ادْعُوا رَبَّكُمْ تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً
Ud‘ū rabbakum tadarru‘an wa-khufyatan
Call on your Lord humbly and secretly
(Sūratul A‘rāf, No. 7, Āyat 55)
When a human being supplicates to God he acknowledges that he is the needy servant who is asking from the source of all good and bestowal. Supplication thus strengthens the relationship between the Creator and the created, more so when we all spend long time supplicating to the Almighty in the holy month of Ramadan.
In this verse Almighty Allah tells us to call upon Him in two ways, ways that are worthy of a servant supplicating and beseeching his Master. He says the supplication should be:
1) Humble – The word tadharru‘an refers to specific movements in the heart, tongue and body to show a humble recognition of the greatness of the Lord and the lowliness of the servant. The verbal supplication is just a means to convey the depths of emotion felt in the heart. It manifests the submission, the dependence, the insignificance, the neediness . . . felt by the supplicant. This type of supplication breaks the pride and ego and opens the eyes of the supplicant to his real place in the Universe.
A hadith of Imam al-Sādiq (a) says: Tadharru’ in supplication is raising your hands towards the sky and then supplicating (al-Kāfī, v. 2, p. 481). The Holy Prophet (s) also supplicated in that manner and Salman al Farsi narrates from him that Almighty Allah is shy of rejecting hands that are outstretched towards Him.
2) In secret – To supplicate in privacy is to be away from the dangers of riyā’ or showing off to others. There is complete sincerity and an intimacy that can only be achieved in private conversations with the Lord. It also helps to focus and concentrate on the act of supplication.
Tafsīr-e Namūne narrates that once the Holy Prophet (s) was with his companions when they passed by a river. The Muslims began shouting out slogans of La ilala Illallah and Allahu Akbar. The Holy Prophet told them; ‘O people, calm yourselves. You are not calling upon one who is deaf or absent. You are calling upon one who is all-Hearing and near. He is with you.’
‘Allāmah Majlisī narrates in Bihār that among Allah’s exhortations to Nabī ‘Īsā (a) was: ‘O ‘Īsā, call upon me with the supplication of a sorrowful one, as if he is drowning and has no savior . . . and only supplicate Me by imploring Me, with the supplication being your prime concern, for surely if you call Me like that I will answer you’ (Bihār al-Anwar, v. 93, p. 318, H. 23).
Humility and privacy are etiquettes of Du‘ā taught to us by the Almighty Himself so that we supplicate to Him in way worthy of Him. Remember this verse when supplicating, especially in this holy month of Ramadan, and follow it to gain closeness to the Lord.
Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirazi (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne;
Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr-e Nūr