First, consider this thought experiment:
Imagine you’re the mother of twins. You told them not to go to a party, but they disobeyed. Naturally, you’re upset and waiting for them to come back.
But to make matters worse, you learned from their younger sister that when they do come back they plan to ask you for a favour. The twins need your car to go to school.
When Hassan came into the house, he quickly greeted you and ran to their room to avoid your wrath. From the room, however, he sent the younger sister to ask permission for the use of your car.
Hussain on the other hand, came into the living room reciting this poem he wrote for you two years ago:
Your bosom I suckled
And my shoes you buckled.
You loved me as I was
Ugly as I was;
Walking as a monkey waltz.
How do I repay your tender nature?
My life is too short for your adequate nurture.
Puffed up and proud you were
In my babbling wear.
You traded-in every silver
To save me from my painful fever.
As I stretch up to Heavens,
And count my days in sevens,
And traverse the universe,
Hear o people!
I want to manufacture enough oxygen.
To prevent a breath fracture,
That she will live free,
And grow to see centuries three.
When Hussain saw that your face was softening after that rendition, he added:
“Mama, I know we’ve transgressed. But we are a couple of misguided little rascals. So, please forgive us.”
After that, he put in his request to use your car.
This example may be a little contrived but to whom are you likely to grant the favour of using your car? Hussain, right?
Very few humans will demand that you praise them, because, well, do we deserve to be praised?
In the case of God, however, that demand is explicit. God wants us to praise him for all He has done for us. This gives us a clue as to what to do when we want something from Him.
Although I know very little about the two other monotheistic religions, I can see that this is a recognized principle in all of them.
Christians shout “praise the lord!”
Which is greeted with “Hallelujah!” Not only because he deserves to be praised, but because he demands it from us.
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) once saw a man fervently supplicating to God in the mosque and remarked that the man was in a hurry. His companions wanted to know why he said so.
Before asking Allah, the prophet observed, he should have praised Allah.
Messengers of God before him also knew this lesson intimately. There are many verses in the Qur’an where God directly demands that he should be praised.
But one of the most effective ways to praise Allah is to ask for His forgiveness. And that was what Solomon (AS) did when he asked God to give him power so vast in scope that He wouldn’t give anyone after him.
Why some people are unsure about how to ask, Solomon didn’t waste time with many words: he only used a 2-step process; Solomon simply said “forgive me” and then launched into what he wanted:
“My Lord, forgive me and grant me a kingdom such as will not belong to anyone after me. Indeed, You are the Bestower.”
And Allah answered the prayer: “So We subjected to him the wind blowing by his command, gently, wherever he directed…” (ibid 36)
Different religious books (Torah, Bible and the Qur’an) are united on the extent of the power Solomon had. Even the devils among the jinns were subject to Solomon’s rule.
We can unpack three things from Sulaiman’s formula:
- While our scholars inundate us with many confusing prayers to say when supplicating God. Employing Solomon’s simple example, we can achieve the same thing in an easy two-step process: “ask forgiveness and then ask for heavens on earth.”
If you preface your supplication by asking forgiveness for your transgression you will get anything you asked from Allah. Some scholars even believe that if you say astaghfirullah constantly during your waking hours, you would get everything your heart desires.
- We may think that Prophet Sulaiman was a little selfish for asking Allah to give a kingdom that will not be appropriate for anyone after him. But according to Nouman Ali Khan, while commenting on this prayer, Sulaiman recognized that his talent was in leadership. So he wanted God to consolidate that talent for him so that he could use it to do God’s work. Therefore, if your talent is in accounting, for instance, you can ask God to make you “the best accountant in the world” not for selfish reasons but to help people.
You can get it all!
In chapter 71, Prophet Nuh (Noah) told his people that they would get (almost) everything they wanted if they asked forgiveness.
He promised his people that Allah will give them six things if they did that:
“And said, ‘Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver.”
“He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in [continuing] showers”
“And give you increase in wealth  and children  and provide for you gardens  and provide for you rivers.”  – Quran chapter 71 verse 10 to 12.
There you have it. You can get anything you want from anyone – including God – if you used the two techniques in this piece.
In case you’re wondering, the poem used above is from my book “Rhymes from Africa.”