Question: Why aren’t my prayers being answered?
Answer: May Allah reward you for asking such an honest question, and may He guide us towards the truth. Ameen.
I think what happens in this type of situation is that we mix up our means and our ends. When we make du`a’ for a good husband, for example, is that strong marriage a means or an end? I think many people take it as an end, which explains much of the disillusionment and disappointment that often follows (ironically in both cases: whether we get it or we don’t). Like everything in this dunya, marriage is only a means – a means to reach Allah. So if we pray for it and we don’t get it, perhaps Allah has chosen another means for us – perhaps through hardship, the purification it may cause and the sabr it builds, to bring us to that end: Allah. It may be, as only Allah knows best, that had He given us that amazing husband we made du`a’ for, it would have made us heedless and therefore not achieve our end at all.
Instead of seeing it like this, however, I think the problem is we are seeing things as just the opposite. The dunya (that great job, certain type of spouse, having a child, school, career, etc) is our end and *Allah* is the means that we use to get there. We use that means, through making du`a’, to achieve our end (whatever it is that we’re making du`a’ for), and then get disappointed when our means (Allah) didn’t come through for us. We throw our hands up in the air and say our du`a’ are not being answered. Our means just isn’t coming through for us!
But, Allah isn’t a means. He is the end. The ultimate objective of even du`a’ itself is to build our connection to Allah. Through du`a’ we become closer to Him. So, I think the problem is that our focus is wrong. That’s why I love the du`a’ of istikhara so much. It’s just perfect because it acknowledges that Allah only knows best, and then asks for Him to bring what is best and take away what is not best. The focus of that du`a’ is not that which you are asking for. The focus is what is best in this life and next. This is not to say that we cannot make du`a’ for things specifically that we want. On the contrary. Allah loves for us to ask of Him. But it means that once we ask, do our part to the utmost, and put our trust in Allah, we are pleased with what Allah chooses for us. And we realize that Allah answers all du`a’ – but not always in the form we expect. And that is simply because our knowledge is limited, and His is unlimited. In His infinite knowledge He may send us what He knows to be better for us in achieving the ultimate end: the pleasure of Allah (swt).
Wa Allahu `alam (and Allah knows best).