Al-Tawakkul: Trusting in Allah
January 15 2021 12:30 AM

Allah the Most High has created us of the best stature and granted us many abilities so that we may look after our needs and those of our relatives and fellow Muslims. He (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has invited us to explore the earth and use it for our subsistence: “It is He Who has made the earth subservient to you, so walk in the path thereof and eat of His provision, and to Him will be the resurrection,” (Al-Mulk, 67:15).
Yet, Allah has made it clear in this very verse, as well as in other verses, that had He not made this earth manageable to us, we would not be able to explore it nor benefit from it.
The above verse is the starting point of this article which is about tawakkul (trust and complete reliance on Allah). This chapter of the Qur’an is actually – in our humble opinion – a yardstick for understanding tawakkul. Surah Al-Mulk starts and finishes with the same message: To Allah belong all that is in the universe and nothing would happen without His Mercy and constant watchful care. He said in the first verse, “Blessed be He in Whose hands is the Dominion, and He is able to do all things.” He then said in the last verse, “Say: Have you thought, ‘if your water were to disappear into the earth, who then can supply you with clear-flowing water,’” (Al-Mulk, 67:30).
Yes, we can surely explore the earth, look for regions holding water and successfully discover fountain sources and streams. But without Allah’s permission and facilitation, we will not be able to reach this water. Furthermore, what would happen if – all of a sudden – Allah made the sources and springs of our water supply to disappear in the deep undergrounds of the earth. Blessed and Glorified be He! No one will bring it back but He.
Brothers and sisters, there is a hintful touch in the verse mentioned earlier. Allah said, “ walk in the path thereof.” Then He said “...and eat of His provision.” So Allah is telling us that though you are encouraged to strive and work hard, what you produce is not yours; what you earn is not yours. Rather, your production, your earnings and all your subsistence comes from Allah. He made it available to you out of His Mercy and care for you. Hence, if Allah wills, your work and efforts will be fruitless. Similar verses where Allah ascribes subsistence solely to Him are found in many places in the Qur’an. Allah says, “...So seek from Allah (Alone) subsistence and worship Him (Alone), and be grateful to Him. To Him (Alone) will be your return,” (Al-’Ankabut, 29:17).
Those who misunderstood the Plan of Allah and His Wisdom have felt confused by this double command of Allah – to strive and work on the one hand, and rely on Allah to make the actions possible and goals attainable, on the other. Initially, this question was presented before the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. The companions asked: Should we quit working and rely on Al-Qadar (Allah’s  predetermined decree)? The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, answered: “You should initiate and do things. Everyone shall be facilitated towards that for which he was created.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). Consequently, the Companions of the Prophet moved on and initiated righteous deeds while putting their trust in Allah.
The work that is referred to here is not that of the acts of worship (Salah, Zakah, Sawm, Haj, etc). Rather, it is the work pertaining to our subsistence. Furthermore, we do not refer to haram (forbidden) work and haram subsistence – for we believe, insha’ Allah, that the reader is conscious of that. It is the halal (permissible) work and the halal livelihood that we are concerned about, for it is more tempting to the believer. What are the guidelines and limits of the halal work? How much dedication do we give it? Do we attribute the source of subsistence to our work or to Allah’s bounties? And do we associate the loss and deprivation of wealth, health and success with our loss of job, or with Allah’s universal plan?
Islam is a dynamic religion. Not only does it not condone passiveness, but also, it strongly rejects laziness and dependency on others. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “Begging is forbidden except when there is great debt, suffering, injury, or abasing poverty.” (Related by Abu Dawud and Al-Bayhaqi). He, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, also said, “It is much better for one of you to take his rope and go to chop some wood (for his livelihood) than to beg from people, whether they give him anything or deny him.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Ibn Majah, and others). The Prophet himself, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, worked hard for his living. He spent his boyhood as a shepherd and took to trade in manhood. He carried people’s goods to Syria and other places and shared the profits with them.
The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, used to constantly seek refuge with Allah from laziness as reported by Zayed Ibn Arqam: “O Allah! I seek refuge in You from incapacity, from laziness, from cowardice, from miserliness, from ineptitude and from the torment of the grave...” (Related by Muslim).
However, though we might strive hard to secure our livelihood, we should not attribute our achievements solely in the work we do, but in Allah. We should not put our reliance on our work, our possessions, our wealth, our position, etc. Neither should we rely on our manager, our employer, our friends and our families. The only one on Whom we should rely is Allah. He, subhanahu wa ta’ala, said: “...And rely on the Living One (Allah), Who will never die, and celebrate His praises and thanks. And sufficient is He to be acquainted with the sins of His slaves,” (Al-Furqan, 25:58).
Whoever attaches his/her heart to his job, or to his/her employer or to any created beings in order for them to provide him/her with sustenance or to make him/her prosperous and successful, and so on, he/she has submitted to them. And the more one relies on the created beings, the weaker becomes one’s submission to Allah.
Hence, as much as Allah wants from us to initiate actions and seek and use all permissible means to secure our needs and those of our families, He also wants us not to depend on these means as the source of our sustenance. This is the genuine understanding of tawakkul.
Those who deviated from the right concept of tawakkul have fallen into two extremes. The first group of people are those, attracted by the temptations of this world, and have gone so far as to forget their relationship with Allah. Their heart has become so attracted to these temptations that they became subservient to their desires. Such people have become – knowingly or unknowingly – slaves of their own desires. Such people will ultimately claim that all their achievements are but the result of their own work and that Allah had no involvement whatsoever. They do not rely on Allah.
Allah says, “Have you then seen the sort of man who rejects Our signs, yet says: ‘I shall certainly be given wealth and children.’” Allah rejects their arrogant claim by saying, “Has he penetrated to the unseen, or has he taken a promise with Allah?” (Maryam, 19:77-78). This type of man who rejects Allah and denies His bounties regards himself as “self-sufficient” and thus, cannot be expected to rely on Allah.
The second group of people are those who understood the reliance on Allah as meaning to completely break away from all mundane affairs. They regarded piety and the pursuit of any material interests as contradictory. For them, reliance on Allah would mean not to take any initiatives for securing one’s subsistence. Consequently, they renounce the world and retire themselves to remote areas or secluded spots and cut themselves from daily life.
Both of these two groups have not understood the meaning of tawakkul according to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Had they attempted to understand the Book of Allah, according to the understanding and implementation of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and his honourable companions, they would have found that tawakkul is far removed from how they conceived it. Through the instinctive behaviour of some of His creatures and the sublime conduct of His prophets and righteous slaves, Allah has set out in His Book the genuine tawakkul. First, let us look at the fascinating life of the bee.
Allah says: “And your Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in men’s habitation; then to eat of all the produce of the earth, and follow the way of your Lord made smooth: There issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colours, wherein is healing for men: Verily in this is a sign for those who give thought,” (Al-Nahl, 16:68-69).
Look at the gigantic work that the bee has to do in order to produce its honey: The bee finds out the most inaccessible places, in the hills, in the trees, and even among the habitation of men. It assimilates the juice of various kinds of flowers and fruit, and forms within its body the honey which it stores in its cells of wax. The different kinds of food from which it makes its honey give different colours to the honey.
Now, could not Allah provide for the bees their sustenance without them going through all this labour? Of course He could! Could not Allah create springs and rivers of honey as he created springs and rivers of water? Of course He could! But by observing the work cycle of the bee and by tasting its sweet and wholesome honey, one can understand and appreciate better the nature and behaviour of the bee. A behaviour whose ingredients are hard work and complete trust in Allah: And that is the real tawakkul.
Let us look at another creature of Allah: the bird. Allah says, “Do they not observe the birds above them, spreading their wings and folding them in? None can uphold them except the Most Gracious: Truly it is He that watches over all things,” (Al-Mulk 67:19). As He did for all of His creatures, our Lord subhanahu wa ta’ala provided for the birds just those conditions that are best for their lives; He also inspired them to use their physical shapes and unique movements to take off, fly and land.
Thus, in order to fly, birds would have to move their wings upwards and downwards, spread them and fold them. However, the birds know that the One Who upholds them in the air, is not their upward and downward move, nor the spreading and folding of their wings, but rather Allah. They have understood that they have to exert effort and rely on Allah alone to uphold them high. As opposed to many rebellious men, birds recognise and exercise total tawakkul on Allah without giving up the work. In pursuing this way of life, the birds have become the example to follow for how the tawakkul should be and how Allah would reward the one who exercises tawakkul as the birds do.
The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said, “Were you to put your complete trust in Allah, He would provide for you as He provides for the birds. They issue forth hungry in the morning and return filled in the evening.” (Related by Al-Tirmidhi). Did the birds remain in their nest waiting for Allah’s provision? Of course not! Did they claim that since they were engaged in tasbeeh (praising of Allah), they would not have to strive for their subsistence? Of course not! So praised is Allah, brothers and sisters, Who inspired the birds to set forth to seek provisions for themselves and for their little ones. Praised is He Who taught them tawakkul so they would not expect provision but from Him.
Now back to the world of mankind. Here is an ultimate example of tawakkul. This is the story of an expectant mother who retired with her conceived baby to a remote area. The pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree. She was alone with no one to attend her. She was hungry, thirsty. She cried: “Ah! would that I had died before this! Would that I had been forgotten and out of sight!” (Maryam, 19:23). But a voice cried to her from beneath the palm-tree: “Grieve not! for your Lord has provided a water stream beneath you,” (Maryam, 19:24).
She knew now that Allah would deliver her from her hunger and thirst and release the pain of her pangs. But the Most High wanted her to initiate an action to benefit from Allah’s provisions: “And shake towards yourself the trunk of the palm-tree: it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you.” (Maryam, 19:25). Now that she fulfilled the physical part of her duties – by shaking the tree, she had to fulfil the spiritual part – trusting Allah for deliverance. Allah’s help was prompt: the fresh dates were now falling upon her: “So eat and drink and be glad!...,” (Maryam, 19:26).
This is the story of Maryam (Mary) whom Allah had destined to be the mother of Prophet ‘Isa (Jesus). And when she conceived her baby and entered the pains of childbirth with no one to attend her; when she got hungry and thirsty with no visible help for food and drink; when she became weak and anguished; she was asked to shake a palm-tree for her provision. A weak, tired, hungry and thirsty woman shaking a strong, deeply rooted palm-tree. Could not Allah send with Jibreel (Angel Gabriel) enough food and drink for her? Could not Allah send down from the heavens a ready-to-eat plate of dates? Or could not Allah say to the dates ‘fall upon Mary!’, upon which they would? After all, is not Allah the only One Who, when He wills a thing, only says to it, “Be” – and it is? Yes, yes, yes, brothers and sisters, He is! But Allah’s way is that the effort has to be made, and the trust has to be complete; the tawakkul has to be fulfilled.
Brothers and Sisters in Islam, these were some examples of Allah’s creatures putting their trust in Him. The wisest course for us, therefore, is to follow their example. So let us use all lawful means and exert reasonable effort to secure our needs, and let us remain faithful to Allah by putting all our affairs in His Hands and hope and expect for the best outcome. Let us say like the early believers said: “Say, ‘He is the Most Beneficent (Allah), in Him we believe, and in Him we put our trust,” (Al-Mulk, 67:29).
Allah also says: “And put your trust in Allah, and sufficient is Allah as a Trustee (Disposer of Affairs),” (Al-Ahzab, 33:3).

Renewing faith through fear and hope
Texts from the Qur’an: The hope of the believers which is accompanied with good deeds; Allah The Almighty Says (what means): “Indeed, those who have believed and those who have emigrated and fought in the cause of Allah - those hope (i.e., expect) the mercy of Allah.” (Qur’an, 2: 218) They believed, gave up their homes, migrated to strange countries, fought for the sake of Allah The Almighty, sacrificed, suffered the perils of war, and put up with the hunger, thirst and exhaustion that accompany Jihaad (struggle). Such people can rightly hope for the mercy of Allah The Almighty and for His Paradise.
Hope for the forgiveness of sins; Allah The Almighty Says (what means): “Say, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [i.e., by sinning] do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins [i.e., for those who repent and correct themselves].” (Qur’an, 39: 53) Regardless of how many sins one has committed, minor or major, one should never despair of the forgiveness of Allah The Almighty.
Allah The Almighty Says (what means): “Say, ‘To whom belongs whatever is in the heavens and earth?’ Say, ‘To Allah.’ He has decreed upon Himself mercy. He will surely assemble you for the Day of Resurrection, about which there is no doubt. Those who will lose themselves [that Day] do not believe.” [Qur’an, 6: 12]
Imaam ibn Jareer At-Tabari, may Allah have mercy upon him, commented on this verse saying, “Allah has decreed that He will be merciful with His slaves, but how was His mercy expressed? He did not punish them although they deserved it (due to their sins); rather He delayed and accepted their repentance, which made them have hope.”
Hope even applies to worldly matters, like hoping for wealth, children, a wife, a job, finding what is lost, and so on. Prophet Ya’qoob, may Allah exalt his mention, taught his children to have hope in finding their lost brother Yusuf, may Allah exalt his mention: “O my sons, go and find out about Yusuf and his brother and do not despair [i.e., lose hope] of relief from Allah. Indeed, no one despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people.” (Qur’an, 12: 87)
Texts from the Sunnah (Prophetic tradition):
Anas bin Maalik, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “Allah the Exalted has said: `O son of Aadam! I forgive you as long as you pray to Me and hope for My forgiveness, regardless of the sins you have committed. O son of Aadam! I do not care if your sins reach the height of the heaven; if you then ask for my forgiveness, I would forgive you. O son of Aadam! if you come to Me with an earth load of sins, but meet Me associating nothing with Me, I would match it with an earth load of forgiveness.’” [At-Tirmithi]
On the deathbed, people have two different sensations, fear or hope. One must always train himself to have good expectations of his Lord, because Allah The Almighty will treat a person according to his expectations. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, advised three days before his death: “Let none of you die unless he has good expectations of Allah.” [Muslim] Thus, we are encouraged have hope at the time of our deaths. This is why some of our Salaf (righteous predecessors), may Allah have mercy upon them, would command their children to recite the verses from the Qur’an that mention the mercy of Allah The Almighty whilst they were on their deathbed, in order to have good expectations of their Lord before dying.
The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “A believer will be brought close to his Lord on the Day of Resurrection and (He will) envelop him in His Mercy, He will make him confess to his sins saying: `Do you remember (doing) this sin and that sin?’ He will reply, ‘My Lord, I remember.’ Then He will say: ‘I covered it up for you in the worldly life, and I forgive you for it today.’ Then the record of his good deeds will be handed to him.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “He who loves to meet Allah, Allah loves to meet him; and he who dislikes to meet Allah, Allah abhors to meet him.” [Muslim]
Thus, one should combine fear of and hope in Allah The Almighty.
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Suffering in the path of Da’wah
Suffering is well-nigh an inescapable phenomenon for the Islamic movement of old and new, the reason being that Islam is a call to rebel against the institutions, thoughts and customs of ignorance (pre-Islamic era) in all its forms and shapes. This characteristic which distinguishes Islam has made the Islamic movement more susceptible to suffering.
Suffering is one of the most important factors of character-building and selection in Islam. Theoretic training may have no value as long as hardship and trial do not accompany it. Even faith is in need of suffering to probe its depths and measure its extents. Allah, the Most Exalted, Says in the Qur’an (what means): 
“And of the people are some who say, “We believe in Allah,” but when one [of them] is harmed for [the cause of] Allah, they consider the trial [i.e. harm] of the people as [if it were] the punishment of Allah. But if victory comes from your Lord, they say, “Indeed, We were with you.” Is not Allah most knowing of what is within the breasts of the worlds [i.e. all creatures]? And Allah will surely make evident those who believe, and He will surely make evident the hypocrites.” [Qur’an 29:10-11]
Thus, every claim must have its proof, and faith is a claim which needs proof. Steadfastness in times of hardship is a manifestation of faith and it is also the proof of its existence and its firmness. Almighty Allah Says (what means): “Do the people think that they will be left to say, We believe and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars.….” [Qur’an 29:2-3]
Thus was the decree of Allah: that the truth should be in eternal conflict with falsehood, and every time a ray of light emerges, the forces of darkness gather to extinguish it. Allah, The Exalted Says (what means): “They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it.” [Qur’an 61:8]
Since the beginning of the creation and the first of Prophets (may Allah exalt their mention), since the birth of good and evil, the struggle between the two has been violent and frightful. But the reality which keeps on recurring and which appears clear is that truth is always victorious and falsehood ever fading. Allah Almighty Says (what means): 
“And Our word [i.e. decree] has already preceded for Our servants, the messengers. [That] indeed, they would be those given victory. And [that] indeed, Our soldiers [i.e. the believers] will be those who overcome.” [Qur’an 37:171-173]
Some of the people may come to the Daa’iyah (caller to Islam) and say, “You’re doing tremendous work, persisting day and night. But the end result is little and the people are abandoning you. Yet you see the reasons that devastation and destruction overwhelm the majority of them.” This begins to ruin in an hour what the Daa’iyah builds in a year! 
Such talk may influence many who are not used to steep roads. Here lies the role of patience. Being hasty in picking the fruit of Da’wah is not conformable to patience which must be a characteristic of the Daa’iyah. The Daa’iyah may be in a certain place, a school or institute, he is forbidding the forbidden, spreading the Da’wah (call to Islam) and speaking to many people, but he won’t notice the change himself, because it is coming gradually. Just as the father does not notice the growth of his child whom he sees every morning and evening! He is growing gradually! How many Du’aat (pl. of Daa’iyah) deserted a certain place thinking that he’d had no influence, but after he left, his absence became noticeable, and his influence then appeared. 
So, the Daa’iyah should not rush the results and the fruits of the Da’wah, but he should strive and depend upon Allah, The Exalted, and realise that according to the logical settled experience from the historical aspect, and the realistic aspect, that any truthful effort expended will yield fruit. Because it hasn’t happened that when a person gave Da’wah, nobody at all responded to him, or when he advised, nobody at all took his advice, or when a scholar sat down teaching, nobody at all came to learn. Every Daa’iyah will find a respondent. For things have not yet reached what Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, warned us of concerning submissiveness to greed (stinginess), pursuit of desires, influence of the worldly life, and admiration of one’s opinion. This has not yet happened to the entire Muslim nation. It may be soon an individual level or in a specific region, but there remain many who respond and accept the Da’wah, or listen to the advice of the advisor, provided that he speaks with knowledge and wisdom.
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