Submitted by on Mon, 25/08/2008 - 17:16
Dear Brother / Sister,
THE MEANING OF DESTINY AND DECREE
There is nothing of which its treasuries are not with Us, and We send not down anything but in a known (pre-determined) measure.
And all things We have kept in a Manifest Record.
The Arabic word translated as “destiny” is qadar. In its derivations, this word also means “determination,” “giving a certain measure and shape,” “dividing,” and “judging.” Muslim scholars of Islam define it as “Divine measure,” “determination,” and “judgment in the creation of things.”
Before discussing Divine Decree and Destiny further, we will provide the translation of some relevant verses:
With Him are the keys of the Unseen. None but He knows them. He knows what is in the land and the sea. Not a leaf falls but He knows it, not a grain amid the darkness of the soil, naught of wet or dry but it is in a “Kitabun Mubin” (Manifest Book). (6:59)
There is nothing hidden in the heaven or the Earth but it is in a Manifest Book. (27:75)
It is We Who bring the dead to life. We record what they send (of their lives and conduct to the Hereafter) and what is left of them. All things we have kept in a “Imamun Mubin” (Manifest Record). (36:12)
They ask: “When (will) this promise (be fulfilled), if you are truthful?” Say: “The knowledge is with God only, and I am but a plain warner.” (67:25-6)
Nay, but it is a glorious Quran. On a “Lawhun Mahfuz” (Preserved Tablet). (85:21-2)
In one sense, Decree and Destiny mean the same thing. In another sense, however, Destiny means to predetermine or preordain, while Decree means to execute or put into effect. To be more precise, Destiny means that everything that exists, from subatomic particles to the universe as a whole, is known by God Almighty. His Knowledge includes all space and time, while He Himself is absolutely free both of them. Everything exists in His Knowledge, and He assigns to each a certain shape, life span, function or mission, and certain characteristics.
Consider the following analogy: Authors have full and exact knowledge of the book they will write, and arrange its chapters, sections, paragraphs, sentences, and words before writing it. In this sense, Destiny is almost identical with Divine Knowledge, or is a title of Divine Knowledge. It is therefore also called the “Supreme Preserved Tablet” (or the “Manifest Record”). Destiny also means that God makes everything according to a certain, particular measure and in exact balance:
God knows what every female bears and what the wombs absorb and what they grow. And everything with Him is measured. (13:8)
The sun and the moon are made punctual according to a calculation. The stars and the trees adore, in subservience to Him. And the sky He has uplifted; and He has set the balance, that you exceed not the balance, but observe the balance strictly, nor fall short thereof. (55:5-9)
The universe’s exact measure and balance, order and harmony, as well as that of all it contains, clearly show that everything is determined and measured, created and governed by God Almighty. Therefore, Divine Destiny exists. Such assertions as determinism, which is upheld by many people and even some Marxists, to explain such an obvious universal order and operation are tacit admissions of Destiny. But we have to clarify one point here: According to Islam, absolute determinism cannot be used in the context of human action.
All seeds, measured and proportioned forms, and the universe’s extraordinary order and harmony, which has continued for billions of years without any interruption or deviation, demonstrates that everything occurs according to God Almighty’s absolute determination. Each seed or ovum is like a case formed by Divine Power into which Divine Destiny inserts the future life-history of a plant or a living being. Divine Power employs atoms or particles, according to the measure established by Divine Destiny, to transform each seed into a specific plant, and each fertilized ovum into a specific living being. This means that the future life-history of these entities, as well as the principles governing their lives, are prerecorded in the seed or the fertilized ovum as determining factors and processes.
Plants and living beings are formed from the same basic materials. However, there is an almost infinite variety between species and individuals. Plants and living beings grow from the same constituent basic elements, and display great harmony and proportion. And yet there is such abundant diversity that we are forced to conclude that each entity receives a specific form and measure. This specific form and measure is established by Divine Destiny.
WHY IS DESTINY INCLUDED IN THE ESSENTIALS OF BELIEF?
Destiny and man’s free will, which marks the farthest point of perfection of one’s belief and submission, is something related to the inner experience and spiritual state of a believer, so it is not something indicated by science or theory. Man has free will, and is enjoined to follow the religious obligations. He cannot by any means ascribe his sins to God. Divine Destiny exists so that the believer does not grow proud of his good acts by ascribing them to himself. Man has free will so that the rebellious carnal self does not rid itself of the consequences of its sins by ascribing them to Destiny, and the pious person conceitedly ascribe his good acts to himself alone.
While it may be admissible for people to relate some misfortunes to Divine Destiny, so as not to be driven to despair in the face of calamities, no one can be absolved from his sins and exempt from his obligations by attributing everything to Destiny. So, belief in Destiny has been included among the principles of faith to preserve man from self-conceit, and man’s free will is recognized as the ground of his sins.
Man is completely responsible for his sins, because it is he himself who wills to commit them, and then does so. Sins are the cause of much disorder and destruction, so they may merit a terrible punishment-to cite an example, a house can easily be burnt to the ground just by the striking of a match. On the other hand, man has no right to boast about his good acts since, in reality, he has little share in them. It is the Divine Compassion which demands good acts and the Power of the Lord which creates them. God guides man to good acts and makes him succeed in willing and doing them, so the cause of a man’s good acts is the Divine Will. A man can possess and own them by means of faith and by praying to God to be able to deserve them, consciously believing in the necessity of performing them and being pleased with what God has ordained for him. It is man himself, on the other hand, who causes sins either through capacity and disposition or through choice and preference, just as the pure bright sunlight can cause some substances which are subject to decomposition to go bad and putrefy.
Man wills and commits sins, but it is God Who creates all his acts whether they are good or bad. God creates a sinful act as a requirement of a law He established for the life of man and the universe for many good purposes. Although man derives much benefit from rain, a person who has suffered some harm because of it cannot say that rain does not contain God’s grace for man. It is on account of this subtle reality that willing and committing evil deeds is evil but creating them is not. Although there may be an evil in creating evil deeds on the part of man, creation is absolutely good by its very nature and contains many instances of good for the general operation and life of the universe as well as for the one who wills and commits that evil. Ugliness in a man’s acts lies in his will and potential, not in God’s creating it.
As Divine Destiny is absolutely free from evil and ugliness in relation to results, it is also exempt from injustice on account of the causes. Divine Destiny always takes into consideration the primary cause, not the apparent secondary cause, and always does justice. Men, on the other hand, judge according to the apparent causes and draw the wrong conclusions. To cite an example, a court may condemn a person to imprisonment on a charge of theft, and do injustice because he has not committed any such crime-however, Divine Destiny actually passes this judgment on account of the murder which that person committed but which remained secret. Thus, while the court has done injustice by condemning him on a charge of which he is innocent, Divine Destiny has done justice by punishing him for a crime which remained unknown. It can be concluded from this example that God is absolutely just in all His acts, whilst man is liable to do injustice. Divine Destiny and Creation is absolutely free from evil and ugliness at the beginning and at the end of events, and on account of cause and results.
If man has only a nominal share in his acts because his free will does not possess creative ability, why do we read in the holy Quran that the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth takes man’s rebellion so seriously?
Unbelief, rebellion and sinfulness mean destruction, and complete destruction can result from an act of disobedience of a most nominal weight. Just as a vessel may sink due to the helmsman’s negligence, whilst the efforts of the whole crew can achieve nothing to save it. A man’s free will can cause great depredations as a result of unbelief and sinfulness, no matter how insignificant a share it actually has in the performance of acts. Unbelief is so great a sin by its nature that it reduces the whole universe to something of no value, and contradicts the witnessing to the Oneness of God by the whole of creation, and denies the manifestations of the Divine Names. It is, therefore, entirely proper that God should take unbelief so seriously and threaten unbelievers so severely in the name of the whole of creation and the Divine Names, and it is absolutely just to condemn them to the eternal torment of Hell. Since rebellious men cause vast corruption through unbelief and sinfulness, the believers are in great need of God’s succor against them. A mischievous boy can set a whole house on fire although it is guarded by ten strong men, and those guards may need to apply to the parents of that boy to prevent him from committing such a crime. So too do believers need the help of God against rebellious and sinful men.
In short: It is permissible for the believer to speak of Divine Destiny and man’s free will, when his faith is perfect and when he is mature enough to perceive that all creation including himself is at God’s disposal. He assumes his responsibilities because he has free will and glorifies God by proclaiming Him to be free of any involvement with his own sins. He never forgets that he is a servant of God, and accordingly tries to follow all the Divine Commandments. On the other hand, he remains thankful to God by ascribing to Divine Destiny any good acts he has been able to achieve, and never boasts of them. Also he finds the strength to bear all his misfortunes by discerning in them the role of Destiny.
However, it is not proper for anyone who neglects the Divine Commandments to argue about Divine Destiny and man’s free will, since his defective thinking will lead him to ascribe the whole of creation to causes and ignore God completely. He appropriates all his skills and good deeds, regarding them to have originated directly with himself, and attributes his defects and failures to Destiny. This view means the reduction of Divine Destiny and free will to a senseless trick played upon man by his own commanding self (nafs ammara) to mislead him to the point where he disregards and denies his religious duties.
Questions on Islam
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- Is committing suicide present in the destiny of a person?
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- THE BASIC CONCEPTS OF ISLAM
- Can you explain the role of “khalifah” (vicegerent) attributed to man by the Quran from an ecological point of view?
- SCIENCE, RELIGION AND BELIEF SYSTEMS
- Sealing of Hearts and Qadar (Destiny)