Are disasters misfortunes or tests?

The Details of the Question

- How can we define what misfortune really is?
- If any disaster befalls a person, is it his misfortune or a test?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Material disasters are not disasters in terms of reality. The real disaster is the spiritual disasters, which are our sins.

Therefore, it is never permissible to attribute sins to destiny. It is Allah who creates, but it is our soul that wants it.

“All things, good and evil, are all from Allah.” (an-Nisa, 4/78) It is stated in the verse that it is Allah who creates both good and evil. The principle of Ahl as-Sunnah “Allah is the creator of both good and evil” is like an explanation of such verses.

“Whatever good, (O man!) happens to thee, is from Allah. but whatever evil happens to thee, is from thy (own) soul...” (see an-Nisa, 4/ 79)

In the verse above, attention is drawn to the point that is related not to Allah’s creation, but to the partial will of people.

Material disasters either atone for our sins, prevent further troubles and calamities in the future, or are a means to make us attain higher positions in our eternal life. Therefore, every disaster is both a blessing and a great test for us.

After this brief information, we will explain the issue of luck and fortune:

Luck or fortune is a term used to mean the life program drawn by the divine will for people.

Deep-rooted belief and thought systems, especially heavenly religions generally accept that God, who creates and governs the universe, has infinite knowledge, will and power. All objects and events of the universe are within the scope of these perfect attributes of His.

Therefore, the life program of each individual, as well as the societies formed by humans, must inevitably follow the line determined by divine knowledge and will. There is no doubt that Allah doth command according to His will and plan. (see Aal-i Imran 3/40; al-Maida 5/1)

On the other hand, it is observed and known that although human desires are almost unlimited, the possibility of their realization in life are limited.

Therefore, people attribute important tasks that they cannot actually accomplish or that they think are difficult to achieve to the divine program called destiny (qadar).

According to the preferred view the word, baht, which was transferred from Persian to Arabic, means “the superhuman program to which good and bad events are connected” but it is mostly used for happy events.

The word talih used in Turkish is derived from the Arabic word tali’ (الطالع).

Tali’ means “rising, emerging”, or when used for the sun and the moon, it means “rising, manifesting”.

Those who are engaged in astrology call the events that they predict will occur depending on the appearance of certain stars tali’.

Accordingly, fortune (talih) is “a program that will occur in the future beyond human will and power”; in other words, it is “a manifestation of destiny, mostly in a good way.”

The word kismet (qismah) which means “share, a certain part of what is shared” in Arabic, and the word “nasib” are used in the same sense in Turkish.

Qismah is related to the words qasm and iqtisam, meaning “to divide, to share”. The following is stated in a verse, “It is We Who portion out between them their livelihood in the life of this world.” (az-Zukhruf 43/32).

Accordingly, qismah means “Allah’s determining in advance (in pre-eternity) the things that everyone will obtain in terms of their livelihood in particular and dividing their sustenance”; and nasib means “the share allocated to everyone in this distribution”.

The word qadar (destiny) used to express the same feelings and beliefs actually has a broad content that can include all other concepts.

Qadar means “all living and non-living natural objects and all events being known in advance by Allah. “It is not possible for anything to remain outside of this knowledge or contradict it.

Islamic scholars accept that divine will and predestination include everything good or bad.

However, in Turkish, unlike the words fortune, luck, kismet, nasib and chance, which came into our language from French, qadar (fate) is generally used for painful manifestations.

The word falak (dahr in Arabic and charkh in Persian), which is used to mean “fortune, luck”, is also used to mean the power that organizes this program rather than the pre-arranged program of human life.

The fact that life is full of good and bad events, and that man has to live by accepting the events that he does not like but cannot eliminate or even avoid, inevitably leads man to the conclusion that there is a supernatural ruler and influencer, and creates the need to be connected with this being. This is the meaning of belief in Allah being innate.

Aside from the supporters of Jabriyya (Fatalism), who ignore the human will, which is very few in number in every century, Islamic scholars have accepted that humans have a limited power and will in addition to the absolute power and will of Allah, and they have interpreted various verses and hadiths regarding the issue in line with this understanding.

Thanks to the two valuable things that man has, namely freedom of will and intellect, man is considered superior to many beings (see Aal-Isra 17/70) and is held responsible to the Creator and the created beings.

When there is freedom of will and the mental capacity to direct it, man is to take action and make the best effort he can. It is not possible to achieve success without making efforts in accordance with the laws of nature arranged by Almighty Allah.

Accordingly, aside from theoretical discussions about fate and freedom of will, it is seen that waiting for the manifestations of destiny without making any practical efforts that will lead to a result; and being upset with one’s luck in case of failure contradicts the principles of faith, law and ethics of Islam.

There is no doubt that where there is no freedom of will and the power to act, there is no responsibility and hence no earthly or otherworldly punishment or reward.

As a matter of fact, those who adopt the view of Jabriyya regard the will of the servant as non-existent in the face of Allah’s absolute power and will, but they actually accept that every human being is held responsible.

From the viewpoint of responsibility, Jabriyya’s assumption that human will is ignored appears to be a purely theoretical and philosophical debate that does not translate into practice.

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