Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), 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 beings. He has invited us to explore the earth to realize His Power and use it for our subsistence to thank Him. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says in the Aayah of Quraan what means:
هُوَ ٱلَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ ٱلۡأَرۡضَ ذَلُولٗا فَٱمۡشُواْ فِي مَنَاكِبِهَا وَكُلُواْ مِن رِّزۡقِهِۦۖ وَإِلَيۡهِ ٱلنُّشُورُ [الملك: 15]
“He is the One who has made the earth subjugated for you, so walk on its shoulders, and eat out of His provision, and to Him is the Resurrection.” (Al-Mulk 67:15)
Yet Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) has made it clear in this very Aayah, as well as in other Aayaat, that had He not made this earth manageable to us, we would not be able to explore it nor benefit from it.
The Soorah (Chapter) Al-Mulk is actually a yardstick for understanding Tawakkul. It starts and finishes with the same message: To Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) belong all that is in the universe and nothing would happen without His Mercy and His constant watchful care. He says in the first Aayah what means:
تَبَٰرَكَ ٱلَّذِي بِيَدِهِ ٱلۡمُلۡكُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيۡءٖ قَدِيرٌ [الملك: 1]
“Glorious is the One in whose hand is the Kingdom (of the whole universe), and He is powerful over everything” (Al-Mulk 67:1 )
He then says in the last Aayaat what means:
قُلۡ أَرَءَيۡتُمۡ إِنۡ أَصۡبَحَ مَآؤُكُمۡ غَوۡرٗا فَمَن يَأۡتِيكُم بِمَآءٖ مَّعِينِۢ [الملك: 30]
“Say, ‘Tell me, Should your water vanish into the earth, who will bring you a flowing (stream of) 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 (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’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 is He! No one can bring it back but He.
There is a meaningful touch in the Aayah mentioned earlier. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says what means:
"… so walk on its shoulders …”
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 (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). He made it available to you out of His Mercy and care for you. Hence, if Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) wills, your work and efforts will be fruitless.
Similar Aayaat where Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) ascribes subsistence solely to Him are found in many places in the Quraan. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says what means:
فَٱبۡتَغُواْ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرِّزۡقَ وَٱعۡبُدُوهُ وَٱشۡكُرُواْ لَهُۥٓۖ إِلَيۡهِ تُرۡجَعُونَ [العنكبوت: 17]
“So seek provision with Allah and worship Him and be grateful to Him. To Him you are to be returned.” (Al-‘Ankaboot 29:17)
Those who misunderstood the Divine Scheme of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) and His Wisdom have felt confused by this double command of Allah — to strive and work on the one hand, and rely on Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) to make the actions possible and goals attainable, on the other. Initially, this question was presented before the Prophet, Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam). His Sahaabah (Companions) asked: “Should we quit working and rely on Al-Qadar (Allah’s predetermined decree)?
The Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) answered: "You should initiate and do things. Everyone shall be facilitated towards that for which he was created.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Consequently, the Sahaabah of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) moved on and initiated righteous deeds while putting their trust in Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa).
The work that we are referring to is not that of the acts of worship (Salaah, Zakaah, Sawm, Hajj, etc). Rather, it is the work pertaining to our subsistence. Furthermore, we do not refer to Haraam (Forbidden) work and Haraam subsistence. It is the Halaal (Permissible) work and the Halaal livelihood that we are concerned about, for it is more tempting to the believer. What are the guidelines and limits of the Halaal work? How much dedication do we give it? Do we attribute the source of subsistence to our work or to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s bounties? And do we associate the loss and deprivation of wealth, health and success with our loss of job, or with Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Divine scheme?
Islam is a dynamic religion. Not only does it not condone passiveness, but also, it strongly rejects laziness and dependency on others. The Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: "Begging is forbidden except when there is great debt, suffering, injury, or abasing poverty.” (Abu Daawood and Baihaqi)
He 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.” (Bukhari)
The Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) himself 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.
He used to constantly seek refuge with Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) from laziness as reported by Hadhrat Zaid bin 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…” (Muslim)
However though we might strive hard to secure our livelihood, we should not attribute our achievements solely in the work we do, but to 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, or our families. The only one on Whom we should rely is Allah. He Almighty Says what means:
وَتَوَكَّلۡ عَلَى ٱلۡحَيِّ ٱلَّذِي لَا يَمُوتُ وَسَبِّحۡ بِحَمۡدِهِۦۚ وَكَفَىٰ بِهِۦ بِذُنُوبِ عِبَادِهِۦ خَبِيرًا [الفرقان: 58]
“And place your trust in the Ever-Living who cannot die, and proclaim His purity along with His praise. Enough is He to be aware of the sins of His servants,” (Al-Furqaan 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 (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa).
Hence as much as Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) 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 is of people who are attracted by the temptations of this world, and have gone so far as to forget their relationship with Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). 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. They will ultimately claim that all their achievements are but the result of their own work and that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) had no involvement whatsoever. They do not rely on Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says what means:
أَفَرَءَيۡتَ ٱلَّذِي كَفَرَ بَِٔايَٰتِنَا وَقَالَ لَأُوتَيَنَّ مَالٗا وَوَلَدًا () أَطَّلَعَ ٱلۡغَيۡبَ أَمِ ٱتَّخَذَ عِندَ ٱلرَّحۡمَٰنِ عَهۡدٗا [مريم: 77-78]
“Have you, then, seen him who rejected Our verses and said, ‘I shall certainly be given wealth and children’? Has he peeped into the Unseen or taken a covenant with the All-Merciful (Allah)?” (Maryum 19:77-78)
This type of man who rejects Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) and denies His bounties regards himself as "self-sufficient” and thus, cannot be expected to rely on Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa).
The second group is of people who are those who understood the reliance on Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) 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 (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) 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 completely understood the meaning of Tawakkul according to the Book of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) and the Sunnah of His Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam). Had they attempted to understand the Book of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), according to the understanding and implementation of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) and his honorable Sahaabah, they would have found that Tawakkul is far from what they conceived. Through the instinctive behavior of some of His creatures and the sublime conduct of His Prophets and righteous slaves, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) has set out in His Book the genuine Tawakkul.
Tawakkul of the bee: First, let us look at the fascinating life of the bee. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says what means:
وَأَوۡحَىٰ رَبُّكَ إِلَى ٱلنَّحۡلِ أَنِ ٱتَّخِذِي مِنَ ٱلۡجِبَالِ بُيُوتٗا وَمِنَ ٱلشَّجَرِ وَمِمَّا يَعۡرِشُونَ ( ) ثُمَّ كُلِي مِن كُلِّ ٱلثَّمَرَٰتِ فَٱسۡلُكِي سُبُلَ رَبِّكِ ذُلُلٗاۚ يَخۡرُجُ مِنۢ بُطُونِهَا شَرَابٌ مُّخۡتَلِفٌ أَلۡوَٰنُهُۥ فِيهِ شِفَآءٌ لِّلنَّاسِۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَأٓيَةٗ لِّقَوۡمٖ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ [النحل: 68-69]
“Your Lord revealed to the honeybee: .Make homes in the mountains, in the trees and in the structures they raise. Then, eat from all the fruits, and go along the pathways of your Lord made easy for you. From their bellies comes out a drink of various colors in which there is cure for people. Surely, in that there is a sign for a people who ponder.” (An-Nahl 16:68-69)