Appealing to God for Safety
Ibn Umar quoted : “God’s messenger used always to say the following words, morning and evening: ‘My Lord, I pray You for safety in this life and in the life to come. My Lord, I pray You for forgiveness and safety in my faith and my life, with my family and in my property. My Lord, cover my defects and give me reassurance in time of fear. Protect me, my Lord, from the front and the rear, from the right and the left, and from above. I appeal to Your glory against any evil that could afflict me when I am unaware.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad] To use the Arabic wording, we say: “Allahumma inni asaluka al-afiyah fiddunya wal-aakhirah. Allahumma inni asaluka al-afwa wal-afiyah fiddini wa dunyai, wa ahli wa mali. Allahumma ustur awraati, wa aamin rawaati. Allahumma ihfazni min bayni yadayya wa min khalfi, wa an yamini wa an shimali wa min fawqi, wa auoodu biazamatika an ughtala min tahti.”
In this supplication, the Prophet is appealing to God for safety in all situations and all aspects of one’s life. This is clear at the beginning where safety in faith, which means having only sound beliefs and following the divine guidance in worship and other practices, is stressed ahead of safety in life which indicates physical and psychological health.
The Prophet also teaches us to pray for the safety of one’s family and property. This prayer addresses practically all the main concerns of everyone. Having sound faith, feeling healthy, and taking proper care of family and property are the total sum of what everyone would like to have at any moment in time.
But the Prophet’s supplication also addresses what may unexpectedly happen. To start with he prays for the covering of his defects and to be granted reassurance in time of fear. Needless to say, the Prophet had no defect in character, action or feelings toward others. He never entertained any feeling of hatred. He loved all people and cared for them. Even those who opposed him and did him much harm would have enjoyed his love had they, at any time, acknowledged the truth of his message and believed in God.
As a human being, the Prophet experienced times of fear, but he always placed his trust in God, and prayed him for safety and security. Hence, in this supplication, he prays for reassurance in time of fear, and for God’s protection all round. He expresses this in a very tangible way, since human beings have to think within their limited world. Besides, his supplication is meant as guidance for us so that we know how to pray to God for our own protection from all evil. We cannot do better than follow the Prophet’s example and say: “My Lord, cover my defects and give me reassurance in time of fear. Protect me, my Lord, from the front and the rear, from the right and the left, and from above. I appeal to Your glory against any evil that could afflict me when I am unaware.”
The Prophet varied his supplication, using different formulae so that his supplication did not become too stereotype. Moreover, the variation meant that different people heard different prayers and supplications, and reported them. We have, as a result, a good variety, and whatever we learn is sufficient as such supplication is recommended, not obligatory. Anas ibn Malik reports that the Prophet said: “Whoever says in the morning: ‘Our Lord! We appeal to You this morning to bear witness, You and the angels carrying Your throne and all angels and all Your creation, that You are God. There is no deity other than You and there is no partner with You, and that Muhammad is Your servant and messenger: whoever says this God will spare one quarter of him from the fire. If he says it twice, God saves one half of him from the fire, and if he says it four times, God saves him from the fire that day.” (Related by Al-Bukahri, Muslim and Al-Tirmidhi) To use this supplication in its Arabic form we say: “Allahumma inna asbahna nushhiduka wa nushhidu hamalata arshika wa malaa’ikataka wa jamee’a khalqika annaka anta Allah, la ilaha illa ant, wahdaka la shareeka lak; wa anna Muhammadan abduka wa rasooluk.” This supplication is extremely fascinating, because it calls on God and the angels to bear witness to His oneness. Of course God knows that He is one, and that He has no partners.
But invoking Him as a witness provides here a most emphatic statement by the supplicant of his or her unshakable belief in God’s oneness. You do not call on God to witness, in support of your own statement, unless you are absolutely certain that what you say is true. Otherwise you risk incurring God’s wrath, and that is not a good prospect for anyone.