Regarding Supplication

By Zainab Abaid

(Taken from Dr. Farhat Hashmi’s explanation of Surah Yusuf, Ayah 34, during Taleem ul Quran 2002)

At one of the many troubling turns of his life, Yusuf AS, whose life holds so many valuable lessons for us, was driven to ask Allah for imprisonment, to escape the evils of the society around him, as mentioned in Surah Yusuf, ayah 33. The next ayah, ayah 34, reads:

“So his Lord answered his invocation and turned away from him their plot. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.”

In accordance with his dua, Yusuf AS was sent to prison.
We see in this verse one of many instances of a supplication being answered immediately by Allah. Who are these fortunate ones, then, whose duas are answered immediately? What special words are these that Allah accepts at once? Let us consider some issues regarding acceptance of duas and what the Quran and Sunnah teach us about it.

Who to Pray to?

First and foremost is the issue of who dua should be made to. Who is worthy of hearing our most heartfelt needs and desires? To whom do we lay bare the sorest wounds in our souls, the most private of our sorrows? The Qur’an gives a very clear answer in Surah Yunus, Ayah 106-107:

“And invoke not besides Allah any such that will neither profit you nor harm you, but if (in case) you did so, you shall certainly be one of the Zalimun. And if Allah touches you with harm, there is none who can remove it but He; and if He intends any good for you, there is none who can repel His favor which He causes it to reach whomsoever of His slaves He wills. And He is the Oft-Forgiving, the Most Merciful”

So how illogical it is if we believe on one hand that indeed all that comes to us is with the will of Allah, and on the other hand, expect any other force to relieve us! Furthermore, consider the famous hadith,

“Supplication is the essence of worship”

If dua is indeed an ibadah, then who is worthy of all ibadah except Allah alone? Can we five times a day claim “iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’een” and then put our duas to or our hopes in somebody else, whether dead or living?
Having resolved this fundamental question, let us now come to the next issue:

Whose prayers are accepted?

Again turning to the Quran, we get a clear answer in Surah al Baqarah, ayah 186:

“And when My slaves ask you (O Muhammad) concerning Me, then I am indeed near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls on Me. So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be led aright.”

Do we ever need to doubt that Allah listens to us, when He promises so clearly that I listen to all those who call on Me?
However, we can also see that certain conditions are laid down in this ayah, and closer examination of those might reveal why it seems to us at times that our supplications go unanswered.
Allah says “fal-yastajeeboo-lee” that they should talk to Me, or they should answer Me. “Answering Allah” as seen in the translation above, refers to obeying His commands as soon as they are heard. Sins are a major blockade in the path of our duas to Allah.

Our hearts are burdened by our sins. We don’t want to give those up and we don’t want to make tauba; all we want is to find some “wazeefa” which we can wave like a magic wand and make our problems disappear, no effort required. Many of us don’t want the bother of even praying five times a day, yet we wonder why our problems don’t seem to end. Allah calls to us, offers us at least five opportunities each day to come to salaah, come to success, rush to forgiveness, yet we ignore His call, we anger Him, and then we expect Him to solve our problems! We surely need no other wazeefa if we start offering regular salaah, and if we let go of our sins; try making duas after fard salaahs and see how they get accepted!

However, one point to note here is that sometimes we let our guilt come in the way of our duas. We think: I’m so sinful, surely my duas won’t be answered, so I’ll just stop praying altogether. Moreover, we think, so and so is very pious, I’ll ask him to pray for me. Now, while asking someone to make dua is perfectly fine, we cannot rely on that alone; we must keep our own communication line to Allah open!

One other behavior we need to guard against is getting negligent of duas in good times. Our prosperity sometimes makes us think that duas are not needed. But this is when Allah sends troubles to us, to remind us that we always need Him, good times or bad!
Finally let us see what we learn about dua from the prophets of Allah.

Lessons from the Prophets

One theme that recurs in almost every one of the prophets’ stories in the Quran is that of constantly turning to Allah. We see how at every significant turn of their lives, their first reaction was dua. From Adam AS’s admittance of his sin (7:23) to Yunus AS’s call of distress from the belly of the whale (21:87), to Zakariya AS’s request for a miracle (21:89), and Yaqub AS’s touching declaration,

“I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah” (12:86),

what we see again and again is a determination to turn to Allah and to Him alone, with total trust and total tawakkul. These are the qualities that Allah loves, and these are the people who are a model for us, so let us too turn to Allah alone at every trouble, big or small, and stay consistently on the path of remembrance in all times, good and bad.
The simple conclusion that these lessons build up to is this: we must make frequency of dua a compulsory part of our lives, since duas are never wasted – they are either accepted, or added to good deeds for the akhirah, or make some potential trouble go away. What then do we have to lose?