Invetiable and Non-Invetiable
- :Shahid Mutahhari
In the reports and traditions, fate and destiny have been described as revocable and irrevocable. There are hints in the Qur'an also to that effect. It appears that there are two kinds of fate and destiny, one inevitable and unalterable and the other non-inevitable and alterable.
Now the question is: what is the meaning of non-inevitable fate and destiny? Let us take any particular event in view. Have the Eternal Knowledge and Will of Allah attached to it? If they have not, there is no question of destiny. If they have, the event must take place, otherwise that would mean the nonconformity of the Divine Knowledge to the reality and the nonfruition of Allah's Will.
To be more precise we may say that destiny means the emanation of all the required causes from the Knowledge and Will of Allah, who is the First Cause. As we know, the general law of causation necessitates inevitability. This law requires that the occurrence of an event should be sure under its own special temporal and spatial conditions and its non-occurrence also should be certain in other circumstances. The finality of the scientific rules is due to this very law.
Man can make scientific predictions to the extent of his limited knowledge of the causes. Therefore the decision of fate and destiny which determines the occurrence of the events through the system of causation, must be regarded as conclusive. As such to divide destiny into inevitable and non-inevitable appears to be meaningless.
At this stage a dilemma arises. Either we should, like the Ash'arites, believe in destiny in its limited sense only or say that it is absolutely unalterable and that man has no power to change it; or like the Mu'tazilites deny its role at least as far as human acts and deeds are concerned. Let us see how we can resolve this dilemma.
It may incidentally be said that just as the Ash'arite view implies the denial of man's liberty and his control of his destiny, the Mu'tazilite view also besides being contrary to the monotheistic principles and the concept of divine knowledge, does not serve any useful purpose from the angle of human freedom. Even if we do not accept the fate and destiny in their divine sense, what shall we do of their material concept, according to which every event in the world is controlled by the system of causation? That also amounts to compulsion. Can we deny the working of the law of causation at least in the case of free agent, that is man. Some modern European philosophers also have expressed the same view as was held by the Mu'tazilites. They have talked of free will not subject to the law that it is applicable only to the material world composed of atoms, and is not applicable to the spiritual world or even to the internal world of the atoms. We cannot here dwell on the law of causation. Anybody interested in its detailed discussion may refer to our book, "The Principles of Philosophy and the Method of Realism", vol. III, footnotes.
Here it is enough to say that the modern philosophers have denied the generality of the law of causation, because they think that it is an experimental law and as such have considered those cases to be out of its scope in which human experiments have not been able to discover a definite relationship of cause and effect.
In fact it is a big mistake to presume that all scientific laws, rules, all mental conceptions are based on human perception and experiment. This is a mistake which has been committed by many Western systems of philosophy and from them it has passed to their Eastern followers.
In short, there is no way of denying the law of general causation, and with its acceptance the problem of the non-inevitability of destiny remains as it is, whether we believe or not in its divine aspect. Briefly speaking the problem is that all events including human acts and deeds are bound to acquire inevitability through their causes which determine their specifications and characteristics. The system of causation itself means inevitability and certainty. Hence the question of a change in destiny does not arise.
All the believers in "the general principle of causation" and they include the materialists, who believe in determinism and at the same time hold that the destiny is changeable and that man controls his destiny, are faced with this dilemma. Therefore the Mu'tazilite theory of the denial on the view that all the events of the world are not subject to Divine Will and that Divine Knowledge is not the source of the entire system of the universe, serves no purpose.
Adapted from the book: "Man and Destiny" by: "Shahid Mutahhari"
Share this article