Lecture 6 in the Ramadaan series:
DUA IN THE LIGHT OF QURAN & AHLUL BAIT (A.S)
Sunday 12 May 2018 (6 Ramadaan 1440)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Alhamdu Lillah, in our discussions about dua in the light of the Holy Quran and Ahlul Bait (a.s), we discussed various important issues understanding the phenomenon and institution of dua. What is very clear from the 5 discussions thus far is that dua is much more than just seeking help from Almighty Allah (SWT).
Dua is indeed the tool to achieve a purpose, but dua is also itself the purpose. Dua is itself Ibadah (worship), and liked by Almighty Allah (SWT). Dua is therefore our channel of communication between Almighty Allah (SWT) and us.
In this lecture, we will move to the next stage, where we will speak about the manners and conditions of dua, again in the light of the Quran and Ahlul Bait (a.s). It is difficult to distinguish what is a condition and what are manners. Perhaps some of them are primary conditions of dua and some are etiquettes of dua.
Dua is a full-fledged institution in the Holy Quran and Ahlul Bait (a.s) and it has so many details and angles to explore. Therefore, the Holy Quran and Ahlul Bait (a.s) teach us that dua has manners, conditions and a certain set of rules.
WHY DO OUR DUAS NOT GET ANSWERED?
Someone came to our 6th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) saying that he really does not understand 2 verses of the Holy Quran. They are as follows:
- Verse 60 of Surah Ghaafir (chapter 40), because I do not get a response when I call Almighty Allah (SWT).
ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ
“Call on Me; I will answer you”
2. Verse 39 of Surah Saba (chapter 34), because I spend, but do not find it replaced.
وَمَا أَنْفَقْتُمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ فَهُوَ يُخْلِفُهُ
“And whatever thing you spend, He will replace it.”
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) clarified with this person whether his question is why Almighty Allah (SWT) does not fulfil what He promised, to which this person responded that it is not necessarily what he is saying, but just feels stuck, because he has not seen the promises from Almighty Allah (SWT) in these 2 verses materialise.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) replied to this person, saying that Almighty Allah (SWT) would have responded if he had obeyed Him in the matters which He has commanded, and then called on Him through dua. However, He does not reply to you since you disobeyed His commands.
Then, regarding the complaint that you spend but do not see replacement – if you had earned money from a Halaal source and then spent it in its rightful place, then it is impossible to conceive this notion that Almighty Allah (SWT) will not replace if it is done for His pleasure.
METHOD OF MAKING DUA
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) is saying that Almighty Allah (SWT) will not answer if you commit sins and you disobey his commands. Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) then explains further that Almighty Allah (SWT) would have replied if you had made dua the way it should be, even if you are a sinner.
Then, this person asked Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) to explain what the method of dua is. Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) explained that:
- It starts with glorifying Almighty Allah (SWT) upon completion of the daily mandatory salaah.
- Then recite salawaat on our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and his purified Ahlul Bait (a.s).
- You will bear witness to what has been conveyed from the divine message.
- You will also make salawaat on what you have been tested with.
- Then you will remember the blessings and favours that Allah (SWT) has on you, for which you will praise Him and express your profound appreciation to Him.
- You will then reach a stage where you will admit to your sins. You will plead guilty and repent for all your sins, one by one.
- You will make a sincere intention to not return to those sins.
- You will humbly implore the forgiveness from Almighty Allah (SWT) with regret, tension and fear of the punishment for transgressing the commands of Allah (SWT).
- Then you will say to Allah (SWT) that you excuse yourself from the sins you have committed, and you seek His forgiveness and return back to Him.
- You will then implore help from Allah (SWT) for obedience to Him in following His commands, as that will bring pleasure on me.
- I have not seen anyone reach anywhere from Your obedience, except with Your favour on him, so You have blessed him with Your favours, and he has reached Your pleasure and paradise through those favours.
- After reaching this point in your dua, you will see that your needs and challenges will be addressed.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) then told this person that Almighty Allah (SWT) will surely reply to him after completing this process.
This is one of the many narrations from the Ahlul Bait (a.s) which addresses the manners and conditions of dua. Clearly, dua is not without etiquettes. There are certain challenges involved in this procedure of dua. Unfortunately, we will not be able to achieve what we want from dua if we do not have those conditions fulfilled.
CONDITIONS TO FULFIL BEFORE MAKING DUA
From here onwards, we will discuss the list of those conditions pertaining to dua. This is very, very important. We will discuss 3 conditions in this lecture. They are as follows:
- Ma’rifatullah – knowledge of Almighty Allah (SWT)
- Being optimistic about Almighty Allah (SWT)
- Complete dependency on Almighty Allah (SWT)
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!
Referring to verse 186 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran) which we discussed in our introductory discussion (lecture 1) regarding dua, we read:
فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
“So let them respond to Me, and let them have faith in Me, so that they may fare rightly.”
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) interprets this to mean that the person is clear about Tauheed and there is knowledge of Almighty Allah (SWT). However, this is the Islamic principle in every act of worship (Ibadah).
MA’RIFAT OF ALLAH (SWT) IS THE INTERNAL CORE OF IBADAH (WORSHIP)
The real value of Ibadah is based on Ma’rifat. Ibadah is not simply physical. The physical aspect of Ibadah prepares the ground, but the real spirit of Ibadah is not physical. Example, fasting is not confined to thirst and hunger, nor is Salaah confined to physical movements. Similarly, Hajj is not simply about the physical demands. This is all there to achieve something else.
Another good example to explain this point is Qurbaani. It is very clear from the Holy Quran that Almighty Allah (SWT) does not need the flesh and blood of the animals. Allah (SWT) wants Taqwa. All these physical aspects of Ibadah prepare our minds and souls to achieve proximity to Almighty Allah (SWT). This is what Ibadah is about!
Now this, which is the internal core of Ibadah cannot be achieved without Ma’rifat. If you do not understand or comprehend, then your reward will be confined to the ritual aspect only. However, you will be losing out on the true value because the quality is not there.
Many people place great emphasis on quantity, whereas with Ibadah, it is the quality that matters. On this point, we remember that well-known statement from Imam Ali (a.s) where he says that sleeping with certainty is better than Salaah with doubt.
When you do not know who you are calling out to in pray, and when you do not have true faith, nor any clarity or surety about who this Almighty God (SWT) is, then the result is that this dua does not reach very far.
Therefore, all the Hadith narrated from the Ahlul Bait (a.s) insist that dua must be with Ma’rifat of Almighty Allah (SWT).
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) was asked why our dua is not responded to, when he recited this verse 62 from Surah Naml (chapter 27 of the Holy Quran):
أَمَّنْ يُجِيبُ الْمُضْطَرَّ إِذَا دَعَاهُ وَيَكْشِفُ السُّوءَ
“Who listens to the (soul) distressed when it calls on Him, and Who relieves its suffering.”
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) responded to this question by saying that you are calling someone whom you actually do not know, and also, you are asking for something which you do not understand. So, what Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) is saying is that in dua:
- Ma’rifat of Almighty Allah (SWT) is the condition. We should know Allah (SWT).
- We should understand what it is that we are asking
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) relayed an experience through a Hadith Qudsi, where Almighty Allah (SWT) is saying that whoever asks Him knows that He is the one who provides benefit and He is the one who can take away the benefit. He will answer the call, provided the caller knows who he is calling!
MA’RIFAT OF ALLAH (SWT) IS MOST SUBLIME THROUGH THE DUAS OF AHLUL BAIT (A.S)
On this point, we are privileged for the amazing job that the Ahlul Bait (a.s) have done for us, where they used dua itself to teach us who Almighty Allah (SWT) is. They used dua itself to teach us Tauheed and Ma’rifat of Almighty Allah (SWT).
Honestly talking, I don’t think there is any better place to learn Tauheed and Ma’rifat of Almighty Allah (SWT), than the school of dua of Ahlul Bait (a.s). Let me take a minute to draw your attention to Dua Arafat of Imam Hussain (a.s). What a noble dua, and what great lessons of Tauheed are there!
Unfortunately, we followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s) sometimes become obsessed with rituals, stuck on the external aspects of Ibadah without given due attention to the core aspects and deeper meaning of worship.
Dua Arafat is such a profound statement of Tauheed, where Imam Hussain (a.s):
- Starts on the journey of creation of a human being through the stages in the womb of the mother;
- Moving to its entry in this world upon birth;
- Progressing through childhood to adolescence;
- And then the productive years of adulthood;
- Culminating in the senior years of life in old age
If one focusses on this Dua Arafat, we will appreciate why I am saying that the best place to be empowered on Tauheed and Ma’rifat of Almighty Allah (SWT) is the rich institution of dua which the Ahlul Bait (a.s) have left us.
Dua Arafat reaches its peak when Imam Hussain (a.s) says that blind are those eyes which can see everything, but cannot see You, Allah (SWT)! Similarly, he says in this dua that O Allah (SWT), if someone has lost You, what has he found, and if someone has found You, what has he lost?!
This Dua Arafat takes on philosophical dimensions and becomes academically enriching when one studies Imam Hussain (a.s) asking Allah (SWT) how he can argue on His existence through something which is created by Him?
Let us take a moment to reflect on this, because there is a principle in philosophy and logic which says that the definition of the defined must be more clear and brighter than the defined. For example, let us say that you want to know the definition of the solar system. If I want to define the solar system, I must use words which are easy, because if I use words which are more difficult than solar system itself, then this cannot be a definition!
Now, coming back to the point of the question where Imam Hussain (a.s) is asking Allah (SWT) how He should be defined, Imam Hussain (a.s) is saying that whatever he uses to define Allah (SWT) is through His creation, so how can the creation be the proof of the Creator?
Imam Hussain (a.s) is saying that there is nothing more evident, brighter and clearer than You, Allah (SWT), so which argument can he use which is more clearer than You, to define You?
This is the Ahlul Bait (a.s) teaching us Tauheed at its most sublime level. We endure a similar experience of Tauheed in other duas, such as Dua Kumayl, and not forgetting the rich message of Tauheed we reflect on every night in Ramadaan through Dua Iftitah. These give us deep insight into the attributes of Almighty Allah (SWT).
So, the Ahlul Bait (a.s) are teaching us through their duas, the method of communicating with Almighty Allah (SWT). Referring to the 12 step process explained in the Hadith from Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) cited earlier, he teaches us that step 1 is to glorify and praise Almighty Allah (SWT).
One can carry on and on regarding this point, because the Ahlul Bait (a.s) have left us an ocean in this regard. Munajat Shabaniyya, Dua Sabah of Imam Ali (a.s), Dua Joushan Kabeer all explain Tauheed in a most sublime manner. Think about it – Dua Joushan Kabeer takes about 90 minutes to read, as it is divided into 100 portions, and every portion of this dua is Tauheed and it introduces us to Almighty Allah (SWT) so that we can understand Him.
BEING OPTIMISTIC ABOUT ALLAH (SWT)
This is the second condition after knowing Allah (SWT). Knowing Allah (SWT) is not sufficient, because we need to also have trust that Almighty Allah (SWT) will reply to my dua.
There is another thought provoking Hadith Qudsi where Almighty Allah (SWT) says that He is as He is in the thoughts of His servants. In other words, if we think positively of Allah (SWT), then He is positive, and if we think Allah (SWT) is close, then He is close, and so on and so forth.
So, nobody should think of Him except good. This is what this particular Hadith Qudsi is explaining, that we should never think negatively of Allah (SWT), even if we have committed the biggest of sins, and crossed all the limits. No matter what, we should always think that Allah (SWT) will rescue and protect us.
In this regard, Rasulullah (SAWA) says that we should make dua to Almighty Allah (SWT) while being sure that it will be responded to. One of the reasons why dua is not accepted is because we have doubt about whether it will be accepted! This means that we do not have that trust in Allah (SWT), so we try dua as one of the avenues in the hope that something positive will emerge from it, rather than having firm belief that Allah (SWT) will answer us.
The opposite of having optimism and being positive about Allah (SWT) is having a pessimistic attitude and feeling of hopelessness. Verse 53 of Surah Zumar (chapter 39 of the Holy Quran) reminds us of our belief in the mercy of God (SWT) at all times:
لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِنْ رَحْمَةِ اللَّهِ
“Do not despair of the mercy of Allah.”
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) says that when we make dua, we must have the mindset that the answer for our dua is standing at our door! What we want is already there! This is the optimism and positivity with full trust and surety that our dua will be accepted by Allah (SWT).
COMPLETE DEPENDENCY ON ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
As discussed, we must know Allah (SWT), and we must trust Allah (SWT). In addition, we must also lose hope in others, and must completely dispose ourselves towards Allah (SWT).
Again, Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) says that in the meaning of dua, if one wants to be sure that Allah (SWT) will answer our dua, then we should cut our expectations from people, and divert our complete hope and dependency to Him alone. This is when we will be rewarded by Almighty Allah (SWT) without even asking from Him.
Our next discussion will focus on the 4th condition, which is about our presence of mind and heart. This is a very difficult condition which we will unpack further.