وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِى عَنِّى فَإِنِّى قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ ٱلدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا۟ لِى وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا۟ بِى لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
When My servants ask you ˹O Prophet˺ about Me: I am truly near. I respond to one’s prayer when they call upon Me. So let them respond ˹with obedience˺ to Me and believe in Me, perhaps they will be guided ˹to the Right Way˺ — Qur’an 2:186
In the Qur’an Allah tells us the power of Dua. We simply need to call on Him and He responds. To explore that further, what does this mean, what are the best ways to call on Him, how does He answer and what can we do to best know Allah better?
"I am what my slave thinks of me"
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Allah says: 'I am just as My slave thinks I am, (i.e. I am able to do for him what he thinks I can do for him) and I am with him if he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself; and if he remembers Me in a group of people, I remember him in a group that is better than they; and if he comes one span nearer to Me, I go one cubit nearer to him; and if he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.' "
يَقُولُ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى أَنَا عِنْدَ ظَنِّ عَبْدِي بِي، وَأَنَا مَعَهُ إِذَا ذَكَرَنِي، فَإِنْ ذَكَرَنِي فِي نَفْسِهِ ذَكَرْتُهُ فِي نَفْسِي، وَإِنْ ذَكَرَنِي فِي مَلأٍ ذَكَرْتُهُ فِي مَلأٍ خَيْرٍ مِنْهُمْ، وَإِنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَىَّ بِشِبْرٍ تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ ذِرَاعًا، وَإِنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَىَّ ذِرَاعًا تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ بَاعًا، وَإِنْ أَتَانِي يَمْشِي أَتَيْتُهُ هَرْوَلَةً ".
Allah tell us in this Hadith Qudsi that He is as we think of Him. Which is to say, that if we have a good opinion of Him, and we consider Him to be merciful to us, not only will He be more merciful to us but we will notice and appreciate the blessing in our lives more. Likewise with tests, if we have a mindset that He is punishing us and testing us, we will notice our tests more than our blessings.
As with all things in life we should have a good opinion (husn al-dhann), always assuming the best and seeing the positive aspects. Even with Allah we should have a "good opinion" and think well of Him, knowing and assuming that He always does what is best for us.
Why does Allah also mention being near to Him? Because nearness to Allah is the highest state we can hope for, either in this life or the next. It is a state better than anything else we could ask for, and unlike money or power in this life which may be carefully guarded and take years to attain, nearness to Allah is waiting for us. Allah wants us to come to Him and instead of making it a difficult path, He facilitates it for us as much as possible; for every step we take towards Him walking He comes to us running!
We need only to strive and to ask. Perhaps through asking we can achieve much more than we ever imagined, and much more than we ever even thought possible!
Power of dua
There was a lady at the time of Moses, she wanted to have a baby and so she asked Moses to pray for her. Allah however informed Moses that it was written for her to be childless.
The lady was so determined however she kept praying and beseeched Moses again, asking him to pray for her. Moses prayed for the lady again and Allah again told Moses that He had written for her to be childless.
This back and forth happens again and on the third time, Allah still said that she had been written to be childless.
A year later Moses saw the lady again and she was carrying a baby! The lady rejoiced in telling him the good news that Allah had granted her a baby!
Moses was astounded and asked Allah how He had written her to be childless and yet she had a baby?! Allah replied that every time she called upon Him, she was calling upon his mercy (Ya Rahim — Oh most merciful one) — and his mercy outweighs all his other attributes including his pre-destination (qadr).
A remarkable parable (reference below) and we can see from it the power of dua. To explain a bit how this was even possible, Allah has two books of pre-destination "Umm al-Kitab" (lit. Mother of the book) that no one has access to apart from Him, He also has "The Preserved Tablet" (al-lawhu al-mahfuz) that all the heavens and the angels can see.
The difference being that The Preserved Tablet (al-lawhu al-mahfuz) can be altered with dua and also altered by sins.
قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ " لاَ يَزِيدُ فِي الْعُمْرِ إِلاَّ الْبِرُّ وَلاَ يَرُدُّ الْقَدَرَ إِلاَّ الدُّعَاءُ وَإِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيُحْرَمُ الرِّزْقَ بِالذَّنْبِ يُصِيبُهُ "
“Nothing increases one’s life span except righteousness and nothing repels the Divine decree except supplication, and a man may be deprived of provision by a sin that he commits.’” [Ibn Majah]
Why then have a Preserved Tablet (al-lawhu al-mahfuz) if it can be altered? This tablet exists not just to shows us Allah’s mercy, but through this it encourages us to make dua, continually beseeching Allah and never losing hope in his mercy; while also avoiding sins.
When is dua answered?
النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ: "مَا مِنْ مُسْلِمٍ يَدْعُو بِدَعْوَةٍ لَيْسَ فِيهَا إِثْمٌ وَلَا قَطِيعَةُ رَحِمٍ إِلَّا أَعْطَاهُ اللَّهُ بِهَا إِحْدَى ثَلَاثٍ: إِمَّا أَنْ يُعَجِّلَ لَهُ دَعْوَتَهُ وَإِمَّا أَنْ يَدَّخِرَهَا لَهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ وَإِمَّا أَنْ يَصْرِفَ عنهُ من السُّوءِ مثلَها "
The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said: “Any Muslim who makes a supplication, containing nothing which is sinful, or which involves breaking ties of relationship — will be given for it by God one of three things:
He will give him a speedy answer, or store it up for him in the next world, or turn away from him an equivalent amount of evil.” — [Ahmad]
Even when it seems like our dua may not be being answered, we should always keep striving, as we never know when it may be answered. Maybe there is something better waiting for us or maybe our dua is working as a protection for us in this life. Most of all we never give up hope, and we always trust that Allah provides what is best for us.
When is dua not answered?
رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: لا يزال يستجاب للعبد ما لم يدعُ بإثم أو قطيعة رحم ما لم يستعجل. قيل يا رسول الله ما الاستعجال؟ قال يقول قد دعوت وقد دعوت فلم أرَ من يستجب لي فيستحسر عند ذلك ويدع الدعاء.
"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 (ﷺ) 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." — [Sahih Muslim]
Finally we see from this hadith the importance of having a good opinion of Allah (husn al-dhann b’illah) and never losing hope in Allah and his ability to answer all of our duas.
Some Daily litainies
Having explored the importance of dua and prayer in our lives. What are some beneficial dua we can recite regularly to help us inculcate this practice into our lives?
We can always just ask Allah directly — pouring out our hearts we are free to ask Him what we want. Additionally we can use the beautiful prayers of the Prophets and other duas found in the Qur’an and hadith.
1 - Good in this life and the hereafter
"رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ"
”rabbana atinafee addunya hasanatan wafee al-akhiratihasanatan waqina AAathaba annar"
“Our Lord! Grant us the good of this world and the Hereafter, and protect us from the punishment of the Fire.” — Quran 2:201
2 - Beseeching Allah after mistakes
"لَّآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّآ أَنتَ سُبْحَـٰنَكَ إِنِّى كُنتُ مِنَ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ "
"la ilaha illa anta subhanaka innee kuntu mina aththalimeen"
And [mention] the man of the fish [i.e., Jonah], when he went off in anger and thought that We would not decree [anything] upon him. And he called out within the darknesses, "There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers." — Qur'an 21:87
3 - Reliance on Allah alone
A supplication that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) advised Fatima to make:
"O ever-Living, O Self-Subsistent, by Your mercy I beseech Your help. Leave me not to myself nor to any of Your creation even for the blink of an eye. Set right for me all my affairs."
يَا حَيُّ يَا قَيُّومُ بِرَحْمَتِكَ أَسْتَغِيثُ ،لا تَكِلْنِي إِلَى نَفْسِي وَلَا إِلَى أَحَدٍ مِن خَلْقِكَ طَرَفَةَ عَيْنٍ، أَصْلِحْ لِي شَأْنِي كُلَّهُ
Yaa Hayyu Yaa Qayyoom bi Rahmatika astagheeth, laa takilni ilaa nafsi wa laa ila ahadin min khalqika tarfata ‘aynin, Aslih lee sha’nee kullahu
I pray that Allah accepts it from us, grants us ease in this life and the next and makes us of those who never stop beseeching Him and supplicating.
مَا يَعْبَؤُا۟ بِكُمْ رَبِّى لَوْلَا دُعَآؤُكُمْ
"What are you to my Lord without your supplication?" — Qur’an 25:77
Further reading & references: