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Fate and Destiny (In the View of Ahl al-Sunnah)

The topic of fate and destiny (al-qadà’ wa al-qadar) remained in the past a complicated engima for me, as I could not find a satisfactory and sufficient explanation, at which I feel assured. I remained perplexed, with two alternatives: between what I learned in the school of Ahl al-Sunnah, that man is determined (musayyar) in all of his acts, having no free will to do what he likes: "Everyone is facilitated to that for which he was created," and Allah — the Glorified — delegates to the embryo inside his mother’s belly two angels to inscribe his destiny, sustenance and deed, and whether he is to be miserable or happy;191 and between the dictations of my reason and conscience, of the justice of Allah, the Glorified and Exalted, and negation of His oppression toward His creatures, as how can it be imagined that He forces them to do certain acts, and then calls them to account for them, or to chastise them for a sin He determined upon them and compelled them to do.

So, I, like many of all other Muslim youths, was experiencing those thought contrarieties, in my belief that Allah, the Glorified, being the Omnipotent and the Compeller, “Who will not be questioned as to that which He doeth, but they will be questioned (21:23), and He is the Doer of what He will (85:16). And He created the creatures, making the fate of some to be in heavens, and some others in fire, and then He is so beneficent and merciful toward His bondmen, "doing not injustice even to the weight of an ant" (4:40), "And thy Lord is not at all a tyrant to His slaves (41:46), and "Verily, God doeth not any injustice to people, but men to their (own) selves do injustice." (10:44) Beside all that, He is more compassionate to them than the mother to her child, as stated in the Prophetic hadith.192

I, most often, encounter such contradiction in comprehending the Qur’anic verses, as I once understand that man against his own self shall be a witness, and he being alone to be answerable about his acts: “Then he who hath done an atom-weight of good shall see it. And he who hath done an atom-weight of evil shall see it.” (99: 7,8)

And another time I conceive that man is compelled with no might or power, having no power to benefit nor power to hurt, nor sustenance for himself: “And ye desire not save what God desireth.” (76:30), and “Verily God leaveth to stray whomsoever He willeth and guideth He Whomsoever He willeth” (35:8).

Certainly, it is not only me but most of the Muslims are experiencing such thought paradoxes. Therefore, when inquiring any shaykh or scholar about the issue of fate and destiny, they can never give a reply that be reasonable and acceptable to themselves before the others. So they say: It is a subject into which we should never indulge. Some of them may even forbid from indulging in it, saying: It is incumbent upon every Muslim to believe in the fate and destiny, its good and evil, and be confident of its being willed by Allah.

When being questioned by any obstinate: How can Allah compel His bondman to perpetrate a sin or crime, throwing him thereafter into the hell-fire? They will accuse him with infidelity and blasphemy and apostasy ... beside other futile charges. Consequently, minds turned inactive and petrified, with prevalence of the belief that everything is destined (by Allah): marriage and divorce, and even adultery is destined when some say: Upon every vulva destined is the name of its male copulater (nàkih), and so also wine-drinking and self-murder, and even eating and drinking, that you should not eat or drink but only that which is destined by Allah for you!!

After introducing all these issues, I said to some of our ‘ulamà’: The Qur’àn refutes all such allegations, and the (Prophetic) hadith can never contradict the Quran! Concerning marriage, the Almighty Allah said: "... then marry those who seem good to you," (4:3), that indicating the freedom to choose. And regarding divorce he said: "Divorce (shall be lawful) only twice then (you should) either keep her in fairness or send her away with kindness,” (2:229) which being also through free will. About adultery He said: “And approach ye not adultery, verily, it is a shameful act and an evil way (opening to many other evils).” (17:32), which is also an evidence for free will (ikhtiyàr). And regarding wine He said: “The Satan only desireth to cause enmity and hatred in your midst through intoxicants and gambling and keep you away from remembering God and from prayer; will you then abstain (from them)?” (5:91)

And in respect of murder, Allah, the Exalted, said: “... and kill ye not the soul which God hath forbidden save for justice...” (6:152), and also said: “And whosoever killeth a believer intentionally, his recompense shall be Hell, he shall abide therein and God’s wrath shall be on him and His curse and (there) is prepared for him a great torment.” (4:93), which all indicate free will in killing.
And even in relation to eating and drinking, He has designated for us certain limits when saying: “... and eat ye and drink ye and commit ye not excesses; Verily He (God) loveth not the extravagants.” (7:31), that indicates free will too.

After all these explicit Qur’anic evidences, how do you, my master, claim that everything is destined by Allah, and man is compelled in all of his acts??

He replied: Allah, the Glorified, is administering the universe alone. He mentioned as an evidence the verse: "Say (O Apostle Muhammad!) “O’ God! Master of the kingdom, Thou givest the kingdom unto whomsoever Thou likest and takest away the Kingdom from whomsoever Thou likest! Thou exaltest whomsoever Thou likest and abasest whomsoever Thou likest; in Thine hands is all good, Verily Thou art over all things Mighty.” (3:25)

I said: No disagreement between us concerning the Will of Allah, the Glorified, and if Allah wills to do something, neither humans nor jinn, nor all other creatures can oppose or contradict His Will! But our disagreement relates to the deeds of the human beings, are they produced by them or determined by Allah??

He replied: “Unto you be your religion and unto me my religion,” closing thus the door of controversy. This, most often, being the argument (hujjah) of our ‘ulamà’. I recall that after two days, I returned to him saying: If you believe that it is Allah Who does everything, and the bondmen have no free will to do anything, so why don’t you hold the same belief concerning caliphate, and that Allah, the Glorified, creates whatever He will and chooses the best (of His bondmen)?

He said: Yes, I hold this view, as Allah, the Glorified, Himself has elected Abu Bakr, and after him ‘Umar, then ‘Uthmàn, and then ‘Ali (as caliphs), and if He willed that ‘Ali be the first caliph, neither jinn nor mankind could be able to prevent this.

I said: Now you are trapped.

He said: How is that I am trapped?

I said: Either you believe that Allah has elected the Four Rightly-guided Caliphs, leaving to people then free to choose whomever they like. Or you should believe that Allah has never given free will to choose to people, but He Himself elects all the caliphs after the demise of the Messenger till the Doomsday?

He replied: I hold the second opinion, according to the verse: “Say (O Apostle Muhammad!) “O’ God! Master of the Kingdom, Thou givest the kingdom unto whomsoever Thou likest and takest away the kingdom from whomsoever Thou likest...”

I said: So (acocrding to your belief), every deviation, corruption, and crime that occurred in Islam at the hands of the kings and emirs, all being from Allah (destined by Allah), as it is Him Who has made these people as rulers over the Muslims? He replied: “Yes, it is as you say, and so also concerning the righteous men. Then he recited: “And when intend We to destroy a town, (first) send We Our commandment to its people,” i..e We made them emirs.”

With astonishment I said: Do you mean that slaying of ‘Ali at the hand of Ibn Muljam and murdering of al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali being intended by Allah??

Triumphantly he said: Yes, of course. Haven’t you heard the Messenger’s addressing ‘Ali, by saying:

“The most wicked of the latters will smite you on this (referring to his head) till this (pointing at his beard) will be wet.”

So also in respect of our master al-Husayn, as the Messenger of Allah had pre-knowledge of murdering him in Karbala’ apprising Umm Salamah with it. He further was aware that with our master al-Hasan Allah will reclaim two great communities of Muslims, as everything is inscribed and destined in eternity and no escape is there for man. So it is you who are trapped not me.

I kept silent for a while, looking at him feeling so proud at this speech, thinking that he has defeated me through strong evidence. I was meditating how to convince him that God’s pre-knowledge of anything never indicating necessarily that He has destined it and compelled His bondmen to do it, as I was pre-aware of the fact that his mind would never comprehend such a theory.

I again asked him: So you hold that all the heads of state and kings, in the past and at present, who fight Islam and Muslims, have been appointed by Allah? He said: Yes, certainly.

I said: Do you mean that even the French colonialism over Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco being destined by Allah?

He said: Yea, and when the destined time was due, France went out from those countries.

I said: Glorified is Allah! But how were you previously defending the Ahl al-Sunnah’s belief that the Messenger of Allah (may God’s peace and benediction be upon him and his Progeny), died away and left the matter (successorship) to be determined through consultation (shurà) among Muslims, so as to elect whom they like?

He replied: Yes it is true, and I still hold the same belief, and will maintain this God-willing!
I said: How do you make concurrence then between the two beliefs: Allah’s election and people’s election by shurà?

He said: When the Muslims elected Abu Bakr, it necessarily means that Allah elected him!

I said: Has God revealed to them in the Saqifah to choose the caliph?

He said: I seek God’s forgiveness, no revelation (wahy) is there after Muhammad (his demise), as held by the Shi’ah! (The Shi’ah, as is known, never hold such a belief, but it is merely a charge ascribed to them by their foes).

I said: Let the Shi’ah and their superstitions alone, and convince us with what you have (of your own)! How came you to know that Allah has chosen Abu Bakr?

He said: If Allah intended other than this, neither the Muslims, nor all the worlds could ever contradict the will of Allah, the Exalted.

Only then I realized that such people never meditate nor ponder upon the Qur’àn, and according to their opinion no philosophical or scientific theory will be estalbished with evidence.

This recalls to my mind another story, when I was wandering with a friend in a palmy garden, and as I was telling him about fate and destiny (al-qadà’ wa al-qadar), a ripe fruit fell on my head. I picked it from over the grass in order to eat it, so I put it in my mouth.

My friend wondered saying: You can never eat but only that which Allah has prescribed for you! This fruit fell down in your name. I said: Since you believe that it is destined for me, I shall never eat it ... and I threw it away.

He said: Glorified is Allah! If anything being not prescribed for you, Allah shall verily take it out, even after reaching your belly. I said: I shall eat it then. So I picked it up to prove to him that I have free will to eat or leave it. My friend kept on watching me till I chewed and swallowed it. Thereat he exclaimed: By God it is prescribed for you (meaning that Allah prescribed it for me). In this way, he defeated me, since it was impossible for me to take the fruit out of my abdomen.

Yes, this being the belief of Ahl al-Sunnah regarding the fate and destiny, or say my belief when I was Sunni.

It is natural to be, when holding such a belief perplexed in the midst of contrarieties, and it is natural too for us to remain in the state of inertia all the time, awaiting that Allah changes what is inside our hearts without trying to change what is in our hearts so as to deserve being changed by Allah. Besides we may try to evade the responsibility we shouldered, seeking to hold Allah responsible for everything. For instance, when you ask the adulterer, or the burglar, or even the wicked man who raped a minor girl, killing her after accomplishing his lust, about the reason that pushed him to do so, he will reply: Allah is conqueror .... my Lord has destined so! Glorified is such Lord Who commands man to bury his daughter (alive) questioning him afer that: For what sin she was slain? Glorified are You, this is verily but a tremendous slander!

Naturally we should be then subject of derision on the part of the Western ‘ulamà’, who may ridicule our weak-mindedness, or rather nickname us with some titles, like labelling our doctrine with the name “maktub al-’Arab” (i.e. the Arabs’ prescription, making it the factor for our ignorance and backwardness.

It is natural too for the researchers to know that the source of this belief being the Umayyad State runners who used to circulate that Allah, the Glorified, has granted them the Kingdom and made them rulers over people. So obeying and never rebelling against them being incumbent upon all people, since that who obeys them is obeying Allah, and that renegading them is rebellious against Allah who should be slain. The Islamic history contains many evidences, of which we refer to the following:

When ‘Uthmàn ibn ‘Affàn was asked to resign (from caliphate), he refused by saying: I never take off a shirt Allah clothed me with.193 So caliphate, in his opinion, being a garment Allah garbed him with, so no one is entitled to take it off of him but Allah the Glorified, i.e. by death.

Also Mu’àwiyah has once said: I have never fought you in order to fast and pay the zakàt (poor-due), but I actually fought you to be a ruler over you, and this being given me while you are averse to it. Thus he goes even farther than ‘Uthmàn, since he accuses the Almighty Allah with helping him to slay the Muslims so as to be their commander, and Mu’àwiyah’s sermon in this regard is commonly known.194

Moreover, even in choosing his son Yazid, and appointing him as a governor over people against their will, Mu’àwiyah claimed that Allah made his son Yazid his successor, as a caliph over people. It was reported so by the historians, that he sent letters everywhere demanding swear of allegiance to Yazid, when Marwàn ibn al-Hakam was his ruler over al-Madinah. So he wrote him a letter mentioning that allegiance to Yazid was decreed by Allah.195

Such was done also by the debauchee Ibn Ziyàd, when Zayn al-’Abidin was brought to him fettered in chains, he inquired: Who is that? They replied: He is ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn! He said: Hasn’t Allah killed ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn? Zaynab (A) answered: Nevertheless, the enemies of Allah and His Messenger killed him.

Ibn Ziyàd said to her: How did you view Allah’s making regarding your household?

She said: I never saw but good. These are people upon whom murder was prescribed, so they came forth toward their (destined) beds. And Allah will gather you with them, and you will be argued and disputed. At that day, you shall verily find out who is victorious, May your mother be bereaved of you, O Ibn Marjànah.196

In this way, this belief was spread abroad through the Umayyads and their stooges, coming into force among the Islamic Ummah, except the followers of Ahl al-Bayt (the Shi’ah).


191. Sahih Muslim, Vol. VIII, p. 44.

192. Sahih al-Bukhàri, Vol. VII, p. 75.

193. Ta'rikh al-Tabari, "bàb hisàr 'Uthmàn"; Ta'rikh Ibn al-'Athir.

194. Maqàtil al-Tàlibiyyin, p. 70; Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol. VIII, p. 131; Ibn Abi al-Hadid in Sharh Nahj al-balàghah, Vol. III, p. 16.

195. Al-'Imàmah wa al-siyàsah, Vol. I, p. 151, "bàb bay'at Mu'àwiyah li-Yazid bi al-Shàm".

Adapted from the book: "To Be With the Truthful" by: "Muhammad al-Tijani al-Samawi"

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