Islam teaches us to always put our full trust in Allah without ignoring taking whatever means or procedures necessary for gaining a certain thing. So, placing trust in Allah can never be detached from hard work and active striving.

Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada , states: A sound understanding of this concept is possible if we were to read the Qur’an carefully, while opening our hearts and minds to the deeper meanings of its verses.

The Qur’an teaches us that trust in Allah can never be detached from active striving. This is a fact stated in a number of verses; it has been further explained by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) through his many statements; even as it is amply illustrated by his own practices.

The verse you have cited, upon reflection, contains the answer to your question: Let me quote it fully first, (And it was by Allah’s grace that you [O Prophet] did deal gently with your followers: For if you had been harsh and hard of heart, they would indeed have broken away from you. Pardon them, then, and pray that they be forgiven. And consult them in all matters of public concern; then, when you have decided upon a course of action, place your trust in Allah: For, verily, Allah loves those who place their trust in Him.) (Aal `Imran 3:159)

As Imam Abu Ja`far At-Tabari, the doyen of mufassirin [Qur’an exegesis specialists], explains that in this verse Allah instructs the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and through him the faithful on how to conduct their affairs through consultation. This is especially crucial in all matters that have bearing on public interest or welfare. Thus, the Prophet is told to consult people on all issues — except of course on those on which he has been given specific divine mandate through the revelation. And he is also told that once he has consulted people on issues of public concern and interest, he should go ahead and implement or act upon the decision. Accordingly, while exerting his best in carrying out the decisions, he must always place his trust in Allah. Stated in other words, here there are three points to keep in mind, namely, a. consultation of people to formulate a decision or strategy; b. putting forth the best of efforts in following through the decisions thus arrived at; c. while doing so, place one’s whole trust in Allah.

If we follow through the above procedure, then we are reminded that we have a right to count on Allah’s help and blessing; if we do not, then we can only blame ourselves.

Thus, one can never separate true trust from action or striving. That the link between the two is inseparable is further explained by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in this beautiful tradition:

You should always aspire and expect what is positive and beneficial (or stated differently, we should set goals for ourselves that are at once positive and beneficial and put forth our best efforts in realizing them), and while doing so, seek the help of Allah and never feign helplessness. If, however, after having put forth your best efforts, you were to find yourself overwhelmed, then simply tell yourself, “It was God’s will (and therefore, it was never meant to be), and do not say, “I wish if I had done this or that;” for such (negative) thoughts will only open doors for the Devil (to play with your mind).

Islam, therefore, teaches us to link all of our mundane strivings with deep trust in Allah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) makes us aware of true nature of trust in Allah in the following tradition: “If you were to place your trust in Allah as you should, He will certainly provide for you even as He provides sustenance for birds; see how they fly out of their nests at dawn and return home satiated at dusk!” It goes without saying that birds do not get their prey while sleeping in their nests!

In conclusion, Islam stresses the invariable connection between hard work and trusting in Allah. Hence the Prophetic motto, “Tie your camel first and then place your trust in Allah.
May Allah open our hearts to internalize the lessons of the Qur’an and transform our lives accordingly, amen.