Excerpt from the book “Al-Ihsan” by Imam Abdessalam Yassine, pages 244-250
Slightly shortened and Translated from the original Arabic by: Editorial Board.
In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful “My Lord, I have indeed wronged myself.” Oh God, give to my soul [nafs] its guidance and purify it – You are the best of all to purify it, You are its Protector and its Guardian. Oh God, I seek refuge in You from knowledge that does not benefit, a heart that does not soften, a lower self [nafs] that is never satisfied, and du’ā’ that is not answered.
Al-Bukhāri composed a chapter entitled “Your du’ā’ (supplication) is your imān (faith)” in the Book of Faith of his Saḥiḥ collection. Commentators attempted to interpret his words, some of them saying that they are based on Ibn Abbas’s explanation of the verse, “What would my Lord care for you if not for your du’ā’,” [Surat al-Furqan, the last verse] which is that du’ā’ is used here to mean imān. Others said that the meaning (of the chapter title) is that the du’ā’ of the Messengers to people is the reason for their imān. Still others said that the meaning of du’ā’ here is obedience to God or worship. What is apparent to me, and God knows best, is that his choice of words is similar to that of the Prophet, God bless him and grant him peace, in the ḥadith related by Imam Ahmad, “The nobility of a man is his dīn,” meaning that the level of his dīn is equal to the nobility of his character, his metal , and his aspirations, be they high or low. In the same manner, the one who engages in much du’ā’ and is always standing at the door of his Lord has a higher level of faith than one who engages in little du’ā’. The verse (from Surat al-Furqan) is sufficient as proof that God does not care for those who consider themselves independent of calling upon Him and who turn to others for their needs.
In the ḥadith, “Whoever shows enmity to a friend of mine,” the Truth -Exalted and Majestic is He- informs us that when His providential care descends upon the loving, beloved servant who draws close to him through obligatory and supererogatory deeds, He becomes his vision, his sight, his hand and his leg, and his prayers become answered. This rank is the opposite of those who do not call upon God and for whom God does not care – may God protect us. God, perfect in His majesty, is overflowing in His generosity and Merciful with His creation. He loves those who call upon Him and is angry with those who do not, as is related in the ḥadith of at-Tirmidhi on the authority of Abu Hurayra, “Whoever does not call upon God, God becomes angry with him.” It is from the generosity of the Lord -Mighty and Majestic is He- that He offers His bounty to us every night, but no one receives that bounty except for those who are awake, engaged in remembrance of Him and supplication. Bukhāri, Muslim and others relate on the authority of Abu Hurayra that the Messenger of God, God bless him and grant him peace, said, “Our Lord descends to the lowest heaven when only a third of the night remains and says, ‘Who will call upon Me so that I may answer him? Who will ask Me so that I may give Him? Who will ask My forgiveness so that I may forgive Him?’” What a Generous and Great Lord who descends to His servants! How regretful for them – they sleep and the Caller to success sleeps not! In a version related by Muslim we find, “God -Exalted is He- descends to the lowest heaven every night when a third of the night has passed and says, ‘I am the King! I am the King! Who will call upon me…’” the remainder of the ḥadith. The anger of God, the Lord, the King, descends upon those who do not call on Him in this world and on the Day of Judgment. On the Day of Judgment He will say -Majestic is He-, “I am the King! Where are the oppressors? Where are the arrogant?” Who then will be safe from that anger other than the believing men and women who sought nearness to God and called upon Him in the depths of the night while the heedless slept?
Bukhāri, Muslim and Abu Dawud relate on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar that the Messenger of God, God bless him and grant him peace, said, “God -Mighty and Majestic is He- will roll up the heavens on the Day of Judgment. Then He will take them in his right hand and say, ‘I am the King! Where are the oppressors? Where are the arrogant?’ Then he will roll up the earth with his left hand and say, ‘I am the King! Where are the oppressors? Where are the arrogant?’” This is the narration of Muslim. God -Exalted is He- says, “Call upon Me – I shall answer you. Indeed, those who arrogantly disdain to worship Me shall enter Hell in humiliation.” (Surat Ghafir, 60) The one who arrogantly disdains to call upon God arrogantly disdains to worship Him. Lowliness before God -Majestic is He- and showing one’s absolute need of Him is worship (‘ibada) and servitude (‘ubūdiyya). The Messenger of God, God bless him and grant him peace, said, “Du’ā’ is worship,” and then recited the previous verse. Thus it was related by the composers of al-Sunan on the authority of an-Nu’mān bnu Bashīr and it was authenticated by at-Tirmidhi. At-Tirmidhi also related on the authority of Anas the statement of the Messenger of God, God bless him and grant him peace, “Du’ā’ is the essence of worship.”
Du’ā’ is a means to safety in this world and the Hereafter. Du’ā’ in the time of ease is preparation for the day of difficulty. Du’ā’ is the weapon of the mūmin. The Messenger of God, God bless him and grant him peace, said, “Do not despair of making du’ā’, for no one will be destroyed as long as he makes du’ā’.” The ḥadith was related by ibn Ḥibban in his Saḥiḥ and al-Ḥakim, who declared it authentic, on the authority of Anas. At-Tirmidhi and al-Ḥakim related with an authentic chain of narration on the authority of Abu Hurayra, the statement of the Messenger of God, God bless him and grant him peace, “Whoever would like that God answer his du’ā’ in times of difficulty and calamity, let him make abundant du’ā’ in times of ease.” Al-Ḥakim also related on the authority of Abu Hurayra and declared it authentic that the Messenger of God, God bless him and grant him peace, “Du’ā’ is the weapon of the believer, the pillar of religion and the light of the heavens and the earth.” God -Exalted is He- answered the prayers of His chosen servants, the Prophets, and sent down to us in his Mighty Book verses that inform us of their humble entreaties to Him and His blessings upon them, in order for us to recite these verses, follow their example and draw close to Him as they did by seeking refuge at His door. He -Exalted is He- said in the Chapter of the Prophets, “And Noah, when he called upon Us so We answered him and saved him and his family from the great calamity.” (Surat al-Anbiya’, 75) And He said -Majestic is He-, “And Job, when he called to his Lord, ‘Indeed I have been afflicted and You are the Most Merciful of those who show Mercy. So we answered him and removed his affliction and returned to him his family and the like of them with them – as mercy from Us and a reminder to the worshippers,” (Surat al-Anbiya, 82-83) and they (the worshippers) are those who call upon Him and beg Him. And He said, “And Jonah, when he left in anger and thought that We would not have power over him, so he called out in the darkness (of the whale), ‘There is no god but You! Glory be to You! Indeed I was among the wrongdoers!’ So we answered him and saved him from the grief, and thus do we deliver the believers.” (Surat al-Anbiya’, 86-87) Then He said, and to Him belongs the praise – a Lord who has mercy, saves and gives, “And Zakariyya when he called his Lord, ‘My Lord! leave me not without offspring, and You are the best of inheritors.’ So We answered him, granted to him John and made his wife fit for him…” (Surat al-Anbiya’, 88-89) This link between the servant brought close to God and his Lord is the strongest of links and the closest of bonds. God (Exalted is He) said, “And when My servants ask you about Me, indeed I am Near. I answer the call of the one who calls upon Me. Let them then answer My call, and believe in Me, in order that they may be rightly guided.” (Surat al-Baqara, 185) The saints (awliya’) are the people of right guidance because of all God’s servants they have the strongest faith, are most responsive to His call, expose themselves most to the breaths of His mercy, and call on Him and humbly entreat Him the most.
Du’ā’ is not something other than remembrance of God. Rather it is remembrance in most of the servant’s various conditions – being present with God -Mighty and Majestic is He- with his desperate needs, regret, hope and fear. And God -Mighty and Majestic is He- does not accept the du’ā’ of the heedless. At-Tirmidhi related on the authority of Abu Hurayra that the Messenger of God, God bless him and grant him peace, said, “Call upon God with certainty that He will answer you. And know that God does not answer a du’ā’ from a heedless, distracted heart.” And remembrance of God intercedes for the one engaged in it in the best manner, so that he attains the best of what is attained by those who ask. The Messenger of God, God bless him and grant him peace, said, “The Lord (Blessed and Exalted is He) says, ‘Whoever is too busy with reading the Qur’an to ask Me, I give to him the best of what I give to those who ask.’” Thus it was related by At-Tirmidhi on the authority of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri and he declared it a sound (ḥasan) ḥadith. There are manners associated with du’ā’ which were summarized by Imam al-Ghazzāli, may God be pleased with him, in the following ten points: The one making du’ā’ should watch for the special times (in which du’ā’ is answered), like the day of ‘Arafat from the year, Ramadan from the months, Friday from the days of the week and the last hours of the night. The second manner is to take advantage of special circumstances (in which du’ā’ is answered), like the time when the enemy attacks, after the call to prayer, after the five daily prayers and during prostration (sujūd). The third manner is that he make du’ā’ while facing the qibla and raising his hands. The fourth is that he lower his voice so that it is between a whisper and speaking aloud. The fifth is that he should not make special effort to make his du’ā’ rhyme, as this is incompatible with the state of humble entreaty that he should be in. The sixth is humble entreaty, submissiveness, hope and fear. The seventh is that he be firm in his du’ā’ and be certain that it will be answered. The eighth is that he be persistent in his du’ā’ and repeat it because Muslim related on the authority of ibn Mas’ūd that the Messenger of God, God bless him and grant him peace, would repeat his du’ā’ three times when he made du’ā’ and ask three times when he asked for something. The servant should not be impatient for the answer nor become weary of making du’ā’, for he does not know what good God has in store for him or what He will choose for him. The complete saints [awliyā’ Allah al-kummal] call on God out of their complete servitude to Him. They ask Him for the most valuable thing sought after, which is to gaze upon His Noble Countenance, and if the answer for their needs other than this most lofty goal is delayed, then they consider it to be an extra benefit, because the answer will come as a gift from their Beloved (in the Hereafter). And such a delay does not disturb the inner purity of those who rely completely on God. The ninth is that he should begin his du’ā’ with the remembrance of God and close with it. It is related from some of the righteous that they said that a du’ā’ that begins and ends with sending blessings upon the Messenger of God, God bless him and grant him peace, will not be lost. The tenth is the inward manner, which is the main reason for du’ā’ to be answered: “Repentance, repairing wrongdoings, and turning to God -Mighty and Exalted is He- with all of one’s aspiration and focus.” Among the manners associated with du’ā’ is to use the supplications of the Messenger of God, God bless him and grant him peace, depend on them, memorize them and make supplications similar to them. He, may God bless him and grant him peace, used to love comprehensive supplications. Imam Ahmad and Abu Dawud related on the authority of ‘Aisha, the Mother of the Believers, with a sound chain of narration that she said, “The Messenger of God used to love comprehensive supplications and leave everything else.” This is the case even though he, may God bless him and grant him peace, taught us that our du’ā’ should be all-inclusive, to the point that we ask God for all of our needs, not matter how insignificant. This is because God -may He be glorified- has full knowledge of small matters just as He has full knowledge of great matters. And the servant’s request of His Lord in the details of his life, like his request concerning his ultimate destiny, is more likely to make him admit his weakness and leave off pretensions of strength and power. Al-Tirmidhi, Imam Ahmad and al-Bukhāri in his book al-Adab al-Mufrad related on the authority of Anas with a sound chain of narration that the Messenger of God, God bless him and grant him peace, said, “Let one of you ask his Lord for all of his needs – even the strap on his sandal when it breaks.”Here is a beautiful passage from Imam al-Rifa’i, may God have mercy on Him, about the manners of remembrance of God – related to du’ā’ insofar as du’ā’ is a type of remembrance: “Oh my son! Remember God the Exalted and know that He has exalted the rank of remembrance, honored it and raised it above all else. He also divided remembrance among the tongue, the limbs and the heart. The one engaged in God’s remembrance should beware of turning his attention to the remembrance itself (i.e. paying attention to his own action and considering it important rather than focusing on God). His desires and aspirations should be noble, he should be sensitive to the subtle meanings of the remembrance, and his intention should be pure. He should not desire anything other than His remembrance, nor hope to be done with it in order to move on to what is less than it.” I say: beware that your request for the needs of this life or the next should divert you from your greatest goal – His Noble Countenance. Imam al-Rifa’i continues: “…because your attainment of everything is not as valuable as Him being sufficient for you (to the exclusion of all else), and being deprived of everything is not as severe as being preoccupied with other than Him. The one engaged in His remembrance should be characterized by the highest degree of reverence and veneration. He should not be heedless and treat remembrance as something mundane, as he will then be veiled from the One he is remembering as a punishment for his neglect. That is because maintaining reverence during remembrance is better than the remembrance itself (i.e. better than the empty mumblings of the heedless). No servant truly remembers Him except that he forgets all else due to his absorption in His remembrance – and God replaces all else for him. At times the gnostic may wish to remember Him, but the waves of reverence and awe arise in his spiritual being, so his tongue is paralyzed and he loses himself in veneration of God’s Oneness.” Yahya bin Mu’ādh said, “Remembrance is greater than Paradise, because remembrance is for God and Paradise is for the servant. And the pleasure of God is in remembrance while the pleasure of the servant is in Paradise.” Remembrance is supplication and supplication is remembrance. And remembrance of God, with the greatest intention, is greater than all else, and God knows all that you do. Ibn Ata’illah, may God have mercy on Him, said: “Do not raise your request concerning a situation that He has put you into other than Him. How can someone else remove what He has put in place? If someone cannot even remove something from himself, then how can he remove it from someone else?” He also said, “Do not let a delay in God’s answer to your prayer while you persistently call on Him cause you to despair. He has guaranteed His answer in the manner that He chooses for you, not as you choose for yourself, and at the time that He wants and not at the time that you want.” Remember Him then in hope, call on Him with trust, beg Him with insistence, and leave everything else to Him, for He is the best Protector and the best Helper.