Volume 13, 2022
Safaruk Z. Chowdhury
Invoke Your Lord in Humility and in Secret (Q 7:55): Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī on the Efficacy of Petitionary Prayer
In this article, I explore the response of the Ashʿarī theologian Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 606/1210) to what can be called “the problem of the efficacy of petitionary prayers” (PEPP), namely the effectiveness of making supplications to God that involve a request for something. The key text I examine is al-Rāzī’s highly dense philosophical work al-Maṭālib al-ʿāliya min al-ʿilm al-ilāhī, in which he outlines his core objections to the efficacy of petitionary prayer and then addresses them directly. In section 1, I include a short historiography of specific English books on the topic of supplications (duʿāʾ) and consider the relevance of al-Rāzī’s response to the issue of their efficacy. In section 2, I outline the preliminaries necessary and relevant for understanding the discussion that follows. In section 3, I survey al-Rāzī’s view on personal prayers. In section 4, I examine in detail al-Rāzī’s formulations of the arguments (from the Maṭālib) that constitute PEPP, with parallel discussions in his huge exegetical work Mafātīḥ al-ghayb. In section 5, I lay out al-Rāzī’s responses to PEPP from the Mafātīḥ in more depth, and draw on theological views from his other works to help support his arguments in the Maṭālib. In the conclusion, I evaluate al-Rāzī’s responses and the wider implications they have on a Muslim’s relation to and understanding of God.