What deed is better than giving gold and silver? According to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), it is dhikr, which means remembrance of Allah. Dhikr is a form of worship that in importance comes only after the ritual Prayer (salah) and reading Qur'an. While salah has to be performed at certain times and under certain conditions of purity, dhikr can be made any time, in any place. It can be done by repeating certain formulas to extol and praise Allah, or it can be just thoughts of Allah in one's heart and mind.
Students are greatly blessed in that they have many excellent opportunities every day to perform dhikr. In school all day long students are being given knowledge by their teachers. I am specifically referring to academic courses such as math, physics, social studies, history, languages, and all others rather than religious courses; although this can apply in religious courses also.
Consider what happens now in those academic courses. The teacher tells the students many true facts every day, or the students read new facts from books, and the students remember some number of those facts; but, seldom is Allah mentioned, and I would guess that seldom is Allah remembered. This is not the way it should be. Allah should be remembered always.
I would like to suggest a program of dhikr that would take very little time, be of great spiritual benefit to students, help ensure a close personal relationship with Allah, and probably even help students learn the academic subjects better. If this dhikr would do all that how could any Muslim student not want to at least try this method.
To understand the purpose of this dhikr you must first know that Allah has given us two important sources of revelation, the Qur'an and His Physical Creation. We are told we must 'read' each of these two sources in a balance if we are to correctly understand the right way of life, Islam, which Allah has given us.
There are many ways to learn the knowledge of Allah's Physical Creation. For students one of the best sources of knowledge of Allah's Physical Creation is the knowledge being taught in the various academic courses at school. All true knowledge is Islamic knowledge. For example, even the simple fact that 2+2=4 is Islamic knowledge. Allah has made His Physical Creation such that for us to succeed and progress in the world He has created for us it is necessary to know such simple truths.
So, how does this relate to dhikr? Every time you hear some new fact about Allah's Physical Creation this provides an ideal opportunity to remember Allah. You could use being given each new bit of information as a cue to remember Allah. Of course it will be very hard in the beginning to always remember Allah, so at first you should try to use hearing new bits of information as cues to remember Allah as often as possible.
Be sure not to get too upset with yourself if you sometimes forget to remember Allah each time you are given some new bit of information, but always try to tell yourself in your mind what a wonderful thing you have done when you do remember Allah. If you do this you will find yourself remembering Allah more and more often, and you will feel happier and happier that you are remembering Allah.
What kind of things should we say in our thoughts when we remember Allah in this kind of dhikr? In the example above about 2+2=4, you could say such things as, "Thank you Allah for letting me know that 2+2=4" or "Oh Allah, it is wonderful how you have made numbers and math so we can count and measure". You could say these things or even better you can make up other things on your own to say to tell Allah how much you appreciate Him and His Creation.
If you were in a physics class and it was explained to you how levers work you might remember Allah by saying such things as, "Oh Allah, I am so thankful that you make hard work easier for us by giving us levers", or "Wow, levers are so cool, thank you Allah for this knowledge."
If you were studying a foreign language and you are learning new words in that language you might say, "It is wonderful, Allah, how You have allowed people so many different ways to say the same thing", or "I love all the different people and languages that You have placed on the Earth, Allah".
As you can easily see there are a huge number of things you will be taught in your classes that can serve as cues for you to remember Allah, each of these is dhikr; and, the kinds of things you could say in remembrance of Allah in these situations are virtually unlimited. In the things you say in remembrance of Allah it is usually best to give thanks, to show caring, to feel excited, and to be specific about how the knowledge you have learned is connected to Allah's Plan for all His Creation.
The reasons for doing this kind of dhikr are many and they are very important. In today's world we so often take the knowledge we are taught in school for granted. We usually don't consider the knowledge we learn in academic subjects to be part of our spiritual obligation to Allah. We often consider this objective knowledge of Allah's Physical Creation that we learn in academic courses to be separate from the knowledge of Allah we learn in religious courses. In truth, there is no separation between these two kinds of knowledge.
For us to truly understand the Islam which Allah gave us as the right way of life, we must come to see that everything is from Allah, there is nothing in life but that which Allah has Created. We must come to love the knowledge we are given in academic courses as much as we love the knowledge we get from our religious courses; both sources of knowledge bring us closer to Allah.
When we live our lives in today's busy world it is very easy to forget that everything we do is part of our relationship with Allah. Constant remembrance of Allah is the ideal, but few of us ever achieve that high spiritual level. This dhikr for students provides a simple, easy way to increase your remembrance of Allah, and therefore to improve your relationship with Allah.
When knowledge is offered in academic courses it is easy to ignore the knowledge or forget it, since many times we are given this knowledge without being told how this knowledge will be valuable to us throughout our lives. If knowledge is not linked with something very important we often don't care very much about it; what could be more important than acknowledging the link of all true knowledge to Allah?
By discussing in our minds the knowledge we have just learned when we do this form of dhikr we are also giving special attention to that knowledge so that it is more likely we will remember it in the future. Any new knowledge you think about after you first learn it will be more firmly fixed in memory. Also as we come to see the connections between knowledge from the different academic areas we will better understand how knowing the truths of Allah's Physical Creation can aid us to become better Muslims in every way.
Another important benefit from this student dhikr, which has so many valuable benefits, is that students remembering Allah in this way will come to view their teachers in a different, more positive manner. Unfortunately, in schools today students sometimes see teachers as adults who are trying to force useless knowledge down their throats. When teachers are instead seen as well meaning, caring adults who are trying to help students better understand the Islam which Allah gave us as the right way of life, and who are attempting to give us knowledge that will result in a closer personal relationship with Allah, students will almost certainly develop a greater love and respect for their teachers.
When students and teachers love and respect each other everything improves in the classroom environment. Everyone is happier, everyone works harder, everyone works more efficiently, and everyone learns more. Allah has made it very clear through revelation how much he values education and the gaining of knowledge. To gain knowledge is one of our primary responsibilities as Muslims. How then could we rightly do anything but learn as much as possible of the knowledge so generously offered during our student years?
Isn't it wonderful that as we fulfill our responsibility to gain knowledge of Allah's Physical Creation during our years in school that we can at the same time perform dhikr so that we increase our ability to benefit from that knowledge and become ever closer in our personal relationship with Allah?
Remembrance of Allah through our student years can be the means for us to grow into Muslims of excellent character, who can make right the many wrongs in today's world, who can eventually live in a fully and truly Islamic world, and who on Judgment Day will have a very good chance of being granted entry into Paradise. All Praise to Allah!