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Emphasis on seeking forgiveness

Edited by Adil Salahi

We wonder at times whether our prayers will ever be answered. We may face a problem, endure an illness, contend with difficulty or suffer an injustice. We take whatever measures available to us to overcome the problem, correct the injustice or get proper medical treatment. But that may not be sufficient. We realize that we need help which often cannot be given by any human being. That help could only come from God. Hence, we turn to Him with our supplication, hoping that our wishes are soon fulfilled. At times, we experience the fulfilments of our prayers coming straight away. Often we feel it slow-coming. This makes us wonder whether God has accepted our prayer and will grant us what we have requested of Him. Hence the question is asked: What is the factor which guarantees that prayers are answered?

There is a simple formula. A person who puts a request to God should first of all be sincere in his attitude. He should purify himself physically and mentally which means that he should repent of his sins. It is unthinkable that a person indulges in sin and at the same time requests God to grant his wishes, some of which are purely materialistic. He simply does not show any regrets that he has exceeded the limits set by God. How does such a person expect that God will answer his prayers, when he does not expect the same treatment by his fellow human beings? If he has offended someone, he knows that he cannot ask that person a favor. Yet he expects favors from God when he persists in offending Him! The first prerequisite for answering our supplication by God is repentance and seeking God’s forgiveness. This repentance should be sincere, not a mere verbal statement which we repeat like parrots without putting any thought into it.

The second requirement is that one should not be hasty. We should not precipitate God’s actions. He answers our prayers in His own good time, but always in the way and at the time which is best for us. Indeed, we must not entertain any thought that our prayers may not be answered. Abu Hurairah quotes God’s messenger as saying: “The supplication of any one of you is answered as long as he is not hasty, saying: I have prayed God and my prayers were not answered.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others).

In this Hadith, the Prophet advises us against giving up or thinking that our prayers may remain unanswered. A person may get disenchanted and stop praying God. If he does this, his attitude is interpreted as one who considers his supplication as a favor or he may imply that he has done enough supplication to warrant being answered. This suggests, by inference, that he considers God’s favors unforthcoming, while he should realize that God can answer all supplication and can easily grant every single one of His servants all that he or she asks for.

We have often said that a believer’s supplication is always answered. This view is endorsed by the Qur’an, where we read God’s own statement: “Your Lord says: Pray Me and I will answer you.” This is a general statement which does not make any conditions for answering prayers except addressing them to God, the Lord of the universe. Therefore, when a believer prays God, he should be certain that his prayer will be answered, although he may not readily see the effects of his prayers. This is due to the fact that God, in His infinite wisdom, may consider that delaying his request is better for the supplicant, or he may wish to compensate him by something better for him, either immediately or at a later date. Hence, a believer does not hesitate to pray his Lord all the time, because his supplication is part of his worship.

There are, however, certain reasons which may make a particular prayer or supplication unanswerable. In an authentic Hadith, Abu Hurairah quotes the Prophet as saying: “The supplication of any servant of God continues to be answered unless he prays for something sinful, or for the severance of a tie of kinship, and unless he is hasty.” The question was asked: what constitutes hastiness? The Prophet answered: “He says: I have prayed often but I have not seen my prayers answered. He then feels aggrieved and stops his supplication.” (Related by Muslim and At-Tirmithi). This Hadith supports what we have already said. It adds, however, the fact that God does not answer any prayer for something sinful or one which leads to the worsening of ties of kinship.

The question arises: Is supplication obligatory? If so, what is the position of a person who does not do it? We have repeatedly quoted the Hadith which states that “supplication is the core of worship.” As such, it is highly important. There is no set quantity or time or manner for supplication which has to be observed. Each time, a person addresses God with his requests, God rewards him for his supplication. If he does not make any request of God and does not address any prayer to him, then he betrays an attitude of arrogance. He suggests that he is in no need of God’s help. Hence, his attitude is an affront to God. The Prophet is quoted by Abu Hurairah as saying: “He who does not pray God incurs His anger.” In another version, the Prophet is quoted as saying: “He who does not pray Him incurs His anger.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, At-Tirmithi, Ibn Majah, Ahmad). It is therefore right to conclude that supplication is one of the most important duties a believer owes to God. To avoid what incurs God’s anger is certainly obligatory. A person who often prays God does well because he makes his requests of the One who is able and willing to answer.

An important area for supplication is to pray God to repel harm from us. The Prophet has taught us a short supplication and recommended us to say it three times each morning and three times each evening in order to be spared all harm. Al-Bukhari and Muslim relate the Hadith in which Uthman ibn Affan states that he heard the Prophet saying: “He who says three times every morning and three times every evening: ‘(I appeal) by the name of God, whose name prevents all harm by anything in the Earth or in the heavens, He is the all-hearing, all-knowing’, will not be harmed by anything.” (Related by Al Bukhari, Muslim and others). The Arabic text of this supplication is as follows: “Bismillahi allathi la yadurru ma’ ismihi shay’un fi al ardhi wala fi assama’, wa huwa asamee’ al-aleem.” It is sufficient to say that this Hadith tells us of a form of supplication which ensures that nothing can inflict any harm on us when we say it three times early in the morning, after dawn has broken and three times after sunset. I have heard many people confirming that they have acted on the Prophet’s advice repeating this prayer as he has instructed and found that it works as the Prophet has said. I can add further confirmation from my own experience.

However, the chain of transmitters of this Hadith includes Aban ibn Uthman who reported it once after he had suffered partial paralysis. His interlocutor looked at him in his condition. Aban realized that he wanted to ask him about his illness. He said to him: “The Hadith by the Prophet is as I have told you. It so happened that on the day this occurred to me, I had not said it. Thus, God’s will was done.” The version related by Abu Dawood, quotes Aban’s explanation as follows: “But on the day on which I suffered this, I had been angry and I forgot to say the supplication.” It tells a great deal of Aban’s firm faith in the truth of everything the Prophet has said to continue to teach this Hadith despite his paralysis and to explain it the way he has explained

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