The basic meaning of the term dhikr can be brought out by answering three questions – what, why, and how.
What is to be remembered?
Why should it be remembered?
How can it be remembered?
The object of remembrance is God, whose reality is designated briefly by the first Shahadah, “There is no god but God,” and in more detail by the whole range of names and attributes mentioned in the Koran.
This object should be remembered because He has commanded human beings to remember Him and because ultimate happiness depends upon remembrance.
The object can be remembered by imitating the Prophet, who provides the model for right activity and right remembrance.
The Prophet calls dhikr the best act of worship.
Every word a person utters in this life will be counted against him or her in the next life, except bidding to honor (amr bi’l-ma’ruf), forbidding dishonor (nahy an al-munkar), and remembering God.
When someone complained about Islam’s many commands and prohibitions and asked for a single practice to which he could cling, the Prophet replied,
“Let your tongue stay moist with the remembrance of God.”
He reported that God says,
“I am with My servant when he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I remember him in Myself, and if he remembers Me in an assembly, I remember him in an assembly better than his.”