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.
Du’a has a grand status in Islam. It is the foundation for all worship. It is the greatest obedience and most beneficial way to draw close to Allah.
The Qur’an begins and ends with a Du’a. Allah says in the Qur’an: ((And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” Indeed, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell [rendered] contemptible.)) (40:60). There is also a well-known Hadith that “Du’a is (a form) of worship.” (Jama’i Tirmidhi)
My dear brothers and sisters in Islam, Du’a is an act of humility and a great need of the Son of Adam from cradle to grave.
When one’s Iman in the Names and Attributes of Allah increases, his need of Him increases and he calls on to Him in all circumstances. Du’a is the greatest blessing and most exceptional guidance.
Allah says in the Qur’an: ((So We responded to him, and We gave to him (Yahya), and amended for him his wife.
Indeed, they used to hasten to good deeds and supplicate Us in hope and fear, and they were to Us humbly submissive.)) (21:90)
Allah loves those who call on Him. He loves to see them expressing their wants, even though He is not in need of their worship and obedience.
The reality of Du’a and Qadr (Pre-decree)
Allah, the Almighty averts pre-decree through Du’a. There is a deep connection between faith in Allah and faith in Pre-decree, good and evil.
The first and the last beliefs work like a thermometer. What is meant by this analogy is that the greater the body temperature the greater the rise in mercury. Greater the heart’s understanding of the Names and Attributes of Allah, greater will be the acceptance of Qadr which will eventually lead to the contentment of the heart and dependence on Allah only.
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Nothing averts the decree except supplication and nothing but piety prolongs life.” (Tirmidhi) In another Hadith, it is mentioned “Caution will not benefit against predestination, but Du’a benefits (matters) that have occurred and those that are (yet) to occur, And indeed, Du’a meets with a calamity, and fights it until the day of Judgment.” (Narrated by Hakim).
While many of us remember to supplicate to Allah for guidance, knowledge, and Paradise, there is one important thing that we forget to include in our prayers. In a narration that many of us are familiar with, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Unquestionably, in the body, there is a lump of flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt, and behold, it is the heart.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Countless scholars of Islam have dedicated books upon books to reformation and purification of the heart because it is the key to success or destruction. Just as doctors today tell us that having a healthy heart is the key to having a healthy body, the Prophet (peace be upon him) conveys to us that having a good heart is the key to righteousness.
Anas narrated that asking for a firm and obedient heart was one of the constant supplications of the Prophet (peace be upon him); and one narration from Umm Salamah states that the Du’a he made the most was: “Allahumma ya Muqallib Al-Quloob thabbit qalbi ‘alaa Deenik,” which means, “O Turner of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your Religion.”
There is, however, another authentic Du’a narrated in Sahih Muslim that isn’t as well-known: “Allahumma Musarrif Al-Quloobi Sarrif Quloobana ‘Ala Ta’atika,” which means, “O Allah, Turner of the hearts, direct our hearts to Your obedience.”
Selected words analysis
Musarrif/Sarrif: Both these words come from the same root, which has many meanings such as, to turn, to divert, to turn from another direction, to avert, and to change. The meaning of this word in this Du’a is to turn or direct. How is this word different from “Muqallib Al-Quloob?” There are a few linguistic differences, but the essence of both supplications is the same. Qallaba, just like Sarrafa, means to change and turn the direction of something.
The linguistic difference is that Qallaba points more to constant moving and turning about, while Sarrafa points to changing of the direction. When we make this Du’a, we are asking Allah to Sarrif (turn and direct) our hearts to His Obedience, while in the other Du’a, we are asking Allah to Thabbit, i.e. make our hearts firm on Islam, and not Qallib because the heart is constantly changing about and turning directions.
Quloob: Quloob is plural of Qalb which means the heart. Qalb is the general word for heart. It comes from the root which means something that turns around and about and upside down, as mentioned above. It is the nature of hearts that they are constantly changing.
Ta’atika: Ta’ah means to obey and to submit. The beauty of this word is that it not only means to submit one’s self, it specifically means to submit willingly, voluntarily, and on one’s own free will. We are asking Allah to direct our hearts to willingly submit and obey Him.
Points of benefit
Supplications regarding the heart are found both in the Qur’an and Sunnah. In the Qur’an, the believers supplicate, “Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us.” (Qur’an, 3:8) Also in Surah Hashr, “And (there is a share for) those who came after them, saying, “Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in faith and put not in our hearts (any) resentment toward those who have believed.” (Qur’an, 59:10) Both of these Du’as are seeking refuge in Allah from corrupted hearts. The first Du’a seeks refuge from deviation after guidance, and the second from evil and ill-feelings towards fellow Muslims.
• The Prophet (peace be upon him) constantly made Du’a for a righteous and good heart. We learn from this the status of the heart and that we too should supplicate as much as we can for an obedient and a heart standing firm upon Islam.
• The nature of the heart is to constantly change, and asking Allah to direct our hearts to His Obedience shows that we are constantly falling short in our obedience to Him. By this Du’a, we ask Allah to keep turning our hearts back to His Obedience as we are prone to falter.
• Scholars like Imam Ibn Qayyim and Ibn Uthaymeen state that the intelligence and the understanding of a human lie in the heart, and not necessarily the brain. Their evidence for this statement is the verse, “So have they not traveled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the chests.” (Qur’an, 22:46) Sheikh Ibn Uthaymeen says the brain is like a secretary who processes information, but it is the heart that decides to do good or evil based on that information.
• The heart is the foundation. We must purify our hearts from associating partners with Allah, from Bid’ah, from ill feelings against our fellow Muslims, and other evil deeds in our character and our theology. The Muslim should focus on the reformation of his heart as well as the accumulation of good deeds. The heart is the source of good deeds. It will be tested on the Day of Judgment. Allah says, “Knows he not that when the contents of the graves are brought out and poured forth (all mankind is resurrected). And that which is in the breasts (of men) shall be made known. Verily, that Day (i.e. the Day of Resurrection) their Lord will be Well-Acquainted with them (as to their deeds), (and will reward them for their deeds). (Qur’an, 100:9-11).”
• In another Hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) pointed to his heart and said three times, “Taqwa (consciousness and fear of Allah) is here.” (Musnad Ahmad) This Hadith shows us that when the heart fears Allah, then the limbs will follow, just as the first Hadith narrated that, “If it is sound (the heart), the whole body is sound.”
• This Du’a is a constant reminder for us that we are not in control of our guidance. It is crucial for us to make Du’a for our hearts on a regular basis because we do not know what the condition of our hearts will be tomorrow. The hearts of the children of Adam are between the two fingers of Allah, He turns them to any (direction) He likes. So, who else can we turn to than Musarrif Al-Quloob to keep our hearts towards the direction of His obedience?
The scholar of Hadith Husayn Al-Awaishah mentions some of the benefits of practicing Ikhlaas in his book Kitab Al-Ikhlaas. Ikhlaas is sincerity to Allah in everything we do.
1. The Muslim Ummah will be victorious, for the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, which translated means, “Allah only gives victory to this nation because of its weak ones, because of their du’a, prayer and Ikhlaas.” (At-Targhib wa At-Tarhib)
2. Acquiring safety from Allah’s punishment and wrath in the Hereafter. Allah said about some people who observe Ikhlaas, which translated means:
“And they give food, in spite of their love for it (or for the love of Him), to the poor, the orphan, and the captive. (Saying), ‘We feed you seeking Allah’s Countenance only. We wish for no reward, nor thanks from you. Verily, we fear from our Lord a Day, hard and distressful, that will make the faces look horrible (from extreme dislikeness to it).’ So Allah saved them from the evil of that Day and gave them Nadhratan (a light of beauty) and joy. And their recompense shall be Paradise, and silken garments, because they were patient.” (Qur’an, 76:8-12)
3. Protection from falling into misguidance. Allah mentions how he protected Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him):
“Thus it was, that We might turn away from him evil and illegal sexual intercourse. Surely, he was one of our Mukhlasin (chosen, guided persons who observe Ikhlaas with Allah).” (Qur’an, 12:24)
4. Being blessed with Hudaa (right guidance), as Allah said, which translated means:
“Truly! They were young men who believed in their Lord (Allah), and We increased them in guidance.” (Qur’an, 18:13)
5. Residents of the heavens and earth will love those who observe Ikhlaas. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, which in translation means, “When Allah loves a slave, He summons Jibreel, saying, ‘Allah, the Exalted, loves Fulan (such and such person), so love him,’ and Jibreel will love him. Then he calls upon the inhabitants of the heaven, ‘Allah loves such and such person, so love him’, and the inhabitants of the heaven will love him. Then acceptance (honor, content, love, etc.) will be sent down (and spread up) on earth for him.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
6. Achieving tranquillity in the heart and feeling joy, content, and elation, for Allah said, which in translation means, “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Qur’an, 13:28)
7. Faith will be endeared to the sincere ones, while wickedness will be made hateful to them. Allah said, which in translation means:
“And know that among you there is the Messenger of Allah. If he were to obey you (follow your opinions and desires) in much of the matter, you would surely be in trouble, but Allah has endeared the Faith to you and has beautified it in your hearts, and has made disbelief, wickedness, and disobedience (to Allah and His Messenger) hateful to you. These! They are the rightly guided ones.” (Qur’an, 49:7)
We have mentioned before how Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him) was made to hate illegal sexual intercourse, disbelief, and wickedness, and how Iman was made beautiful to him, that he preferred staying in jail rather than falling into illegal sexual intercourse and sin.
8. Insha Allah, Ikhlaas will guide one to choose the rightly-guided company of those who observe Ikhlaas. The best example for this subject is that the companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) were friends with each other as they were friends with the Messenger, and who can find a better company than the Prophet and his companions?
9. Enduring all types of hardships in this life with patience. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and his companions were excellent in this type of behavior, for they endured and were patient in the face of all kinds of hardships, and the proof to this better behavior is detailed amply in their seerah.
10. Acquiring the good end, as is evident from the story of the man who had killed 99 people, but then sought to repent of his crimes. This person’s Ikhlaas in seeking forgiveness from Allah guided him until he died while his heart was returning back to Allah.
11. Du’a will be accepted, as is evident from the story of the young boy, the wizard, and the priest. Another example of this is the story of the three men trapped in the cave (who make du’a to Allah with deeds they did sincerely for His sake), This, indeed, is a vast subject with numerous examples testifying to the fact that Ikhlaas is an essential ingredient that ensures the acceptance of du’a.
12. Being rewarded in the grave, and receiving the glad tidings of the joy and happiness that those who had Ikhlaas will enjoy in the grave and in the Hereafter. The Hadith by Al-Baraa’ Bin Azib describes how one’s good deeds will come in the shape of a handsome man, wearing nice clothes and whose scent is pleasing, saying, “I am your good deeds.”
IMAM Ibn Al-Qayyim (Allah’s mercy on him) said: Du’aa and ta’awwudhat (prayers seeking refuge with Allah) are like a weapon, and a weapon is only as good as the person who is using it; it is not merely the matter of how sharp it is. If the weapon is perfect and free of faults, and the arm of the person using it is strong, and there is nothing stopping him, then he can lay waste the enemy. But if any of these three features is lacking, then the effect will be lacking accordingly.”
From this, it will be clear that there are etiquette and rulings that must be fulfilled in the Du’aa and in the person making the Du’aa. There are also things that may prevent the Du’aa reaching Allah or being answered these things must be removed from the person making the Du’aa and from the Du’aa. When all of the following conditions are fulfilled, then the Du’aa may be answered.
– Sincerity in making Du’aa. This is the most important condition. Allah has commanded us to be sincere when making Du’aa.
Sincerity in Du’aa means having the firm belief that the One upon Whom you are calling (Allah, may He be glorified and exalted) is alone able to meet your need, and it also means avoiding any kind of showing off in your Du’aa.
– Repentance and turning back to Allah. Sin is one of the main reasons why Du’aas are not answered, so the person who is making Du’aa should hasten to repent and seek forgiveness before he makes Du’aa. Allah tells us that prophet Nuh (peace be upon him) said:
“I said (to them): Ask forgiveness from your Lord, verily, He is Oft-Forgiving. He will send rain to you in abundance. And give you increase in wealth and children, and bestow on you gardens and bestow on you rivers.” (Nuh 71: 10-12)
– Beseeching, humbling oneself, hoping for Allah’s reward and fearing His punishment. This is the spirit, essence, and purpose of Du’aa. Allah says: Invoke your Lord with humility and in secret. He likes not the aggressors. (Al-A’raf 7: 55)
– Urgently beseeching and repeating the Du’aa without getting exasperated or bored; this is achieved by repeating the Du’aa two or three times. Restricting it to three times is preferable, in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Ibn Mas’ud (Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) liked to say a Du’aa three times and ask for forgiveness three times. This was narrated by Abu Dawud and An-Nasa’i.
– Making Du’aa at times of ease, and saying more Du’aas at times of plenty (of wealth). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Remember Allah during times of ease and He will remember you during times of hardship.” (Ahmad)
– Seeking to draw closer to Allah by calling upon Him by His Most Beautiful Names and Sublime Attributes at the beginning of the Du’aa or at the end. Allah says: “And (all) the Most Beautiful Names belong to Allah, so call on Him by them . . . ” (Al-A’raf 7: 180)
– Choosing the clearest and most concise words and the best of Du’aas. The best of Du’aas are those of the Prophet (peace be upon him), but it is permissible to say other words according to the specific needs of a person.
Other aspects of the etiquette of making Du’aa, although they are not obligatory, are: to face the Qiblah; to make Du’aa in a state of purity; to start the Du’aa with praise of Allah and blessings upon the Prophet (peace be upon him). It is also prescribed to raise the hands when making Du’aa.
One of the things that help to bring a response to Du’aa is to seek the best times and places. Among the best times is the time just before Fajr (dawn), the last third of the night, the last hour of Jumu’ah (Friday), when rain is falling, and between the adhan and iqamah. Among the best places are mosques in general, and Al-Masjid Al-Haram [in Makkah] in particular.
Among the situations in which Du’aa is more likely to be answered are: when one is mistreated or oppressed, when one is traveling, when one is fasting, when one is in desperate need, and when a Muslim makes Du’aa for his brother in his absence.
Things which may prevent Du’aa from being answered include:
– When the Du’aa is weak in itself, because it involves something inappropriate, or involves bad manners towards Allah, may He be exalted, or it is inappropriate, which means asking Allah for something which it is not permitted to ask, e.g. when a man asks to live forever in this world, or he asks for a sin or something haram, or he prays that he will die, and so on. Abu Hurairah (Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “A person’s Du’aa will continue to be answered so long as he does not pray for something sinful or for the breaking of family ties.” (Muslim)
When the person who is making Du’aa is weak in himself because he is faint-hearted in his turning towards Allah. This may be either because of bad manners towards Allah, may He be exalted – such as raising his voice in Du’aa or making Du’aa in the manner of one who thinks he has no need of Allah; or because he pays too much attention to the wording and tries to come up with unnecessarily ornate phrases, without paying attention to the meaning; or because he tries too hard to weep or shout without really feeling it, or he goes to extremes in that.
– The reason why his Du’aa is not answered maybe because he has done something that Allah has forbidden, such as having unlawful wealth, whether it be food or drink or clothing or accommodation or transportation, or he has taken an unlawful job, or the stain of sin is still in his heart, or he is following bid’ah (innovation) in religion, or his heart has been overtaken by negligence.
– Consuming unlawful wealth. This is one of the major reasons why Du’aas are not answered. Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“O people, Allah is Good and only accepts that which is good. Allah commanded the pious to follow the same commandments as He gave to the Messengers. He says: [O ye messengers! Eat of the Taiyyabat [all kinds of Halal foods which Allah has made lawful . . .” (Al-Mu’minun 23: 51). Then he mentioned a man who has traveled on a long journey and is disheveled and covered with dust; he stretches forth his hands to the heaven, (saying) “O Lord, O Lord”, but his food is haram (unlawful), his drink is haram, all his nourishment is haram, so how can his Du’aa be accepted? (Muslim)
The man described by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had some of the characteristics which help Du’aas to be answered – he was traveling and he was in need of Allah, may He be exalted and glorified – but the fact that he consumed haram wealth prevented his Du’aa from being answered. We ask Allah to keep us safe and sound.
– Trying to hasten the response. Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The Du’aa of any one of you, will be answered so long as he is not impatient and says not, I made Du’aa but it was not answered.‚” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
– Making the Du’aa conditional, such as saying, “O Allah, forgive me if You will” or “O Allah, have mercy upon me if You will.” The person who makes Du’aa has to be resolute in his supplication, striving hard and earnestly repeating his Du’aa. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Let not any one of you say, O Allah, forgive me if You will, O Allah, have mercy on me if You will. Let him be resolute in the matter, whilst knowing that no one can compel Allah to do anything.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
In order for Du’aa to be answered, it is not essential to adhere to all of these points and be free of all that could prevent one’s Du’aa from being answered. That is something which happens very rarely. But one has to try hard and strive towards achieving this.
Another important point is to realize that the response to the Du’aa may take different forms: either Allah will respond and fulfill the desire of the person who made the Du’aa, or He will ward off some evil from him because of the Du’aa, or He will make something good easy for him to attain because of it, or He will save it with Him for him on the Day of Resurrection when he will be most in need of it.