“And He (Allah) will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish his purpose. Indeed Allah has set a measure for all things.”
Let’s begin with the first sentence in this verse. When we are faced with a difficult situation, and when things seem completely out of our control, we are reminded that NOTHING is outside of Allah’s control. Especially when there seems to be no way out of a particular situation, when in fact we cannot even conceive of a solution, this is when Allah gives us even greater help – in fact help that comes outside the realms of human capability and understanding. We often will lose hope in something because our rational minds are doing the thinking – (maybe it’s an essay deadline, maybe we are trying to arrive somewhere on time and we have got delayed, maybe someone is unwell, maybe a community is being oppressed, or maybe we cannot get a job/ any other rizq).
But here Allah is telling us that His help goes beyond human imagination; if we only ask Allah based on what WE think is possible, then we will miss out on the otherworldly, miraculous nature of Allah’s help. Musa (as) understood this when he was trapped between the Red Sea and the army of Fir’awn; Maryam (as) understood this as she bravely returned to her people with the baby Jesus (as) in her arms; and so too did Zakariyya (as) when he prayed for a child, though he and his wife were in their old age – they were not just pious people, they were smart and open-minded too. The more someone’s mind is open to the Power of Allah, the higher she will aim, and the more she will achieve, in this life and the next, inshaAllah.
If we look at the second sentence in the verse, Allah tells us about another reward that comes with trusting in Him, and that is the reward of contentment and peace. This is the meaning of ‘and Allah is sufficient for him’. When something is sufficient, it means you are satisfied, you need nothing else and seek nothing else. It means you are at ease with whatever Allah has willed for you, and recognise there is good even in things that seem to be negative. It also means you do not depend on other people – this demonstrates that complete tawakkal is also the thing that gives a human being emancipation and dignity. Dignity is when you are not humiliated by base desires and subjugation – tawakkal means, therefore, that we are freeing ourselves of the need for the help or approval of the creation.
The last two sentences, where Allah tells us He will ‘accomplish His purpose’ and has a ‘measure for all things’, is a reminder that our provision is already written. All our provisions were already written for us 50,000 years before we were born. Our successes and so-called failures in this dunya are decreed – but the real success is in fact being able to pass the test – either by showing gratitude for the ‘successes’ or showing sabr and contentment when the ‘failures’ occur. There may be something we are trying to accomplish, but ultimately it can never succeed if Allah did not will it. Allah has a purpose that supersedes all our plans. So when we have tried with something and it still does not work, then we must realise that Allah is in control, not us; and rather than feeling disappointed by that, we should try to understand that everything Allah decrees for us has wisdom in it. Whatever you are facing in life, it is in fact a fulfilment of a plan – ‘the accomplishment of a purpose‘ – specially designed and tailored for each and every individual.
“…and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you; and Allah knows while you know not.” (2:216)
The lesson from the test is often more valuable and a greater achievement than the original thing we were seeking. The meaning of this verse should also act as a reassurance that when others are working against those who do good, against the deen, and against the truth, then they ultimately will fail even if we cannot perceive this: for Allah has only given them respite for a short time before He destroys their plans. This was often the case with evil communities in the past – Allah gave them some short-term, superficial successes which made them feel arrogant for a while, but in the end their plans and their plots failed. We see this in the examples of ‘Ad, Thamud, the People of the Ditch and the Pharaoh – amazing stories in the Qur’an that we should study and seek to draw lessons from.
So, the final conclusion is that we need to re-programme our way of thinking, to not limit Allah’s Power and Aid to what WE think is rationally possible – know that we humans have a bounded rationality that cannot perceive the endless capacity of Allah’s Will. And we should reconfigure our minds to truly recognise that Allah can command and facilitate anything for us. Also, we need to remind ourselves that worrying and fretting about things that Allah has already decreed and measured out (perfectly!) for us, is a pointless exercise – we should just get on with what is in our hands, do what we can in the circumstances we are currently in, and keep making dua for the best (yes, the very best, why not?) from Allah, the Most High.
Practical tips to achieve the above:
- Make yourself make du’a for that which seems impossible.
- Keep trying with whatever practical means are available, even if – no, especially if – you think the doors have already closed. E.g when rushing to catch a plane, and the check-in desk has already closed (argh…true story); that job application, no matter how fierce the competition might seem; when a deadline is looming and you need to ask for an extension, but doubt it will be given…such times are when your trust in Allah are pushed to the very limit, will you still persevere?
- Listen to Qur’an, and especially be familiar with its stories of the Prophets and the Saliheen (the righteous), peace be upon them – their actions and deep conviction will help to challenge our scepticism and will broaden our minds to appreciate the Power of Allah.
- Be around those people who will give you hope and encouragement – those who help you to avoid regret, who give constructive advice, and who big up the positive side of things.
- Look out for, and memorise special verses in the Qur’an/ supplications from the Sunnah, that will increase our tawakkal.
- And finally, what can we do when things are still going (apparently) badly, when our trust and efforts don’t seem to be leading to the outcome we hoped for? In that case, pause, reflect and purposefully ask ourselves – “what is Allah teaching me through this? What negative habit/ quality is he wanting me to let go of? what material things do I still need to detach myself from? What positive outcomes are there that I am overlooking? Are the consequences of this negative situation really that awful that I should be getting this wound up about it? Could it be that this negative outcome is just one small, short-term phase on the way to an overall victory in the long-term?”
When Allah tests us, He is simply teaching us. And He will keep giving us those mock exams, before the Big Exam, until we learn. And if you do learn, and you get what the lesson is about, then congratulations – that’s a very precious blessing, and is possibly the real success you’re after! 🙂
p.s. Kudos to anyone who can explain the reference to honey at the top of the page! Share your reflections…