Dhikr: Remembrance

“Dhikr: Remembering the Divine”

by Rosemary Corbett

Chapter Summary

This chapter paints a rich picture of various Sufi Muslim groups who perform dhikr, or prayers of praise and remembrance, often by incorporating chanting, music, and/or dancing into their religious ceremonies. Introducing us to Sufism in New York, Rosemary Corbett takes us to three locations: Spring Valley, which is located upstate, the financial district of Manhattan; and the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Even though each of the groups she studies is associated with the same Sufi organization, the Halveti Jerrahi Sufi order, Corbett’s vivid descriptions of the rituals performed at each site reveal the fantastic variety of Muslims who ecstatically sing praises to God and the Prophet Muhammad. As they do so, some of these groups whirl their bodies around and around while others other times quietly and sedately chant litanies to aid the mind and body in achieving a peaceful, more meditative state of mind.

Discussion Questions

  • Describe the different kinds of dhikr that Muslim Americans perform in the three groups that Rosemary Corbett explores. Be specific and be sure to include examples in illustrating your answers.
  • Discuss the different histories of these three groups.
  • Why do Muslims who perform dhikr consider it to be so important? How is it meaningful to them?

Group Exercises

Rosemary R. Corbett (Ph.D., Columbia) is faculty fellow at the Bard Prison Initiative. She is author of numerous articles on Islam and the United States. Her first book is Making Moderate Islam: Sufism, Service, and the “Ground Zero Mosque” Controversy.