أَلَا بِذِكرِ اللَّهِ تَطمَئِنُّ القُلوبُ
“Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest!” [Surah al-Ra’d 13:28]
One of the beauties of the Arabic language and the Qur’anic usage is that one word or phrase can convey multiple valid meanings, some more subtle and that require more pondering on the meanings of the Qur’an. One example of this is the phrase, “the remembrance of Allah” in the verse above.
The word “remembrance” is a verbal noun (a noun that corresponds to a verb, such as “reading”, “writing”, “eating”), and it is in what is called a possessive construct (iḍāfa) in Arabic, which looks like, “X of Y”, such as “the book of the student”. When verbal nouns are used in this construct, they can either be attached to the subject (the doer) or the object of the verbal noun.
An example of the first is “The creation of Allah”, the word “creation” here is attached to the subject/doer – Allah is the one that creates.
An example of the second is “the reading of the book”. Here, since the book is an inanimate object, and a book can’t read, it must be the object – the book is the thing being read.
When this understanding is applied to the verse above, it can be understood in two ways:
The first is the common understanding that when someone does dhikr and sincerely remembers Allah, their hearts find rest and tranquillity. In this, the object of the remembrance is Allah, and through remembering Him, your heart finds rest.
However, this verse could also be read with Allah as the subject (the doer). The meaning understood from this is that it is Allah’s remembrance of you that gives your heart rest and tranquillity.
This meaning is attested to in a Ḥadīth Qudsī where the Prophet ﷺ said that Allah said:
“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 a gathering, I mention him in a gathering better than his (i.e. the angels).” [Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī]
Imām al-Qushayrī said regarding this verse:
“For one group of people, their hearts find rest by their remembrance of Allah. In remembrance, they find tranquillity and reach their purification. As for the second group, their hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, and Allah remembers them with His subtle grace, and tranquillity is established in their hearts, specifically for them. It is said that when they remember that Allah remembers them, their hearts are rested, their souls rejoice.”
Yusuf Chaudhary (Year 5)
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