Tawakkul and Submission

Tawakkul means to rely upon another, to appoint a trustee and to put one’s trust in that trustee.

One of the beautiful names of Allah is ‘Al-Wakeel’. This name has the meanings of ‘the one who takes care of matters which have been referred to Him, (in a most suitable way), and the One who takes care of affairs in the best way, the One who is relied upon, and the One who controls and who rules over everything’.

It is a must that the sole Source to be relied upon in all matters is the immortal, everlasting Absolute One of Power. It would be meaningless to trust somebody who is in fact the opposite. Almighty Allah says in the Qur’an:

‘Put your trust in the Living who does not die and glorify Him with praise’(Al-Furqan, 25:58)

Allah Most High desires that we, His servants, rely upon Him only. He says in the Qur’an:

‘So let the believers put their trust in Allah’. (Ibrahim, 14:11)

Whoever puts his trust in Allah – He will be enough for him’ (al-Talaq, 65:3)

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has said:

“If you were able to rely on Allah properly, you would be provided for just like birds who leave their nests hungry and return full”(Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 33/2344; Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 14).

When it comes to submission, this has the meaning of acquiescence and acceptance of whatever events befall one without objection and thus arriving at peace. Submission is an act of the heart, and it is to be free of any doubts that arise in matters that have come from Allah. It is to be free of carnal desires that are contrary to divine commands, desires that are not compatible with sincerity, and the curse of resisting divine decree and Islamic law. It is stated in a verse from the Qur’an:

‘No, by your Lord, they are not believers until they make you their judge in the disputes that break out between them, and then find no resistance within themselves to what you decide and submit themselves completely.’(An Nisa, 4:65)

The word ‘teslimiyet’ or submission has the same root as the word ‘islam’. This is why to truly live Islam and to be a true servant of Allah is only possible through submission. This is because Allah (exalted and glorified be He) is not pleased when His servant yields to any other than Him.

Submission is an act of obedience based on love. It was through the blessings of this obedience and submission that nothing – not his life, his property or his son- could hinder the Prophet Ibrahîm (Abraham) (upon whom be peace) from the path of his exalted Lord. Thus his act of worship, of which the pilgrimage is the best symbol for his reliance and submission to his Lord, will continue until the end of time. The tongue of Ibrahîm was an interpreter of what was in his heart and he would constantly pray:

‘I am a Muslim who has submitted to the Lord of all the worlds.’(Al-Baqara, 2:131)

The aim of tasawwuf, which takes love as its foundation and which is the essence of Islam, is the establishment of feelings of submission and contentedness with Allah by allowing the servant to live under divine guidance and move closer to Allah with every breath. The effects and deceits of the soul that arise from the thousand and one worries, anxieties and pains that are rife in this fleeting world, will only begin to abate as a result of contentment and submission to Allah. How beautifully Ibrahim Hakki Erzurumi puts it:

Rely upon Allah

Submit and find peace

Be content with all His affairs

And let us see what Allah has in store

For whatever it is, it will be for the best

Scenes of Virtue

Once a Bedouin came to the Prophet (pbuh) and asked him:

“O Messenger of Allah! Shall I tie my camel and then trust in Allah or should I trust in Allah without tying my camel?”

The Prophet (pbuh) replied:

“Tie your camel first, and then trust in Allah”.(Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 60/2517).

***

According to reports by Ummu Seleme , whenever the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would leave the house he would always make sure to turn his face to the heavens and say the following prayer:

“In the name of Allah! I put my trust in Allah. O Allah, I seek refuge in You that I should stray or be led astray, that I should slip, or be made to slip, that I should oppress or that I be oppressed, and that I should show ignorance or be subject to others ignorance”(Abu Dawud, Adab, 102-3/5094; Tirmidhi, Deavat 35).

***

Once during an expedition when they had come to a valley with lots of trees at noon, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) let his army rest and so his soldiers dispersed in order to rest in the shade. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) too took shade under a tree called Semure, which had dense foliage, having hung his sword on the tree.

The rest of this event is narrated by Jabir (r.a) :

“We had slept for a little while when we heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) call us and we ran to him straight away. We saw a Bedouin next to him. The Prophet said:

“Whilst I was sleeping this Bedouin took my sword. When I woke he had taken the sword out of its sheath and was holding it in his hand. He said to me:

“Who will save you from me now?” I repeated three times:

“Allah”. (Bukhari, Jihad, 84, 87; Muslim, Fadail, 13).

Though the Prophet had come face to face with death he did not feel any fear due to his reliance upon Allah and he was able to say very confidently: “Allah will save me”. Hearing these words the sword fell from the hand of the Bedouin and he surrendered. The Prophet (pbuh) did not punish this Bedouin who had intended to kill him, but rather told him about Islam and suggested that he become Muslim. The Bedouin, who practically melted at this sublime act could not help but tell his tribe when he returned to them:

“I am coming from the best of people”. (Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, IV, 87).

***

Abu Bakr as Siddiq (r.a) narrates:

“While we were in the cave with the Messenger of Allah, on our journey to migrate to Madina, I saw the feet of the polytheists walking above us and I said to the Messenger of Allah:

“O Messenger of Allah. If one of them kneels down and looks he will certainly see us”.

The Messenger of Allah replied:

“O Abu Bakr, what do you think of two when their third is Allah.”(Bukhari, Tafsir, 9/9; Muslim, Fadail as-Sahaba, 1).

***

Ismet ibn Malik (r.a) relates:

We used to keep watch over the Messenger of Allah throughout the night until the following verse was revealed:

‘…Allah will protect you from people’(Al-Maida, 5:67)

(Suyuti, Lubabu’n Nukul, I, 148)

Aisha (r.ha) narrates:

“One night the Messenger of Allah could not sleep. I asked him:

“What is the matter o Messenger of Allah?”He answered:

“Is there not a righteous man who will keep watch over us this night?” While we were talking so, we heard the sound of swords outside. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“Who is it?” A voice replied:

“It is Sa’d and Huzayfa o Messenger of Allah. We have come to keep watch over you. After that the Messenger of Allah fell asleep. In fact I could hear the sound of his regular breathing. Upon this the verse: ‘Allah will protect you from the people’ was revealed. The Prophet poked his head outside of the tent and said:

“People you may go. Allah is now keeping watch over me”.[1]

The Prophet would take his precautions and then put his trust in Allah. After almighty Allah had promised to protect and guard him, he no longer felt any anxiety and fully put his trust in Allah.

***

According to a narration by Abu Said Al-Hudri , a man once came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and told him that his brother was suffering from a stomach ache. The Prophet said:

Give him a syrup of honey to drink

The man did what he said. A little while later he came back and said:

“I gave him the honey to drink but it did nothing but make him worse”. The man went back and forth in this way three times. At last the Prophet told him:

“Truly Allah speaks the truth and the stomach of your brother lies”. Then when the man gave his brother honey syrup to drink once more, he was cured. (Bukhari, Tibb, 4; Muslim, Salam 91).

With these words the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) pointed to the truth expressed in the verse: ‘Verily honey contains healing for mankind’ (Al-Nahl, 16:69), and proposed reliance upon and submission to Allah. Later the Companion was healed after doing the same.

***

According to a narration by Abdullah ibn Abbas, the following words were said by Ibrahîm when he was put into the fire. And the Prophet Muhammad spoke these words when it was said that the polytheists had gathered against him and to beware. Upon this the believers’ faith increased and they said all together: “Allah is enough for us and the Best of Guardians’ (Al’i-Imran, 3:173). Thus they displayed great submission to Allah.[2]

Almighty Allah praises the Muslims, the people of reliance upon on Allah as follows:

‘…those to whom people said, ‘The people have gathered against you, so fear them.’ But that merely increased their faith and they said, ‘Allah is enough for us and the Best of Guardians. So they returned with blessings and bounty from Allah and no evil touched them. They pursued the pleasure of Allah. Allah’s favour is indeed immense.’(Al’i Imran, 3:173-174). (Wahidi, p 135).

***

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) informed us that almighty Allah would preserve and protect those who relied upon him both in this world and the next and that they would enter Paradise without account and without punishment:

“Past nations have been shown to me. I saw a prophet with a small group of three or five people. I saw another prophet with two people with him. And I saw a prophet with no one beside him. At that point a great crowd appeared before me. I thought it was my own community. They told me: ‘This is the community of Mûsa, look upon the horizon’. I looked and I saw a dark mass. ‘This is your community. There are 70 thousand people amongst them who will enter Paradise without being taken to account and without being punished”, they said.

Ibn Abbas  said:

‘At this point, the Messenger of Allah rose and went home. The Companions who were there began to discuss who these 70 thousand people could be. Some of them said: ‘they must be those who were in conversation with the prophet’, some of them said: ‘they are those who were born after Islam, who never knew polytheism. Others put forward other views. Whilst they were debating this, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) came back. His Companions asked him:

“We are discussing who it is that will enter paradise without account or punishment”. The Prophet then said:

“They are those who did not cast spells, nor had them cast, who did not believe in bad luck, and who rely upon their Lord”.

Hearing this, Ukkasha ibn Mihsan  jumped up and said:

“Please pray for me that I be included in that group o Messenger of Allah”.

The Prophet then said:

You are of them”… (Muslim, Iman, 374; Bukhari, Rikak, 50).

***

Almighty Allah tested the Prophet Ibrahîm, his son Ishmael and his wife Hajar so greatly that they have been recorded in history as models of submission. As a reward, almighty Allah made the Greater and Lesser Pilgrimage an eternal sign of the sincerity in their submission.

When Allah befriended Ibrahîm, the angels asked him:

“O our Lord. How can Ibrahîm be a friend to you? He has a soul, property and sons. His heart will incline towards them…” Later they witnessed the following scenes as a lesson and the great trial of Ibrahîm:

When Ibrahîm was about to be catapulted into the fire, the angels became nervous. Some of them asked Allah if they could help Ibrahîm. The angels asked Ibrahîm if he had any wishes. He said to them:

“Do not come between friends”.

Later Gabriel asked him:

“Do you need me?”

Ibrahîm replied:

“I have no need of you. Allah is enough for me. And He is the best of Guardians”.

As a result this great submission of the Friend of Allah and his submission to Allah only, made Allah command the fire, before he was even thrown in:

‘…Fire, be coolness and peace for Ibrahîm!’ (Al-Anbiya, 21:69)

With this command the place where Ibrahîm fell turned into a rose garden. And in it a sweet spring began to flow.

***

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) narrates:

‘The Prophet Ibrahîm (upon whom be peace) brought Hagar and her little son Ishmael, who was still nursing, to Mecca…He brought his wife and son to this place and left them there with a bag of dates and a bottle of water for reasons unknown to us but full of much wisdom. When Ibrahîm turned around to leave, Hagar called out to him:

“Ibrahîm! Where are you going, leaving us here in this valley with nobody to talk to or see, and nothing to eat or drink?”

She repeated her question many times, but Ibrahîm remained silent. Then Hagar asked him:

“Was it Allah who commanded you to do this?” This time Ibrahîm answered:

“Yes. Allah has commanded me”. Hagar found consolation with this reply and, in a demonstration of the peak of her submission to Allah, she said:

“In that case Allah will protect us and not let us go to ruin…”

Then she turned around and Ibrahîm went on his way. When he arrived at the location of Seniyye, with no one to see him, he turned his face towards the Ka’bah, raised his hands and prayed:

‘Our Lord! I have settled some of my offspring by Your Sacred House in an uncultivated valley. Our Lord! Let them establish salat! Make the hearts of mankind incline towards them and provide them with fruits, so that hopefully they will be thankful’ (Ibrahîm, 14:37) (Bukhari, Anbiya 9)

***

Ishmael had reached the age of playfulness and was at his most lovable stage. However, Ibrahîm was required to sacrifice his son in order to keep the promise that he had made to Allah. When they had made their preparations they headed off. The angels were again restless:

“A prophet is taking another prophet in order to sacrifice him”, they said.

Ishmael (upon whom be peace) said to his father:

“O my father! Do as you have been commanded. Allah willing you will find me of the patient ones. Sharpen your knife well; let it cut immediately; it will be easier for me to die… and do not look at my face when you hold the knife. Maybe your fatherly compassion will delay you in keeping your promise to Allah. My only sorrow is that you will have to feel the pain of having sacrificed your son with your own hands and you will miss me for the rest of your life…”

While both father and son were in this state of submission, the angel Gabriel came to the rescue. He blunted the knife and let the ram down from paradise that was to be sacrificed instead. (See Taberi, Tarih, I, 275; Ibn Esir, el Kamil, I, 112; Hakim, II, 606/4040).

***

Almighty Allah tells of the reliance and submission of the Prophet Mûsa as follows:

‘A man came running from the furthest part of the city, saying, ‘Mûsa, the Council are conspiring to kill you, so leave! I am someone who brings you good advice. So he left there fearful and on his guard, saying, ‘My Lord, rescue me from the people of the wrongdoers!’ (Al-Qassas, 28:20-21)

Mûsa thus demonstrated the nature of true reliance upon Allah:

First he consulted, then he made a resolved decision, followed by taking precautions and leaving the result to Allah. In other words, he was in a state of prayer, submission and contentment. This is true reliance upon Allah…

***

When the people of Yemen used to go to make pilgrimage, they would not take any food with them on the journey, believing that this was reliance upon Allah:

“We are going to visit the House of Allah. Surely He will provide for us”.

When they arrived in Mecca, they would find themselves asking from others. Then the following verse was revealed: “Take your provision’(Al-Baqara, 2:197).

Umar would rebuke those who did not work and put in effort and were lazy and who then said: “We are people who rely upon Allah”. He would say to them: “You are consumers of other people’s property and thus cannot be considered people who rely upon Allah. The one who truly relies upon Allah is the one who plants the seed in the earth and then trusts in Allah”. (Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali, “Jami al Ulum wa al  Hikem” Amman 1990, s 650).

***

Abu Huraira  relates the following hadith which is very telling:

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) told us of the beautiful state of a person from the sons of Israel. That person had asked for a loan of a thousand dinars from another person. The one who was asked for the loan said:

“Bring me your witnesses and I will give you the money in front of them”. The one who was asking for the loan replied:

“Allah is enough of a witness”. The lender then said:

“In that case bring me a guarantor”. The borrower said:

“Allah is enough of a guarantor”. The lender then said:

“You have spoken the truth” and gave him the money for a particular term.

The man then went on a sea trip and met his needs. Then, in order to return and pay the man back in the term that they had agreed upon, he searched for a boat to take him back, but he could not find one. In desperation, he found a wooden plank and carved out its centre. Into the hole he placed the thousand dinars together with a note addressed to the lender. Then he re-covered the hole and went to the seashore:

“O Allah! You know that I borrowed a thousand dinars from so and so. When he asked me for a witness I told him that “Allah was enough for a witness”. And he was content with You as a witness. And when he asked me for a guarantor, I told him: “Allah is enough as a guarantor”. And he was content with You as his guarantor. Now I have struggled to find a boat, but have not been able to find one. So I am entrusting this to You”. Then he threw the plank of wood into the sea. The wooden plank floated upon the sea and then disappeared from view.

The man then parted from there and continued to search for a boat.

Meanwhile the lender was awaiting a boat to bring back his money. There was no boat but he found the wooden plank which contained his money. He took it to use it in his house. When he sawed it apart he came across the letter and the money.

A little while later, the borrower of the money found a boat and returned to his hometown. Thinking of the possibility that the man did not find the plank with the money, he went to the man, taking a thousand dinars with him.

“I searched continuously for a boat to bring back your money. However I could not find one before the boat that brought me back now”. The lender of the money said to him”

“Did you not send me anything”.

“I told you that I searched for a boat but could not find one”. The lender said:

“Allah Most High paid me back that money in your place and brought it to me in a plank of wood as reward for your sincerity. Consequently the thousand dinars that you have brought now is yours. Now you can return in peace having been reunited with your thousand dinars”. (Bukhari, Kefalet I, Buyu 10).

When Allah is a guarantor of an affair, the seemingly impossible can take place easily. What befalls the servant is to trust in him sincerely and in truth…

***

According to a narration by Ibn Abbas , Umar ibn Khattab  once set off in the direction of Damascus. When he arrived at the place called Serg, he was met by the leading commander of the army, Abu Ubayda ibn Jarrah and his friends in command, who informed him that plague had begun to appear in Damascus. Umar said to Ibn Abbas:

“Call the first Emigrants here’. Umar consulted with them and told them that there was an epidemic of plague in Damascus. They differed as to how to act. Some of them said:

“You came here for a certain purpose; we do not think it is right that you turn back now”. Others said:

“The rest of the Muslims and the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) are with you. We do not think it is right that you bring this plague upon yourself”.

Umar said to them:

“You may go”. Then he turned to ibn Abbas and said:

“Call the Helpers here”.

When just like the Emigrants, the Helpers also fell into disagreement, Umar told them that they too could go.

“Now call the elderly Emigrants from the Quraysh who are here and who migrated to Madina before Mecca was conquered”. I went to call them. Not even two of them fell into disagreement and they said:

“We think you should make the people turn back and not take this plague with you”. Upon this, Umar called out to everybody:

“I will be on the back of my mount in the morning. You too do the same”. Abu Ubayda ibn Jarrah  asked:

“Are you running away from the fate of Allah?” Umar replied:

“Would that someone other than you had said this, o Abu Ubayda!”

Umar did not like to be in opposition to Abu Ubayda.

Then he continued:

“Yes. We are running away from the fate of Allah to the fate of Allah. What would you say if you had some camels and they went into a valley with two sides, one fertile, the other barren. And you let your camels graze on the fertile land and then you let them graze in the barren land. Would both of these (situations) not be the fate of Allah?”

Just at that point, Abdurrahman ibn Awf  who had disappeared in order to attend to some of their needs, reappeared and said:

“I have some knowledge about this matter. I heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) say:

“If you hear that there is plague in a place, do not enter that place. If the plague breaks out somewhere and you are there, then do not try to run away from the disease and leave” Hearing this, Umar praised Allah and continued on his way, leaving Damascus. (Bukhari, Tibb 30; Muslim, Salam, 98).

This event perfectly demonstrates the concept of reliance and fate in Islam. To knowingly drag yourself and other believers into danger does not confer with true reliance upon Allah. In other words submission allows taking precautions but not putting your trust in them.

***

Mayyit-zade who lived at the time of Sultan Ahmad I, was a great Ottoman scholar famous for his virtuous character and wisdom. The reason he was given the name ‘Mayyit-zade’ which means ‘son of the dead one’ was because of the following event which befell him as a divine manifestation:

The father of Mayyit-zade was a brave soldier. Like many other heroes, he was called to take part in the Egri Expedition of 1596 carried out by Sultan Mehmed III. But at that time his wife was pregnant and she was due to give birth. However, this heroic father who valued fighting in the path of Allah as superior to all else, made preparations for the expedition and asked his wife to forgive him. He raised his hands courteously to the elevated court of almighty Allah. He petitioned his Lord amidst tears of mercy that had welled up in his eyes:

“O my Lord! I am going to holy war in Your path. I have nobody other than You. My Lord. I entrust this child of mine that is soon to be born to this faithful and long-suffering wife of mine. Please protect him with your grace and favour”

The heroic father then jumped onto his horse and disappeared quickly from view. Through the help and grace of Allah, the Ottoman army was victorious.

On returning home, the heroic father asked his commander for permission to go straight home. But when he arrived at his house there was nobody there. Whereas his wife should have heard of the victory of the army as the news spread all over and she should have been waiting for him. In great curiosity and anxiety he ran to the neighbours to ask about his wife. When his neighbours saw the father they look at him sadly and said:

“O brave one. May Allah bless your victory and make your life bountiful”.

Understanding the meaning behind this sentence, a burning pain stung his heart and he stuttered unwillingly:

“No, it cannot be”. Then he said softly:

“It cannot be. I entrusted my baby to the Lord of the Worlds. He is the Best of Protectors…”

The sorrowful father fell into a deep silence for a period and looked at those around him. Then through inspiration he said:

“Of course Allah is the possessor of mercy and is the best of those to protect and preserve; show me my wife’s grave immediately”.

Together they went to the cemetery. When the grave was shown to him, he placed his ear on the earth of the grave and began to listen. Then he shouted out:

“Yes, I can hear my baby’s cries!”

The grieved father grabbed a spade and shovel and began to dig open the grave. Those who had come with him began to help him, as they too could hear the cries of a baby coming from the grave. When the grave had been completely dug up, the scene that awaited them was amazing and shocking:

In the grave was a dead mother who had given birth to a lovely little newborn baby, stuck to his mother’s chest. The war veteran father immediately grabbed his child and held him tight to his chest. He kissed his rosy cheeks over and over again. Then he wrapped his child up tightly. He read a farewell prayer for his wife and then carefully closed up the grave. All those around were in a state of shock at this miracle and were praising and glorifying Allah with great reverence and awe. With teary eyes, the father prostrated and praised his Lord, both sad at the death of his wife but at the same time joyful because of his child.

This child grew up in an atmosphere of great learning and manners. He became a virtuous scholar, famous throughout the Ottoman lands. He was always known as ‘Mayyit-zade’ due to what happened to him. He was a blessing of Allah, full of wisdom and caution, and a result of absolute and sincere submission.

***

In short, peace of heart in this world and attaining to eternal happiness in the hereafter is only possible when one perceives divine greatness and relies and submits to it, and is content with what Allah has allotted for them. Hearts that obey Allah, submit to Him and are pleased with Him become a source of wisdom, goodness and prosperity. Submission to Allah in a perfect sense, and reliance upon and obedience to Him is dependent upon whether one possesses a heart filled with the pleasure of faith. It is only with such love and the resulting raising in rank of the heart that the human being can turn to his Lord with his entire being and free his heart of attachment to the world and what is in it.

The submission of the servant to Allah is proportional to his knowledge of and his faith in Him. In terms of being the essence of servanthood, submission is the most important inclination of the heart to Allah. This inclination begins with faith, and continues to increase as knowledge of Allah increases. Rumi explains the mystery of attaining to the degree of ‘fana fillah’ (annihilation or losing oneself in Allah) as lying in absolute submission:

“Seawater carries upon it the head of the dead body who has completely submitted itself to it. How can the one who is alive and has the slightest doubts free itself from the sea? In the same way through the mystery of ‘die before you die’, if you die having freed yourself of your human attributes, the ocean of mysteries will lift you up and carry you”.

[1].     Wahidi, “Esbabu’ Nuzul’I Qur’an,” thk: Kemal Besyuni Zaglul, Beirut 1990, p 204-5

[2].     See Bukhari, Tafsir, 3/13