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WHY IS DESTINY INCLUDED IN THE ESSENTIALS OF BELIEF?

Destiny and manís free will, which marks the farthest point of perfection of oneís belief and submission, is something related to the inner experience and spiritual state of a believer, so it is not something indicated by science or theory. Man has free will, and is enjoined to follow the religious obligations. He cannot by any means ascribe his sins to God. Divine Destiny exists so that the believer does not grow proud of his good acts by ascribing them to himself. Man has free will so that the rebellious carnal self does not rid itself of the consequences of its sins by ascribing them to Destiny, and the pious person conceitedly ascribe his good acts to himself alone.

While it may be admissible for people to relate some misfortunes to Divine Destiny, so as not to be driven to despair in the face of calamities, no one can be absolved from his sins and exempt from his obligations by attributing everything to Destiny. So, belief in Destiny has been included among the principles of faith to preserve man from self-conceit, and manís free will is recognized as the ground of his sins.

Man is completely responsible for his sins, because it is he himself who wills to commit them, and then does so. Sins are the cause of much disorder and destruction, so they may merit a terrible punishment-to cite an example, a house can easily be burnt to the ground just by the striking of a match. On the other hand, man has no right to boast about his good acts since, in reality, he has little share in them. It is the Divine Compassion which demands good acts and the Power of the Lord which creates them. God guides man to good acts and makes him succeed in willing and doing them, so the cause of a manís good acts is the Divine Will. A man can possess and own them by means of faith and by praying to God to be able to deserve them, consciously believing in the necessity of performing them and being pleased with what God has ordained for him. It is man himself, on the other hand, who causes sins either through capacity and disposition or through choice and preference, just as the pure bright sunlight can cause some substances which are subject to decomposition to go bad and putrefy.

Man wills and commits sins, but it is God Who creates all his acts whether they are good or bad. God creates a sinful act as a requirement of a law He established for the life of man and the universe for many good purposes. Although man derives much benefit from rain, a person who has suffered some harm because of it cannot say that rain does not contain Godís grace for man. It is on account of this subtle reality that willing and committing evil deeds is evil but creating them is not. Although there may be an evil in creating evil deeds on the part of man, creation is absolutely good by its very nature and contains many instances of good for the general operation and life of the universe as well as for the one who wills and commits that evil. Ugliness in a manís acts lies in his will and potential, not in Godís creating it.

As Divine Destiny is absolutely free from evil and ugliness in relation to results, it is also exempt from injustice on account of the causes. Divine Destiny always takes into consideration the primary cause, not the apparent secondary cause, and always does justice. Men, on the other hand, judge according to the apparent causes and draw the wrong conclusions. To cite an example, a court may condemn a person to imprisonment on a charge of theft, and do injustice because he has not committed any such crime-however, Divine Destiny actually passes this judgment on account of the murder which that person committed but which remained secret. Thus, while the court has done injustice by condemning him on a charge of which he is innocent, Divine Destiny has done justice by punishing him for a crime which remained unknown. It can be concluded from this example that God is absolutely just in all His acts, whilst man is liable to do injustice. Divine Destiny and Creation is absolutely free from evil and ugliness at the beginning and at the end of events, and on account of cause and results.

Question

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 Quran that the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth takes manís rebellion so seriously?

Answer

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 helmsmanís negligence, whilst the efforts of the whole crew can achieve nothing to save it. A manís 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 Godís succor 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.

In short: It is permissible for the believer to speak of Divine Destiny and manís free will, when his faith is perfect and when he is mature enough to perceive that all creation including himself is at Godís disposal. He assumes his responsibilities because he has free will and glorifies God by proclaiming Him to be free of any involvement with his own sins. He never forgets that he is a servant of God, and accordingly tries to follow all the Divine Commandments. On the other hand, he remains thankful to God by ascribing to Divine Destiny any good acts he has been able to achieve, and never boasts of them. Also he finds the strength to bear all his misfortunes by discerning in them the role of Destiny.

However, it is not proper for anyone who neglects the Divine Commandments to argue about Divine Destiny and manís free will, since his defective thinking will lead him to ascribe the whole of creation to causes and ignore God completely. He appropriates all his skills and good deeds, regarding them to have originated directly with himself, and attributes his defects and failures to Destiny. This view means the reduction of Divine Destiny and free will to a senseless trick played upon man by his own commanding self (nafs ammara) to mislead him to the point where he disregards and denies his religious duties.


Recommended Reading
Divine Decree and Destiny from Different View Points

Last Updated on August 04, 2000

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