Book 35: The Book Pertaining to the Remembrance of Allah, Supplication, Repentance and Seeking Forgiveness (Kitab Al-Dhikr)
Supplication is in fact not only the spontaneous outpourings of man's heart before his Lord, but it is an expression of his sense of nearness to Him, of His Might and Power, of his confidence in His mercy, grace and blessings. If one were to know how much a man supplicates, and what he supplicates about, and how he supplicates, one would be able to see how much spirituality is there in his soul. When a man without any witness speaks with Allah, the soul stands unveiled before its Creator. The higher the note he strikes in his outpouring, the higher is the quality of the faith that is imprinted upon his soul, and serves as a background to all his thought and activity. Thus to understand the spirit of any religion and appraise its value to life and society, supplications serve as the key. The Prophet (may peace be upon him) was a great believer in supplication and prayer. He made supplications to his Lord with zeal and fervour, rarely to be found in the religious literature of the world. One who cares to read them cannot but be overwhelmed with the depth of feelings with which the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him) approaches his Lord, his intense love for the Great Master, his deep faith in His unbounded Favours, his unshakeable confidence in His Divine Mercy and unflinching faith in His Might and Power, and his sense of deep humility before Him. These are in fact the multi-coloured threads with which is woven the delicate pattern of the Prophet's (may peace be upon him) supplications. In Islam the supplication which a Muslim has been instructed to make whether singly or in congregation, whether at the appointed hour of ritual prayer or at any sudden call or urge to His Lord, reflects the one single attitude of submission, humility and closeness to God. Whatever is the state of spiritual elevation of the supplication he is made to keep this fact constantly in his mind that he is a humble servant of the Lord. That is the reason why most of the supplications in Islam open with an invocation of the Divine Being; either the personal name of God, i. e. Allah, is used or the descriptive title of His Attributes are called out in order to make the worshipper conscious of his own weak and dependent self before his Master. In Islam man seeks to move God to help and grant him what he desires, and at the same time he seeks unconsciously to work upon himself through the realisation of what God means to him, to strengthen, to renew and to refresh his own inner life.
While the expression of dependence and trust is in reality a prerequisite of supplication in Islam, it covers the whole range of human life with all its needs, longings and problems. Supplication finds expression in a deep and urgent longing for self preservation and deliverance from the oppressive situation, forgiveness of sins, elevation of the soul, goodness of the worldly life and that of the Hereafter. This consciousness of one's absolute dependence upon Him, which pervades the entire stock of the Prophet's (may peace be upon him) supplications, shows man's attitude of perfect resignation before the Mighty Will of the Master, but this resignation has nothing of the spirit of despondence and despair in it; it rather illuminates hope out of conviction that the Being Who is the Lord of man's fate can also help him and save him even in the most trying circumstances.
The supplications of Muhammad (may peace be upon him) eminently combine in themselves the mystical and the religious traits. While the Muslim supplicates, he, like a mystic, beholds undisturbed with concentrated gaze one Supreme Spiritual Reality Who is the Embodiment and Repository of all values. But, unlike mystics, he, in the hour of contemplation in supplication, does not lose himself but realises himself to be a humble servant of God and therein lies his spiritual strength and unwavering confidence in God.
The one more distinguishing feature of the supplications taught by Muhammad (may peace be upon him) is that these are all permeated with the spirit of social fellowship. They do not urge man to stand face to face with God in absolute loneliness, isolated from all other human beings. Herein the suppliant begs his Lord with the full consciousness of human brotherhood and with a feeling that the distress which vexes him is not his only, it is that of his brethren. The graces of God and the salvation for which he longs are also the longings of all believers, nay, of the entire humanity. There is no doubt a deep touch of intimate personal and individual contact with God in these supplications, but this contact is not of the nature of a non-Muslim mystic in which the soul is supposed to be unified with God losing all its individual identity. Here the soul has a communion with Allah with full consciousness of man's own self, his social surroundings and responsibilities. That is why most of the supplications have been expressed in the form" We" and Us".