What does tawakkul mean?

A photo taken on October 27, 2014 shows the Madrasa (school) of Al-Nasir Muhammad on Al-Mu'izz al-Din Illah Street, one of the most important historical streets in the Islamic quarter of Cairo. A United National study found the street to have the greatest concentration of medieval architectural treasures in the Islamic world and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMED EL-SHAHED

Question: What is the place of tawakkul in our religion? Does tawakkul mean not working, not taking medicine?
Tawakkul means expecting, after holding fast to means and causes (sabab) that have been prescribed by our religion, the outcome not from the means and causes but from the Creator of them. The 159th verse of Âl-i ‘Imrân Sûra, which reads (in English), “When you begin any work, have tawakkul in Allahu ta’âlâ. Trust in Him,” points out that one should work perseveringly by having tawakkul.

Tawakkul is to resign yourself to the outcome with ikhlâs after struggling by clinging religiously and customarily to means and causes necessary for any work. In other words, it is to expect the final result from Allahu ta’âlâ alone and to believe that this result is definitely good and advantageous for you. If you employ proper means and ways, you will obtain proper results.

Tawakkul is to accept as being predestined in the eternal past and not to be reduced to sorrow in the face of sad events that cannot be changed by human power. It is to welcome them with open arms in the knowledge that they come from Allahu ta’âlâ. Nobody can foreknow whether the outcome of an affair will be good or bad. Many things you consider to be good may finally come out bad, and vice versa. Therefore, you should not insist on the occurrence of a certain event. Instead, you should say, “If it is good and beneficial, let it materialize!”

Allahu ta’âlâ made working a means for not depending on anyone, taking measures a means for not being ill, taking medicine a means for removing illness, and light a means for seeing. He created means as a gateway through which to get to the thing wanted. To expect something to come to you directly without any means in between instead of doing what will serve as its cause is like closing the gate and expecting it to be thrown in through the window, which is contrary to Islam and mind.

In order that we might get what we need, Allahu ta’âlâ has created this gate of means and left it open. It is not tawakkul, but idiocy, not to use those medicines, the effect of which is for certain. It is declared in a hadîth-i sharîf:
(Each disease has its medicine. Death, only, is an end with no way out.) [Tabarânî]

When Hadrat Mûsâ became ill, he refused to take medicine, saying, “Allahu ta’âlâ can cure it without medicine as well.” Allahu ta’âlâ told him, “If you do not take medicine, I shall not bless you with healing.” Upon this he took the medicine and recovered health. But he wondered its reason. Then Allahu ta’âlâ declared, “In order to have tawakkul, do you want to change My law, My hikmat? Who gives useful effects to medicines? Of course, I create them.) (Kimya-i Sa’âdat)

We should go to doctors and use medicines. Yet we should not repose our reliance in doctors or medicines. We should ask for healing from Allahu ta’âlâ. Those who did not recover health though they took medicine and those who exhaled their last breath on operating tables are not few. The Qur’ân al-karîm purports:
(If you have îmân, put your tawakkul in Allah.) [Sûrat-ul-Mâida, 23]

(Allah is sufficient for a person who puts his tawakkul in Allah.) [Sûrat-ut-Talâq, 3]

And a hadîth-i sharîf says:
(If you put your tawakkul in Allahu ta’âlâ thoroughly, He would send your sustenance as He sends it to the birds, which go out with empty, hungry stomachs in the morning and come back with their stomachs filled, satiated in the evening.) [Tirmudhî]

It is stated in a hadîth-i sharîf that when Hadrat Ibrâhîm was put on the catapult and was about to be hurled into the fire, he said, “Hasbiyallah wa ni’mal wakîl” (which means “My Allah will suffice for me. He is a good guardian, a good helper”). As he fell into the fire, Hadrat Jabrâîl came to him and asked, “Do your have any wish?” “Yes, I do, but not from you,” he said. Thus, he proved true that he was a man of his word. Therefore, he was praised in 37th âyah (verse) of Najm Sûra, “Ibrâhîm, a man of his word.”

Tawakkul is a state that takes place in the heart. It takes place by believing in the fact that Allahu ta’âlâ has boundless goodness and grace. This state is the heart’s trusting, depending on and believing the Deputy, and its feeling safe with Him. Such people do not set their heart on worldly property. They do not feel sorry for their worldly failures. They have no worry about their sustenance. For example, when a defamed man brings the case to court, he will hire an advocate. His heart will feel at rest if he trusts the advocate in three respects: (1) the advocate’s knowing the defamation well; (2) his not hesitating to tell the truth; (3) his doing his best to save his right. If he believes and trusts his advocate so, he will not have to do anything additional on his part. Such people understand well the âyah, “Allah is sufficient for us. He is the best deputy,” and say, “The sustenance has been allotted and reserved. It will reach us when the time comes.” This means to say that tawakkul without working has no place in our religion.

Tawakkul and holding fast to sabab (means and causes)
Hadrat Muhammad Ma’thûm states:
Holding fast to causes is not inconsistent with tawakkul. Those who know that the effectivity of causes originates from Allahu ta’âlâ, who expect the effectivity from Allahu ta’âlâ, and who hold fast to those causes whose effectivity has been experienced have put their tawakkul in Allah and reposed their trust in Him alone. It is not conformable to tawakkul if people hold fast to those causes that are ineffective and imaginary. It is necessary to cling to the causes whose effectivity has been seen many times. Fire has the effect of burning; Allahu ta’âlâ is the One who gives the property of burning to fire. When we are hungry, we will eat food. The One who gives the effect of satiating to food is He. If we do not use such causes and are harmed, we will have disobeyed Allahu ta’âlâ. It is necessary to use those causes that have been experienced and seen to be effective. Allahu ta’âlâ orders us to consult with the knowing people. Consulting, too, is a way of holding fast to causes.

He orders us to have tawakkul after consultation. However, tawakkul cannot be employed in affairs pertaining to the next world; working has been commanded for it. In affairs pertaining to the next world, we must have fear of His punishment as well as hope of His mercy. It is necessary to have confidence in Allahu ta’âlâ’s mercy and benevolence, to perform His commandments, and to avoid the prohibited things. Such is tawakkul and human duty. (First Volume, 182nd Letter)

The purport of an âyah is as follows:
(When you decide firmly to do something, put your tawakkul in Allah. Trust in Him! If Allah helps you, no one can overcome you. If He does not help you, no one can help you. Therefore, in Allah let the Believers put their tawakkul.) [Sûrat-u Âl-i ‘Imrân:159, 160]

Self-reliance is quite contrary to tawakkul and spoils one’s tawakkul. Moreover, it gives way to egoism and self-esteem. Tawakkul does not mean not to work and become lazy. Tawakkul is done for beginning a job and accomplishing the job begun. It is also necessary to remove the fear of failing in a difficult job.

The above-mentioned âyah points out that, besides tawakkul, not only labor but also determination is necessary. Then every Muslim should work, be determined, and then trust in Allah. Tawakkul is not a weakness but a power. A hadîth-i sharîf says:
(Tether your camel and place your tawakkul in Allah.) [Ibni ‘Asâkir]

Our religion commands people to work incessantly, to use their minds well, to learn every kind of novelty, and to have recourse to every sort of lawful means for success. Only in case Muslims cannot attain success after using their mind, having recourse to all means and working with their utmost energy to perform some action, should they then not feel sorry but be contended with their fate, admitting that the result is something which Allahu ta’âlâ deemed to their advantage. Otherwise, there is no place in Islam for waiting for one’s luck by taking one’s ease and opening one’s mouth without working, learning, or striving. Doing so is a grave sin. The purport of a Qur’anic verse is as follows:
(Man can have nothing [in the hereafter], but what he strives for [with ikhlâs] in the world.) [Sûrat-un-Najm, 39]

Sometimes humans cannot attain exactly what they want howsoever hard they work and have recourse to every means. This is the time for them to admit that some power above their own plays a major part in their work, affects their life and success, and guides them. This is what we call “qadar.” Qadar is at the same time a great source of consolation. A Muslim who says, “I have done my duty, but this is my luck, which I cannot change,” does not give up hope even if he or she fails at some task, but continues to work with his or her heart being completely free from anxiety. The Holy Qur’an purports:
(Certainly, hardship is followed by ease. So whenever you finish your task, start another one. And entreat only your Rabb for your wishes.) [Sûrat-ul-Inshirâh, 5-8]

It means that it is necessary to continue to work without becoming despondent about your failure.


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