TAWAKKUL: THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE

Scholars divide people into three categories in terms of their approach to tawakkul. The first type of person is one who relies wholly on Allah, without personally asserting any effort toward the end goal himself. The term used to describe this concept is tawākul. This is contradictory to tawakkul as understood from the Qur’an and Sunnah. The noble Companion, ʿAbd Allah Ibn ʿAbbās, RadhiAllahu Anhuma, reported that the people of Yemen traveled for Hajj without sufficient provision, claiming to depend solely on Allah to provide for them. When they resorted to begging the people of Medina to take care of them, Allah revealed the verse, “And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah.”[1] This is exemplified in the context of the current global pandemic by those who claim to trust Allah to protect them from its harm, while they themselves refrain from taking the necessary prescribed precautions of social distancing and sheltering in place in order to prevent the further spread of the virus.

The second type of person takes the means to achieve the desired outcome, while relying solely on those means, and not on Allah. Nūḥ (as) could not convince his own son to seek refuge in Allah from the flood, in the safety of the ark. His son defiantly said, “I will take refuge on a mountain to protect me from the water.” [Noah] said, “There is no protector today from the decree of Allah, except for whom He gives mercy.” And the waves came between them, and he was among the drowned.[2] This action is sinful because it goes against tawḥīd for one to rely on other than Allah, and therefore, it contradicts tawakkul. This is likened to one who seeks the recommended or necessary medical treatment for an ailment. However, he places his trust solely on the means—the medicine and the doctor—but does not acknowledge or trust in Allah as the One who ultimately provides the cure through those very means, giving them their effectiveness and potency.

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The third group of people are those who take the necessary means to achieving the desired outcome and place their trust in Allah to grant them success. This is the correct understanding of tawakkul as taught and practiced by the Prophet ﷺ and every prophet before him. One might wonder why Maryam was instructed to shake the date palm as she was in the throes of giving birth. “And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. So eat and drink and be content.”[3] It was, no doubt, her reliance on Allah and His divine wisdom in directing her to that action that provided her with the necessary means to give her ease in her time of difficulty. Likewise, during any time of uncertainty and fear, the people of tawakkul are those who remain steadfast in their hope in Allah to bring them through the test, while they use every permissible means to achieve that end. Hence, in the context of our current circumstances, we must remain optimistic and completely trust that Allah will bring us relief from this pandemic. At the same time, we must make every effort to take the prescribed precautionary measures and use this time wisely to engage in and increase our acts of worship like duʿāʾ, seeking forgiveness (istighfār), giving charity (ṣadaqah), and being of service to others to the best of our ability.

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The great scholar, Ibn Taymīyah summarized this concept as: “Tawakkul comprises of reliance on Allah, in order for Him to help the person do what they are ordered to do, as well as reliance on Allah in giving the person what they cannot achieve. Istiʿānah (seeking help) is in actions, and tawakkul is broader than that.”[4] Therefore, making duʿāʾ is an important and ever-present aspect of the means one takes in exercising tawakkul. It is also important to note that reliance on Allah is essential for all matters, both worldly and religious—to seek a good outcome in this world and in the Hereafter.

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[1] Al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 1523, https://sunnah.com/bukhari/25/11.

[2] Qur’an 11:43.

[3] See Qur’an 19:23–26.

[4] Al-Munajjid, Reliance on Allaah, 9.

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