Muhammad Ali, one of the world’s greatest boxers, sports personality; cultural icon and probably the most famous man on the planet will be acutely missed. May Allah (subhanahu wa taʿala) forgive his sins and raise him up among the righteous in Jannat-ul-Firdaus. Having followed his career since I was a little girl, staying up late with my dad to watch his fights on our black and white television, I have always been in awe of the courage and eloquence of this great man. What comes up again and again in his celebrated life is the concept of ‘Tawfeeq’.
Tawfeeq is the special acceptance and blessing of Allah (subhanahu wa taʿala) with which He enables us to achieve our aims. It is His special help for the true believers who truly want to do something only for His pleasure.[i]
Broadly speaking, the term ‘Tawfeeq’ means the God-given ability to carry an action through. We all possess certain skills and abilities which we are born with and others that are learned. However, the correct understanding is that Allah (subhanahu wa taʿala) provides the impetus, motivation and drive for us to be able to use our abilities. For example, it is one thing to have the ability to speak but quite another to give salaam to fellow Muslims (in my case Muslimahs).
When we recite ‘wa la hawla wa la quwata’ we are affirming the belief that everything that happens is from God and even if we have skills and knowledge, they are greatly restricted because they only come into play through our intention to do a task coupled with the ability Allah (subhanahu wa taʿala) gives us to carry the task through.
Muhammad Ali had a humble beginning in Louisville, Kentucky, and growing up in the era of segregation and racial tensions, it was unlikely that he would have achieved popularity and status with all factors stacked up against him. Like most of us, he made mistakes, but he matured and learned from them. Allah (subhanahu wa taʿala) granted him Tawfeeq to strive for the common good, to spread the message of this beautiful Deen. If his younger years were marked with physical strength, eloquence and determination, his later years were rich in spiritual strength, faith and commitment. He was able to give to the needy, to assure the sick and support civil rights movements throughout the world. It was not enough that he was wealthy, that he had the means or that he had contacts; what drove him on was the urge to do good and the fear of ending up in Hell. Once, when asked by a young boy what he would do after retirement, Muhammad Ali answered that he would get ready to meet God and do what he could to help others. He did not have a magical formula. He did not have supernatural powers. But what he did have was ‘Yaqeen’ – certainty of meeting Allah (subhanahu wa taʿala) and being accountable for his deeds and, in return, Allah (subhanahu wa taʿala) blessed him with Tawfeeq.
And as for those who strive in Our path — We will surely guide them in Our ways. And Indeed, Allah is with those who are of service to others.[ii]
If we make the right intention and develop Taqwa (God-consciousness);[iii] if we strive to remember and praise Allah (subhanahu wa taʿala) and fulfill our purpose in doing whatever we can to please Allah (subhanahu wa taʿala) and get closer to him; if we use our time and efforts wisely to look for opportunities to do good then, inshaAllah, Allah (subhanahu wa taʿala) will grant us barakah, have mercy on us and bless us with Tawfeeq. We are all capable of changing the world for the better. Sincerely pray to Allah (subhanahu wa taʿala) to give us the ability to make it happen.
[ii] Al Qur’an, 29:70