2 Important Steps to Keep Tawakkul in an Uncertain World

There is an important concept within the Quran that can be extremely helpful in both strengthening our faith and working through hardship, particularly at these rough times. It is Tawakkul.

You might already be familiar with this term, as Muslims always use the Arabic phrase: “tawakkalna ‘ala Allah”, which roughly translates as, “we’ve placed our reliance or trust upon God.”

What is Tawakkul?

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In Arabic, the word “tawakkul” comes from the root “w, k, l”, which has a variety of meanings. In general, it can mean to give over or surrender something to someone else that you trust. The person that holds that trust, the wakeel, the preserver, who is responsible for carrying out a particular task or preserving that which you have given over to that.

In Islamic law, this term is used in an idea of what we call agency: when you give a person permission to handle your affairs like an eternity or a representative, they become your wakeel or your agent; you trust them to act in your best interest and within the limits that you have placed for them.

As a result, the wakeel can be held legally responsible if they’re negligent or transgresses their limits.

In the Quran, the term wakeel or tawakkul appears about 38 times. Each time the term is referred to encourage Muslims to rely upon, trust in, or to leave their affairs in the protection of God.

Not About Passivity, Taking Action is a Must

This might encourage an outside observer to think of Muslims as fatalists that we sit back, relax, and put all our affairs in the hands of God and wait for Him to sort things out. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact in each instance that we’re commanded to perform tawakkul, it always comes in the form of an action.

For example in verse 5:23, we’re told that those who do tawakkul are the true believers. This verse comes in the middle of the story of people of Moses who when they had reached the land promised to them by God, they didn’t want to enter; they feared the tyrannical people who were occupying that space at the time.

However, they were encouraged to push forward in that quote:

If you enter, you will be victorious, and rely upon God, if you are true believers.

This is not a call to give up or wait for God to figure something out.

Remember back in the beginning of this video, when we mentioned that we often hear other Muslims refer to tawakkul when they’re about to set out and do something? 

That is because this concept of tawakkul, through the Quranic verse, although related to the idea of reliance doesn’t mean that it’s a one-sided form of reliance; we still have something to do.

As Muslims, we’re obliged to take the necessary steps for our lives to improve. In the case of the above verse, that means that people of Moses should enter the land that God promised them, should they do that nonchalantly, without taking any preparations?

Absolutely not.

And they should take care of every single element to ensure the success of their ultimate journey.

This is all part of a wider concept within Islam called” taking reasons”. It’s not limited to the idea of tawakkul. What I want to emphasize here was that although, as Muslims, we’re commanded to rely upon God and trust in God, that doesn’t mean we have no role to play or responsibility to carry out.

When we see something that can be better, or an opportunity that we can take advantage of, it is upon us to get out there and do it.

Look at the Bigger Picture

To look at another dimension of tawakkul, let’s go to another different verse 65:3:

And God will provide for him where he doesn’t expect. And whoever relied on God, then He is sufficient for him. Indeed God will accomplish his purpose and God had already for everything a decreed extent.

This verse comes at the end of the rules governing divorce. Going through the process of divorce is one of the most difficult moments in anyone’s life.

It means that the potential of breaking up a family, major life changes are going to happen for the husband, the wife, and children if they happen to have them.

Divorce, therefore, is a catch-all for moments of hardship. What are we to do when we go through something like this?

Listen to the Quran which says to see the bigger picture and rely upon God. Understand that the hardship that you’re facing, no matter how difficult things might appear to be are all part of a larger process that you can’t necessarily comprehend when you are in the middle of the moment.

How many times in life have you gone through something you thought difficult, or even pointless at the time, only to realize sometimes, even months later, that it really paid off and that you’re a better person for having gone through it.

That is why tawakkul, or reliance upon God, in hardships is critically important.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Quran elucidates many dimensions of the concept of tawakkul. Today, we’ve looked very briefly at two of these. The first is the idea of within the reliance on God, there is responsibility for us to push forward without sitting on the sidelines waiting for God’s will to be fulfilled.

The second is that tawakkul means to look at the bigger picture to see beyond the circumstances of the moment and find solace in the fact that God is the one in control, exercising His will as He sees fit.

Keep this in mind as you watch the news and see the changing circumstances of our world, and remember that no matter how dark and challenging the world can see, God is always there.

(From Discovering Islam archive)

About Brian Wright
Brian Wright is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Zayed University, Abu Dhabi. He holds a PhD from the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University. His dissertation was on Islamic criminal law in Egypt, India, and Ottoman Turkey during the 19th century. He has studied fiqh with a number of traditional scholars in Egypt and India.