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He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

Merium Khan, Guest Contributor

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Tawakkul- a leaf falling

While discussing an emotionally-heavy issue, my therapist brought up the point that in life we can reach a point of acceptance in regards to our difficult issues: “It sounds cliche, but there’s no other way to say it: it is what it is.”

Okay, I thought, as I listened. Acceptance. Yes, I can do this eventually. She went on to add: “It is what it is, and I know that everything will be okay.””

Tears had already been flowing, but by this point, full-blown sobs started. “I…can’t….seem…to ever…believe that.” There. I had said it. I had faked being confident and accepting, even to myself. I had faked the whole, “I have these health problems, but I am so together” type of vibe that I had been putting out for years.

Maybe it was the hormones of a third pregnancy, confronting the realities of life with multiple chronic diseases, family problems, or perhaps a midlife crisis: but at that moment, I did not feel deep in my heart with true conviction that everything would be okay.

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That conversation led me to reflect on the concept of tawakkul in the following weeks and months. What did it mean to have true trust in Allah? And why was it that for years I smiled and said, “Alhamdulillah, I’m coping just fine!” when in reality, the harsh truth was that I felt like I had not an ounce of tawakkul?

I had led myself to believe that denying my grief and slapping a smile on was tawakkul. I was being outwardly cheerful — I even made jokes about my life with Multiple Sclerosis — and I liked to think I was functioning all right. Until I wasn’t.

You see, the body doesn’t lie. You can tell all the lies you want to with your tongue, but after some time, the body will let you know that it’s holding oceans of grief, unshed tears, and unhealed traumas. And that period of my life is a tale for another time.

The short story is that things came to a head and I suddenly felt utterly overwhelmed and terrified daily about my future with a potentially disabling disease, while being diagnosed with a second major chronic illness, all while caring for a newborn along with my other children. Panic attacks and severe anxiety ensued. When I realized that I didn’t have true tawakkul, I had to reflect and find my way again.

I thought about Yaqub (Jacob). I thought long and hard about his grief: “Yaa asafaa ‘alaa Yusuf!” “Oh, how great is my grief for Joseph!”

He wept until he was blind. And yet, he constantly asserted, “Wallahul-Musta’aan”: “Allah is the one whose help is sought.” And he believed.

Oh, how did he believe. His sons laughed and called him an old fool for grieving over a son lost for decades. He then lost another dear son, Binyamin. And yet he said, “Perhaps it will be that my Lord will bring them to me altogether.”

There is no sin in grief Click To Tweet

So my first realization was that there was no sin in the grief. I could indeed trust Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) while feeling a sorrow so profound that it ripped me apart at times. “The heart grieves and the eyes weep, but the tongue does not say that except which pleases its Lord. Oh, Ibrahim, we are gravely saddened by your passing.” These are the words of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for a lost infant son, said with tears pouring down his blessed face, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I thought of the Year of Grief, Aamul-Huzn, when he, Allah’s peace be upon him, lost the woman who was the love of his life and the mother of his children; as well as an uncle who was like a father. The year was named after his grief! And here I was denying myself this human emotion because it somehow felt like a betrayal of true sabr?

Tawakkul, tawakkul, where are you? I searched for how I could feel it, truly feel it.Click To Tweet

Through years of introspection and then therapy, I realized that I had a personality that centered around control. I expressed this in various ways from trying to manage my siblings (curse of the firstborn), to trying to manage my childbirth and health. If I only did the “right” things, then I could have the perfect, “natural” birth and the perfect picture of health.

When I was diagnosed with a chronic disease, these illusions started to crack. And yet even then, I thought that if I did the right things, took the right supplements and alternative remedies and medications, that I wouldn’t have trouble with my MS.

See, when you think you control things and you attempt to micromanage everything, you’ve already lost tawakkul. You’ve taken the role of controlling the outcome upon yourself when in reality, your Lord is in control. It took a difficult time when I felt I was spiraling out of control for me to truly realize that I was not the master of my outcomes. Certainly, I would “tie my camel” and take my precautions, but then it was a matter of letting go.

At some point, I envisioned my experience of tawakkul as a free-fall. You know those trust exercises that you do at summer camps or company retreats? You fall back into the arms of someone and relinquish any control over your muscles. You are supposed to be limp and fully trust your partner to catch you.

I did this once with a youth group. After they fell–some gracefully and trusting, some not — I told them: “This is the example of tawakkul. Some of you didn’t trust and you tried to break your fall but some of you completely let go and let your partner catch you. Life will throw you down, it will hit you over and over, and you will fall–but He, subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), will be there to break your fall.”

I am falling. There is a degree of terror and sadness in the fall. But that point when through the pain and tears I can say, “It is what it is, and no matter what, everything will be okay”, that right there is the tranquility that comes from tawakkul.

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Merium Khan has been involved in teaching at the private schools, weekend schools, and community halaqat for over 20 years. Her focus in education is going beyond factual instruction to a teaching that is centered on tarbiyyah, reflection, and analysis. She founded The Muslim Educator Academy, an online Islamic educational institution, to bring together teachers who have a like-minded passion for education that first and foremost reaches the heart and then transforms the self.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Umme

    November 1, 2019 at 11:49 AM

    On point. Acceptance and having ‘Tawakkul’ is the key. Jazakallaahu Khairan sister for this article. May Allaah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala make matters easy for you and all.Aameen

  2. Avatar

    Roshan Mohamed

    November 2, 2019 at 4:15 AM

    Asalamualaikum Warahmatulahi Wabarakatuhu
    Dearest Merium Apa,
    Mashaa Allah, SubhaanAllah Alhamdulillah TabaarakAllah. Such A Beautiful and Inspiring Article.
    I have Never Looked At Tawwakul This Deeply.
    May Allah The Allmighty Ever Merciful Grant you Complete Shifaah. Reward you and your Family Abundantly in This Duniyaah and The Everlasting Aakhirah with Aafiyat.
    Durood Shareef, Aameen♥️

  3. Avatar

    Fazila

    November 2, 2019 at 12:22 PM

    Assalamu alaikum.
    Mashallah such beautiful and inspiring article sister. Just what I needed right now in my life.
    Subhanallah Allah sends the answers we need in beautiful ways. This article gave me comfort and hope in this phase of life I am leaving now.
    May Allah reward you abundantly sister and remove all your difficulties and grant you complete shifa and the best of this life and the akhirah.

  4. Avatar

    Fritz

    November 2, 2019 at 4:17 PM

    Great article.

    Did you feel you used to have Tawakkul (it sounds like you did) but it seeped away?

  5. Avatar

    Layal

    November 2, 2019 at 4:26 PM

    Asalamalaikum,
    This article is leaving me speechless, because I relate to it. The panic attacks, the severe anxiety , the not knowing . may Allah(SWT) make it easy for us, keep us firm, protect us all from every harm ameen sending you the warmest hug and lots of love . Jazak Allah Khair

  6. Avatar

    AlKalaam

    November 6, 2019 at 1:30 PM

    Asalam a laikum wrwb Sr,
    Maa sha Allah , very well written article.
    I believe that like all fundamental concepts in ISLAM, Tawakkul just like IMAAN can either grow or diminish over a period of time. Whats amazing is the more you use ‘it’ the more ‘it’ grows. The degree/level of any concept will never be the same at different stages of life. Its always a curve, a varying curve!

    Striving and connecting yourself to ‘it’ to reach the maximum capacity at your current level/ stage of life would be the Ahsan.

    Allah knows best!

    Wsalaam

  7. Avatar

    Khadija

    November 18, 2019 at 9:13 AM

    Assalamu aleikum.
    Thank you very much for this article. It gives me hope and realised that i misunderstood Tawakkul.

  8. Avatar

    Ummabdurrahman

    November 15, 2020 at 12:02 PM

    Very helpful and inspiring article! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, feelings and developement, dear sister. May Allah bless you with tawakkul each day of your life and heal you.

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