Incongruity of destiny and free will?

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Saddam Hussein |

The concept of ‘destiny and free will’ are one of the most misunderstood concepts in Islam. It is generally believed that destiny contradicts free-will or vice-versa. Let me try to explain it to you. The mentioned concepts can be categorized into three parts. First, according to Islam, certain things are fixed. Such as, where will you born, which family will you be born in, when and where will you die? These things are fixed. Now, this gives rise to another question that if we are born in a family that has a religion other than Islam, then are we to blame? Islam responds by stating that its message will reach to every human being in every corner of the globe in all times. It is promised by Allah.

You can observe how swiftly the message of Islam is spreading across the globe, for whatever reason; people are converting to Islam in large numbers, especially in the West. After getting the true message, if you do not believe than you would be blamed. On the contrary, just suppose, if a person does not get the message, then he/she does not need to worry. It is also promised that you will not be asked about those things hereafter, of whom you did not have any knowledge. Second, Almighty Allah has Ilm-e-Ghayb, means that He has the perfect knowledge of the future.

one may become saddened or upset about unfortunate events in their life. We are only human and it is natural to react a certain way with tragedy befalls us. However, the Muslim understands that no matter how difficult said tragedy is, it was within the will of Allah, and we cannot let it paralyze us.

He knows in advance what you will do in the future, out of your own free-will and choice. So, Almighty Allah writes it down in advance that you will do it. Thus, it is not because Allah has written it down that you do it; it is because you will be doing it out of your own free-will that Allah has already written it down. Let me explain it with an example of a classroom. Suppose the teacher has taught the class for the whole term and exams are approaching and the teacher makes some predictions in the classroom.

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The teacher says that Student A will come first in the class and Student B will fail in the exams. After the exams when the results are declared, Student A comes first and Student B fails, exactly as the teacher had predicted before the exams. Now Student B cannot blame the teacher that she predicted that he will fail and that is why he has failed. Because the teacher had taught the class and had knew that Student A is a hard-working student and will come first, but Student B does not study and plays all the time, hangs out with his friend and obviously because of all this he will fail.

So, the teacher had knowledge of all this and with the help of her knowledge she made correct prediction, but being human, teacher’s prediction has the probability of error. Nonetheless, Almighty Allah has perfect knowledge of the future, without any probability of error, and thus Almighty Allah knows in advance what people will do and He writes it down in advance. Third, you have the free-will. You can choose whatever you wish and do whatever you want, but the outcomes are not in your control and what happens to you is also not in your control.

Let me explain it with an example of a classroom. Suppose the teacher has taught the class for the whole term and exams are approaching and the teacher makes some predictions in the classroom.

That is the third part of the explanation of destiny in Islam. For example, say for instance you decide to go into business for yourself. You do all the necessary research. You consult others in the field. You draw up a sound business plan and line up multiple investors. You do everything possible to ensure that your business is a success. Does any of this guarantee that your business will be successful? Not at all. The economy may falter. You may have miscalculated certain expenses. A natural disaster might wipe out everything you own. There are innumerable occurrences that could adversely affect your business.

It is vital to the Muslim’s belief that we understand this concept. After all, the word Muslim means “one who submits to the will of Allah.” By accepting Allah’s supreme power and knowledge. Belief in Qadar – divine destiny, prevents us from becoming too boastful or too despondent. When tragedy strikes us, we must understand that it is the will of Allah, for it to happen. That way, we learn to accept it with patience and humility rather than despair and frustration.

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Of course, one may become saddened or upset about unfortunate events in their life. We are only human and it is natural to react a certain way with tragedy befalls us. However, the Muslim understands that no matter how difficult said tragedy is, it was within the will of Allah, and we cannot let it paralyze us. In contrast, if something good happens to us, belief in Qadar will prevent us from becoming too boastful or arrogant. Many successful people believe that they have attained their wealth and status because they are inherently better than others.

Or that they are smarter, wiser, stronger, or just more deserving of success than others. The truth is, they have no control over their success. They may have made certain choices, but it is Allah that made those choices work out well for them. If they had control over their success, then they should be able to control every aspect of their life and never face any sort of adversity. But the reality is that even the most successful individuals face some hardships at some point in their life.

Saddam Hussein is a Research Fellow/Program Officer at Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad. He is a graduate of School of Economics, Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) and also holds an M.Phil in Public Policy from School of Public Policy, PIDE, Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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