Advice to Those Who Feel Their Duʿāʾ Goes Unanswered
Imām Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah
A discussion on the wisdom behind Allāh’s decision to grant or ignore duʿāʾ from His worshippers. Allāh may accept a duʿāʾ that will test a Muslim or refuse to grant a request that would cause harm; rather we should acknowledge our inferiority and accept these tests provided by Him.
Let the truly intellectual one contemplate inwardly and outwardly, the fact that Allāh’s answer to the one who invokes Him is not related to the invoker’s nobility with Him.
Rather, He fulfils the need of the slave who invokes Him. However, in the fulfilment of that need, there may be the destruction of the slave and his overwhelming sadness. Thus, His granting of this slave’s request [i.e. that would lead to his downfall] may in actuality be a sign of his contemptibility [with Him], and a demotion of standing before His eyes. Contrastingly, His refusal to grant that slave’s request would be related to the honour and esteem he possesses [with Allāh], out of Allāh’s love for him. Hence, He refuses His slave’s request not out of selfishness, but rather, as a means of protecting and preserving him. This is only bestowed upon the slave who [Allāh] wishes to honour, love, and treat with dignity. [Even though] this may drive the slave to believe that Allāh does not love him, or that he possesses no standing with Him. [The slave] may even see the fulfilment of the needs of those around him causing him to begin thinking negatively concerning Allāh until it fills his heart without him being fully aware.
The truly protected one [from such a plight] is only the one protected by Allāh. Every man must possess insight into his own condition. The sign of this [plight] is to relate the [unfulfillment of his desires] to qadr, and to secretly blame it. As the poet said:
‘The most feeble of opinions upon squandered opportunities is that, when missed, to blame the qadr [for its unfulfillment].’
By Allāh! If the true condition and secret [of this unfulfilled duʿāʾ] was made evident, he would then truly see his blaming and accusations of the qadr [for what it is]. He would see then that what had transpired was actually most appropriate. [He will say]:
‘But, what scheme could I have made? This matter was not under my control.’
The truly intellectual one must oppose his own inclinations, while the ignorant oppose the predestination of his Lord. So be overtly cautious of seeking [from Allāh] a specific matter of which the true outcome is unknown. If you find yourself completely in need of seeking it, then make your request conditional upon the knowledge of the Most High, for He alone knows the best way concerning the matter at hand. Present your request with [the invocation of] istikhārah. While not allowing [this invocation] to pass over your tongue without true acknowledgement [of its contents]. Rather, allow your invocation to be from one who truly acknowledges his own ignorance of that which is most suitable, one who does not possess power over its fulfilment, nor has he been guided to its finer details. Just as he does not possess the power to harm nor benefit his own self. Rather, if he was to be entrusted to his own self, he would be utterly destroyed, his matter completely lost. If [Allāh] grants him something without asking for it, [let the slave of Allāh] only wish that it aids him in acts of obedience, delivering him to that which is pleasing [to Allāh], not cutting him off from such goodness, nor distancing himself from His pleasure.
He should never assume that Allāh granting the request of his slave is due to his esteem and dignity, nor should he assume that His refusal of His slave’s request is related to His contempt for that slave. Rather, His granting and His refusal is but a trial, both are used to test His slaves. Allāh, the Most High, said:
‘So as for (the trait of the polytheist) man (who has no conviction in the resurrection and the Hereafter), when His Lord tries him by being generous to him and favouring him (with wealth and increase), then he says (with joy and pride): “My Lord has honoured me” (without praising and thanking Him). But when He tries him and restricts his provision (to the bare necessities), he says: “My Lord has humiliated me” (without appreciating his soundness of health and the little he has been given). No! (Both these claims are rejected, you were not honoured with riches, nor humiliated with poverty. Rather, you were put to trial).’ [Al-Fajr, 89:15-17]
Meaning: Not every single individual that I have given or granted or blessed, I have honoured. Nor is it due to their esteem with Me, rather it is but a test from me, an assessment of them.
Will he thank me so that I grant him even more? Or will he disbelieve in me so that I can take back that which I have granted him and instead grant the same gift to someone else?
Just as not everyone I choose to test through restriction of provision such that they possess nothing that exceeds their needs; I have disgraced. Rather, it is my test and assessment of him:
Will he be patient such that I grant him severalfold the generous provision that he has missed out on? Or will he become annoyed, grieved, and anxious such that he only possesses those [negative feelings].
Allāh has refuted the claim of those who believe generous provision is a means of honour, and its restriction a means of humiliation. He said:
I have not tested my slave with riches due to his honour with me, nor have I tested him with poverty for his contemptibility with Me.
He relates that honour, esteem, and humiliation do not correlate with one’s wealth or the amount of generous provision. As Allāh may widen the provision of a disbeliever, unrelated to his nobility. Just as He may allow a believer to live in poverty, unrelated to his contemptibility. The truly honoured are those who are granted knowledge of Him, love Him, and engage in His obedience. While the truly contemptible ones are those who turn away from Him and engage in His disobedience. To Him belongs all praise for both, He is Free of need and the most Praiseworthy.1