The hadeeth often cited in regards to tawakul has become a cliche by virtue of the reductivist context that robs it of its full meaning.
Anas ibn Malik reported: A man said, “O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I leave her untied and trust in Allah?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Tie her and trust in Allah.”
People often think the meaning to be, do whatever you were going to do and then in the end entrust Allaah to it, as a safety measure. There are several faulty mindsets in this:
- The context puts the efficiency of one’s actions parallel to Allaah
- The common understanding of this hadeeth denotes that Allaah comes as an afterthought
- The tawakul seems to be placed on safeguarding one’s outcome
But of course, that’s not the full meaning of the hadeeth. We often use the same materialistic, consumerist lens that we use to view life through to view the deen.
Tawakul is not an extension of your actions. It’s a state of being. It’s not the fruits, it’s the roots. Therefore, control and fixating on specifics is out of the picture. It’s bigger than just acing a test or finding a job. It’s about surrendering the very seed of desire to the seat of the soul for Allaah to direct. It means that you leave the mode and means to Allaah, trusting that He knows how best this will unfold. It means that even if you don’t get the outcome you envisioned, you don’t feel a loss because you know that the desire and energy you started out with is encapsulated in the outcome you got. It means to trust Allaah’s vision and to surrender your ego.
The tying of the camel is akin to grounding your ego. It’s to ensure you’re in the process, and not detached from it. It’s to ensure that you come from a stable space by discharging what you currently can do. Notice how in the hadeeth, the prophet didn’t tell him what to do. The man asked him what he should do, meaning he had something in mind but he wasn’t settled. He was afraid that if he ties it perhaps that’d negate his trust. So the prophet collected his scattered focus and gave him his answer. The man grounded the energy swirling around in him.
Often, we get paralyzed by fear or procrastination because we only have energy or foresight for a portion of the journey or task but we can’t see it through to the end and we fret. We fear that what’s in our arsenal is all the drive we’ll have and then what? We feel we need a sense of control before we can calm down and focus on things. Having tawakul is to know that Allaah has that control and He’ll never leave you stranded. You’ll always have what you need when you need it. Just focus on what you are in the headspace to do now and trust that the rest will be downloaded when you have the space for it. Just because you had lunch and not dinner or breakfast doesn’t mean you’ll never have dinner or breakfast or you’ll only ever have lunch. Nah. Chill. Allaah has got this. And you not seeing the full picture is because it’s not linear. It’s like a nesting doll; each step contains the next one. Each moment contains the next and it depends on what you shape this moment to be. And if you don’t like the trajectory of a moment, you can always change the next because it’s being created and written as you’re actively involved in it.