On Having Trust in God
One of the fundamental truths we have learnt through the Divine Apostles is that whatever is taking place in the world, and everything that is reaching us or not, is from God, and by His leave. The causes which, apparently, bring about a result are, simply the ways and means, decreed by the Lord Himself, of carrying the things to us. In the same way as the pipes through which water is brought into our homes are, merely, the means to carry the water, but they do not specify or determine its distribution, nor can they interfere with it in any manner. The causes are not the ‘author’ of things. God, alone, is the Doer, and it is His writ that runs in the world. To put one’s trust in God, to be steadfast in one’s loyalty towards Him, to keep one’s eyes set upon His Power and Beneficence, to make Him the centre of one’s hopes and fears, and to supplicate to Him for one’s needs, with a complete faith in the reality we have just indicated – this is what is called Tawakkul (Reliance on God) in religious parlance. It stands for just that: neither more nor less. The denial, rejection or abandonment of effort or means is not necessary for Tawakkul. This is the Tawakkul that has been practised by the Divine Apostles, particularly, the Prophet Mohammad (saws), and his Companions, and by men of high virtue and spirituality in all ages. They all believed that the law of cause and effect was under the control of the Divine Will, and, normally, made use of the means as well, in accordance with that belief, and considering that God, in His Infinite wisdom, had so willed it, but put their trust wholly in what had been decreed by the Almighty. The causes, to them, were no more than the water-pipes, as we have explained. Hence, they paid the fullest regard to the good pleasure of the Lord and His commandments while making use of worldly means and resources, and believed that the Divine Will and Power was not bound by the causes, and the Lord could do anything without or outside of them, also, if He liked, and sometimes, they even had an experience of it in their lives.
In sum, repudiation or relinquishment of earthly means is neither a part of Tawakkul nor an essential condition of it. However, if anyone is overwhelmed by the inner state of God-realisation and forsakes the causes, no blame will attach to him. It will, on the other hand, be a sign of perfection in his case. Similarly, it will be quite proper and justifiable for a man to take to the path of the rejection of the causes with the object of freeing himself from their hold and placing reliance wholly upon God or setting an example to others. But the actual significance of Tawakkul is just the same as we have indicated, and it is what has been advised and set forth in the Qur’an and Traditions.
(1) It is related by Abdullah bin Abbas that the Apostle of God said: “Seventy thousand of my followers will be admitted to Heaven without Reckoning, i.e., without the Balance-sheet of their deeds being examined on the Day of Judgement. They will be the bondmen who do not take recourse to sorcery or augury, but place reliance on their Lord and Creator.”
– Bukhari and Muslim
Two evils were most common among the Arabs at the time of the advent of the Prophet. One was that when anyone or his child fell ill, he went to the sorcerer imagining that magical formulas and other forms of exorcism were the easiest and most effective way to drive off the disease or any other distress, and, secondly, when they intended to do a thing that could be both, beneficial and harmful, and end up in success as well as failure, they resorted to augury, and if it did not augur well, they gave up the idea, thinking that it was ill-omened. The holy Prophet condemned both the practices, on various occasions, and advised the people not to have recourse to witch-craft in illness or to augury or divination for knowing beforehand whether the step they were going to take would be fruitful or not, but to believe that health and sickness, and gain and loss, were wholly in the control of God, and, as such, reliance ought to be placed on Him alone, and only such measures adopted to gain an object that were not displeasing to Him. The world was governed by the Will and Command of the Lord, and not by causes, and-it would be the height of folly, indeed, to adopt ways and methods He did not approve of for the accomplishment of a purpose.
From it, some people have concluded that the bondmen to be admitted to Paradise without Reckoning will be those who observeTawakkul by totally renouncing material means and resources and forsaking the causes, but it is not correct. The holy Prophet would, certainly, have made it clear had it been in his mind while, in this Tradition, he has mentioned only two things, exorcism and augury, from the whole range of means that are supposed to help one to attain a purpose. It, distinctly, shows that the bondmen referred to, in it, will be those who place their trust solely in Allah in their needs, and as a result of it, do not resort to practices that are repugnant to Him.
The above Tradition, thus, is enough to show that the denial and rejection of means for the accomplishment of an end or purpose for which the Lord Himself has prescribed them and are, also, not forbidden in the Shariah is not what is required by Tawakkul, but only the means that are abhorrent to Him, and, also, not have been permitted in the Shariah.Nevertheless, for Tawakkul, it is necessary that means are considered merely to be a route and a path, and a veil and curtain of the wisdom of God, and real trust is put in Him, and this is what, basically, distinguishes between the conduct of a man who believes in, and practices,Tawakkul and a man who does not.
As for the ‘seventy thousand’ bondsmen, this figure is, generally, used in Arabic to emphasise the abundance of a thing, and here, too, it, apparently, has been employed in the same sense, i.e., to denote that a large number of Muslims will enter Heaven, without the scrutiny of their deeds, and as a result of abstention from the sinful practices of witchery, fetishism and divination. Hence, in another version of the same narrative, it is added that “with each of these seventy thousand bondmen, another seventy thousand will be admitted to Heaven without Reckoning.”
It is, further, worthy of note that this Tradition is not simply by way of a prophecy, foretelling an event that is going to happen on the Day of Requital, but its real purpose is to stress upon the Muslims the need to lead a life of Tawakkul, so that they are included among the bondmen who will enter Paradise without a close examination of their deeds.
(2) It is related by Omar bin Khattab thus: “I heard the Apostle of God say: ‘If you put your trust in God, as is His due, He will give you sustenance in the same way as He gives to the birds which come out of their nests hungry in the morning, and return in the evening with a full stomach.’”
– Tirmizi and IbnMajah
It shows that if people placed reliance on God for the necessities of life as they ought to, God would treat them in the same manner as He treated the birds which got their sustenance without having to toil hard for it like the human beings.
(3) Abdullah bin Abbas related to us, saying: “One day, as I was riding on the same camel with the Apostle of God, sitting at his back, he turned to me and said; ‘My boy! You take care of God, i.e., observe your duty to Him as one should, and God will take care of you, and protect you from the calamities of this world as well as the next. Remember God as He ought to be remembered, and you will find Him right in front of yourself, and if you wish to ask for anything, ask only from God, and if you need help at any time, ask for help only from Him, and remember well that if all mankind joins to do good to you with anything, it will be able to do good only with the thing that has been determined beforehand for you by God, and if all mankind joins to do harm to you with anything, it will be able to harm only with the thing that has been determined beforehand for you by God, and with no other thing. The pens have been done away with, and the leaves have become dry.’”
– MusnadAhmad and Tirmizi
The gist and substance of this Tradition is that every kind of gain or loss is in the control of God, and, aside of Him; there is no one who has anything in his power, so much so that if all the men in the world got together to do a harm or good to anyone, they could do nothing against the will and command of God. Only what has been foreordained by the Lord and written down by the ‘pen of destiny’ much in advance – even the writing has, now, dried up – can and will happen. Such being the case, it is pure foolishness to address one’s petitions to anyone save God. We should supplicate only to Him and stretch our hand before no one else for our needs, and the way to have our petitions granted and prayers answered is that we remember His injunctions and fulfill His rights. He will, also, remember us and fulfil our needs and be kind and merciful to us both in this world and the next.
(4) It is related by Abdullah bin Masud that the Apostle of God said: “There is nothing that takes you close to Heaven and away from Hell and I have not told you to observe it and, in the same way, there is nothing that takes you close to Hell and away from Heaven and I have not told you to avoid it. (I have imparted to you the knowledge of all good and evil deeds. and taught you, in detail, what is legitimate and what is forbidden, and conveyed to you all the positive and negative commandments of the Lord that were revealed to me). And Rooh-ul-Amin, (the Trustworthy Spirit), (and according to another report,Rooh-ul-Quds, the Holy Spirit), (both of which denote the Angel Gabriel), has just brought to me the Revelation that no living creature dies until he has eaten up the sustenance decreed for him by the Lord. (The appointed provision reaches everyone, without fail, before he dies. And death, in any case, cannot come until it is consumed). Thus, Oh people! Fear God, and be honest and God-fearing in seeking your livelihood, and let not a little delay in sustenance induce you to try to obtain it through unlawful means and by transgression of the Law of God for what lies in the power of God can be obtained only through submission and obedience to Him.”
– Baghawi and Baihaqi
The opening part is introductory. The holy Prophet, in fact, wanted to convey to his listeners what Gabriel had instilled into his heart at that time, but in order to give a special force to what he was going to tell, he first said that he had taught them all that there was to be taught concerning what was allowed and what was forbidden by the Shariah, and now he wanted to inform them of a thing just revealed to him by Gabriel which, in a nutshell, was that the sustenance of everyone had been determined beforehand and it was sure to reach him before he died, and, thus, a faithful bondsman should abstain from doing anything with regard to his livelihood that was displeasing to the Lord, and if there was a delay or hardship in it, even then he should not act in violation of a God-given law, but believing in the Almighty as the Great Provider of the daily bread, try to earn it only through fair and legitimate means as the favour of the Lord and His blessings could be gained only through submission.
Suppose a man is hungry and he has no money to buy food. At that moment, be sees someone who is fast asleep and the Devil tempts him to steal his goods and go and sell them and purchase for himself something to eat. It is for such occasions that the sacred Prophet has taught that the bondsman should take it for granted that the provision that is to reach him shall reach him in any event. So, why should he incur the displeasure of the Lord; defile his soul and ruin his prospects in the world to come by committing theft? His aim and endeavour ought to be to earn his livelihood through honest means, instead of a despicable act like stealing. The scope for earning an honest living is not limited by any means.
(5) It is related by Sa’ad that the Apostle of God said: “It is from the good fortune of a man that he is contented with the decision of the Lord with regard to himself, and it is from the ill-fortune of a man that he does not seek what is good from God, and, it too, is from his ill-luck not to remain satisfied with the decision of the Lord with regard to himself.”
– MusnadAhmad and Tirmizi
Occasionally, a man has to pass through events and experiences that are not to his liking. In these circumstances, his felicity and good fortune would lie in reconciling himself to adversity and quietly submitting to the Divine Will, believing that the Lord was Omniscient and All-wise, and Most Kind and Gracious to the bondmen. It is set forth in the Qur’an: “But it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not.” (2:2l6)
Besides, the bondsman should always beseech the Lord to decide what is good for him in His judgement. The holy prophet, in the above Tradition, has told that it was the height of misfortune for a man not to entreat the Lord for prosperity and welfare. In the same way, it is most lamentable for a bondsman to feel sore and unhappy over what the Almighty decides or prefers for him.
The state of wholehearted submission to the Divine Will can be attained only when a man has a complete faith in the Divine Attributes, as mentioned in the Qur’an, and the love for God pervades his heart and takes holdof it as a result of this belief and conviction.