Forgot to mention the reason why I posted the recitation of Surah Maryam in the last post. A friend of mine taught a wonderful short course a few months back on the concept of practical spirituality and shared some gems on du’a, highlighting the example of Zakariyya (as).
ذِكْرُ رَحْمَةِ رَبِّكَ عَبْدَهُ زَكَرِيَّا
[This is] a mention of the mercy of your Lord to His servant Zakariyya
إِذْ نَادَى رَبَّهُ نِدَاء خَفِيًّا
When he called to his Lord a private supplication.
قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي وَهَنَ الْعَظْمُ مِنِّي وَاشْتَعَلَ الرَّأْسُ شَيْبًا وَلَمْ أَكُن بِدُعَائِكَ رَبِّ شَقِيًّا
He said, “My Lord, indeed my bones have weakened, and my head has filled with white, and never have I been in my supplication to You, my Lord, unhappy.
وَإِنِّي خِفْتُ الْمَوَالِيَ مِن وَرَائِي وَكَانَتِ امْرَأَتِي عَاقِرًا فَهَبْ لِي مِن لَّدُنكَ وَلِيًّا
And indeed, I fear the successors after me, and my wife has been barren, so give me from Yourself an heir
The difficult feelings we sometimes experience in life such as disappointments, sadness, anger, frustration, embarrassment, etc. should always be channeled to du’a. It helps to drastically change the way we manage the situation.
In Surah Maryam, Allah ‘azzawajal explains to us the story of Zakariyya (as), showing that there are others before us who experienced similar difficulties. This helps to normalize the presenting challenge and makes us feel connected to a common human condition. In social work practice, there is a rather effective means of treatment known as group therapy where people with similar issues come together for support. People feel less alone and more capable when they see others are facing something not too different from their own predicament.
Allah says that Zakariyya (as) called out with a deep sense of desperation, as indicated by the word نِدَاءً. At the same time, his crying out was also light and quiet, خفيّا
He called out to Allah from his heart and no one heard him but Allah. We learn from this that he, ‘alayhis salam, called on to Allah (swa) without a shred of doubt and as a beggar would. He then tells Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) how desperate he really is. He says that not only have my bones become extremely weak, but I’ve become engulfed in gray. An overwhelming show of humility here, followed by glorification of Allah (swa). Zakariyya (as) says that I have never ever been, in exchange of making du’a to you oh Allah, been left deprived and unfortunate; meaning every time I’ve made du’a to you, I have never been left unhappy or miserable.
So many amazing etiquettes of du’a we learn from these few ayaat.
- Make du’a to Allah (swa) knowing how greatly we are in need of Allah, and having certainty in Allah’s ability to respond to us according to Allah’s limitless knowledge, wisdom, and mercy.
- Tell Allah your situation and the extent of your neediness
- Glorify Allah (swa) and make mention of being pleased with Allah as your Lord. Express sincere gratitude for all the khair and blessings Allah has bestowed on you in the past, indicating you only have husn ad-dhann in Allah (swa) for the future.
- Make your request to Allah (swa). Express your concerns and fears with full certainty that Allah hears and knows all things.
In Surah Anbiya, the du’a Ayyub ‘alayhis salaam teaches us the adab of telling our difficulties in ayah 83 when he says that ‘a little bit off difficulty has touched me’ (مَسَّنِيَ) the root word of which indicates ‘to touch or feel something with the hand, to afflict or be distressing’. And yet, we know the extent of difficulty he went through, alayhis salaam. Beyond this, he also uses the name of Allah (أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ) also showing his hope in Allah’s mercy. When we use the names of Allah (swa) in our du’a, the response is linked to the name of Allah that was used, just like ayah 84 in Surah ‘Anbiya.
فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ فَكَشَفْنَا مَا بِهِ مِن ضُرٍّ ۖ وَآتَيْنَاهُ أَهْلَهُ وَمِثْلَهُم مَّعَهُمْ رَحْمَةً مِّنْ عِندِنَا وَذِكْرَىٰ لِلْعَابِدِينَ
So We responded to him and removed what afflicted him of adversity. And We gave him [back] his family and the like thereof with them as mercy from Us and a reminder for the worshippers [of Allah ].
This further teaches us the importance of using Allah’s names in our du’as. The Anbiya of Allah knew their Rabb very well and thus, their du’as reached Allah in times of ease and in difficulty.
We ask Allah (swa) to help us increase the sincerity and frequency of our du’as, and to call upon Him with certainty in His names and attributes. What an amazing abode awaits the One who sincerely repents and desperately calls upon Allah (subhanahu wata’ala).