Fate & Predestination
His Supreme Seat
embraces the heavens and the earth, and it tires Him not to uphold them both.
Surely God is All-Powerful over all things. He had no beginning and He will
have no end. Because He is outside the realm of time and space, He knows
everything that has happened and will happen. God knew that human beings would
be valuable creatures when He made them, even though the angels didn’t think
much of us. He also knew the first pair of people would sin, and He made a plan
for the salvation of their descendants—if any would choose to take it. This is
the test we are all taking in this life.
When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden, they were sent into a world
full of choices. All of us today have just as many challenges to face as they
did. We can lead a successful life and achieve the eternal bliss, or we can
choose this fleeting life and endure the chastisement of the Inferno. But if
God is all-powerful and knows the past, present, and future, and has already
written for us the span of our life, our economic condition, and so many other
things, are we in fact, locked into an inescapable destiny?
Christianity has had to wrestle with this topic for centuries. After all,
asking why God made the universe when He already knows the future is a pretty
powerful question. Free will and the ability to shape our own future must mean
something if our test is be fair.
The Timeless Knowledge of God
God knows the time we are subject to as if it were a single moment rite from
its beginning to its end. Occurrences that are going to take place after our
death are related in the Koran as past events already experienced. For example,
God has already described in great detail all of mankind standing in line on
Judgment Day as though it has already taken place. God is not bound by the
relative time frame in which we are confined. People have already performed
their activities and all these events have been lived through and ended.
events that seem to have taken place in the past, or which will take place in
the future, or are taking place in the present, have actually already taken
place and ended in the site of God, Who is not bound by time or place. In the
same manner, eternity has also been experienced and ended in the site of God.
Just like the concurrent existence of the shots in a reel of film.
Even though God
knows the future, we can still act and make a difference in our ultimate fate.
The synthesis comes in a grand concept that can almost be described as managed
time. The answer begins with God’s foreknowledge. God knows the past,
present, and future all at the same time. He created time and so is not bound
by it. Muhammad said of God: “People struggle against the passing of time,
but I am Time. In My hand is the nite and the day.”
God sees us in any life stage at any time He wants. He won’t end our share of
time until we reach the amount allotted for us. So knowing God is outside the
timeline means that God’s foreknowledge is not a worrisome issue for us. God’s
foreknowledge is not making us do what we do. He is merely outside the
timeline, looking at us every stage of our lives, letting time flow, so we can
live out our natural lives and experience life for ourselves.
Trials & Tribulations in
All things, including people, are dependent on God, and He has measured our
life circumstances to provide a varied and challenging test for us to pass.
Beyond measuring the length of our lives, God will throw a specific set of
challenges our way, so we can make choices and learn to live by faith and
virtue. All along our timelines are stumbling blocks and situations that we
must react to. God does not test people with more than they can bear. It’s up
to us to rise to the challenge. God has intertwined everyone’s timelines and
this creates a never-ending web of actions and reactions.
How does this concept of measurement help us to live free from anxiety?
Basically, if we say that God has measured the circumstances in our life, we
can free ourselves from being overly stressed about what happens to us every
day. When we are stricken with calamities, our anxiety is reduced and our
despair is mitigated because we trust in God’s measurement or preordainment of
our tests. Life, therefore is a test and not a series of punishments and thus a
Muslim’s belief in the goodness of God and the essential rightness of His
overall plan remains intact.
The question remains: Can we change what will happen to us? Does prayer or our
active participation in a situation have any effect on the outcome of events?
Yes. Islam does not believe in fatalism or in an ultimate destiny that is
inescapable. Muhammad said, “Nothing changes the Divine Measurement except
fervent supplications to God.” As God looks at our timelines, there may be a
span of time where we decide to call on Him for His help. In that case, God may
change the course of our future. In doing so, His foreknowledge is not
affected. In His mercy, He may decide at any moment to alter our timeline and
respond to our prayers.
Muslims put their trust in God’s foreknowledge and accept what happens to them
will be a test. However, because we have the power to act and react and even
ask God to change things, Muslims always hold out hope that their active
participation can influence the course of their lives. In the end, they trust
in God and in His knowledge of their ultimate fate.
A Man Does What He Can Until
His Destiny is Revealed to Him
Islam divides daily life into two spheres: what we have control over and what
we do not. We have no control over the circumstances developing around us. The
car breaks down; we get laid off at our job; an earthquake topples the city; we
bump into a long-lost friend; we find a bag of money; the dog runs away, and so
on. These things just happen. We couldn’t prevent them because we didn’t know
they were coming. All of these things are a test for us. They were
predetermined challenges. They were our Divine Measurement.
Even though we have no control over what happens to us, we do have control over
how we feel and respond. When a tragedy strikes, do we blame God? When we see a
diamond, does covetousness well up within us? When someone does evil to us, do
we reciprocate or forgive? When we are alone, do we feel lonely or jubilant?
God says we have control over our feelings, emotions, and personal actions. Our
freedom is very limited, nevertheless it does exist and it is the deciding
factor for our responsibility and consequently for the eternal reward or
punishment. Our test lies in how we respond to what happens around us. Now
if we think of the complex web of actions and reactions that goes on every day
in all of our lives, we can begin to appreciate how little our capacity is
compared to God’s. The Hindu concept mite help here, but Muslims believe in
God’s Qadr, or measurement, not in a passive, impersonal web of actions
coming back to us.
God sees the timeline and knows what we do. He knows what challenges will erupt
as lives cross, and He knows how natural processes such as tornadoes,
earthquakes, rainfall, or sunny days will affect the mix. No matter what
tragedy befalls us, if we trust in God and persevere, then we display a proof
of our faith. Sabr is the word used for patience and perseverance.
Muhammad said, “Work as you are able because if you don’t help yourself, God
won’t help you either.”
“Every soul shall taste death. I am putting all of you to a test by passing
you through bad and good conditions, and finally you shall return to Me.” (21:35)
Peace from the Pulpit
The story of Abu Hanifa is a practical example of the peacefulness that belief
time the man came to me, he told me all my merchandise was lost at sea in a
shipwreck. When I realized that this loss had no effect on my faith in God, I
said, ‘Praise God.’ The second time he came to me, he told me it was a mistake
and that the ship with all my goods on it was now coming into port. When I
realized that this also did not cause my heart to become altered I again said,
In another famous story about Hanifa, he was leaving a mosque one day when he
was accosted by a beggar. The man was not disabled or old so Hanifa asked him
why he didn’t get a job. The man replied that he was following the teachings of
the Prophet Muhammad, who said, “If you would put your trust completely in God,
He will provide for you in the same way He provides for the birds: they go out
in the morning with their stomachs empty and return in the evening with their
stomachs full. Hanifa shook his head and told the man that he had
misinterpreted the saying of the Prophet. The man failed to take note of the
fact that the birds had to go out in the morning and work for their food. The
man dropped his bowl and went looking for employment.
Only God Knows the Future
Trusting in God and His plan while taking action is the Muslim way. “Tie your
camel and then put your trust in God,” the Prophet once told a man who asked
which he should do first. God knows the future, we can rest assured He is the
best Planner. People who do not have this kind of faith, however, often resort
to fortune-tellers, tarot-card readers, crystal balls, or psychic hotlines
because they are afraid of what is to come. Islam says this is a sign of lack
of trust in the Creator. The fortune-telling business is considered a sham by Islamic
standards. Why is it that psychics sometimes give true predictions? Islam has
an answer for that, too.
The jinns—an alien species, like Satan—like to follow the angels around. The
angels, who are given instructions about whose soul to take or what natural
disaster will occur, often talk amongst themselves. When the jinns overhear
something that is going to happen on earth, they rush to people who claim to be
fortune-tellers and pour that knowledge into their minds, mixing one truth with
ninety-nine lies along the way. Thus when these so-called psychics speak they
use this knowledge to give bad advice because they do not guide people to lead
God-centered lives. Rather the point of reference is to tell people what they
want to hear. God says people who delve into this type of activity are
polytheists and “will have no share in the next life.”