Are events physical as well as social or predictable? Is everything that happens in this world pre-determined? Did God, at the dawn of Creation, decide what was going to happen in the human social world? Has He a definitely irrevocable plan for each and every individual? Is our destiny pre decided? Can we change our destiny? Are we inescapably bound to our fate? Can we know what lies in store for us? How does prior knowledge of our destiny affect us?
Questions such as these have nagged Man ever since he began conscious logical thinking. It is my intention in this paper to try to tackle these questions in the light of the Quran.
» The Traditional Concept
The overwhelming majority of religious minded people in general, and that of Muslims in particular, holds the following view. At the moment of Creation, Allah Almighty laid down the rules, which were to govern the operation of the Universe. He also decided the chronology, the timing and the manner of each and every event that was to take place till eternity (the end of the Universe). He also decided the actions and behavior of each and every individual product of His creation non-living matter, the living beings and of course Men. As the popular statement in Urdu says : ‘Not even a leaf stirs without His permission.' Many hold the belief that God alone has the authority to allocate Rizq (sustenance): that is why we see so much disparity in the distribution of wealth. Some believe that one's pre destiny can be changed through extensive prayers, good deeds and exalted intermediaries like saints. It is all a matter of pleasing God either by individual action / pleas or influencing His decisions through someone.
Many also believe that only the major events in one's life are pre determined (such as marriage and education) but not the minor steps leading to a particular major event. That, they say, is the demarcating line between Man's freedom of choice and his pre decided destiny. It is believed that each and every individual is subtly taken through life being driven Willy Nilly to one's destiny by the invisible hand of Fate. This view raises a number of intriguing questions.
» The Dilemma
The afore-mentioned view obviously clashes with the concept of a universally just and fair God. It does not adequately explain why God lets innocent and helpless beings like children suffer in poverty and disease. Why the West fabulously prosperous is while much of Africa, Asia and South America dirt poor? What infinite Divine wisdom decreed the Jewish nation to be downtrodden and homeless for two thousand years? Why is the world's wealthiest nation (the US ) next door to one of the poorest ( Mexico )? Why has Kashmir been denied liberty so far while East Timor has been granted the same? Why are the Palestinians still stateless while Israel is a well established state? Why do we see ‘good' people suffer and ‘bad' thrive? Why were Muslims a superpower a millennium and a half ago but not now? Why are some individuals born deformed and diseased? If one's destiny is unchangeable, why do we at all try to get it changed?Why do we pray and beseech God when we are in the doldrums?
Above all, if we are mere instruments in the grand machinery of Fate, why should God punish or reward us for our actions? After all, we are only following God's intended programmed, are we not? Let us try to see if the Quran can answer nagging questions like these.
» The Quranic View - The Linguistic Aspect
The word taqdeer stems from the three letter root qaa-daa-raa with the basic meanings of ‘to measure. Qadartush shai means ‘I measured the thing'; qadarash shai bish shai is ‘he measured the thing against the (other) thing': qadartu ‘alaihe s sowb (‘he made clothes according to his measurements); qa dd artu alaihesh shai means ‘I made measured changes to the thing'.
Therefore , taqdeer basically means to make something according to a measure / standard. Some examples of its derivatives are as follows:
► miqdaar: a model, pattern, or a standard
► qadrun: measurement (volume, size, weight, etc)
► haaza qadrun haaza: this is exactly like this (other)
► jaa' ‘ala qadrin: he arrived according to the estimate
► jaawaza qadrahu: he transgressed his limits
► aqdar: a horse which trots in a way that its hind hoofs exactly follow the spots made by the front hoofs
► al muqtadar:the middle part of something most probably because that is the most ‘balanced' part Since to make something exactly according to a set standard and specific measurements one needs the ability, prowess and control, qadrun also means to have power and be in control
► qadartu‘alash shai: I had the power needed to change the thing according to my standard
► maa lee‘alaika maqdura/maqdara/qudra: I don't have any control over you
► qaader: one who has power and control
► qadeer: one who shapes things according to set standards
► qadr: value, standard, guiding proportion also, to assess and respect
When something is given with no consideration of measure, it carries a sense of plenitude.On the other hand,if it is done with careful measuring, it has an implication of shortage.
► qadrun: shortage
► qadr: cauldron- a huge cooking pot) as in qudooren r raasiyaat
► cauldrons: fixed * Quran Chapter 34 Verse 13
» Quranic Reference for Taqdeer: Destiny
► He has created everything in a particular proportion and has determined the measures for its capabilities and potentialities. * Quran Chapter 25 Verse 2
► The conflict between evil and good is necessary for the evolution of the universe.This may be understood by means of * Quran Chapter 13 Verse 17
► It has been stated that there is a period of respite between actions and their results. This is evident from the following examples * Quran Chapter 13 Verse 8
► As regards life after death, it may be explained through an example. A seed, grain or a date stone appears to be lifeless but it contains a life-germ which, given appropriate conditions, bursts forth into a living plant * Quran Chapter 6 Verse 96
► Remember, the system satisfactorily provides for whoever trusts it and ultimately leaves nothing undecided. This is so because Allah Almighty has devised measures (rules and regulations) for everything * Quran Chapter 65 Verse 3
► Then We raise that child by passing him through various stages. According to this law of procreation and life, We have also laid down measures for death * Quran Chapter 56 Verse 60
► His Law contains measures for life and death and He has absolute power and control over all of them * Quran Chapter 41 Verse 39
► Means of sustenance are abundantly stored in the earth but may be taken out only in due measure * Quran Chapter 15 Verse 21
► Allah Almighty Creates everything by combining different elements and giving it a particular form.Thereafter,by eliminating extra and
unnecessary elements,creates proportion and balance in it * Quran Chapter 87 Verse 1-2-3
» Conclusion of Fate
Therefore, we can conclude that God has ordained certain standards and measures for the functioning of the Universe. For instance, it is pre-determined for water to solidify at 0 ° C and vaporize at 100 ° C; for fire to burn and scorch and for the Earth to exert gravitational pull, and so on so forth. In the physical world of living matter (plants, animals and humans), Nature has similarly ordained their taqdeer – some animals are herbivores, some are carnivores while Man is omnivore. The Sun, the Moon and all the other astral bodies are likewise bound to their respective taqdeer – their natural life spans and their properties.
But, as has been mentioned before, Man is different from the rest of Creation in having the freedom of choice
O Rasool! proclaim to the entire mankind "The truth has come from your Rabb, whosoever chooses may accept it and whosoever chooses may reject it.. * Quran Chapter 18 Verse 29
Nonetheless, it is to be noted that Man is free to choose an action but they must bear the naturally ordained and pre-determined consequence of that action. If one puts one's finger in fire, one must suffer burns (because that is the taqdeer of that action). After that, one must turn to another action with a different taqdeer – like applying an ointment on the burn.
Similarly, in the human social world, Man is free to choose his actions but must bear the natural consequences of them. The laws governing the physical as well as the human social universe are unchanging and constant.
Whosoever follows the Divine Law, even if to a very small extent, and does noble deeds will see pleasant results.
And whosoever goes against the law, even if to a very small extent, would get appropriate punishment * Quran Chapter 99 Verse 7-8
As we discussed in the paper on Ad'Duaa (Supplication), one must act individually or collectively to get results in this universe. To get the desired results, the taqdeer of the Universe and the relating Laws of Nature must be discovered and kept in view at all times. The Natural laws, as we have seen are the standards and measures of things set by God. In other words, they are the aqdaar the permanent values which run the entire Universe. These aqdaar were given to mankind in one of the darkest hours of its intellectual existence. That is why it has been called laila tal qadr the Night of Values! Historically, the time of the descent of these Permanent Values which are available in the Quran – was the Arab month of Ramadan. That is why that month has been reserved for Fasting, a refresher course of learning self control through studying the natural values given by God through Prophet and Messenger Muhammad peace be upon him in the form of the book we know as the Quran.