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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

The word du'a is derived from da'wa or ad'iya means call, occurring 159 times in the Koran. It refers to the offering of supplication in general or in particular a single supplication, vide 2:186, 3:38,39 and 4:60. Another word su'al (asking) is also employed in this context (14:34, 11:47, 55:29).

The word du'a is often associated with spreading hands, palms upwards, as though to receive blessing, an ancient and natural gesture used in Babylonia and Egypt and common to the Arab lands. The hands are wiped over the face at the end of the petition in token of the application to the worshipper of the blessing received. It is to address one's attention to God by voicing one's personal situation. It is basically personal or petitionary prayer, or asking God for what one wants. The Koran commands it in several verses, such as "Call upon Me, and I will answer you" (40:60). The Prophet called the du'a (supplication) "the marrow of worship" (mukhkh al-ibada). It can be asked personally or one can asks with the jamat.

According to Mujam Maqai'is Lughat (2:274), "Supplication means attracting one's attention by using words." It is analytically asking for Divine assistance and favours. "Supplication originates from the heart and is uttered by the tongue one's nature. It is not the movement of the tongue, however" (al-Mizan, 2:33). The concept of supplication is as old as the history of mankind. The man is always in need of different sorts of supplications and has constantly felt deep from inside that he needs a strong support. Even at the time when man was not able to conceive the concept of an Everlasting Initiator of the creation, and erroneously resorted to gods for help, and used to combine his adventurous life with hope.

The Prophet said, "Supplication is a believer's weapon, the foundation of religion, the heavenly light on the earth. It changes one's fate and causes the disasters to be away. It is a relation between God and His servants" (Bihar al-Anwar, 93:288), "If God wills to respond to a servant, He allows him to invoke Him" (al-Mizan, 2:42), "If the door of supplication is opened to one of you, (it means) the doors of mercy will be opened to him" (Ibid.), and "If you know God as He is, you will move the mountains with your supplication" (al-Mizan, 10:39).

The best and most inclusive definition for supplication is "asking" in its broad and common sense. The specific features of supplication under different situations depend on special motives, which a user has in mind. In sum, the supplication refers to asking a superior by an inferior: "Say: My Lord would not care for you were it not for your prayer" (25:77), "Call upon Me, I will answer you" (40:60), "And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I answer the prayer of the supplication when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way" (2:186) and "Therefore call upon God, being sincere to Him in obedience" (40:14).

Ali bin Abu Talib said, "Be safe from the waves of disasters by supplication" (Nahj al-Balagha, no, 146), and "God will not respond to the supplication of a heedless heart" (Uddat al-Da'i, p. 97). Imam Jafar Sadik said, "There I an honourable position near God, which can be earned only through supplication" (al-Mahajjat al-Baydha'a, 2:283) and "Check your hearts; if you find them free from fear and suspicion about what God has willed, then ask God for whatever you like" (Ibid.)

Imam Jafar Sadik said concerning the manners of supplication: “Keep to the morals of supplication and see whom you invoke, how you invoke and why you invoke. Preserve the greatness and highness of God and see with your heart that He knows what there is in your conscience and He knows your secrets whether good or bad. Know the ways of your deliverance and perdition lest you ask God for something, which leads to your perdition whereas you think that it leads to your deliverance. God has said, ‘And man prays for evil as he ought to pray for good, and man is ever hasty’ (17:11). Think too much about what you ask for, how much you ask and why you ask. Supplication is you submitting to the truth, being devoted to see the Lord, leaving your choice and entrusting all the affairs, whether apparent or hidden, with God. If you do not regard the conditions of supplication, then do not wait for response. God knows the secret, and what is yet more hidden so that you may ask Him for something but He knows that there is something else in your heart” (Bihar al-Anwar, 93:322).

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