“…But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” Holy Qur’an 2:216
This life is a test, both in good times and bad. Our world is currently dominated by the news about the COVID-19 global pandemic. Emerging almost twenty months ago, it has proven to be a new form of a deadly and highly contagious disease. Having rapidly spread across continents, this phenomenon is no doubt a humbling sign from Allah, the All-Mighty (Al-ʿAzīz) that a micro-organism invisible to the naked eye can multiply so rapidly, wreaking havoc along its path. In one fell swoop, it has taken millions of lives and depleted resources. It has crippled global markets, caused financial distress, and has brought many activities we take for granted to a grinding halt, with the forced closure of businesses, schools, places of worship and leisure. It has yet to be brought under control, despite all human efforts. Unlike localized natural disasters, wars and other forms of oppression history has witnessed many times over, pandemics do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, nations, politics, or social status.
As we face these unprecedented circumstances with uncertainty, fear, and the anticipation of loss in lives and economic resources, it is our relationship with Allah that remains constant. With every hardship, Allah has promised ease. As the saying goes, the light at the end of the tunnel is not an illusion—the tunnel is! Our faith teaches us that this too will pass, but as we go through this test (fitnah) we must seek ways to purify ourselves and to nourish our souls.
The believer sees in every moment an opportunity to reap blessings and reward. And, we remain optimistic in Allah, the All-Merciful (al-Raḥmān) Eternal Refuge (al-Ṣamad) who never lets us down, and brings us out of darkness into light, time and time again. Allah does not send us trials without also giving us the means to seek relief and to make easy our success.
The real test of hardship goes beyond worldly concerns and discomfort to how we choose to respond to it. So, how do we overcome what seems beyond our comprehension and control? How do we overcome anxiety, fear of the unknown, and feeling isolated, while finding purpose and solace? Let’s take a step back and make sure we are not absorbed in the news cycle and logistics of this crisis, as important as it is to be informed, to remind ourselves that today is yet another step along the journey back to Allah. The Straight Path we seek demands faith, gratitude, and patience on our part, and placing one’s trust in Allah and reliance on Allah.
Reliance on Allah, tawakkul, is among the greatest acts of worship along this Path and one required of us, “…and upon Allah rely, if you should be true believers.” Holy Qur’an 5:23. It is a means to His pleasure and reward. “So whatever thing you have been given, it is but [for] enjoyment of the worldly life. But what is with Allah is better and more lasting for those who have believed and upon their Lord rely.”Holy Qur’an 42:36. It is among the greatest blessings we have that enable us to nurture and maintain our faith. It is the source that inspires hope, contentment with divine decree, and confidence during all times and situations, particularly during moments of fear and uncertainty. Allah promises to “provide for the believer from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah, then He is sufficient for him.” Holy Qur’an 65:3. Hence, Ibn al-Qayyim said, “Tawakkul [reliance on Allah] is half of the religion. As for the other half, it is inābah [to return to Allah in all affairs and repentance].” Tawakkul, reliance on Allah, lives in the heart of the believer. It is at the very core of our spiritual well-being and practice.
It provides the lens through which to form one’s outlook and actions to bring about the best outcome. Allah commands us, “And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely upon Him.” Holy Qur’an 3:159. It is human to struggle, to be thrown off track, to be troubled with doubt, to complain when there is no end in sight, and to even become consumed with fear at times. Tawakkul is the means by which we right our course and stay on it, and bring about resolve and contentment. The benefits of tawakkul are many, but prominent among them is that you hand over to Allah that which burdens your heart and mind. Realize that you are not broken, abandoned, or forgotten, but that Allah has actually given you exactly what you need. Knowing this, the believer acknowledges with certainty and confidence, “And my success is not but through Allah. Upon him I have relied, and to Him I return.” Holy Qur’an 11:88.
The concept of reliance on Allah is a familiar one, given its frequent mention in the Qur’an and the sayings of the Holy Prophet (Hadith). We recite these verses and supplications ardently, yet we do not comprehend the scope of tawakkul, to the extent that we have yet to connect our hearts fully to these consoling and empowering words from Allah.
The question is, “How do we live tawakkul? How do we implement it in our daily lives to achieve its benefits?” Tawakkul involves placing complete trust in Allah, above and beyond all others, including ourselves. As Ibn Rajab stated, “Complete reliance on Allah is the sincere dependence of the heart on Allah in the servant’s endeavours in pursuing his interests and safeguarding himself against anything that may be harmful to his well-being both in this life and in the hereafter (ākhirah).” However, when one’s inner voice resonates loudly and becomes further emboldened by Satan’s whispers, one may erroneously place one’s emotions, logic, and that which seems immediately tangible ahead of reliance on Allah, on what is often beyond one’s perception and knowledge of Divine wisdom and His decree. Tawakkul is a leap of faith into that very unknown. Hence, the answer to this question lies in the two key aspects this trust hinges on. Ask yourself: First, how well do I know Allah? Second, what is my relationship with Him?
To know Allah is to know and acknowledge His names and attributes. Pause and reflect when reciting them and call upon Him by these names. Only then can one develop a meaningful connection to Allah, a connection that inculcates complete reliance on Him. Because He is the Eternal (al-Ḥayy), and the Sustainer of all that exists (al-Qayyūm); His knowledge is All-Encompassing (al-ʿAlīm); He is the most Powerful (al-Qadīr); He is the One who is Self-Sufficient (al-Ghanī); the One who provides abundantly (al-Razzāq); and the One who is most Noble and Generous (al-Karīm). No doubt, Allah is our Guardian (al-Wakīl), “to Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.” Holy Qur’an, 4:17; Who is always in control over all of His creation, dominates and presides over all affairs. Thus, the greater our awareness of Allah, the greater our certainty in Him and our love for Him, and subsequently, the stronger our tawakkul. (To be Continued).