What are Tafakkur and Tadabbur or Contemplation?

Man possesses a double personality. Therefore, two types of provision are to be constantly supplied for him to survive. One being physical provision, the other being spiritual provision. The centre of the acquisition of physical provision, according to the Qur’an, is this earth (14:32) and the centre of the acquisition of spiritual provision is the Being of God. That is why this provision is called ‘Lord’s sustenance’ (20:131) or ‘spiritual provision’ is, in actual fact, the result of a contact with the external source of sustenance – that is, God. This goal is achieved entirely through mental action. This mental activity is called tafakkur and tadabbur or contemplation (remembrance of God, thoughts of God) in the Qur’an and this is the basis of receiving spirituality or rabbaniyat in Islam.

Abu Darda was a senior companion of the Prophet. After his death a man came to his wife and asked her what was the most important form of worship performed by Abu Darda. She replied: He would spend the whole day thinking, thinking, and thinking.

Contemplation is the source of Islamic spirituality – contemplative spirituality – which is received through a thinking process rather than the cessation of intellectual activity. In fact, the process of contemplation or tafakkur and tadabbur as mentioned in the Quran, is the beginning of all sorts of spiritual activity.