Sister Yasmin, in her article on Tawakul gives us a beautiful understanding of what it really means. She says…
There can be no faith without tawakkul; and if there is true faith, tawakkul must always follow. Allah says in the Qur’an: “The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely (have tawakkul)” (8:2).
At first she was terrified. She called out to her husband who now turned to leave. “Will you leave us here to die?” There was no reply. She called after him again. Still there was no reply. Suddenly she called out again: “Were you commanded by your Lord to bring us here?”
“Yes,” replied the Prophet Ibraheem.
It was then that Hajar’s fear disappeared. Although she suddenly found herself alone in the middle of a desert, with her newborn child and no sign of water, she knew with full certainty that Allah would never leave her side. Her faith was strong, her conviction untouched.
But soon after Prophet Ibraheem left, her child Ismail began to cry from thirst. And although Hajar had complete tawakkul(trust and reliance) in Allah, she did not remain sitting, waiting for the water to fall down from the sky.
Reliance on Allah filled Hajar’s heart; but with her limbs, Hajar strove with everything she had. She began to run quickly between the mountains of Al-Safa and Al-Marwa, looking for any sign of water for her son. Each time Hajar came to the top of the mountain and found nothing, she did not despair nor did she lose hope. Her will was unshaken, and she continued to strive. In fact, Hajar strove so hard that the ritual itself became known as Sa’ee—which literally means “to strive.”
Many people confuse tawakkul with resignation and the secession of striving. But by no means does tawakkul mean one ceases to struggle. The story of Hajar serves as one of the most beautiful examples of this lesson taught to us by our beloved Prophet (s). When a man came to Prophet Mohammed (s) and asked him if he should have trust in Allah, or tie his camel and then have trust in Allah, the Prophet (s) replied that he should tie his camel securely and then put his trust in Allah.
Tawwakul is not an act of the limbs—it is an act of the heart. And so while the limbs are striving hard, the heart is completely reliant on Allah. This means whatever the outcome of the limbs’ striving, the heart will be completely satisfied, knowing that it is the flawless decision of Allah.
But in order to reach this level, one must hold on to hope, strive with the limbs, and let go with the heart.