Reliance on God in the History of Early Islamic spirituality

Harith Bin Ramli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)


Sufism is often regarded as an otherworldly mystical tradition within Islam, single-mindedly devoted to the individual’s spiritual path to God. What both modern apologists and detractors of the Sufi tradition often overlook, however, is the tradition’s greater complexity throughout its history. In the formative period of Sufism itself, there are numerous instances of Sufis being associated with withdrawal from society, but alongside this, equally numerous cases of Sufis being at the forefront of social regeneration.
This paper revisits the classical Sufi debate over the comparative superiority of practicing absolute reliance on God (tawakkul) against working to earn a living: is it preferable to work to earn a living or to simply trust in God for one’s daily sustenance? By going over the different sources of the Qūt al-qulūb of Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī (d.386 A.H./996 C.E.), this paper will provide a summary sketch of its treatment of this debate in the formative period of Sufism, one that involved not only the early Sufis, but also scholars of law and tradition who were concerned with understanding the ideal life advocated by the Sharīʿa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31
Number of pages40
JournalReligion/Adyan: A Scholarly Pubication
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Islam
  • Religion
  • Work ethic
  • Sprituality
  • Sufism
  • Islamic Studies
  • Religous Studies


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