The call has come, and you have a major life decision to make. What you do in this moment and how you handle the problem before you will either make – or break – your relationships, business fortunes, or educational path for years to come.
Sweat, blood, and tears have gone into looking for just the right opportunity, but are you now ready to take that final step?
Although this sounds over-dramatic, making changes in our lives can lead to serious amounts of anxiety and stress, and have a bigger impact than we notice. As we gain more experience in the world, we learn that there rarely ever is a completely “right” answer in life. So many things seem to rest in a grey area.
The Quran, however, sets out for us as Muslims a methodology through which we can take decisions. This article seeks to setup those parameters through an observation of the third chapter of the Quran (Al Imran).
Beginning and ending with the principle of reliance upon God, the verses of this chapter help provide us with guidelines to make decisions, rely upon each other, and chart the best path forward.
The Backdrop: Trust in God
If Al Imran is read with the mindset of decision-making, one verse sticks out amongst the others:
So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon him]. (Quran 3:159)
This verse speaks directly to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH); but also sets-out the foundation of decision-making for all Muslims: consultation.
No important decision should be made alone; and it is a command from God that we take the advice of our mentors, teachers, friends, and family to find out their views before making that life-changing decision. If this involves solving a conflict, how are we to deal with it? Through leniency and using the best words for the right situation.
Once we have consulted others and are ready to make our decision, the verse then commands us to “rely upon Allah.” The concept in Arabic (tawakkul) means to delegate one’s affairs to God, putting aside any worries about the ultimate result.
This is not just a throw-away term, and as Muslims we must spend years cultivating tawakkul and learning that, once we have taken all the necessary steps, the rest must be left to God. Whenever we hear that voice in our head giving us doubts and suggesting uncertainty about our decisions, we must learn to turn it off and realize that, no matter how much things are stacked against you, God is always there.
Then they schemed, and Allah countered their schemes by schemes of His own. Allah is the best of schemers. (Quran 3:54).
The path of tawakkul is that of the righteous, those who:
… firm in knowledge say, ‘We believe in it. All of it is from our Lord.’ (Quran 3:7).
They are the ones rewarded with Paradise for their faith and steadfast reliance upon God in all their affairs.
Practical Applications: Mariam and the Battle of Uhud
Rarely does the Quran leave the reader with such an important concept without providing important practical examples of its application.
Tawakkul is no different, and in Al Imran are two sets of applications in the form of the lives of the Prophets. The first comes from the story of Mariam. Questioning the ability to have a child when no man has ever touched her, she is told:
Such is Allah; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. (Quran 3:47)
In this verse, Mariam is being commanded to place the matter of her child in the hands of God.
Likewise, the second example comes from the life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during the Battle of Uhud.
O you who have believed, do not be like those who disbelieved and said about their brothers when they traveled through the land or went out to fight; ‘If they had been with us, they would not have died or have been killed;’ so Allah makes that [misconception] a regret within their hearts. And it is Allah who gives life and causes death, and Allah is Seeing of what you do. (Quran 3:156)
This verse came as the result of the losses sustained by the Muslim army in the Battle of Uhud, where some of the believers questioned whether God had abandoned them. “Had some soldiers not moved their positions during the battle,” they argued, “they would still be alive.”
The Quran admonishes these individuals, calling them to see the truth that only God gives life and causes death. They did their best and must leave these affairs to God.
Conclusion: Returning, Once Again, to God
The chapter closes with yet another call from God within the framework setup above:
O you who have believed, persevere and endure and remained stationed and fear Allah that you may be successful. (Quran 3:200)
The term “remain stationed” here is closer to meaning “remain tied/connected together.” It connects to imagery found earlier in the chapter:
And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers… (Quran 3:103)
Therefore, it is through working together as Muslims, based on the framework of reliance upon God (tawakkul), that a truly “right” decision can be made.
Training ourselves to follow this path takes time, but it is an exercise in faith that helps us grow and, just like everything else, is ultimately another form of test from God.