Supplication, or Du’a, is one of the essentials of worship in Islam. Someone who does not frequently make Du’a is not only losing out on attaining Allah’s blessings, but is also deprived of worshiping Allah in a very personal manner. Abstinence from making Du’a is a sign of arrogance and is reminiscent of the attitude of those who deny Allah. Moreover, Du’a is a means of changing one’s destiny, as the Prophet ﷺ said, “Du’a turns away [aspects of] destiny, and good deeds lengthen age.” (Tirmidhi)
Allah says in the Qur’an, “Call upon Me – I will respond to you.” (40:60) Allah is Ever-Present to listen to His slaves when they humble themselves before Him. Many of His beautiful attributes signify His willingness to grant our prayers, such as As-Sami (the All-Hearing), Al-Mujeeb (the Responsive), and Al-Samad (the Satisfier of needs). No plea goes unnoticed or unheard by Him, as He says, “And when My servants ask you concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me.” (2:186)
The Qur’an contains Du’as for us to benefit from, including the ones made by prophets and other righteous individuals. The Prophet ﷺ also taught us many Du’as, ranging from those for special occasions, to the daily life supplications, as a means for frequent remembrance of Allah. It is important, however, to understand these Du’as, and not just to memorize them without knowing what the words actually mean.
Making Du’a to Allah Alone
The foremost rule of making Du’a is that it must be made only to Allah, since He alone is Knower of the Unseen, and capable of fulfilling our every need. While asking a living person for help is legitimate, directing one’s needs to the deceased is equivalent to making Du’a to them, and hence worshiping them. Any individual – no matter how pious he or she was in this life – is not capable of assisting us once they pass on to the next world. Allah alone possesses the power to respond to our pleas and to grant our wishes, as He says: “And to Allah belong the treasures of the heavens and the earth, but the hypocrites comprehend not.” (63:7) Moreover, a believer affirms his covenant to make Du’a only to Allah many times a day during Salat, while reciting the following ayah of Surah Al-Fatiha: “You only do we worship, and You only do we beseech for help.” (1:5)
Unfortunately, some Muslims supplicate to human beings and thus end up committing shirk. It is important to understand that a deceased person – whether a prophet, a scholar or a saint – cannot hear our pleas, let alone respond to them. Hence, there is no point in visiting shrines and asking the deceased for blessings or intercession – it only leads to the association of the deceased as a partner to Allah, which is the greatest sin in His sight. Even in some religious songs and hymns, help is sought from those other than Allah, so these should be strictly avoided.
Best Times to Make Du’a
In the light of Hadith, the following are some of the best times for making Du’a:
- The time between Adhan and Iqamah (Bukhari)
- While prostrating (Muslim)
- At the end of obligatory salah (Tirmidhi)
- While fasting, especially at the time of breaking the fast (Tirmidhi)
- At night, especially the last one-third of the night, and midnight (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi)
- Fridays (Bukhari)
- When it is raining (Abu Dawud)
- While travelling (Tirmidhi)
- Before drinking zamzam water (Ahmad)
- The Day of Arafah (Tirmidhi)
- Other sacred days such as Laylat ul Qadr and the first ten days of Dhul-hijjah, and during acts of worship such as Tawaf.
Manner of Making Du’a
The manner of making Du’a is of much significance. One must begin Du’a by praising Allah and then invoking blessings upon the Prophet ﷺ. It is essential to turn towards Allah with complete attention; every word must be uttered clearly and calmly. Du’a must be unhurried and made in a state of tranquility. It must be made with humility – with complete awareness of our position as the slaves of Allah, and His, as our sole Master. Our words and tone should assert that we are begging to Allah, and to Him alone. Allah says, “Call upon your Lord in humility and privately…” (7:55) Making Du’a in privacy brings one closer to Allah, and increases one’s concentration while beseeching Him.
While supplicating, one has to be confident, and pray with conviction; we should be entirely convinced that Allah is perfectly capable of answering our prayers, for Whom nothing is even remotely difficult. The Prophet ﷺ said, “When one of you is to supplicate, he should do so with full confidence and should not say, ‘O Allah, grant me if You will,’ for there is no power that can force Allah.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
Du’a must be made earnestly. Allah knows what is deep within our hearts, and nothing is ever hidden from Him: “He knows what is within the heavens and earth and knows what you conceal and what you declare. And Allah is Aware of that within the hearts.” (64:4) Allah is pleased to communicate with His servants and to hear them implore Him. This is one reason why we must pray even though He is already aware of all our thoughts and intentions. We must also admit our shortcomings and weaknesses during Du’a, and think of Allah as not only a Master, but also a Protecting Friend. He must be called upon without hesitation.
While making Du’a, it is commendable to refer to the glorious attributes of Allah and to mention one’s own righteous deeds. Most supplications in the Qur’an and Sunnah include praise and glorification of Allah, and specially mention those attributes of Allah that are most relevant to the supplication. For instance, we may praise Allah for being Al-Ghaffar and At-Tawwab when imploring His forgiveness, and for being Ar-Razzaq and Al-Wahhab when seeking His blessings. Consider the following brief prayer of Prophet Yusuf (Josph) in which he seeks Allah’s protection and reward: “Creator of the heavens and earth, You are my protector in this world and in the hereafter. Cause me to die in submission [to Your will] and join me with the righteous.” (12:101)
The Prophet ﷺ narrated an incident in which three travelers got trapped in a cave when a huge rock rolled down the mountain and covered the opening. They said to one another, “Nothing could save you from this rock but to invoke Allah by giving reference to the righteous deeds which you have done.” (Bukhari) They then proceeded to invoke Allah in this manner, each one mentioning his worthiest deed done for the sake of Allah. As each man finished his supplication, the rock shifted its position until it moved completely out of the way and they got out unhurt.
The Supplications ‘Not Answered’
Allah is always willing to listen to the supplicant, and is ‘shy’ to return the prayer unanswered, as the Prophet ﷺ said, “Verily, your Lord is Generous and Shy. If His servant raises his hands to Him [in supplication], He becomes shy to return them empty.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi) Even if one’s prayer is apparently not answered, Allah compensates for it by helping the supplicant in some other way and rewarding him or her in the hereafter. The Prophet ﷺ said, “There is no Muslim who calls upon his Lord with a Du’a in which there is no sin or severing of family ties, but Allah will give him one of three things: He will answer his prayer quickly, or He will store [the reward for] it in the hereafter, or He will divert an equivalent evil away from him.” (Tirmidhi)