I was praying dhuhr (the noon prayer) not so long ago when my four-year old daughter came and stood by my side. Our usually noisy house was strangely quiet. Our oldest daughter was at school and our baby was napping. There we were, praying together, bowing to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), standing again and then going into sujood (prostration). All was quiet, until, while in sujood, I heard a tiny voice whispering:
“Please Allah, give me a castle in jannah (paradise). Please Allah, give me a castle in jannah. Please Allah, give me a castle in jannah.”
My daughter kept repeating her request over and over, and upon hearing this, my eyes welled up with tears.
When we finished our prayer, I could not help but hug her. I sat, holding her, and thinking to myself, how did my habit of making du`a’ (supplication) to Allah (swt) compare to hers? Had I remembered, as she had, that the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) had told us that we were closest to Allah (swt) when we were prostrating to Him and that we should use this opportunity to ask of Him?1) Had I remembered to request from Allah (swt), the Provider and Sustainer of the universe, my castle in jannah?
Sadly, I realized that in my prayer, not only had I not asked Allah (swt) for my castle in jannah, I had actually failed to ask for anything. I had prayed perfunctorily, distracted from the reality of how close Allah (swt) was to me as I stood before Him.
The Prophet ﷺ tells us, “There is nothing dearer to Allah (swt) than a servant making du`a’ to Him,” (Tirmidhi). Nothing dearer! And yet how often had I neglected to do this?
The Prophet ﷺ also tells us that du`a’ is the worship. It encompasses so much of what the Islamic creed stands for: belief in the unique power of Allah (swt) as the Lord of everything; belief that only Allah (swt) can aide us when we are in need; reliance upon Him for all our affairs; hope in His mercy and forgiveness for our shortcomings; humility in knowing we are nothing without Him.
Allah (swt) is the All-Knowing, the All-Hearing and the All-Seeing. He already knows what we conceal in our chests:
“He causes the night to enter the day and causes the day to enter the night, and He is Knowing of that within the breasts.” (Qur’an, 57:6)
So whether we think of something at night or during the day, Allah (swt) already knows it. He already knows what we want or need. Nonetheless, He tells us we must do our part and ask of Him. So what prevents us from doing so?
It may be that, sadly, many of us fail to understand just how important du`a’ is. We think it is somehow secondary to other acts of worship, like praying and fasting, and that it is an optional act that we may or may not take part in. Furthermore, many Muslims actually worry that they are not capable of making du`a’—thinking that they have to have some sort of extensive knowledge of Islam or of the specific du`a’ made by the Prophet ﷺ in order to carry out this act of worship properly.
The truth is that du`a’ is simply a conversation we are having with our Lord (Rabb).
A very special kind of conversation.
Special not because of what we say, but because of why we say it. When we make du`a’ we are affirming Allah’s (swt) position in our lives and His control over everything: our successes, our failures, our inclinations, our emotions—indeed, even our ability to follow His guidance.
What makes this conversation even more special is that when we hand over this control to Allah (swt) and submit to His will admitting our utter need for Him, the result is not a feeling of helplessness or despair, rather it is a feeling of peace and serenity in our hearts that can only be experienced in order for it to be understood.
And we need not make du`a’ in Arabic or in any other specific language. We need not even memorize or recite the exact words used in the du`a’ of the Prophet ﷺ.
However, as in our daily conversations, we should realize that there are certain etiquettes that need to be observed when making du`a’. Although scholars may list numerous recommendations on how to best to make du`a’, I would like to highlight just three2 .
Firstly, the Prophet ﷺ instructed us to begin our du`a’ by praising Allah (swt), calling upon Him by His most beautiful names. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an, “And to Allah belong the best names, so invoke Him by them,” (Qur’an, 7:180).
Secondly, he told us we should send peace and blessings upon the Prophet ﷺ.
After that, he says, we should ask of Allah (swt) whatever we need or desire.
. Once we have made du`a’, we should sincerely believe that it will be answered. We should remember that to Allah (swt) belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth and that He is fully capable of granting all of us everything we have ever wanted. Allah (swt) tells us in a hadith qudsi (sacred narration),
“…O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to rise up in one place and make a request of Me, and were I to give everyone what he requested, that would not decrease what I have, any more that a needle decreases the sea if put into it…”(Muslim)3
We should also be consistent in making du`a’. The Prophet ﷺ cautioned us against being hasty and giving up on du`a’ when the response from Allah (swt) is not immediate4) .
And if everything just mentioned above were not enough to remind us to not let our worldly affairs and obligations distract us from simply calling upon Allah (swt), and to be persistent when doing so, the Prophet ﷺ further reminds us that no du`a’ will be made in vain:
“Any Muslim who supplicates to Allah (swt) in a du`a’ which contains no sin or breaking of kinship, Allah (swt) will give him one of three things: either his du`a’ will be immediately answered or, it will be saved for him in the hereafter, or it will turn away an equivalent amount of evil (from him).” The companions said, “So we will ask for more.” He replied, “Allah (swt) is more [generous].” (at-Tirmidhi, Ahmad)
Life can be distracting, but we should not let those distractions prevent us from the great benefit and reward of making du`a’.
Our prayers provide us with the perfect opportunity to ask Allah (swt). To ask that He may facilitate for us our affairs in this life and guide us on the path that pleases Him, that He forgive us for our mistakes and shortcomings, and that He, out of His endless Mercy and Bounty, grant us all our castles in jannah.
That day, praying with my daughter, I realized I could not bring back the opportunities I had missed, but I could do my best not to miss any more.
- Abu Hurairah radi Allahu `anhu (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Allah’s (swt) Messenger ﷺ , said: “The nearest a slave can be to his Lord is when he is prostrating, so invoke (supplicate) Allah (swt) much in it.” (Muslim [↩]
- “When one of you prays, let him start with praise of Allah (swt), then let him send blessings upon the Prophetﷺ then let him ask whatever he likes after that.” (Tirmidhi, 2765, 2767). [↩]
- Hadith 24 from An-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith [↩]
- The Prophet ﷺ said: “The slave will receive a response so long as his du`a’ does not involve sin or severing of family ties, and so long as he is not hasty.” It was said, “What does being hasty mean?” He said: “When he says, ‘I made du`a’ and I made du`a’ , and I have not seen any response,’ and he gets frustrated and stops making du`a’ .” (Bukahari, 6340; Muslim, 2735 [↩]