Based on the Qur’an and Noble Sunna, scholars mention many conditions and etiquette to having one’s du’a answered, the main ones being:
(1) To have a lawful income and to eat only of pure and halal food.
Imam Bajuri states that this is the most important condition for du’a to be answered [Tuhfat al-Murid], as confirmed by the following hadith:
“Verily, Allah is pure and does not accept save what is pure. And verily Allah has commanded the believers with that which He commanded the messengers, for He Most High said, ‘O messengers! Eat from those things pure, and do righteous deeds’ (23:51), and He also said, ‘O believers! Eat from the pure things of what We have given you of sustenance’ (2:172).
He then mentioned a man on a long journey, disheveled and covered in dust, extending his hands toward the sky, saying, ‘O Lord! O Lord!’ Yet his food is unlawful; his drink is unlawful; his clothes are unlawful; and his very nourishment is unlawful. So how then can his du’a be answered?!” [Sahih Muslim]
(2) Related to this is the general injunction to make repentance (tawba) and to remove all the unlawful from your life.
There is a special connection between seeking forgiveness and the bestowal of blessings upon the servant, particularly offspring, as He Most High states (quoting Prophet Nuh, peace be upon him): “So I said, ‘Seek forgiveness of your Lord—Surely, He is Oft-forgiving! [If you seek forgiveness:] He will send down rain upon you in abundance; and He will increase you in wealth and in children, and will assign for you gardens, and assign for you rivers.’” (71:10-12)
Of course, true repentance entails stopping the unlawful and performing all obligations. Make sure you are performing the basics: praying five times a day, paying zakat, fasting Ramadan and performing the hajj if able.
A beautiful prophetic narration that encompasses the entire religion is as follows: “Verily Allah has made some things obligatory, so do not neglect them; He has set limits, so do not cross them; He has prohibited some things, so do not violate them; and He has kept silent on some things—out of mercy for you, not out of forgetfulness—so do not seek them out.” [Daraqutni]
A true, sincere repentance entails actualizing this hadith in one’s life to the best of one’s ability.
(3) To make du’a with sincerity, with a focused mind and heart; and while being fully certain that Allah will answer it, and that no one can answer it but Allah.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Call on Allah while having full conviction that He will answer, and realize that Allah does not answer the du’a that proceeds from a heedless, inattentive heart.” [Tirmidhi]
He (peace and blessings be upon him) also taught us that du’a is answered in one of three ways:
(a) by actually giving the thing being asked; or
(b) by warding off a harm that would have otherwise afflicted the person; or
(c) as gifts awaiting the person in the next life, which is the best form of du’a being answered. [Musnad Ahmed]
We should have no doubt that Allah will answer. Our scholars mention that Allah Most High only places du’a on the tongue of His servant because He wants to give to that servant.
Imam Ghazāli (rahimahullah) mentions the following ten etiquette for the acceptance of du῾ā:
1) Making abundant du῾ā in sacred and special times of acceptance. For example, on the day of ῾Arafah, Jumu῾ah, in Ramadhān and in the last portion of the nights etc.
2) To make du῾ā in specific states. There are certain circumstances in which du῾ās are readily accepted. Such as in the state of prostration, at the confrontation of two armies, at the time of rain, before and after salāh etc.
3) To face the qiblah, raise the hands and wipe the hands over the face upon completing the du῾ā.
4) To have the voice lowered.
5) To invoke Allah Ta῾ālā through words and sentences which the Prophet (salallhu alaihi wasllam) taught us. It is undesirable to put a lot of effort to make our own rhymes and rhythms in du῾ā.
6) To display humblesness externally and have the heart submit totally.
7) To have a firm conviction that Allah Ta῾ālā will accept the du῾ā. One should have full hope that Allah most definitely will respond to his/her prayer.
8) To persist in du῾ā and repeat each invocation at least three times.
9) To commence the du῾ā with the praise of Almighty Allah, sending blessings upon the Prophet (salallahu alaihi wasallam) and to conclude the du῾ā with the praise of Allah and blessings upon the Prophet.
10) One must make sure he has sought the forgiveness of Allah and sincerely repented before asking Allah from His bounties.
If one has oppressed anybody or hurt anyone, the oppressed person’s forgiveness must be sought immediately. Tawbah (repentance) is only valid when those whom we have wronged have pardoned us.