By Jamiatul Ulama of Gauteng
بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
اُدۡعُوۡا رَبَّكُمۡ تَضَرُّعًا وَّخُفۡيَةً ؕ اِنَّهٗ لَا يُحِبُّ الۡمُعۡتَدِيۡنَ
Supplicate to your Lord humbly and secretly. Surely, He does not like those who cross the limits.
[Maariful Quran 7:55]
Mentioned in previous verses were particular manifestations of the perfect power of Allah Ta`ala, and His major blessings. The present verses lead us to consider: When He is the Master of perfect power, the sender of all blessings, and the Lord of all the worlds, it naturally follows that He should be the One to be called upon and prayed to under all circumstances, whether in distress or in need. The attitude of by-passing Him and turning towards some other direction is ignorance and failure.
Along with it, identified in these verses are some rules of etiquette to be followed when making Du’a’ (prayer, supplication). If due consideration is given to these rules, the hope that a prayer will be answered increases.
The Meaning and Etiquette of Du`a’ and Dhikr
The word: دُعَاء (Du’a’), in the Arabic language, means “to call upon someone to remove one’s need”. It is also used “to remember” in the absolute sense. Both meanings can be taken here. The verse says: اُدعُوا رَبَّکُم (Supplicate to your Lord) that is: 1. Call your Rabb for your needs, or 2. Remember your Rabb and worship Him.
In the first case, it would mean: Ask Allah alone for what you need. In the second case, the sense would be: Do your Dhikr and Ibadah for Him alone. Both these explanations have been reported from Tafsir authorities among the early righteous elders.
THE FIRST MEANING OF DUA – IN THE CONTEXT OF THE WORDS ‘HUMBLY AND SECRETLY’
After that, it was said: تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً (humbly and secretly). The word: تَضَرُّعً (tadarru`) means realization of inability, humility, and submission in a refined spirit of self-abasement (not found in the English language and its modern, secular, cultural context). And the word: خُفْيَةً (khufyah) means secret, secluded, or private (as opposed to open and public – as used in English too, but with no relevance to the dominant sense of secret in English bearing on the mysterious, the occult, and the whole field of espionage).
We should make Du’a’ from our souls, crying from our innermost essence of being
In the frame of these two words, described there are two important rules of etiquette which govern Du`a’ and Dhikr. First of all, in order that Du’a’ be answered, it is necessary that one appears before Allah Ta`ala as weak, helpless and simply unable to hold on his own, modest and humble, and submits to Him with a total negation of what is supposed to be pride, dignity, honour, ego, or self-view – and then makes Du’a’. Du’a’ is a thing of the soul which requires that its words match the feebleness and humbleness of the maker of Du` a’, that the manner of saying it remains a mirror of modesty, and that this overall humility should ooze forth from the very physical approach to this making of Du’a’.
The oversight of our ritualistic Du’a’s – Du’a’ is not ‘read’, it is ‘asked’
Given this anatomy and profile of Du’a’, the common practice of making Du`a’ these days cannot really be called the making of Du’a’. It would, rather, be the reading of it. What happens most of the time is that we do not know what we are saying and it has become a routine as we notice in common Masajid. Imams would usually say, rather read, some words of Du`a’ in the Arabic language which they have memorized and do this at the end of Salah. Most of the time, in some areas, the Imams themselves do not know the meaning and sense of what they say – and even if they do know it, at least the less-knowing participants of the congregation are virtually unaware of what is being said. They would almost mechanically go on saying ‘Aameen’, ‘Aameen’ after the words read by the Imam without having any clue as to what was being said there. The outcome of all this stage demonstration is the vocalization of some words. Du`a’ has a reality of its own which is just not there. Then, this is an entirely different matter that Allah Ta`ala, in His infinite mercy, may accept these very lifeless words and give them the effect of answered prayers. But, it is necessary that everyone understands that Du`a’ is not ‘read.’ It is ‘asked.’ Therefore, it is crucial that one asks as one should, properly, as due.
Dua must be accompanied by proper approach, manner and physical bearing
Then, there is another aspect of Du’a-‘. If a person does know the meanings of the words of his Du`a’ – and even understands what he is saying – still, if it is not accompanied by proper approach, manner and physical bearing, the Du`a’ stands reduced to a bland claim to which no created servant of Allah is entitled.
A simple analogy
Imagine that the love of your life has left you. The one who is an integral part of your life, who you fully depend on, who you can’t live without, suddenly walks out on you and is infuriated with you and also immensely hurt due to your disrespect, treachery, betrayal, deceit, disobedience and due to your transgression and wrongdoing.
You subsequently seek counsel from a trusted senior as to how to make amends and bring that person back into your life. He gives you sound advice and writes for you a few words of atonement and apology and explains that you henceforth intend to reform your vile and loathsome ways.
You then go to the house of your beloved who eventually succumbs and only opens the window a little to hear what you have to say. You then very overconfidently read out the letter in a very blank, superficial and shallow way which has no real feeling of remorse. The only reply you would get is “Get lost!” Your plea will fall on deaf ears, even though all the words were correct and they had a beautiful meaning.
So, given in the first word was the spirit of Du’a’ which requires that one shows his humility and prays to Allah for what he needs.
3 Widoms for making Du’a’ ‘secretly’ (in a lowered voice)
Then, in the second word, the instruction given by Allah Ta’aala, is that the asking in Du`a’ for what one needs should be done secretly and in a lowered voice which is superior in merit and more likely to be answered. The reason is that making Du`a’ in a raised voice is not free of three possible drawbacks.
Firstly, it is difficult to maintain modesty and humility in doing so.
Secondly, there is the danger of hypocrisy and desire for recognition creeping in through this mode.
Thirdly, the manner in which this Du’a is made only goes to show that the person making it almost does not know that Allah Ta`ala is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. He knows what we show on the outside and also that which we conceal inside. He hears everything said quietly or loudly.
Therefore, when the voice of the Companions reached a loud pitch during Du’a’ made on the occasion of the Battle of Khaybar, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam said: ‘You are not calling someone deaf or absent that you say it in such a loud voice. Instead, your addressee is someone Hearing, Near, that is, Allah Ta`ala’ (so, to raise your voice is redundant).
Allah Jalla Sha’nuhu has Himself mentioned the Du`a’ of a righteous person in these words:
إِذْ نَادَىٰ رَبَّهُ نِدَاءً خَفِيًّا
When he called his Rabb calling in a lowered voice – [19:3]
This tells us that the state of Du’a’ liked by Allah Ta’ala is that it be asked of Him in a lowered and subdued voice.
Ibaadat done in secret is far superior to that done in open and broadcasted
Sayyidna Hasan al-Basri Rahmatullahi Alayhi says: There is a difference of seventy degrees in making Du’a’ openly and loudly when matched by the one made in a lowered voice. It was the habit of early righteous elders that they would exert to their maximum in Dhikr and Du’a which kept them busy most of the time, but their voice was not heard by anyone. In fact, their supplications would remain between them and their Rabb. Many of them would memorize the whole Qur’an and keep engaged in reciting it, but others would not know about it. Then, there would be others engaged in their pursuit of advanced religious knowledge, but they would never go about telling others that they were doing so. There would be many others who would return from their homes after having long sessions of Salah but no one would come to know anything about that. He also said that he had seen such blessed people who would never perform `Ibadat, which they could do in private, out in the open where people could see them – and their voices during Du’a’ would be very low. [Ibn Kathir, Mazhari]
Noisy Du’a’ is Makruh (reprehensible)
Ibn Jurayj has said that raising voices in Du’a’ and making it noisy is Makruh (reprehensible). In his Ahkam al-Qur’an, Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas (Rahmatullahi Alayhi) has said: This verse tells us that making Du’a’ in a lowered voice is more merit-worthy than making it in a raised voice. It has been reported likewise from Hadrat Hasan Basri (Rahmatullahi Alayhi) and Sayyidna Ibn `Abbas (Radiallahu Anhu). This verse also tells us that the ‘Amin’ said at the end of Surah al-Fatihah should also be said in a lowered voice, which is more merit-worthy, because ‘Aameen’ is also a Du’a’.
Let not the erroneous custom of loud Du’a’ become a source of disturbing others
May Allah Ta`ala guide Imams of Masajid in our time who seem to have forgotten this teaching of the Qur’an and Sunnah and the instructions of early righteous elders in this matter. After every Salah, what follows as Du`a’ has become an artificial procedure. Some words are read out loudly which, besides being contrary to the etiquette and rules of Du’a’, become the source of disturbing the Salah of those who joined the congregation after it had started and were busy completing the missed part after the Imam had finished. The overwhelming influence of custom has made them incapable of noticing its drawbacks.
This excludes such gatherings where the entire congregation is engaged in one Du’a’
On a particular occasion where the purpose is to have a whole group make a particular Du’a’, one person may say the words of Du`a’ in a reasonably audible voice and others say ‘Amin’ after it, then, it does not matter. However, the condition is that this activity does not displace an established Sunnah practice or become the source of disturbance in the Salah and `Ibadah of others – and that this does not become a matter of habit and custom whereby common people start believing in it as the standard method of making Du`a’, as happening so commonly these days.
THE SECOND MEANING OF DU’A’ – IN THE CONTEXT OF THE WORDS ‘HUMBLY AND SECRETLY’
What has been said above concerned the making of Du`a’ for one’s needs. If Du’a’ is taken in the sense of Dhikr (remembrance) and `Ibadah (worship) at his place, then, according to the established position of early `Ulama, low-voiced Dhikr is more merit-worthy than loud Dhikr. As for the practice of Shaykhs in the Chistiah Order who recommend loud Dhikr for beginners, they do so in view of the spiritual condition of the seeker, as a measure of treatment, so that by voicing it any lack of alertness would go away and the heart would learn to become attuned to the Dhikr of Allah – otherwise, raising the voice in Dhikr, as such, is not desirable even with them, though it is permissible, and its justification stands proved from Hadith as well, of course, subject to the condition that, in it, there be no hypocrisy or the desire to show off (riya’).
The best Dhikr is silent Dhikr
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ibn Hibban, Al-Baihaqi and others have reported from a narration by Sayyidna Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas (Radiallahu Anhu) that Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam said:
خَیرُ الذِّکرِ الخَفِیُّ وخَیرُ الرِّزقِ مَا یَکفِی
‘The best Dhikr is hidden and the best sustenance is what becomes sufficient.’
However, under particular conditions and timings, a voiced Dhikr is actually more desirable and merit-worthy. Details of these timings and conditions have been explained by Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam through his word and deed, for example, calling Adhan and Iqamah with a raised voice, reciting the Qur’an during the voiced prayers with a raised voice, saying the Takbirs of Salah the Takbirs of Tashriq, the Talbiyah in Hajj etc., with a raised voice. Therefore, Muslim jurists, may Allah have mercy on them all, have reached the decision that in particular conditions and places where Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam has, by word or deed, taught us to raise the voice, voices must be raised. Under conditions and situations other than these, voiceless Dhikr is most preferable and beneficial.
Allah Ta’ala does not love those who transgress (in making Du’a’ or otherwise)
At the end of the verse, it was said: إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ (Surely, He does not like those who cross the limits). The word: الْمُعْتَدِينَ (al-mu` tadin) is a derivation from I`tida’ which means to cross the limits. The sense is that Allah Ta` ala does not like those who cross the limits, exactly as given in the translation. This crossing of limits, whether in Du`a’ or some other activity, has the same outcome – that Allah Ta`ala does not like that. In fact, if looked at closely, the religion of Islam is the very name of observing limits and restrictions and electing to submit and obey. Take the example of Salaah, Sawm, Hajj, Zakah and all dealings and transactions, when limits set by the Shari`ah of Islam are crossed in them, they do not remain acts of worship anymore – instead, they become sin.
Crossing the limits in Du’a’ may take several forms.
Firstly, that literal formalities, such as loud Du’a’ after salaah, raising the hands at the graveside, rhyming and other stylistic devices, are employed in Du`a’ which may spoil its essential ingredients of humility and submission.
Secondly, that unnecessary restrictions are introduced in Du`a – as it appears in Hadith that Sayyidna `Abdullah ibn Mughaffal (Radiallahu Anhu) saw that his son was making Du`a’ in the following words: ‘O Allah, I seek from You the palace in Paradise which is white in colour and located on the right hand side.’ He stopped him and said: ‘Making such restrictions in Du`a is crossing the limit, which has been prohibited in the Qur’an and Hadith.’ [Mazhari from a narration of Ibn Majah and others]
The third form of crossing the limits is that someone makes a Du`a’ wishing ill of Muslims in general, or asks from Allah something which is harmful for them. Similarly, it is also a form of crossing the limits – as mentioned here – that Du`a’ be made in a raised voice without the need to do so. [Tafsir Mazhari, Ahkam al-Qur’an]
بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
وَلَا تُفۡسِدُوۡا فِى الۡاَرۡضِ بَعۡدَ اِصۡلَاحِهَا وَادۡعُوۡهُ خَوۡفًا وَّطَمَعًا ؕ اِنَّ رَحۡمَتَ اللّٰهِ قَرِيۡبٌ مِّنَ الۡمُحۡسِنِيۡنَ
And do no mischief on the earth after it has been set in order. And supplicate to Him in fear and hope. Surely, the mercy of Allah is close to the good in deeds.
In the second verse (56), it was said: وَلَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ بَعْدَ إِصْلَاحِهَا (And do no mischief on the earth after it has been set in order). Two antonyms have appeared here: صَلَاح (salah) and: فَسَاد (fasad). ‘Salah’ means the state of being good, correct, right, proper or set in order as in the translation. Then, Fasad refers to the state of evil, corruption, mischief, disorder. Imam Raghib al-Isfahani has said in his Mufradat al-Qur’an that Fasad refers to something going beyond the limits of moderation, whether this crossing over is insignificant or enormous, and the measure of an increase or decrease in every Fasad depends on this crossing of the limits of moderation. The farther the limits are crossed, Fasad will increase. Fasad means to make things bad and Islah means to correct, reform or put into order. Therefore, the verse: وَلَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ بَعْدَ إِصْلَاحِهَا means: ‘do not make things bad on the earth after that Allah has made it good and proper.’ [For the detailed Tafseer of this part of the Aayat kindly refer to Maariful Quraan, we have included the Tafseer concerning Du’a’ below]
Therefore, included in the sense of the verse: لَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ بَعْدَ إِصْلَاحِهَا (And do no mischief on the earth after it has been set in order) are crimes and sins which cause disorder in the world physically and outwardly – and also included there are sin, disobedience, and heedlessness towards Allah Ta`ala. Immediately afte,r in this verse, it was said: وَادْعُوهُ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا (And supplicate to Him in fear and hope). It means that it should be done in a way that, on the one hand, one has the fear of the Du`a.’ remaining unanswered, while on the other hand, one has full hope tied to His mercy. These very twin attitudes of fear and hope are the two wings of the human soul on its journey with truth and fortitude. On these it flies high and through these it reaches superior ranks destined for it.
The balance between hope and fear
Then, as the text obviously shows, the degree of fear and hope should be equal. Some `Ulama have said that it is appropriate to keep fear dominate during life with health, so that there be no shortcoming in being obedient. And when comes the time to die, it is better to let hope dominate, because the strength to do what should have been done is not there anymore and there is nothing left to do except hope for the mercy of Allah Ta’ ala. [Al-Bahr Al-Muhit]
Another interpretation of hope and fear
And some researchers among scholars have said that the purpose is to hold on to the straight path of religion and be constant in obedience to Allah Ta`ala. Then, the temperaments and tastes of human beings differ. Some achieve this station of fortitude and constancy in obedience by keeping fear as the dominant factor. Others achieve these by keeping love and hope as dominating factors. So, whoever finds help’ to achieve this purpose through either of these two options, should try to achieve it through that option.
The physical etiquette of Du’a’
To summarize the comments made about Du`a’, it can be said that the first verse tells us about two rules of etiquette relating to Du’a’: (1) That it be with humility and submission, and (2) that it be secret and low-voiced. These two qualities belong to the outward human physique – because “tadarru”‘ suggests that one should, while making Du`a’, assume the looks and manners of someone weak, helpless and needy and should never allow it to be proud, arrogant or seemingly need-free. Then, that it be secret also relates to one’s speech through the mouth and tongue.
The spiritual etiquette of Du’a’
As for the spiritual etiquette of Du’a’ as given in this verse, there are two rules to be followed. These relate to the human heart. They require that the person making the Du`a’ should feel the danger in his heart that his Du’a’ may, perhaps, remain unanswered while, at the same time, he should also hope that his Du’a’ may be answered – because becoming careless about one’s errors and sins is contrary to ‘Iman (faith) and losing hope in the infinite mercy of Allah Ta`ala is Kufr (disbelief). Both are impermissible extremes. The hope that a prayer will be answered can be entertained only when one keeps in between the two states of fear and hope.
An incentive for hope
Then, at the end of the verse, it was said: إِنَّ رَحْمَتَ اللَّـهِ قَرِيبٌ مِّنَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (Surely, the mercy of Allah is close to the good in deeds). The hint given here is that, though there should be the two states of fear and hope present while making a Du`a’, but, out of the two states, the option of hope is the weightier option – because the prayer is being made to the Lord of all the worlds the extent of Whose mercy cannot be conceived, and in whose generosity and favour there is no shortage or reluctance. He can answer the Du`a’ of the worst of offenders, even the Du’a’ of the Satan himself. Of course, should there be a danger of Du`a’ remaining unanswered, that could only be possible on account of one’s own misdeeds or due to the hanging curse of sins – because being good in deeds is necessary to become close to the mercy of Allah Ta`ala.
Ahaadeeth on Dua
Therefore, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam has said that some people travel long distances, look like faqirs and raise their hands for Du`a’ before Allah Ta`ala, but حَرَام haram is their food and حَرَام haram is their drink and حَرَام haram is their dress. So, how can a Du`a’ made by such a person be answered? [Muslim, Tirmidhi from Sayyidna Abi Hurairah Radiallahu Anhu]
According to another Hadith, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam said: The prayer of a servant of Allah keeps finding acceptance until such time that he does not pray for some sin or for the severance of some relationship – and that he does not make haste. The noble Companion asked about the meaning of ‘making haste.’ He said: It means that one may think – here I am making a Du`a’ for all this time and it has not been answered yet – until he becomes disappointed and stops making Du`a’. [Muslim, Tirmidhi]
According to yet another Hadith, the Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam said: Whenever you make Du` a’ before Allah Ta` ala, do it in a state when you have no doubt about its being answered.
It means that one should keep his or her sight on the most extensive mercy of Allah Ta’ ala and let the heart believe that the prayer be¬ing made shall be answered. This is not contrary to the danger one may feel that his or her sins may become an impediment in the acceptance of one’s Du`a’. صلی اللہ تعَالیٰ علی نَبِیِّنَا وسلم
[Maariful Quran 7:56]