Tawakal in Healthcare

Tawakal alone is not enough

Tawakal is a very important concept in Islam. It is considered a fundamental
conviction in the life of a Muslim.

According to Syaikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz, tawakal has two aspects:

1. The absolute reliance unto Allah in the pursuit of acquiring that which benefits and avoiding that which harms in this life and the hereafter, and leaving these issues to Allah with the true belief that no one gives, withholds, harms or benefits except Allah Most High.

2. Acting and striving to achieve the objectives. One of the salaf said: “Whoever criticizes action and work for the sake of earning has criticized the sunnah and whoever criticizes reliance on Allah has criticized belief.

Reliance on Allah was the custom of the Prophet,while working and earning was his sunnah. So whoever aspires to reach his custom, let him not neglect his sunnah.”

One example from the hadith:

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنَ مَالِكٍ يَقُولُ قَالَ رَجُلٌ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَعْقِلُهَا وَأَتَوَكَّلُ أَوْ أُطْلِقُهَا وَأَتَوَكَّلُ قَالَ اعْقِلْهَا وَتَوَكَّلْ

Narrated by Anas bin Malik when an Arab Bedouin asked Prophet Muhammad (SAW), “Shall I leave my camel untied and seek Allah’s protection or should I tie it?” The Prophet (SAW) replied, “Tie your camel and then rely upon Allah.” (Sunan Al Tarmizi)

The most common misunderstanding is to accept only one extreme aspect of tawakal. For example, in seeking treatment, one may think that since Allah has given him the disease, he has to fully accept the fate without seeking treatment.

The other extreme position is to rely absolutely on the treatment alone and dismiss the role of Allah as Healer. A person relying solely on medications and doctor’s advice may feel disappointed and depressed if the medications do not work.

On the other hand, if the medications worked, he might say, “I could have died if not for the doctor”. Both these trends of thoughts and action are not in harmony with Islam’s concept of tawakal.

The Prophet (pbuh) said: “If you hear that a land has been stricken by plague, do not approach it, and if your land is stricken by plague, do not leave it”. [Sahîh al-Bukhari]

These early concepts of disease, outbreaks and transmissibility of infections were well elucidated in this hadith. Believers were prevented from approaching a plague-stricken region to prevent the inevitable outcome of acquiring the infection. Counselling them not to leave their region, an early concept of quarantine, is also to prevent another anticipated outcome, which is the further spread of the infection.

“Believers were prevented from approaching a plague-stricken region to prevent the inevitable outcome of acquiring the infection.”

Prevention is mentioned explicitly and repeatedly in the Quran. It refers to taking preventive actions or steps against harm such as avoiding hell-fire, avoiding punishment, not approaching fornication, keeping away from evil, greed or bad characters. It is one of Allah’s laws in the universe (sunan fi al-kawn).

In relation to medicine, diseases and its devastating consequences could be prevented before its occurrence. It does not involve knowing the future or the unseen, or even reversing the predestined.

Immunisation prevents viral and bacterial infections which may otherwise lead to sickness, disability and deaths. Therefore it is considered a preventive act that is permissible in Islam.

The allegations that immunisation is against the concept of tawakal and that our immune system is a gift from Allah, (therefore immunisation is mistrusting the natural immunity of our body) is evidently misleading and erroneous.