Categories and Guidelines of Dhikr
Verbal dhikr is classified into two categories: the reported dhikr, which is found in the Qur’an and sunnah, and the dhikr which the Muslim initiates from his own and is not found in the Quran and sunnah.
The reported dhikr is further divided into two categories: restricted by time, location, and/or number; or general, unrestricted. An example of the restricted is the morning and evening adhkar, which must be read at their appropriate times. An example of unrestricted is istighfar, which you can seek at any time.
As for the guidelines for the reported adhkar, they must be established by correct evidence, which means – as said above – that it must be found in the Quran and sunnah. Second, what the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam has told us in regards to it. So if he has restricted the dhikr for a certain time, then it should be kept that way. Third, you should know that the adkhar that the shariah wants you to say exactly the way it is, you can’t change it (like the adkhar of the salah, the entire Quran; the adhan, the tashahhud, the talbiyah).
The first thing you need to know in regards to this is that the religion is perfect and complete. The shariah has covered all the needs of humans. Second, if you want to make dhikr from your own, we ask a question – who knows Allah better, you or Allah himself? Allah of course. So realize that you are saying something less than what came in the Quran and sunnah. So you are leaving the better way of dhikr to something less. Third, the Prophet said, “Ya Allah, I can’t praise you as you have praised yourself.” So he admitted that he can’t make dhikr from his own to praise Allah other than what Allah has said about himself. So when you say you are going to make your own dhikr, you are entering a very dangerous zone. Yes, it is permissible, but you are entering a zone about which the Prophet said that he can’t praise as he has praised Himself.
Now, the guidelines are that first of all, it should be directed towards Allah only. Second, you shouldn’t restrict them to any time or location if they haven’t been restricted by the sunnah. Three, this dhikr should indicate a good meaning. Four, you can’t make up any names for Allah. Five, it can’t contain any weird language. Also, you have to make sure that the meaning is not only perfect but general and doesn’t contain any negative connotation. Also remember that there is something called transgression in dua.
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