Lecture by Shaykh Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Sameera
This lecture is brought to you by the Memphis Islamic Center (MIC). For more information about MIC, please visit www.memphisislamiccenter.org
[The following is the audio and transcript of Shaykh Yasir Qadhi’s lecture “Surah Ghaafir: External Etiquettes of Du’a.” The transcript includes slight modifications for the sake of readability and clarity.]
Sūrah Ghāfir has a very powerful verse in it, which is very pertinent to tonight. Allāh says:
“Your Lord has said, ‘Make du‘ā’ to Me. I am going to be the One who will respond to you. Those who are too arrogant to worship Me are going to enter the fire of hell humiliated.’” [40:60]
“Your Lord has said [this is a decree from Allāh], ‘Make du‘ā’ to Me.’” It is a simple conditional clause that if you do this, I am going to do that. “If you make du‘ā’ to Me, I will respond to you.” Our scholars have said that this is one of the most optimistic verses in the Qur’an because Allāh has said if you do A, He will do B. What is A? “Make du‘ā’ to Me.” What is B? “I will respond to you.”
What this basically means – this is something wallāhi we don’t think too much about – if we do a du‘ā’ properly, there is a guaranteed response. Allāh has decreed this. “Your Lord has said” is a decree. “Make du‘ā’ to Me; I am going to respond to you. Those who are too arrogant to worship Me…” Notice that du‘ā’ has been equated with the entire concept of worship. Our Prophet Muhammad said, “Du‘ā’ is worship.” In another hadith, he said, “Du‘ā’ is the backbone / spinal cord of worship.” Du‘ā’ is the kernel or the gist of worship.
Therefore, on these nights, one of the greatest acts of worship is to make du‘ā’, and your Lord is saying, “If you make du‘ā’ to Me, I will respond to you.” Inshā’Allāh in today’s khātirah and maybe even a few more days, we are going to summarize some of the things we should know about du‘ā’.
First and foremost, some of the external etiquettes of du‘ā’.
1. Of the external etiquettes of du‘ā’ is that a du‘ā’ is accepted more if a person is in a state of purity.
Once the Prophet needed to make du‘ā’, so he went into his chambers and did wuḍū’ and then he came out and started doing du‘ā’. It is not a condition – nobody ever says it is a condition – it is mustaḥab. It is encouraged to be in a state of wuḍū’.
2. When you want to make a du‘ā’, you should face the qiblah.
There are many narrations where the Prophet wanted to make du‘ā’ and he would turn to face the qiblah. Once again, this is not a requirement. You can make du‘ā’ in a state of janābah. You can make du‘ā’ lying down on the ground looking up at the sky or on your bed. All of this is allowed, but we are talking about the best. The best thing to do is be in the state of wuḍū’ and then face the qiblah.
3. The third etiquette of du‘ā’ is to raise your hands.
There are three types of raising of the hands or three types of gestures, each one of which has a particular time to do it.
Sometimes the Prophet would do the shahādah with his finger. This is especially done when you make a du‘ā’ of ḥamd (praise) [such as]: Alḥamdulillāh, la ilaha ilAllāh, subḥānAllāh.
There are two types of du‘ā’: a du‘ā’ of thanā’ / ḥamd and masannah. In a du‘ā’ of ḥamd, you praise Allāh, and in a du‘ā’ of masannah, you ask Allāh. Generally when you make du‘ā’ of ḥamd or thanā’, it is good to raise your finger up for the shahādah. This is good to do even if you are saying subḥānAllāh or alḥamdulillāh. This is something the Prophet would do. Of course we are talking about outside of ṣalāh. Inside of ṣalāh, there is only one location where you raise the finger. Outside of ṣalāh, if you say subḥānAllāh, alḥamdulillāh, la ilāha illa Allāh, it is permissible and good to simply show this with your finger.
The second type of gesture is the common one we all know, which is with your two hands. There is a common mistake that a lot of people make. The Prophet said, “When you make du‘ā’ to Allāh, ask from the palms of your hand and not from the backs of your hand.” This is a common mistake that a lot of people do that when they make du‘ā’, they go like this [hand gesture – holding hands vertically with palms in front of the face]. This is a mistake because when you do this, you are asking Allāh with the back of your hand, which is not appropriate. The palms are facing you, and this is not appropriate and is a mistake.
You literally show your poverty to Allāh. How? You are a beggar. Musa says, “Rabbi inni lima anzalta ilayya min khayrin faqīr. (O Allāh, I am a faqīr in front of You. I need anything You can give me.)” [28:24] You show your faqr. How do you show your faqr, complete poverty? Flat hands. Or you can curl a little bit, but the palms need to be facing up and not [facing] you. The palms are facing upward just like the beggar when he comes in front of your car and is begging for food or something. This is showing poverty. And to Allāh belongs the better example. When we beg Allāh, we show our poverty. Like the Prophet said, “Ask Allāh with the palms of your hands and not with the backs of your hands.”
It is permissible to put them together, and it is permissible to put them a little bit apart. Both are narrated and there is not a problem about the distance between the two. The main point is that you are showing poverty in front of Allāh. Generally the Prophet would put them around the chest level. This is the second gesture.
There is a third gesture that is only narrated a few times in the sīrah. This shows that this is a gesture in extreme circumstances. One of the times that this gesture is narrated is right before the battle of Badr when the Prophet was invoking Allāh, crying and begging. He said, “O Allāh, if you allow them to beat us, then nobody will ever be a Muslim until the Day of Judgment. If you allow them to beat us, You will not be worshipped on earth.” He is begging and pleading for the survival of Islam. This is the battle: on the one side is Abu Jahl and on the other side is the Prophet Muhammad ; on one side is Jibrīl coming to help and on the other is Shaytan literally telling them what to do. This is literally the battle between good and evil. He is begging and praying to Allāh . How did he do it? This is only in extreme circumstances. He raised his hands all the way up to the heavens – not combined but split up – expecting Allāh’s Mercy to come down. When he raised his hands all the way up – in those days they would wear what we call the iḥrām, this is common cloth – his iḥrām fell off, so he was not wearing anything from the top. He is begging and pleading Allāh in the burning sun for many minutes until Abu Bakr took up the shawl and covered him and said, “Ya Rasūlullāh, enough! Your Lord has heard you! How can He not respond to your du‘ā’?” He put his hands down.
This type of gesture is obviously not done in the ṣalāh – it is done outside of ṣalāh. This type of gesture is done at times at times of extreme desperation and when you really need something. The Prophet would raise his hands all the way up to the heavens.
It is not a requirement that you put your hands up when you make du‘ā’. You may make du‘ā’ with your hands down. The Prophet sometimes did this, but, again, we are talking about perfection and how you have more chance to make your du‘ā’ accepted.
4. Another etiquette of du‘ā’ is that the first thing that should come from your mouth should be praise to Allāh .
The Prophet was once walking and a man raised his hands and began asking, “O Allāh, I want this. O Allāh, I want that.” The Prophet said, “This man has been hasty.” They said, “How, ya Rasūlullāh?” He said, “When one of you raises his hands to make du‘ā’, let him being by praising Allāh .” SubḥānAllāh, when we ask somebody for something, we don’t just go knock on their door and say, “Hey, I want some money.” We don’t even do this amongst ourselves. You begin by thana’ and ḥamd and by talking about your relationship. Again, when we give these examples, nobody should think we are comparing our relationship with Allāh, but just to drive the point home, this is even how we conduct our affairs amongst ourselves, so how about even more so with Allāh ? So when we need something – and we always need something from Allāh – we begin by praising Allāh and by talking about our relationship with Him: “Ya Allāh, You are our Creator. I am your ‘abd. Ya Allāh, You are Al-Raḥmān and Al-Raḥīm. Ya Allāh,…” We begin by praising Allāh, giving our thana’, and talking about ourselves (“I am Your ‘abd, faqīr, miskīn. I need everything from You.” This is the introduction. We begin our du‘ā’s by first praising Allāh .
5. Another etiquette of du‘ā’ is that we should be very careful about the content of our du‘ā’s.
A lot of people unfortunately miss the plot and ask for things that might be good but are not essential or not as important as what they are asking about. You can tell – and you can quote me on this and think about this – a person’s īmān by what du‘ā’ he is making. You can tell a person’s īmān by what du‘ā’ he is making. If the only thing you are asking about is “Ya Allāh, give me some money. Ya Allāh, give me a good job. Ya Allāh, give me this, give me that.” Where is the ākhirah? Where is Jannah? Where is the time in the grave? How about when Munkar and Nakir come? What are your priorities? What are you thinking about?
Nobody is saying to not ask for a good life. We want a good life. But more important than that is hidāyah and ākhirah and Jannah and maghfirah, especially in these [last] ten nights.
My dear brothers and sisters, if Allāh deprives you of everything of this world but gives you the next, wallāhi when you get there, you won’t even think about this world. You won’t even remember this world and it will be gone completely. If the opposite is true, then a‘ūdhu billāh.
When you do ask for this world, it is of the adab that you ask in generalities and not specifics. You might think something is good. Suppose you are doing all of this and suppose you are asking for maghfirah and hidāyah and now also want a particular job you have applied for, then of course you ask Allāh for the job because only Allāh can give it to you, but don’t ask “O Allāh, I want this job. Give it to me,” because how do you know if this job is in your best interests? Put a phrase or condition there. “O Allāh, give me this job if there is good in my dīn and dunya in this job.” Leave it to Allāh’s condition.
This condition is never put for things in the ākhirah. You don’t say, “O Allāh, forgive me if it is good for me.” Forgiveness is good for you! You don’t say, “O Allāh, save me from the fire if it is healthy for me.” It is healthy for you! You don’t put these conditions for religious du‘ā’s (hidāyah, maghfirah). For these, you say, “O Allāh, I need it!” Our father Adam said, “Rabbana ẓalamna anfusana wa i’llam taghfir lana wa tarḥamna lanakūnanna min al-khāsirīn. (O Allāh, if you don’t forgive me, I’m gone and have no hope.)” Those [religious] du‘ā’s have no conditions.
Du‘ā’s of this world have adab because Allāh loves you more than you can imagine, and Allāh knows what is better for you and you don’t know. It is possible you might want something but it is not for your good, so you say, “O Allāh, give me this job, give me this job, give me this job.” When you get it, it turns out that the first job was much better for you but you got what you asked for, so you put a condition there.
In the du‘ā’ of istikhārah, there is a phrase there “O Allāh give this for me if it is good for my dīn and my dunya in this world and the next.” Any worldly thing that you ask, you put this condition.
You also should ask for generalities. Scholars say that asking for too specifics is problematic. Look at the du‘ā’s of the Qur’an. “Rabbana ātina fi dunya ḥasanah wa fi’l ākhirati ḥasanah wa qina ‘ādhab al-nār.” If you go to extremes, you do something that is called takalluf fi’l-du‘ā’. Once there was a ṣaḥābi making a du‘ā’ who said, “O Allāh, I want the white palace that is on the right hand side of the gate of Jannah as soon as I enter it with the river running right there.” He has this imagination and that he wants this. Another ṣaḥābi said, “Ask Allāh for Jannah. When you get it, you will get everything you want in it.” This is takalluf and going too far. It is good to ask in generalities.
6. Also of the etiquettes of du‘ā’ is that you try to memorize the du‘ā’s of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
These are the du‘ā’s that have the most chance of being accepted. There is a book I encourage everybody to possess and memorize and read from all the time called Hisnul Muslim (The Fortress of the Believer). It is one of the best books on du‘ā’ written. It is a simple book which you will find written in Arabic and English and every language spoken by the Muslim ummah. It is by Dr. Said al-Qahtani. In it he has compiled the most famous du‘ā’s of the Qur’an and Sunnah according to topics: what to say when you see something positive, what to say when you see something scary, what to say at the beginning of the month, what to say after ṣalāt’l-fajr. Keep this book in your pocket and keep on looking at it and after a few weeks insha’Allāh you will memorize most, if not all, of the du‘ā’s in there.
We already mentioned the du‘ā’ of laylat’l-qadr: Allāhumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuḥibbu’l-‘afuw fā‘fu ‘anna. Another du‘ā’ I want to remind myself and all of you: Al-‘Abbās, the uncle of the Prophet , came to the Prophet and said, “Ya Rasūlullāh, teach me a du‘ā’.” The Prophet said, “O my uncle, say: Allāhumma inni asaluka al-‘āfiyah (O Allāh, I ask you for ‘āfiyah).” What is ‘āfiyah? ‘Āfiyah means “to save me from any afflictions. To be healthy, you are in ‘āfiyah. To have enough money to live, you are in ‘āfiyah. To have your children protected, you are in ‘āfiyah. And if you are forgiven and not punished, you are in ‘āfiyah. ‘Āfiyah means “O Allāh, protect me from any pain and suffering.” This includes dunya and ākhirah. Al-‘Abbās thought about this for a while, and then he came back after a few days and said (paraphrased), “Ya Rasūlullāh, this du‘ā’ seems a little short. I want something big.” The Prophet said, “My dear uncle, ask Allāh for ‘āfiyah for wallāhi, you cannot be given anything better than ‘āfiyah.” It is a simple du‘ā’. Sincerely mean what you say. “O Allāh, I ask You to be saved from any distress, grief, hardship, harm. Don’t test me.” All of this is included in “Allāhumma inni asaluka al-‘āfiyah”.
Memorize these simple du‘ā’s, and they should become a part and parcel of your daily routine.
7. You should conclude your du‘ā’s with the ṣalāt and salām upon the Prophet Muhammad .
There is a ḥadīth in Ibn Mājah that the Prophet said, “A du‘ā’ will be suspended between the heaven and earth (a du‘ā’ will not go up) unless it has a finish (khatm) with my ṣalāt and salām.” So you begin by praising Allāh and then you have the content and then you finish by sending ṣalāt and salām upon the Prophet .
These are the external conditions of du‘ā’, and inshā’Allāh later we’ll talk about the spiritual conditions of du‘ā’.