وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ َ
“And your Lord says, Call on Me, I will answer your prayer” (40:60)
Calling upon your Creator and Sustainer (Rabb) is His Command. To call upon a deity for help is the essence of every religion. There has never been a Prophet or a religious guide who has not taught his people how to supplicate, for the Prophets knew that the effacement of all difficulties lay in the Divine Hands alone, and that it was only through supplications that the door to Gnosis was opened.
The Arabic word du‘â دُعَا means supplication. It is from the root da‘â meaning, “to call upon someone for help,” in the sense of someone who is in trouble and in great need calling out for help. When a servant calls Allâh for help, the response is immediate as He says
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ
“And when My servants ask you concerning Me (tell them), I am nearby indeed” (2:186)
Du‘â دُعَا (- Supplication) is the relationship between the supplicant and his Master (Mâlik مالك), a relationship that attracts the attention of the Master. At first, Allâh’s Rahmânîyyat (- His Grace of providing without asking) comes into play and pulls the person to Him. Then the worshipper, through his Faith in the Master, and full of hope and in perfect loyalty and love for Him, by his bowing and prostrating before Him, draws even nearer to Him. Thence, by an attracting force, which is now embedded into his nature, he starts to attract Allâh’s bounties, His Mercy, His Grace, and His Love towards him. All this, in turn, helps to create the means and circumstances that are essential to fulfil the needs of the supplicant. The servant has asked for something in secret, and He in turn manifests His responses openly.
“Call on Me” (ادْعُونِي) is a Divine Command. Some worshippers of Allâh simply conform to this Command. Such a caller in his supplication is treading the path of His servitude (‘abûdîyyatعبوديت ); there is no trace of self-interest. Such a one is telling His Lord that he is ready to serve Him without asking for any recompense. Divine gifts are bestowed on such people unasked. Such people yearn for more of the same selfless “servanthood.”
Sometimes, however, the dire state of a human being necessitates his making a desperate appeal, as was the case with the Job (Ayûb): “He called out to his Lord, I am inflicted with some distress, and You are the Most Merciful of all who show mercy” (21:83). Allâh says: أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ , “I will answer you” (40:60). He says: إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ “But those who wax too proud to worship Me will surely enter Gehenna, humbled and despised” (40:60). They will suffer, because they refused to call on Him in the time of their need, out of pride and lack of Faith in Him.
مَا يَعْبَأُ بِكُمْ رَبِّي لَوْلَا دُعَاؤُكُمْ
Etiquette and Code of behaviour in Supplication
وَلَا تَجْهَرْ بِصَلَاتِكَ وَلَا تُخَافِتْ بِهَا وَابْتَغِ بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ سَبِيلًا
“And utter not your prayer in a loud voice nor utter it in too low tones (completely concealing it) but seek a middle course” (17:110)
The One Whom you call upon, the One from Whom you ask for help, is neither deaf (17:110) nor remote (2:186). Rather, He comforts and assures you with His Words: فَإِنِّي قَرِيب “I am nearby indeed” (2:186); وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ “We are nearer to him than even (his) jugular vein” (50:16); وَنَعْلَمُ مَا تُوَسْوِسُ بِهِ نَفْسُهُ , “and We know what (dark) suggestions his mind makes to him” (50:16). He has taught you how to present your case to Him in the seven verses of al-Fâtihah (1:1–7). As in al-Fâtihah, your every ritual Prayer and every supplication should begin not with a petition but with your glorification of the Lord, with your mentioning His most beautiful Attributes. Verses 17:110–111 He commands us through His Prophet:
قُلِ ادْعُوا اللَّهَ أَوِ ادْعُوا الرَّحْمَـٰنَ ۖ أَيًّا مَّا تَدْعُوا فَلَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ وَلَا تَجْهَرْ بِصَلَاتِكَ وَلَا تُخَافِتْ بِهَا وَابْتَغِ بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ سَبِيلًا وَقُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي لَمْ يَتَّخِذْ وَلَدًا وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ شَرِيكٌ فِي الْمُلْكِ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ وَلِيٌّ مِّنَ الذُّلِّ ۖ وَكَبِّرْهُ تَكْبِيرًا
“Say, Call upon (Him by the name of) Allâh or call upon (Him by the name of) Al-Rahmân (the Most Gracious). (In short) call upon Him by whatsoever name you like, all beautiful names belong to Him [the One God]. And utter not your prayer in a loud voice nor utter it in too low tones (completely concealing it) but seek a middle course.
“And say, All true and perfect praise belongs to Allâh Who has not taken to Himself a son, and Who has no associate-partner in His kingdom, nor has He any helper because of any weakness. And extol His glory with repeated glorification.” (17:110–111)
In these verses, you are taught the etiquette of supplications and ritual Prayers. Many people go beyond bounds in their ritual purification and supplication. But supplications do not have to be made with the tongue of eloquence. Many supplications are taught in the Holy Qur’ân, and you can pray to Allâh in those words. It is said that Saints used seven sentences more or less in their supplications, such as the Prayer taught to us by Allâh in the very first chapter of the Holy Qur’ân (al-Fâtihah). The supplication in verse 2:286 is an example:
رَبَّنَا لَا تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا ۚ رَبَّنَا وَلَا تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا ۚ رَبَّنَا وَلَا تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لَا طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِ ۖ وَاعْفُ عَنَّا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا ۚ أَنتَ مَوْلَانَا فَانصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ
“Our Lord! Take us not to task if we forget or (if) we make a mistake. Our Lord! Lay not upon us the burden (of disobedience) as You laid upon those before us. Our Lord! Charge us not with the responsibility which we have not the strength to bear; therefore overlook our faults and grant us protection and have mercy on us. You are our Master; therefore help us against the disbelieving people” (2:286).
Acceptance of Supplications
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَادَعَانِ
“And when my servants ask you concerning Me (tell them), I am nearby indeed, I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me” (2:186).
Allâh’s Mercy (Rahmânîyyat) is universal, and everyone through His Attributes and Names ever begs him for His Mercy. Acceptance of supplications is part of His Mercy; He calls it Rahmatî (My Mercy; 7:156), a Mercy that is all-encompassing. To deny that worship and formal Prayer is not a means for attaining your objectives, or that they are not efficacious in attaining your rightful wishes is to deny the Divine Existence of the Ever-Living, the Almighty. Allâh never lets your supplication go to waste, because that would be contrary to His own declaration أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ “I will answer you” (40:60). Imâm Abû al-Qâsim Husain al-Râghib said that your supplications could be answered in two ways: If there is no demand in the supplication, the answer can be in the form of communication from Allâh in words, but if a petition has been made in the supplication, then fulfilling that need constitutes the answer to the supplication.
You ask for His favours by addressing Him with His Divine Attributes and Names. Favors associated with the Names of Allâh are of various kinds. Sometimes Allâh bestows His gift on His servant (‘abd) in His Name “the Merciful” (al-Rahîm). In that case, the gift will in response to the servant’s petition at that time. Sometimes Allâh gives a gift in His Name “the Wise” (al-Hakîm), to serve the best interest of His servant. Many times He gives in His Name “the Gracious” (al-Rahmân), and in this case He bestows unasked as a favour, so that the recipient is under no obligation to render extra thanks. He may give in His Name “the Forgiver” (al-Ghafûr) so that if retribution is due, He will protect you from it, and if no punishment is due; He will protect you from incurring an infraction.
There are several accounts in the Holy Qur’ân that tell us about the supplications of the Prophets (for example, 54:10) and of others who were neither a Prophet (nabîنبي ) nor a Messenger (rasûlرسول ) of Allâh (for example, 19:2–7), as well as how their supplications were granted. In fact, the Holy Qur’ân provides several examples of the promises made by Allâh to His servants who asked Him, even begged Him, for His favours. The Holy Qur’ân cites one example of a plea made by a simple woman who complained before her Lord and before the Holy Prophet (pbuh) about her distress and agony: “Allâh has indeed heard the plea of her [Khowlah, wife of Aus bin Sâmit] who pleads with you (O Muhammad!) with regard to her husband and makes her complaints to Allâh” (58:1).
Sometimes, the experience and expertise of a physician may fail to cure a disease, or you may see no way of relief and respite from worries, or it may seem impossible to achieve the high goals you have been striving for, or it appears that you are afflicted by perpetual calamities. In such situations, the weapon of supplications comes in handy. Though Allâh has created His universe out of His expediencies and has subjected His creation to His laws, this does not mean that He has finished His job and that He now has nothing to do with the day-to-day life of His creatures. Such a notion is wrong. It is one of His Attributes that He removes the afflictions of His servant who knowingly or unknowingly maneuvers himself into misfortunes.
In his supplication, the distressed person turns towards his Lord, calling repeatedly, “(Lord!) You alone do we worship and You alone do we implore for help” إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاك نَسْتَعِينُ (1:5). If a distressed adores Him and remembers His past favours and renders Him thanks, He out of His Rahîmîyyat (His special Mercifulness), will “answers the distressed person when he calls on Him, and remove (his) distress (and agony)” (27:62; see also 6:41). The incurable, apparently fatal disease vanishes, the troubles go away, financial burdens are removed, the mountains of difficulties disappear, the infertile woman is blessed with an offspring, and doors are opened for spiritual advancement. By accepting your supplications, Allâh invites you to enter these doors now wide open, which lead to the proximity of your Lord. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said once, “On whomsoever from among you is opened the door of supplication, on him has been opened the doors of mercy” (narrated by Ibn ‘Umar in Sunnan al-Tirmidhî). Numerous other good fortunes, bounties, and capabilities are the outcome of the accepted supplications, a fact to which innumerable chosen servants of Allâh have borne witness before and even now.
You should rest assured that there does exist a Seeing and a Hearing God, Who notices what you are asking for, Who watches over the compulsions of the distressed, Who listens to the beseeching, and Who grants acceptance out of His Rahîmîyyat, His special Mercy and Grace. Then you read His Words:
قُلْ مَن يُنَجِّيكُم مِّن ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ تَدْعُونَهُ تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً لَّئِنْ أَنجَانَا مِنْ هَـٰذِهِ لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ قُلِ اللَّهُ يُنَجِّيكُم مِّنْهَا وَمِن كُلِّ كَرْبٍ ثُمَّ أَنتُمْ تُشْرِكُونَ
“Say, Who delivers you from the horrors of the land and the sea when you call upon Him in humility and in open supplication (saying), “If He delivers us from this (hardship) we shall ever be grateful (to Him)”? Say, It is Allâh Who delivers you from these (horrors) and from every calamity, still you associate partners (with Him).” (6:63–64)
To beseech help from the All-Mighty, the Source of all Grace, at the commencement of every task and for the attainment of every striven-for goal, subservience is demanded from you by your Lord. Allâh commands, “Call on Me”وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي . Those who respond to this Command commence all actions by asking for His assistance and begin the task with His Name. He, undoubtedly, extends to them His assistance, and support begins to flow in their favour. Those who beseech help from their Master and Creator get His help. Those who beg for knowledge and power from His Knowledge and Power get knowledge and power. Moreover, those who beg for security get His security.
The Holy Prophet (pbuh) has said, “Nothing is more honourable unto Allâh than formal Prayer” (Abû Hurairah in Jam‘i-Tirmidhî). The ritual Prayer (al-Salâtالصلاة ) is the right way of those who are careful of their obligations and are humble. It is the first right step on the way to practicing tauhîd (توحيد – absolute monotheism). The more you tread on this path, the more vivid the perception of tauhîd becomes while you are getting ever closer to Allâh. Denial of the institution of Prayer is, in fact, denial of the Ever Merciful and of His Mercy. People who deny the institution of Prayer are unaware of the marvelous effects that result from it. Their denial is the denial of a blind person about the presence of light. The problem is not the lack of light but the lack of the faculty that should perceive it.
You should not hesitate to supplicate even if you think you are unworthy. Allâh even accepted the supplication of the most unworthy of all creatures, Iblîs, who said, “My Lord, then grant me respite till the day when these (human beings) shall be raised (to spiritual life)” (15:36), and Allâh said, “You are indeed of those already granted respite.” (15:37).
The Holy Qur’ân has mentioned certain times for the acceptance of supplications. You read for example:
وَٱلْفَجْرِوَلَيَالٍ عَشْرٍۢوَٱلشَّفْعِ وَٱلْوَتْرِوَٱلَّيْلِ إِذَا يَسْرِهَلْ فِى ذَٰلِكَ قَسَمٌۭ لِّذِى حِجْرٍ
“I call to witness (all the times and places especially important for the acceptance of prayers including) the dawn (of the twentieth of Ramadzân), and the (last) ten Nights (of Ramadzân), and (the Prayers which consist of) the even and odd (number of Raka‘ts performed during these nights). And the Night [Lailat al-Qadr, the Blessed Night], when it moves on (to its close). In it there is surely a strong evidence for one who has sense and understanding.” (89:1–5)
Access to Divine Precincts is without an Intermediary
“And your Lord says, Call on Me, I will answer you” (40:60).
Thus, the call for help must be addressed to the Lord, the Nourisher and the Sustainer directly, without any intermediary.
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي
“And when My servants ask you concerning Me (tell them), I am nearby indeed, I (and no one else) answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me, so they should respond to My call, and believe in Me…” (2:186).
Allâh’s wordsأُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَادَعَانِ “I (and no one else) answer the call of the supplicant” (2:186), and the wordsادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ “Call on Me, I will answer you” (40:60), clearly tell you that the call for help must be addressed to Allâh and that He alone is to be sought, without any intermediary, that only He can answer your prayer. This is the condition embedded in His Words أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ “I will answer your,” and أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ “I answer the call of the supplicant when he calls Me.” “I” is none but Him, not Christ, not a Prophet, not a Saint. The word “I” establishes the truth that there is no intermediary between you and the Exalted Allâh. You are told by the All-Mighty not to call on those who do not hear, because they are dead. Only Allâh is Ever Living and Ever Listening:
إِن تَدْعُوهُمْ لَا يَسْمَعُوا دُعَاءَكُمْ وَلَوْ سَمِعُوا مَا اسْتَجَابُوا لَكُمْ ۖ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَكْفُرُونَ بِشِرْكِكُمْ ۚ وَلَا يُنَبِّئُكَ مِثْلُ خَبِيرٍ
“If you pray to them they do not hear your call; and even if they could hear it at all they could make you no response (so as to be of any use to you)” (35:14)
The divine precincts are accessible to everyone without an intermediary, just as numberless bounties of Allâh that have been created for you can be available to you without any intermediary. Only your personal efforts bring you near to Him. Your formal Prayers enlighten you to His ways and carry you to the divine precincts. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said, “Anyone who does not beg at Allâh’s court, Allâh turns away from him” (narrated by ‘Umar al-Fârûq(rz) in Tirmidhî).
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Jesus, Buddha, Rama, Krishna, and similar others—each is a teacher, a guide, and an exemplar, but none is an intermediary. Belief in an intermediary weakens your sense of responsibility and destroys your self-reliance. The chief object of your belief in One God is to create in you a steadfastness of character and an independence of judgment, thereby encouraging your freedom of action. Why should anyone else do the job for you? Could belief in an intermediary be helpful in cultivating high morals?
Belief in an intermediary is, in fact, a remnant of paganism. This primitive belief has crept into almost all branches of theism, including various sects of modern Islam. No religion of divine origin has remained free from it in its subsequent stages. Not only has the founder of each of these accepted religions been corrupted into an intermediary, but also have many men of piety after him. Often, the self-proclaimed righteous of religious sects have been adopted as intermediaries. Christ is not the only intermediary in Christianity, for example, but many after him—Mary, Peter, Paul, the popes, the cardinals, and even ordinary have taken that role. The situation is no different in Islam, where self-proclaimed religious heads (socalled khlîfas) and pîrs (caretakers of graves and shrines), asserting themselves to be pious and religious, offer to pray for others in exchange for what they call “charity.” Some do not even hesitate to proclaim themselves intermediaries between man and God. Some even make these claims on TV shows, asking for money and other worldly benefits, directly or indirectly for the “service of their prayer.” With regards to such self-proclaimed pious, the Holy Qur’ân states:
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ يُزَكُّونَ أَنفُسَهُم ۚ بَلِ اللَّهُ يُزَكِّي مَن يَشَاءُ وَلَا يُظْلَمُونَ فَتِيلًا انظُرْ كَيْفَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ ۖ وَكَفَىٰ بِهِ إِثْمًا مُّبِينًا
“Have you not considered those who assert themselves to be pure? Nay, only Allâh purifies whom He will; and they shall not be treated unjustly, not even a whit. Behold! How they forge lies against Allâh, and sufficient is that as a very flagrant sin (to prove their sinfulness)” (4:49–50)
Moreover, the dead—whether that dead person is Jesus, Buddha, or someone else, no matter how exalted that person may be in Gods court—cannot accept or respond to supplications. Allâh says, “And you cannot make the dead hear, nor can you make the deaf hear the call” (30:52). The Holy Qur’ân altogether dismisses such claims of any power or influence of these falsely deified people:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ عِبَادٌ أَمْثَالُكُمْ ۖ فَادْعُوهُمْ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَأَلَهُمْ أَرْجُلٌ يَمْشُونَ بِهَا ۖ أَمْ لَهُمْ أَيْدٍ يَبْطِشُونَ بِهَا ۖ أَمْ لَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا ۖ أَمْ لَهُمْ آذَانٌ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا ۗ
“Verily, those whom you call on (in prayer) beside Allâh are (merely helpless maids or) servants like yourselves. (If it is not so then) call on them, they should then make a response to you if you are right. Have these (false gods) feet with which they walk, or have they hands with which they hold, or have they eyes with which they see, or have they ears with which they hear?” (7:194–195)
“And who is more misguided than the person who instead of (praying to) Allâh prays to those who will not answer him till the Day of Resurrection (because they are dead) and these (deities they worship) are even unaware of their prayers (to them)” (46:5).
The most important aspect of the Exalted Being of Allâh, as given in the Holy Qur’ân, is that He hears the supplications and sees the submissions of His servants and accepts them (see 2:186). A clear assertion is found in the Word ujîbu أُجِيبُ “I answer”; that is, He alone and no one else accepts your supplications. Verse 2:186 also establishes once again that there cannot be an intermediary between you and the Exalted Being of Allâh.
The absolute Dispenser has bestowed on all people an equal share of natural faculties. Just as the external features—nose, eyes, face, hands, legs—have been bestowed equally on all communities, so have all people been endowed with internal spiritual faculties. When you develop an urge to gain proximity to Allâh, you are granted this opportunity. “I am nearby indeed” He says (2:186), and since you are granted the capability of offering sincere supplications, such supplications are accepted by Allâh. “I answer the call of the supplicant” (2:186), for He is close to His servant when he prostrates, and He bestows His love and Mercy on anyone who comes closer to Him and vouchsafes His knowledge and power to him.
The only condition for your supplications being accepted is that you should be completely purged of all kinds of polytheism, you should address your supplications only to Allâh, and to Him you should explain your needs. No other deity, living or dead, no self-made spiritual leader, no guardian of shrines, nor any Pope, cardinal, or rabbi is of any significance to function as an intermediary between you and your God:
فَتَعَالَى اللَّهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ أَيُشْرِكُونَ مَا لَا يَخْلُقُ شَيْئًا وَهُمْ يُخْلَقُونَ وَلَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ لَهُمْ نَصْرًا وَلَا أَنفُسَهُمْ يَنصُرُونَ وَإِن تَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَى الْهُدَىٰ لَا يَتَّبِعُوكُمْ ۚ سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْكُمْ أَدَعَوْتُمُوهُمْ أَمْ أَنتُمْ صَامِتُونَ
“Allâh is Highly Exalted far above the things they associate (with Him). Do they associate (with Him as partners) those who create nothing but are themselves created? And they (the associated gods) will have no power to give them (who associate partners with Allâh) any help, nor can they help themselves. And if you (O Polytheists!) invite these (associated gods) for (your) guidance, they will not respond to you. It makes no difference to you whether you call them or you remain silent” (7:190–193).
When the shutters of a window are opened, the light enters through it. Likewise, when you turn towards Allâh, and there is no veil of an intermediary between you and Allâh, a blaze of heavenly Light descends on you and illumines your soul. Why should you then, in superstition, believe and set up self-invented gods in your mind? Why should you waste your precious time in adoring or prostrating before statues, pictures, or shrines? They are nothing but lifeless objects and false deities (4:117).