Q: I recently sat in the majlis of an overseas Sheikh (not in our silsilah) who mentioned that silent zikr is better than loud zikr. His explantion was very good. My Sheikh has taught me to make loud zikr. I am now confused and my mind is uneasy. Please advise.
A: In order to enjoy the benefit of any game or sport one needs to know the rules or one will fall foul of the rules and spoil his game.
So too, in the line of Tassawuf, one needs to learn the rules. Sadly, many people today take bay'at without studying the rules. We recommened that books such as "99 Golden Advices for All Saalikeen" and "Polisher of the Hearts" be read by mureeds. These are simple books to understand.
One rule to be observed is Tauhid-e-Matlab. One should feel that his Sheikh is the best person in the world for his reformation. As far as Islahi majaalis are concerned he should sit only in the talks of his Sheikh and his Sheikh's khulufa or in the talks of those closely linked to his Sheikh and who are in the same silsilah.
This would help prevent the confusion and uneasiness you are experiencing.
Now, as far as loud and silent dhikr is concerned both are acceptable in the Shariah. As to which is better, we now quote a few Ahadith and explanations from Faza'il Zikr by Hazrat Sheikh Zakariyya (Rahmatullahi alayh).
Under Hadith 2 which advices one to keep the tongue moist with zikr of Allah, Hazrat Sheikh Zakariyya (Rahmatullahi alayh) writes:
I have observed many times that when some of my religious elders do Zikr aloud, the flavor of the sweetness enjoyed by them is so transmitted to the listeners that their mouths also feel the sweetness and they share the ecstasy likewise.
Under Hadith 15, it is written:
Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) is reported to have said; "Practise zikr so excessively that people may regard you as a maniac." It is stated in another hadith "Practise zikr so much that the hypocrite may regard you as insincere."
It is clear from this hadith that the taunts of madness and hypocrisy by the munaafiqs and by the foolish people should not make one give up the spiritual wealth of zikr. On the contrary. it should be done with such rapture and abundance that those people may take you to be actually mad and let you alone. They will consider you mad. only if you practise zikr excessively and loudly, and not if you do it quietly.
Also mentioned under Hadith 15 is the story of Hadhrat Abdullah Zul Bajadeen (Radhiyallaho anho) who was always found before the house of Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) and used to practise zikr very loudly.
Hadhrat Umar (Radhiyallaho anho) remarked, "Is this man a hypocrite that he does zikr so loudly? "No" said Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam), "He is from amongst the Awwaabeen," i.e. those whoever turn to Almighty Allah. He died in the battle of Tabook. The Sahabah saw a lamp burning in the graveyard. On approaching it, they found Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) standing in the grave and asking Hadhrat Abubakr and Hadhrat Umar (Radhiyallaho anhuma) to make over their brother to him. The two made over the dead body to him for burial. After the burial, the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) prayed, "0 Allah! I am pleased with him, Thou be also pleased with him."
On seeing this scene, Hadhrat Ibn Masood (Radhiyallaho anho) wished that it should have been his corpse.
Further Hazrat Sheikh Zakariyya (Rahmatullahi alayh) says that some people regard zikr in loud voice as an innovation t and forbidden in religion, but this view is due to
lack of in-sight into the knowledge of hadith. Maulana Abdul Hay, (Rahmatullah alaih) has written a booklet 'Sabahatul Fikr' on this very subject wherein he has quoted about fifty ahaadith in support of zikr in loud voice. However it is subject to proper limitations, so as not to annoy anybody else.
Please also search the KMSZ website for more information about making Zikr loudly.
Under Hadith 17 it is mentioned, Hadhrat Aa'ishah (Radhiyallaho anha) reported that Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) had said silent zikr, which is not heard even by the angels, is rewarded seventy times over. When, on the Day of Resurrection, Allah will summon all the creation for reckoning, and the recording angels will bring the recorded accounts of all the people, Allah will ask them toverify if there is any more good deed to the credit of a certain individual. They will submit that they had not omitted anything from his recorded account. Allah will then say, there is yet one good to his credit, which is not known to the angels, and it is his zikr in silence. Baihaqi (Rahmatullah alaih) has quoted on the authority of Hadhrat Aa'ishah (Radhiyallaho anha) that the zikr that is not heard even by the angels is seventy times superior to the zikr that is heard by them.
Further is mentioned under Hadith 17 that Hadhrat Sa'od (Radhiyallaho anho) quoted Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) to have said, "The best zikr is the silent one, and the best livelihood is that which just suffices", (I.e. it should neither be too insufficient to make both ends meet, nor too abundant as to drive one to vanity and vice). In another hadith, Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) is reported to have said, "Remember Allah through perfect zikr". When somebody enquired; "What is perfect zikr." He replied, "Silent zikr."
All the above quoted narrations establish the excellence of zikr in silence. We have also read the hadith that favours loud zikr, as of a mad man. Either form of zikr is important under different sets of conditions. "It is for the Shaikh (religious guide) of a person to prescribe the best form of zikr for him at a particular time." (Hazrat Sheikh Rahmatullah alayh)