"Verily, they used to hasten to do good deeds, and they used to make dua to Us with hope and fear, and they used to humble themselves before Us." (Quran 21:90)
Since my arrival in prison I have received dozens, if not hundreds, of letters that revolve around a central theme: the inability (or unwillingness) to do anything except make dua. They say, ‘I am helpless to do anything else except dua,’ and ‘There is nothing we can do except dua,’ and ‘We can’t do anything so we are making dua for you,’ etc. However, upon close examination of these statements and those making them, we can find some contradictions.
To begin with, dua (supplication) is one of the most excellent forms of worship, one of the deeds most beloved to Allah, one of the best gifts that a Muslim can give to another and one of the most formidable weapons in the armoury of a believer. That said, the number of instances mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah where dua is mentioned alone, without any accompanying action, are very few. Rather, the norm in the Quran and the life of the Messenger (peace be upon him) and his Companions and the Pious Predecessors is dua accompanied by action.
For example, at the Battle of Uhud, the Prophet (SAWS) and the believers did not just sit in Madinah and make dua. Rather, they went out to face the army of their enemy and then made dua before, during and after the battle. After establishing authority in Madinah, the Prophet (SAWS) did not just make dua for the spreading of the Message. Rather, he sent out emissaries, propagators and scholars to call the masses to the Message, but made dua before, during and after his efforts. There are numerous other examples in the Quran and Sunnah.
In the above verse, Allah the Exalted mentions actions WITH dua: He does not mention dua alone, without actions. Dua is mentioned without action only in a few, emergency circumstances, where action was all but impossible.
For example, Yunus (AS) made dua alone in the belly of the whale because there was nothing else practical that he could do in his situation. When Musa (AS) had delivered his people from Firoun, only to be sandwiched between the sea and Firoun’s army, he made dua alone because he had exhausted all of his efforts. Likewise, after the Prophet (SAWS) had called the people of Taif to Islam, and been mocked and beaten by them until his sandals were flowing with blood; he made dua to Allah, having exhausted his efforts. In the hadith of the three men trapped by a rock in a cave, each one in turn made dua alone to Allah because there was practically no action that they could undertake.
Therefore, if we examine our own personal lives, we will find a contradiction between dua and action for our own selves and for the causes of other Muslims. When it comes to earning money, how many of us sit in our houses and make dua? When it comes to buying clothes and possessions, how many of us remain at home and make dua? When it comes to beautifying our homes, how many of us sit and make dua without making any practical effort? Yet when it comes to doing things for others, for other Muslims, for Muslim captives, we feel that it is justified to sit at home and make dua without any action or effort.
Since my imprisonment began in August 2004, every member of my family has been working day and night, sacrificing, campaigning, telephoning, meeting, writing, speaking, networking and travelling- may Allah reward them. And they have been making dua excessively and plentifully-may Allah answer their duas. Even the babies and children have played their bit by sacrificing their nurseries and comforts to accompany their parents in the cold and rain to a protest or demonstration. And then there is my father, may Allah preserve him, who is probably the last person on the planet that I would imagine giving a speech on civil liberties at a protest outside Downing Street. But why is my father, my family, close relatives and a few close friends, going to all this effort? Why don’t they just sit at home and make dua? Because this time it is personal. This time their own flesh and blood is imprisoned, not some Chinese man sitting in Guantanamo Bay. Therefore, they cannot afford to sit and make dua without acting.
So now we enjoy our own lives: money in the bank, children happy, stable job, house, family etc. Then we ‘do our bit’ for the Muslim captives by making dua for them and then we continue with our comfortable lives. But what if tomorrow it was our turn? What if our own door was kicked in tomorrow, our own husband, brother, son or father brutalised by armed thugs, then imprisoned to face extradition and a death behind bars in one of the worst countries of the world in their hatred of Islam and Muslims? Would things be different then? Would we still feel as ‘helpless’ as we did for that Chinese man sitting in Guantanamo Bay? Would we still make our few minutes of dua sitting in our homes then continue with life as normal? Or would all hell break loose in our family system? Or would we telephone, write, collect, organise, meet, travel, campaign etc.? Let’s be honest - our selfish nature and dead hearts would most likely mean that this time we will act. And make dua.
So next time you think that you have ‘done your bit’ by making dua, ask yourself honestly if your situation really is like Yunus ('alayhis-salaam) in the whale, or Musa ('alayhis-salaam) in front of the sea. If anyone would have an excuse only to make dua, it would have been us captives. But even we do more than make dua alone whilst in prison. Those of us that can write, write. Those of us that can draw, draw. And even if we cannot write or draw for the benefit of the people outside, we at least build bridges across to the hearts of violent murderers, evil criminals and fearsome gangsters so that when they leave prison, at least they will have a positive opinion of Muslims and they will think twice before attacking Muslims with their evil.
Dua accompanies action. So when we plan a conference, for instance, we make dua prior to the event to help in planning, we make dua during the even and we make dua after the even so that its outcome is beneficial and Allah accepts our efforts. This is the meaning and the role of dua in a difficult situation. So next time Shaytan whispers to us, "I can only make dua," let us consult our hearts and our consciences and we will find that it is only an excuse. A feeble one.