The following is the translation of an Arabic Q&A from the website of Sheikh Ata' Abu Rashta.
Discussion took place at a meeting on the subject of prayer, particularly what has been mentioned in the book "Concepts of HT" at page no. 57 and 58… so, it is stated: Is supplication (Dua'a) is an action which is for reward only? Or it an action which achieves tangible result also? Is the method of implementation of Islamic idea is not incorporated in supplication (Dua'a), rather these are materialist actions which achieve tangible results? Is combining these actions with supplication (Dua'a) contrary to the method of Islam? And what about the Hadith of the Prophet (saw): "There is no Muslim who calls upon his Lord with a supplication in which there is no sin or severing of family ties but Allah will give him one of three things: Either He will answer his prayer quickly, or He will keep equivalent reward for him (in the Hereafter), or He will divert an equivalent evil away from him". The companions (ra) then said: "in such a case we will supplicate as much as we can". The Prophet (saw) remarked: "Allah gives abundantly". I.e. are there tangible results which happen due to effect of Dua'a as if does Allah expedite realization of the need of the supplicant in Duniya? As Allah favours his servants by responding to the supplication of the distressed one when he calls Him, as mentioned in the noble Ayah (Is not He (better than your gods) Who responds to the distressed one, when he calls Him)…
Kindly clarify this matter and May Allah reward you.
There seems to be confusion in understanding what was mentioned at pages 57 and 58 of the Concepts. So, what is mentioned therein on the subject of Dua'a, and that it attains non-tangible results "reward" is in the context of a particular case, i.e. the Shar'ai rules have explained the method of dealing with any issue. However, we don't utilize it. Rather, we suffice to supplicate only. The book has cited the examples of Jihad and Dua'a, towards opening a fortress or fighting an enemy…
With regard to the other circumstances, Dua'a may produce tangible results if Allah wills in addition to the award as mentioned in the reported hadith of the Prophet (saw), which was stated in the question.
In order to shed light upon the matter, I will review what was mentioned at pages 57 and 58 of the Concepts:
1- It was mentioned at the beginning of page 57: (On examining those actions which are defined by the Shar’ai rules related to the Tareeqah, we find that they are materialistic actions achieving tangible results. They are not actions aimed at achieving non-tangible results…), end of quotation.
And this is correct. By examining the evidences, it is found that the actions related to the Tareeqah achieve tangible results.
2- Then the book compared the above text between Dua'a and Jihad in case of opening a fortress or city or killing the enemy, and deemed that the prayer (Dua'a) alone is not the way and that Jihad is the method in this case on the strength of the evidences stated therein …
It was stated in the Concepts: (For example, supplication (dua’a) is a materialistic action that achieves a spiritual value, and jihad is also a materialistic action that achieves a spiritual value. However, dua’a, although being a materialistic action, it achieves a non-tangible result which is the reward even if the intention of its performer was to achieve a spiritual value. This is in contrast to jihad, fighting against the enemy is a materialistic action which achieves a tangible result, e.g. the opening of a fortress or city, or killing the enemy and the like, even if the intention of the mujahid was to achieve the spiritual value…)
So, the comparison here is between prayer (dua'a) and Jihad at the time of fighting enemies or opening a fortress..:
If only dua'a is performed, it achieves a non-tangible result which is the reward. This is because the way stated in this case is Jihad and not Dua'a. So, the topic here is to make comparison between the supplication (dua'a) alone, in case it was used alone in a issue without adopting the way clarified for the same issue.
This case cannot be generalized by making the supplication (dua'a) 'in other cases, which don't have any effect in the tangible results, rather they only achieve the reward! For the reason that what has been mentioned in the earlier passage is related to a issue which in the Sharia has a practical way that was not followed; rather only the supplication (dua'a) was performed and supplication (dua'a) achieves non-tangible results which is reward.
It seems that the confusion came from the sentence stated in the example that cited, so it has been stated "However, dua’a, although being a materialistic action, it achieves a non-tangible result which is the reward…", so the sentence was considered by some of you to have a general implication i.e. the supplication (dua'a) in all cases achieves only the non-tangible results "reward", while the context of the parable is in a particular case, which is to make use of only the supplication (dua'a) in opening a fortress or defeating an enemy without adopting the way (required to achieve the target) which was stated in the texts to be "Jihad".
3- As for the supplication (dua'a) together with adopting the means, it have impact on the results, as it was practiced by the Prophet (saw) and his companions (may Allah be pleased with them). So, the Prophet (saw) used to prepare the army and also enters Al Arish supplicating Allah. The Muslims in the battle of Qadisiyah were preparing themselves to break into the river, and (at the same time) Saad (may Allah be pleased with him) was engaged in supplication to Allah… This way the true believers used to prepare themselves (for the battle) and supplicate for blessings of Allah. Likewise, anyone seeking to earn livelihood, strives and works hard as well as supplicates Allah; the student studies and take pains as well as ask Allah for the success and accordingly, it has impact on the results if Allah wills.
It was stated in the Concepts at the bottom of page 58: (It must be noted that though the action indicated by the Tareeqah is a materialistic action which achieves tangible results, this action should be directed by the commands and prohibitions of Allah with the intention of earning Allah (saw) pleasure. The Muslim must also be dominated by his awareness of his relationship with Allah, so he seeks nearness to Allah through salah, dua’a, recitation of the Qur’an and so on. He must also believe that Nasr is from Allah. It is necessary that Muslims maintain taqwa established in the heart to implement the rules of Allah. It is also necessary to make dua’a and to remember Allah (dhikr), and to maintain the relationship with Allah whenever undertaking all actions). So the importance of Dua'a coupled with adopting the means is evident in all actions of the believer. And the repetition of the word "must" has increased this importance to show the great significance of connecting all the actions with Dua'a and always having close relationship with Allah…
4- Performing Dua'a together with adopting the means, as we said earlier, was the practice of Prophet (saw), his companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and the believers. They, when coupled together, have the impact on the results if Allah wills, and their simultaneous use does not violate the Islamic way. Rather, what violates the Islamic way is to get restricted to Dua'a only without adopting the way explained by the Shar’ai rules for implementing the Islamic fikrah (Idea).
It was stated at the end of page 57 and beginning of page 58: It is completely unacceptable that all actions used to implement the Islamic Fikrah be those actions that achieve non-tangible results. This is contrary to the nature of the Islamic Tareeqah…) i.e. it is contrary to the nature of Islamic Tareeqah that "all the actions aimed at implementing the Islamic Fikrah are the actions which achieve non-tangible results". However, the fact that some of them that achieves non-tangible results "Dua'a in specific cases" are coupled with actions that achieve tangible results "the materialistic preparation" so it is an expected and significant matter and is not contrary to the nature of Islamic Tareeqah.
5- Thus, what was stated in the Concept on the subject of Dua'a, has two conditions:
First: It alone should be used to implement a Fikrah, which has no specific way for implementation. Rather, the texts stipulated another way to implement it such as Dua'a in the case of fighting the enemy, that we should stand in front of the fortress in order to open without preparing an army for fighting but to resort to Dua'a only. In such a case, Dua'a does not achieve except non-tangible results and that is "reward".
Second: Dua'a should be coupled with adaptation of the means and this is an indispensable matter. In such a case, both participate i.e. "Dua'a and adopting the means" in having impact on the results if Allah wills.
And there is nothing in the "Concepts" which talks about Dua'a in other cases. Rather, that is covered by the general hadith stated by Ahmad in his Musnad, reporting from Abu Al Mutawakkil, who reported from Abu Sa'eed that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "There is no Muslim who calls upon his Lord with a supplication in which there is no sin or severing of family ties but Allah will give him one of three things: Either He will answer his prayer quickly, or He will keep equivalent reward for him (in the Hereafter), or He will divert an equivalent evil away from him". The companions (ra) then said: "in such a case we will supplicate as much as we can". The Prophet (saw) remarked: "Allah gives abundantly" i.e. Allah the Almighty responds to the supplicant with one of the three, including "Either He will answer his prayer quickly". And this is a tangible result.
6- Therefore, there are possible tangible results of Dua'a in a case other than what was stated in the Concepts, as the Hadith mentioned one of the three "Either He will answer his prayer quickly" and this is a tangible result. Example of this is what happens in Salat Al Istisqa (the prayer for rain) "which is a Dua'a" in terms of achieving tangible results by the rainfall, and what happens in ruqyah "which is a Dua'a" in terms of achieving tangible results by the healing of patient. These cases are similar to what happens when one gets cured by receiving the materialistic treatment…
Allah favours his servants in his noble Ayat by responding to the supplication of the distressed one, when he calls Him. Thus He has made this responding a proof that there is no god but Allah. And it is evident from the above that, responding to the distressed one is here in this world. The word "distressed" is a description which indicates requesting a need in this world. Accordingly, the respond is tangible if Allah wills. He the Almighty says: (Is not He (better than your gods) Who responds to the distressed one, when he calls Him and Who removes the evil, and makes you inheritors of the earth, generations after generations.).
Allah the Almighty enjoins us to supplicate him and promises to respond to it (And your Lord said: "Invoke Me, [i.e. believe in My Oneness (Islamic Monotheism)] (and ask Me for anything) I will respond to your (invocation). The Prophet (saw) has explained this responding that it is "one of the three" including the tangible result. And of course achieving the results whether they are tangible or non-tangible, are all from Allah's willingness and favor.
The gist of what was stated in the Concepts is:
A- The Tareeqah are actions that achieves tangible results:
B- The comparison between only Dua'a and Jihad is related to the subject of opening a fortress or fighting an enemy… so, Dua'a in this case does not lead to a tangible result. Rather, only to reward for the reason that it alone is not the way to open the fortress or kill the enemy…
C- All actions used to implement fikrah of Islam should not be those (actions) that lead to non-tangible results. Rather, the actions that achieve tangible results should be coupled with actions that achieve non-tangible results such as preparation of the army for fighting together with supplication (Dua'a) to Allah the Almighty for victory.
D- Dua'a is essential for a Muslim during his performance of the Tareeqah… as was the practice of the Messenger of Allah (saw) and his companions (may Allah be pleased with them).
* This is what was stated in the Concepts on the condition of Dua'a that does not exceed the reward, i.e. in case Dua'a alone is used to an issue such as opening of fortress…, and not adopting the Tareeqah clarified by the Shar'ai rules related to the same issue, which is in this case is Jihad.
As for other cases of Dua'a, they fall under the general hadith of the Prophet (saw) "There is no Muslim who calls upon his Lord with a supplication in which there is no sin or severing of family ties but Allah will give him one of three things: Either He will answer his prayer quickly, or He will keep equivalent reward for him (in the Hereafter), or He will divert an equivalent evil away from him". The companions (ra) then said: "in such a case we will supplicate as much as we can". The Prophet (saw) remarked: "Allah gives abundantly" as stated by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad.
It is evident from this hadith that Allah the Almighty fulfills the need of the supplicant in this world that is tangible or diverts an equivalent evil from him in this world and that is also tangible, or He will keep equivalent reward for him on the day of resurrection and that is reward i.e. non-tangible result. Allah the Almighty is of the immense favor, as well as He is the Most Beneficent and the Most Merciful, honors His servant the reward of his Dua'a, even by answering his supplication in this world. So, all the praise is for Allah (SWT), the Sustainer and Cherisher of all worlds.
4th Dhu'l-Qadah, 1432 AH.
1st October, 2011 CE.