What is the subtle secret in dua (prayer/supplication)? Is every dua accepted?

The Details of the Question

- What is the meaning of dua made in the tongue of latent ability, innate need, exigency and disposition?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Dua (prayer) is the servant’s turning to his Lord and asking for help from Him. Man takes refuge in Allah in order to meet his needs that he cannot reach, and to attain his desires that he cannot attain with his own power because there is no one but Allah who hears and fulfills his most secret desires and meets his needs.

Dua is a deed of worship. It is the spirit of worship.

A child cries to get a need or a desire that he cannot reach or he asks for it; that is, he prays with the tongue of the weak and gets what he wants.

Similarly, man is like a gentle and delicate child among all living beings. He turns to God Almighty by crying out of weakness or praying out of need. Otherwise, being ungrateful by saying, “I make these people work under my own power,” like a mischievous child who is afraid of a fly is against the nature of man; such a person deserves severe punishment in the Hereafter.

Man approaches God Almighty through dua. In this respect, various problems and misfortunes are a mercy in that they remind man of his helplessness and weakness and force him to turn to his Lord. Man realizes how weak and helpless he is and needs to find a place to take shelter, particularly at such times. Dua is the best means of it.

Since dua is a deed of worship, it should be done only with the aim of attaining Allah’s consent. Therefore, man should feel his weakness, loneliness and helplessness with all his spirit and should raise his hands to the sky to pray, thinking that Allah is the only person who will help him and save him from fears and worries. The Creator has infinite power, mercy and wisdom. The entire universe is His work, and even a leaf cannot move without His permission. God Almighty, the owner of all perfect attributes, is free from all imperfect attributes. He has endowed all living and non-living beings with countless blessings and honored man with the highest rank above them. Therefore, God Almighty is worthy of endless praise. After all, is the purpose of creation of all beings not to serve Him with praise, glorification and extolment? That is why dua is so important.

Is every prayer accepted?

Not every prayer we say is accepted. However, the following is stated in the verse: “Call on Me; I will answer your prayer” What is the reason for it?

There are two terms used related to prayer (dua); One is answering and the other is accepting. That is, it is different for God Almighty to answer every prayer we say and it is different for Him to accept. Allah answers every prayer. However, He does not always give the exact thing that is asked because His wisdom necessitates so.

It is similar to the example of a doctor and a child. The child who is taken to the doctor sees a medicine in the clinic and immediately asks for it. He thinks that the medicine will cure his illness. The doctor examines him. After diagnosing the disease, he either gives the medicine that the child wants, or gives some other medicine; or, he does not prescribe any medicine at all.

God Almighty is omnipresent. He hears and answers every prayer that man says. However, since He thinks more about man than man himself, He knows his problems and real needs well; since He knows with His pre-eternal knowledge and wisdom what will be good and what will be harmful to him, He can give man the exact thing he wants, or He sometimes gives something better, or sometimes he does not give him anything because it will be harmful. Therefore, man has no right to say, “Allah does not give me everything I want”.

Since dua is a deed of worship, its reward is given in the hereafter. The reasons that lead people to pray is the time of that worship.

For example, when the weather is dry and there is no rain, people pray for rain. The setting of the sun is the time for the evening prayer; similarly, drought is the time for that dua. That dua is not for making it rain. In that case, the prayer is not said for the sake of Allah, but only for the rain to fall. Therefore, it is not worthy of acceptance.

Similarly, when man is hit by some troubles and misfortunes, and gets ill, it is considered the time for some duas. At such times, man realizes his helplessness and weakness, and seeks refuge in Allah with prayer and supplication. Although man prays so much, troubles might not go away and diseases might not end; and as a result, his wishes seem to be not fulfilled for that moment. One should not say, “My prayer was not accepted”; he should say, “The time for my prayer is not due; I need to pray more”. If God Almighty gives him exactly what he asks in his prayer and removes the trouble, the time of prayer is regarded due then.

Another example:

Man asks Allah for a son in his prayer; as in the prayer of the mother of Maryam (Mary), God Almighty gives him a daughter like Maryam. That person cannot say, “My prayer was not accepted.” On the contrary, he should say, “It was accepted in a better way”.

On the other hand, man sometimes prays for a worldly need. However, God Almighty accepts his prayer for the hereafter. In other words, thanks to his prayer, he either gets rid of the torment of Hell or his degree in Paradise rises. This person should not say, “My prayer was rejected”; he should say, “perhaps it was accepted in a better way.”

“The best, finest, sweetest, most immediate fruit and result of supplication is this:

The person who offers it knows there is someone who listens to his voice, sends a remedy for his ailment, takes pity on him, and whose hand of power reaches everything. He is not alone in this great hostel of the world; there is an All-Generous Being who looks after him and makes it friendly. Imagining himself in the presence of the One who can bring about all his needs and repulse all his innumerable enemies, he feels a joy and relief; he casts off his load, which is as heavy as the world, and exclaims: “All praise be to God, the Lord and Sustainer of All the Worlds.”

Supplication is the spirit of worship and results from sincere belief. For the person who makes supplication shows that there is someone who rules the whole universe, saying: “He knows the least significant things about me, can bring about my farthest aims; who sees every circumstance of mine, and hears my voice. He hears the voices of all beings, and He hears my voice too. He does all these things, so I await my smallest needs from Him too. I ask Him for them!”1

Types of prayer/supplication (dua)

1. Prayer in the tongue of latent ability:

It is the prayer of plants and animals. Through it, all seeds and grains supplicate the All-Wise Creator as follows:

“O Lord! Make us grow! Make our tiny truths sprout and transform us into the mighty reality of a tree, so that we may display the elaborate embroideries of Your names. Give us strength so that we can plant the flag of our own species all over the world. Help us worship you in every corner of the earthly mosque. Give us the strength to display your fine arts with our tongue in the exhibition of the world.”

The causes take up a position for the acceptance of this supplication of plants. For example, water, heat, earth, and light take up positions around a seed and say:

“O Our Creator, make this seed into a tree.” The seed becomes a tree. The coming together of causes is a kind of dua because unconscious causes do not make that tree; it is God Almighty who makes it green. In addition, the seeds of plants reach all over the world through the wind and wave the flag of their own species.2

Everything Says Bismillah

Bismillah is a good prayer. This prayer is said not only by humans but also plants and animals:

All things act in the name of Almighty God, for minute things like seeds and grains bear huge trees on their heads; they raise loads like mountains. That means all trees say: “In the Name of God,” fill their hands from the treasury of mercy, and offer them to us. All gardens say: “In the Name of God,” and become cauldrons from the kitchens of Divine power in which are cooked numerous varieties of different foods. All blessed animals like cows, camels, sheep, and goats, say: “In the Name of God,” and produce springs of milk from the abundance of mercy, offering us a most delicate and pure food like the water of life in the name of the Provider. The roots and rootlets, soft as silk, of plants, trees, and grasses say: “In the Name of God,” and pierce and pass through hard rock and earth. Everything acts in the name of Allah Almighty.

The roots spreading through hard rock and earth and producing fruits as easily as the branches spread through the air and produce fruits, and the delicate green leaves retaining their moisture for months in the face of extreme heat, deal a slap in the mouths of Naturalists and jab a finger in their blind eyes, saying:

“For like the Staff of Moses, each of those silken rootlets conforms to the command of, And We said, “O Moses, strike the rock with your staff” and splits the rock. And the delicate leaves fine as cigarette paper recite the verse, “O fire be coolness and peace”2 against the heat of the fire, each like the members of Abraham (UWP).3

The prayer of every being that is in a state of change and development with the tongue of latent ability is included in this part. Everything glorifies Allah with its unique tongue and also prays to Allah for its needs.4

The prayer of some other beings in their own tongue is expressed in Sözler as follows:

“If you want to observe these elevated truths from close to, go and ask a stormy sea or the quaking earth: “What are you saying?” You will hear that they are saying: “O Glorious One! O Glorious One! O One of Might, All-Compelling!” Then ask the small animals and their young being raised with kindness and compassion in the sea and on the land: “What are you saying?” They will surely reply: “O Beauteous One! O Beauteous One! O Most Compassionate and Merciful One!” Then listen to the skies; they say: “O Glorious One of Beauty!” And give your ear to the earth; it says: “O Beauteous One of Glory!” Listen carefully to the animals; they are saying: “O Most Merciful One! O Provider!” And ask the spring; you will hear many Names like: “O Gentle One! O Most Merciful One! O Most Compassionate One! O Most Generous One! O Gracious One! O Benevolent One! O Giver of Forms! O Giver of Light! O Bestower! O Adorner!5

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi states that both he and his students noticed that the cats said, “O Most Compassionate and Merciful One!”, with their purring and meowing.

2. Prayer with the tongue of innate need:

All living things, humans and animals ask from God Almighty their essential needs, which they cannot obtain with their own power and will. Every creature asks God Almighty with that tongue of need for their needs of sustenance in order to continue their lives. Those prayers are accepted and their needs are sent from an unexpected place at a suitable time.

3. Prayer with the tongue of exigency:

Every person who is in distress prays to Almighty Allah, takes refuge in a guardian he cannot see, and turns to his Lord. Discoveries and inventions made by mankind throughout history are also included in this prayer.

The prayer of a person who is in distress has a great effect. Sometimes, thanks to such prayers, a great thing comes under the command of a person like a small thing. “Yes, a roaring sea may subside in answer to the prayer of a broken-hearted infant on a piece of wood floating on its surface. This means that the One Who answers prayers has absolute authority over all things and is Lord of creation.” 6

These three kinds of prayers are always acceptable if there is no obstacle.

4. The famous prayer we always do

It has two parts:

a. Actual prayer: Acting in accordance with causes is actual prayer; it is like ploughing. Since soil is the door of the treasury of mercy, the farmer knocks on that door with his plow. Since this prayer addresses directly the name and title of God Almighty, it is generally accepted.

b. Verbal prayer: Prayer made with the tongue and heart: It is to seek certain wishes which the hand cannot reach. The most important aspect, the most beautiful aim, the sweetest fruit of it is this:

“The one who offers the supplications knows that there is someone who hears the wishes of his heart, whose hand can reach all things, who can bring about each of his desires, who takes pity on his impotence, and answers his poverty.”

The sounds that animals make with their own tongue when they are hungry are also included in the verbal prayer.7

The place of turning the palms downward in prayer in the sunnah

The practice of our Prophet (pbuh) in this regard is clear and obvious. According to the statements of the Companions, the Prophet (pbuh) would bring his hands to chest level, open his palms with an inclination toward his face, and pray. Anas bin Malik, who served him for ten years, states that he even raised his hands more during the rain prayer and prayed until the whiteness of his armpits were seen.(8)

It is narrated that our Prophet (pbuh) raised his hands more in prayers other than the rain prayer too.

When we ask Allah for something or pray to Him for protection from something we fear, there are changes in the expressions as well as in the position of the hands.

As a matter of fact, Khallad bin Saib al-Ansari describes how our Prophet (pbuh) held his hands while praying as follows:

“When the Prophet (pbuh) wanted something from Allah, he would raise the palms of his hands toward the sky, and when he sought refuge in Allah from something, he would turn the back of his hands toward the sky.”(9)

Anas bin Malik (ra), who narrates that the Prophet (pbuh) turned the back of his hands upward while praying for rain, states the following:

“The Prophet (pbuh) prayed for rain and he turned the back of his hands toward the sky.” (10)

It is a calamity when the rain stops and it does not rain for a long time. A prayer for rain is made for the elimination of that calamity. It is desired that famine and lack of rain will go away, and blessing and abundance will come. In order to eliminate this drought, the hands are turned upside down during the prayer.

Imam Nawawi, who wrote explanations for Sahih Muslim and who is one of the great scholars of Shafii madhhab, explains that hadith as follows:

“A group of our scholars and some other scholars turned the backs of their hands toward the sky when they prayed to Allah for the elimination of misfortunes like drought and said that it was sunnah to turn the palms toward the sky while asking for something from Allah, using that hadith as evidence.”( 11)

Stating that verse 90 of the chapter of al-Anbiya informs us about the manners of prayer, tafsir scholars say that sometimes the palms and sometimes the backs of the hands face the sky in prayer according to the verse. The verse in question is as follows:

“These (three) were ever quick in emulation in good works; they used to call on Us with love and reverence, and humble themselves before Us.”

The word “raghaban” in the verse means desire and hope while the word “rahaban” means a state of fear. Some tafsir scholars say what is meant by the verse is this: “When something is asked from Allah, the palms of the hands are raised toward the sky and when refuge is sought in Allah in times of fear, the backs of the hands are raised toward the sky.” (12)

The palms of the hands are raised toward the sky while asking Allah for health, well-being, peace, tranquility, blessing and abundance; the backs of the hands are raised toward the sky while taking refuge in Allah in order to avoid evil, famine, drought, calamity, misfortune, financial difficulties, conflict and enmity. While saying “ajirna (protect us)” in the glorification after salah, we take refuge from mischief and misfortunes. At that moment, the hands are turned upside down.


1. Mektubat, p. 280; Sözler, 295.
2. Mektubat, p. 280.
3. Sözler, pp. 6-7.
4. Mesnevi-i Nuriye, p. 216.
5. Sözler, 310.
6. Mesnevi-i Nuriye, p. 70.
7. Mesnevi-i Nuriye, p. 216.
8. Muslim, Istithqa: 5.
9. Musnad, 4:56.
10. Muslim, Istithqa: 6.
11. Nawawi, Sharhu Sahihi Muslim, 5:190.
12. Bulugh al-Maram Translation, 2:230.

(Mehmed Paksu)

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