There is no need to begin this article with a long list of problems today that Muslims feel are insurmountable. It can feel overwhelming when we survey the state of the ummah, and it may even lead some of us to reach a state of despair in ever actually being able to solve these problems. Corruption is so widespread, and genuine religiousness can feel so far away, such that in the Muslim lands it is common that the ma’roof [good] has become munkar [wrong], while the munkar has become ma’roof. Even though many today talk of change, yet it can seem so far away; fraught with difficulty to reach it. The pace of change can appear to be unbearably slow to those who have started to feel pessimistic about our situation. In fact, the apparent strength of the oppressors compared to the apparent weakness of the callers and workers for change, only compounds this feeling, until it spirals out of control.
Even if we were to consider the situation of Britain and the idea of offering Islam to them as a deen [way of life] a person may look at the coverage of Islam and Muslims in the newspapers and TV channels and feel utterly defeated. Their resources are plenty; ours are so few. However, such a view would be wrong, as this apparent strength is deceptive, and diverts attention from the real strength of the dawah carrier, despite his limited resources. Whilst the corrupt and oppressors rely upon their media to pump their distortions and lies into every household, it is in fact only a small number of journalists who actually produce this content and are able to articulate it, such that it effectively pulls the wool over the eyes of the many. The dawah carrier has a unique ability to articulate his clear aqeedah, challenge the false narratives, and respond when he is challenged; something that the journalists are weaker at doing. There are so many potential dawah carriers, as all Muslims hold onto their Iman; even though they may not have the ability to articulate this message. The potential is there, and the path to release that potential is abundantly clear for the dawah carrier; hence there is much to be optimistic about, not pessimistic.
Therein lies the problem with pessimism and despair; it tends to distort the reality, leaving the one who succumbs to it prone to exaggerate perceived weakness, becoming paranoid of imagined threats, and sceptical of others who call for change, belittling any advances that they make. The despairing people will state that this is not the time for change, or that it will take hundreds of years, or only after the Imam Mahdi arrives can we expect any substantial reversal of our misfortunes. Many excuses are brought forward to justify their position even though they blatantly contradict our deen.
A man does not naturally sit back to do nothing about the oppression in front of his nose, unless or until he has succumbed to despair. However, man needs to be reminded that this despair is no good for him, as it is useless, bringing nothing but inaction and silence over the munkar before his eyes. The Islamic texts have shunned despair in all of its guises, and given us powerful ideas to take its place, making believers ready to act and speak out against oppression and injustice, whatever the apparent consequences may be.
The father of Prophet Yusuf عليهما سلام, Yaqub عليهما سلام, who had lost his beloved son decades before, and was now faced with losing his beloved Binyamin, had never given up hope that Allah (SWT) would bring ease to his suffering, as he told his remaining sons these beautiful words
يَا بَنِيَّ اذْهَبُوا فَتَحَسَّسُوا مِنْ يُوسُفَ وَأَخِيهِ وَلَا تَيْأَسُوا مِنْ رَوْحِ اللَّهِ إِنَّهُ لَا يَيْأَسُ مِنْ رَوْحِ اللَّهِ إِلَّا الْقَوْمُ الْكَافِرُونَ
“My sons! Seek news of Yusuf and his brother. Do not despair of solace from Allah. No one despairs of solace from Allah except for people who are kafirun.” [Yusuf: 87]
The ease that people all over the world are yearning for is almost within the grasp of the believers, as they have been taught time and time again that Allah (SWT) comes to their aid, when they realised that none else could help, except Allah (SWT);
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ إِلَّا رِجَالًا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِمْ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْقُرَى أَفَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَدَارُ الْآخِرَةِ خَيْرٌ لِلَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ
“We sent none before you but men inspired with revelation from among the people of the cities. Have they not travelled in the land and seen the final fate of those before them? The abode of the Next World is better for those who have taqwa. So will you not use your intellect?” [Yusuf: 109]
حَتَّى إِذَا اسْتَيْأَسَ الرُّسُلُ وَظَنُّوا أَنَّهُمْ قَدْ كُذِبُوا جَاءَهُمْ نَصْرُنَا فَنُجِّيَ مَنْ نَشَاءُ وَلَا يُرَدُّ بَأْسُنَا عَنِ الْقَوْمِ الْمُجْرِمِينَ
“Then when the Messengers despaired and thought themselves denied, Our help came to them, and those We willed were saved. Our violent force cannot be averted from people who are evildoers.” [Yusuf: 110]
Allah (SWT) has given us many examples to help the believers arrive at an acceptance in their hearts that He (SWT) is the only true helper, none other. He (SWT) has obligated Himself to help them…
وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ رُسُلًا إِلَى قَوْمِهِمْ فَجَاءُوهُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ فَانْتَقَمْنَا مِنَ الَّذِينَ أَجْرَمُوا وَكَانَ حَقًّا عَلَيْنَا نَصْرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
“Before you We sent other Messengers to their people, and they too brought them the Clear Signs. We took revenge on those who did evil; and it is Our duty to help the muminun.” [Ar-Room: 47]
And Allah (SWT) has specifically shown us the kind of help that will come to the believers who currently live in fear, humiliated by their weakness on the earth
وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنْكُمْ وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَيَسْتَخْلِفَنَّهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ كَمَا اسْتَخْلَفَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَيُمَكِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ دِينَهُمُ الَّذِي ارْتَضَى لَهُمْ وَلَيُبَدِّلَنَّهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ خَوْفِهِمْ أَمْنًا يَعْبُدُونَنِي لَا يُشْرِكُونَ بِي شَيْئًا وَمَنْ كَفَرَ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ فَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
“Allah has promised those of you who have iman and do right actions that He will make them successors in the land as He made those before them successors, and will firmly establish for them their deen with which He is pleased and give them, in place of their fear, security. ‘They worship Me, not associating anything with Me.’ Any who are kafir after that, such people are deviators.” [An-Noor: 55]
Pessimism and despair have no place in Islam, as Allah (SWT) has taught the believers to rely upon Allah (SWT) alone, having trust only in Him. This concept of tawakkul had a great impact on the first Muslims, who performed the greatest tasks, and plunged themselves into the severest difficulties. This is different to the Muslims who came after them, however, particularly after material life dominated the souls and Muslims became afflicted with a lack of vision and understanding. So, they became alienated from the true tawakkul, which became futile words that have no reality in their life and nor in their mind. Once the word of tawakkul was mentioned it immediately came to mean the noble hadeeth:
‘tie it and make tawakkul’ [narrated by at-Tirmidhi]
Consequently, zeal waned, the will weakened, and the horizon of the outlook to life narrowed. So, they started to feel incapable, believing that their power is limited, and that they can’t achieve more than they did, and so despair was just around the corner.
Muslims will not return to take the seat of glory, and plunge into life to achieve superiority unless they fully understood the meaning of tawakkul on Allah (SWT), and they fully make tawakkul on Allah (SWT). This is because men can’t realise great missions if they limit their power to their human power alone. If man looked at these human powers, and he acted according to that outlook, he feels impotent from realising even the ordinary tasks, not to mention the extraordinary ones. However, if man believes that there are powers beyond the human power that help him in realising his ambitions, then he would undoubtedly rush to what is greater than his power, by depending on those powers. So, tawakkul on Allah (SWT) is one of the most important elements for the Islamic ummah, and of the most important concepts of Islam.
إِن يَنصُرْكُمُ اللّهُ فَلاَ غَالِبَ لَكُمْ وَإِن يَخْذُلْكُمْ فَمَن ذَا الَّذِي يَنصُرُكُم مِّن بَعْدِهِ وَعَلَى اللّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكِّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
“If Allah helps you, none can overcome you. If He forsakes you, who is there, after that, that can help you? In Allah, then, let believers put their trust.” [Ali’ -Imraan: 160]
قُل لَّن يُصِيبَنَا إِلاَّ مَا كَتَبَ اللّهُ لَنَا هُوَ مَوْلاَنَا وَعَلَى اللّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
“Say: ‘Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us. He is our protector.’ And on Allah let the believers put their trust.” [At-Tawbah: 51]
فَإِن تَوَلَّوْاْ فَقُلْ حَسْبِيَ اللّهُ لا إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَهُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ
“But if they turn away, say: ‘Allah is sufficient to me. There is no god but He. On Him is my trust. He is the Lord of the Supreme Throne.” [At-Tawbah: 129]
وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللّهِ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
“But those who put their trust in Allah will find Allah to be Almighty, All-Wise.” [Al-Anfaal: 49]
These evidences do not leave any space for a Muslim to be reluctant for a moment regarding tawakkul, because they are explicit evidences, particularly as the verses of the Qur’an are definite evidences. Commanding the tawakkul on Allah (SWT) in all these evidences is not linked with any condition, and nor any particular action of it came stipulated. Rather, the evidences came absolute (not restricted) in commanding the tawakkul. Thus, the obligation is the tawakkul on Allah (SWT) without any restriction, and in every matter. So, we must make tawakkul on Allah (SWT) in every action.
The hadeeth from Anas bin Malik, who said: “A man said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, should I tie it and make tawakkul, or let it go free and make tawakkul?’ He صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
“Tie it and make tawakkul” is in another subject, which is taking the means. It is education for the bedouin, when he misunderstood that tawakkul meant neglecting the means. So, the messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم instructed him that tawakkul does not mean neglecting the means. The issue of taking the means is different to the issue of tawakkul . It is another topic altogether, and its evidences are different to the evidences of the tawakkul. So, it is not correct to squeeze it into the tawakkul, or make it a constraint of it. The Muslims are obliged to take the means, as the shar’ee evidences prove it. They are, similarly, obliged to make tawakkul on Allah (SWT), as the shar’ee evidences established it.
We must understand the weight of the challenges in front of us, the apparent dangers and the scale of deviance that we are facing, but at the same time we must not exaggerate any of that beyond what it actually is. The Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم told us of a time that we can recognise as our own when he said:
بدأ الدين غريباً وسيعود غريباً كما بدأ فطوبى للغرباء
“the deen began strange, and will come back strange, as it began, so Tooba is for the strangers.”
This contains a message of hope, not despair, as we have full trust on Allah (SWT) that He will make his promise come true, despite many turning away from the ‘strange’ dawah that we carry.
The Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم also warned us not to give up on the people, when he said:
إذا قال الرجل هلك الناس فهو أهلكهم
“If a man says that the people have perished, then he is the most perished of them.”
Imam al-Khitabi said “it means that a man will not cease to find fault in the people and draw attention to their failings and say that they are corrupted and have perished etc, but that he is worse than them – and maybe he is impressed with himself and sees himself as better than them, and Allah knows best.”
There are no Muslims who believe in Islam that deny tawakkul, yet many understand it to mean one must do the action and then make tawakkul. The true understanding is different to that. It is to make tawakkul, trust in Allah (SWT) and do the action. There is a great difference between the two meanings. To simply do an action and make tawakkul makes the belief in tawakkul a mere formality. Therefore, this understanding does not have an effect in the soul of the one who claims he made tawakkul. By contrast the one who ‘makes tawakkul, trusts in Allah (SWT) and does the action’ makes the tawakkul fundamental; so it would have a great effect in the soul, and make in it an outstanding power capable of assuming the greatest tasks.
Islam is a message of hope for the ummah, as Allah (SWT) is our helper, and He (SWT) does not deny his help to the believing people. Those from among the ummah who have taken on the weighty burden of calling the people to change should heed the dying words of Abu Bakr to Umar رضي الله عنهما to remind them of the hardship and the ease, and how they must remain in perspective of one another:
إنّي اوصيك بوصية, إن أنت قبلت عني: إنّ لله عز وجل حقا بالليل لا يقبله بالنهار, وإنّ لله حقا بالنهار لا يقبله بالليل, وإنّه لا يقبل النافلة حَتَّى تؤدى الفريضة, وإنّما ثقلت موازين مَن ثقلت موازينه فِي الآخِرَةِ باتباعهم الحق فِي الدُّنْيَا, وثقله عليهم, وحق لميزان يوضع فيه الحق أن يكون ثقيلا, وإنّما خَفَّتْ موازينُ مَن خفت موازينه فِي الآخِرَةِ باتباعهم الباطل, وخفته عليهم فِي الدُّنْيَا, وحق لميزان يوضع فيه الباطل أن يكون خفيفا
ألم تر أنّ الله أنزل آية الرجاء عند آية الشدة, وآية الشدة عند آية الرجاء, وذكر آية الرحمة وآية العذاب ليكون العبد راغباً راهباً لا يلقي بيديه إِلَى التهلكة, ولا يتمَنى على الله غير الحق
فإن أنت حفظت وصيتي هذِهِ, فلا يكونن غائب أحب إليك مِن الْمَوْتِ, ولا بدّ لك مِنه, وإن أنت ضيعت وصيتي هذِهِ فلا يكونَنَّ غائب ابغض إليك مِن الْمَوْتِ, ولا بدّ لك مِنه ولست تعجزه
(وكان آخر مَا قَالَه قبل خروج روحه رضي الله عنه: ربّ (توفني مسلما وألحقني بالصالحين
“I give you this advice, if you accept it from me: Allah عز وجل has rights in the night that He will not accept in the day, and Allah has rights in the day that He will not accept in the night, and He does not accept the voluntary until the obligated has been performed. The scales are heavy for the one whose scale is heavy in the next life, due to their following the truth in this life, and it was made heavy upon them, and it is only right that a scale that the truth is put onto be heavy . And the scales are light for the one whose scale is light in the next life, due to their following the falsehood, and it was made light upon them in this life, and it is only right that a scale that the falsehood is put onto be light.
Did you not see that Allah sent down the verse of hope with the verse of severity, and the verse of severity with the verse of hope, and He mentioned the verse of mercy with the verse of punishment, so that the slave becomes desirous and devoted, not throwing himself into destruction by his own hands, and not hoping from Allah except the truth?
If you looked after this advice of mine, no absent thing will become more beloved to you than death, of which there is no escape from for you; but if you lost this advice of mine, then no absent thing will become more hated by you than death, of which there is no escape from for you…”
The last words of Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه before his soul was taken were “Take me as a Muslim, and let me be with the righteous ones.”