The du’aa’ mentioned was narrated in a hadeeth which tells a story that is well known and widely circulated in chat rooms and forums, and perhaps it is appropriate to quote it so that we may explain about it.
It was narrated that Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: There was one of the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), one of the Ansaar, who was known by the kunyah of Abu Mu’allaq. He was a merchant who did trade with his own wealth and on behalf of others, and he used to travel all over, and he was a pious ascetic. He went out on one occasion and was met by an armed thief who said to him: Give me what you have, for I will kill you. He said: You do not need my blood, all you want is the wealth. He said: As for the wealth, it is mine; all I want is your blood. He said: If you insist, then let me pray four rak’ahs. He said: Pray as much as you want. So he did wudoo’, then he prayed four rak’ahs, and among the words that he said in du’aa’ in the last prostration were: “O Most Loving, O Most Loving, O Owner of the majestic Throne, O Initiator, O Returner, O You Who do whatever You will, I ask You by the Light of Your Countenance which fills the pillars of Your Throne, and I ask You by Your Power by which You control all of Your creation, and I ask You by Your mercy which encompasses all things, there is no god but You, O Helper help me” – three times.
He said this du’aa’ three times, then he saw a horseman who was holding a spear between the ears of his horse, and when the thief saw him, he turned to him and stabbed him and killed him, then he turned to him and said: Get up. He said: Who are you, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you? Allaah has helped me by you today. He said: I am an angel from the fourth heaven. When you said your du’aa’ the first time, I heard the gates of heaven tremble, then when you said your du’aa’ the second time I heard a noise from the people of heaven, then when you said your du’aa’ the third time it was said to me: The du’aa’ of one who is in distress, and I asked Allaah to let me kill him.
Anas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: So you should know that whoever does wudoo’ and prays four rak’ahs and recites this du’aa’, will receive an answer, whether he is in distress or not.
Narrated by Ibn Abi’l-Dunya in Majaabi al-Da’wah (64) and al-Hawaatif (24). It was also narrated via this isnaad by al-Laalkaa’i in Sharh Usool al-I’tiqaad (5/166), in a chapter entitled Siyaaq ma ruwiya min karaamaat Abi Mu’allaq (Reports of the miracles of Abu Mu’allaq). And it was narrated by Abu Moosa al-Madeeni – as stated by al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar in al-Isaabah (7/379) in his biography of Abu Mu’allaq al-Ansaari, and he quoted it in full in his book al-Wazaa’if. It was narrated from him by his student Ibn al-Atheer in Asad al-Ghaabah (6/295). All of them narrated it via al-Kalbi from Anas (may Allaah be pleased with him).
But the report of al-Kalbi was unclear and the reports from him varied.
On one occasion he narrated it from al-Hasan from Anas – as in the report of Ibn Abi’l-Dunya.
On another occasion he narrated it from al-Hasan from Ubayy ibn Ka’b – as mentioned by Ibn Hajar in al-Isaabah, concerning the isnaad of Abu Moosa al-Madeeni.
On another occasion he narrated it from Abu Saalih from Anas – as in the report of Ibn al-Atheer from Abu Moosa al-Madeeni.
Shaykh al-Albaani (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
This isnaad is problematic, and the problem stems either from the unknown al-Kalbi or from someone further back in the isnaad than him. Al-Hasan – i.e., al-Basri – was mudallis and he used the word ‘an [meaning “from”], so the isnaad is weak.
It is strange that Abu Mu’allaq is mentioned as being one of the Sahaabah, but they did not mention anything to prove that he was such, apart from this fabricated text with this weak isnaad. Hence – and Allaah knows best – it was not narrated by Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr in al-Isti’aab. Al-Dhahabi said in al-Tajreed (2/204): He has an amazing hadeeth, but its isnaad includes al-Kalbi, who is not thiqah (trustworthy). It is narrated in Mujaaboo al-Da’wah, and you can see when you read it that he said concerning al-Kalbi: He is not thiqah (trustworthy). This indicates that no attention was paid to what he said in the isnaad, “he is not the author of the Tafseer”, because al-Kalbi who is the author of the Tafseer is known not to be trustworthy. It says in al-Mughni: They rejected him, and he was regarded as a liar by Sulaymaan al-Taymi, Zaa’idah, and Ibn Ma’een. He was also rejected by Ibn Qattaan and ‘Abd al-Rahmaan.
It is also strange that this story was quoted by Ibn al-Qayyim at the beginning of his book al-Jawaab al-Kaafi li man sa’ala ‘an al-Dawa’ al-Shaafi from this report of Ibn Abi’l-Dunya, attributing it to al-Hasan without commenting on its isnaad!
Al-Silsilah al-Da’eefah (5737)
Al-Kalbi has a corroborating report from Maalik ibn Dinar. Al-Qushayri narrated a similar story in al-Risaalah al-Qushayriyyah (2/85, 86, chapter on Du’aa’) and said:
Abu’l-Husayn ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Bashraan in Baghdad told us: Abu ‘Amr ‘Uthmaan ibn Ahmad, who was known as Ibn al-Sammaak, told us: Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Rabbihi al-Hadrami told us: Bishr ibn ‘Abd al-Malik told us: Moosa ibn al-Hajjaaj told us: Maalik ibn Dinar said: al-Hasan told us, from Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) … and he quoted the hadeeth.
But this corroborating report is not valid, because there are two problems with this isnaad:
Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Rabbihi al-Hadrami – I could find no biography for him.
Bishr ibn ‘Abd al-Malik, who narrated it from Moosa ibn al-Hajjaaj: I do not know him either. There were three men with this name whose biographies I found:
(i)Bishr ibn ‘Abd al-Malik al-Khuzaa’i, their freed slave from Mosul, who narrated from Ghassaan ibn al-Rabee’ and Muhammad ibn Sulayman Laween and a number of others. Al-Tabaraani narrated from him.
(ii)Bishr ibn ‘Abd al-Malik Abu Yazeed al-Kufi who settled in Basra. He narrated from ‘Awn ibn Moosa and ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Ibraaheem al-Ansaari. Abu Haatim wrote from him in Basra and Abu Zur’ah narrated from him. He was asked about him and said he was a Shaykh.
Al-Jarh wa’l-Ta’deel by Ibn Abi Haatim (2/362).
(iii)Bishr ibn ‘Abd al-Malik al-‘Utbi, who narrated from Yahya ibn Sa’eed al-Ansaari. Abu Sa’eed al-Ashajj narrated from him.
Al-Thiqaat by Ibn Hibbaan (6/97).
As you can see, it seems that none of them are the one mentioned in the hadeeth.
But al-Haafiz Ibn Makoola mentioned in al-Ikmaal (5/101) a report narrated from Moosa ibn al-Hajjaaj under the name of Bishraan ibn ‘Abd al-Malik, and he said:
As for Bishraan, he is Bishraan ibn ‘Abd al-Malik, and I think he was Mawsili (from Mosul). He narrated hadeeth from Moosa ibn al-Hajjaaj ibn ‘Imraan al-Samarqandi in Baysaan from Maalik ibn Dinar.
Perhaps this is the one who is referred to, and his name was shortened in the book of al-Qushayri to Bishr.
As for Ibn al-Sammaak, he is thiqah (trustworthy). His biography is in Siyar A’laam al-Nubala’ by al-Dhahabi (17/312).
The same is true of Maalik ibn Dinar (d. 127 AH). His biography is in Tahdheeb al-Tahdheeb (10/15).
To sum up:
The story and the du’aa’ are not saheeh (sound) in any way whatsoever, although there is nothing wrong with the phrases used in the du’aa’; rather the words are sound and good, as testified by the texts of the Qur’aan and Sunnah. But that does not mean that the one who says this du’aa’ will necessarily be saved, or that we should believe that Allaah will help the one who says it. Such matters depend on the soundness of the isnaad going back to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). As the isnaad in this case is not saheeh, we should not believe that. But if anyone wants to memorize these words and recite them in du’aa’, without regarding them as something that is prescribed in Islam, there is nothing wrong with that in sha Allaah.
And Allaah knows best.