For the Muslim, the necessary personal concomitant of professing God”s Unity is devotion to Him. The outward dimension of this devotion is shaped by the Shari”ite injunctions concerning worship: the canonical prayer, whether mandatory or recommended, fasting, pilgrimage, almsgiving, etc. But the inward dimension of Muslim devotions is much more difficult to grasp. Unlike the outward dimension, it cannot be defined in so many sentences. It can only be perceived through studying the lives and spiritual radiance of holy men and saints. Some of the most intimate glimpses of the pious Muslim soul are to be found in supplications.
Types of Prayers in Islam:
Prayer in Islam can be divided into four basic forms: canonical prayer (salat), supplication (dua”), litany (wird) and invocation (dhikr). One can say that the first, especially in its mandatory form, corresponds to what is implied in Christianity by mass or holy communion. The second is equivalent to “personal prayer”, or simply to what the Christian often understands by the term “prayer” as such. The mandatory canonical prayer must be performed at specific times every day and according to strictly defined rules, while the recommended form also follows the same strict pattern (standing, bowing, prostrating, sitting, etc.). But one may “supplicate” God at any time and in any circumstance, without any set pattern or formulae. Supplications are strictly voluntary and “free”. As for litanies and invocations i.e., the recitation of Quranic formulae or one or more of the Names of God, like supplication these are voluntary, although they are not so “free” since they follow set patterns, and like the canonical prayer, must be in Arabic. Litanies may be performed by any pious Muslim, whereas invocations are recited almost exclusively by the Sufis.
About Supplication or Dua Arafa :
The author of the first supplication is Imam Husayn, the Third Imam, who was martyred at Karbala and is probably the most important Imam in popular Shi”ite devotion. Certainly the days of mourning for him (in particular tasi`a and “ashura, the ninth and tenth of Muharram), are still the most solemn and carefully observed holidays in the Shi”ite calendar. Imam Husayn made his supplication one of the most famous in Shi”ite annals, one year during the pilgrimage to Mecca on the Day Of Arafah (the ninth of Dhu-l-hijjah), and it has been recited by pious Shi”ites ever since. On that day pilgrims pass the time at Mount Arafat occupying themselves with canonical prayer, reciting the Quran, litanies, invocations and supplications. The spirit of the day is well represented in the Imam”s prayer.