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Historical Background of the Fate

The origin of the controversy regarding fate is a point worth discussion. The point is how it was that from the first half or at the most from the second half of the first century the Muslims entered into the discussion of predestination and free will.

Undoubtedly the reason was that the Qur'anic verses and the Prophetic sayings referred to this question. It is a question which naturally attracts the attention of everybody. As it was raised in the Holy Book and as some of the verses expressly supported destiny while some others described man as having liberty, naturally the Muslims had to think over this question and discuss it.

But the orientalists and their lackeys claim that these ideas have some other basis.

As we have already said, some European historians believe that the question of destiny was raised later by the scholastic theologians. Originally Islam preached neither predestination nor free will. Some other orientalists are of the view that the Ash'arite theory based on predestination represents the true teaching of Islam, but the Mu'tazilites did not acquiesce in it as they did not accept many other Islamic ideas which were not in conformity with logic and reason. It were they who for the first time introduced the idea of free will among the Muslims. These orientalists further say that even the Mu'tazilites were not the originators of this idea. They were influenced by the neighbouring nations, especially the Christians.

Edward Brown in the Literary History of Persia' says: Von Cromer is of the view that Ma'bad al-Juhani preached the idea of free will in Damascus towards the end of the 7th century is imitation of an Iranian named Sanbawayh.

He further says: "According to Von Cromer, Damascus was the place where the doctrines of the Mu'tazilites developed under the influence of the Byzantine Christian divines, especially John of Damascus and his disciple, Theodorus Abu Kurra".

It appears that in the opinion of Von Cormer even that Iranian who suggested the idea of freedom and liberty of Ma'bad al-Juhani, was himself influenced by the Roman-Christian ecclesiastics.

If this view is accepted, we will have to look for a similar historical basis for prayer, fasting monotheism and the belief in the hereafter. Probably the Muslims paid attention to these also because they had found a precedent for them in the Christian circles.

The fact is that the orientalists do not possess enough competence to make an inquiry into the Islamic tenets, nor mostly do they have good intention.

When they try to analyze Islamic concepts or deal with Islamic tenets, mysticism or Muslim philosophy, they put forth such astonishingly absurd ideas that they are often ridiculous. For instance look at the following remarks of an orientalist.

Edward Brown in his Literary History of Persia, vol. 1, quotes the Dutch orientalist as saying in his History of Islam:

"When they (the Mu'tazilites) gave serious thought to the rules of Islam, they advocated only what was reasonable. Thus one of the points which they emphasized was that Qur'an was transient and created, though to say so was against what the Prophet (s) had declared. They said that the eternity of the Qur'an meant a belief in the eternity of two beings, while the correct position was that the Qur'an, which was the word of Allah was His creation. Further, it could not be attributed to His essence, for that was unchangeable.

Thus the basis of revelation was shaken. Many Mu'tazilites openly said that it was not impossible to produce a writing like the Qur'an or even better than that.

This orientalist wants to impress on us implicitly that the Ash'arites had derived their belief in the eternity of the Qur'an from the sayings of the Prophet (s) and that though the Mu'tazilite knew that, they rejected this doctrine because they found it contrary to the dictates of reason and logic. In this very book he says a little further that the eternity of the Qur'an was one of the doctrines of the Ash'arites who faithfully follow the text of the Qur'an.

In fact in the Qur'an there is not even a slightest hint to the eternity of the Qur'an or to its being uncreated, nor there exists to this effect a single hadith acceptable to the Mu'tazilites.

That is why they opposed the idea that the Qur'an was a Celestial Book and that it was revealed. 1

Their belief about Allah was purer and more sublime, than that held by the pietists, the adherents to the popular notions and the Ash'arites. The Mu'tazilites never accepted the idea that the Creator of the world could ever appear in a corporeal form. They were not willing to listen to such a thing. There is a hadith, according to which the Prophet said: "Just as you saw the full moon during the Battle of Badr, one day you will see Allah also". 2

He means a report, which is found in the books of scholastic theology and not those of hadith. According to this report the Holy Prophet (s) said: "You will see your Lord on the Day of Resurrection as you see the full moon". The learned orientalist mistook in the report the word, badr meaning the full moon for the Battle of Badr. Then he translated the future tense into the past so that the sentence might give some meaning.

This report has a long story. There are indications that it was once deformed by someone among its transmitters. Then it was again distorted by the scholastic theologians. It is for the third time that the learned orientalist has put it in a ludicrous form. The Qur'an expressly denies the possibility that a human eye can see Allah.

As the pietists took this hadith literally, the Mu'tazilites found it to be a big hurdle in their way and were compelled to explain it away. They said that man after death would see Allah with spiritual eyes. The Mu'tazilites also denied that Allah was the Creator of the infidels. 3

This is an example of the valuable research of a learned orientalist. Edward Brown; the author of the Literary History of Persia' passed it over without making any comments.

We wonder whether we should call it ignorance or a crime. What is more regrettable is that the followers and lackeys of these orientalists, instead of studying the ideas of the East and the Islamic tenets directly, continue to repeat the views of their master parrot-like.

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

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