Tuesday, October 6, 2009
The power of du’a (supplication)
Man, despite his pride, recognizes that fundamentally he is a weak and limited creature. At times of great despair and distress there is a deep-rooted primordial instinct in man to turn towards an omnipotent, all-hearing power who will help him. We call this power “God”, in Islam “Allah”. Examples of such times are if a man is drowning, or very close to death, or a loved one is sick and dying. Man, no matter how wealthy, successful, intelligent or proud he might be then realizes how powerless he is and turns to a greater power.
In Islam, praying as in the daily act of worship performed 5 times a day is called “salah”. The act of praying, as in supplicating to Allah and asking him for something is called “du’a“. However the act of asking the all-powerful one is something universal to all and usually done in times of great need.
According to Islam, Allah does not get tired of us turning to him, calling him for help. Humans however are the opposite. If we have a friend, no matter how close, they will eventually have some frustration if we constantly ask them for help. Allah is the opposite, the more we ask him, the better. Du’a is an act of worship. It is an act which emanates from man’s realization that he is weak and limited and that the creator is not. Every time we turn towards him we are thus saying he is all powerful.
The Quran says: “And your Lord says: “Call on Me; I will answer your (Prayer)!” ( Surah 40 Verse 60)
Anyone can turn to the creator and ask him in any language. However in Islam there are guidelines.
Best manner of du’a.
Islam tells us that the best way to do du’a is to raise your hands and to:
-Praise Allah and call him by his names in Arabic, i.e. “Ya Rahman” (Oh Merciful one) or “Ya Razzaq” (Oh provider)
-Ask for peace and prayers on his beloved prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him).
-To make the du’a three times. It is preferrable to do a du’a which the prophet himself (peace be upon him) did, but any du’a in any language is fine as long as it does not ask for something which is wrong.
- Then to finish the du’a by praising Allah and asking for peace and prayers on his prophet (peace be upon him) once again.
Best times for du’a
There are times or situations when du’a is more likely to be accepted or is stronger. These include
- In the last third of the night, when pious Muslims often stay up engaged in prayer.
- When one is a traveller.
- When one has been oppressed. The du’a of the oppresssed is very powerful, this is why in history many tyrants and mighty rulers have faced a humiliating end.
- When one is sick, or are visiting a sick person.
- After one has finished doing wudhu’ (ablutions to perform prayer).
- Between the time of the adhan (call to prayer) and the iqamah.
- When prostrating during prayer.
- Also du’a done in a group e.g behind an Imam after prayer is stronger than if it is done individually.
“Why is my du’a not answered?”
Du’a will only be accepted if a person’s income, the food he eats, and his clothing are not earned in a way which is against Islam. If a person sold drugs, which is against Islam, then his du’a would not be accepted.
Allah is the lord of the worlds, and the master of all. He is our master and we are his servants. He is not our servant and cannot be ordered by us. Du’a is not like going to a vending machine and putting in a coin and then getting a soft drink. This attitude is disrespectful to the lord of the worlds. Du’a requires humility and sincerity and at times can be likened to growing a plant. It will take time for the plant to come into full fruition, but we must be patient, water the plant and wait. If a person becomes impatient for his du’a to be accepted and even says “Allah does not grant my du’a” then his du’a will be rejected by Allah. If we are patient, and make du’a regularly and have trust in Allah and never doubt him and accept whatever his decision is, we will ultimately see the fruits of this and that du’a that we made will come to be, it will blossom as the trees do in spring.
Allah may chose to:
1. Give us what we ask for.
2. Not give it to us, but give us something else – maybe that particular thing which we have asked for – instead in the next world.
3. Avert hardship or problems from us.
However there is no obligation upon the lord of the worlds to accept all du’as. For example if a man is abusive towards his wife, this is against the teachings of Islam which encourage tenderness and love between couples. Here are some sayings of the prophet, peace be upon him, related to this.
“Allah is not merciful to he who is not merciful to people “.
“The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character, and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”
(Hadiths – sayings of the prophet, peace be upon him, from Bukhari and Tirmihdi).
Allah does not love anyone being abused, the prophet informed us of an incident when a woman from the children of Israel who was a whore was thirsty and went to a well to drink. After quenching her thirst she saw a dog which was thirsty like her, seeing this she felt moved and climbed the well, put water in her shoe and then climbed back out and fed the dog. For this act, the prophet (peace be upon him) told us that this woman was given paradise by the lord of the worlds.
So if a man is abusive to others, cheats, commits sins, and steals and then turns towards Allah supplicating towards him, then Allah may reject his du’a due to his sins.
We can make our du’a stronger by mentioning something which Allah loves. For example on a human level we can make a request to a friend stronger by saying things such as “Do you remember when I helped you?” or “I am your brother’s friend”. We can do a similar thing with Allah and in Arabic this is called tawassul.
The three universally accepted forms of tawassul in Islam (this is a deep and complex issue in Islamic jurispudence) are:
1. To ask Allah by his names and attributes.
So we can say “Ya Allah (Oh Allah), Ya Rahman, Ya Hakeem (Oh merciful one, Oh wise one) and then make our du’a.
We can also see this in our daily lives, if we address someone by his title or role then we will get a better response, for example instead of “Dear Leader, please help us” we could say “Dear Leader, you are the one who is the defender of this nation and its values, please help us”.
2. To ask someone more pious than us.
We can go to a Muslim whom we feel is a good person and closer to Allah than us. For example if someone was a weak Muslim and would do things which were wrong he could ask someone to make du’a for him. In our own daily lives we see that a person in authority would respond to the request of someone they were closer to, than us.
3. To mention your good deeds.
In our du’a we can say things such as “Oh Allah, I pray regularly, please accept my du’a.” or “Oh lord, by my fasting in Ramadan, accept my du’a”. Whether it be praying, fasting, even smiling at someone (which counts as a good deed in Islam), helping an old lady across the road and so on, the mention of a good deed makes our du’a far stronger, as it would do in our daily lives.