|Kitab-ul-Taqdeer (Book of Destiny)|
THE LAW OF DIVINE WILL
The Arabic root ‘ش - ي - ا ‘ is the source of words like ‘مشيئة - شيئاً - يشاء - شاء ‘ etc. Traditionally, it is translated into Urdu as ‘to wish’. This inaccurate translation (and its interpretation) is the cause of so much confusion regarding the question of destiny. Let us first look carefully at it.
The Arabic work ‘مشيئة ‘ means to have an intention (to do something). Though some linguists take‘ارادة ‘ and ‘مشيئة ‘ to be synonymous in meaning,
Intention & Will
there is a semantic difference. ‘ارادة ‘ is to intend to do and
‘مشيئة’ is the realization of intention. Hence, ‘شيء’ (thing) is the resulting product of intention. Therefore, the two terms (ارادة & مشيئة ) must be viewed with that difference regarding Allah, even though they are commonly taken to mean to want / to wish / to intend. For example, “(Allah’s) His amr is that when He intends to do something He says to it, ‘Be’, and it is.” (36/82).
Chapter (2) of this book dealt in detail with the creation plan of Allah. It consists of two stages – ‘amr’ and ‘khalq’. About ‘amr’, I quote from my work Lughaat-al-Quran:
‘The process of CAUSE & EFFECT is a matter of common observation. But, the chain of events, if rolled back, has to stop somewhere (the initial starting point). There, the EFFECT had to be without a CAUSE. That is the moment of creation of the Universe by Allah – by His will and intention. Why did He do what He did? The question is unanswerable as it refers to a period not falling within our concepts of rules and laws.
(Root "ش ي ا" , p. 789)
So, that is Allah’s amr, where creation is done according to His own scheme and universal laws are established. Why does water have the characteristic of keeping its level? Why is fire hot? Why does poison kill? Simply because Allah wanted it so. We observe Allah’s will (مشيئة) in the physical universe around us. Similarly, He has established laws (His مشيئة ) for the social universe. These laws were given to Man through His messengers. Therefore, the Quranic use of “شاء - يشاء etc.” should be translated as: ‘whatever is His law or Will’ (مشيئة) and not as : ‘whatever He wants’. It should be: ‘Whatever He has already wanted’. This slight change in translation alleviates so much confusion and apparent contradiction. The preset chapter is an attempt to do just that.
I - لو شاء الله - If Allah Willed
This expression often appears in the Quran and is usually translated as: ‘If Allah wanted……’ It should be translated as: ‘If Allah had formulated the Law like……’. For instance, salt has a salty taste because Allah wanted it so and made it so. If He had formulated salt to be with a sweet taste, it would have been sweet. Can Allah change the taste of salt from salty to sweet? The answer to that is: Yes, He can but He won’t, because He has pledged NOT to make changes in laws He has established according to His will (مشيئة). Thus, in the expression concerned, the word "لو" (if) means: ‘That will never happen’. Sayyuty writes in his ‘Itteqan’:
‘Ibn Abi Hatim, in the way of Dhahaak, reports from Ibn Abbas, who said: ‘wherever لو appears in the Quran, it means that it will never occur’.
(Itteqan, Part I, 40th kind)
In al-Melal wan-Nahal, Imam Ibn Hazan supports this meaning, explaining it
Examples from the Quran
elaborately. Here are some examples from the
i) Allah’s will (مشيئة ) about the entire universe – inanimate matter, plants, animals etc. --- , with the exception of Man, is that it functions slavishly according to the laws inherent in its makeup. This is known as ‘instinct’, referred to as ‘revelation’ (وحي ) by the Quran. It is also referred to as ‘nature of things’ e.g., liquids keep their level, certain animals are herbivores while others are carnivores, and so on. All similar things behave in a similar fashion, everywhere and at all times.
Man, on the other hand, is different. There is no ‘human nature’ nor is he gifted with……….. guidance for behavior. Social laws are given to Man externally through revelation with complete freedom of choice. That is why mankind is not naturally welded into ‘one nation’. People behave differently under the same circumstances.
A superficial look at the disharmony of the human race may give rise
Why were all people not created good?
to the question: ‘Why did
Allah not create all men good and peace-loving?
The Quran’s response to that query is the following. Of course, it was perfectly within His powers to create Man compelled like the rest of the creation. But, He did not will it so. He gave Man a free will. Therefore, any social system which denies men the right to exercise their free will - is anti-Quranic. The Messenger, much in the manner of a loving physician, desired people to accept Islam. But, Allah said, “Are you going to torture yourself over people not accepting the message? “ (26/3).
Sura Younis says: “ If Allah had willed so, all men on Earth would have become convinced (of the message but He did not will it so and gave Man the freedom of choice). Then, are you (the Messenger) going to push people to conviction (against their will)?” (10/99). “If We had wanted (all men to forcibly follow Our way), We would have provided guidance to each single person….. “ (33/13). People have complete freedom of choice to accept or reject the guidance to the right path (18/29). The aim is to develop human qualities and test the use of free will (5/48-49). Men can resolve their differences by willfully and freely choosing the right path. It will NOT be forced upon them (11/118-119). If compulsion was there, there would have been no dissenters or atheists (6/108, 6/138). In that case men would have been like stones or animals, NOT human!
Man has been created with free will. He can be made to go against his will by two methods. One is to threaten him physically. The other is to influence his psychology. Mysticism achieves this through ‘ supernatural’ events (minor miracles). It was quite widespread at the advent of Islam. Therefore, the dissenters of Arabia used to press the Messenger to produce miracles in
Demand for Miracles
in support of his message. Allah would reply
through the Messenger, that He expects them to arrive at the truth by using their reasoning intellect, exercising their free will. It is not befitting Allah to grant the faculty of free will and then suspend it.
Sura Anaam refers to this thus: “They say why Allah does not give His
Messenger a miracle? Say (to them) Allah is perfectly
capable to doing it but most of them don’t know (why He doesn’t)” (6/37). Mohammed was told that if he were to reach the inner-most depths of the earth or the loftiest heights of the sky and bring them a miracle, they will still not be (worthy of being termed) as ‘convinced’. That is, they may psychologically be forced into submission, but it will not be conviction (which comes through independent reasoning and free choice). So, don’t be like the ones who, out of ignorance, ask why Allah did not make all men good (6/35). Conviction springs from the bottom of one’s heart (6/36).
Elsewhere, the Quran, referring to this demand of miracles (13/27), talks about the Muslims who begin to think favorably of such use of miracles and says: “Tell them that if the Quran was to move mountains and shrink distances, or make the dead speak, even then they would not become ‘convinced’. Allah has set laws for everything (13/31). The law in this regard is that people who don’t use reasoning remain confused (10/150). Then said, (Do you now understand that) “If Allah wanted it so, He would have put the entire mankind on the right path (13/31).
ii) All the killings and violence in the world make many of us wonder why Allah
Why all this violence and killing
Does not do something to stop the
bloodshed. Incidentally, in the allegorical story of the creation of Man this was the eventuality feared by angels. In reply to this, Sura Baqara says that Allah, through His Messengers, sent guidance to mankind advising them against bloodshed. People would resume mutual killings and the Messengers were dead. “If Allah had willed it so, they would not have killed…….. (2/253). Allah does not exercise compulsion on men. They are free to choose. That is why “some of them are convinced, some are not (2/53)”.
لو شاء الله(If Allah wanted) is widely taken to mean that Allah purposefully allows all the wrong-doing going on in the world. So, in a way, He wants the situation to be as it is. Granted that, with the advent of knowledge, not many believe in it any more, the ancient Muslim literature, that of mysticism in particular, supports this view. This view was the one presented by the atheists and dissenters at the time of the Messenger. They have been reported to say in Sura An’aam: “If God wanted it so, we or our ancestors would never have committed atheism ...“ (6/149) - also: (16/35 and 43/20). Sura Yasim reports their response, when asked to help the poor, as: “Should we feed those (people) who would have been fed if Allah wanted it so?” (36/47).
Therefore, the Quran takes this view as that of the dissenters and polytheists - way of the ignorant.
II - ما شاء الله - What Allah Wills
This expression is widely taken to mean that events occur according to Allah’s will, no matter how hard we try to make things happen any other way. This view obviously is a result of the concept of compulsion. Let us now try to look at the Quranic view of this oft-used expression.
Examples from the Quran
(i) “Sura Baqara says: ‘Man can have no
knowledge of things except for whatever (Allah) wills” (2/255). It should be taken as to mean that Man can obtain knowledge through laws already established by Allah (His will - مشيئة); even then his knowledge will be limited as compared to Allah’s.
(ii) Sura Kahaf reports the allegory of two orchard owners. One of them had the right view of life while the other: “.. was unfair on himself” (18/35). He was a dissenter of Allah and His Law of Returns. The natural result was that his crops were all destroyed. The other man (convinced) said to him: You should have said, “All this occurs according to Allah’s (natural) laws. Nobody, other than Him, has the power to do it” (18/39).
(iii) Please recall the following discussion from the chapter which dealt with Good and Evil.
Sura Younis reports: “O Messenger! The dissenters pester you tauntingly
Loss and Gain
to bring upon them the dreaded destruction. Tell them that it
not upto you (the messenger). Say: ‘I am not empowered (even) to hurt or benefit myself outside the bounds of laws established by Allah” (10/49)., Also: “there is a law for everything. When the period of respite is over, the (destruction) comes right on time” (10/49).
Referring to the laws of ‘life and death’ for nations, Sura Ar-Raad says: Law of Respite “Every period of respite is under a law. People (s) are destroyed and survive according to Allah’s laws (مشيئة). These laws were established according to the ‘Mother of Books’ He has, (He did it according to His own will (مشيئة)” (13/39).
(vi) Occasionally, there appears in the Quran, the phrase (الا ما شاء الله). For
الا ما شاء الله - But whatever Allah wills
Instance, in Sura al-Aala: ‘We have
given this Quran to you (O Messenger) in a way that you will not forget (any of) it – it well never happen! (87/6-7). The phrase الا ما شاء الله (except what Allah wills) should not be taken to mean: “you may forget of it only as much as Allah allows”. The Messenger was not to forget any of the revelation at all! (17/86). Mufti Mohammed Abdu writes in his al-Manar: “In the Quran, ‘exception to Allah’s will مشيئة always means consistency and occurrence of event – i. e., the opposite of what has been said will never happen. الا (except or but) in this phrase means that Allah will (مشيئة) won’t be contrary to what has been said – He would have had it otherwise if He wanted it so. Therefore, the verses above (87/6-7) mean: “You will never be able to forget it”.
Supportive of this interpretation of the phrase in question are the verses from sura Hood, which talk about permanent occupancy of Paradise and Hell, saying: “They shall be in it till the universe is – except (this) what you Preserver wants …” (11/109, 11/108), also: (6/120). It means that they will stay there according to the Law of Allah’s will (for ever).
Summarizing then, we can see that - ما شاء الله - doesn’t mean Allah’s will will be carried out no matter what Man does – the Quran has given free choice to men by saying اعملوا ما شئتم (do whatever you wish). Allah exercised His will to formulate and establish laws. After that, Man is to exercise his own will to go against those laws if he so desires. However, Man should bear in mind the Law of Returns which oversees his actions (انه بما تعملون بصير - 41/40). Man is free to choose his action but is not free to change the natural consequences of that action.
III - إن شاء الله - If Allah Wills
The phrase - traditionally translated as: If Allah so desires – is an everyday expression of our language (Urdu as well as Arabic speakers use it very frequently). Its significance may be seen in an imaginary conversation which follows:
A: You’ll go there at 4 o’clock, won’t you?
B: Insha Allah (If Allah wills) it.
A: It is quite an important matter. Please don’t give me Insha Allah.
Make me a firm promise that you will be there at 4 o’clock!
That shows that ‘Insha Allah’ is used in uncertain situations. Apparently, this usage of the term is ordinary, but, in reality, is not so. One can never be certain of one’s actions when one holds the view of Man’s inability to take action against Allah’s supposedly pre-decided chain of events in the human world. The resulting inconfidence has bred the habit of uttering the phrase Insha Allah with almost every action. So much so that the majority of Muslims, especially in the sub-continent, consider it a minor sin to omit it from one’s
The Airplane Disasters
conversation. Pakistan International Airline used to
be considered quite a dependable service. By chance (really because of lack of technical application, mismanagement, etc.), it met with a few airplane accidents. During the course of investigation, the religious lobby of the country blamed the pilot’s omission of the phrase ‘Insha Allah’ when announcing the craft’s departure. The situation was addressed by inserting the phrase in the captain’s announcement. Still, accidents continued to happen!
The pre-fix - إن - is widely taken to mean ‘if’. But it has other uses which
Meanings of ‘In’ (إن)
are, unfortunately, ignored in translating the Quran.
Grammatically, it is also used to mean ‘because’. Sayyuti, in his Itteqan, has presented several examples of it. Let me illustrate this with another imaginary conversation:
A: Don’t bother with making tea. It will take quite sometime whereas
I am rather in a hurry.
B: It won’t take much time. I have put the kettle on. We’ll have tea in
A: In ten minutes?
B: Insha Allah! (Of course. I have taken all steps needed to make
tea. Nature will certainly work its laws (Allah’ will - مشيئة ) and we
will definitely have tea in ten minutes. It just can’t be otherwise!).
The change in meaning of إن , is so obvious! Now, it breeds confidence instead of uncertainty. According to Arabic lexicon, إن is also used to mean إذ (when). Sayyuti gives some very illustrative examples:
i) Sura Aal-e-Imran: “Because you are convinced, you will (definitely) triumph (and be on top)” (3/138).
ii) Sura Fath: “You will certainly enter the sacred mosque (Kaaba in Makkah) because you are convinced (and working according to Allah’s laws)” (48/27).
iii) Sura Yousef, referring to Messenger Yousef’s (Joseph) parents and others arriving in Egypt, says: “(Yousef) said (to them) ‘Enter Egypt. You will be in peace because it is all happening according to Allah’s will - مشيئة - “ (12/99).
iv) When the father-in-law of Moosa (Moses), believed to be Messenger Shoaib, agreed with him a working contract, he said to Moosa: “ Because I follow Allah’s way, you will find me one of the righteous” (28/27); also: (18/69 and 37/102).
v) In the battle of Ahzaab, the hypocrites had committed grave acts of betrayal against the Muslims. Allah’s law regarding criminals is to forgive if the convicted show remorse and promise of improved behavior. Otherwise, they must be punished. In view of this, regarding the hypocrites, it was said: “The hypocrites are to be punished, according to Allah’s will, or forgiven” (33/24).
Sura Luqman says: “And no one knows what one will do tomorrow” (31/34). This is because one can never be sure of EVERY THING - that is the
Don’t say ‘I’ll definitely do (this or that) tomorrow’
unknown (غيب ). We can predict (forecast) the exact moment of solar eclipse 100 years from
now, but cannot tell the next landing spot of a common fly. That is why the Quran says: ‘and don’t say what you will definitely do tomorrow, except do whatever is required in that regard according to Allah’s will (مشيئة)’. If you come across factors hitherto unknown to you, you won’t succeed. So just do what you know is required. “Don’t be frustrated if you fail. Retrace you steps and try to remember and see what you missed. You will be more sure of, and closer to, success” (18/23-24).
Let us now examine verses using ‘In’ إن , in the meaning of IF. It will be
‘in’ إن meaning IF
good to have a brief version of ‘If Allah wanted so’
(لو شاء الله ) - i. e., If Allah so desired, He would have created poison without its lethal aspect (He did not want it so. Therefore he made poison with its characteristics it has). This is exactly what is meant in verses using ‘In’ in the meaning of IF:
i) Sura Yaseen refers to the fact of such heavily-laden boats floating as easily as ducks. This is because He wanted it so. “If He didn’t, they would sink ….. “ (36/43) similar is the case of winds helping sails (42/33).
ii) Messenger Nooh (Noah) used to warn his people of the destructive consequences of their wrong ways. They would challenge him to bring upon them the dreaded calamity. He would reply: “That (calamity) will befall you according to Allah’s will (His program - مشيئة )” (11/33).
iii) Allah revealed the Quran in its entirety and has taken it upon Himself to safeguard it. Therefore, it is just un-thinkable that any part of the Quran may be lost. In this regard He says: “If we had so desired (according to Our program - مشيئة ), We would have taken some it away ….” (17/86).
Also, He says to the Messenger: “If Allah had wanted so, He would have sealed your hear (so that the message would not enter it) …. “ (42/24).
iv) Allah created Man with the instruction: “For you there is temporary (upto a time) stay on Earth” (2/36). Man’s stay on Earth, in his present form of life, the life of the Universe itself etc., are matter concerning Allah’s program (مشيئة ) Therefore, “If He so desires, O Man! He will remove you all and bring others (to replace you). And Allah has set laws to that effect: (4/133). See also: 14/19; 35/16).
v) The same phrase ‘If He so desired’ (إن شاء الله ) has been used in regards to rise and fall of nations - (6/139).
We have seen that the Quran says to men, ‘Do whatever you like’. The
Don’t desire but what Allah desires
Quran says about itself: ‘Be informed
that it (the Quran) is reminder (of truths forgotten). So, whoever so wishes may revive (them) – (80/11-12). But the Quran also contains verses like the following with traditionally current sense of translation):
i) ‘This is an advice. So, whoever wishes to have the path to his Allah. But you won’t wish except what Allah wishes’. (76/29-30)
ii) ‘This is nothing but advice for (all) the worlds; for one among you who wishes to follow a straight path. And you don’t want but what want Allah, the Sustainer of the worlds’. (81/27-29); also: (74/56)
Urdu Translation by: Shah Rafiuddin
Obviously, this mode of translation presents ridiculous interpretation because what it effectively means is: Allah gave Man a code of behavior (the Quran) giving him free choice to either adopt or reject it. Nevertheless, the situation is that Man does not really have a choice of his own since he is bound to make a decision which Allah wants him to.
This gives rise to the concept of a contradictory God. All the confusion results from the idea of Compulsion. Let us look closely at the phrase (ما تشاؤن ). The Arabic ‘ ما ‘, although used for WHAT, is also used for NOT, which is precisely the case in these verses. (I have dealt with this grammatical point in my work on the Quranic lexicon, the Lughaat-al-Quran). Therefore, (وما تشاؤن الا أن يشاء الله ) comes to mean: ‘and you (should) not wish but only what Allah’s (program - مشيئة ) wishes’. In other words, it is better for Man to synchronize his desires with the cosmic and social design formulated and established by Allah, which, in a nutshell is this: ‘Allah doesn’t want his created people to deny the Truth. It will be in line with His wishes if you choose the right path. If you reject (the message) Allah is not affected by it (only you will be!) as each single one of you has to bear the consequences of your own individual actions. These consequences shall be manifested (in due time, according to, Allah’s laws - مشيئة) as His system keeps track of whatever you do. (39/7).
I am confident that very clear to the reader are the very different (almost opposite) meanings rendered to the verses in question. They transform a helplessly bonded creature into an intelligent, free-choosing creation!
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IV - من يشـاء - (Whoever wishes)
The verses presented in support of their view by the Compulsionists are the ones with the phrase ‘ من يشاء ‘ - translated as ‘whom (He) wishes. For instance: ‘He (Allah) misguides whom He wishes and guides whomever He wishes’ - (16/93); ‘He (Allah) forgives whomever He wishes and punishes whomever He wishes – ‘ (2/284); ‘He (Allah) gives means of living in plenty to whoever He wishes and measures it (in small measures) for whoever He wishes – ‘ (17/30).
Taken as that, these verses clash with the general and basic Quranic philosophy of (mis)guidance --- ‘Say (to them) the Truth is (here) from your Preserver, so accept whoever (among you) wants it or reject (if you so wish) –‘ (18/29). About punishment and forgiveness, a very frequent verse of the Quran is: ‘It is the result of their deeds’. The principle regarding means of living is: ‘There is nothing for Man except what he strives for – (53/39).
The contradiction renders meaningless the Quran’s claim of being a divine revelation because it has cited its consistency as evidence of its divine origin.
According to Arabic grammar, من يشاء can have two uses - ‘whoever
wishes’ or ‘whomever He wishes’. For instance, 16/93
may be interpreted as either ‘Allah guides or misguides whomever He wishes’ or ‘whoever so wishes is guided or misguided’. Similarly, the other two examples cited above may be taken to have either Allah or Man as the subject of the sentence.
My stand is to take the interpretation which is consistent with other verses on the same topic as well as the overall philosophy of the Quran. The Law of Returns (every action of Man has a reaction, and therefore, a consequence) is the pivot of the Quranic ideology. Therefore, it is logical and sensible to take Man as the subject of the sentences in the verses in question.
An important verse from Sura An-Nahal
Let me remind you of the previously quoted verse from Sura An-Nahal. The entire verse says (as traditionally
translated): ‘If Allah had so wanted, He would have made you all one nation but He misguides whomever He wants and guides whomever He wishes so that He inquires from you about your deeds’ (16/93)
Obviously, this translation / interpretation has intrinsic contradiction. The correct interpretation should be: ‘If Allah has so wanted, He would have created Man as one group (like any animal species). But His plan (مشيئة ) is different. He has give Man the freedom of choice. Therefore, Man may choose the right path, or the wrong one – he is completely free to make a choice. That is why Allah will eventually hold Man responsible for his actions’.
Some verses use the expression من نشاء (whomever We want) or من يشاء Whomever Allah wants (whomever I want). In such cases, the subject of the sentence has to be Allah. For instance, Sura Ana’am: “We raise status according to Our wish (Our Plan مشيئة ) (6/84). His program for raising status and position is: ‘To everyone the status according to their deeds –‘ (46/19). Similar is the situation of the physical universe around Man. Sura Rome, for instance, says: ‘Then He spreads them in the sky according to whatever is His wish (plan مشيئة )….. ‘ (30/48). The system of progeny in men is subject to similar physical Laws (Allah’s plan مشيئة ) (42/49-50).
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V- يفعل ما يشاء (He (Allah) does what He wants
VI- يحكم ما يريد (He (Allah) ordains what He intends)
Please have another brief look on Chapter - 2 where I talk (and later repeat) about the two aspects of Allah’s Plan of Creation. First is amr when He creates out of nothingness and establishes laws for the existence, growth and development of things. At this stage He exercises His absolute, limitless discretion – ‘He creates whatever He wishes –‘ (42/49); ‘He does whatever He intends - (24/14); ‘No one can question Him over what He does –‘ (21/23), (5/1), 2/253). This aspect of creation (amr) has by no means come to an end Creation continues (35/1). The universe known to Man is just one tiny drop in the ocean of Allah’s creation. Secondly, there is the creation (khalq - خلق) based upon matter already in existence. At this stage, ‘He does whatever He wants’
According to His Plan (مشيئة)
(يفعل ما يشاء) means that He does things
according to laws and plans already set by Him. For instance: (i) Sura Ra’ad: “Every action has a result in due time (set by Allah’s law), so (things or nations) go out of existence when Allah (‘s law) wishes it – “ (13/38-39). (ii) Sura Ibrahim: “Allah has established (by His law) a firm system of life according to which the convinced survive here and in the hereafter; similarly, the transgressors go astray (and are destroyed); Allah does whatever He (by His law) wishes –“ (14/27). (iii) Sura Beni Israel says that the physical universe yields its bounties to anyone who strives for them in the right way – “The Dissenters as well as the Convinced can progress if they work according to their Preserver’s Law – His bounties are not denied to anyone. We want what We intend ---“ (17/18-20). Allah’s plan (wish / intention / program مشيئة ) is to have the physical universe (here) open to everyone but restrict the hereafter to the righteous only (3/175). But it all happenes according to laws (3/107). It is Allah’s will that people bring hardship to themselves due to their own deeds (5/49). Allah’s laws in the physical universe are naturally there while He has sent His guidance through Revelation to Man for his social life (22/16). (iv) The story of Beni Israel spans a wide part of the Quran as it illustrates Allah’s laws regarding rise and fall of nations. Sura Qasas talks about the tyranny of the Pharaohs reaching its peak and the rising of Moses against it. He educated Israelites to that purpose and took them out of bondage into Sinai for renaissance The story of Israelites opens thus: “And We resolved to bestow Our favors on the people thus subjugated and wronged ….” (28/5). The resolve by Allah was realized not in the manner used in amr . Here, its manifestation required a practical
Allah’s intention realized
program to be followed by the Israelites. But,
when Beni Israel, failed to act accordingly, the promised land (5.21) was declared out of bounds for forty years (5/26). The banishment to wilderness was the end of the old and the birth of a new (next) fresher generation who very speedily seized the ‘promised’ land! Therefore, Allah’s resolve regarding the human social world is realized by humans.
(v) Sura Haj: Verse 22/8 is traditionally translated as: ‘One who is degraded by Allah cannot have respect. Surely, Allah does what He likes’. This clearly
Laws for Respect & Degradation
means that there are no laws for one’s
respectability (in society or even in Allah’s eyes). But this is not true. See, for instance, a verse from Sura Al-Fajr where it says that when a person (or a nation) is degraded, he says: ‘My Preserver has degraded me (without good reason)! Allah’s reply to that blame is that degradation is brought upon one by one’s own deeds, e. g., ‘but because you did not respect (and cared for) the lonely (people) … (89/16-17).
(vi) Sura Haj: “And We keep it (the fetus) in the wombs till a declared (fixed)
The Human Fetus’
period as We desire –“ (22/5). Obviously, ‘as we
desire doesn’t mean that Allah decides the duration of each fetus individually. The entire process is subject to natural biological laws. Therefore ‘as We desire (ما نشاء ) means: according to (the law) which We have already willed (established).
Another incidence regarding human birth mentioned in the Quran may be
relevantly interesting, i. e., the Messenger Zakariya
begetting Yahya (John). Zakariya was quite old and his wife was infertile and, naturally, did not expect to have children. Therefore, he was doubtfully surprised when given the news of a forthcoming son. Allah’s reply in verse 3/39 which is traditionally translated thus: “Allah does whatever He wills”. This does not mean that Allah arbitrarily decided to give Zakariya a child. It all happened under natural medical laws – he was still fertile and his wife’s deficiency was removed (21/90), so they had a child, perfectly according to natural laws.
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This brings us to a very interesting aspect of the topic under discussion.
Allah cannot be questioned over His decisions in the domain of amr (21/23). But, in the domain of khalq, the situation is different. Allah has promised Paradise to men if they follow the Quranic pattern of life ----- “This is your Preserver’s
Allah can be questioned
Preserver’s promise which can be questioned”!
That, incidentally, is the Quran’s image of Allah --- a creator who functions according to laws and is responsible for His actions. He is not a whimsical dictator. He is a law-abiding ruler. He rules by set laws not by
Concept of Allah in Imperial Islam
arbitrary decrees. Sadly, when Muslims
abandoned the Quran [at the end of the period of ‘the righteous caliphate’ (the first four successors of the Messenger) around year 40 Hijra], their concept of Allah changed to one of an emperor. Allah became an absolutely tyrannical dictator ruling the universe and humans according to His moods. This concept of
Concept of Allah changed the Social System
Allah went very well with the idea of Compulsion. So, understandably, the Muslim kings found it
to their advantage to support the idea of Compulsion, so much so that it came to be an article of faith. This illustrates how a human society is affected by its concept of God. It was very rightly said by Comte: ‘You Tell me about a group’s concept of God and I will tell you all about their civilization.
The Qran presents Allah in His true perspective. It also makes it clear that sovereignty is for Allah alone. This does away with imperialism, dictatorship, ecclesiastical leadership etc. This exclusion of all authority except Allah’s is the meaning of the well-known Quranic phrase “لا اله الا الله “ There is not god except Allah!
إن الله على كل شيء قدير - Allah Control All Things
This verse occurs frequently in the Quran. Traditionally, it is taken to mean that Allah does whatever He wants, whenever He wants. I have dealt, in Chapter 2, with the Arabic lexical root q - d- r- (ق د ر ) and its derivatives.
Meaning of Qadeer
Qadeer means one who establishes measures and
standards. Therefore, the phrase at the head of this section will mean: “Allah has set measures and standards to all things (according to which they function)! Allah’s control (measures and standards) extends over every thing. By dint of being bound by laws, measures and standards, the universe is discoverable, and hence controllable by Man (45/13). This divine control extends also to the social world of humans --- ‘(Mankind) benefits or suffers by its (own) deeds’ – (2/286). Just two verses before this, it says: ‘So one may get the protection of Allah, whoever so desires, or invites punishment, whoever so desires; and Allah is the Measurer of all things – (2/284).
Sure Aal-e-Imran: “Allah knows whatever is in your hearts and out. He knows everything in the expanses of the universe. He is the Measurer (standard-maker) of all things. Everyone shall face the results of their actions at the appointed time – (3/28-29); also : (5/40; 5/119-120).
Again, in Sura Aal-e-Imran, it says – ‘Those who take pride in being wrong, and expect undue praise, should know they cannot escape Allah’s law. The entire universe is His domain and He is the standard-maker of all things –‘ (3/187-188). It has been made even clearer in another place of the same Sura: The Muslims had to incur some losses in a battle (Uhad). Referring to it, the Quran says: “You said why it had happened to you. Tell them (O Messenger) it happened because of your own selves (doing something wrong) – Allah is the Measurer of all things –“ (3/169).
In Sura Tauba, the Convinced are told: “If you don’t take up arms in Allah’s way, you will get into big problems and Allah will replace you with other people; certainly, Allah is the standard-maker of all things!” (9/39). This point is elaborated elsewhere in the Quran when it refers to the Dissenters who are advised to learn a lesson from past peoples who were destroyed by their own deeds – Surely, Allah knows and controls (through measures and standards) all things – ((35/44).
At several places, the Quran has illustrated the Law of Returns through
Allegory of Agriculture
the allegory of agriculture. Crops grow on fertile
land according to laws of nature. Barren land doesn’t produce anything even if it gets rain. Natural rule in agriculture is ‘you shall reap what you sow’. It applies to life and death of peoples: ‘So ponder upon the effects of Allah’s bounty (rain) which revives ‘dead’ land. The ‘dead’ (people) are revived in the same way – and He is the standard-maker of all things! -- (30/50; 18/45; 41/39). Allah has set measures for life and death here as well as in the hereafter.
Israelites – due entirely to their own misdeeds – fell into degrading slavery of Babylon for about a century. Their national revival and re-acquired freedom is narrated allegorically by the Quran and, then: “Surely, Allah has set standards to all things ---“ (2/259).
The period of Respite fares very importantly regarding the Law of Returns. This period is set by Allah’s laws, e.g., a seed transforming into a fruit-bearing plant. The Quran illustrates this vital point in a very expressive way. The
The Messenger’s Wish
Messenger (Mohammed) had the mission to
revolutionize mankind. He spent his life through back-breaking and frustrating struggles against all odds. Towards the twilight of his life he was naturally anxious about the result of his efforts. Allah responded thus: “Certainly, We can bring, what We promise, for you to see (but because everything happens according to set laws - Respite and Returns --), your responsibility is to spread (the message) and We have the responsibility of (its result according to set) calculations –“ (13/40).
The god who is not willing to alter His set ‘calculations’ even for His messenger cannot be imagined to ‘do whatever and whenever He likes (whimsically)’. The entire universe functions and operates by set ‘calculations’. Knowledge of these calculations has enabled Man to set foot on the Moon on
his very probable way to interstellar travel and eventually,
meeting life out there. Sura AshShura: “Among His (great) signs is that He created the Earth and the planets and spread in both of them living creatures; and He will bring them together when He desires (according to standards and measures set by Him) –“ (43/39).
In verses 5 and 6 of Sura Haj, the phrase ‘certainly, Allah has control (through standards and measure) over all things – (إن الله على كل شيء قدير ) – has been eloquently presented. I quote my interpretation of the two verses from my work Mafhoomul Quran:
Say to them: if you have doubts about the hereafter because you find the idea incredible, ponder for a while on the fact of your own being created from inorganic matter (primary life began in water and evolution has brought it to the point) where procreation is the means of progeny. The womb is impregnated. Then the fetus becomes like a leech, eventually taking shape from a shapeless mass of flesh. The purpose of these stages is to realize the potential of semen. The fetus stays in womb for the time decided by Our plan (مشيئة ), then you are born as a living human child (16/70). Some of you die young, others grow old, and infirm and childish once again.
Apart from the example of your own self, look around. Earth, for instance, is dry and lifeless before we pour rain on it and it suddenly comes alive, fertile and a treat for the eye.
All this proves that Allah does really exit and His law always works towards solid productive results. It can revive lifeless things, so it is not, difficult for it to resurrect the dead.”
Mahfhoomul- Quran pp. 751-752
Allah has control (through standards) over all things! (22/6)
Summarizing then, these are the standards and measures set by Allah. The
Allah’s Measures and Standards
physical universe follows them
compulsively, but Man is free to make a choice of either adopting or rejecting them. But, he is not free to alter the natural consequences of his chosen actions. Considerably important is the point that the phrase in question - إن الله على كل شيء قدير - invariably uses the word ‘ things’ (اشياء ). Man appears to be excluded, making him free to chose his actions. Allah does not bind Man by His laws against his will. What he does is entirely Man’s own decision.