بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
اُدۡعُوۡا رَبَّكُمۡ تَضَرُّعًا وَّخُفۡيَةً ؕ اِنَّهٗ لَا يُحِبُّ الۡمُعۡتَدِيۡنَ
Supplicate to your Lord humbly and secretly. Surely, He does not like those who cross the limits. [Maariful Quran 7:55]
The Meaning and Etiquette of Du`a’ and Dhikr
The word: دُعَاء (Du’a’ ), in the Arabic language, means “to call upon someone to remove one’s need”. It is also used “to remember” in the absolute sense. Both meanings can be taken here. The verse says: اُدعُوا رَبَّکُم (Supplicate to your Lord) that is: 1. Call your Rabb for your needs, or 2. Remember your Rabb and worship Him.
In the first case, it would mean: Ask Allah alone for what you need. In the second case, the sense would be: Do your Dhikr and Ibadah for Him alone. Both these explanations have been reported from Tafsir authorities among the early righteous elders.
THE FIRST MEANING OF DUA – IN THE CONTEXT OF THE WORDS ‘HUMBLY AND SECRETLY’
After that, it was said: تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً (humbly and secretly). The word: تَضَرُّعً (tadarru`) means realization of inability, humility, and submission in a refined spirit of self-abasement (not found in the English language and its modern, secular, cultural context). And the word: خُفْيَةً (khufyah) means secret, secluded, or private (as opposed to open and public – as used in English too, but with no relevance to the dominant sense of secret in English bearing on the mysterious, the occult, and the whole field of espionage).
We should make Du’a’ from our souls, crying from our innermost essence of being
In the frame of these two words, described there are two important rules of etiquette which govern Du` a’ and Dhikr. First of all, in order that Du’a’ be answered, it is necessary that one appears before Allah Ta` ala as weak, helpless and simply unable to hold on his own, modest and humble, and submits to Him with a total negation of what is supposed to be pride, dignity, honour, ego, or self-view – and then makes Du’a’. Du’a’ is a thing of the soul which requires that its words match the feebleness and humbleness of the maker of Du` a’, that the manner of saying it remains a mirror of modesty, and that this overall humility should ooze forth from the very physical approach to this making of Du’a’.
The oversight of our ritualistic Du’a’s – Du’a’ is not ‘read’, it is ‘asked’
Given this anatomy and profile of Du’a’, the common practice of making Du` a’ these days cannot really be called the making of Du’a’. It would, rather, be the reading of it. What happens most of the time is that we do not know what we are saying and it has become a routine as we notice in common Masajid. Imams would usually say, rather read, some words of Du` a’ in the Arabic language which they have memorized and do this at the end of Salah. Most of the time, in some areas, the Imams themselves do not know the meaning and sense of what they say – and even if they do know it, at least the less-knowing participants of the congregation are virtually unaware of what is being said. They would almost mechanically go on saying ‘Amin’, ‘Amin’ after the words read by the Imam without having any clue as to what was being said there. The outcome of all this stage demonstration is the vocalization of some words. Du` a’ has a reality of its own which is just not there. Then, this is an entirely different matter that Allah Ta` ala, in His infinite mercy, may accept these very lifeless words and give them the effect of answered prayers. But, it is necessary that everyone understands that Du` a’ is not ` read.’ It is ` asked.’ Therefore, it is crucial that one asks as one should, properly, as due.
Dua must be accompanied by proper approach, manner and physical bearing
Then, there is another aspect of Du’a-‘. If a person does know the meanings of the words of his Du` a’ – and even understands what he is saying – still, if it is not accompanied by proper approach, manner and physical bearing, the Du` a’ stands reduced to a bland claim to which no created servant of Allah is entitled.
A simple analogy
Imagine that the love of your life has left you. The one who is an integral part of your life, who you fully depend on, who you can’t live without, suddenly walks out on you and is infuriated with you and also immensely hurt due to your disrespect, treachery, betrayal, deceit, disobedience and due to your transgression and wrongdoing.
You subsequently seek counsel from a trusted senior as to how to make amends and bring that person back into your life. He gives you sound advice and writes for you a few words of atonement and apology and explains that you henceforth intend to reform your vile and loathsome ways.
You then go to the house of your beloved who eventually succumbs and only opens the window a little to hear what you have to say. You then very overconfidently read out the letter in a very blank, superficial and shallow way which has no real feeling of remorse. The only reply you would get is “Get lost!” Your plea will fall on deaf ears, even though all the words were correct and they had a beautiful meaning.
So, given in the first word was the spirit of Du’a’ which requires that one shows his humility and prays to Allah for what he needs.
3 Widoms for making Du’a’ ‘secretly’ (in a lowered voice)
Then, in the second word, the instruction given by Allah Ta’aala, is that the asking in Du` a’ for what one needs should be done secretly and in a lowered voice which is superior in merit and more likely to be answered. The reason is that making Du` a’ in a raised voice is not free of three possible drawbacks.
Firstly, it is difficult to maintain modesty and humility in doing so.
Secondly, there is the danger of hypocrisy and desire for recognition creeping in through this mode.
Thirdly, the manner in which this Du’a is made only goes to show that the person making it almost does not know that Allah Ta` ala is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. He knows what we show on the outside and also that which we conceal inside. He hears everything said quietly or loudly.
Therefore, when the voice of the Companions reached a loud pitch during Du’a’ made on the occasion of the Battle of Khaybar, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam said: ` You are not calling someone deaf or absent that you say it in such a loud voice. Instead, your addressee is someone Hearing, Near, that is, Allah Ta` ala’ (so, to raise your voice is redundant).
Allah Jalla Sha’nuhu has Himself mentioned the Du` a’ of a righteous person in these words:
إِذْ نَادَىٰ رَبَّهُ نِدَاءً خَفِيًّا
(When he called his Rabb calling in a lowered voice – 19:3)
This tells us that the state of Du’a’ liked by Allah Ta’ala is that it be asked of Him in a lowered and subdued voice.
Ibaadat done in secret is far superior to that done in open and broadcasted
Sayyidna Hasan al-Basri Rahmatullahi Alayhi says: There is a difference of seventy degrees in making Du’a’ openly and loudly when matched by the one made in a lowered voice. It was the habit of early righteous elders that they would exert to their maximum in Dhikr and Du’a which kept them busy most of the time, but their voice was not heard by anyone. In fact, their supplications would remain between them and their Rabb. Many of them would memorize the whole Qur’an and keep engaged in reciting it, but others would not know about it. Then, there would be others engaged in their pursuit of advanced religious knowledge, but they would never go about telling others that they were doing so. There would be many others who would return from their homes after having long sessions of Salah but no one would come to know anything about that. He also said that he had seen such blessed people who would never perform `Ibadat, which they could do in private, out in the open where people could see them – and their voices during Du’a’ would be very low. (Ibn Kathir, Mazhari)
Noisy Du’a’ is Makruh (reprehensible)
Ibn Jurayj has said that raising voices in Du’a’ and making it noisy is Makruh (reprehensible). In his Ahkam al-Qur’an, Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas (Rahmatullahi Alayhi) has said: This verse tells us that making Du’a’ in a lowered voice is more merit-worthy than making it in a raised voice. It has been reported likewise from Hadrat Hasan Basri (Rahmatullahi Alayhi) and Sayyidna Ibn `Abbas (Radiallahu Anhu). This verse also tells us that the ‘Amin’ said at the end of Surah al-Fatihah should also be said in a lowered voice, which is more merit-worthy, because ‘Amin’ is also a Du’a’.
Let not the erroneous custom of loud Du’a’ become a source of disturbing others
May Allah Ta` ala guide Imams of Masajid in our time who seem to have forgotten this teaching of the Qur’an and Sunnah and the instructions of early righteous elders in this matter. After every Salah, what follows as Du` a’ has become an artificial procedure. Some words are read out loudly which, besides being contrary to the etiquette and rules of Du’a’, become the source of disturbing the Salah of those who joined the congregation after it had started and were busy completing the missed part after the Imam had finished. The overwhelming influence of custom has made them incapable of noticing its drawbacks.
This excludes such gatherings where the entire congregation is engaged in one Du’a’
On a particular occasion where the purpose is to have a whole group make a particular Du’a’, one person may say the words of Du`a’ in a reasonably audible voice and others say ‘Amin’ after it, then, it does not matter. However, the condition is that this activity does not displace an established Sunnah practice or become the source of disturbance in the Salah and `Ibadah of others – and that this does not become a matter of habit and custom whereby common people start believing in it as the standard method of making Du` a’, as happening so commonly these days.
Mentioned in previous verses were particular manifestations of the perfect power of Allah Ta` ala, and His major blessings. The present verses lead us to consider: When He is the Master of perfect power, the sender of all blessings, and the Lord of all the worlds, it naturally follows that He should be the One to be called upon and prayed to under all circumstances, whether in distress or in need. The attitude of by-passing Him and turning towards some other direction is ignorance and failure.
Along with it, identified in these verses are some rules of etiquette to be followed when making Du’a’ (prayer, supplication). If due consideration is given to these rules, the hope that a prayer will be answered increases.