Original post can be found here.

'Why is my supplication (du'a) not being answered?' is a common complaint that some Muslims make. If we put aside the obvious gremlins (lack of sincerity in making du'a, impatience with the response, asking for something sinful or for breaking family ties, not ensuring one's income; food; and clothing are halal), there are other factors that play a part in the response of a du'a not being apparently forthcoming. We read in one hadith: 'There is no Muslim who makes a supplication, in which there is neither sin nor severing ties of kinship, save that Allah will grant because of it one of three things: either He will grant him a prompt response, or store it up for him in the Hereafter, or avert from him an equivalent harm.'1

That the response to a du'a could be put-off, or be responded to in a way the petitioner doesn't anticipate, is the theme of one of Ibn Ata'illah al-Iskandari's (d.709H/1309CE) famous Hikam – or “Aphorisms”. The Kitab al-Hikam, or Hikam al-Ata'iyyah is the most famous collection of wisdom sayings in the corpus of Islamic literature, composed by the accomplished Maliki jurist and sufi, Ahmad ibn Ata'illah of Alexandria, Egypt. The Hikam has a reputation for its succinct exposition of spiritual realities and practices to spur seekers on to the stations of ihsan. Its appeal is that it combines brevity, energy of expression and layers of meanings, couched in beautiful rhyming Arabic prose. This, together with its numerous large and small commentaries, has ensured its popularity among laypeople and scholars alike till this day.

Below is the sixth aphorism in the collection (in red), followed by a brief commentary by Shaykh 'Abd al-Majid al-Shurnubi (d.1348H/1929CE). The theme of this aphorism, as said before, addresses the issue of du'a and the subtle wisdom behind why Heaven's response to it is sometimes delayed:

6. If, in spite of intense supplication, there is a delay in the timing of the Gift, let that not be the cause for your despair. For He has guaranteed you a response in what He chooses for you, not in what you choose for yourself; and at the time He desires, not the time you desire.

'That is, let not a delay in the timing of a gift [response] – despite persistence and firm continuance in making du'a – be a cause to despair about a response to the du'a. For Allah, transcendent is He, has guaranteed you a response, as per His words: “Call upon Me, and I will respond to you” [60:40] in what He chooses for you, not what you choose for yourself. For He knows what is better for you than you do. Perhaps you may ask for a thing, the denial of which is better for you. The author writes later: “Sometimes He gives while depriving you, and sometimes He deprives while giving to you.”2 This is witnessed by those who realise the station: It may be that you hate a thing though it is good for you, or love a thing though it is bad for you. Allah knows, but you know not. [2:216] This is why one of the Gnostics stated: “His withholding from you is, in reality, a form of giving.”

Likewise, He has guaranteed you a response in the time He chooses, not in the time of your choosing. You ought to cultivate a Moses like patience, for patience and avoiding hastiness more befits the servant. Don't you see that Moses would supplicate against Pharaoh and his people, and Aaron would say: “Amen” to it: “O Lord, destroy their riches and harden their hearts so that they persist in disbelief, until they face the painful torment.” [10:88] Yet only after forty years were their prayers answered, as He said: “Your prayer is answered. Follow, both of you, the right path and do not walk in the footsteps of those who know not.” [10:89] In one hadith [it says]: “Indeed, Allah loves those who are persistent in supplicating.”3

It has also been related that when a righteous slave supplicates to Allah, exalted is He, Gabriel says: O Lord, your slave wants a need of his fulfilled. So Allah responds: “Leave my slave; for I love him and love to hear his voice.”4

So, O aspirant, fulfill what Allah has instructed you with in respect to supplication, and submit to His will. Perhaps you will be responded to by Him withholding from you and giving you other than what you were seeking, by which you are then granted the greatest good, and even more. [10:26]'5

1. Ahmad Musnad, 3:18; al-Hakim, Mustadrak, 1:463, where he declared the chain to be authentic (sahih).

2. Ibn Ata'illah, al-Hikam al-Ata'iyyah (Cairo: Dar al-Salam, 2006), no.83.

3. Al-'Uqayli, al-Du'afa, no.467. Al-Munawi graded it weak (da'if), Fayd al-Qadir(Beirut: Dar al-Ma'rifah, n.d.), no.1876; al-Albani graded its chain as very weak (da'if jiddan) in Silsilat al-Ahadith al-Da'ifah (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ma'arif, 1992), no.637. The meaning of the hadith, however, is sound and is supported by other hadiths which speak about the virtues of frequently supplicating to Allah.

4. Al-Tabarani, al-Awsat, no.8442; al-Bayhaqi, Shu'ab al-iman, no.9562. In his Majma' al-ZawaEid (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-'Arabi, n.d.), 10:151, al-Haythami points out that its chain is weak (da'if), as it contains a narrator who is abandoned (matruk).

5. Al-Sharnubi, Sharh al-Hikam (Beirut & Damascus: Dar Ibn Kathir, 2008), 69-71; no.6

9 Responses

  1. Fatima Ariadne

    Jazakallah khair for sharing. :)

    “The supplication of anyone of you will be answered as long as he doesn’t haste it, and doesn’t say ‘I have supplicated but no answer’” (Bukhari and Muslim)

    “There is no human who prays to Allah and supplicate to Him, and doesn’t receive a response. Either it will be hastened for him in this world, or stored up for him in hereafter, as long as he doesn’t pray for something sinful, or cut the ties of kinship, or seek a speedy response”. The companions said, “O Messenger of Allah, what does seeking a speedy response means?”. He replied, “(by saying) I have prayed to my Lord but He didn’t reply it” (Tirmidhi)

    Insha Allah , I write similar in my blog ““Why is Allah Doing This To Me? Why Does He Ignore Me? Why Doesn’t He Answer My Prayers?” if you don’t mind myself sharing link it’s here wp.me/p3gwjq-a0

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  2. Anisa Fatima

    Salam, JazakAllah for this nice post. One should not disappoint with the help of Allah Almighty (SWT), He (SWT) would not let you disappointed.

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  3. yaseen

    What a timely article. Recently I remember not too long after I reverted to Islam and did not have much knowledge of anything outside of the Shahadah itself and I had my first brain tumor. I was 22 years old and what little family I had left following the earthquake that devastated Haiti had rejected me for what they viewed as the apostasy to the religion of heathens. The doctor told me I had a brain tumor and the firs tthing I said to him was ‘Alhamduillah’, he looked at me like I was crazy. He then gave me about 15 years to live and suggested I have surgery. I left his office and made dua that Allah give me what is best in this situation regardless of the outcome. I had surgery and I laid there alone with one visitor who was a brother I had met after taking my shahadah. I wish I had knowledge of the verses mentioned in this article but specifically, I wish that I knew that I would be a fool to say that I believe and not expect to be tested. I laid there and asked to be granted another chance and I got it. I left the hospital in week which was extremely unprecedented.

    I had not been practicing out of my own ignorance and coming into Islam by the will of Allah and no help from any other Muslims. Looking back it is no surprise that the painful headaches returned and not even 9 months later I was diagnosed with another brain tumor. I had another surgery and made dua for the same thing; recovery under Allah’s terms. I also stated that I would attempt to learn more and practice Islam properly. I recovered again but became dismayed with the fact that where I live many Muslims are racist. This made me continue to stay to myself and look for audio lectures and books. Since then I have read more books than I can count on Islam and listen to lectures daily in order to keep my iman where it needs to be.

    I say all of that to say this, there is nothing in the Quran and Sunnah that does not make sense and if you choose not to educate yourself, you will be a sheep amongst wolves. In my day to day life I do not encounter any fellow Muslims but this is no excuse not to do the minimum at the least. We would be fools not to expect calamities if we do not obey Allah. There is a big difference between one who takes shahadah and is therefore Muslim nominally and one who practices Islam. Lastly, the only thing, in my opinion, worse than not being Muslim is to be a Muslim who chooses to remain ignorant this not knowing how to deal with hardships that they may face. I am no scholar, imam, or aalim, these are just my experiences that I am sharing in the hopes that it will be of benefit to someone. If you find good in this, Allah is soley responsible for it. If there is bad in this I share that responsibility with no one.

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    • HelplessSlave

      Assalamualaikum Warhamtullahi Wabarakaatuhu,

      Subhana Allah Brother, you have a lot of Tawakkul in Allah, it is mind-blowing just reading your comment, as it epitomizes the beauty of Islam, having strong reliance on Allah, no matter what ever that happens.

      May Allah grant you healthy company, who would constantly remind you of him, and may Allah guide those “racist Muslims”(shouldn’t that be an oxymoron … lol), and May he grant you spouses and children who would be the coolness of your eyes and make you a leader of the Muttaqun(of course if you are not married… sorry), May he cure your disease , grant you a long life ,grant you the best of both worlds, and enter you into Jannahthul firdowse.

      I love you brother for the sake of Allah, may Allah make the path of ease, easy for you

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  4. Feroz Dean

    ALLAH’S SERVANT
    Thank you brother for sharing this with those who are in great despair when their supplication is not answered. I am one of those and I have been in this dire state for some time, I pray everyday with true sincerety, crying my eyes out but no results. What am I doing wrong. I have not stopped supplicating and I am very hopeful that the Almighty will respond inshallah soon. I am in despair but this is a challenge for me because I am in close touch with my creator because one day I will meet him and he will have all the answers for me
    May Allah Subhanwatala grant you peace and prosperity and a long and healthy life to continue doing God’s work in this Dunia.Please remember me in your prayers.

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  5. Rayees

    Assalamu alaikm, warahmathullahi wabarakathuhu,

    A very good article.Thanks for sharing.May Allah forgive all our sins, and enter us all into his jannah !

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  6. Muhammad

    This must be our firm belief that there may be delay in the court of Allah but can never be any injustice to any creature. With this belief in mind we should keep praying and one day the Most Merciful will surely accept our prayers. A very good article, Jazak Allah

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  7. Nadiyah

    Shukran…much needed reminder. The section where Allah responds to Angel Gabriel: “leave my slave;…” made me smile. Allah, Allah…You know best. A’ameen

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