An invisible, microscopic virus reigns sovereign over the world. The coronavirus has coronated itself king. And we are currently its subjects.
We face an invasive pandemic together. In an almost unprecedented twist of fate, each of us shares the same trial.
Trials are never comfortable. They limit us physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually. They push us beyond our comfort zones.
Now, even the uninfected are affected: restricted from work; confined to house arrest; freedom curbed; movement impeded; emotionally constricted by anxiety and angst; our present straightened by an uncertain future.
And collectively affected: Our great, advanced political, economic, health and social institutions kneel, humbled, under the edict of a tiny, imperceptible monarch (whom many biologists consider to be non-living). Where is all our power now?
The words of the Divine in the Qur’ān are so perfectly prophetic:
حَتَّىٰ إِذَا ضَاقَتْ عَلَيْهِمُ الْأَرْضُ بِمَا رَحُبَتْ وَضَاقَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ أَنفُسُهُمْ وَظَنُّوا أَن لَّا مَلْجَأَ مِنَ اللَّهِ إِلَّا إِلَيْهِ
“…until the earth with all of its expanse became constricted to them, and their selves became constricted, and they were certain that there was no refuge from Allāh except to Him...” (9:118)
Constriction upon constriction. Is there any relief in sight? Yes. Finite constriction can be an avenue to infinite expanse.
The essence of trial is its potential to lead me to the infinite expanse of Allāh’s Divine Beauty, Jamāl, through an experiential encounter with His Majesty, or Jalāl. If I look carefully, I may see: The lock has a key embedded in it.
As this trial continues, my ‘world’ – both internally and externally – is slowly constricting. Why? Because the means, causes and avenues that I rely upon with my heart are no longer reliable.
I am losing my familiar foundations; and I am slowly feeling my fragility. I need Allāh more and more.
Our spiritual teachers advise us that the current trial is a practical, experiential exercise to learn tawakkul, to rely upon Allāh with our hearts. Only in tawakkul upon Allāh, will I find true relief.
Tawakkul is an act of the qalb, the spiritual heart. It is such a noble virtue of Islamic character, or khuluq, that it is synonymous with tawḥīd, or the experiential affirmation of Divine Unicity.
To have tawakkul upon Allāh is to trust in all His Names and Attributes. We don’t say, for example, I have tawakkul upon al-Raḥīm, the Lovingly-Merciful; nor do we say that I have tawakkul upon al-Karīm, the Infinitely-Generous. We say: I have tawakkul upon Allāh.
What, then, are the details of tawakkul? Its explanation? Expressions? Why should I have tawakkul? Where do I start?
There is perhaps no better succinct discussion, explanation, expression, reason and program to begin the journey of tawakkul than a text of our Master, the famous Companion, Abū Dardā’ (Allāh be pleased with him). In it, he tells a story and relates a supplication of the Messenger (Allāh’s blessing and peace be upon him).
The text is related by the great masters of the hadith sciences – al-Ṭabarānī, ibn al-Sunnī, al-Bayḥaqī and al-Nawawī, among others (may Allāh be pleased with them all) – who sanctioned it, included it in their works and practiced it.
The context of the text is that our Master Abū Dardā’ (Allāh be pleased with him) was informed multiple times, and in some texts by multiple people, that his house was ablaze and that he should rush and attend to his house immediately. He responded that his house was not on fire because of a supplication that he had heard from the Messenger (Allāh’s peace and blessings be upon him). In some texts, Abū Dardā’ responded and even swore an oath, to the amazement of the ones who brought him the news, that Allāh would not allow his house to be on fire due to his recitation of the supplication.
He heard the Messenger (Allāh’s peace and blessings be upon him) state that whoever recites these words in the morning will not be afflicted by a calamity until the evening; and whoever recites them in the evening will not be afflicted by a calamity until the morning.
The supplication reads:
اللّهُـمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّـي لا إلهَ إلاّ أَنْتَ، عَلَيْكَ تَوَكَلْتُ وأنْتَ رَبُّ العَرْشِ العَظِيْم، ما شَآءَ اللهُ كانَ، وما لَمْ يَشَأْ لَم ْيَكُن. لا حَولَ ولا قُوَّةَ إلا باِللهِ الْعَلِيِّ الْعَظِيْم. أعْلَمُ أنَّ اللهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيْر، وأنَّ اللهَ قَدْ أحاطَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عِلْماً، وأَحْصَى كُلَّ شَيءٍ عَدَداً. اللّهُـمَّ إنِّي أعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ نَفْسِي، ومِنْ شَرِّ كُلِّ دَآبَّةٍ أنْتَ آخِذٌ بِناصِيَتِها، إنَّ رَبِّي عَلىَ صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيْم
O Allāh, You are my Lord. There is none to be worshipped except You. Upon You I place my trust, and You are the Lord of the Tremendous Throne. What Allāh wills, will be; and what He does not will, will not be. There is no power or ability except by Allāh, the Exalted, the Tremendous. I know that Allāh has power over all things, and that Allāh has encompassed all things in knowledge and has enumerated all things in number. O Allāh, I seek refuge in You from the evil of my lower self and from the evil of every creature that You have grasped in control by their forelock. Verily, my Lord is upon a straight path.
Indeed, it was found that the house of our Master Abū Dardā’ (Allāh be pleased with him) was untouched by the fire. The fire had extinguished as it approached his house.
Let us reflect on the profound, illuminating meanings in this supplication. And with Allāh is all success.
O Allāh: O Allāh. I call upon You by Your Name, Allāh, that encompasses each and every one of Your Names and Attributes. Everything in existence is a manifestation of Your Names and Attributes. And Your Names and Attributes are the keys to all succour and success.
You are my Lord: You are the Rabb – the One Who cares for His creation by guiding them to greater benefit, goodness and perfection, stage by stage, with wisdom, knowledge and gentleness. The Rabb is at once the Creator, Guide, Provider, Nourisher, Sustainer, Protector, Guardian, Preserver and Friend. My Rabb is all I truly need.
لا إلهَ إلاّ أَنْتَ
There is none to be worshipped except You: The ilāh is an object of intense love, adoration, veneration and, therefore, worship. Words, deeds and inner states are the ripples that emanate from the attachment of my heart to its ilāh. I have no ilāh but You, Allāh.
Upon You I place my reliance: Because You are Allāh, because You are the Rabb, I am compelled naturally, rationally and lovingly, to place my trust upon You and You alone. I make You my wakīl, my representative or trustee, to conduct all my affairs – material, physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual – in ways that secure my welfare in this world and the Next.
وأنْتَ رَبُّ العَرْشِ العَظِيْم
And You are the Lord of the Tremendous Throne: You are the Rabb of the Tremendous Throne that extends over the entire created cosmos. My world, and its interconnection with every other world – exoteric and esoteric, seen and unseen, physical and metaphysical – lies within Your sole dominion. It is only fitting that my wakīl be You.
ما شَآءَ اللهُ كانَ، وما لَمْ يَشَأْ لَم ْيَكُن
What Allāh wills, will be; and what He does not will, will not be: Your will and only Your will is executed. I have no real choice except to make You my wakīl. In reality, while I am commanded to act and strive – and I must – I am powerless to produce any effect or consequence. My insistence and reliance on my will and power to affect change in me and others is the root of all inner disquietude and turbulence.
لا حَولَ ولا قُوَّةَ إلا باِللهِ الْعَلِيِّ الْعَظِيْم
There is no power or ability except by Allāh, the Exalted, the Tremendous: I have no power to draw benefit to myself, nor do I have the ability to repel harm, except as You will. And as You are Exalted and Tremendous, so too is Your will. My obstinacy in rejecting You and making others my wakīl renders my choices lowly and insignificant.
أعْلَمُ أنَّ اللهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيْر
I know that Allāh has power over all things: I affirm with my heart that You are the only deserving wakīl, for You have power over all creation. What good is a wakīl whose power is defective and deficient? If I place my tawakkul upon any but You, my affairs are defective and deficient. If I place my tawakkul upon You, my affairs rest with One who has power over everything.
وأنَّ اللهَ قَدْ أحاطَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عِلْماً، وأَحْصَى كُلَّ شَيءٍ عَدَداً
And that Allāh has encompassed all things in knowledge and has enumerated all things in number: I affirm with my heart that You are the only deserving wakīl, for You encompass all things, and every contingency, in knowledge. What good is a wakīl whose knowledge is inadequate and incomplete? If I place my tawakkul upon any but You, my affairs are inadequate and incomplete. If I place my tawakkul upon You, my affairs rest with One who has knowledge about everything.
اللّهُـمَّ إنِّي أعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ نَفْسِي
O Allāh, I seek refuge in You from the evil of my lower self: My nafs, or lower self, is the greatest veil to taking You as my wakīl. The nafs is the greatest idol – the idol within me. It entices me to attach my hopes and reliance on itself, myself and other selves – to rely, in essence, on creation. To fully embrace the Divine with my body, mind and heart in tawakkul, I must break the chokehold of my nafs. The enemy to my true happiness and freedom is, and has always been, me.
ومِنْ شَرِّ كُلِّ دَآبَّةٍ أنْتَ آخِذٌ بِناصِيَتِها
And from the evil of every creature that You have grasped in control by their forelock: I seek refuge in You from the designs of creation that entice me to take other than You as my wakīl. I live in an age where propaganda to rely upon false gods – material, technological, ideological, and others – clothes itself in the mantle of freedom, happiness, and the public good. Evil cannot influence me when You are my wakīl.
إنَّ رَبِّي عَلىَ صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيْم
Verily, my Lord is upon a straight path: The path of Allāh, the Rabb, is the path of all goodness. The Infinite, in all His Majesty and Beauty, cannot be reached except through the straight path of tawakkul and experiential tawḥīd. The path of tawakkul and experiential tawḥīd is the fastest, most immediate avenue to Him in all states, prosperity and adversity.
Here is a recording of Shaykh Mokhtar reciting the supplication:
How rich, how complete and how wondrous the guidance of Allāh’s Beloved (peace and blessings be upon him)! How much goodness has escaped me, and how much harm has afflicted me, all because I did not give his guidance (peace and blessings be upon him) the sanctity that was its right?
Truly, this supplication offers a gift of solace for every suffering heart. It contains the elixir for every ailment. It deserves recitation, reflection, review and constant re-engagement with our mind and emotions.
As I live through this trial, I must recite, reflect, review and constantly re-engage my mind and emotions with what it means to be in tawakkul. If Allāh gifts me through His Divine Grace some of the experiential realities of tawakkul, the bitter turns sweet; the difficult, easy; constriction; expansion; the seemingly impossible, possible.
Corona in latin means a wreath or a crown. Is the coronavirus, in its deeper spiritual reality, a reflection of all we have crowned as a wakīl in our lives apart from Him? Is it not a message from Him to me? Is He not constricting through it every passageway, except the pathway to Him? If I cannot reach the Divine’s door now, in this trial, then when?
The promise of Allāh is true. The promise of His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) is true. Am I true of heart as I read, and as I seek?
May Allāh grant us all true, sincere, experiential tawakkul. The sea of His Generosity quenches the thirst of all those who come to it. Āmīn.
By Riad Saloojee , 23 Mar 2020