Below is a chart of the scientific output productivity of a number of important countries. Scientific output productivity refers to the number of scientific research papers published by a certain country divided by its population. A higher number indicates that the country is more “scientifically productive”, meaning that it is prosperous and advanced enough to have a large number of citizens busy doing scientific and scholarly research. In 2017, Russia’s scientific output per capita was 561. It published 80796 scientific papers and had a population of 143.9 million. Dividing the two numbers, we get 561, the number of scientific papers published by the country per million citizens. In 2008, Russia published 36419 papers. Ten years later its output had more than doubled, reflecting the fact it is investing heavily in science and has many more professors and researchers busy doing research at universities and research institutions. Still, its output per citizen is still below Iran, and it is almost half of Malaysia. Russia’s scientific output is almost exactly one third of the US, which stands at 1684 papers per million citizens.
The scientific output of the US peaked in 2014 and has only declined since. This is likely a trend that will continue. Russia, in the meantime, will likely continue growing barring a nuclear war, so that by 2028 it will likely reach South Korea’s output level, and soon after that of France (whose output is also declining). The forecast above assumes a 9.35% annual growth in scientific output for Russia, which is what its annual growth was between 2008 and 2017, so I am assuming a continuation of the same trend now since the Russian rulers appear to have finally realized the crucial importance of scientific research for national power and prestige and will likely continue investing heavily in it.
We can expect the scientific output of the United States and Europe to stagnate and decline due to their aging native populations. Immigrants can help stave off some of the fall in output, but due to their generally lower educational attainment, it is unlikely that they will be able to undo the trend unless the countries only allow in highly educated immigrants.
Russia’s 2017 output was where Spain was in 1996 and where South Korea was 2003. We can expect Russia to reach European levels of scientific output by 2028.
Spain: It is interesting to note that Spain is today publishing more science per capita than either the United States or France, despite its population having a median age five years higher than that of the US and two years higher than that of France.
The United Kingdom: The UK’s scientific output is amazing. It publishes almost 1000 more papers per million citizens than many other European countries, reflecting an extremely well-funded and well-organized post-graduate system.
Below is a similar forecast done for Iran. If Iran continues at the rate of scientific output growth it had from 2008 to 2017, it will reach European output levels by 2028. I expect it to slow down its growth and to closely track that of Russia, perhaps being somewhere slightly below it by 2028.
Data from the United Nations and Scimago.
In answer to questions regarding the nature and ideal manner of supplication in Islam
The true servant of God is the one who accepts whatever the Creator decrees. If he asks of Him and He answers, he considers that a privilege granted by Him, and if he is denied, he considers that an act of the Master doing what He wills toward His subjects, so that there is no complaint in his heart toward his condition.
In this article I will explore what the Quran teaches us about the proper way of interacting with God when supplicating to Him. How does one show proper respect toward God during prayer? And what things are the best things to pray for, and what things are not so good to pray for? If you are looking for a quick answer, go to the bottom of the article to the “Summary and Conclusion” section.
The Prayers of the Prophtes in the Quran
The Quran encourages us to emulate the manners of the Prophets mentioned in the Quran when it says:
Those are they whom God has guided, so emulate them in their guidance. (From verse 6:90)
When it comes to prayer, the Quran gives us many examples of the way the Prophets interacted with God in their prayers.
We have the example of our Prophet Muhammad . He strongly desired for the qibla (the direction faced during the formal prayer) to be changed so that the Muslims would face Mecca rather than Jerusalem. But he did not voice his desire. He had submitted his heart so thoroughly to God that he considered it God’s business to decide the direction of the prayer and change it if and when He wanted, he did not presume to interfere with this by praying for a different direction despite his own personal desires. Still, God heard his unvoiced prayer; the Quran says:
We have seen your face turned towards the heaven. So We will turn you towards a direction that will satisfy you. So turn your face towards the Sacred Mosque. And wherever you may be, turn your faces towards it. Those who were given the Book know that it is the Truth from their Lord; and God is not unaware of what they do. (The Quran, verse 2:144)
Hadith narrations tell us that the Prophet prayed very ardently for God’s help before the Battle of Badr, a battle that was to decide the fate of the Muslims forever:
The Prophet (ﷺ) turned (his face) towards the Qibla. Then he stretched his hands and began his supplication to his Lord: "O Allah, accomplish for me what Thou hast promised to me. O Allah, bring about what Thou hast promised to me. O Allah, if this small band of Muslims is destroyed. Thou will not be worshipped on this earth." He continued his supplication to his Lord, stretching his hands, facing the Qibla, until his mantle slipped down from his shoulders.
Quoted from the longer narration at Sahih Muslim 1763
The Prophet is also mentioned in certain hadith narrations teaching his Companions, may God be pleased with them, how to supplicate.
'Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported:
I asked: "O Messenger of Allah! If I realize Lailat-ul-Qadr (Night of Decree), what should I supplicate in it?" He (ﷺ) replied, "You should supplicate: Allahumma innaka 'afuwwun, tuhibbul-'afwa, fa'fu 'anni (O Allah, You are Most Forgiving, and You love forgiveness; so forgive me)."
Al-Tirmidhi Book 9, Hadith 1195, Sunan Ibn Majah 3850 (judged authentic)
Abdullah reported that Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) used to supplicate (in these words):
" O Allah. I beg of Thee right guidance, safeguard against evils, chastity and freedom from want."
Sahih Muslim Book 48, Hadith 97
Prophet Adam and His Wife
22. So he lured them with deceit. And when they tasted the tree, their nakedness became evident to them, and they began covering themselves with the leaves of the Garden. And their Lord called out to them, “Did I not forbid you from this tree, and say to you that Satan is a sworn enemy to you?”
23. They said, “Our Lord, we have done wrong to ourselves. Unless You forgive us, and have mercy on us, we will be among the losers.” (The Quran, verses 7:22-23)
Prophet Nūḥ (Noah)
The Quran also gives us the example of a Prophet who makes the mistake of praying for something he should not be praying for. When Noah’s son is about to drown in the Flood, the following exchange takes place:
45. And Noah called to his Lord. He said, “O My Lord, my son is of my family, and Your promise is true, and You are the Wisest of the wise.”
46. He said, “O Noah, he is not of your family. It is an unrighteous deed. So do not ask Me about something you know nothing about. I admonish you, lest you be one of the ignorant.”
47. He said, “O My Lord, I seek refuge with You, from asking You for what I have no knowledge of. Unless You forgive me, and have mercy on me, I will be one of the losers.”
48. It was said, “O Noah, disembark with peace from Us; and with blessings upon you, and upon communities from those with you. And other communities We will grant prosperity, and then a painful torment from Us will befall them.” (The Quran, verses 11:45-48)
Noah’s son has proudly refused to embark on the Ark, saying that he would go to a mountain to be saved from the Flood (verse 11:43). When Noah sees him drowning, his fatherly instinct is to want to save him, so he calls out to God. Like the other Prophets, he does not make a specific demand, he only expresses the state of his heart to God but fears God too much to make demands of Him. In this case, God rebuffs him. Noah is not punished for praying for the wrong thing, he is only corrected (he is a Prophet and should know better than to try to save someone who proudly refused to be saved, even if it is his own son), then the kind words in verse 11:48 are said to him.
We also have these verses about him:
9. Before them the people of Noah disbelieved. They rejected Our servant, and said, “Crazy,” and he was rebuked.
10. So he appealed to his Lord, “I am overwhelmed, so help me.” (54:9-10)
In another place in the Quran we have Prophet Noah praying against those who rejected his message (after nine centuries of trying), while also praying for certain other things:
26. Noah said, “My Lord, do not leave of the unbelievers a single dweller on earth.
27. If You leave them, they will mislead your servants, and will breed only wicked unbelievers.
28. My Lord! Forgive me and my parents, and anyone who enters my home in faith, and all the believing men and believing women; and do not increase the wrongdoers except in perdition.” (The Quran, verse 71:26-28)
Prophet Ibrāhīm (Abraham)
We also have the example of Prophet Ibrāhīm (Abraham), who prays for some general things and some specific things:
35. Recall that Abraham said, “O my Lord, make this land peaceful, and keep me and my sons from worshiping idols.”
36. “My Lord, they have led many people astray. Whoever follows me belongs with me; and whoever disobeys me—You are Forgiving and Merciful.
37. “Our Lord, I have settled some of my offspring in a valley of no vegetation, by Your Sacred House, our Lord, so that they may perform the prayers. So make the hearts of some people incline towards them, and provide them with fruits, that they may be thankful.”
38. “Our Lord, You know what we conceal and what we reveal. And nothing is hidden from God, on earth or in the heaven.”
39. “Praise be to God, Who has given me, in my old age, Ishmael and Isaac. My Lord is the Hearer of Prayers.”
40. “My Lord, make me one who performs the prayer, and from my offspring. Our Lord, accept my supplication.”
41. “Our Lord, forgive me, and my parents, and the believers, on the Day the Reckoning takes place.” (The Quran, verses 14:35-41)
We also have the following passage that gives us some more detail on Prophet Ibrāhīm’s prayers:
126. When Abraham said, “O My Lord, make this a peaceful land, and provide its people with fruits—whoever of them believes in God and the Last Day.” He said, “And whoever disbelieves, I will give him a little enjoyment, then I will consign him to the punishment of the Fire; how miserable the destiny!”
127. As Abraham raises the foundations of the House, together with Ishmael, “Our Lord, accept it from us, You are the Hearer, the Knower.
128. Our Lord, and make us submissive to You, and from our descendants a community submissive to You. And show us our rites, and accept our repentance. You are the Acceptor of Repentance, the Merciful.
129. Our Lord, and raise up among them a messenger, of themselves, who will recite to them Your revelations, and teach them the Book and wisdom, and purify them. You are the Almighty, the Wise.” (The Quran, verses 2:126-129)
We also have this passage:
83. “My Lord! Grant me wisdom, and include me with the righteous.
84. And give me a reputation of truth among the others.
85. And make me of the inheritors of the Garden of Bliss.
86. And forgive my father—he was one of the misguided.
87. And do not disgrace me on the Day they are resurrected.
88. The Day when neither wealth nor children will help. (Verse 26:83-88)
Prophet Ayyūb (Job)
Another example of prophetic manners when it comes to prayer is Prophet Ayyūb (Biblical Job). He suffered from a terrible illness, but instead of praying for a cure, this was his prayer:
And Job, when he cried out to his Lord: “Great harm has afflicted me, and you are the Most Merciful of the merciful.” So We answered him, lifted his suffering, and restored his family to him, and their like with them—a mercy from Us, and a reminder for the worshipers. (The Quran, verse 21:83-84)
Ayyūb does not presume to ask for a cure. He simply says to God that he is suffering terribly while praising His mercy, leaving it to God to decide what to do in his case. His submission and awe toward God is so great that he probably considers it impolite to ask God to cure him when God is already fully aware of his situation. But he cannot help himself and cries out in pain, and God responds to him even though he does not specifically ask for anything.
Prophet Yūnus (Jonah)
87. And Jonah, when he stormed out in fury, thinking We had no power over him. But then He cried out in the darkness, “There is no god but You! Glory to You! I was one of the wrongdoers!”
88. So We answered him, and saved him from the affliction. Thus We save the faithful. (21:87-88)
Prophet Yūsuf (Joseph)
Prophet Yūsuf is mentioned making this prayer:
My Lord, You have given me some authority, and taught me some interpretation of events. Initiator of the heavens and the earth; You are my Protector in this life and in the Hereafter. Receive my soul in submission, and unite me with the righteous.” (Verse 12:101)
Prophet Mūsā (Moses)
We have the example of Prophet Mūsā (Moses) who, like Noah, makes a vengeful prayer:
88. Moses said, “Our Lord, you have given Pharaoh and his chiefs splendor and wealth in the worldly life. Our Lord, for them to lead away from Your path. Our Lord, obliterate their wealth, and harden their hearts, so that they will not believe until they see the painful torment.”
89. He said, “Your prayer has been answered, so go straight, and do not follow the path of those who do not know.” (The Quran, verses 10:88-89)
One may rightly wonder why a Prophet would make such a negative prayer instead of forgiving and trying to make the world a better place. And why does God grant it? The reason is that the party against whom the prayer is made (Pharaoh) fully deserves the punishment Moses asks for for his murder and oppression of the believers. When a faithful servant of God makes such a prayer, God grants it because it is just and fair to grant it when it is against someone like Pharaoh, and because granting it is no loss for anyone. It would have been better for Pharaoh and his people if he had become a believer, but since he was so immersed in evil for so long, God allowed his fate to be sealed. Destroying him and his army was no loss for anyone, since God can re-create a civilization like his in an instant if He wished. The loss is entirely Pharaoh’s loss.
He also prays in the following way for God’s help when God chooses him to be a messenger:
25. He said, “My Lord, put my heart at peace for me.
26. And ease my task for me.
27. And untie the knot from my tongue.
28. So they can understand my speech.
29. And appoint an assistant for me, from my family.
30. Aaron, my brother.
31. Strengthen me with him.
32. And have him share in my mission.
33. That we may glorify You much.
34. And remember You much.
35. You are always watching over us.”
36. He said, “You are granted your request, O Moses. (Verses 20:25-36)
The following are other verses that mention him praying:
He said, “My Lord, forgive me and my brother, and admit us into Your mercy; for you are the Most Merciful of the merciful.” (7:151)
And Moses chose from his people seventy men for Our appointment. When the tremor shook them, he said, “My Lord, had You willed, You could have destroyed them before, and me too. Will you destroy us for what the fools among us have done? This is but Your test—with it You misguide whomever You will, and guide whomever You will. You are our Protector, so forgive us, and have mercy on us. You are the Best of Forgivers.” (Verse 7:155)
He said, “My Lord, I have wronged myself, so forgive me.” So He forgave him. He is the Forgiver, the Merciful. (Verse 28:16)
Prophet Sulaymān (Solomon)
We also have the example of Prophet Sulaymān (Solomon) who asks to be given worldly power and his prayer is granted by God:
34. We tested Solomon, and placed a body on his throne; then he repented.
35. He said, “My Lord, forgive me, and grant me a kingdom never to be attained by anyone after me. You are the Giver.” (The Quran, verses 38:34-35)
Prophet Zakarīyā (Zechariah)
We also have the example of Prophet Zakarīyā (Biblical Zechariah). He was childless in his old age, and after being impressed by the piety of the young Mary (mother of Prophet Jesus, peace be upon them), he prays for a child for himself:
Thereupon Zechariah prayed to his Lord; he said, “My Lord, bestow on me good offspring from Your presence; You are the Hearer of Prayers.” (The Quran, verse 3:38)
This time we have a Prophet who prays for something specific; a child.
Prophet ʿĪsā (Jesus)
We also have the following verse about Prophet ʿĪsā (Jesus):
Jesus son of Mary said, “O God, our Lord, send down for us a table from heaven, to be a festival for us, for the first of us, and the last of us, and a sign from You; and provide for us; You are the Best of providers.” (5:114)
The Quranic Prayers
And among them is he who says, “Our Lord, give us goodness in this world, and goodness in the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.” (Verse 2:201)
And when they confronted Goliath and his troops, they said, “Our Lord, pour down patience on us, and strengthen our foothold, and support us against the faithless people.” (Verse 2:250)
285. The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, as did the believers. They all have believed in God, and His angels, and His scriptures, and His messengers: “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” And they say, “We hear and we obey. Your forgiveness, our Lord. To you is the destiny.” 286. God does not burden any soul beyond its capacity. To its credit is what it earns, and against it is what it commits. “Our Lord, do not condemn us if we forget or make a mistake. Our Lord, do not burden us as You have burdened those before us. Our Lord, do not burden us with more than we have strength to bear; and pardon us, and forgive us, and have mercy on us. You are our Lord and Master, so help us against the disbelieving people.” (Verses 2:285-286)
Those who say, “Our Lord, we have believed, so forgive us our sins, and save us from the suffering of the Fire.” (Verse 3:16)
“Our Lord, do not cause our hearts to swerve after You have guided us, and bestow on us mercy from Your presence; You are the Giver.” (Verse 3:8)
“Our Lord, we have believed in what You have revealed, and we have followed the Messenger, so count us among the witnesses.” (3:53)
Their only words were, “Our Lord, forgive us our offences, and our excesses in our conduct, and strengthen our foothold, and help us against the disbelieving people.” (3:147)
And why would you not fight in the cause of God, and the helpless men, and women, and children, cry out, “Our Lord, deliver us from this town whose people are oppressive, and appoint for us from Your Presence a Protector, and appoint for us from Your Presence a Victor.” (Verse 4:75)
And when their eyes are directed towards the inmates of the Fire, they will say, “Our Lord, do not place us among the wrongdoing people.” (Verse 7:47)
“We would be fabricating falsehood against God, if we were to return to your religion, after God has saved us from it. It is not for us to return to it, unless God, our Lord, wills. Our Lord embraces all things in knowledge. In God we place our trust. Our Lord, decide between us and our people in truth, for You are the Best of Deciders.” (Verse 7:89)
“You are taking vengeance on us only because we have believed in the signs of our Lord when they have come to us.” “Our Lord! Pour out patience upon us, and receive our souls in submission.” (Verse 7:126)
They said, “In God we have put our trust. Our Lord, do not make us victims of the oppressive people.” (Verse 10:85)
191. Those who remember God while standing, and sitting, and on their sides; and they reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth: “Our Lord, You did not create this in vain, glory to You, so protect us from the punishment of the Fire.” 192. “Our Lord, whomever You commit to the Fire, You have disgraced. The wrongdoers will have no helpers.” 193. “Our Lord, we have heard a caller calling to the faith: `Believe in your Lord,' and we have believed. Our Lord! Forgive us our sins, and remit our misdeeds, and make us die in the company of the virtuous.” 194. “Our Lord, and give us what You have promised us through Your messengers, and do not disgrace us on the Day of Resurrection. Surely You never break a promise.” (Verses 3:191-194)
And lower to them the wing of humility, out of mercy, and say, “My Lord, have mercy on them, as they raised me when I was a child.” (Verse 17:24)
And say, “My Lord, lead me in through an entry of truth, and lead me out through an exit of truth, and grant me from You a supporting power.” (Verse 17:80)
When the youths took shelter in the cave, they said, “Our Lord, give us mercy from Yourself, and bless our affair with guidance.” (Verse 18:10)
28. Then, when you and those with you are settled in the Ark, say, “Praise be to God, who has saved us from the wrongdoing people.” 29. And say, “My Lord, land me with a blessed landing, as you are the best of situators.” (Verses 23:28-29)
And say, “My Lord, I seek refuge with You from the urgings of the devils. 98. And I seek refuge with You, my Lord, lest they come into my presence.” (Verses 23:97-98)
There was a group of My servants who would say, "Our Lord, we have believed, so forgive us, and have mercy on us; You are the Best of the merciful." (Verse 23:109)
And those who say, ‘‘Our Lord, avert from us the suffering of Hell, for its suffering is continuous. (Verse 25:65)
And those who say, “Our Lord, grant us delight in our spouses and our children, and make us a good example for the righteous.” (Verse 25:74)
7. Those who carry the Throne, and those around it, glorify their Lord with praise, and believe in Him, and ask for forgiveness for those who believe: “Our Lord, You have encompassed everything in mercy and knowledge; so forgive those who repent and follow Your path, and protect them from the agony of the Blaze. 8. And admit them, Our Lord, into the Gardens of Eternity, which You have promised them, and the righteous among their parents, and their spouses, and their offspring. You are indeed the Almighty, the Most Wise. (Verses 40:7-8)
We have enjoined upon man kindness to his parents. His mother carried him with difficulty, and delivered him with difficulty. His bearing and weaning takes thirty months. Until, when he has attained his maturity, and has reached forty years, he says, “Lord, enable me to appreciate the blessings You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and to act with righteousness, pleasing You. And improve my children for me. I have sincerely repented to You, and I am of those who have surrendered.” (Verse 46:15)
And those who came after them, saying, “Our Lord, forgive us, and our brethren who preceded us in faith, and leave no malice in our hearts towards those who believe. Our Lord, You are Clement and Merciful.” (Verse 59:10)
Our Lord, do not make us a target for those who disbelieve, and forgive us, our Lord. You are indeed the Mighty and Wise. (Verse 60:5)
O you who believe! Repent to God with sincere repentance. Perhaps your Lord will remit your sins, and admit you into gardens beneath which rivers flow, on the Day when God will not disappoint the Prophet and those who believed with him. Their light streaming before them, and to their right, they will say, “Our Lord, complete our light for us, and forgive us; You are capable of all things.” (Verse 66:8)
And God illustrates an example of those who believe: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, “My Lord, build for me, with you, a house in Paradise, and save me from Pharaoh and his works, and save me from the wrongdoing people.” (Verse 66:11)
And say, “My Lord, forgive and have mercy, for You are the Best of the merciful.” (Verse 93:118)
The Lesson from the Prophets’ Prayers
Almost all of the Prophets are mentioned as praying for God’s mercy and His forgiveness. This is the central theme of the vast majority of the prayers mentioned in the Quran. The Quran does not encourage us to pray for material things. In one of the most beautiful prayers in the Quran, we have Pharaoh’s wife praying for a house, not in this world, but in Paradise (Verse 66:8). The Quran encourages us to take care of the state of our souls and to give priority to the afterlife over the present life:
16. But you prefer the present life.
17. Though the Hereafter is better, and more lasting. (Verses 87:16-17)
Judging by what the Quran teaches us, it is almost an insult to God to ask Him for specific material gain, such as getting that particular car or house, or marrying a particular person. The Prophetic attitude is to ask for God’s help, mercy and blessings in general terms while living it to Him to take care of the details.
However, the Prophets make an exception when there is an overwhelming need. Prophet Muhammad asks to win the Battle of Badr even though God is capable of making the Muslims supreme in the Arabian peninsula whether they win the battle or not. This is what the Quran teaches at the beginning of Sūrat al-Rūm:
2. The Romans have been defeated.
3. In a nearby territory. But following their defeat, they will be victorious.
4. In a few years. The matter is up to God, in the past, and in the future. On that day, the believers will rejoice.
5. In God’s support. He supports whomever He wills. He is the Almighty, the Merciful.
6. The promise of God—God never breaks His promise, but most people do not know.
7. They know an outer aspect of the worldly life, but they are heedless of the Hereafter. (The Quran, verses 30:2-7)
The Quran acknowledges that the Muslims will celebrate when the Romans (who were Christians and thus were considered to follow the same God as the Muslims) win against the more pagan-like Persians. But the passage reminds us that God is in charge regardless of who wins and who loses, so we should not be too attached to what happens in this world, we should be more worried about the hereafter.
The other Prophets too at times ask for things that are not entirely spiritual. Ayyūb cries out to God when his pain becomes too great. Zakarīyā asks for a son. These should be considered exceptions that the Prophets made to their general rule (of always leaving things to God to decide, and only asking Him for His mercy, forgiveness and support).
We also have the example of Sulaymān which is somewhat conflicting with the rest, because he asks to be given a kingdom so great that no one will have the like of it afterwards. It appears from the Quranic mentions of Sulaymān that his appreciation for material things came from a deep spirituality rather than from a love of the worldly life.
30. And We granted David, Solomon, an excellent servant. He was penitent.
31. When the beautiful horses were paraded before him in the evening.
32. He said, “I have loved the niceties of this world because of the remembrance of my Lord—until it disappeared behind the veil.
33. Bring them back to me.” And he began caressing their legs and necks.
34. We tested Solomon, and placed a body on his throne; then he repented.
35. He said, “My Lord, forgive me, and grant me a kingdom never to be attained by anyone after me. You are the Giver.”
36. So We placed the wind at his service, blowing gently by his command, wherever he directed.
37. And the demons—every builder and diver.
38. And others fettered in chains.
39. “This is Our gift; so give generously, or withhold; without account.”
40. For him is nearness to Us, and a beautiful resort. (The Quran, verses 38:30-40)
Verse 32 above has many conflicting interpretations, but I prefer Muhammad Asad’s interpretation which fits the rest of the Quran, in that Sulaymān states that his love for niceties of this world comes from his remembrance of God. This would sound far-fetched in an ordinary person, but when a Prophet, descended from a Prophet and from a long line of Prophets before him claims this, we can believe him. God answers his prayer and says that the works done by Sulaymān were expressions of appreciation toward God:
10. We bestowed upon David favor from Us: “O mountains, and birds: echo with him.” And We softened iron for him.
11. “Make coats of armor, and measure the links well; and work righteousness. I am Observant of everything you do.”
12. And for Solomon the wind—its outward journey was one month, and its return journey was one month. And We made a spring of tar flow for him. And there were sprites that worked under him, by the leave of his Lord. But whoever of them swerved from Our command, We make him taste of the punishment of the Inferno.
13. They made for him whatever he wished: sanctuaries, statues, bowls like pools, and heavy cauldrons. “O House of David, work with appreciation,” but a few of My servants are appreciative. (The Quran, verse 34:10-11).
Sulaymān and his father were chosen for greatness in this world because of their deep spirituality. They were not worshipers of the worldly life, they appreciated it because they sensed God’s power and greatness through them.
What all of this teaches us is that we should not treat God like a genie in a bottle who answers wishes. We should instead treat Him like an all-powerful King who always knows what is best for us. We can make specific prayers when pain or desire overwhelms us, and He will humor us by responding to our prayer if He wishes, since it doesn’t decrease anything from His power. He gave Sulaymān everything he asked for because it did not cost Him anything to give him all of that, and because Sulaymān was a spiritual and appreciative servant who deserved it. God is a King who does what He wants in regards to His different servants.
Summary and Conclusion
Here are the general conclusions I have reached from studying the prayers of the Prophets:
- General prayers for God’s forgiveness, guidance and mercy are the best. Prophets are rarely concerned with material things, their main concern is God.
- If we strongly desire a specific thing, we can pray for it, but we should always do this with extreme respect and humility toward God. Prophet Nuh’s saying in verse 11:47 perfectly describes the attitude of the believer toward God when making prayers: “O My Lord, I seek refuge with You, from asking You for what I have no knowledge of. Unless You forgive me, and have mercy on me, I will be one of the losers.”
- It is highly insulting toward God to treat Him like a genie in a bottle, telling Him that He must do this thing for us otherwise we will be upset with Him. When praying, we must always keep in mind that God may have a different plan for us and that God wants us to prioritize our spirituality over our material desires.
Asking God for material things, thinking that we can get those things then hold onto them, shows great ignorance about the nature of this world. You can get the car you desire, but two years later you could be in an accident and lose it. There is no way to hold onto the material things we have in this world, we could always lose them, therefore the Prophetic attitude is to leave the material world in God’s care and to focus on the spiritual world, asking His help and guidance in our own spiritual growth and never treating Him like a lover of the worldly life would treat a magic lamp or ring that gives them what they desire.
When asking God for something specific, you should always keep in mind that God is in charge and it is His decision whether He grants what we ask or not, and if He does not, we have no right to complain. Every single blessing we enjoy, our very existence in this world, rely on His support every second of every day. God can give us everything we want, but He wants to give them to us when we have achieved Sulaymān’s spirituality, when we see God’s greatness and presence in everything around us (see this essay for how to achieve such a state and remain there permanently). Once we have achieved that, our attachment to the worldly life will have weakened to such a degree that we no longer feel a need to pray for material things. We end up living in God’s presence, seeking His love and guidance more than anything else.
Below is the graph from my previous post where I discovered that Malaysia has been producing more scientific research per citizen than Japan since 2016. This is very interesting because Malaysia is a Muslim-majority country. Japan has stagnated since 2006 due to its aging population and stagnant economy while Malaysia, thanks to having a sustainable population (thanks to sustainable fertility rates, thanks in large part to religious faith) continues to grow steadily. We can expect South Korea to slowly fall as it goes the way of Japan, so that Malaysia may actually become the top science-producing country (per capita) of Asia in the next two decades.
In 2017, Japan published 892 scientific papers per million citizens, while Malaysia produced 936.
Data from the United Nations and Scimago.
As part of my series of posts comparing the scientific output per capita of different countries, in this post I will compare Japan, South Korea and China’s scientific output per capita, meaning the number of scientific research papers published per million citizens by each country. In the late 1990’s South Korea was going through industrialization but was greatly behind Japan. South Korea’s papers published per million citizens (PPMC) was 222.8 in 1996, compared to Japan’s 681, meaning that Japan was producing almost three times as much scientific research as South Korea. As South Korea industrialized, the gap between the two countries narrowed, so that South Korea actually overtook Japan in 2007. The sad story of Japan is that it has never been able to go significantly above its 2006 scientific output levels of 942 PPMC, perhaps due to its aging population (its median age is higher by 6 years today compared to South Korea’s), and perhaps due to its stagnant economy caused by the long-term effects of interest.
South Korea too appears to have entered the twilight zone in 2015 at a PPMC of 1523, we can probably safely assume that it will go through decades of slow decline from here on (unless immigration saves the day). China is slowly ramping up its scientific output, although it has yet to overtake South Korea’s scientific output per capita levels for the year 1999.
Adding Malaysia to the chart lead to something I hadn’t noticed before, Malaysia overtook Japan in scientific output per capita in 2016 (the green line):
Data from the United Nations and Scimago.
As part of my series of posts comparing the scientific output per capita of different countries, in this post I will compare Malaysia and China. Malaysia is interesting for being the most industrialized Muslim-majority country in the world. It took China until 2001 to reach Malaysia’s scientific output per capita levels for 1996, meaning that China was five years behind Malaysia on this measure of scientific output. By 2005, the two countries were producing the same amount of scientific research per citizen. Then the gap started widening, so that it took until 2011 for China to reach Malaysia’s output levels for 2008. But even by 2017, China had not caught up to Malaysia’s 2009 output levels. Today Malaysia is producing almost three times as much scientific research per citizen than China is. I expect China to remain firmly 10 years or more behind Malaysia for the foreseeable future due to the time and energy costs of scaling scientific research output over the vast swaths of China, but China will likely ultimately catch up with Malaysia some day.
Note that China was producing 16 times as much scientific research as Malaysia in 2017, what we are comparing here is output per citizen, which tells us the entire country’s general state of development. Since China has highly undeveloped rural areas with hundreds of millions of citizens, those are going to seriously drag down its output per citizen until those areas are finally industrialized.
Data from the United Nations and Scimago.
As part of my series of posts comparing the scientific output per capita of different countries, in this post I will compare South Korea and Malaysia. This is an interesting comparison because South Korea is one of the most recently industrialized parts of Asia, while Malaysia is the most industrialized Muslim-majority country in the world. In 1996, Malayisa was 11 years behind South Korea in scientific output per capita (how many scientific papers it published per million citizens). This scientific productivity gap narrowed to seven years between 2003 and 2005, then it started widening again, so that in 2017 it was more than 10 years. Now that South Korea’s output is declining, Malaysia might be expected to slowly catch up with it in the next decade.
Data from the United Nations and Scimago.
In the previous posts I compared South Korea’s scientific output per capita with China’s, then with Iran’s. In this post, I will compare Iran and Malaysia, to see how far behind Iran is compared to Malaysia. It took Iran until 2003 to reach the same scientific output level as Malaysia had in 1996, meaning that it was 6 years behind. But by 2006 Iran had achieved parity with Malaysia, both countries were publishing the same amount of scientific research per capita. But the two countries started diverging in 2008, with Malaysia far outpacing Iran’s growth (perhaps due to the sanctions on Iran reducing its ability to fund research). It took Iran until 2014 to reach Malaysia’s level of 2010. As late as 2017, Iran had not reached Malaysia’s levels of 2011. Besides sanctions, another reason might be Iran’s much larger geographical size making scaling scientific research costlier in time and money, as is also the case in China.
Data from the United Nations and Scimago.
In the previous post I compared China’s scientific growth to South Korea’s. In this post I do the same for Iran. Iran’s gap with South Korea is narrower than China’s gap. In 2017 it was only 13 years behind South Korea when it came to scientific research output per capita. This gap might continue growing due to Iran being larger and more difficult to industrialize. But now that South Korea’s per-citizen scientific output is in decline, Iran (and China) have a good chance of catching up with it within the next decade.
Data from the United Nations and Scimago.
It has been said that China is twenty years behind South Korea in development, and that South Korea is or was twenty years behind Japan. A measure of development that I like to use for comparing the development level of different countries is PPMC, which stands for Papers Published Per Million Citizens, referring to the number of scientific and scholarly papers a country publishes per a million citizens in a year. In 2017, that number was 1491 for South Korea while it was 349 for China, meaning that South Korea produced more than four times more scientific research per capita than China, which means that South Korea’s infrastructure, institutions and educational attainment on average are four times more advanced than China’s. The reason for this is that besides the fact that China started industrializing later than South Korea, China is a much larger country and requires far more investment and work to where South Korea is. China’s coastal cities likely already far outpace South Korea technologically, but China’s interior is going to be dragging down the country’s averages for decades to come.
Below we have South Korea’s scientific output per capita compared to China’s. It took China until 2009 to reach the same scientific output per capita as South Korea had in 1996, meaning that on this measure China was 13 years behind South Korea. This lag only increased with time, so that by 2014 the gap was 15 years. By 2018, the gap was 18 years because China’s output per capita hadn’t risen significantly.
It is natural for this gap to grow with time because due to China’s much larger size, it is going to take it far more time to raise the country’s scientific production compared to the much smaller South Korea. The good news for China is that this gap is probably not going to be getting much larger because South Korea’s output has started falling (likely due to an aging population, i.e. fewer young people available to become scientists and scholars) while China’s continues to rise.
Data from the United Nations and Scimago.