The Essence of Tawakkul (Reliance on God)
A close friend of mine who was a student of philosophy once sent me this:
If man is given two valleys of gold, he will desire a third. If he has four, he will be envious of the person who has five, and so on. Mankind naturally desires infinity. It is part of the fitra. Though to seek it in this world leads to a constant chase for contentment which repeatedly escapes the individual until death. In reality, this human desire for infinity should be directed to the Actual Infinate(sic): God, and to the bettering of the soul. Only here will such an individual find what they are looking for: contentment.
The way he expressed it was far more eloquent than any way I would have been able to do so. But I want to try and use this as a starting point and build up a chance for reflection.
It is true that it is man’s inert desire to crave the infinite, and people of all colours, faiths and creeds will attest to this, perhaps not directly, but certainly indirectly. Take for example the atheist, or even the secular humanist, who works 9-5 in the financial industry in the heart of the city of London. Since reaching maturity his desire has been to be in a position of financial security and continuing growth of wealth, so that he is able to live a comfortable life and have the ability to purchase what he so chooses to his heart’s desire. So that he is content and happy in the materialistic and superficial level of his life. His desire in life is to earn as much money as possible, that is his desire for what he regards as the infinite, he will not stop working until he feels he has reached the utmost limit possible, and if he were to reach it, he would only end up investing in something else to ensure he maintained that level of security.
Someone who fits that background may read that and say, “Yeah I work like that, but I do it for my wife and family”. OK, that is a noble endeavour, one that is encouraged by Islam. A man (or even woman) chooses to work for the sake of their families. But are our families even infinite? In a single moment they can be taken away from us, all we hold most precious and beloved by us can be taken away in an instance, and we are left with nothing. This is something a lot of mothers hold dear, not that it is a negative attribute, the love of a mother is considered one of the greatest attributes of creation. But a mother once told me that her children were the world to her and she could not be able to stand the thought of ever losing them. This thought eventually led her to become more religious and start praying for the first time in her life. But that is still no guarantee that they would live longer than her, life is a precious and fragile thing, and it can be taken away from us in a blink of an eye.
The only true thing that is infinite is The Eternal and Everlasting God. All aside from Him are created, they have a beginning, and will one day have an end. When we have placed Him at the forefront of our lives, only then will we find contentment. All else that we put our reliance on, whether it is wealth, our families, partners, lovers, desires, passions, they can be, and will be, taken away and we will be as insignificant as a speck of dust. The Great Imam Abu Hanifah, once said: “If the kings knew of the pleasure we were in [from worshipping Allah], they would send their armies with swords to take it away from us.” That is the true level of the one who has found contentment in his life, who has raised himself above the meaningless existence of the one chasing the world, and has ascended to touch the infinite. That is why true believers believe in God, that is why they pray, not because God is in need of it, but because we are. Without something to chase and fulfilling the natural desire to go for what we deem to be infinite, our lives become meaningless and we lose the will to live, the single most important factor in why suicide is so common in the west, because people simply do not see any reason to be alive anymore.
Let us try to break beyond the bounds we have set on ourselves, leave behind the desires of the world, and reach for what is unreachable.