The Religion Of Islam vol.1

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  • The Religion Of Islam vol.1

    1. Predestination

    The sixth pillar of Islamic faith is the belief in predestination. Whatever has, or shall come to pass in this world, whether it be good or evil, proceeds entirely from the divine Will, and has been irrevocably created after a fixed decree. The Koran distinctly states:

    “All things have been created after a fixed decree” (Ch. IV: 49)

    “ No one can die, except by God’s purpose according to the book that fixeth the term of life.” (Ch III: 139)

    “The Lord hath created and balanced all things, and hath fixed their destinies and guided them.” (Ch. XXXV ii: 2)

    “Say: By no means can aught befall us, but what God hath predestined for us.” (Ch. IX: 51)

    “God creates what He will,” (Ch. XXIV: 44)

    “…nor is there anything not provided beforehand by Us, or which We send down, otherwise than according to a foreknown decree” (Ch. XXII: 40) “…. and Who created all things, and determined respecting the same with absolute determination.” (Ch. XXV: 2)


    The following are also a few sayings of the Prophet bearing on God’s predetermination: - “…and God said to Adam: ‘ I have created this family for paradise and their actions will be like unto those of the people of paradise and God said to him: ‘I have created this family for hell and their actions will be like unto those of the people of hell.” Hearing the above teaching of the Prophet, a man said to him: “Of what use will deeds of any kind be? The Prophet said: “When God createth His servant for Paradise, his action will be deserving of it, until he die, when he will enter therein; and when God createth one for the fire, his actions will be like those of the people of hell, ‘ till he die, when he will enter therein”


    The Prophet of God also said to his companions:

    “There is no one amongst you whose place not predestined by God, whether in hell or in paradise.” the companions said, ‘O Prophet of God, since God hath pre-appointed our places, may we confide in this belief, and abandon our religious and moral duties? He said: “No, because the righteous will do good works (and be obedient to God), and the wicked will do bad works”: after which the Prophet recited the following verses of the Koran: To him who giveth alms, and feareth God, and yields assent to the excellent creed, to him we will make easy the path to happiness. But to him who is worldly, and is indifferent, and who does not believe in the excellent creed, to him we will make easy the path to misery.”

    The Prophet of God also said: “The first thing which God created was a (divine) pen, and He said to it, ‘Write,’ it said ‘ What shall I write?’ and God said ‘ Write down the fate of every individual thing to be created.” And accordingly the Pen wrote all that was, and that will be, to eternity.”  The Prophet also said: “God hath predestined five things to his servants; their duration of life, their actions, their dwelling places, their travels and their portions.”


    It happened, that of the companions said to the Prophet: “O Prophet of God, inform me respecting the medicines which I swallow, and the shields which I make use of for protection, whether they can resist any of the decree of God? The Prophet answered: “These also are by the decree of God.” 

    The Prophet of God once came out of his house, when the companions were debating about fate, and he was angry, and became red in the face. And he said, “Hath God ordered you to debate of fate? Was I sent to you for this? Your forefathers were undone through debating about fate and destiny. I conjure you not to argue on those points.”

    The doctrine of predestination, as forming an essential part of the Islamic affirmed faith, may be summarised in the following terms:

    “A Moslem should believe in his heart, and confess with his tongue, that the most exalted God hath decreed all things; so that nothing can happen in the world, whether it respects the conditions and operations of things, or good or evil, or obedience or disobedience, or sickness or health or riches or poverty, or life or death, which is not contained in the written tablet of the decrees of God. But God hath so decreed, good works obedience, and faith, that He ordains and wills them, that they may be under His decree, His salutary direction. His good pleasure and command. On the other hand, God hath decreed and does ordain and determine evil, disobedience and infidelity; yet without His salutary direction, good pleasure and command; but only by way of temptation and trail. Whosoever shall say, that God hath not indignation against evil and unbelief, he is certainly an infidel.”


    The doctrine of predestination, or the absolute decree, of event, both good and evil, is a recognised element in many creeds. [1] This doctrine has given rise to as much controversy among the Moslems, as it did among Christians; but the former, generally believe in predestination, as being in some respects, conditional. [2] Five points however arise from the doctrine of predestination, as given in detail in the following formula:

    (a)                 If the destiny of man is determined by the divine purpose, how can we explain man’s freedom of choice. Man is absolutely conscious of personal freedom of action, which it is impossible to deny.

    (b)                If man is affected, in all his actions, by eternal predestination, what then is the meaning of human, and the individual accountability which is the mainspring of moral life?

    (c)                 If what is to be, must be, with the overruling and irrevocable Decree of God, what is the use of divine commands and prohibitions; rewards and punishments; promises and threats; and after all, what is the use of Prophets Books etc.

    (d)                Some acts of man are bad such as tyranny, polytheism, robbery; etc. If these are predestined and predetermined by God, it follows, that to tyrannise, to ascribe plurality to God, or to rob is to render obedience to Him, which obviously enough, is not the case.

    (e)                 If infidelity and sin are decreed by God it follows that God is in favour of sin and infidelity, but to speak thus of God is blasphemy.


    I will answer these questions as briefly as possible, not from a philosophical point of view, but from a strictly religious aspect, this book being devoted exclusively to matters of purely religious nature.

    The apparent contradiction involved in the doctrine of predestination, may be reasonably solved by considering, that man is not acquainted, in this life with anything of what has been predestined for him by the Almighty God. Therefore, it cannot be suggested that under the doctrine of predestination, man’s personal freedom of choice and action is affected in any way. Man is so created by All-Powerful God, that he is sensible of a personal free will, choice and action, so that belief in predestination by no means interferes with his moral freedom. To speak of man as a free agent, we mean that he is not withheld from action by any external cause, that, morally he is neither a prisoner, nor a slave, nor paralysed, nor otherwise disabled. Next, we may apply the term “free” to the eternally or psychological decision; with he is external free to carry out. In this sense, the freedom of an action evidently consists in the fact, that the action proceeds from the intelligent choice of the agent, and such choice is plainly and strongly contrasted with the mechanical determination which exists in the physical world.


    As God’s predestination is altogether a secret to man, human beings are in all ages, made acquainted, through God’s prophets, with what duties they should perform, and what prohibitions they must respect, so that no act of disobedience, on the part of man, can be justified on the plea of ignorance of what he ought or ought not to do, or on the plea, that man was actuated to disobey or to sin, by divine decree. Man is not congnisant of anything he was predestined to do, whether it be good or bad, until he has committed it, by his own choice and own freedom of will of which he was quite conscious. It is then, and only then, that a man realises that his act was predestined. On the other hand, God’s predestination has ever been associated with divine fore-knowledge of all human character and conditions. As the Almighty God predestined a man to sin, He, at the same time foreknew that that man would commit the sinful deed, while acting by his own free and intelligent choice. A sinful man can on no account shun the moral responsibility for his deeds, on the plea of having acted upon irrevocable divine predestination, of which he was totally ignorant. Being absolutely conscious of a personal freedom of will and action, an evil doer cannot reasonably justify his action by referring to predestination. In fact, belief and faith in divine predestination can neither necessitate denial of human consciousness of freedom of will, nor eliminate the factor of individual responsibility from human conduct. So long as man is conscious of personal freedom of will, choice and action within himself, the sense of individual accountability which is the mainspring of moral life, always remains untouched. The said belief, therefore, should neither interfere with man’s enthusiasm for progress, nor deprive him from freedom of will, which faculty he is, undoubtedly, conscious of enjoying.


    To believe in heart, as an orthodox Jew, Christian or Moslem is bound to, that whatsoever one had to do, right or wrong, whatsoever has befallen one, the minutest movement of man, and the meanest even of his life, has been irrevocably predestined by God from eternity; and that no amount of effort to the contrary can alter the course of events, predestined by the absolute divine authority. Such a purely religious dogma can, on no account, interfere with any amount of human morality. The doctrine of predestination does not imply denial of man’s freedom of will and action. Each component part of man is bound by religion, to fulfill some function: the heart and conscience, to believe in God, His attributes and His predestination; the other external members of man, to work each according to its respective faculty and aptitude, as recommended by the law. Now, if the heart fulfils its proper function, namely: to believe that nothing whatsoever that has happened, or will happen in the universe, is contrary to the will of God, the function of no other member is necessarily offended or retarded, as it cannot be suggested, that, under such a religious belief in God and His divine attributes, the eyes shall be prevented from seeing, the ears from hearing, the feet from walking, the tongue from speaking, or any other part of man, from the proper discharge of its respective duty.


    Therefore, it is quite unfair and illogic for anyone to claim, that faith in predestination, as required by orthodox religion, tends to damp all enthusiasm for progress. Such a claim might be reasonably admitted, only if a man were given accurate foreknowledge of his fate and destiny. If he knew, for instance, from the beginning, that he was doomed to perdition he might, very naturally, make no effort to resist his destiny and no attempt at progress: or seeing that he was predestined to salvation, he might make no effort to deserve it. Man having no foreknowledge whatsoever of his own destiny, his duty absolutely in adherence to the law. As far as man’s intelligent free action is concerned, he has nothing more to do with the eternal decrees of God than to have perfect faith in them. Reason and logic both dictate to man the belief in God, the One the sole Creator, the absolute Disposer. In like manner, as a cultivator cannot rightly claim or to be the creator of his own harvest, so it is the case with man: he cannot rightly claim to be independently the originator his own actions. The Islamic doctrine of predestination may be reduced to two distinct beliefs:


    (a)                 That God has determined the destiny of man, not only according to the foreknown character of those whose fate is so determined, but also according to God’s own will. There is no dispute on this point between divines of all creeds. Judaism Orthodox Christianity and Islam, all not only agree and acquiesces in this, but they unreservedly admit it, and emphatically declare any possible notion to the contrary to be blasphemy.[3]

    (b)                That man is directly responsible for his own actions, so long as he is master of his free choice. As man is certainly sensible, that he is morally a free agent, he is accountable for all actions affected by his volitional power. In the Koran we read, that God does not saddle a man with responsibility beyond his capacity to bear it. There is a vast sphere of human activity, where man’s apparent will enjoys freedom of control and direction. Consequently a man is held responsible, by religion, for the right or wrong exercise of his faculties. It is, therefore, a matter of the deepest concern to man, to ascertain the rules and regulations which should guide his conduct in that connection. To supply this need, the All-Merciful God has endowed man with intellect, and revelation. By the help of intellect man endeavours to work out his moral and spiritual evolution in all his dealings with his Creator and his fellow creatures. But man’s obligation towards God and man, surely involve complications, too delicate for unaided human reason. The result of an intellectual error might be the violation of human or divine laws. Hence, the absolute necessity of direct guidance and laws from God to make up for the frailties of reason and to enlighten man, as to how he ought to regulate his relations with his Maker, as well as with his fellow-men. In obedience to these laws, man can carry out his duties, and attain what is best in life. Laws relating to human life, have been summed up in the following verse of the Holy Koran: “Surely God orders justice and good works (to all), and (orders) kindness to relation, and He condemns indecency, illicit deeds and all wrong. He admonishes you, that you may be mindful.”


    With regard to man’s guidance as to his relation to God, the Holy Koran tells us: “Say my prayers, my sacrifice my life, my death, is for God, the Lord of the worlds Who has no partner with Him. This I have been ordered, and am the first to submit”. In carrying out his duties in life, man must not lose sight of God’s ordinances, and of what He desires of him, so that he should in no way satisfy himself or his fellow creatures, by disobeying the Universal Cherisher of all, the Creator of all.

    Through his faith in predestination, man can behave faithfully and righteously, since he is confident, that all power, help and sustenance lie only with Him Man’s duty is, to spare no effort in observing the injunctions of his Maker, and then he is quite safe.

    Prosperity and plenty often tempt man, to turn away from God. Touching this point, the Holy Koran says: “O believers, let not you children make you forget your God.” Man makes use frequently of these blessings of God as a means to encroach upon the rights of others, or as an encouragement to neglect his devotional duties towards God. Therefore the Holy Book wishes it to be remembered, that temptation lies hidden under the enjoyment of wealth and offspring.


    Even as man is liable to temptation by abundant prosperity, so is he apt to be retarded from the fulfillment of his duties by misfortunes. However, having perfect faith in predestination, a true believer will not forget, that what happens, good or bad has been predetermined and decreed by God, and that the inevitable must come to pass, in spite of human efforts to the contrary. Therefore he is bound to submit himself cheerfully and resignedly to all trials. Referring to this, the Holy Koran says: “And We will most certainly try you with fear and hunger, and loss of property and life and blessings; (therefore, O Prophet) give good tidings to the patient who, when misfortune befalls them, say: Verily, we belong to God and to Him we shall verily return. Those (the patient) are they, on whom blessings and mercy from their Lord (will descend), and those are the followers of the right course.” Thus Islam teaches, that misfortunes serve as good tidings and as fore–runners of heavenly blessings. And with a heart full of faith in predestination a true believer cheerfully submits to hardships and trails. Those having a submissive frame of mind under adverse circumstances, “On them,” says the Holy Koran, “descend the blessings of God”. With Islam, a calamity is a mercy in disguise. Alive to the purpose of divine will, a divine will, a believing Moslem resigns himself with a cheerful heart to his fate. It is God who alone governs the universe and disposes thereof, according to His eternal and irrevocable Will. One of the comfort- giving verses of the Koran read as follows: “Say: O God, Who art the Owner of the Kingdom; Thou givest authority to whom Thou wilt; and Thou takest away authority, from whom Thou wilt: Thou exaltest whom Thou wilt and Thou humblest whom Thou wilt: in Thy hand is all the good, and Thou art Omnipotent. Thou makest the night enter into the day, and Thou makest the day to enter into the night. (Thou) bringest forth the living out of the dead, and (Thou) bringest forth the dead out of the living, and (Thou) providest sustenance, to whom Thou wilt, and even so without limit.” Thus, under conditions of hardship and misfortune, a true believer will not neglect his duties towards God. With the utterance of his noted formula, “ To God we belong and to Him shall we return,” he submits to adversity, and goes on with his duties uninterrupted. On the other hand, if good fortune and prosperity be his luck, he is not to put distrust in abundance and plenty, and so forget his duties towards his Maker, Sustainer and Nourisher. He is warned by revelation, not to make these very blessings of God a pretext for encroachment upon the rights of others, and thus change them into a curse for himself.


    With regard to freedom of human will, the Prophet of Islam has positively declared man’s undisputed right, to make a choice between good and evil. Again and again, in the Holy Koran, this point has been emphasized, lest man should forget his own responsibility for his conduct. Indeed, the whole trend of Koranic ethics points in this direction. “Say, the Truth is from your Lord, whosoever may wish, he may believe; and whosoever may wish, he may disbelieve”, says the Holy Koran. God has moreover pointed out to man the right path, and ordered him to follow it, and the wrong one and warned him against taking it. In this respect the Koran says: “Verily, we have shown to man the right path; he may be grateful or ungrateful,” meaning there is no compulsion, on the part of God, felt by man to bear upon him to adopt this course or that. Again we read: “Verily this is a reminder to all people; for those of you who wish to take the right course.” Here too, man has been let alone in the matter of selection. Further on: “It is for God only, to furnish strong proof, and if He so pleased (to influence man) He would have guided you all.” This means, that Almighty God has chosen to let each man feel, that he is a free agent who acts under an intelligent free will. Danial of interference cannot be made in clearer terms. If God were so pleased, as to enforce His own desire upon man, by depriving him of his personal moral freedom. He would not have let a single man go astray. “If God were pleased, He would have brought together the whole of humanity into one and the same path,” namely, the path of righteousness. But He has so ordained that He made man to feel that there is no compulsion brought to bear upon him, to incline him this way or that. Man is absolutely conscious of being master of himself and the organiser of his own career. He is given power, by which he can accomplish his own desires, in virtue of the moral freedom which he enjoys. However, according to Islam, the power of self–government, with which we are endowed is a trust and not a free gift. It not only entrusts our own destiny to ourselves, but it actually trusts, or seems to trust, the whole final outcome of God’s creative work to our treatment of it. This earth, at least, is put into our hands, to make what we will of it and of ourselves, its inhabitants. To this effect, the Holy Koran says: “We have proposed the trust unto the heavens and the earth and the mountains, and they refused to undertake the same, and were afraid to undertake it: but man undertook it, (yet) he is verily unjust and ignorant.” This means, that of all God’s creations man alone accepted the trust of moral freedom which makes him master of himself, and dignifies and exalts him among the creatures of God. Gifts of all other sorts are nothing, to compare with it. If we had not the power to rule our own actions by our own will, we should be infinitely poorer in moral worth than we are now. Therefore man should be anxious to be dignified in this respect, but the Holy Koran, in the above verse, asserts, that man is unjust and ignorant in this connection. He is unjust, in that he abuses his moral freedom, in choosing to do wrongly deeds, instead of righteous ones. And he is ignorant, in that he gives no heed to the consequences of his choice, because doing what we know that we ought to do, is not only for the good of the world, but likewise and far more, for the good of ourselves. We derive infinitely more benefit from our own performance of an act of uprightness: and infinitely more harm from an act of wrong, than the good we bestow, or the harm we inflict. The good or ill we go, goes deeply into our nature–refines or coarses it, lifts or lowers it, and is either inspiring or deadening to all that is best in soul and mind. Few men reach old age without saying sadly, “Oh, that I could live my life again,” because time their youth for a different development of themselves and a different shaping of their lives. In this connection the Holy Koran says:

    “Say, O, my worshippers, who have transgressed against your own souls, despair not of the mercy of God: seeing that God forgiveth all sins: for He is Gracious and Merciful. And be turned unto your Lord, and resign yourselves unto Him, before the punishment comes suddenly upon you, and ye perceive not (the approach thereof); when a soul shall say, ‘ Alas, for that I have been negligent in my duty towards God; verily, I have been one of the scorners; or say: ‘ If God had directed me, verily, I had been one of the pious’; or say, when it seeth the prepared punishment: ‘If I could return once more into the world, I would become one of the righteous.’. But God shall answer: ‘My signs came unto thee heretofore and thou didst charge them with falsehood, and wast puffed up with pride’ and thou becamest one o the unbelievers” (Koran, Ch. XXXIX)



    ([1]) We read the following statement in Chamber’s Cyclopaedia: - “The doctrine of predestination is explicitly enunciated in Rom. 8 : 29f 9, 10, 11, and Eph. 1; 4f, 11, and it is recognized element in many creeds (e.g. Conf. Faith III : church of England Articles, XVII) We further read in the work: The Apostle Paul was doubtless aware of inconsistency for it was crux of Jewish theology (see Ederstein’s Jesus the Messiah, 1 : 316 ff); but the Apostle was accustomed, to Isolate any Particular doctrine, as occasion required, without being careful, to reconcile it with the real or apparent antithesis. (see Chamber’s Cyc. Art. Predestination.) 

    ([2]) See. “The manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians,” by Ed. Lane p.69.

    ([3]) See Molesworth’s and Chamber’s Cyclopaedias, Art. Predestination.

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