Supplication: When supplication is not answered

Q631 :1. Finding my mother very sad and depressed, I tried to get her to explain the reason. She told me that she has been supplicating for a very long time, praying Allah to grant us the same things, hoping that our social and economic problems will be relieved, but no help has seemed to be forthcoming. I tried to convince her that we only get what Allah has assigned to us. She asks, "what is the use of supplication, then?" Is it true that we only get what has been determined for us long time before we are born? 2. My younger brother has been complaining that he is often ill-treated and hurt by his classmates. I taught him the supplication which the Prophet says will keep us from harm. A few months later, I asked him whether he is continuing with that supplication. He turned to me and said: "What is the use of it? I am still exposed to harm inflicted by my classmates?" Please comment.

A631 : The first thing to be said about this question is that supplication will definitely be answered by Allah. We should entertain no doubt about that. This is because Allah states in the Qur'an: "Your Lord says, 'Pray Me and I will answer you.'" The way this statement is phrased in Arabic makes it a conditional sentence with the result, i.e. that answering of supplication is sure to come upon the fulfillment of the required action, which in this case is the supplication. This is, then, a promise by Allah made in a very clear statement which admits no ambiguity. Allah always fulfills His promises. It has never been known that what is promised by Allah has failed to come. What is required for supplication to be answered is sincerity. This means that when a person turns to Allah and prays Him to accomplish a particular purpose of his, he does so with an honest and sincere feelings that he needs Allah's help and that Allah is able to accomplish that purpose whenever He chooses. We often think that we are praying Allah when we are actually expressing a desire. Our action lacks the conviction that is necessary for our application to be sincere. We often adopt the attitude of a junior employee expressing a wish for the sort of promotion that gives him a big jump in the hierarchy of the company or the department where he works for. This is not the way to seek Allah's help. When we pray Allah we should feel that we are in a position of weakness and that He is able to accomplish any purpose we have without the slightest difficulty. When we address our supplication to Allah, He may choose to answer it in a way which makes anyone who is aware of the situation admit that it is only through Allah's intervention that what we prayed for has been granted. I personally have experienced this. Indeed, there is hardly a human being who does not experience it at one time or another during his life. Alternatively, Allah may answer our supplication by facilitating the accomplishment of our purpose either through our own efforts or through an interaction of a variety of factors. I will give you an example. A friend of mine has a son who stammers when he speaks. His speech defect has caused him such distress as other children laugh at his difficulty. One day he prayed Allah with much sincerity to cure his defect. Within a few days, his father learned that an excellent speech therapist was visiting the small town in which they lived and intending to stay for several months. The father arranged that the boy gets what he needed of professional help. The speech therapist told the boy that he can only guide him and that the boy must work hard to help himself by doing the exercises he was going to give him each session. In this case, the boy can only blame himself if he fails to take advantage of what he has been offered. If he follows the speech therapist's guidance and does the exercises he is given, he will almost probably be cured of his defect within a matter of months. If he fails to do so, he cannot say that Allah has not answered his supplication. The fact that this arrangement could ever be made is a demonstration of answering the boy's sincere supplication. It is also important to remember something that the Prophet has told us about supplication. He says that Allah will definitely answer all our prayers, but [only] some prayers we will see answered in this life. Allah may choose to defer the answering of other supplications so that He rewards us for it in the life to come. The Prophet also explains that when we come to see the sort of reward we will have as a result of that postponement of answering our prayers, we would wish that Allah had not answered any of our supplication in this life and that He had deferred it all to the life to come. Hence, we should not be hasty. Some people may ask here: "What is the use of postponing the answering of a supplication when we need the thing that we are praying for here in this life?" The answer is that Allah postpones answering our supplication for our own good. As His knowledge is perfect and absolute, and as it encompasses the future as well as the present and the past, He knows perfectly well what effect the answering of any particular supplication will have on our lives. Take for example the case of a person who prays Allah to make him very wealthy. Now look at wealthy people and you are sure to find that many of them do not make the sort of use of their wealth which will improve their position in the life to come. On the contrary, many are the ones who use their wealth in ways which displease Allah. This means that their wealth is not a blessing but something that may condemn them in the hereafter. If Allah knows that the person who is making this supplication is of the latter type and He does not answer his supplication immediately but defers it to the hereafter, He is actually giving him more than what he has prayed for. He is giving him protection against the errors He knows that the man will be committing when he is wealthy and He is rewarding him for his supplication in the hereafter. Moreover, when we look at the blessing with which Allah has favored us, we are bound to conclude that even if we are suffering a great deal of hardship, we enjoy much of Allah's blessings. We should be grateful to Him and we should pray Him all the time. Besides, supplication is part of our worship. Indeed, the Prophet described it as the heart of worship. It is appropriate to ask ourselves whether we worship Allah simply because it is beneficial to us? If so, we have to change our attitude so that we make our worship a fulfillment of our duty and a gesture expressing our gratitude to Allah for what He has given us. When we address our supplication to Allah, it is we who benefit by that. We are indeed acknowledging His Lordship and this acknowledgment is bound to bring us good reward. What I have said about the postponement of the answering of a prayer may not sound very appealing to some people. They want their wishes which they include in their supplication, fulfilled here and now. This is due to the fact that most people tend to think of this life as the be all and end all. A Muslim should have a much wider view of life so as to include the life to come as an undoubted reality. Moreover, a Muslim does not think of the life to come as something remote, but as something coming soon. No one knows when his time of death arrives. To a Muslim, this could be much close than anyone can think. When he dies, a human being moves from one stage of his life to the next stage, where he will certainly have the reward for his supplication. Besides, when anyone of us thinks of the blessing Allah has already given him, he is bound to feel that Allah has bestowed His grace in abundance on him. Let him reflect that what he has is more than enough for him. What he asks may lead him astray. That would be a net loss to him. As far as the case of the reader's brother, he must accept with conviction that what the Prophet has said is true. If he is in doubt, then his supplication may remain unanswered. Besides, the Prophet said that if you use this supplication regularly, whatever happens to you will not harm you. The Hadith does not say that no harm will happen, but whatever happens will not harm the person. Here we have to take "harm" in a broader sense. Something may happen to a person which he dislikes, but he will be able to repel its harmful effects or reduce them to an absolute minimum. Once more, much depends on his conviction that what the Prophet said is true. We have to try to attain the sort of conviction the Prophet's companion had. I will conclude with an example illustrating this point. Once Abu Ad-Dardaa', a companion of the Prophet, was told that his house was burned down. He said, "it has not." When he went with those who gave him that report to his place, they found that the area had suffered a big fire very close to his house, but the house itself was safe. They asked him how did he know that his house was not burned down. He said, "because I said this morning, like I do every morning, a certain supplication I heard from the Prophet who told us that when we say it, we will be spared all harm to ourselves and our property. Ever since, I have been saying this supplication every morning."

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )