(Arabic: "reminding oneself," or "mention"), ritual prayer or litany practiced by Muslim mystics (Sufis) for the purpose of glorifying God and achieving spiritual perfection. Based on the Qur'anic injunctions "Remind thyself [udhkur] of thy Lord when thou forgettest" (18:24) and "O ye who believe! Remember [udhkuru] Allah with much remembrance" (33:41), the dhikr is essentially a "remembering" of God by the frequent repetition of his names. Originally a simple recitation of the Qur'an and various religious writings among ascetics and mystics, the dhikr gradually became a formula (e.g., la ilaha illa 'llah, "there is no god but God"; Allahu akbar, "God is greatest"; al-hamdu li'llah, "praise be to God"; astaghfiru 'llah, "I ask God's forgiveness"), repeated aloud or softly, accompanied by prescribed posture and breathing. As the Sufi brotherhoods (tariqahs) were established, each adopted a particular dhikr, to be recited in solitude (e.g., following each of the five obligatory daily prayers) or as a community. The dhikr, like fikr (meditation), is a method the Sufi may use in his striving to achieve oneness with God.
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