceasingly.” (Muslim)

The mountain has overtaken the people because the mountain is reciting dhikr also. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya in Madarij al-salikin explains that the term mufarridun has two meanings here: either the muwahidun, the people engaged in tawhid who declare Allah’s Oneness as a group (i.e. not necessarily alone), or those whom he calls ahad furada, the same people as (single) individuals sitting alone (in isolation). From this example it is evident that in the explanation of Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya, sittings of dhikr can be in a group, and can be all alone. In another explanation of mufarridun also cited by Ibn Qayyim, the meaning is ‘those that tremble from reciting dhikrullah, entranced with it perpetually, not caring what people say or do about them.’ This is because the Prophet said: udhkur Allaha hatta yaqulu majnun “Remember / mention Allah as much as you want, until people say that you are crazy and foolish” (Narrated by Ahmad in his Musnad, Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, and al-Hakim who declared it sahih); that is: do not care about them!

The mufarridun are the people who are really alive. Abu Musa reported, “The likeness of the one who remembers his Lord and the one who does not remember Him is like that of a living to a dead person.” (Bukhari)

Ibn `Umar reported that the Prophet said: “When you pass by the gardens of Paradise, avail yourselves of them.” The Companions asked: “What are the gardens of Paradise, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied: “The circles of dhikr. There are roaming angels of Allah who go about looking for the circles of dhikr, and when they find them they surround them closely.” Tirmidhi narrated it (hasan gharib) and Ahmad.

Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri and Abu Huraira reported that the Prophet, peace by upon him, said, “When any group of men remember Allah, angels surround them and mercy covers them, tranquility descends upon them, and Allah mentions them to those who are with Him.” Narrated by Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ahmad, Ibn Majah, and Bayhaqi.

Muslim, Ahmad, and Tirmidhi narrate from Mu`awiya that the Prophet went out to a circle of his Companions and asked: “What made you sit here?” They said: “We are sitting here in order to remember / mention Allah (nadhkurullaha) and to glorify Him (wa nahmaduhu) because He guided us to the path of Islam and he conferred favours upon us.” Thereupon he adjured them by Allah and asked if that was the only purpose of their sitting there. They said: “By Allah, we are sitting here for this purpose only.” At this the Prophet said: “I am not asking you to take an oath because of any misapprehension against you, but only because Gabriel came to me and informed me that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, was telling the angels that He is proud of you!” Note that the hadith stated jalasna — we sat — in the plural, not singular. It referred to an association of people in a group, not one person.

Shahr ibn Hawshab relates that one day Abu al-Darda’ entered the Masjid of Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) and saw people gathered around their admonisher (mudhakkir) who was reminding them, and they were raising their voices, weeping, and maiking invocations. Abu al-Darda’ said: “My father’s life and my mother’s be sacrificed for those who moan over their state before the Day of Moaning!” Then he said: “O Ibn Hawshab, let us hurry and sit with those people. I heard the Prophet say: If you see the groves of Paradise, graze in them, and we said: O Messenger of Allah, what are the groves of Paradise? He said: The circles of remembrance, by the One in Whose hand is my soul, no people gather for the remembrance of Allah Almighty except the angels surround them closely, and mercy covers them, and Allah mentions them in His presence, and when they desire to get up and leave, a herald calls them saying: Rise forgiven, your evil deeds have been changed into good deeds!” Then Abu al-Darda’ made towards them and sat with them eagerly. The hafiz Ibn al-Jawzi relates it with his chain of transmission in the chapter entitled: “Mention of those of the elite who used to attend the gatherings of story-tellers” of his book al-Qussas wa al-mudhakkirin (The Story-tellers and the Admonishers) ed. Muhammad Basyuni Zaghlul (Beirut: dar al-kutub al-`ilmiyya, 1406/1986) p. 31.

The above shows evidence for the permissibility of loud dhikr, group dhikr, and the understanding of dhikr as including admonishment and the recounting of stories that benefit the soul. And Allah knows best.

Types and frequency of Dhikr

Because dhikr is the life of the heart, Ibn Taymiyya is quoted by his student Ibn Qayyim as saying that Dhikr is as necessary for the heart as water for the fish. Ibn Qayyim himself wrote a book, al-Wabil al-sayyib, on the virtues of dhikr, where he lists more than one hundred such virtues, among them (Quoted in Maulana M. Zakariyya Kandhalvi, Virtues of Dhikr (Lahore: Kutub Khana Faizi, n.d.) p. 74-76:

– It induces love for Allah. He who seeks access to the love of Almighty Allah should do dhikr profusely. Just as reading and repetition is the door of knowledge, so dhikr of Allah is the gateway to His love.

– Dhikr involves muraqaba or meditation, through which one reaches the state of ihsan or excellence, wherein a person worships Allah as if he is actually seeing Him.

– The gatherings for dhikr are gatherings of angels, and gatherings without dhikr are gatherings of Satan.

– By virtue of dhikr, the person doing dhikr is blessed, as also the person sitting next to him.

– In spite of the fact that dhikr is the easiest form of worship (the movement of the tongue being easier than the movement of any other part of the body), yet it is the most virtuous form.

– Dhikr is a form of Sadaqa — charity. Abu Dharr al-Ghifari said: “The Messenger of Allah said: “Sadaqa is for every person every day the sun rises.” I said: “O Messenger of Allah, from what do we give sadaqa if we do not possess property?” He said: “The doors of sadaqa are takbir (i.e. to say: Allahu Akbar, Allah is Greater); Subhan Allah (Allah is exalted high); al-hamdu lillah (all praise is for Allah); La ilaha illallah (there is no god other than Allah); Astaghfirullah (I seek forgiveness from Allah); enjoining good; forbidding evil…. These are all the doors of sadaqah from you which is prescribed for you, and there is a reward for you even in sex with your wife.” Narrated by Ahmad and Ibn Hibban, and there is something of similar effect in Muslim.

All words of praise and glory to Allah, extolling His Perfect Attributes of Power and Majesty, Beauty and Sublimeness, whether one utters them by tongue or says them silently in one’s heart, are known as dhikr or remembrance, of Allah. He has commanded us to remember Him always and ever. Allah says:

“O you who believe! Celebrate the praises of Allah, and do so often; and glorify Him morning and evening.” (33:41-42)

If anyone remembers Allah, He remembers that person:

“Remember me, I shall remember you.” (2:152)

Remembrance of Allah is the foundation of good deeds. Whoever succeeds in it is blessed with the close friendship of Allah. That is why the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to make remembrance of Allah at all times. When a man complained, “The laws of Islam are too heavy for me, so tell me something that I can easily follow,” the Prophet told him, “Let your tongue be always busy with the remembrance of Allah.” [Narrated by Ahmad with two sound chains, also Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah through other chains, and Ibn Hibban who declared it sahih as well as al-Hakim.]

The Prophet, peace be upon him, would often tell his Companions, “Shall I tell you about the best of deeds, the most pure in the sight of your Lord, about the one that is of the highest order and is far better for you than spending gold and silver, even better for you than meeting your enemies in the battlefield where you strike at their necks and they at yours?” The Companions replied, “Yes, O Messenger of Allah!” The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Remembrance of Allah.” (Narrated by Tirmidhi, Ahmad, and Hakim who declared its chain of narrators sound.)

Remembrance of Allah is also a means of deliverance from Hell Fire. Mu’adh reported, “The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, ‘No other act of man is a more effective means for his deliverance from the chastisement of Allah than the remembrance of Allah.” (Narrated by Ahmad.)

Ahmad also reports that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Whatever you say in celebration of Allah’s Glory, Majesty, and Oneness, and all your words of Praise for Him gather around the Throne of Allah. These words resound like the buzzing of bees, and call attention to the person who uttered them to Allah. Don’t you wish to have someone there in the presence of Allah who would call attention to you?”

The required amount of dhikr is as much as possible

Allah ordered that He should be remembered abundantly. Describing the wise men and women who ponder His signs, the Qur’an mentions:

“Those who remember Allah standing, sitting and on their sides,” (3:191), and

“Those men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise. For them has Allah prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” (3:191, 33:35)

The author of Fiqh al-Sunna mentioned that Mujahid explained: “A person cannot be one of ‘those men and women who remember Allah much’ as mentioned in the above verse of the Qur’an, unless he or she remembers Allah at all times, standing, sitting, or lying in bed,” and that when asked how much dhikr one should do to be considered as one of “those who remember Allah much,” Ibn as-Salah said that “much” is “when one is constant in supplicating, in the morning and evening and in other parts of the day and the night as reported from the Prophet, peace be upon him.”

Concerning the above Qur’anic verses `Ali ibn Abu Talha relates that Ibn `Abbas said, “All obligations imposed upon man by Allah are clearly marked and one is exempted from them only in the presence of a genuine cause. The only exception is the obligation of dhikr. Allah has set no specific limits for it, and under no circumstances is one allowed to be negligent of it. We are commanded to ‘remember Allah standing, sitting and reclining on your sides,’ in the morning, during the day, at sea or on land, on journeys or at home, in poverty and in prosperity, in sickness or in health, openly and secretly, and, in fact, at all times throughout one’s life and in all circumstances.

We see by the above evidence that there is no such thing as too much dhikr. The Prophet is related to say: “He who loves something mentions it much.” (Narrated by Abu Nu`aym in the Hilya and Daylami in Musnad al-firdaws. Sakhawi cites it in al-Maqasid al-hasana p. 393 #1050 and does not comment upon it.) We love Allah and His Prophet, and therefore we mention Allah and His Prophet. No one may declare a limit to such mention except those who do not have such love and they are undoubtedly the enemies of Islam.

Imam Ghazali said in the fortieth book of his Ihya’ entitled “The Remembrance of Death and The Afterlife” (p. 124 in the translation of T.J. Winter, `Abd al-Hakim Murad):

It is man’s soul and spirit that constitute his real nature… Upon death his state changes in two ways. Firstly he is now deprived of his eyes, ears and tongue, his hand, his feet and all his parts, just as he is deprived of family, children, relatives, and all the people he used to know, and of his horses and other riding-beasts, his servant-boys, his houses and property, and all that he used to own. There is no distinction to be drawn between his being taken from these things and these things being taken from him, for it is the separation itself which causes pain….

If there was anything in the world in which he had found consolation and peace, then he will greatly lament for it after he dies, and feel the greatest sorrow over losing it. His heart will turn to thoughts of everything he owned, of his power and estates, even to a shirt he used to wear, for instance, and in which he took pleasure.

However, had he taken pleasure only in the remembrance of Allah, and consoled himself with Him alone, then his will be great bliss and perfect happiness. For the barriers which lay between him and his Beloved will now be removed, and he will be free of the obstacles and cares of the world, all of which had distracted him from the remembrance of Allah. This is one of the aspects of the difference between the states of life and death.

On the same topic Imam Habib al-Haddad said (Key to the Garden p. 104):

Time and days are a man’s capital, while his inclinations, desires, and various ambitions are the highway robbers. The way in which one profits on this journey lies in succeeding in coming to Allah and in attaining everlasting happiness, while one loses by being veiled from Allah, and being consigned to the painful torment of the Fire.

For this reason the intelligent believer transforms all his breaths into acts of obedience, and interrupts them only with the dhikr of Allah.

The importance of silent dhikr

The author of Fiqh al-sunna writes:

The purpose of dhikr is to purify hearts and souls and awaken the human conscience. The Qur’an says:

“And establish regular prayer, for prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds, and remembrance of Allah is the greatest thing in life, without doubt.” (29:45)

In other words, the remembrance of Allah has a greater impact in restraining one from shameful and unjust deeds than just the formal regular prayer. This is so because when a servant opens up his soul to his Lord, extolling His praise, Allah strengthens him with His light, increasing thereby his faith and conviction, and reassuring his mind and heart. This refers to:

“those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah, for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction.” (13:28)

And when hearts are satisfied with the Truth, they turn to the highest ideals without being deflected by impulses of desire or lust. This underscores the importance of dhikr in man’s life. Obviously it would be unreasonable to expect these results just by uttering certain words, for words of the tongue unsupported by a willing heart are of no consequence. Allah Himself has taught us the manner in which a person should remember Him, saying:

“And do bring your Lord to remembrance in your very soul, with humility and in reverence, without loudness in words, in the mornings and evening, and be not of those who are unheedful.” (7:205)

This verse indicates that doing dhikr in silence and without raising one’s voice is better. Once during a journey the Prophet, peace be upon him, heard a group of Muslims supplicating aloud. Thereupon the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Give yourselves a respite, you are not calling upon someone deaf or absent. Surely He Whom you are calling upon is near you and He listens to all. He is nearer to you than the neck of your mount.” [Muslim]

This hadith underlines the love and awe a person should feel while engaged in dhikr.

It is related from Sa`d that the Prophet said: “The best dhikr is the hidden dhikr, and the best money is what suffices.” Ahmad narrates it in his Musnad, Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, and Bayhaqi in Shu`ab al-iman. Nawawi said the hadith was not firmly established.

In the Fatawa fiqhiyya of al-Haytami (p. 48): He was asked about Nawawi’s saying at the end of the chapter entitled “Dhikr Gatherings” in his Commentary on Sahih Muslim: “Dhikr of the tongue with presence of the heart is preferable to dhikr of the heart [without].” Ibn Hajar said: “It is not because dhikr of the heart is an established worship in the lexical sense [i.e. consisting in specific formulae] that it is preferable, but because through it one intently means, in his heart, to exalt and magnify Allah above all else. That is the meaning both of the aforementioned saying of Nawawi and of the saying of some that “There is no reward in dhikr of the heart.” By denying there is a reward in it, one means “There is no reward in the words, which are not uttered”; and by establishing that there is reward in it, one means “in the fact that the heart is present,” as we have just said. Consider this, for it is important. And Allah knows best.”

According to the Naqshbandi masters, dhikr in the heart is more useful for the murid or student for it is more efficient in shaking the heart from indifference and awakening it. Shah Naqshband said: “There are two methods of dhikr; one is silent and one is loud. I chose the silent one because it is stronger and therefore more preferable.”

Shaykh Amin al-Kurdi said in his book Tanwir al-qulub (Enlightenment of Hearts) p. 522:

Know that there are two kinds of dhikr: “by heart” (qalbi) and “by tongue” (lisani). Each has its legal proofs in the Qur’an and the Sunna. The dhikr by tongue, which combines sounds and letters, is not easy to perform at all times, because buying and selling and other such activities altogether divert one’s attention from such dhikr. The contrary is true of the dhikr by heart, which is named that way in order to signify its freedom from letters and sounds. In that way nothing distracts one from his dhikr: with the heart remember Allah, secretly from creation, wordlessly and speechlessly. That remembrance is best of all: out of it flowed the sayings of the saints.

That is why our Naqshbandi masters have chosen the dhikr of the heart. Moreover, the heart is the place where the Forgiver casts his gaze, and the seat of belief, and the receptacle of secrets, and the source of lights. If it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is unsound, the whole body is unsound, as was made clear for us by the Chosen Prophet.

Something that confirms this was narrated on the authority of `A’isha: “Allah favors dhikr above dhikr seventyfold (meaning, silent dhikr over loud dhikr). On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will bring back human beings to His account, and the Recording Angels will bring what they have recorded and written, and Allah Almighty will say: See if something that belongs to my servant was left out? The angels will say: We left nothing out concerning what we have learnt and recorded, except that we have assessed it and written it. Allah will say: O my servant, I have something good of yours for which I alone will reward you, it is your hidden remembrance of Me.” Bayhaqi narrated it.

Also on the authority of `A’isha: “The dhikr not heard by the Recording Angels equals seventy times the one they hear.” Bayhaqi narrated it.

On Seclusion (khalwa, `uzla)

Silent dhikr is the dhikr of the servant who secludes himself away from people. Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri: A bedouin came to the Prophet and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Who is the best of mankind?” The Prophet said, “A man who strives for Allah’s Cause with his life and property, and also a man who lives (all alone) in a mountain path among the mountain paths to worship his Lord and save the people from his evil.” (English Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 501) [Arabic: Ja’a a`rabiyyun ila al-nabi faqala ya rasulallahi ayyu khayru al-nas? qala rajulun jahidun bi nafsihi wa malih…]

Abu Sa`id al-Khudri said: I heard the Prophet say: “There will come a time upon the people when the best property of a Muslim man will be his sheep which he will take to the tops of mountains and to the places of rainfall to run away with his Religion far from trials. (English Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 502) [Arabic: ya’ti `ala al-nasi zamanun khayru mali al-rajuli al-muslim…]

Malik narrates in his Muwatta’: that Humayd ibn Malik ibn Khuthaym was sitting with Abu Hurayra in his land of al-`Aqiq when a group of the people of Madina came to him. They dismounted and came to him. Humayd said: Abu Hurayra said [to me]: “Go to my mother and say to her: Your son send his salam and asks you to send us a little food.” I went and she gave me three loaves of bread and some olive oil and salt. I carried it to them. When I put it in front of them Abu Hurayra said: “Allahu akbar. Praise be to Allah Who has sated us with bread after the time when our only food was the two black ones: water and dates.” The people did not leave anything except they ate it. When they went away, he said: “Son of my brother: be kind to your sheep, wipe their mucus from them, improve their pastures, and pray in their vicinity, for they are from the animals of Paradise. By the One in Whose hand is my soul, there will soon come a time upon people when the flock of sheep will be dearer to its owner than the sons of Marwan [= human company?].”

Muslim and Tirmidhi narrate on the authority of Abu Hurayra who said: “While on the road to Mecca the Prophet passed on top of a mountain called Jumdan (= frozen in its place), at which time he said: Move on (siru)! Here is Jumdaan Mountain: and the single-minded (al-mufarridun) are foremost. They said: What are the single-minded? He said: The men and women who remember Allah much (al-dhakirun Allah kathiran wa al-dhakirat).” Muslim related it in his Sahih, beginning of the book of Dhikr.

The version in Tirmidhi has: The Prophet said: “The single-minded (al-mufarridun) are foremost. They said: What are the single-minded? He said: Those who dote on the remembrance of Allah and are ridiculed because of it (al-mustahtirun bi dhikr Allah), and whose burdens the dhikr removes from them (yada`u `anhum al-dhikru athqalahum), so that they come to Allah fluttering (fa ya’tun Allaha khifaqan).”

al-Mundhiri said in al-Tharghib wa al-tarhib [The Encouragement to Good and the Discouragement from Evil]: “These are the ones who are fired up with the remembrance of Allah (al-muwalla`un bi dhikrillah).”

Nawawi writes in Sharh Sahih Muslim, Bk. 48, Ch. 1, Hadith 4: “Some pronounced it mufridun (= those who isolate themselves)… Ibn Qutayba and others said: The original meaning of this is those whose relatives have died and they have become single (in the world) with regard to their passing from them, so they have remained remembering Allah the Exalted. Another narration has: They are those who are moved at the mention or remembrance of Allah (hum al-ladhina ihtazzu fi dhikrillah), that is, they have become fervently devoted and attached to His remembrance. Ibn al-I`rabi said: ‘It is said that “a man becomes single” (farada al-rajul) when he becomes learned, isolates himself, and concerns himself exclusively with the observance of Allah’s orders and prohibitions.'”

Dhikr in isolation or seclusion (khalwa) is corroborated by the hadith in Bukhari: “Seven people will be shaded by Allah…” The seventh is: “A person who remembers Allah in seclusion (dhakara Allaha khaaliyan) and his eyes get flooded with tears.”

In Tirmidhi: `A’isha relates: “In the beginnings of Allah’s Messenger’s Prophethood, at the time Allah desired to bestow honor upon him and mercy upon His servants through him, he would not have any vision except it came to pass as surely as the sun rises. He continued like this for as long as Allah wished. Most beloved to him was seclusion (al-khalwa) and there was nothing he loved more than to be alone in seclusion.” Tirmidhi narrates it and said: hasan sahih gharib. Bukhari and Muslim narrate something very similar through different chains and the word khala’ is used instead of khalwa.

Ibn Hajar said in Fath al-Bari in the commentary on Bukhari’s chapter on seclusion:

Ibn al-Mubarak relates in Kitab al-raqa’iq from Shu`ba from Khubayb ibn `Abd al-rahman from Hafs ibn `Asim that `Umar said: “Take your part of fortune from seclusion.” And what a good saying is al-Junayd’s saying, may Allah grant us the benefit of his baraka: “Undergoing the difficulty of seclusion is easier than mixing with society unscathed.” al-Khattabi said in his “Book of Seclusion” (Kitab al-`uzla): “If there were not in seclusion other than safety from backbiting and the sight of what is forbidden but cannot be eliminated, it would have been enough of an immense good.” Bukhari’s title [Chapter on Seclusion As Rest From Keeping Company Towards Evil] refers to the hadith cited by al-Hakim from Abu Dharr from the Prophet with a fair (hasan) chain: “Isolation is better than to be sociable in committing evil.” However, what is usually retained is that it is a saying of Abu Dharr or Abu al-Darda’. Ibn Abi `Asim cited it… al-Qushayri said in his Risala: “The method of the one who enters seclusion is that he must have the belief that he is keeping people from his evil, not the reverse, for the former presupposes belittlement of himself, which is the attribute of the humble, while the latter indicates that he considers himself better than others, which is the attribute of the arrogant.”

Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi writes in Sharh Sahih Tirmidhi, Book 45 (da`awat), Ch. 4:

If it is said that the times have become so corrupt that there is nothing better than isolating oneself, we say: one isolates oneself from people in one’s actions, while he keeps mixing with them with his physical body, however, if he cannot succeed, then at that time he isolates himself from them physically but without entering into monasticism (ya`taziluhum bi badanihi wa la yadkhulu fi al-rahbaniyya) which is condemned and rejected by the Sunna.

Dhikr with the name “ALLAH”

Allah said in His Book: “And mention the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him with a complete devotion” (73:8). Qadi Thana’ullah Panipati said in his Tafsir Mazhari (10:111): “Know that this verse points to the repetition of the name of the Essence (ism al-dhat),” that is: “Allah.” The same meaning is intimated also by the end of verse 6:91 in Surat al-An`am: “Say ALLAH. Then leave them to their play and vain wrangling.”

The Prophet said: “The Hour will not rise before Allah, Allah is no longer said on earth.” And through another chain: “The Hour will not rise on anyone saying: Allah, Allah.” Muslim narrated both in his Sahih, Book of Iman (belief), chapter 66 entitled: dhahab al-iman akhir al-zaman “The Disappearance of Belief at the End of Times.”

Imam Nawawi said in his commentary on this chapter: “Know that the narrations of this hadith are unanimous in the repetition of the name of Allah the Exalted for both versions, and that is the way it is found in all the authoritative books.” (Sharh Sahih Muslim, Dar al-Qalam, Beirut ed. vol. 1/2 p. 537)

Imam Muslim placed the hadith under the chapter-heading of the disappearance of belief (iman) at the end of times although there is no mention of belief in the hadith. This shows that saying “Allah, Allah” stands for belief. Those who say it show belief, while those who don’t say it, don’t show belief. Therefore those who fight those who say it, are actually worse than those who merely lack belief and do not say “Allah, Allah.”

Nawawi highlights the authenticity of the repetition of the form to establish that the repetition of the words “Allah, Allah” are a sunna ma’thura (practice inherited from the Prophet and the Companions) as it stands. Ibn Taymiyya’s claim that the words must not be used alone but obligatorily in contruct, e.g. with a vocative form (“Ya Allah”), contradicts the Sunna.

One who knows that the dhikr “Allah, Allah” has been mentioned by the Prophet himself, is not at liberty to muse whether it was used by the Companions or not in order to establish its basis. It suffices for its basis to establish that the Prophet said it.

One who knows that Allah, Allah is a dhikr used by the Prophet, is not at liberty to object to similar forms of dhikr such as HU and HAYY and HAQQ. “To Allah belong the most beautiful names, so call Him by them” (7:180). As for the hadith of the ninety-nine names, it does not limit the names of Allah to only ninety-nine, as Nawawi made clear in his commentary of that hadith.

It is established that Bilal used to make the dhikr Ahad, Ahad while undergoing torture. Ibn Hisham says in his Sira: Ibn Ishaq narrates [with his chain of transmission] saying: “Bilal was a faithful Muslim, pure of heart… Umayya ibn Khalaf used to bring him out in the hottest part of the day and throw him on his back in the open valley and have a great rock put on his chest; the he would say to him: You will stay here until you die or deny Muhammadand worship al-Lat and al-`Uzza. He used to say while he was enduring this: ahad, ahad — One, One!” Ibn Hajar cites it in al-Isaba (1:171 #732).

It is noteworthy that the Siddiqi translation of Sahih Muslim mistranslates the first narration cited above as: “The Hour (Resurrection) would not come so long as Allah is supplicated in the world” and the second as “The Hour (Resurrection) would not come upon anyone so long as he supplicates Allah.” This is wrong as translation goes, although it is right as a commentary, since saying Allah, Allah is supplicating Him, as is all worship according to the hadith of the Prophet: “Supplication: that is what worship is.” (Tirmidhi and others narrate it.) However, concerning accuracy in translation, the word form highlighted by Nawawi must be kept intact in any explanation of this hadith. It is not merely “supplicating Allah.” It is saying: Allah, Allah according to the Prophet’s own words.

Dhikr “hu”, “hayy”, “haqq”

“Hu” and “Hayy” are a pronoun and name of Allah Almighty in the Qur’an according to ayat al-Kursi:

Allahu la ilaha illa HU AL-HAYY al-Qayyum (2:255)

Allah! There is no god except HE, the LIVING the Self-Subsistent

“Haqq” is one of the names of Allah in the hadith in Bukhari and Muslim enumerating the ninety-nine Names (see below).

Furthermore, the Prophet prayed to Allah with the following invocations:

(a) “Labbayka ilah al-Haqq” [At your command, O the God of Truth]. It is narrated in the book of Hajj in al-Nasa’i’s Sunan, and in the book of Manasik in Ibn Majah’s.

(b) “Anta al-Haqq” [You are Truth]. Bukhari and Muslim.

– Allah said: “Wa lillahi al-asma’ al-husna fad`uhu biha” : To Allah belong the Most beautiful Names, so call Him with them (7:180). These names are not confined to ninety-nine, as Nawawi explicitly stated in his commentary on the hadith in Bukhari and Muslim whereby the Prophet said: “Inna lillahi ta`ala tis`atan wa tis`ina isman, mi’atan illa wahidan, man ahsaha dakhala al-jannat…”: “There are ninety-nine names which belong to Allah, one hundred less one, whoever memorizes (or recites) them enters Paradise…”

– The Prophet used to call Allah by ALL His Names: “Allahumma inni ad`uka bi asma’ika al-husna kulliha”: O Allah, I invoke You with all of Your beautiful Names. Narrated by Ibn Maja, book of Du`a; and by Imam Malik in his Muwatta’, Kitab al-Shi`r.

Dhikr in Dim Surroundings

– Allah said to the Prophet: “Wa min al-layli fa tahajjad bihi nafilatan laka” : “And some part of the night awake for it, a largess for thee” (17:79), and He said: “Lo! the vigil of the night is a time when impression is more keen and speech more certain.” (73:6).

The superiority of prayer at night is knows in all books of hadith and fiqh because of the elimination of worldly distractions at that time. That is why Imam Ghazali wrote on that topic: “The root of thought is the eye… He whose niyyat (intention) is fine and who aims high cannot be diverted by what occurs in front of him, but he who is weak fall prey to it. The medicine is to cut off the roots of these distractions and to shut up the eyes, to pray in a dark room, not to keep anything in front which may attract attention and not to pray in a decorated place. For this reason, the saints used to worship in dark, narrow and unspacious rooms.” Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din, Book of Salat.

Movement during dhikr

We have already mentioned above the version of the hadith of Muslim whereby the Prophet praised the mufarridun or those who are single-minded in their remembrance of Allah: Nawawi said: Another narration has: “They are those who shake or are moved at the mention or remembrance of Allah (hum al-ladhina ihtazzu fi dhikrillah), that is, they have become fervently devoted and attached to His remembrance.”

Imam Habib al-Haddad said in Key to the Garden (p. 116):

Dhikr returns from the outward feature which is the tongue to the inward which is the heart, in which it becomes solidly rooted, so that it takes firm hold of its members. The sweetness of this is tasted by the one who has taken to dhikr with the whole of himself, so that his skin and heart are softened. As Allah said: “Then their skins and their hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah” (39:23).

The “softening of the heart” consists in the sensitivity and timidity that come as a result of nearness and tajalli [manifestation of one or more divine attributes]. Sufficient is it to have Allah as one’s intimate companion!

As for the “softening of the skin.” this is the ecstasy and swaying from side to side which result from intimacy and manifestation, or from fear and awe. No blame attaches to someone who has reached this rank if he sways and chants, for in the painful throes of love and passion he finds something which arouses the highest yearning….

The exhortation provided by fear and awe brings forth tears and forces one to tremble and be humble. These are the states of the righteous believers (abrar) when they hear the Speech and dhikr of Allah the Exalted. “Their skins shiver” (39:23), and then soften with their hearts and incline to dhikr of Him, as they are covered in serenity and dignity, so that they are neither frivolous, pretentious, noisy, or ostentatious. Allah the Exalted has not described them as people whose reasons have departed, who faint, dance, or jump about.

Hadiths on the Virtues of Dhikr

Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet said: “When a servant of Allah utters the words la ilaha illallah (there is no god except Allah) sincerely, the doors of heaven open up for these words until they reach the Throne of Allah, so long as its utterer keeps away from the major sins.” (Narrated by Tirmidhi, who says it is hasan gharib. al-Mundhiri included in al-Targhib 2:414)

Abu Hurayra also reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Renew your faith.” “How can we renew our faith?” they asked. The Prophet replied: “Say always: la ilaha illallah.” (Narrated by Ahmad with a fair chain of authorities)

Jabir reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “The best remembrance of Allah is to repeat la ilaha illallah and the best prayer (du’a) is al-hamdu lillah (all praise belongs to Allah).” (Narrated by Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, and Hakim who declared its chain sound)

Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet said: “There are two phrases that are light on the tongue but heavy on the scale of rewards and are dear to the Gracious One. These are: subhan Allah wa bi hamdihi, “Glorified is Allah with all praise to Him,” and subhan Allah al-`azim, “Glorified is Allah, the Great.” (Narrated by Bukhari, Muslim, and Tirmidhi)

Abu Hurayra also reported that the Prophet said: “I love repeating: subhan Allah, wa al-hamdu lillah, wa la ilaha illallah, wallahu akbar: “Glorified is Allah, and Praise be to Allah, and There is no God but Allah, and Allah is most Great,” more than all that the sun shines upon.” (Narrated by Muslim and Tirmidhi)

Abu Dharr reported that the Prophet said: “Shall I tell you the words that Allah loves the most?” I said: “Yes, tell me, O Messenger of Allah.” He said: “The words dearest to Allah are: subhan Allah wa bi hamdihi “Glorified is Allah with all praise to Him.” (Narrated by Muslim and Tirmidhi)

In Tirmidhi’s version, we also find the following: “The words most dear to Allah which He has chosen for His angels are: subhana rabbi wa bi hamdihi subhana rabbi wa bi hamdihi, “Glorified is my Lord with all praise to Him, Glorified is my Lord with all praise to Him!”

Jabir reported that the Prophet said: “Whoever says: “Glorified is Allah, the Great, with all praise to Him” will have a palm tree planted for him in Paradise.” (Narrated by Tirmidhi, who said it is hasan)

Abu Sa`id reported that the Prophet said: “Perform the enduring goods deeds (al-baqiyat al-salihat) more frequently.” They asked, “What are these enduring good deeds?” The Prophet replied: Takbir [allahu akbar], Tahlil [la ilaha illallah], Tasbih [subhan allah], al-hamdu lillah, and la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah. (Narrated Nasa’i and Hakim, who said its chain is sahih.)

`Abd Allah ibn Mas`ud reported that the Prophet said: “During the Night Journey I met Ibrahim who said to me: O Muhammad, convey my greetings to your Community, and tell them that the Paradise is of pure land, its water is sweet, and its expanse is vast, spacious and even. And its seedlings are:

subhan allah: Glory to Allah

wa al-hamdu lillah: and Praise to Allah

wa la ilaha illallah: and there is no god but Allah

wallahu akbar: and Allah is greatest.

(Narrated by Tirmidhi and Tabarani whose version adds: “There is no power nor strength save through Allah.”)

Samura ibn Jundub reported that the Prophet said: “The dearest phrases to Allah are four: subhan Allah, wa al-hamdu lillah, wa la ilaha illallah, wallahu akbar: “Glorified is Allah, and Praise be to Allah, and There is no God but Allah, and Allah is most Great,” There is no harm in beginning them in any order you choose while remembering Allah.” (Narrated by Muslim)

Ibn Mas`ud reported that the Prophet said: “If anyone recites the last two verses of Surat al- Baqara at night (2:285-286), they will suffice for him.” (Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim). That is, these two verses will bring him a reward equivalent to that of a night prayer, and will safeguard him from any hurt during that night. Ibn Khuzayma in his Sahih mentioned it under the chapter “The Recitation of the Qur’an Equivalent in Reward to a Night Prayer.”

Abu Sa`id al-Khudri narrated that the Prophet asked: “Can anyone of you recite a third of the Qur’an during the night?” The Companions considered this difficult and they said: “Who among us can do so, O Prophet of Allah?” Thereupon the Prophet said: “Allah, the One, the Eternally-Besought [i.e. surat al-Ikhlas] is a third of the Qur’an.” (Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim)

Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet said: “Whoever says: la ilaha illallahu wahdahu la sharika lah, lahu al-mulku wa lahu al-hamd, wa huwa `ala kulli shay’in qadir — There is no god but Allah, alone, without partner. His is the sovereignty, and His the praise, and He has power over everything — a hundred times a day will have a reward equivalent to the reward for freeing ten slaves. In addition, a hundred good deeds will be recorded for him and a hundred bad deeds of his will be wiped off, and it will be a safeguard for him from Satan that day until evening, and no one will be better in deeds than such a person except he who does more than that.” (Narrated by Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i and Ibn Majah)

In the version of Muslim, Tirmidhi, and Nasa’i, we find this addition: “Whoever says: subhan Allah wa bi hamdihi — Glorified is Allah with all praise to Him — a hundred times during a day, will have all his sins wiped off even if they were as numerous as the foam on the surface of the sea.”

Istighfar

Anas reported that he heard the Prophet saying that Allah says, “O son of Adam, whatever you asked Me and expect from Me I forgave — respecting that which you owed to Me — and I don’t care (how great this was). O Son of Adam, even if your sins pile up to the sky and then you seek My forgiveness I will forgive you, and O son of Adam, even if you have an earthful of sins but you meet Me without associating any other thing with Me I will forgive you.” (Narrated by Tirmidhi who said it is hasan sahih.)

`Abd Allah ibn `Abbas said: “If one supplicates without fail for forgiveness from Allah, He finds a way out for him to get out of every distress and difficulty, and gives him sustenance through ways utterly unthought of.” (Narrated by Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, and Hakim, who said its chain of authorities is sound.)

Juwayriyya bint al-Harith, one of the wives of the Prophet, reported that one day the Prophet left her apartment in the morning as she was busy observing her dawn prayer in her place of worship. He came back in the forenoon and she was still sitting there. The Prophet said to her: “You have been in the same place since I left you?” She said: “Yes.” Thereupon the Prophet said: “I recited four words three times after I left you and if these are to be weighed against what you have recited since morning these would outweigh them, and these words are:

subhan allahi wa bi hamdihi `adada khalqihi wa rida nafsihi wa zinata `arshihi wa midada kalimatihi

“Glory to Allah and praise to Him to number of His creation and to the extent of His pleasure and to the extent of the weight of His Throne and to the extent of ink used in recording words for His Praise.” (Muslim and Abu Dawud)

Ibn `Umar reported that the Prophet told them, “A servant of Allah said: ya rabbi laka al-hamdu kama yanbaghi li jalali wajhika wa li `azimi sultanik. My Lord! All praise belongs to You as much as befits Your Glory and Sublime Majesty. This was too much for the two angels to record. They did not know how to record it. So they soared to the heaven and said: Our Lord! Your servant has said something which we don’t know how to record. Allah asked them — and, of course, He knew what the servant had said: What did My servant say? They said: He said: My Lord! All praise belongs to You as much as befits Your Glory and Sublime Majesty. Allah said to them: Write it down as My servant has said until he should meet Me and I reward him for it.” (Narrated by Ibn Majah)

Abdullah ibn `Amr ibn al-As said: “I saw the Prophet counting the glorifications of Allah on his right hand’s fingers.” (Narrated by Tirmidhi who said hasan gharib, Nasa’i, Abu Dawud, and Ahmad.)

Yusayra bint Yasir reported that the Prophet commanded them (the Emigrant women) to be regular in remembering Allah by saying tahlil (la ilaha illallah) and tasbih (subhan allah) and taqdis (allahu akbar) and never to be forgetful of Allah and His Mercy, and to count them on their fingers, for the fingers will be questioned and will speak. (Narrated by Ahmad, Tirmidhi who said it is gharib, Abu Dawud, and al-Hakim. Shawkani in Nayl al-awtar 2:316 said that Suyuti declared sound (sahih) its chain of transmission.)

Use of prayer-beads (masbaha, sibha, tasbih)

Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas reported that once the Prophet saw a woman who had some date-stones or pebbles which she was using as beads to glorify Allah. The Prophet said to her, “Let me tell you something which would be easier or more excellent for you than that.” So he told her to say instead:

subhan allahi `adada ma khalaqa fi s-sama’,
subhan allahi `adada ma khalaqa fi al-ard,
subhan allahi `adada ma khalaqa bayna dhalik,
subhan allahi `adada ma huwa khaliq,
Allahu akbaru ‘adada ma khalaqa fi al-sama’,
Allahu akbaru ‘adada ma khalaqa fi l-‘ard,
Allahu akbaru ‘adada ma khalaqa bayna dhalik,
Allahu akbaru ‘adada ma huwa khaliq,
al-hamdu lillahi `adada ma khalaqa fi al-sama’,
al-hamdu lillahi `adada ma khalaqa fi l-‘ard,
al-hamdu lillahi `adada ma khalaqa bayna dhalik,
al-hamdu lillahi `adada ma huwa khaliq,
la ilaha illallahu `adada ma khalaqa fi al-sama’,
la ilaha illallahu `adada ma khalaqa fi al-ard,
la ilaha illallahu `adada ma khalaqa bayna dhalik,
la ilaha illallahu `adada ma huwa khaliq,
la hawla wa la quwwata illa billahi `adada ma khalaqa fi al-sama’,
la hawla wa la quwwata illa billahi `adada ma khalaqa fi al-ard,
la hawla wa la quwwata illa billahi `adada ma khalaqa bayna dhalik,
la hawla wa la quwwata illa billahi `adada ma huwa khaliq.
“Glory be to Allah as many times as the number of what He has created in Heaven,
Glory be to Allah as many times as the number of what He has created on Earth,
Glory be to Allah as many times as the number of what He has created between them,
Glory be to Allah as many times as the number of that which He is creating.”
and then repeat all of the above four times but substituting “Glory be to Allah” by:
– “Allah is the most great” in the first repetition,
– “Praise be to Allah” in the second repetition,
– “There is no god but Allah” in the third repetition, and
– “There is no change and no power except with Allah” in the fourth repetition. (Narrated by Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi who said it is hasan, Ibn Majah, Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, al-Nasa’i, and al-Hakim, who said it is sahih according to the criterion of Muslim. Dhahabi concurred.)

Safiyya bint Huyayy the Prophet’s wife said: The Prophet came in to see me and in front of me there were four thousand date-stones with which I was making tasbih [counting subhan Allah]. He said: “You make tasbih with so many! Shall I teach you what surpasses your number of tasbih?” She said: “Teach me!” He said: “Say: Subhan Allah `adada khalqihi — Glory to Allah the number of His creation.” Narrated by Tirmidhi who said it is gharib, and both al-Hakim and Suyuti declared it sahih.

Allah says in His Holy Book to His Holy Prophet, “Remind people, for reminding benefits them.” The reminder of Muslims has various forms, public and private. A public form of this reminder is the adhan. The masbaha or sibha or tasbih, or prayer-beads, has had since the earliest Companions the function of a private reminder. It is for that reason that the tasbih was called by them mudhakkir or mudhakkira — “reminder,” and there is a narration traced to the Prophet whereby he said: ni`ma al-mudhakkir al-sibha: “What a good reminder are the prayer-beads!” Shawkani narrates it from `Ali ibn Abi Talib as evidence for the usefulness of prayer-beads in Nayl al-awtar (2:317) from Daylami’s narration in Musnad al-firdaws with his chain, and Suyuti cites it in his fatwa on prayer-beads in al-Hawi li al-fatawi (2:38).

The statement propagated nowadays by “Salafis” whereby counting dhikr on beads is an innovation, is undoubtedly false. The use of beads for counting dhikr is definitely established as a practice allowed by the Prophet and a Sunna of the Companions. This is proven by the sahih hadith of Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, who related that the Prophet once saw a woman using some datestones or pebbles (nawan aw hasan), and did not prohibit her to use them. This hadith is found in Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nisa’i, Ibn Maja, Ibn Hibban, and Hakim. Dhahabi declared it sahih. Another sahih hadith to that effect was related by Safiyya, who was seen by the Prophet, Peace be upon him, counting “Subhan Allah” on four thousand date stones. This hadith is found in Tirmidhi, Hakim, and Tabarani, and was confirmed as sahih by Suyuti. It is also related from the Prophet’s freedman, Abu Safiyya, that a mat would be spread for him and a basket made of palm leaves brought which was filled with pebbles with which he would make tasbih until mid-day. Then it would be taken away, and then brought back after he had prayed, and he would make tasbih again until evening. This is narrated in Ibn Hajar’s Isaba (7:106 #652) with his chain, who says that Bukhari narrates it [in his Tarikh], as well as al-Baghawi through two chains. Shawkani cites it, as seen below.

Shawkani said in Nayl al-awtar (2:316-317):

The Prophet justified the counting of dhikr on the fingers by the fact that the fingers will be questioned and will speak, that is, they will witness to that effect. It follows that counting tasbih on them, because of this aspect, is better than using dhikr-beads or pebbles. But the two other hadiths [of Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas and Safiyya bint Huyayy] indicate the permissibility of counting tasbih with date-stones and pebbles, and similarly with dhikr-beads because there is no distinguishing factor between them in the Prophet’s stipulation to the two women concerning it, and no disapproval of it. As for directing to what is better: this does not negate permissibility (la yunafi al-jawaz). There are reports to that effect.

It is related in Hilal al-Haffar’s monograph through Mu`tamar ibn Sulayman from Abu Safiyya the Prophet’s freedman that a mat would be spread for him and a basket made of palm leaves brought which was filled with pebbles with which he would make tasbih until mid-day. Then it would be taken away, and then brought back after he had prayed, and he would make tasbih again until evening. Imam Ahmad narrates it in Kitab al-zuhd [with his chain].

Ahmad also narrates from al-Qasim ibn `Abd al-Rahman that Abu al-Darda’ had a bag filled with date-stones and that whenever he prayed the noon prayer he would bring them out one by one and make tasbih on them until they were finished.

Ibn Sa`d in his Tabaqat narrates [with his chains] that Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas used to count tasbih on pebbles, and that Fatima bint al-Husayn ibn `Ali ibn Abi Talib used to make tasbih with a thread stringed with knots, and that Abu Hurayra made tasbih with a string of pebbles (al-nawa al-majmu`).

`Abd Allah the son of Imam Ahmad narrated in Zawa’id al-zuhd that Abu Hurayra had a thread stringed with one thousand knots and that he would not sleep until he had counted tasbih on them.

al-Daylami narrates in Musnad al-firdaws through Zaynab bint Sulayman ibn `Ali, and from Umm al-Hasan bint Ja`far from her father from her grandfather from `Ali, and it is traced back to the Prophet: “What a good reminder are the prayer-beads!”

Suyuti related reports with their chains in his monograph on the subject entitled al-Minha min al-sibha and it is part of his collected fatwas. He says towards the end of it: “It is not related from any one of the Salaf nor the Khalaf that it is forbidden to count tasbih on the sibha (dhikr-beads). On the contrary, most of them used to count tasbih on it, and they did not consider it disliked.

The Indian hadith scholar Zakariyya al-Khandlawi similarly relates in his book Hayat al-sahaba that Abu Hurayra said: “I recite istighfar (formula of asking forgiveness) 12,000 times daily” and that, according to his grandson, he had a piece of thread with 1,000 knots and would not go to sleep until he had said subhan allah (Glory to Allah) on all of these knots. According to her grand-daughter through Imam al-Husayn, Fatima also used to count her dhikr on a thread with knots.

Mawlana Zakariyya continues, “It is well-known that many other Companions of the Prophet, Peace be upon him, used beads in their private devotions, such as Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas himself, Abu Safiyya the slave of the Prophet, Abu Sa`d, Abu Darda’, and Fatima, May Allah be pleased with them all. Stringing or not stringing the beads together does not make any difference.”

It is well-established that counting dhikr is a Sunna of the Prophet, Peace be upon him. He himself advised his wives, `Ali, and Fatima to count tasbih (subhan allah), tahmid (al-hamdu lillah), and takbir (allahu akbar) thirthy-three times each before going to bed at night. Ibn `Amr relates that he saw the Prophet, count the times he said subhan allah on his right hand. This does not mean that it is not allowed to use the left also, as the Prophet simply said: “Count [the dhikr] on your fingers.”

Imam Suyuti recounted in one of his fatwas entitled al-Minha fi al-sibha (The profit derived from using dhikr-beads) the story of `Ikrima, who asked his teacher `Umar al-Maliki about dhikr-beads. `Umar answered him that he had also asked his teacher Hasan al-Basri about it and was told: “Something we have used at the beginning of the road we are not desirous to leave at the end. I love to remember Allah with my heart, my hand, and my tongue.” Suyuti comments: “And how should it be otherwise, when the prayer-beads remind one of Allah Most High, and a person seldom sees prayer-beads except he remembers Allah, which is among the greatest of its benefits.”

As for Albani’s statements against the prayer-beads, his rejection of the hadith ni`ma al-mudhakkir al-sibha (see his Silsila da`ifa #83), and his astounding claim that whoever carries dhikr-beads in his hand to remember Allah is misguided and innovating, then we direct the reader to their refutation in Mahmud Sa`id’s Wusul al-tahani bi ithbat sunniyyat al-sibha wa al-radd `ala al-albani (The alighting of mutual benefit and the confirmation that the dhikr-beads are a Sunna, and the refutation of Albani).

As for the idea that the prayer-beads come from Buddhism or Christianity, it was one of the Hungarian scholar Ignaz Goldziher’s (fl. 1897 CE) legacies to orientalism.

Invoking blessings on the Prophet (salawat)

Allahumma salli `ala muhammadin wa `ala ali muhammadin wa sallim. O Allah, send blessings upon Muhammad and upon the Family of Muhammad, and grant them peace!

We have already expounded elsewhere on the fact that there is no such thing as invoking too much salawat on the Prophet and that we should be clear of anyone who makes such a claim. We will only mention here some evidence on this topic by way of a reminder.

Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet said: “If people sit in an assembly in which they do not remember Allah nor invoke a blessing on the Prophet, it will be a cause of grief for them on the Day of Judgment.” (Narrated by Tirmidhi, who graded it hasan.)

The author of Fath al-`allam said: “This hadith proves that it is incumbent on one to remember Allah and invoke blessings on the Prophet while sitting in an assembly, for whether we take the words “cause of grief” to mean torment of fire or any other chastisement, obviously a punishment is incurred only when an obligatory act is neglected or a forbidden act is committed, and here it is both the remembrance of Allah and the invoking of blessings on His Prophet that are apparently incumbent.”

Excerpts on the remembrance of Allah from `Abd al-Rahman al-Sufuri’s (d. 894)

NUZHAT AL-MAJALIS WA MUNTAKHAB AL-NAFA’IS

(The Pleasant Gatherings and the Select Precious Matters)

Allah, the Exalted, said: “Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest!” (13:28). If it is asked: How is the meaning of this verse reconciled with that of His saying: “They only are the true believers whose hearts feel fear (wajilat = tremble or shake) when Allah is mentioned” (8:2), the answer is that in the latter the purpose of Allah’s mention is to bring to mind His greatness and the intensity of His vengeance against those who disobey Him. This verse was revealed at a time when the Companions had a disagreement concerning the spoils of the battle of Badr. Therefore the mention or the remembrance of what is fearsome became appropriate. As for the former verse, it concerns whoever Allah guided and who has turned to Allah with love. Therefore the mention of Allah’s mercy became appropriate.

The two meanings of fearsomeness and mercy are reunited in Surat al-Zumar: “Allah hath now revealed the fairest of statements, a Scripture consistent, wherein promises of reward are paired with threats of punishment, whereat doth creep the flesh of those who fear their Lord, so that (thumma = and then) their flesh and their hearts soften to Allah’s reminder (or: to the celebration of Allah’s praises; or: to Allah’s remembrance)” (39:23), meaning, to Allah’s mercy and generosity.

The Prophet said: “He who remembers Allah much, Allah loves him,” and he said: “The night that I was enraptured to my Lord I passed by a man extinguished within the light of Allah’s Throne. I asked, Who is this, and is he an angel? I was told No, and I asked again, Is it a Prophet? I was told No, and I said, Who then? It was said: This is a man who, while he was in the world, his tongue was constantly moist with the mention of Allah and his heart was attached to the mosques.”

On the authority of Mu`adh ibn Jabal, the Prophet said that Allah said: “No servant of Mine mentions me in himself except I mention him in an assembly of My angels, and he does not mention Me in an assembly except I mention him in the Highest Company.”

On the authority of Abu Hurayra who said that while on the road to Mecca the Prophet passed on top of a mountain called Jumdan, at which time he said: “Move on, for here is Jumdan which has overtaken the single-minded.” They said: “What are the single-minded (mufarridun)? He said: “The men and women who remember Allah much” (33:35). Muslim related it.

The version in Tirmidhi has: “It was said: And what are the single-minded? He replied: Those who dote on the remembrance of Allah and are ridiculed because of it, whose burden the dhikr removes from them, so that they come to Allah fluttering!”

Al-Mundhiri said in al-Targhib wa al-tarhib (The encouragement to good and the discouragement from evil]: “The single-minded and those who dote on the dhikr and are ridiculed for it: these are the ones set afire with the remembrance of Allah.”

The Prophet said:

“The-one-who-mentions-or-remembers-Allah among those who forget Him is like a green tree in the midst of dry ones”;

“The one who mentions or remembers Allah among those who forget Him, Allah shows him his seat in Paradise during his life”;

“The one who mentions or remembers Allah among those those who forget Him is like the fighter behind those who run away”;

“The one who mentions or remembers Allah among those who forget Him, Allah looks at him with a look after which He will never punish him”;

“The one who mentions or remembers Allah among those who forget Him is like a light inside a dark house”;

“The one who mentions or remembers Allah among those who forget Him, Allah forgives him sins to the amount of every eloquent and non-eloquent speaker,” that is, the number of animals and human beings;

“The one who mentions or remembers Allah in the the marketplace, will have light in every hair of his on the Day of Resurrection.”

The Sufis say that:

– dhikr has a beginning, which is a truthful application;1

– it has a middle, which is a light that strikes;

– its has an end, which is a piercing difficulty;

– it has a principle, which is purity;

– it has a branch, which is loyalty;

– it has a condition, which is presence;

– it has a carpet, which is righteous action;

– it has a peculiar characteristic, which is the Manifest

Opening [cf. 48:1].

Abu Sa`id al-Kharraz2 said: “When Allah desires to befriend a servant of His, He opens the door of dhikr for that servant. After the latter takes pleasure in dhikr, He opens the door of proximity for him. After that, He raises him to the meetings of intimacy and after that he makes him sit on a throne of Oneness. Then He removes the veils from him and He makes him enter the abode of Singleness and unveils Majesty and Sublimity to him. When the servant beholds Majesty and Sublimity, he remains without “he”. He becomes extinguished, immune to the claims and pretensions of his ego, and protected for Allah’s sake.”

Someone else said: “Dhikr is the medicine (lit. tiryaq = triacle) of the sinners, the familiarity of the estranged, the treasure of those who practice reliance, the repast of those who possess certitude, the adornment of those who are connected, the starting-point of knowers, the carpet of those brought near Him, and the intoxicant of lovers.”

The Prophet also said: “Remembrance of Allah is firm knowledge of one’s belief, immunity from hypocrisy, a fortress against satan, and a guarded refuge from the fire.” It was mentioned by al-Layth al-Samarqandi.

Ibn al-Salah was asked about the measure by which the servant is estimated to be among “those who remember Allah much”. He said: “If he perseveres in the forms of dhikr inherited in the Sunna morning and evening and in the various times and occasions, then he is of those who remember Allah much.”

Musa said: “O my Lord! Are you near, so that I may speak to you intimately, or are you far, so that I may call out to you?” Allah inspired to him: “I am sitting next to the one who remembers Me.” He said: “O my Lord, we are sometimes in a state of major impurity and we hold You in too high regard to dare remember You at that time.” He replied: “Remember me in every state.” Ghazali mentioned it in the “Ihya”.

(`Abd al-Rahim ibn al-Hasan) al-Isnawi (al-Shafi`i, 1305-1370 CE) said in his Alghaz (Riddles): “A man in a state of minor impurity is forbidden from certain forms of dhikr, as illustrated by the nullification of the act of worship incurred when entering such a state during the Friday sermon, because ritual purity is a condition for its validity.”

Someone related in Qushayri’s Risala (Treatise on tasawwuf) that he entered a jungle and found a man remembering Allah while attended by a huge beast. He asked: “What is this?” The man replied: “I have asked Allah to empower one of His dogs to watch me in case I became heedless from remembering Him.”…

On the Dhikr of Inanimate Objects

“The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein praise Him, and there is not a thing but hymneth his praise; but ye understand not their praise. Lo! He is ever Clement, Forgiving.” (17:44)

Ibrahim al-Nakha`I3 said concerning Allah’s saying: “There is not a thing but hymneth his praise” (17:44): “Everything praises Him, including the door when it squeaks.” Someone else said: “The verse is general, and it applies particularly to the one endowed with speech, as in Allah’s saying: “Everything was destroyed,”4 whereas the houses of `Ad were not destroyed, and in His saying concerning Sheba (Balqis): “And I have been given all things” whereas she had not been given Sulayman’s kingdom.”

It was also said that the verse (17:44) has a universal meaning whereby the one endowed with speech glorifies Allah by word, while the silent one glorifies through his state. This is by virtue of his being in existence: he testifies to His Maker through having been made.

I have seen in Taj al-Din Ibn al-Subki’s Tabaqat al-shafi`iyya al-kubra — may Allah be pleased with him, that the interpretation favored by our school (Shafi`is) is that all things make glorification through actual utterance, because such a thing is not impossible and it is indicated by many proof-texts. Allah the Exalted said: “We have placed the mountains under his dominion, they praise Allah at nightfall and at sunrise.” The mountains’ glorification through actual utterance does not necessitate that we hear it. I have seen in al-Wujuh al-musfira `an ittisa` al-maghfira [The Faces Made Radiant By the Vastness of Mercy] the following commentary: “It is more likely that they literally glorify, except that this phenomenon is hidden from the people and is not perceived except through the rupture of natural laws. The Companions heard the glorification of food and other objects placed before the Prophet.

“Concerning Allah’s saying at the end of the verse: “Lo! He is ever Clement, Forgiving”: it applies to the state of those addressed by the verse in three ways. First, in the vast majority of cases people are distracted from glorifying Allah the Exalted, unlike the heavens and the earth and all that is therein: these distracted ones become in need of clemency and forgiveness. Second, they do not understand the praise of all these objects, and this may be because they do not sufficiently contemplate and reflect upon them: they become in need of clemency and forgiveness. Third, the fact that they do not hear their praise may cause them to feel contempt towards them and drive them to neglect their rights: they again become in need of clemency and forgiveness.

“Without doubt he who beholds with full understanding the glorification of things in existence, honors and magnifies them in respect to this glorification, even if the Lawgiver ordered him to disdain them in another respect.”

The author of al-Wujuh al-musfira cited the following story: “One of Allah’s slaves sought to perform the purification from going to stool with stones. He took one stone, and Allah removed the veil from his hearing so that he was now able to hear the stone’s praise. Out of shame he left it and took another one, but he heard that one praising Allah also. And every time he took another stone he heard it glorifying Allah. Seeing this, at last he turned to Allah so that He would veil from him their praise to enable him to purify himself. Allah then veiled him from hearing them. He proceeded to purify himself despite his knowledge that the stones were making tasbih, because the one who reported about their tasbih is the same Law-giver who ordered to use them for purification. Therefore in the concealment of tasbih there is a far-reaching wisdom.”

This is true, and I also saw in Fakhr al-Din Razi’s Tafsir that what the scholars have agreed upon is that whoever is not alive is not empowered with speech, and it has been firmly established that inanimate objects praise Allah through the medium of their state. And Allah knows best.5

Six Benefits of Dhikr (Remembrance of Allah)

  1. The Ranks of DhikrOne of the commentators of Qur’an said concerning Allah’s saying: “But among them are some who wrong themselves and among them are some who are lukewarm, and among them are some who outstrip others through good deeds, by Allah’s leave” (35:32) that they are respectively the rememberer by tongue, the rememberer by heart, and the one who never forgets his Lord.Ibn `Ata’ Allah6 said: “The one who utters the Word of Oneness needs three lights: the light of guidance, the light of sufficiency, and the light of divine help. Whoever Allah graces with the first light, he is immune (ma`sum) from associating a partner to Allah; whoever Allah graces with the second light, he is immune from committing great sins and indecencies; and whoever Allah graces with the third light, he is protected (mahfuz) from the corrupt thoughts and motions that typify those given to heedless actions. The first light belongs to “the ones who wrong themselves,” the second to “those that are lukewarm,” and the third to “the ones who outstrip others through good deeds.”Al-Wasiti7 was asked about the remembrance of Allah, may Allah have mercy on him. He said: “It is the exiting from the battlefield of heedlessness into the outer space of direct vision (mushahada) on the mount of victory over fear and intensity of love.”One of the special attributes of the remembrance of Allah is that it has been placed in direct correspondence with Allah’s own remembrance of us. Allah the Exalted said: “Remember Me, and I shall remember you” (2:152). Musa said – peace be upon him: “O my Lord, where do you dwell?” He replied: “In the heart of my believing servant.”8 The meaning of this is the heart’s rest brought about by His remembrance. Something like this will be mentioned in the last chapter on love (mahabba) insha Allah.

    Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya9 said – may Allah be well pleased with him: “Verily the angels lower their gaze in the presence of the rememberer of Allah, just as the people lower their gaze before lightning.”

  2. Remittance of Sins Through DhikrIt is related that a servant of Allah will join the gatherings of dhikr with sins the like of mountains and then rise and leave one such gathering with nothing left of them to his name. This is why the Prophet called it one of the groves of Paradise when he said: “If you pass by the groves of Paradise, be sure to graze in them,” and someone said: “What are the groves of Paradise?” to which he replied: “The circles of dhikr.” It will be mentioned again in the chapter on Allah-wariness (taqwa) insha Allah.`Ata’ said – may Allah the Exalted have mercy on him: “Whoever sits in a gathering in which Allah is remembered, Allah will remit for him ten evil gatherings of his.”Abu Yazid al-Bistami was told – may Allah be well pleased with him: “I have entrusted you with a secret for which you shall render Me an account under the Tree of Bliss (shajarat tuba),” whereupon he said: “We are under that tree as long as we remain in the remembrance of Allah.”10It is related on `Ali’s authority – may Allah be well pleased with him – that Allah manifests Himself (yatajalla) to the rememberers during dhikr and the recitation of Qur’an. The Prophet said: “No group gathers and remembers Allah seeking nothing other than Him except a caller from heaven calls out to them: “Arise forgiven, for your bad deeds have been turned into good ones!”” Abu al-Darda’ said that the Prophet said: “Allah verily will raise on the Day of resurrection people bearing light in their faces, carried aloft on pulpits of pearl, whom the people will envy. They are neither prophets nor martyrs.” Upon hearing this a beduin Arab fell to his knees and said: “Show them to us (ajlihim), O Prophet of Allah!” – that is: “describe them for us.” He replied: “They are those who love one another for Allah’s sake alone. They come from many different tribes, countries, and cities. They gather together for the remembrance of Allah the Exalted, remembering Him.”

    Someone said concerning Allah’s saying with reference to Sulayman — peace be upon him: “I verily will punish him with hard punishment” (27:21) that it means: “Verily I shall drive him far from the gatherings of dhikr”… Al-Junayd said — may Allah be well pleased with him — concerning Allah’s saying: “And (He is the One) Who causeth me to die, then giveth me life again” (26:81), that this means: “He causes me to die with heedlessness (of Him), then He causes me to live with remembrance (of Him).” Al-Hasan al-Basri said — may Allah have mercy on him: “No people sit remembering Allah the Exalted with one of the people of Paradise in their midst except Allah grants him to intercede for all of them.”

  3. Dhikr of the FrogsDawud said – peace be upon him: “I shall praise Allah with a kind of praise that none among his creatures ever used before.” Thereupon a frog called out to him: “Do you pride yourself before Allah for your praise, while for seventy years my tongue has been moist from remembering Him, and I have eaten nothing in the past ten nights because I kept busy uttering two words?” Dawud said: “What are these two words?” The frog replied: “O Praiser of Thyself with every tongue, O remembered One in every place!”It is related in Nuzhat al-nufus wa al-afkar [The Recreation of Minds and Thoughts] that an angel once said to Dawud: “O Dawud, understand what the frog is saying!” whereupon he heard it saying: “Glory and praise to You to the farthest boundary of Your knowledge!” Dawud said: “By the One Who made me a Prophet, verily I shall sing my Lord’s praise in this way.” The commentators have said that the frogs’ words are: “Glory to the King, the Holy One!” (subhan al-malik al-quddus) while al-Baghawi has: “Glory to my Lord Most Holy!” (subhana rabbi al-quddus), and of `Ali’s words – may Allah be well pleased with him – is “Glory to the One Who is worshipped in the abysses of the sea!”
  4. Dhikr of the Prophet Jonah`Ali said – may Allah be well pleased with him: “In the time of Jonah – peace be upon him – was a frog which had lived past the age of four thousand years. It never rested from glorifying Allah. One day it said: “O my Lord, no-one glorifies You like I do!” Jonah said: “O my Lord, I say what it says!” and he said: “Glory to You by the number of times each of your creatures says “Glory to You,” and glory to You by the number of times each of Your creatures does not say “Glory to You,” and glory to You according to the expanse of Your knowledge and the light of Your countenance and the adornment of Your throne and the reach of Yours words!”
  5. The Plagues of EgyptThe frog in a dream represents the righteous person. The frog poured water over Ibrahim’s fire – peace be upon him – to help put it out. As for a multitude of frogs, they represent punishment.The Exalted said: “So We sent them the flood and the locusts and the vermin and the frogs and the blood — a succession of clear signs. But they were arrogant and became guilty” (7:133). Al-Razi said: “… The nation of Pharaoh said to Musa – peace be upon him: “Whatever signs you bring us, to us it is nothing other than mere magic and we shall not believe in you.” Musa invoked Allah against them, and Allah sent down the flood upon them day and night. They sought help from Pharaoh, who sought help from Musa, who sought help from Allah. Allah then withheld the rain from them and sent down the winds. The earth grew vegetation and fruit in over-abundance. When they saw this they said: “Is this what we were anxious about? It is a great good for us!” and they disbelieved again. Allah then sent the locusts upon them, and they ate up all the vegetation until hardship became extreme and the sun was covered by the swarm of locusts. They sought help from Musa who sought help from his Lord. Allah then sent a wind which hurled the locusts into the sea. At this they said: “Whatever is left from what we had planted is enough for us,” and they disbelieved again. Allah then sent the lice upon them. Sa`id ibn Jubayr said this is the maggot which issues from wheat. Tha`labi said it is a kind of tick. `Ata’ al-Khurasani said it is the well-known lice, and it was also said that it means mosquitoes, and also wingless locusts. They did not leave a single green leaf except they ate it, and something like smallpox smote the bodies of the people. They sought help from Musa who sought help from his Lord. Allah sent a hot wind which burnt the lice. They still did not believe, so Allah sent upon them a swarm of frogs as thick as a pitch-dark night. The frogs entered their plantations, their food, and their beds cubit by cubit. They sought help from Musa again, and he sought help from his Lord. Allah caused the frogs to die and he sent down rain which carried them to the sea. They still disbelieved. Allah then sent down blood upon them so that their rivers ran red with blood. It is also said that Allah inflicted a state of permanent nosebleed upon them. For seven days they drank blood. Then they said: “O Musa, if you remove the filth (al-rijz) from us verily we shall pledge our belief for you.” [Cf. 7:134: “If thou removest the terror from us we verily will trust thee and will let the Children of Israel go with thee.”] Sa`eed ibn Jabir said that the “filth” (or “terror”) was a sixth kind of punishment which is the plague, while others said that it is an expression for the five kinds already mentioned. Al-Razi said – and this is the strongest opinion: “Wahb said that they underwent each affliction for a period of forty days.”
  6. Lengthening the Pronounciation of LA ILAHA ILLALLAHIbn `Abbas said — may Allah be well pleased with him and his father — that the Prophet said: “The day Allah created the heavens and the earth he created an angel and ordered him to say: “There is no god except Allah alone” (LA ILAHA ILLALLAH). The angel lengthens his delivery as he utters it and will not rest from this until the trumpet is blown.” One of the Companions said that whoever says: “No god except Allah” and lengthens his pronounciation intending thereby to magnify Allah, Allah will remit four thousand grave sins for him, and if he did not commit four thousand, Allah will remit the difference for his family and neighbors. It is related in the hadith: “Whoever says “No god except Allah” and lengthens his pronounciation intending thereby to magnify Allah, four thousand of his sins are struck thereby from the register of his sins.” Hence it is praiseworthy to lengthen one’s pronounciation upon uttering it, as Nawawi said, may Allah the Exalted have mercy upon him. The Prophet also said: “Whoever lengthens his pronounciation upon saying “No god except Allah,” Allah will make him dwell in Paradise in the Abode of Majesty by which he has named Himself when He said: “There remaineth but the countenance of thy Lord of Might and Glory” (55:27), and Allah will grant him to behold His gracious countenance.”Anas ibn Malik said – may Allah be well pleased with him – from the Prophet: “O human beings! Whoever says “No god except Allah” in astonishment at something, Allah creates from each letter of his utterance a tree with as many leaves as the days of this world, each leaf asking forgiveness for him and praising Allah on his behalf until the Day of judgment.”… It has been related that this phrase has on the side of Iblis the effect which a gangrenous sore would have on the side of a human being. al-Qadi `Iyad11 relates in the “Shifa” from Ibn `Abbas that written on the door of Paradise is the inscription: “There is no god but Allah alone, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah: Whoever says this, I shall not punish him.”I saw the following account as part of the explanation of Allah’s saying: “And speak (O Musa and Aaron) unto him (Pharaoh) a gentle word” (20:44): Musa said: “O Lord, how can a word be gentle?” Allah replied: “Say to him: “Would you like a good compromise? You have followed your own self for four hundred and fifty years; follow our intent but for one year, and Allah will forgive you all your sins. If not one year, then one month; if not, one week; if not, one single day; if not, one single hour. If you do not (wish to humor us) for all of an hour, then say in a single breath: “There is no god but Allah” so that I shall be able to bring peace to you.”After Musa conveyed the message, Pharaoh gathered his armies and said to them: “I am your Most High Lord!” (79:24) At this the heavens and the earth shook and pleaded before Allah the Glorious and Exalted that Pharaoh be put to death. Allah said: “He is like the dog: only the stick is good for him. O Musa, cast your staff” (cf. 7:117, 27:10, 28:31). Musa cast his staff (which became a huge snake) and the magicians (of Pharaoh’s court) immediately submitted. Pharaoh fled to his bedchamber. Musa said: “If you don’t come out, I shall order it to enter where you are.” Pharaoh said: “Give me a little respite.” Musa answered: “I have no permission to respite you.” But Allah the Exalted inspired to him: “Respite him, for verily I am the Clement, I do not hasten to punish.”

    Pharaoh began to relieve himself forty times a day while previously he would relieve himself only once every forty days. Musa gave him a respite. When the day came Pharaoh exceeded his bounds and rebelled. Allah therefore “seized him and made him an example for the afterlife and the former” (79:25); that is, He punished him with drowning because of his former word (“I am your Most High Lord”) and He punished him with Gehenna because of his latter word, when he said: “I know not that ye have a god other than me” (28:38). Ibn `Abbas said: “This is the former word, while the other came later, and between them lay forty years.”

    I saw mentioned in the book Zumrat al-`ulum wa zuhrat al-nujum (The Array of the Sciences and the Brightness of Stars) from the Prophet: He said: “Gabriel told me: “I stood in wait before Allah at the time Pharaoh said: “And what is the Lord of the Worlds?” (26:23) whereupon I outstretched two of my wings to smite him with punishment, but Allah the Exalted said: “Wait, O Gabriel! He hastens to punish who fears the lapse of time.”

    It was also mentioned in that book that when Pharaoh said: “I am your Lord the Most High” (79:24) Gabriel wanted to shake the earth from under his feet, but when he sought permission from his Lord the Exalted He did not give it to him and ordered him to ignore Pharaoh instead.

    Al-`Ala’I12 said in his explanation of the sura of the Story (al-qasas) that Iblis entered Pharaoh’s presence as the latter was in the bath and said: “O Pharaoh, I enticed you with every transgression, but I never told you to claim absolute Lordship!” Then he gave him forty lashes and left him in anger. Pharaoh said to him: “O Iblis, should I take back this claim?” He replied: “It would not be right for you to take it back after making it.”

    A group of the disbelievers of Quraysh gathered among whom was the Pharaoh of this Community — Abu Jahl — at Abu Talib’s house during the latter’s last illness. Abu Jahl said to him: “You know what has taken place between us and your brother’s son. Therefore obtain what is rightfully ours from him and what is righfully his from us before you die.” Abu Talib called the Prophet and said: “O my nephew, these are the nobility of your people, so leave them be and they shall leave you be.” He replied: “Do they agree to obey me if I ask them to say but one word?” Abu Jahl said — may Allah curse him: “Nay, we shall obey you if you ask us to say ten!” The Prophet then said: “Say: La ilaha illallah,” whereupon they said: “Are you asking us to reduce all our gods to only one? Truly you are asking us for the strangest thing!” and they dispersed. Abu Talib said: “O Muhammad, you have asked them for nothing excessive.” That is: You have not asked them for anything difficult.

    Concerning Allah’s saying: “Judge aright between us and be not unjust (lit. do not exceed the proper bounds)” (38:22) — that is: Do not swerve in your judgment — the Prophet hoped that his uncle would profess Islam, so he said to him: “Say it (the phrase: There is no Allah but Allah alone), so that I will be permitted to intercede for you on the Day of the rising.” Abu Talib replied: “Were it not that people — that is: the Quraysh — might think that I said it out of fear (of death), indeed I would say it.” More will be said about this matter in the section on the Prophet’s miracles insha Allah.

    Al-Razi said in his explanation of the sura of Cattle (al-an`am): “Abu Talib said: “Ask me to say other than this because your people hate it.” The Prophet replied: “I will never say other than this even if they were to dislodge the sun from its place and put it in my hand.” They said: “Then stop cursing our gods, otherwise we will curse you and Him Who orders you to do this,” whereupon Allah’s saying was revealed: “Revile not those unto whom they pray beside Allah lest they wrongfully revile Allah through ignorance” (6:109).

    If it is said: “To curse the idols is among the most meritorious acts of obedience to Allah; why then did Allah forbid it?” The answer is: Allah forbade it because cursing them might lead to the gravest of transgressions — exalted is Allah far above the saying of wrong-doers — namely cursing Allah and His Messenger, and it is an obligation to take precautions against it.

Allah’s Similes For the Phrase of Oneness

Allah compared the Phrase of Declaring Oneness (kalimat al-tawhid):

– to water because water cleanses: similarly this phrase cleanses from sins;

– to soil because the soil gives forth much in exchange for a single seed: similarly this phrase multiplies its return;

– to fire because fire burns and this phrase burns sins;

– to the sun because the latter sheds light on the worlds, and this phrase illumines even the grave;

– to the moon because it dispels the darkness of night, and this phrase sheds light with the same certainty;

– to the stars because they are guides for travellers, and this phrase is a guide for the people of misguidance to follow the right way;

– to the date palm when He said: “A goodly tree, its root set firm, its branches reaching into heaven, giving its fruit at every season by permission of its Lord” (14:24-25).

– The date palm does not grow in every land; similarly this phrase does not grow in every heart.

– The date palm is the tallest fruit tree: similarly the root of this phrase is in the heart and the top of its branches are under the Throne.

– The value of the fruit does not diminish because of the pit: similarly the value of the believer does not diminish despite the disobedience lodged between himself and Allah the Exalted.

– The bottom of the date palm is thorns while its top is moist dates; similarly the initial stages of this phrase are duties, and whoever fulfills them reaches the fruit which is to behold Allah the Exalted.

The Phrase of Oneness is the key to the Garden of Paradise; “every key must have teeth,”13 and its teeth are to forsake all that is forbidden and do what is ordained. Allah the Exalted says: “Therefore know that there is no god but Allah alone” (47:19) and the Prophet said: “Whoever said: There is no god but Allah alone, taking care that it is unalloyed (mukhlisan bihi) and from the heart, enters Paradise.” It was asked in what being-unalloyed (ikhlas) consisted. He said: “In barring one from what Allah the Exalted has declared forbidden.” The Prophet also said: “O Abu Hurayra! Every good deed on your part shall be weighed on the Day of rising except the Witnessing that there is no god but Allah alone, for verily it can never be placed in the Balance.”

The king of the Byzantines wrote to our Master `Umar ibn al-Khattab – may Allah be well please with him: “O Commander of the Faithful, Allah’s Messenger has related to me that you have a certain tree whose fruit grows like the ears of donkeys, then splits into clusters more beautiful than pearls, then turns green so that it resembles emerald, then reddens and yellows like fragments of gold and ruby, and when it ripens it is more delicious than the soft honey-cake (faludhaj), and when it dries it is nourishment for the dwellers and provision for the travellers. If he spoke the truth, then verily this is a tree from Paradise!” `Umar ibn al-Khattab wrote back: “Yes, he spoke the truth, and this is also the tree under which `Isa was born (cf. 19:23) and therefore it never invokes another god together with Allah.”

Al-Razi said that there is a relation and a resemblance between the palm tree on the one hand and animals and human beings on the other which does not exist between the latter and the other types of trees; this is why the Prophet said: “Honor your stepmother the palm tree for she was created from the remainder of Adam’s clay.” This is because when Adam fell to earth his hair grew long and his body became soiled, whereupon Gabriel came with scissors, cut his hair and nails, removed the dirt from his body, and buried everything in the ground. Then Adam slept and when he woke up he saw that Allah had created the palm tree by his side: its body– that is its trunk — was from his body, its fiber or luffa was from his hair, and its stalks were from his nails. It drinks from the top down while other trees drink from the bottom up.

Our Master `Ali said — may Allah be well pleased with him: “The first tree that stood on the face of the earth is the palm-tree.” Allah the Exalted mentioned it in the Qur’an : “Tall date-palms with shoots of fruit stalks, piled one over another” (50:10).14

The Prophet used to tell people to eat balah or green dates together with tamr or dried ripe dates15 for when the sons of Adam eat them shaytan is angry and says: “The sons of Adam are eating the new together with the old!” This is because green dates are cold and dry while dried ripe ones are hot and moist, and each possesses benefits that complement those of the other. The Prophet would join together cucumbers, rutab or fresh ripe dates, sha`ir or barley bread, and tamr or dry ripe dates, as well as mix cold water with honey and drink it on an empty stomach. All this makes for lasting good health, because good health endures when (foods of) hot and cold (elements) are joined. Physicians forbid eating fish together with eggs, or fish together with yogurt, and they forbid drinking honey with cold water after eating fish or before sleep, also drinking water after sexual intercourse, and entering the bath after drinking milk. Al-Samarqandi said in “Bustan al-`arifin” (The Orchard of Gnostics): “Whoever enters the bath on a full stomach and becomes afflicted with colic has no-one to blame but himself.”

The Prophet said: “Let the one who fasts break his fast with rutab or fresh ripe dates,” for fasting weakens the stomach and the liver, and sugar reaches the liver fastest because it likes sugar and accepts it, especially rutab. The Prophet said: “When the (time of) rutab comes, wish me well, O `A’isha.”

Tamr or dry ripe dates are the best food in any land. The pith of the palm (jummar) confines the stomach and helps against jaundice and fever. Adding to its benefit is the consumption of ginger preserve following it. Finally, there is nothing better than rutab for the menstruating woman, and nothing better than honey for the sick.

Footnotes

1 Truthfulness should not be confused with sincerity, since it is possible to act with sincerity but not to reach truthfulness, as Nawawi explained in his commentary to the second of his “forty hadiths” (hadith about islam, iman, ihsan). Ibn al-Jawzi relates in “Sifat al-Safwa” (4:98): “Mansur said: I heard Musa ibn `Isa say: I heard my uncle say: I heard Aba Yazid (al-Bistami) say: “If one time I could utter purely LA ILAHA ILLALLAH (there is no god except Allah alone), I would not care about anything after that’ (law safat li tahlilatun ma balaytu ba`daha bi shay’).”

2 Abd al-Hakim Murad: Ahmad ibn `Isa Abu Sa`id al-Kharraz (d. 277/890-1) was an important Sufi who, according to Huwjiri, was “the first to explain the doctrine of annihilation (fana’) and subsistence (baqa’).” He was the close companion of Dhul-Nun, Bishr al-Hafi, and al-Sari al-Saqati, and was renowned for the emphasis he placed on `ishq, the passionate love of Allah, and upon the scrupulous observance of the Law. Sources: Sulami, “Tabaqat al-Sufiyya” 223-228; Qushayri, “al-Risala” 1:161-162; Brockelmann, 1:646.

3 Abd al-Hakim Murad: I. ibn Yazid al-Nakha`i (d. c96/714-5) was a devout and learned scholar of Kufa who opposed the writing of hadith as an unjustified innovation. He studied under al-Hasan al-Basri and Anas ibn Malik, and taught Abu Hanifa, who may have been influenced by his extensive use of personal judgment (ra’y) in matters of jurisprudence. Sources: Ibn Hibban, “Mashahir `ulama al-amsar” 101; M.M. Azami, “Studies in Early Hadith Literature” 65-66; Ibn al-Jazari, “Ghayat al-nihaya” 1:29.

4 Destroying all things by commandment of its Lord. And morning found them so that naught could be seen save their dwellings. Thus do we reward the guilty folk.” (46:25)

5 Mawlana Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani said that Mawlana Shaykh Abd Allah al-Daghistani said that even when removing an obstacle from the road such as a stone according to the saying of the Prophet “Belief has seventy-odd branches, the lowest of which is to remove something harmful from the road,” the Allah-wary one is not to kick the stone away but to pick it up and displace it by hand out of respect for its glorification of Allah.

6 Nuh Keller, Victor Danner:) Abu al-Fadl Ibn `Ata’ Allah (d. 709/1309) of Alexandria, Egypt: One of the great sufi imams and a Maliki jurist, author of “al-Hikam” (Aphorisms), “Miftah al-falah” (The Key to Success), “al-qasd al-mujarrad fi ma`rifat al-ism al-mufrad” (The Pure Goal Concerning Knowledge of the Unique Name), “Taj al-`arus al-hawi li tadhhib al-nufus” (The Bride’s Crown Containing the Discipline of Souls), “`Unwan al-tawfiq fi adab al-tariq” (The Sign of Success Concerning the Discipline of the Path), the biographical “al-lata’if fi manaqib Abi al-`Abbas al-Mursi wa shaykhihi Abi al-Hassan” (The Subtle Blessings in the Saintly Lives of Abu al-`Abbas al-Mursi and His Master Abu al-Hasan), and others, five of which were transmitted with their chains by the hadith master and historian al-Sakhawi (d. 902/1497) to the Shadhili commentator Ahmad Zarruq (d. 899/1493). Ibn `Ata Allah was the student of Abu al-`Abbas al-Mursi (d. 686/1288), the second successor of Imam Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili, and the shaykh of the Shafi`i imam Taqi al-Din al-Subki. He related from al-Shadhili the following saying: “This path is not monasticism, eating barley and bran, or the garrulousness of affectation, but rather perseverance in the divine commands and certainty in the divine guidance.” Some sources: al-Zirikly, al-a`lam 1:221; `Asqalani, al-durar al-kamina 1:273; Subki, Tabaqat al-shafi`iyya 9:23.

7 A.Hakim Murad:) Muhammad ibn Musa al-Wasiti (d. 320/932): A Sufi who associated with al-Junayd and al-Nuri in Baghdad and who later moved to Merv where he died. He was also an authority on fiqh. Sources: Qushayri, “Risala” 1:174; Sulami, “Tabaqat” 302-307.

8 Ibn Majah narrates from Abu `Anbasa, and Tabarani from Abu `Utba that the Prophet said: “Allah has vessels from among the people of the earth (lillahi aniyatun min ahli al-ard), and the vessels of your Lord are the hearts of His righteous servants, and the most beloved of those to Him are the softest and the most sensitive.” al-Jarrahi said in “Kashf al-khafa” that this was the basis of the saying attributed to the Prophet: “The heart of the believer is the house of Allah.” al-Qari said that the latter, though not a saying of the Prophet, was correct in meaning. Imam Ahmad narrates in his “Kitab al-zuhd” from Wahb ibn Munabbih: “Allah opened the heavens to Ezekiel until he beheld the very Throne, whereupon he said: “Glory to Thee, what greatness is Thine, O my Lord!” Allah said: “Verily the heavens and the earth are unable to encompass Me, and the devoted, soft heart of My faithful servant is able to encompass Me.”” Imam Ghazali mentioned it in his “Ihya’ `Ulum al-din.”

9 Abu al-Qasim Muhammad ibn `Ali ibn Abi Talib (c15 H- 73), named ibn al-Hanafiyya: A saintly son of sayyidina `Ali. He took hadith from him and from several other Companions including Jabir ibn `Abd Allah, the last of the Companions who died in Madina. Sources: Ibn `Adi, al-Kamil 2:113b; Ibn Hajar, “Tahdhib al-tahdhib” 9:354 (M.M. Azami). The Prophet gave sayyidina `Ali special permission to name him both Abu al-Qasim and Muhammad, which he otherwise forbade: Tirmidhi (#2846) and Abu Dawud (Adab #4967).

10 This statement of our master Bayazid typifies the saints who are aware that were they to drift from Allah’s presence even for a second they would lose everything, even if they were in Paradise. This is why Bayazid elsewhere said: “Among Allah’s servants in Paradise are those who, were they to be denied Allah’s sight for even a single moment, would plead to leave Paradise the way the inhabitants of the Fire plead to be brought out of the Fire.” Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani referred to them when he said that for the common person disbelief is a lifetime of heedlessness, whereas for the Most Truthful Saint (siddiq), it is but one second of the same.”

11 Abu al-Fadl `Iyad ibn Musa al-Yahsubi al-Maliki (d. 544 H) of Andalusia and Fes, Morocco. The imam of his time in the sciences of hadith, and a scholar of tafsir, fiqh, Arabic grammar and language, and Arab genealogy. He wrote many books including a commentary on the Sahih of Muslim which Nawawi used in his own great commentary. Ibn Farhun in “Dibaj al-dhahab” says of his book “al-Shifa”: “No-one disputes the fact that it is totally unique nor denies him the honor of being the first to compose such a book. Everyone relies on it and writes about its usefulness and encourages others to read and study it. Copies of it have spread East and West.” (Qadi `Iyad, “Muhammad Messenger of Allah: Al-shifa’ of Qadi `Iyad,” trans. Aisha Abdarrahman Bewley, Granada, Spain: Madinah Press, 1991, p. 511).

12 Author of a massive commentary on Bukhari’s “Sahih” entitled “`Umdat al-Qari.”

13 A saying by Wahb ibn Munabbih reported by Bukhari in the title of the first chapter of the Book of Funeral Prayers (Jana’iz).

14 Cf. 6:99, 6:141, 18:32, 19:23, 19:25, 20:71, 26:148, 54:20, 55:11, 55:68, 69:7, 80:29).

15 The various names of the date corresponding to its different stages are: tal`, khalal, balah, busr, rutab, and tamr or suyyab.

Silsila Azeemia MuraqbaHall Addresses

Following are the list of countries in which we have our Meditation  Centers all over the world.

In U.S.A.

Zahida Rafique. 18  Hettys Path, Formingville New York 11738   Phone No.631-588-7786, 516-807-3349

Dr. Faiyaz Hakim. 15  Latura St, Shrewsbury, MA 01545   Phone No.508-752-3490

Naseem Burkey. 65  Normandy Drive, Kenner 70065 Louisina

In Canada

Rashida Jilani Shahzad Malik. 50 – Mississauga Valley BLVD. APT # 914 Mississauga, Ontario L5A 3S2    Phone No.905-281-1928 905…

In Europe

Syeda Saeeda Khatoon Azeemi. 107 – Barcicroft Road, Heaton Mersey Stockport, CHESHIRE SK4 3PJ. U.K.   Phone No.0161-432-7162

Muhammad Ali Shah. 41- Burges Road, Eastham, LONDON E6 2BJ. E.Mail: mazettiaa@aol.com Phone No.0171-247-4080 0181-471-4196

Najma Siddiqui. 98-Shakespeare Road, Acton, LONDON W3 6SN   Phone No.0181-993-2540

Haji Farooq. 1 – A, Filbert Street East, LEICESTER LE2 7JG    Phone No.01162-546069

Tariq Mehmood. 39 – Upper Rushton Road, BRADFORD BD3 7ES    Phone No.01274-779305

Naeem Ahmed. 3 UP 8 – Dixon Ave. Cross Hill, GLASGOW G42 8ED    Phone No. 0141-423-7312

M. Aslam. 9 – Royal Road, Sutton Coldfield, BIRMINGHAM B72 1SP    Phone No. 0121-354-1671

M. Shabbir. 213 – Mansel Road, Small Heath, BIRMINGHAM B10 9NU    Phone No. 0121-773-3368

Mirza Bashir Hussain.    6 – Nigher Moss Ave, ROCKDALE 0L16 5BW    Phone No. 01706-345149

Perveen Khalil. 128 – Carr Road, NELSON BB9 7ST    Phone No. 01282-447351

M. Ishaq. HOLLAND    Phone No. 676-3110

Mehmood-ul-Hassan Zahida. COPENHAGEN DENMARK

Azra Perveen. NORWAY

In U.A.E.

S. Mahboob Ali. ABU DHABI – Box No. 8039    Phone No. 02-773294

M. Ashfaq. DUBAI    Phone No. 04-284644

S. M. Zahid Alam. RAS – AL – KHAIMA    Phone No. 07-227637

In Pakistan

(For Gents)

Hyderabad:     Mumtaz Ali, Gulshan-e-Shehbaz, Near Toll Plaza Super Highway, Hyderabad. For contact: E/237 Block E Unit No.9 Latif Abad, Hyderabad.

Digri:            Ghulam Mustafa, Gothe Master Muhammad Younas, Muhammad Ali Shakh, Post Office District Mirpur Khas.

Larkana:          Nizamuddin Chana, Sachal Sarmast Housing Colony Larkana. Post Box No.16

Sanghar:          Shaukat Ali, 262/51 Near Noorani Masjid Sangher.

Tando Allah Yar: Dr. Noor Muhammad, Emergency Center, Market Chowk, Tando Allah Yar District Hyderabad.

Mirpur Khas: Abd-ur-Rehman , 5 Km, Bhatta Stop, Umer Kote Road, Mirpur Khas   For contact: Baldia Shopping Complex, Shop No.485, Block C, Mirpur Khas.

Chiniot: Muhammad Tahir, Haji Town Near Daula Rae Cold Storage, Lahore Road Chiniot.

Faisalabad: Rana Mehmood Sadiq, 98-99 Ilahi Town Near Govt. Elementary Girls School, Ghokowal, Millat Road, Faisalabad.

Gujar Khan: Muhammad Nadeem Raza, Qazian Road, Gujar Khan District Rawalpindi.

Gujranwala: Syed Tahir Jalil, Islamabad Road Opposite P.S.O. Petrol Pump Near Chowk Khiali Bypass, Gujranwala.

Jhelum: Dr. Tanwir Hussain, Almadina Market, Ehsan Road Kala Gujran, GT Road Jhelum.

Kot Addu:    Abdul Hameed Pasha. For Contact: National General Store, Main Bazar, Kot Addu District Muzaffar Garh.

Lahore:        Mian Mushtaq Ahmad. Ahlu Road, Kahna Nau, Lahore.

Multan: Kanwar Tariq. 947-A Mumtaz Abad, Near BCG Chowk, Multan.

Okara: Muhammad Ashraf. Chowdhri Colony, Street No.2, Faisalabad Road, Okara.

Phalia: Muhammad Riaz. Hilan Road, Phalia.

Islamabad/Rawalpindi: Qazi Maqsood Ahmad. Mohra Kalu, Muraqba Hall Road, Sawan Camp, Islamabad.    For Contact: Qazi Market, Marir Hassan, Post Office Kausar Colony, Rawalpindi.

Darya Khan: Sufi Muhammad Yamin. Azeemi Street, Farooqabad, Darya Khan.

Sangla Hill: Ilm-ud-din. Mairaj Pura No.40, via Sangla Hill, Tehsil Ahmad Pura District Shiekhupura.

Shah Kote: Imtiaz Rabbani. Ward No.3, Circular Road, Shah Kote.

Wihari: Shaukat Ali. Miran House, 153/G, Block G Wihari.

Abbotabad: Mudassar Faheem Qureshi. Qureshi Azeemi Dawakhana, Masjid Bazar, Abbotabad.

Attock: Ahmed Mumtaz Akhter. Oppsite Shakardara More Near Primary School, Sheen Bagh Khurd, Attock City.

Haripur: Muhammad Parvez Khan. Post Office Baldher, Nikapa, Tehsil & District Haripur.

Peshawer: Shahid Durrani. Mian House E-67, Street No.4 Canal Town, Nasir Bagh Road Peshawer University, Peshawer. Ph: 844345

Sawat: Azade Khan. Village Sheen, Tehsil Khwaza Khela, District Sawat.

Mangora: For Contact: Sundar Cloth House, Green Chowk, Mangora, Sawat.

Quetta: Muhammad Nawab Khan. 63 Bolan Hotel, Shar-e-Gulistan, Quetta Cantt.

Mirpur A-K: Haji Muhammad Idrees, Kakra Town Mirpur Azad Kashmir.

(For Ladies)

Karachi: Mrs. Munawwar. 74/2 Street 32, Khiaban-e-Sahar, Phase 5, Extension Defence Housing Authority, Karachi.

Karachi: Shama Rafi. H/21-7, Malir Colony, Karachi.

Hyderabad: Feroza Nadeem, 48/C Kaleem Palace, Block E, Latif Abad No.8, Hyderabad.

Nawabshah: Saira Khatoon. B-433 Moti Bazar, Nawabshah.

Khanewal: Zohra Naeem. 280, Tariq Abad, Khanewal.

Bahawalpur: Mrs. Naeema Rao. Rao House, House No.20-1-B Rehman Street, Model Town A, Bahawalpur.

Kot Addu: Mumtaz Begum. 14-C, Near Madrasa Anwar-ul-Islam, Kot Addu District Muzaffar Garh.

Multan: Samar Saleem. House No.G/107, Block G, Shah Rukan Alam Colony, Multan.

Hujra Shah Muqeem: Perveen Akhter. Near General Bus Stand, Mohalla Qalander Pak, Chaurasta Road, Hujra Shah Muqeem, Okara.

Rawapindi: Anwer Sultana. Qazi Market, Marir Hasan, Post Office Kausar Colony, Rawalpindi.

Shah Kote: Kausar-un-Nisa. Sharif Dawakhana, Jaranwala Road, Shah Kote.

Sialkot: Tahira Shamim. Mohalla Muhammad Pura Shehbaz Colony, Near Agha Khan Qabristan, Sialkot.

Haripur: Malka Khan. Village Gehr Khan, Post Office Sara-e-Saleh, Tehsil & District Haripur.

Peshawar: For Contact: Sunni Plaza, Ghanta Ghar, Peshawar.

Mirpur: Saeeda Idrees. Kakra Town Mirpur Azad Kashmir

Prayer is the name of that special worship in which man can directly communicate and establish a relationship with his Creator. When a person stands to perform Prayer the doors of Heaven open up to him and between the worshipper and Allah all veils are lifted.

The beloved Prophet (pbuh) has determined a method in the form of Prayer in order to form a link with Allah. It is the declaration of the Holy Prophet that ‘Prayer is the Mehrāj (Ascension to the Heavens) of the Believer.’ Mehrāj was the Mehrāj of the Holy Prophet. For his descendants the Holy prophet has declared Prayer as Mehrāj. Such a believer attains the honour to sight the High Throne, and Allah Himself. His ears hear the voice of Allah and his heart becomes acquainted with Allah’s closeness.

Spiritual Prayer, after manifesting the hidden treasures in the sea of knowledge and awareness, presents to us the wisdom of Prayer from a scientific point of view. It also presents solutions to many issues, including cures for incurable illnesses.

Khawaja Shamsuddin Azeemi is the present head of the Azeemia Sufi Order, and a world famous spiritual master. His mission and his invitation to the whole of mankind is that they should learn the inner knowledge, realise their latent potential so that they may get to know the Lord Creator of the universe, and hence enjoy a blissful life here and in the hereafter.

Download Spiritual Prayer (Roohani Namaz) by Khawaja Shamsuddin Azeemi.

A

Advaita Vedanta: (अद्वैत वेदान्त, prunounced as “ədvaitə ve:dāntə”) Probably the best known of all Vedanta schools of philosophy of Hinduism, the others being Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita (total six). “Advaita” literally means “not two”, and is often called a monistic or non-dualistic system which essentially refers to the indivisibility of the Self (Atman) from the Whole (Brahman). The key texts from which all Vedanta (lit., end or the goal of the Vedas) texts draw are the Upanishads (twelve or thirteen in particular), which are usually at the end of the Vedas, and the Brahma Sutras (also known as Vedanta Sutras), which in turn discuss the essence of the Upanishads.

Afterlife: (or life after death) A generic term referring to a continuation of existence, typically spiritual and experiential, beyond this world, or after death. This article is about current generic and widely held or reported concepts of afterlife.

Ahimsa: A religious concept which advocates non-violence and a respect for all life. Ahimsa (अहिंसा ahisā) is Sanskrit for avoidance of himsa, or injury. It is interpreted most often as meaning peace and reverence toward all sentient beings. Ahimsa is the core of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Its first mention in Indian philosophy is found in the Hindu scriptures called the Upanishads, the oldest dating about 800 BC. Those who practice Ahimsa are often vegetarians or vegans.

Aikido: (Aikidō, also using an older style of kanji) Literally meaning “harmony energy way”, or with some poetic license, “way of the harmonious spirit”, is a gendai budo — a modern Japanese martial art. Practitioners of aikido are known as aikidoka. It was developed by Morihei Ueshiba (also known by aikidoka as o-sensei over the period of the 1930s to the 1960s. Technically, the major parts of aikido are derived from Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu, a form of jujutsu with many joint techniques, and kenjutsu, or Japanese sword technique (some believe the tactics in Aikido are especially influenced by Yagyū Shinkage-ryū). Aikido is also considered to contain a significant spiritual component.

Akashic Records: (Akasha is a Sanskrit word meaning “sky”, “space” or “aether“) Said to be a collection of mystical knowledge that is stored in the aether; i.e. on a non-physical plane of existence. The concept is common in some New Age religious groups. The Akashic Records are said to have existed since the beginning of the planet. Just as we have various specialty libraries (e.g., medical, law), there are said to exist various Akashic Records (e.g., human, animal, plant, mineral, etc). Most writings refer to the Akashic Records in the area of human experience.

Altruism: Either a practice or habit (in the view of many, a virtue) as well as an ethical doctrine. In Buddhism it can also be seen as a fundamental property of (human) nature.

Altruism can refer to:

  • being helpful to other people with little or no interest in being rewarded for one’s efforts (the colloquial definition). This is distinct from merely helping others.
  • actions that benefit others with a net detrimental or neutral effect on the actor, regardless of the actor’s own psychology, motivation, or the cause of her actions. This type of altruistic behavior is referred to in ecology as Commensalism.
  • an ethical doctrine that holds that individuals have a moral obligation to help others, if necessary to the exclusion of one’s own interest or benefit. One who holds such a doctrine is known as an “altruist.”

The concepts have a long history in philosophical and ethical thought, and have more recently become a topic for psychologists, sociologists, evolutionary biologists, and ethologists. While ideas about altruism from one field can have an impact on the other fields, the different methods and focuses of these fields lead to different perspectives on altruism.

Anatta: The Buddhist doctrine of Anatta (Pāli) or Anātman (Sanskrit) specifies the absence of a supposedly permanent and unchanging self or soul (ātman). What is normally thought of as the “self” is in fact an agglomeration of constantly changing physical and mental constituents (“skandhas“) which give rise to unhappiness if clung to as though this temporary assemblage formed some kind of immutable and enduring Soul (“atman“). The “anatta” doctrine attempts to encourage the Buddhist practitioner to detach him/herself from this misplaced clinging to what is mistakenly regarded as his or her Self, and from such detachment (aided by moral living and meditation) the way to Nirvana is able successfully to be traversed. Anatta is one of the Three Seals of Buddhist doctrines and is an important element of wisdom through the apophatic technique used to experience Nirvana, the other two being dukkha and Anicca.

Ancestor worship:, also ancestor veneration A religious practice based on the belief that one’s ancestors possess supernatural powers. All cultures attach ritual significance to the passing of loved ones, but this is not equivalent to ancestor worship. Rather, ancestor worship involves the same sort of religious practices one sees when people appease or supplicate other entities thought to exist and possess supernatural powers, such as gods, angels, saints, or demons. While far from universal, ancestor worship or ancestor veneration occurs in societies with every degree of social, political, and technological complexity, and it remains an important component of various religious practices in modern times.

Anomalous phenomenon: An observed phenomenon for which there is no suitable explanation in the context of a specific body of scientific knowledge (e.g. astronomy or biology).

Asceticism: Denotes a life which is characterized by refraining from worldly pleasures (austerity). Those who practice ascetic lifestyles often perceive their practices as virtuous and pursue them to achieve greater spirituality. In a more cynical context, ascetic may connote some form of self-mortification, ritual punishment of the body or harsh renunciation of pleasure. However the word certainly does not necessarily imply a negative connotation.

Atman (Buddhism): A Sanskrit word, normally translated as ‘soul‘ or ‘self‘ (also ego). In Buddhism, the concept of Atman is the prime consequence of ignorance, – itself the cause of all misery – the foundation of Samsara itself. In a number of sutras of Mahayana Buddhism, as well as in certain Buddhist Tantras, however, the term “Atman” is used in a dual sense, in some instances denoting the impermanent, mundane ego (attachment to which needs to be overcome), and on other occasions explicitly referring to the ultimately real, pure, blissful Self of the Buddha in the state of Nirvana, a Selfhood stated to be unchanging, unshakeably firm, and eternal within all beings (see Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra).

Atman (Hinduism): Beginning with Vedantic Hindu philosophy, the Ātman — Sanskrit (masculine nominative singular: Ātmā) is regarded as an underlying metaphysical self. It is first seen in its current Hindu usage in the Upanishads, some of which date back to 1000 BC. The word “Atman” is interpreted by some schools as the “Main Essence” of man, as his Highest Self. “A” in this word is a negative particle. One popular, albeit apocryphal, etymology has it that the ‘tma’ of “atma” “Tma” means “darkness” in light of the word “tamas” – “darkness, ignorance or inertia”, “spiritual darkness” – has the same root. Therefore “A-tma” or “Atman” means “opposite to darkness”, “shining”. Advaita philosophers believe that individual “personal” souls exist as Maya only. Dvaita philosophy claims that there is an eternal plurality of souls as per Bhagavad Gita 2.12.

Awareness: In biological psychology, awareness describes an animal’s perception and cognitive reaction to a condition or event. Awareness does not necessarily imply understanding. Awareness is a relative concept. An animal may be partially aware, may be subconsciously aware or may be acutely aware of an event. Awareness may be focused on an internal state, such as a visceral feeling, or on external events by way of sensory perception. Awareness provides the raw material from which animals develop qualia, or subjective ideas about their experience… Neural systems that regulate attention serve to attentuate awareness among complex animals whose central and peripheral nervous system provides more information than cognitive areas of the brain can assimilate. Within an attenuated system of awareness, a mind might be aware of much more than is being contemplated in a focused extended consciousness.

Azeemi: People belong to the Spiritual order of Silsila-e-Azeemia currently headed by Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeemi. These people, while following their religion, do some mental exercises to boost their self-awareness and try to able to enter the spiritual world.

B

Bagua (concept): (Chinese: pinyin: bā guà; Wade-Giles: pa kua; literally “eight trigrams”, Korean) A fundamental philosophical concept in ancient China. It is an octagonal diagram with eight trigrams on each side. The concept of bagua is applied not only to Chinese Taoist thought and the I Ching, but is also used in other domains of Chinese culture, such as fengshui, martial arts , navigation, etc.

Bahá’í Faith: An emerging global religion founded by Bahá’u’lláh, a nineteenth-century Iranian exile. “Bahá’í” is either an adjective referring to this religion, or the term for a follower of Bahá’u’lláh. Bahá’í theology speaks of unity: the oneness of God; the oneness of religion; and the oneness of humanity. These three principles have a profound impact on the theological and social teachings of this religion. Religion is seen as a progressively unfolding process of education, by God, through his messengers, to a constantly evolving human family. Bahá’u’lláh is seen as the most recent, pivotal, but not final of God’s messengers. He announced that his major purpose is to lay the spiritual foundations for a new global civilization of peace and harmony, which Bahá’ís expect to gradually arise.

Bhajan: (or kirtan) A Hindu devotional song, often but not necessarily of ancient origin. Great importance is attributed to the singing of bhajans within the Bhakti movement. It is also one of the pillars of Sikhism and in that context refers to the singing of the Sacred Hymns from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, or “SGGS”. The Sikhs place huge value on this type of singing and a Sikh is duty bound to listen to and/or sing Guru-Kirtan as frequently as possible. In Surat Shabd Yoga, bhajan means listening to the inner sounds of the Shabd or the Shabd Master.

Bhakti: A Tamil or Sanskrit term from Hinduism that means intense devotion expressed by action (service). A person who practices bhakti is called bhakta. The concept of devotion is more or less the same in all religions. But in Hinduism there are certain extra subtleties which make it comparatively more complicated. These are : the One Reality versus many ‘Gods’ of worship; deity worship through ‘ idols’ , ‘icons’ and ‘images’; the freedom to choose one’s own ‘favourite deity’, at the same time not being exclusive; and the interactive ramifications of God’s grace, fate and free will. Although some element of Bhakti was present even in the Vedic times, it is over the last six or seven centuries that Bhakti has taken the modern shape. The Bhakti movement started in Tamil Nadu and spread slowly northwards, becoming eventually a pervasive feature of Hinduism. The Alvars and Nayanars initiated the concept of Bhakti as a means of attaining salvation. Bhakti is considered the easiest and the fastest spiritual path in Kali Yuga.

Bharatanatyam: (also spelled Bharathanatyam, Bharatnatyam or Bharata Natyam) A classical dance form originating in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Originally known as sadir, it owes its current name to Krishna Iyer and later, Rukmini Devi Arundale. Bharata could refer to either the author of the Natya Shastra or to a legendary king after whom the country of India was supposedly named Bharata and natyam is Sanskrit for the art of dance-drama. It was brought to the stage at the beginning of the 20th century by Krishna Iyer.

Bible: (sometimes The Book, Good Book, Word of God, The Word, or Scripture) From Greek (τα) βιβλια, (ta) biblia, “(the) books”, plural of βιβλιον, biblion, “book”, originally a diminutive of βιβλος, biblos, which in turn is derived from βυβλος—byblos, meaning “papyrus”, from the ancient Phoenician city of Byblos which exported this writing material), is the classical name for the Hebrew Bible of Judaism or the combination of the Old Testament and New Testament of Christianity (“The Bible” therefore actually refers to at least two different Bibles). It is thus applied to sacred scriptures. Many Christian English speakers refer to the Christian Bible as “the good book” (Gospel itself means “good news”). For many people, their Bible is the revealed word of God or an authoritative record of the relationship between God, the world, and humankind.

Blessing: (from to bless, Old English bleodsian or bletsian) Originally meant “sprinkling with blood” during the pagan sacrifices, the Blóts (reference: AHD). A blessing, (also used to refer to bestowing of such) is the infusion of something with holiness, divine will, or one’s hopes. Within Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and similar traditions, formal blessings of the church are performed by bishops, priests, and sometimes deacons, but as in many other religions, anyone may formally bless another.

Bodhi: (Pali and Sanskrit. Lit. awakening) A title given in Buddhism to the specific awakening experience attained by the Indian spiritual teacher Gautama Buddha and his disciples. It is sometimes described as complete and perfect sanity, or awareness of the true nature of the universe. After attainment, it is believed one is freed from the cycle of Samsāra: birth, suffering, death and rebirth. Bodhi is most commonly translated into English as enlightenment, though this translation is problematic, since enlightenment (the soul being “lit” by a higher power) is originally a concept from Christian mysticism or conversely evokes notions of the 18th century European Age of Enlightenment that are not identical with the Buddhist concept of Bodhi. There is no image of “light” contained in the term, “Bodhi” – rather, it expresses the notion of awakening from a dream and of being aware and Knowing (Reality). It is thus preferable to think of Bodhi as spiritual “Awake-ness” or “Awakening”, rather than “enlightenment” (although it is true that imagery of light is extraordinarily prevalent in many of the Buddhist scriptures).

Born again: A term used primarily in Evangelical Protestant Christianity, where it is associated with salvation, conversion and spiritual rebirth. By extension it is applied in other areas, including a transcending personal experience — or the experience of being spiritually reborn as a “new” human being.

Buddhism: A religion based on the teachings of the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama, a prince of the Shakyas, whose lifetime is traditionally given as 566 to 486 BC. Buddhism gradually spread from India throughout Asia to Central Asia, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Southeast Asia, as well as to East Asian countries such as China, Korea, and Japan. It is classified as an Ārya dharma or a noble religion. With approximately 350 million followers, Buddhism is considered a major world religion. The aim of Buddhist practice is to end the suffering of cyclic existence, samsara (Pāli, Sanskrit), by awakening the practitioner to the realization of true reality, the achievement of liberation (nirvana). To achieve this, one should purify and train the mind and act according to the laws of karma, of cause and effect: perform positive actions, and positive results will follow, and vice versa. Buddhist morality is underpinned by the principles of harmlessness and moderation. Mental training focuses on moral discipline (sila), meditative concentration (samadhi), and wisdom (prajñā). While Buddhism does not deny the existence of supernatural beings (indeed, many are discussed in Buddhist scripture), it does not ascribe power for creation, salvation or judgment to them. Like humans, they are regarded as having the power to affect worldly events, and so some Buddhist schools associate with them via ritual.

C

Cao Dai: (Cao Đài) A relatively new, syncretist, monotheistic religion, officially established in Tay Ninh, southern Vietnam, in 1926. Đạo Cao Đài is the religion’s shortened name, the full name is Đại Đạo Tam Kỳ Phổ Độ. The term Cao Đài literally means “high place.” Figuratively, it means that highest place where God reigns. It is also the abbreviated name for God, the creator of the universe, whose full title is Cao Đài Tiên Ông Đại Bồ Tát Ma-ha-tát. Caodaiists credit God as the religion’s founder. They believe the teachings, symbolism and organization were communicated directly from Đức (means venerable) Cao Đài. Even the construction of the Tay Ninh Holy See had divine guidance.

Celibacy: May refer either to being unmarried or to sexual abstinence. An oath of celibacy is a promise not to enter into marriage. Some writers prefer this usage of “celibacy”, while others use it interchangeably as a synonym for abstinence. Some writers on sexuality draw a distinction between abstinence and celibacy, stating that celibacy means refraining from any sexual activity with a partner. They argue that this can be empowering, as it still allows that person to be “sexual” (through, for example, masturbation).

Chakra: In Hinduism and its spiritual systems of yoga and in some related eastern cultures, as well as in some segments of the New Age movement — and to some degree the distinctly different New Thought movement — a chakra is thought to be an energy node in the human body. The word comes from the Sanskrit cakra चक्र meaning “wheel, circle”, and sometimes also referring to the “wheel of life”. The pronunciation of this word can be approximated in English by chuhkruh, with ch as in chart and both instances of a as in yoga (the commonly found pronunciation shockrah is incorrect). The seven main chakras are described as being aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Each chakra is associated with a certain color, multiple specific functions, an aspect of consciousness, a classical element, and other distinguishing characteristics.

Chant: The rhythmic speaking or singing of words or sounds, either on a single pitch or with a simple melody involving a limited set of notes and often including a great deal of repetition or statis. Chant may be considered speech, music, or a heightened form of speech which is more effective in conveying emotion or expressing ones spiritual side. Chants are used in a variety of settings from ritual to recreation. Supporters or players in sports contests may use them (see football chant). Warriors in ancient times would chant battle cries. Chants form part of many religious rituals. Some examples include chant in African and Native American tribal cultures, Gregorian chant, Qur’an reading, various Buddhist chants, various mantras, and the chanting of psalms and prayers especially in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches. Tibetan Buddhist chant involves throat singing, where multiple pitches are produced by each performer. Japanese Shigin, or ‘chanted poetry’, mirrors Zen principles, and is sung from the gut – the locus of power in Zen Buddhism.

Channelling: The act of having spirits enter or possess one’s body in order to speak and act through one as practised in many cultures and religions.

Charity: A term that refers to giving. In Christian theology it is one of the three theological virtues, meaning loving kindness towards others; it is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit, because it is said to both glorify and reflect the nature of God. In its most extreme form charity can be self-sacrificial. Charity is one conventional English translation of the Greek term agapē.

Chinese folk religion: A loosely-connected system of practices and beliefs that has been practiced by large segments of the Han Chinese population of China from the early period of Chinese continuing to the present. With the influx of Western cultural influences for several centuries and the complex developments and modernization of the 20th century, the prevalence of Chinese traditional beliefs has declined, but still remain strong, many or most gradually transforming into elements of culture and social behavior while retaining little spiritual or religious significance. It is composed of a combination of religious practices, including ancestor worship or veneration, Buddhism and Taoism.

Christianity: A monotheistic religion recognizing Jesus Christ as its founder and central figure. With more than two billion adherents, or about one-third of the total world population, it is the largest world religion. Its origins are intertwined with Judaism, with which it shares much sacred lore, including the Old Testament (the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible). Christianity is sometimes termed an Abrahamic religion, along with Judaism and Islam. The names “Christian” and hence “Christianity” are first attested in Acts 11:26, “For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch Jesus’ disciples were first called Christians” (Gr. χριστιανους, from Christ Gr. Χριστός, which means “the anointed”). Christianity encompasses numerous religious traditions that widely vary by culture and place, as well as many diverse beliefs and sects. Since the Reformation, Christianity is usually represented as being divided into three main branches: Catholicism, Eastern Christianity and Protestantism.

Creation myth: The term creation myth refers to myths that describe the beginnings of humanity, earth, life, and the universe (cosmogony). Creation myths may explain that the beginnings of the universe were a deliberate act of “creation” by a supreme being. As with any set of beliefs, opinions regarding the validity of particular creation myths differ—points of view on these subjects vary widely.

Compassion: (in Pali: Karuna) A sense of shared suffering, most often combined with a desire to alleviate or reduce such suffering; to show special kindness to those who suffer. Compassionate acts are generally considered those which take into account the suffering of others and attempt to alleviate that suffering as if it were one’s own. In this sense, the various forms of the Golden Rule are clearly based on the concept of compassion. Compassion differs from other forms of helpful or humane behavior in that its focus is primarily on the alleviation of suffering. Acts of kindness which seek primarily to confer benefit rather than relieve existing suffering are better classified as acts of altruism, although, in this sense, compassion itself can be seen as a subset of altruism, it being defined as the type of behavior which seeks to benefit others by reducing their suffering.

Consciousness: A quality of the mind generally regarded to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and one’s environment. Many philosophers divide consciousness into phenomenal consciousness which is experience itself and access consciousness which is the processing of the things in experience. Many cultures and religious traditions place the seat of consciousness in a soul separate from the body. Conversely, many scientists and philosophers consider consciousness to be intimately linked to the neural functioning of the brain dictating the way in which the world is experienced. This aspect of consciousness is the subject of much debate and research in philosophy of mind, psychology, brain biology, neurology, and cognitive science.

Contemplation: A type of prayer or meditation in the Christian, especially Catholic, tradition. It is an attempt to experience God directly. It is connected to Christiam mysticism, and authors such as Teresa of Avila, Margery Kempe, Augustine Baker and Thomas Merton have written about it extensively. It is briefly described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2709 onwards, where the Song of Songs is quoted.

Cosmogony: [Gr. Kosmogonia from Kosmos the world and root of gignesthai to be born] The coming into existence, the creation and origination of the universe. It is also the study of these aspects. So a cosmogony describes how the Universe came to be; hence, the creation myth in the book of Genesis is one such cosmogony, and there are many others, both scientific and mythological. This contrasts with cosmology, which studies the Universe at large, throughout its existence.

Cosmology: (from the Greek: κοσμολογία (cosmologia, κόσμος (cosmos) world + λογια (logia) discourse) The study of the universe in its totality and by extension man’s place in it. Though the word cosmology is itself of fairly recent origin, first used in Christian Wolff‘s Cosmologia Generalis (1730), the study of the universe has a long history involving science, philosophy, esotericism, and religion.

D

Deism: Historical and modern deism is defined by the view that reason, rather than revelation or tradition, should be the basis of belief in God. Deists reject organized religion and promote reason as the essential element in making moral decisions. This “rational” basis was usually founded upon the cosmological argument (first cause argument), the teleological argument (argument from design), and other aspects of what was called natural religion. Deism has become identified with the classical belief that God created but does not intervene in the world, though this is not a necessary component of deism.

Deity: (or a god) A postulated preternatural being, usually, but not always, of significant power, worshipped, thought holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, or respected by human beings. They assume a variety of forms, but are frequently depicted as having human or animal form. Sometimes it is considered blasphemous to imagine the deity as having any concrete form. They are usually immortal. They are commonly assumed to have personalities and to possess consciousness, intellects, desires, and emotions much like humans. Such natural phenomena as lightning, floods, storms, other “acts of God”, and miracles are attributed to them, and they may be thought to be the authorities or controllers of every aspect of human life (such as birth or the afterlife). Some deities are asserted to be the directors of time and fate itself, to be the givers of human law and morality, to be the ultimate judges of human worth and behavior, and to be the designers and creators of the Earth or the universe. Some of these “gods” have no power at all-they are simply worshipped.

Devotion: In Christianity has come to mean time spent alone or in a small group of people reading and studying the Bible in a way as it relates to one’s spiritual health and well being. It can also mean setting oneself apart in worship and solitude whether in Church settings or in one’s lifestyle to become more committed to and focused on God.

Dhammapada: (Pali, translates as Path of the Dharma. Also Prakrit Dhamapada, Sanskrit Dharmapada) A Buddhist religious scripture, containing 423 verses in 26 categories. According to tradition, these are answers to questions put to the Buddha on various occasions, most of which deal with ethics.

Dharma: (sanskrit, roughly law or way) The way of the higher Truths. Beings that live in harmony with Dharma proceed quicker towards moksha, nirvana, or personal liberation, a concept first taught in Indian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism).

Dhikr: Arabic. (“pronouncement”, “invocation” or “remembrance“) also spelled zikr based on its pronunciation in Turkish and Persian. Dhikr is the remembrance of God commanded in the Qur’an for all Muslims. To engage in dhikr is to have awareness of God according to Islam. Dhikr as a devotional act includes the repetition of divine names, supplications and aphorisms from hadith literature, and sections of the Qur’an. More generally, any activity in which the Muslim maintains awareness of God is considered dhikr.

E

Emanationism: Technically is a henotheism component in the cosmology of certain religious or philosophical systems that argue a Supreme Being did not directly create the physical universe, but instead emanated lower spiritual beings who created the world. According to this paradigm, Creation proceeds as an outpouring or even a transformation in the original Absolute or Godhead. The Supreme Light or Consciousness descends through a series of stages, gradations, worlds or hypostases, becoming progressively more material and embodied, before finally turning around to return to the One, retracing its steps through spiritual knowledge, contemplation and ascent.

Enlightenment: As a concept is related to the Buddhist Bodhi but is a cornerstone of religious and spiritual understanding in practically all religions. It literally means being illuminated by acquiring new wisdom or understanding. Historically Judaism and Christianity referred to spiritual enlightenment as divine illumination. The systematic search for enlightenment was a goal of truth seekers after they found a master teacher or guru, who could guide them. However, this formulation was not necessarily spiritual. In earlier times, such as during the Bon period of Tibetan religion, it was essentially magical, which is a pre-scientific stage. After the systematic methods were learned in India, the nations of Asia made pilgrimages to learn them. The relationship between seeker and guru was and remains, in most cases, an essential point for Enlightenment. There are practical signs of such a state, which can be recognized by a guru. Thus there is a practical, even secular component to Enlightenment, which differs from the requirement of Christian divine grace from God, which was essentially mystical or sacred.

Entheogen: A modern term derived from two Ancient Greek words, ἔνθεος (entheos) and γενέσθαι (genesthai). Entheos means literally “in God”, more freely translated “inspired”. The Greeks used it as a term of praise for poets and other artists. Genesthai means “to cause to be”. So an entheogen is “that which causes (a person) to be in God”. The translation “creating the divine within” that is sometimes given is not quite correct — entheogen implies neither that something is created (as opposed to just perceiving something that is already there) nor that that which is experienced is within the user (as opposed to having independent existence). In its strictest sense the term refers to a psychoactive substance (most often some plant matter) that occasions enlightening spiritual or mystical experience, within the parameters of a cult, in the original non-pejorative sense of cultus. In a broader sense, the word “entheogen” refers to artificial as well as natural substances that induce alterations of consciousness similar to those documented for ritual ingestion of traditional shamanic inebriants, even if it is used in a secular context.

Epigenesis: The philosophical/theological/esoteric idea that since the mind was given to the human being, it is this original creative impulse, epigenesis, which has been the cause of all of mankind‘s development. According to spiritual evolution, human beings build upon that which has been already created, but there is also something new due to the activity of the spirit and thus it is that humans become creative intelligences — creators. In order that human being may become an independent, original Creator, it is necessary that his training should include sufficient latitude for the exercise of the individual originality which distinguishes creation from imitation. When Epigenesis becomes inactive, in the individual or even in a race, evolution ceases and degeneration commences.

Epiphany: (Greek: επιφάνεια, “the appearance; miraculous phenomenon”) A Christian feast intended to celebrate the ‘shining forth’ or revelation of God to mankind in human form, in the person of Jesus. The observance had its origins in the eastern Christian churches, and included the birth of Jesus; the visit of the three Magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) who arrived in Bethlehem; and all of Jesus’ childhood events, up to his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. The feast was initially based on, and viewed as a fulfillment of, the Jewish Feast of Lights. This was fixed on January 6.

Eschatology: (from the Greek eschatos meaning “last” + -logy) A part of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or the ultimate fate of human kind, commonly phrased as the end of the world. In many religions, the end of the world is a future event prophesied in sacred texts or folklore. More broadly, eschatology may encompass related concepts such as the messiah or messianic era, the afterlife, and the soul.

Esotericism: Refers to knowledge suitable only for the advanced, privileged, or initiated, as opposed to exoteric knowledge, which is public. It is used especially for mystical, occult and spiritual viewpoints.

Eternal return: (or sometimes eternal recurrence) A concept originating from ancient Egypt and developed in the teachings of Pythagoras. The basic theory is that time is not infinite, but is occupied by the finite set of actions possible in the universe, with all of these actions and events recurring indefinitely, again and again. A large part of eternal recurrence is the idea that the universe has no final state, but rather, merely cycles destinationlessly through the same states of matter and time. Time is perceived as circular and cyclical: this is in contrast the Western notion of rectilinear time, such as was developed by Aristotle and by Judeo-Christian doctrine.

Eternity: While in the popular mind, eternity often simply means existing for an infinite, i.e., limitless, amount of time, many have used it to refer to a timeless existence altogether outside of time. There are a number of arguments for eternity, by which proponents of the concept, principally, Aristotle, purported to prove that matter, motion, and time must have existed eternally.

Eutheism, dystheism, and maltheism: Eutheism and dystheism are dialectic opposites within the spectrum of theistic religious beliefs.

  • Eutheism is the belief that God exists and is good.
  • Dystheism is the belief that God exists but is not good.

Both dystheism and eutheism are forms of theism, in that they are belief systems that assert the existence of God or gods in some form. (The opposing viewpoint to theism, of course, is atheism). Most theistic belief systems that posit a Singular God (monotheism) are eutheistic, but by no means all of them. Gnosticism, Satanism, and Maltheism are examples of belief systems with dystheistic tenets. Many polytheistic belief systems assert the existence of a variety of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ deities, but the strict dichotomy of eutheism vs. dystheism is usually (though not always) framed in monotheistic terms.

Existence: There is no universally accepted theory of what the word existence means. The dominant (though by no means universal) view in twentieth-century and contemporary Anglo-American philosophy is that existence is what is asserted by statements of first-order logic of the form “for some x Fx”. This agrees with the simple and commonsensical view that, in uttering “There is a bridge across the Thames at Hammersmith”, or “A bridge crosses the Thames at Hammersmith”, we are asserting the existence of a bridge across the Thames at Hammersmith. The word “existence”, on this view, is simply a way of describing the logical form of ordinary subject-predicate sentence. Unfortunately, this simple view is vulnerable to a number of philosophical objections, and the so-called problem of existence is one that still exercises the minds of contemporary philosophers. This article is a brief overview of those problems, of the solutions that certain philosophers have offered, and suggestions for further reading.

Exorcism: The practice of evicting demons or other evil spiritual entities which are supposed to have possessed (taken control of) a person or object. The practice, though ancient in roots, is still part of the belief system of many religions. The word “exorcism” means “I cause [someone] to swear,” referring to the exorcist forcing the spirit to obey a higher power. The person performing the exorcism, known as an exorcist, is often a priest, or an individual thought to be graced with special powers or skills. The exorcist may use a combination of magical and religious, such as prayers and set formulas, gestures, icons and amulets. The exorcist’s goal is to force the evil spirit to vacate.

F

Faith healing: The use of solely spiritual means in treating disease, sometimes accompanied with the refusal of modern medical techniques. Another term for this is spiritual healing. Faith healing is a form of alternative medicine.

Fasting: The act of willingly abstaining from all food and in some cases drink, for a period of time. Depending on the tradition, fasting practices may forbid sexual intercourse, (or any sexual desire), masturbation, as well as refraining from eating certain types or groups of food (e.g. meat). Fasting for religious and spiritual reasons has been a part of human custom since pre-history. It is mentioned in the Qur’an, in the Mahabharata, in the Upanishads, and in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testament.

Forgiveness: A choice the forgiver makes to let go of resentment held in the forgiver’s mind of a perceived wrong or difference, either actual or imagined. As the choice of forgiveness is made in the mind of the forgiver, it can be made about any resentment, whether toward another, oneself, a group, a situation or even one’s God. Forgiveness of another can be granted with or without the other asking for forgiveness. Some believe the choice of forgiveness is only properly exercised if forgiveness is requested. Another view is that forgiveness is a gift the forgiver gives to oneself to free their mind of resentment. Forgiveness does not entail condoning the wrong or difference that occasioned the resentment. Forgiveness can be seen as a religious value. However, belief in a deity is not necessary for forgiveness. It can be motivated by love, philosophy, appreciation for the forgiveness of others, empathy, or personal temperament. Even pure pragmatism can lead to forgiveness, as it is well documented that people who forgive are happier than those who hold grudges.

G

Glossolalia: (from the Greek, “γλώσσα” (glossa), tongue and “λαλώ” (lalô), to speak) Comprises the utterance of what appears (to the casual listener) either as an unknown foreign language (xenoglossia), simply nonsense syllables, or utterance of an unknown mystical language; the utterances sometimes occur as part of religious worship (religious glossolalia). Certain Christians (see below) regard the act of speaking in tongues, as a gift of God through the Holy Spirit; one of the Gifts of the Spirit. Other religions also use glossolalia as a component of worship.

Gnosticism: A blanket term for various mystical initiatory religions, sects and knowledge schools, which were most prominent in the first few centuries AD. It is also applied to modern revivals of these groups and, sometimes, by analogy to all religious movements based on secret knowledge gnosis, thus can lead to confusion.

God: The term God is capitalized in the English language as a proper noun when used to refer to a specific monotheistic concept of a supernatural Supreme Being in accordance with Christian, Jewish (sometimes as “G-d” – cf. Names of God in Judaism), and more recently (in the U.S.A) Muslim and some Hindu traditions.

Great Awakenings: Commonly said to be periods of religious revival in Anglo-American religious history. They have also been described as periodic revolutions in American religious thought. The Great Awakenings appear to form a cycle, with a period of roughly 80 years. There are three generally accepted Great Awakenings in American history: The First Great Awakening (1730s – 1740s); The Second Great Awakening (1820s – 1830s); The Third Great Awakening (1880s – 1900s).

Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Punjabi: ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਜੀ): Granth is Punjabi for book; Sahib is Hindi meaning master, from Arabic, meaning companion, friend, owner, or master — is more than a holy book of the Sikhs. The Sikhs treat this Granth (holy book) as a living Guru. The holy text spans 1430 pages and contains the actual words spoken by the founders of the Sikh religion and various other Saints from other religions including Hinduism and Islam. The Adi Granth is often — incorrectly — used to refer to the Guru Granth Sahib. The Adi Granth only forms the portion of the Guru Granth Sahib which Guru Arjan compiled in 1604. The Granth was made a guru by the last of the living Sikh Masters, Guru Gobind Singh in 1708. Guru Gobind Singh said before his demise that the Sikhs were to treat the Granth as their next Guru:

Punjabi: ਸੱਬ ਸਿੱਖਣ ਕੋ ਹੁਕਮ ਹੈ ਗੁਰੂ ਮਾਨਯੋ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ
Transliteration: Sab sikhan kō hukam hai gurū mānyō granth
English: All Sikhs are commanded to take the Granth as Guru

Guru: (गुरू Sanskrit) A teacher in Hinduism, Buddhism or Sikhism. Based on a long line of philosophical understanding as to the importance of knowledge, the guru is seen in these religions as a sacred conduit, or a way to self-realization. In India and among people of Hindu, Buddhist, or Sikh belief, the title retains a hallowed meaning. Guru also refers in Sanskrit to Brihaspati, a Hindu figure analogous to the Roman planet/god Jupiter. In Vedic astrology, Jupiter/Guru/Brihaspati is believed to exert teaching influences. Indeed, in many Indian languages, such as Hindi, the occidental Thursday is called either Brihaspativaar or Guruvaar (vaar meaning period or day). In contemporary India and Indonesia, guru is widely used within the general meaning of “teacher”. In Western usage, the original meaning of guru has been extended to cover anyone who acquires followers, and not necessarily in an established school of philosophy or religion. In a further metaphorical extension, guru is used of a person who has authority because of his or her perceived knowledge or skills in a domain of expertise. The importance of discerning between a true guru and a false one is explored in scriptures and teachings of religions in which a guru plays a role. The assessment and criticism of gurus and the Guru-shishya tradition are espoused in the discourse about cults and new religious movements by Western secular scholars, theologians, anti-cultists, and by skeptics both in the West and in India.

H

Hindu scripture: Overwhelmingly written in Sanskrit. Indeed, much of the morphology and linguistic philosophy inherent in the learning of Sanskrit is inextricably linked to study of the Vedas and relevant Hindu texts. Hindu scripture is divided into two categories: Śruti – that which is heard (i.e. revelation) and Smriti – that which is remembered (i.e. tradition, not revelation). The Vedas constituting the former category are considered scripture by all Hindus. The post-Vedic Hindu scriptures form the latter category; the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are notable epics considered scripture by many sects. A sort of cross-over between the religious epics and Upanishads of the Vedas is the Bhagavad Gita, considered to be revealed scripture by almost all Hindus today. Hindu texts are typically seen to revolve around many levels of reading, namely the gross or physical, the subtle, and the supramental. This allows for many levels of understanding as well, implying that the truth of the texts can only be realized with the spiritual advancement of the reader.

Hinduism: (हिन्दू धर्म; also known as Sanātana Dharma – सनातन धर्म, and Vaidika-Dharma – वैदिक धर्म) A worldwide religious tradition that is based on the Vedas and is the direct descendent of the Vedic Indo-Iranian religion. It encompasses many religious traditions that widely vary in practice, as well as many diverse sects and philosophies. The modern estimates of Hinduism’s origin vary from 3102 BCE to 1300 BCE. It is also the third largest religion in the world with a following of approximately 1 billion people. Ninety-eight percent of Hindus can be found on the Indian subcontinent, chiefly in India. It is noteworthy however that the relatively small Himalayan kingdom of Nepal is the only nation in the world with Hinduism as its state religion.

Hymn: A song specifically written as a song of praise, adoration or prayer, typically addressed to a god. A writer of hymns is known as a hymnist or hymnodist, and the process of singing a hymn is called hymnody; the same word is used for the collectivity of hymns belonging to a particular denomination or period (e.g. “nineteenth century Methodist hymnody” would mean the body of hymns written and/or used by Methodists in the nineteenth century). Books called hymnals are collections of hymns, which may or may not include music. Ancient hymns include the Great Hymn to the Aten, composed by the pharaoh Akhenaten, and the Vedas, a collection of hymns in the tradition of Hinduism. The Western tradition of hymnody begins with the Homeric Hymns, a collection of ancient Greek hymns, the oldest of which were written in the 7th century BCE in praise of the gods of Greek mythology.

I

I Ching: The oldest of the Chinese classic texts. It describes an ancient system of cosmology and philosophy which is at the heart of Chinese cultural beliefs. The philosophy centers on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change (see Philosophy, below). In Western cultures, the I Ching is regarded by some as simply a system of divination; others believe it expresses the wisdom and philosophy of ancient China.

Iconolatry: (from the two Greek terms eikon denoting simply a picture or image, and latreia to adore or worship) Icon in Greek simply denotes a picture but has now come to be closely associated with religious art used by the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches. Icons are used by Orthodox Churches to assist in prayer and worship of God. Icon (image) is the same word used in the Bible in Genesis 1:27, Colossians 1:15. Iconolatry is the worship of images (mainly in two-dimensional form) and often referred to in relation to the Iconoclastic period where there was a “cleansing” and destruction by the Church of all religious art. The reasons for this were that the Christians would worship images of Saints, the Son of God and even pictures of God and scrape parts of the icons into Holy Communion.

Inner peace: (or peace of mind) A colloquialism that refers to a state of being mentally or spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of discord or stress. Being “at peace” is considered by many to be healthy (homeostasis) and the opposite of being stressed or anxious. Peace of mind is generally associated with bliss and happiness. Most religious people believe that it is only truly possible to achieve inner peace with divine intervention of some form or another. Peace of mind, serenity, and calmness are descriptions of a disposition free from the effects of stress. In some cultures, inner peace is considered a state of consciousness or enlightenment that may be cultivated by various forms of training, such as prayer, meditation, T’ai Chi Ch’uan or yoga, for example. Many spiritual practices refer to this peace as an experience of knowing oneself.

Integrity: Comprises the personal inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from honesty and consistent uprightness of character. The etymology of the word relates it to the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete). Evaluators, of course, usually assess integrity from some point of view, such as that of a given ethical tradition or in the context of an ethical relationship.

Involution: In integral theory, the process by which the Divine manifests the cosmos is called involution. The process by which the creation rises to higher states and states of consciousness is the evolution. Involution prepares the universe for the Big Bang; evolution continues from that point forward. The term involution comes from the idea that the divine involves itself in creation. After the creation, the Divine (i.e. the Absolute, Brahman, God; all these essentially mean the same thing) is both the One (the Creator) and the Many (that which was created).

Islam: (Arabic: الإسلام al-islām) “The submission to God” is a monotheistic faith, one of the Abrahamic religions and the world’s second largest religion. Followers of Islam, known as Muslims, believe that God (or, in Arabic, Allāh; also in Aramaic Alaha) revealed his direct word for mankind to Muhammad (c. 570–632) and other prophets, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Muslims assert that the main written record of revelation to humankind is the Qur’an, which they believe to be flawless, immutable, and the final revelation of God to humanity. Muslims believe that parts of the Gospels, Torah and Jewish prophetic books (though originally divine in their nature) have been forgotten, misinterpreted, incorrectly edited by humans, or distorted by their followers and thus their original message has been corrupted over time. With that perspective, Muslims view the Qur’an as a correction of Jewish and Christian scriptures, and a final revelation.

J

Jainism (pronounced /denzəm/), self-named Jain Dharma (जैन धर्म), is a religion with origins in Hinduism. The Jains, although a small minority in India now, have continued to sustain the shraman (श्रमण) tradition. Jainism is significantly influential in both the ethical and economic spheres in India. Jainism places great stress on compassion to all living beings. Self-control (व्रत vrata in Sanskrit) forms a central part of being a Jain. A lay Jain is termed a shravaka (श्रावक) i.e. a listener. The Jain Sangha (संघ) has four components: monks, nuns, lay men and women.

Japa: (or Japam) A spiritual discipline in which a devotee repeats a mantra or the name of the God. The repetition can be aloud or just the movement of lips or in the mind. This spiritual practice is present in the major religions of world. This is considered as one of the most effective spiritual practices.

Jihad: (Arabic: جهادjihād) An Islamic term, from the Arabic root jhd (“to exert utmost effort, to strive, struggle”), which connotes a wide range of meanings: anything from an inward spiritual struggle to attain perfect faith to a political or military struggle to further the Islamic cause. The meaning of “Islamic cause” is of course open to interpretation. The term is frequently mistranslated into English as “holy war“, although jihad can apply to warfare. Mainstream Muslims consider jihad to be the most misunderstood aspect of their religion by non-Muslims. The Islamic religious legitimacy of the goals or methods of various Islamist movements who adopt the terminology of jihad is often brought into question, usually by moderate and liberal Muslims. A person who engages in any form of jihad is called a “mujahid“, meaning “striver” or “struggler”. This term is most often used to mean a person who engages in fighting, but, for example a Muslim struggling to memorize the Qur’an is a called a mujahid. The neologism jihadist is sometimes used to describe militant Islamic groups, including but not restricted to Islamist terrorism (c. f. Jihadist organizations and Rules of war in Islam).

Judaism: The religion of the Jewish people. It is one of the first recorded monotheistic faiths and one of the oldest religious traditions still practiced today. The tenets and history of Judaism are the major part of the foundation of other Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam. Over at least the last two thousand years, Judaism has not been monolithic in practice, and has not had any centralized authority or binding dogma. Despite this, Judaism in all its variations has remained tightly bound to a number of religious principles, the most important of which is the belief in a single, omniscient, transcendent God who created the universe, and continues to be involved in its governance. According to Jewish thought, the God who created the world established a covenant with the Jewish people, and revealed his laws and commandments to them in the form of the Torah. Jewish practice is devoted to the study and observance of these laws and commandments, as they are interpreted according to various ancient and modern authorities.

K

Karma: (Sanskrit: कर्म from the root kri, “to do”, meaning deed) or Kamma (Pali: meaning action, effect, destiny) A term in several Indian religions that comprises the entire cycle of cause and effect. Karma is a sum of all that an individual has done and is currently doing. The effects of those deeds actively create present and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one’s own life. In religions that incorporate reincarnation, karma extends through one’s present life and all past and future lives as well. The law of Karma is central in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, & Jainism. (These religions were formed in India). All living creatures are responsible for their karma and for their salvation (or release from samsara). As a term, it can be traced back to the early Upanishads.

Koan: A story, dialog, question, or statement in the history and lore of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, generally containing aspects that are inaccessible to rational understanding, yet that may be accessible to Intuition. Koans are often used by Zen practitioners as objects of meditation to induce an experience of enlightenment or realization, and by Zen teachers as testing questions when a student wishes to validate their experience of enlightenment. A famous koan is, “Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?” (oral tradition, attributed to Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769), considered a reviver of the koan tradition in Japan). Koans are said to reflect the enlightened or awakened state of historical sages and legendary figures who uttered them, and sometimes said to confound the habit of discursive thought or shock the mind into awareness or an experience of metanoia or radical change of consciousness and perspective, from the point of view of which the koan ‘question’ is resolved, and the practitioner’s religious faith is enhanced.

L

Lataif-e-Sitta: Drawing from Qur’anic verses, virtually all Sufis distinguish Lataif-e-Sitta (The six subtleties), Nafs, Qalb, Sirr, Ruh, Khafi & Akhfa. These lataif (sing : latifa) designate various psychospiritual “organs” or, sometimes, faculties of sensory and suprasensory perception. In a rough assessment, they might appear to correlate with glands, organs, Chinese traditional or vedic chakras. In general, sufic development involves the awakening in a certain order these spiritual centers of perception that lie dormant in every person. Each center is associated with a particular color and general area of the body, as well as ofttimes with a particular prophet, and varies from Order to Order. The help of a guide is considered necessary to help activate these centers. The activation of all these “centers” is part of the inner methodology of the Sufi way or “Work”. After undergoing this process, the dervish is said to reach a certain type of “completion” or becomes a Complete Man.

Love: Has many different meanings in English, from something that gives a little pleasure (“I loved that meal”) to something one would die for (patriotism, pairbonding). It can describe an intense feeling of affection, an emotion or an emotional state. In ordinary use, it usually refers to interpersonal love. Probably due to its psychological relevance, love is one of the most common themes in art. Just as there are many types of lovers, there are many kinds of love. Love is inherent in all human cultures. It is precisely these cultural differences that make any universal definition of love difficult to establish. See the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Expressions of love may include the love for a “soul” or mind, the love of laws and organizations, love for a body, love for nature, love of food, love of money, love for learning, love of power, love of fame, love for the respect of others, et cetera. Different people place varying degrees of importance on the kinds of love they receive. Love is essentially an abstract concept, easier to experience than to explain.

M

Mantra: A religious syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit language. Their use varies according to the school and philosophy associated with the mantra. They are primarily used as spiritual conduits, words and vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee. Other purposes have included religious ceremonies to accumulate wealth, avoid danger, or eliminate enemies. Mantras originated in India with Vedic Hinduism and were later adopted by Buddhists and Jains, now popular in various modern forms of spiritual practice which are loosely based on practices of these Eastern religions. The word mantra is a Sanskrit word consisting of the root man- “manas or mind” and the suffix -tra meaning, tool, hence a literal translation would be “mind tool”. Mantras are interpreted to be effective as sound (vibration), to the effect that great emphasis is put on correct pronunciation (resulting in an early development of a science of phonetics in India). They are intended to deliver the mind from illusion and material inclinations. Chanting is the process of repeating a mantra.

Martyr: Historically, a martyr is a person who dies for his or her religious faith. Sometimes, it is for a different “noble cause”, like patriotically dying for a nation’s glory in a war (usually known under other names such as “fallen warriors”). Occurrences of such a death are known as martyrdom.

Meaning of life: The question “What is the meaning of life?” means different things to different people. The ambiguity of the query is inherent in the word “meaning”, which opens the question to many interpretations, such as: “What is the origin of life?”, “What is the nature of life (and of the universe in which we live)?”, “What is the significance of life?”, “What is valuable in life?”, and “What is the purpose of, or in, (one’s) life?”. These questions have resulted in a wide range of competing answers and arguments, from practical scientific theories, to philosophical, theological and spiritual explanations. Similar questions people ask themselves about the origin and purpose of life are “Why am I here?” and “Why are we here?”.

Meditation: Refers to any of a wide variety of spiritual practices (and their close secular analogues) which emphasize mental activity or quiescence. The English word comes from the Latin meditatio, which could perhaps be better translated as “contemplation.” This usage is found in Christian spirituality, for example, when one “meditates” on the sufferings of Christ; as well as Western philosophy, as in Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, a set of six mental exercises which systematically analyze the nature of reality. In the late nineteenth century, Theosophists adopted “meditation” to refer to various spiritual practices drawn from Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Eastern religions. Thus the English word “meditation” does not exclusively translate any single term or concept from the sacred languages of Asia, such as the Sanskrit dhyana, samadhi, or pranayama. (Note that whereas in Eastern religions meditation is often a central part of religious/spiritual practice, in Christianity it is rather a fringe activity if practised at all.)

Mercy: A term used to describe the leniency or compassion shown by one person to another, or a request from one person to another to be shown such leniency or compassion. One of the basic virtues of chivalry and Christian ethics, it is also related to concepts of justice and morality in behaviour between people. In India, compassion is known as karuna.

Metaphysics: (Greek words meta = after/beyond and physics = nature) A branch of philosophy concerned with the study of “first principles” and “being” (ontology). Problems that were not originally considered metaphysical have been added to metaphysics. Other problems that were considered metaphysical problems for centuries are now typically relegated to their own separate subheadings in philosophy, such as philosophy of religion, philosophy of mind, philosophy of perception, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science. In rare cases subjects of metaphysical research have been found to be entirely physical and natural, thus making them part of physics. What might be called the core metaphysical problems would be the ones which have always been considered metaphysical. What most of such problems have in common is that they are the problems of ontology, “the science of being qua being”. Other philosophical traditions have very different conceptions—such as “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” problems—from those in the Western philosophical tradition; for example, Taoism and indeed, much of Eastern philosophy completely reject many of the most basic tenets of Aristotelian metaphysics, principles which have by now become almost completely internalized and beyond question in Western philosophy, though a number of dissidents from Aristotelian metaphysics have emerged in the west, such as Hegel‘s Science of Logic. In modern times, the meaning of the word metaphysics has become confused by popular significations that are really unrelated to metaphysics or ontology per se, viz. esotericism and occultism. Esotericism and occultism, in their many forms, are not so much concerned with inquiries into first principles or the nature of being, though they do tend to proceed on the metaphysical assumption that all being is “one”.

Mind’s eye: (or third eye) A phrase used to refer to one’s ability to “see” things (such as visions) with the mind. This is, essentially, a reference to imagination and memory, although it can have religious or occult connotations. Also, the term “third eye” has been associated with the Pineal gland. It is a commonly held belief that in some practices (such as the ones described below) are actually referring to and studying the Pineal Gland.

Miracle: According to many religions, a miracle, derived from the old Latin word miraculum meaning ‘something wonderful’, is a striking interposition of divine intervention by God in the universe by which the operations of the ordinary course of Nature are overruled, suspended, or modified. One must keep in mind that in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and in other faiths people have substantially different definitions of the word miracle. Even within a specific religion there is often more than one usage of the term. Sometimes the term miracle may refer to the action of a supernatural being that is not a god. Then the term divine intervention refers specifically to the direct involvement of a deity.

Moksha: (Sanskrit: मोक्ष, liberation) or Mukti (Sanskrit: विमुक्ति, release) Refers, in general, to liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. In higher Hindu philosophy, it is seen as a transcendence of phenomenal being, of any sense of consciousness of time, space, and causation (karma). It is not seen as a soteriological goal in the same sense as in, say, a Christian context, but signifies dissolution of the sense of self, or ego, and the overall breakdown of nama-roopa (name-form). It is, in Hinduism, viewed as analogous to Nirvana, though Buddhist thought tends to differ with even the Advaita Vedantist reading of liberation. Jainism and Surat Shabda Yoga traditions also believe in Moksha. Hinduism, in support of the idea of Moksha, posits the idea of atman and Brahman. A common mistake is to view them, both spoken of as Self, as a monist being of sorts, something possessing substances. In actuality, Hindu scripture like the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, and especially the non-dual Hindu school of Advaita Vedanta, say that the Self or Super-Soul is beyond being and non-being, beyond any sense of tangibility and comprehension. Moksha is seen as a final release from one’s worldly conception of self, the loosening of the shackle of experiential duality and a re-establishment in one’s own fundamental nature, though the nature is seen as ineffable and beyond sensation.

Monasticism: (from Greek: monachos—a solitary person) The religious practice of renouncing all worldly pursuits in order to fully devote one’s life to spiritual work. Many religions have monastic elements, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Jainism, though the expressions differ considerably. Those pursuing a monastic life are usually called monks or brothers (male), and nuns or sisters (female). Both monks and nuns may also be called monastics.

Muraqaba: The Sufi word for meditation. Literally it means “to watch over”, “to take care of” or “to keep an eye”. Metaphorically, it implies that with meditation, a person watches over or takes care of his spiritual heart (or soul), and acquires knowledge about it, its surroundings and its creator.

Mysticism: From the Greek μυω (mueo, “to conceal”), is the pursuit of achieving communion with or conscious awareness of ultimate reality, the divine, spiritual truth, or God through direct, personal experience (intuition or insight) rather than rational thought; the belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being and directly accessible through personal experience; or the belief that such experience is a genuine and important source of knowledge. In the Hellenistic world, “mystical” referred to secret religious rituals.

N

Nasma: An body made of the purest form of light (called Noor) which is more purest then any visible color. Hazrat Shah Wali Ullah was the first who give hints about this body. Hazrat Qalandar Baba Auliya give its more details while Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeem thoroughly described that body. This body is actually that is controlling the human physical body. The lights coming from Nasma to material body are visible only through Kirlian photography. These visible lights are called Aura.

Nature: (also called the material world, the material universe, the natural world, and the natural universe) All matter and energy, especially in its essential form. Nature is the subject of scientific study, and the history of the concept is linked to the history of science. The English word derives from a Latin term, natura, which was in turn a translation of a Greek term, physis (or phüsis). Natura is related to the Latin words relating to “birth“, while physis relates to Greek words relating to “growth“. In scale, “nature” includes everything from the universal to the subatomic. This includes all things animal, plant, and mineral; all natural resources and events (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes). It also includes the behaviour of living animals, and processes associated with inanimate objects – the “way” that things change.

Neopaganism: (sometimes Neo-Paganism) Describes a heterogeneous group of new religious movements which attempt to revive ancient, mainly pre-Christian and often pre-Judaic Indo-European religions. As the name implies, these religions are Pagan in nature, though their exact relationship to older forms of Paganism is the source of much contention. Neopaganist beliefs and practices are extremely diverse, some tending towards syncretic melding of once-diverse practices and beliefs, others bordering on historical reenactment of reconstructed ancient cultures. In the USA, Wicca is the largest Neopagan movement, and while itself heterogeneous, many adherents share a body of common precepts, including a reverence for nature or active ecology, Goddess and/or Horned God veneration, use of ancient mythologies, the belief in magick, and often the belief in reincarnation.

New Age: Describes a broad movement of late twentieth century and contemporary Western culture characterised by an individual eclectic approach to spiritual exploration. It has some attributes of a new, emerging religion but is currently a loose network of spiritual seekers, teachers, healers and other participants. The name “New Age” also refers to the market segment in which goods and services are sold to people in the movement. Rather than follow the lead of an organised religion, “New Agers” typically construct their own spiritual journey based on material taken as needed from the mystical traditions of all the worlds religions as well as shamanism, neopaganism and occultism. Participants are likely to dip into many diverse teachings and practises, some mainstream and some fringe, and formulate their own beliefs and practices based on their experiences in each. No clear membership or rigid boundaries actually exist. The movement is most visible where its ideas are traded–for example in specialist bookshops, music stores, and fairs. Most New Age activity may be characterized as a form of alternative spirituality. Even apparent exceptions (such as alternative health practices) often turn out to have some spiritual dimension (for example, the integration of mind, body, and spirit). “Alternative” here means, with respect to the dominant Western Judeo-Christian culture. It is no accident that most New Age ideas and practices seem to contain implicit critiques of mainstream Christianity and reference to Jesus in particular. An emphasis on meditation suggests that ordinary prayer is insufficient; belief in reincarnation (which not all New Age followers accept) challenges familiar Christian doctrines of the afterlife.

Nirvana: In the Indian religions Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, nirvāna (from the Sanskrit निर्वाण, Pali: Nibbāna — Chinese: Pinyin: niè pán), literally “extinction” and/or “extinguishing”, is the culmination of the yogi’s pursuit of liberation. Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, described the Dharma as a raft which, after floating across a river, will enable the passenger to reach nirvana. Hinduism and Jainism also use the word nirvana to describe the state of moksha, and it is spoken of in several Hindu tantric texts as well as the Bhagavad Gita.

Nondualism: The belief that dualism or dichotomy are illusory phenomenae. Examples of dualisms include self/other, mind/body, male/female, good/evil, active/passive, and many others. A nondual philosophical or religious perspective or theory maintains that there is no fundamental distinction between mind and matter, or that the entire phenomenological world is an illusion (with the reality being described variously as the Void, the Is, Emptiness, or the Mind of God). Many traditions (generally originating in Asia) state that the true nature of reality is non-dualistic, and that these dichotomies are either unreal or (at best) inaccurate conveniences. While attitudes towards the experience of duality and self may vary, nondual traditions converge on the view that experience does not imply an “I”. In Western philosophy, nondual views are often called monism. Many postmodern theories also assume that the dichotomies traditionally used are invalid or inaccurate. For example, one typical form of deconstruction is the critique of binary oppositions within a text while problematization questions the context or situation in which common myths such as dualisms occur. Nondualistic beliefs also include monism and pluralism.

Nonviolence: (or non-violence) A set of assumptions about morality, power and conflict that leads its proponents to reject the use of violence in efforts to attain social or political goals. While often used as a synonym for pacifism, since the mid 20th century the term nonviolence has come to embody a diversity of techniques for waging social conflict without the use of violence, as well as the underlying political and philosophical rationale for the use of these techniques. As a technique for social struggle, nonviolence is most often associated with the campaign for Indian independence led by Mahatma Gandhi, and the struggle to attain civil rights for African Americans, led by Martin Luther King. The former was deeply influenced by Leo Tolstoy’s Christian anarchism ideas of non-resistance based on the Sermon on the Mount.

O

Oneness: A spiritual term referring to the ‘experience’ of the absence of egoic identity boundaries, and, according to some traditions, the realization of the awareness of the absolute interconnectedness of all matter and thought in space-time, or one’s ultimate identity with God (see Tat Tvam Asi). Its meaning may be synonymous to that of nonduality, though some claim that non-duality implies ‘not one’ and ‘not two’, i.e. non-duality is analogous to the Hindu formula of negation, Neti Neti, used in describing the absolute.

P

Pandeism: A term that has been used at various times to describe religious beliefs. This use has been inconsistent over time – some 19th century figures used the term to describe a particular set of religious beliefs; today, the term is generally used to describe broader philosophical systems, often mixing elements of pantheism and deism.

Panentheism (Greek words: pan=all, en=in and Theos=God; “all-in-God”) is the view that God is both immanent within all creation, and also maintains a transcendent character.

Pantheism: (Greek: pan = all and Theos = God) Literally means “God is All” and “All is God”. It is the view that everything is of an all-encompassing immanent God; or that the universe, or nature, and God are equivalent. More detailed definitions tend to emphasize the idea that natural law, existence and/or the universe (the sum total of all that is was and shall be) is represented or personified in the theological principle of ‘God’.

Parapsychology: The study of the evidence involving phenomena where a person seems to affect or to gain information about something through a means not currently explainable within the framework of mainstream, conventional science. Proponents of the existence of these phenomena usually consider them to be a product of unexplained mental abilities.

Pilgrimage: A term primarily used in religion and spirituality of a long journey or search of great moral significance. Sometimes, it is a journey to a sacred place or shrine of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith. Members of every religion participate in pilgrimages. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim.

Plane (cosmology): In metaphysics and esoteric cosmology, a plane of existence (sometimes called simply a plane, dimension, vibrating plane, or an inner, invisible, spiritual, supraphysical world or egg) is a theoretical region of space and/or consciousness beyond the known physical universe, or the region containing the universe itself. Many esoteric teachings (e.g., theosophy and rosicrucianism) propound the idea of a whole series of subtle planes or worlds or dimensions which, from a center, interpenetrate themselves and the physical planet in which we live, the solar systems, and all the physical structures of the universe. This interpenetration of planes culminates in the universe itself as a physical structured, dynamic and evolutive expression emanated – through a series of stages, becoming progressively more material and embodied – from The Supreme Being: which allows from Itself the irruption of auto-Singularities, as the Big Bang, originated from Its unintelligible Chaos.

Prayer: An effort to communicate with God, or to some deity or deities, or another form of spiritual entity, or otherwise, either to offer praise, to make a request, or simply to express one’s thoughts and emotions.

Prophecy: In a broad sense, is the prediction of future events. The etymology of the word is ultimately Greek, from pro- “before” plus the root of phanai “speak”, i. e. “speaking before” or “foretelling”, but prophecy often implies the involvement of supernatural phenomena, whether it is communication with a deity, the reading of magical signs, or astrology. It is also used as a general term for the revelation of divine will. Throughout history, people have sought knowledge of future events from special individuals or groups who were thought to have the gift of prophecy, such as Oracles at Delphi in ancient Greece. Cultures in which prophecy played an important role include the North American Indians, Mayans, Celts, Druids, Chinese, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Egyptians, Hindus, Hebrews, Tibetans, Greeks, and many in the Christian tradition, among others.

Q

Qawwali: (قوٌالی) The devotional music of the Sufis. Originally performed mainly at Sufi shrines throughout what is now India and Pakistan, it has also gained popularity in the mainstream, especially through the work of artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Qawwali is a vibrant musical tradition that stretches back more than 700 years.

Qi: Also commonly spelled ch’i, chi or ki, is a fundamental concept of everyday Chinese culture, most often defined as “air” or “breath” (for example, the colloquial Mandarin Chinese term for “weather” is tiān qi, or the “breath of heaven”) and, by extension, “life force” or “spiritual energy” that is part of everything that exists. References to qi or similar philosophical concepts as a type of metaphysical energy that sustains living beings are used in many belief systems, especially in Asia.

Qigong: (simplified Chinese: 气功; traditional Chinese: 氣功; pinyin: qìgōng; Wade-Giles: ch’i4 kung1) An increasingly popular aspect of Chinese medicine involving the coordination of different breathing patterns with various physical postures and motions of the body. Qigong is mostly taught for health maintenance purposes, but there are also some who teach it, especially in China, for therapeutic interventions. Various forms of traditional qigong are also widely taught in conjunction with Chinese martial arts, and are especially prevalent in the advanced training of what are known as the nei chia (internal martial arts).

The Qur’an: (Arabic: أَلْقُرآنal-qur’ān Literally “the recitation”; also called Al Qur’ān Al Karīm or “The Noble Qur’an”; or transliterated Quran, Koran, and less commonly Alcoran) is the holy book of Islam. It is a tenet of Islam that the Qur’an is the literal word of God in Arabic and the culmination of God’s revelation to mankind, revealed to Muhammad, the final prophet of Islam, over a period of 23 years through the angel Jibril (Gabriel).

R

Rastafari movement: (Rasta, or the Rastafari movement of Jah people) A religious movement that reveres Haile Selassie I, the former emperor of Ethiopia, as King of Kings, Lord of Lords and the Lion of Judah. The name Rastafari comes from Ras Täfäri, the pre-coronation name of Haile Selassie I, who Rastas of many mansions say is the earthly aspect of Jah (the Rastafari name for God, from a shortened form of Jehovah found in KJV Psalm 68:4) and part of the Holy Trinity. The movement emerged in Jamaica among working-class and peasant black people in the early 1930s, arising from an interpretation of Biblical prophecy, black social and political aspirations, and the teachings of their prophet, Jamaican Pan Africanist and UNIA organiser Marcus Garvey, whose political and cultural vision helped inspire a new world view. The movement is sometimes called “Rastafarianism”; however, this is considered improper and offensive by the Rastas themselves.

Reality: In everyday usage means “everything that exists.” The term “Reality,” in its most liberal sense, includes everything that is, whether or not it is observable, accessible or understandable by science, philosophy, theology or any other system of analysis. Reality in this sense may include both being and nothingness, whereas “existence” is often restricted to being. In the strict sense of European-German philosophy, there are levels or gradation to the nature and conception of reality. These levels include, from the most subjective to the most rigorous: Phenomenological reality, Truth, Fact and Axiom. Other cultural traditions, particularly those based on Buddhism, have different concepts of the nature of reality: see, for example, samsara and maya.

Reincarnation: As a doctrine or mystical belief, holds the notion that one’s ‘Spirit‘ (‘Soul‘ depending on interpretation), ‘Higher or True Self’, ‘Divine Spark’, ‘I’ or ‘Ego’ (not to be confused with the ego as defined by psychology) or critical parts of these returns to the material world after physical death to be reborn in a new body. The natural process is considered integrative of all experiences from each lifetime. A new personality feature, with the associated character, is developed during each life in the physical world, based upon past integrated experience and new acquired experiences. Some Reincarnation theories express that usually rebirth is made each time in alternated female and male type of bodies. Also that there is interaction between pre-determinism of certain experiences or lessons intended to happen during the physical life, and the free-will action of the individual as they live that life. This doctrine is a central tenet within Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Surat Shabda Yoga, some African religions, as well as various other religions teachings and esoteric philosophies. Most modern Pagans also believe in reincarnation. Transmigration is similar but considers inter-species embodiments, whereas Reincarnation of a human being is always as a human being. Reincarnation is traditionally understood to be akin to the Buddhist concept of Rebirth, but in fact the two concepts are very distinct philosophically – Buddhism teaches that there is no self to reincarnate. An alternative view is that the teachings of Buddhism might stress one aspect, the teachings of Hinduism might stress another aspect, but that an advanced Buddhist and an advanced Hindu would directly perceive the phenomenon of reincarnation identically.

Religion: Sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system—is commonly defined as belief concerning the supernatural, sacred, or divine; and the moral codes, practices, values, institutions and rituals associated with such belief. In its broadest sense some have defined it as the sum total of answers given to explain humankind’s relationship with the universe. In the course of the development of religion, it has taken many forms in various cultures and individuals. Occasionally, the word “religion” is used to designate what should be more properly described as “organized religion” – that is, an organization of people supporting the exercise of some religion, often taking the form of a legal entity (see religion-supporting organization). There are many different religions in the world today.

Religious ecstasy: A trance-like state characterized by expanded mental and spiritual awareness and is frequently accompanied by visions, hallucinations, and physical euphoria. Such an experience usually lasts about a half-hour. However, there are many records of such experiences lasting several days, and some people claim to have experienced ecstasy over a period of over three decades, or to have recurring experiences of ecstasy during their lifetime.

Religious music: (also sacred music) Music performed or composed for religious use or through religious influence.

Repentance: The feeling and act in which one recognizes and tries to right a wrong, or gain forgiveness from someone that they wronged. In religious contexts it usually refers to repenting for a sin against God. It always includes an admission of guilt, and also includes at least one of: a solemn promise or resolve not to repeat the offense; an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong where possible.

Responsibility assumption: A doctrine in the spirituality and personal growth fields holding that each individual has substantial or total responsibility for the events and circumstances that befall them in their life. While there is little notable about the notion that each person has at least some role in shaping their experience, the doctrine of responsibility assumption posits that the individual’s mental contribution to his or her own experience is substantially greater than is normally thought. “I must have wanted this” is the type of catchphrase used by adherents of this doctrine when encountering situations, pleasant or unpleasant, to remind them that their own desires and choices led to the present outcome. The term responsibility assumption thus has a specialized meaning beyond the general concept of taking responsibility for something, and is not to be confused with the general notion of making an assumption that a concept such as “responsibility” exists.

Revelation: Refers to an uncovering or disclosure of that which had been previously wholly or partly hidden via communication from the divine. In monotheistic religions, revelation is the process in which God makes himself, his will, and/or other information known to mankind. The recipient of revelation is commonly referred to as a prophet, and sometimes is termed a messenger. There are a number of ways that religious thinkers have traditionally approached this topic; many widely differing views have been proposed. Generally speaking, one can find all of the following viewpoints in varying segments of Judaism and in varying groups within Christianity.

Revivalism: A revival is the apparent restoration of a living creature from a dead state to a living state. In a New Testament story, Lazarus was revived by divine intervention. In religious terms, Revival is the substitution of religious fervor in life and worship, for an intellectualized, pragmatic approach to everyday conduct (often stigmatized by revivalists as ‘pride’).

Ritual: A formalised, predetermined set of symbolic actions generally performed in a particular environment at a regular, recurring interval. The set of actions that comprise a ritual often include, but are not limited to, such things as recitation, singing, group processions, repetitive dance, manipulation of sacred objects, etc. The general purpose of rituals is to express some fundamental truth or meaning, evoke spiritual, numinous emotional responses from participants, and/or engage a group of people in unified action to strengthen their communal bonds. The word ritual, when used as an adjective, relates to the noun ‘rite‘, as in rite of passage.

S

Sacrament: A Christian rite that mediates divine grace. Among many Protestants, the word mediates would mean only that it is a visible symbol, reminder or manifestation of invisible divine grace. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, the Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian Christians, members of the Anglican, United Methodist, and Old Catholic traditions, the Independent Catholic Churches and Lutherans hold that sacraments are not mere symbols, but rather, “signs or symbols which effect what they signify”, that is, the sacraments in and of themselves, rightly administered, are used by God as a means to communicate grace to faithful recipients. Christian churches and sects are divided regarding the number and operation of the sacraments, but they are generally held to have been instituted by Jesus. Sacraments are usually administered by the clergy to a recipient or recipients, and are generally understood to involve visible and invisible components. The invisible component (manifested inwardly) is understood to be God‘s grace working in the sacrament’s participants, while the visible (or outward) component entails the use of water, wine, or oil that is blessed or consecrated.

Sacrifice: (from a Middle English verb meaning ‘to make sacred’, from Old French, from Latin sacrificium : sacer, sacred; sacred + facere, to make) Commonly known as the practice of offering food, or the lives of animals or people to the gods, as an act of propitiation or worship. The term is also used metaphorically to describe selfless good deeds for others.

Sadhana: Spiritual exercise by a Sadhu or a Sadhaka to attain a desired goal. The goal of sadhana is to attain some stage, which can be either moksha, liberation from the cycle of birth and death (Samsara), or a particular goal such as the blessing by a deity through his or her appearance before the Sadhaka at the end of the limited Sadhana. Sadhana can involve meditation, puja to a deity, namasmarana (sometimes with the help of a japa mala), mortification of the flesh or unorthodox practices such as in a smashana sadhana on a cremation ground. Each type of Yoga entails its own type of sadhana. To embark on a sadhana, a guru is required to give one the necessary know-how and the seed for the future result, in the form of some diksha, initiation, which he or she has received from his or her guru.

Saint: Generally refers to someone who is exceptionally virtuous and holy. It can be applied to both the living and the dead and is an acceptable term in most of the world’s popular religions. The Saint is held up by the community as an example of how we all should act, and his or her life story is usually recorded for the edification of future generations. The process of officially recognizing a person as a Saint, practiced by some churches, is called canonization, though many Protestant groups use the less formal, broader usage seen in Scripture to include all who are faithful as saints.

Salvation: Refers to deliverance from undesirable state or condition. In theology, the study of salvation is called soteriology and is a vitally important concept in several religions. Christianity regards salvation as deliverance from the bondage of sin and from condemnation, resulting in eternal life with God.

Samadhi: A term used in Hindu and Buddhist yogic meditation. Samadhi is also the Hindi word for a structure commemorating the dead (aking to a tomb, but without remains).

Sanskara: A term used in Hinduism meaning imprints left on the subconscious mind by experience in this or previous lives.

Sant Mat: An esoteric religious movement active in the United States, Europe, Latin America, and especially India. Sant Mat shares a lineage with Sikhism and contains elements of thought found in Hinduism, such as karma and reincarnation. Sant Mat also contains elements found in Sufism. Although origins of Sant Mat are not very well known, followers believe that it was Kabir who have revived the Sant Mat tradition. The tradition has inspired and influenced a number of other religious groups and organizations. The spiritual path is also referred to as the Science of the Soul or ‘Sant Mat’, meaning ‘teachings of the saints’. More recently it has been described as “The Way of Life” or “Living the Life of Soul.” It incorporates the pursuit of a personal and private path of spiritual development in the common tradition of mystics past and present, from a variety of cultures, times and religions. There are no rituals, no priestly class, no mandatory contributions nor compulsory gatherings. This leaves the followers free to observe and pursue the religion they were born into if they feel so inclined, and preserves social customs while engendering a deeper and broader perspective.

Satguru: (or Sadguru) Means true guru (Sanskrit सदगुरू sat=true), literally: true teacher. The title means that his students have faith that the guru can be trusted and will lead them to moksha, enlightenment or inner peace. It is based on a long line of Hindu philosophical understandings of the importance of knowledge and that the teacher, guru, is the sacred conduit to self-realization. A popular etymology claims that the word guru comes from गुरु, Gu=darkness; Ru=light in Sanskrit, literally the one that takes you from darkness to light. Nowadays, in India, every teacher is called guru. In the West, its usage has extended into anyone who makes religious or philosophical statements and has followers because of this. In further extension it means simply expert.

  • In Hinduism guru is used interchangeably with satguru. Traditionally the title “guru” is used in the context of a relationship between a teacher and a student, rather than an absolute. See Guru-shishya tradition.
  • In Sikhism, Satguru is one of the many names for God.
  • In Surat Shabd Yoga, one who initiates followers into the path often is referred to as a Satgurtu or Sat Guru.

Satori: (Japanese satori; Chinese: wù – from the verb, Satoru) A Zen Buddhist term for enlightenment. The word literally means “to understand”. It is sometimes loosely used interchangeably with Kensho, but Kensho refers to the first perception of the Buddha-Nature or True-Nature. The kensho experience may not hold as further training is still necessary by the Monk or Lay. Satori on the other hand refers to the lasting experience. Think of when a baby first walks, after much effort, it stands upright, find its balance and walks a few steps, then falls (Kensho).

Self-realization: In yoga, self-realization is knowledge of one’s true self. This true self is also referred to as the atma to avoid ambiguity. The term “self-realization” is a translation of the Sanskrit expression atma jnana (knowledge of the self or atma). The reason the term “realization” is used instead of “knowledge” is that jnana refers to knowledge based on experience, not mere intellectual knowledge. As discussed in the article on yoga, while the goal of self-realization is the same in all yoga paths, the means used to achieve that goal differ. For example, in hatha yoga, self-realization is said to be achieved when the serpent force or kundalini rises through the shushumna nadi to the sahasrara chakra. The following terms are related to self-realization or atma jnana: moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death); samadhi (Supreme or Divine Bliss).

Seven Virtues: Derived from the Psychomachia, an epic poem written by Prudentius (c. 410). Practicing these virtues is alleged to protect one against temptation toward the Seven Deadly Sins. The Seven Virtues considered by the Roman Catholic church are those of humility, meekness, charity, chastity, moderation, zeal and generosity. These are considered to be the polar opposite of the seven deadly sins, namely pride, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, sloth and greed.

Shabd: (or Shabda) Literally means “sound” or “word” in Sanskrit. Esoterically, Shabd is the “Sound Current vibrating in all creation. It can be heard by the inner ears.” Variously referred to as the Audible Life Stream, Inner Sound, Sound Current or Word in English, the Shabd is the esoteric essence of God which is available to all human beings, according to the Shabd path teachings of Eckankar, the Quan Yin Method, Sant Mat and Surat Shabd Yoga. Adherents believe that a Satguru, or Eck Master, who is a human being, has merged with the Shabd in such a manner that he or she is a living manifestation of it at its highest level (the “Word made flesh”). However, not only can the Satguru can attain this, but all human beings are inherently privileged in this way. Indeed, in Sant Mat the raison d’être for the human form is to meditate on the Sound Current, and in so doing merge with it until one’s own divinity is ultimately realized.

Shamanism: Refers to the traditional healing and religious practices of Northern Asia (Siberia) and Mongolia. By extension, the concept of shamanism has been extended in common language to a range of traditional beliefs and practices that involve the ability to diagnose, cure, and sometimes cause human suffering by traversing the axis mundi and forming a special relationship with, or gaining control over, spirits. Shamans have been credited with the ability to control the weather, divination, the interpretation of dreams, astral projection, and traveling to upper and lower worlds. Shamanistic traditions have existed throughout the world since prehistoric times.

Shinto: (Shintō) (sometimes called Shintoism) A native religion of Japan and was once its state religion. It involves the worship of kami, which can be translated to mean gods, spirits of nature, or just spiritual presences. Some kami are local and can be regarded as the spirit or genius of a particular place, but others represent major natural objects and processes, for example, Amaterasu, the Sun goddess. The word Shinto was created by combining two kanji: “神” shin meaning god (the character can also be read as “kami” in Japanese) and meaning Tao (“way” or “path” in a philosophical sense). Thus, Shinto means “the way of the gods.” After World War II, Shinto lost its status of state religion; some Shinto practices and teachings, once given a great deal of prominence during the war, are no longer taught nor practiced today, and some remain largely as everyday activities without religious connotations like omikuji (a form of drawing lots).

Shunyata: (Śūnyatā, शून्यता (Sanskrit, Pali: suññatā), or “Emptiness”) A term for an aspect of the Buddhist metaphysical critique as well as Buddhist epistemology and phenomenology. Shunyata signifies that everything one encounters in life is empty of soul, permanence, and self-nature. Everything is inter-related, never self-sufficient or independent; nothing has independent reality. Yet shunyata never connotes nihilism, which Buddhist doctrine considers to be a delusion, just as it considers materialism to be a delusion.

Sikhism: (Punjabi: ਸਿੱਖੀ) A religion based on the teachings of ten Gurus who lived primarily in 16th and 17th century India. It is one of the world’s major religions with over 23 million followers. Sikhism comes from the word Sikh, which in turn comes from its Pali word “sikho”, which means “the searcher of Truth”. The two core beliefs of Sikhism are:

  • The belief in one God. The opening sentence of the Sikh scriptures is only two words long, and reflects the base belief of all who adhere to the teachings of the religion: ੴ – Ek Onkar
  • The teachings of the Ten Sikh Gurus (as well as other accepted Muslim and Hindu self-realized persons) as enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib.

The Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture, and Guru Khalsa Panth, the community of initiated Sikhs, are both jointly considered the eleventh and final Sikh Guru. Sikhism departs sharply from certain social traditions and structures of Hinduism and Islam (such as the caste system and purdah, respectively). Sikh philosophy is characterised by logic, comprehensiveness, and a “without frills” approach to both spiritual and material concerns. Its theology is marked by simplicity.

Simple living: (also known as voluntary simplicity or voluntary poverty) A lifestyle considered by its adherents to be an alternative to Western consumerism. Adherents claim various reasons for pursuing this lifestyle, such as personal health, ecological or spiritual motivations. The term “downshifting” is often used to describe the act of moving toward a lifestyle based on voluntary simplicity. Many who practice simple living subscribe to the axiom “less is more.”

Simran: ‘Simran’ takes its root from the word ‘Smaran,’ (from Sanskrit) a noun which means: remembering or contemplating on the highest – that which should be valued in memory, in general. It teaches that: everything changes, & inner and outer purity naturally happen. Smaran does not project about restriction through God or religion. It shows that remembering the highest aspect of life that one has seen will eventually open up what’s important to an individual.

Soul: The soul, according to many religious and philosophical traditions, is the ethereal substancespirit (Hebrew:rooah or nefesh) — particular to a unique living being. Such traditions often consider the soul both immortal and innately aware of its immortal nature, as well as the true basis for sentience in each living being. The concept of the soul has strong links with notions of an afterlife, but opinions may vary wildly, even within a given religion, as to what happens to the soul after death. Many within these religions and philosophies see the soul as immaterial, while others consider it possibly material.

Spirit: The English word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning breath. In religion and spirituality, the respiration of the human being has for obvious reasons been strongly linked with the very occurrence of life. A similar significance has been attributed to human blood. Spirit has thus evolved to denote that which separates a living body from a corpse, but can be used metaphorically (she performed the piece with spirit or she put up a spirited defence) where it is a synonym for such words as ‘vivacity’.

Spiritism: A religious and philosophic doctrine established in France in the mid 19th Century by Allan Kardec. The term was coined by him as the specific name of the doctrine he was about to publish but, given the fact that the word was created from roots taken from the common language, it was soon incorporated into the normal use and has been used to name other doctrines as well, though the authentic Spiritists protest against this usage. During the late 19th century, many well educated people from Europe and the United States embraced Spiritism as a logical explanation of themes related to the Christian Revelation. However, most of the initial enthusiasm receded. But in some places the work of a few dedicated preachers managed to achieve a solid foundation — more notably, in Brazil, and to a certain extent in the Philippines. In Brazil, more than 2 million people declare themselves Kardecist spiritists, according to the last IBGE census data, which makes Brazil the largest Spiritist country in the world. Spiritism has influenced syncretisms like Brazilian Umbanda and Vietnamese Caodaism. Spiritism is not to be confused with spiritualism. Its use with that meaning is regarded as pejorative by both Spiritualists and Spiritists. Uncapitalised, the word, in English, is an obsolete term for animism and other religious practices involving the invocation of spiritual beings, including shamanism.

Spiritual evolution: The philosophical/theological/esoteric idea that nature and human beings and/or human culture evolve along a predetermined cosmological pattern or ascent, or in accordance with certain pre-determined potentials. Predeterminism of evolution concept is also complemented with the idea of a creative impulse of human beings, known as epigenesis. Within this broad definition, theories of spiritual evolution are very diverse. They may be cosmological (describing existence at large), personal (describing the development of the individual), or both. They can be holistic (holding that higher realities emerge from and are not reducible to the lower), idealist (holding that reality is primarily mental or spiritual) or nondual (holding that there is no ultimate distinction between mental and physical reality). All of them can be considered to be teleological to a greater or lesser degree.

Spiritualism: May refer to a variety of modern religious ideologies, primarily active in the United States and Europe. Central tenets of Spiritualist liturgy and dogma are the beliefs and practices of mediumship which purports to be evidence of the continued existence of an individual’s spirit or soul after death. The origin of Spiritualism is commonly considered to be the Modern Spiritualist movement of the 19th century United States.

Spirituality: In a narrow sense, is a concern with matters of the spirit, however that may be defined; but it is also a wide term with many available readings. It may include belief in supernatural powers, as in religion, but the emphasis is on personal experience. It may be an expression for life perceived as higher, more complex or more integrated with one’s worldview, as contrasted with the merely sensual.

Sufi whirling: The practice of Sufi whirling (or Sufi spinning), is a twirling meditation that originated among the ancient Indian mystics and Turkish Sufis, which is still practiced by the Dervishes of the Mevlevi order. Following a recommended fast of several hours, Sufi whirlers begin with hands crossed onto shoulders and may return their hands to this position if they feel dizzy. They rotate on their left feet in short twists, using the right foot to drive their bodies around the left foot. The left foot is like an anchor to the ground, so that if the whirler loses his or her balance, he or she can think of their left foot, direct attention towards it and regain balance back.

Sufism: (Arabic تصوف taṣawwuf) A mystic tradition of Islam, which is based on the pursuit of spiritual truth as a definite goal to attain. In modern language it might also be referred to as Islamic spirituality or Islamic mysticism. While fiqh focuses on the legal aspects of Islam , Sufism focuses on the internal aspects of Islam, such as perfecting the aspect of sincerity of faith and fighting one’s ego. Sufi practitioners are organized into a diverse range of brotherhoods and sisterhoods, with a wide diversity of thought. Sufi orders (“tariqas“) can be Shi’a, Sunni, both or neither.

Supplication: (also known as petitioning) The most common form of prayer, wherein a person asks a supernatural deity to provide something, either for that person who is praying or for someone else on whose behalf a prayer of supplication is being made. One example of supplication is the Catholic ritual of novena (from novem, the Latin word for “nine”) wherein one repeatedly asks for the same favor over a period of nine days. This ritual began in France and Spain during the Middle Ages when a nine day period of hymns and prayers led up to a Christmas feast, a period which ended with gift giving. In Islam, the Arabic word du’a is often used for supplication. Du’a may be made in any language, although there are many traditional Islamic supplications in Arabic, Persian and Turkish.

Surat Shabd Yoga: (or Surat Shabda Yoga) A form of spiritual practice that is followed in the Sant Mat and many other related spiritual traditions. As a Sanskrit term, surat means “soul,” shabd means “word” and yoga means “union.” The term “word” means the “Sound Current,” the “Audible Life Stream” or the “Essence of the Absolute Supreme Being,” that is, the dynamic force of creative energy that was sent out, as sound vibration, from the Supreme Being into the abyss of space at the dawn of the universe‘s manifestation, and that is being sent forth, through the ages, framing all things that constitute and inhabit the universe. The etymology of “Surat Shabda Yoga” presents its purpose: the “Union of the Soul with the Essence of the Absolute Supreme Being.” Other expressions for Surat Shabda Yoga include Sehaj Yoga (an easy path leading to Sehaj or equipoise) The Path of Light and Sound, The Path of the Saints, The Journey of Soul, and The Yoga of the Sound Current.

T

Tai Chi Chuan: T’ai Chi Ch’uan or Taijiquan (Chinese: pinyin: Tàijíquán; literally “supreme ultimate fist”) (commonly known as T’ai Chi, Tai Chi, or Taiji) A nei chia (“internal”) Chinese martial art. This art is often practiced for the purposes of health and longevity (some recent medical studies support its effectiveness here). T’ai Chi Ch’uan is considered a soft style martial art, an art applied with as complete a relaxation or “softness” in the musculature as possible, to distinguish its theory and application from that of the hard martial art styles which use a degree of tension in the muscles. T’ai Chi as practised by its traditional styles contains much language, theory and imagery from Taoism and Chinese Buddhism as well as the Chinese school of thought known as Neo-Confucianism.

Tao Te Ching: (Chinese: 道德經, Dào dé jīng) Roughly translated as The Book of the Way and its Virtue (see article on translating the title) is an ancient Chinese scripture. Tradition has it that the book was written around 600 BCE by a sage called Laozi (WG: Lao Tzu, “Old Master”), a record-keeper in the Emperor’s Court of the Zhou Dynasty. A careful reading of the text, however, suggests that it is a compilation of maxims sharing similar themes. The authenticity of the date of composition/compilation and the authorship are still debated. This short work is one of the most important in Chinese philosophy and religion, especially in Taoism, but also in Buddhism, because the latter – an Indian religion – shared many Taoist words and concepts before developing into Chinese Buddhism. (Indeed, upon first encountering it, Chinese scholars regarded Buddhism as merely a foreign equivalent of Taoism.) Many Chinese artists, including poets, painters, calligraphers and even gardeners have used the book as a source of inspiration. Its influence has also spread widely outside the Far East, aided by many different translations of the text into western languages.

Tenrikyo: (Tenrikyō, lit. Teaching of Divine Reason, also known as Tenriism) A religion of Japanese Shinto origin with some Buddhist influence. It was founded by a female peasant, Nakayama Miki, who underwent a revelatory experience from 1838 onwards. After this date she is referred to as Oyasama (lit. Honoured Parent) by followers. Tenrikyo is estimated to have about 2 million followers world-wide with 1.5 million of those in Japan. The focus of the religion is to attain yoki yusan or yoki gurashi, the ‘joyous life’, on Earth through charity and abstention from greed, a self-serving life, hatred, anger and arrogance.

  • Yo is “positive”, the same character as Yang in the Chinese Yin and Yang.
  • Ki is “spirit” or “energy”, the same character as Ch’i in Chinese.
  • Yusan is “an outing to the mountain or fields” (lit. excursion), implying an outgoing life.
  • Gurashi is “livelihood”, implying life in a more day-to-day sense.

Theism: The belief in one or more gods or goddesses. More specifically, it may also mean the belief in God, a god, or gods, who is/are actively involved in maintaining the Universe. This secondary meaning is shown in context to other beliefs concerning the divine. The term is attested in English from 1678, and was probably coined to contrast with atheism attested from ca. 1587.

Theosis: In Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic theology, theosis, meaning divinization (or woodenly, deification or, to become god), is the call to man to become holy and seek union with God, beginning in this life and later consummated in the resurrection. Theosis comprehends salvation from sin, is premised upon apostolic and early Christian understanding of the life of faith, and is conceptually foundational in both the East and the West.

Tithe: (from Old English teogotha “tenth”) A one-tenth part of something, paid as a voluntary contribution or as a tax or levy, usually to support a Jewish or Christian religious organization. Today, tithes (or tithing) are normally voluntary and paid in cash, checks, or stocks, whereas historically tithes could be paid in kind, such as agricultural products. There are still European countries today that allow some churches to assess a mandatory tithe which is enforced by law.

Torah: (תורה) A Hebrew word meaning “teaching,” “instruction,” or “law.” It is the central and most important document of Judaism revered by Jews through the ages. It primarily refers to the first section of the Tanakh–the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, but the term is sometimes also used in the general sense to also include both of Judaism’s written law and oral law, encompassing the entire spectrum of authoritative Jewish religious teachings throughout history, including the Mishnah, the Talmud, the midrash, and more.

Transcendentalism: The name of a group of new ideas in literature, religion, culture, and philosophy that advocates that there is an ideal spiritual state that ‘transcends’ the physical and empirical and is only realized through a knowledgeable intuitive awareness that is conditional upon the individual. The concept emerged in New England in the early-to mid-nineteenth century. It is sometimes called “American Transcendentalism” to distinguish it from other uses of the word transcendental. It began as a protest against the general state of culture and society at the time, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard and the doctrine of the Unitarian church which was taught at Harvard Divinity School.

U

Unitarian Universalism: (UU or UUism) A theologically liberal, inclusive religion formed by the merger of Unitarian and Universalist organizations in the mid 20th century. UUs generally: cherish creativity, freedom, and compassion; embrace diversity and interconnectedness; and promote personal spiritual growth and justice-making through worship, fellowship, personal experience, social action, deeds, and education. While one UU may differ from another in personal creed, the term UU is a distinct theological signifier and Unitarianism or Universalism should not be confused or interchanged with Unitarian Universalism.

Upanishad: (उपनिषद्, Upaniad) Part of the Hindu Śruti scriptures which primarily discuss meditation and philosophy and are seen as religious instructions by most schools of Hinduism. The Upanishads are commentaries on the Vedas, their putative end and essence, and thus known as Vedānta = “End of the Veda”. The term Upanishad derives from the Sanskrit words upa (near), ni (down) and ṣad (to sit) = “sitting down near” a spiritual teacher to receive instruction in the Guru-Shishya tradition or parampara. The teachers and students appear in a variety of settings (husband answering questions about immortality, a teenage boy being taught by Yama, or Death personified, etc.). Sometimes the sages are women and at times the instructions (or rather inspiration) are sought by kings.

V

Vegetarianism: The practice of not eating meat, poultry, fish or their by-products, with or without the use of dairy products or eggs. The exclusion may also extend to products derived from animal carcasses, such as lard, tallow, gelatin, rennet and cochineal. Some who follow the diet also choose to refrain from wearing products that involve the death of animals, such as leather, silk, feather, and fur. It should be noted that although vegetarians generally try to abstain from all animal by-products, many are willing to make small exceptions for their diet, attire, and so forth.

Veneration: In traditional Christian churches (for example, Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy), veneration (Latin veneratio, Greek δουλια dulia), or veneration of saints, is a special act of honoring a dead person who has been identified as singular in the traditions of the religion, and through them honoring God who made them and in whose image they are made. Veneration is often shown outwardly by respectfully bowing or making the sign of the cross before a saint‘s icon, relics, or cult image. These items are often also kissed.

Vipassana: (Sanskrit: vipasyanā) The practice of Insight Meditation. While it is often referred to as Buddhist meditation, the practice taught by the Buddha was non-sectarian, and has a universal application. It does not require conversion to Buddhism. While the meditation practices themselves vary from school to school, the underlying principle is the investigation of phenomena (Sanskrit: dharmas) as they manifest in the five aggregates (Skandha) namely, matter or form (Rupa), sensation or feelings (Vedana), perception (Samjna), mental formations (Sankara) & consciousness (Vijnana). This process leads to direct experiential perception, Vipassanā.

Virtue: (Greek αρετη; Latin virtus) The habitual, well-established, readiness or disposition of man’s powers directing them to some goodness of act. (1) Virtue is moral excellence of a man or a woman. The word is derived from the Greek arete (αρετη). As applied to humans, a virtue is a good character trait. The Latin word virtus literally means “manliness,” from vir, “man” in the masculine sense; and referred originally to masculine, warlike virtues such as courage. In one of the many ironies of etymology, in English the word virtue is often used to refer to a woman’s chastity. In the Greek it is more properly called ηθικη αρετη. It is “habitual excellence”. It is something practised at all times. The virtue of perseverance is needed for all and any virtue since it is a habit of character and must be used continuously in order for any person to maintain oneself in virtue.

W

Wabi-sabi: (in Kanji) Represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic. It is difficult to explain wabi-sabi in Western terms, but the aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, or incomplete. A concept derived from the Buddhist assertion of the first noble truth – Dukkha.

Worship: Usually refers to specific acts of religious praise, honour, or devotion, typically directed to a supernatural being such as a god or goddess. It is the informal term in English for what sociologists of religion call cultus, the body of practices and traditions that correspond to theology. Religious worship may be performed individually, in informally organized groups, or as part of an organized service with a designated leader (as in a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque). In its older sense in the English language of worthiness or respect, worship may sometimes refer to actions directed at members of higher social classes (such as lords or monarchs) or to particularly esteemed persons (such as a lover). Typical acts of worship include: prayer; sacrifice (korban in Hebrew); rituals; meditation; holidays, festivals; pilgrimages; hymns or psalms; the construction of temples or shrines; the creation of idols of the deity.

Y

Yana (Buddhism): A Sanskrit word with a range of meanings including nouns such as vehicle, journey, and path; and verbs such as going, moving, riding, and marching. In the Indian religions Buddhism and Hinduism, both yana and marga (road or path) express the metaphor of spiritual practice as a path or journey. Ancient texts in both religions discuss doctrines and practices associated with various yanas. In Buddhism, yana often augments the metaphor of the spiritual path with the idea of various vehicles that convey a person along that path. The yana/marga metaphor is similar to the Chinese image of the Tao (path or way) but Indian and Chinese cultures appear to have evolved such similar metaphors independently.

Yin and yang: The concept of yin and yang (Korean: Revised: eumyang; McCune-Reischauer: ŭmyang; traditional Chinese: simplified Chinese: pinyin: yīnyáng; Vietnamese: Âm-Dương) originates in ancient Chinese philosophy and metaphysics, which describes two primal opposing but complementary forces found in all things in the universe. Yin, the darker element, is passive, dark, feminine, downward-seeking, and corresponds to the night; yang, the brighter element, is active, light, masculine, upward-seeking and corresponds to the day. The pair probably goes back to ancient agrarian religion; it exists in Confucianism, and it is prominent in Taoism. Though the words yin and yang only appear once in the Tao Te Ching, the book is laden with examples and clarifications of the concept of mutual arising. Yin and yang are descriptions of complementary opposites rather than absolutes. Any yin/yang dichotomy can be seen as its opposite when viewed from another perspective. The categorisation is seen as one of convenience. Most forces in nature can be broken down into their respective yin and yang states, and the two are usually in movement rather than held in absolute stasis.

Yoga: (Sanskrit योग, “union”) A family of spiritual practices that originated in India, where it is seen primarily as a means to enlightenment (or bodhi). Traditionally, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Raja Yoga are considered the four main yogas. In the West, yoga has become associated with the asanas (postures) of Hatha Yoga, which are popular as fitness exercises. Yoga as a means to enlightenment is central to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

Z

Zazen: In Zen Buddhism, sitting meditation or zazen (Japanese: literally “seated concentration”) is a meditative discipline practitioners perform to calm the body and the mind and experience insight into the nature of existence. While the term originally referred to a sitting practice, it is now commonly used to refer to practices in any posture, such as walking.

Zhuangzi: Zhuāngzǐ (pinyin), Chuang Tzu (W-G), or Chuang Tse (Chinese, literally meaning “Master Zhuang”) A famous philosopher in ancient China who lived around the 4th century BCE during the Warring States Period, corresponding to the Hundred Schools of Thought philosophical summit of Chinese thought. He was from the Town of Meng (Méng Chéng) in the State of Song (now Shāngqiū, Henan). His given name was Zhōu. He was also known as, Méng Official, Méng Zhuāng and Méng Elder. The Taoist book Zhuangzi of the same name as the author is a composite of writings from various sources. The traditional view is that Zhuangzi himself wrote the first seven chapters (the “inner” chapters) and his students and related thinkers were responsible for the other parts (the “outer” and “miscellaneous” chapters). Strong proof of direct authorship by Zhuangzi of any of the text is difficult.

Zoroastrianism: Once the “official” religion of Sassanid (Sassanian) Persia, and played an important role in the Achaemenian as well as Parthian empires in Persia. The religion is also known as Mazdaism by some followers; and currently, as Zarathustrianism by others. The faith is ostensibly monotheistic, although Zoroastrianism has a dualistic nature, with a series of six entities (similar in function and status to angels) accompanying Ahura Mazda (the Supreme Being), and forming a heptad that is good and constructive, and another group of seven who are evil and destructive, lead by a satanic figure, Ahriman. It is this persistent conflict between good and evil that distinguishes Zoroastrianism from monotheistic frameworks that have only one power as supreme. By requiring its adherents to have faith and belief in equally opposing powers Zoroastrianism characterizes itself to outsiders as dualistic.

A
  • Advaita Vedanta: (अद्वैत वेदान्त, prunounced as “ədvaitə ve:dāntə”) Probably the best known of all Vedanta schools of philosophy of Hinduism, the others being Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita (total six). “Advaita” literally means “not two”, and is often called a monistic or non-dualistic system which essentially refers to the indivisibility of the Self (Atman) from the Whole (Brahman). The key texts from which all Vedanta (lit., end or the goal of the Vedas) texts draw are the Upanishads (twelve or thirteen in particular), which are usually at the end of the Vedas, and the Brahma Sutras (also known as Vedanta Sutras), which in turn discuss the essence of the Upanishads.
  • Afterlife: (or life after death) A generic term referring to a continuation of existence, typically spiritual and experiential, beyond this world, or after death. This article is about current generic and widely held or reported concepts of afterlife.
  • Ahimsa: A religious concept which advocates non-violence and a respect for all life. Ahimsa (अहिंसा ahisā) is Sanskrit for avoidance of himsa, or injury. It is interpreted most often as meaning peace and reverence toward all sentient beings. Ahimsa is the core of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Its first mention in Indian philosophy is found in the Hindu scriptures called the Upanishads, the oldest dating about 800 BC. Those who practice Ahimsa are often vegetarians or vegans.
  • Aikido: (Aikidō, also using an older style of kanji) Literally meaning “harmony energy way”, or with some poetic license, “way of the harmonious spirit”, is a gendai budo — a modern Japanese martial art. Practitioners of aikido are known as aikidoka. It was developed by Morihei Ueshiba (also known by aikidoka as o-sensei over the period of the 1930s to the 1960s. Technically, the major parts of aikido are derived from Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu, a form of jujutsu with many joint techniques, and kenjutsu, or Japanese sword technique (some believe the tactics in Aikido are especially influenced by Yagyū Shinkage-ryū). Aikido is also considered to contain a significant spiritual component.
  • Akashic Records: (Akasha is a Sanskrit word meaning “sky”, “space” or “aether“) Said to be a collection of mystical knowledge that is stored in the aether; i.e. on a non-physical plane of existence. The concept is common in some New Age religious groups. The Akashic Records are said to have existed since the beginning of the planet. Just as we have various specialty libraries (e.g., medical, law), there are said to exist various Akashic Records (e.g., human, animal, plant, mineral, etc). Most writings refer to the Akashic Records in the area of human experience.
  • Altruism: Either a practice or habit (in the view of many, a virtue) as well as an ethical doctrine. In Buddhism it can also be seen as a fundamental property of (human) nature.
Altruism can refer to:

  • being helpful to other people with little or no interest in being rewarded for one’s efforts (the colloquial definition). This is distinct from merely helping others.
  • actions that benefit others with a net detrimental or neutral effect on the actor, regardless of the actor’s own psychology, motivation, or the cause of her actions. This type of altruistic behavior is referred to in ecology as Commensalism.
  • an ethical doctrine that holds that individuals have a moral obligation to help others, if necessary to the exclusion of one’s own interest or benefit. One who holds such a doctrine is known as an “altruist.”
The concepts have a long history in philosophical and ethical thought, and have more recently become a topic for psychologists, sociologists, evolutionary biologists, and ethologists. While ideas about altruism from one field can have an impact on the other fields, the different methods and focuses of these fields lead to different perspectives on altruism.
  • Anatta: The Buddhist doctrine of Anatta (Pāli) or Anātman (Sanskrit) specifies the absence of a supposedly permanent and unchanging self or soul (ātman). What is normally thought of as the “self” is in fact an agglomeration of constantly changing physical and mental constituents (“skandhas“) which give rise to unhappiness if clung to as though this temporary assemblage formed some kind of immutable and enduring Soul (“atman“). The “anatta” doctrine attempts to encourage the Buddhist practitioner to detach him/herself from this misplaced clinging to what is mistakenly regarded as his or her Self, and from such detachment (aided by moral living and meditation) the way to Nirvana is able successfully to be traversed.
Anatta is one of the Three Seals of Buddhist doctrines and is an important element of wisdom through the apophatic technique used to experience Nirvana, the other two being dukkha and Anicca.
  • Ancestor worship:, also ancestor veneration A religious practice based on the belief that one’s ancestors possess supernatural powers. All cultures attach ritual significance to the passing of loved ones, but this is not equivalent to ancestor worship. Rather, ancestor worship involves the same sort of religious practices one sees when people appease or supplicate other entities thought to exist and possess supernatural powers, such as gods, angels, saints, or demons. While far from universal, ancestor worship or ancestor veneration occurs in societies with every degree of social, political, and technological complexity, and it remains an important component of various religious practices in modern times.
  • Anomalous phenomenon: An observed phenomenon for which there is no suitable explanation in the context of a specific body of scientific knowledge (e.g. astronomy or biology).
  • Asceticism: Denotes a life which is characterized by refraining from worldly pleasures (austerity). Those who practice ascetic lifestyles often perceive their practices as virtuous and pursue them to achieve greater spirituality.
In a more cynical context, ascetic may connote some form of self-mortification, ritual punishment of the body or harsh renunciation of pleasure. However the word certainly does not necessarily imply a negative connotation.
  • Atman (Buddhism): A Sanskrit word, normally translated as ‘soul‘ or ‘self‘ (also ego). In Buddhism, the concept of Atman is the prime consequence of ignorance, – itself the cause of all misery – the foundation of Samsara itself.
In a number of sutras of Mahayana Buddhism, as well as in certain Buddhist Tantras, however, the term “Atman” is used in a dual sense, in some instances denoting the impermanent, mundane ego (attachment to which needs to be overcome), and on other occasions explicitly referring to the ultimately real, pure, blissful Self of the Buddha in the state of Nirvana, a Selfhood stated to be unchanging, unshakeably firm, and eternal within all beings (see Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra).
  • Atman (Hinduism): Beginning with Vedantic Hindu philosophy, the Ātman — Sanskrit (masculine nominative singular: Ātmā) is regarded as an underlying metaphysical self. It is first seen in its current Hindu usage in the Upanishads, some of which date back to 1000 BC. The word “Atman” is interpreted by some schools as the “Main Essence” of man, as his Highest Self. “A” in this word is a negative particle. One popular, albeit apocryphal, etymology has it that the ‘tma’ of “atma” “Tma” means “darkness” in light of the word “tamas” – “darkness, ignorance or inertia”, “spiritual darkness” – has the same root. Therefore “A-tma” or “Atman” means “opposite to darkness”, “shining”.
Advaita philosophers believe that individual “personal” souls exist as Maya only. Dvaita philosophy claims that there is an eternal plurality of souls as per Bhagavad Gita 2.12.
Neural systems that regulate attention serve to attentuate awareness among complex animals whose central and peripheral nervous system provides more information than cognitive areas of the brain can assimilate. Within an attenuated system of awareness, a mind might be aware of much more than is being contemplated in a focused extended consciousness.
  • Azeemi: People belong to the Spiritual order of Silsila-e-Azeemia currently headed by Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeemi. These people, while following their religion, do some mental exercises to boost their self-awareness and try to able to enter the spiritual world.
B
  • Bahá’í Faith: An emerging global religion founded by Bahá’u’lláh, a nineteenth-century Iranian exile. “Bahá’í” is either an adjective referring to this religion, or the term for a follower of Bahá’u’lláh.
Bahá’í theology speaks of unity: the oneness of God; the oneness of religion; and the oneness of humanity. These three principles have a profound impact on the theological and social teachings of this religion. Religion is seen as a progressively unfolding process of education, by God, through his messengers, to a constantly evolving human family. Bahá’u’lláh is seen as the most recent, pivotal, but not final of God’s messengers. He announced that his major purpose is to lay the spiritual foundations for a new global civilization of peace and harmony, which Bahá’ís expect to gradually arise.
  • Bhajan: (or kirtan) A Hindu devotional song, often but not necessarily of ancient origin. Great importance is attributed to the singing of bhajans within the Bhakti movement. It is also one of the pillars of Sikhism and in that context refers to the singing of the Sacred Hymns from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, or “SGGS”. The Sikhs place huge value on this type of singing and a Sikh is duty bound to listen to and/or sing Guru-Kirtan as frequently as possible. In Surat Shabd Yoga, bhajan means listening to the inner sounds of the Shabd or the Shabd Master.
  • Bhakti: A Tamil or Sanskrit term from Hinduism that means intense devotion expressed by action (service). A person who practices bhakti is called bhakta. The concept of devotion is more or less the same in all religions. But in Hinduism there are certain extra subtleties which make it comparatively more complicated. These are : the One Reality versus many ‘Gods’ of worship; deity worship through ‘ idols’ , ‘icons’ and ‘images’; the freedom to choose one’s own ‘favourite deity’, at the same time not being exclusive; and the interactive ramifications of God’s grace, fate and free will. Although some element of Bhakti was present even in the Vedic times, it is over the last six or seven centuries that Bhakti has taken the modern shape. The Bhakti movement started in Tamil Nadu and spread slowly northwards, becoming eventually a pervasive feature of Hinduism. The Alvars and Nayanars initiated the concept of Bhakti as a means of attaining salvation. Bhakti is considered the easiest and the fastest spiritual path in Kali Yuga.
  • Bharatanatyam: (also spelled Bharathanatyam, Bharatnatyam or Bharata Natyam) A classical dance form originating in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Originally known as sadir, it owes its current name to Krishna Iyer and later, Rukmini Devi Arundale. Bharata could refer to either the author of the Natya Shastra or to a legendary king after whom the country of India was supposedly named Bharata and natyam is Sanskrit for the art of dance-drama. It was brought to the stage at the beginning of the 20th century by Krishna Iyer.
  • Bible: (sometimes The Book, Good Book, Word of God, The Word, or Scripture) From Greek (τα) βιβλια, (ta) biblia, “(the) books”, plural of βιβλιον, biblion, “book”, originally a diminutive of βιβλος, biblos, which in turn is derived from βυβλος—byblos, meaning “papyrus”, from the ancient Phoenician city of Byblos which exported this writing material), is the classical name for the Hebrew Bible of Judaism or the combination of the Old Testament and New Testament of Christianity (“The Bible” therefore actually refers to at least two different Bibles). It is thus applied to sacred scriptures. Many Christian English speakers refer to the Christian Bible as “the good book” (Gospel itself means “good news”). For many people, their Bible is the revealed word of God or an authoritative record of the relationship between God, the world, and humankind.
  • Blessing: (from to bless, Old English bleodsian or bletsian) Originally meant “sprinkling with blood” during the pagan sacrifices, the Blóts (reference: AHD). A blessing, (also used to refer to bestowing of such) is the infusion of something with holiness, divine will, or one’s hopes. Within Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and similar traditions, formal blessings of the church are performed by bishops, priests, and sometimes deacons, but as in many other religions, anyone may formally bless another.
  • Bodhi: (Pali and Sanskrit. Lit. awakening) A title given in Buddhism to the specific awakening experience attained by the Indian spiritual teacher Gautama Buddha and his disciples. It is sometimes described as complete and perfect sanity, or awareness of the true nature of the universe. After attainment, it is believed one is freed from the cycle of Samsāra: birth, suffering, death and rebirth. Bodhi is most commonly translated into English as enlightenment, though this translation is problematic, since enlightenment (the soul being “lit” by a higher power) is originally a concept from Christian mysticism or conversely evokes notions of the 18th century European Age of Enlightenment that are not identical with the Buddhist concept of Bodhi. There is no image of “light” contained in the term, “Bodhi” – rather, it expresses the notion of awakening from a dream and of being aware and Knowing (Reality). It is thus preferable to think of Bodhi as spiritual “Awake-ness” or “Awakening”, rather than “enlightenment” (although it is true that imagery of light is extraordinarily prevalent in many of the Buddhist scriptures).
  • Born again: A term used primarily in Evangelical Protestant Christianity, where it is associated with salvation, conversion and spiritual rebirth. By extension it is applied in other areas, including a transcending personal experience — or the experience of being spiritually reborn as a “new” human being.
With approximately 350 million followers, Buddhism is considered a major world religion.
The aim of Buddhist practice is to end the suffering of cyclic existence, samsara (Pāli, Sanskrit), by awakening the practitioner to the realization of true reality, the achievement of liberation (nirvana). To achieve this, one should purify and train the mind and act according to the laws of karma, of cause and effect: perform positive actions, and positive results will follow, and vice versa.
Buddhist morality is underpinned by the principles of harmlessness and moderation. Mental training focuses on moral discipline (sila), meditative concentration (samadhi), and wisdom (prajñā). While Buddhism does not deny the existence of supernatural beings (indeed, many are discussed in Buddhist scripture), it does not ascribe power for creation, salvation or judgment to them. Like humans, they are regarded as having the power to affect worldly events, and so some Buddhist schools associate with them via ritual.
C
  • Cao Dai: (Cao Đài) A relatively new, syncretist, monotheistic religion, officially established in Tay Ninh, southern Vietnam, in 1926. Đạo Cao Đài is the religion’s shortened name, the full name is Đại Đạo Tam Kỳ Phổ Độ.
The term Cao Đài literally means “high place.” Figuratively, it means that highest place where God reigns. It is also the abbreviated name for God, the creator of the universe, whose full title is Cao Đài Tiên Ông Đại Bồ Tát Ma-ha-tát. Caodaiists credit God as the religion’s founder. They believe the teachings, symbolism and organization were communicated directly from Đức (means venerable) Cao Đài. Even the construction of the Tay Ninh Holy See had divine guidance.
  • Celibacy: May refer either to being unmarried or to sexual abstinence. An oath of celibacy is a promise not to enter into marriage. Some writers prefer this usage of “celibacy”, while others use it interchangeably as a synonym for abstinence.
Some writers on sexuality draw a distinction between abstinence and celibacy, stating that celibacy means refraining from any sexual activity with a partner. They argue that this can be empowering, as it still allows that person to be “sexual” (through, for example, masturbation).
  • Chakra: In Hinduism and its spiritual systems of yoga and in some related eastern cultures, as well as in some segments of the New Age movement — and to some degree the distinctly different New Thought movement — a chakra is thought to be an energy node in the human body.
The word comes from the Sanskrit cakra चक्र meaning “wheel, circle”, and sometimes also referring to the “wheel of life”. The pronunciation of this word can be approximated in English by chuhkruh, with ch as in chart and both instances of a as in yoga (the commonly found pronunciation shockrah is incorrect). The seven main chakras are described as being aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Each chakra is associated with a certain color, multiple specific functions, an aspect of consciousness, a classical element, and other distinguishing characteristics.
  • Chant: The rhythmic speaking or singing of words or sounds, either on a single pitch or with a simple melody involving a limited set of notes and often including a great deal of repetition or statis. Chant may be considered speech, music, or a heightened form of speech which is more effective in conveying emotion or expressing ones spiritual side.
Chants are used in a variety of settings from ritual to recreation. Supporters or players in sports contests may use them (see football chant). Warriors in ancient times would chant battle cries. Chants form part of many religious rituals. Some examples include chant in African and Native American tribal cultures, Gregorian chant, Qur’an reading, various Buddhist chants, various mantras, and the chanting of psalms and prayers especially in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches. Tibetan Buddhist chant involves throat singing, where multiple pitches are produced by each performer. Japanese Shigin, or ‘chanted poetry’, mirrors Zen principles, and is sung from the gut – the locus of power in Zen Buddhism.
  • Channelling: The act of having spirits enter or possess one’s body in order to speak and act through one as practised in many cultures and religions.
  • Charity: A term that refers to giving. In Christian theology it is one of the three theological virtues, meaning loving kindness towards others; it is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit, because it is said to both glorify and reflect the nature of God. In its most extreme form charity can be self-sacrificial. Charity is one conventional English translation of the Greek term agapē.
  • Chinese folk religion: A loosely-connected system of practices and beliefs that has been practiced by large segments of the Han Chinese population of China from the early period of Chinese continuing to the present. With the influx of Western cultural influences for several centuries and the complex developments and modernization of the 20th century, the prevalence of Chinese traditional beliefs has declined, but still remain strong, many or most gradually transforming into elements of culture and social behavior while retaining little spiritual or religious significance. It is composed of a combination of religious practices, including ancestor worship or veneration, Buddhism and Taoism.
The names “Christian” and hence “Christianity” are first attested in Acts 11:26, “For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch Jesus’ disciples were first called Christians” (Gr. χριστιανους, from Christ Gr. Χριστός, which means “the anointed”). Christianity encompasses numerous religious traditions that widely vary by culture and place, as well as many diverse beliefs and sects. Since the Reformation, Christianity is usually represented as being divided into three main branches: Catholicism, Eastern Christianity and Protestantism.
  • Compassion: (in Pali: Karuna) A sense of shared suffering, most often combined with a desire to alleviate or reduce such suffering; to show special kindness to those who suffer.
Compassionate acts are generally considered those which take into account the suffering of others and attempt to alleviate that suffering as if it were one’s own. In this sense, the various forms of the Golden Rule are clearly based on the concept of compassion.
Compassion differs from other forms of helpful or humane behavior in that its focus is primarily on the alleviation of suffering. Acts of kindness which seek primarily to confer benefit rather than relieve existing suffering are better classified as acts of altruism, although, in this sense, compassion itself can be seen as a subset of altruism, it being defined as the type of behavior which seeks to benefit others by reducing their suffering.
Many cultures and religious traditions place the seat of consciousness in a soul separate from the body. Conversely, many scientists and philosophers consider consciousness to be intimately linked to the neural functioning of the brain dictating the way in which the world is experienced. This aspect of consciousness is the subject of much debate and research in philosophy of mind, psychology, brain biology, neurology, and cognitive science.
  • Cosmogony: [Gr. Kosmogonia from Kosmos the world and root of gignesthai to be born] The coming into existence, the creation and origination of the universe. It is also the study of these aspects. So a cosmogony describes how the Universe came to be; hence, the creation myth in the book of Genesis is one such cosmogony, and there are many others, both scientific and mythological. This contrasts with cosmology, which studies the Universe at large, throughout its existence.
  • Cosmology: (from the Greek: κοσμολογία (cosmologia, κόσμος (cosmos) world + λογια (logia) discourse) The study of the universe in its totality and by extension man’s place in it. Though the word cosmology is itself of fairly recent origin, first used in Christian Wolff‘s Cosmologia Generalis (1730), the study of the universe has a long history involving science, philosophy, esotericism, and religion.
D
  • Deism: Historical and modern deism is defined by the view that reason, rather than revelation or tradition, should be the basis of belief in God. Deists reject organized religion and promote reason as the essential element in making moral decisions. This “rational” basis was usually founded upon the cosmological argument (first cause argument), the teleological argument (argument from design), and other aspects of what was called natural religion. Deism has become identified with the classical belief that God created but does not intervene in the world, though this is not a necessary component of deism.
  • Deity: (or a god) A postulated preternatural being, usually, but not always, of significant power, worshipped, thought holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, or respected by human beings. They assume a variety of forms, but are frequently depicted as having human or animal form. Sometimes it is considered blasphemous to imagine the deity as having any concrete form. They are usually immortal. They are commonly assumed to have personalities and to possess consciousness, intellects, desires, and emotions much like humans. Such natural phenomena as lightning, floods, storms, other “acts of God”, and miracles are attributed to them, and they may be thought to be the authorities or controllers of every aspect of human life (such as birth or the afterlife). Some deities are asserted to be the directors of time and fate itself, to be the givers of human law and morality, to be the ultimate judges of human worth and behavior, and to be the designers and creators of the Earth or the universe. Some of these “gods” have no power at all-they are simply worshipped.
  • Devotion: In Christianity has come to mean time spent alone or in a small group of people reading and studying the Bible in a way as it relates to one’s spiritual health and well being. It can also mean setting oneself apart in worship and solitude whether in Church settings or in one’s lifestyle to become more committed to and focused on God.
Dhikr is the remembrance of God commanded in the Qur’an for all Muslims. To engage in dhikr is to have awareness of God according to Islam. Dhikr as a devotional act includes the repetition of divine names, supplications and aphorisms from hadith literature, and sections of the Qur’an. More generally, any activity in which the Muslim maintains awareness of God is considered dhikr.
E
  • Emanationism: Technically is a henotheism component in the cosmology of certain religious or philosophical systems that argue a Supreme Being did not directly create the physical universe, but instead emanated lower spiritual beings who created the world.
According to this paradigm, Creation proceeds as an outpouring or even a transformation in the original Absolute or Godhead. The Supreme Light or Consciousness descends through a series of stages, gradations, worlds or hypostases, becoming progressively more material and embodied, before finally turning around to return to the One, retracing its steps through spiritual knowledge, contemplation and ascent.
  • Enlightenment: As a concept is related to the Buddhist Bodhi but is a cornerstone of religious and spiritual understanding in practically all religions. It literally means being illuminated by acquiring new wisdom or understanding. Historically Judaism and Christianity referred to spiritual enlightenment as divine illumination. The systematic search for enlightenment was a goal of truth seekers after they found a master teacher or guru, who could guide them. However, this formulation was not necessarily spiritual. In earlier times, such as during the Bon period of Tibetan religion, it was essentially magical, which is a pre-scientific stage. After the systematic methods were learned in India, the nations of Asia made pilgrimages to learn them. The relationship between seeker and guru was and remains, in most cases, an essential point for Enlightenment. There are practical signs of such a state, which can be recognized by a guru. Thus there is a practical, even secular component to Enlightenment, which differs from the requirement of Christian divine grace from God, which was essentially mystical or sacred.
  • Entheogen: A modern term derived from two Ancient Greek words, ἔνθεος (entheos) and γενέσθαι (genesthai). Entheos means literally “in God”, more freely translated “inspired”. The Greeks used it as a term of praise for poets and other artists. Genesthai means “to cause to be”. So an entheogen is “that which causes (a person) to be in God”. The translation “creating the divine within” that is sometimes given is not quite correct — entheogen implies neither that something is created (as opposed to just perceiving something that is already there) nor that that which is experienced is within the user (as opposed to having independent existence).
In its strictest sense the term refers to a psychoactive substance (most often some plant matter) that occasions enlightening spiritual or mystical experience, within the parameters of a cult, in the original non-pejorative sense of cultus. In a broader sense, the word “entheogen” refers to artificial as well as natural substances that induce alterations of consciousness similar to those documented for ritual ingestion of traditional shamanic inebriants, even if it is used in a secular context.
According to spiritual evolution, human beings build upon that which has been already created, but there is also something new due to the activity of the spirit and thus it is that humans become creative intelligences — creators. In order that human being may become an independent, original Creator, it is necessary that his training should include sufficient latitude for the exercise of the individual originality which distinguishes creation from imitation. When Epigenesis becomes inactive, in the individual or even in a race, evolution ceases and degeneration commences.
  • Epiphany: (Greek: επιφάνεια, “the appearance; miraculous phenomenon”) A Christian feast intended to celebrate the ‘shining forth’ or revelation of God to mankind in human form, in the person of Jesus. The observance had its origins in the eastern Christian churches, and included the birth of Jesus; the visit of the three Magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) who arrived in Bethlehem; and all of Jesus’ childhood events, up to his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. The feast was initially based on, and viewed as a fulfillment of, the Jewish Feast of Lights. This was fixed on January 6.
  • Eternal return: (or sometimes eternal recurrence) A concept originating from ancient Egypt and developed in the teachings of Pythagoras. The basic theory is that time is not infinite, but is occupied by the finite set of actions possible in the universe, with all of these actions and events recurring indefinitely, again and again. A large part of eternal recurrence is the idea that the universe has no final state, but rather, merely cycles destinationlessly through the same states of matter and time. Time is perceived as circular and cyclical: this is in contrast the Western notion of rectilinear time, such as was developed by Aristotle and by Judeo-Christian doctrine.
  • Eternity: While in the popular mind, eternity often simply means existing for an infinite, i.e., limitless, amount of time, many have used it to refer to a timeless existence altogether outside of time. There are a number of arguments for eternity, by which proponents of the concept, principally, Aristotle, purported to prove that matter, motion, and time must have existed eternally.
  • Eutheism is the belief that God exists and is good.
  • Dystheism is the belief that God exists but is not good.
Both dystheism and eutheism are forms of theism, in that they are belief systems that assert the existence of God or gods in some form. (The opposing viewpoint to theism, of course, is atheism). Most theistic belief systems that posit a Singular God (monotheism) are eutheistic, but by no means all of them. Gnosticism, Satanism, and Maltheism are examples of belief systems with dystheistic tenets. Many polytheistic belief systems assert the existence of a variety of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ deities, but the strict dichotomy of eutheism vs. dystheism is usually (though not always) framed in monotheistic terms.
  • Existence: There is no universally accepted theory of what the word existence means. The dominant (though by no means universal) view in twentieth-century and contemporary Anglo-American philosophy is that existence is what is asserted by statements of first-order logic of the form “for some x Fx”. This agrees with the simple and commonsensical view that, in uttering “There is a bridge across the Thames at Hammersmith”, or “A bridge crosses the Thames at Hammersmith”, we are asserting the existence of a bridge across the Thames at Hammersmith. The word “existence”, on this view, is simply a way of describing the logical form of ordinary subject-predicate sentence.
Unfortunately, this simple view is vulnerable to a number of philosophical objections, and the so-called problem of existence is one that still exercises the minds of contemporary philosophers. This article is a brief overview of those problems, of the solutions that certain philosophers have offered, and suggestions for further reading.
  • Exorcism: The practice of evicting demons or other evil spiritual entities which are supposed to have possessed (taken control of) a person or object. The practice, though ancient in roots, is still part of the belief system of many religions. The word “exorcism” means “I cause [someone] to swear,” referring to the exorcist forcing the spirit to obey a higher power.
The person performing the exorcism, known as an exorcist, is often a priest, or an individual thought to be graced with special powers or skills. The exorcist may use a combination of magical and religious, such as prayers and set formulas, gestures, icons and amulets. The exorcist’s goal is to force the evil spirit to vacate.
F
  • Fasting: The act of willingly abstaining from all food and in some cases drink, for a period of time. Depending on the tradition, fasting practices may forbid sexual intercourse, (or any sexual desire), masturbation, as well as refraining from eating certain types or groups of food (e.g. meat).
Fasting for religious and spiritual reasons has been a part of human custom since pre-history. It is mentioned in the Qur’an, in the Mahabharata, in the Upanishads, and in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testament.
  • Forgiveness: A choice the forgiver makes to let go of resentment held in the forgiver’s mind of a perceived wrong or difference, either actual or imagined. As the choice of forgiveness is made in the mind of the forgiver, it can be made about any resentment, whether toward another, oneself, a group, a situation or even one’s God. Forgiveness of another can be granted with or without the other asking for forgiveness. Some believe the choice of forgiveness is only properly exercised if forgiveness is requested. Another view is that forgiveness is a gift the forgiver gives to oneself to free their mind of resentment. Forgiveness does not entail condoning the wrong or difference that occasioned the resentment.
Forgiveness can be seen as a religious value. However, belief in a deity is not necessary for forgiveness. It can be motivated by love, philosophy, appreciation for the forgiveness of others, empathy, or personal temperament. Even pure pragmatism can lead to forgiveness, as it is well documented that people who forgive are happier than those who hold grudges.
G
  • Glossolalia: (from the Greek, “γλώσσα” (glossa), tongue and “λαλώ” (lalô), to speak) Comprises the utterance of what appears (to the casual listener) either as an unknown foreign language (xenoglossia), simply nonsense syllables, or utterance of an unknown mystical language; the utterances sometimes occur as part of religious worship (religious glossolalia).
Certain Christians (see below) regard the act of speaking in tongues, as a gift of God through the Holy Spirit; one of the Gifts of the Spirit. Other religions also use glossolalia as a component of worship.
  • Gnosticism: A blanket term for various mystical initiatory religions, sects and knowledge schools, which were most prominent in the first few centuries AD. It is also applied to modern revivals of these groups and, sometimes, by analogy to all religious movements based on secret knowledge gnosis, thus can lead to confusion.
  • Great Awakenings: Commonly said to be periods of religious revival in Anglo-American religious history. They have also been described as periodic revolutions in American religious thought. The Great Awakenings appear to form a cycle, with a period of roughly 80 years. There are three generally accepted Great Awakenings in American history: The First Great Awakening (1730s – 1740s); The Second Great Awakening (1820s – 1830s); The Third Great Awakening (1880s – 1900s).
The Adi Granth is often — incorrectly — used to refer to the Guru Granth Sahib. The Adi Granth only forms the portion of the Guru Granth Sahib which Guru Arjan compiled in 1604. The Granth was made a guru by the last of the living Sikh Masters, Guru Gobind Singh in 1708. Guru Gobind Singh said before his demise that the Sikhs were to treat the Granth as their next Guru:

Punjabi: ਸੱਬ ਸਿੱਖਣ ਕੋ ਹੁਕਮ ਹੈ ਗੁਰੂ ਮਾਨਯੋ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ
Transliteration: Sab sikhan kō hukam hai gurū mānyō granth
English: All Sikhs are commanded to take the Granth as Guru
Guru also refers in Sanskrit to Brihaspati, a Hindu figure analogous to the Roman planet/god Jupiter. In Vedic astrology, Jupiter/Guru/Brihaspati is believed to exert teaching influences. Indeed, in many Indian languages, such as Hindi, the occidental Thursday is called either Brihaspativaar or Guruvaar (vaar meaning period or day). In contemporary India and Indonesia, guru is widely used within the general meaning of “teacher”. In Western usage, the original meaning of guru has been extended to cover anyone who acquires followers, and not necessarily in an established school of philosophy or religion. In a further metaphorical extension, guru is used of a person who has authority because of his or her perceived knowledge or skills in a domain of expertise.
The importance of discerning between a true guru and a false one is explored in scriptures and teachings of religions in which a guru plays a role. The assessment and criticism of gurus and the Guru-shishya tradition are espoused in the discourse about cults and new religious movements by Western secular scholars, theologians, anti-cultists, and by skeptics both in the West and in India.
H
  • Hindu scripture: Overwhelmingly written in Sanskrit. Indeed, much of the morphology and linguistic philosophy inherent in the learning of Sanskrit is inextricably linked to study of the Vedas and relevant Hindu texts. Hindu scripture is divided into two categories: Śruti – that which is heard (i.e. revelation) and Smriti – that which is remembered (i.e. tradition, not revelation). The Vedas constituting the former category are considered scripture by all Hindus. The post-Vedic Hindu scriptures form the latter category; the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are notable epics considered scripture by many sects. A sort of cross-over between the religious epics and Upanishads of the Vedas is the Bhagavad Gita, considered to be revealed scripture by almost all Hindus today.
Hindu texts are typically seen to revolve around many levels of reading, namely the gross or physical, the subtle, and the supramental. This allows for many levels of understanding as well, implying that the truth of the texts can only be realized with the spiritual advancement of the reader.
  • Hinduism: (हिन्दू धर्म; also known as Sanātana Dharma – सनातन धर्म, and Vaidika-Dharma – वैदिक धर्म) A worldwide religious tradition that is based on the Vedas and is the direct descendent of the Vedic Indo-Iranian religion. It encompasses many religious traditions that widely vary in practice, as well as many diverse sects and philosophies. The modern estimates of Hinduism’s origin vary from 3102 BCE to 1300 BCE. It is also the third largest religion in the world with a following of approximately 1 billion people. Ninety-eight percent of Hindus can be found on the Indian subcontinent, chiefly in India. It is noteworthy however that the relatively small Himalayan kingdom of Nepal is the only nation in the world with Hinduism as its state religion.
  • Hymn: A song specifically written as a song of praise, adoration or prayer, typically addressed to a god.
A writer of hymns is known as a hymnist or hymnodist, and the process of singing a hymn is called hymnody; the same word is used for the collectivity of hymns belonging to a particular denomination or period (e.g. “nineteenth century Methodist hymnody” would mean the body of hymns written and/or used by Methodists in the nineteenth century). Books called hymnals are collections of hymns, which may or may not include music.
Ancient hymns include the Great Hymn to the Aten, composed by the pharaoh Akhenaten, and the Vedas, a collection of hymns in the tradition of Hinduism. The Western tradition of hymnody begins with the Homeric Hymns, a collection of ancient Greek hymns, the oldest of which were written in the 7th century BCE in praise of the gods of Greek mythology.
I
  • I Ching: The oldest of the Chinese classic texts. It describes an ancient system of cosmology and philosophy which is at the heart of Chinese cultural beliefs. The philosophy centers on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change (see Philosophy, below). In Western cultures, the I Ching is regarded by some as simply a system of divination; others believe it expresses the wisdom and philosophy of ancient China.
  • Iconolatry: (from the two Greek terms eikon denoting simply a picture or image, and latreia to adore or worship) Icon in Greek simply denotes a picture but has now come to be closely associated with religious art used by the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches. Icons are used by Orthodox Churches to assist in prayer and worship of God. Icon (image) is the same word used in the Bible in Genesis 1:27, Colossians 1:15.
Iconolatry is the worship of images (mainly in two-dimensional form) and often referred to in relation to the Iconoclastic period where there was a “cleansing” and destruction by the Church of all religious art. The reasons for this were that the Christians would worship images of Saints, the Son of God and even pictures of God and scrape parts of the icons into Holy Communion.
Peace of mind, serenity, and calmness are descriptions of a disposition free from the effects of stress. In some cultures, inner peace is considered a state of consciousness or enlightenment that may be cultivated by various forms of training, such as prayer, meditation, T’ai Chi Ch’uan or yoga, for example. Many spiritual practices refer to this peace as an experience of knowing oneself.
  • Integrity: Comprises the personal inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from honesty and consistent uprightness of character. The etymology of the word relates it to the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete). Evaluators, of course, usually assess integrity from some point of view, such as that of a given ethical tradition or in the context of an ethical relationship.
  • Involution: In integral theory, the process by which the Divine manifests the cosmos is called involution. The process by which the creation rises to higher states and states of consciousness is the evolution. Involution prepares the universe for the Big Bang; evolution continues from that point forward. The term involution comes from the idea that the divine involves itself in creation.
After the creation, the Divine (i.e. the Absolute, Brahman, God; all these essentially mean the same thing) is both the One (the Creator) and the Many (that which was created).
  • Islam: (Arabic: الإسلام al-islām) “The submission to God” is a monotheistic faith, one of the Abrahamic religions and the world’s second largest religion. Followers of Islam, known as Muslims, believe that God (or, in Arabic, Allāh; also in Aramaic Alaha) revealed his direct word for mankind to Muhammad (c. 570–632) and other prophets, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Muslims assert that the main written record of revelation to humankind is the Qur’an, which they believe to be flawless, immutable, and the final revelation of God to humanity. Muslims believe that parts of the Gospels, Torah and Jewish prophetic books (though originally divine in their nature) have been forgotten, misinterpreted, incorrectly edited by humans, or distorted by their followers and thus their original message has been corrupted over time. With that perspective, Muslims view the Qur’an as a correction of Jewish and Christian scriptures, and a final revelation.
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  • Jainism (pronounced /ˈdʒeɪnɪzəm/), self-named Jain Dharma (जैन धर्म), is a religion with origins in Hinduism. The Jains, although a small minority in India now, have continued to sustain the shraman (श्रमण) tradition. Jainism is significantly influential in both the ethical and economic spheres in India. Jainism places great stress on compassion to all living beings. Self-control (व्रत vrata in Sanskrit) forms a central part of being a Jain. A lay Jain is termed a shravaka (श्रावक) i.e. a listener. The Jain Sangha (संघ) has four components: monks, nuns, lay men and women.
  • Japa: (or Japam) A spiritual discipline in which a devotee repeats a mantra or the name of the God. The repetition can be aloud or just the movement of lips or in the mind. This spiritual practice is present in the major religions of world. This is considered as one of the most effective spiritual practices.
  • Jihad: (Arabic: جهادjihād) An Islamic term, from the Arabic root jhd (“to exert utmost effort, to strive, struggle”), which connotes a wide range of meanings: anything from an inward spiritual struggle to attain perfect faith to a political or military struggle to further the Islamic cause. The meaning of “Islamic cause” is of course open to interpretation. The term is frequently mistranslated into English as “holy war“, although jihad can apply to warfare. Mainstream Muslims consider jihad to be the most misunderstood aspect of their religion by non-Muslims. The Islamic religious legitimacy of the goals or methods of various Islamist movements who adopt the terminology of jihad is often brought into question, usually by moderate and liberal Muslims.
A person who engages in any form of jihad is called a “mujahid“, meaning “striver” or “struggler”. This term is most often used to mean a person who engages in fighting, but, for example a Muslim struggling to memorize the Qur’an is a called a mujahid. The neologism jihadist is sometimes used to describe militant Islamic groups, including but not restricted to Islamist terrorism (c. f. Jihadist organizations and Rules of war in Islam).
Over at least the last two thousand years, Judaism has not been monolithic in practice, and has not had any centralized authority or binding dogma. Despite this, Judaism in all its variations has remained tightly bound to a number of religious principles, the most important of which is the belief in a single, omniscient, transcendent God who created the universe, and continues to be involved in its governance. According to Jewish thought, the God who created the world established a covenant with the Jewish people, and revealed his laws and commandments to them in the form of the Torah. Jewish practice is devoted to the study and observance of these laws and commandments, as they are interpreted according to various ancient and modern authorities.
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  • Karma: (Sanskrit: कर्म from the root kri, “to do”, meaning deed) or Kamma (Pali: meaning action, effect, destiny) A term in several Indian religions that comprises the entire cycle of cause and effect. Karma is a sum of all that an individual has done and is currently doing. The effects of those deeds actively create present and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one’s own life. In religions that incorporate reincarnation, karma extends through one’s present life and all past and future lives as well.
The law of Karma is central in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, & Jainism. (These religions were formed in India). All living creatures are responsible for their karma and for their salvation (or release from samsara). As a term, it can be traced back to the early Upanishads.
  • Koan: A story, dialog, question, or statement in the history and lore of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, generally containing aspects that are inaccessible to rational understanding, yet that may be accessible to Intuition. Koans are often used by Zen practitioners as objects of meditation to induce an experience of enlightenment or realization, and by Zen teachers as testing questions when a student wishes to validate their experience of enlightenment.
A famous koan is, “Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?” (oral tradition, attributed to Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769), considered a reviver of the koan tradition in Japan). Koans are said to reflect the enlightened or awakened state of historical sages and legendary figures who uttered them, and sometimes said to confound the habit of discursive thought or shock the mind into awareness or an experience of metanoia or radical change of consciousness and perspective, from the point of view of which the koan ‘question’ is resolved, and the practitioner’s religious faith is enhanced.
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In general, sufic development involves the awakening in a certain order these spiritual centers of perception that lie dormant in every person. Each center is associated with a particular color and general area of the body, as well as ofttimes with a particular prophet, and varies from Order to Order. The help of a guide is considered necessary to help activate these centers. The activation of all these “centers” is part of the inner methodology of the Sufi way or “Work”. After undergoing this process, the dervish is said to reach a certain type of “completion” or becomes a Complete Man.
  • Love: Has many different meanings in English, from something that gives a little pleasure (“I loved that meal”) to something one would die for (patriotism, pairbonding). It can describe an intense feeling of affection, an emotion or an emotional state. In ordinary use, it usually refers to interpersonal love. Probably due to its psychological relevance, love is one of the most common themes in art.
Just as there are many types of lovers, there are many kinds of love. Love is inherent in all human cultures. It is precisely these cultural differences that make any universal definition of love difficult to establish. See the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.
Expressions of love may include the love for a “soul” or mind, the love of laws and organizations, love for a body, love for nature, love of food, love of money, love for learning, love of power, love of fame, love for the respect of others, et cetera. Different people place varying degrees of importance on the kinds of love they receive. Love is essentially an abstract concept, easier to experience than to explain.
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  • Mantra: A religious syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit language. Their use varies according to the school and philosophy associated with the mantra. They are primarily used as spiritual conduits, words and vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee. Other purposes have included religious ceremonies to accumulate wealth, avoid danger, or eliminate enemies. Mantras originated in India with Vedic Hinduism and were later adopted by Buddhists and Jains, now popular in various modern forms of spiritual practice which are loosely based on practices of these Eastern religions.
The word mantra is a Sanskrit word consisting of the root man- “manas or mind” and the suffix -tra meaning, tool, hence a literal translation would be “mind tool”. Mantras are interpreted to be effective as sound (vibration), to the effect that great emphasis is put on correct pronunciation (resulting in an early development of a science of phonetics in India). They are intended to deliver the mind from illusion and material inclinations. Chanting is the process of repeating a mantra.
  • Martyr: Historically, a martyr is a person who dies for his or her religious faith. Sometimes, it is for a different “noble cause”, like patriotically dying for a nation’s glory in a war (usually known under other names such as “fallen warriors”). Occurrences of such a death are known as martyrdom.
  • Meaning of life: The question “What is the meaning of life?” means different things to different people. The ambiguity of the query is inherent in the word “meaning”, which opens the question to many interpretations, such as: “What is the origin of life?”, “What is the nature of life (and of the universe in which we live)?”, “What is the significance of life?”, “What is valuable in life?”, and “What is the purpose of, or in, (one’s) life?”. These questions have resulted in a wide range of competing answers and arguments, from practical scientific theories, to philosophical, theological and spiritual explanations. Similar questions people ask themselves about the origin and purpose of life are “Why am I here?” and “Why are we here?”.
  • Meditation: Refers to any of a wide variety of spiritual practices (and their close secular analogues) which emphasize mental activity or quiescence. The English word comes from the Latin meditatio, which could perhaps be better translated as “contemplation.” This usage is found in Christian spirituality, for example, when one “meditates” on the sufferings of Christ; as well as Western philosophy, as in Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, a set of six mental exercises which systematically analyze the nature of reality.
In the late nineteenth century, Theosophists adopted “meditation” to refer to various spiritual practices drawn from Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Eastern religions. Thus the English word “meditation” does not exclusively translate any single term or concept from the sacred languages of Asia, such as the Sanskrit dhyana, samadhi, or pranayama. (Note that whereas in Eastern religions meditation is often a central part of religious/spiritual practice, in Christianity it is rather a fringe activity if practised at all.)
  • Mercy: A term used to describe the leniency or compassion shown by one person to another, or a request from one person to another to be shown such leniency or compassion. One of the basic virtues of chivalry and Christian ethics, it is also related to concepts of justice and morality in behaviour between people. In India, compassion is known as karuna.
What might be called the core metaphysical problems would be the ones which have always been considered metaphysical. What most of such problems have in common is that they are the problems of ontology, “the science of being qua being”.
Other philosophical traditions have very different conceptions—such as “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” problems—from those in the Western philosophical tradition; for example, Taoism and indeed, much of Eastern philosophy completely reject many of the most basic tenets of Aristotelian metaphysics, principles which have by now become almost completely internalized and beyond question in Western philosophy, though a number of dissidents from Aristotelian metaphysics have emerged in the west, such as Hegel‘s Science of Logic.
In modern times, the meaning of the word metaphysics has become confused by popular significations that are really unrelated to metaphysics or ontology per se, viz. esotericism and occultism. Esotericism and occultism, in their many forms, are not so much concerned with inquiries into first principles or the nature of being, though they do tend to proceed on the metaphysical assumption that all being is “one”.
  • Mind’s eye: (or third eye) A phrase used to refer to one’s ability to “see” things (such as visions) with the mind. This is, essentially, a reference to imagination and memory, although it can have religious or occult connotations. Also, the term “third eye” has been associated with the Pineal gland. It is a commonly held belief that in some practices (such as the ones described below) are actually referring to and studying the Pineal Gland.
  • Miracle: According to many religions, a miracle, derived from the old Latin word miraculum meaning ‘something wonderful’, is a striking interposition of divine intervention by God in the universe by which the operations of the ordinary course of Nature are overruled, suspended, or modified. One must keep in mind that in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and in other faiths people have substantially different definitions of the word miracle. Even within a specific religion there is often more than one usage of the term.
Sometimes the term miracle may refer to the action of a supernatural being that is not a god. Then the term divine intervention refers specifically to the direct involvement of a deity.
Hinduism, in support of the idea of Moksha, posits the idea of atman and Brahman. A common mistake is to view them, both spoken of as Self, as a monist being of sorts, something possessing substances. In actuality, Hindu scripture like the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, and especially the non-dual Hindu school of Advaita Vedanta, say that the Self or Super-Soul is beyond being and non-being, beyond any sense of tangibility and comprehension. Moksha is seen as a final release from one’s worldly conception of self, the loosening of the shackle of experiential duality and a re-establishment in one’s own fundamental nature, though the nature is seen as ineffable and beyond sensation.
  • Monasticism: (from Greek: monachos—a solitary person) The religious practice of renouncing all worldly pursuits in order to fully devote one’s life to spiritual work. Many religions have monastic elements, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Jainism, though the expressions differ considerably. Those pursuing a monastic life are usually called monks or brothers (male), and nuns or sisters (female). Both monks and nuns may also be called monastics.
  • Muraqaba: The Sufi word for meditation. Literally it means “to watch over”, “to take care of” or “to keep an eye”. Metaphorically, it implies that with meditation, a person watches over or takes care of his spiritual heart (or soul), and acquires knowledge about it, its surroundings and its creator.
  • Mysticism: From the Greek μυω (mueo, “to conceal”), is the pursuit of achieving communion with or conscious awareness of ultimate reality, the divine, spiritual truth, or God through direct, personal experience (intuition or insight) rather than rational thought; the belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being and directly accessible through personal experience; or the belief that such experience is a genuine and important source of knowledge. In the Hellenistic world, “mystical” referred to secret religious rituals.
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  • Nasma: An body made of the purest form of light (called Noor) which is more purest then any visible color. Hazrat Shah Wali Ullah was the first who give hints about this body. Hazrat Qalandar Baba Auliya give its more details while Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeem thoroughly described that body. This body is actually that is controlling the human physical body. The lights coming from Nasma to material body are visible only through Kirlian photography. These visible lights are called Aura.
  • Nature: (also called the material world, the material universe, the natural world, and the natural universe) All matter and energy, especially in its essential form. Nature is the subject of scientific study, and the history of the concept is linked to the history of science. The English word derives from a Latin term, natura, which was in turn a translation of a Greek term, physis (or phüsis). Natura is related to the Latin words relating to “birth“, while physis relates to Greek words relating to “growth“. In scale, “nature” includes everything from the universal to the subatomic. This includes all things animal, plant, and mineral; all natural resources and events (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes). It also includes the behaviour of living animals, and processes associated with inanimate objects – the “way” that things change.
Neopaganist beliefs and practices are extremely diverse, some tending towards syncretic melding of once-diverse practices and beliefs, others bordering on historical reenactment of reconstructed ancient cultures. In the USA, Wicca is the largest Neopagan movement, and while itself heterogeneous, many adherents share a body of common precepts, including a reverence for nature or active ecology, Goddess and/or Horned God veneration, use of ancient mythologies, the belief in magick, and often the belief in reincarnation.
  • New Age: Describes a broad movement of late twentieth century and contemporary Western culture characterised by an individual eclectic approach to spiritual exploration. It has some attributes of a new, emerging religion but is currently a loose network of spiritual seekers, teachers, healers and other participants. The name “New Age” also refers to the market segment in which goods and services are sold to people in the movement.
Rather than follow the lead of an organised religion, “New Agers” typically construct their own spiritual journey based on material taken as needed from the mystical traditions of all the worlds religions as well as shamanism, neopaganism and occultism. Participants are likely to dip into many diverse teachings and practises, some mainstream and some fringe, and formulate their own beliefs and practices based on their experiences in each. No clear membership or rigid boundaries actually exist. The movement is most visible where its ideas are traded–for example in specialist bookshops, music stores, and fairs.
Most New Age activity may be characterized as a form of alternative spirituality. Even apparent exceptions (such as alternative health practices) often turn out to have some spiritual dimension (for example, the integration of mind, body, and spirit). “Alternative” here means, with respect to the dominant Western Judeo-Christian culture. It is no accident that most New Age ideas and practices seem to contain implicit critiques of mainstream Christianity and reference to Jesus in particular. An emphasis on meditation suggests that ordinary prayer is insufficient; belief in reincarnation (which not all New Age followers accept) challenges familiar Christian doctrines of the afterlife.
  • Nondualism: The belief that dualism or dichotomy are illusory phenomenae. Examples of dualisms include self/other, mind/body, male/female, good/evil, active/passive, and many others. A nondual philosophical or religious perspective or theory maintains that there is no fundamental distinction between mind and matter, or that the entire phenomenological world is an illusion (with the reality being described variously as the Void, the Is, Emptiness, or the Mind of God).
Many traditions (generally originating in Asia) state that the true nature of reality is non-dualistic, and that these dichotomies are either unreal or (at best) inaccurate conveniences. While attitudes towards the experience of duality and self may vary, nondual traditions converge on the view that experience does not imply an “I”.

In Western philosophy, nondual views are often called monism. Many postmodern theories also assume that the dichotomies traditionally used are invalid or inaccurate. For example, one typical form of deconstruction is the critique of binary oppositions within a text while problematization questions the context or situation in which common myths such as dualisms occur. Nondualistic beliefs also include monism and pluralism.

  • Nonviolence: (or non-violence) A set of assumptions about morality, power and conflict that leads its proponents to reject the use of violence in efforts to attain social or political goals. While often used as a synonym for pacifism, since the mid 20th century the term nonviolence has come to embody a diversity of techniques for waging social conflict without the use of violence, as well as the underlying political and philosophical rationale for the use of these techniques.
As a technique for social struggle, nonviolence is most often associated with the campaign for Indian independence led by Mahatma Gandhi, and the struggle to attain civil rights for African Americans, led by Martin Luther King. The former was deeply influenced by Leo Tolstoy’s Christian anarchism ideas of non-resistance based on the Sermon on the Mount.
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  • Oneness: A spiritual term referring to the ‘experience’ of the absence of egoic identity boundaries, and, according to some traditions, the realization of the awareness of the absolute interconnectedness of all matter and thought in space-time, or one’s ultimate identity with God (see Tat Tvam Asi). Its meaning may be synonymous to that of nonduality, though some claim that non-duality implies ‘not one’ and ‘not two’, i.e. non-duality is analogous to the Hindu formula of negation, Neti Neti, used in describing the absolute.
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  • Pandeism: A term that has been used at various times to describe religious beliefs. This use has been inconsistent over time – some 19th century figures used the term to describe a particular set of religious beliefs; today, the term is generally used to describe broader philosophical systems, often mixing elements of pantheism and deism.
  • Pantheism: (Greek: pan = all and Theos = God) Literally means “God is All” and “All is God”. It is the view that everything is of an all-encompassing immanent God; or that the universe, or nature, and God are equivalent. More detailed definitions tend to emphasize the idea that natural law, existence and/or the universe (the sum total of all that is was and shall be) is represented or personified in the theological principle of ‘God’.
  • Parapsychology: The study of the evidence involving phenomena where a person seems to affect or to gain information about something through a means not currently explainable within the framework of mainstream, conventional science. Proponents of the existence of these phenomena usually consider them to be a product of unexplained mental abilities.
  • Plane (cosmology): In metaphysics and esoteric cosmology, a plane of existence (sometimes called simply a plane, dimension, vibrating plane, or an inner, invisible, spiritual, supraphysical world or egg) is a theoretical region of space and/or consciousness beyond the known physical universe, or the region containing the universe itself. Many esoteric teachings (e.g., theosophy and rosicrucianism) propound the idea of a whole series of subtle planes or worlds or dimensions which, from a center, interpenetrate themselves and the physical planet in which we live, the solar systems, and all the physical structures of the universe. This interpenetration of planes culminates in the universe itself as a physical structured, dynamic and evolutive expression emanated – through a series of stages, becoming progressively more material and embodied – from The Supreme Being: which allows from Itself the irruption of auto-Singularities, as the Big Bang, originated from Its unintelligible Chaos.
  • Prayer: An effort to communicate with God, or to some deity or deities, or another form of spiritual entity, or otherwise, either to offer praise, to make a request, or simply to express one’s thoughts and emotions.
  • Prophecy: In a broad sense, is the prediction of future events. The etymology of the word is ultimately Greek, from pro- “before” plus the root of phanai “speak”, i. e. “speaking before” or “foretelling”, but prophecy often implies the involvement of supernatural phenomena, whether it is communication with a deity, the reading of magical signs, or astrology. It is also used as a general term for the revelation of divine will.
Throughout history, people have sought knowledge of future events from special individuals or groups who were thought to have the gift of prophecy, such as Oracles at Delphi in ancient Greece. Cultures in which prophecy played an important role include the North American Indians, Mayans, Celts, Druids, Chinese, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Egyptians, Hindus, Hebrews, Tibetans, Greeks, and many in the Christian tradition, among others.
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  • Qawwali: (قوٌالی) The devotional music of the Sufis. Originally performed mainly at Sufi shrines throughout what is now India and Pakistan, it has also gained popularity in the mainstream, especially through the work of artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Qawwali is a vibrant musical tradition that stretches back more than 700 years.
  • Qi: Also commonly spelled ch’i, chi or ki, is a fundamental concept of everyday Chinese culture, most often defined as “air” or “breath” (for example, the colloquial Mandarin Chinese term for “weather” is tiān qi, or the “breath of heaven”) and, by extension, “life force” or “spiritual energy” that is part of everything that exists. References to qi or similar philosophical concepts as a type of metaphysical energy that sustains living beings are used in many belief systems, especially in Asia.
  • Qigong: (simplified Chinese: 气功; traditional Chinese: 氣功; pinyin: qìgōng; Wade-Giles: ch’i4 kung1) An increasingly popular aspect of Chinese medicine involving the coordination of different breathing patterns with various physical postures and motions of the body. Qigong is mostly taught for health maintenance purposes, but there are also some who teach it, especially in China, for therapeutic interventions. Various forms of traditional qigong are also widely taught in conjunction with Chinese martial arts, and are especially prevalent in the advanced training of what are known as the nei chia (internal martial arts).
  • The Qur’an: (Arabic: أَلْقُرآنal-qur’ān Literally “the recitation”; also called Al Qur’ān Al Karīm or “The Noble Qur’an”; or transliterated Quran, Koran, and less commonly Alcoran) is the holy book of Islam. It is a tenet of Islam that the Qur’an is the literal word of God in Arabic and the culmination of God’s revelation to mankind, revealed to Muhammad, the final prophet of Islam, over a period of 23 years through the angel Jibril (Gabriel).
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  • Rastafari movement: (Rasta, or the Rastafari movement of Jah people) A religious movement that reveres Haile Selassie I, the former emperor of Ethiopia, as King of Kings, Lord of Lords and the Lion of Judah. The name Rastafari comes from Ras Täfäri, the pre-coronation name of Haile Selassie I, who Rastas of many mansions say is the earthly aspect of Jah (the Rastafari name for God, from a shortened form of Jehovah found in KJV Psalm 68:4) and part of the Holy Trinity. The movement emerged in Jamaica among working-class and peasant black people in the early 1930s, arising from an interpretation of Biblical prophecy, black social and political aspirations, and the teachings of their prophet, Jamaican Pan Africanist and UNIA organiser Marcus Garvey, whose political and cultural vision helped inspire a new world view. The movement is sometimes called “Rastafarianism”; however, this is considered improper and offensive by the Rastas themselves.
  • Reality: In everyday usage means “everything that exists.” The term “Reality,” in its most liberal sense, includes everything that is, whether or not it is observable, accessible or understandable by science, philosophy, theology or any other system of analysis. Reality in this sense may include both being and nothingness, whereas “existence” is often restricted to being.
In the strict sense of European-German philosophy, there are levels or gradation to the nature and conception of reality. These levels include, from the most subjective to the most rigorous: Phenomenological reality, Truth, Fact and Axiom.
Other cultural traditions, particularly those based on Buddhism, have different concepts of the nature of reality: see, for example, samsara and maya.
  • Reincarnation: As a doctrine or mystical belief, holds the notion that one’s ‘Spirit‘ (‘Soul‘ depending on interpretation), ‘Higher or True Self’, ‘Divine Spark’, ‘I’ or ‘Ego’ (not to be confused with the ego as defined by psychology) or critical parts of these returns to the material world after physical death to be reborn in a new body. The natural process is considered integrative of all experiences from each lifetime. A new personality feature, with the associated character, is developed during each life in the physical world, based upon past integrated experience and new acquired experiences. Some Reincarnation theories express that usually rebirth is made each time in alternated female and male type of bodies. Also that there is interaction between pre-determinism of certain experiences or lessons intended to happen during the physical life, and the free-will action of the individual as they live that life.
This doctrine is a central tenet within Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Surat Shabda Yoga, some African religions, as well as various other religions teachings and esoteric philosophies. Most modern Pagans also believe in reincarnation. Transmigration is similar but considers inter-species embodiments, whereas Reincarnation of a human being is always as a human being.
Reincarnation is traditionally understood to be akin to the Buddhist concept of Rebirth, but in fact the two concepts are very distinct philosophically – Buddhism teaches that there is no self to reincarnate. An alternative view is that the teachings of Buddhism might stress one aspect, the teachings of Hinduism might stress another aspect, but that an advanced Buddhist and an advanced Hindu would directly perceive the phenomenon of reincarnation identically.
  • Religion: Sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system—is commonly defined as belief concerning the supernatural, sacred, or divine; and the moral codes, practices, values, institutions and rituals associated with such belief. In its broadest sense some have defined it as the sum total of answers given to explain humankind’s relationship with the universe. In the course of the development of religion, it has taken many forms in various cultures and individuals. Occasionally, the word “religion” is used to designate what should be more properly described as “organized religion” – that is, an organization of people supporting the exercise of some religion, often taking the form of a legal entity (see religion-supporting organization). There are many different religions in the world today.
  • Religious ecstasy: A trance-like state characterized by expanded mental and spiritual awareness and is frequently accompanied by visions, hallucinations, and physical euphoria. Such an experience usually lasts about a half-hour. However, there are many records of such experiences lasting several days, and some people claim to have experienced ecstasy over a period of over three decades, or to have recurring experiences of ecstasy during their lifetime.
  • Repentance: The feeling and act in which one recognizes and tries to right a wrong, or gain forgiveness from someone that they wronged. In religious contexts it usually refers to repenting for a sin against God. It always includes an admission of guilt, and also includes at least one of: a solemn promise or resolve not to repeat the offense; an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong where possible.
  • Responsibility assumption: A doctrine in the spirituality and personal growth fields holding that each individual has substantial or total responsibility for the events and circumstances that befall them in their life. While there is little notable about the notion that each person has at least some role in shaping their experience, the doctrine of responsibility assumption posits that the individual’s mental contribution to his or her own experience is substantially greater than is normally thought. “I must have wanted this” is the type of catchphrase used by adherents of this doctrine when encountering situations, pleasant or unpleasant, to remind them that their own desires and choices led to the present outcome.
The term responsibility assumption thus has a specialized meaning beyond the general concept of taking responsibility for something, and is not to be confused with the general notion of making an assumption that a concept such as “responsibility” exists.
  • Revelation: Refers to an uncovering or disclosure of that which had been previously wholly or partly hidden via communication from the divine. In monotheistic religions, revelation is the process in which God makes himself, his will, and/or other information known to mankind. The recipient of revelation is commonly referred to as a prophet, and sometimes is termed a messenger.
There are a number of ways that religious thinkers have traditionally approached this topic; many widely differing views have been proposed. Generally speaking, one can find all of the following viewpoints in varying segments of Judaism and in varying groups within Christianity.
  • Revivalism: A revival is the apparent restoration of a living creature from a dead state to a living state. In a New Testament story, Lazarus was revived by divine intervention. In religious terms, Revival is the substitution of religious fervor in life and worship, for an intellectualized, pragmatic approach to everyday conduct (often stigmatized by revivalists as ‘pride’).
  • Ritual: A formalised, predetermined set of symbolic actions generally performed in a particular environment at a regular, recurring interval. The set of actions that comprise a ritual often include, but are not limited to, such things as recitation, singing, group processions, repetitive dance, manipulation of sacred objects, etc. The general purpose of rituals is to express some fundamental truth or meaning, evoke spiritual, numinous emotional responses from participants, and/or engage a group of people in unified action to strengthen their communal bonds. The word ritual, when used as an adjective, relates to the noun ‘rite‘, as in rite of passage.
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Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, the Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian Christians, members of the Anglican, United Methodist, and Old Catholic traditions, the Independent Catholic Churches and Lutherans hold that sacraments are not mere symbols, but rather, “signs or symbols which effect what they signify”, that is, the sacraments in and of themselves, rightly administered, are used by God as a means to communicate grace to faithful recipients.
Christian churches and sects are divided regarding the number and operation of the sacraments, but they are generally held to have been instituted by Jesus. Sacraments are usually administered by the clergy to a recipient or recipients, and are generally understood to involve visible and invisible components. The invisible component (manifested inwardly) is understood to be God‘s grace working in the sacrament’s participants, while the visible (or outward) component entails the use of water, wine, or oil that is blessed or consecrated.
  • Sacrifice: (from a Middle English verb meaning ‘to make sacred’, from Old French, from Latin sacrificium : sacer, sacred; sacred + facere, to make) Commonly known as the practice of offering food, or the lives of animals or people to the gods, as an act of propitiation or worship. The term is also used metaphorically to describe selfless good deeds for others.
  • Sadhana: Spiritual exercise by a Sadhu or a Sadhaka to attain a desired goal. The goal of sadhana is to attain some stage, which can be either moksha, liberation from the cycle of birth and death (Samsara), or a particular goal such as the blessing by a deity through his or her appearance before the Sadhaka at the end of the limited Sadhana. Sadhana can involve meditation, puja to a deity, namasmarana (sometimes with the help of a japa mala), mortification of the flesh or unorthodox practices such as in a smashana sadhana on a cremation ground. Each type of Yoga entails its own type of sadhana. To embark on a sadhana, a guru is required to give one the necessary know-how and the seed for the future result, in the form of some diksha, initiation, which he or she has received from his or her guru.
  • Saint: Generally refers to someone who is exceptionally virtuous and holy. It can be applied to both the living and the dead and is an acceptable term in most of the world’s popular religions. The Saint is held up by the community as an example of how we all should act, and his or her life story is usually recorded for the edification of future generations.
The process of officially recognizing a person as a Saint, practiced by some churches, is called canonization, though many Protestant groups use the less formal, broader usage seen in Scripture to include all who are faithful as saints.
  • Salvation: Refers to deliverance from undesirable state or condition. In theology, the study of salvation is called soteriology and is a vitally important concept in several religions. Christianity regards salvation as deliverance from the bondage of sin and from condemnation, resulting in eternal life with God.
  • Samadhi: A term used in Hindu and Buddhist yogic meditation. Samadhi is also the Hindi word for a structure commemorating the dead (aking to a tomb, but without remains).
  • Sanskara: A term used in Hinduism meaning imprints left on the subconscious mind by experience in this or previous lives.
  • Sant Mat: An esoteric religious movement active in the United States, Europe, Latin America, and especially India. Sant Mat shares a lineage with Sikhism and contains elements of thought found in Hinduism, such as karma and reincarnation. Sant Mat also contains elements found in Sufism. Although origins of Sant Mat are not very well known, followers believe that it was Kabir who have revived the Sant Mat tradition. The tradition has inspired and influenced a number of other religious groups and organizations.
The spiritual path is also referred to as the Science of the Soul or ‘Sant Mat’, meaning ‘teachings of the saints’. More recently it has been described as “The Way of Life” or “Living the Life of Soul.” It incorporates the pursuit of a personal and private path of spiritual development in the common tradition of mystics past and present, from a variety of cultures, times and religions. There are no rituals, no priestly class, no mandatory contributions nor compulsory gatherings. This leaves the followers free to observe and pursue the religion they were born into if they feel so inclined, and preserves social customs while engendering a deeper and broader perspective.
  • Satguru: (or Sadguru) Means true guru (Sanskrit सदगुरू sat=true), literally: true teacher. The title means that his students have faith that the guru can be trusted and will lead them to moksha, enlightenment or inner peace. It is based on a long line of Hindu philosophical understandings of the importance of knowledge and that the teacher, guru, is the sacred conduit to self-realization.
A popular etymology claims that the word guru comes from गुरु, Gu=darkness; Ru=light in Sanskrit, literally the one that takes you from darkness to light. Nowadays, in India, every teacher is called guru. In the West, its usage has extended into anyone who makes religious or philosophical statements and has followers because of this. In further extension it means simply expert.

  • In Hinduism guru is used interchangeably with satguru. Traditionally the title “guru” is used in the context of a relationship between a teacher and a student, rather than an absolute. See Guru-shishya tradition.
  • In Sikhism, Satguru is one of the many names for God.
  • In Surat Shabd Yoga, one who initiates followers into the path often is referred to as a Satgurtu or Sat Guru.
  • Satori: (Japanese satori; Chinese: wù – from the verb, Satoru) A Zen Buddhist term for enlightenment. The word literally means “to understand”. It is sometimes loosely used interchangeably with Kensho, but Kensho refers to the first perception of the Buddha-Nature or True-Nature. The kensho experience may not hold as further training is still necessary by the Monk or Lay. Satori on the other hand refers to the lasting experience. Think of when a baby first walks, after much effort, it stands upright, find its balance and walks a few steps, then falls (Kensho).
  • Self-realization: In yoga, self-realization is knowledge of one’s true self. This true self is also referred to as the atma to avoid ambiguity. The term “self-realization” is a translation of the Sanskrit expression atma jnana (knowledge of the self or atma). The reason the term “realization” is used instead of “knowledge” is that jnana refers to knowledge based on experience, not mere intellectual knowledge.
As discussed in the article on yoga, while the goal of self-realization is the same in all yoga paths, the means used to achieve that goal differ. For example, in hatha yoga, self-realization is said to be achieved when the serpent force or kundalini rises through the shushumna nadi to the sahasrara chakra. The following terms are related to self-realization or atma jnana: moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death); samadhi (Supreme or Divine Bliss).
  • Shabd: (or Shabda) Literally means “sound” or “word” in Sanskrit. Esoterically, Shabd is the “Sound Current vibrating in all creation. It can be heard by the inner ears.” Variously referred to as the Audible Life Stream, Inner Sound, Sound Current or Word in English, the Shabd is the esoteric essence of God which is available to all human beings, according to the Shabd path teachings of Eckankar, the Quan Yin Method, Sant Mat and Surat Shabd Yoga.
Adherents believe that a Satguru, or Eck Master, who is a human being, has merged with the Shabd in such a manner that he or she is a living manifestation of it at its highest level (the “Word made flesh”). However, not only can the Satguru can attain this, but all human beings are inherently privileged in this way. Indeed, in Sant Mat the raison d’être for the human form is to meditate on the Sound Current, and in so doing merge with it until one’s own divinity is ultimately realized.
  • Shamanism: Refers to the traditional healing and religious practices of Northern Asia (Siberia) and Mongolia. By extension, the concept of shamanism has been extended in common language to a range of traditional beliefs and practices that involve the ability to diagnose, cure, and sometimes cause human suffering by traversing the axis mundi and forming a special relationship with, or gaining control over, spirits. Shamans have been credited with the ability to control the weather, divination, the interpretation of dreams, astral projection, and traveling to upper and lower worlds. Shamanistic traditions have existed throughout the world since prehistoric times.
  • Shinto: (Shintō) (sometimes called Shintoism) A native religion of Japan and was once its state religion. It involves the worship of kami, which can be translated to mean gods, spirits of nature, or just spiritual presences. Some kami are local and can be regarded as the spirit or genius of a particular place, but others represent major natural objects and processes, for example, Amaterasu, the Sun goddess. The word Shinto was created by combining two kanji: “神” shin meaning god (the character can also be read as “kami” in Japanese) and “道” meaning Tao (“way” or “path” in a philosophical sense). Thus, Shinto means “the way of the gods.”
After World War II, Shinto lost its status of state religion; some Shinto practices and teachings, once given a great deal of prominence during the war, are no longer taught nor practiced today, and some remain largely as everyday activities without religious connotations like omikuji (a form of drawing lots).
  • Shunyata: (Śūnyatā, शून्यता (Sanskrit, Pali: suññatā), or “Emptiness”) A term for an aspect of the Buddhist metaphysical critique as well as Buddhist epistemology and phenomenology. Shunyata signifies that everything one encounters in life is empty of soul, permanence, and self-nature. Everything is inter-related, never self-sufficient or independent; nothing has independent reality. Yet shunyata never connotes nihilism, which Buddhist doctrine considers to be a delusion, just as it considers materialism to be a delusion.
  • Sikhism: (Punjabi: ਸਿੱਖੀ) A religion based on the teachings of ten Gurus who lived primarily in 16th and 17th century India. It is one of the world’s major religions with over 23 million followers. Sikhism comes from the word Sikh, which in turn comes from its Pali word “sikho”, which means “the searcher of Truth”.
The two core beliefs of Sikhism are:

  • The belief in one God. The opening sentence of the Sikh scriptures is only two words long, and reflects the base belief of all who adhere to the teachings of the religion: ੴ – Ek Onkar
  • The teachings of the Ten Sikh Gurus (as well as other accepted Muslim and Hindu self-realized persons) as enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib.
The Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture, and Guru Khalsa Panth, the community of initiated Sikhs, are both jointly considered the eleventh and final Sikh Guru. Sikhism departs sharply from certain social traditions and structures of Hinduism and Islam (such as the caste system and purdah, respectively). Sikh philosophy is characterised by logic, comprehensiveness, and a “without frills” approach to both spiritual and material concerns. Its theology is marked by simplicity.
  • Simple living: (also known as voluntary simplicity or voluntary poverty) A lifestyle considered by its adherents to be an alternative to Western consumerism. Adherents claim various reasons for pursuing this lifestyle, such as personal health, ecological or spiritual motivations. The term “downshifting” is often used to describe the act of moving toward a lifestyle based on voluntary simplicity. Many who practice simple living subscribe to the axiom “less is more.”
  • Simran: ‘Simran’ takes its root from the word ‘Smaran,’ (from Sanskrit) a noun which means: remembering or contemplating on the highest – that which should be valued in memory, in general. It teaches that: everything changes, & inner and outer purity naturally happen. Smaran does not project about restriction through God or religion. It shows that remembering the highest aspect of life that one has seen will eventually open up what’s important to an individual.
The concept of the soul has strong links with notions of an afterlife, but opinions may vary wildly, even within a given religion, as to what happens to the soul after death. Many within these religions and philosophies see the soul as immaterial, while others consider it possibly material.
  • Spirit: The English word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning breath. In religion and spirituality, the respiration of the human being has for obvious reasons been strongly linked with the very occurrence of life. A similar significance has been attributed to human blood. Spirit has thus evolved to denote that which separates a living body from a corpse, but can be used metaphorically (she performed the piece with spirit or she put up a spirited defence) where it is a synonym for such words as ‘vivacity’.
  • Spiritism: A religious and philosophic doctrine established in France in the mid 19th Century by Allan Kardec. The term was coined by him as the specific name of the doctrine he was about to publish but, given the fact that the word was created from roots taken from the common language, it was soon incorporated into the normal use and has been used to name other doctrines as well, though the authentic Spiritists protest against this usage.
During the late 19th century, many well educated people from Europe and the United States embraced Spiritism as a logical explanation of themes related to the Christian Revelation. However, most of the initial enthusiasm receded. But in some places the work of a few dedicated preachers managed to achieve a solid foundation — more notably, in Brazil, and to a certain extent in the Philippines. In Brazil, more than 2 million people declare themselves Kardecist spiritists, according to the last IBGE census data, which makes Brazil the largest Spiritist country in the world. Spiritism has influenced syncretisms like Brazilian Umbanda and Vietnamese Caodaism.

Spiritism is not to be confused with spiritualism. Its use with that meaning is regarded as pejorative by both Spiritualists and Spiritists. Uncapitalised, the word, in English, is an obsolete term for animism and other religious practices involving the invocation of spiritual beings, including shamanism.

  • Spiritual evolution: The philosophical/theological/esoteric idea that nature and human beings and/or human culture evolve along a predetermined cosmological pattern or ascent, or in accordance with certain pre-determined potentials. Predeterminism of evolution concept is also complemented with the idea of a creative impulse of human beings, known as epigenesis.
Within this broad definition, theories of spiritual evolution are very diverse. They may be cosmological (describing existence at large), personal (describing the development of the individual), or both. They can be holistic (holding that higher realities emerge from and are not reducible to the lower), idealist (holding that reality is primarily mental or spiritual) or nondual (holding that there is no ultimate distinction between mental and physical reality). All of them can be considered to be teleological to a greater or lesser degree.
  • Spirituality: In a narrow sense, is a concern with matters of the spirit, however that may be defined; but it is also a wide term with many available readings. It may include belief in supernatural powers, as in religion, but the emphasis is on personal experience. It may be an expression for life perceived as higher, more complex or more integrated with one’s worldview, as contrasted with the merely sensual.
  • Sufi whirling: The practice of Sufi whirling (or Sufi spinning), is a twirling meditation that originated among the ancient Indian mystics and Turkish Sufis, which is still practiced by the Dervishes of the Mevlevi order. Following a recommended fast of several hours, Sufi whirlers begin with hands crossed onto shoulders and may return their hands to this position if they feel dizzy. They rotate on their left feet in short twists, using the right foot to drive their bodies around the left foot. The left foot is like an anchor to the ground, so that if the whirler loses his or her balance, he or she can think of their left foot, direct attention towards it and regain balance back.
  • Sufism: (Arabic تصوف taṣawwuf) A mystic tradition of Islam, which is based on the pursuit of spiritual truth as a definite goal to attain. In modern language it might also be referred to as Islamic spirituality or Islamic mysticism. While fiqh focuses on the legal aspects of Islam , Sufism focuses on the internal aspects of Islam, such as perfecting the aspect of sincerity of faith and fighting one’s ego. Sufi practitioners are organized into a diverse range of brotherhoods and sisterhoods, with a wide diversity of thought. Sufi orders (“tariqas“) can be Shi’a, Sunni, both or neither.
  • Supplication: (also known as petitioning) The most common form of prayer, wherein a person asks a supernatural deity to provide something, either for that person who is praying or for someone else on whose behalf a prayer of supplication is being made. One example of supplication is the Catholic ritual of novena (from novem, the Latin word for “nine”) wherein one repeatedly asks for the same favor over a period of nine days. This ritual began in France and Spain during the Middle Ages when a nine day period of hymns and prayers led up to a Christmas feast, a period which ended with gift giving. In Islam, the Arabic word du’a is often used for supplication. Du’a may be made in any language, although there are many traditional Islamic supplications in Arabic, Persian and Turkish.
  • Surat Shabd Yoga: (or Surat Shabda Yoga) A form of spiritual practice that is followed in the Sant Mat and many other related spiritual traditions. As a Sanskrit term, surat means “soul,” shabd means “word” and yoga means “union.” The term “word” means the “Sound Current,” the “Audible Life Stream” or the “Essence of the Absolute Supreme Being,” that is, the dynamic force of creative energy that was sent out, as sound vibration, from the Supreme Being into the abyss of space at the dawn of the universe‘s manifestation, and that is being sent forth, through the ages, framing all things that constitute and inhabit the universe.
The etymology of “Surat Shabda Yoga” presents its purpose: the “Union of the Soul with the Essence of the Absolute Supreme Being.” Other expressions for Surat Shabda Yoga include Sehaj Yoga (an easy path leading to Sehaj or equipoise) The Path of Light and Sound, The Path of the Saints, The Journey of Soul, and The Yoga of the Sound Current.
T
  • Tai Chi Chuan: T’ai Chi Ch’uan or Taijiquan (Chinese: 太極拳; pinyin: Tàijíquán; literally “supreme ultimate fist”) (commonly known as T’ai Chi, Tai Chi, or Taiji) A nei chia (“internal”) Chinese martial art. This art is often practiced for the purposes of health and longevity (some recent medical studies support its effectiveness here). T’ai Chi Ch’uan is considered a soft style martial art, an art applied with as complete a relaxation or “softness” in the musculature as possible, to distinguish its theory and application from that of the hard martial art styles which use a degree of tension in the muscles. T’ai Chi as practised by its traditional styles contains much language, theory and imagery from Taoism and Chinese Buddhism as well as the Chinese school of thought known as Neo-Confucianism.
  • Tao Te Ching: (Chinese: 道德經, Dào dé jīng) Roughly translated as The Book of the Way and its Virtue (see article on translating the title) is an ancient Chinese scripture. Tradition has it that the book was written around 600 BCE by a sage called Laozi (WG: Lao Tzu, “Old Master”), a record-keeper in the Emperor’s Court of the Zhou Dynasty. A careful reading of the text, however, suggests that it is a compilation of maxims sharing similar themes. The authenticity of the date of composition/compilation and the authorship are still debated.
This short work is one of the most important in Chinese philosophy and religion, especially in Taoism, but also in Buddhism, because the latter – an Indian religion – shared many Taoist words and concepts before developing into Chinese Buddhism. (Indeed, upon first encountering it, Chinese scholars regarded Buddhism as merely a foreign equivalent of Taoism.) Many Chinese artists, including poets, painters, calligraphers and even gardeners have used the book as a source of inspiration. Its influence has also spread widely outside the Far East, aided by many different translations of the text into western languages.
  • Tenrikyo: (Tenrikyō, lit. Teaching of Divine Reason, also known as Tenriism) A religion of Japanese Shinto origin with some Buddhist influence. It was founded by a female peasant, Nakayama Miki, who underwent a revelatory experience from 1838 onwards. After this date she is referred to as Oyasama (lit. Honoured Parent) by followers. Tenrikyo is estimated to have about 2 million followers world-wide with 1.5 million of those in Japan.
The focus of the religion is to attain yoki yusan or yoki gurashi, the ‘joyous life’, on Earth through charity and abstention from greed, a self-serving life, hatred, anger and arrogance.

  • Yo is “positive”, the same character as Yang in the Chinese Yin and Yang.
  • Ki is “spirit” or “energy”, the same character as Ch’i in Chinese.
  • Yusan is “an outing to the mountain or fields” (lit. excursion), implying an outgoing life.
  • Gurashi is “livelihood”, implying life in a more day-to-day sense.
  • Theism: The belief in one or more gods or goddesses. More specifically, it may also mean the belief in God, a god, or gods, who is/are actively involved in maintaining the Universe. This secondary meaning is shown in context to other beliefs concerning the divine. The term is attested in English from 1678, and was probably coined to contrast with atheism attested from ca. 1587.
  • Theosis: In Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic theology, theosis, meaning divinization (or woodenly, deification or, to become god), is the call to man to become holy and seek union with God, beginning in this life and later consummated in the resurrection. Theosis comprehends salvation from sin, is premised upon apostolic and early Christian understanding of the life of faith, and is conceptually foundational in both the East and the West.
  • Tithe: (from Old English teogotha “tenth”) A one-tenth part of something, paid as a voluntary contribution or as a tax or levy, usually to support a Jewish or Christian religious organization. Today, tithes (or tithing) are normally voluntary and paid in cash, checks, or stocks, whereas historically tithes could be paid in kind, such as agricultural products. There are still European countries today that allow some churches to assess a mandatory tithe which is enforced by law.
  • Torah: (תורה) A Hebrew word meaning “teaching,” “instruction,” or “law.” It is the central and most important document of Judaism revered by Jews through the ages. It primarily refers to the first section of the Tanakh–the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, but the term is sometimes also used in the general sense to also include both of Judaism’s written law and oral law, encompassing the entire spectrum of authoritative Jewish religious teachings throughout history, including the Mishnah, the Talmud, the midrash, and more.
U
  • Unitarian Universalism: (UU or UUism) A theologically liberal, inclusive religion formed by the merger of Unitarian and Universalist organizations in the mid 20th century. UUs generally: cherish creativity, freedom, and compassion; embrace diversity and interconnectedness; and promote personal spiritual growth and justice-making through worship, fellowship, personal experience, social action, deeds, and education. While one UU may differ from another in personal creed, the term UU is a distinct theological signifier and Unitarianism or Universalism should not be confused or interchanged with Unitarian Universalism.
  • Upanishad: (उपनिषद्, Upaniad) Part of the Hindu Śruti scriptures which primarily discuss meditation and philosophy and are seen as religious instructions by most schools of Hinduism. The Upanishads are commentaries on the Vedas, their putative end and essence, and thus known as Vedānta = “End of the Veda”. The term Upanishad derives from the Sanskrit words upa (near), ni (down) and ṣad (to sit) = “sitting down near” a spiritual teacher to receive instruction in the Guru-Shishya tradition or parampara. The teachers and students appear in a variety of settings (husband answering questions about immortality, a teenage boy being taught by Yama, or Death personified, etc.). Sometimes the sages are women and at times the instructions (or rather inspiration) are sought by kings.
V
  • Vegetarianism: The practice of not eating meat, poultry, fish or their by-products, with or without the use of dairy products or eggs. The exclusion may also extend to products derived from animal carcasses, such as lard, tallow, gelatin, rennet and cochineal. Some who follow the diet also choose to refrain from wearing products that involve the death of animals, such as leather, silk, feather, and fur. It should be noted that although vegetarians generally try to abstain from all animal by-products, many are willing to make small exceptions for their diet, attire, and so forth.
  • Veneration: In traditional Christian churches (for example, Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy), veneration (Latin veneratio, Greek δουλια dulia), or veneration of saints, is a special act of honoring a dead person who has been identified as singular in the traditions of the religion, and through them honoring God who made them and in whose image they are made. Veneration is often shown outwardly by respectfully bowing or making the sign of the cross before a saint‘s icon, relics, or cult image. These items are often also kissed.
  • Vipassana: (Sanskrit: vipasyanā) The practice of Insight Meditation. While it is often referred to as Buddhist meditation, the practice taught by the Buddha was non-sectarian, and has a universal application. It does not require conversion to Buddhism. While the meditation practices themselves vary from school to school, the underlying principle is the investigation of phenomena (Sanskrit: dharmas) as they manifest in the five aggregates (Skandha) namely, matter or form (Rupa), sensation or feelings (Vedana), perception (Samjna), mental formations (Sankara) & consciousness (Vijnana). This process leads to direct experiential perception, Vipassanā.
  • Virtue: (Greek αρετη; Latin virtus) The habitual, well-established, readiness or disposition of man’s powers directing them to some goodness of act. (1) Virtue is moral excellence of a man or a woman. The word is derived from the Greek arete (αρετη). As applied to humans, a virtue is a good character trait. The Latin word virtus literally means “manliness,” from vir, “man” in the masculine sense; and referred originally to masculine, warlike virtues such as courage. In one of the many ironies of etymology, in English the word virtue is often used to refer to a woman’s chastity.
In the Greek it is more properly called ηθικη αρετη. It is “habitual excellence”. It is something practised at all times. The virtue of perseverance is needed for all and any virtue since it is a habit of character and must be used continuously in order for any person to maintain oneself in virtue.
W
  • Wabi-sabi: (in Kanji) Represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic. It is difficult to explain wabi-sabi in Western terms, but the aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, or incomplete. A concept derived from the Buddhist assertion of the first noble truth – Dukkha.
Y
  • Yana (Buddhism): A Sanskrit word with a range of meanings including nouns such as vehicle, journey, and path; and verbs such as going, moving, riding, and marching. In the Indian religions Buddhism and Hinduism, both yana and marga (road or path) express the metaphor of spiritual practice as a path or journey. Ancient texts in both religions discuss doctrines and practices associated with various yanas. In Buddhism, yana often augments the metaphor of the spiritual path with the idea of various vehicles that convey a person along that path. The yana/marga metaphor is similar to the Chinese image of the Tao (path or way) but Indian and Chinese cultures appear to have evolved such similar metaphors independently.
The pair probably goes back to ancient agrarian religion; it exists in Confucianism, and it is prominent in Taoism. Though the words yin and yang only appear once in the Tao Te Ching, the book is laden with examples and clarifications of the concept of mutual arising.
Yin and yang are descriptions of complementary opposites rather than absolutes. Any yin/yang dichotomy can be seen as its opposite when viewed from another perspective. The categorisation is seen as one of convenience. Most forces in nature can be broken down into their respective yin and yang states, and the two are usually in movement rather than held in absolute stasis.
Z
  • Zazen: In Zen Buddhism, sitting meditation or zazen (Japanese: literally “seated concentration”) is a meditative discipline practitioners perform to calm the body and the mind and experience insight into the nature of existence. While the term originally referred to a sitting practice, it is now commonly used to refer to practices in any posture, such as walking.
The Taoist book Zhuangzi of the same name as the author is a composite of writings from various sources. The traditional view is that Zhuangzi himself wrote the first seven chapters (the “inner” chapters) and his students and related thinkers were responsible for the other parts (the “outer” and “miscellaneous” chapters). Strong proof of direct authorship by Zhuangzi of any of the text is difficult.
The faith is ostensibly monotheistic, although Zoroastrianism has a dualistic nature, with a series of six entities (similar in function and status to angels) accompanying Ahura Mazda (the Supreme Being), and forming a heptad that is good and constructive, and another group of seven who are evil and destructive, lead by a satanic figure, Ahriman. It is this persistent conflict between good and evil that distinguishes Zoroastrianism from monotheistic frameworks that have only one power as supreme. By requiring its adherents to have faith and belief in equally opposing powers Zoroastrianism characterizes itself to outsiders as dualistic.

Murqaba

Muraqaba: The Art And Science Of Sufi Meditation is an introduction to the healing practice of Muraqaba, Sufi meditation. Presenting a 16-week program that the novice can follow to improve memory and general well-being, and offer a guideline to enlightenment, author Shaykh Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeemi, the Patriarch of the Sufi Order of Azeemia and renowned spiritual scholar, walks the reader through both the techniques and the underlying ideas behind them, with sample exercises each step of the way. A profoundly written and moving guide, as much about God and human’s place in the cosmos as about mental relaxation, Muraqaba is especially recommended to broaden the experience of novice and experienced practitioners of meditation, yet also a welcome addition to religious reference and studies shelves.

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Parapsychology is the study of the evidence of mental awareness or influence of external objects without interaction from known physical means. Most objects of study fall within the realm of “mind-to-mind” influence (such as extra-sensory perception and telepathy), “mind-to-environment” influence (such as psychokinesis) and “environment-to-mind” (such as hauntings).

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I would like to make clear all the visitors of my blog that I am not Rqaqi, Aamil, or Spiritual Healer. Any Raaqi you contact via my blog, know they do not represent this blog or me.

 

In my knowledge these are few dedicated places where you can get your spiritual healing according to Quran and Sunnah. I can recommend these places as in my knowledge they works according to Quran and Sunnah; but I cannot be made responsible either individually or severally for any untoward incidents.

 

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