Source: ibnothaimeen.com Hadith #79
‘Umar said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, ‘If you were to rely on Allah as He should be relied on, He would provide for you as He provides for the birds. They go out early in the morning hungry and return in the evening full.’” – Narrated by at-Tirmidhi and he said, “Hadith Hassan.”
((If you were to rely on Allah as He should be relied on)) meaning: [with a] true/genuine reliance on Allah, the Great and Almighty, [and with] a complete trust [in Him] with regards to seeking your sustenance and other things. ((He would provide for you as He provides for the birds)) The sustenance of the birds is on Allah because the birds do not have an owner, hence, they fly [wherever they please] in the air. They leave early in the morning from their nests to obtain the sustenance of Allah. ((They go out early in the morning hungry)) There is nothing in their stomachs when they go out during the early part of the day but they depend on their Lord Almighty ((and return)) meaning they return in the later part of the day ((full)) meaning with filled stomachs from the sustenance of Allah.
And in this are evident a number of issues:
Firstly, a person should depend on Allah, may He be Exalted, with a true reliance.
Secondly, there is no creature on the face of the earth except that upon Allah is its sustenance even the birds in the sky. There is nothing that holds them up in the air except Allah and nothing sustains them except Allah Almighty. Every creature on the earth from the smallest, like a small ant, to the biggest, like an elephant, upon Allah is their sustenance. As Allah Says [in the Qur’an 11:6]: And there is no creature on earth but that upon Allah is its provision, and He knows its place of dwelling and place of storage. And he has clearly gone astray who thinks ill of his Lord. Hence, [you find such a person] saying, “Do not increase the number of your children [else the] provisions [will] constrict upon you!” They lie and I swear by the Lord of the Throne, if they increase the number of their children, Allah will increase their provisions because there is no creature on the earth except that upon Allah is its sustenance. The provision of your children and babies is upon Allah who opens for you the doors of sustenance in order that you may spend on them. But many people think ill of Allah and rely on visibly materialistic means and they do not look towards the wide-range [of things] and to the Power of Allah Almighty and the [fact] that He is the One who provides even if the number of children increase. Increase in children [leads to] an increase in your sustenance and this is [what is] correct.
And in this [hadith] is also evidence that when a person relies on Allah in a true sense, he takes on the means [that lead to the result]. The one who says, “I do not take the means because I am depending on Allah,” has gone astray and this is not correct. The one truly dependant on Allah is he who takes the means necessary [while] relying on Allah Almighty [simultaneously]. And for this reason the Prophet (pbuh) said ((He would provide for you as He provides for the birds. They go out early in the morning hungry)) because they go out to seek the provision of Allah and do not remain in their nests. Hence, you must take the necessary means which Allah has legislated for you to seek sustenance from a permissible source, such as, agriculture or business or any other profession [provided it is halal] that provides a means of sustenance. Seek the sustenance [while] depending on Allah [and] He will make it easy for you.
And from the benefits of this hadith is [it shows] that the birds and other creations of Allah know Him. As Allah Says [in the Qur’an 17:44]: The seven heavens and the earth and whatever is in them exalt Him. And there is not a thing except that it exalts [Allah] by His praise, but you do not understand their [way of] exalting. And in [Qur’an 22:18]: Do you not see that to Allah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth and the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the moving creatures and many of the people? But upon many the punishment has been justified. And he whom Allah humiliates – for him there is no bestower of honor. Indeed, Allah does what He wills. So, the birds know their Creator Almighty and they fly to seek the sustenance by what Allah fashioned in them of fitrah [natural disposition] which guides them to their benefit. They go out early in the morning from their nests [and return] end of the day with their stomachs full. They do this every single day and Allah Almighty provides them and makes the provision easy for them. And look towards the Wisdom of Allah [by noting that] how these birds go out early in the morning to far away places and [then] are guided to return to their [proper] places without erring. [This is] because Allah Almighty gave everything its creation [and] then guided it.