Question: The articles that deal with personal development urge people to rely on themselves. Is self-reliance appropriate?
Muslims must rely on Allahu ta’âlâ, not themselves. That is, they must work to the best of their abilities and hold fast to causes, but they must expect the effectiveness of the causes from Allahu ta’âlâ alone. Tawakkul means this.
Islamic scholars state: “If you put all your trust in Allahu ta’âlâ alone, Allahu ta’âlâ grants you all your wishes.”
The purport of a hadîth-i sharîf is as follows:
(If a person puts his trust only in his Rabb, Allahu ta’âlâ will grant him all his wishes and make all people helpers for him.) [Fâideli Bilgiler (Useful Pieces of Information)]
Abû Muhammad ‘Abdullah Râshî declares:
The greatest curtain [hindrance] between you and Allahu ta’âlâ is to place your trust in yourself or in someone who is as incapable as you are. (Maktûbât-i Mâ’thûmiyya)
Islam commands tawakkul and prohibits laziness. The purport of a hadîth-i sharîf is as follows:
(Tether your camel, and then put your tawakkul in Allahu ta’âlâ.) [Ibni ‘Asâkir]
The hadîth-i sharîf above openly declares that it is necessary both to have tawakkul and to work. Tawakkul is to overcome difficulties by expecting help from Allah. An âyah (Qur’anic verse) purports:
(When you begin any work, have tawakkul in Allahu ta’âlâ. Trust in Him.) [Sûrat-u Âl-i ‘Imrân, 159]
This verse points out that, besides tawakkul, not only labor but also determination, which is above labor, is necessary. Then every Muslim should work, be determined, and then trust in Allahu ta’âlâ.
In order to replace the power and courage granted by tawakkul, those who disbelieve tawakkul try to meet this need with the word self-reliance. This shows that some being to be trusted in is necessary. This Being is Allahu ta’âlâ alone. Again an âyah purports:
(Say: “Unless Allahu ta’âlâ wills, I am not able to be of any use or harm to myself.”) [Sûrat-ul-A’râf, 188]
Despite this verse and many other verses, it is wrong to abrogate tawakkul and to look for something named self-reliance. Self-reliance is quite contrary to tawakkul and spoils one’s tawakkul. Moreover, it gives way to egoism and self-esteem.
Since in tawakkul you put your trust in Allah alone without trusting in others’ help in your work, much more power results from it than does from self-reliance. The person who trusts in himself is lonely, and a Muslim who has tawakkul has his Allah besides his own labor, getting power from this Inexhaustible Source. A Muslim who has tawakkul works with all his strength and does not fall into such self-esteem or egoism of regarding his gain as from himself. (Islam’s Reformers)