Will you explain verse 186 of the chapter of al-Baqara?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

"When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way." (al-Baqara, 2/186)

Tafsir scholars mention different views related to the reason why the verse above was sent down:

According to Hasan al-Basri, the reason for the revelation of that verse is the following question asked by some Companions: "Where is our Lord?" According to some other scholars, it was sent down when someone asked the following questions: "O Muhammad! Is our Lord close to us? Shall we pray to him silently? Is he away? Shall we pray to him aloud?"

According to Ata, when the verse "And your Lord says: "Call on Me; I will answer your (Prayer):..."(1) was sent down, some people said, "When shall we pray to our Lord?" Thereupon, that verse was sent down. Thus, it means "Whenever my slave prays to me, I am close to him; I will accept his prayer; I always answer his call."

According to Mujahid, the reason for the revelation of that verse is as follows: When the verse "Call on Me; I will answer your (Prayer)" was sent down, some people asked, "Where shall we pray?" Thereupon, the verse "…Whithersoever ye turn, there is the presence of Allah..."(2) was sent down. The reason for the revelation of that verse was those questions asked by some people.

According to Qatada, the reason for the revelation of that verse was as follows: When the verse "Call on Me; I will answer your (Prayer)" was sent down, some people asked, "O Messenger of Allah! How shall we pray to our Lord?"

Allah is closer to a slave than his jugular vein. He hears their begging and praying. It is strongly hoped that Allah will accept prayers if His slaves call Him sincerely. It is not necessary to shout and speak aloud. For, He hears silent prayers too. 

Abu Musa al-Ash'ari narrates:

"We were together with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in an expedition. Whenever we reached a valley, we shouted La ilaha illallah and Allahu akbar. Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

"O people! Be merciful to yourselves (i.e. don't raise your voice), for you are not calling a deaf or an absent one, but One Who is with you, no doubt He is All-Hearer, ever Near (to all things)."(3) 

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states the following in another hadith regarding the issue:

"If a Muslim prays to Allah and asks something that does not include a sin and that does not sever the ties of kinship, Allah will definitely give him one of the following three rewards: He will give him whatever he wants at once; He will leave it to the hereafter; He will keep a bad deed away from him thanks to his prayer." (4)

Tabari states the following: "People may say, ‘Allah states the following in the verse: "I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me," However, it is seen that the prayers of many people are not accepted." It can be answered as follows: "There are two explanations for it:

a. What is meant by the prayer of the slave in the verse is his deeds in accordance with Allah’s orders. When a slave does deeds in accordance with Allah’s consent, his Lord will accept his deeds and give him what He has promised. As a matter of fact, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states the following in a hadith about that verse: 

"Religion is worship." Then, he read the following verse: "And your Lord says: "Call on Me; I will answer your (Prayer): but those who are too arrogant to serve Me will surely find themselves in Hell - in humiliation!"." (5) (6)

As a matter of fact, it is narrated that Hasan al-Basri interprets the word prayer in that verse as "worship and deeds".

b. Another answer to that question is as follows: Allah means the following in the verse: "I answer the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on me if I wish." According to this explanation, the verse has a general expression but it is limited with Allah’s wish. (7)

Footnotes:

1. Ghafir, 40/60.
2. Al-Baqara, 2/115.
3. Bukhari, K. al-Jihad, bab: 131, K. ad-Da'awat, bab: 51/Abu Dawud, K. al-Witr, bab: 26 Hadith No: 1526.
4. Ahmad b. Hanbal, III/18.
5. Ghafir (al-Mu'min), 40/60.
6. Tirmidhi, K. Tafsir al-Quran, surah, 2, bab: 16, Hadith No: 2969.
7. Abu Jafar Muhammad b. Jarir at-Tabari, Taberi Tefsiri, Hisar Publications: 1/438-440.

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