How to be a Person with Tawfiq – Insights from Imam Sadiq

This Thaqlain Guide is created from Sheikh Muhammed al-Hilli’s lecture at Bustan e Zahra London (linked here) and is dedicated In memory of Karam Ali Bande Ali.

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Tawfiq: A Quranic concept

The concept of Tawfiq is one that is not very clear to most of us. We often say that we do not have enough Tawfiq, or we may ask Allah to bestow Tawfiq on us or others. But even though we use this word often, its meaning is not very well understood.

However, this concept – which has no counterpart in other religions – is found in the Holy Quran, and it has been enriched by the teachings of the Holy Prophet and his Ahlulbayt.

The word Tawfiq is mentioned in the Quran once with regard to the story of Prophet Shuayb and the Midianites. In hadith literature, we have ample narrations that talk about the concept of Tawfiq. Let us look at some of them:

Sayings of the Imams on Tawfiq

The Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali, has shed light on the importance of Tawfiq through his words. He says that “Tawfiq is mercy from Allah”. He considers the blessing of Tawfiq as one that surpasses all others and provides the ground for other blessings.

He says:
Tawfiq is the pinnacle of success” and that “Tawfiq is the foremost blessing.

Even knowledge, which is highly venerated in hadiths, loses its value when a person lacks Tawfiq. Imam Ali says:
Knowledge is useless if you don’t have Tawfiq from Allah.

It is narrated from Imam Ali al-Jawad, who said:

A believer needs three things in life:

  1. Tawfiq, in order to be able to move their tasks forward.
  2. An inside preacher, in order to advise at every moment.
  3. Acceptance of advice from critics and experts.”

All these hadiths point towards the crucial nature of Tawfiq. And if so much importance is attached to this concept, then one wonders why there is an air of ambiguity and confusion around it.

What is Tawfiq? Is it Success?

Though Tawfiq is often translated as success, it does not really have an equivalent word in the English language. However, there is no doubt that the idea of Tawfiq is closely associated with the idea of success.

More often than not, people equate worldly success with Tawfiq since wealthy people appear to have the means of attaining the goods and riches of life. But is it enough to have the means? The Quran has mentioned the example of Qaarun in this regard. He was the wealthiest man of his time, but due to his arrogance, he was swallowed by the earth along with everything that he had.

Qaarun’s wealth worked against him, and his means of success brought him to his destruction. Thus, one cannot equate means of success such as wealth, fame, knowledge, or power with Tawfiq.

On the other hand, what people may sometimes see as an absence of Tawfiq, in reality, might be Tawfiq working in disguise. It might be Allah facilitating things to keep His servant away from evil.

What Happens When You Don’t Have Tawfiq?

The opposite of Tawfiq is “Khizlaan”. It means getting abandoned by Allah. The Holy Quran mentions it in Surah Isra:

لا تَجعَل مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلٰهًا آخَرَ فَتَقعُدَ مَذمومًا مَخذولًا

“Do not set up another god besides Allah, or you will sit blameworthy, forsaken.”
[Quran 17:22]

إِن يَنصُركُمُ اللَّهُ فَلا غالِبَ لَكُم ۖ وَإِن يَخذُلكُم فَمَن ذَا الَّذي يَنصُرُكُم مِن بَعدِهِ ۗ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَليَتَوَكَّلِ المُؤمِنونَ

And in Surah Aal-Imran:
“If Allah helps you, no one can overcome you, but if He forsakes you, who will help you after Him? So in Allah let all the faithful put their trust.”
[Quran 3:160]

Khizlaan clarifies the meaning of Tawfiq further by highlighting the contrast between the two concepts. It can be inferred that a person with Tawfiq is not abandoned by Allah and receives His help in critical moments.

Tawfiq in the Holy Quran

Let us now see how Allah has presented the concept of Tawfiq In the Quran.

Allah mentions it in the context of Prophet Shuayb, whose community was distracted by materialism and resorted to deceptive means to multiply their wealth.

From a worldly perspective, his people were very successful. But there was something amiss in their success. Prophet Shuayb admonished them and said to them:

وَما تَوفيقي إِلّا بِاللَّهِ ۚ عَلَيهِ تَوَكَّلتُ وَإِلَيهِ أُنيبُ

Translation 1: “And my Tawfiq lies only with Allah: in Him, I have put my trust, and to Him, I turn penitently.”
[Quran 11:88]

Alternate Translation: “And with none, but Allah is the direction of my affair to a right issue; on Him do I rely on and to Him do I turn.”
[Quran 11:88]

Prophet Shuayb meant to tell his community that gaining wealth through unlawful means is not equivalent to success. He stressed that true success involves help from Allah, and it is granted to those who put their faith in Him alone.

How Does Tawfiq Work?

According to the scholars of the School of Ahlulbayt, Tawfiq is when the means provided to a person by Allah Almighty are facilitated for Khayr to take place; for goodness to materialise.

We can think of Tawfiq as a network of divine gates and pathways that allows things to happen in order for a human being to succeed and excel. Tawfiq belongs to the realm of the unseen and is, therefore, from Allah subahanahu wa ta’ala.

Imam Sadiq’s Insightful Explanation

Since Tawfiq is a divine phenomenon, we need divine guidance to demystify it. The sixth Imam invites us to think of Tawfiq as something much more profound. His description of Tawfiq seems very simple at first, but it conveys a deep understanding of how Tawfiq works.

He breaks down the concept by focusing on who has Tawfiq rather than what Tawfiq is.

Imam Jafar Sadiq says:

“If the servant does what Allah Almighty commands him of obedience, his act will be in accordance with the commandment of Allah Almighty and by it, a servant will be considered as “Muwaffaq” (being given success).”

Muwaffaq is a person who has Tawfiq. According to the Imam, obedience to Allah brings a person closer to the special grace of Allah. As the person walks on the path that pleases Allah, Allah’s special grace begins to work in favour of the person. How? Imam Jafar Sadiq explains further:

“And if the servant would want to enter into something of disobedience (then) Allah Almighty (comes) between him and the act of disobedience and (he) abandons it, his abandonment of it would be by being given success (Tawfiq) from Allah Almighty. And when He would depart from between him and the act of disobedience and not interfere between him and it, until he performs it, then He has abandoned him (Khizlan), and neither supported him nor given him success (Tawfiq).”

So, if a servant of God wants to commit sin, Allah makes it more difficult for him to commit that sin. Allah Almighty creates obstacles, and because of those obstacles, a person may give up or stay clear of that sin.

For example, a person may begin to feel drowsy right before he intends to watch a movie that has sinful or inappropriate content in it. Or for instance, an enraged person may be distracted by some news right before he plans on taking sinister revenge on someone.

Allah’s special grace, a.k.a. Tawfiq, works to prevent us from going astray and at other times, it may activate us to do good deeds. Those who make the conscious choice to walk in God’s path are held by Him when they begin to falter — and moved forward by Him as they start slowing down.

How to Get Tawfiq:

In light of the Quranic verse and the hadiths of the Imams of Ahlulbayt, it is clear that having Tawfiq is indeed the foremost blessing, as it eases the path of success for us. What can we do to increase our Tawfiq? Here are a few ways, as taught by the Holy Ahlulbayt, to attain the blessing of Tawfiq in our lives:

1.  Supplicate: Prophets and messengers have always asked for Tawfiq from Allah. Therefore, the first step towards attaining Tawfiq is to pray for it. Instead of asking for the thing or deed itself, one should ask for the Tawfiq from Allah regarding it.

2. Take Action: The next step is to act accordingly, as Imam Reza alaihis salaam has said:

Anyone who asks God for Tawfiq and does not put the effort afterwards is making a mockery of themselves.” So when Allah presents the way before us and instils goodness in our hearts, we must not let go of that opportunity.

3. Have Purity of Intention: We must perform every act purely for the sake of Allah and ensure that our actions are in accordance with His commands. Many a time, people confuse the wrath of Allah with His blessing.

For example, there are people who earn through unlawful means and are apparently doing very well. It is easy to think that their abundance indicates success from Allah. But we must remember that any growth or prosperity that comes from unlawful activities is an Azaab, not Tawfiq.

4. Serve Others: Allah loves those who love His servants. Paying attention towards the needs of others brings about Tawfiq. The idea is simple: If we desire ease in our life, we must strive to ease the difficulties of others.

  • Imam Jafar Sadiq has said:
    “Allah has reserved a special place in Jannah for anyone who fulfils the needs of others.”

5. Do Not Neglect Prayers: The sixth Imam has also attested to the relationship between prayers and Tawfiq. He says, “Salah in its time brings about Tawfiq”. The more we invest in our prayers, the more we see their reflection in our day-to-day life.

  • The Night Prayer is especially beneficial in this regard, as Imam Sadiq has said: “Salatul Layl brings about Tawfiq.

6. Love the Prophet and His Ahlulbayt: The Prophet and the Imams of Ahlulbayt have always emphasised the significance of their Wilayah. It is one of the biggest privileges that the followers of Ahlulbayt are endowed with. For it is like an amulet that protects us from being abandoned by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, and on a spiritual level, it guides our hearts towards the divine light.

Final Thoughts

Tawfiq is one of those topics that needs to be explored in more depth. Imam Sadiq’s explanation has some great points to ponder in this regard.

Tawfiq, though intangible, has a substantial impact on people’s lives. Maybe it is best understood by those who possess it: People who develop a divine sense that makes sins appear repulsive to them, while good deeds attract and please them.

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