The Reality of Dua' (supplication) and its Merits, Levels and Conditions of Acceptance

Mariful Quran

In the last verse cited in this unit, it was said:

And your Lord has said, "Call Me, I will respond to you." Definitely those who show arrogance against worshipping Me shall enter Jahannam, disgraced. - 40:60.

Literally, du'a' means to call, and it is frequently used to call for something needed. On occasions, the dhikr of Allah (acts devoted to His remembrance) is also referred to as du'a'. This verse confers a special honour on the large community of the followers of the Holy Prophet  when they were ordered to make du'a' with the assurance that it would be answered. And whoever does not make a prayer has been warned of punishment.

Qatadah reports from Ka'b Ahbar that earlier this used to be peculiar to prophets, as they were the ones who were ordered by Allah Ta'ala that they should make du'a' and He would answer. Now, it is the distinction of the followers of the Holy Prophet  (popularly identified as Ummah Muhammadiyyah) that this order was universalized for his entire Ummah. (Ibn Kathir)

Explaining this verse, Sayyidna Nu'man Ibn Bashir  narrated a Hadith that the Holy Prophet  said:

(Surely, prayer is worship on its own) and then supported it by reciting this verse:

(Definitely those who show arrogance against worshipping Me shall enter Jahannam, disgraced.) (reported by Imam Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa'i, Abu Dawud and others - Ibn Kathir)

It appears in Tafsir Mazhari that, if looked at under the rules of Arabic diction (confining of the predicate to the subject), the Hadith:

could mean: 'du'a' is the very name of ''ibadah' or worship, that is, every du'a' is but 'ibadah. Then, by reversing the same rule (confining the subject to the predicate), it could also mean that every act of 'ibadah is itself nothing but a du'a'. Both probabilities exist here. And at this place, the meaning is that du'a' (prayer, supplication) and 'ibadah (worship, devotion) are, though separate from each other in terms of the literal sense, yet in terms of substantiation, they are unified, as every du'a' is 'ibadah and every 'ibadah is du'a'. The reason,is that 'ibadah is the name of the attitude of showing one's utter modesty and abasement before someone, and it is all too obvious that showing one's utter helplessness before someone and extending one's hand before him with ,the beggar's bowl is a matter of great disgrace - which is the very sense of 'ibadah. Similarly, the outcome of every 'ibadah is also to ask Allah Ta'ala for forgiveness and Jannah and that He blesses us with a perfect state of well being in this world and in the world to come. Therefore, it appears in a Hadith qudsi ( - a Hadith in which the Holy Prophet  conveys a saying from Allah that is not included in the Qur'an) that Allah Ta'ala said: "One who is so engrossed in remembering Me that he does not have even the time to ask for what he needs, I shall give him more than those who ask (by fulfilling his needs without the asking)" (reported by al-Jazri in An-Nihayah) and in a narration appearing in Tirmidhi and Muslim, the words are:

("One who is so engrossed in the recitation of the Qur'an that he does not have even the time to ask for what he needs, I shall give him even more than what those who ask ever get"). This tells us that every 'ibadah brings the same benefit as is the benefit of du'a'.

And in the Hadith of Arafat, it appears that the Holy Prophet  said, "In Arafat, my du'a' and the du'a' of prophets before me is (the saying of):

(la ilaha il-lal-lahu wahdahu la sharika lahu lahul-mulku wa lahul-hamdu wa huwa 'ala kulli shai'in qadir: There is no god but Allah who is one. No one shares His godhead. To Him belongs the kingdom and to Him belongs all praise, and He is powerful over everything) (reported by Ibn Abi Shaibah - Mazhari).
Here, ('ibadah: worship) and (dhikrullah: the dhikr or remembrance of Allah) has been called: (du'a': prayer, supplication).

In this verse under study, those who abandon du'a', in the sense of 'ibadah the warning of Jahannam given to them is in the eventuality of being too proud, that is, a person who, in his pride, considers himself in no need of making a du'a' and actually abandons it, then, this is a sign of kufr (open infidelity), therefore, the warning of Jahannam became due against him. Otherwise, making of du'a's, prayers and supplications as such is not fard (obligatory) or wajib (necessary). Leaving it off brings no sin. However, by a consensus of 'ulama', doing so is mustahabb (recommended) and is: (afdal: better, meritworthy) (Mazhari) and in accordance with clarifications in ahadith, it is a source of many a barakah (blessing)


Merits of Du'a'

HADITH: The Holy Prophet  said, "There is nothing more deserving of regard by Allah Ta'ala than du'a'" - Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Hakim from Sayyidna Abu Hurairah  .
HADITH: The Holy Prophet  said, "du'a', is the essence of 'ibadah" - Tirmidhi from Sayyidna Anas Ibn Malik .
HADITH: The Holy Prophet  said, "Ask Allah Ta'ala of His grace because Allah Ta'ala likes being asked, and it is a great act of 'ibadah that one waits for ease while in hardship" - Tirmidhi from Sayyidna Ibn Mas'ud .
HADITH: The Holy Prophet  said, "Verily, one who does not pray to Allah in his needs, He becomes angry with him" - Tirmidhi from Sayyidna Abu Hurairah  , Ibn Hibban and Hakim.

In Tafsir Mazhari, after having reported all these narrations, it has been said that the warning of Divine wrath on a person who does not make a du'a' is applicable only when this abstention from asking is based on arrogance, and on taking oneself to be need free, as it stands proved from the words of this verse:

Definitely those who show arrogance against worshipping Me shall enter Jahannam, disgraced. 40:60).
HADITH: The Holy Prophet  , said, "Do not be weary of du'a', for nobody dies of making du'a'" - Ibn Hibban and Hakim from Sayyidna Anas Ibn Malik  .
HADITH: The Holy Prophet  said, "du'a' is a weapon of the believer, a pillar of the faith, and the light of the heavens and the earth" - Hakim in al-Mustadrak from Sayyidna Abu Hurairah  .
HADITH: The Holy Prophet  said, "If the gates of du'a' are opened for someone (actually) the doors of mercy are. opened for him, and no du'a' made before Allah Ta'ala is appreciated more than that in which one asks of 'afiyah (well-being) from Him" - Tirmidhi and Hakim from Sayyidna Ibn 'Umar .

The word: ('afiyah) appearing in the Hadith mentioned immediately earlier is a very comprehensive word (usually rendered in English as 'well-being' meaning a state of being healthy and happy, though somewhat outdated in contemporary usage). Apart from a good life, it includes other things like security from unwelcome happenings, trials and calamities as well as a satisfactory fulfillment of all needs in life.

Making du'a' for committing a sin or for severance of blood relationships is haram (forbidden) - and, for that matter, such a du'a' does not get to be accepted with Allah either - as in a Hadith from Sayyidna Abu Sa'id al-Khudri .


Du'a' and the Promise of Acceptance

In this verse, it has been promised that the du'a' a servant makes is accepted. But, on occasions, one also sees that a du'a' was made and it was not accepted. The answer to this appears in a Hadith of Sayyidna Abu Sa'id al-Khudri  where the Holy Prophet  has been reported to have said, "Whatever a Muslim prays for before Allah, He would let him have it - subject to the condition that the du'a' made was not for something sinful or for the severance of relationships that Allah has enjoined to be kept intact. As for the acceptance of du'a', it takes one of the three forms given here: (1) That one gets exactly what one asked for. (2) That in lieu of what one wanted to have, one was given a certain return or reward of the Hereafter. (3) That one did not, though, get what one wanted, but some hardship or calamity that was due to fall on one stood removed. (Musnad Ahmad - Mazhari)

Conditions of the Acceptance of Du'a

As for the present verse, it obviously seems to have no condition, almost to the extent that even being a Muslim is not a condition of du'a'. Allah Ta'ala accepts the du'a' of a kafir (disbeliever) as well in this world to the extent that the du'a' of Iblis to be allowed to live until the last day of Qiyamah was accepted. For du'a', there is no condition of time, nor is there any condition that one must be with taharah (state of purity from pollutants) or wudu (ablution). But, there are trustworthy ahadith that identify a few things that preclude the chances of its acceptance. One must abstain from these. It appears in a Hadith from Sayyidna Abu Hurairah  that the Holy Prophet  said, "...a man having been on a long journey is all disheveled and dust-coated and he stretches his hands upwards for du'a' (saying): 'O my Lord! O my Lord!' while his food is haram (unlawful), his drink: haram, his dress: haram, and he himself was brought up on the haram - how then, could his du'a' become worth accepting?" (Reported by Muslim)

Similarly, if we were to say the words of du'a' negligently, heedlessly, without paying any attention, the Hadith says something about that too -that such a du'a', is also not accepted. (Tirmidhi from Sayyidna Abu Hurairah  )