She is one of the ardent readers and followers of this column. She is always desirous to discover and rediscover latent meanings in the last testament; meanings that can only be known when the Quran is read with clean hearts, clear sight and strong conviction.
She read one of the recent sermons in this column on the inimitable powers of the Quran and consequently, she sent a text message to me: “I recite Ayat al-Qursiyy every day. But during the last six months, our house has been burgled twice. The thieves tried the best they could but could not gain entry either through the door or the windows. Eventually, they entered the house through the ceiling. It was only my room they burgled. They turned it upside down. Why me?”
I could not but empathise with my sister for the loss she bore. I empathized not in the third but in the first person. To empathize in the first person is to reminisce similar situations in the past when you played host to agents of darkness; when your homestead was desecrated, when the home became unhomely. But the issue our sister raised were more fundamental. It had to do exactly with how the Almighty goes about answering the supplications of His servants. It had to do with the larger question of whether there are certain prayers and supplications that the Almighty does not and would not accept.
Kindly make a note of this- that to be dutiful to the Almighty, be it at the spiritual or social levels, does not mean to be insulated against earthly trials and tribulations. Were this to be the case, Prophets of the Almighty would not have suffered denials, trials and sufferings. Prophets of the Almighty would not have been victims of attacks, they would not have been killed and murdered. They would have lived a life of luxuries and comforts. In fact, the contrary appeared to be the case- the nearer they were to the celestial, the more challenges they faced in the terrestrial; the stronger their faith in His powers, the harder their portions were in earthly ordeals and afflictions. This has always been the Sunnah of the Almighty. In fact, men and women of discernment, men and women who are well-imbued with the knowledge of His ways, would argue that to go through earthly trials and successfully too, without seeking recourse to powers and authorities beside the Almighty, is the touchstone of eternal salvation.
Thus I wrote back to our Sister. I premised my riposte on the analogy offered by Imam al-Ghazali when he was once asked similar questions by his followers- how is it that the believer is sometimes found in difficult situations? Why is it that Muslims are sometimes found committing crimes and engaging in infractions? Imam al-Ghazali responded saying imagine there are two houses in a city. The first is stuffed with gold and other jewellery while the second is empty. Imam al-Ghazali then asked his questioners: ‘which of the two houses would attract thieves and men of the underworld”? Response to the question was evident in the latter. It is the house that has value that runs the risk of loss, it is the bucket that is full of water that could spill some of its content.
In other words, I made it known to my sister, as I am doing presently to you, that whenever a believer suffers affliction, she should be careful not to gloss over the latent meaning and wisdom in the event. This is because nothing happens in this world except that it is in line with a carefully wrought divine decree. One of His attributes is al-Hakim- the One imbued with wisdom. The Almighty does not commit errors; He makes no mistakes.
Supplications from the believer, therefore, are subject to one of the following conditions or possibilities. One, immediate acceptance; two, delay in acceptance for a better time and by which the supplicant would be rewarded for his or her patience; and third, rejection of the supplication since He knows that which is best for us. Thus no supplication escapes His attention.
Now some strategies to guarantee acceptance of supplications include supplicating for others in their absence, using supplications that are contained in the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w); supplicating during the recommended periods for prayers, avoiding sins and infractions and showing gratitude to Him for His favours for and over you. He says: “…If you give thanks, I will give you more….” (Qur’an 14:7). Be proactive in the pursuit of earthly goals and objectives while having the frame of mind that things shall soon begin to look up for you. The Prophet says: “supplications should be made in full confidence that they would be accepted for no bounty is too great for the Almighty to bestow”. The Almighty says- “When my servants ask about me from you, (tell them) I am very near to them; I answer the prayers of the supplicating servants whenever they call on me…(Quran 2: 186).