Allah also tells us: “Say: ‘Who gives you sustenance from the heavens and the Earth?’ Say: ‘It is Allah.’” [Sūrah Saba`: 24]
All sustenance is provided by Allah alone.
This does not contradict with the fact that we have to work for a living or that we see practical means for getting the things we need and want. The various causes and means that we observe in the world around us for acquiring our sustenance, they are all from Allah. It is Allah who imbues them with value and benefit. He is the one who provides food with the taste and nutrition it has, He is the one who invests goods with their useful qualities. He makes the worldly means of sustenance effective and easily attainable. As for our human efforts, Allah has made our strivings the vehicles by which He brings to us the sustenance He has ordained for us.
We must therefore rely on Allah who created us and created the means that we employ to earn our livelihoods. If Allah chooses to withhold His sustenance from us, then no one but Him has the power to provide for us.
Allah says: “Who is it that will give you sustenance if He should withhold His sustenance? Nay, but they are set in pride and frowardness.” [Sūrah al-Mulk: 21]
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to beseech his Lord with the supplication: “O Allah! There is no one to prevent what You choose to give, and no one to give what You choose to withhold. And no one’s efforts will avail them against Your will.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (844, 633) and Sahīh Muslim (477, 593)]
Our wealth and our worldly strivings do not bring us true benefit. Rather, it is our good deeds that benefit us. It is Allah who gives and who withholds and He manages all the world’s affairs, great and small. If Allah chooses to close a way for us, no one can open it. If he chooses to keep that way open for us, no one can place a hindrance in our path.
All the same, people should take practical steps to reach their goals. They should employ worldly means and work together with other people in productive ways. They should work hard and employ their minds to realize what they want to achieve. These worldly means are also part of what Allah provides for us. He puts them at our disposal and gives us the ability to benefit from them.
What matters is that we do not put our faith in these worldly means, but place our trust in Allah. We should always make an effort to strengthen our relationship with Allah in everything that we do by remaining conscious of the fact that Allah is our true provider, and that He is the true possessor of all things. Indeed, even our hearts and our minds belong to Him.
Consider how Allah provides for the fetus in the womb by way of the umbilical cord. Likewise, he provides for the snake in its den, the bird in its nest, and the fish in the sea. Consider how he provides for the crocodile which brings down large animals with its powerful jaws, and then think how He provides for the small bird which He enables to enter the crocodile’s mouth and pick food from between its teeth while the crocodile sits complacently. It is Allah who brings about this amazing relationship between the mighty crocodile and that fragile bird, and it is He who provides for the bird in this way.
There is a lesson in these things for all of us. Though we should work and take all the practical steps required to ear our livelihood, we should rest assured that our provisions are ordained for us. No one can begrudge us what Allah has decreed for us. No amount of worry can bring us what is not meant for us. Everything comes from Allah.