Reflection No. 298 on Q 11:6 – Sustenance for all

وَمَا مِنْ دَابَّةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا عَلَى اللَّهِ رِزْقُهَا
Wamā min dābbatin fil-ardhi illā ‘ala-llāhi rizquha
There is no moving creature on earth but that its sustenance lies with Allah
(Sūrat Hūd, No.11, Āyat 6)

The sustenance of all living things is on Allah, ‘’azza wa-jall(Mighty and Magnificient). In this verse Almighty Allah declares that He has provided sustenance for all creatures. Two words are significant in this verse. Dābbat refers to anything that moves along (even slowly) and requires energy to move. Such a creature needs a source for energy to keep moving. It applies to all creatures, from the living things deep down in the ocean to those underground in the soil and those walking above the earth. Rizq is the word used for continual and steady provision. It is interesting to note that rizq does not only refer to material goods such as food and water. It can also be spiritual sustenance. The Quran talks about those who die in the way of Allah as receiving rizqDo not suppose those who are slain in the way of Allah to be dead, rather they are living and given sustenance, with their Lord  (Q 3:169). It is obvious that this refers to the sustenance of the soul while in Barzakh. In various Du‘ās a we ask Allah for many types of rizq. In a common taught to us by Imam of the Time (af) we say: Allāhumma-rzuqnā tawfīqat-tā‘āhO Allah grant us the ability and willingness to obey You.

Two questions that come up when talking about rizq are:
1) Is rizq decreed? If it is then should the human being struggle for it? Should he not wait for what will come to him and be content with it?
2) If Allah promises rizq for every living being, why are there so many people dying of hunger around the world today? What happened to their sustenance?

To answer these questions, think of the following points;
– To think that sustenance is decreed and there is no need to struggle for it is a completely mistaken assumption that leads to apathy and laziness. It is the reason some accuse religion of drugging the masses and preventing positive growth and financial progress.  On the contrary Islam declares that man will only get what he strives for – and the human shall have naught but that for which he endeavored (Q 53:39). History shows us how the Divine leaders who led exemplary lives struggled hard for their sustenance, being shepherds, farmers, ironsmiths, weavers, etc. It is true that rizq has been decreed but it is conditional on work and effort. It is just like saying that lifespan has been decreed. It has, but with conditions. If the human being decides to harm himself then he will not remain alive.

– Rizq from Allah is available for all. For it to reach to the human being it goes through certain paths. These include the movement and effort from the human being himself, as well as the co-operative efforts of other members of society. All communities of living beings are interconnected and what one does has ripple effects on many others in this chain. Oppression and greed of humans, where half of the world’s wealth is under the control of 1% of the population, creates a serious imbalance in the system that has inevitable effects. Much of the provision provided by God is being consumed disproportionally. See, for e.g.,

– Human beings have a responsibility in acquiring rizq. Sometimes the responsibility is to themselves, sometimes it is to others in society. For society to function well, all members cannot be the same. Each will have a different role. When one member ignores his role, or trespasses beyond it, the whole system can collapse. The study of Ecology states that living things are dependent on nature and on each other for survival. The food cycle through which each living creature gets its sustenance is vulnerable to many factors.

Ponder over the following quote:

On this planet Earth, there exist 1.75 million scientifically identified living forms. If you include yet-to-be identified organisms, 30 million different forms of life are believed to exist (Annual Report, Environment and the Sound Material-Cycle Society in Japan, 2008). These figures include fungi and microorganisms, as well as animals and plants. Their lives and existence are interconnected with and dependent on each other. Human beings are part of this interconnection. However, this precarious balance of interconnection is falling apart, and the number of life forms going extinct is increasing at an alarming rate (

Rizq is provided for all. But hard work and co-operative effort is required to reach it. Recite this verse to remind yourself that we have a collective role to play. It is humans who have failed to share it appropriately.

Āyatullāh Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān;
Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh;