It is an attitude that emanates from the conviction that:
Allah has put me in this world temporarily for a test and all of my good and bad circumstances are part of the test.
The test is about my performance in given circumstances, not about how good or bad my circumstances are. Regardless of what circumstances I encounter, the test is about how well I exhaust all my efforts in achieving the objective of the Deen Allaah has prescribed for me for His pleasure.
My success depends on the quality (in terms of relevance, wisdom, propriety, tactics, strategy and sincerity) and quantity I put in, not on the material results they appear to produce, regardless of what kind of good or bad circumstances I happen to encounter.
Whatever Allah has commanded us to do and the objectives He wants us to achieve are the best things for us in this world and in the hereafter. My duty is to continue steadfastly on the job Allah has assigned to me utilizing every tool humanly possible and doing my earnest best, without worrying about the results, but instead leaving the results totally to Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala.
The real success is attaining the pleasure of Allah, not the results in this world. Whether my efforts bear any visible result in this world or not, I must continue on my course steadfastly.
Whatever hardships, test, trials and sufferings I endure during my servitude to Him are all part of His plan for my ultimate success. Enduring them with contentment without a word of complaint or without being disheartened in any way is a part of my job as His slave that I am doing for His pleasure.
These convictions produce a winning state of mind and a believer feels that because I truly believe in Allah and am doing what He wants me to do, He is with me, watching me, and accepting my efforts; and He is not going to let my endeavours go in vain, let me fail or leave me unsupported. No one can do anything to me that is not part of His plan for me as His slave. Regardless of what transpires in this world, the ultimate success is mine, as long as I am truly committed to His work. If I keep the right attitude, come what may, I will be successful:
The Messenger of Allah, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam said, "How wonderful it is for a believer that he always ends up with goodness: If he suffers and remains steadfast, it is rewarding; if good things happen and he thanks Allah, that is also rewarding." (Suhaib in the Muslim)
It is a totally liberating, very empowering state of mind that a true believer attains because of his trust in and reliance on the power, authority, help and support of Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala and because of the contentment he feels in serving Allah without being concerned about the results that Allah provides for his untiring efforts. This kind of resolute trust in and reliance on Allah– Tawakkul – provides such a tranquility to one’s heart, such a courage in one’s psyche and such a resilience in one’s nature that a believer cannot be scared, pressured into giving up, made to compromise, compelled to give in, bought out of his Islamic mission, or forced into submission by any enemy, tyrant, power or authority. For those who have Tawakkul, Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala says:
Whoever relies on Allah (has Tawakkul), He is sufficient for him (At-Talaaq 65:3)
Thus, Tawakkul is a natural corollary of true faith and is one of the evidences (Shahada) of faith. A person with true faith will always rely on Allah / have Tawakkul. Lack of Tawakkul indicates lack of true faith. This was true for previous Ummah's as it is for us:
The believers are only those who: when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful; when His verses are recited to them, they increase their faith; and only on their Lord they rely (have Tawakkul). (Galangal 8:2)
When Moos `alayhi invited Bane Israel to enter Palestine
, they refused to do so, being scared of the strength of the enemy. Two of the believers endowed with true faith spoke up and said,
Enter upon them through the gate, for when you enter it, you will be the dominant. And rely upon Allah (have Tawakkul), if you are believers . (Al-Ma'idah 5:23)
But no one believed in Moosa except the offspring (youth) of his people, because of the fear of Fir’awn and his establishment that they would persecute them; and indeed, Fir’awn was arrogant in the land and indeed, he was of the transgressors.
And Moosa said, “O my people, if you have believed in Allah, then rely on Him (have Tawakkul in Him), if you are Muslims.” So they said, “Upon Allah do we rely (have Tawakkul). Our Lord! Do not make us (object of) trial (persecution) of the unjust/wrongdoers. And save us by Your mercy from the disbelievers.” (Younus 10:83-85)
As is evident from the verses quoted above as well as those quoted below, Tawakkul is closely related to the untiring struggle that a Muslim undertakes to achieve both the personal and collective goals of Deen -- Iqaamah of Deen in personal life to achieve personal excellence as a Muslim and in collective life to achieve the establishment and dominance of the Islamic system of peace and justice.
Personal struggle and Tawakkul:
Indeed, there is no authority for him (Shaytaan) over those who believe and rely upon their Lord (have Tawakkul). (An-Nahl 16:99)
If Shaytaan tries to sow doubts in the mind of a believer, a believer with Tawakkul is protected by Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala:
The Messenger of Allah, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “The human mind keeps wandering and branching away into different valleys. If someone follows his mind in all those wanderings, Allah does not care which valley ruins that person. On the other hand, whoever has Tawakkul in Allah, He will be sufficient to save him from those wanderings.” (Ibn Maajah from ‘Amr Ibn Al-’Aas)
A person without Tawakkul will fall prey to many un-Islamic practices in the face of adversity that a true believer with Tawakkul on Allah will avoid at every cost. Those who have Tawakkul will be appropriately rewarded in the Hereafter:
Seventy thousand of my Ummah will enter Jannah without reckoning. They will be those who did not seek cure through mantras, who did not take omens and who had Tawakkul in their Lord. (Bukhari and Muslim from Ibn ‘Abbaas)
Islamic work and Tawakkul: A person with tawakkul on Allah will bravely, unflinchingly and steadfastly continue working for Islamic objectives regardless of the impediments, threats and hardships encountered. When Nooh `alayhissalaam was rebuked and threatened, this is how he responded:
And recite to them the news of Nooh when he said to his people: O my people, if my stay (among you) and my reminding (you) Aayaat of Allah is hard on you, then I have put my Tawakkul (trust / reliance) in Allah So devise your plan and (call upon) your Shurakaa (any entity equated with Allah) and let not your plan be obscure to you. Then carry it out upon me and do not give me respite . (Younus 10:71)
During resistance from his people, the Messenger Hood `alayhissalaam said to them:
I put my Tawakkul in (I rely on) Allah, my Lord and your Lord. There is not a creature but He holds its forelock (controls it). (Hood 11:56)
Shu’aib `alayhissalaam said to his people:
I do not want to do the things from which I stop you. I only desire reform as much as I am able. My potential and inclination is only through Allah, upon Him I rely (in him I have Tawakkul) and to Him I turn. (Hood 11:88)
Ibrahim `alayhissalaam and his people’s struggle and Tawakkul are presented as a model:
Indeed there has been for you an excellent model in Ibrahim and those with him, when they said to their people: “Verily we disassociate from you and whatever you worship other than Allah We have rejected you and there has appeared between us and you animosity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone… Our Lord upon You we have relied (have Tawakkul), to You we have turned and to You is the destination. Our Lord, do not make us (object of) persecution for the disbelievers, and forgive us, our Lord. Indeed, only You are the All-Mighty, the Wise.” (Al-Mumtahinah 60:5-6)
In fact, that has been the way of all prophets, messengers and Islamic workers:
Their messengers said to them: True, we are human like yourselves, but Allah bestows His grace on whom He pleases of His slaves. It is not for us to bring you a miracle except by Allah’s permission . And on Allah should the believers rely (have Tawakkul) . How should we not rely upon (have Tawakkul in) Allah when He has indeed guided us in our ways? Certainly we would persevere against the persecution that you may inflict on us . And upon Allah must the reliant rely (have Tawakkul). (Ibrahim 14:11-12)
For our Ummah:
Thus have We sent you to a community, before whom other communities have passed away, in order that you recite to them what We have revealed to you, but they disbelieve in the Most Gracious. Say: He is my Lord; there is no deity except Him; upon Him I rely (in Him I have Tawakkul) and to him is my return in repentance.
When commenting on Uhad, Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala said,
When two parties among you were about to lose courage, while Allah was their ally; and upon Allah must the believers rely (have Tawakkul). (Aali-‘Imraan 3:122)
And when you have made a decision, then rely upon Allah (have Tawakkul). Verily, Allah loves those who rely on Him. If Allah helps you, no one can overcome you; but if He forsakes you, who is there who can help you after Him. And upon Allah must the believers rely (have Tawakkul). (Aali-‘Imraan 3:159-160)
On the Prophet, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam’s concern for enemies’ attacks over his marriage to Zainab radhiallahu `anha on Allah’s command, Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala admonished:
O Prophet! Fear Allah and do not obey disbelievers or hypocrites, certainly Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise; follow what is revealed to you from your Lord, certainly Allah is fully aware of what you do; and, (have Tawakkul) rely on Allah, He is sufficient as a Trustee . (Al-Ahzaab 33:1-3)
If at any point, a believer feels powerless or hopeless, he should refresh his faith and tawakkul in Allah and continue his personal or Islamic struggle with hope and a winning attitude. The Prophet, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam said:
Allah Ta`alaa condemns powerlessness / hopelessness. It is incumbent upon you to take a stand with hope and intelligent resolve. If you are overpowered in a matter, then say, “Sufficient is Allah for my means and He is the best supporter.” (Reported by Aboo Dawoodfrom ‘Owf Bin Maalik)
Otherwise, a true believer knows that the best of the successes is for him in the hereafter, if he relies only on Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala:
As for those who emigrated for Allah after they had been persecuted, We will certainly settle them in this world nicely, but their reward of the Hereafter will be greater, if only they knew. They are those who persevered and relied in their Lord . (An-Nahl 16:41-42)
With the degeneration of the Ummah, Tawakkul has also taken on wrong connotations. Some people think that Tawakkul entails only sitting like monks and doing nothing, hoping that Allah will do something. That meaning is from Shaytaan to make Muslims inactive and indolent. The real Tawakkul, as evidenced by the verses of the Qur'an quoted above, is such a strong conviction of Allah’s approval and mercy being with you in your Islamic struggle that no problem in the world is able to dampen your spirit or make you feel defeated or helpless. The life of the Prophet, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam was a superb example of Islamic tawakkul. In every move he made and at every stage of his mission, he used the best tactics and strategies at human disposal, and then fully relied on Allah without having even a bit of worry of the consequences.
For example, while migrating to Madeenah, he took all the precautions that were humanly possible for his safe departure from Makkah and safe arrival in Madeenah: Planning the migration secretly, leaving when least expected, asking ‘Ali to sleep in his bed so that his departure is not noticed, selecting a hiding place on an opposite direction to Madeenah, arranging of survival provisions for three days of hiding and a week of traveling, arranging of a faithful guide, arranging for the camels to be brought only when leaving the hiding place, selection of route least traveled, etc. But once he had done whatever was humanly possible, he had such trust in Allah that he was never worried about the consequences even when everything seemed to fall apart. It was the remarkable demonstration of his Tawakkul, when enemies reached at the mouth of the Thowr cave and Aboo Bakr, radhiallahu `anhu became worried, he calmly assured him, “Do not worry, Allah is with us.” Even in basic matters of the world, one has to do his best and then leave the results to Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala.
A person asked, “Should I tie my camel and have Tawakkul (trust in Allah for her protection) or should I leave her untied and have Tawakkul.” The Messenger, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam replied, “Tie her and then have Tawakkul.” (Reported by Tirmidzi from Anas)
‘Umar Bin Khattaab, radhiallahu `anhu heard the Messenger of Allah, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam saying, “If you trust Allah with right kind of Tawakkul, He will provide you sustenance as He provides for the birds – they go out in the morning with empty stomachs and come back in the evening with full stomachs.” (Tirmidzi)
A bird sitting in his nest, praising Allah, will not have his stomach filled. It has to go out to seek food. It is only the one that goes out and does its best to find food, comes back full.
Tawakkul, as described above, is related to one’s efforts and results of those efforts for the matters that fall under the area of human endeavour. A person with right concept of accountability to and tawakkul on Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala puts in his best possible efforts to do what Allah expects him to do in those matters and does not worry about the results. He positively and constructively deals with whatever he encounters and continues with full force doing his level best regardless of the results or consequences. Another matter closely related to Tawakkul is being content with matters that are beyond our power and influence.
There are many things in our life that are decided for us without our input or approval. The examples are the parents we are born to, our genes that determine many things in our life, our physical features, the circumstances of the society we are born in or we live in, etc. The Muslims who understand that our life is a test of how we live and do the best with whatever we got and whatever situations we have been put in, they are fully content and happy with the circumstances, putting all their efforts and energies in making the best of their situations and making the correct Islamic decisions in those situations.
They know that their personal success is not dependent on circumstances but in doing their best in the given circumstances. If they find themselves in bad circumstances, they work hard to do better, and keep seeking Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala’s help, mercy and bounty through Du’aa and Istikhaarah to go with their best of the efforts. On the other hand, the losers concentrate on their circumstances and on the things beyond their control. They neither seek Allah’s help, mercy and bounty, nor do they take the circumstances as given and work on performing the best they can in those given situations. They end up being unhappy, miserable complainers always complaining about what they do not have, rather than making the best of what they do have. They end up being the utter losers. This is what was expressed in the following Hadith:
“One of the factors that indicate blessedness (Sa’aadah) of a person is his being pleased with Allah’s decision for him, while two of the attitudes indicating wretchedness / despondence (Shaqaawah) of a person are: his not seeking goodness from Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala or his being unhappy about Allah’s decisions for him.”
(Sa’ad in Musnad of Ahmad and Jaami’ of At-Tirmidzee)