Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
In this modern world of technology, getting things we want has become very easy— too easy. We can get almost anything we want from Amazon or Ebay. We can order whatever food we want and it’s on our doorstep in twenty minutes. We can have unlimited free entertainment and a huge social network just sitting at home.
The negative side of all this is that we have become too used to instant gratification in everything. This has reduced our attention span (a problem discussed widely in education systems), and we have become impatient. We carry this impatience forward to making dua– we want instant results, otherwise we lose hope.
But eliciting Allah’s help is not like ordering pizza online. We can’t demand from Allah if He doesn’t answer; everything in the universe belongs to Him. He is our Rabb— even we ourselves belong to Him. If our prayers are not getting answers, we should think maybe there is something wrong with our attitude and our way of seeking help. Let us see how Allah the Master wants us to ask for help.
1. Asking for Forgiveness
Even before asking Allah for help, we need to cleanse our hearts of debris.
. . Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver. He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in [continuing] showers And give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers. [Quran, 71:10-12]
2. Helping yourself
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ
. . . Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves . . . [Quran, 13:11]
Make sure that you have done everything that is possible by you. Even Maryam alaihi salam had to shake the tree before she was given its blessed fruits to eat while she was in labour.
And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. [Quran, 19:25]
3. Obeying Allah and Avoiding Haram
وَهُوَ يَتَوَلَّى الصَّالِحِينَ
. . . And He is an ally (Wali) to the righteous (saliheen). [Quran, 7:96]
We need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to fulfill Allah’s commands and avoiding everything forbidden by Him. The Prophet mentioned the story of a disheveled traveler asking for help:
He stretches out his hands towards the heavens and says, ‘O Lord, O Lord’, but his food is haraam, his drink is haraam, his clothing is haraam. He is nourished by haraam, so how can his du’aa’ be accepted? [Muslim]
However, if we are having trouble with a particular sin, that shouldn’t stop us from seeking Allah’s help. We just do the best we can and then ask Allah to help us overcome our desires and avoid that sin.
وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ ۚ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ
And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive. [Quran, 2:45]
First of all pray the obligatory prayers on time and with concentration. Be aware of what you’re saying in prayer. Make prayer from the heart so that your eyes start watering. Allah has said in the above ayah that seeking help will definitely be a colossal difficulty except for those who have khushu’, i.e. consciousness of Allah.
(To understand these verses, their meanings and their subtle implications better, learn Quranic Arabic— 50% of Quran in 9 hours)
Next, make dua. The etiquettes and methods of making dua is a vast topic in itself, but here is a summary:
There are many special duas in the Quran and hadiths for specific purposes. Find the ones suitable for you and seek Allah’s help using them. Also call Allah by His beautiful Names while making dua.
Although you can make dua anytime in the day, there are certain times which the Prophet mentioned are the best times for making dua. Seek out those times to make dua. One of them is during the last third of the night.
Our Lord descends to the heaven on the last third of every night, and he says: Who is calling upon me that I may answer him? Who is asking from me that I may give him? Who is seeking my forgiveness that I may forgive him? [Bukhari]
The proper etiquette of making dua is first to praise Allah, then send peace and blessings upon the Messenger, and then ask for whatever it is that we want.
Point to ponder:
Allah has said in the Quran that He answers whoever calls upon Him, and He is All-Hearing and All-Seeing. He knows our heart’s deepest secrets, He knows us better than we know ourselves. He said,
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
And 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. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided. [Quran, 2:186]
Why, then, do we need to seek out these special times for prayer, pray special duas, and all the rest of it? Why do we need eight or nine or twenty ways to seek help? (I’ll answer this from my own perspective in next article, in sha Allah.)
[to be continued]