Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The excellence of Prophet's Du'as (Supplications)

                            In the name of Allah, the Most Benevolent, the Most Merciful.

The excellences of the unique character of Prophet Muhammad (on him be Allah's blessings and peace) can be placed under two heads: his perfect submission (to Allah) and his comprehensive prophethood.
Supplication (Dua) and Call (Dawah)
While supplication is an expression and a consequence of submission, call is a manifestation of prophet-hood. Each forms an important and distinct title in the story of the Prophet's glorious life and is a permanent chapter in his miraculous memoirs. Whether a reader or a writer, one clearly sees the place of call highlighted in Prophet Muhammad's personality, for books on him bring it out in its full detail and its achievements and influences shine in their rich splendour all over the world-

A call is public, and, therefore, everybody has seen the effect of the Prophet's call clearly and openly. But, to my limited knowledge, only a few people were able to notice how important to him was the other aspect, that is, his supplication to God, and what an enormous contribution it made to the effectiveness and triumph of his call itself.
Very few people could appreciate how the Prophet elevated supplication to cherished and sublime heights, how he revived and renewed it when, like all other forms of prayer and submission to Allah, it had withered to death. Indeed, the Prophet perfected it and established it in its most consummate form before he departed from the world.

Age of Ignorance—Man's Relationship with God

Those who have a deep and thorough knowledge of the history of religions and creeds know that the period known as the Age of Ignorance saw a serious decline of man's relationship with his Creator. The fountainhead of supplication, which would not gush forth except through faith and love and fear, had dried up in man's heart. Man, the creature, had fallen a prey to so many misunderstandings and misconceptions about himself and his Creator that the desire and the urge to supplicate to Him could hardly well up in his heart. To approach God with supplication one needs, first of all, belief in His existence. Man must also have faith that his Lord is all-powerful and can grant whatsoever He likes, and that there is no door but his Lord's at which he is to knock. He should further trust that, attributed as He is especially with compassion and mercy, benevolence and generosity, beneficence and charitableness, his Creator loves to give and grant and is more pleased by bestowing than His creature is by receiving. Man must believe that in relation to the Creator the creature's life from beginning to end is literally one beggar's bowl, and that the Lord is closer to each of His slaves than all His other creations, nay than even man's own jugular vein, and further that He listens to everybody and can help everyone in all circumstances.

Denial of Divine Attributes

A look at the history of the times of Jahiliah, i.e., before the advent of Islam, would show how rare and feeble each one of these beliefs had become and how many doubts and barriers, superstitions and misconceptions had grown in man's mind about each of the above-mentioned facts of faith. What room was there for supplication and prayer by those who lived under its influence in the face of denial of the attributes of the self-Existent ( wajibul wujud) or the First Cause (mabda'i awwal) and the affirmation of its existence without Divine Attributes in Greek philosophy ? What logic would be there in invoking a deity and seeking its help when there was no knowledge of its attributes, nay, the very idea of its possessing any perfect attribute was being negated ? How could man be justified in expecting new actions and directions to emerge every moment and at all the times from an entity which had no control over the workings of nature, which lay suspended after producing the First Intellect ('aql-i-awwal) and which was conceived as One (wa’hid) capable of creating one only, which it had already done ?
Hindrance in Supplication to God
Contrary to these tenets of ancient Greek philosophy, the polytheistic ignorance and idolatry had associated almost all of the divine attributes with one temporal creature or the other. One deity controlled life while the other provided sustenance. This one had all-encompassing, all-embracing knowledge so that the "unknown" was "known" to it, while that transcended the limitations of time and space, reaching anywhere and everywhere and helping its devotees all and at once. And so on and so forth. In such a situation, what possibility was there of man's turning to "the One God" and lifting his hands to Him for help in need, particularly when He should be Unseen and the palpable deities within sight and reach ? It should also be borne in mind that there was then no mention or talk of the divine attributes and powers of "the One God"; a correct knowledge of them was as a matter of fact almost extinct. On the other hand, public gatherings of the time resounded with the tales of the grand performances and wonderful agencies of "the myriad deities," and minds and hearts were benumbed by such legends. In such a situation there naturally emerged a state of mind which is depicted in the Qur'an as follows:

When God, the One and Only, Is mentioned, the hearts of those who believe not
In the Hereafter, are filled with disgust and horror; But when (gods) other than He
are mentioned, behold, they are filled with joy! '(Noble Qur’an; Al-Zumar: 45)

Greek Philosophy and Polytheistic Ignorance

Thus, Greek philosophy (due to its negative position on Divine Attributes) had closed the door of supplication and prayer upon man, and polytheistic ignorance (by ascribing divine attributes to temporal creatures) had directed them from the Creator to the created. The net result of these two influences was that the practice of directly seeking and begging of God and imploring Him with supplication and entreaty had almost come to an end. At the time of the conferment of prophethood on Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) it was hard to find even a few such persons in vast areas, even in a whole country, who regularly and properly supplicated to God, and who derived peace and contentment from this practice or invited others to it.

Mankind under Obligation to Prophet Muhammad
Prophet Muhammad (our souls and spirits be offerings for him) bestowed upon the humanity deprived and debarred of its spiritual moorings, the riches of supplication once again, and helped man to open a dialogue with God. And what a rare gem this

supplication was ! Man was now endowed with the bliss of submission to God, nay, with the bliss and honour of life itself. Thus the barred humanity once again gained access to the Lord and the fugitive son of Adam returned to the threshold of his Creator and Master saying;

Your slave has staggered back to Your door,
Having stained his honour with deadly sin!

Why man did not supplicate?
A major reason of man's deprivation of the bliss of supplication was the erroneous view prevalent in the Age of Ignorance that God was too far away from man to hear his feeble voice. Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) gave the glad tidings from Allah :

When My servants ask thee concerning Me I am indeed close (to them) : I listen
to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me
(Qur’an; Al-Baqara: 186)

Real Source of Help and Harm

Another false belief widely held at that time was that powers other than God could also help and harm man and come to his aid and assistance. This notion had diverted man's supplication and prayer from God, the Absolute ordainer of his good and evil haps, to imaginary helpers and protectors, and the world at large had fallen a prey to polytheism and idolatry. The Prophet of Allah proclaimed with all force and clarity Allah's dictate as directly addressed to him :
Say : "0 ye men I If ye are in doubt As to my religion, (behold)
I worship not what ye Worship, other than God I But I worship God—
Who will take your souls (At death) : I am commanded To be (in the ranks)
Of the Believers. "And further (thus): 'Set thy face Towards Religion with true piety,
And never in any wise Be of the Unbelievers: "Nor call on any Other than God;—
Such will neither profit thee Nor hurt thee: if thou dost, Behold I thou shaft certainly
Be of those who do wrong." If God do touch thee with hurt, there is none
Can remove it but He: If He do design some benefit For thee, there is none
Can keep back His favour: He causeth it to reach Whomsoever of His servants
He pleaseth. And He is The Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
(Qur’an; Yunus: 104-107)

Sublime Position of Supplication
The Prophet did not only make it clear that man could approach his Creator with supplication who hears him and can help him; he also showed that Allah appreciates supplication of man and is pleased with it, and further that, in fact, He is displeased with the non-suppliant. Supplication is in essence a vivid and effective manifestation of man's bondage, and an evasion of it is a symptom of defiance, arrogance, and rebelliousness.
The following proclamation of the Prophet elevated the status of supplication to wonderous heights and transformed it from a compulsive act done in bondage to a sublime form of devotion and a sure step towards establishing closeness to Allah.
And your Lord says: "Call on Me; I will answer your (Prayer): But those who are
too arrogant to serve Me will surely find themselves in Hell—in humiliation!"
(Qur’an; Al-Mumin:60)

The Prophet is reported lo have said that abstaining from supplicating to Allah not only causes a fall from His grace, but that it also earns Allah's displeasure. The words of a tradition are:
Allah is angry with him who does not ask of Him.
That is not all. The Prophet called supplication the quintessence of devotions and key to the door of divine mercy and favour. He observed.
To whom the door of supplication opens, to him the door of God's mercy opens wide.
Thus were the founts of supplication released to flow anew and afresh after it had virtually vanished from the then spectrum of life, its light having departed from prayers and prayer-houses, and the seeking, the disciplined, the pious, and the ascetic of the Age of Ignorance having gone without their share of its riches. In a short time this rare blessing of supplication was so plenteous that, according to an Urdu poet, "All inhabitants partook of it freely?"
Supplication an Evidence of Prophethood
The revitalizing and perfecting process of the prophethood of Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) did not stop there. He also taught us how to supplicate to Allah and enriched the treasure-house of humanity and the archives of world literature with those gems of supplications which are second only to the Holy Qur'an in lustre and brilliance. He addressed his Lord in words so moving and meaningful, so apt and suitable that they can never be surpassed by human eloquence. These supplications live as Prophet Muhammad's lasting miracle and as a monumental testimony to his prophethood. The words of these supplications connote that they are from the tongue of a prophet. They reflect the light of prophecy and the faith of a prophet. They breathe the humility of a perfect bondsman and the confidence and pride of one who is beloved of the Lord of worlds. They are informed with the simplicity of the prophetic nature, and the straightforwardness of an anguished and restless heart. These supplications are charged with the importunings and anxieties of one in need and want, and with sensitive care and profound reverence as shown by one who is well aware of the august decorum of the court of the Lord of lords. They throb with the distress of the bleeding heart and the agony of the suffering and with blissfull faith in the All- Healing, All-Relieving. In the Prophet's supplications there is an expression of his anguish as well as a declaration of his belief:

All affliction is from You

And You the Only Remedy still !

Literary Value of Supplication
In addition to their spiritual and expressive values, the supplications of Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) are of the highest literary standard.

As literary rarities and masterpieces, they stand unparalleled in the whole range of man's literature. Many critics have given a high literary place to personal letters on the ground that they are spontaneous and informal, and contain a frank expression of emotions. But they do not know that, in the words of an Urdu poet, "There exist worlds even beyond the stars."
There is another form of literature which far excels personal letters in frankness and spontaneousness, and in which all disguises and formalities of communication disappear, and the speaker lays his heart bare in utmost sincerity, his tongue becoming truly representative of his heart. When supplicating to God the speaker rises above the considerations of ovation and applause and "plays" not "to the gallery," but addresses his Maker urged by the dictates of his own heart. This sublime form of literature is—supplication and prayer (du'a and munajat).

Cry of Heart

Most critics of literary art tend to overlook an important element of literature which informs it with a genuine spirit and power and makes it immortal with truth and sincerity. The way this element finds expression in prayer and supplication, it cannot appear in any other form of literature. Besides, when the man supplicating be possessed of a heart in pain and of a mastery of the very highest order over the expression of his sense of pain, his words emerge as literary gems. They remain words no more: they in effect become bits of the heart and tears of the eye which move and stir the emotions of thousands of men over centuries. In addition, when the tongue giving utterance to these emotions is the one which has been a vehicle of divine revelation (wahi) and master of eloquence, the effectiveness and marvellousness of its supplications know no bounds.

Supplication at Ta'if

Take a look at the supplications of the Prophet recorded in books on his life and traditions. Can even the greatest literary writer employ more touching, more fascinating, and more inclusive words to depict his state of need and want, to invoke the surging sea of God's mercy ? Bring to your mind the scene of the Prophet's journey to Ta'if, feel his broken-heart and bleeding feet and then against that background of persecution and oppression amidst an angry rabble, read the following words:

0 Allah ! I complain to You of the feebleness of my strength, of the littleness of my resource, and of my public indignity. You are the Most Merciful of all showing mercy. You are the Protector of the oppressed and the helpless, and indeed You are my Protector too. Whom do You entrust me to? To a stern stranger ? Or to an enemy whom you have given control over my affairs ? If thus Your wrath may spare me, I mind not how I am placed, except that Your grant of well-being would be immense to me. I seek refuge in the effulgence of Your Divine Being which dispels all darkness and sets right matters here and in the Hereafter, so that I may never incur Your wrath or earn Your displeasure. I shall plead with You till You be pleased. And I receive only from You power to do good and stay away from evil. (Tarikh Tabari)

If you ever experience such a moment and your heart be similarly charged, do you think you can employ better and more effective words than those used above or find in the literary treasure of the world more eloquent words to express your feelings ?

Supplication at 'Arafat

Similarly, imagine the plain of 'Arafat. A hundred and twenty-four thousand pilgrims dressed shroud-style in two pieces of cloth are assembled there. The atmosphere resounds with their supplications and their pilgrimage-chant, "Here I am, 0 Lord!" The scene creates upon the heart a deep impression of Allah's unique state of total independence of all His creation, and His sublime grandeur and austere omnipotence. Among this dense mass of humanity there stands one (my father and mother be his ransom!), bare-headed and wearing two unsewn pieces of pilgrimage cloth, who carries the burden of all mankind on his shoulders. Of all watchers, his vision of Allah's magnificence and majesty is the best, and of all those who know, he is the most aware of deficiency, insignificance, and helplessness of man. His voice rises in this charged and awe-inspiring atmosphere and thus hears that audience then:

0 Allah! I Assuredly, You hear what I say and see where I am and know what I hide and what I show. Nothing concerning my case is concealed from You. I am afflicted, needy, begging Your help, seeking Your protection, miserable, frightened; admitting and confessing my sin. I ask of You as asks the helpless one. I cry, beseeching in front of You as a wretched transgressor wails in misery and I call to You as the scared and afflicted one calls, and as one whose neck is bent in front of You; whose tears stream forth in Your presence; whose body lies low in extreme humility to You; and who rubs his nose in the dust in humiliation before You. 0 Allah! Let me not fail in supplicating to You and turn to me as the Most Merciful and. the Beneficent, 0 You, the Best One Asked-and the.Best One Giving. ( Kanzul ‘Ummal: on the authority of Ibn Abbas)

Is it possible to find in the record of human eloquence more touching, sincere, and winning words than these to suggest Allah's grandeur and magnificence, to express a suppliant's -inability and resourcelessness, destitution and want, humility, and helplessness, and to invoke Allah's boundless mercy? Can anybody better depict the state of his heart and his loneliness and desolation? Undoubtedly, these words are sufficient to move the mercy of Allah. Even today, when repeating them, hearts are moved, eyes are filled with tears, and Allah's beneficence clearly seems inclining. May Allah's myriad blessings descend on the Prophet who was "the mercy for the worlds." He taught his followers so rapturous and affecting a supplication and so well-prepared them for appealing to Divine Mercy.

Bless him and his progeny with mercy and peace as abundantly,
0 Lord, as Your omniscience extends.

-Taken from Shaykh Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi's book "Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in the Mirror of His Supplications"

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