During a classroom session at the madressah discussing the significance of dua, why we must rely on dua, and how much Allah (swt) loves to hear us supplicate, one of my students very innocently asked me, “Teacher, when I ask Allah for something, why doesn’t it come true?” Though this may seem to be a very simple and perhaps naïve question, there is no doubt as to the validity of the question. Many a times, we have asked ourselves why it is that our prayers and supplications remain unanswered.
It is the essence of human nature to be overcome and overwhelmed with constant desires, deeming it difficult to seek complete satiation or satisfaction. So much so that we often become blinded by our desires and fail to use our intellect in assessing or evaluating the level of need.
Still, the doors of Allah’s (swt) mercy, treasure and endless bounties are always open to His creatures, for He has promised in the Holy Qur’an: “For your Lord says: Call upon Me, I will answer you…” (Momin verse 60). Also, in Baqarah verse 186, Allah (swt) says: “And when my servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he calls on Me…”
DU’A in Arabic means “to call’, or “to invoke” and in Islamic terminology, it means a humble prayer by a modest person to a Superior. First, we shall look at the value and advantages of Du’a, as taught to us by our beloved Holy Prophet (pbuh) and Ma’soomeen (as). Then we shall discuss the possible reasons why our prayers are not answered, though there are ways to change this as we have choices and authority over our own actions (as we will see later).
Du’a is a powerful tool for a believer when utilized appropriately. Our Holy Prophet (pbuh) always stressed the virtue and significance of du’a. He has said:
“Shall I introduce you to a weapon which will protect you both from evils of enemies and increase your sustenance? Call unto your Lord day and night for DU’A is the weapon of a believer,” and,
“Du’a is the gist of worshiping.”
He has also said, “The best prayer is Du’a. When God inspires someone with Du’a, He opens the doors of Mercy to him. A man of Du’a will never become wretched.”
Imam Sadiq (as) has also said, “Du’a is more forceful than a sword.”
A man named Meisar Ibne Abdulaziz was advised by Imam Sadiq (as):
“Oh Meisar! Do not say to yourself come what may, rather call upon God, for there is a rank with God man cannot attain without asking for it. If God’s servant closes his mouth and does not ask anything from Him, nothing will be given to him. Therefore ask God for what you need so that He will give it to you. Oh Meisar, whoever knocks on His door and persists, will be allowed in.”
The Holy Prophet (pbuh) has said: “God bless man who requests something from Him and persists in it.”
Imam Baqar (as) has said: “Nothing is more praiseworthy to God than a servant’s requests and no one is more detested than one who refrains from obeying God and asking something from Him.”
Du’a is the only successful way to remove afflictions, hardships, misery and despair.
Imam Zainul Abideen (as) has said, “Du’a removes both the present affliction and that which will appear later.”
Imam Musa (as) has said: “The affliction of a believer who succeeds in DU’A will be soon removed whereas the affliction of a believer who stops DU’A will last long. Therefore, whenever an affliction befalls you, supplicate to God.”
One of the revelations sent to Prophet David (as) is as follows:
“Whoever turns to Me and stops having hope in anyone but Me, I will be sufficient for him. I will give to anyone who requests and answer anyone who calls upon Me.”
Why Du’as Are Not Answered
Allah (swt) know best!
Before supplication, a believer should always begin his du’a in this manner, “Oh Allah! Fulfill my desire if it is in my best interest, for only You know best!” If not fulfilling the desire is preferable to Allah (swt), then He will not fulfill it. Just as we know what is best for our children as parents, Allah (swt) knows what is good for us and what is not, for He has knowledge of the unseen and only grants us what He knows will not harm us. A du’a which is not good or beneficial for the supplicant may not be answered.
The Holy Qur’an says: “It may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you, and Allah knows, while you do not know.” (Baqarah verse 26)
Therefore, we should always leave it up to Allah (swt) and trust Him to do for us what He knows is best.
Wrong Articulation of Du’a
Othman Ibne Saeed approached Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) and asked him why his du’as were not answered. The Imam proceeded to explain to him that even the manner of supplication has certain requirements, so that the du’a is articulated correctly. When Ibne Saeed asked, “How should I pray?” the Imam replied:
“Whoever obeys God’s orders and offers his Du’as properly, they will be answered. First, praise God Almighty, then remember Him and thank Him for His blessings. After that, send greetings to the Holy Prophet (swt) and his progeny, then confess your sins and beg for His forgiveness. That is the right way for Du’a.”
The Delay In Answering Du’a
Occasionally we may experience that our du’as take time in being fulfilled. Allah (swt) delays fulfilling our du’as for many reasons. Perhaps it will not be good for us presently and only Allah (swt) is aware of any evil or dangerous consequence it may bring. It is also possible that Allah (swt) is testing our taqwa (piety) and patience: do we become resentful or angry with Him? Do we continue to persist in asking Him for His Grace, or do we give up and become disappointed? It is wise to note here that only the weak and proud ever become disappointed in Allah (swt). This is a form of kufr and is haram. We must always increase our hope and utmost trust in Allah (swt) and never despair of our Lord’s Mercy, rather always continue to seek from His bountiful treasures.
Ameer-ul-Mo’mineen, Imam Ali Ibne Abu Talib (as) has said:
“Sometimes God Almighty delays answering du’as so as to give both a greater reward and a further blessing.”
At other times, the delay in answering the Du’a is due to the servant’s preferred position with Allah (swt), for He likes to hear the voice of His servant. In this connection, Jafar Ibne Abdullah Ansari quotes the Holy Prophet (pbuh) as saying:
“If a servant who is favoured by God supplicates, God says to Jibraeel: Grant his request but delay it, for I like the sound of his voice, and I wish that he may ask for a long time.”
Therefore, repetition of Du’a may help it to be answered. Nevertheless, you must never become proud and revere yourself as one of Allah’s favourites. Say to yourself: perhaps the reason of my Du’a not being fulfilled is because of my sins, denying people’s rights, negligence, hard-heartedness, or because of lack of good intention towards God which do not allow my deeds to ascend to heaven. As we read in the Du’a of Kumail every Thursday night, “Allahummagh-firliy-adhunubal-latee-tughay-urun-ni’am! Allahummagh-firliy-adhunubal-latee-tah’bisud-du’aa!”, which translates:
“Oh Allah, forgive me those sins which alter blessings! Oh Allah, forgive me those sins which hold back blessings!”
Here we see the importance of taqwa and piety for our du’as to be answered. Begging Allah’s forgiveness opens up the doors of His mercy and blessings. In Imam Zainul Abideen’s (as) Book of Supplications entitled “Al-Sahifat al-Kamilat al-Sajjadiyyah” (The Psalms of Islam), he supplicates:
“My God! By Your Glory, even if You put a chain around my neck, deprive me of Your pardon, expose my disgrace before the people, give orders to put me into the Fire, and make a separation between the righteous and me, I will never lose my hope in You, nor will I expel from my heart the desire of seeking Your pardon and forgiveness, or expel from my heart Your love. I will never forget Your kindness and Your concealing and hiding my defects.”
Imam Sadiq (as) also said:
“Whoever wishes to supplicate, should first recite salawat, then recite Du’a for the fulfillment of his desire and finally end the Du’a with salawat, for God is too generous to fulfill two sides of a du’a and ignore its middle since salawat is accepted by Him.”
The Best Time for Du’a
The following times are the best for supplication:
- After the recitation of the Holy Qur’an
- During Hajj
- During illness
- While giving charity
- After performing wajib prayers
- After being hurt, physically or emotionally
- Between Adhaan and Iqamah
- While tears are running
- Shab-e-Juma (between Thursday night and Friday morning)
We may be oblivious or unaware of the spiritual significance of the night before Friday, and the day of Friday itself. Imam Sadiq (as) has said:
“The Sun has not risen on a better day than Friday. When the birds of the sky meet one another on this day, the greet each other and say, What a good day!”
Imam Baqar (as) has said: “If you decide to give charity, delay it until Friday.”
Imam Baqar (as) has also said: “Throughout Thursday night and Friday morning, God calls:
Isn’t there any believing servant who calls upon Me until before dawn so that I will grant his worldly and spiritual requests?
Isn’t there any believing servant who repents his sins before dawn so that I will forgive him?
Isn’t there any ailing and believing servant who asks Me to heal him before dawn so that I will heal him?
Isn’t there any believing servant whose sustenance is meager and asks Me to increase it before dawn?”
Therefore, this is the best time to supplicate, recite du’a and ask for Allah’s (swt) forgiveness, which is pivotal for having our du’as answered.
Du’a For Others
Nothing pleases Allah (swt) more than when we pray for others. Imam Sadiq (as) has said:
“Whoever recites Du’a for forty believers and then for himself, his Du’a will be fulfilled.” Also,
“A man’s Du’a for his believing brother will have his own sustenance increased and all evils removed.”
Having said this, in conclusion, one must bear in mind all the requirements necessary for having one’s du’as fulfilled. There must be sincerity and love in your heart, love and respect for your fellow Mo’mineen, taqwa and piety, and obeying Allah’s (swt) commands. A critical part of supplication is first to beg Allah’s (swt) forgiveness for our sins, which deter the fulfillment of our desires.