Allah (SWT) describes the very purpose of our existence in the Quran as ‘uboodiyyah:
Wa ma khalaqtul jinna wal insa illa liya’budoon
I have only created jinn and men that they may worship me.
The term ‘ibadah is very encompassing and there are many different forms of ‘ibadah. One of the many forms of ‘ibadah that we often do not appreciate to the extent that we should is Dua. Now when we talk about dua, there are many questions that come to one’s mind. What is dua? What are its blessings and its excellence? What is the proper etiquette that one must follow while making dua? Why is the dua of some people responded to and not that of the others? How can one increase the chances of getting one’s dua accepted? Also, if everything is already predestined, then what is the purpose of making dua?
1. Dua – An Act of worship
Linguistically dua means to call out. The Quran uses this linguistic meaning and other related meanings as well, to request, to implore, to seek aid. Now dua is a form of worship in itself. Allah says:
Waqala rabbukumud u’nee astajib lakum. Innalazeena yastakbiruna a’n ibadatee sayadkhuloona jahannama dakhireen
And your Lord says: “Call on Me; I will answer your (Prayer): but those who are too arrogant to worship Me will surely find themselves in Hell – in humiliation!
Allah first tells us to make dua, then says those who are too arrogant to worship me, thus implying that dua is the essence or the crux of worship. That is why the Prophet (SAW) said:
Innad dua huwal ibadah Dua is the worship
Therefore it is the essence of worship since it places us as creation at the proper level and it places Allah as our Creator at His proper level.
2. We are nearer to him than his jugular vein
Many times we feel that our hearts are far away and distant from Allah (SWT) but if we go to the Quran, we see that Allah (SWT), He uses the word Ya, which is the harfu nida or vocative particle. Harfu nida would be translated to something like O, e.g. Ya Abdallah, Ya Junaid, Ya binti and so forth. This is usually used as a sign of respect and is used to call someone when they are far away from you. So if I need to call someone who is like thirty feet away from me, I would say Ya Ahmed, even if they are 5 to 6 feet away from me, Ya Ahmed. But if someone is standing right next to me, I don’t need to use Ya because he is so close to me so I just say Ahmed.
Now if we look in the Quran brothers and sisters, we will not find a single dua in the Quran which is preceded by Ya. Because Allah (SWT) wants to show us that I’m so close to you by My Knowledge, I’m so close to you by My absolute Hearing and Seeing, if you want to call on Me O My servant, don’t say Ya, just say Rabbi and I will respond to you. And we find that Allah alludes to this in other verses of the Quran as well:
Wa idha saalaka ‘ibadee ‘annee fa innee qareeb. Ujeebu da’watad daa’i idha da’aan
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. (Al-Baqarah 186)
If we look at those verses in the Quran in which Allah mentions the people asking the Prophet (SAW) about certain issues, we can see that Allah tells the Prophet (SAW) to respond back to the people with the answer. So for example:
Yasaloonaka anil ahilla. Qul hiya mawaqeetu linnasi wal hajj
Yasaloonaka anish shahril haram. Qul qitalun feehi kabeer
Yasaloonaka anil maheedh. Qul howa azan
In all these verses Allah commands His messenger ‘say to them’ but here Allah directly addresses us to indicate His closeness and nearness to us.
3. Dua – Sign of One’s Faith
Dua is a clear sign of one’s iman. When we make dua to Allah whether by whispering or making the dua in our heart, we automatically affirm that Allah can hear us. We are affirming His perfect nature. We are also affirming that He loves and cares about us. We also affirm that He has the qudrah, the power to respond to our dua. When we call out to Allah, we automatically give him certain names and certain attributes that He is deserving of; He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing, the All-Knowing, the Ever-Caring, the All-Powerful.
Fa iza rakibu fil fulki da’awullahu mukhliseena lahuddin. Falamma najjahum ilal barri iza hum yushrikun
And when they board a ship they supplicate to Allah, sincere to him in religion. But when He delivers them to the land, at once they associate others with Him.
4. Manifestation of Our Dua
Every single dua will be responded to by Allah though it may not be manifested in the way we wanted it to be. The Prophet (SAW) is narrated to have said:
There is no person who asks Allah for anything except for that Allah gives it to him or keeps some evil away from him.
When the companions heard this, they said that Ya Rasulullah if that is the case then we will increase our dua. The Prophet (SAW) said Allahu akthar. Allah is more than that; meaning no matter how much you ask, Allah can give you more than that.
Another characteristics of dua is that itis the only act that can change predestination, i.e. the Qadr. The Prophet (SAW) said:
La yaruddul qadar illad dua Nothing can repeal or change Qadr except dua
The Prophet (SAW) said: Caution will not be of any benefit against qadar. No matter how cautious you are, if something has been willed for you it will happen. But dua benefits matters that have occurred and will occur.
5. Dua & Causality
As human beings, we tend to seek out means and resources that could help us satisfy our needs. And we develop a normative understanding of our environment based on our observations. So if we feel cold, we use something like fire that could help keep us warm. If we experience thirst, we use water to quench our thirst. But part of our belief as Muslims is that this very characteristic of fire to keep us warm and water to satisfy our thirst has been granted by Allah (SWT). So it is not the fire that keeps us warm or it is not the water that quenches our thirst but in reality it is the mercy of the Creator of fire and water due to which we are able to derive certain benefits from them. Now by saying this, in no way are we trying to deny the role of the means but instead of placing our trust in the means, we place our trust in the provider of those means. So while the Messenger of Allah instructed the sick to seek medical treatment, he (SAW) reminded them of the fact that it is Allah who has provided a cure for every illness. And that is why we read the beautiful dua of the prophet:
Allahumma azhibil b’as Rabbannas, ishfi wa anta Shafi, la Shifa’a illa Shifauk
O Allah remove the hardship, O Lord of mankind, grant cure for You are the Healer. There is no cure but from You.
6. Etiquettes of Making Dua
In terms of the etiquettes of making dua, there are many of them such as beginning by praising Allah and His Messenger (SAW), facing the qiblah, being in a state of ritual purity, and so forth. We’ll insha Allah look into some of these:
6.1. Using Tawassul to Make Dua
Tawassul refers to seeking means to draw nearer to Allah. There are two forms of tawassul that scholars unanimously agree upon, the first of these is tawassul via Allah’s names and attributes as Allah (SWT) says:
Wa lillahil asmaa ulhusna fad’uhu biha
And to Allah belong the most beautiful of names so call on Him by them.
The other is tawassul through our good deeds that we have performed sincerely for the sake of Allah. This has been mentioned in a hadith narrated by Ibn ‘Umar (RA) in which the Messenger of Allah is narrated to have said:
“While three persons were traveling, they were overtaken by rain and they took shelter in a cave in a mountain. A big rock fell from the mountain over the mouth of the cave and blocked it. They said to each other. ‘Think of such good deeds which, you did for Allah’s sake only, and invoke Allah by giving reference to those deeds so that Allah may relieve you from your difficulty.
One of these men related the incident in which he had given precedence to his parents over his children on a certain occasion and he beseeched Allah saying that ‘if you considered that I had done that only for seeking Your pleasure, then please let there be an opening through which we can see the sky.’ So Allah made for them an opening through which they could see the sky.
Then the, second person related an incident in which he came very close to fornicate with one of his cousins whom he greatly admired when she reminded him to have fear of Allah and he abstained from it. He then said that ‘O Allah! If you considered that I had done that only for seeking Your pleasure then please let the rock move a little to have a (wider) opening.’ So Allah shifted that rock to make the opening wider for them.
And the last person related his good deed in which he had invested the wages that he owed to one of his laborers. The investment multiplied by many folds. Later when this laborer came back to collect his wages, this person gave him not just the original wages but the entire profit earned out of it. So he said, O Allah! If You considered that I had done that for seeking Your pleasure, then please remove the remaining part of the rock.’ And so Allah released them (from their difficulty).”
6.2. Persistence and Patience
The Prophet (SAW) said, the dua of any worshipper will be responded to as long as he is not hasty and impatient. The companions asked Ya Rasulullah how can a person be impatient? Rasulullah said impatient means that a person says that I have made dua but I see that Allah has not responded to me so he leaves the dua because he has not seen the effects of dua.
Zakariya (AS) made dua for decades, decades until he became an old man but he kept on making dua o Allah don’t leave me without a heir, give me a son. He became so old that when the angel finally came, he was the first one to ask “how can I have a son, I’m too old and my wife is barren.” So Allah responds, kazalik, We have already decreed this, you’re going to have a son and you’re going to call him Yahya. This is the kind of persistence that’s required my dear brothers and sisters.
6.3. Have an Attentive Heart and Soul
The Prophet (SAW) is narrated to have said:
Udu’ollaha wa antum moqinoona bil ijabah
Make dua to Allah while you’re in a state of yaqeen and know that Allah does not respond to the dua from an inattentive heart.
You know the duas that we memorized since childhood and we continue to recite them without thinking about them, these are the type of duas that may fall under this category because they have a body but they lack a soul. Just like the salah that the Prophet (SAW) said “A person may not be rewarded at all for his prayer or he may be rewarded only one tenth, one ninth and so on and so forth.” Because of the lack of khushu’ in the salah.
Another aspect is the concept of depression, anxiety and being completely negative in one’s outlook. Many people feel that they’ve done this and that and they’ve got a lot of dirt…Oh I’m an evil person, how will Allah forgive me? Allah will not answer my dua. If you go to the Quran and see the supplication that Iblees made after he had refused to bow down to Adam (AS). He said:
Rabbi andhirnee ilaa yawmi yub’athun
My Lord, give me respite until the day when they are resurrected
To this, Allah (SWT) responded:
Innaka minal munzireen
You are among those who are given respite.
And our scholars have said that if Allah answered the dua of the worst of creation Iblees, then as we commit sins we should never be disappointed with the mercy of Allah and we should never give up on ourselves because He will indeed listen to us if we sincerely call upon Him. Indeed Allah will answer the dua of those who sincerely seek Him and want to come back to Him and develop a relationship.
6.4. Acknowledging One’s Sins
Part of the etiquette of dua is to acknowledge one’s shortcomings and sins in front of one’s creator.
Imam Ahmed was once traveling and needed to stay somewhere overnight. When he went to the masjid, the guard (not recognizing Imam Ahmed) denied him entrance. Imam Ahmed tried numerous times, but the guard did not accept his requests. Frustrated, Imam Ahmed resolved to spend the night in the yard of the masjid. The guard became furious and dragged him away, despite the old age of Imam Ahmed. A baker, whose shop was nearby, watched this scene and took pity on Imam Ahmed. He invited the Imam to stay with him for the night.
While there, Imam Ahmed noticed that the baker continually made Istighfar (asking for Allah’s forgiveness) while working, and in the morning, the Imam eagerly asked his host about his continual seeking of forgiveness. The baker said it had become like second nature for him. Imam Ahmed then asked whether the man had experienced any reward from this practice. The baker answered, By Allah! No dua I made except that it was answered but one. And what is that duaa, asked Imam Ahmed. To be able to see the famed Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal. Imam Ahmed interjected, I am Ahmed ibn Hanbal! He went on to add: By Allah! I was dragged to your place so that you can have your dua come true.
6.5. One’s Earnings be Halal
One of the primary factors for dua not being accepted is that one eats or drinks or earns haram and the opposite is true as well. When one eats and drinks halal, this is one of the strongest ways that he could be verified and assured that his dua is accepted.
Inna ALlaaha ta’aala Tayyibun la yaqbalu illa tayyiban … Thumma dhakarar-rajul yuteelus-safar, ash’atha wa aghbar, yamudu yadayhi ilas-samaa: Ya Rabb Ya Rabb! wa mat’amuhu haraam wa mashrabuhu haraam wa malbasuhu haraam wa ghudhiya bilharaam, fa annaa yustajaabu lahu
The Prophet (SAW) said “Allah is At-Tayyib and Allah only accepts that which is Tayyib. Then further down in the hadith, the Prophet (SAW) mentioned a traveler on a long journey, who is disheveled and dusty, his appearance is bad. He stretches forth his hands and he says Ya rabb, ya rabb. In other words the Prophet (SAW) is giving an example of a person who is traveling and is cut off from his family and friends, alone in the desert, calling out to Allah. In general, this is the perfect situation to get your dua accepted when you are sincere. Additionally, he is all alone. Additionally he is dusty and disheveled; this would get sympathy from Allah or get sympathy from us. On top of that he raises his hands forth and this is one of the etiquettes we learn, then he calls Allah by his attributes, ya rabbi, which is one of the strongest ways to get your dua accepted. He prays to be saved yet the Prophet (SAW) says:
Wa mat’amuhu haraam wa mashrabuhu haraam wa malbasuhu haraam wa ghudhiya bilharaam, fa annaa yustajaabu lahu
This person, he has eaten from haram, he has drunk from haram, he has bought his clothes from haram, he has been nourished by haram, how does he expect to be responded by Allah.
He has no hope for a response from Allah even though he has combined many of the factors which otherwise should earn a response.
We should make dua at all times, not only during times of distress. The Prophet (SAW) said:
“Whosoever desires that Allah answers his duas in unfavorable and difficult conditions, he should make plentiful dua in days of ease and comfort.”
We ask Allah (SWT) to accept our supplications, our duas. We ask Allah to purify our hearts from any ills which may cause our dua not to be heard or responded to by Allah (SWT).
Allahumma ilayka ashku ba’tha quwwatee wa qillata heelatee wa hawanee alan naas. Ya Arhamar Rahimeen, anta Rabbal Mustadafeen wa anta Rabbi. Ilaa man takilnee, ilaa ba’eedin yatajahham, am ila ‘aduwwan mallaktahu amree. In lam yakun bika alayya ghadabun fa la ubaal wa lakin ‘afiyatuka hiya awsa’u li.
I complain to you my lack of strength, my lack of resources and how insignificant I am to other people. O most Merciful of those who show mercy. You are the Lord of those who have no power and You are my Lord. Who are you going to leave me to? To some distant person who would be like the fire for me? Or to some enemy that you give him power over me? If you have no anger toward me [that you are not doing this out of your wrath], I have no objection but to give me ‘aafiya, its easier for me.