How Do You ‘Call’ Allah?

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The Quran is a treasure trove of knowledge and wisdom – akin to a jewel chest that lets us extract a new kind of gem every time we open it to ponder on its verses.

It provides numerous insights about Allah in order to enable us to get to know Him, and to improve our relationship with Him.

In numerous places in the Quran, Allah addresses us directly; at other places, He puts forth parables or امثال that are analogies carrying deeper meanings.

These verses impart great wisdom to the one who ponders upon them; wisdom about how to perceive and deal with the realities of life and understand the innate psychology of human beings.

Still in other places, Allah narrates for us the stories of the events in the lives of bygone Prophets and nations, inviting us to reflect upon their details so that we can glean practical lessons from them. Each one of us derives different insights from these narratives, depending upon our diverse past experiences and varying levels of reflectiveness.

At times, reciting and pondering on certain verses of the Quran suddenly reveals new ideas and concepts that offer solutions to our practical problems.

This happens when, suddenly, a verse make new sense to you, resulting in knowledge that helps you recognize Allah more closely, or identify traits and behaviors that He likes in a slave, and allows you to make your actions more pleasing to Him; to mould them in a way that can get you His approval and love.

Recently, I had such an epiphany of sorts after reciting in salah the beginning few verses of Surah Maryam. It made me realize how I should be communicating to Allah during my dua’s if I really want Him to grant them.

Surah Maryam starts with the mention of Prophet Zakariyya (عليه السلام) and how he prayed to Allah for a successor.

كهيعص _ ذِكْرُ رَحْمَةِ رَبِّكَ عَبْدَهُ زَكَرِيَّا

An account of the grace which your Sustainer bestowed upon His servant Zakariyya.” [19:2]

Note how Allah doesn’t refer to Prophet Zakariyya as a prophet (نبى) or a messenger (رسول). Instead, He calls him عبد – a slave or servant – and mentions how He showered His mercy رحمة upon him.

The Nature of the Call

إِذْ نَادَى رَبَّهُ نِدَآء خَفِيًّا

When he called out to his Sustainer in the secrecy of his heart.” [19:3]

The quality Allah mentions about the supplication of Prophet Zakariyya is: نِدَآء خَفِيًّا – a “secret” call. 

The meaning of the word “خَفِىٌّ” provided by Lane’s lexicon is:”Unperceived or imperceptible, unapparent; hardly perceived by any of the senses, or only by the eye, or ear, or mind. Hidden, concealed, or inconspicuous. When applied to the sight: dim, or faint. When applied to the voice: suppressed or stifled. When applied to the ear: low, faint, gentle, or soft. Secret, private or clandestine.”

This word that was used to describe the call (نِدَآء) of Prophet Zakariyya made me think, “Perhaps Allah prefers that His slave calls Him in secret?”

Its true, because elsewhere in the Quran, Allah says:

ادْعُواْ رَبَّكُمْ تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً إِنَّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ

Call on your Lord with humility and in private, for Allah loves not those who trespass beyond bounds.” [7:55]

At that point I started to think about how we prefer talking to someone we love, trust and are close to, when we want to earnestly discuss something important with them?

Do we choose a setting or time when there are distractions, noise, and other people around in the surroundings? Do we call them, say, on the phone, when we know they will not be able to give us an attentive ear, or when they will probably be disturbed by others during the conversation?

No. We prefer to talk to a close loved one about important, earnest, intimate matters, especially our troubles and worries, when there is no soul around to disturb the conversation. We love to talk to a confidante or a friend exclusively and privately, in secret.

Stating the Obvious – to Get Support

Next, Allah tells us what Prophet Zakariyya said to Him:

قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي وَهَنَ الْعَظْمُ مِنِّي وَاشْتَعَلَ الرَّأْسُ شَيْبًا

He prayed: “O my Sustainer! Feeble have become my bones, and my head glistens with grey hair….”

As I reflected upon the starting part of his dua, I wondered, “How come His dua doesn’t jump directly to what he wants from Allah? Why is he describing to Allah what the latter already knows, as He is the All-Knower of the Unseen – عالم الغيب?”

I then realized how we talk to a close friend when we are anxious about something; when we seek a shoulder to cry on just to vent our frustrations in front of that attentive, sympathetic ear. How do we usually start?

We tend to get emotional as we list the factual details of how we feel and what’s bothering us, e.g., “I am so stressed out. I feel so tired; my bones are aching due to fatigue and I have still got this-and-this stuff left to do. What will I do? I feel so hopeless and like an utter failure!”

Ironically, this is also how we would expect someone we care about to confide in us when they, in turn, are down.

When we are close to someone, when we love them, we get hurt if they stop opening up to us about their problems during rough times in their lives, and if they instead become aloof and withdrawn; talking to us stiffly, half-heartedly or only when necessary.

However, when someone we love confides in us candidly, making us feel trusted and needed, we feel good inside, and our relationship with them improves.

We reciprocate by giving them our attention and reassurance. If they cry before us, letting out sobs and sighs, we become even more concerned and attentive towards them, perhaps giving them a warm hug and making them a cup of tea, or bringing them their favorite comfort food.

So what lesson do we come away with from the first part of Prophet Zakariyya’s dua? The lesson is: when you call Allah, do so in private seclusion whence no one else is around to hear you or disturb you as you supplicate, and start off by telling Him how you feel, what you are suffering from, and what’s making you sad. Just talk.

Expressing Faith in Allah’s Powers

وَلَمْ أَكُن بِدُعَائِكَ رَبِّ شَقِيًّا

But never yet, O my Lord, has my prayer unto You remained unanswered.” [19:4]

This next part of Prophet Zakariyya’s dua is perhaps the most emotion-ridden, cathartic one!

After listing the facts about his getting old – the greying of his hair and the weakening of his bones due to age – he goes on to say something that would immediately “hook” his Lord’s attention – that Allah has never let his supplications go unanswered.

This shows us that whilst supplicating to Allah, we should similarly try to engage His attention to ourselves, by expressing His bounties upon us and/or our faith in His powers and in the descent of His Divine help and mercy.

It makes me think of when a child of mine comes to me whilst I am absorbed in some work, and asks me directly, in a point blank manner, “Mama, I want you to buy me a barrette that is in the shape of a bow, the next time we go to the market.”

I think about how I, as a mother, react to such demands that just come suddenly, out of the blue – I get irritated and usually chastise in reply, “Perhaps you can first say “Excuse me, may I ask you something?”, and then say “please” when you ask for it?”

In contrast, when once my daughter approached me when I was busy, and said with a voice full of love, “Mama, I really like it when you give me new things, so I try to take good care of them”. I remember how those words touched me, so much so that I stopped what I was doing, turned towards her and said, “Aw, that is so sweet of you.” I know that, at that moment, had she asked me for a barrette, I would have agreed to buy her one!

Perhaps what caught the attention of Allah when Prophet Zakariyya secretly divulged his worries to Him was his expression of gratitude and appreciation, that calling to Allah had never been a wasteful exercise for him?

The lesson for us, thus, is that when we pray to Allah for something, we should first list the innumerable blessings He has bestowed upon us, or perhaps mention some special incidents in our lives when He relieved us from pain, affliction or difficulty.

Expressing his Fears

The fear about getting old that was occupying Prophet Zakariyya’s thoughts was somewhat different to the fear of aging that affects other human beings.

Since he was childless, he feared about his work of da’wah as a Prophet of Allah being curtailed with his death.

وَإِنِّي خِفْتُ الْمَوَالِيَ مِن وَرَائِي وَكَانَتِ امْرَأَتِي عَاقِرًا فَهَبْ لِي مِن لَّدُنكَ وَلِيًّا

Now, behold, I am afraid of [what] my kinsfolk [will do] after I am gone, for my wife is barren. Bestow, then, upon me, out of Your grace, a successor.” [19:5]

Tafsir Ibn Kathir states about the part of this verse وَإِنِّي خِفْتُ الْمَوَالِيَ مِن وَرَائِي – “Mujahid, Qatadah and As-Suddi, all said, In saying the word ‘mawali’, he (Zakariyya) meant his succeeding relatives.” The reason for his fear was that he was afraid that the generation that would succeed him would be a wicked generation. Thus, he asked Allah for a son who would be a Prophet after him, who would guide them with his prophethood and that which was revealed to him.”

Prophet Zakariyya expressed his fear and worry to Allah in his dua. Note how Prophets’ worries revolve around not worldly or material things but rather around things that affect their or others’ Akhirah. Their sincerity towards other people is reflected even in their private dua’s before Allah.

When we supplicate to Allah, we too, should mention to Him clearly what we fear – the doubts, worries and insecurities about the future that are troubling us.

Asking for That Which Has No Apparent Means of Being Granted

What is notable is how Prophet Zakariyya next mentions the fact that his wife is barren – وَكَانَتِ امْرَأَتِي عَاقِرًا – yet, he still goes on to ask Allah for a successor!

This is, in my opinion, the most noteworthy part of his whole supplication – because it is proof of his 100% certainty of Allah’s power and might as a Creator (خلِّاق), reflecting his staunch conviction that He can answer any dua, and grant any blessing, even if what is being asked has no apparent, worldly means to be given to the slave.

When we pray to Allah for something, do we really believe with unflinching certainty that He can give that thing to us, even if no apparent means exist in sight?

Describing in Detail the Traits of What is Wanted

يَرِثُنِي وَيَرِثُ مِنْ آلِ يَعْقُوبَ وَاجْعَلْهُ رَبِّ رَضِيًّا

Who will be my heir as well as an heir [to the dignity] of the House of Yaqoob; and make him, O my Sustainer, well-pleasing to You!” [19:6]

Prophet Zakariyya deliberately overlooked the one fact staring in his face that represented a major obstacle to the fulfillment of his wish – the fact that his wife was barren – and went on to describe to Allah the good qualities he desired in his successor. He asked that the latter inherit prophethood and knowledge from him and from the posterity of his ancestor Prophet Yaqoob, and that he be a person with whom Allah and Allah’s creation is well-pleased.

We should analyze our own style of calling to Allah when we desire something. Do we ask for only material blessings that bring worldly benefits? E.g. when we ask for a baby/child, do we do so so that s/he will carry on doing good deeds and continue our righteous da’wah work after we are gone? Or do we ask for a child only so that we have someone to care and provide for us when we become old?

Do we go ahead and ask Allah for what we want any way, even if no physical means for getting that thing exists before our eyes? Do we describe in detail the traits of the blessing(s) we desire, because we believe with conviction that Allah can grant us anything?

The Response

يَا زَكَرِيَّا إِنَّا نُبَشِّرُكَ بِغُلَامٍ اسْمُهُ يَحْيَى لَمْ نَجْعَل لَّهُ مِن قَبْلُ سَمِيًّا

Thereupon the angels called out unto him: “O Zakariyya! We bring you the glad tiding of [the birth of] a son whose name shall be Yahya. [And Allah says,] “Never have We given this name to anyone before him.”” [19:7]

With such a beautiful manner of calling to Allah, it should come as no surprise that Prophet Zakariyya got his dua answered by Allah and received the glad tidings of a successor – one who was given a name by Allah Himself; a name that no one before him had ever possessed.

Prophet Zakariyya’s human response of bewildered wonder

قَالَ رَبِّ أَنَّى يَكُونُ لِي غُلَامٌ وَكَانَتِ امْرَأَتِي عَاقِرًا وَقَدْ بَلَغْتُ مِنَ الْكِبَرِ عِتِيًّا

[Zakariyya exclaimed:] “O my Sustainer! How can I have a son when my wife has always been barren and I have become utterly decrepit through old age?” [19:8]

Ironically, when Prophet Zakariyya received the good news that his dua had been granted and that he would soon have a son named Yahya, he became incredulous and asked Allah in wonder how he would beget a son when his wife was barren and he was infirm due to old age?

Isn’t it amazing that he never considered his own and his wife’s human, physical shortcomings or weaknesses before, when he was asking Allah for a son? Doesn’t this show that even we should believe, when we pray to Allah and supplicate to Him, that He can do anything?

قَالَ كَذَلِكَ قَالَ رَبُّكَ هُوَ عَلَيَّ هَيِّنٌ وَقَدْ خَلَقْتُكَ مِن قَبْلُ وَلَمْ تَكُ شَيْئًا

Answered [the angel]: “Thus it is; [but] your Sustainer says, “This is easy for Me – even as I have created you before, out of nothing.” [19:9]

Truly, for Allah to grant even the whole of mankind and jinn all that they ask for and desire from among His innumerable blessings, it is as simple and easy a matter as كَذَلِكَ.

إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُ إِذَا أَرَادَ شَيْئًا أَنْ يَقُولَ لَهُ كُنْ فَيَكُونُ

Verily, when He intends a thing, His Command is, “be”, and it is!” [36:82]

Allah can create anything He wants out of nothing, so any doubts or despair that we mortal souls feel when we think, “How will this-and-that be possible?”, the whole “problem” actually inherently lies in our own hearts.

We thus need to cure the diseases in our own hearts, and nurture our faith and belief in Allah’s might with sound Islamic knowledge, so that not only can we also reach the level of conviction in Allah’s attributes that Prophet Zakariyya and other prophets possessed, but also so that we can take heed from the above verses of Surah Maryam and drastically change/improve the way we “call” Allah; the way we communicate with Him when we supplicate to Him about our innate worries, fears, desires and demands.

Perhaps then our dua’s will also be answered the way Prophet Zakariyya’s dua was – كَذَلِكَ – just like that!

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25 thoughts on “How Do You ‘Call’ Allah?

  1. 🙂
    may we have that level of imaan. May we be able to pray and make duaas in the way that would please Allah, and catch His attention for us. Ameen.

    Beautiful post. Jazakallah!

  2. Jazakallahu khayir Sadaf. this came just in time as the last 10 days of Ramadan are coming up and its nights are prime time to make dua! and I’m so glad that Allah (swt) gave you this epiphany that you shared with us for inshaAllah it will improve many duas especially mine!

  3. Amazing 🙂 .. I wish I had thought so much when I was learning these set of verses.

    Jazakillah Khairan for the insightful post.

  4. Subhan’Allah, very beautifully explained. I love the way you write. Reminds me of the Dua of Ibrahim(AS) when he left his wife and kid in the desert.
    Our Lord, I have settled some of my descendants in an uncultivated valley near Your sacred House, our Lord, that they may establish prayer. So make hearts among the people incline toward them and provide for them from the fruits that they might be grateful. (14:37)
    Subhan’Allah, the anbiya’s tawkkul in Allah is unmatchable. Look at the way he asks. He first asks Allah to connect them to their Rabb via Salah. Then he asks for fruits when he knew that it was a desert and nobody could even dream of a fruit. He asked keeping the qudrat of Allah in mind not the material world and its azbaab. This is the essence of tawakkul.
    The point about asking Allah by making time (I cannot think of a better time than Tahajjud) and not hurriedly was very helpful. I make that mistake all the time.

  5. O lord, owner of this universe,O Allah who has asked you for something and was turned down by you?

    That’s the only sentence what i can say for now after reading this spiritual insightful and uplifting post.

  6. JazakAllahu khairan, dear sister. A beautiful reminder, masha Allah. So beautiful, in fact, that I am wondering why it is not in SISTERS *hides*
    May Allah ta’ala continue to bless you and your talent to benefit the ummah, ameen.
    Wasalaam
    N.

  7. Jazakillaahu khairan sister Sadaf. I love your blog and especially enjoy your Qur’aanic reflections.

    It is interesting how the dua of a person gives such an insight about them. From the many duas in the Qur’aan, we see visionaries, whose duas are so much above and beyond the here and now, and their focus is so clearly the hereafter. And we see such amazing connection to Allaah, and beautiful ways to make dua. May Allaah give us the tawfeeq to learn and implement these in our lives.

    When we do certain actions regularly, such as salaah, dua, zikr, etc., it is so easy to get into ‘auto-pilot’ mode, where one’s mind is not engaged and the act becomes devoid of the connection we are seeking. It is good for us to be reminded of ways in which we can seek that feeling of sakinah in our hearts.

    And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers. [Adh Dhaariyaat, 51:55]

    Sometimes, when we feel utter helplessness and desperate need, it is easier to experience that connection. And the feeling we experience in that moment of complete reliance, surrender and trust is sweeter than when the dua is fulfilled.

    So in a way, we hope Allaah ALWAYS keeps us at His door, asking from Him, conscious of how much we need Him for EVERYTHING, and to still find contentment in whatever He decrees, knowing that certainly, that is what is better for us.

    1. And the feeling we experience in that moment of complete reliance, surrender and trust is sweeter than when the dua is fulfilled.

      Very wise observation!

      Ironically, sometimes our desperate needs and the adverse situations we face in our lives lead us to making dua to Allah in a manner that allows us to taste the sweetness of being close to Him. Because of that, those adversities become good for us, and we actually realize this and in turn thank Allah for them because they paved the way for that greater good!

  8. jazakaAllah :), really enjoyed reading , i for one really need to improve on my ‘duas’, hope i am successful in doing that

  9. Excellent way of describing !
    excellent reminder in so much detail……may Allah reward you for the reminder, yumna.

  10. Asalamo alaiqum. dear sister, ALLAH pak apko apni wo bandi bana lay jo kisi bat pay kasam Kha lay tau ALLAH Pak wo kasam puri kardain. OR AP sy raazi hojain. AAMEEN mery pass apky liy yeah keemti dua hai. ALLAH pak apky elm o umer main barkat ata farmain aameen.

  11. Jazakallahu Khairan… Surah Maryum is indeed a beautiful surah.. and the aspect you have shown will help many in improving their relation with their Creator.

  12. Salam,
    Jazakillah.. excellent post.. came across this while reading your karachi eating out blog… 🙂
    well, I thank you for sharing your thoughts.. may Allah (S.W.T) bless you..
    please remember me in your duas.
    A muslim guy from your city..

  13. Jazakillah. Lovely evaluation of the dua. I experience that after finishing prayer, all sorts of thoughts about “I should leave the prayer mat and do this or that” pop up, but you just have to push them away and anchor yourself there until you’re done with your dua. A little discipline goes a long way. And if you manage to bring a dua straight from your heart, it feels wonderful. You’re right, “talking to Allah” feels better than just “stating what you want”.

  14. Allah bless you sister Sadaf! May Allah grant me a heart with so much faith that I be able to turn my life around, and then share my inspiration with those I love. Ameen.

  15. Maashallah !!!! How beautifully you have written this . The points you made really makes one think . Alhamdullillah I stumbled upon this by chance 🙂 .

  16. Masha Allah – Sister you have very well explained how to make dua… May Allah Bless you and give you peace and Ajaar for this hard work.

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