We learn a lot from the ways of the Messengers and Prophets (‘alayhumusalam) when reading through the Qur’an and their qisas (stories): the way they lived, their da’wah and style of relaying the message, their response to the people’s istihzaa’ (mockery) and how they dealt with it etc.
But one subtle etiquette which I found interesting is the way the Messengers made du’a when afflicted with an illness:
وَأَيُّوبَ إِذْ نَادَى رَبَّهُ أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الضُّرُّ وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ
And remember Ayyub , when he cried to his Lord: “Verily, distress has seized me, and You are the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy.” [al-Anbiya: 83]
فَإِنَّهُمْ عَدُوٌّ لِّي إِلَّا رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ الَّذِي خَلَقَنِي فَهُوَ يَهْدِينِ وَالَّذِي هُوَ يُطْعِمُنِي وَيَسْقِينِ وَإِذَا مَرِضْتُ فَهُوَ يَشْفِينِ وَالَّذِي يُمِيتُنِي ثُمَّ يُحْيِينِ وَالَّذِي أَطْمَعُ أَن يَغْفِرَ لِي خَطِيئَتِي يَوْمَ الدِّينِ
“Verily! They are enemies to me, save the Lord of the Worlds; “Who has created me, and it is He Who guides me; And it is He Who feeds me and gives me to drink. And when I fall ill, it is He who cures me. And Who will cause me to die, and then will bring me to life (again); And Who, I hope will forgive me my faults on the Day of Resurrection,” [al-Shu’araa: 77-82]
وَاذْكُرْ عَبْدَنَا أَيُّوبَ إِذْ نَادَى رَبَّهُ أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الشَّيْطَانُ بِنُصْبٍ وَعَذَابٍ
“And remember Our slave Ayyub, when he invoked his Lord (saying): “Verily! Shaitan has touched me with distress and torment!“ [Saad: 41]
What’s interesting to note from the above verses, is that the faa’il (subject) when it comes to distress/disease and falling ill, goes back to either the illness itself (مسني الثضرُّ) or the person making the dua (مرضتُ) and it doesn’t go back to Allah `azza wa jall, although He is the Mubtali (who places His slaves to trial).
This is very evident in the verses from Soorah al-Shu’araa (above), where there is a build up in the sentence structure – Allah `azza wa jall is spoken of as the ‘faa’il’ (‘the doer of the action’ e.g. He created, guided, fed etc) until the point where illness is reached and suddenly that build-up and structure is abruptly broken, drawing the reader’s attention to this break in style – Ibrahim (`alayhisalam) turns the faa’il round to himself and he does not attribute it to his Lord. Thereafter, the verse carries on its previous pattern…
This was the gentleness and etiquette that the Prophets observed with their Lord when it came to making du’a and speaking of their distress – they would associate the illness and any evil that touched them to either their own selves, to Shaytan or to the problem itself – out of love, high regard and respect for Allah `azza wa jall.