Allah says in His Book when He is informing us about Ya’qub‘s advice to his sons upon sending them back to Egypt, and his efforts to take precautions for their well-being and safety:
وَقَالَ يَا بَنِيَّ لَا تَدْخُلُوا مِن بَابٍ وَاحِدٍ وَادْخُلُوا مِنْ أَبْوَابٍ مُّتَفَرِّقَةٍ ۖ وَمَا أُغْنِي عَنكُم مِّنَ اللَّـهِ مِن شَيْءٍ ۖ إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّـهِ ۖ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ ۖ وَعَلَيْهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ
And [Ya’qub (Jacob)] said: “O my sons! Do not enter by one gate, but enter by different gates, and I cannot avail you against Allah at all. Verily! The decision rests only with Allah. In him, I put my trust and let all those that trust, put their trust in Him.” [12:67]
Imam al-Sa’di, in his tafsir, writes about this ayah, starting from ,”and I cannot avail you against Allah at all…”:
(وَ) إلا فـ (مَا أُغْنِي عَنْكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ) فالمقدر لا بد أن يكون، (إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّهِ) أي: القضاء قضاؤه، والأمر أمره، فما قضاه وحكم به لا بد أن يقع، (عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ) أي: اعتمدت على الله، لا على ما وصيتكم به من السبب، (وَعَلَيْهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ) فإن بالتوكل يحصل كل مطلوب، ويندفع كل مرهوب.
Allah says “and” – instead of ‘so’ – “I cannot avail you against Allah at all” for what is decreed must occur. “Verily! The decision rests only with Allah” – meaning the preordination is His preordination, and the command is His command, so His preordainment and ruling must happen. “In him, I put my trust” – meaning, I rely and depend upon Allah, and not upon what I sincerely advise you of the means to achieve your objective. “And let all those that trust, put their trust in Him” for with tawakkal, one achieves every objective, and drives away every fear.
[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman]
Imam al-Baghawi said about this ayah:
ثم قال: (وَمَا أُغْنِي عَنْكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ) معناه: إن كان الله قضى فيكم قضاء فيصيبكم مجتمعين كنتم أو متفرقين، فإن المقدور كائن والحذر لا ينفع من القدر، (إِنِ الْحُكْمُ) ما الحكم، (إِلا لِلَّهِ) هذا تفويض يعقوب أموره إلى الله، (عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ) اعتمدت، (وَعَلَيْهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ).
Then Allah said, “and I cannot avail you against Allah at all“. The meaning of this is: If Allah preordained for you a preordainment, then you will be afflicted with it whether you are all together or separated, for the decree must occur and caution cannot benefit one against the Divine Decree. “Verily! The decision” – what Allah has ruled – “rests only with Allah” – this is Ya’qub‘s entrusting and consignment of his affairs to Allah (al-tafweedh). “In him, I put my trust” – meaning rely and depend upon – “and let all those that trust, put their trust in Him“.
[Ma’alim al-Tanzil (Tafsir al-Baghawi)]
Allah continues the story of Ya’qub and his sons in the next ayah, saying:
وَلَمَّا دَخَلُوا مِنْ حَيْثُ أَمَرَهُمْ أَبُوهُم مَّا كَانَ يُغْنِي عَنْهُم مِّنَ اللَّـهِ مِن شَيْءٍ إِلَّا حَاجَةً فِي نَفْسِ يَعْقُوبَ قَضَاهَا ۚ وَإِنَّهُ لَذُو عِلْمٍ لِّمَا عَلَّمْنَاهُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
“And when they entered from where their father had ordered them, it did not avail them against Allah at all except [it was] a need within the soul of Ya’qub, which he satisfied. And indeed, he was a possessor of knowledge because of what We had taught him, but most of the people do not know.” [12:68]
Imam al-Baghawi writes:
ـ (مَا كَانَ يُغْنِي) يدفع (عَنْهُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ) صَدَق اللهُ تعالى يعقوبَ فيما قال، (إِلا حَاجَةً) مراداً، (فِي نَفْسِ يَعْقُوبَ قَضَاهَا) أشفق عليهم إشفاق الآباء على أبنائهم وجرى الأمر عليه، (وَإِنَّهُ) يعني: يعقوب عليه السلام، (لَذُو عِلْمٍ) يعني: كان يعمل ما يعمل عن علم لا عن جهل، (لِمَا عَلَّمْنَاهُ) أي: لتعليمنا إياه. وقيل: إنه لعامل بما علم.
قال سفيان: من لا يعمل بما يعلم لا يكون عالما. وقيل: وإنه لذو حفظ لما علَّمناه. ـ
ـ (وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لا يَعْلَمُونَ) ما يعلم يعقوب لأنهم لم يسلكوا طريق إصابة العلم. وقال ابن عباس: لا يعلم المشركون ما ألهم الله أولياءه.
“It did not avail them” – meaning it did not profit them – “against Allah at all” – and Allah spoke truthfully when He said about Ya’qub – “except a need” – an intention – “within the sould of Ya’qub, which he satisfied” – a concern for them which is the care and compassion of a father for his sons and that was his state. “And indeed he” – meaning Ya’qub (‘alaihis salaam) – “was a possessor of knowledge” – meaning he did what he did based on knowledge and not based on ignorance – “because of what We had taught him” – meaning, because of our teaching which was specific to him. And it is said, “because he acted according to knowledge.”
And Sufyan [al-Thawri] said, “He who does not act according to what he knows is not an ‘aalim.” And it is said, “Because he preserved what We had taught him.”
“But most of the people do not know” what Ya’qub knew because they did not traverse the trials of the path of knowledge. And Ibn ‘Abbaas said, “the muskrikoon do not know what Allah has inspired to his awliya’“
[Ma’alim al-Tanzil (Tafsir al-Baghawi) 4/259-260]
And Imam al-Shawkani wrote about this:
(وَلَمَّا دَخَلُواْ مِنْ حَيْثُ أَمَرَهُمْ أَبُوهُم) أي: من الأبواب المتفرقة ولم يجتمعوا داخلين من باب واحد. وجواب لما (مَّا كَانَ يُغْنِى عَنْهُمْ) ذلك الدخول (مِنَ الله) أي: من جهته (مِن شَئ) من الأشياء مما قدّره الله عليهم لأن الحذر لا يدفع القدر، والاستثناء بقوله: (إِلاَّ حَاجَةً فِى نَفْسِ يَعْقُوبَ قَضَاهَا) منقطع، والمعنى: ولكن حاجة كانت في نفس يعقوب، وهي شفقته عليهم، ومحبته لسلامتهم، قضاها يعقوب، أي: أظهرها لهم، ووصاهم بها غير معتقد أن للتدبير الذي دبره لهم تأثيراً في دفع ما قضاه الله عليهم. وقيل: إنه خطر ببال يعقوب أن الملك إذا رآهم مجتمعين مع ما يظهر فيهم من كمال الخلقة، وسيما الشجاعة أوقع بهم حسداً وحقداً أو خوفاً منهم، فأمرهم بالتفرّق لهذه العلة.
“And when they entered from where their father had ordered them” – meaning through different gates and not to enter all together through one gate. And the outcome of that was “it did not avail them” – entering in that way – “against Allah” – meaning against His authority – “at all” of anything against what Allah had decreed for them, for caution does not repel qadr. And the exception is His statement, “except a need within the soul of Ya’qub, which he satisfied” – meaning that although the need was in the soul of Ya’cub, and he was concerned for them, and loved for them to remain safe, Ya’qub did that, meaning that he expressed that to them, and advised them with that without believing that the measures which he took for them would result in repelling what Allah had preordained for them. And it is said, “the risk in the mind of Ya’cub was that if the king saw them all together with what they exhibited of exquisite appearances, especially in valor, then he would be afflicted with envy and hatred or fear of them, so he ordered them to separate for this reason.”
And Imam al-Shawkani went on to write:
(وَإِنَّهُ لَذُو عِلْمٍ لّمَا عَلَّمْنَاهُ) أي: وإن يعقوب لصاحب علم لأجل تعليم الله إياه بما أوحاه الله من أن الحذر لا يدفع القدر، وأن ما قضاه الله سبحانه فهو كائن لا محالة. (ولكن أَكْثَرَ الناس لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ) بذلك كما ينبغي. وقيل: لا يعلمون أن الحذر مندوب إليه، وإن كان لا يغني من القدر شيئاً، والسياق يدفعه. وقيل: المراد بأكثر الناس المشركون.
“And indeed, he was a possessor of knowledge because of what We had taught him” – meaning that Ya’qub was a possessor of knowledge due to the teaching which Allah had specifically given him from what Allah had inspired to him that caution does not repel qadr, and that whatever Allah the Exalted has preordained will happen without any doubt. “But most of the people do not know” that to the extent that they should. And it is said, “they do not know that caution is regrettable for them, and that it cannot avail one anything against Allah’s decree (qadr), nor repel it.” And it is said that “it means that most of the people are polytheists”.
For more on the merits of Ya’qub (alaihis salaam), see also:
I will seek forgiveness for you from my Lord: Tafsir al-Qurtubi
“I complain of my grief and sorrow only to Allah”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi
See also: “And whoever places their reliance upon Allah, then He is sufficient for him”: Ibn Hajr
See also: The supplication is granted so long as one does not show impatience: Ibn Hajr
See also: The Qur’anic Ayaat on Love – Part 2: Those whom Allah Loves