Tawwakul (Arabic Concept for Reliance)

Tawakkul (تَوَكُّل‎) in the Arabic language, is the word for the Islamic concept of reliance on God or “trusting in God’s plan”.[1] It is seen as “perfect trust in God and reliance on Him alone.”[2] It can also be referred to as God-consciousness.[2] In fact, the Qur’an speaks of the fact that success is only achieved when trust is in God and the believer is steadfast and obeys God’s commands.[3]

Tawakkul as a theological concept was formalized by Shaqiq al-Balkhi (d. 810), who defined it as a spiritual state or halTawakkul is also considered a natural result of extreme zuhd.[4] Zuhd can be described as being based on tawakkul or “trust in God alongside love of poverty.”[5] This has led to an argument over whether or not tawakkul is a consequence of perfect faith.[6] An author wrote that someone that trusts in God is like a baby seeking its mother’s breast and always finds it. He says that just like the infant, the one who trusts God is always led to God.[7]

It has been said that there are three ranks of tawakkul: the trust of the believers, the trust of the select, and the trust of the select of the select.[8] Each of these ranks are achieved through active reformation of the mind and self.[9] The truth of the believers is simply living one day at a time and not worrying what tomorrow will bring you; simply trusting in what God has planned.[8] The trust of the select is trusting God with no motives or desires. It is casting aside all wants.[8] And finally the trust of the select of the select is giving yourself over to God completely so that His desires become yours.[8] In other words, “trust in God is to be satisfied with and rely on God Most High.”[7] It is said that because God created everything and therefore everything belongs to him, it is selfish to want anything other than what God wants or not want something God gives to you.[6]

The Arabic word tawakkul is a masdar (verbal noun) derived from the fifth form of the Arabic root وكل (w-k-l). It translates to “to give oneself over to, to rely/depend on, or have confidence in another”.[10]

Muslim tradition

Quranic references: the active participle form of tawakkul is used in 38 passages in the Qur’an.[3]

  • And whoever puts all his trust in Allah, He will be enough for him. [Quran 65:3]
  • And put all your trust [in Allah], if you truly are believers. [Quran 5:23]
  • He is Rabb of the east and west, there is no deity except Him, so take him as your Protector. [Quran 73:9]
  • Put your trust in the living Allah who never dies, and celebrate His praise. [Quran 25:58]
  • In Allah should the trustful trust. [Quran 14:12]

Hadith: Umar bin Khattab said: I heard Muhammad saying, “If you all depend on Allah with due reliance, He would certainly give you provision as He gives it to the birds who go forth hungry in the morning and return with full bellies at dusk.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Many Muslim legends such as those of Rabi’a illustrate tawakkul. Of Rabi’a, it is said that when her donkey died in the desert while she was on the hajj, she refused aid from a caravan, instead depending on God to provide for her.[11] Sahl al-Tustarī claimed that perceiving secondary causes was a sign of a lack of reliance on God.[12]

Interpretation

Since early times in Islam there has been debate as to the extent of tawakkul as a virtue in everyday life.[12] This debate centered around questions such as whether or not tawakkul allowed for God to use intermediary causes, and the degree of reliance on God. Views of extreme and total dependence on God to the point of pure fatalism were popular among rejectionist ascetics.[13] Thinkers such as Bisṭāmī instead advocate the virtue of “kasab”, or “earning a living”.[12]

References

  1.  “Ibn Abī al-Dunyā: Certainty and Morality”. Leonard Librande, Studia Islamica, No. 100/101 (2005), pp. 5-42. Published by: Maisonneuve & Larose
  2.   “Islamic Philosophy in South and South-East Asia”. Companion Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy. 2002.
  3.   Eggen, Nora (2011). “Conceptions of Trust in the Qur’an”. Journal of Qur’anic Studies13 (2): 56–85. doi:10.3366/jqs.2011.0020.
  4.  “The Transition from Asceticism to Mysticism at the Middle of the Ninth Century C.E.”, Melchert, Christopher. Studia Islamica, No. 83 (1996), pp. 51-70. Published by: Maisonneuve & Larose
  5.  Kinberg, Leah (1985). “What is Meant by Zuhd”. Studia Islamica61: 33–34.
  6.   Schimmel, Annemarie (1975). Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 117–120.
  7.   al-Qushayri, Abu ‘l-Qasim (2007). Al-Qushayri’s Epistle on Sufism. Lebanon: Garnet Publishing. pp. 178–188.
  8.  Sells, Michael (1996). Early Islamic Mysticism. New York: Paulist Press. p. 209.
  9.  Hamdy, Sherine (2009). “Islam, Fatalism, and Medical Intervention: Lessons from Egypt on the Cultivation of Forbearance (Sabr) and Reliance of God (Tawakkul)”. Anthropological Quarterly82 (1): 173–196. doi:10.1353/anq.0.0053.
  10.  Scott C. Alexander, “Truth and Patience.” Encyclopedia of the Quran, Leiden, Brill, 2006.
  11.  Sells, Michael A: Early Islamic Mysticism, page 157. Paulist Press, 1996. ISBN0-8091-3619-8
  12.   Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W. P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010. Brill Online
  13.  “The Ethical Concerns of Classical Sufism”, Awn, Peter J. The Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Fall, 1983), pp. 240-263. Published by: Blackwell Publishing

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