We can extract many life lessons from the beautiful hadith in which the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “If you all depend on Allah with due reliance, He would certainly give you provision as He gives it to birds who go forth hungry in the morning and return with [a] full belly at dusk.”
This hadith teaches us that tawakkul begins with the heart’s firm reliance on Allah. Strengthened with tawakkul, the believer sets forth on the path to attain his goal, be it safety, sustenance, knowledge, etc. One may not know where that path will take him, nor have the knowledge of how or when he will reach his goal, but his reliance on Allah keeps him steadfast with the certainty that Allah will provide, just as He does for the birds. No doubt this example depicts heightened vulnerability and need. The nest appears feeble and unable to withstand harsh weather and predators. The eggs are fragile and the bird has limited capacity and significant responsibility to shoulder. Yet, we see Allah’s perfection in His plan, His mercy, and generosity for all of His creation such that none who seeks from Him is returned empty-handed.
Tawakkul involves the coming together of both one’s spiritual and material means. [Abū Bakr Jābir al-Jazāirī, Minhāj Al-Muslim: A Book of Creed, Manners, Character, Acts of Worship and Other Deeds, vol. 1 (Riyadh: Darussalam, 2001), 301.]
Abū Ḥātim Al-Rāzī noted that this hadith teaches us that not only is tawakkul an essential component of faith, but it is also of the utmost importance in acquiring sustenance. It begins in the heart, and manifests in action, be it for survival, well-being, or any benefit. The means are those actions that are within the bounds of permissibility, beginning with seeking the help of Allah through acts of worship along with practical steps within one’s capacity. This may include seeking counsel and the help of trustworthy people: family, friends, and specialists in a particular field, such as medical professionals, for example, who are currently serving on the frontlines to help save lives during this crisis. Placing one’s trust in another person is called tawkīl, which is a category of the means one takes, while relying on Allah to provide both the means and the end result.
And cooperate [assist one another] in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. (Qur’an 5:2.)
Thus, one carries out the actions while the heart remains firmly reliant on Allah. Trust that your provision is guaranteed, but you may have to struggle and strive for it. Every action and effort exerted with tawakkul is an action on the Path of Allah and is being recorded and rewarded. Hence, tawakkul supports the believer’s confidence, courage, strength, motivation and productivity because of their reliance on Allah to help them achieve their goals.
And when the prayer has been concluded, disperse within the land and seek from the bounty of Allah, and remember Allah often that you may succeed. (Qur’an 62:10.)