The Philosophy of Supplication

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In our ordinary and ritualistic way of life, we often find ourselves in a state of confusion with respect to supplication. A spiritual life implies practicing the five daily prayers, keeping fast in the holy month, pilgrimage, giving charity, paying the required tax, and other devotional acts. We also have other dedicated times for reciting several supplications such as Dua Kumayl, Hadith-e-Kisa, and Dua Tawassul, among others. These supplications are treasures which have been preserved for centuries and are undoubtedly one of the armors and shields for the followers of Ahlul-Bayt, especially in times of crisis.

However, there are some other kinds of invocations that we make to Allah (swt). These supplications are usually very personal and vary from person to person. It is interesting to know that Allamah Tabatabai in Al-Mizan mentions that “the reality of prayer and supplication is what the heart desires and the tongue of nature asks for, not this tongue of flesh which moves as it is moved without caring whether the word spoken is a truth or a lie, a reality or a metaphor, a serious talk or a joke.” [1] We learn that supplication is originated from the heart and once someone asks Allah (swt) for something, then the prayer is surely answered as mentioned in the Qu’ran, “And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me and believe in Me that they may be guided.” (2:186)

No one is sinless except the holy infallibles, and we should not be fooled into thinking we are purified from sin like them. One should seek repentance and ask for the relief in the hereafter.  One should ponder on their state of need over the deep, and beautiful invocations taught to us by the Ahlul-Bayt. As the verse states above, one must believe in Allah (swt) by observing the rights of halal (permissible) and haram (impermissible) in order to be guided.

Sometimes, our prayers are not answered. Allamah Tabatabai explains that this may happen because of two conditions. The first condition is that there could be no supplication at all, that there maybe a misunderstanding on the part of the supplicant. For example, a man asks for an impossible thing or asks for a thing which, had he known the reality, would not have wanted. The second condition is when the supplication is present but it is not exclusively addressed to Allah (swt). For example, a man beseeches Allah for his needs but his heart is looking towards its apparent cause or to some beings whom he thinks have the power to fulfill his needs. In reality, Allah (swt) has no partner in His affairs and thus supplications cannot be answered except through Him. Therefore, most times unintentionally, the supplicant is not sincere with his heart, though he may be sincere with his tongue, leading to his prayers not being answered. We must not let the temporary prosperity and ease in our lives blind our supplications and we must beseech Allah, who is void of any partners, sincerely. Of course, to beseech Allah (swt) through those He has allowed us to, such as the AhlulBayt (sa), is allowed but one must understand the reality of tawassul (seeking intercession).

It should also be kept in mind that hopelessness is one of the major sins and one must always have faith by imploring in Allah (swt). It is highly recommended that we should never lose hope and supplicate to Allah (swt) to not let Satan disturb our hearts with despair in Him (swt). The holy Qu’ran states “it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you.” (2:216) Keeping this verse in mind will help us accept what prayers have been answered and unanswered, without falling into despair and losing hope.

Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim in his book [2] provides many points that should be followed for the supplications to be answered, few of which are:
o a supplicant should raise the hands, move them in a way indicating submission and humility, and pass them, upon completion, over the face, the head, and the chest
o a supplicant should be insistent in supplication and repeat it frequently
o a supplicant should pray to Almighty Allah (swt) confidentially when beseeching Him for private affairs

[1] Al Mizan, Volume 3, 2:186.
[2] The Role of the Ahlul-Bayt in Building the Virtuous Community – Book Eight, The System of Devotional Acts of the Virtuous Community, Chapter 2.
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