Lawful and Unlawful Requests

The following two questions hold utmost importance as far as the supplication is concerned. What should we pray for to Allah in our supplication? And what we should not ask from Allah in our supplication?

A) Things we should pray for to Allah

Let us begin with the first question, that is, ‘What should we pray for to Allah in our prayers?’
Supplication denotes the neediness of man to Allah, the Exalted. There is not any limit with regard to the neediness and indigence of man to Allah, as there is no limit to the richness, power and kindness of Allah.

The confluence of these two infinite realities, the infinite need of the servant, and the infinite self-sufficiency of Allah and His kindness, is what supplication is.

On the one hand, there is no end to the treasuries of His kingdom, no limit to His power, strength, kindness and generosity. On the other hand, there is no limit to man’s indigence, weakness, inability and shortcoming.

It is from this outlook that we will try to comprehend the things we should pray to Allah for.

1) Blessings on Muhammad (S) and His Progeny (‘a)

Of the most important point during supplication, after praising and extolling Allah, is to send blessings on Muhammad (S) and his Progeny, Guardians of the affairs of the Muslims. Sending blessings on the Holy Prophet (S) and his Progeny occupies a large part of the supplications (ad’iyah) that have reached us.

There has been great emphasis and insistence in the Islamic traditions on blessing (salawat) the Prophet (S) and his Progeny (‘a). There is a clear reason for this; for Allah, the Exalted, wants us to take supplication as a means of communication between the Muslims and the Guardians of their affairs, and as a means of their holding fast to the rope of Guardianship (wala’) which Allah has made a protection for the Muslims.

Now, salawat is one of the significant ways of establishing this spiritual connection; for the links (halaqat) of Guardianship are extended between Allah and His servants, and the Guardianship of the Holy Prophet (S) and his Progeny (‘a) is among the most important of these links.

The Guardianship (wala’) of the Holy Prophet (S) is in extension to the Guardianship of Allah, the Exalted, whilst the Guardianship of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) is in extension to that of the Holy Prophet (S) . To consolidate and deepen one’s relation with this Guardianship is to strengthen and deepen the bond with the Guardianship of Allah. This on its own is a wide doorway of knowledge (ma’rifah) which we can neither discuss it here briefly, nor talk about it in detail as worthy of it. Perhaps Allah will grant me the success (tawfiq) in future to talk on this important and crucial point in the Islamic culture and in the establishment of the Islamic nation.

There is great emphasis in the Islamic narrations on invoking blessings on the Prophet (S) and his Progeny (‘a). In the following lines, we will cite some Islamic texts related to this topic. The most significant of these texts is the Book of Allah. He, the Exalted, says: “Indeed Allah and His angels bless the Prophet. O You who have faith! Invoke blessings on him and invoke peace upon him in a worthy manner.”1

The Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said, “Invoking blessings on me is a light on the bridge (sirat).”2

Again he (S) has said, “The most stingy of the people is he who when I am mentioned before him does not invoke blessings on me.”3

‘Abdullah bin Na’im says: “I said to Abu ‘Abdillah as-Sadiq (‘a), ‘I entered the sacred House (al-bayt), but no prayer came to my mind except invoking blessings on Muhammad and his Progeny.’ He said, ‘Indeed no one has come out {of the House} with something better than what you have come out with.”

Imam al-Baqir and as-Sadiq (‘a) are narrated to have said, “The weightiest of the things to be placed on the scale (mizan) on the Day of Judgement is the blessings on Muhammad and his Progeny.”4

Imam ‘Ali (‘a) says in Nahj al-Balaghah, “If you had a need from Allah, the Glorious, then begin with sending blessings on His Prophet (S) , then ask your need; for Allah is more generous than to accept one of the two requests made to Him and deny the other.”5

Praying for the prophets, messengers and their successors (awsiya’) carries the same effect. Peace and blessings on the prophets and their successors have appeared in the Islamic sources generally, as they have appeared in particular and with names in many Transmitted Prayers (al-ad’iyat al-ma’thurah) from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). Among these prayers is the one which has appeared in the a’mal of umm dawud during the bright nights (al-ayyam al-bid) of the month of Rajab. This supplication has reached us from Imam as-Sadiq (‘a).

An Example of Invoking Blessings on Muhammad (S) and His Progeny (‘a)

This benediction is part of a supplication in Sahifat as-Sajjadiyyah6, “My Lord, bless Muhammad and the Household of Muhammad, the distinguished, the chosen, the honoured, the brought nigh, with the most excellent of Your blessings, benedict him with the most complete of Your benedictions, and have mercy upon him with the most enjoyable of Your mercies!

My Lord, bless Muhammad and his Household with a fruitful blessing, more fruitful than which there is no blessing! Bless him with a growing blessing, more growing than which there is no blessing! And bless him with a pleasing blessing, beyond which there is no blessing! My Lord, bless Muhammad and his Household with a blessing, which will please him and increase his good pleasure!

Bless him with a blessing, which will please You and increase Your good pleasure toward him! And bless him with a blessing through other than which You will not be pleased but for him, and for which You see no one else worthy!… My Lord, bless Muhammad and his Household with a blessing which will tie together the blessings of Your angels, Your prophets, Your messengers, and those who obey You, comprise the blessings of Your servants.”

2) Praying for the Believers

This constitutes the greatest content of prayer after praising and extolling Allah, the Exalted, and after invoking blessings on Muhammad, his Progeny, the prophets and their successors.

Praying for the believers is one of the most significant dimensions of supplication; since it ties a Muslim individual to the whole of the Muslim nation on the face of the earth and throughout history, as invoking blessings on Muhammad and his Household connects a believer to the rope of Guardianship (wala’) sent down by Allah.

This relation which a prayer establishes between an individual and the nation, on the one hand, and on the other hand, between an individual and the rest of the people with whom he interacts and is in contact with in one way or the other, is among the best kinds of relation. This is because such a relation comes into existence in the presence of Allah, the Exalted, and is in extension to the relation with Allah, and no one other than Him can comprehend it, as it is also a response from the servant to the call of Allah, the Exalted.

Praying for the believers can be of two kinds; a general prayer without taking names, and a specific prayer by taking names. We will have a look at both kinds, by the will of Allah.

a. Praying for the Believers in General

This is a prayer which Allah loves and answers, as He responds to prayers which follow this prayer; for Allah, the Exalted, is kinder than that He should discriminate in answering prayers, such that he should respond to part of a supplication and reject the other part of it.

This kind of prayer which includes all the believers at present and those who have preceded us in faith (Iman) gives rise to a sense of historical as well as a contemporary connection, a horizontal and vertical link, with the family of the believers on the face of this earth and throughout history, and with the unity of this family, and with the close and strong bond that ties us to this family.

Supplication has two roles in our lives. Firstly, it links us with Allah, the Exalted; and secondly, it ties us to the Muslim nation, those who believe in Allah on the face of this earth and those who believed in Him throughout history.

There has appeared enormous emphasis in the Islamic narrations on this kind of supplication. According to a tradition, Allah, the Exalted, rewards a petitioner who makes such a prayer with good deeds (hasanat) according to the number of believers his prayer has included. Also, every believer that this prayer has encompassed shall intercede with Allah on his behalf on the Day of Judgement, when He, the Exalted, will allow the righteous among the believers to intercede on behalf of the wrongdoers among them.

Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) says: “The Holy Prophet (S) has said, ‘There is no believer who prays for the believing men and women except that Allah will give him in return the like of that which he had prayed for them, on behalf of every believing man and woman who has passed since the beginning of the world and who is going to come until the Day of Judgement. And it will so happen that on the Day of Judgement a person shall be ordered to be taken to the hell fire, but then he will be taken away {from it, as} the believing men and women would say, ‘O Lord, this is the man who used to pray for us. Accept our intercession on his behalf.’ So Allah, the All-mighty, the Majestic, will accept their intercession, and hence he will be delivered.”7

Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) is related to have said, “Whoever says ‘O Allah, forgive the believing men and women, and the Muslim men and women’ twenty five times every day, then Allah shall write good deeds for him, erase his sins and elevate his station, according to the number of every believer who has passed, and according to the number of every believing man and woman who is still to come until the Day of Judgement.”8

It is narrated from Imam al-Kazim (‘a) that he used to say, “Whosoever prays for the believing men and women, and for the Muslim men and women, Allah will appoint for him on behalf of every believer an angel who shall pray for him.”9

Imam ar-Rida (‘a) has said, “There is no believer who prays for the believing men and women, and for the Muslim men and women, the living of them and the dead, except that Allah will write for him good deeds according to the number of every believing man and woman, from the time Allah sent Adam till the time the Hour sets in.”10

Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) reports from his fathers who narrated from the Holy Prophet (S) , “There is no believing man or woman, who has passed away since the beginning of the world or is yet to come until the Day of Judgement, except that they are intercessors for one who says in his prayer ‘O Allah, forgive the believing men and women.’

And it will so happen that on the Day of Judgement a person shall be ordered to be driven to the hell fire, but then he will be taken away {from it, as} the believing men and women shall say, ‘O our Lord, this is the man who used to pray for us, so accept our intercession on his behalf.’ So Allah will accept their intercession, and hence he will be delivered.”11

Imam ar-Rida (‘a) says: “There is no believer who prays for the believing men and women, and for the Muslim men and women, the living of them and the dead, except that Allah will give him in return good deeds on behalf of every believing man and woman, from the time Allah sent Adam till the Hour sets in.”12

Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) narrates from his fathers who reported from the Holy prophet (S) , “There is no one who prays for the believing men and women except that Allah will give him in return the like of that which he prayed for them, on behalf of every believing man and woman who has passed away since the beginning of the world or is yet to come until the Day of Judgement. And it will so happen that on the Day of Judgement a person shall be ordered to be driven to the Fire, but then he will be taken away {from it, as} the believing men and women shall say, ‘O our Lord, this is the man who used to pray for us, so accept our intercession on his behalf.’ So Allah will accept their intercession, and hence he will be saved from the Fire.”13

Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) narrates from the Holy Prophet (S) , “If anyone of you were to make a supplication, then let it be all-embracing; for such a supplication is closer to the response.”14

He (‘a) has also said, “If a person says ‘O Lord, forgive the believing men and women, and the Muslim men and women, the living of them and the dead’, Allah would return him with {the same} prayer according to the number of people who have passed away and who are yet to come.”15

Examples of Generalization in Prayer

We will cite here a few examples of all-inclusive prayers from the supplications of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a).

1. “O Allah, enrich every poor person, O Allah, satisfy every hungry one, O Allah, clothe every unclothed one, O Allah, pay the debt of every indebted one, O Allah, relieve every distressed one, O Allah, return every stranger, O Allah, free every captive, O Allah, reform every wrong in the affairs of the Muslims, O Allah, cure every sick one, O Allah, fill our poverty with Your needlessness, O Allah, change our unpleasant state through Your beautiful state; O Allah, bless Muhammad and his pure Progeny.”16

2. “O Allah, bestow richness and wealth on the poor among the believing men and women; health and comfort upon the sick among them; grace and honour on the living among the believing men and women; forgiveness and mercy on the deceased among the believing men and women; return the travelers among the believing men and women to their homes, safe and successful; with Your mercy O Most Merciful of the merciful; and bless, O Allah, our master Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets, and his pure Progeny, and send blessings on {them} and give them abundant peace.”

3. “O Allah, and bless the Followers (at-Tab’in), from this day of ours to the Day of Doom, their wives, their offspring, and those among them who obey You, with a blessing through which You will preserve them from disobeying You, make room for them in the plots of Your garden, defend them from the trickery of Satan, help them in the good on which they seek help from You, protect them from sudden events that come by night and day -except the events which come with good.”17

4. Of these all-inclusive prayers is the supplication for the defenders of the frontiers of the Muslim lands, “O Allah, bless Muhammad and his Household, fortify the frontiers of the Muslims through Your might, support their defenders through Your strength, and lavish upon them gifts through Your wealth. O Allah, bless Muhammad and his Household, increase their number, hone their weapons, guard their territory, defend their midst, unite their throng, arrange their affair, send them supplies in a steady string, undertake Yourself to suffice them with provisions, support them with victory, help them with patience, and give them subtlety in guile! O Allah, bless Muhammad and his Household, give them the knowledge of that of which they are ignorant, teach them what they do not know, and show them what they do not see.”18

5. Another all-embracing prayer is the supplication for the apostolic strugglers among the Muslims, which is again from Sahifat as-Sajjadiyyah, “O Allah, and if the affair of Islam should worry a Muslim and the alliance of the idolaters' against Islam should grieve him, so that he has the intention to go to war and is about to enter the struggle, but frailty keeps him seated, neediness keeps him waiting, a mishap delays him, or an obstruction prevents him from his wish, write his name among the worshipers, make incumbent for him the reward of the strugglers, and place him among the ranks of the martyrs and the righteous.”19

6. Also among these prayers is the one for those who assist the strugglers (mujahidin) behind the frontline, “O Allah, and if a Muslim should take the place of a warrior or a soldier in his home, attend to those left behind in his absence, help him with a portion of his property, assist him with equipment, hone him for the struggle, send along with him a supplication for his purpose, or guard his honour in his absence, reward him with the like of his reward measure for measure, like for like.”20

The Three Forms of Prayer in the Qur’an

The following three forms of prayer have appeared in the Qur’an:

1. The prayer of a person for himself.

2. The prayer of a person for others.

3. The prayer of the all (jami’) for all.

We shall discuss these three kinds of prayers in order to become acquainted with the Qur’anic method of praying for the believers.

1. The Prayer of a Person for Himself

This is a common way of praying. We find in the Qur’an instances for this kind of prayer which were either made by the prophets (anbiya’) and the righteous people (salihin), or they have been taught by Allah, the Exalted, to His servants.
Some of these instances are:

My Lord, You have granted me a share in the kingdom, and taught me the interpretation of dreams. Originator of the heavens and earth! You are my guardian in this world and the Hereafter! Let my death be in submission {to You}, and unite me with the righteous.”21

“My Lord, admit me with a worthy entrance, and bring me out with a worthy departure, and render me a favourable authority from Yourself.”22

“My Lord, open my breast for me, make my affair easy for me, remove the hitch from my tongue {so that} they may understand my discourse.”23

“My Lord, do not leave me without an heir, and You are the best of inheritors.”24

“My Lord, land me with a blessed landing, for You are the best of those who bring ashore.”25

“My Lord, I seek Your protection from the promptings of devils; and I seek Your protection, my Lord, from their presence near me.”26

“My Lord, grant me {unerring} judgement, and unite me with the righteous. Confer upon me a worthy repute among the posterity, and make me one of the heirs to the paradise of bliss.”27

2. The Prayer of a Person for Others

This is another way of prayer which has several examples in the Qur’an.

“My Lord, have mercy on them, just as they reared me when I was {a} small {child}.”28

Of these prayers is the prayer of the bearers of the throne (‘arsh) for the believers, “Our Lord, You comprehend all things in mercy and knowledge, so forgive those who repent and follow Your way, and save them from the punishment of hell. Our Lord, admit them into the Gardens of Eden, which You have promised them, along with whoever is righteous among their forebears, their spouses and their descendents. Indeed You are the All-mighty, the All-wise. Save them from the ills; and whomever You save from the ills of that day, You will have had mercy upon him, and that is the great success.”29

3. The Prayer of All for All

This is the most prevalent method of supplication in the Qur’an. Most of the supplications in the Qur’an are of this kind. Some of them are as follows:

• “Guide us on the straight path; the path of those whom You have blessed, such as have not incurred Your wrath, nor are astray.”30

• “Our Lord, accept it from us; indeed You are the All-hearing, the All-knowing.”31

• “Our Lord, give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and save us from the punishment of the Fire.”32

• “Our Lord, pour patience upon us, make our feet steady, and assist us against the faithless lot.”33

• “Our Lord, take us not to task if we forget or make mistakes. Our Lord, place not upon us a burden as You placed on those who were before us. Our Lord, lay not upon us what we have no strength to bear, excuse us and forgive us, and be merciful to us. You are our Master, so help us against the faithless lot.”34

• “Our Lord, do not make our hearts swerve after You have guided us, and bestow Your mercy on us; indeed You are the All-munificent.”35

• “Our Lord, we have indeed heard a summoner calling to faith, declaring, “Have faith in your Lord”, so we believed. Our Lord, forgive us our sins and absolve us of our misdeeds, and make us die with the pious. Our Lord, give us what You have promised us through Your apostles, and do not disgrace us on the Day of Resurrection. Indeed You do not break Your promise.”36

• “Our Lord, pour patience upon us, and grant us to die as Muslims.”37

• “Our Lord, we have believed, so forgive us and have mercy on us, and You are the best of the merciful.”38

• “Our Lord, turn away from us the punishment of hell; indeed its punishment is enduring.”39

• “Our Lord, perfect our light for us, and forgive us; indeed You have power over all things.”40

An Analysis and Explanation of the Third Form of Prayer

What concerns us of these three modes of prayer is the second and the third form. Both forms are prayers for the believers, except that the second kind is a prayer of an individual for all, while the third kind is the prayer of all for all.

Both forms share some common characteristics:

1. The ‘one prayed for’ (al-mad‘uww lahu) are ‘all’. The individual does not pray for himself, rather he prays for all. Sometimes, the prayer of an individual for himself is of no benefit, as in the case when the whole community becomes subject to the punishment of Allah including the supplicant himself, even though he might not have committed the sin which others have. Allah, the Exalted, says in this regard:

“And beware of a punishment which shall not visit the wrongdoers among you exclusively, and know that Allah is severe in retribution.”41

In such a case, the prayer of an individual and his seeking forgiveness for himself will be of no benefit. Here he ought to pray and seek forgiveness for all. Accordingly, if Allah removes the punishment from the rest, it would be removed from him as well:

“Our Lord, remove from us this punishment, indeed we have believed.”42

2. The petitioner (ud-Da’i) represents ‘all’ in his prayer. For such a kind of prayer is oftenly made by the phrase ‘Our Lord’, which denotes that a supplicant represents all in praying for all, without him separating himself from those he is praying for, as is the case in the second kind of prayer. Rather, he represents them and prays for them and sees himself amidst those he is praying for.

Such a supplication is the nearmost of supplications to the response (istijabah). For there are three possibilities here, either Allah, the Exalted, would reject it completely, or answer part of it and reject part of it, or answer the whole of it. But Allah, the Exalted, is kinder than that He should reject a prayer completely, as discrimination in granting a prayer does not behove the Generous. Therefore, there remains only the third possibility which is granting the prayer in favour of all.

The most beautiful thing in this mode of prayer is that the individual is a messenger to Allah on behalf of all. He represents them and addresses Allah on behalf of ‘all’, saying ‘Our Lord’ (rabbana).

But even more beautiful than this is the fact that each of us grants himself the right to be a messenger to Allah on behalf of others. Thus, each of us is a messenger of the people to Allah in prayer. The way Allah has messengers whom He sends to the people, the people also have messengers who raise their petition and need to their Creator. All the people act as messengers for all, and represent all.

What is amazing of us is our attitude in this world, in the streets and markets, as we put between us obstacles and barriers, and separate ourselves from the others, such that each of us has his limits and rights which he is not willing to give up or compromise on. Each of us represents but his self only, and does not represent others except through official permission. But the moment we elevate ourselves to Allah, the Exalted, through prayers (salat) and supplication, we break all these confines and none of us separates himself from the rest, rather each of us represents all.

Such a kind of representation is indeed the most wonderful and the most beautiful; all representing all in speech, call and prayer before Allah, Lord of the Worlds.

And what is even more beautiful than this is the fact that Allah, the Exalted, accepts such a representation from all on behalf of ‘all’, and does not reject or discard it. Rather, in such a state He grants to the call of the supplicant the power of representing the rest.

Hence, when anyone of us says in his prayers (salat) “Guide us on the right path”43, it is as if all the people have collectively raised this prayer on behalf of all, asking Allah for guidance.

And this suffices to show the value of supplication during such a state; for the supplication of each of us during prayers carries the strength of the ‘supplication of all for all’. At such moments, a prayer is efficient and powerful to the fullest degree to invoke Allah’s mercy.

But even more beautiful than all this is the fact that there are supplications which a Muslim is required to make everyday, several times. Among such prayers is “Guide us on the right path.”

Praying for all has great significance by virtue of the fact that ‘those prayed for’ are the congregation of the believers. And this all-inclusiveness as far as ‘those prayed for’ are concerned provides a prayer with enormous value in the eyes of Allah.

In this mode of prayer, the supplicant does not raise his call to Allah as an individual; rather he is stretching toward Allah the hands of all the believers, their call and cry. He is representing all of them before Allah, while Allah accepts from him such a representation.

On the other hand, the believers themselves have given consent to the representation of each of them on behalf of the other. Therefore, the representation of an individual here is not a mere claim from him before Allah, rather it is a real kind of representation which is accepted by Allah, and also by those whom the individual is representing in prayer. Hence, it is an acceptable form of representation approved by the Shari’ah also.

Every prayer in this state holds the strength of a collective prayer. So when any of us prays before Allah and says “Guide us on the right path”, then it is as if this prayer has been raised to Allah by all. This prayer, with such a level of strength and efficiency, is raised daily by every Muslim who stands before Allah in prayers and supplicates for all on behalf of all. Everyday the Muslims raise this cry to Allah tens of times; a cry which has endless strength in invoking Allah’s mercy and affection.

Yet, the most beautiful thing of all is the fact that it is Allah, the Exalted, Himself who has invited us to raise to Him such a cry everyday, tens of times. He is the one who has taught us to ask Him for guidance, and pray for the guidance of all. He is the one who taught us to represent the rest in this prayer, and He is the one who accepts from us our representation of others.

After all this, is it then possible that He would not answer our prayer? Never.

b. Praying for Particular Believers

The way praying for the believers in general has appeared in the Islamic sources, likewise there has appeared in these sources the concept of praying for them in particular, by specifying them and naming them in person during prayer.

This mode of prayer has a liveliness and an effect of its own on the heart of the supplicant, other than the liveliness and effect found in the prayer in general. This is because this kind of prayer eliminates what might have accumulated of grudge in the personal or communal relations of the people, or what might have piled up between the congregations of the believers themselves.

For when a believer beseeches Allah, the Exalted, for mercy and forgiveness on behalf of his brethren, specifying them by their names, and asks Him to fulfill their wishes, ease their affairs, and grant their needs, then he would naturally develop liking for them, and that which he used to experience in his heart of jealousy, disliking, and aversion toward them, would disappear.

The prayer in such a state has three different aspects. The first aspect is that it connects the supplicant to Allah, the Exalted. The second aspect is that it ties him to the whole of the Muslim nation on the face of the earth and throughout history. The third aspect is that it links him with his brothers, associates and relatives, which indeed constitutes a wide arena of man’s life.

The Islamic sources have given utmost importance to this form of prayer. Here, we will mention some of these narrations which have appeared in the works of ahadith.

1. Praying for the Believers in their Absence

Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) says: “The prayer of a person for his brother {in faith} in his absence showers sustenance (rizq) and averts calamities.”44

Imam al-Baqir (‘a) has said, “The nearest prayer and the quickest of them to the respose (ijabah) is the prayer of a person for his brother in his absence.”45

Abu Khalid al-Qammat reports from Imam al-Baqir (‘a), “The fastest of the prayers to the response (ijabah) is the prayer of a man for his brother in his absence. When he begins with the prayer for his brother, the angel appointed over him says: ‘amin, and for you is twofold of that.’”46

As-Sakuni relates from Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) and he from the Holy Prophet (S) , “There is nothing faster in obtaining the response (ijabah) than the the prayer of an absent (gha’ib) for the absent.”47

Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) narrates from his fathers and they from the Holy Prophet (S) , “O ‘Ali! The prayer of four people is not rejected; a just ruler, {the prayer of} a father for his son, the prayer of a person for his brother in his absence, and {the prayer of} the oppressed, {about whom} Allah, the All-mighty, the Majestic, says: ‘By My might and majesty, I will come to your aid even after a while.’”48

The Holy Prophet (S) says: “Whosoever prays for a believer in his absence, the angel says: ‘And for you is the like of that.’”49

Hamran bin A’yan reports, “I went to see Imam al-Baqir (‘a) and said to him, ‘Advise me.’ He said, ‘I advise you to be God-conscious; and beware of joking {idly}, for it takes away the reverence (haybah) and dignity of a person. And you should pray (du’a’) for your brothers {in faith} in their absence, for this showers sustenance (rizq)’, and he repeated this three times.”50

Mu’awiyah bin ‘Ammar narrates from Imam as-Sadiq (‘a), “Praying for your brother in his absence drives sustenance toward the supplicant and averts calamities from him, and the angel says: ‘And for you is the like of that.’”51

2. Praying for Forty Believers

There are narrations which emphasize on praying for forty believers by their names before one begins praying for himself.

‘Ali bin Ibrahim narrates from his father, through his chain of narration, from Imam as-Sadiq (‘a), “Whoever sends ahead in his supplication forty believers and thereafter prays for himself, he shall be answered.”52

‘Umar bin Yazid says that he heard as-Sadiq (‘a) saying, “Whoever prays for forty of his brothers {in faith} before praying for himself, {then} he shall be answered in them and himself.”53

3. Giving Preference to Others in Prayer

Abu ‘Ubaydah reports from Thuwayr that I have heard ‘Ali bin al-Husayn (‘a) saying, ‘‘When the angels hear a believer praying for his brother in faith in his absence, or remembering him with good, they say, ‘What an excellent brother you are for your brother {in faith}; you pray for his good while he is away from you, and remember him with good. Allah, the All-mighty, the Majestic, has granted you twofold of what you had prayed for him, and has praised you double the amount you praised him; and you have a higher degree (al-fadl) than him.”54

Yunus bin ‘Abd ar-rahman narrates that ‘Abdullah bin Jundab heard Abu al-Hasan al-Kazim (‘a) saying, “One who prays for his brother in faith in his absence is called from the corner of the heavens, ‘For each one {of that which you prayed for your brother} you shall have a hundred.’”55

Ibn Abi ‘Umayr relates from Zayd an-Narsi, “I was with Mu’awiyah bin Wahab in the desert of ‘Arafah while he was supplicating. So I followed his prayer but I did not find him praying for himself even a single letter. I rather found him praying for people in the remotest parts of the earth; he named them and their parents until the people started moving.

I said to him, ‘O uncle, I have seen something astonishing.’ ‘What has amazed you of what you have seen’, asked Mu’awiyah. I said, ‘Your giving preference to your brothers over yourself in such a {holy} place, and your naming them person by person.’ He said to me, ‘Do not be surprised of this, my nephew; for I have heard my master… saying, ‘Whoever prays for his brother in his absence, an angel from the lower heaven calls him saying, ‘O servant of Allah, you have a hundred thousand of what you have prayed {for your brother}…”56

Imam Husayn bin ‘Ali (‘a) narrates from his brother al-Hasan (‘a), “I saw my mother, Fatimah, standing in her prayer niche on Thursday night. She remained in the position of bowing (ruku’) and prostration (sujud) till dawn. I heard her praying for the believing men and women by their names. She would copiously pray for them without praying for herself even a little. So I said to her, ‘O mother, why do not you pray for yourself the way you are praying for others?’ She replied, ‘My son, the neighbour {comes first}, then the family members (ad-dar).”57

Abu Natanah relates from ‘Ali who reported from his father, “I saw ‘Abdullah bin Jundab in the desert of ‘arafah, and I did not see a position (mawqif) better than the one he was in. He was stretching his hands toward the sky while tears flowed down his cheeks to the ground. After the people left, I said to him, ‘O Aba Muhammad, I have not seen a position better than yours.’

He replied, ‘By Allah, I did not pray except for my brothers, this is because Abu al-Hasan Musa bin Ja’far informed me that whoever prays for his brothers in their absence, he is called from the Throne (‘arsh), ‘And for you is a hundred thousand times more.’ So I disliked leaving a hundred thousand-fold which is guaranteed for one which I do not know whether it will be answered or not.”58

‘Abdullah bin Sinan is narrated to have said, “I passed by ‘Abdullah bin Jundab and saw him offering prayers at safa. He was an old man and I saw him praying as he said, ‘O Allah! So and so son of so and so; O Allah! So and so son of so and so; O Allah, so and so son of so and so…’ to the extent that I could not count them because of their great number. After he finished his prayers, I said to him, ‘O ‘Abdallah, I have never seen a position better than yours! But I disliked a quality in you.’ He said, ‘What is it that you disliked in me?’

I said, ‘You pray for many of your brethren {in faith} but I have not heard you praying for yourself for anything.’ He said to me, ‘O Abdallah, I have heard our master as-Sadiq (‘a) saying, ‘Whoever prays for his brother in faith in his absence, he will be called from the heavens, ‘O so and so, you will have what you have prayed for your brother a hundred thousand times more. So I did not like to leave a hundred thousand-fold which has been guaranteed for one which I do not know whether it will be accepted or not.”59

Abu ‘Umayr narrated from some of his associates, “When ‘Isa bin A’yan used to go for hajj and then go to ‘arafah, he would start praying for his brothers until people left {‘arafah}. So he was asked, “You spend your money and exhaust your body, but when you reach the place where the needs are presented before Allah, you start praying for your brethren and forsake yourself!” He replied, “I am confident of the {acceptance of the} prayer of the angel on my behalf, while I doubt in the prayer for myself.”60

Ibrahim bin Abi al-Bilad (or ‘Abdullah bin Jundab) relates, “I was in ‘arafah, and as I was coming out I met Ibrahim bin Shu’ayb and so I greeted him. One of his eyes was injured, while his other eye had turned red as if it was a clot of blood. So I said to him, ‘One of your eyes is already afflicted, I fear for you the other one; reduce weeping a little.’ He said, ‘Nay by Allah! O Aba Muhammad, I have not prayed for myself today even by a single supplication.’ So I said, ‘Then who did you pray for?’ He replied, ‘I prayed for my brothers; I have heard Abu ‘Abdillah {as-Sadiq} saying, ‘Whosoever prays for his brother in his absence, Allah appoints an angel over him who says {to him}, ‘And for you is double {of that}.’ So I wanted to pray for my brothers while the angel should pray for me; for I doubt in the {acceptance of the} prayer for myself whereas I do not doubt in the prayer of the angel on my behalf.”61

4) Praying for the Parents

Praying for the parents is among the instances (maas-Sadiq) of ‘doing good to the parents’ (birr al-walidayn). However, there are different ways of being good to them, among them is that one should give charity (sadaqah), go to hajj and offer prayers on their behalf, and also pray for them.

Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said, “What prevents anyone of you from doing good to his parents, whether they are alive or dead, by praying on their behalf, giving charity on behalf of them, going for hajj on their behalf, and fasting on their behalf. Hence, he will have the like of what he has done for them, and Allah, the All-mighty, the Majestic, shall copiously increase for him in good because of his goodness (and maintaining the relationship).”

He (‘a) has also said, “My father used to say, ‘There are five prayers which are never veiled from Allah; the prayer of a just ruler, the prayer of an oppressed {about whom} Allah, the All-mighty, the Majestic, says: ‘I will take revenge on your behalf even if it is after sometime’; the prayer of a righteous son for his parents, the prayer of a righteous father for his son, and the prayer of a believer for his brother in his absence, {about whom the angel} says: ‘And for you is double of that.’”62

Among the prayers for the parents is a prayer which has appeared in Sahifat as-Sajjadiyyah63:
“O Allah, bless Muhammad, his Household, and his progeny, and single out my parents for the best which You have singled out for the fathers and mothers of Your faithful servants, O Most Merciful of the merciful. O Allah, let me not forget to remember them after my ritual prayers, at every time throughout my night, and in each of the hours of my day.

O Allah, bless Muhammad and his Household, forgive me thorugh my supplication for my parents, forgive them through their devotion toward me with unfailing forgiveness, be well pleased with them through my intercession for them with resolute good pleasure, and make them reach through Your generosity the abodes of safety.

O Allah, if Your forgiveness reaches them first, make them my intercessors, and if Your forgiveness reaches me first, make me their intercessor, so that we may gather together through Your gentleness in the house of Your generosity and the place of Your forgiveness and mercy.”

5) Man’s Prayer for Himself

This is the last station of the prayer, not the first one. It is interesting how Islam urges man to deny himself and give preference to others in the life of this world, in matters related to one’s life and also in dealing with others. As it also urges him to deny himself and give preference to others over himself in his prayer before Allah, the Exalted.

However, he should not forget to pray for himself. But what should we ask for ourselves? And how should we pray? This is what we will attempt to discuss here by the will of Allah.

1. Generalization in Prayer

We ought to ask Allah in our prayer for whatever we are in need of, whatever is important for us in this world and the Hereafter, and beseech Him to protect us from all evil that we are wary of in this world and the Hereafter; for the keys of good and all its means are in the hand of Allah. Nothing can go against His will (iradah), nor can anything render Him unable, nor does He niggardly withhold the good and mercy from His servants.

If Allah, the Exalted, is not miser in giving or responding to his servant, then it is unsound, rather adverse, on the part of the servant to show miserliness in asking from Allah and praying to Him.

According to a Divine Narration, “Even if the first and the last of you, and the living and the dead of you, were to gather and each of them were to ask whatever he wished and I were to grant his wish, {still} My kingdom would not diminish.”64

Again according to a Divine Narration related by the Holy Prophet (S) , “Even if the inhabitants of the seven heavens and the earths were to ask me altogether and I were to grant each of them his wish, yet this would not diminish My dominion; and how can a kingdom whose custodian is Me diminish?”65

The Holy Prophet (S) is also narrated to have said, “Ask Allah and ask copiously, for nothing is difficult for Him.”66

According to a narration, “Do not regard that which you ask {from Allah} as too much; for what lies with Allah is even greater.”

The prayers that have reached us from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) entail many instances of generalization in prayer, in asking for every good and seeking protection from every evil. Some of them are as follows:

1. A prayer recommended to be recited after the obligatory prayers during the holy month of Rajab, “O He who gives a lot in exchange for a little, O He who gives to one who asks Him, O He who gives to one who does not ask him and does not know Him, out of His affection and mercy.

Give me, because of my request to You, all the good of this world and all the good of the Hereafter, and keep away from me, because of my request to You, all the evil of this world and the evil of the Hereafter, for indeed it is not diminishing what is given by You, and increase me from Your bounty, O the Generous.”

2. According to a supplication, “O Allah, I ask from You the keys and the seal of the good, its abundance, benefits and blessings; and {I ask You} that which I comprehend in knowledge, and that which my memory cannot enumerate.”

3. “O He who is near in His highness, O He who is All-attentive in His nearness; bless Muhammad and the Household of Muhammad. O Allah, I beseech You for all the good of my religion, this world and the Hereafter; and I seek refuge with You from all evil.”

4. “…and admit me into every good into which You have admitted Muhammad and his Household; and bring me out of every evil from which You have brought out Muhammad and his Household.”

5. “… and be sufficient for me in what worries me of the affairs of this world and the Hereafter.”

6. “O Allah, do not leave any of my sins unforgiven, nor any grief unremoved, nor any sickness uncured, nor any fault unhidden, nor any provision unincreased, nor any fear unprotected, nor any evil unrepelled, nor any wish –which You are pleased with and which is good for me- unanswered, O Most Merciful of all merciful.”

7. “O He in whose hand are the measures (maqadir) of this world and the Hereafter, and the measures of victory and defeat, and the measures of richness and poverty, and the measures of good and evil, bless Muhammad and the Progeny of Muhammad; and bless me in my religion which is the criterion of my affairs, and in my world within which lies my sustenance, and in my Hereafter to which is my return; and bless me in all my affairs… I seek refuge with You from the evil of the living and the dead, and I seek refuge with You from the ordeals of this world and the Hereafter.”

8. “I beseech You through the light of Your face by which the heavens have been illuminated, and by which the darkness has disappeared, and by which the affairs of the first and the last have been set aright, to bless Muhammad and the Progeny of Muhammad, and to set aright all my affairs, and never leave me on my own, even for a moment.”

9. The prayer of Imam Zayn al-’Abidin (‘a) at dawn, “Be sufficient for me in all {my} worries, and decree for me the best, and bless all my affairs, and grant me all my wishes. O Allah, make easy for me that whose difficulty I fear, for making easy that whose difficulty I fear is easy for You; and smoothen for me that whose roughness I fear, and free me from that whose constraint I fear, and hold back from me that whose grief I fear, and keep away from me that whose tribulation I fear.”

10. A prayer at dawn, “…and grant me an all-embracing and all-inclusive mercy through which I can ask the good of this world and the Hereafter.”

2. Great Needs Should not Stop us from Asking for Smaller Things

It might be shameful for us to ask small and inconsiderable things from each other, but when one turns toward Allah asking and entreating Him, the case is different, as praying for such things is no longer disgraceful, however small and inconsiderable they might be.

This is because Allah, the Exalted, comprehends in knowledge every need, weakness, inability, and defect of the supplicant. Nothing of our weaknesses and shortcomings are hidden from Allah, the Glorious, that we should be embarrassed of presenting them before Him the way we are usually ashamed of doing so in front of the others. Therefore, the great needs must not hinder us from praying to Allah for small and insignificant needs.

On the other hand, Allah, the Exalted, loves His servant to be linked to Him in all his needs and affairs, big or small, so that he may always be connected to Him. However, such a link cannot endure unless the servant feels himself in need of Allah in all his affairs and wishes, even for laces of his shoes if they get broken.

The Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said, “Ask Allah, the All-mighty, the Majestic, whatever crosses your mind of your needs, even for the lace of {your} shoe; for if He does not make that easy, it would not become easy.”

He (S) is also narrated to have said, “Ask Allah for all your needs, even for a broken lace.”67

In another tradition, the Holy Prophet (S) says: “Do not get waried of supplication (du’a’); for none has perished with supplication. Ask Allah even for the lace of your shoe if it gets broken; and ask Allah of His grace, for He loves to be besought.”68

Sayf at-Tammar says: “I heard Abu ‘Abdillah {as-Sadiq} saying, ‘Keep on praying (du’a’), for indeed you cannot attain proximity {to Allah} with the like of it. And do not desist from asking for a small {thing} because of it being small, for the one who owns the smaller is the very one who owns the bigger.”69

A Divine Narration says: “O Musa! Ask Me whatever you need, even for the fodder of your cattle and the salt of your bread.”70

However, there is no need to remind the reader here that this principle of prayer does not mean that a prayer should not be accompanied with action and endeavour. Instead, it implies that firstly a supplicant should not place his confidence and hope in his efforts, rather he should maintain hope and confidence in Allah, the Exalted. Secondly, he must not sever his link and connection with Allah, nor should he lose the perception of his neediness toward Him, throughout his activity, action and endeavour.

Hence, the points just mentioned require man to ask Allah for all his needs and affairs, even for the tie of his sandal, the fodder of his cattle, and the salt of his bread.

3. Praying for the Great Bounties

As we pray to Allah, the Exalted, for everything, we should also pray to Him for great blessings. We should not consider a blessing as too big to be asked from Allah, however big it might be, so long as it is ontologically possible; for nothing is big for Allah, nor do His treasuries diminish however great His bestowal might be.

As we should not be ashamed of beseeching Allah for our small needs, even if it is for the fodder of cattle, lace of shoes and salt of bread, similarly we should not regard praying to Allah for His great blessings as asking too much from Him, however great they might be.

Rabi’ah bin Ka’b says: “One day the Holy Prophet (S) said to me, ‘O Rabi’ah! You have served me for seven years; do you not want to ask a need from me?’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, give me some time to think over it.’ The next morning when I came to see him (S) , he said to me, ‘O Rabi’ah, tell me your need.’ I said, ‘Ask Allah to admit me to the Heaven with you.’ He said to me, ‘Who taught you this?’

I said, ‘No one, O Messenger of Allah. I thought over this and said {to myself}, ‘If I asked him wealth, it will perish. And if I asked him a long life and children, their end would be death.’ Rabi’ah says: ‘He lowered his head for a moment and then said, ‘I will do that, but help me by prostrating (sujud) much.’ {Rabi’ah} says: ‘Thereafter I heard him saying, ‘There will occur a dissension (fitnah) after me; if it occurs then adhere to ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (‘a).’”71

Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Ali (‘a) says: “When the Holy Prophet (S) used to be asked do to something, if he was willing to do it then he would reply saying ‘Yes.’ But if he was not willing to do it, then he would remain silent, as he would never say ‘no’ to something. One day a Bedouin came to him and asked him for something, but he remained silent. The Bedouin repeated his request, but again he remained silent. He asked him for the third time, yet he remained silent.

Thereafter, he (S) said -as if he was continuing with his speech, ‘What do you want, O bedouin?’ So we said, ‘He is just now going to ask you {a place in} the Heaven.’ The Bedouin said, ‘I ask you to give me a camel, its saddle, and some provision.’ He (S) said, ‘I will give you that.’ Then he {turned toward us and} said, ‘What a difference between the request of the Bedouin and that of an old lady from the Banu Isra’il.’

Then he said, ‘When Musa was commanded to cross the sea and he neared it, the mounts were whipped to cross but they retreated.’ So Musa said, ‘O My Lord, what has happened to me?’ Allah said, ‘O Musa, you are at the grave of Yusuf, carry his bones.’ The grave was as flat as the earth, so he asked his people, ‘Does anyone of you know where is it?’ They said, ‘There is an old woman {with us}, may be she would know.’ So he said to her, ‘Do you know?’ She replied, ‘Yes.’ ‘Show it to us’, said Musa.

She answered, ‘By Allah, I would not unless you grant me what I am going to ask from you.’ He said, ‘You will be granted.’ She said, ‘I want to be with you in the same postion that you will enjoy in the Heaven.’ He said, ‘Ask me for the Heaven {only}.’ ‘Nay by Allah, but that I want to be with you’, she said. So Musa began to deflect her from her wish when Allah revealed to him saying, ‘Grant her request; for she is not going to be contented with less than that.’ So he granted her request and she pointed out the grave to him.”72

4. Reliance on the Divine Planning

One of the things we should beseech Allah, the Exalted, in our prayers is that he should suffice us by His planning (tadbir) from our planning for ourselves, and that He should take care of our affairs through His mercy and wisdom, and that He should not leave any of our affairs on ourselves.

Imam al-Husayn (‘a) says in the supplication of ‘arafah, “{O Lord,} suffice me from planning for myself through your planning for me, and from my choice through Your choosing for me.”

A phrase in the whispered prayer (munajat) of sha‘baniyyah reads, “… and take charge of my affair as is worthy of You…” Another prayer says: “His knowledge of my condition suffices me from asking Him.”73

It is said that when Namrud ordered his men to throw Prophet Ibrahim (‘a) into the fire, the angel Jibra’il came to him and said, “Have you a need?” He replied, “But not from you. Allah suffices me; He is the best custodian.” Thereafter, the angel Mika’il came to him and said, “If you wish, I can put out this fire; for the treasuries of rain and water are in my hand.” He said, “I do not want.” Then the angel of wind came to him and said, “If you want I can blow out the fire.” ‘I do not want”, he replied. So Jibra’il said, “Then ask Allah.” He said, “His knowledge of my condition suffices me from asking Him.”74

However, this does not mean abstinence from praying to Allah, the Exalted, rather it means relying on the planning (tadbir) of Allah for His servant the way He deems suitable. This is, in fact, a state of relying on Allah in all affairs, and having confidence in the decree of Allah, His wisdom and planning, be it in ease or in difficulty.

In the supplication of ‘arafah, Imam al-Husayn (‘a) says: “O Allah, the difference in Your planning (tadbir) and the quick change in Your decree has prevented Your sevants, who have thorough knowledge of You, from being assured by a blessing, and to despair of You during hardship.”

This is indeed among those subtle concepts that the supplications of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are replete with. The Imam (‘a) says that those of the servants of Allah who have attained recognition of Him never depend on a bounty, however enormous it might be; as they do not lose hope in Allah during difficulties, however severe it might be. This is after they have comprehended the quick succession and change in His command and decree in relation to His servants. Thus, they are never assured by a blessing or provision, nor do they despair of Allah’s mercy during hardships. In other words, they are, rather, assured of His mercy and do not despair of His grace.

This concept is drawn by the Imam (‘a) directly from the Qur’an:

“So that you may not grieve for what escapes you, not exult for what comes your way.”75

Imam ‘Ali (‘a) used to say, “The whole of zuhd {abstinence from worldly pleasures} has appeared in two phrases (kalimatayn) of the Book of Allah, “So that you may not grieve for what escapes you, not exult for what comes your way.”

When Allah, the Exalted, grants His servant with confidence in His destiny and decree, and with reliance on Him, then such a person will constanly be assured of the decree of Allah, in ease and hardship; he would neither be assured of the blessings at his disposal, nor would he despair in times of difficulty.

There has been enormous emphasis on this concept in different supplications. A phrase in the Ziyarat famously known as aminullah reads, “O Allah, let my soul be calm with Your decree, pleased with Your decision, fond of Your remembrance and of calling You, patient at the time of misfortune, and grateful for Your abundant bounties.”

In one of his supplications, Imam ‘Ali bin al-Husayn Zayn al-’Abidin (‘a) says: “Inspire us to yield to that which You bring upon us by Your will, lest we love the delay of what You have hastened and the hastening of what You have delayed, dislike what You love, and choose what You dislike.”76

In another place he (‘a) says: “…delight my soul through Your decree, expand my breast through the instances of Your decision, give to me a trust through which I may admit that Your decree runs only to the best.”77

In the supplication of as-Sabah, Imam ‘Ali (‘a) says: “O Allah, here are the reins of my soul; I have tied them to the cord of Your Will.”

5. Pleading for the Face of Allah from Allah

The most sublime and loftiest of the supplications is that one should pray to Allah, not for attaining this world or the Hereafter, but for achieving His honoured face (wajh allah), His pleasure (rida), meeting (liqa’) with Him, His proximity (qurb), arriving (wusul) at Him, His love (hubb), intimacy (uns) with Him and yearning (shawq) for Him.

In one of her supplications, Lady Fatimah (‘a) used to beseech Allah to give her, before her death, a glad tiding from Himself, not from other than Him; a glad tiding which would delight her heart and make her happy. She would pray, “A glad tiding from You, not from other than You, {a glad tiding} which would delight my heart, please my soul, comfort me, brighten my face with joy… assure my heart, and by which my whole body would rejoice.”78

Imam al-Husayn (‘a) says in the supplication of ‘arafah, “I beseech from You to reach You.”
In the supplication of as-Sabah, Imam ‘Ali (‘a) says: “You are the climax of my wish and aspiration.”

In the whispered prayer of al-muhibbin (the Lovers), of the fifteen whispered prayers of Imam Zayn al-’Abidin (‘a), he says: “O Allah, who can have tasted the sweetness of Your love, then wanted another in place of You? Who can have become intimate with Your nearness, then sought removal from You?”

In the munajat of al-muridin (the devotees), he (‘a) says: “O Allah, make us travel on the roads that arrive at You, and set us into motion on the paths nearest to reaching You.”

Again, in the munajat of al-mutawassilin (those asking for mediation), he (‘a) says: “… and place me among Your selected friends, those… whose eyes You have gladdened through looking at You on the day of meeting You.”

A phrase in the supplication of ‘arafah reads, “… and seek me until I reach You.”

Imam ‘Ali (‘a) says in the supplication of kumayl, “And I seek intercession from You with Yourself… and bestow upon me earnestness in my fear of You, and continuity in my being joined to Your service until… I move near to You with the nearest of the sincere… and gather in Your vicinity with the believers.”

Imam Zayn al-’Abidin (‘a) says in munajat al-muhibbin (the lovers), “O Allah, place us with him… whose heart You have captivated with Your will, whom You have picked for contemplating You, whose look You have made empty for You, whose breast You have freed for Your love, whom You have made desirous of what is with You… and from whom You have cut off all things which cut him off from You.”

B) Things We should not Pray for to Allah

We shall now talk about things we ought not to pray for. These are a number of things which we will extract from the Qur’an and the Hadith.

1. Petition in Contrary to the Norms of Allah in the Universe and Life

Prophet Nuh (‘a) had prayed to Allah, the Exalted, to accept his petition in favour of his son and to save him from drowning, based on the promise of Allah to him that He would save his family; but Allah did not answer his prayer and rather rejected it by saying, “O Nuh, indeed he is not of your family”, and admonished him not to repeat such a petition.

The Qur’an says:

“Nuh called out to his Lord and said, ‘My Lord, my son is indeed from my family, and Your promise is indeed true, and You are the fairest of all judges.’ He said, ‘O Nuh, he is indeed not of your family. Indeed he is {a personification of} unrighteous conduct, so do not ask Me {something} of which you have no knowledge. I advise you lest you should be among the ignorant.’ He said, ‘O Lord, I seek Your protection lest I should ask You something of which I have no knowledge. If You do not forgive me and have mercy upon me, I shall be among the losers.’”79

Prophet Nuh (‘a) had the right to ask Allah for the salvation of those who were among his family members. But he had no right to ask for the deliverance of those who were not considered to be among his family, among them being his son who was, in reality, not of his family. This was the judgement of Allah, and hence Nuh (‘a) had no right to beseech Allah against His laws and command.

Now let us see what the answer of Nuh (‘a) was; the answer of a penitent servant who hastens to the pleasure of his Lord, and seeks His protection from asking Him something about which he has no knowledge, and makes his deliverance and success conditional to His mercy and forgiveness.

Understanding the norms (sunan) of Allah is indeed among the necessary requirements for making supplication. The function of prayer is not to break these norms and violate them, rather its function is to direct a person to invoke Allah within the framework His norms and laws.

The norms of Allah are always the manifestation of His ontological will (al-iradat at-Takwiniyyah), whereas the role of supplication is to try to attract the will of Allah, the Exalted, in favour of the supplicant, not to move against it; for Allah, the Exalted, says:

“…and you will never find any revision in Allah’s precedent (sunnah).”80

The system prevailing in the universe is the embodiment of Allah’s will (iradah) such that the universe cannot be in order without it. Thus, it is not correct for the supplicant to ask for change in the will of Allah; for prayer is among the doors of Allah’s mercy for His servants, and the will of Allah is always in conformity with His mercy.

No norm is different from the other, be it a universal, historical or social norm; for each norm represents His will, and His will is a manifestation of His mercy and wisdom above which there is no mercy and wisdom.

For instance, one of the Divine social norms is that the members in a given society depend on each other in terms of their worldly and religious needs. If this is the case, then it would not be appropriate for the supplicant to beseech Allah to make him independent of others and not to make him in need of them; for such a prayer indeed stands in sharp contrast with the above norm and will of Allah.

Imam ‘Ali (‘a) is reported to have said, “{One day} I prayed, ‘O Allah, do not make me in need of anyone of Your creatures.’ So the Prophet of Allah (S) said, ‘O ‘Ali! Never say such; for there is no one except that he is in need of the people.’ So I said, ‘Then what should I say?’ He replied, ‘Say, ‘O Allah, do not make me needy of the wicked among Your creatures.’”81

Shu‘ayb narrates that once he told Imam as-Sadiq (‘a), “I pray to Allah to make me independent of His creatures. He said, ‘Allah has distributed the provision (rizq) of whoever He wishes in the hands of whoever He wills {among His creatures}. Rather ask Him to make you independent of such a need (hajat) which compels you to be in need of the mean among His creatures.’”82

Based on this understanding of prayer, we find that the Islamic texts clearly define the realistic sphere of supplication, taking it out of the unrealistic and imaginary realms. These texts emphasise on a very important reality regarding a Muslim’s way of life; the way his efforts and activities ought to be real and far from fantasy, similarly his prayer has to be within the same realistic framework.

It is narrated that on old man from Sham once asked Imam ‘Ali (‘a), “Which of the supplications is the most erroneous?” He (‘a) replied, “Praying for that which cannot happen.”83

‘That which cannot occur’ is something which stands outside the framework of the common norms of Allah in human life. Hence, thinking about it and trying to achieve it is being unrealistic.

Imam ‘Ali (‘a) has said, “Whoever asks beyond his capacity (qadr) deserves to be deprived.”84
I believe that ‘asking beyond one’s capacity’ means asking for the unrealistic wishes.

2. Praying for Illegal Things

As it is not appropriate to pray for things whose occurrence is not possible, likewise, it is not correct to pray for things which are illegal. Both these kind of prayers fall within the same category. The first one is going against the ontological (takwini) will of Allah, while the second is going against His legislative (tashri’i) will. He, the Exalted, says:

“…even if you plead forgiveness for them seventy times, Allah shall never forgive them...”85

Imam ‘Ali (‘a) says: “Do not ask the impossible and the illegal.”86

3. Wishing the Eradication of Blessings from Others

Among the things not permissible in prayer is the wish of the supplicant that Allah may transfer a blessing from someone else to him. Allah, the Exalted, says:

“Do not covet the advantage which Allah has given some of you over others.”87

Of course there is no objection that one should wish for a blessing from Allah and ask Him to bless him with the like of what He has blessed others, or even better than that. But what Allah dislikes for His servants is their constantly staring at what He has bestowed upon others of His bounties. He, the Exalted, says:

“Do not extend your glance toward what We have provided certain groups of them as a glitter of the life of this world…”88

Allah does not love His servant to covet that He, the Exalted, may shift a blessing from others to him; for this involves desiring the deprivation of others from a blessing, and this is something which Allah does not like for His servants. For such a desire implies narrow-mindedness as far as the wishes of the supplicant are concerned, something which Allah dislikes for His servants.

The power of Allah is all-embracing, and there is no end to His treasuries, and His kingdom has no limit. Thus, there is no objection for one to ask Allah for everything and to wish that He may grant him better than what He has granted others. A phrase in one of the supplications reads, “O Allah, give preference to me, and do not give preference to others over me.”

In the supplication of kumayl, Imam ‘Ali (‘a) says: “…and make me the most excellent of Your slaves in share with You, the nearest of them in station to You, and the most elect of them in proximity to You …”

Not only there is no objection in all this, rather Allah, the Exalted, loves such a prayer. But what He does not like is the wish of the servant that He may take away a blessing from others; for when Allah wills to bestow a blessing upon His servant, He does not need to take it away from others and grant it to him.

‘Abd ar-rahman bin Abi Najran says: “One day I asked Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) about the verse ‘Do not covet the advantage which Allah has given some of you over others.’ He said, ‘One should not covet the wife or daughter of other person, rather he should wish the like of it.’”89

4. Petition Against the Advantage of the Supplicant

Praying against one’s own advantage (maslahah) is among other things that one ought not to pray for. Since man is unaware of that which benefits him and harms him, whilst Allah, the Exalted, is All-knowing, He would either substitute answering his prayer with another blessing or with averting a calamity from him, or He would delay the response to the time when it is beneficial for him.

A phrase in the supplication of al-iftitah reads, “So I became habituated to call You trustingly and ask You familiarly, neither fearing nor scared, pointing out to You that because of which I turned toward You. Then if there was a delay {in Your response}, I would blame You due to my ignorance, and perhaps the delay was best for me, for You know the outcome of all affairs. I have not seen a more generous master, patient with a wretched slave, than You are with me, my Lord.”

What a supplicant must do in such a condition is that he should pray to Allah and thereafter entrust all his affairs to Him and let Him decide for him what is of advantage to him. And if Allah did not respond to him or there was a delay in the response, then one should not blame Him, the Exalted.

For it is possible that the supplicant may have asked Allah, out of his ignorance, for what is in fact harmful to him, or he may have asked for evil in the same manner as he asks for good and makes haste to acquire it. Allah, the Exalted, says in this regard:

Man prays for evil as {avidly as} he prays for good, and man is overhasty.”90

Among the things that Prophet Salih (‘a) told the people of Thamud was:

“He said, ‘O my people, why do you press for evil sooner than for good.”91

Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) has said, “…and you must know the ways to your salvation, so that you may not ask Allah for that in which lies your destruction, thinking that your salvation is in it. Allah, the All-mighty, the Majestic, says: ‘Man prays for evil as {avidly as} he prays for good, and man is overhasty.’92

5. Seeking Refuge from Test

In actual fact, it is not correct to seek refuge from trial (fitnah); for the spouse of a person, his children and wealth are all a kind of test. So it would not be right to seek Allah’s protection from one’s family and wealth. However, one can seek refuge with Allah, the Exalted, from deceptive and misleading tests.

Imam ‘Ali (‘a) is narrated to have said, “None of you should say ‘O Allah, I seek Your protection from the test (fitnah)’, for there is no one except that he is surrounded by tests. So whoever seeks refuge, he should seek it from the misleading (mudillat) tests; for Allah, the Exalted, says: ‘Know that Your possessions and children are only a test.’9394

Imam Abu al-Hasan an-Naqi (‘a) narrates from his fathers, “Amir al-Mu’minin {‘Ali} heard a man saying ‘O Allah, I seek refuge with You from the test.’ {So} he remarked, ‘I see you taking refuge from your wealth and children! Allah, the Exalted, says: “Indeed your possessions and children are a trial.95 You should say, ‘O Allah, I seek Your protection from the deceptive trials.’”96

6. Not to Invoke Evil Upon the Believers

One of the goals of prayer is to strengthen the bond between members of the Muslim community and to cleanse their hearts of animosity and bitter feelings toward each other which normally occurs due to the pressures of the worldly life. And as we mentioned earlier, prayer for a Muslim in his absence is among these factors which lead to the mending of strained relations.

On the contrary, a negative stance in prayer which consolidates an unconstructive attitude in the relation of a Muslim with his brother is never liked by Allah. This is because Allah, the Exalted, loves the believers to pray in favour of each other, be it in their presence or absence, and give preference to each other in prayer and in asking their needs from Allah. In contrast to this, He does not like a believer to wish for the eradication of a blessing from his brother in faith, as we have just seen.

Similarly, Allah, the Exalted, does not like a believer to invoke evil upon his fellow believer, even if he has wronged or hurted him (so long as he is his brother in faith and has not crossed the limits of such a brotherhood by his wrongdoing), nor does He like His servants to speak ill of each other before Him.

In his collection of prayers from tawrat97, ar-rawandi relates a prayer in which Allah, the All-mighty, the Majestic, addressed His servant saying, “Whenever you are wronged, you call on Me against a servant among My servants because he wronged you. Then know that another servant of Mine is praying against you {in the similar way} because you have wronged him. If you want, I can answer you as I can answer him against you. And if you want, I can delay in responding to both of you until the Day of Judgement!”98

Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) has said, “When a man is wronged, and he begins to pray against the one who has wronged him, then Allah, the All-mighty, the Majestic, says: ‘Here is another one praying against you, as he thinks that you have wronged him. If you wish, I can answer you as I can answer the prayer against you. And if you wish, I can delay in responding to the two of you until My forgiveness embraces you both.”99

Hisham bin Salim says: “I heard Abu ‘Abdillah {as-Sadiq} saying, ‘A wronged person (mazlum) may continue to invoke evil {upon the one who has wronged him} until he himself becomes a wrongdoer (zalim).”100

Imam ‘Ali bin al-Husayn (‘a) says in a narration, “When the angels hear a believer speaking ill of his brother {in faith} and praying against him, they say to him, ‘What a bad brother you are for your brother. Stop, O one whose sins and faults have been concealed, have pity on yourself! And thank Allah who concealed {your sins}. Beware that Allah, the All-mighty, the Majestic, knows His servant better than you.”101

Indeed Allah, the Exalted, is the peace (as-Salam), to Him returns the peace, from Him comes the peace, and His presence is the peace. Therefore, when we stand before Him, the Exalted, with hearts filled with peace, praying for each other, invoking His mercy for each other, and each of us giving preference to the other in attaining the mercy of Allah, we will succeed in attracting Allah’s mercy, and it will embrace all of us together; for the mercy of Allah descends at places of love and peace, and upon the loving hearts of the believers; hearts which are at peace with one another.

Similarly, this would cause the ascension of our hearts, actions, prayers (salat) and supplications to Allah, for it is only the ‘good word’ (al-kalim at-Tayyib) and hearts inhabited by it that ascend to Allah, “To Him ascends the good word, and He elevates righteous conduct.”102

But if we were to stand before Allah with conflicting hearts, filled with grudge and animosity, and empty of love and peace; and if we, the believers, were to raise our differences, problems, and complains to Allah, and He was to incite some of us against others, then the mercy of Allah, which embraces everything in the universe, would get cut-off from all of us, and our hearts, actions, prayers (salat) and supplications, would not ascend to Allah.

Only those hearts which are filled with love can attract Allah’s mercy, and can avert misfortunes (bala’) and punishment from the believers. As the opposite is also true, for the conflicting hearts of the believers, hearts which are hostile toward one another, hinder Allah’s mercy from them, and cause afflictions and punishment to befall them.

Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) narrates from his fathers, and they from the Holy Prophet (S) , “When Allah, the Blessed, the Exalted, sees the inhabitants of a city to have exceeded the boundaries in wrongdoing, while amidst them are three believers, {then} He, the Majestic, calls out to them, ‘O you who disobey Me, had it not been for the believers who are amidst you, loving each other under the shadow of My majesty, building My land and mosques with their prayers (salatihim), and pleading for forgiveness at dawn out of fear of Me, I would have indeed sent down punishment upon you.”103

Jamil bin Darraj narrates from Imam as-Sadiq (‘a), “The love of a person for his brothers {in faith} is a merit for him near Allah. And he whom Allah inspires with the love of his brothers, then he is loved by Allah; and whoever is loved by Allah, He will give him his reward in the full on the Day of Judgement.”104

The Holy Prophet (S) has said, “My nation will continue to remain in good (khayr) so long as they love each other, give back the trusts (amanah), and give zakat. And there will come a time when their hearts will become malicious, while they will look good in their outward conduct. If Allah were to afflict them with a misfortune, they would invoke Him the invoking of a drowning person, but they would not be answered.”105

Loving Hearts Cause Allah’s Mercy

Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) says: “When two believers meet each other and shake hands, Allah, the Exalted, sends down one part of the mercy upon them, while another ninty nine parts of that mercy are for the one who is more ardent in his love for his brother. If they stand, the mercy embraces them, and if they sit to talk to each other the guardian angels say to one another, ‘Move away from them, as they might be talking of a secret which Allah has concealed {from us}.”

Ishaq bin ‘Ammar reports from Imam as-Sadiq (‘a):
“When two believers embrace each other the mercy of Allah surrounds them. If they continue to do so, not intending {by it} the transitory wares of the life of this world, it is said to them, ‘You have been forgiven, so start afresh {your life without sins}.’ When they begin to inquire about each other, the angels say to one another, ‘Distance yourself from them; for they {may} have a secret which Allah has concealed {from us}.”

Ishaq says: “{At this,} I said, ‘May I be your ransom! {But} their conversation must be recorded, for Allah, the Exalted, says: ‘He says no word but that there is a ready observer beside him.’” {Ishaq} says: “Abu ‘Abdillah as-Sadiq (‘a) took a deep breath and then he wept and said, ‘O Ishaq! Allah, the Exalted, has ordered the angels to distance themselves from the two believers when they meet, out of reverence for them. And even if the angels do not record and know whay they say, but He knows and is heedful of it, the Knower of the secret and what is still more hidden.’”106

Harbouring Deceit for the Believers Causes the Wrath of Allah

Among the things related to this subject and which impedes the supplicant as well as his prayer from Allah is harbouring deceit (ghish) for the believers.

The Holy Prophet (S) has said, “He who spends a night while he has in his heart {some kind of} deception toward his Muslim brother, then he has spent the night in the wrath of Allah, and he shall enter the morning in the wrath of Allah, unless he pleads for forgiveness and returns {to the right conduct}. And if he dies on the same state, he has died on a religion other than Islam.”

Harbouring Evil for the Believers Witholds the Deed from Allah

Harbouring evil (su’) for the believers hinders a deed from reaching Allah, the Exalted.
Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) says: “Allah will not accept a deed from a believer while he harbours evil for his brother in faith.”

Allah Never Looks at Those Who Hate the Believers

Imam ‘Ali (‘a) narrates from the Holy Prophet (S) , “The wicked of the people is he who hates the believers and is hated by them; the scandal-mongers, and those who cause a split between the beloved ones. They are those whom Allah shall not look at, nor shall He purify them on the Day of Judgement.”107

  • 1. Qur’an, 33:56.
  • 2. Kanz al-‘Ummal, hadith no.2149.
  • 3. Ibid, hadith no.2144.
  • 4. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.71, pg.374.
  • 5. Nahj al-Balaghah, saying no.361.
  • 6. Supplication no.47.
  • 7. Usul al-Kafi, pg.535; al-Amali of at-Tusi, vol.2, pg.95; and Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1151, hadith no.8889.
  • 8. Thawab al-A’mal, pg.88; and Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1152, hadith no.8891.
  • 9. Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1152, hadith no.8893.
  • 10. Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1152, hadith no.8894.
  • 11. Al-Amali of as-Saduq, pg.273; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.385.
  • 12. Thawab al-A’mal, pg.146; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.386.
  • 13. Thawab al-A’mal, pg.146; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.386.
  • 14. Thawab al-A‘mal, pg.147; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.386.
  • 15. Falah as-Sa’il, pg.43; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.387.
  • 16. Mafatih al-Jinan, supplications of the holy month of Ramadan.
  • 17. Sahifat As-Sajjadiyyah, supplication no.4.
  • 18. Ibid, supplication no.27.
  • 19. Ibid, supplication no.27.
  • 20. Ibid, supplication no.27.
  • 21. Qur’an, 12:101.
  • 22. Qur’an, 17:80.
  • 23. Qur’an, 20:25 27.
  • 24. Qur’an, 21:89.
  • 25. Qur’an, 23:29.
  • 26. Qur’an, 23:97 98.
  • 27. Qur’an, 26:83 85.
  • 28. Qur’an, 17:24.
  • 29. Qur’an, 40:7 9.
  • 30. Qur’an, 1:6 7.
  • 31. Qur’an, 2:127.
  • 32. Qur’an, 2:201.
  • 33. Qur’an, 2: 250.
  • 34. Qur’an, 2:286.
  • 35. Qur’an, 3:8.
  • 36. Qur’an, 3:193 194.
  • 37. Qur’an, 7:126.
  • 38. Qur’an, 23:110.
  • 39. Qur’an, 25:65.
  • 40. Qur’an, 66:8.
  • 41. Qur’an, 8:25.
  • 42. Qur’an, 44:12.
  • 43. Qur’an, 1:6.
  • 44. Usul al-Kafi, pg.435; and Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1145, hadith no.8867.
  • 45. Usul al-Kafi, pg.435.
  • 46. Ibid.
  • 47. Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1146, hadith no.8870.
  • 48. Al-Khisal-of as-Saduq, vol.1, pg.92; and Man la Yahduruhu al-Faqih, vol.5, pg.52.
  • 49. Al-Amali of at-Tusi, vol.2, pg.95; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.384.
  • 50. As-Sara’ir, pg.484; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.387.
  • 51. Al-Amali of at-Tusi, vol.2, pg.290; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.387.
  • 52. Al-Majalis, pg.273; Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.384; and Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1154, hadith no.8898.
  • 53. Al-Majalis, pg.328; al-Amali, pg.273; and Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1154, hadith no.8899.
  • 54. Usul al-Kafi, pg.535; Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.387; and Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1149, hadith no.8882.
  • 55. Al-Rijal-of al-Kashhi, pg.361.
  • 56. ‘Uddat ud-Da’i, pg.129; Bihar al-Anwar: vol.93, pg.387; and Wasa’il al-Sh¢‘ah, vol.4, pg.1149, hadith no.8885.
  • 57. ‘Ilal-al-Sharayi’, pg.71.
  • 58. Al-Amali of as-Saduq, pg.273; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.384.
  • 59. Falah as-Sa’il, pg.43; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.390 391.
  • 60. Al-Ikhtisas, pg.68; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.392.
  • 61. Al-Ikhtisas, pg.84; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.392.
  • 62. Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1153, hadith no.8895.
  • 63. Sahifat As-Sajjadiyyah, supplication no.24.
  • 64. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.293.
  • 65. Ibid, vol.93, pg.303.
  • 66. Ibid, vol.93, pg.302.
  • 67. Makarim al-Akhlaq, pg.312; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.295.
  • 68. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.300.
  • 69. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.293; al-Majalis, pg.19; Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1090, hadith no.8635; and Usul al-Kafi, pg.516.
  • 70. ‘Uddat ud-Da’i, pg.98.
  • 71. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.327.
  • 72. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.327.
  • 73. Ibid, vol.71, pg.155.
  • 74. Ibid.
  • 75. Qur’an, 57:23.
  • 76. Sahifat As-Sajjadiyyah, supplication no.33:5.
  • 77. Ibid, supplication no.35:3.
  • 78. Falah as-Sa’il.
  • 79. Qur’an, 11:45 47.
  • 80. Qur’an, 35:43.
  • 81. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.325.
  • 82. Usul al-Kafi, pg.438; and Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1170, hadith no.8946.
  • 83. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.324.
  • 84. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.327, hadith no.11.
  • 85. Qur’an, 9:80.
  • 86. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.324.
  • 87. Qur’an, 4:32.
  • 88. Qur’an, 20:131.
  • 89. Tafsir al-‘Ayyashi, pg.239.
  • 90. Qur’an, 17:11.
  • 91. Qur’an, 27:46.
  • 92. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.322.
  • 93. Qur’an, 8:28.
  • 94. Nahj al-Balaghah, saying no.162.
  • 95. Qur’an, 64:14.
  • 96. Al-Amali of at-Tusi, vol.2, pg.193; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.325.
  • 97. The Divine Book revealed to Prophet Musa (‘a).
  • 98. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.93, pg.326.
  • 99. Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1177, hadith no.8972; and al-Amali of as-Saduq, pg.191.
  • 100. Usul al-Kafi, pg.438; ‘Iqab al-A’mal, pg.41; and Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1164, hadith no.8926.
  • 101. Usul al-Kafi, pg.535; and Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.4, pg.1164, hadith no.8927.
  • 102. Qur’an, 35:10.
  • 103. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.74, pg.390.
  • 104. Thawab al-A’mal, pg.48; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.74, pg.397.
  • 105. ‘Uddat ud-Da’i, pg.135; and Bihar al-Anwar, vol.74, pg.400.
  • 106. Ma’alim al-Zulfa of Muhaddith al-Bahrani, pg.34.
  • 107. Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, vol.25, pg.204.