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Why Religion?

Discover Islam


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It has been proved in the First Topic that whatever is determined by Destiny is good, and that even if some events appear to be evil, they are actually good, and ugly things are in essence beautiful. If this is opposed by arguing that calamities and misfortunes that befall man contradict this, the answer will be as follows:

Even though you, my carnal soul and my friend, feel agonies as a result of your strong connections with existence and affection toward beings, existence is entirely good since it generates every beauty and perfection, whilst non-existence is purely evil since all sins and misfortunes originate in it. Since non-existence is evil, those circumstances which have a suggestion of non-existence in them contain some element of evil. Therefore, life, the most brilliant light of existence, grows in vigor as it revolves in different circumstances. It is purified and perfected through experience of contradictory events and happenings, and it produces the desired results through taking on different qualities, and thus gives testimony to the manifestations of the Divine Names. It is for this purpose that living creatures go through many states, and experience situations in which they suffer misfortunes and hardships, so purifying their lives. During each one of these hardships, they renew the light of their existence, and depart from the negative darkness of non-existence. Idleness, inertia and monotony are in quality and as conditions all some aspects of non-existence. Even the greatest pleasure is reduced to nothing by monotony.

In short: Since life displays the manifestations of God’s Beautiful Names, everything which occurs in it is beautiful. Let us suppose that an extremely rich and infinitely skilled clothes designer employs an ordinary man as a model to display his works of art in return for wages. He requires the man to dress up in a bejeweled and artistically fashioned garment which illustrates the works of his art and his invaluable wealth. He works the garment on the man, giving it various forms. In order to display every variety of his art, he cuts it, changes it, and lengthens and shortens it. How bizarre, then, it would be for this employee to say, ‘You are causing me trouble. You are making me bow and stand up. By cutting and shortening this garment which makes me more beautiful, you are spoiling my beauty’! Does he have the right to tell him, ‘You are acting unkindly and unfairly?’

In the same way, the Creator causes living creatures to put on the garment of existence, bejeweled with senses, and reason, intellect and heart. He cuts out the pattern of that garment to give it new shapes, and adds to it beauties, and displays the magnificence of His Beautiful Names. Those circumstances which appear to cause misfortune and pain are actually flashes of the Divine Wisdom which reflect rays of compassion and contain subtle beauties.

If man has only a nominal share in his acts because his free will does not possess creative ability, why do we read in the holy Qur’an that the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth takes man’s rebellion so seriously?

Unbelief, rebellion and sinfulness mean destruction, and complete destruction can result from an act of disobedience of a most nominal weight. Just as a vessel may sink due to the helmsman’s negligence, whilst the efforts of the whole crew can achieve nothing to save it. A man’s free will can cause great depredations as a result of unbelief and sinfulness, no matter how insignificant a share it actually has in the performance of acts. Unbelief is so great a sin by its nature that it reduces the whole universe to something of no value, and contradicts the witnessing to the Oneness of God by the whole of creation, and denies the manifestations of the Divine Names. It is, therefore, entirely proper that God should take unbelief so seriously and threaten unbelievers so severely in the name of the whole of creation and the Divine Names, and it is absolutely just to condemn them to the eternal torment of Hell. Since rebellious men cause vast corruption through unbelief and sinfulness, the believers are in great need of God’s succour against them. A mischievous boy can set a whole house on fire although it is guarded by ten strong men, and those guards may need to apply to the parents of that boy to prevent him from committing such a crime. So too do believers need the help of God against rebellious and sinful men.

What is the divine reason for calamities?

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

When the earth is shaken with a mighty shaking,, and the earth brings forth its burdens, and man says, “What ails it?” Upon that day it shall tell its tidings for that your Lord has inspired it. (al-Zilzal, 99.1-8)

This sura states explicitly that the earth moves and quakes at a command, on receiving inspiration. Sometimes it trembles.

[The following comprises the brief answers to seven questions asked in connection with the recent earthquake.]

First question:

More distressing than the material disaster of this recent earthquake, the fear and despair coming from its recurrence are destroying the nightly repose of most of the people in most areas. What is the reason for this terrible torment?

Answer: They were broadcasting obscene songs in a sort of drunken rapture, some of them sung by girls, by means of the radio, during the tarawih (supererogatory prayers done after the early night prayer) in the month of Ramadan in every corner of this blessed center of Islam. This resulted in the torment of this fear.

Second question

Why is it that, rather than the populations of the countries of unbelievers, the unhappy Muslims are afflicted with such heavenly blows?

Answer: Major cases and big crimes are tried and judged in big centers, while the minor ones are decided in small centers. Similarly, for a significant purpose, the requital for the greater part of the unbelievers’ crimes is postponed to the Last, Supreme Judgement, while the believers are partly punished in this world for their faults.

Third question

What is the reason for this disaster, which arose from the wrongdoing of particular individuals, encompassing almost all the people in the area?

Answer: Since the general disaster results from the wrongdoing of the majority, most of the people must have participated in the actions of those sinful individuals either actively or by giving them direct or indirect support or in some other way.

Fourth question

Since this disaster of the earthquake is the result of wrongdoing and atonement for sins, why were also the innocent and faultless struck by it? How did Divine Law allow this?

Answer: Since this matter is concerned with Divine Destiny, I refer you to the Treatise on Destiny and Man’s Free Will, and here only say this:

Fear a trial, a disorder, which shall surely not smite in particular the evildoers among you.

The verse means that this world is a field of trial and testing, and a place of responsibility and struggle. Testing and responsibility require that the truth in certain matters remains veiled so that, through competition and struggle, those like Abu Bakr may rise to the highest of the high while others like Abu Jahl may fall to the lowest of the low. If the innocent remained untouched in such disasters, the Abu Jahls would submit just like the Abu Bakrs, and the door of spiritual progress through struggle would be closed and the responsibility and testing would be meaningless.

If Divine Wisdom requires that wronged and wrongdoer are together visited by the same disaster, what then is the share of the wretched and the wronged in Divine mercy and justice?

For the wronged there is a kind of mercy behind the wrath and anger in the disaster. For just as the lost property of the innocent becomes like alms given to the poor and thereby gains permanence, their death in the disaster may be regarded as a kind of martyrdom and therefore gains them an eternal life of happiness. For this reason, having gained for them a great and perpetual profit from a relatively little and temporary difficulty and torment, the earthquake is, for them, an instance of Divine mercy within wrath.

Fifth question

Why does the All-Just, All-Compassionate, All-Powerful, All-Wise, not give particular punishments for particular wrongs, but returns them with comprehensive afflictions? How can this be reconciled with the grace of His Mercy and inclusiveness of His Power?

Answer: The All-Powerful One of Majesty gives numerous duties to each element in creation and causes numerous effects to be produced through each duty. One effect of one of an element’s duties may be ugly or evil or calamitous. But the further effects of it may be good, beautiful. If the element were prevented from its duties on account of that one ugly or evil effect, many instances of good would be prevented also, which means that the same quantity of evil would be encouraged. Leaving many instances of good undone to avoid a single evil is extremely disapproved and contrary to wisdom, contrary to reality, and a fault. However, Divine Power and Wisdom, and Truth are free of fault. Certain faults constitute a rebellion comprehensive enough to rouse the earth and certain other elements to anger, and constitute an insulting infringement of the rights of numerous creatures. For sure, in order to demonstrate the extraordinary ugliness of that crime, to give to a mighty element, as a part of its universal duty, the command to reprimand the rebellious is perfect wisdom and justice, and for the wronged, perfect mercy.

Sixth question

The heedless put it about that the earthquake results from a fault in the rock strata inside the earth, and consider it as quite simply a chance event, natural, and without purpose. They do not recognize the non-material causes and results, so that they might be awakened to the truth and take a lesson from the event. Does their allegation have any truth in it?

Answer: It has no truth in it, only misguidance. For each year the earth is dressed in and changes innumerable embroidered well-designed clothes. Out of those clothes, the fly has countless members. Take the wing of a single individual fly, which is only one out of its tens of organs. The intention, will, purpose, and wisdom manifested on the wing show that-let alone its important movements and actions-nothing on the earth, which is the cradle, matrix, and protector of innumerable conscious beings, is neglected and left to itself. Everything connected with it, whether particular or universal, cannot lie outside the Divine Will, choice, and purpose. However, as is required by His Wisdom, the Absolutely Powerful One veils His disposals with apparent causes. When He wills an earthquake, He may command the movement of the rock strata and stir them up. Even if the earthquake results from this movement, still this movement and the quake following it occur by Divine Command and in accordance with His Wisdom.

To give an example, one man shot another and killed him. If the killer is entirely disregarded, and only the movement of the bullet taken into consideration, the rights of the wretched victim would be completely violated, and this would be utter foolishness and injustice. The All-Powerful One commands, "Move the rock stratified inside you for definite purposes in order to arouse the heedless and the rebellious." To disregard the command of the Lord concerning the earth, which is a docile "official" of the All-Powerful One of Majesty, or a ship or an airplane of His-to disregard this and to deviate into attributing everything to "cause and effect" is sheer stupidity.

An addition to the answer of the sixth question: In order to maintain their way and counter the awakening of the believers and obstruct them, misguided people and atheists display an impertinence so strange and an indifference so peculiar that it makes a person regret his humanity. The Creator shakes men in order to make them give up their awesome and wrongful rebellion which recently has, to a degree, taken a general form, and to awaken mankind and make them recognize the universe’s Sovereign, Whom they do not want to recognize. The Creator of the Heavens and the earth has not shaken man on account of a particular manifestation of His Lordship but as the Ruler and Lord of the whole universe, the whole of the worlds. He has done so through an overall, general manifestation throughout the universe and in the universal sphere of His Lordship. He has struck mankind in the face with widespread and terrible calamities like earthquakes, storms, floods, and world wars, and demonstrated in most clear fashion His Wisdom, Power, Justice, Self-Subsistence, Will, and Sovereignty. Although this is the truth, certain misguided people respond to these universal signs of Divine Lordship and Divine reprimands with obstinate denial, saying, "Nature does this. It results from a fault in the rock strata and is just chance. It is the sun’s heat clashing with electricity, which brought all machinery in America to a standstill for five hours, and caused the atmosphere in Kastamonu Province of Turkey to turn red and take on the appearance of a conflagration."

Due to boundless ignorance coming from misguidance and an impertinence arising from atheism, they do not know that "natural causes" are only so many occasions and veils. A huge pine tree requires in effect as many factories and looms as to fill a village to grow from a seed. However, by attributing the tree only to its tiny seed and certain apparent causes, the atheist denies the numerous miracles which the Maker displays in the tree, and reduces to nothing a comprehensive act of the Creator’s Lordship performed through Will and Wisdom. Sometimes he attaches a scientific name to a most profound, unknowable and significant reality which has thousands of purposes in a thousand respects, as though by giving it that name the whole nature of it had been explained and understood. Whereas it is merely made commonplace, without purpose, wisdom, and meaning. Also, he attributes a particular and purposeful act of the Lord to one of the laws of nature, which are only expressions of one aspect of the Universal Will Encompassing Choice, and the Universal Sovereignty and they rightly are called Divine Laws. By doing this and severing the connection between an act of the Lord (an event) and Divine Will and purpose, he limits it to chance and nature. This is, in practice, like attributing the victory on the battlefield of an individual soldier or battalion to military regulations and discipline, and completely ignoring the soldiers, the commander, the king, and the government, and their purposeful, intentional actions and practices. Or it is like this: Like the creation of a fruit-bearing tree from a seed, a wonder-working craftsman produces a hundred kilos of various foodstuffs and a hundred meters of diverse cloths from a chip of wood the size of a fingernail. Someone appears, and pointing to the chip of wood, declares, "These things have come into being out of it "naturally’ and "by chance,’" thus reducing to nothing the craftsman’s wonderful arts and skills.

Seventh question

How do we conclude that this event of the earth was aimed at the Muslim people of this country and why were areas of Erzincan and Izmir affected most?

Answer: The event took place during a hard winter in the dark of night and severe cold. It was restricted to the region which was disrespectful of the month of Ramadan, and it continued mildly in order to arouse the neglectful. These signs, together with some others, show that this earthquake was aimed at the believers. The earth was shaking them to warn them to perform the prayers and other acts of worship, and was itself trembling.

There are two reasons why it shook places like Erzincan more than others:

One: Since their faults were few and slight, they were forgiven without being left to the Supreme Tribunal in the Hereafter.

Two: Taking the opportunity that the strong and truthful defenders of the faith and protectors of Islam were few or utterly defeated in those places, the atheists established an effective center of activity. For this reason, punishment must have been visited on them first.

None save God knows the Unseen.

Glory be to You, we have no knowledge save what You have taught us; surely You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

Is there an aspect of true beauty in everything, even in the things which appear to be the ugliest?

This is to explain one meaning of the verse,

(He) has made good everything He has created.

In everything, even in the things which appear to be the ugliest, there is an aspect of true beauty. Everything in the universe, every occurrence, is either in itself beautiful, which is called "beautiful by itself," or it is beautiful on account of its results, which is called, "beautiful through others." There are some occurrences which are apparently ugly and confused but, beneath that apparent veil, there are most radiant instances of beauty and order.

Beneath the veil of stormy rains and muddy earth, in the season of spring, are hidden the smiles of innumerable beautiful flowers and well-ordered plants. Also, behind the veils of the harsh destruction and mournful separations of autumn is the discharge from the duties of their lives of the amiable small animals, which are the friends of the delicate, shy flowers. This is so as to preserve them from the blows and torments of the events of winter, which are the manifestations of Divine Majesty, and under the veil of winter the way is prepared for the new and beautiful spring.

Beneath the veil of events like storms, earthquakes, and plagues, is the unfolding of numerous hidden "immaterial flowers." The seeds of many potentialities which have not developed, sprout and flourish owing to events apparently ugly. It is as if upheavals, revolutions and general changes function as "immaterial" rain. Nevertheless, being a superficial observer who is inclined to judge by outward appearances and moreover self-centered, man considers only the external and judges such events as ugly. Since he is self-centered, he reasons only according to the result with which he is concerned and so judges them to be evil. Whereas, if one among the aims attached to things relates to man, there are others directly connected with their Maker’s Names.

For example, man may regard as harmful and meaningless thorny plants and trees, which are among the great miracles of the Creator’s Power, functioning as "well-equipped, heroic guards" of the plants and trees. Again, God’s causing hawks to harry sparrows is apparently incompatible with Mercy. But through this harrying the sparrow’s potentialities develop. Also man may consider snow to be very cold and unpleasant but under the veil of cold and unpleasantness there are purposes so warm and results so sweet that they are indescribable. Further, since man judges according to outward appearances and, because of his egotism, according to only those aspects with which he is concerned, he supposes to be contrary to good manners many things that are perfectly polite and compatible with well-manneredness. Some expressions of the wise Qur’an, which is the source of good manners and right conduct, concerning man’s private parts and his private affairs or relationships are perfectly polite and correct on account of the art of their creation and the purposes intended thereby.

Likewise, beneath the apparent faces of the creatures and events which seem to us to be ugly and worthy of disapproval, there are so many beautiful and purposeful instances of art and aspects of beauty concerning their creation that they are connected with their Maker. Also, there are numerous beautiful veils which conceal many instances of wisdom, and many apparent instances of disorder and confusion which are in reality most well-arranged examples of sacred divine composition..

Are we victims of Destiny? Do we have any part in the calamities befalling us?

This question has been discussed in different places. However, here I will try to sum up those discussions.

No one is a victim of Destiny. God does not destine our acts; rather, He creates whatever we will to do. Destiny’s decrees or verdicts are based on Its consideration of our free will.

We are directly responsible for whatever happens to us. If we experience misfortune, it is either because we have misused our free will or because, as with Prophets, God wills to promote us to higher ranks. For example, the sun is absolutely necessary for and indispensable to life. If we stay outside too long and die of sunstroke, can we blame the sun? Of course not, for we could have gone inside or taken sufficient precautions. In the same way, our own free will (not Destiny) is responsible for any misfortune that comes our way. Blaming Destiny only causes the misfortune to worsen.

To cite another example: God Almighty created and endowed us with certain faculties or powers, one of which is lust. If we use this power improperly and thus harm ourselves, it can only be our fault. God gave us this power so that we may reproduce the species in the proper manner and be promoted to higher spiritual ranks by resisting our carnal self’s illicit suggestions. It is the same with anger. God Almighty gave it to us so that we can defend ourselves and our religious and social values, not to hurt others. Therefore, if an uncontrolled burst of angers causes us to kill someone, it is our fault, not Destiny’s.

Destiny relates to the cause and the effect together at the same time. If we judge only by considering the effect, usually we make mistakes. For example, if we accuse a father of abusing his daughter while he is only trying to discipline her because he likes her or so that she may reform herself and learn how to behave properly, we would be wronging the father. While judging any event, we should consider all related information. If we will cannot see any good in it, we should tell ourselves that whatever God does is good either in itself or in its consequences, and never accuse Destiny. This is what is meant by the following verse: It may be that you dislike a thing although it is good for you, and love a thing although it is bad for you. God knows but you know not (2.216).

In such calamities as earthquakes or floods, God usually does not choose between the good and the evil or the innocent and the guilty. Such calamities fall on everyone, for they are part of the tests and trials prepared for us and serve His purpose. However, in return for undergoing such calamities, good and innocent people will receive a great reward in the Hereafter. Also, it should be pointed out that sometimes God uses such calamities to punish such people because they do not try to enjoin what is good and prevent what is evil.

Whatever God does is the best and most proper. So, we should try to see His wisdom behind the good He bestows on us and the suffering to which He subjects us.

How can you explain why so insignificant a thing as free will causes one to deserve eternal Paradise or Hell?

Compared with God’s acts and creation and humanity’s function in existence, the role of the free will is really insignificant. It is because of this that some have gone so far as to deny it, and those who follow the “middle path” in this matter have concluded that the free will is an inclination or something like inclination or, less than being an inclination, it is humanity’s preference between the inclinations they feel in themselves and putting one of them into effect. It is actually like pressing the switch to light a house or a city.

Before asking about the reason why God Almighty may condemn us to eternal Hellfire because of our misuse of our free will in so short a time as a life-span, we should think about whether we can really deserve eternal Paradise by using our free will in the right way. Should we not consider how we can ever adequately perform the duty of giving thanks to God for the bounties pouring down upon us? If we worshipped Him incessantly during our whole life-time, still we would not be able to pay our debt of thanksgiving for only our eyes. Again, as pointed out earlier, a single pomegranate or a cherry, costs the whole of the universe, for its growth or production requires the cooperation of air, water, earth, and the sun, none of which, coming together to cooperate, even the whole of mankind could produce. Furthermore, God Almighty asks us to assign only a small portion of our time for worship. The time we spend on daily prescribed prayers hardly exceeds one hour, one twenty-fourth part of a day. The amount of the wealth which we are enjoined to give as prescribed alms is, in most cases, one fortieth. We are obliged, if indeed we can afford it, to go on pilgrimage only once in our whole life-time. All the rest of our life and wealth goes on worldly things. Despite this, God, the All-Merciful, promises us eternal Paradise, the blessings and beauties of which are beyond imagination. So, we should, first of all, think about God’s infinite mercy which enfolds us and invites us to Paradise.

Now, we can discuss how a human being deserves eternal punishment in so small a time as life-time, and why God admits him/her in Paradise in return for his/her meritorious acts.


Intention has a prominent place in our actions. The Messenger of God, upon him be peace and blessings, says:

Actions are judged according to intentions: whatever someone intends to do, he gets the reward thereof. So, whoever emigrates for God and His Messenger, has emigrated for God and His Messenger; and whoever emigrates to acquire something worldly or to marry a woman, his emigration is to what he intends. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Bad’u l-Wahy, 1; Sahih al-Muslim, ‘Imara, 155.)

Intention is the spirit of our actions, without which any action will not be rewarded. If one remains hungry and thirsty from daybreak to sunset without intending to fast, he/she is not counted as having fasted. If one fasts without intending to obtain God’s good pleasure, he/she does not get any reward for his/her fasting. While one who is killed in a war in which one has participated in order that the Word of God may be exalted or may have the upper hand, dies a martyr and goes, by God’s will, to Paradise, another who fights for another cause like fame or wealth, does not die a martyr and will most probably not be admitted in Paradise. So, whatever one intends, one gets the reward thereof. One who has firm belief in God and other pillars of faith and has the intention to believe in them [as if one were to live eternally] will be rewarded with eternal felicity in Paradise. Another one who, having already removed from his/her heart the inborn tendency to believe, is determined not to believe even he/she were to live until eternity, he/she will be the victim of his/her eternal determination and deserve the eternal punishment. About the people in whose being unbelief is deeply ingrained and who have lost the capacity to believe, the Qur’an says:

As for the unbelievers, it is the same whether you warn them or warn them not. They will not believe. God has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes there is a covering. (al-Baqara, 2.6-7)

Punishment is judged according to the nature of the crime

Punishment is judged according to the nature and result of the crime and the intention of the criminal in committing it, not to how long it took the criminal to commit the act.

The punishment of murder, which in most cases takes five minutes or even seconds, ranges from imprisonment for many years or for life to death. What is considered here is the nature and result of the crime, not the duration of its committal. Unbelief is infinitely more grave than murder. If you accuse a truthful, innocent one of lying and deception, he/she will be very angry with you. Likewise, unbelief means the denial of the true testimony of innumerable creatures, from atoms to huge galaxies, to the existence and Unity of their Creator, and accusing them of lying or false testimony. Again, unbelief is the denial of God, Who is the Unique Creator, Sustainer and Administrator of the whole of existence, and degradation of His innumerable works of art. Unbelief is also an accusation of more than one hundred thousand Prophets, who, according to the testimony of history and the people of each, are the most truthful of humankind, of the most abased form of lying, deception and trickery. Again, unbelief means accusing the followers of the Prophets of following the greatest tricksters of human history. It is also an insult to and accusation of deception and deviation against innumerable believing men from the time of Adam. For all these and other similar reasons, it is pure justice to condemn unbelief to the eternal punishment of Hell.

Unbelief is an infinite destruction

However insignificant the part of the free will seems in our actions, and however slight a sin unbelief may seem to some at first sight, it is a denial and negation and therefore destructive. Remember that we likened the part of the free will in our actions to turning on or off the switch to illuminate or darken a room. So, by turning off a switch you can reduce a whole city to darkness. To cite other examples, by lighting a match you may burn to ashes in a few minutes a huge, magnificent palace which hundreds of workers constructed over several years. Remember that it was a single bullet fired by a Serbian which ignited the fire of the First World War, and led to millions of lives lost and massive destruction.

Also, suppose there is a garden with flowers and trees of all kinds on the branches of which birds sing, and in which all kinds of animals live. All those plants and animals subsist on the water reaching them through canals, and a person is in charge of irrigating the garden by letting the water flow to the canals from a big reservoir. What kind of sentence do you think would be appropriate if this person were to let the garden with all the plants and animals therein die of thirst by simply turning off the flow of water? The act of unbelief is equivalent to such an act but on the scale of the creation as a whole.

Unbelief is an unforgivable ingratitude

Unbelief is an unforgivable ingratitude. The one who denies Him Who brought his/her into existence from non-existence and endowed him/her with many kinds of faculties like reason, intellect, heart, memory, and insight, and inner and outer senses, and Who nourishes him/her with numerous varieties of food and drink, has doomed himself/herself to the punishment equal to his/her action. As pointed out earlier, if all the people in the world came together to create a single fruit or leaf or even a single blade of grass, they could not do it. So, denial of the One Who created this huge universe and subjugated it to the use of humanity is the severest and most abominable kind of crime which deserves the most lasting and severe kind of punishment. Also, Satan always tries to deviate us and invites us to unbelief and dissipation. Our evil-commanding soul was given to us so that we could rise to the highest of the high by refining it. We have the faculty of conscience which innately feels the existence of God, the Creator and Sustainer of beings, and feelings which long for eternity and can be satisfied only with eternity. An unbeliever is he/she who, following in the footsteps of Satan, has submitted to the desires and seduction of his/her evil-commanding self, closed the doors of his/her conscience to innumerable signs of God in both himself/herself and the universe, extinguished his/her, and more than all, blinded himself/herself to the most manifest signs of the Creator, namely the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad and other Prophets, upon them be peace.

Punishment varies according to the one who committed the crime

The punishment for breaching a trust is proportional to the significance of the trust and its true owner. The punishment given to a child who has broken the window of an ordinary building is not like that of the aide-de-camp of a king who has lost or broken the crown of the king. If, again, a private and an army commander spent the capital that was given to each according to his rank on petty things and wasted it away, the commander would certainly be tried at a court-martial and sentenced to a much greater punishment than the private. Likewise, if a scientist responsible for carrying out scientific investigations behaved like a shepherd and spent the resources assigned to his/her investigations on trifling things, certainly he/she would not be treated the same as a shepherd who spent resources assigned to him/her for feeding sheep to meet his/her own needs.

Animals spend the capital of life assigned for them in the world without any misuse or waste; they fulfill whatever they must: some carry burdens, some give milk and meat, and still some others produce things like honey or silk for the use of human beings. It is only a human being that may spend whatever is given to him/her in either the right or the wrong way. So, despite being the most honored of beings endowed with many faculties like conscience, intellect, consciousness, memory, and powers of thinking and reasoning, as well as with numerous inner and outer senses and feelings, if a human being wastes all these faculties, senses and feelings, he/she will certainly deserve a severe punishment. Particularly, if he/she lets his/her evil-commanding self dominate over his/her heart, which must overflow with knowledge and love of the Creator, he/she will undoubtedly be reduced to being a kind of fuel for Hell.

The Prophet says that at the sixth week of the embryo’s development, God sends an angel to write whether it will be righteous and prosperous or wicked and condemned. What does this mean, and how can we reconcile it with human free will?

In addition to what has been said above, we will make the few following comments.

Destiny is a title of Divine Knowledge. It does not cancel our free will or force us to behave in a preordained way. Since God knows beforehand what we will do and say (as He is not constrained by our concept of time), He has an angel to write down our life-history. A human being behaves according to the dictates of his or her free will, not because God wrote down his/her future life.

Destiny is related both to the cause and effect. There are not two separate destinies, one for the cause, the other for the effect. God knows beforehand how His servant will behave in what circumstances and His pre-knowledge does not contradict a human being’s having free will.

Only God knows whether we will go to Paradise or Hell. Although unbelief deserves eternal punishment, we may not say that unbelievers are going to Hell, for one day they might accept belief and go to Paradise. Many atheists have become Muslims. Islam came to guide unbelievers to faith and worship, and to eternal happiness in Paradise.

What does Islamic fitra (primordial nature) mean?

In an authentic hadith, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, says that all infants are born with this Islamic fitra, and then their parents cause them to adopt another faith (or no faith at all).

This hadith means that everyone has the innate potential to become a Muslim. Meaning peace, salvation, and obedience, Islam is the natural religion of all creatures. Since everything obeys God absolutely and functions according to His laws, all creatures are muslim. Every being’s bodily structure, regardless of religion or lack thereof, whether they are human or jinn, are muslim, for all bodies operate according to the laws God Almighty determined for them. If an infant led a completely monastic life free of environmental effects, he or she would remain a “natural” Muslim.

This hadith also means that an infant’s mind is like a tape on which anything can be recorded, a lump of dough that can be shaped in any way, a blank paper on which anything can be written. If you could protect yourself against any external thing that would corrupt your mind, you could receive anything related to Islam easily and become a perfect Muslim. But if your mind becomes impure, or you inject into it the tenets, beliefs, and conduct of another religion (or of atheism), you either will adopt another faith or encounter many problems on your way to becoming a good Muslim.

Infants are like seeds that can produce good Muslims, for they are all seeds of future Muslims. Adverse conditions cause these seeds to be deformed or spoiled, and these people eventually adopt another faith or none at all. Therefore, to grow good Muslims, we have to do our best to improve our familial and surrounding social conditions. After children reach puberty, sins are a primary cause of deformed seeds. As every sin has the potential to lean sinners to unbelief, we must protect ourselves against sin. Family, education, and social environment are also of great importance.

What does guidance mean, and can we guide someone else?

Guidance is a light that God kindles in you because you use your own free will in the way of belief. Only God guides one to the truth, as pointed out repeatedly in the Quran: If God willed, he could have brought them all to the guidance (6:35); If it had been your Lord’s will, all who are on earth would have believed, altogether (10:99); You do not guide whom you like, but God guides whom He wills (28:56); and For verily You cannot make the dead to hear, nor can you make the deaf to hear the call when they have turned to flee. Nor can you guide the blind out of their deviation. You can make none to hear save those who believe in Our Revelation so that they surrender and become Muslims. (30:52-3).

Since it is God Who guides, we implore Him in every rak‘a of our daily prescribed prayers, saying: Guide us to the Straight Path (1:6). God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, says: I have been sent to call people to belief. Only God guides them and places belief in their hearts.

The Quran also contains other verses stating that God’s Messenger calls and guides people to the Straight Path, among them: Surely you call them to the Straight Path (23:73); and Thus We have revealed a Spirit to you from Our Command. You did not know what was the Scripture, nor what the Faith was, but We have made it a light whereby We guide whom We will of Our servants. You are indeed guiding to a Straight Path (42:52).

The verses do not contradict each other. God creates everyone with the potential to accept belief; but the family, along with existing educational and social conditions, have a certain role in one’s guidance or misguidance. To call people to belief, God sent Messengers, some of whom received Revealed Books, throughout human history so that people could reform themselves. Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is the last Messenger, and the Quran that He revealed to him is the last and only uncorrupted Divine Book.

The Quran contains the principles of guidance. The Messenger provides guidance, whether through the Book or through his personality, conduct, and good example. He recites the Divine Revelations and shows the signs of God to his people (or to humanity at large, in the case of Prophet Muhammad), and points out their misconceptions, superstitions, and sins.

Every thing, event, and phenomenon in the universe is a sign pointing to God’s Existence and Unity. Therefore, if we believe sincerely and without prejudice, and struggle against carnal desire and the temptations of our evil-commanding self and Satan, and if we use our free will to find the truth, God will guide us to one of the ways leading to Him. He declares in the Qur’an: Fear God and seek the means [of approach to and knowledge of] Him, and strive in His way in order that you may succeed and be prosperous [in both worlds] (5:35); As for those who strive in Us [in Our way and for Our sake and to reach Us], We surely guide them to Our paths; and verily God is with the good (29:69); and Whoever fears God [and keeps his duty to Him], He will appoint a way out for him (62:2).

In order to find or deserve guidance, we must sincerely strive for it and search for the ways leading to it. Those whom God blesses with guidance should first show that they have received it by setting a good example, and then call others to it through every lawful (Islamic) means. God repeatedly commands His Messenger to do just that in these, and other, verses:

Warn your tribe of near kindred [of their end and the consequences of their deeds and of the punishment of Hell]. (26:214)

Remind and give advice, for you are one to remind. (88:21)

Proclaim openly and insistently what you are commanded. (15: 94)

Call to the path of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the most courteous manner. (16:125)

Surely in the Messenger of God you have a good example for him who hopes for God and the Last Day, and remembers God oft. (33:21)

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, conveyed God’s Revelations to people, called them to belief in the best and most effective way, and endured great difficulty and persecution for doing so. He refused the most alluring bribes designed to make him stop calling people to belief in One God, and continued his mission without expecting any worldly reward. Since he sought only God’s pleasure and the prosperity of people in both worlds, when he conquered Makka (with God’s help) and thus made His Word prevail, he forgave the Makkans who had persecuted him ruthlessly for 21 years, saying: “No reproach, this day, shall be on you! God will forgive you, He is the Most Merciful of the Merciful. Go! You are freed.” (I. Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat al-Kubra’, 2.142; I. Ishaq, al-Sirat al-Nabawiyya, 2:402.)

God’s Messenger once said to ‘Ali: If someone finds guidance at your hand, this is better for you than having red camels. (Bukhari, Jihad, 102; Muslim, Fada’il al-Sahaba, 35.) [“Red camels” is a metaphor (used by the Arabs of medieval ages) for the most precious thing one can have in the world. (Tr.)]

According to the rule The one who causes is like the doer, one who leads someone else to guidance receives whatever the latter earns without any decrease in his or her own reward. Similarly, God’s Messenger says:

Whoever establishes a good path receives the same reward as those who follow that path thereafter until the Last Day without any decrease in their reward; whoever establishes an evil path is burdened with the same sins as those who follow it thereafter until the Last Day, without any decrease in their burden. ( 6. Muslim, Zakat, 69; I. Maja, Muqaddima, 203.)

If you lead other people to guidance, never remind them by saying, for example: “You found guidance only because of me.” This is a grave sin and ingratitude to God, for only God guides and causes you to lead others to guidance. Similarly, those who were led to guidance through you should never say, for example: “Without you, I would never have been guided.”

If you lead others to guidance, you should think something like: “Praise be to God, for He has used such a poor and needy one like me to achieve this meritorious deed of leading someone else to guidance. God is so powerful, merciful, and munificent to His servants that He creates clusters of grapes on wood. As wood has no right to ascribe to itself the grapes growing on it, I also cannot attribute another’s guidance to myself.” As for those who find guidance, they should think something like: “God, my Master, saw my need and helplessness and allowed His servant to lead me to guidance. All praise be to Him.”

Nevertheless, those who are led to guidance can feel thankful to the one whom God used to guide them. After all, since God created us and our actions, He also creates the means that enable guidance and misguidance. But this does not negate or diminish the part of our own free will in our guidance or misguidance.

Last Updated on August 04, 2000

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