Duʿa’ – Indeed what a thing of beauty it is. Be it a time of happiness, sadness or a cry for help, a slave can turn directly to his Lord without any intermediary, appointments, extravagant offerings or any kind of payments between them. Allah tells us in the Quran:
And when My servants ask you, (O Muhammad), concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me (by obedience) and believe in Me that they may be (rightly) guided. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:186]
And your Lord said: “Invoke Me (i.e. believe in My Oneness –Islamic Monotheism– and ask Me for anything); I will respond to your (invocation). [Sûrat Ghâfir, 40:60]
We make duʿa’ to Allah for all our needs, wants and desires. Sometimes we see that we are granted what we asked for and sometimes not. This is a point where many of us fail to understand just how merciful Allah is, and we may become dejected and depressed that Allah is not answering our supplication. Rather, we see that Allah –out of His immense mercy and love for his believing slave– may do any of the following:
- Answer the duʿa’ as hoped for
- Postpone the answer to replace it with something better at another time
- Save the person from an impeding calamity
- Save the duʿa’ to help and alleviate His slave on the Day of Judgement
Abû Saʿîd narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said:
There is no Muslim who offers a duʿa’ –in which there is no sin or severing of family ties– but that Allah will give him one of three things in return: either He will answer his duʿa’ shortly, or he will store it up for him in the Hereafter, or He will divert an equivalent evil away from him because of it. The Companions said: “We will say a lot of duʿa’.” He said: “Allah is more generous.” (Aḥmad)
With that being said, we can rest our troubled hearts knowing that our Rabb is Ever Listening to all our pleas and knows what’s best for us, even though we may not perceive it.
Salman Al-Farsi narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said,
Indeed, Allah is Shy and Beneficent. He is Shy when His servant raises his hands to Him (in a duʿa’) to return them empty, disappointed! (Abû Dâwûd)
Now comes our part. Everyone wants to make duʿa’ and get it answered immediately, but do we have even an inkling of who we are speaking to? When we raise our hands in supplication, we raise it in the court of the Most High, The Creator of All that Exists, Lord of the Worlds, The King of Kings. Titles will fall short, but the majesty of Allah will ever increase.
Many a time for us, duʿa’ becomes a monotonous routine. We just say it without really putting our heart into it and it becomes exercise for the tongue. It’s as if we are speaking to a shop keeper. O Allah – Give me this – Give me that. Finish. This is not at all how we are going to get our duʿas answered. Rather I’d say this is insulting to the majesty of Allah, and it is His mercy that we are not punished for such.
A point to ponder upon is how it is if we visit an important dignitary. Let’s take the example of the royal monarchs. Anyone who meets them and engages with them in conversation has to follow a certain protocol of speaking and conduct. They need to be addressed in a certain manner that is befitting of their position and tradition. Bringing this back to duʿa’. A slave, no greater than a speck of dust by comparison, is calling upon the King of Kings. Does it not make sense that there should be a level of adab while calling upon Allah? Our beloved Prophet ﷺ taught us from his Sunnah, various methods and the adab of calling upon Allah in the best of manners. The following pointers should help us in getting our duʿas answered.
Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim said,
Duʿas and taʿawudhât (prayers seeking refuge with Allah) are like a weapon, and a weapon is only as good as the person who is using it; it is not merely the matter of how sharp it is. If the weapon is perfect and free of faults, and the arm of the person using it is strong, and there is nothing stopping him, then he can lay waste the enemy. But if any of these three features is lacking, then the effect will be lacking accordingly. (Al-Dâ’ w’l-Dawâ’).
I take this statement to lay the foundation of making duʿa’. This involves two things. One being our way of supplicating to Allah, which is the sword, and secondly, the arm wielding the sword, which is us. If the very hands raised up to Allah are the ones busy in sin, then the arm is weakened by sin and cannot even bear to hold this sword of duʿa’.
We need to continuously try and work on ourselves so that our duʿas are answered. Of course this doesn’t mean that we cannot make duʿa’ unless we are all good and pious. That’s completely missing the point because we may never even reach that stage and even if we want to reach there, we need to make duʿa’. Here it’s all about making an effort for the better that would please Allah by leaving a life of sinning and following the good that Allah commands us with.
Abû Dharr used to say,
The amount of duʿa’ with righteousness that is sufficient is like the amount of salt that is sufficient with food.
Opening the Duʿa’
Now that we have addressed the arm wielding the sword, it’s time we focus on the sword itself. This is a stage that we MUST by any and all means instill into our duʿas. First off, we start the duʿa’ with glorifying and praising Allah, the one whom we make duʿa’ to. When we want something from someone we praise them and ‘butter them up,’ so to speak, to get into their good graces. Yet, Allah is far more deserving of praise than anyone else. We admit to Allah how helpless we are without His help, we praise Him for guiding us. We can praise Allah as we like, depending on our situation and what we are going to ask of Him.
The Prophet ﷺ said,
When one of you prays, then let him begin with praising Allah and glorifying Him, then let him pray upon the Prophet ﷺ. After that, he may make any duʿa’ that he wishes. (Abû Dâwûd)
Use the Names and Attributes of Allah
Allah tells us in the Quran,
And to Allah belongs the beautiful names, so invoke Him by them. [Surat Al-Aʿrâf, 7:180]
We can use the names of Allah while opening our duʿa’. It is very important that we learn the names of Allah for not only will it help us in our duʿas but it will increase in us love, servitude and a sense of comfort knowing just how great Allah is and how insignificant our problems are in comparison.
We should use the names of Allah based on what we are asking in our duʿas. If we ask Allah for an increase in our rizq then it would be good that we call unto Him by saying “Ya Razzaq.” If we ask Allah for forgiveness and mercy then we can call upon Him using “Ya Rahmân” – “Ya Raḥîm” – “Ya Ghafûr” – “Ya Ghaffâr” and many more. Just knowing the names of Allah and employing them in our duʿas brings a sense of closeness and relief to the heart that no words can explain. Our teachers say that some of the most powerful names of Allah are Al–Ḥayy and Al-Qayyûm.
Sending Salawat upon the Prophet
This is then followed by sending ṣalawât upon our Prophet ﷺ as per the above ḥadîth. It is only right that we praise and send salutation upon the Prophet ﷺ because he is our Prophet and we are heavily indebted to him for all the love and guidance that he brought for us. If only we stop to ponder and think on this, our love for him would only multiply. The chances of the acceptance of our duʿas can be boosted by sending ṣalawât.
The Leader of the Righteous, ʿUmar Ibn Al-Khattâb said,
Duʿa’ is suspended between heaven and earth and none of it is taken up until you send blessings upon your Prophet ﷺ. (Tirmidhi).
Ask For The Best
Another point of adab that our Prophet ﷺ taught us is that whenever we ask Allah we should ask for the best. Ask for anything and everything no matter how outrageous it may sound. The Ṣaḥâba used to make duʿa’ to Allah for everything from winning battles to the very salt in their food.
When you ask from Allah, ask Him for Al Firdaus. (Bukhâri)
In a ḥadîth qudsi, our Prophet ﷺ said,
O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to rise up in one place and make a request from Me, and were I to give everyone what they requested, that would not decrease what I have any more than a needle decreases the sea if put into it. (Muslim)
Do Not Despair
At the end, after all this, the game changer is our attitude.
Anas ibn Mâlik narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said,
When one of you makes a duʿa’, then let him be firm and determined in his duʿa’, and let him not say, ‘O Allah! If You will, then please forgive me’, for there is no one who can force Allah to do anything. (Bukhâri)
Imagine this. You go to the King and say, “Oh King! IF you have five coins, give them to me.” This would be highly absurd, insulting and show a lack of belief in the power of Allah. If Allah won’t have this bounty, then who would?
Abû Hurairah reported that the Prophet ﷺ said,
The duʿa’ of any worshipper will continue to be responded to, as long as he does not ask for a sin or breaking the ties of kinship, and as long as he is not hasty.”
It was asked, “O Messenger of Allah, and what does it mean to be ‘hasty’?” He responded,
A worshipper says, ‘I have prayed and prayed, and I don’t see that it will be accepted,’ so he gives up hope of being answered and leaves duʿa’.” (Muslim)
We should engrave this in our minds if we want to see our duʿas bear fruit. Our Prophet ﷺ said,
Hearts are like vessels, some more attentive and capacious than others. When you supplicate Allah you should be certain of being answered, and know that Allah does not answer a supplication that comes from a careless and inattentive heart. (Aḥmad)
This point deserved to be the first one but I left it till the end so we could have adab while talking to Allah.
A duʿa’ is basically us speaking directly to Allah. It is us requesting something from Allah and not the other way round, so we should actually make an attempt to show our need and want.
There comes a point where we feel lost, helpless and see that nothing is going our way but still we put up a brave face for the world to see. But why do the same while making duʿa’ in front of the One who knows our situation better than we do!
Let the facade fall. Break down in tears and ask Allah to envelope us in His immense mercy and relief for all is lost if it were not for Him. Cry! Cry like a baby cries for its mother. Cry like a child cries when it is scared and has lost its mother. Cry like that traveler who lost his camel in the middle of the desert in the scorching heat. Cry like that helpless slave who knows that if anyone can help him it is his Rabb, Allah.
If we don’t cry to Allah, then who should we cry to? Wallahi, crying to Allah itself is a mercy and blessing from Allah that he does not afford to all. There is this false sense of masculinity which portrays real men as people who don’t cry; rather, shedding tears is only for women. The best of men, Muhammad Ibn Abdullah ﷺ and his Companions –who were better men than all of these mannish kids put together– used to weep in front of Allah till their beards would soak in tears. So please keep your misplaced misgivings to yourself. Islam is free from all this. Speak to Allah – Confess and pour out all your worries and grievances to Him. For He is the Best of Listeners and indeed it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts find rest.
This is the beauty of Islam. We call upon our Lord directly without anyone between us and Him. Remember the seven types of people who will be under the shade of Allah on the Day of Judgement when there is no other shade. The seventh one of them is a man who remembers Allah when he is alone and his eyes fill with tears. (Bukhâri)
We ask Allah for a soft heart to shed tears of faith. We ask Allah to accept our duʿas and not make us of those who say,
If You (Allah) deliver us from this, we shall truly be of the grateful. But when He delivers them, behold! They rebel (disobey Allah) in the earth wrongfully. [Sûrat Yûnus, 10:22-23]