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Books Section > Speeches, Articles and Sermons (Vol. II) by Imam Kalamazad Mohammed > Tabattul and Tawakkul (Total Devotion to Allah and Complete Reliance on Him)

Tabattul and Tawakkul (Total Devotion to Allah and Complete Reliance on Him):
by Imam Kalamazad Mohammed


Today we live in a world in which scant regard is paid to serious devotion to the Almighty. In the West, belief in God is openly ridiculed and in some social, political or intellectual circles, to invoke the name of God in an argument or discussion is to run the risk of immediate ostracism as a "nut" or "softhead" or even "traitor". In Muslim countries, the intelligentsia, including the political elite, has been educated in the West or are Western influenced, and while they may retain some of the "colouring" or visible formal practices of Islam, most of them in their hearts are nothing more than pawns of Gog and Magog and consequently they view this life as vastly superior to the Hereafter. As people assume the characteristics of their leaders, the Muslim masses, bereft of spiritual guidance for centuries, are in the main mere formal practitioners of the religion and are attached to it emotionally rather than intellectually and spiritually.

Sadly, wherever in these countries there is an attempt to return to Islamic roots, to the Holy Quran and the Hadith, this effort is attended by violence – violence against them from the authorities who, being servants of the West, are not allowed to have a ruling Islamic government – or violence from these resurgent groups against foreigners or against those who oppose their concept of a bloody jihad, that is, of seizing power through the gun. So their good works are stifled under the derogatory epithet of "fundamentalism", a Western-coined term that connotes intolerance, fanaticism, hatred and violence against non-Muslims. So, while there may a little of tabattul (devotion to Allah), tawakkul (complete reliance) on Allah is missing.

The following is a very brief introduction to these important subjects which, one hopes and prays, will awaken us to the reality of living under the eyes of Allah. Firstly, the dictionary meanings of tabattul and tawakkul are given from the Holy Quran and the Hadith and these are followed by excerpts from the writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Imam Ghazali and Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani, Mujaddids (Reformers) of the fourteenth, the fifth and the sixth centuries Hijrah [Islamic Era], respectively. And finally, four episodes from Tadhkiratul Auliya are presented.

Some Quranic Verses on Tabattul:

O thou covering thyself up! Rise to pray by night except a little, half of it, or lessen it a little, or add to it, and recite the Quran in a leisurely manner. Surely We shall charge thee with a weighty word. The rising by night is surely the firmest way to tread and most effective in speech. Truly thou has by day prolonged occupation. And remember the name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with (complete) devotion (73:1-8).

Say: My prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are surely for Allah, the Lord of the worlds (6:163)

Is it not to God that sincere devotion is due? But those who take for protectors others than God (say): We only serve them in order that they may bring us nearer to God. Truly God will judge between them in that wherein they differ. But God guides not such as are false and ungrateful (39:3)

Say: Verily, I am commanded to serve God with sincere devotion (39:11).

Say: It is God I serve, with my sincere (and exclusive) devotion (39:14).

Call ye, then, upon God with sincere devotion to Him, even though the unbelievers may detest it (40:14).

And away from it (the hell-fire) shall be kept the most faithful to duty, who gives his wealth, purifying himself, and none has with him any boon for a reward, except the seeking of the pleasure of his Lord, the Most High. And he will soon be well-pleased (92:17-21).

So when thou art free (from anxiety), work hard, and make thy Lord thy exclusive object (94: 7-8).

And they are enjoined naught but to serve Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience, upright, and to keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, and that is the right religion (98:5).

Some Quranic Verses on Tawakkul:

Behold! You are they who disputed about that of which you had knowledge; why then do you dispute about that of which you have no knowledge? And Allah knows while you know not (3:65).

If Allah helps you, there is none that can overcome you; and if He forsakes you, who is there that can help you after Him? And in Allah should the believers put their trust (3:159).

Two men of those who feared, on whom Allah had bestowed a favour, said: Enter upon them by the gate, for when you enter it you will surely be victorious; and put your trust in Allah, if you are believers (5:23).

And obey not the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and disregard their annoying talk, and rely on Allah. And Allah is enough as having charge (of affairs) (33:48).

Allah, there is no God but He. And on Allah let the believers rely (64:13).

Say: He is the Beneficent – we believe in Him and on Him do we rely. So you will come to know who it is that is in clear error (67:29).

Our Lord, on Thee do we rely, and to Thee do we turn, and to Thee is the eventual coming. Our Lord, make us not a trial for those who disbelieve, and forgive us, our Lord. Surely Thou art the Mighty, the Wise (60:4-5).

Some Hadith Quotations:

Abu Huraira reported God’s Messenger as stating that God has said: I am present when my servant thinks of Me, and I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers Me inwardly, I shall remember him inwardly, and if he remembers Me among people, I shall remember him among people who are better than they. (Bukhari and Muslim. Robson, Mishkat al Masabih, vol. 1, p. 475.)

Abu Dharr reported God’s Messenger as stating that God has said: He who does a good deed will have ten times that amount of blessing, and I shall give more; but he who does an evil deed will have an equivalent reward of evil, or I shall grant forgiveness. If anyone draws the length of a span near Me I shall draw the length of a cubit near him, and if anyone meets Me with sins tantamount to the size of the earth, but has not associated anything with Me, I shall meet him with a similar amount of forgiveness. (Muslim. Ibid. p. 476.)

Abu Huraira reported God’s Messenger as stating that God has said: If anyone is hostile to a friend of Mine, I have declared war against him. No one draws near to Me with anything dearer to Me than what I have made obligatory for him. If My servant keeps drawing nearer to Me with supererogatory acts I shall love him, and when I love him I shall be his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he grasps and his foot with which he walks. If he asks from me I shall certainly give him and if he seeks refuge in Me I shall certainly give him refuge. I have not hesitated about anything I do as I hesitate about taking the soul of a believer who dislikes death, for I dislike grieving him, but he cannot escape it. (Bukhari. Ibid. p. 477.)

Ibn ‘Abbas reported God’s Messenger as saying: "Seventy thousand of my people will enter paradise without being taken to account. They are those who do not use spells or take omens, but put their trust in their Lord." (Bukhari and Muslim. Ibid. vol. 11, p. 1098.)

Suhaib reported God’s Messenger as saying: "It is remarkable that everything turns out well for a believer while that applies only to a believer. If happiness befalls him he gives thanks and it turns out well for him, and if misfortune befalls him he shows endurance and it turns out well for him." (Muslim. Ibid. p. 1098.)

Abu Huraira reported God’s Messenger as saying: "The strong believer is better and dearer to God than the weak believer. In all that is good, be eager for what benefits you, seek help in God, and do not be too weak to do so. If any affliction comes to you do not say, ‘If I had done such and such, such and such would have happened,’ but say, ‘God decrees, and what He wishes He does,’ for ‘if I had’ provides an opening for the deeds of the devil." (Muslim. Ibid. p. 1099.)

Umar bin al-Khattab reported that he heard God’s Messenger say: "If you were to trust in God genuinely He would give you provision as He does for the birds which go out hungry in the morning and come back full in the evening." (Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah. Ibid. p. 1099.)

Sa’d reported God’s Messenger as saying: "Part of the happiness of a son of Adam consists in his pleasure with what God has decreed for him, part of the misery of a son of Adam consists in his abandonment of asking God’s blessing, and part of the misery of a son of Adam consists in his displeasure with what God has decreed for him." (Ahmad and Tirmidhi, with Tirmidhi saying this is a gharib tradition. Ibid. p. 1100.)

Abu Dharr reported God’s Messenger as saying he knew a verse which would suffice men if they would but apply it: For him who fears God He will appoint a way out and He will give him provision from an unimagined source (65:2-3). (Ibn Majah. Ibid. p. 1101.)

Amr b. al-As reported God’s messenger as saying, "This heart of the son of Adam has a piece in every wadi (valley) and if anyone lets his heart follow all the pieces God will not care in which wadi (valley) He destroys him; but to anyone who trusts in God, He ill supply enough for all the pieces." (Ibn Majah. Ibid. p. 1101.)

From the Fonder of the Ahmadiyya Movement:

What is Tabattul?

A companion had been commanded in a dream to seek information from Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, on the question of tabattul (complete devotion to Allah). The following is the Founder’s reply:

"In my opinion, the significance of your being told in a vision to inquire of me the meaning of tabattul is that my view in this matter should be followed. To give the logical or syntactical meanings is not of benefit here. What is needed is a clear description of the condition that prevails in tabattul. In my view, a person can be called a mutabattil (one completed devoted to Allah) only when he places Allah, Most High, His laws and His pleasure above worldly attractions and shun all acts which are detestable to Him. No custom or practice or national law should be a hindrance nor should his base passions or his blood relations such as his brother, wife, son and father be an impediment or an obstacle in his way to attaining tabattul. In short, nothing, whether animate or inanimate, should be able to influence him to disobey the laws of Allah and prompt him to act against His pleasure. In order to win Allah’s pleasure he should annihilate his entire self to such an extent that he totally submits to the will of Allah. On many occasions worldly relations can dissuade a person badly, as Mother Eve had caused the downfall of Prophet Adam. So, in order to achieve perfect tabattul, it is necessary that a man should intoxicate his entire self to the point of extinction with the love of Allah but in a manner that he does not become oblivious of Allah but be lost in His love.

The reality of tabattul in a practical way becomes evident only when all obstacles have been banished forever and all kinds of barriers are smashed and the bond of man with Allah reaches a stage of intrinsic love. This is how complete effacement (of one’s ego) can be obtained. Everything can be lucidly said in verbal discussion and one’s words and explanations can shed light on many matters. But the difficulty arises only when one tries to put into practice what one professes in words. There are many who profess to believe in God and even to love Him, and also strongly affirm that they wish to place Him above everything and may even claim to have done so already. But a difficulty arises when we try to search for those changes and signs which are the fruits and blessings of having given Allah priority over all things. At every step one is likely to stumble while discussing these transcendental subjects. That is why when the necessity to give their wealth and life in the way of Allah arises and He wishes the lip-professors to sacrifice their wealth and their lives and their most prized possessions which do not really belong to them but to Allah alone, they find it hard to do so.

In the early days of Islam, there were some companions who faced this kind of trial. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) wanted a piece of land on which to erect a mosque. A certain person was asked to give his land but he made all kinds of excuses and said that he could not give his land. Now, that person professed belief in the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and he had taken a covenant to put Allah and His Apostle above everything in the world. But when the time of trial came he threw this covenant behind his back although eventually he did offer the piece of land. So the truth of the matter is that nothing can be achieved by mere words unless the words are put into practice, and practice is not truly established if there is no test.

Bai’at (pledge of allegiance) is taken at my hands with the express undertaking that you will put religion above the world and that you will acknowledge as your Imam a person whom Allah has commissioned and sent to this world as a representative of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), and who has been appointed as a judge and an arbiter. That is, that you will accept his decisions happily and will accept them with a calm mind and an open heart. If in spite of this covenant and acceptance a person does not cheerfully submit to the ruling of mine and instead there is a reluctance in his heart, then it will surely have to be said that he has not attained true tabattul and he has not ascended to that high station which is called the state of tabattul. Instead, the chains and shackles of low passions and earthly attachments are still blocking his way to spiritual progress and he has not yet emerged from behind those veils which man has to tear apart before he reaches the state of tabattul. If he is not cut off from the true love of this world and has not been grafted onto the branch of the divine tree, it is impossible for him to possess luxuriant verdure. Behold! If a branch is cut off from a tree, it cannot blossom and bear fruit. Even if you put it in water or provide all the ingredients that sustained its life before, it still can ever become fruitful. In like manner, if man does not develop a powerful union with a sadiq (truthful person), that power to attract spiritually cannot be procured just as a severed and isolated branch cannot become green even if it is watered. Thus, severed and alone, it cannot bear fruit. So in order to become a mutabattil a person needs to have two prerequisites: cutting off all worldly connections followed by a sustained love for Allah.

A person who binds himself with Allah in a state of complete submission and reliance will have to sever all connections and enticements of this world. This does not mean that a man will achieve this union by totally abandoning the world and living a life of a recluse. Certainly not! But he has to live in this world and yet not be a part of it. That is true courage and bravery. And severing all worldly connections or being separate from the world means withstanding the power of its beguiling seductions and temptations and not giving them precedence over Allah, Most High, but putting Him first in all matters. Further, no temptation of this world or hindrance should stand in his way, nor should they inveigle him. I have said before that in this world there are many obstacles in the spiritual journey of a person. A wife, too, may become a great stumbling block. Allah, Most High, has given us an example of this. He has forbidden us specifically from one thing: And We said: O Adam, dwell thou and thy wife in the garden, and eat from it a plenteous food wherever you wish, and approach not this tree, lest you be of the unjust (2:35). The consequences of ignoring this prohibition affected first the wife and then her husband, Adam (pbuh).

The question arises as to what tabattul really means. It is severing oneself completely from everything and turning completely to Allah, and considering all other worldly interests and desires as dead. There are many people who regard my teachings as valid and even admit that they are sound and correct. But if they are asked why they do not accept them openly, they will reply that people will abuse them. This is the main hurdle that prevents a person from earning Allah’s love and proximity. For if the fear of Allah should exist in the heart of man and he lives under the power and glory of His sovereignty, then what concern would he have with what others say or do not say? Otherwise it would mean that their hearts are still under the dominion of other people and not under Allah’s command. When this polytheistic thought is expunged from the heart of a man, then everything is seen to be less than corpses and worms and weaker than them. If the whole world should unite in opposition against such a person, even then it will be impossible to prevent him from accepting the truth.

A manifest testimony of such a perfect tabattul should be sought from the lives of the prophets of Allah and from His commissioned ones - how, in spite of their utter helplessness and weakness, they showed not the least concern for the opposition of their worldly-minded antagonists. A lesson should be learnt from their conduct and the varied circumstances of their lives.

Some persons repeatedly ask whether it is permissible to perform salah [prayer] behind such people who, although they do not revile me, yet do not openly accept me, because they fear the abuses of others. I say, Never, ever! Why? Because there is a big stumbling block on the path of their acceptance of truth and they are still a branch of that tree whose fruit is poisonous and destructive. If they had not considered the worldly-minded people as their gods or adopted them as their qiblah or as objects of veneration, they, having destroyed all those veils, would have freed themselves. They would also not have shown the least concern for anyone’s taunts or reproaches and they would not have lived under the fear of censure from anyone. Instead, they would have fled towards Allah. So, remember that in everything you do, you should reflect on whether it is for the pleasure of Allah or for that of people. Unless you achieve that state (of spirituality) where Allah’s pleasure is paramount in your heart, and no satan or evil suggestion can dissuade or infiltrate it, the fear of stumbling will always cast its shadow over your mind. But when neither the evils nor the benefits of the world exert any influence on you, but only the pleasure or displeasure of Allah prevails, it is then that you attain that blissful state in which man is released from the eventualities of all kinds of fear and grief. If there is someone who is within the fold of my jama’at [Movement] and then withdraws from it, then the reason is that his satan still exists in his heart to dissuade him from following the righteous path. But if he should build a strong resolve that in future he will pay no heed to any evil whisperings then God will come to his rescue.

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) was a perfect example of tabattul - he disregarded both praise and blame from others. How many a difficulty befell him, yet he paid no attention to them. Neither greed nor covetousness could deflect him from his mission which he had brought from Allah. Unless man has impressed this condition within his self and has passed the test of trial, he can never be free from anxiety.

It is important to remember that whoever becomes a mutabattil will also become a mutawakkil (one who relies totally on God), for tabattul is an indispensable precondition for achieving the status of a mutawakkil, for, as long as a man considers his worldly relationships the means of his support and relies implicitly on them, how can he become totally dependent on Allah?

When a man turns to Allah after ridding himself of all crutches, he then makes a clean break with this world and he effects a union or bond with Allah, Most High, and that can happen only if there is total and unconditional reliance on Allah just as the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was the perfect mutabattil as well as the consummate mutawakkil. It was for this reason that he paid no regard to the advances of all the aristocrats and leaders of tribes and peoples, and neither did their opposition faze him in any way. Such was the extraordinary faith he possessed in the existence of Allah, Most High, that he was able to bear the stupendous burden (of his mission), and the desires of worldly opposition he considered as non-existent. The like of such a noble example of God-reliance is not met with in this world, so that having chosen Allah, he gradually converted the whole world into an enemy. But this condition cannot be attained until one has, as it were, seen Allah, and until an unshakeable trust exists that after doors of worldly support are closed there is the Divine support which will definitely come to his rescue. When this trust and certainty are firmly established, then in the path of Allah one makes enemies of those erstwhile beloved friends and that is because the true believer knows that Allah will create other friends. If his worldly estate is lost then he has the invincible faith that he will receive something better in return here or in the Hereafter.

In short, to put Allah’s pleasure first is tabattul and further, tabattul and tawakkul are twins. The secret of tabattul lies in tawakkul and the prerequisite of tawakkul is tabattul. And that is my teaching in this regard" (Malfuzat, vol. 11, new edition, pp. 357-363).

We shall now turn our attention to Imam Ghazali’s explanation of tawakkul:

"Meaning of God-reliance. The meaning of tawakkul or reliance is to entrust an affair to another and to believe him fully in that respect. He who is entrusted upon is called wakil or pleader and he who entrusts is called moakkil or client. So sure faith in wakil is called reliance.

I shall cite an example of a wakil in case of litigation. A wakil shall have four qualities:

1. Sufficient power to understand

2. Ability

3. Power of speech

4. Sympathy and kindness for client

With regard to the first quality, he must have power to understand the places of deception, false claim and even the minutest details. With regard to the second quality, nobody engages a wakil having no ability. He shall not flatter, shall not fear to disclose truth or feel shame or show cowardice. With regard to the third quality of power of speech, he must have it, otherwise many good reasons cannot be shown for want of clear expression. With regard to the fourth quality, he must try to help an oppressed client

Similar is God-reliance. When so much reliance is placed on a wakil with such characteristics, how much more reliance should be placed in God? When you believe that there is no master of an action besides God, that He is All-powerful and all-knowing, that He bestows His kindness, favour, help on all the people and some special people, that there is no power and might except through God, there is no knowledge but in Him, he must rely on Him and must not look to his own power and strength as there is no power except God. If you do not find in you this reliance, it is for two reasons – weakness in you in any one of the four qualities and weakness of faith in your mind. So without the united strength of mind and faith, God-reliance does not become perfect. With these two things peace can be attained. Peace of mind is one thing and certainty of faith is another thing. There are many men with certainty of faith who have no peace of mind, as Hazrat Ibrahim said: "O my Lord, show me how You give life to a dead thing." God said: Have you no faith? He said: "Yes, I have, but in order to console my mind." Hazrat Ibrahim had full faith, but he was eager to see it to bring him peace of mind. There are many men having peace of mind but with no sure faith.

Three classes of God-reliant man. There are three classes of God-reliant men according to the measure of their reliance on God. The first class of God-reliant man is like one who entrusts all his affairs in a case to his wakil who is appointed by him from a consideration of his ability, eloquence and kindness. The second class of God-reliant man is more developed than the first. His condition is like that of an infant who knows nobody except his mother. When any danger comes, he takes refuge in his mother and believes nobody except his mother. In every condition, he catches hold of her clothes. When any danger comes to him in the absence of his mother, the first expression he utters is: "O mother." Such a God-reliant man relies on God as a child relies on his mother. The difference between the first and the second class is that in the latter, one annihilates himself in God-reliance, while it is not so in the first case.

The third class is the highest for a God-reliant man. Such a man lives before God in such a way as a dead man is kept before one who washes him. He thinks that he moves similarly at the hand of his original fate. He is firm and steady. He thinks that the flow of his movements, strength, will, knowledge and other attributes run through Him compulsorily. He is not like a child who takes refuge in his mother, cries to her and runs after her. He is like that child who knows that wherever he stays, his mother will find him out. If he does not like to suckle his mother’s breast, his mother will suckle him. Such a person gives up invocation as he trusts in God’s mercy and help and thinks that he will get more if he does not want than if he wants" (Imam Ghazali, Ihya Ulum-ud-Din, p. 253-255).

The following is a very short selection from the saint, Abdul Qadir Jilani, whose concise discourse here is most illuminating.

"An old man asked me in my dream: ‘What makes a servant of God near to God?’ I said: ‘This process has a beginning and an end, so the beginning of it is piety and Godliness and its end is to be pleased with God and to surrender oneself to His way and to rely on Him entirely" (Maulana Aftab-ud-Din Ahmad’s translation of Futuh Al-Ghaib, p. 139).

The following are a few excerpts from Tadhkiratul-Auliya that will serve as practical illustrations of tabattul and tawakkul given from the vantage point of some of the famous saints of Islam.

"Once Hasan, accompanied by several people, was on the way to the Kabah. On the way they came across a well. They were all thirsty but had no rope with them with which to draw water. Hasan said: ‘I am going to perform salah (prayer). As I pray, you will notice the water shall rise. You will then drink it and quench your thirst.’ And so it happened. But when a person, after drinking his full filled a tumbler to keep by his side for future use, the water sank to its original low level. When asked the reason for the strange occurrence, Hasan replied: ‘It was due to your lack of faith to depend solely on God.’" (p. 12).

"Once a guest was partaking of the meagre meal that poor Ajmi had offered to him when a beggar knocked at the door. Ajmi took the food and handed it over to the beggar. Surprised at this unmannerly behaviour of Ajmi, the guest (who was no other than Hasan Basri) said: ‘You must know little of manners.’ Ajmi was silent for a moment, when, to the surprise of Hasan, there appeared a lady with a delicious dish. Both sat down and partook of it. Then Ajmi said: ‘Hasan, you are a good man. You should develop a little more faith in God (that is, know that a thing given in God’s name returns several-fold).’" (p. 17).

"For forty successive years Junaid kept awake the whole night in his devotional practices. Thereupon the pride was born in him that he had reached the spiritual pinnacle. The Divine Voice reprimanded Junaid saying: The time has arrived when you should be declared a heretic. He cried: ‘Lord! What is my fault?’ The reply came: Could there be a greater sin than that you in you still survives (that is, your ego is not yet dead)? He sighed and bowed his head in submission saying: ‘He who attains not to the union of the Lord, all his virtues are sins.’" (p. 107).

"Khafif went out on a pilgrimage to the Kabah. He carried only a jug and a rope to draw water. As he passed through the wilderness he saw many deer standing on the top of the well and drinking water. As he approached, they ran away and the level of the water went down. In spite of his efforts, he could not draw water from that low level. He prayed to the Lord to raise the level of the water as He had done for the deer. The Divine Voice was heard in reply: We cannot do so, as you depend upon the rope and the jug besides Us. Immediately he threw both of them away and lo! the water level rose and he quenched his thirst. When he related the incident Hazrat Junaid in Makkah, Junaid said: ‘The Lord was testing your dependence on Him. Had you waited patiently for a longer time, it would have overflowed the top.’" (p. 138).

We pray that the living belief in a living God may return to or sink deeper into the hearts of all peoples, especially Muslims – to feel ourselves always in the presence of God and to be submissively obedient to Him, having annihilated our own will and ego to the point where we calmly and cheerfully accept the inevitable decrees of God, yet striving with self and property in His way without fear or grief despoiling our lives.

May Allah bless us all in our daily pilgrimage to His threshold.


This page was printed from the 'Official Website of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at-e-Islam Lahore (Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for the Propagation of Islam)'
located at
http://aaiil.org or http://www.aaiil.org

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