Why is it that, At Times, Our Supplications Remain Unanswered?    Video  more articles

Q14 by Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi in Book "180 Questions "  part 2  

         Attention towards the conditions for the acceptance of prayers reveals new realities in the ostensibly complicated issue of dua', and manifests its constructive influence.  In the Islamic traditions, some of the conditions (to be taken into regard) for the purpose of acceptance of one’s prayers are as follows:

1.       In order to have the prayers answered, first of all one should strive for the purification of the mind and soul, be repentant over (past) sins, embark upon construction and development of the self and seek inspiration from the lives of divine leaders.

It has been reported that Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) said:  Let it never be that any of you seeks a thing from God except that he first praises and glorifies Him, sends salutations upon the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) and his holy progeny, confesses to his sins and exhibits repentance over them; after having done these, he should then seek his desire from Him.[1].

2.       Endeavouring to have a pure life, free from usurped riches, oppression and injustice, and to refrain from acquiring one’s livelihood by illegal means. 

It has been reported that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) said: من أحب أن يستجاب دعاؤه فليطيب مطعمه و مكسبه‏ (One, who desires to have his supplications answered, should purify his food and earnings.)[2]

3.       One should not desist from combating evil and inviting others towards God. 

This is because the supplications of those, who forsake ‘enjoining the good and forbidding the evil’, are not answered.  The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) has said:  (You must enjoin the good and forbid the evil or else God will cause the evil ones to prevail over the righteous ones from amongst you, and however much they may pray, (their prayers) shall not be answered!)[3]

In fact, abandoning this great duty of ‘national supervision’  leads to turmoil within the society as a result of which the society would be left open for the evil ones; (when this happens) supplications for the elimination of the consequences arising out of this state would be futile since this state has resulted out of man’s own deeds.

4.       Acting in accordance with divine covenants. 

Faith, good deeds, trustworthiness, and righteousness, (collectively) form another of the conditions for the acceptance of prayers.  This is because one, who is not faithful to his pledge with respect to God, should not expect God’s promise, of answering a supplicant, to be true for him too.

A person once, complaining to Amirul Mu’mineen (peace be upon him) about his prayers not being answered, said:  Despite the fact that God has said “Call upon Me, I will answer you”, why is it that when we supplicate to him, He does not answer our prayers?

The Imam (peace be upon him) replied:  إنَّ قُلُوبُکُم خاَنٍ بِثَلاَثَةِ خِصاَلٍ (Your hearts (and thoughts) have been unfaithful with respect to eight things (and this is the reason your prayers go unanswered))

1.       You have acquired the cognizance of God but you do not fulfill what is due to Him; consequently your cognizance of Him has not benefited your state!

2.       You have brought faith upon His Messenger but (later) went on to oppose his customs; where then is the yield of your faith?

3.       You have read His book but have not acted upon it; you stated:  “We have heard and we obey”, but then rose up in opposition to it!

4.       You say:  “We fear God’s punishment”, but perpetually perform acts that lead you closer to it.

5.       You claim to be covetous of God’s reward however you continue to perform acts that lead you away from it.

6.       You consume God’s bounties but do not extend thanksgivings to Him.

7.       You have been ordered to be Shaitaan’s enemy (whereas you sketch plans to befriend him); you claim to be his enemy but, in practice, you do not oppose him.

8.       You place into great scrutiny the faults of others but conveniently disregard your own; with such a state of affairs, how do you expect your prayers to be answered when you yourself have shut its doors?  Be pious, rectify your deeds and enjoin the good and forbid the evil so that your prayers are answered.[4]

This meaningful tradition explicitly states:  God’s promise to answer the supplications of a supplicant is not absolute, but conditional - the condition being that you should fulfill your own pledges and covenants; however the reality is that you have broken your pledge by eight ways.  If you were to put an end to these, your prayers shall be answered.

Acting upon the abovementioned eight directives which, in reality, are conditions for the acceptance of prayers, is sufficient for training man, and utilizing and channeling his strengths constructively and productively.

5.       Another condition for the acceptance of one’s prayers is to conjoin it with efforts, hard work and activity.  In one of the short sayings of Amirul Mu'mineen (peace be upon him) we read:(A supplicant (who prays) without effort and endeavour is like an archer without a bowstring!)[5]  الدَّاعِي بِلَا عَمَلٍ كَالرَّامِي بِلَا وَتَرٍ

In view of the fact that the bowstring is a means to propel the arrow towards the target, the influence of ‘effort’ in the effectiveness of dua' becomes plainly manifest.

The above five conditions are illustrative of the reality that not only should dua' not become a substitute for the natural means and ordinary measures with the purpose of achieving an objective but rather, in order for it to be answered, there ought to occur a complete transformation in the life of the supplicant - his temperament and outlook ought to be overhauled and his past deeds reviewed.

In view of the above, does it not appear that characterizing dua' as being narcotic and soporific indicates either a lack of knowledge or sinisterness of motive?[6]

[1] Safinah al-Bihaar, vol. 1, pg. 448, 449. [2] Ibid. [3] Ibid. [4] Safinah al-Bihaar, vol. 1, pg. 448. [5] Nahjul Balaghah, short sayings 337. [6] Tafseer-e-Namunah, vol. 1, pg. 643.

Extract from a Lecture by a Qom student ..

Ulema mention that there are 3 situations (Maslehats)

    1.  HE will give whether we ask for it or not

    2.  HE will NOT give whether we ask or not

    3.  HE will give ONLY if we ask

We do not know, which sought after condition/thing falls in which of the above 3 categories & hence we pray for everything .All prayers have rewards in the hereafter.

In the 3rd category too there are those things which HE gives but AFTER a period of time (Eg Musa (as) dua to drown Firon was answered after 30 years). or HE gives only if the asking is for x no of times eg HE will give if asked for from HIM for say 25 times.

  • HE gives sometimes very quickly if he does NOT like the method used by seeker

  • HE delays the giving if HE likes the voice /method of the seeker so that he continues to ask of HIM.

Sura No. 2 Baqarah : Ayat 216 says :"And 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, and Allah knows, while you do not know."

Eg a child who wants to have a colorful snake in his hand will cry for it , BUT we as elders know the poison that it contains & harm it can bring & hence do not provide the thing to him.

Sometimes Wealth / Children can also deviate us from the straight path eg A Prophet (as)'s companion who was very poor but recited Jamaat salat every day in the first Row & slowly when he became more prosperous, even started to make his salat Qaza.

For every delay / unanswered dua a believer will be rewarded. On the day of judgement he will receive his book of deeds which contains many many good deeds which he did not perform & he will mention that this book is not his. BUT HE will inform that those additions are to compensate him for the unanswered duas. The believer will then mention; Alas it would be better for me if NONE of my duas were answered !

Duas favorable time:

Imam Ali (s) said: Seize the opportunity to pray at four occasions:  When Quran is being recited, when athan is being recited, when it is raining and when the two armies meet for martyrdom.

Imam Jafer al-Sadiq (s) said: When you feel you are being compassionate seize the opportunity to pray, for a compassionate heart asks sincerely.

Imam al-Baqir (s) said: Almighty Allah favors every hard praying servant. So seize the opportunity to pray just before daybreak until sunrise; it is a time in which heaven’s gates are opened, subsistence is distributed and major prayers are granted.

Importance of & Quotes on Dua:

Imam al-Sadiq (s) said: Ask Allah for whatever you need-even for something as insignificant as a slipper’s top- for He is the only one who can make things attainable.

Imam al-Sadiq (s) said: If you like to see your prayers answered during hard times, you must pray hard during easy times.

Imam al-Rida (s) said: A single prayer said in private is as powerful as Seventy said in public.

Imam al-Sadiq (s) said: Allah knows what His servants want; He just likes to hear them ask.

Imam al-Sadiq (s) said: Almighty Allah never answers an inattentive prayer. So when you are praying, make sure that you do it with all your heart and be certain, then, that it will be answered.

Imam al-Sadiq (s) said: A faithful servant who consistently prays for something will definitely have it granted.

Imam al-Sadiq (s) said: Imam Ali (s) wrote that praise should precede a prayer. So when you want to ask Almighty Allah for something, start by glorifying Him.

How do I do that? A companion asked.  Imam al-Sadiq replied; you say: “ You say: O You, who is nearer to me than my Jugular vein. O You, the Performer of what He desires. O You who stands between a man and his heart. O You who is in the Highest Horizon. O You who like Him there is naught”.

Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) said: “ Ask Allah whatever you need even the sandal’s strap, for if He does not help make it available, it won’t be.”

Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) said: “ Whosoever likes his to see his prayers answered during hardship must frequently pray during ease.”

Imam al-Reza (a.s) said: “ A single prayer in secret equals seventy in public.”

Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) said: “ Allah, The Most High, knows what man wants even before he begins praying, but He likes to hear him complain.”

Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) said: “ God, The Almighty, won’t answer an inattentive prayer; so when you pray make sure to give your attention, and be sure then of the answering.”

Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) said: “ Insisting on Allah for a need guarantees its fulfillment.”

Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) said: “ When you feel your heart softening take the opportunity to pray, for a heart that softens is surely a pure heart.”

Imam al-Baqir (a.s) said: “ From among His faithful servants, Almighty Allah favors most the one who prays frequently; then, seize the opportunity to invoke Allah just before daybreak till sunrise, for at this time the heaven’s gates are opened, the livelihoods are apportioned and the great wishes are fulfilled.”

What Are The Basis of The Answerable Prayer?

The reality of the prayer is that it is making a connection with the maker of the major decisions in the throne. That is, as Allah carries out his creation in the way He likes; so too is His foreordaining of things-weather abolishing or confirming them-is linked to the wish of the servant himself in regards to changing his fate! It is known that blocked ways are such in regards to us, the incapable mortals, not in regards to whom who has in His hand the Tablet in which matters are blotted out or confirmed.

Every phenomenon in this existence has its rule. People control a big part of these rules, by Allah’s will. Prayer (invocation of God) is one of these phenomena, which has its rules, causes and hindrances. Knowledge of that helps the servant get a speedy answering. The religious writings have mentioned many of these. The following are samples:

First: Being certain of Allah’s generosity and having a good opinion of Him is a reason for answering. When praying, we are commanded to believe that our need is just behind a door. Let’s imagine how certain he would be who knows that what he is asking is at the door and that all he needs to get is a small key which opens the big gates!

Second: praying pushes the waves of calamity back before they cover man. It is clear that the prayer made during ease -to ward off the foreordained calamity- is more likely to be answered than the one made after the establishment of the hardship. The first indicates reliance on the Lord to bring about welfare,while the second is a natural reaction, even of someone whose relationship with the Lord is not good, to any hardship.

Third: Praying is undoubtedly a requirement for the answering. However, Allah delays answering the disobedient servant’s prayer because of his vices. It is said that Allah has remains of subsistence, which He gives to whosoever He wishes.But man commits vices because of which he is exempted from that subsistence, as said by the Prophet (PBUH). Whose fault it is in this case?

Fourth: How nice it is when man prays to Allah privately, seeking intimacy, without having a certain need. The Koran describes Abraham as ‘compassionate, clement’. Imam al-Baqir interpreted ‘compassionate’ as the one who abases himself before Allah when he prays and when he is alone in a desolate land.

Fifth: Man must not restrict his prayer to major demands, because Allah commanded Moses (PBUH) to ask for whatever he needed even if it was his sheep’s fodder or his dough’s salt. Clearly, this is a way of encouraging frequent connection with Allah and referring to Him in every detail so that man does not think of himself as being able to do without his Lord in any stage of his life, which is the first step to transgression.

Sixth: It is necessary that man be in an appropriate shape for praying like; wearing a perfume, facing Kibla (direction of Mecca), performing an ablution, donating beforehand, devotion, crying or pretending to cry, frequently saying the prayer until it is answered, giving priority to fellow Moslems and generalizing the prayer. Why not pray to Allah in the plural rather than the singular form; for all it takes is changing the pronoun!

Seventh: The expression, ‘Allah is embarrassed’ is seldom mentioned in The Tradition except when it comes to the answering of prayers! Contemplate on this Hadith so that you become more certain of Allah’s kindness and generosity. Imam al-Baqir (PBUH) said: “ No man stretches out his hands to Allah (asking Him) but it makes Allah embarrassed to return it empty, until He fills it with what He wills of His bounty and mercy. So, when anyone of you prays, he should not put down his hands until he wipes his head and face with them.

Eighth: some Hadiths cite a strange explanation for the delaying of the answering. Do you believe that Allah delays answering the prayer of the righteous servant just because He likes to hear his vice? If anything, this shows how deep is Allah’s love to His praying servants while He is not in need of them. It was reported that Allah delays the answering in longing to the righteous servant’s prayer saying:“ It is a voice I like to hear”, and He hastens answering the hypocrite’s prayer saying: “ It is a voice I hate to hear”. Could this love be compared to any other kind of love?

Ninth: It is really a loss for a man to be unoccupied and healthy and not bother to mention his Lord. How many hours do we waste waiting for something, driving a vehicle or tossing and turning in bed! Are we not included in the Prophet’s saying:“ The laziest of men is the one who is healthy and unoccupied and does not mention Allah with a lip or a tongue”!

It is emphasized in The Tradition that we do not make our gatherings, on which we spend a lot of money and time in some cases, a cause for evil consequences on Doomsday. The Prophet said: “ No people gather in a gathering and not mention Allah or pray for their Prophet (PBUH), but their meeting brings them evil consequences”. Isn’t this sorrow enough as a chastisement on Doomsday?

In Al-Mahasin it is narrated that Imam Baqir (a.s) said: "Whenever God the Almighty loves someone, He will throw him into trouble and storm him with calamities. When he prays to God for help, God will say: "O' My servants! I hear your prayer and have the power to immediately fulfill your requests if I so wish, but I will save it for you; and what I save for you is better." MISHKAT UL-ANWAR FI GHURAR AL-AKHBAR Tradition:  1732

Extract from Uddatul Daee

 Why “Duas” are not answered?

  You may ask why the “Dua” of many people are not answered, something which is apparently inconsistent with the above-mentioned verses.  The Answer is that “Duas” are not answered when requirements of Dua have not been fulfilled.  Othman Ibne Saeed says a man came to Imam Sadeq (A.S.) saying: There are two Quranic verses which I have not comprehended properly.  Imam Sadeq (A.S.) said: What are those verses?  He said:  them first one is this:
*    *
  “Call Me, I will answer you”, for although we offer our Duas but there is no answer.  Imam Sadeq said: Do you think God breaks His promise?  He said: No.  Imam Sadeq (A.S.) said: So why are our Duas not answered?  He said: I do not know.  Imam Sadeq said: But I will tell you why.
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18.  “Whoever obeys God’s order and offers his “Dua” properly, they will be answered.  I said: How should I pray?  The Imam said: First praise God Almighty, then remember Him and thank Him for His blessings.  After that, send greetings to the Holy Prophet and his progeny, then confess your sins and ask forgiveness for them.  That is the right way for “Dua”.
Then, Imam Sadeq (A.S.) was asked about the second verse which the man had not comprehended:
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“And whatever thing you spend, He exceedeth it in reward, and He is the best of sustainers.”  Saba, verse 39
  Imam Sadeq (A.S.) said: Do you think God breaks His promise?  I said: No.  The Imam said: Why does He not give reward then?  I said: I do not know.  The Imam said: if a person gains something lawfully, and he spends it in the right way, he will certainly receive its reward even if he spends a Dirham.
  It is impossible that a person begs something from God, which is advisable and God does not grant it.  Therefore a supplicant should always pray in this way:  O Lord, fulfill my desire if it is in my interest.  If delay in fulfilling a wish is advisable, then God will delay it. God Himself says:
*    *

“And if Allah should hasten the evil to men as they desire the hastening on of good, their doom should certainly have been decreed for them.”    Yunus, 11
  In the supplications of the Imam (A.S.) we read:
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19.  “O One whose will nothing can change.”
At times we desire something from whose evil we seek refuge with God later on and at other times we escape from something but later on we go after it.  In this connection, Imam Ali (A.S.) says:
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20.  “On many occasions man desires something but when his desire is fulfilled he wishes his desire had never been fulfilled.”
The gist of this matter has been expressed in the following Quranic verse:
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“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, and Allah knows, while you do not know.”    Baqarah, verse 216
  The main objective of Dua and its reward lies in its being a Divine Mercy and the fact that God’s Mercy precedes His wrath.  Therefore a Dua in which there is no good for the supplicant should not be answered.

Wrong articulation of Dua Imam Javad (A.S.) has said:
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21.  If two persons are of equal status in terms of piety and nobility, the one who is superior in good manners is more honorable to God.  The narrator says: I said: May my soul be sacrificed for you! The superiority of a person with good manners is known to people but how is it to God?  The Imam (A.S.) said the virtue is that he recites the Holy Quran as it has been revealed and avoids wrong articulation of Dua, for a Dua which is not articulated properly does not  ascend towards God.
In this relation, Imam Sadeq (A.S.) too says:
*    *
22.  We are a people of eloquence.  Therefore, whenever you quotes us, do it properly.”
The question raised here is this: There are many persons whose Duas are not articulated properly yet they are answered, why is it so?  The answer is that God Almighty rewards the supplicant to the extent of his intention and not in accordance with the wrong articulation of Dua.
  This claim is supported by Sheikh Koleini in whose book “Kafi” polyquotes Imam Sadeq and the Holy Prophet of Islam (SAW) as saying:
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23.  “If a non-Arab muslim recites the Holy Quran in his own language, angels will take it up in its correct Arabic version.”
A Hadith on the authority of the Holy Prophet of Islam (SAW) says:
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24.  “Our deeds depend on our intention.”  or
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25.  “A believer’s intention is better than his deed.”     or
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26.  “God takes Bilal’s “seen” as “sheen” (the Holy prophet’s Muezzin, Bilal could not pronounce sheen (sh) he would say seen (s) instead).
A man came to Imam Ali  (A.S.) saying: O Ameeralmoamenin, a person is talking to Bilal but since Bilal can not pronounce the words properly, he is ridiculing Balal.  The Imam (A.S.) said:
*    *
27.  “O servant of Allah! the proper articulation of Dua is meant to purify our deeds.  Therefore, the beautiful words of one whose deeds is bad, will not avail him.  Hence, Bilal’s wrong articulation will not affect his praiseworthy deeds.”
From this Hadith, we infer that in the same way that words can be mispronounced, “deeds” too can be wrong and it is the wrong deeds which have bad effects and not the mispronunciation of words. This was a Hadith related by Imam Javad (A.S.).  But the second Hadith is by Imam Sadeq (A.S.) who quotes the Holy Prophet of Islam (SAW) as saying:
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