بسم الله الرحمـن الرحيم
والصلاة والسلام على من لا نبى بعده
The term Sakina has been employed in the Holy Qur’an six times. In the Arabic language, Sakina means peace and tranquility (Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage, p. 445). It is derived from the Semitic root S-K-N which connotes quiet, stillness, tranquility, calmness, inhabitation, settling and dwelling. The well-known Hebrew equivalent is Shekhina. Apart from the plain linguistic meaning, the term Sakina has a religious significance in Islam, as it does in Judaism, where Shekhina is interpreted to mean the settling or dwelling of the divine presence of God.
In the Holy Qur’an, Sakina is often described as something that comes down from Allah Most High, descending upon the hearts of the Believers, resulting in the increase of their Iman or faith (Sura 48: 4).
Sakina is not merely the prevailing of a feeling of tranquility in one’s heart, but a spirit in its own right which Allah causes to come down, which at times is clearly visible:
Narrated Baraa b. Aazib: A man recited Surat al-Kahf and in the house there was an animal which got frightened. The man finished his prayer with Taslim but behold! A mist or a cloud overtook him. He mentioned it to the Prophet (peace be upon him) who said:
اقْرَأْ فُلاَنُ، فَإِنَّهَا السَّكِينَةُ نَزَلَتْ لِلْقُرْآنِ
“Read, O so-and-so, for this (mist or cloud) was Sakina which came down at the recitation of the Qur’an.”
(Bukhari & Muslim)
In another fascinating Hadith narrated by Usaid b. Hudair, he states that he was one night reciting Surat al-Baqara when his horse became frightened and began to jump. Usaid b. Hudair narrates that he saw something like a canopy or shade over his head with something like lamps in it, rising up until it was no longer visible. The Prophet (peace be upon him) upon hearing this stated:
تِلْكَ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ كَانَتْ تَسْتَمِعُ لَكَ وَلَوْ قَرَأْتَ لأَصْبَحَتْ يَرَاهَا النَّاسُ مَا تَسْتَتِرُ مِنْهُمْ
“Those were the Angels who listened to you; and if you had continued reciting, the people would have seen them in the morning and they would not have concealed themselves from them” (Sahih Muslim)
Both of these Hadith describe something similar, while the former talks about the descent of Sakina, and the latter the appearance of Angels. And they may be reconciled to mean that Sakina descends along with the Angels. Had Usaid b. Hudair continued to recite intensely the Holy Qur’an, the Angels would have been visible to the people, and they would not have concealed themselves to them (as they usually do).
This relation between the Angels bringing down something called “Sakina” as an illuminated cloud or mist with the recitation of the Holy Words of Allah should be understood in light of the following Verse of the Holy Qur’an:
وَقَالَ لَهُمْ نَبِيُّهُمْ إِنَّ آيَةَ مُلْكِهِ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمُ التَّابُوتُ فِيهِ سَكِينَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَبَقِيَّةٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ آلُ مُوسَىٰ وَآلُ هَارُونَ تَحْمِلُهُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
And their Prophet (Samuel) said to them: Verily! The sign of his kingdom is that there shall come to you the Tabut (Ark), wherein is Sakina from your Lord and a remnant of what the family of Moses and the family of Aaron left behind, carried by the Angels. Verily, in this is a sign for you if you are indeed Believers.
(Sura 2: 248)
The great Imam of the Salaf, Wahb b. Munabbih, stated regarding the Sakina:
روح من الله يتكلـم إذا اختلفوا فـي شيء تكلـم، فأخبرهم ببـيان ما يريدون
“A Spirit from Allah which spoke when they disagreed about something. So it informed them with the explanation of that which they wanted (to know)”
(Tafsir Abdur Razzaq as-San’ani, v. 1 p. 360)
Now it becomes clear that due to the Holiness of the Words of Allah, and due to the Holiness of the contents of the Tabut (Ark of the Covenant), the recitation of the Holy Qur’an has the potential to bring about the descent of Sakina.
Sakina is in fact a Spirit from Allah which descends, sometimes visibly, into the heart of the Believer, illuminating him and increasing him in Faith. For the Children of Israel, the Sakina or Shekhina, dwelling in the Ark of the Covenant, would be consulted with and answer any problems faced by the Children of Israel for which they disagreed over, or for which there was no apparent instruction from the Torah. Likewise, for this Umma, the Believer in whose heart Sakina descends upon and dwells in helps him to understand any disputed matter or difficult problem, and should be considered a form of Ilham or divine inspiration.