Interpretation of Sura Cow - Verse 186
186. " When My servants ask you concerning Me, then (say unto them:) verily I am nigh: I answer the prayer of every supplicant when he calls on Me; so (they should) hearken unto My call, and believe in Me, in order that they may be led aright."
Occasion of Revelation
Once someone asked the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) whether Allah was near so that they could whisper to Him or He was far so that they would speak to Him loudly. Then, the above verse was revealed (to answer that Allah is close to His servants.) . 64
An Armament Called Supplication
Since one of the means of approaching to Allah for His servants is the phenomenon of supplication, next to the statement of a great part of Islamic ordinances in the former verses, this verse pays particular attention to this subject. This phenomenon is a general process for all supplicants and those who want to resort to Allah, yet its occurrence among the verses related to fasting gives it an additional concept. The reason is that the spirit of every worship is obtaining nearness to Allah by the sincere wailing or cry of the heart. This verse, addressing the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) says:
" When My servants ask you concerning Me, then (say unto them:) verily I am nigh;..." I am closer (to them) than they may consider. I am closer than you to yourself; and closer than your life-vein to you. In another occurrence in the Qur'an, Allah, referring to man, says: "...and We are nearer to him than his life-vein ", (Sura Qaf, No. 50, verse 16) .
Then, it adds:
"...I answer the prayer of every supplicant when he calls on Me;..."
"...so (they should) hearken unto My call, ..." "...and believe in Me,..."
"... in order that they may be led aright." It is noteworthy that, in this verse, Allah has pointed to His pure Essence seven times, and to His servants, too, seven times. Thus, He has illustrated thereby His utmost connection, nearness and love unto His servants.
'Abdullah-ibn-Sanan says that he heard that Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: " Try to pray very much because it is the key of Allah's forgiveness and the means of obtaining any want. There are some blessings and graces with Allah that reaching them is impossible but via supplication. And, do know that any door which you knock it will finally be opened." 65
Yes, He is near to us. How can He be far from us while His site is between the self of man and his heart, as the Qur'an says: "...and know that Allah intervenes between man and his heart,..." (Sura Al-'Anfal, No. 8, verse 24) . How Are Supplications Answered? Before that we expect our supplications be answered, we must practise purifying our heart and soul, repent from our sins, and follow the way of the divine leaders' career.
1- Imam Sadiq (a.s.) is narrated who has said: " Be aware, any one of you, not to ask his Lord any thing of the necessities for this world and the coming one unless the one initiates with praising Allah and paying tribute to Him, and with benediction upon the Prophet and his progeny (p.b.u.th.) . Thereafter, he ought to confess his sins (before Him) and then asks his want." 66
2- A person should strive to sanctify his life from properties that he has obtained by usurpation, oppression and cruelty so that his food-stuff would not be from any unlawful origin. There is a tradition from the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) who has said: "He who wishes that his supplications be answered must surely purify his food and his earnings (to be lawful) ." 67
3- A person should not restrain from struggling against corruption and inviting others unto right and truth, since those who abandon the act of enjoining right and forbidding wrong, their supplications are scarcely ever answered. It is narrated from the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) who said: " You should enjoin right and forbid wrong, or Allah may set up your wicked ones as absolute masters over your good ones. Then, whatsoever the good pray it will not be answered." 68
The abandonment of this great duty, in fact, creates some disorders in the society, the result of which is boldness of the vicious of the society with no defence therein. In this case, supplication for the removal of its fruits is useless, because those evil effects are the direct consequence of the behaviour of those people themselves. 4- True faith, righteous deed, faithfulness and uprightness are some other conditions of the fulfilment of supplications. Hence, the person who does not keep his promise before Allah should not expect to be involved among those whom Allah has promised to answer. Once, someone went to Imam Amir-ul-mu'mineen Ali (a.s.) and complained about why his supplications were not answered though Allah had said: "...call upon Me, I will answer you,..." (Sura Al-Mu'min, No. 40, verse 60) .
In answer to that question, the holy Imam said: " Your hearts (minds) have acted treacherously toward eight characteristics, (so, your supplications are not answered) :
1- You have known Allah but you have not paid His right such that has been enjoined upon you. Therefore, your cognition does not benefit you anything.
2- You have believed in His Messenger while thereafter, you have opposed his Sunnah. You are in his religion, then, where is the fruit of your Faith?
3- Surely you have recited his revealed book but you do not act accordingly. And, you said: " We have heard and we obey " 69 , whereas you opposed it then.
4- You say you fear the Fire (of Hell) , While you always commit your own sins, and you approach it thereby; then, where is your fear? 5- You say you are eager and interested in Heaven (the Divine reward) but you always do some things which send you away from it; so, where is that inclination that you have to it ?
6- Verily, you eat the blessing of Allah but you do not show gratitude about it.
7- Certainly Allah has ordered you to be the enemy of Satan, and He has said: " Surely the Satan is your enemy, so take him for an enemy;...". (Sura Fatir, No. 35, verse 6) . Verbally you claim that you are his enemy but actually you make friends with Satan without opposing him.
8- You have put the faults of people before your eyes and your own ones at your backs. Then, what supplication of yours can be answered for you with this case that you yourselves have closed its doors? So, fear Allah and improve your deeds, purify your intentions, and enjoin right and forbid wrong. It is in this case that Allah answers you your supplications." 70 This expressive tradition clearly says: the promise of Allah to answer supplications is a conditioned promise, not an absolute one. It is conditioned that you fulfil your promises and covenants, too; whereas you have broken promises in eight ways. So, if you put an end to this breach of promise, your call will be answered.
practising upon the foregoing eight instructions which are, in fact, the conditions of supplications to be answered, is enough for training Man and employing his faculties alongside a productive and fruitful path. 5) . Another condition of the answering of supplication is that it should be accompanied by struggle, effort and studious action. Imam Amir-ul-Mu'mineen Ali (a.s.) says: " He who prays but does not exert effort is like the one who shoots without a bow-string." 71 Regarding to the fact that a bow-string is the means of sending an arrow towards the target, the function of effort and action in the efficacy of prayer is made manifest. All the aforementioned five conditions illustrate this reality that not only supplication should not substitute the natural phenomena and ordinary means of obtaining the goal, but for its being answered, a general change is also necessary to occur in the career of the supplicant. His spirit should be renewed, and his former deeds must be reviewed so that the demanded results come into existence for the supplicant.
Thus, reverting to supplication or the efficacy of prayer does not at all exclude the necessity on the part of the supplicant of the use of the necessary external means of achieving the desired object. The connection between the practical means and prayer is indissoluble. Any sincere seeker of an object will naturally look for the practical means to achieve it. In the search for the means one must endeavour as best as possible for him, employing all his native faculties, devoting the necessary time and attention to achieve the desired object. When one is in his search for the means, open and hidden, he naturally desires guidance from the Higher Power from which nothing is hidden and for which nothing is impossible or difficult. Prayer blesses the supplicant by granting him the guidance necessary for the realization of the desire.
A Few Narrations Upon Supplication
1- It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) who said Imam Amir-ul-Mu'mineen Ali (a.s.) said: " The most beloved deeds on the earth with Allah, Mighty and Glorious, is prayer; and the best worship is piety ". Imam Sadiq (a.s.) added that Amir-ul-Mu'mineen Ali (a.s.) was a man who used to pray very much. 72 2- Imam Sadiq (a.s.) narrated from the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) who said: " Prayer is the believer's armour, the pillar of religion, and the (spiritual) light of the heavens and the earth." 73
3- Amir-ul-Mu'mineen Ali-ibn-Abitalib (a.s.) said: " Prayer is the keys of (safety and) success and the keys to (the doors of) prosperity. The best supplication is that which arises from a pure chest and a pious heart. ..." 74
4- The holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: " Shall I not lead you to a weapon which saves you from your enemies, and increases your sustenance (abundantly) ? " They answered him positively. Then he said: " Call your Lord both in night and day, because supplication is the armour of a believer." 75
5- Imam Sadiq (a.s.) has narrated from Amir-ul-Mu'mineen Ali (a.s.) who said: " Supplication is the shield of a believer; whenever you knock on a door very much, it will be opened for you." 76
64. Majma'-ul-Bayan, vol. 2, p. 278
65. Al-'Usul-men-al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 468
66. Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 93, p. 312
67. Ibid, p. 372
69. Sura An-Nisa', No. 4, verse 46
70. Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 93, p. 276
71. Nahaj-ul-Balaqah, Saying No. 337
72. Al-'Usul-min-al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 467 (Arabic Origin)
73. Al-'Usul-min-al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 468
Adapted from the book: "The Light of The Quran - Interpretation of Sura Al-Baqarah (The Cow)" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars"
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