Abu Hurayrah reported that the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said,
“Verily Allah, the Exalted, is pure and accepts only that which is pure. Allah has commanded the believers to do that which he has commanded the Messengers. The Exalted has said, ‘O Messengers! Eat of the good things and do right.’ And the Exalted also said, ‘O Believers! Eat of the good things that We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah, if it is indeed He Whom you worship.’ ”
Then he [the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam)] mentioned a man who after a long journey is disheveled and dust-colored. “The man stretches his hands out toward the sky and says, ‘O Lord, O Lord,’ while his food is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, his clothing unlawful and his nourishment is unlawful. How is he to be answered (in such a state)?”
[Muslim – Kitab Az-Zakah (Book on Zakah), hadith 1015/65]
Explanation of the hadith :
“Verily Allah, the Exalted, is pure”
Pure in this connotation denotes that Allah is Holy, and free from all deficiencies and flaws. This is the same meaning as Allah’s words,
“Bad statements are for bad people (or bad women for bad men) and bad people for bad statements (or bad men for bad women). Good statements are for good people (or good women for good men) and good people for good statements (or good men for good women): such (good people) are innocent of (every) bad statement which they say; for them is forgiveness, and generous provision (Paradise).” (Surah An-Nur, 24 : 26)
Allah the Exalted has divided speech into that which is good and pure, and that which is wicked and impure, saying,
“See you not how Allah sets forth a parable? A goodly word as a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the sky (i.e., very high).” (Surah Ibrahim, 14 : 24)
“And the parable of an evil word is that of an evil tree uprooted from the surface of earth, having no stability.” (Surah Ibrahim, 14 : 26)
“To Him ascend (all) the goodly words, and the righteous deeds exalt it (i.e. the goodly words are not accepted by Allah unless and until they are followed by good deeds)” (Surah Fatir, 35 : 10)
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) also used the words to describe the pure as lawful, and the impure unlawful.
Allah the Exalted described the Believers as being pure in His saying,
“Those whose lives the angels take while they are in a pious state (i.e,. pure from all evil, and worshipping none but Allah Alone)” (Surah An-Nahl, 16 :32)
And the angels say at the time of death, “O come out you pure soul. You were pure while in the body.” And the angels greet them with the greeting of, “Peace”, as they enter Paradise, and say to them, “You have done well.”
Because of the faith in the believer’s heart, he is completely pure – his heart, his tongue and his body. This shows on his tongue by his remembrance of Allah, and his limbs by the righteous deeds which he performs, both of which are the fruit of that faith and included in its name. All of these pure things are accepted by Allah.
Allah only accepts from the Pious
The greatest way in which a Believer can achieve purity of deeds is by purity of his food, making sure that it be from lawful sources. Thus, his deeds will be purified.
In this hadith, there is an indication that Allah does not accept one’s deeds and does not purify him except by eating what is lawful.
Eating what is unlawful corrupts one’s deeds and prevents them from being accepted, for, after that statement, The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Verily Allah, the Exalted, is pure and accepts only that which is pure. Allah has commanded the believers to do that which he has commanded the Messengers. The Exalted has said, ‘O Messengers’ Eat of the good things and do right.’ And the Exalted also said, ‘O believers! Eat of the good things that We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah, if it is indeed He Whom you worship.’ ”
The meaning of this is that the Prophets and their nations are ordered to eat from what is pure; that which is lawful, and earned by righteous work. For as long as the food is lawful and the work righteous it is accepted. However, if the food is not lawful, then how can the deeds be accepted? What was mentioned about the likelihood of supplication being accepted with the unlawful is an example of the impossibility of accepting the deeds from one whose nourishment is from the unlawful. Allah, the Exalted says,
“Allah doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are pious.” (Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5 : 27)
The Pious Predecessors used to fear for themselves from the implication of this verse lest they are not among the righteous people whose deeds are accepted by Almighty Allah.
Imam Ahmed was asked about the meaning of the “pious” in this verse to which he answered, “It connotes being cautious towards everything so that one might not fall in what is prohibited.”
Charity given out of ill-gotten money is not acceptable.
Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Allah does accept prayer that is not preceded by ablution, nor does He the charity given out of Ghulul (property taken from the war booty before its distribution).” [Muslim – Kitab Al-Taharah (Book on Purification), hadith 224]
Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Allah neither accepts prayer without purification, nor charity from Whomever gives in charity what is equivalent to a date that is from his pure earnings, and Allah only accepts what is pure; then The Merciful (Allah) takes it with His right hand.” [Bukhari – Kitab Az-Zakah (Book on Zakah), hadith 1410; Muslim – Kitab Az-Zakah (Book on Zakah), hadith 1014/63]
Giving charity out of illicit money takes one of the following two cases:
Case One : Given charity by a usurer or betrayer person or the like, which is the subject matter of the above hadiths. Allah would not accept this form of giving out in charity.
Case Two : Giving charity by someone who could not pay back certain dues on him; so he/she gives the due totals in charity on behalf of dues owner or his heirs. The majority of scholars say that this form of charity is acceptable to Almighty Allah.
The causes of answers to supplications
“Then he [The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam)] mentioned a man who after a long journey is disheveled and dust-colored. The man stretches his hands out toward the sky and says, ‘O Lord, O Lord,’ while his food is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, his clothing unlawful and his nourishment is unlawful. How is he to be answered (in such a state)?”
With these words, the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) indicated the manners of supplication and the causes which bring about a response to them. He (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) also indicated what prevents the supplication from being answered.
He (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) mentioned four causes which bring about answers to one’s supplications.
One of them is a long journey. Travelling, in itself, is a cause for a response to supplication, as mentioned in the hadith narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “There are three whose supplication is answered without doubt: the supplication of the oppressed, the supplication of the traveller, and the supplication of the father for his son.” [Abu Dawud – Kitab As-Salah (Book on Prayer), hadith 1536; Tirmidhi – Kitab Al-Birr was-Silah (Book on Goodness and Keeping Relations), hadith 1905; Musnad Ahmad, hadith 2/258]
Thus, when the travel is long, he is nearer a response to supplication. This is because one expects him to be dejected because of the long journey and being away from his home. Bearing difficulties and dejection are some of the greatest causes for answer to supplication.
The second cause is that one’s clothes have become worn out, and his appearance is disheveled and dusty. This is also one of the causes for the answering of supplication, as was mentioned in the well known hadith for the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) in which he said, “Many a person with disheveled hair (and dust-colored) is turned away from the doors (whereas Allah holds him in such high esteem) that if he were to swear by Allah, Allah would fulfill that for him.” [Muslim – Kitab Al-Birr was-Silah (Book on Goodness and Keeping Relations), hadith 2622/138]
It is described that when the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) went out to pray for rain, he would go out in a very humble, modest manner to beseech Allah. [See: Abu Dawud – Kitab As-Salah (Book on Prayer), hadith 1165; Tirmidhi – hadith 558, 559, he said that it is a good authentic (hasan sahih) hadith; Nasa’i – Kitab Al-lstisqa’ (Book on Supplication for Rain), hadith 1505; Ibn Majah – Kitab Iqamat-As-Salah (Book on Calling to the Prayer), hadith 1266; Musnad Ahmad – hadith 1/230]
The third cause is raising one’s hands to the sky, which is one of the manners of supplication because of which it is answered. It is mentioned in the hadith of Salman that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Your Lord is munificent and generous, and is ashamed to turn away empty the hands of His servant when he raises them to Him.”
Raising the hands in supplication was known to be the practice of the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam). When he performed the prayer for rain, he raised his hands so high that one could see the white of his armpit. [See: Bukhari – Kitab Al-lstisqa’ (Book on Supplication for Rain), hadith 1031; Muslim – Kitab Salat Al-lstisqa’, hadith 895]
Similarly, when he beseeched Allah for help against the polytheists during the Battle of Badr, he extended his arms such that his cloak fell off his shoulders. [See: Muslim – Kitab A-Jihad was-Siyar (Book on Holy Fighting), hadith 895]
The fourth cause is pleading with Allah by repetitively remembering and mentioning His Lordship is the greatest thing by which one seeks answers to supplication. Reflecting on the supplications that are mentioned in the Qur’an, one finds that they open by mentioning the Lord, such as in Allah’s words,
“And of them there are some who say, “Our Lord! Give us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and save us from the torment of the Fire!” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2 : 201)
“Our Lord! Punish us not if we forget or fall into error. Our Lord, Lay not on us a burden like that which You did lay on those before us (Jews and Christians). Our Lord, put not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2 : 286)
“They say, ‘Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower.’ ” (Al-‘Imran, 3:8)
The Qur’an contains many other such verses.
Malik and Sufiyan were asked about someone who says in his supplication, “O My Master.” They said, “He should say, ‘O Lord.’ ” Malik added, “As was said by the Prophets in their supplications.”
And as for what prevents supplications from being answered, the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) indicated that it is delving into the unlawful, whether from one’s food, drink, clothes, or nutrition.
It was said by Wahb bin Munabbih, that “Who feels happy that Allah responds to his supplication should make his food pure.”
Obstacles to the Answering of Prayers
“How is he to be answered [in such a state)?”
The meaning of this statement is “How does he expect to be answered?” – It is in the form of a question, used to express surprise and unlikelihood, rather than as a literal question. This is understood as it is impossible for his supplications to be answered in their entirety.
From this, it is also understood that delving into the unlawful and being nourished by it constitute obstacles to having one’s supplications answered.
However, there may be circumstances that keep this obstacle from preventing the responses to supplication. Committing prohibited acts also prevents response to supplication. Just as not performing that which is obligatory (such as shunning pursuing good and forbidding evil, as was mentioned in the hadith) prevents an answer to supplication, performing acts of obedience is a cause for their answer.
For this reason, when those who entered the cave supplicated to Allah, seeking intercession by their righteous deeds done sincerely for Allah, the Exalted, while they were closed in the cave by a rock, their prayer was answered. (Note: This story is recorded by Imam Bukhari & Muslim in their Sahih.)
‘Umar bin Al-Khattab said, “If you avoid what Allah prohibited, your supplication and praise will be accepted.’ ”
Wahb bin Munabbih said, “He who supplicates without (good) deeds, is like one who shoots (an arrow) without a bow.”
Some of the Pious Predecessors said, “How can the answer not be delayed when you have blocked its paths with sins.”
A poet reiterated the same meaning, saying,
“We pray to God in every distress,
And then we forget Him when our distress is lifted.
How can we hope that our prayer will be answered
When we have blocked its paths with sins?”
By: Imam Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali , From the book: Jami’ al Ulum wal Hikam.