Fate and High level of the logic of Islam
- :Shahid Mutahhari
A scholar going deep into the study of the questions concerning monotheism, is filled with wonder when he finds that the special logic adopted in this respect by the Holy Qur'an and next to it by the sayings of the Prophet and the Imams, especially Imam Ali is so different and higher not only from the logic of that time but also from that of the later period when scholastic theology had developed and philosophy was flourishing. What the Qur'an and the hadith say about destiny and the freedom or constraint of human will, is an example of that logic.
This in itself proves that the Holy Qur'an has sprung from a source which does not belong to this world and that the Holy Prophet who received the Qur'an looked at the realities from quite a different angle. Similarly the knowledge of the logic of the Qur'an which the Holy Family had was different from what the others had.
Where the ideas were too high to be grasped ordinarily, the other people were bewildered, but the Imams described them very clearly and in a realistic manner. It is not surprising that even the Shi'ah theologians were unable to digest this information properly.
When one looks at the statements and comments of such eminent scholars such a Sheikh Mufid, Sayyid Murtadha, Allamah Hilli, Allamah Majlisi in their books of theology and their commentaries on hadith, one notices that they have not been free being influenced by the ideas of the Ash'arites and the Mu'tazilities. Their way of thinking is often close to that of either of them. That is why they have been compelled to explain away many Qur'anic verses and the hadiths. Anyhow, this short-coming does not lower the position of these eminent scholars. None else in their position could do better, for the comprehension of the special logic of the Holy Qur'an is confined to the spiritual leaders trained in the school of this Holy Book. Others have been able to enter this circle gradually by going deep into the relevant questions and the constant study of the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet and the Imams, especially Imam Ali.
Some of our contemporary scholars have shown sufficient ability to analyze the social questions. But when they take up such problems as that of fate and destiny, they are as much bewildered as the scholastic theologians. For instance, we can mention the name of the Egyptian writer, Ahmad Amin who has written the Fajr al-Islam, the Zuh'l al-Islam, the Zuhr al-Islam and the Yaum al-Islam.
Ahmad Amin has to a great extent evinced his ability to discuss and analyze social questions, but as far as the question of fate is concerned, he has proved as helpless as the scholastic theologians. Towards the end of his book, Fajr al-Islam he has, in a special chapter, discussed the question of predestination and freedom of will, but on the whole it appears that according to him a belief in destiny means predestinarianism. Hence he is not prepared to believe that the hadiths regarding destiny are authentic. Similarly he is unable to believe that the Nahj al-Balaghah is a collection of the sermons and letter of Imam Ali. Of course, he is not blame, because it is due to his lack of knowledge that he is so skeptic. As a rule it may e said that no scholar, whether a European, an Egyptian or an Iranian. Whose knowledge is confined to social sciences is in a position to express an opinion on the history of Islamic knowledge.
Whenever the European historians or the orientalists have expressed an opinion about the question of fate, they have either described Islam as a religion of predestination or have claimed that the doctrine of fate and destiny is not found in the Qur'an and that it was created later by the scholastic theologians.
An orientalist says: "The cardinal principles of Islam are as follows: God is One: Muhammad is His Prophet . The theologians have preached that Allah has foreordained the fate of everybody and that His Will is unchangeable. This doctrine is called jabr (predestination; literally compulsion).".
Gustav Le Bon, in a defending way says that in this respect the Qur'an has not said anything more than what the other sacred Books say. After quoting verses of the Qur'an and making certain remarks he adds"
"Islam has been accused of having a belief in fate, but this charge is as baseless as all other charges. We have already put the Qur'anic verses on this subject before our readers. They say no more than what is written in this respect in our sacred Book. All philosophers and schoolmen are of the view that all events are preordained and totally unchangeable. Luther, who was a reformer, himself has written: "All available evidence in the sacred Book is repugnant to the theory of liberty. This evidence is found in many places of the Scripture. It may be said that all sacred Books are full of such indications".
After referring to the belief in destiny as prevalent among the ancient Greeks and the Romans, he says "It is clear that Islam has not given more importance to this question than other religions. Islam has not given to it even as much heed as some of the contemporary scholars".
Gustav Le Bon admits that a belief in fate amounts to a belief in predestination and a refutation of freedom of will. But he says that such a belief is found in all religions and most of the philosophical systems.
In his History of Civilization, after giving a gist of the Qur'anic verses on the comprehensiveness of Divine Knowledge and Will and referring to a well-know hadith found in al-Bukhari's al-Sahih, Will Durant says that "Belief in predestination is a part of the Islamic way of thinking".
Now let us see what Mr. Dominic Sordell has designed to say in this respect. He has written a book, named "Islam". In it he says: "From the very beginning of the Islamic era the Muslims were conscious of the contradictions in the Qur'an. According to an available report they even pointed out some contradictions to the Prophet himself who in reply said: "Keep believing in what is worrying you". Later the Muslims who did not like to accept certain doctrines off-hand, tried to interpret certain words and expressions of the Qur'an. That is how the science of exegesis developed. The first question which attracted the attention of the Muslims was If man cannot act contrary to what Allah has preordained and still Allah requits him for his good or bad deeds, does that not constitute a contradiction between Allah's Power and human responsibility? The Qur'an does not answer this question, but the Omnipotence of Allah has been so much emphasized throughout the Qur'an, that no room has been left for human liberty. Thus submission to the Will of Allah prevails over a sense of human responsibility".
Mr. Dominic Sordell's book is full of such kind of research.
This is the way of thinking of the orientalists and that is how they derive their conclusions. This instance shows how far they are able to express an opinion in regard to such a question.
It is clear from the foregoing that the question of fate and destiny has been repeatedly mentioned by the Qur'an itself. It is not an invention of the scholastic theologians. Further, it is also clear that a belief in destiny as taught by the Qur'an is poles apart from predestinarianism.
The European orientalists usually extoll the Mu'tazilite for denying destiny. According to the Mu'tazilites a belief in destiny amounts to a belief in predestination.
There is no doubt if we compare the Mu'tazilites and the Ash'arites, we find that the former had considerable independence of thought. Mutawakkil's suppression of the Mu'tazilites and his official support of the Ash'arites may be regarded as a big tragedy of the world of Islam. But as far as the question of fate and destiny is concerned, the mistake made by the Mu'tazilites was not less grave than that made by the Ash'arites. The orientalists who do not have any deep knowledge of Islam and who are under the impression that a belief in destiny amounts to a belief in predestination are never tired of praying tributes to the Mu'tazilites.
Edward Brown in his Literary History of Persia' says: "The Qadarites or the Mu'tazilites were more important. They advocated freedom of will or absolute discretion. The best homage which can be paid to the Mu'tazilites is that their ideas were a protest which common sense always makes against unjust orders and rigid teachings. The monotheism". They said that the Ash'arite belief in the eternal fate meant that Allah had pre-ordained the destiny of everyone, that He punished the people for the sins which He Himself had imposed on them, and that man could not resist his destiny.
This way of thinking of the Mu'tazilites, namely that destiny meant predestination, has received the highest approbation of the orientalists.
Adapted from the book: "Man and Destiny" by: "Shahid Mutahhari"
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