Quranic Reflection No 595. Āyāt 11:88 – The Reality of Tawfīq

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وَمَا تَوْفِيقِي إِلَّا بِاللَّهِ ۚ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَإِلَيْهِ أُنِيبُ

Wamā tawfīqī illā billāhi, ‘alayhi tawakkaltu wa-ilayhi unīb

My success is not but through Allah. Upon him I have relied, and to Him I return

(Sūrat Hud, No 11, Āyat 88)

This verse is part of a conversation of Prophet Shu‘ayb ‘alayhis-salām with his people. He tells his people how he only wishes to do good for them and to reform them. Then he tells them that whatever success he has in his mission is only from Allah ‘azza wajall. Prophet Shu‘ayb, through these words, tells us of how sincerely tawhīd is embedded in his inner self. Whatever he can do is from Allah. This is a sentence declared by believers when they achieve something. They know that the success has been given to them by Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā. It shows their humility, gratitude, and creates an eagerness to use the success given in His way.

The word Tawfīq is from the three letters ‘wa’, ‘fa’, and ‘qāf’ which refers to harmony and suitability between two things. In Islamic terminology it refers to success in the actions of a servant that bring about the pleasure of Allah (swt). It comes only from Allah and is part of His grace to His servants. The guidance a person receives to get nearer to Allah, the falling into place of certain things to enable the performance of a good deed, and even the obstacles that bar a person from a sin, are all part of tawfīq from Allah.

Every believer needs tawfīq to advance in the journey towards Allah. Imam Muhammad al-Jawād (a) says: A believer needs tawfīq from Allah, an advisor from within himself, and an acceptance of one who advises him (Tuhafal ‘Uqūl, p 457). Many supplications ask for tawfīq from Allah. But it is important to note that tawfīq is only granted to those who deserve it. When believers have a sincere intention to please Allah, and work hard to do that, Allah gives them a special grace to fulfill what they have set out to do. Imam al-Ridhā (a) says: Whoever asks Allah for tawfīq and does not work hard for it has mocked himself (Mīzān al-Hikmah, v 2, p 862)

Factors that keep away tawfīq include committing sins, heedlessness, participating in gatherings of sin, etc. In Du‘ā Abū Hamza Thumālī Imam Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a) talks about how this keeps away assistance from Allah. He says: O my Master . . . perhaps You have noticed that I belittled the duties that You have made incumbent upon me, and You thus set me aside . . . Or perhaps You have seen me among the heedless ones and thus You have made me despair of Your mercy, or perhaps You have found me attending the sessions of the wrongdoers and thus You have left me to them!

Tawfīq plays an important role in the success of a believer. The above verse is an oft-repeated declaration by true believers as an acknowledgement that what they have achieved is only through the help of Allah. Many scholars use it in the beginning of their works to convey their humility and acknowledgement that they were able to do it because of help from Allah.