Prayer or supplication (Dua) is the essence of worship or servanthood to God. What rises to God from the whole creations is prayer. It has kinds and degrees:
1. The first kind is the prayer of all organisms, plant, animal and human, through the natural disposition of their bodies and their functioning in line with their duties in creation. This kind of prayer is always accepted.
2. The second kind is that which is uttered by all organisms, plant, animal, and human, in the tongue of vital needs. God meets these needs just on time, with the exception that plants, and the animals relatively weaker and less intelligent (as compared to others, such as wolves and foxes), are nourished more easily than the others. The more powerful and intelligent and more self-subsisting a creature is, the greater hardship it suffers to get nourishment.
3. The third kind of prayer is that which is done by human beings. This falls into two categories:
i. The first category is the active prayer. It means complying with the laws that God has set for life. For example, a farmer’s ploughing the soil is knocking on the door of Divine providence. A patient’s going to the doctor is appealing to God for cure. This kind of prayer is usually accepted.
ii. The second category is the verbal prayer that we do. This kind of prayer is also answered. But answering is different from accepting. God answers all the prayers done sincerely. However, He answers sometimes by giving whatever is asked for, sometimes by giving what is better, sometimes by postponing giving to the afterlife, and sometimes by not giving at all, since it will not turn out in favor of the one who prays. The way that God answers prayer depends on His wisdom.
1496. Usamah bin Zaid (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “He who is favored by another and says to his benefactor: `Jazak-Allah khairan (may Allah reward you well)’ indeed praised (the benefactor) satisfactorily.”
Commentary: If one is unable to return someone’s kindness with kindness, he should say, “Jazak-Allahu khairan (may Allah reward you well).” This means: “I am unable to reciprocate your kindness. May Allah grant you the best reward for it.” Obviously there is no match for the reward that one gets from Allah. For this reason the Prophet (PBUH) said that it was the best of the praise for a benefactor.
1497. Jabir (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Do not invoke curses on yourself or on your children or on your possessions lest you should happen to do it at a moment when the supplications are accepted, and your prayer might be granted.”
Commentary: Almighty Allah always listens to everyone’s prayer but He has fixed certain times when He grants more prayers addressed to Him. Therefore, one should never curse oneself or one’s own children or one’s own business, etc., lest this is done at the time when prayers are accepted by Allah and then one has to regret it all his life.
1498. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “A slave becomes nearest to his Rubb when he is in prostration. So increase supplications in prostrations.”
Commentary: This Hadith points out the excellence of supplicating while prostrating in Salat, as one gets closer to Allah in this position.
1499. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH), “The supplication of every one of you will be granted if he does not get impatient and say (for example): `I supplicated my Rubb but my prayer has not been granted’.”
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
The narration of Muslim is: “The supplication of a slave continues to be granted as long as he does not supplicate for a sinful thing or for something that would cut off the ties of kinship and he does not grow impatient.” It was said: “O Messenger of Allah! What does growing impatient mean?” He (PBUH) said, “It is one’s saying: `I supplicated again and again but I do not think that my prayer will be answered.’ Then he becomes frustrated (in such circumstances) and gives up supplication altogether.”
Commentary: We learn from this Hadith that one should continue beseeching Allah without ever thinking that in spite of praying for a long time, his prayer has not been granted. One should never allow frustration to overcome in his mind. If a person’s supplication is not granted for a long time, there would be certainly some good for him in that delay the reason of which is known to Allah Alone. It is, therefore, essential that he should never cease to pray whether his prayer is granted or not. Persistence in prayer is certainly beneficial to him.
1500. Abu Umamah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was asked: “At what time does the supplication find the greatest response?” He (PBUH) replied, “A supplication made during the middle of the last part of the night and after the conclusion of the obligatory prayers.”
Commentary: “Al-‘Akhir” is the characteristic of “Jauf” and in the present context it means the late hours of night. “Jauf” can also mean here “middle”, that is in the later-half of the night.
In other words, if the night is divided between two equal parts then it (Jauf) would be the middle of the second part. In either case it is the time of the night which in other Ahadith has been termed as the third part of the night. It is the time when Almighty Allah comes to descend on the sky of this world.
Prayers are also granted by Allah after the obligatory Salat.
1501. `Ubadah bin As-Samit (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Whenever a Muslim supplicates Allah, He accepts his supplication or averts any similar kind of trouble from him until he prays for something sinful or something that may break the ties of kinship.” Upon this someone of the Companions said: “Then we shall supplicate plenty.” The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Allah is more plentiful (in responding).”
Commentary: We learn from this Hadith that prayer (supplication) is beneficial to us in any case, because Almighty Allah either grants the prayer we make, or if the supplication is not being accepted, He removes some future trouble that was destined for us, or He grants us in full in the Hereafter.
A Muslim should never feel shy of praying to Allah. In fact, he should persistently pray because there is no end to His Treasures.
1502. Ibn `Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) used to say when he was in distress: “La ilaha illallahul-Azimul-Halim. La ilaha illallahu Rabbul-`Arshil-`Azim. La ilaha illallahu Rabbus-samawati, wa Rabbul-ardi, wa Rabbul-`Arshil-Karim. (None has the right to be worshiped but Allah the Incomparably Great, the Compassionate. None has the right to be worshiped but Allah the Rubb of the Mighty Throne. None has the right to be worshipped but Allah the Rubb of the heavens, the Rubb of the earth, and the Rubb of the Honourable Throne).”
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Commentary: The only medicine in a time of distress is the remembrance of Allah Whose Help alone should be sought. This Du`a contains words which glorify Allah and exalt Him far above all else. It is desirable to recite these words when one is in distress as this is exactly what the Prophet (PBUH) used to recite in such situations.