Supplications > The value of supplication and its meaning in Islam

The value of supplication and its meaning in Islam

In His Glorious Book, Allah, the most Exalted, says: "When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way." (2: 186) In another verse, He says:"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!" (40: 60). Based on these two verses and all the other verses treating the issue of supplication in the Glorious Quran, we conclude the importance of supplication in the relationship between God and the human being and its relation to the question of Faith and beliefs.

The divine care

In the first verse, we find an approach of compassion, benevolence and mercy that tenderly touches the heart making the human being feel the innocence and purity of a child crawling towards his heart as he piously and humbly stands in front of his God. Amidst this spiritual kindness, the human being feels the divine care touching his soul and conscience, calling him to open his heart with all its worries and pains, to reveal his life with all its problems and obstacles, and to raise his voice up with all his needs and goals; and there he finds God very close to him, listening to his call, understanding his wants, managing his affairs, and taking care of his sadness. At this point, the human being’s burdens and afflictions loosen securing his way to tranquility and peace.

The separating line

In the second verse, we face a very firm approach that makes the question of the human being’s prayer a question of admitting or rebelling against the fact that worship is only for Allah, the most Exalted . This verse, moreover, implies that praying is the separating line between belief and unbelief, between heaven and hell.
Verily, while by supplication the human being’s finds an echo for his feelings and a satisfaction for his needs; by choosing to rebel against Allah, the most Exalted, he acquires nothing but being deprived of Allah’s grace and bounty in this world, and being inflicted with punishment in the afterworld.

The importance of supplication

Indeed, the great importance of supplication might be clearly seen in the following Glorious Quranic verse: "Say (to the Rejecters): "My Lord is not uneasy because of you if ye call not on Him" (25:77) that determines God’s care of His believers in accordance with their communication with Him through supplication.
And here we ask ourselves: what is the secret behind all of this?
And how can the practice or the non-practice of a certain religious ceremony or service rise to the level of determining the relationship between the human being and his God?
But it appears that the issue - and we are trying to answer the above stated questions - is not simply about certain worshipping rituals or formal religious traditions. Indeed, supplication is the living expression of the human being’s everlasting need for Allah in all his life affairs. It is the human being’s submissive recognition of his dependence on Allah, the most Exalted, embodied in the feeling of being deeply attached to Him to the extent of uniting with Him in a way that the person no longer feels his existence or entity.
Verily, the living and true faith cannot be realized but through this feeling because believing in God becomes meaningless if it does not involve the acknowledgment of His supernatural and unstoppable creating force as well as His absolute and endless power against the helplessness and weakness of the human being who cannot do himself any harm or good but through the help of God.
Accordingly, our need to supplication lies in our need to express our faith in God making sure that it lasts active and powerful inside our souls. So, supplications renew the faith of the human being and consolidate his confidence in God.
By the same token, one of the traditions mentioned “supplication is the brain of worship” because it is the living expression of the meaning of servitude, submission and piety which are represented in the act of worship; verily, without supplication, worshipping Allah, the most Exalted, becomes a body without a soul.
Similarly , supplication ceases to be a traditional ritual practiced by the human being as a regular habit without any idea of what it is really about.
This is the meaning of supplication according to religions which have all agreed on sanctifying supplication giving it a great importance when they all met on emphasizing the Faith in Allah, the most Exalted, . All the more so, the Glorious Qur'an speaks about the supplications of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Zachariah and others when they faced critical and difficult times. Actually, they resorted to invocation and supplication as a practical way to teach people the importance of this worship in the relationship between the human being and his God; an importance that is deeply rooted in the conception of faith, even in the lives of prophets who are the exemplars in their closeness to Allah, the most Exalted .

The value of supplication in Islam

The Glorious Quran embarked then on calling for this worship during all the states and situations that face the human being so that the relationship between the latter and his God will not be governed by interest and benefit. That’s why we find that while it urges the human being to call for God in a request for help or in an expression of fear, it urges him in other verses to invoke God in an expression of devotion, such as in the prayer of devotion and the pure belief in the one and only God. Some of the Glorious Quranic verses point to examples of people who resort to supplication only during hardships and difficulties so that when Allah, the most Exalted, relieves them and satisfies their request, they forget Him: "When some trouble touches man, he cries unto his Lord, turning to Him in repentance: but when He bestows a favor upon him as from Himself, (man) does forget what he cried and prayed for before." (39: 8)
Consequently, we infer that supplication should not be based on the human being’s temporal and limited needs that face him every now and then. Invoking Allah, the most Exalted, should rather set from the feeling of the profound spiritual connection that relates the human being to his God in love and reassurance.
That is why we find that the Glorious Prophetic tradition and the sayings of the Imams of the Members of the Household have given supplication an essential role in the life of the human being. Some of the traditions called people not to supplicate Allah, the most Exalted, asking Him to grant their needs and requests only; but to remember their brothers in their prayer asking Allah, the most Exalted, to grant the latter’s wishes and desires the same way they do for themselves. Hence, we deduce a hidden meaning implying the necessity to acknowledge the feeling of brotherhood that links people to each other so that when a person supplicates Allah , he remembers his brother’s need or request before his own.

Sometimes this meaning reaches the absolute altruism that makes the human being shows a deep concern for the welfare of others; a concern deep enough to exceed his concern for his own welfare. Imam Al-Hassan Bin Ali (a.s.) was reported to have said about his mother Fatima Al-Zahraa (a.s.): she used to spend the night worshipping and supplicating Allah , praying for believers, men and women, and not for herself. He asked her: why don’t you pray for yourself? She said: O son! Neighbors come first.

The supplications of Ahlul-Bait and their relation to life

In their supplications, the Members of the Household of the Prophet (p.) have dealt with more practical experiences that might face a human being, especially in the supplications of Zein El-Abiddin (a.s.) in Al-Sahifa As-Sajadiah . His supplications were opened to life in all its events, situations, worries and problems; not to mention that they were related to the problems of the human beings’ life; issues and causes such as justice and oppression, right and wrong, peace and war, poverty and wealth, love and hate, and so on and so forth…
The aim of Ahlul-Bait was indeed to turn supplications into a school that connects human beings to life and connects life to Allah, the most Exalted . They, moreover, attempted at confirming the Islamic conception that refuses to give the human life a material and soulless meaning insisting on finding a live combination of soul and substance in a wonderful unity that goes in harmony with the connection between the spiritual and material side in the human being’s entity.
Those supplications refused that the human being surrenders to defeat and withdraws from society in a negative attempt to escape reality under the pretext of devoting himself to Allah, the most Exalted, in prayer, distancing oneself from the world of substance. Nay, they wanted the human being to look at his relation with Allah, the most Exalted, as a positive incentive pushing him to work towards implementing the will of Allah, the most Exalted, in building life in a better way.
An example on this is the supplication of Imam Zein El-Abiddin (a.s.) each morning and evening where we find, in the beginning of his invocation, the human being’s feeling of unity that brings him together with other creatures as worshipping Allah, giving in to His will, yielding to His laws and orders: “In the morning we and all things, every one, rise for Thee, the heaven and the earth and what Thou has scattered in each, the still and the moving, the resident and the journeying, what towers up in the air and what hides under the ground.”
Then, he feels as if time is watching him, observing all his steps, recording and counting his actions, so that it will tell God about them all after departing the human being with praise or blame: “This is a fresh, new day, over us a ready witness.
If we do good, it will take leave from us with praise, and if we do evil, it will part from us in blame.”
And then we notice that he tries to urge the human being to plan his quotidian work with awareness defining the human being’s path, goals and starting points; and he summarizes this idea as follows: “O God, bless Muhammad and his Household and give us success in this day of ours, this night of ours, and in all our days, to employ the good, stay away from the evil, give thanks for favors, follow the Sunna's norms,
avoid innovations, enjoin good behavior, forbid the disapproved, defend Islam, diminish falsehood and abase it, help the truth and exalt it, guide the misguided, assist the weak, and reach out to the troubled!”
In this supplication, we find an inclination towards the best in the human being’s movement through time: “And make this the most fortunate day we have known, the most excellent companion we have accompanied, and the best time in which we have lingered!”
Moreover, we find in this supplication an attempt to determine the criteria of evaluation and assessment in the scale of Islam as the Imam (a.s.) teaches us how to regard and deal with different kinds of people: “Preserve me from imagining any meanness in someone who is destitute or imagining any superiority in someone who possesses wealth, for the noble is he whom obedience to Thee has ennobled and the exalted is he whom worship of Thee has exalted!”

In some supplications, we find an attempt to make from the negative attitude adopted with regard to oppressors and the non-support of the wronged, a reason to ask for pardon, such as the positive aspect of supporting oppressors: “O God, I ask pardon from Thee for the person wronged in my presence whom I did not help”. Similarly , we see that supplications turn into an educational and guiding element that arouses the human being’s awareness of values, principles and the universe’s good meanings. And the human being’s responsibility towards all of this is indeed embodied in his work towards actualizing these meanings, values and feelings and in his behavior or attitude that directs life through its best ways and towards its finest levels. All of this is achieved by individually invoking Allah, the most Exalted, so that the meaning of invocation would find its way to his feelings and emotions with simplicity and spontaneity; the same simplicity of light and spontaneity of life.
Educationally speaking, the value of this approach lies in the fact that the human being does not easily accept to be preached or advised by others; their words prove to be heavy on his heart such as any other thing coming from outside. However, during supplications, the human being finds himself directly addressing Allah, the most Exalted, in a tranquil invocation where he defines his attitudes, puts his life on the right track of values, and offers himself to Allah for accountability in hope and faith.
In view of what has been stated above, we deduce that when studying the educational means as to the spiritual aspects related to Faith, we must look deeply into the Islamic supplications, especially those of Al-Sahifa As-Sajjadiyya knowing that they embody the relation between the spiritual aspect and life, and that they put an end to any misconception looking at the soul as an opposite element to substance where they never fall together in one balance. By doing so, you will acquire an objective and ample comprehension of the question of Faith and life and the human being’s attitude regarding both of them in theory and application.

Supplication does not mean nonchalant dependence

Finally, we must discuss a very important aspect of supplication. That is, the idea of supplication does not mean being nonchalant in depending on God resorting to Him asking for help in one’s affairs and problems without individually making serious steps towards resolving these problems and handling these pending issues. Verily, supplicating God does not mean leaving one’s needs to be directly fulfilled by Him while the human being is able to embark on satisfying his needs but he simply refuses to take any step to help himself waiting for a miracle to fall from heaven.
Actually, the right conception of supplication says that human beings must refer to God when they find themselves facing situations that have deviated from the track of causality that Allah, the most Exalted, had endowed everything with; a principle asserting that everything that happens must have a cause, whether in life and death, in health and sickness, in poverty and wealth, in victory and defeat …etc. Allah, the most Exalted, invited human beings to believe in these causes and to resort to Him after reaching a dead end or after facing a blockage down the road. In this case, human beings are allowed to address Allah, the most Exalted, in supplication. Here, we find the wise answer that saves the human being from his feeling of weakness in front of the hidden powers of the unknown.
Many traditions have spoken about the fact that the supplications of those who do not take the ordinary path in pursuing their goals - such as working to acquire sustenance, taking medicine to be healed from sickness, and employing strengths and powers to accomplish victory - won’t be answered.
By tackling the subject of supplications in Islam, trying to cover all its aspects, we endeavored to reveal the positive aspect of supplication that stimulates the Muslim’s spirit of faith, that shows him the nature of work and exertion, and that sows in him the spirit of optimism as he faces hardships. This positive aspect encourages the Muslim not to fall into depression when surrounding circumstances turn gloomy and intolerable; and makes him believe that Allah, the most Exalted, is behind everything and can fulfill anything; He can open for him ways that he didn’t know of, and find him sustenance in places he didn’t expect.