Lecture 5 in the Ramadaan series:
DUA IN THE LIGHT OF QURAN & AHLUL BAIT (A.S)
Saturday 11 May 2018 (5 Ramadaan 1440)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
In our discussions about dua in the light of the Holy Quran and the Ahlul Bait (a.s), we have covered some very, very important aspects of dua, and reached the point where we discussed the 4 basic elements of dua, being:
- Da’aie – the one who is making dua ie. the beggar;
- Madou’we – who we are making dua to ie. who we are begging from;
- Dua – supplication ie. the begging itself
- Madou’we lah – what we are begging for
Again, related to Da’aie, there is one important discussion which we will delve deeper into tonight, and that is the relationship of dua and actions. We emphasized about the one who makes dua to Almighty Allah (SWT) which He loves. Without any doubt, there are favours of Allah (SWT) which nobody can achieve without dua.
HOW DOES THE DIVINE SYSTEM OF ALLAH (SWT) WORK IN THIS WORLD?
The question which comes into our minds is whether this dua is sufficient, and we therefore do not need to do anything? Can we sit and relax and just make dua, and Almighty Allah (SWT) must respond to us, as He has promised in verse 60 of Surah Ghaafir (chapter 40 of the Holy Quran)?
وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ ۚ
And your Lord says: “Call on Me; I will answer you.”
This is the question which we will unpack in today’s discussion.
First of all, we must understand one very important principle, that dua and actions are both keys of the mercy of Almighty Allah (SWT). His mercy descends upon us through dua as well as actions, and not dua alone.
If we understand this concept, then it will help us in understanding a number of other phenomena. This is what we call Sunnatullah, meaning divine traditions or divine laws. Almighty Allah (SWT) created this world and runs it based upon a system, and that system works upon certain rules and laws, which are also created by Almighty Allah (SWT), by which he runs this world.
An example is one of the most basic laws, which is the law of cause and effect. If there will be fire, it will burn. If there will be a reason for something, then we will see the effect there too. In simple terms, the effect cannot be separated from the cause. Similarly, you cannot bring something into existence in this world without cause.
We are here based upon this system of cause and effect. Everything in this world operates on these basic laws of cause and effect, whether it is about how our body works, how our cosmos and universe works, how nature works, physics, chemistry and whatever else.
You cannot have a situation where there is an effect, but no cause. There is no reason possible for this. This is called divine law, and the Holy Quran repeatedly (around 6 – 7 times) reminds us that Almighty Allah (SWT) does not change His law. An example is verse 23 of Surah Fath (chapter 48 of the Holy Quran:
سُنَّةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلُ ۖ وَلَنْ تَجِدَ لِسُنَّةِ اللَّهِ تَبْدِيلًا
“Such has been the course of Allah that has indeed run before, and you shall not find a change in Allah’s course.”
This is the trend of Allah (SWT) and His way which has come down from the past, and you will never find any change in his system.
DUA WITHOUT ACTION OR ACTION WITHOUT DUA: WHO ATTAINS THE PLEASURE OF ALLAH (SWT)
Building on what we discussed earlier, if you want to say – O Allah (SWT) give me money, but I am not going to go out and try to find a job. Do we think anything positive will happen? Clearly not! Rizq comes through a chain of cause and effect. That chain of cause and effect must occur until the provision of Risq reaches you. So, the natural processes and systems of cause and effect are important for everything.
So, we cannot expect results from Allah (SWT) by simply making dua and bypassing these divine laws. It does not work this way, as confirmed in the above verse, that Allah (SWT) does not change His divine laws which He established to run this universe.
There is no exception in these laws, because if they do not work, then we will never be able to understand the world. We understand everything in this world, based upon these divine laws. We have only discussed the relationship of cause and effect, but there are a number of other divine laws which rule in nature and on society.
The Holy Quran speaks about those divine trends and traditions which rule over society and history. That is why we have that thought-provoking discussion by the great intellectual giant of the 20th century Shaheed Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr (r.a) is his book titled “Trends of history in Quran”.
Recently, I spoke in Jumuah about verse 11 of Surah Ra’ad (chapter 13 of the Holy Quran) where Allah (SWT) says that He will not change the condition of a nation unless they take the initiative to change themselves. This is a divine law!
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ
“Surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition.”
Now, it is important to note that dua does not replace this divine law. But then, what is the role of dua, because it seems like we are now on the other extreme, where we are saying that everything that we have is through the divine law of action and reaction or cause and effect? So where does dua then fit into all of this?
This is the important point to understand, that dua is necessary besides action, because dua is also a cause for the mercy and blessings of Allah (SWT) to descend. Dua therefore operates consistent with the divine laws and natural system.
Let us understand this through pregnancy. There are various natural processes in operation which ultimately results in the birth of a baby after 9 months. Now, these natural processes are not sufficient because it can freeze and be stuck. Dua is the cause which ensures that these natural processes work properly. Therefore, dua is also a cause.
ALLAH (SWT) TAKES 10 STEPS FOR EVERY 1 STEP WE TAKE
We read in the Holy Quran, so beautifully in verse 26 of Surah Shura (chapter 42), that Allah (SWT) answers the prayers of those who have faith and good deeds, and then bestows upon them more out of His bounty. This granting of more from His bounty is the result of dua.
وَيَسْتَجِيبُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَيَزِيدُهُمْ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ ۚ وَالْكَافِرُونَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ
“And He answers those who believe and do good deeds, and gives them more out of His grace; and (as for) the unbelievers, they shall have a severe punishment.”
There was a great mystic in Iran by the name of Ayatollah Mujtaba Tehrani (r.a) and his interpretation of this verse was that for every 1 step we take towards Allah (SWT), He takes 10 steps towards us! The reward from Almighty Allah (SWT) is exponentially greater than the little that we do. This is when we divert our undivided attention towards Him.
So, to summarise this point, duas and actions are both keys of the mercy of Allah (SWT). If someone becomes dependent on his actions only, then that is Istikbaar (arrogance) which we discussed previously.
The Holy Quran says that those people who avoid Ibadah of Allah (SWT) are arrogant, because they depend entirely on their good deeds alone. This is expressed in verse 60 of Surah Ghaafir (chapter 40 of the Holy Quran), where Almighty Allah (SWT) says:
وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ
And your Lord says: “Call on Me; I will answer you. But those who are too arrogant to serve Me will surely find themselves in Hell – in humiliation!”
This arrogance is where we believe that we can do something on our own, independently. This is where our slippery slope downhill starts!
WHOSE DUA IS ACCEPTED AND WHOSE DUA IS REJECTED?
Dua is in spirit saying to us, that after we have everything in order, we still cannot guarantee the result. The whole world in front of us is an example of that. We can be how precise and perfect, but then all of a sudden we see everything collapse into pieces!
Therefore, another Hadith from Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) says that Almighty Allah (SWT) has a reward which nobody can reach through struggle and toil except by asking Him, and if one does not ask, then he will not receive.
Yes, we should ask from Almighty Allah (SWT), but it has to be combined with action. Hence, there is a delicate balance between action and dua. As explained earlier, dependence on action alone brings arrogance, and when actions fail, then dua works, because that reminds us that we are poor and dependent, and therefore we are nothing.
Imam Ali (a.s) very beautifully said that someone who makes dua without action is like a shooter without a string in his bow, and hence has nothing to pull to shoot the arrow! Action is therefore necessary.
Another Hadith from Imam Ali (a.s) in this regard is when he describes 3 groups of people whose duas are rejected. They are:
- Somebody who is sitting in his house and does nothing, but asks from Allah (SWT) for risq. This person’s dua will be rejected because he made no effort towards earning the sustenance which Allah (SWT) has provided.
- A man who complains incessantly about his wife but does nothing to address the issues at hand with her.
- Somebody who has lent money to a borrower but did not maintain any documentation to this effect. This person, if he then begs Allah (SWT) to help him get his money back, will be rejected, because he did not bother to have a witness at the time of the transaction nor have a proper contract in place.
3 STEP PROCESS TO ACHIEVE THE BOUNTIES FROM ALLAH (SWT)
Let us now move to another interesting aspect related to the Da’aie, which is about the 3 stages before the mercy of Almighty Allah (SWT) descends. These need to be fulfilled before the mercy of Allah (SWT) showers upon us:
- Poverty – the mercy of Allah (SWT) comes when one is really in a very stressful, needy situation. As we discussed previously, poverty also has 3 levels, namely:
- Being needy
- Understanding that you are needy, because not everyone who is actually needy understands that they are poor
- Response to this need ie. the realization that only Allah (SWT) can resolve my problem and deficiency.
We fondly read in the duas of Rajab about the generosity of Almighty Allah (SWT):
يَا مَنْ يُعْطِي الْكَثِيرَ بِالْقَلِيلِ،
O He who gives a lot in exchange of a little.
يَا مَنْ يُعْطَي مَنْ سَأَلَهُ
O He who gives to one who asks Him.
يَا مَنْ يُعْطي مَنْ لَمْ يَسْأَلْهُ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَعْرِفْهُ
O He who gives to one who does not ask Him and does not know Him
Rumi, the 13th century great Sufi mystic said something very thought provoking. He says, don’t ask for water, but rather ask for thirst, because if you ask for thirst, you will see that the water will gush out from all sides! This is very deep! It means that if you have that real stress (thirst) then the mercy of Almighty Allah (SWT) will surely come. Hence, you should ask for that very difficult needy situation to get the best reward for what you are looking for. Help will then come automatically!
The verse from the Holy Quran we often read in times of great distress fits perfectly in this discussion, from Surah Naml (chapter 27) verse 62:
أَمَّنْ يُجِيبُ الْمُضْطَرَّ إِذَا دَعَاهُ وَيَكْشِفُ السُّوءَ
“Who listens to the (soul) distressed when it calls on Him, and Who relieves its suffering.”
Similarly, in the beautiful whispered prayer called the Munajat of Imam Ali (a.s), where we read Imam Ali (a.s) calling out to Almighty Allah (SWT) in the middle of the night with these words, highlight our desperate need to Him:
مَوْلايَ يا مَوْلايَ أَنْتَ الْمَوْلىٰ وَأَنَا الْعَبْدُ وَهَلْ يَرْحَمُ الْعَبْدَ إِلّا الْمَوْلىٰ
My Lord, O my Lord, You are the Master and I am the Slave, and who else can be merciful to the slave except the Master?
مَوْلايَ يا مَوْلايَ أَنْتَ الْمالِكُ وَأَنَا الْمَمْلُوكُ وَهَلْ يَرْحَمُ الْمَمْلُوكَ إِلّا الْمالِكُ
My Lord, O my Lord, You are the Owner and I am the one owned by You, and who else can be merciful to the owned except the owner?
This expression of great need continues with this beautiful dialogue between Imam Ali (a.s) and Almighty Allah (SWT), which is a manifestation of that poverty and great dependence on Allah (SWT).
HAJAR: THE PRACTICAL EMBODIMENT OF ULTIMATE TRUST IN ALLAH (SWT)
The abundance of mercy from Allah (SWT) descends when all 3 elements are lined up, namely poverty, action and dua. I wish to share a very beautiful example in this regard, namely that of our mother Hajar, the wife of Nabi Ibrahim (a.s), and mother of Nabi Ismail (a.s).
Nabi Ibrahim (a.s) brought his wife Hajar and infant baby Nabi Ismail (a.s) to Makkah, next to the Ka’bah. This is a totally dry, barren land, where nothing grows, and Nabi Ibrahim (a.s) recites verse 37 from Surah Ibrahim (chapter 14) upon settling there:
رَبَّنَا إِنِّي أَسْكَنْتُ مِنْ ذُرِّيَّتِي بِوَادٍ غَيْرِ ذِي زَرْعٍ عِنْدَ بَيْتِكَ الْمُحَرَّمِ
“O our Lord! Surely I have settled a part of my offspring in a valley unproductive of fruit near Thy Sacred House.”
Nabi Ibrahim (a.s) left on the command of Almighty Allah (SWT), after settling in Hajar and infant baby Nabi Ismail (a.s), leaving them some food and water. Food and water eventually runs out and the baby Ismail is crying and in major stress to the extent where he is on the brink of death out of starvation and thirst. This satisfies element number 1 noted earlier ie. poverty.
Poverty, stress, hardship attracts the mercy of Almighty Allah (SWT). Baby Ismail is in this extraordinary difficult situation, and the mother of this baby, Hajar, is in even greater stress. Naturally, a baby does not comprehend the magnitude of the difficulty, but the mother surely does realise the situation she has on her hands here. So you can imagine the stress, pain, worry and pressure on the mother, as she is witnessing that her baby is going to die any time now!
This was the extreme stress on Hajar. What did she then do? She ran towards the mountain of Safa searching for water. She finds nothing, and runs towards Marwa and climbs to the top of this mountain as well. She searches for water all over and finds nothing, not a drop of water, nor a green leaf in sight.
She then returns…her baby Ismail (a.s) is still next to the Ka’bah, laying restless and crying nonstop, as he is on the brink of death, while she is trying her level best to find water for him by running 7 times between Safa and Marwa.
A great scholar made an amazing point, saying that if she was looking for water by running between Safa and Marwa once or twice, then that should be sufficient for her to know that there clearly is no water there. But she ran 7 times between Safa and Marwa, and the distance between the 2 is 450m, making her 7 trips back and forth amount to roughly 3.2km. This satisfies element number 2 noted earlier ie. action.
Now, after satisfying condition 1 and 2, we see Hajar raising her hands in complete devotion to Almighty Allah (SWT). History can never bring another dua to compare with the dua of Hajar, because she submits herself to Allah (SWT) after she exhausted all options to find water between Safa and Marwa. This scholar says that Hajar was not only running between these 2 point to search for water, but rather, she is trying to say to Almighty Allah (SWT) that she has full trust in Him because she is trying her level best.
While she raised her hands in dua in this state, the baby is laying on the rocks and all of a sudden springs of Zamzam gushes. What a source of blessings and goodness starts!
Why was this particular action of Hajar so important in the eyes of Almighty Allah (SWT), so much so that He says in verse 158 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran):
إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِنْ شَعَائِرِ اللَّهِ ۖ فَمَنْ حَجَّ الْبَيْتَ أَوِ اعْتَمَرَ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِ أَنْ يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَا ۚ وَمَنْ تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ شَاكِرٌ عَلِيمٌ
“Surely the Safa and the Marwa are among the signs appointed by Allah; so whoever makes a pilgrimage to the House or pays a visit (to it), there is no blame on him if he goes round them both; and whoever does good spontaneously, then surely Allah is Grateful, Knowing.”
The magnanimity of this sacrifice makes it a compulsory component of Hajj and Umrah, because it has the combination of the 3 very important essentials mentioned earlier. This is poverty (fakhr), which highlights our dependency on Almighty Allah (SWT). It also has the action of running between Safa and Marwa with Tawakkul (trust) and thirdly, dua ie. seeking from Almighty Allah (SWT) and depending on Him entirely, in the most sincere manner.
The result is there, and this is such a huge lesson for all of us, so much so that this tradition is established as a compulsory component of Hajj and Umrah.
Now, let us look at what the Ahlul Bait (a.s) taught us. Let us reflect on the duas which we are supposed to read when we are running between Safa and Marwa. We ask Allah (SWT) during this process to grant us the ability to be positive and optimistic towards Him, and to never lose hope in Him, as we have placed our full trust in Him alone. This is what we ask Allah (SWT) while following the footsteps of Hajar between Safa and Marwa.
I wish the children of Nabi Ibrahim (a.s) and Nabi Ismail (a.s) could have heard this important lesson from our mother Hajar.
Poverty, action and reliance on Almighty Allah (SWT) – Tawakkul and trust – and disposing the matters on Him, as a nation or as individuals. That is therefore the great secret of this Ibadah.
Someone asked from Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s), what he likes the most from the A’maal of Hajj and Umrah. The response from Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) was the travel between Safa and Marwa, without any doubt, and he explained the special significance of this by saying that every arrogant is humiliated here.
This devotion of Hajar, and her full trust in Allah (SWT), supported by her action and struggle, is most important to always reflect on. She could have chosen to stay by her baby Ismail (a.s) and raise her hands in dua for water, and say to Allah (SWT) that His Prophet is about to die from thirst. Instead, she ran up and down between Safa and Marwa and strived and struggled, with full faith in Almighty Allah (SWT).
May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant us the Taufeeq to understand the real meanings of these significant events and implement them in our practical life, Insha Allah.