Many a time, people complain that their du’as are not being answered. They do not realize that either the du’a is not being answered for their own benefit, because Allah knows better, or because they are committing sins that are preventing their du’a from being answered.

Moreover, we may not be adopting the proper etiquette of du’a. Apart from the external factors – such as being in a state of ablution, facing the Qiblah, praising Allah, and raising our hands – there are internal matters that are of prime importance. The state of the heart and what it contains: The hope in Allah’s infinite mercy, the level of closeness the heart feels to Him, and the absolute conviction with which we believe in Him.

The Qur’an narrates to us some incidents from the lives of prophets when they turned to Allah in sincere du’a. These incidents teach us how we must turn to Allah for all our needs and the proper way of calling on Allah.

Humility despite wealth, health, and power
Prophet Dawood (peace be upon him) sought Allah’s forgiveness when he was a powerful ruler and a judge among his people. His kingdom extended over a vast dominion.

“And Dawood gathered that We had tested him: he asked forgiveness of his Lord, fell down, bowing (in prostration), and turned (to Allah in repentance).” (Qur’an, 38:24)

Despite having the world at his feet, he fell humbly in prostration to seek forgiveness. Do we do the same when we are enjoying this world’s blessings?

What may not be possible
Prophet Zakariya (peace be upon him) beseeched Allah for offspring after reaching old age:
“And (remember) Zakariya, when he cried to his Lord: “O my Lord! Leave me not without offspring, though You are the best of inheritors.” (Qur’an, 21:89)

(This is) a mention of the mercy of your Lord to His slave Zakariya, when he called out his Lord (Allah) a call in secret, saying: “My Lord! Indeed my bones have grown feeble, and grey hair has spread on my head. And I have never been unblest in my invocation to You, O my Lord! And Verily! I fear my relatives after me since my wife is barren. So give me from Yourself an heir.” (Qur’an, 19:2-5)

Prophet Zakariya called to Allah, conversing with Him in secret counsel, pouring out his heart and his concerns about the future to Him. Knowing that his wife was barren did not stop him from asking His Lord for a heir.

This shows us that while asking Allah for something, we should not worry about the “how” of it, but rather, only the “what”. What is it that you want from Allah? Ask Him for it with sincerity, talking to Him in your prayers the way you confide your troubles to a close friend who is listening to you with exclusive attention. Unfortunately, some of us lose hope even before asking Allah. When faced with a calamity, people wonder, “Even if I ask Allah, how will He give it to me?”

In response to Prophet Zakariya’s earnest du’a, Allah blessed him with a son, Yahya, from his “infertile: wife!

When there is no hope
Prophet Ayub (peace be upon him) called to Allah when he lost his whole family and his body was mutilated by a debilitating disease. Yet, he did not lose hope in his Lord’s mercy. Instead of being impatient and wishing for death, which we often do when severely afflicted with calamity, he begged Allah for mercy:
“Remember Our Servant Ayub. Behold, he cried to his Lord, “Shaitan has afflicted me with distress and suffering!” (Qur’an, 38:41)

“And (remember) Ayub, when he cried to his Lord, “Truly distress has seized me, but You are the Most Merciful of those that are merciful.” (Qur’an, 21:83)

Allah answered his sincere plea and granted him a complete recovery. Not just that; Allah gave him a new family, which was double the size of the one he had lost:

“Then We heard his prayer and removed that adversity from which he suffered, and We gave him his household (that he had lost) and the like thereof along with them, a mercy from near Us, and a remembrance for the worshippers.” (Qur’an, 21:84)

Another example from the Qur’an, of a Prophet who did not lose hope in Allah’s mercy despite the passage of many years of grief, is Prophet Yaqub (peace be upon him), who wept himself blind after his son Yusuf disappeared at the threshold of youth:

He said: “It is only to Allah that I complain of my deep grief and my sorrow: for I know, from Allah, something that you do not know (that soon he would be united with Yusuf).” (Qur’an, 12:86)

Prophet Yaqub turned away from people and complained of his sorrow to Allah alone. He was eventually reunited with his long-lost son after so many years!

The Qur’an thus shows us, by narrating these incidents from the lives of the prophets of Allah, that we should have trust in Allah the way He deserves to be trusted. We should have hope in His mercy and help.

When we want a person’s attention, we call him and pester him until he gives us what we want.

But with Allah – who sees and hears everyone, who knows what we want and what we fear and what we hide in our hearts, who provides every living creature, and who is the Most Merciful One – we despair and lose hope too soon after a few half-hearted, distracted du’as!

It is extremely rare that a person’s sincere du’a goes unanswered. And those rare occasions are also for a reason. Either Allah delays it for the appropriate time, or He may not give it because it may not be good for us, but He may give us something better than that or reward us in the Hereafter. He is indeed All-Knowledgeable, All-Wise.