Tawakkul, The Road Less Traveled : On Letting Go, Rely, and Trust the Divine

By Fatima Ariadne

“….And whoever places his trust in God, sufficient is He for him, for God will surely accomplish His purpose. For verily, God has appointed for all things their due proportions” (Qur’an 65 : 3)

Tawakkul. We heard it all the time everywhere. But how many times we actually implement it? How many of us actually understanding, and living its meaning?

The irony is, I actually understand tawakkul concept better after reading from non-Islamic self improvement books. Apparently, some non-muslims out there understand better how powerful the concept of “trusting and relying to God” can be. In some cases it could be really life-changing, from creating inner peace to physical healing and  abundance. Some are kinda adopted from Buddhism philosophy of non-attachment, and some from other ancient esoteric teachings. But many have similar foundation with the Islamic concept of tawakkul.

I remember one of the Islamic metaphysics book I read in my teen dedicated just one chapter to discuss the mystical meaning behind equation 1/0 = ~ . It was quite interesting. More or less from what I recalled from memory — the author explained that the creations are essentially zero (0) in the face of One Creator (1). But, Allah’s power will remain unlimited (~) and not diminished even an iota after He has shared providence to all His servants.  On the other side, if we want to tap such abundance, the answer is to rely to Divine (become “zero”) and trust Him as our infinite Source — through tawakkul and sincere submission.

“Becoming nothing [zero], and He will turn you to everything [~]” (Rumi)

 

How Tawakkul Works

A farmer who plants his seeds, doesn’t sit frantically day and night, staring at his seeds “come on you! Grow! Grow! Grow!”. He has planted the seeds, he has watered it and given it enough fertilizers. Now he can calmly wait and feel certain that as law of nature conducts, his seeds will grow.

That’s the kind of certainty, trust, and contentment you want to cultivate. Tawakkul is a mindfulness, trust, and certainty that Allah will always take care of you no matter what. Tawakkul is to believe Him even when things seem impossible. You are certain that you have Someone on your back that never sleeps, never let your effort turn to dust. Either He will reward your effort in this world, or in Hereafter.

The best tawakkul example in history is perhaps the mother of Moses (peace be upon them). Just after she gave born to baby Moses, Allah inspired her to put her beloved baby…. in a basket, in a Nile river! Imagine the great patience and trust to Allah this noble lady had! Maybe if it’s you or me, for example, we would be like, “what! how if my baby never make it to survive! No way!”.

If it wasn’t  a complete, solid trust to Divine, I don’t know what else is that.

Okay. But there is a small catch in here.

The fruit of tawakkul doesn’t just blossom without nothing. We can’t just sit idly and expecting miracle. Reliance to Allah doesn’t nullify physical effort. Sure you remember a hadith :

“If you put your trust in Allah in the true sense, He will grant your provision as He grants to the birds, who go out in the morning hungry and come back full.
(Ahmad, Ibn Majah and al-Tirmidhi).

Can you see it there?

The birds explained are “go out in the morning”. They don’t just sit in their nest. They leave their homes to seek provision. Just as our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) messaged to a man, “tie your camel first (i.e. do a physical effort first to make yourself secure in the matter), then tawakkul”. The Divine part is to provide you the key and show you the door, but opening that door and walk the path therein are your part.

Just like the farmer, he’ll only able to harvest his crops if he sows the seeds from the first place. If he just sit idle, his field will only be filled with weeds and wastes.

Another brilliant quote from Umar ibn Khattab :

“It is not becoming of a Muslim to sit down and praying ‘Oh God please give me provision’ without him attempting to earn it. Sure he is well aware that the sky doesn’t rain silver and gold.”

 

Seeing through the Divine Eyes

Imagine you’re a curious traveler walking in a forest, and in the middle of journey you’re trying to find a water source. This forest is entirely new for you.  You don’t have any sufficient map, nor GPS. So along the journey you just walk and walk with limited resources. Everything you see around are trees. To find a water source, the choices available are : trying some forest paths here and there… or make a guess. Either way, you’re still risk in getting lost.

Fortunately, your friend happened to pass by above you, by a helicopter. This enables him to have a bird-eye view of the whole forest. So you contacted him, and he told you that to find the water source you should go to a certain direction.

“Go to your left path and climb a hill nearby, you’ll find a river there!”

Then you see that the said left path is kinda dark, twisted, and scary. And you think that climbing hill is simply consuming energy and time. You start complaining to your friend, “No, man! That’s a difficult path! Give me another way, please! How about Path X, I see it now and it looks easy! And hey, lots of flowers too!”

“But mate, that’s the closest water source around you! Sure you can walk the path X, but I see it’s filled with some poisonous bushes that will make you paralyzed from head to toe”

“Uhhh…. No thanks! I think I’ll just go to the left path and climb the hill then!”

*******

Okay, I hope I don’t make you ZZZZZZ with this dry anecdote! ;) But you get the idea.

In this case, there’s the traveler (you) and his friend. You could only see trees around and several bits of here and there from your limited horizontal view. But your friend was flying in heli. And in elevated height, he could see the whole forest view broader than you. So what could you do when you need some important directional guide? You ask him to guide you.

Sure you could always choose to dismiss your friend’s suggestion and make your own way, i.e. going to Path X. You have a free will, so why not! In your (narrow) view and perception, the path just “seems easy” and “haz flowerz”. At least until you found out about the poisonous bushes…..

But let’s not forget, your friend’s bird-eye view position enables him to have a much, much broader view on the WHOLE forest than YOU. He could see what you couldn’t see. He knows what you don’t know. Whose judgment you’d rather trust? In this case, it’s wiser and safer to trust your friend and his judgment.

  .

Can you see how this applies in your life between you and Allah?

Sometimes you’re complaining like “Allah abandons me”, “Allah ignores my prayers”, “Why my life is made this way”, “why Islam is this and not that”, and you start questioning His mercy.

But this is only when you see your life from the perspective of creations. When you see it from the Divine  perspective, know that Allah has broader view than His creations. He is All-Knowing and All-Sustainer. Allah’s plan is the best plan, but sometimes our limited resources just can’t comprehend His wisdom yet. Hence the best way for us is to submit and trust Him.

“….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.”
(Qur’an 2 : 216)

 

Tawakkul in Supplication : “Why is My Prayer Result Not Coming Yet?”

Now back to the farmer analogy.

A farmer too, understand that if his crops take 3 months to harvest, he will not expect it to be fruitful overnight so he could harvest it tomorrow. Because as Qadr Allah, it will be harvested when the time is due.

Crops take time until it’s fruitful, crescent moon takes her time to become full moon, and midnight takes time before he changes his black cloak into dawn.

This is the same with the phase of our life. A lot of times, we human beings are so impatient! (Including this yours truly….ahem…). When Allah doesn’t respond our prayers the way we want it, we despair and think Allah has wronged us! Even going far thinking, “Allah hates me”.  Allah is this and that and bla bla bla.

“And man supplicates for evil as he supplicates for good, and man is ever hasty”
(Qur’an 17 : 11)

“Man is not weary of supplication for goodness, but if something unwanted happens to him, he becomes hopeless and ever despairing”.
(Qur’an 41 : 49)

You must have heard this Hadith Qudsi : “I am as My servant expects of Me”

Commenting the above hadith, Ibn Hajar in his “Fathul Bari” stated the hadith can be read as “I am able to do whatever my servant expects Me to do”.

Ibn Qayyim commented in Madarij As-Salikin (credit : hadithaday.org) :

“Most people just assume the worst. Most people believe they are deprived of their rights, have a bad luck, or deserve more than what Allah gave them. As if they’re saying, ‘My Lord has wronged me and deprived me of what I deserve’……

The one who hopes in Allah should always be optimistic, cautious, and hopeful in Allah’s bounty, expecting the best from Him.

…….In reality, having good expectations of Him will lead you to rely on and trust Him. After all, you cannot trust someone if you [already] harbor a bad expectations or no hope in him.”

 

One Example : The Changing Mirror

beauty image islam

I’d like to share you one example from my petty experience ;).

If you read my other article here about beauty image, you’ll find out that I have problem with appreciating my own physical beauty. I’m still struggling to accept and love my own body. I often call myself “ugly” until now, because that’s how some people in my earlier youth used to call me. “You’re so ugly”. Though it’s a long past, the title stuck in my mind. Hence, “ugly duckling”.

But back then, my self image was worse that just by seeing my own face on the mirror I’d cringe like no tomorrow. And binge eating. I stuffed every food to my mouth when I was distressed, knowing well that no matter how much I eat I’ll never be fat or curvy. People keep telling me they wish they could be like me so they can eat whatever they want without worry of gaining weight, but for me being skinny is my nightmare!

So one day, in half-desperation I really asked Allah to make me “beautiful”.

And bam, the supplication was answered!!! But the way it’s fulfilled, was kinda fascinating.

I felt less emo when I looked at myself. In fact, I could be more appreciative to my own face and bodily parts. “Wow, look at that face, it looks younger than my actual age”, “look at this and that, they’re lovely”. For the first time I finally able to think I’m beautiful.

Finally I realized this one thing : Allah didn’t fulfill my request “to be beautiful” by giving me new pairs of eyes, lips, new skins, or silky hair. He only changed my perception and state of mind. He only changed the way I looked at myself in the mirror. Plain and simple. ;)

He gave me an insight that a beauty is not about how you look in the mirror – instead, it’s rather how you interpret what you see inside the mirror that matters. Your life is how you interpret it. It’s about your interpretation of events rather than the events themselves. Why is beauty image any different!

 .

My dear ones, Divine logic is not linear, nor one-sided.

Sometimes when you ask for a diamond, Allah will instead give you a treasure map just so you can value the struggle and more valuing the diamond itself.

Sometimes when you ask for a fruit, instead of giving you one, Allah will give you a seed so that you can plant and grow it into a tree that produces many more fruits than you would expect in the first place.

Now the question is, How about the supplications that seem gone unanswered?

Do you remember when you were child, and you asked something to your mum but she said “no”? Or “No, don’t pick that one. Pick this one instead” ?

Your mother only refused to give what you want, not because she “hates you”. In fact, she really cares about your well-being and with her experience, she knows what might harm her child and what is better for him. (Do you remember a hadith that said Allah is more Merciful to you more than a mother’s compassion to her child?)

Some hadiths recorded  several ways Allah fulfilled our supplications :
– It’s fulfilled exactly the way we want it.
– It’s fulfilled late (Allah knows the best timing),
– It’s replaced with a better alternative.
– It’s added in our Hereafter scale to ease our journey there.

Allah doesn’t always give us what we want. But He gives us what we need.

The best way to let go of the worry and attachment to the supplication result is by saying this affirmation sincerely :

supplication tawakkul quote islam

 

Another interesting post for your reading :
Why Does Allah Ignores You, Left You in the Dark, and Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers?

 

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14 Comments
  1. 4 years ago
    Musliimah

    I think this just might be the best article I have ever read in my life. wallaahi.

    Reply
  2. 4 years ago
    Brent

    Mashallah! great to hear about your improved self-esteem. I very much liked your analogy about the forest and the helicopter; there is so much truth in it. It reminds me of that passage [in the Qur’an] where Moses [peace be upon him] showed the egyptians some signs to prove his authenticity and a group of black magicians, after seeing the signs, fell to the ground and wept in repentance. Pharoah threatened to murder these former magicians, but they didn’t care because they had trust in the qadr of Almighty God. Subhanallah!

    Reply
  3. 4 years ago
    Mohammed

    excellent masha Allah. may He give us all tawakkul.

    Reply
  4. 3 years ago
    Hakim

    Assalamualaikum.

    Ma’am, I would like to give a big thank you for your awe inspiring posts. As a writer myself, I validate your writings. I am at that stage in my life where I am in a slump, and my faith in Him have been wavering, to the point where I was desperately trying to hang on to the religion. When life is good, you believe in anything, but when things turn for the worst, you start to question your faith. Your writings made me realise that I was adopting the wrong attitude. I do not have much knowledge on religious interpretations, but your writings have helped to shine some light. Not only that, they have infused into me a breath of fresh enthusiasm to wait out the storm. I wish you well and hope that you will continue to inspire others for as long as you can.

    Reply
  5. 3 years ago
    Mezba

    An excellent post on tawakkul!

    Reply
  6. 3 years ago
    Ed

    This article is so funny and informative. I’ve been experiencing the same stuff over the past 2 years, and this has changed my perception on life completely. I used to worry a lot, thinking that life had treated me injustly, etc. now I just laugh at how much of a wimp I could be at times; and that it was time to man up and start appreciating life for what it is. And like you sister, I had to learn that from other sources than islamic ones lol. The saying of the Prophet (pbuh) is so true: “knowledge will disappear with the death of our scholars”… Nobody in the muslim community teaches us about tawakkul in such a way anymore. Self-development books defo!

    Reply
  7. 3 years ago
    Bashyr

    jazaakumullah hairan sister, I copied all all your posts planning to make them into an article for my school’s MSA…..copyright¿

    Reply
  8. 2 years ago
    Akhi

    Hi there,
    I hope you are well. I’m interested in finding out which non-Islamic self-help books you refer to at the beginning of the article? Feel free to email me if you prefer.
    Thanks a lot!

    Reply
    • 2 years ago
      Ariadne

      Nah, it’s non-English one :-) the book was about islam and metaphysics. The self help one was non-religious book.

      Reply
      • 2 years ago
        Akhi

        sorry if I wasn’t clear; I was referring to the book(s) you mention when you say “I actually understand tawakkul concept better after reading from non-Islamic self improvement books.”

        I’d like to look into some of the books you’ve read to better understand Tawakkul ????

        Reply
        • 2 years ago
          Akhi

          Sorry don’t know why question marks came up… I used a smiley face

          :) there

          Reply
  9. 2 years ago
    shaana

    Wow.. Subhan Allah.. This has really helped me out…. Every word was filled with truth.. Keep up with the good work!!!!

    Reply
  10. 2 years ago
    musa

    alsalalam alykm .. nice article and it reminds us in this life not to get carried away in this life where every one sometimes face chalanges that cause some worry about resolving them .. lets see what allah said in the quran Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron.and that change is doing Tawakkul which is clearly stated in the quran And whoever places his trust in Allah, Sufficient is He for him, for Allah will surely accomplish His Purpose: For verily, Allah has appointed for all things a due proportion. (Qur’an 65:3) now this is confirmed by modern scince that 90% of our mind is controlled by subconscious mind and the subconscious mind is programmed by imagining good things you seek in life with the five senses and once you hold these for a while you start accomplishing things you seek because the subconscious does not know the ell the difference between real and imagined and this is allah gift to us to change what is inside of us to change the coditions so when you have Tawakkul you will see success in your mind which will attract what you seek for , i pray for all to be happy and successful and happy in this life and the the life after ..amen

    Reply
  11. 6 months ago
    Diana Nasir

    Thanks for the great article Fatima! It is so relatable to me as I am so worried about my future, always feel down and compare myself with my what my friends are having, having low self-esteem, hate to see myself in the mirror, avoiding problems by taking nap / sleep more than I should and many more… Reading your article made me realised what I am currently lacking… which is to put trust on Allah and think positive that He will sustain me with what is best for me; with the condition that I must not stop from trying my best and work hard ???? Thanks Fatima for this reminder !

    Reply

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