Today I would like to examine why our prayers remain unanswered by the Almighty. It is a topic our ulema often talk about and one worth writing about here.
We have been warned numerous times in the Quran that, if we do not follow the divine edicts, we are sure to be disgraced and punished. At many places the Almighty has advised and warned us to look around and observe the fate of those people who were once rich and powerful but who are now no more than dust.
In this connection, I would specially like to draw attention to Surah Almaida, Ayat 105, which says: “Believers, take heed regarding your own selves. If you are rightly-guided, the error of one who strays will not harm you. To Allah will all of you return; then He will let all of you know what you did.”
The late, great religious scholar, Maulana Maudoodi, has explained it beautifully in ‘Tafhimul Quran’ as: “What is stressed here is that, rather than occupying oneself unduly with examining faults in the belief and conduct of others, one should pay greater attention to a critical examination of one’s own conduct. This verse, however, in no way means that a person should be occupied only with his own salvation and should remain unconcerned with the reform of others.
“Abu Bakr removed this misconception in one of his sermons when he remarked: ‘You recited this verse but interpret it erroneously. I have heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) say that when people see corruption but do not try to change it, and when they see a wrong-doer commit wrong but do not prevent him from doing so, it is not unlikely that God’s chastisement will seize them all. By God, it is incumbent upon you that you bid what is good and forbid what is evil or else God will grant power over you to those who are the worst among you. They will greatly chastise you and then, when your righteous ones pray to God, their prayers will not be answered.’”
This is exactly what is happening at present. Many honest, righteous people are praying and beseeching the Almighty to save us from the morass we are in, but their prayers are not being heard.
In his ‘Masnavi’, the indomitable Maulana Rumi has explained the non-acceptance of one’s prayers in these words: “The angels submitted to the Almighty that a certain momin (good Muslim) is crying for Your help but is not receiving any relief. The Almighty told the angels that this delay was not due to considering him as unworthy. It is, in a way, a blessing for him as We like his beseeching. If We accept his prayers immediately and give him relief, he will again become haughty and won’t remember Us …… For the momin, this world is like a cage (a temporary place), but for the non-believer it is a paradise for their sins wherein they loiter leisurely.
“The reason for the delay in accepting the prayers of the momin is that the Almighty wants to keep him engaged with him …The stones used to salute our Holy Prophet (pbuh) …Sometimes the Almighty turns ignorance to strengthen the faith (Iman) and sometimes a person goes astray due to Allah’s favours and prayers (becomes too haughty). For example: (1) ‘How many towns have we destroyed for their sins? Our punishment took them on a sudden by night or while they slept for their afternoon rest’ (6:4); (2) ‘Travel through the earth and see what was the end of those before you. Most of them worshipped others besides Allah’ (30:42); (3) ‘Do they not travel through the earth and see what was the end of those before them, though they were superior to them in strength? Nor Allah is to be frustrated by anything whatever in the heavens or on earth: For He is All-knowing, All-powerful’ (36:44).
“The reason for it is to emphasise that no religious person is without Allah’s fear and the wrongdoer not lose hope in the benevolence of Allah…The natural miracle is that the unbelievers want to insult the prophets but the effect is the opposite. The prophets are more respected and even miracles happen resulting in enhanced respect for the prophet. The unbelievers believe that they can degrade the prophets, but the result is the opposite. If they had not indulged in disbelieving the prophets, then there won’t be any need for miracles.
“Firaun (Pharoah) had collected magicians to defeat Hazrat Musa (saw), but it turned out that the stick of Hazrat Musa (saw) swallowed the magicians’ snakes. Firaun chased the people of Bani Israel to kill them, but instead he and his cronies were drowned, giving a good reason for Bani Israel to live in peace. If he were alive, he would have been a source of constant fear for Bani Israel. This the Almighty did to prove that peace was hidden behind fear.
A Jewish chief tried to murder Hazrat Isa (saw), but the Almighty raised up Hazrat Isa and turned that Jew to look like him. The Jews hanged him despite his protests that he was not Hazrat Isa (saw).”
The Masnavi (or story) of Maulana Rumi is an explanation of what the Almighty has ordained – some things that we consider bad are actually good for us, but we are not aware of that and some things which we consider good are, in fact, bad for us, but we are not aware of it.
In our present situation, the non-acceptance of prayers, even of the righteous people, is due to the general wrongdoing of the majority of the people, as was explained by our Holy Prophet (pbuh) while discussing Ayat 105 of Surah Almaida and narrated by Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) in one of his khutbas (addresses/sermons).