Rafed English

Fate, Oneness of Allah and His Purity

The dilemma faced by the theologians and the religious philosophers was that they on the one hand believed that nothing could happen without the Will of Allah and on the other knew that nothing dirty or wicked could be ascribed to Him. Consequently they wavered. Some of them held that human acts and deeds, which could often be dirty or wicked, were not subject to the Will of Allah. Others maintained that everything was subject to His Will because He alone is the Primary Cause of the existence of everything.

It is reported that Ghaylan of Damascus who was a supporter of free will once said to the well-known scholar, Rabi'ah al-Ray: "Do you think that Allah likes to be disobeyed?" What he meant was the Rabi'ah believed that even the sins occurred by the Will of Allah. Rabi'ah at once resorted: "It is you who believe that Allah is disobeyed against His will". He meant that according to the belief of Ghaylan it was possible that something might happen which Allah did not will.

Once while Abu Ishaq Isfarayini was sitting with Sahib Ibn Ubbad, Qazi Abd al-Jabbar, a Mu'tazilite arrived. As soon as Qazi Abd al-Jabbar who denied the generality of fate and destiny, saw Abu Ishaq, he remarked: "Glorified be He who is free from every indecent thing". He meant that Allah was above that indecent things be ascribed to Him. He alluded to the belief of Abu Ishaq that everything was from Allah which necessarily meant that indecent things wee also from Him. Abu Ishaq retorted without hesitation and said: "Glorified be He in Whose domain nothing happens except that which He Wills". He meant that according to the belief of the Qazi, the things which Allah did not will could happen. Such a belief went against the cardinal tenet of monothesism.

As we have pointed out earlier, so long as this question was not affected by political and social motives, it was purely a philosophical problem. A certain section of the people could not acquiesce in the belief that evils and vices were imputable to Allah. They considered Him to be far above such things. Another section which was more familiar with the idea of monotheism, believed that in the universe everything was sustained by Allah and hence the existence of anything capable of taking an independent action against His Will was untenable. This difference of view gave rise to divergent creeds.

Each section tried to prove the correctness of its idea by leveling criticism against that of the other but without being able to answer the objections raised against its own point of view. A reference to the books of scholastic theology will make what we mean clear. The fact is that neither of the doctrines of fate defensible in the form in which they are enunciated by their respective exponents. If both sections could understand that what they say is only partially true, the dispute would have been settled. In fact the belief in fate, destiny and monotheism does not necessarily mean predestinarianism, nor does the doctrine of free will imply the negation of fate.

Adapted from the book: "Man and Destiny" by: "Shahid Mutahhari"

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