Tawwakul (Arabic: تَوَكُل‎) in the Arabic language, is the word for the Islamic concept of reliance on God or “trusting in God’s plan”.[1]

Tawwakul as a theological concept was formalized by Shaqiq al-Balkhi (d. 810), who defined it as a spiritual state or hal. Tawakkul is also considered a natural result of extreme zuhd.[2]

In practice, tawwakul is a form of fatalism, which for results in Muslims rejecting medical attention or other remedies, for example in case of depression or mental illness, instead resigning to trusting in God’s plan.[3]

The Arabic word tawwakul 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”[4]

Muslim tradition

Quranic references:

 

  • And whoever puts all his trust in the God, He will be enough for him. [Quran 65:3]
  • And put all your trust [in the God], if you truly are believers. [Quran 5:23]

 

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 tawwakul. 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.[5] Sahl al-Tustarī claimed that perceiving secondary causes was a sign of a lack of reliance on God.[6]

Interpretation

Since early times is Islam there has been debate as to the extent of tawakkul as a virtue in everyday life.[6] 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.[7] Thinkers such as Bisṭāmī instead advocate the virtue of kasab, or “earning a living”.[6]

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. ^ “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
  3. ^ “Hardship is viewed as a test of faith, and the answer can be found in tawwakul, trusting in God’s plan. The remedy typically suggested by imams is a spiritual one, sought through fasting, prayer and reflection.” A Muslim Leader in Brooklyn, Reconciling 2 Worlds, New York Times 22 July 2010
  4. ^ Scott C. Alexander, “Truth and Patience.” Encyclopedia of the Quran, Leiden, Brill, 2006.
  5. ^ Sells, Michael A: Early Islamic Mysticism, page 157. Paulist Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8091-3619-8
  6. ^ a b c 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
  7. ^ “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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