The dictionary meaning of Dua is to request someone for something. Dua is fulfilled when the one who is addressed is intelligent and aware and has the capability to fulfill that request. On the basis of this, plants and animals are never asked for anything. In the same way, no request is made to the helpless man, except those whom they consider as having power. A servant who raises his hands to Almighty Allah to supplicate, it is so because he considers Him as present, witnessing, kind, needless and absolutely powerful.
To supplicate is a natural need for man, because he is needful and whatever he has is from Almighty Allah and without His bestowals, he does not survive even for a moment. He is connected to God in his being, qualities and acts. In solving his problems and fulfillment of his needs, this weak being is having no choice, except to stretch hands of needs to the needless Lord and to request Him for the same. Dua is among the signs of servitude; it is a cure for internal pains and it gives hope to man. If man during hardships, had no satisfactory refuge, how he could have continued his life? If in removing problems, he does not seek the refuge of powerful and kind God, whose refuge he would seek?
Dua is one of the best worship acts, because worship is in the meaning of extreme humility and expression of servitude and this same meaning is actualized in Dua. In Quran and traditions also, Dua is considered as a worship act; the Holy Quran says:
وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِى أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِى سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ
“And your Lord says: Call upon Me, I will answer you; surely those who are too proud for My service shall soon enter hell abased.” (40:60)
In this verse, omission of Dua is considered arrogance and selfishness.
Hannan bin Sudair has narrated from his father that he said: I asked Imam Muhammad Baqir (a): Which are the best worship deeds? He replied: Nothing is better in the view of Allah than that He should be begged from and nothing is more hateful than that arrogance should be shown in His worship and that nothing is asked from Him.
Saif says: I heard Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) say: Supplicate, because nothing takes you closer to Almighty Allah as Dua. In secondary matters also, take the refuge of God, because the minor matters are in the hand of one who has major affairs under His control.
Hammad says: I heard Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) say: Supplicate and don’t say that everything is over; because Dua is a worship act. Almighty Allah says in the Holy Quran: surely those who are too proud for My service shall soon enter hell abased. And He says: Call upon Me, I will answer you.
On the basis of this, Dua is a worship act, which is performed with intention of seeking proximity to Almighty Allah and it brings the person close to Him and also makes him eligible for heavenly rewards. A servant must, at all times, and on all occasions, keep his hands stretched before the powerful and kind Lord and seek his needs from Him. Dua can be made in any words and in any language; but the best are supplications that we have received from the Holy Prophet (s) and the Holy Imams (a), because they are more cognizant than us about our true needs.
Question: Since Almighty Allah has promised fulfillment of Dua, why in so many instances supplication is not answered?
The Holy Quran says:
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِى عَنِّى فَإِنّى قَرِيبٌ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الْدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُواْ لِى وَ لْيُؤمِنُوا بِى لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
“And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way.” (2:186)
Answer: Almighty Allah in this same verse has made acceptance of Dua conditional by the phrase of ‘when he calls on Me’; that is he should call only Me; and this is a very important point. It can be concluded from the verse that Dua is answered only when a person calls Almighty Allah with a sincere heart and does not pay attention to anyone or anything other than Him. Thus aloofness from anyone or anything other than God and stretching ones hands to God is one of the conditions of acceptance of Dua. Whenever this condition is fulfilled, it would be accepted. But most supplications are not as such; on the contrary they are issued in form of texts, which are accompanied by mental notions, but the inner part of the being are related more to natural causes and reasons and since true supplications are not recited, they are not accepted.
The same point can be concluded from some traditions:
Sulaiman bin Umar says: I heard Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) say: Allah the Mighty and Sublime does not fulfill the supplication of a person who supplicates without attention and without presence of mind. When you address the Almighty Allah, you should make your heart attentive to Him and you should have certainty that it’d be fulfilled.
Amirul Momineen (a) said: Allah, the Mighty and Sublime does not accept the supplication, which is recited in an absent minded manner.
Imam Musa Ibne Ja’far (a) said: Some companions of Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) said to him: How is that when we supplicate, our supplications are not answered? He replied: Because you call one whom you don’t recognize.
Imam Musa Ibne Ja’far (a) has narrated from his father, Imam Ja’far bin Muhammad (a) and he has narrated from his ancestors from the Messenger of Allah (s) that he said: Allah says: I cut off the paths to the heavens and the earth for one who seeks the mediation of creatures, except Me; thus if he asks Me, I don’t give and if he calls Me, I don’t reply. Every servant who focuses his attention on Me and not to My servants, heavens and earth guarantee his sustenance. Thus if they call Me, I reply and if he asks me, I give and if he seeks My forgiveness, I forgive him.
Also, sometimes the reason for non-acceptance of supplication is that Almighty Allah does not regard it to be in the interest of man if his Dua is answered. Therefore He gives precedence to his interests over that of accepting his Dua. It is known that every intelligent human being is in fact desirous of his well being; in such way that if he knew that it is not in his interest, he would never request it from Almighty Allah. It is in this instance that Almighty Allah does not fulfill his recited supplication.
Sometimes the Almighty Allah, who is kind and merciful, gives precedence to the well being of man in the hereafter over that of the fulfillment of his worldly prayers. He does not respond to the supplication of one He loves too much, so that he may always continue to beseech Him and whisper to Him in secret and through this may become eligible for lofty rewards in the hereafter.
The same point is mentioned in traditions:
Ishaq bin Ammar has narrated from Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) that he said: A believer servant supplicates Almighty Allah for something; thus Allah, the Mighty and Sublime says: I delay the acceptance of the Dua of My servant, because I like to hear his voice and his supplication. On Judgment Day, Almighty Allah says: My servant, You called Me, but I delayed the acceptance of your prayer and your reward is such and such. You also supplicated me for so and so thing and I delayed its acceptance, and your reward is such and such. At that moment, the believer servant wishes that alas if none of his supplications were accepted so that he would have been rewarded with a better reward in the hereafter.
On the basis of this, no supplication is without effect and people should not be careless of this important worship act.
Question: It is possible that someone might say that Dua is useless, because that which a person asks from Allah or that which is divinely ordained whose natural cause has appeared in such a way that it would occur without Dua, or that it is not a part of divine will and its natural cause has not appeared, in this case Dua will also not be effective in its fulfillment, because Allah, the Mighty and the High brings everything into existence through natural causes: Allah has left the matters to take their natural course.
Answer: Islam also does not deny the effect of natural causes, but in case of Dua it can be said that it becomes a part cause of the thing and by its accomplishment, the perfect cause is accomplished and the effect comes into being. On the basis of this, the desire of the supplicant in the instance that it is accepted will not be fulfilled without existence of its complete cause; on the contrary, it would be fulfilled following the completion of cause as Dua is also a part of it. But if Dua is not fulfilled, such cause would also not appear, on the basis of this, it is possible to change destiny through Dua.
Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) said: Dua cancels divine decree that descends from the heavens and which has been confirmed.
Umar bin Yazid says: I heard Imam Musa Ibne Ja’far (a) say: Dua cancels that which is ordained or not ordained. The narrators asked: I understand that which is ordained; but what is the meaning of that which is not ordained? He replied: Till the time it comes into existence.
Abdullah bin Sinan says: I heard Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) say: Dua cancels the destiny, which has been decided, Supplicate more, because Dua is key to mercy and a channel of fulfillment of one desires. You cannot reach that which is with Almighty Allah without Dua. It is hoped that the door, which is knocked too much would be opened at last.
Abu Wallad has narrated that Imam Musa Ibne Ja’far (a) said: It is necessary for you to supplicate, because Dua is for Almighty Allah and to ask from Him. Dua wards off calamities that are ordained and decreed; and which do not remain, except with the authority of God. Thus when Allah, the Mighty and Sublime is called, He withdraws the calamity.
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