Power of prayer: Fostering a deeper connection with Allah through humility

Lawal Ibraheem Olaniyi, Student, Federal University of Technology Akure, Nigeria
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Jamshaid Mughal | Unsplash

In the chaotic landscape of the modern world, marked by several challenges, uncertainties and exponential changes, the significance of prayer is increasingly becoming more profound. In a time when humanity seeks stability, unity and answers to world problems, the timeless catalyst of prayer emerges as the only ray of hope that can navigate man through global crises, societal shifts and personal struggles. Prayer transcends mere religious or cultural practice; it evolves into a universal and transcendental solution to the world’s challenges.

In this article, we explore one of the fundamental elements essential for the acceptance of prayer, drawing inspiration from the exemplary lives of devout Prophets of Allah.

In lexical terms, humility refers to “the quality of being humble or having a lowly opinion of oneself; meekness, lowliness, humbleness: the opposite of pride or haughtiness.” (www.oed.com) In the context of religion, it means  the recognition of self in relation to a Supreme Being and subsequent submission to that Supreme Being.

Allah the Almighty explicitly mentions one of the foremost prerequisites of an accepted prayer in the Holy Quran. He says:

اُدۡعُوۡا رَبَّکُمۡ تَضَرُّعًا وَّخُفۡيَةً ؕ اِنَّہٗ لَا يُحِبُّ الۡمُعۡتَدِيۡن

“Call upon your Lord in humility and in secret. Surely, He does not love the transgressors.” (Surah al-A’raf, Ch.7: V.56)

This verse elaborates the significant prerequisite of an accepted prayer; to admit your weaknesses as a human towards the Almighty.

In the Five Volume Commentary, it is written, “The reader should note that instead of saying ‘openly’ and ‘secretly’, the Quran here uses the words ‘humbly’ and ‘secretly,’ substituting the word ‘humbly’ for ‘openly’, thus indicating that a prayer said openly is useful only when it is offered in humility. ‘Open’ prayers may sometimes be offered from a motive of display and show. Such prayers are of no value. Prayers are efficacious only when offered with due humility.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 874)

It is in this sense that Prophets and devouts have enjoyed sheer blessings and miracles from Allah the Almighty. Numerous verses in the Holy Quran highlight the humility of these Prophets of Allah.

One such example is in the life of Hazrat Zakariyyaas who called upon Allah in humility. Allah the Almighty refers to this in the Holy Quran in the following words:

اِذۡ نَادٰي رَبَّہٗ نِدَآءً خَفِيًّا قَالَ رَبِّ اِنِّيۡ وَہَنَ الۡعَظۡمُ مِنِّيۡ وَاشۡتَعَلَ الرَّاۡسُ شَيۡبًا وَّلَمۡ اَکُنۡۢ بِدُعَآئِکَ رَبِّ شَقِيًّا

“When he called upon his Lord, crying in secret. He said, ‘My Lord, the bones have indeed waxed feeble in me, and the head glistens with hoariness, but never, my Lord, have I been unblessed in my prayer to Thee.’” (Surah Maryam, Ch.19: V.4-5)

The verses illustrate that Hazrat Zakariyyaas had concealed in his heart his innermost desire. However, when he heard the beautiful reply of Hazrat Maryamas (Surah Aal-e-‘Imran, Ch.3: V.38), he was deeply touched that he expounded his weaknesses and helplessness before Allah the Almighty and poured out his heart towards Him that he may be bestowed an illustrious son. His prayer possessed all the ingredients of a successful prayer. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 1558)

Another such magnificent acceptance of prayer was bestowed upon Hazrat Yunusas who at the depth of the ocean cried out to Allah from the belly of the fish saying:

 لَّاۤ اِلٰہَ اِلَّاۤ اَنۡتَ سُبۡحٰنَکَ ٭ۖ اِنِّيۡ کُنۡتُ مِنَ الظّٰلِمِيۡنَ

“There is no God but Thou, Holy art Thou. I have indeed been of the wrongdoers.” (Surah Al-anbiya’ Ch.21: V.88)

About this humble prayer, Allah the Almighty says;

فَاسۡتَجَبۡنَا لَہٗ ۙ وَنَجَّيۡنٰہُ مِنَ الۡغَمِّ ؕ وَکَذٰلِکَ نُــۨۡجِي الۡمُؤۡمِنِيۡنَ

“So, we heard his prayer and delivered him from the distress. And thus, do We deliver the believers.” (Surah al-Anbiya’, Ch.21: V.89)

This verse further strengthens the promise of Allah the Almighty towards anyone who calls out to Him in absolute humility. A deeper perspective of the prayer of Hazrat Yunusas brings to light the profound relationship he had with Allah the Almighty that even the Holy Prophetsa said in a narration:

فَإِنَّهُ لَمْ يَدْعُ بِهَا رَجُلٌ مُسْلِمٌ فِي شَيْءٍ قَطُّ إِلاَّ اسْتَجَابَ اللّٰهُ لَهُ

“So indeed, no Muslim man supplicates with it, [ie.,  لَّاۤ اِلٰہَ اِلَّاۤ اَنۡتَ سُبۡحٰنَکَ ٭ۖ اِنِّيۡ کُنۡتُ مِنَ الظّٰلِمِيۡنَ] for anything, ever, except Allah responds to him.” (Sunan at Tirmizi, Kitabu d-da‘wati ‘an rasulillahi sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, Abwabu da‘wat, Hadith 3505)

This hadith of the Holy Prophetsa also teaches us how we can connect with Allah to seek his forgiveness, admit our wrongs and seek purification from our evil desires. This attitude evokes the mercy of Allah upon an individual. The Holy Prophetsa is also reported to have said:

“[…] And no one humbles himself for the sake of Allah except that Allah raises him.” (Sahih Muslim, Kitabu l-birri wa s-sillati wa l-adab, Bab is-tihbabi l-‘afwi wa t-tawadu‘,  Hadith 2588)

Even in the zenith of Islam’s triumph, historical records attest to the profound humility embodied by the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. During this triumphant period, the Holy Prophetsa dedicated significant time in the stillness of the night, immersed in prostration, shedding tears, and fervently praying to Allah. His supplications were a poignant plea for the salvation of his ummah, earnestly seeking divine intervention to avert impending destruction. While describing the humility of the Holy Prophetsa , the Promised Messiahas writes:

“The exalted station [‘uluww] that is granted to the chosen servants of God Almighty is imbued with the hue of humility, whereas Satan’s self-exaltation [‘uluww] was tainted with arrogance. Behold, when our Noble Prophetsa conquered Mecca, he bowed down and prostrated [before Allah], just as he used to do during the days of afflictions and difficulties when he used to face every kind of opposition and be inflicted with hardships in the same [town of] Mecca. Upon seeing the state he had left Mecca in and the state that he was now returning to, his heart was filled with gratitude to God, and he prostrated himself in thanksgiving.” (Al Hakam, 31 October 1902; Malfuzat [1984], Vol. 4, p. 65, footnote)

The Promised Messiahas has also said:

“Wherever you fall weak, raise your hands in prayer with sincerity and faith. For hands that are raised with a spirit of humility and meekness as a result of sincerity and faith are never returned empty.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. 1 p.143)

In conclusion, the world is looming towards destruction as several crises have arisen in different parts of the world. Therefore, it is our duty as believers to always reflect and act upon the profound lessons of humility learnt from the lives of Prophets. While absolute humility is significant in the acceptance of prayer, humility alone is not enough for prayer to be accepted but one must also strive to live a life of righteousness, purity and perfect attention and love.

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