Man and Destiny
Man and Destiny
Martyr Murtada Mutahhari was born in Fariman (Iran) in February 1919. His father Skaikh Muhammad Husain was a religious scholar and a pious person. Mutahhari received his elementary education in theology from his father.
When he was twelve years of age, he joined the conventional Islamic School at Mashhad and pursued his studies there for five years. Then he proceeded to Qum, the famous Educational Centre of Shi'ah Muslims. He stayed there for fifteen years and completed his education under the supervision of Allamah Tabatabai, Imam Khumayni and many other distinguished ulema.
During the period of his education Prof. Mutahhari felt that the communists wanted to destroy the very spirit of Islam by mixing their atheistic views with the Islamic philosophy and interpreting the verses of the Holy Qur'an in a materialistic manner. Of course, communism was misguiding the young generation, which prompted the professor to nip this threat in the bud.
He wrote extensively against the baneful effects of communism. He also wrote on exegesis, philosophy, ethics, sociology, history and many other subjects. He left over twenty books that have been published in Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Urdu and English. The Islamic Seminary has had the honour of publishing some of them.
In 1952, he established a council of university students in Tehran and, in 1955, began teaching theology at the University of Tehran at the doctorate level continuing until 1978. He remained faithful to his socio-political commitments. In 1963, he was arrested along with Imam Khumayni. After the exile of Imam Khumayni to Turkey, he took active part in the leadership of the Islamic movement, making decisive contributions to the mobilization of the combatant ulema.
After the success of Islamic Revolution in Iran he was nominated as the President of the Constitutional Council and was performing his duties in a very befitting manner.
The activities of this scholar were intolerable for the followers of the atheistic schools and they, therefore, decided to remove him from the scene by terroristic methods. Eventually they assassinated this eminent scholar on May 1, 1979. His martyrdom was a great tragedy. When the sad news was conveyed to Imam Khumayni he could not control his tears. In his condolence message he said: "In him I have lost a dear son. I am mourning the death of one who was the fruition of my life."
Thousands and thousands of Muslims escorted his funeral. He was laid to rest in Qum in the precincts of the Holy Shrine of Ma'suma in Qum. May his soul rest in peace.
The question of fate and destiny that forms the subject matter of this book is a philosophical question, and should normally be looked for in the books of philosophy. But here in this book it has been taken out of its proper context and placed along with some other questions.
All scientific and philosophical questions are classed in accordance with the subject with which they deal or the purpose for which they are studied.
The reason why the philosophical questions form one class, the mathematical another and the physical a third, is that there is a special common link between the questions dealt with by each set of these questions or at least there exists some common theoretical or practical objects which may be achieved by its study.
The question of destiny and fate is classed as a philosophical question. But in this book it has grouped with the questions with which it is connected neither with regard to its subject nor with regard to the object of its study.
Here this question is being studied under the heading of "The causes of the decline of the Muslims". This heading includes multifarious subjects, events and questions, some of them being historical, others psychological, moral, social or purely religious. A few of them are philosophical also. Thus a large number of subjects belonging to various classes and categories form a part of this study.
The only link which binds these subjects together is their positive or negative effects on the progress and the decline of the Muslim society.
The aim of raising this question in this book is to see whether a belief in destiny as required by philosophical reasoning is one of those ideas which lead their adherents to lethargy and lack of vigor. Are the people who believe in it automatically dragged to decline and decay or is it a doctrine which has no bad effect provided it is expounded in a sound manner. It is also to seen how Islam has presented this question and with what effect on its followers. This being the only aim of those aspects of the question which have no bearing on it, have been left out.
I do not remember exactly since when I have been interested in the question of the causes of the decline of the Muslims and have been thinking about it. But it may be claimed with certainty that for the past few years, this question has been engaging my attention. During this period I have either myself been thinking over it or reading what others have written.
Whenever I came across a writing on this subject, I read it with interest and tried to comprehend the view-point of the writer. This was my practice till one day while I was talking about and authentic hadith accepted by both the Shi'ah and Sunnis, to the effect that: "Islam is to have an upper hand; it is not to be suppressed".
I realized that what I had read or heard till then, though useful, was not convincing. As I found that like me my listeners were also deeply interested in the subject, I decided to study it more thoroughly and minutely. I felt that any improvement in the present position of the Muslim world largely depended on ascertaining the causes of its decline. For this purpose it was necessary not only to study as far as possible the views of others, both Muslims and non-Muslims, but to make a comprehensive study of all the relevant subjects including those which have not so far been studied from this angle.
It was here that I was struck by the vast magnitude of the problem. I realized that it was not possible for one individual to make a scientific inquiry into all the relevant subjects. This job at least required many long years. Anyhow I decided to do the preliminary work and then to study one or two subjects in detail as a test case. If some other people apply themselves to other subjects, it is hoped that a useful study of an important social subject will be completed with a sort of joint effort and mutual co-operation.
There is no doubt that the Muslims have left behind the most brilliant period of their history. At one time they were not only the rulers of the world, but, what is more important, were the standard-bearers of human culture. The world has witnessed many rulers and conquerors who imposed their will on others for some time, but before long they were wiped out like froth of water. That was not the case with the Muslims. They brought about an unparalleled intellectual awakening and founded a brilliant culture which lasted for several centuries. It is still celebrated as a golden link of the chain of human culture, and history itself is proud of the illustrious achievement of the Muslims. For so many centuries the Muslims excelled in sciences, crafts, philosophy, art, morals and higher social order throughout the world. Others have borrowed much from them. Many unbiased investigators have admitted that the wonderful civilization of modern Europe which today runs supreme in the whole world was inspired by the magnificent Islamic culture.
Gustave Le Bon says: "Some Europeans feel shy to admit that a heathen nation is responsible for their emergence from barbarism and ignorance, and for that reason they conceal this fact. But their unreasonable attitude is extremely regrettable.It was the moral influence of the Muslim Arabs that humanized the European people who had toppled the Roman Empire. It opened the door of sciences, arts and philosophy to those who were totally ignorant of such things. These Arabs were for 600 years the teachers of us, the Europeans".
Will Durant in his "History of Civilization" says:
"The inception and decline of Islamic culture has been a big historical event. During the five centuries from 81 A.H. to 594 A.H. Islam was the world champion in regards to military power, law and order, good morals, developed life, human and just laws, religious tolerance, literature, scientific investigation, medicine and philosophy.
He further says: The Muslim world exercised its influence on the Christian world in various ways. From Muslim countries, Europe imported food, syrups, medicines, weapons, tools, artistic taste, industrial and commercial methods, laws and maritime practices. It also borrowed from the Muslim languages. The Arab (Muslim) scholars learnt Greek, mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy and medicine. They further developed them and conveyed the Greek heritage in a richer form to Europe. The Arab (Muslim) physicians preserved the works of Aristotle for Christian Europe and incidentally altered them. From among the oriental philosophers Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd) influenced the European philosophers. Their skill was as reliable as that of the GreeksThis Muslim influence penetrated to Europe through trade, the crusades, the translation of thousands of books from Arabic to Latin and the travelling of the European scholars to Andalus.
He also says: Only during golden epochs of history a society is able to produce in a short time all such luminaries in the field of politics, education, literature, language, geography, history, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, philosophy, medicine etc. as were produced by Islam during the four centuries from the time of Harun al-Rashid to that of Averroes. A part of the brilliant activities of the Muslim was based on the works of the Greeks, but a major portion of them especially in the fields of politics, poetry and art was strikingly original".
It was an admitted fact that the illustrious phenomenon known as Islamic culture' continued to exist for centuries before it vanished. Today the Muslims as compared to many other nations and to their own glorious past are in a pitiable state of decline and backwardness.
Naturally a question arises as to why the Muslims have retrograded after making all these achievements in sciences, arts, crafts and organizational matters. What is the cause of their decline and retrogression and who is responsible for their present pitiable state? Is it the fault of certain individuals or groups? Or was it because of certain events that the Muslims deviated from their original course? Is it natural that every nation makes progress during a limited period and then as a matter of course its decline begins?
If it is admitted that some particular factor has been responsible for the decline of the Muslims, we must identify that factor. Some Europeans (not all) who are biased because of their Christian prejudice or their imperialistic propensities blame Islam itself for the backwardness of the Muslims. Are they right? Or is it that instead of Islam, the Muslims are to be blamed? Or is it that the fault lies with those non-Muslim nations which have in various ways come in contact with Muslims during the past fourteen centuries? The answer to these questions is not a simple affair. It requires a comparatively lengthy discussion. Every alternative is to be weighed and investigated scientifically.
Before entering into this discussion, the following preliminary points are naturally to be considered:
The extent of the glory and splendour and Islamic culture.
The causes that led to the flourishing of Islamic culture.
Islam's contribution to the progress of the Muslims.
Contribution of the Islamic culture to the modern European culture.
The present position of the Muslim world as indicated by the signs of its backwardness.
Though Islamic culture has disappeared, Islam is still a living, active and expanding force, and rivals the most powerful new social and revolutionary forces.
Muslim people are awakening and are trying to stand on their own feet again.
After completing this preliminary discussion which requires a separate book, it is necessary to undertake a deep philosophical discussion of the nature of time to ascertain whether it is true, as claimed by some philosophers of history, that what causes the progress and advancement of a nation, causes its decline also. In other words, every factor can only under certain conditions related to a particular period, push forward a society, and with a change in the circumstances and with the beginning of a new era of history, it loses its vitality and ceases to be a pushing force. Then it automatically becomes the cause of its decline.
Should this philosophy be true, every culture should disappear because of the same factors which contributed to its promotion. There is no need of the introduction of any foreign factor. All old factors are, to say, reactionary, and new factors progressive. New social factors give rise to a new culture which by its very nature is different from the old one.
Should this rule be true, naturally the Islamic culture cannot be an exception to it. In that case it is useless to discuss the cause of the decline of the Muslims, for they cannot be discussed independently and in isolation from the factors which gave rise to Muslim culture.
According to this philosophy it is not necessary to hold any person, group or event responsible for the decline of the Muslims. Islamic culture disappeared, because every culture has to disappear one day. Every living phenomenon has sooner or later to die its natural or unnatural death. Islamic culture too was born. It grew. It matured. It superannuated and then died. To wish for its revival is tantamount to wishing for the revival of the dead; which is not natural and can be effected only by some miraculous cause, the bringing about of which is after all beyond human control.
After a preliminary study of the various aspects of the glory and decline of the Muslims we come to this important philosophical-historical question which cannot be overlooked, for in this connection there was already been much worthless talk, and many people have been influenced by immature views.
The philosophical study of this question will be incomplete unless the question of the conformity of Islam to the requirements of the time is also thoroughly investigated. This discussion will naturally consist of two parts: the first part will be purely philosophical and the second one Islamic. Both the parts are worth consideration under one heading, Islam and the requirements of time'.
When I finished this study I came to the conclusion that the above mentioned philosophical rule was untenable. I could not believe that the causes of the decline of the Muslims were necessarily the same as those of their progress. Now the time has come that we should study the causes of the stagnation, decline and backwardness of the Muslims and see what others have said in this connection.
Considering what others, both Muslims and non-Muslims, have said and keeping in view the questions and the events which are naturally to be considered in this connection, this study will have to be undertaken in three sections:
(i) Section of Islam
(ii) Section of Muslims
(iii) Section of Foreign factors
Each section consists of a number of subjects and questions. For example, someone may hold the Islamic tenets to be responsible for the decline of the Muslims. Some others may think that the moral system of Islam producers degenerating effect. Still some others may maintain that the social laws of Islam are the real causes of the decline of the Muslims.
Incidentally, this charge has actually been leveled against certain doctrines, moral principles and social laws of Islam.
Similarly in the other two sections also there are many questions which are to be considered.
In this connection, the following Islamic tenets and doctrines have to be especially considered:
(i) Belief in fate and destiny
(ii) Belief in the hereafter and the disparagement of this worldly life
(v) Expectation of solace (the advent of Mahdi (a) the Occult Imam)
Out of these five doctrines the first three are common between the Shi'ah.
Sometimes it is said that the real cause of the decline of the Muslims is their belief in fate and destiny. And sometimes it is said that the importance which Islam attaches to the next world and its ever lasting life has diverted the attention of the Muslims from the problems of life. Again some people say that the belief in intercession, which has existed during all periods of Islamic history and which has been upheld by all Muslims except a few, has made the Muslims indifferent to the sins. The only deterrent against the sins is the fear of their evil consequences. As the Muslims hope for intercession, they feel no need to abstain from any vice or crime.
The two doctrines peculiar to the Shi'ah, the dissimulation and the expectation of solace are also criticized in this connection. It is said that the doctrine of dissimulation in the first place means hypocrisy and double-facedness, and in the second it has rendered the Shi'ah timid, weak and unable to face the facts of life boldly. In connection with the expectation of solace (See: The Awaited Saviour, ISP 1979) it is said that this doctrine has deprived the Shi'ah of every initiative to improve their condition. While all other nations of the world are making efforts to improve their lot, the Shi'ah are waiting for the appearance of a saviour.
Out of the Islamic moral principles, austerity, contentment, patience, satisfaction, submission to the will of Allah and trust in Him have been charged with having a hand in the decadence of the Muslims.
Out of the administrative rules of Islam which fall in this category, the most important is the question of government. According to some critics Islam has failed to determine the duties of the Muslims clearly in this respect.
The penal laws of Islam have since long been ignored by the Muslims, and the Muslim countries have replaced them with the alien laws, though with unfortunate results. Nevertheless the penal laws of Islam are still begin criticized.
Two provisions of the Islamic civil law have been especially criticized during the modern times. One of them is the question of the rights of women and the other that of the economic laws of Islam in respect of property and inheritance.
Many people feel upset by the restrictions imposed by Islam on the relations between the Muslims and the non-Muslims, such as the rules in respect of marriage between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, meat of the animal slaughtered by a non-Muslim and the uncleanliness of the infidels as described in Islamic jurisprudence. These questions are regarded as the factors contributing to the backwardness of the Muslims.
These are the subjects in the section of Islam which need investigation and thorough study.
Fortunately favorable conditions for such an investigation exist now and it is possible to clarify these questions and remove any doubts about them lurking in the mind of the young and the educated classes.
Next section is that of the Muslims. In this section our attention is concentrated on the Muslims instead of Islam. In other words, we ascertain if it is true, that it is the Muslims themselves who are responsible for their decadence by deviating from the teachings of Islam.
In this section also we face many questions. First of all we have to determine what are the points of deviation and to find out what teachings of Islam have been abandoned by the Muslims and which practices foreign to Islam have been adopted by them. Secondly, we have to see whether the Muslims generally are responsible for their decadence or only leading sections of them.
It is known that Islam first appeared among the Arabs and thereafter spread to other nations such as the Iranians, the Indians, the Copts, the Berbers etc. All these people had their own national, racial and historic characteristics. It is to be seen whether these people or some of them influenced Islam through their characteristics and diverted it from its original course in such a way that if it had gone to some other nations, for example the Europeans, the destiny of Islamism and the Muslims would have been different today. Or is it that the Muslim masses had no role in this respect and whatever damage has been done to Islam and the Muslims, was wrought by the two influential classes, namely, the rulers and the divines.
In the section of foreign factors there are many events which must attract attention. From the very beginning Islam has always faced the hostility of its internal and external enemies. The Jews, the Christians, the Zoroastrians, the Manicheans and the heretics among the Muslims themselves, were not idle. They stabbed Islam in the back whenever they got an opportunity. Many of them played an active role in distorting the Islamic facts by fabricating hadiths (traditions) or by creating new sects and sowing the seeds of dissention. If they could do nothing else, they fanned the differences among the Muslims.
In Islamic history we come across many political or religious movements started by the non-Muslims with a view to weakening or obliterating Islam.
Occasionally the Muslim world was subjected to a large scale invasion also. The crusades and the Mongol invasion are the outstanding examples.
The western imperialism did even more harm during the past few centuries. It sucked the blood of the Muslims and sapped their energy under the pressure of its oppressive policies.
Imam Khumayni, the leader of the oppressed nations of the world has said:
"The Muslims of the world should make a united effort to regain the lost glory of Islam.
It should be clearly remembered by one and all that those who spur up disunity among the ranks of the Muslims are neither Sunnis nor Shi'ahs; they are lackeys of the imperialists whose only aim is to destroy Islam."
In view of what has been stated above, the subjects which should be considered are the following:
(1) Spectacular progress of the Muslims and their decline. (This subject is preliminary to the rest of the study)
(2) Islam and the requirements of time. (This subject has two parts: the first is related to the philosophy of history and the second deals with the application of the Islamic rules in the changing circumstances. This study also has a preliminary aspect)
(3) Fate and destiny
(4) Belief in the hereafter and its effect on the progress and decline
(7) Expectation of solace
(8) Moral system of Islam
(9) Islamic view about the government
(10) Islamic economy
(11) Penal laws of Islam
(12) Rights of woman in Islam
(13) International law of Islam
(14) Points of deviation
(15) Forgery and fabrication of hadiths
(16) Shi'ah-Sunni differences and their contribution to the decline of the Muslims
(17) Ash'arism and Mu'tazilism
(18) Stagnation and ijtihad
(19) Philosophy and mysticism (irfan)
(20) Rulers of the Muslim world
(21) Leadership of ulema
(22) Subversive activities of the minorities in the Muslim world
(24) Fall of Andalus
(25) Mongol invasion
These are the subjects which in my view should be included in this study. I do not claim to be exhaustive or to have been able to arrange them in an ideal order. There may possibly be some other subjects which should have been included in this list but have been missed by me. I know that I have neither capacity nor time to deal with all these subjects alone, but in some of them, including No. 1 and 2, I have prepared notes and hope to be able to publish them as early as possible.
I shall be highly obliged if some other writers and eminent scholars could choose a subject of their liking, carry out necessary investigations.
Some twenty years back when I first noticed that the Europeans regard the belief in fate and destiny as a cause or even the main cause of the decadence of the Muslims, I was still a student at the Islamic Educational Centre at Qum.
I was reading the second volume of the "Life of Muhammad" by Muhammad Hasnain Heikal. The final portion of the book consisted of two articles.
(i) Islamic culture as explained by the Qur'an
(ii) Orientalists and Islamic culture.
In the course of the second article he has reproduced what the well-known American writer, Washington Irving has said in his book about the Holy Prophet (s). According to Heikal, towards the end of his book after explaining the Islamic tenets about faith in Allah, the Angels, the Scriptures, the Prophets and the Day of Resurrection, Washington Irving said:
"The last and the sixth fundamental principle of Islam is that of predestination. Muhammad used it for the advancement of his warfare, for according to his rule every event which occurs in the world is already predetermined in the knowledge of God and is recorded in the protected tablet'. The destiny of everybody and the time of his death are predetermined and unalterable. Nothing can advance or delay an event. The Muslims who believed in these points and regarded them as indisputable, attacked the enemy fearlessly during a battle. They looked upon death during a fighting to be equal to martyrdom, which ensured Paradise. That is why they were sure of victory in either case, whether they were killed or overpowered the enemy. Of course, there are some Muslims who consider the theory of predestination, which says that man is not free to avoid sins, to be contrary to the justice and mercy of God. Certain sects have emerged which have tried and are still trying to explain and modify the doctrine of predestination, but their number is small and they are not considered to be the followers of the practice of the Prophet.. There could be no doctrine better than that which could drive the uninformed and self-conceited soldiers to the battlefield, and assure them of spoils if they survived and of Paradise if they were killed. This belief made the Muslim soldiers so bold and mighty that no other soldiers could rival them. But still this belief was a poison which annihilated the influence of Islam in the long run. When the successors of the Prophet gave up the policy of fighting wars and making conquests, and sheathed their swords, the doctrine of predestination revealed its devastating characteristics. Peace and tranquillity weakened the nerves of the Muslims.
The material comforts allowed by Islam, which distinguish this religion from Christianity, a religion of purity and self-negation, also had their effect. The Muslims ascribed all their sufferings and hardships to fate and regarded it as their duty to bear them patiently. According to them and any human effort and knowledge was of no avail in getting rid of them. The followers of Muhammad gave no importance to the golden rule: God helps those who help themselves'. That is why the Cross replaced the Crescent. If the Crescent still has some influence in Europe, that is because the big Christian powers want that to be so. In other words the influence of the Crescent is due to the mutual of its influence is a fresh proof of the maxim that anything gained by the power of sword, is taken away by the power of sword only."
Heikal in reply to this American has given a detailed explanation according to his own thinking and taste. His explanation, though it contains many good points, is not methodical, and hence it is controversial and can be refuted.
In this book we propose to prove the baselessness of the statement of Washington Irving and other Europeans and show that the doctrine of fate and destiny is miles apart from the theory of predestination. We will show that the same soldiers of early Islam whom Mr. Washington Irving arrogantly describes as uninformed and self-conceited, were fully aware of the difference which he is unable to comprehend.
Secondly, the Qur'an itself has supported human liberty in a number of its verses. Those who advocated the doctrine of free will and described the theory of predestination as opposed to the justice and mercy of Allah (viz. The Shi'ah and the Mutazilites), contrary to the assertion of the orientalists, did not go against the teachings of the Qur'an, nor did they modify what the Qur'an had said. Actually they derived their view from the Qur'an itself.
Thirdly, this great writer who, according to Heikal is a biased Christian and who calls Christianity a religion of purity and self-negation because unlike Islam it has given no heed to the problems of life, refers to the eternal Divine knowledge sarcastically.
Is it possible that a person believing in God may deny His eternal knowledge of everything? Is it a fault of the Qur'an that it describes Allah as All-Knowing?
Fourthly, he says that the followers of Muhammad did not give importance to the rule that God helps those who help themselves'.
This writer did not take the trouble of reading a translation of the Holy Qur'an even once, otherwise he would not have made such a frivolous assertion. The Qur'an expressly says: "As for him who desires the hereafter, strives for it as he should, and is a true believer, it is such people whose efforts shall be appreciated by Allah. We help both these and those with the favour of your Lord and more is deprived of it (in this world)". (Surah Isra', 17:19-20)
The followers of Muhammad attained even a higher stage of self-reliance, when they believed in the teaching of the Qur'an saying: "If you help Allah, He will help you and will make your foothold firm". (Surah Muhammad, 47:7) The Qur'an did not say: "If you help yourselves. . ." because that expression would have smacked of cupidity and personal profit. Instead it has used the expression: "If you help Allah", which has a general and human aspect and implies service to humanity.
As for the ascendancy of the Cross over the Crescent, which is regarded by Washington Irving as final and everlasting, we will discuss this point later at a suitable place in this book.
These views are not peculiar to Mr. Washington Irving. Similar views have been expressed by almost all other European writers, including those who appear to be unbiased to a certain extent. They all agree that Islam is a predestinarian creed. The only difference is that some of them do not regard this as a factor responsible for the decadence of the Muslims, whereas some others maintain that it is. Some European authors have even declared it to be main cause of the decline of the Muslims.
Will Durant in his "History of Civilization" after referring to the Qur'anic verses regarding the omnipotence and knowledge of Allah says: Predestinarianism is an essential part of Islamic thinking. In consequence of this belief the faithful endured the severest hardships of life with equanimity. But during the last few centuries it has blocked the progress of the Arabs and numbered their thinking power.
In contrast, Gustave Le Bon maintains that the belief in predestination was not a cause of the decline of the Muslims, and that the causes of their decline should be looked for somewhere else.
At first I intended to mention all the points connected with the progress and the decline of the Muslims in the introduction prefixed to this book. But later I gave up the idea, for if the necessary details of all the points were given, the introduction would have become lengthier than the main book and if brevity was observed that would not have served the purpose. Hence I preferred to be contented with what has been mentioned as an illustration. The details may be given in a separate treatise.
In this book, not all the points and the questions related to fate and destiny have been mentioned, because the aim is only to study whether this doctrine has actually been a cause of the decline of the Muslims. Hence certain aspects of this question which appeared to be irrelevant for our present purpose, have been omitted.
The question of fate has a long history among the Muslims. The expounders of the Qur'an, the scholastic theologians, the philosophers, the mystics, and even the poets and the literary figures have all discussed this question. An account of the views expressed by them requires an independent book. Besides, this question is covered by a large number of the Qur'anic verses and the hadiths (traditions) which are a model of the depth of Islamic knowledge. These very verses and hadiths have guided the Muslim philosophers and have enriched the Islamic philosophy to the extent pre-Islamic Greek philosophy paled in comparison to it.
Furthermore, there exist some other connected questions in the Islamic teachings that are not easy to explain by means of logical reasoning. One such point is Laylah al-Qadr (The Night of Destiny) which has been expressly mentioned in the Holy Qur'an, and about which there is no difference of opinion between the Shi'ah and the Sunnis. Another point is that of Bada' (Divine exposition), which is an indisputable Shi'ah doctrine based on the Qur'anic text. (See: The Beliefs of the Shi'ite School, the forthcoming Seminary Publication).
Predestination, free will and human liberty are the questions which if considered from various psychological, moral, philosophical and social angles, will require too lengthy a discussion.
It is hoped this book will prove useful and interesting to the inquisitive reader, and it would also remove his doubts in regard to the subject discussed, and would enlighten him to an appreciable degree.
No two words more awful than fate and destiny have ever struck the ears of a human being.
Nothing can be more depressing to the spirit of a man than the feeling that he has no liberty and all his acts are controlled by a superpower.
It may be said that freedom and liberty are the supreme blessings and the most bitter disappointment is supreme blessing and the most bitter disappointment is a feeling of helplessness, a feeling that one has no independent personality, a feeling that he is just like a sheep in the hands of a shepherd and that he has no control even over his food, sleep, life and death.
A feeling of quiet endurance and resignation resulting from helplessness is more consuming and oppressive to human spirit than any king of fire.
That is the position when a man finds himself helpless against another who is more powerful or against an animal which is stronger. It is easy to imagine what his position will be if he finds himself dominated by an invisible and mysterious force which he cannot resist. Obviously his position will be far worse.
A question which has always engaged human attention is whether the affairs of this world are going on in accordance with a pre-arranged and inevitable program. Are all the events in this world governed by an invisible but immensely powerful force called fate and destiny? Is everything that is happening now or will ever happen, predetermined? Is man subject to determinism and has no liberty of choosing? Or is it that there is no such thing as fate and man is absolutely free to determine his own destiny? Or is it that actually there operates a third alternative, according to which all events of the world are governed by destiny, the influence of which extends to everything without exception, but still its irresistible influence does not curtail human liberty in the least. If this is the case, how is it to be explained?
The question of fate and destiny is one of the most equivocal philosophical questions. For certain reasons to be explained later, it has been a subject of dispute among the Muslim thinkers from the first century of the Hijri era. The various views held in this connection have caused many controversies and given rise to a number of sects in the Muslim world with queer results during the past fourteen centuries.
Though it is a so called metaphysical subject, for two reasons it also comes under the category or practical and social questions.
The first reason is that man's way of thinking about this question affects his practical life and social attitude.
It is obvious that the spirit and attitude of a man looking at himself as a being subject to inexorable determinism, is different from those of one who believes that he has been created free and hence he is master of his destiny.
Generally speaking, most of the philosophical questions do not affect the spirit, attitude and actions of man. The practical attitude and the social spirit of a person are not influenced by such questions as the temporal eternity or transcience of the universe, the finiteness or infinitude of its dimensions, the system of causation, the theory that many cannot emanate from one and the identicalness of the essence and the attributes of the Self-existent Being.
The second reason is that the doctrine of fate and destiny, despite its being a personal belief, comes under the category of the questions of universal application, for the number of people who are in search of its solutions is very large.
It is one of those questions which engage the attention of nearly all those who have some capacity of thinking over general questions. Everybody is naturally interested in knowing whether he is at liberty to determine his course of life or it has already been irrevocably determined by his fate.
The scope of other philosophical questions is limited. They are only a matter of personal and private interest and do not attract such a general attention.
From these two view-points this question may be included in the category of practical, universal and social problems.
In olden days attention was seldom paid to the practical and social effects of this question. It was discussed only from theoretical, philosophical and scholastic points of view. But modern scholars give more heed to its practical and social aspects, and look at it from the angle of its effect on the way of thinking of the nations and their progress and decline.
Some critics of Islam hold that the biggest cause of the decline of the Muslims is their faith in fate and destiny. Now a question arises, if belief in destiny is a cause of the decline of an individual or a society, how is it that the early Muslims were not adversely affected by it. Did they not have a belief in destiny? Was this question introduced in the teachings of Islam later, as asserted by some European historians? Or is it that the nature of their belief in fate and destiny was such that it was not inconsistent with their faith in liberty and responsibility? In other worlds, did they believe that one's destiny was not absolutely beyond his control and that he could change it. If so, what was the basis of their thinking?
Leaving aside the basis of their belief, let us see what the Qur'an and the Imams say in this respect. Then we will see what way of thinking we should logically adobpt.
VERSES OF THE OUR'AN
Some verses of the Holy Qur'an expressly support the rule of destiny. They state that nothing happens in the world without the Will of Allah and that every event is already recorded in the Book'.
A few of the Qur'anic verses to this effect are quoted:
"Every affliction that falls on the earth or yourselves, already exists in a Book before it is brought into being by us. No doubt that is easy for Allah to accomplish". (Surah al-Hadid, 57:22)
"With Him are the keys of the invisible. None but He knows them. And He knows what is in the land and the sea. Not a leaf falls, but he knows it, not a grain amid the darkness of the earth, nor anything green or withered but is recorded in a clear Book". (Surah al-An'am, 6:59)
It is often seen that in the sentence, "there is nothing green or withered, but it is recorded in a clear Book", the word, Book is taken to be referring to the Qur'an, but it may be said with certainly that here the word, Book' does not refer to it. So far as we know, not a single reliable expounder of the Qur'an has interpreted the verse that way.
"They said: Do we have any say in the matter? Muhammad, tell them: All matters belong to Allah. They try to bide within themselves what they do not reveal to you, saying: Had we had the matter in our hands, we would not have been slain there. Say: Even though you had been in your houses, those appointed to be slain would have been slain by your sworn enemies while you were in your beds". (Surah Ale Imran, 3:154)
"We hold the store of every thing and we send it down in an appointed measure". (Surah al-Hijri, 15:21)
"Allah has set a measure for all things". (Surah al-Talaq, 65:2)
"Surely We created everything by measure". (Surah al-Qamar, 54:49)
"Then it is for Allah to have in error whom He will and to guide whom He pleases. He is the Mighty, the Wise". (Surah Ibrahim, 14:4)
"Say: Allah! Owner of Sovereignty! You bestow sovereignty on whomever you will and you withdraw from whomever you will. In your Hand is all that is good. No doubt you have power to do everything". (Surah Ale Imran, 3:26)
There are other verses which indicate that man is free and he can change his destiny:
"Allah never changes the condition of a nation unless it change what is in its heart". (Surah al-Rad, 13:11)
"Allah coins a similitude: a town whose people that lived secure and well content. Its provisions came in abundance from every quarter, but its people denied the favours of Allah, so He afflicted them with famine and fear because of what they used to do". (Surah al-Nahl, 16:112)
"Allah did not do injustice to them, but they had wronged themselves". (Surah al-Ankabut, 29:40)
"Your Lord does no injustice to His slaves". (Surah Fussilat, 41:46)
"We have shown man the right path. Now it is upto him to be grateful or thankless". (Surah al-Dahr, 76:3)
"Muhammad say: This is the truth from your Lord. Let him who believe in it, and let him who will reject it". (Surah al-Kahf, 18:29)
"Corruption has become rife on land and sea because of the misdeeds of the people". (Surah al-Rum, 30:41)
"Whoever seeks the harvest of the hereafter, We shall give it to him in abundance, and whoever seeks the harvest of the world, We give him a share of it. But in the hereafter he shall have no share". (Surah al-Shura, 42:20)
"As for him who desires the worldly pleasures, We swiftly provide in this world whatever We will to whomever We please. Then we assign to him Hell in which he shall burn despised and rejected. As for him who desires the hereafter, strives for it as he should, and is a true believer, it is such people whose efforts shall be appreciated by Allah. Each group will receive its share from the bounty of your Lord. And the bounty of your Lord is not limited" (Surah al-Isra', 17:18-20).
There are many other verses of both the categories. Most of the expounders of the Qur'an and the scholastic theologians consider the verses of the two categories to be contradictory to each other. According to them it is necessary to accept the verses of one category and explain away those of the other. This way of thinking appeared in the second half of the first century. The exponents of human liberty and the doctrine of free will tried to interpret the verses of the first category. They came to be known as the Qadarites. Another group inclined to the doctrine of predestination, interpreted the verses of the second category, and was called the Jabarite or predestinarian. Gradually two big groups of the scholastic theologians, two schools of theology came to be recognized. They absorbed in their ranks both the Jabarites and the Qadarites which ceased to exist independently. The Ash'arite school advocated predestination and the Mu'tazailite supported doctrine of free will.
We have used the word, Qadarite for the advocates of human liberty and free will. This term has been used in this sense by most of the scholastic theologians. In the religious reports also this word mostly has the same meaning. Anyhow, occasionally this term has been applied to the Jabarites also. On the whole, both the exponents of free will and predestination did not like themselves to be called the Qadarites, and applied this term to their oponents. The reason of this abhorrence was that a hadith was current according to which the Holy Prophet (s) was reported to have said that the Qadarites were the Magians of the Muslim ummah (nation)'. The Jabarites said that the term, Qadarites' referred to those who denied taqdir (destiny). Their opponents held that the Qadarites were those who believed that everything, including human acts, was predestined. Anyhow, for two reasons this term stuck to those who denied destiny: Firstly because the Ash'arite school became popular and the number of its opponents went on decreasing and secondly because the Qadarites were compared to the Magians, who were known to be confirming Divine destiny to what they called good'. Evil was ascribed by them to Ahriman (Devil).
We have already said that according to the most of the interpreters of the Qur'an as well as the scholastic theologians, the Qur'anic verses in respect of destiny and human free will are conflicting and hence it was necessary that the verses of one of these two categories should be interpreted in a way different from what they apparently convey.
It may be mentioned here that there are two kinds of contradiction. Sometimes a statement expressly contradicts another. For example, someone says: "The Holy Prophet died in the month of Safar". Another person says. "The Prophet did not die in the month of Safar". In this case the second statement expressly repudiates the first. But sometimes the position is some what different. The second statement does not contradict the first, but the truth of the second implies its falsity. For example, someone says: "The Prophet died in the month of Rabial-Awwal". It is self-evident that if the Prophet died in the month of Rabial-Awwal, he could not have died in the month of Safar.
Now let us see how the verses of the Qur'an in regard to fate and destiny on the one hand, and human liberty and free will on the other are mutually incompatible. Are they of the first type and expressly contradict each other, or of the second and the import of the verses of one category denies that of the verses of the other category.
There is no doubt that the Qur'anic verses on this subject do not expressly contradict each other. The position is not that the verses of one category say that everything is destined and those of the second declare that there is no such thing as destiny; or that the verses of one category say that man is free and has a choosing power, but those of the second category assert that man is not free and has no choice. No verses of the Qur'an deny that the Knowledge of Allah is all-comprehensive and that everything depends on His Will.
The reason why the two sets of these verses are considered to be conflicting is that the scholastic theologians and some commentators of the Qur'an think that destiny implies that man is not free. According to them destiny and liberty are mutually inconsistent. They argue that the fact that everything is within the Knowledge of Allah means that everything has been predetermined by Him. Should it be admitted that man exercise his own free will, Allah's Knowledge may on many occasions prove wrong.
In contrast, if it is true that man is master of his destiny and an effective factor in making or marring his fortune that automatically means that nothing is predestined.
Hence, one out of these two sets of verses needs interpretation.
The commentaries of the Holy Qur'an and the scholastic books of the Ash'arites and the Mu'tazilites are full of explanations and interpretations on this point. The Mu'tazilites explain the verses referring to destiny and the Ash'arites interpret those related to free will. To see the specimens of these interpretations a reference may be made to Tafsir al-Kashshaf by Zamakhshari, whose way of thinking is that of the Mu'tazilites.
Now let us see if it is feasible to have a third view which may resolve the apparent conflict between the belief in fate and destiny on the one hand and Allah's Omnipotence and His Omniscience on the other. If we can find such a proposition there will be no need of interpreting any set of the Qur'anic verses.
As we will see later there already exists a third view, according to which there is no actual conflict between these two sets of the Qur'anic verses. As a matter of fact, conflict has been created by a misunderstanding on the part of some theologians and commentators.
On principle it is meaningless to say that there is any contradiction in the Qur'an and that it is necessary to reconcile the conflicting verses. The fact is that there is not a single verse which may require any reconciliation. That is not the case even with the so called most equivocal verses. The consistency of the Qur'an is a subject which requires detailed discussion, but it is beyond the scope of this book. Anyhow, it may be said safely that constancy is one of the most miraculous aspects of the Holy Book.
There is no doubt that the doctrine of predestination, as enunciated by the Ash'arites, who maintain that man absolutely lacks liberty and freedom is dangerous. It paralyses the spirit and will of man. This doctrine encourages the oppressors and binds the hands of the credulous oppressed. Those who are able to occupy wrongly a position which they do not deserve or acquire wealth by unlawful mean, always talk of the blessing and favour of Allah. They say that He favours whomsoever he likes. His bounty is endless. That is the plea advanced by them to justify their unlawful gains. The under-privileged do not dare to make any protest, because they think that their protest would amount to raising objection against what Allah has ordained. Hence they endure their lot patiently. This doctrine provides the unjust an easy pretext of absolving himself of the responsibility of his misdeeds. The persecuted believes that whatever befalls him, is directed from Allah and therefore to fight against any act of injustice and tyranny is not only absurd but is also immoral.
A believer in predestination does not care to promote his personality, to reform his moral conduct and to control his actions because he disbelieves in the system of cause and effect and gives no heed to the relationship between man, his deeds and his spiritual and moral personality on the one hand and his happy or miserable future on the other. He leaves everything to his fate.
History show that during the Umayyad period the rulers made full use of the doctrine of fate and destiny. They were staunch supporters of predestination, and persecuted those who preached self-respect, liberty and free will. That is why this sentence became proverbial: "Predestinarianism and anthropomorphism are the doctrines of the Umayyads and justice and monotheism are the doctrines of the Alawis."
The earliest supporters and advocates of human liberty and free will during the Umayyad period were Ma'bad al-Juhani, an Iraqi and a Syrian known as Ghaylan of Damascus. These two persons were known for their honesty, integrity and faith. Ma'bad took part in the uprising of Ibn al-Ash'ath and was killed by Hajjaj. Ghaylan was hanged by order of Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik, who received a report about what he preached.
In his history of scholastic theology Shibli Numani says: "Though the stage was now fully set for the eruption of schisms in Islam, they started under political impetus. As during the Umayyad period injustice and tyranny were rampant, naturally the people were agitated and commotion existed everywhere. But whenever anybody made any complaint, the partisans of the government tried to silence him by saying that everything was ordained by Allah and none should utter a word against His will. "We believe that good fortune and ill-fortune both are from Allah".
Ma'bad Juhani was a very bold and frank man. One day he asked his teacher, Hasan Basri if the question of fate and destiny as raised by the Umayyads, was right. Hasan said: "They are the enemies of Allah. They are liars".
The Abbasids were the political enemies of the Umayyads. Their policy was different. Some of them, especially Mamun and Mu'tasim supported the Mu'tazilities who believed in human liberty. Still a new leaf was turned from the time of Mutawakkil, and official support was given to the doctrine of predestination. Since then the Ash'arite creed became popular in the Muslim world.
There is no doubt that the popularity and influence of the Ash'arties had a great impact on the Muslim world. Though the other sects, such as the Shi'ah did not officially follow them, yet even they could not escape from being influenced by them. The Shi'ah doctrine differs from that of the Ash'arites, though it is not in cent per cent agreement with that of the Mu'azilites also. Anyhow in the Shi'ah literature in Arabic and Persian there is not so much mention of human liberty as of man's being subject to his destiny, though the Imams of the Holy Family have expressly declared that the belief in fate is not on the whole inconsistent with the idea of human volition.
The words, fate and destiny have become awful and frightening because with the domination of the Ash'arite school in the Muslim world and it's influenced over Islamic literature, these words have become synonymous with compulsion, lack of liberty and illogical control of human actions and behavior by an invisible force.
This aspect of the question provided a pretext to the Christians of Europe to assert that the main cause of the decadence of the Muslims is their belief in fate and destiny and that Islam is a predestinarian system which totally deprives man of his liberty and volition.
While in Europe, Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1839 97), took notice of this criticism and replied to it in his articles. In the introduction of an article he said that if the spirit of a people was not pure and congenial, even the pure tenet of its faith were bound to be perverted. In their new form they only would add to its misery and error. They would be converted into a force which would lead it to further wicked deeds.
He further said: The true doctrine of fate and destiny has been greatly misunderstood by the uninformed. The Europeans are mistaken when they say that a nation believing in this doctrine losses its boldness, courage and other good qualities, and that all the undesirable qualities of the present day Muslims are the outcome of this very belief. Today the Muslims are poor. They are politically and militarily weaker than the European nations. Corruption, malice, dissension, disunity, ignorance, lack of insight and satisfaction with a subsistence level of living are rampant among them. They are not concerned with their progress and are not keen to pushing back their enemy. The ruthless armies of the enemy are attacking them from all sides, but they are not perturbed. They submit to every humiliation. They have fallen into slumber and left the treasures of wealth and independence to their enemies and the aliens.
He continued to say: The Europeans ascribe to the Muslims all the evils we have enumerated. According to them all these are the products of a belief in fate and destiny. They say if the Muslims will continue to stick to this belief for some time more, they will be doomed.
He added: The Europeans do not differentiate between a belief in fate and destiny and a belief in predestination according to which man has no liberty of action.
From the foregoing it should not be concluded that the question of fate and destiny and that of predestination and free will have arisen among the Muslims for any social or political reasons. As we will explain later these questions are primarily a scientific problem, a philosophical unknown, and a mental complex. They arise for every individual and every nation which is capable of thinking over general questions. Probably there is no nation in the world which has not thought over them in one way or other.
MATERIAL PHILOSOPHY AND DESTINY
Some people are under the impression that this dilemma presents itself only to those who believe in religion, and the materialists are not faced with any such problem.
This is a false impression. The people having the material way of thinking are also faced with this problem, though with a little difference.
According to the law of causation every event and every phenomenon is the product of one or more causes, and that cause (or causes) in turn is the product of some other cause or causes. It is an indisputable corollary of this law that in the presence of the relevant cause the effect must appear and in the absence of it, the appearance of the effect is impossible.
The materialists accept this relationship between a cause and its effect and consider it to be the basis of their material philosophy. Now obviously the human acts like all other phenomena must be governed by this law. They cannot be an exception to it. If that is so where can theory of free will and human liberty stand?
This is why we see that in all old and new philosophical systems the problem of compulsion and free will exists quite well. As we will explain later, some variation in the nature of the problem makes no substantial difference In fact the belief in fate and destiny has certain advantages that are missing in the belief in physical compulsion.
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.
In Arabic the words qadha' and qadar' are used for fate and destiny. The word, qadha' means to decide; to settle; to judge. A qadhi' (judge) is called so because he decides judicially between the litigants. In the Qur'an this word has been used frequently with reference to both man and Allah. It has been used in the sense of giving a final verdict and taking a decisive action.
The word, qadr' means to measure; to assess; and to determine. It also has been used in the Qur'an frequently.
The events of the world are said to be dividedly decided because they take place within the Knowledge of Allah and are subject to His Will. They are said to the divinely determined because their time, place and nature are determined in accordance with a system fixed by Allah.
We skip over the questions raised and the terminology used in this connection by the scholastic theologians for what they have dwelt on mostly relates to such questions as Allah's Knowledge and its degrees.
The only question which we may take up in the course of our present study is that the events taking place in the world may be looked at from three angles. Either we may say that they have no past. In other words, an event which takes place at any time is not related to anything preceding it, nor does its existence depend on anything prior to it. Its temporal and spatial characteristics and its scope and extent were not determined in the past.
If this hypothesis is accepted, there is no meaning of destiny. According to this theory the destiny of a thing is not predetermined at the stage of the existence of another thing preceding it, for there is no existential link between the two. If we accept this view, we will have to deny the principle of causation totally and will have to explain unscientifically all events as mere accidents.
However the principle of causation and the existence of an essential link between various events are fact, which are undeniable. Everything acquires its inevitability and its existential characteristics from some other thing or things preceding it. The principle of causation is in a way the basis of all human knowled
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