Wisdom of Autumn — ‘The Power of Powerlessness’

Disclaimer: The title is inspired by the lecture of Sh. Hamza Yusuf on “The Power of Powerlessness”.

The trees are turning. The leaves are falling. The wind is piercing.

Those leaves, without any resistance and resentment, just let the wind blow them away; that life should be about acceptance, comprehension, and understanding. It does not matter in what forms the acceptance, comprehension, and understanding come, either through agony, pain, trials, or hardship, it teaches us to be able to let go and go with the flow.

No, it does not mean that we are weak. Instead, it means we can see and read the situation we are in profoundly and thus react to it peacefully.

These life lessons are introduced in at least two teachings that I have started to learn including Chinese and Islamic philosophies.

Wu Wei (無爲) — Doing Nothing

The concept of life acceptance is well-described in a Chinese philosophy namely Daoism, Wu Wei. Dao is understood asThe Way’ in which its main teaching is Dao De Jing: ‘The Way never acts, but nothing is left undone’. Wu Wei itself refers to actionless or effortless action that teaches us to let go of our ideals and ego we have and we do not force them onto things so that we have the ability (deep concentration) to respond to what the situation truly wants. Wu Wei is indeed connected to nature that points out it is better to swim than to go against currents. The School of Life describes it as water that is ‘submissive and weak’ and ‘yet cannot be surpassed for attacking what is hard and strong’.

Tawakkul (تَوَكُّل) — Reliance on God

In relation to that, tawakkul has a somewhat similar basic idea to Daoist belief. In Islam, tawakkul means ‘trusting in God’s plan’. Nonetheless, it does not necessarily mean that we simply leave everything to God, our life is up to God, or God decides for us.

From the story of Prophet Moses (pbuh), tawakkul means leaving your baby in a basket and release him/her in the flow of a river.

From the story of Prophet Abraham (pbuh), tawakkul means pointing your sword to your son’s neck without blinking.

From the story of Prophet Jonah (pbuh), tawakkul means getting stuck in the belly of a whale but you still utter the words that please Allah.

From the story of Prophet Joseph (pbuh), tawakkul means being thrown into the well by your own siblings; and being thrown into the fire by your own father from the story of Prophet Abraham (pbuh), and yet still believe that Allah’s help is sufficient.

From the story of Prophet Noah (pbuh), tawakkal means that you witness your own son drowning because of his arrogance.

From the story of Prophet Job (pbuh), tawakkal means losing your wealth, health, and children, but your heart accepts it instead of despair.

From the story of Prophet Jesus (pbuh), tawakkal means knowing that people were after you to crucify you, and yet you know Allah protect and save you.

From the story of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), tawakkul means leaving your homeland without knowing what is going to happen while realizing your enemies are planning on killing you.

Tawakkul means fighting against all odds despite your weakness because Allah is your source of strength. Tawakkul means having a firm belief that every second of your life has been decreed by Allah. Tawakkul means leaving the rest to Allah after you have done everything you could. Tawakkul is manifested by saying “Insha Allah” that we ask permission to make things happen as we have planned because, without the help of Allah, we are not able to get it done.

Finally, these two conceptions capture the wisdom we may need at times we feel desperate, especially when we realize that we cannot always meet the demands of the world as it is. For me, I reflect on the lessons to let go, to go with the flow, to let things happen, to trust in The Bigger and Higher Power through the phenomenon of autumn. I call this Higher Power “Allah”; the Yin and the Yang, the source of good and bad, light and darkness, hidden but present, the neutrality, the balance, the center, the opposite without taking sides, the nothing yet everything.

life is short, so am i. dedicated as 3amal jariyaa.

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