The Definition Based on Qualitative Characteristics

Among the most prevalent definitions in sciences is to mention the characteristics and features of an item. This is because the realization of the essence and the truth behind things are not accessible even by all the scientists since they unanimously have believed that the recognition of the truth of existence is relative. All what science has revealed is but a very small portion of the secrets of the creation. These secrets still remain behind a curtain of ambiguity.

The introduction of supplication through its effects has frequently been observed. We read in some traditions that “supplication is a believer's weapon, is the foundation of religion, the heavenly light on the earth, it changes one's fate, it will cause the disasters to be away and finally supplication is a relation between God and His servants”1 and the like in all of which the answer is based on the effects of supplication.

The Definition of Supplication Based on the How of Existence

As we have seen earlier, the best kind of definition is the one, which distinguishes the essence of something. Through this definition we may separate our question from ambiguity and find its borders. A good example is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an where God discloses the nature of man:

وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ مِنْ سُلَالَةٍ مِنْ طِينٍ. ثُمَّ جَعَلْنَاهُ نُطْفَةً فِي قَرَارٍ مَكِينٍ. ثُمَّ خَلَقْنَا النُّطْفَةَ عَلَقَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْعَلَقَةَ مُضْغَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْمُضْغَةَ عِظَامًا فَكَسَوْنَا الْعِظَامَ لَحْمًا ثُمَّ أَنشَأْنَاهُ خَلْقًا آخَرَ.

“And certainly we created man of an extract of clay. Then we made him a small seed in a firm resting-place. Then we made the seed a clot, Then we made the clot a lump of flesh, then we made in the lump of flesh bones, then we clothed the bones with flesh; Then we caused it to grow into another creation 23:12-14”

This holy verse shows the evolution of man clearly. In explaining supplication, this last definition is prevalent in the words of the great people. An example has been mentioned in Al-Mizan:
“Supplication originates from the heart and is uttered by the tongue one's nature. It is not the movement of the tongue, however”.2

This simply means that man recognizes this truth deep inside himself and clearly knows its values. One of the significant features of this definition is that it will include genesis supplication as well. None of the above definitions is inclusive as this one is. Allamah Tabatabai says:
“Thus, you will observe that Allah responds to supplications that are not uttered by our tongues. Allah says in the Holy Qur'an:

وَآتَاكُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا.

“And He gives you of all that you ask Him; and if you count Allah's favors, you will not be able to number them. 14:34 ”

يَسْأَلُهُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ والأرض.

“All those who are in the heavens and the earth ask of him. 55:29”

This shows clearly that Allah's favors are not countable. People ask God of what is in the Heavens and on the earth. What has been stated by this verse makes our definition clear.

Perhaps the best thing we may get out of the above definitions of supplication is the following: The best and most inclusive definition for supplication is “asking” in its broad and common sense. It will, then, include all the above definitions, even the genesis definition. The specific features of supplication under different situations depend on special motives which a user has in mind.

Thus, we may say that the word “supplication” refers to asking a superior one by an inferior one, or to asking by an inferior from a superior or to asking of one from an equal one. This will include the genesis and innate asking as well. Thus, the use of the word “supplication” or (du'a) in the holy verse, “And Allah invites you to the abode of peace,” means asking for something.3

The Definition of supplication based on the content

We could say that defining supplication in this manner does not solve any problem unless if the intention behind its use is clear.

The summary of this discussion is that if we can find different conditions in which supplication takes place and if we arrive at different definitions and if we can analyze the cases of supplication, then the ambiguity of the word disappears and we can subsequently arrive at our destination. At the same time, what we have in mind when discussing supplication is the people's asking from their Creator and establishing relation with Him through supplication. This can be done either through the tongue of our hearts or through our ordinary tongues.

The Necessity of Supplication

We shall begin this discussion with the question: Is supplication necessary? To answer this question, we resort to this verse of the Qur'an:

قُلْ مَا يَعْبَأُ بِكُمْ رَبِّي لَوْلَا دُعَاؤُكُمْ.

“Say: My Lord would not care for you were it not for your prayer. 25:77”

This means that supplication is the only way of the relation between the servants and their Lord (Allah) and it is the only way commanded by Allah for people to have relation with Him. In other words, all of the supplications narrated form the infallible imams establish relations between the Creator and the creatures. Allah would cut His special favors if there were not these relations established. In such cases, Allah's subjects would lose the ability to deserve Allah's favors.
The Holy Qur'an calls this state “pride” (Istikbar) by a creature that originally has no prestige except for the prestige of being Allah's humble servant.

وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمْ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ.

“And your Lord says: call upon me, I will answer you; surely those who are too proud for my service shall soon enter hell abased. 40: 60”

Doing such a crime by an individual is obnoxious and its insolence is inexplicable so much so that Allah has explicitly announcing that such individuals will be deprived of His favors. As a conclusion out of these verses it can be understood that why the Holy Qur'an through different means has invited man to use supplications; for instance, the previous verse and the following verses:

وَأَنِيبُوا إِلَى رَبِّكُمْ وَأَسْلِمُوا لَهُ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يَأْتِيَكُمْ الْعَذَابُ ثُمَّ لَا تُنْصَرُونَ.

“And return to your Lord time after time and submit to Him before there comes to you the punishment, then you shall not be helped. 39:54”

وَيَهْدِي إِلَيْهِ مَنْ يُنِيبُ.

“And (He) guides to Himself him who turns (to Him) frequently. 42: 13”

وَمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ إِلَّا مَنْ يُنِيبُ.

“And none minds but he who turns to Him again and again. 40:13”

وَالَّذِينَ اجْتَنَبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ أَنْ يَعْبُدُوهَا وَأَنَابُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ لَهُمْ الْبُشْرَى.

“And as for those who keep off from the worship of the idols and turn to Allah, they shall have good news. 39: 17”

A cursory look at these verses reveals two points; one is the exposure to severe punishments in cases where supplication is left aside and the other is getting Allah's special care and favors if supplication is used sincerely.

Concerning this issue, there are numerous traditions in Al-Mahajjat al-Baydhaa, Bihar al-Anwar, and al-Kafi which have dealt with the matter to such an extent that no sufferer or miserable person could bring excuses when not practicing supplication. In Al-Mahajjat al-Baydhaa, it is narrated from Imam as-Sadiq (s):

إنَّ عِندَ اللهِ مَنْزِلَةً لا تُنالُ إلاّ بالمَسْألَةِ.

“There is an honorable position near Allah which can be earned only through supplication.”4

It is also narrated from Imam Ali (s):

إدْفَعوا أمْواجَ البَلاءِ بِالدُّعاءِ.

“Be safe from the waves of disasters by supplication.”5

The Rationale behind Supplication

If we put aside the reasons offered by the infallible imams about the necessity of supplication for a moment and concentrate on the rational reasons for the necessity of supplication, we will definitely conclude that we can not do anything else except turning towards Allah. Allamah Tabatabaiy when talking about the verse, “All praise is due to Allah the Lord of the worlds,” says:
“Thus, man possesses only the prestige of worship. This truth does not depend on our awareness of it. Whether we realize it or not, this is an innate and compulsory relation. This is a truth related to man's existence and to other creatures' existence as well.”

For further elaboration, let us refer to the words, which Allamah Tabatabai has added when talking about this verse:

وَلِلَّهِ يَسْجُدُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ.

“And whoever that is in the heavens and the earth makes obeisance to Allah only. 13:15 and 16:49,”

“Thus, if in front of Allah, the Almighty, man and the other creatures have no prestige except that of obedience, then what is left for us to carry out is to have direct relation with Allah and we have to ask Him for our needs. In fact, if human wisdom could comprehend this truth thoroughly, man would never establish any connection except with Allah. Of course being effective and affected is inevitable among the creatures, but all these effects are done by Allah's will.”
One of the poets says:

The Almighty God in creating the Heavens,
Did so to satisfy our needs;
Where there is a pain, the medicine would go there,
Where there is poverty, sustenance would be available;
Do not go far for more water, lest you get thirsty,
So that your water boils everywhere.

This rational reasoning is enough to convince us to be compelled to pay full attention to the source of the creation. For instance, this verse “Say: My Lord would not care for you were it not for your prayer,” refers to this rational necessity. The establishment of the school of supplication in Islam and the emphasis of the verses and traditions on worshipping Allah, all reveal a secret in this school and it shows how supplication is necessary for our daily lives. This is among the most fundamental and basic issues in the realm of the secrets between the Creator and the creatures, which if enacted, would bring about actions and movements.

The human nature, which is always after the gaining of benefits and interests, will demand more if its needs are constantly met. Satisfying all these necessities will call for extraordinary endeavor, however. In order to satisfy his needs, man resorts to any thing. But no matter how hard we attempt, there always remain some needs unsatisfied. In this case, man will select one of the two ways; either he despairs and resorts to depression or he attempts frantically. In other words, in order to satisfy his needs, man leaves the human boundary and tries so hard that he may neglect what is good and what is bad. This is because he is controlled by some whims and desires which have made him blind.

This is where we observe the secrets behind the strict recommendations of Islam. We will see that this religion bridges the spiritual-mental gaps in man, and has provided him with some apparatus through which he may not lose himself in the hazardous waves of unsatiable needs and necessities and to be strong against inevitable hardships.

It is a fact that man can, through supplication, add up energy to his feebled muscles and join the Initiator of all the creation. He, in this way, can stand against any problem and consider his capabilities above all needs. This is because he has asked for the assistance of Allah and has determined to progress because his success is guaranteed. We should add that human wisdom will not allow man to stand lonely and helpless in the face of innumerable difficult moments of life and to get along life without using supplication. This is because supplication is the nearest means, the safest way, a helper with no hypocrisy, a support void of any hatred and a revelation in harmony with the divine nature of man.

The History of Supplication

The history of supplication is as old as the history of mankind. This is because man is always in need of different sorts of supplications and has constantly felt deep from inside that he needs a strong support. Never in the history of mankind has man been negligent of the concept of the Initiator of the creation. The researches shows that even in the oldest phases of human history temples have been among the undeniable facts of life. Even at the time when man was not able to conceive the concept of an everlasting Initiator of the creation and erroneously resorted to gods for help, he used to combine his adventurous life with hope.

The Most Natural Secret of Existence

The secret of the foundation of the existence is the mere relation with the Creator. It is as if the secret of the existence of our tongues is in its continuous asking God, the Almighty, for the continuation of His favors. This means that the characteristics and features of each creature are its connection with the Absolute Rich, whose very existence is constantly dependent on His favors and blessings. Thus all the existence is a tongue which always asks Almighty God for its continuity. This is because if at any fraction of a second He decides to cut off His favors, everything becomes null and void. Thus, God has said:

وَإِنْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِلَّا عِنْدَنَا خَزَائِنُهُ وَمَا نُنَزِّلُهُ إِلَّا بِقَدَرٍ مَعْلُومٍ.

“And there is not a thing but with Us are the treasures of it, and we do not send it down but in a known measure. 15:21”

God has also said:

إِنْ يَشَأْ يُذْهِبْكُمْ وَيَأْتِ بِخَلْقٍ جَدِيدٍ.

“If He pleases, He will take you off and bring a new creation. 14:19”

All this indicates our absolute poverty before God's absolute richness. The researchers call this kind of innate begging for assistance as ”Du'a Takwini” or genesis supplication. Of course, as asking for existence is creational, it is also applicable to other creatures. For instance, a child born to a mother asks God with its lips, mouth, larynx and digestive system for suitable food and nourishments. Man, too, in accordance with his creation, asks Allah for food, clothing, medicine and other needs. In answer to this creational supplication, God says: “And He gives you of all that you ask Him”. Thus, the existence depends in all its aspects on supplication. The existence is among the necessary assets from which all the creatures benefit.

Of course, in philosophy, sometimes this relationship is interpreted as dominated by effects or non-causative when our discussion deals with the creation and existence. And it is interpreted as causative where the existence is already before the Creator. Sometimes it is interpreted as “in a state of being created” and “in a state of being feasible” that the person, who practices supplication is controlled by Almighty God. Thus, each one of the above expressions is used in a specific sphere of philosophy and should be observed taking everything into consideration.

However, man has unfortunately been negligent of this very close relationship and since he erroneously thinks that God arranges the things and events and that man does not have any freedom of action whatsoever, he has not grasped the true meaning of supplication. A poet says:

The expedience is here and the miserable, me, over there,
See how far away we both are.

Yes, according to the above poem, where are we and where are those great men who are familiar with the true language of existence and have disclosed the mystery of the creation and have started to worship the Creator of all these beauties and have understood every aspect of this secret?

Of course, it should be known that one of the virtues of man is his realization of the absolute domination of Almighty God over the whole creation “Judgment is only Allah's”. He realizes that there is no power except in Allah and that any movement is made possible only through His determination.

Kinds of Supplication

Supplications are of the following types:

Verbal Supplication

This refers to uttering an supplication in which the tongue is not in harmony with the heart. We know that the mere mentioning of the order of events does not bring about the desired sensation. For instance, if we perceive fire in our mind, our perception does not have the properties of the fire, i.e. heat and light.

Thus, if we use supplication only verbally, it does not convey the proper conception of the supplication. In philosophy, it is known that a true representative of a class of phenomena is the one in which form and meaning coincide with each other. Thus if you move your tongue and lips verbally but you are not thinking on what you are uttering, then what you utter is not supplication.

Such a person is involved in using supplication only verbally. He has not employed supplication in the right sense of the word. In such a case a person should expect for anything to happen. In Mathnawi, we read:

How dare you to ask for God's favors?
When you are disappointed and depressed.

Content Supplication

This occurs when your tongue is in harmony with your heart when uttering an supplication. (The tongue is the interpreter of the heart). In such a case, this is a genuine sample of supplication and is very likely to being responded to. Of course, this sort of supplication may not be answered superficially; but we should realize that this kind of supplication is a sort of worship, which will definitely be rewarded. But a delay in responding to it by Allah might be due to the secret behind that issue. Imam Ali (s) writes in his will to his son Imam Hassan (s):

وَرُبَما سَألْتَ الشَّيْءَ فَلا تُؤتاهُ وَأُوتِيتَ خَيراً مِنهُ عاجِلاً أوْ آجِلاً أوْ صُرِفَ عَنْكَ لِما هُو خَيرٌ لَكَ؛ فَلَرُبّ أمْرٍ قَد طَلَبْتَهُ فِيهِ هَلاكُ دِينِكَ لَو أُوتِيتَهُ.

“Sometimes you ask Allah, the Almighty, for something, but you are not given what you have asked for or you may be given something better than what you have asked for sooner or later or may never be given just for your advantage. There may be something you ask for but it will destroy your faith if you are given it.”6
A poet says:

In fact, each supplication is your medicine,
It is your sincere friend, who cares for you.
Content Supplication and the supplicant’s limited knowledge

Sometimes in supplication, the form (language) and the meaning (content), “the tongue and the heart” coincide, but the problem is that the supplicant's knowledge is limited. This means if a supplicant knew the secrets behind his demand, he not only would reject it but he would try to keep away from it. It is narrated that once Imam Ali (s) heard a man saying, “O God, protect me against seditions,” Imam Ali (s) said:

أَراكَ تَتَعَوّذُ مِن مالِكَ وَولدِكَ، يَقولُ اللهُ تَعالى: “أنمَّا أمْوالُكُم وَأوْلادُكُمْ فِتْنَةٌ.” وَلكِنْ قُلْ: اللّهُمَّ إنّي أَعوذُ بِكَ مِن مُضِلاّتِ الفِتَنِ.

“By using this supplication you are asking God to let you keep away from your wife, children and your wealth because Allah, the Almighty has said: your wealth and your children are seditions. You are to say: O God, I seek Your protection the misleading seditions.”
Elsewhere, Imam Ali (s) says:

وَرُبَّ أمْرٍِِِ حَرَصَ الأنْسانُ عَلَيهِ فَلمّا أدْرَكهُ وَدَّ أنْ لَمْ يَكنْ أدْرَكهُ.

“There may be something that one tries his best to get but when he gets it, he wished he had not got it.”

It is a fact that most of us in our prayers and supplications ask God for something which really we do not want. But the beneficent God compensates for our wishes that He does not achieve. However, sometimes we become worried when our supplications are not responded to and we do not understand that it is Allah, the only One, Who knows where our advantages are. Hafiz, the Iranian famous poet, says:

Hafiz, obtain a cup from the spring of wisdom,
Till the image of ignorance is deleted from the plate of your heart.

In the supplication of (al-Iftitah), we read:

فَإنْ أبْطَأَ عَنيّ عَتِبْتُ بِجَهْلي عَلَيْكَ، وَلَعَلَّ الّذي أبْطَأ عَنيّ هُوَ خَيرٌ لِي لِعِلْمِكَ بِعاقِبَةِ الأُمُورِ، فَلَمْ أَرَ مَولىً كَريماً أصْبَرَ عَلى عَبْدٍ لَئيمٍ مِنْكَ عَلَيَّ يا رَبِّ.

“O my Lord! If it is delayed, I complain because of my ignorance and perhaps the delay is better for me for You know the ends of the matters… I have not found a generous guardian more patient than You towards a mean servant like me, O my Lord!”

Imam as-Sadiq (s) says:

وَاعْرِفْ طُرُقَ نَجاتِكَ وَهَلاكِكَ كَيْلا تَدعُوَ اللهَ بِشَيْءٍ مِنهُ هَلاكُكَ وَأنْتَ تَظُنُّ فِيهِ نَجاتَكَ. قالَ الله عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: “وَيَدْعُ الْإِنسَانُ بِالشَّرِّ دُعَاءَهُ بِالْخَيْرِ وَكَانَ الْإِنسَانُ عَجُولًا.”

“Know the ways of your deliverance and perdition lest you ask Allah for something that makes you perish whereas you think it will deliver you. Allah has said: “And man prays for evil as he ought to pray for good, and man is ever hasty. 17:11”

It is also narrated that the Prophet (s) has asked Allah not to respond to the cursing of a lover upon the beloved one because the lover's curse on the beloved is not the lover's true intention and Allah's favor is in such a way that such curses are not responded to.

Malhun Supplication

Sometimes, an utterer of supplication, due to his ignorance to the wordings of the supplication or his lack of attention, might offer the form of supplication in wrong ways while his spiritual intention was something else. In traditions and religious books, this kind of supplication is called Malhun.

In the book entitled Uddat al-Da'ee, there is a tradition narrated from Imam al-Jawad (s) saying that the right pronunciation of the words in an supplication is not the condition for the response to that supplication. It is only important for more elegance. Thus, Imam al-Jawad's statement “…and he is not to mistake in his supplication” is not to be taken as praise to this kind of supplication because when an supplication is uttered appropriately, it will explain the intention better.

The rest of Imam al-Jawad's statement: “The solecistic supplication does not ascend to the Heaven” also indicates that an supplication uttered wrongly will not ascend to the Heaven because responding to one's supplication by God is God's immense favor upon His servants. The opposite of this generosity will never occur however. The statement of the Prophet (s) too “A non-Arab of my nation recites the Qur'an mistakenly but the angels raise it to the Heaven as recited in correct Arabic,” attests to this topic that the issue in supplication is the spiritual connection.

In this concern, it is narrated that somebody has come to Imam Ali (s) and told him: “Today Bilal was arguing with an Arab and he committed an error in his speech and the man laughed at him”. Imam Ali (s) replied:

يا عَبدَ اللهِ، إنمَّا يُرادُ إعْراب الكَلامِ وَتَقْويمُه الأعمال وتَهذِيبها، ما يَنْفَعُ فُلاناً إعْرابُه وَتقْويمُه لِكَلامهِ إذا كانَتْ أفْعالُه مَلحونَةً أقْبحَ لَحْنٍ، وَماذا يَضُرُّ بِلالاً لحْنُهُ في كَلامِه إذا كانَتْ أفعالُهُ مُقَومَةً أحْسَنَ تَقويمٍ وَمُهذّبةً أحسنَ تَهذيبٍ.

“O Servant of God! Nothing will benefit anyone whose doings are wrong whereas his supplication is correct…nothing will harm Bilal if he mistakes in uttering his supplication whereas his doings are of the best doings.”
We read in a tradition narrated from Imam al-Jawad (s):

ما أسْتَوى رَجُلانِ في حَسَبٍ ودِينٍ قَطُّ إلاّ كانَ أفْضَلَهُما عِندَ اللهِ عزَّ وَجَلَّ آدابُهُما… بِقِراءَةِ القُرْآنِ كَما أُنزِلَ وَدُعائِهِ اللهَ عَزّ وَجَلَّ مِن حَيثُ لا يَلحَنُ، وَذلِكَ أنَّ الدُّعاءَ المَلحونَ لا يَصعَدُ إلى اللهِ عَزَّ وجَلَّ.

“If two men are equal due to their ancestry and faith, the politer of them will be better near Allah.” The narrator asked him, “What is his virtue near Allah?” Imam al-Jawad (s) said, “His reciting the Qur'an as it has been revealed invoking Allah with no mistake because a solecistic supplication does not ascend to the Heaven.”7

Supplication by the heart

In this kind of supplication, words are not used; rather, only the heart turns towards God. This innate and genuine relation always occurs between Allah and His servants. This is the truth behind supplication and it is assumed to be the best spiritual state in man's life.

The Mood in asking Allah’s Assistance

This is something desired internally by somebody, but not uttered to Allah yet. Allah, the Almighty, will respond to this kind of supplication as well. However, this positive response might be due to something good having been done before or perhaps it might be related to another supplication uttered previously but not being carried out due to the fact that it was inadvisable. This same content is observed in numerous supplications and traditions. Imam Ali (s) in “Kumayl supplication” says to God:

اَللَّهُمَّ مَولايَ، كَمْ مِنْ قَبيحٍ سَتَرْتَهُ وَكَمْ مِنْ فادِحٍ مِن البَلاءِ أقَلْتَهُ وَكَمْ مِنْ عَثارٍ وَقَيْتَهُ وَكَمْ مِنْ مَكرُوهٍ دَفَعْتَهُ وَكَمْ مِنْ ثَناءٍ جَميلٍ لَسْتُ أهْلاً لَهُ نَشَرْتَهُ.

“O my Lord, how many bad doings I have done but You have covered them, how many serious disasters You have saved me from, how many troubles You have removed from my way, how many misfortunes You have got me rid of and how much fine praise that I do not deserve You have spread!”
And we read in the supplication of al-Iftitah:

فَكمْ يا إلهِٰي مِنْ كرْبَةٍ قَدْ فَرَّجْتَها وَهُمُومٍ قَدْ كشَفْتَها وَعَثْرَةٍ قَدْ أقَلْتَها وَرَحْمَةٍ قَدْ نَشَرْتَها وَحَلَقَةِ بَلاءٍ قَدْ فَككتَها.

“O my Lord, how many distresses You have relieved me of, how many griefs You have dispelled, how many troubles You have removed, how many mercies You have spread, how many ordeals You have kept (me) safe from.”
The Prophet (s) has said:

مَنْ صَامَ يَومَ الإثْنَينِ وَالخَميسِ مِن شَعْبانَ قَضَى لَهُ عِشْرِينَ حاجَةً مِنْ حَوائِجِ الدُّنيا وَعِشرينَ حَاجَةً مِن حَوائِجِ الآخِرَةِ.

“Anybody who goes on fasting on Mondays and Thursdays in the month of Sha'ban, Allah will satisfy twenty of his worldly needs and twenty of his needs in the Hereafter.”
These evidences show that most of man's real needs which are not raised yet or have not yet entered into man's mind will be satisfied someday.

Evolutional Supplication

This is an supplication desired by our evolutionary nature. Basically nature is managed by the Creator in such a way that all the needs of the creatures, plants, animals and the like are met. One example is the infant's food which is made ready in the mother's breasts even before its birth. This food is needed by the child. In the holy Qur'an, we read:

يَسْأَلُهُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ والأرض.

“All those who are in the heavens and the earth ask of him. 55:29”

We also read:

وَآتَاكُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا.

“And He gives you of all that you ask Him; and if you count Allah's favors, you will not be able to number them. 14:34”

It is clear that man is unable to ask for infinite assets which he needs. Therefore, all the assets which exist in the world other than ours, and which are innumerable are the evolutional blessings of Allah.
It is worth mentioning that most of Allah's assets are not conceivable by man; so man would not wish for them. Thus, if many of our needs (such as all kinds of fruits, vegetables, colors, beauties, and the like) did not exist in nature, nobody could even think of them or wish for them. For instance, if winter and summer fruits did not exist, who would think of them or ask for them?

Thus, most divine assets are created in response to man's natural and evolutionary needs without our asking for them. It is only He, who knows what kind of needs a particular creature requires.

If we and our needs did not exist,
Your favor would listen to our desires.

Of course, it should be known that this kind of supplication is always responded. This is because it is created by God and anything which He deems as inevitable is done.

Supplication should not be in words only

Considering the previous issues, it is clear that supplication is a truth which is beyond the spiritless words and it possesses a particular spirit which is the exact relation between the utterer of supplication and the one for whom supplication is uttered. In other words, when practicing supplication, after using words, if words are to be used, our determination should be serious. It is the result of attraction and being attracted and it is one of the human traits. In supplication, man should say what he cares for.

Thus, if we analyze the truth behind supplication, we will find that it is the fact of being slave in front of Allah, the Almighty. We can generally say that any sort of worship done by man is a kind of supplication, and asking for Allah's favors. In this concern, Allamah Tabataba'iy, in Al-Mizan, refers to the mistake which the writer of al-Manar has committed. This writer has erroneously assumed that not every worship is an supplication (for instance fasting, although a kind of worship, is not considered as supplication).

Allamah Tabataba'i says: “Supplication is analytically asking for divine assistance and favors. Therefore, fasting, which is, by nature, a kind of asking for perfection, growth and for Allah's favors, is considered as an important way to beg God's benevolence.”8

As a conclusion, the previous discussions show that if your tongue gets involved in supplication but your heart does not, it means that a real supplication has not occurred. This may also show that there is a separation between the tongue in our mouths and the tongue of our hearts. That is to say, the tongue of our mouths asks for something which is denied by the tongue of our hearts. For instance, a father might engage in supplication, praying for his son to be guided in the right path. However, this father performs some actions that may lead to his son's destruction; for example, inappropriate associations or causing unsuitable conditions to the family.

It is evident that this father's real intention is not his son's prosperity because unless the heart's attention precedes that of our tongues, literal supplication is of no use. This is like a sick man who wishes for his healing, but he does not take the necessary medicines. In such cases, no doubt, supplication is not influential. In this connection, Imam Ali (s) tells Imam Hassan (s):

العَطِيَّةُ عَلى قَدْرِ النّيَّّةِ.

“The gift of Allah will be as much as one's intention.”
Imam Ali (s) says:

لا يَقْبَلُ اللهُ دُعاءَ قَلْبِ لاهٍٍ.

“Allah will not respond to the supplication of a heedless heart.”9
In Tafseer Al-Mizan, concerning this tradition, we read:“The secret behind not responding to this supplication lies in the fact that it was not genuine and sincere.”

Research on one verse of the Qur’an

وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِي إِذَا دَعَانِي فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ.

“And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way. 2:186”

This verse has referred to a number of delicate issues concerning supplication. The author of Al-Mizan believes that this verse has used the techniques of supplication in the simplest and most elegant style. The first point is that the verse does not refer to a third person; rather it uses a first person singular, which clearly depicts the concern of Allah towards supplication. The second point is that the believers are not indicated by “people;” but “my servants.” This shows the close relation between Allah and His servants. The third point is that Allah does not use any intermediary; rather He uses “I” and refers to Himself as the responder to the supplication. The fourth point is that the emphasis marker inna (إنّ ) is used. The fifth point is that Allah, the Almighty, uses the word ”Qurb” meaning closeness; and this shows eternity and stability.

The sixth point is that the word ”ujeebu—I respond to” is used in the future tense which indicates stability, duration, and repetition of responding to the supplication. The seventh point to be discussed here is that a supplicant should be honest and sincere in his supplication; therefore the condition for the response the supplication relies on the supplicant.

After mentioning these seven points, the author of Al-Mizan says that this holy verse has been arranged concisely and in a delicate manner. The first person singular pronoun “I” is used seven times which is a unique phenomenon in the Qur'an.

  • 1. Bihar Al-Anwar, vol. 93, p. 288.
  • 2. Al-Mizan, vol. 2, p 33
  • 3. The Holy Qur’an says: وَاللَّهُ يَدْعُو إِلَى دَارِ السَّلَامِ وَيَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ إِلَى صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ. “And Allah invites to the abode of peace and guides whom He pleases into the right path. 10:25” وَاللَّهُ يَدْعُو إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ وَالْمَغْفِرَةِ بِإِذْنِهِ وَيُبَيِّنُ آيَاتِهِ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ. “And Allah invites to the garden and to forgiveness, by His will, and makes clear His communications to men, that they may be mindful. 2:221” يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَجِيبُوا لِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ إِذَا دَعَاكُمْ لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ. “O You who believe! Answer the call of Allah and His Apostle when he calls you to that which gives you life. 8:24”
  • 4. Al-Mahajjat al-Baydhaa, vol. 2, p. 283.
  • 5. Nahj al-Balaghah, Qisar al-Hikam (Short Maxims), No. 146.
  • 6. Nahj al-Balaghah, Letter No. 31.
  • 7. Uddat al-Da’ee, p. 23.
  • 8. Tafsir Al-Mizan, vol. 10, p. 39.
  • 9. Uddat al-Da’ee, p. 97.