Muraqabah

The outside of a zāwiyah, a place where sufis would conduct their murāqabah sessions which was usually in a private section of a masjid.

Murāqabah (ar. to observe) refers to meditation in Sufi terminology. Through murāqbah a person watches over their (spiritual) heart and gains insight into the heart’s relation with its creator and its own surroundings. Murqābah is a core concept in commonly found ṭarīqas (ar. sufi orders). The objective of murāqbah is to purge one's base characters and develop lofty character in its place.[1]

Etymology and Meaning

The word murāqabah is derived from the base of rā-qāf-bāʿ[2]. The base has the meaning of guarding and watching over with the expectation of noticing any change, unique qualities or abnormalities of a given thing[3]. The word is also on verb scale three, which gives a connotation of exaggeration, overexertion, and partnership. This then implies that the one who is doing murāqabah is diligent and hardworking with the expectation that someone else is also doing a similar task.

In ancient Arabic, the word murāqabah referred to one who would watch the night sky. They would scan the sky in hopes to see the first signs of early stars to begin their journey. Due to the intense heat and difficult terrain of the Arabian Peninsula, the ability to recognize the constellations and their seasonal divergences was a critical skill. In the classic poem, “the observer of the night is as vigilant as a fish in search of water”.[4]

This etymology can be connected to the modern linguistical and technical meaning of what murāqabah is understood to be today.[5] Murāqabah is seen to be of twin perspectives, both with a connotation of persistence and exertion. According to al-Qushayrī (d.465/1072) and al-Jurjānī (d.816/1413)[6] murāqabah is for one to be aware that their lord is perpetually aware of his subordinates. Not only is the person continuously in a state of mindfulness but they are also cognizant that their lord is aware as well, creating a reciprocal relation.[7]