Lecture 7 in the Ramadaan series:
DUA IN THE LIGHT OF QURAN & AHLUL BAIT (A.S)
Monday 13 May 2018 (7 Ramadaan 1440)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
In the previous lecture, we started a discussion about the manners and conditions for dua, in the light of the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). That discussion covered the following conditions:
1.MA’RIFAT OF ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
As Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) said, we should know who we are asking, and what we are asking for!
There is a Hadith narrated from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) where he says that if you know Allah (SWT) as it is the right of knowing Him, your duas may cause mountains to collapse!
Tauheed and Ma’rifat of Allah (SWT) is the first condition of dua, and we explained that what is unique is that the Ahlul Bait (a.s) used the same duas to provide us Ma’rifat of Allah (SWT)! I also mentioned that I am not aware of any place to learn Ma’rifat of Allah (SWT) better than the duas of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), be it logically, philosophically and even mystically.
In the previous discussion, we studied Ma’rifat of Allah (SWT) through Dua Arafah in particular, but we are similarly empowered with this through Dua Kumayl, Dua Iftitah, Dua Joushan Kabeer, Dua Sabah and other duas of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), which present an ocean of lessons on Ma’rifat of Allah (SWT).
2. BEING OPTIMISTIC ABOUT ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
We should always think positively about Allah (SWT) and have hope in Him ie. not negative or pessimistic. This was the second condition we discussed.
3. COMPLETE DEPENDENCY ON ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
In dua, all your expectation, hope and dependency should be on Allah (SWT). If you are looking at different options and at the same time also asking help from Almighty Allah (SWT), then your dua is unlikely to be successful. Dependency on Almighty Allah (SWT) is required.
4. PRESENCE OF MIND AND HEART DURING DUA
This is the fourth conditions and one of the difficult conditions – huzurul qalb, as noted in Arabic. This presence of mind means that your mind and heart is set on Almighty Allah (SWT) when you are begging from Him. Your mind is not diverted and occupied with lots of other thoughts.
This is the same condition for Salaah as well, which is one of the most difficult conditions to achieve. In fact, our religious scholars say that it is only the Awliya of Allah (SWT) who are able to achieve this perfect condition, such as the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
There was an incident where Imam Ali (a.s) got injured in one of the wars, and there was a piece of metal stuck in his knee. The medics on the scene suggested that they need to open the wound to remove this piece of metal, but they could not, due to the excruciating pain Imam Ali (a.s) had to endure.
Someone in the vicinity came up with a solution, saying that the surgeon should wait until Imam Ali (a.s) goes to perform Salaah, and perform the procedure to remove the piece of metal at that time, because when Imam Ali (a.s) performs Salaah, he does not realise what is going on around him, due to his undivided attention being on Almighty Allah (SWT).
This is exactly what happened! The surgeon conducted the procedure while Imam Ali (a.s) was in Salaah, and he was completely oblivious to it! This is the presence of heart and mind and complete diversion to Almighty Allah (SWT), where nothing matters during this time. It is one of the very difficult conditions, but one should always strive towards this.
Our religious scholars have given lots of instructions and guidance in this regard which can be helpful in achieving a certain level of presence of mind and heart in dua and Salaah. For example, in Salaah, they recommend that we divert our attention to the meaning of what we are reading. They also recommend that we perform the various acts during Salaah slowly in order to ponder and reflect on what we are reading, in order to establish a connection between us and Almighty Allah (SWT) while reading and divert our minds from the distractions.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) says that Almighty Allah (SWT) does not accept dua which comes from the heart which is confused and forgetful. Similarly, Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) narrates from his grandfather Imam Ali (a.s) who said that Almighty Allah (SWT) does not accept dua from a heart which is occupied and diverted, such as music and any other activity which prevents your mind from being on the remembrance of Almighty Allah (SWT).
Now, a heart which is occupied with the worries of Dunya will find that his duas are unlikely to be accepted by Almighty Allah (SWT), because it is an absent heart.
5. SOFTENING OF HEARTS AND HUMILITY
This is another difficult, but very crucial condition of dua. Let us develop a bit of background before we explore this condition.
We discussed Ma’rifat of Allah, optimism in Allah (SWT), dependency on Allah and presence of mind and heart. Now, besides these 4 conditions, there is an important condition for dua, which is highly emphasised in the Holy Quran itself and indeed he Ahlul Bait (a.s) also have a very high emphasis on this condition, namely, humility.
Dua must be with humility, which results in the softening of the hearts, and softening of the hearts results in shedding tears and really begging, down to your knees basically. Now, this is the prime condition in dua! The Holy Quran speaks so much about this particular condition for the acceptance of dua, more than the other conditions.
Let us look at 4 verses from the Holy Quran in this regard. The first is verse 63 of Surah An’aam (chapter 6) where Rasulullah (SAWA) is told:
قُلْ مَنْ يُنَجِّيكُمْ مِنْ ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ تَدْعُونَهُ تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً لَئِنْ أَنْجَانَا مِنْ هَٰذِهِ لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ
“Say: Who is it that delivers you from the dangers of the land and the sea (when) you call upon Him (openly) humiliating yourselves, and in secret: If He delivers us from this, we should certainly be of the grateful ones.”
The second is the direct command in verse 55 of Surah A’araaf (chapter 7):
ادْعُوا رَبَّكُمْ تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ
“Call on your Lord humbly and secretly; surely He does not love those who exceed the limits.”
This third verse is verse 205 from Surah A’araaf (Chapter 7), where Rasulullah (SAWA) is once again told:
وَاذْكُرْ رَبَّكَ فِي نَفْسِكَ تَضَرُّعًا وَخِيفَةً وَدُونَ الْجَهْرِ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآصَالِ وَلَا تَكُنْ مِنَ الْغَافِلِينَ
“And remember your Lord within yourself humbly and fearing and in a voice not loud in the morning and the evening and be not of the heedless ones.”
The fourth is verse 76 of Surah Mu’minoon (chapter 23):
وَلَقَدْ أَخَذْنَاهُمْ بِالْعَذَابِ فَمَا اسْتَكَانُوا لِرَبِّهِمْ وَمَا يَتَضَرَّعُونَ
“We inflicted Punishment on them, but they humbled not themselves to their Lord, nor do they submissively entreat (Him)!”
BEG TO ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT) LIKE A TRUE BEGGAR!
“Tadharru” is the common word in all 4 verses, which means begging in a most desperate, humble manner. This is the prime condition of dua.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) was asked what the meaning of “mastakaanu” is, to which he replied that it means they did not break up in begging from Almighty Allah (SWT) in a complete humble way. The point I am highlighting by quoting these verses is that humility is so crucial in dua. You cannot sit with your chest out in dua. In dua, you must sit like a beggar!
Ahmad ibn Fahad al-Hilli was a great scholar who wrote this most beautiful book on supplications titled “Uddat al-da’i wa najah al-sa’i”. In this book, it is written that when Rasulullah (SAWA) use to supplicate and invoke Almighty Allah (SWT), he use to beg like a beggar asking for food!
We know all too well in our interaction with beggars at the traffic lights – how they nag, beg, repeat, and won’t leave until you give them something for their desperation! Interestingly, you will never find a beggar begging from another beggar. Instead, they will all rush to you!
They will never humble down before each other! Why? It is because the one beggar knows that the other one is a beggar too! I hope we fortunate ones realise that begging from a beggar does not take us anywhere!
WHY DO WE RAISE OUR HANDS IN DUA?
It is narrated that Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s), the 5th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), explained the meaning of 2 important words in the above verse, namely “mastakaanu” and “tadharru”. He said that “mastakaanu” in the above verse means humility, to breakdown, to beg, ask (like the beggar), and “tadharru” means to raise both hands in dua.
People often ask why do we raise our hands when we make dua and beg Almighty Allah (SWT)? This question may be in our minds too, because Allah (SWT) is surely not in the sky, as he is closer to us than our jugular vein! This is what we read in verse 16 of Surah Qaaf (chapter 50 of the Holy Quran):
وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ
“And We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.”
So, Allah (SWT) is omnipresent, so why do we raise our hands to beg from Him?
Our 8th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Ali Ridha (a.s), was also asked this question, and responded that Allah (SWT) taught His creation different types of Ibadah, and similarly taught His creation how to make dua and how to ask with humility.
Imam Ali Ridha (a.s) explains that being humble before Allah (SWT) is to raise both hands towards the sky. Imam Ali Ridha (a.s) further explains that the meaning of raising both hands towards the sky is a sign of begging, humility and complete surrender to Almighty Allah (SWT), as a beggar before Him, and that you are humiliated before Him, and therefore you are fully dependent on Him alone.
Now, let us take this question of raising our hands one step further. Why do we build 2 minarets in the mosque? In Islamic architecture, the reason for having 2 minarets next to each other is symbolic of the same expression as raising of 2 hands towards Allah (SWT), in complete surrender before Him.
A person’s heart is broken when he/she surrenders and begs like a beggar who has nothing. This person who is really stuck in a difficult situation naturally feels very bad and ends up crying too, as there is no dignity left for this heartbroken person. The best time of dua is when you reach this state, as it is the softening of the hearts! This is in direct contrast to hardening of the hearts!
So, what we are saying is that for dua, our hearts are supposed to be soft.
THE SACRED VALUE OF TEARS WHEN IMPLORING FROM ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) says that the best time for us to take benefit of dua is when our hearts are soft, and the mere softening of our hearts is in itself a mercy and blessing. If you notice someone’s heart is broken, then this is the best time to encourage dua.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) makes a very reflective statement by saying that hearts are only soft when they are sincere.
Tears are crucial in dua, and the value of tears is amazing! Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) again explains that a sign that your prayers are answered is when you can see how your skin rises, like when you are afraid and tense, and your eyes start shedding tears.
Therefore, the Ahlul Bait (a.s) have taught us the importance of crying in dua. This is very much part of our culture when it comes to dua.
Someone went to Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) saying that he wants to cry in dua, but somehow tears don’t fall from his eyes. He told Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) that he is not the emotional type, so what should he now do?
Then, this person asked Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) if it is fine that, if in the process of dua, he cries due to remembering his loved ones who passed away. Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) responded that this is also fine, because this is how your heart becomes soft, and through this crying we should divert it to Allah (SWT) during the process of dua!
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) goes to the extent of saying that crocodile tears (fake tears) are even OK!
THE GREAT MYSTIC AYATOLLAH BEHJAT EXPLAINS THE PHILOSOPHY OF TEARS
This is a very big chapter of shedding tears and our religious scholars and mystics have spoken about this endlessly. The great mystic of our era, Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Behjat was asked to provide the recipe for acceptance of dua. He started by explaining the following step-by-step process:
- Glorify and thank Almighty Allah (SWT);
- Recite salawaat on our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and his purified household;
- Admit your sins and remember the mistakes you committed;
- Then ask from Almighty Allah (SWT) whatever you are seeking, but please try your level best to cry.
Ayatollah Behjat then refers to Aamal of Umme Dawood which we perform the whole afternoon of 15 Rajab. You will recall that there is a long dua at the end of the Aamal of Umme Dawood, for which we are again requested to shed tears while reading it, as that is a sign of acceptance of our dua.
When we go to places of Ziyarat of our Imams of Ahlul Bait (a.s), we are supposed to stand at the gate of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) and seek permission to enter. The process that we are ordained to follow is that we should stand at the gate and beg and ask Almighty Allah (SWT) to allow you to enter this very sacred and holy space. A sign of permission being granted to enter is when you are able to shed tears at this point. Again, shedding tears in dua is very, very important.
Ayatollah Behjat says that all these Hadith from the Ahlul Bait (a.s) about tears in dua being a sign of acceptance or response from Allah (SWT) means that in this way, it is a sign of connection. This means that you are connected to Almighty Allah (SWT) similar to when a plug is connected and switched on to draw from the powerhouse. Tears are like a lamp ie. once the power is in, the lamp will turn on!
This connection is super-critical!
TREMBLING REFLECTIONS OF CRYING IN DUA ABU HAMZA THUMALI
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) teaches us repeatedly in Dua Abu Hamza Thumali about the importance of crying in dua. He says in this beautiful dua, that he cries and cries about the darkness of the first night in the grave and its loneliness!
He continues to say that he cries and cries when thinking about his friends conducting his ghusl, turning him from the one side to the other. I can see, but I cannot do anything!
He continues to say that he cries and cries reflecting on the moment when placed in the grave and loads and loads of sand will be thrown over him and then people will all leave him alone, and just a few hours earlier, they were so much in love with him and ready to sacrifice anything for him!
How much has changed in a few hours, that they leave me all alone in that dark hole and throw loads of sand on me, and rush back home as if nothing happened.
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) continues to cry and cry in this Dua Abu Hamza Thumali about the questions of Munkar and Nakeer, and what he will show for what he has brought from this world, as money, power, luxury and popularity will be of no benefit.
أَبْكِي لِخُرُوجِ نَفْسِي
I weep for my soul’s departing my body
أَبْكِي لِظُلْمَةِ قَبْرِي
I weep for the darkness of my grave
أَبْكِي لِضِيقِ لَحْدِي
I weep for the narrowness of my vault
أَبْكِي لِسُؤَالِ مُنْكَرٍ وَنَكِيرٍ إيَّايَ
I weep for Munkar and Nakeer (the two angels interrogating in graves) being interrogating me
أَبْكِي لِخُرُوجِي مِنْ قَبْرِي عُرْيَاناً ذَلِيلاً حَامِلاً ثِقْلِي عَلَى ظَهْرِي
I weep for my coming out of my grave (on the Resurrection Day) naked, humiliated, carrying my burdens on my back
In Dua Arafah which we discussed earlier, it is narrated that Imam Hussain (a.s) stood in front of Jabal Rahmah on the day of Arafah and recited this dua, and upon completing the majority of it, his beard was wet from all his crying, to the extent that his tears were then falling on the ground!
This is the heart of dua! I am emphasizing that we should cry in dua to divert our heart entirely to Allah (SWT). It is very difficult, as our hearts become rock hard from all our sins and a number of other reasons. As a result, our tears dry and we cannot cry even if we want to.
However, if we do cry, we find that the mercy of Almighty Allah (SWT) is there and our hearts melt.
May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant us the Taufeeq to take some steps towards this method of dua prescribed by the Ahlul Bait (a.s).