What is the Islamic view of muraqabah and how should one perform it?

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Last Updated on 19th August 2022

Someone asked Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa about muraqabah and the teachings and methods of the Promised Messiahas regarding it. Huzoor-e-Anwaraa, in his letter dated 13 June 2021, provided the following guidance on this issue: 

Muraqabah generally denotes watchfulness, focusing, and pondering over one’s actions. This is a habit found in animals as well as humans. Hence, the Promised Messiahas says about Hazrat Junaidrh that he used to say, he had learned muraqabah from a cat. (Malfuzat [Urdu], Vol. IV, 2016, p. 147)

“Although Muslim saints and Sufis have especially occupied themselves with the method of muraqabah, it also appears in religions other than Islam, albeit in their particular ways. Hence, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra writes with reference to Encyclopaedia Britannica about the Essene sect of the Jews, who have also been referred to as [a branch of the] Pharisees, that they used to fast, live pure lives and predict future events. They also used to perform muraqabah [i.e. meditation] at the time of worship so that their souls may be connected with the Heavenly Father. (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. IV, p. 384, column no. 2)

“The main purpose of Islamic worship is to create a close relationship between man and God. Hence, the Holy Prophetsa defined ihsan in response to an individual’s question and said:

أَنْ‭ ‬تَعْبُدَ‭ ‬اللّٰهَ‭ ‬كَأَنَّكَ‭ ‬تَرَاهُ،‭ ‬فَإِنْ‭ ‬لَمْ‭ ‬تَكُنْ‭ ‬تَرَاهُ‭ ‬فَإِنَّهُ‭ ‬يَرَاكَ

“‘[Ihsan is] to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you do not achieve this state, then at least that Allah sees you.’ (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Iman, Babu Su’ali Jibrila n-Nabiyysa […])

“These two states of worship are forms of muraqabah. Thus, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, while describing the wisdom behind salat, says:

“‘In fact, salat teaches us that three things, namely cooperation with others, preaching or admonishing and muraqabah, are necessary for the perfection of the human soul. The substitute for muraqabah are the silent prayers [salat], the intensity of which one can increase to suit one’s taste.’ (Daily Al Fazl, Qadian, 5 September 1936, p. 4)

“Explaining the method of muraqabah and its benefits, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra says: 

“‘We have a situation in our country in which people jump from one idea to another, then to another and then to yet another as a monkey jumps about trees. This applies to all aspects of life. There is a lack of determination. For this reason, the most excellent teachings of the Holy Quran and the Hadith are not internalised by them, as they quickly jump from them and move on. (The Holy Prophetsa said muraqabah was the treatment for this. The Sufis have developed some practical methods for its implementation, but who cares about it in this material age!) […] Muslim preachers have also not utilised this treatment i.e. internalising the teachings of the Quran and the Hadith related to these matters, which is also called muraqabah and repeatedly preaching them to the people. Rather, instead of admonishing people that their morals should be reformed, all that is said is ‘Observe the salat and fasting, perform prostrations like this, use cleansing stones [or toilet paper] like that; your act of using the stones cannot be correct unless you perform certain movements with the stone at least seven times etc. etc.’ In short, the emphasis is placed on the outer form or the rituals, and the real lesson behind these commands is completely ignored.’ (Anwar-ul-‘Ulum, Vol. 24, p. 515)

“While advising the members of the Jamaat regarding muraqabah, Huzoorra said:

“‘You should also develop the habit of quietly spending some time every day in the remembrance of Allah [zikr-e-ilahi] and performing muraqabah. By zikr-e-ilahi’ I mean setting aside some time daily in addition to the daily salat etc. even if it is only five minutes in the beginning. [This time should be utilised] to sit quietly in solitude and to do tasbih and tahmid by repeating, for example, SubhanAllahAlhamdulillahAllahuakbar and similarly other attributes of Allah and reflecting over them.

“‘Muraqabah means to sit in solitude for some time daily and take account of one’s own self and to see what mistakes one has committed; whether one can distance oneself from them or not, if one can, why one has not done so, if one cannot, what are the reasons and what can be the solution. Then, moving forward, one can think about the reformation of one’s loved ones and neighbours. Also, what are the effective sources of preaching, what are the obstacles and how can they be removed? The result of this kind of self-analysis should be written down in form of a diary and this process should then be expanded.

“‘If the habit of zikr-e-ilahi and muraqabah is inculcated in this manner, it will certainly grow one’s spirituality, sharpen the intellect and increase one’s ability to ponder over and act upon the instructions and addresses of the Imam-e-Waqt [the Khalifa]. Such a person would gradually become a spiritual doctor and a reformer for the world in a limited way.’ (Anwar-ul-‘Ulum, Vol. 23, pp. 61–62)

“The Promised Messiahas explained the true method of muraqabah and its benefits to his followers and stated:

“‘Be devoted to Allah the Exalted with all your body, mind and spirit. Then God Almighty will automatically become the Protector, Helper and Guardian of all of you. All of man’s faculties — eyes, ears, heart, mind, hands and feet — should be devoted to Allah as one unit. There should be no disagreement between them. Therein lie all the successes and victories. This is the real muraqabah. This is what creates warmth in the heart and spirituality. And perfect faith is attained through this.’ (Malfuzat [Urdu], Vol. V, 2016, p. 320)”

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