Discourse on Du'a
Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

From: Nuradeen Magazine

From the Nuradeen Magazine Vol. 4, No. 1 -- Winter 1984

The root of the word du'a is da'a, which means to call. You can only call if there is inherently within you, an energy which will bring about an answer. From where the question comes, the answer will come. The caller is calling upon one entity. He is able to call because he has an energy within him, in the form of life which is the source of desire of the direction of the call. What you are calling upon is rooted in what enables you to call. With experience, a person realizes, that you can only call on what you know is realizable. It is the development of the faculty of the intellect or reason.

In Arabic the word is 'aql, meaning tethering. 'Aql is the faculty of reason which can be developed if there is a tethering, if there is an 'iqal. It is part of the nomadic culture to make the camel sit down, otherwise, you cannot subdue him, you cannot put things on his back. The 'iqal is that rope which they put around the front legs of the camel.

If a person moves in this direction, he will realize that he cannot make a supplication, he cannot ask for anything unless it is realizable. A foolish man will ask for the impossible. It is romanticism, drunkenness, or poison. A point is reached in which the supplication becomes so personal, so subjective, so inward, that all it can do is elevate, open and light up the inner recesses of one's heart. That is the ultimate du'a. A du'a is not made to improve the outer unless it continues into the improvement of the inner. If an ordinary person makes a sincere supplication for a better house, his intention will then be to acquire a better house. That intention in time will find a way of becoming grossified, manifesting outwardly in his acquiring the knowledge to earn a house. If the expectation is not incongruous with the laws that govern existence then it is realizable by the person. By his expectation, he will uncover for himself the means to the acquisition of what he has been asking for. On this the Qur`an is very clear. There must be a means for these things to occur. Maryam, alayha salam, had to shake the palm. The dates would not drop without that. We must do something for our rizq (sustenance) to come to us. It is maximum efficiency when you know precisely how to do it and when to do it.

Realizing one's expectations begins in a gross way and moves to the subtle. There is nothing wrong with that. If you want a companion and you have an idea as to what sort of a companion you want, you will start searching for that person until you find a match. This is the promise of nature. We are brought up in this life to be fulfilled, yet we are already fulfilled. We have created in ourselves un-fulfillment. We go on and on trying to fill the potholes that we dig in our own hearts.

Supplication begins grossly and ends up in silence before fajr (dawn prayer) at the end of night.

We all want the right environment in which we can function well. We all want safety in order to reflect and examine cause and effect in our little laboratories in this life. We all want outer protection in order to move inwardly to discover the meaning behind what is manifested. Du'a begins with the outside demand. We want an ambience in which the temperature does not fluctuate too violently. The more you satisfy the grosser needs of a human being, the more he may move towards the subtler elements, until a point is reached at which language stops, and there occurs the awakening of the recognition that there is no two. That is the ultimate fulfillment. He is then encouraged to return to life with the full confidence that his so-called self is only a secondary existence.

We are all biologically animals in time, but you can have real enjoyment, which is nothing other than service waiting for the next opportunity to do something useful for others. If we do not we will be digging holes that can only give us lack of fulfillment. If fulfillment is not our real nature, why are we seeking it? If happiness is not our reality, why do we want it? If peace is not our real nature, why do we seek it? If interrelationships and the knowledge of interrelationships of everything is not already implanted within our sub-genetic levels of heritage, why do we seek to understand creation in the small and large? These are all inherent within us. They must be, otherwise we would not unify with them.

A man who seeks Allah makes demands upon nature. He says, "I want a better situation so that I may contemplate and find out." But often he stops at that. Once the house is obtained, it becomes the object of worship. You often find that people are free before they acquire possessions but once they have a little piece of the world they become fixated upon it.

The heritage of Ja'fari Islam is founded on du'a because it unifies us in wanting to improve our source which causes us to act. It causes the improvement of our basic motives. It lifts higher and higher. One recognizes the limitations that are imposed intrinsically in the various systems. Once those limitations are recognized there are no disappointments. There is only an appointment for us to exist over a period of time. It is up to us to make full use of our appointment. It is an interview into which we must enter, leaving behind those things that are created by us and given importance by us. They differ from one man to another and from one day to another.

Man is caught in the time flux, yet rooted in the timeless. That is why we reflect the love of timelessness, but in a perverted way. We seek foods that give us longer life, not knowing that the cause and the source of life is beyond time, so the question of length of time is irrelevant.

This is what real supplication does. It helps the gross, the ordinary, the illiterate man gets a better plow, a piece of land, or a wife. It also helps the man of deeper intellect reach the point beyond which there is no point. That is the 'sirat al-mustaqim.' It is a line, which if looked at from its point of beginning, becomes an infinite number of points superimposed upon each other but experienced as one point, which is the Reality. It is a point beyond which there is no other point. And that point is man. Man is the point of it. He is the proof of it. He contains the meaning of his own cause and effect.

Allah, subhana wa ta'ala says: The heavens and earth do not contain Me, but the heart of a believer contains Me. He also says in a hadith qudsi: I was an unknown treasure and I wanted to be known, so I created. That is how duality occurs. The confusion of the two begins and ends in the fusion into the one.

[Added November 16, 2003]