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The greatest help from a fellow believer to another: Prayer

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Endeavor for Renewal

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The greatest help from a fellow believer to another: Prayer

Question: It has become a common demand for people to say, “Pray for me.” This demand is often made lackadaisically. Will you share your considerations on how we are supposed to respond to demands for prayer?

Answer: Prayer is very important, both in terms of how we servants relate with our Creator, and regarding His treatment toward us, His servants. Above all, praying indicates a consciousness of one’s dependence and relation with God. Raising hands in prayer is an indication of a person’s consciousness of coming into contact with the most exalted authority. God Almighty’s treatment for those who establish such a relation with Him will be different. By accepting this much of an effort from the servant as a means, God treats people benevolently, as becomes His greatness.

A mysterious and pure kind of worship

On the other hand, dua (supplication) is the title for imploring God independently from causes. In this respect, it is a mysterious and pure form of worship. Other worms of worship have an explanation within the sphere of reasons, even if they are spiritual ones. For instance, observing the Daily Prayers and making ablutions have their aspects that are displeasing to the carnal soul. Similarly, fasting or going to Hajj require taking certain pains. Therefore, these pains might lead worshippers thinking they are making demands from God in return for what they did. However, opening one’s hands in prayer and turning to God wholeheartedly with a consciousness of one’s helplessness and poverty (unless there is unceasing Divine help) through the tongue of need is such a mysterious deed of servitude to God that it actually is a very sincere form of prayer. In this respect, dua has a special place among other forms of worship. When we view the life of the Pride of Humanity in this respect, we see that he spent his entire life as a form of prayer and he always implored God Almighty night and day. While going to bed,[1] rising from bed,[2] mounting his ride,[3] attending a military campaign;[4] meeting people,[5] and suffering trouble[6]… he always kept praying and wove every moment of life with it. When we look at his blessed statements on praying, we see that they are so well-placed and are a guide on how to open up to God Almighty. As the noble Prophet, who was a monument of self-possession, knew God best, he was the one who also knew the best way to ask from Him. The excellence of his carefully picked words of prayer, down to their smallest nuances, is compelling. As it is very important to turn to God with appropriate words, we can do this by means of the blessed statements of the noble Prophet. For this reason, even if one says a thousand times at prayer:

اَللَّهُمَّ إِنَّا نَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ خَيْرِ مَا سَأَلَكَ مِنْهُ نَبِيُّكَ مُحَمَّدٌ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَنَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا اسْتَعَاذَ مِنْهُ نَبِيُّكَ مُحَمَّدٌ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ
“My God, I am asking from you every goodness Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, asked from You; and I seek refuge in You from any evil from which he sought refuge in You!” (because God’s Messenger never asked for anything out of the sphere of God’s good pleasure).[7]

The Noble Prophet’s demand for prayer from his companions

The issue of demand for prayer is also very important for sincere believers. The Prince of both worlds asked so many of his Companions to pray for him. For instance, when he was ill, he made such a demand from his wife, Aisha, to pray for him.[8] Before the Messenger of God passed to the eternal abode, he was virtually made to go through the sufferings his followers would, so that his spiritual rank would rise, the truth of al-Maqam al-Mahmud (the Praised Position) would be realized, his sphere of intercession would grow, and he would become ready to be granted the means and authority to embrace all of his followers. As it is also pointed out in a hadith, the Prophets are the people who suffer most.[9] For this reason, the crown of all Prophets suffered in the iron fist of illness, particularly in his final days. So much so that in order to alleviate the severe ache, he would have his head wrapped tightly.[10] In order to help him with this suffering, the mother of believers, Aisha, held his hand and prayed for him. However, during his final moments, when she wanted to hold his hand again, he withdrew his hand and stated that he wished the highest company of God Almighty.[11] He had understood that God willed to take His Messenger to the realm beyond and he prayed thus.

In another case, when Umar ibn al-Khattab asked permission from him for Umrah, he gave permission and added, “My brother, do not forget us in your prayers.”[12]

In spite of the fact that he led a life under Divine protection in absolute independence from asking anything from anyone else, and that God Almighty accepted all of his prayers, he still asked Umar and other Companions to pray for him; this indicates that the issue is a very serious one that cannot be taken lightly.

The fastest accepted prayer

In a hadith related to the subject, the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, stated: “The fastest accepted prayer is that which one makes for another in absentia.”[13]

As Bediüzzaman tells the conditions for acceptance of a prayer in “The Twenty-Third Letter,” he refers to this fact as well, and underlines that prayers made in absentia are hoped to be acceptable.[14] In addition, in many different parts of his works, he mentioned that “You (those who study the Risale-i Nur) are included in my prayers in the morning and evening. May you also please include me in your prayers. In this world, a believers greatest help to a fellow believer is through praying.”[15] He went on to say, “… as for Said, your brother in faith, is together with you by means of praying at God’s door in the morning and evening…”[16] and “… I am asking for prayer from you and from your mother, whom I consider as my second mother. Given that I include you in my prayers, you also pray for acceptance of my prayers please.”[17] Lastly he said, “… I include them in my prayers, let them pray for me too…”[18] With such expressions, he indicated that this issue should not be taken lightly.

I would like to expound on one point underlined in the question: As the spirit and significant meaning of this issue becomes more common, people can use expressions like, “My brother, pray for us too,” in a lackadaisical fashion. For this reason, the person who asks for prayer must be very sincere in the asking. They are not to be insouciant but serious. While making a demand for prayer, we always need to think, “God willing, he or she prays for me, and God willing, his or her prayers will be accepted,” and believe that God will accept prayers made sincerely in absentia. In this respect, the dominant consideration in our mind had better be thus: “If it were not for righteous believers’ prayers, which will be an invitation for Divine providence and due manifestation of help, I consider myself facing a great danger. God forbid, I am afraid of going astray into misguidance.” With such considerations, it is possible to make a wish for prayers by saying, “My brother, if it is not going to be a burden for you, please, for the sake of God, while you pray for all of your fellow believers, if you can remember, also mention me in your prayers.” A person who asks to be prayed for by someone else needs to be conscious of one’s own impotence, poverty, and weakness, and see the prayer by someone else as a great means for Divine help.

Praying and being faithful

As one person demands to be prayed for with these considerations in mind, the person who is asked to pray should not neglect to pray for the asker as a faithful response. Upon such a demand, they can get up in the night, observe some Prayers—Tahajjud, Salatu’l-Hajah (Prayer of Need) or another—and then open their hands to God for whomever they wish, and then spare at least few minutes for the person who asks for being prayed for. Sparing such precious moments for another friend instead of praying for oneself—asking to be taken to Paradise once instead of five times—is an important form of faithfulness. This actually means, “My God, here I open up to you and seek refuge in Your faithfulness for a fellow believer.” It should not be forgotten that nobody can be as faithful as God Almighty.

In the same way, let us imagine that they bring a list of a hundred names to a man and say, “These are the names of the devoted souls who travel to four corners of the world for serving humanity, who get by with a modest living and do not prove us wrong in our positive opinion of them. We are asking you to pray for them so that they stand upright where they go, their services become fruitful, and so that they do not face any obstacles.” As a necessity of being faithful toward the people who hold such a positive opinion of him, the man must open his hands by taking good advantage of the invaluable hours of the night when God Almighty descends His mercy and graces to the heavens of the world and asks whether anybody prays to Him so that He will accept their prayers.[19] Then he must pray for the names on the list, whether the names are familiar to him or not.

Prayers that receive a visa of consciousness

While doing all of these, it is important for the person who prays to utter every word by applying a visa of consciousness to them. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, stated that God Almighty does not accept the prayers of one who is not aware of what he is saying.[20] For this reason, every word uttered while praying must be coming from the bottom of one’s heart. By the way, let me point out the possibility of danger for the person demanded to pray. If a man lives within a circle of people who strive to serve humanity for the sake of God, the others may ask for that man to pray for them, purely out of the positive thoughts they cherish about him. It is natural for them to cherish such ideas, and it should never be taken lightly; underestimating such faithfulness will be a kind of disrespect toward God by underestimating His good pleasure. Anyway, if that man led an upright life for some fifty years, it is natural for his fellows to have a positive opinion of him. I do not care how profound that person is with respect to the shared ideals and whether he thoroughly fulfilled his responsibilities. By abstracting the matter from all of these, I look at it in terms of his loyalty at waiting at a certain door and regard it as very significant. For example, the upright stance of Bediüzzaman throughout his entire life can be more important than reciting volumes of prayers. Thence, it is possible to demand prayers from such a person. However, that person should know his position as a servant of God, and know his limits; he should humbly say “My God, out of their positive view, they demand prayers from a person like me. Please do not prove them wrong in this positive opinion of theirs. I feel shame to be indifferent to their demand and turn it down…” after this humble consideration, he should ask for what he will. If the prayers are accepted, then it should not be forgotten that it is God who grants the good result, and this should be ascribed to the positive opinions of those who ask for prayers and their turning to God sincerely. Adopting such a view saves one both from deviations of thought by ascribing real power to causes other than God, and from growing arrogant by seeing himself as a blessed figure.

Everybody needs to watch their steps regarding this issue. If God Almighty grants someone healing through some person’s hand, it must still be ascribed to Him from every aspect whatsoever. For example, you can put your hand over a patient’s and say, “O God! Please consider Your beloved Messenger’s hand also to be over this patient’s, and let this person be saved from this illness. I know that such an outcome cannot be affected by my hand, but given that they have come here with a sincere positive opinion, do not turn this person down and grant healing out of Your grace;” one should acknowledge the actual power that operates, and abstract oneself completely.

We need to point out that there is no place in Islam for opening up some place for praying and other mystical purposes, and writing down spells for those who attend there. There are certain considerations on where and how to pray to God; but making it into a ceremony of visiting certain people puts one under the risk of losing faith in terms of attributing real importance to those people instead of God. Believers always need to act sensibly, see themselves as ordinary people, pray as ordinary ones, and spend an entire lifetime with such consciousness and sensitivity.

[1] Sahih Muslim, Dhikr, 60; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 2/79
[2] Sahih al-Bukhari, Da’awat, 7, 8, 16; Tawhid, 13; Sahih Muslim, Dhikr, 59
[3] Sahih Muslim, Hajj, 425; Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Da’awat, 46; Sunan Abu Dawud, Jihad, 72
[4] Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Da’awat, 41; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 5/83
[5] An-Nawawi, Al-Azkar, 180
[6] Sunan Abu Dawud, Witr, 26; Sunan ibn Majah, Dua, 17; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Munad, 6/369
[7] Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Da’awat, 88
[8] Sahih al-Bukhari, Fazailu’l-Qur’an, 14; Sahih Muslim, Salam, 51
[9] Sahih al-Bukhari, Marda, 3; Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 57; Sunan ibn Majah, Fitan, 23
[10] Sahih al-Bukhari, Jumu’a, 29; Manaqibu’l-Ansar, 11; At-Tabarani, Al-Mu’jamu’l-Kbir, 11/263; Al-Bayhaqi, As-Sunanu’l-Kubra, 6/371
[11] Sahih al-Bukhari, Fazailu Ashabi’n-Nabi, 5; Maghazi, 83–84, Da’awat, 29; Riqaq, 41; Sahih Muslim, Salam, 46; Fazailu’s-Sahaba, 85
[12] Sunan Abu Dawud, Witr, 23; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 1/29, 2/59
[13] Sunan Abu Dawud, Witr, 29; Abd ibn Humayd, Al-Musnad, 134
[14] Nursi, The Letters, p. 297
[15] Nursi, Barla Lâhikası, p. 234
[16] Ibid., p. 342
[17] Ibid., p. 267
[18] Ibid., p. 306
[19] Sahih al-Bukhari, Tawhid, 35; Tahajjud, 14; Sahih Muslim, Salatu’l-Musafirin, 166
[20] Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Da’awat, 65; Al-Hakim, Al-Mustadrak, 1/670