A Short Commentary on the Hawqalah
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Lā hawla wa lā quwwata illā billāh is abbreviated as hawqalah. Abbreviations are produced by taking a few letters from the original phrase to form a single word. Other abbreviations of Islāmic phrases include basmalah (bismillāhir-Rahmānir-Rahīm) and hamdalah (alhamdullillāhi Rabbil-‘ālamīn).
The Arabic word hawl is commonly translated as power. However, the Arabic root for hawl denotes meanings of movement and change. The word quwwah, on the other hand, is more in line with power as it denotes meanings of strength.
The following meanings and associations will provide a clearer idea of what the hawqalah entails:
- لَا (No, neither)
- حَوْلَ (Initiation, movement, progress, change, transformation)
- وَ (And)
- لَا (No, neither)
- قُوَّةَ (Energy, strength, stamina, capability, power)
- إِلَّا (Except)
- بِ (With, by, through, by means of, by cause of)
- اللَّهِ (Allāh)
The hawqalah appeals for Allāh’s support with the objective of realising a goal and entails moving from one state to another positive or better state: from sin to obedience, from sickness to health, from weakness to strength, from bad to good and from good to better. It is the opposite of regression.
Subsequently, the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam taught us say it during the adhān (call to prayer): ‘Hayya ‘alas-salāh’ (hasten to the prayer) and ‘Hayya ‘alal-falāh’ (hasten to the success) i.e. moving from a point of non-prayer to prayer.
Elsewhere, the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam taught us to say when exiting our homes, “In the Name of Allāh, I have placed my trust in Allāh, lā hawla wa lā quwwata illā billāh.” He continued, “Then it will be said to him: You have been sufficed, protected and guided, and shaytān will be kept away from him. So another shaytān will say: what can you do to a man that has been guided, sufficed, and protected?” [Abū Dāwūd, Tirmidhī]
For the purposes of communicating a fuller meaning of the hawqalah, this author suggests the following explanatory translation, ‘The move towards progress or transformation cannot be initiated (hawl) nor can the ability (means) required to realise that progress be acquired (quwwah) except by Allāh’s support.’
In closing, the hawqalah is a statement of worship and a statement for seeking assistance. It demonstrates the person’s (1) intent on progress (acquiring benefit or repelling harm), and his readiness to commit to action whilst (2) recognising Allāh’s causal and accommodating role.
والحمد لله رب العالمين
وصلى الله وسلم على نبينا محمد