Sakinah or Shekhinah in Islam

In Arabic, the word Sakinah means peace or tranquility. Allah uses this word in the Qur’aan

Allah says in Surah Al-Fath (48:4):

هو الذي أنزل السكينة في قلوب المؤمنين ليزدادوا إيمانا مع إيمانه

These ayahs were revealed after the disbelievers prevented the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam from making ‘Umrah in Makkah. Here, Allah uses the word fee, which means “in” or “into”. “He it is Who sent down As-Sakinah (calmness and tranquillity) into the hearts of the believers, that they may grow more in Faith along with their (present) Faith…”

Allah says in Surah At-Tawbah (9:26):

ثم أنزل الله سكينته على رسوله و على المؤمنين

These ayahs were revealed about a battle (the battle of Hunayn). Here, Allah uses the word ‘ala, which means “on”. “Then Allah did send down His Sakinah (calmness, tranquillity and reassurance, etc.) on the Messenger (Muhammad SAW), and on the believers…”

In the first instance, the believers must have been frustrated and angry because they were prevented from making ‘Umrah. Thus, Allah sent sakinah into their hearts. The peace had to come from within in this emotional state.

In the second instance, there was fear from the outside. They needed protection and security in a physical sense. In times of fear, we need sakeenah on us. Hence, Allah says that He sent sakinah onto the believers.

Depending on the situation, Allah uses these different words. Even though the difference in the wording is just a preposition, there is such depth to the meaning. SubhaanAllah.

 

Narrated Al-Bara: The Prophet was carrying earth on the day of Al-Khandaq till his abdomen was fully covered with dust, and he was saying, “By Allah, without Allah we would not have been guided, neither would we have given in charity, nor would we have prayed. So (O Allah), please send sakina (i.e. calmness) upon us, and make our feet firm if we meet the enemy as the enemy have rebelled against us, and if they intended affliction, (i.e. want to frighten us and fight against us then we would not flee but withstand them).” The Prophet used to raise his voice saying, “Abaina! Abaina! (i.e. would not, we would not).”   Bukhari (Book #59, Hadith#430)

 

 

Then Allah did send down His sakinah (calmness, tranquillity and reassurance) on the Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم), and on the believers, and sent down forces (angels) which you saw not, and punished the disbelievers. Such is the recompense of disbelievers.

(  سورة التوبة  , At-Taubah, Chapter #9, Verse #26)

 

 

If you help him (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) not (it does not matter), for Allah did indeed help him when the disbelievers drove him out, the second of the two; when they (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم and Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه) were in the cave, he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said to his companion (Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه): “Be not sad (or afraid), surely Allah is with us.” Then Allah sent down His sakinah (calmness, tranquillity, peace) upon him, and strengthened him with forces (angels) which you saw not, and made the word of those who disbelieved the lowermost, while the Word of Allah that became the uppermost; and Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.

(  سورة التوبة  , At-Taubah, Chapter #9, Verse #40)

 

 

He it is Who sent down As-sakinah (calmness and tranquillity) into the hearts of the believers, that they may grow more in Faith along with their (present) Faith. And to Allah belong the hosts of the heavens and the earth, and Allah is Ever All-Knower, All-Wise.

(  سورة الفتح  , Al-Fath, Chapter #48, Verse #4)

 

 

Indeed, Allah was pleased with the believers when they gave the Bai’ah (pledge) to you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) under the tree: He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down As-sakinah (calmness and tranquillity) upon them, and He rewarded them with a near victory.

(  سورة الفتح  , Al-Fath, Chapter #48, Verse #18)

 

 

When those who disbelieve had put in their hearts pride and haughtiness – the pride and haughtiness of the time of ignorance, – then Allah sent down His sakinah (calmness and tranquillity) upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and upon the believers, and made them stick to the word of piety (i.e. none has the right to be worshipped but Allah); and they were well entitled to it and worthy of it. And Allah is the All-Knower of everything.

(  سورة الفتح  , Al-Fath, Chapter #48, Verse #26)

 

Muslim reported:

 

A man was reading Surat al-Kahf and had beside him a horse tied with a long

supple rope. Suddenly, he noticed a cloud approaching him and circling over him,

getting closer and closer. The horse started moving constantly away from the

cloud.

In the morning, the man came to the Noble Prophet and told him what happened.

The Prophet responded: “Keep on reading; this was Sakina (Tranquillity)

descending because of the Qur’an.”

 

 

Bukhari, Muslim and Ahmad reported:

 

Usaid bin Khudayr related :

 

“Once, in the depth of the night, I sat reciting the Qur’an in an open barn I

own, used to dry the dates. My horse was beside me and my young son Yahya slept

in a corner. Suddenly, the horse started moving around and circling constantly

so that I feared it would step on my sleeping son. I also noticed that there

was a shadow over my head; when I looked up, I saw that the shadow resembled a

group of lit lamps that were rising in the atmosphere so that I could barely

discern them.

On the next morning, I visited the Messenger of Allah (saws) and told him of

the incident. He said to me: “Recite, ibn Khudayr.”. I did. My horse started

circling again. The Prophet said again:” Recite, Ibn Khudayr.” I did. The horse

started circling again and I feared it would step on Yahya, so I stopped. The

shadow was there again rising in the atmosphere, so that I could not see the

lamps clearly.

The Messenger of Allah said to me then:” Those were the Angels listening to

you; if you had continued reading, they would have become discernable to the

people, no longer hiding themselves from them.”

 

From the book “Al-Tidhkar fi afdal al-Adhkar” of Imam Qurtubi. (died 627 H).

 

 

Qur’an Chapter 2, verse 248 says: “And their messenger said to them: Verily! The sign of his kingdom is that there shall come to you At-Tabut (the Ark of The Covenant), wherein is Sakinah from your Lord and a remnant of that which Moses and Aaron left behind, carried by the angels. Verily, in this is a sign for you if you are indeed believers.” It is often described as “reassuring feeling of being in the presence (or under the protection) of God.”

 

In our troubled times I pray that May Allah’s Sakinah descend on us all. Ameen

 

note: Shekhinah is derived from the Hebrew verb שכן. In Biblical Hebrew the word means literally to settle, inhabit, or dwell, and is used frequently in the Hebrew Bible. (See Exodus 40:35, “Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, for the cloud rested [shakhan] upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.” See also e.g. Genesis 9:27, 14:13, Psalms 37:3, Jeremiah 33:16), as well as the weekly Shabbat blessing recited in the Temple in Jerusalem (“May He who causes His name to dwell [shochan] in this House, cause to dwell among you love and brotherliness, peace and friendship”). In Mishnaic Hebrew the noun is often used to refer to birds’ nesting and nests. (“Every bird nests [shechinot] with its kind, and man with its like, Talmud Baba Kammah 92b.) and can also mean “neighbor” (“If a neighbor and a scholar, the scholar is preferred” Talmud Ketubot 85b).

Meaning in Judaism

The Shekhinah is held by some to represent the feminine attributes of the presence of God (shekhinah being a feminine word in Hebrew), based especially on readings of the Talmud

The Talmud reports that the Shekhinah is what caused prophets to prophesy and King David to compose his Psalms. The Shekhinah manifests itself as a form of joy, connected with prophecy and creativity: Talmud Pesachim 117a) The Talmud also reports that “The Shekhinah does not rest amidst laziness, nor amidst laughter, nor amidst lightheadedness, nor amidst idle conversation. Rather, it is amidst the joy associated with a mitzvah that the Shekhinah comes to rest upon people, as it is said: ‘And now, bring me for a musician, and it happened that when the music played, God’s hand rested upon him’ [Elisha] [2 Kings 3:15]” (Pesachim 117a).

 

The Shekhinah in Christianity

In addition to the various accounts indicating the presence or glory of God recorded in the Hebrew Bible, many Christians also consider the Shekhinah to be manifest in numerous instances in the New Testament.

The public domain Easton’s Bible Dictionary, published in 1897, says,

Shechinah – a Chaldee word meaning resting-place, not found in Scripture, but used by the later Jews to designate the visible symbol of God’s presence in the Tabernacle, and afterwards in Solomon’s temple. When the Lord led Israel out of Egypt, he went before them “in a pillar of a cloud.” This was the symbol of his presence with his people. God also spoke to Moses through the ‘shekhinah’ out of a burning bush. For references made to it during the wilderness wanderings, see Exodus 14:20; 40:34-38; Leviticus 9:23, 24; Numbers 14:10; 16:19, 42. It is probable that after the entrance into Canaan this glory-cloud settled in the tabernacle upon the ark of the covenant in the most holy place. We have, however, no special reference to it till the consecration of the temple by Solomon, when it filled the whole house with its glory, so that the priests could not stand to minister (1 Kings 8:10-13; 2 Chr. 5:13, 14; 7:1-3). Probably it remained in the first temple in the holy of holies as the symbol of Jehovah’s presence so long as that temple stood. It afterwards disappeared.

References to the Shekhinah in Christianity often see the presence and the glory of the Lord as being synonymous,

as illustrated in the following verse from Exodus;

And Moses went up into the mount, and the cloud covered the mount. And the glory of Jehovah abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. And the appearance of the glory of Jehovah was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. (Exodus 24:15-17 A

 

Where references are made to the Shekhinah as manifestations of the glory of the Lord associated with his presence, Christians find numerous occurrences in the New Testament in both literal (as in Luke 2:9 which refers to the “glory of the Lord” shining on the shepherds at Jesus’ birth)[6] as well as spiritual forms (as in John 17:22, where Jesus speaks to God of giving the “glory” that God gave to him to the people).[7] A contrast can be found in Ichabod, so named as a result of the Ark of the Covenant being captured by the Philistines: “The glory is departed from Israel” (1 Samuel 4:22 KJV).

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. (Exodus 13:21)