DU ʿÂ’ IS WORSHIP, said the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and then he recited the words of Allah: And your Lord says: Call on Me; I will answer you; verily those who are too arrogant to worship Me will surely enter Hell-Fire, abased [Sûrat Ghâfir, 40:60].
Duʿâ’, supplication to Allah, is, in other words, the essence of all acts of worship. What could be a greater statement about its value? After all, it is the essence of the very purpose the entire project of human creation was taken up for. Its spiritual benefits are countless. Only the most wretched would deprive themselves of this divine gift.
I want to talk here about just one aspect of duʿâ’, which, in one way encompasses all other aspects. Particularly, by duʿâ’ I will mean the ma’thûrât—the regular supplications that the Prophet ﷺ taught us to say day and night, before, after and during each and every important action we do. There is a special charm to these beautiful and heart-warming supplications, from day-to-day life perspective, besides their multiple benefits and rewards.
Planning in the Context of Niyyah (Intentionality)
The management and planning gurus would have us believe that ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.’ This smart, nutty statement happens to be quite true. Experts of Islamic psychology too describe the significance of planning in the context of niyyah, or intentionality. Intentionality simply means to be and act in our life with good intentions and avoid both bad intentions and no intentions. Because it is enough for the satanic forces in the world to overwhelm you that you are living pointlessly and listlessly, without clear intention, purpose, goals, and objectives, even if you have no bad intentions. It is this very lack of good, considered intentions that becomes bad intentions and then, subsequently, bad actions, and finally, a very bad day on the Day of Judgment.
The bottom line is, don’t fail to plan, especially for your Hereafter. The first step in any book of planning is goal-setting. You got to decide where you want to go before you even begin to plan for your journey. If you are going to moon, for instance, your preparation is going to be – it better be – very different than if you were going to the closest grocery store. The most important aspect of supplications is that they do this most crucial part of planning for you, and do so in the best possible way and in the most beautiful words.
Let us take the planning workshop analogy a little further. If you attend one of these high sounding new age workshops on planning and organization, you are likely to spend a lot of time, after the first lesson on goal-setting, on how to write good, catchy, precise and workable mission statements. The next important lesson focuses on how to remember your mission, and remember it all the time. The big shots in the field then charge us an arm and a leg to tell us about things like how to keep our planners handy so we can review our mission statements every day and so on and so forth.
The Prophetic supplications do all that for us, and more, and all that for free. They remind us of our true and ultimate mission in life, and set our goals appropriately. In fact, they remind us of our means and strategies as well. And they do so in the most eloquent and concise way. They remind us of the right aspect of this mission, and the right means to adopt, at the right occasion. Of course, for the particular aspects of our individual lives, we need to set our own specific goals and strategies, like excelling in our field of study or trade. Still, we can incorporate supplications for these specific goals in our daily routine. Imagine a student who aims really high in her academic career and makes duʿa’ every day sincerely to achieve the goal, and one who never consciously thinks about her academic goals? There are at least two great advantages the first of these two persons enjoy: one, she is always motivated to achieve what she is praying for, and, two, she does not make the mistake of unconsciously putting any of her academic or worldly goals ahead of the goal of the Hereafter, because she makes duʿa’ to Allah regularly and remembers the right place of her specific goal in the larger picture.
Sûrat Al-Fâtihah, Best Example of Goal-Setting
The master of all supplications, the greatest of all Sûrahs of the Quran, Al-Fâtiḥah, is also the best example of goal-setting and, indeed, means-setting, if you will. Recite it in your heart with meanings and imagine how it does that. In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Beneficent. Praise is for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, Most Merciful and Most Beneficent, Master of the Day of Judgment. [Sûrat Al-Fâtiḥah, 1:7] These phrases remind us of what is the kind of world we are living in, that is, the most fundamental questions of existence: What is our origin and end; who, if any, is our owner and our sustainer; who, if any, are we answerable to? Is our creator, owner and master good or bad? Merciful and just or merciless and unjust? For if the creator were not good and merciful, there could be no hope for goodness, morality, and happiness for us; there would be no rationale for us to act righteously, ethically, and selflessly. Our existence would be manifestly bleak and miserable. The first and the greatest chapter of the final Message of Allah assures us again and again, day and night, that our Creator and our Lord is indeed Good, Merciful, in fact, Most Merciful. This assurance of Al-Raḥmân, Al-Raḥîm is repeated twice so as to emphasize and assure.
Next comes our pledge to that Most Merciful and Most Beneficent Creator and Master: we will reserve our worship, love, devotion, obedience and supplications only for You, O Allah. This is a statement of means for achieving our goal. Ibn Al-Qayyim, the great saint-scholar of Islam, explains some of the meanings and implications of this pledge of Iyyâka naʿbudu wa iyyâka nastaʿîn [Sûrat Al-Fâtiḥah, 1:5] in a three-volume tome, Madârij Al-Sâlikîn.
Next comes our ultimate request for Allah, our goal: the Straight Path that will lead us to Allah, His pleasure and His Promise. This imploration for continuous guidance, while seeking Allah’s help, also reminds us of our final, ultimate goal. A true believer never loses sight of this goal of guidance to Allah’s ultimate pleasure.
The examples are many, and left as an exercise for us to think about how they constantly remind us of our end as well as means. The message is: if you want to change your life for the better, one great way to start is to memorize and understand these supplications. Check out an Islamic bookstore for a book of supplications suited for you.
Blessed are those who memorize the supplications of the Prophet ﷺ for all occasions, and say them with an awakened heart and mind. They let the words of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ set their goals and take care of their planning. Those who care about success in their ultimate mission of life, what more could they ask for?