DUA (PRAYER) FROM A QUR’ANIC PERSPECTIVE BY IMRAN FARUQUI 

1. WHAT IS A DUA/WISH/PRAYER?

A prayer is a specific request to God. The request may be for anything, for anyone, or for group(s) of people.

2. WHAT ARE YOU ACTUALLY ASKING FOR WHEN YOU MAKE A DUA / WISH / PRAYER?

When you make a prayer, whether you realize it or not, what you are really doing is asking God to change the normal course of events, into another course of events, in such a way that the prayer comes true. In other words, you are asking God to intervene in the natural unfolding of events so as to ‘tilt things’ in your favor as it pertains to realization of your particular prayer.

3. DOES GOD ENCOURAGE US TO PRAY?

When one considers the Qur’anic narrative, it is clear that the All-Wise encourages us to pray to Him. The Prophets Noah, Zachariah, Abraham, Moses, Muhammad, all prayed to God (21:76-77, 2:126-128, 3:38-39, 10:88, 4:64).

Nor was prayer restricted to just the Prophets; Imran’s wife also prayed (3:35); and indeed a general prayer is encouraged by all people as they get on with their age and reflect upon life:

46:15 …When he has grown to manhood and reached the age of forty he [may] say, ‘Lord, help me to be truly grateful for Your favours to me and to my parents; help me to do good work that pleases You; make my offspring good. I turn to You; I am one of those who devote themselves to You.’

It is therefore evident that God encourages us to pray to Him.

4. DOES GOD MAKE EACH PRAYER COME TRUE?

The answer to this question is obviously a RESOUNDING NO. However, it is noteworthy that even the Prophets were not granted their prayers in all cases. Noah prayed for his son’s safety, which was met with God’s reprimand (11:45-47). Similarly, Abraham’s prayer of forgiveness for his father was in vain (9:114).

Perhaps the lesson here, therefore, is to pray only for those things which are in keeping with the guiding principles of God’s commandments.

5. HOW DOES GOD MAKE A PRAYER COME TRUE?

While it is difficult to answer this question with any kind of certainty, the Qur’an, however, does impart clues:

A. As prayer, fundamentally, is a request made to God to INTERVENE in the normal course of events, it thus follows, consequently, that GOD MUST BE USING HIS FORCES OF THE UNSEEN TO ACHIEVE THIS. The main unseen forces which the Qur’an speaks of are the angels, who reliably do God’s bidding. It should be noted that the Qur’an qualifies the believers as those who believe in the unseen (2:3), the angels in particular (2:177, 2:285, 4:136).

B. Characteristics/Attributes/Tasks of Angels:

Are created of different categories with 2, 3, 4 / multiplicity of wings (35:1).

Are ranged in ranks (37:165).

Bless people to lead them out of darkness (33:41).

Blessed the Prophet (33:56).

Safeguarded/carried the relics/contents of the Ark of the Covenant (2:241).

Thousands of angels assisted the Prophet and the believers in battles (3:123-127, 8:8-9).

Communicate with people (3:39, 3:42, 3:45).

Give firmness to the hearts of the believers (8:12).

Were sent down with inspiration to God’s chosen servants (16:2).

Each person has guardian angel(s) watching over him (13:11).

Carry God’s Throne (40:7-9, 69:17).

Beg forgiveness for the believers (40:7-9, 42:5).

Are allies to the believers in both this life and the next (41:31).

Would support the Prophet against any possible collaboration of his wives (66:4).

Descend again and again on every task on the Night of Glory (97:4).

Certain angels will be witnesses on the Day of Judgment (53:26, 78:38).

C. As is clear from the above list, angels are created to do God’s bidding, and intimately interact with the seen world of our mortal lives, while remaining unseen/hidden to mankind (revealing themselves only to chosen servants according to God’s command).

IT IS ENTIRELY REASONABLE TO CONCLUDE, THEREFORE, THAT WHEN WE MAKE A PRAYER, WHAT WE ARE REALLY ASKING GOD TO DO IS TO HELP US BY RECRUITING APPROPRIATE ANGELS, ACCORDING TO HIS WISDOM, TO CHANGE THE COURSE OF EVENTS SO THAT THE REQUESTED PRAYER COMES TRUE.

That’s what prayer, when we break it down, really implies.

6. WHO/WHAT CAN WE PRAY FOR?

Given the above understanding of how prayers are answered/manifested, there is therefore no limitation on who or what we can pray for; whether ourselves, our loved ones, friends, associates, strangers, or entire groups. However, the further removed people are in relations, the less intense our feelings are likely to be, and by association, the prayers will likely lack conviction, and thus may not be very effective.

7. IS PRAYING FOR OTHERS INTERCESSION?

Prayer is an earnest wish/request by an individual/believer DIRECTLY TO GOD WITHOUT AN INTERCESSOR: no one acts as a lawyer and pleads with God on one’s behalf. We can pray for other people, but that is not the same as interceding on their behalf. It remains entirely up to God, and according to His Sublime Wisdom, on whose prayer, and in what manner, the prayer is answered. And just to be clear, no dead person, including dead Messengers or Prophets, can pray for you – because they’re dead.

8. WHOSE PRAYERS ARE ANSWERED?

No one knows the answer to this question except God, the All-Wise, All-Aware. However, it is clear from the Qur’anic narrative, that angels were particularly active whenever God sent one of His Prophets or Messengers to a community. This should come as no surprise, and indeed, because of the enormous task entrusted upon these chosen men; it was incumbent that they received the assistance of God’s unseen forces in order to succeed in their respective missions.

Not withstanding the special class of Prophets/Messengers, however, the Qur’an is clear that God has made it His duty to help the believers, in a general sense:

30:47 Before you, We sent messengers, each to their own people: they brought them clear proofs and then We punished the evildoers. WE MAKE IT OUR DUTY TO HELP THE BELIEVERS.

Since God has made it incumbent upon Himself to help the believers, it thus follows that it is the believer’s prayers which are given preference (though not necessarily exclusive), and angels are sent down to help them.

9. CAN WE JUST PRAY AND NOT EXERT EFFORT?

That certainly would be nice, but unfortunately this mortal world is not Heaven; and so we must strive hard in God’s cause (22:78, 29:69); nor does God change a condition of a people unless they first change what is within themselves (13:11).

Hence, the purpose of prayer and the recruitment of angels in the cause of the believers, is not meant to replace hard work and effort; rather, it is meant as an adjunct to enhance results, which, arguably, could not be achieved at the same level by hard work/effort alone.

10.WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF ACCEPTANCE OF THE PRAYER?

The greater one’s belief in God, and the more one has committed him/herself to God in real deeds and actions, the more likely that his/her prayers will be answered.

CONCLUSION:

Based upon Qur’anic guidance, it is clear that God encourages us to pray. However, in order for our prayers to not be in vain, it is best if believers prayed for things which are in keeping with Qur’anic principles; with wisdom arguably the greatest attribute one could pray for.

God uses His forces of the unseen, the angels in particular, as one clear means by which prayers are answered, according to His discretion.

Prayer is not meant to be a replacement for hard work/dedication; it is meant to be an additional source of help to one’s own efforts.

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