One of the most fundamental pillars for Muslims is the concept of Tawakkul, which is often defined as trust and reliance in Allah. However, many people misunderstand the concept of Tawakkul. They see Tawakkul as a passive, verbal characteristic which simply involves supplicating to Allah for what we want.
However, there’s an incident from Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) life that shows a clear perspective on Tawakkul.
One day the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) noticed a ‘bedouin’ (desert Arab) leaving his camel without tying it, and he asked the man, “Why don’t you tie down your camel?” The ‘bedouin’ answered, “I put my trust in Allah.” The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) then said, “Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah.” (Tirmidhi)
This is a short hadith, but it carries an important lesson for us. If you have any kind of animal, you always tie it down so that it doesn’t run off when you’re gone. However, in this hadith, the man wasn’t tying down his camel before leaving it. When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) asked the man why he didn’t do it, the man explained that he was trusting Allah to keep his animal from running off. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) replied for the man to first tie his camel down and then put his trust in Allah.
From Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) response, it’s obvious that this man didn’t understand what trusting Allah was. He thought that Tawakkul meant expecting Allah to take care of everything without the person putting forth any effort. The Prophet’s (PBUH) advice demonstrates trusting Allah (Tawakkul) isn’t just a verbal and passive trait. Instead, Tawakkul is an active trait, meaning that we show Allah our trust by taking action toward what we are trying to accomplish. In other words, we must do our part first with our actions before trusting that Allah’s Divine help will come.
To demonstrate true Tawakkul, we have to do our part first. For example, even though we believe Allah is the Giver of Life (Al-Muhyi) and The Protector / Preserver / Guardian (Al-Hafiz), we have to take the necessary health precautions to keep ourselves from falling sick, such as washing our hands and exercising. We also believe Allah is The Provider (Ar-Razzaq), but we still have to go out and put forth the effort to create income. We don’t expect money to just fall from the sky.
Thus, if you or I are not doing our part—if we’re not putting forth effort toward our goals through our actions, then we’re not demonstrating true Tawakkul.
To expound on this point, we only need to look to the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Whenever Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) or his companions were faced with any situation, they never sat back and passively trusted Allah to take care of them. Instead, they were proactive about taking care of themselves, and they put their trust in Allah after they did everything they could do with their own actions.
A great example of this is Ghazwat al-Khandaq (Battle of the Trench). When the Muslims in Medina heard that an army of over 10,000 men was headed to crush the City of Medina, they did not just sit back and say that Allah would protect them. Instead, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the Muslims showed their trust in Allah by taking action. They convened a military council, and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) let people share ideas on how they could defend themselves. It was there that Salman al-Farsi (RA) introduced the idea of building a trench around the city that could be used to hold the enemy back and even out the odds. The battle began, and the Muslims relentlessly battled and outwitted their adversaries for about thirty days. It was after Allah saw their determination and resolves that He sent in a gust of wind that wrecked the enemy camp and forced them to retreat.
The lessons from this incident are that Tawakkul includes:
- Taking the time to properly plan
- Taking action on that plan
- Showing Sabr (patience, perseverance and endurance) by maintaining our faith in Allah and staying steadfast in our actions
If Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions had to be proactive and patient in their trusting of Allah, then we as Muslims should learn to do the same.
We must realize that there is really nothing that we can control other than our own actions and our attitude. We can’t control what our spouse does. We can’t control what our parents do. We can’t even control what our children do. All we can control is what goes on in our mind and what we do with our limbs. Tawakkul means taking action and trusting Allah with the results of our action.