Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
There are two extremes of tawakkul. One of them is depending of Allah so much that you just sit back and relax and imagine that Allah will sort things out without your lifting a finger to help yourself. Another is depending on yourself and your own efforts so much that you stop depending on Allah. Both attitudes are very unhealthy. Let us look at each of these and then on what the correct attitude should be.
Leaving Your Camel Untied
This sort of attitude is very dangerous. It is like assuming that Allah is our servant, instead of us being Allah’s servants (audhubillahi min dhalik). It also might lead to weakening of faith once we realize that nothing’s going to get better without our trying. Some people even question the power of Allah when things don’t happen their way (“Why can’t Allah make my life easier?”) Rather the question is, why will Allah help us if we don’t even help ourselves? Allah has said in the Quran,
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ
. . . Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves . . . [13:11]
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ
O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient. [2:153]
In a famous hadith on tawakkul, a man asked to the Prophet (saws),
‘O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I untie her and trust in Allah?’ The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‘Tie her and trust in Allah.’ [Tirmidhi]
So tie your camel first.
Tying Your Camel So Hard It Suffocates
This attitude is as dangerous as the first one, although we often don’t even realize that we have it. We become so engrossed in fixing our situation and doing everything right that we totally forget the other aspect– the fact that no matter how hard we try, we are not in control of the outcome. Allah is the one in control of the whole universe.
لِلَّهِ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا فِيهِنَّ ۚ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
To Allah (belongs) the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth and whatever is in them; and He is Ever-Determiner over everything. [5:120]
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No matter how hard we work, we can never bring a desired outcome unless Allah wills it. That is why Allah’s messenger asked us to tie our camels and then put our trust in Allah regarding the outcome, because even if the outcome is not what we desired, there is good in it for us.
. . . But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not. [2:216]
And when we accomplish something good, we cannot brag and say, “Yeah, I succeeded because of my efforts and my hard work.” Instead, we are to say alhamdulillah, because despite our efforts, there were a million things that could have gone wrong wrong which Allah took care of, and ultimately it is He who made it happen, not us.
The Right Attitude
The right attitude is that of the birds. The Prophet (saws) said,
If you were to rely on Allah as He should be relied on, He would provide for you as He provides for the birds. They go out early in the morning hungry and return in the evening full. [Tirmidhi]
The point to notice is this – they go out early in the morning. They don’t sit in their nests and chirp happily, “Allah will feed us!” They wake up at the crack of dawn and leave their nests and their eggs and babies to the care of Allah, and fly and fly in search of food. So Allah provides them with food for themselves and the babies they left behind. They return home with the food at dusk and do tasbih of Allah. Allah will take care of all our affairs if we can just be like birds— if we can just jump off the cliff knowing that Allah will make us fly!