|Kitab-ul-Taqdeer (Book of Destiny)|
THE LAW OF RETURNS
As it has been stated, the physical universe operates on the basic principle of ‘Cause and Effect’. Another basic principle is ‘the Uniformity of Nature’ which means that ‘the Law of Cause and Effect’ applies uniformly to the entire Universe. In other words, a CAUSE will create exactly the same EFFECT whenever and wherever the conditional factors are identical. In the social world of humans, this is known as the Law of Returns’.
The Two Levels of Human Life
Man’s life has two levels or aspects. One is PHYSICAL, just as the rest of the Universe, subject to the physical laws of Nature. For instance, humans reproduce like other animals and the elements affect them similarly in ingestion, digestion, excretion, sleep, wakefulness, illness, health, procreation, death etc. A human being even has the basic animalistic instincts like self-preservation, self-aggression and self-reproduction.
Then there is a higher level of human life manifested not in the body but in the HUMAN PERSONALITY. It is not subject to physical laws. Nonetheless, it has a different code of law called PERMANENT VALUES. Values deal with honesty, truthfulness, standards of good or bad and right or wrong. These values are reflected in what is called HUMAN CHARACTER. Animals have BEHAVIOR. Man has CHARACTER, too.
Physical laws of the Universe can be discovered through observation and experimentation. Permanent Values, however, come to Man only through divine revelation and are now preserved in the Quran. These values have their own set of laws (action and result) just as ‘cause and effect’ in the physical world. This is known as the Universal Law of Returns.
The characteristic of willful choice - unique to Man - is actually a trait of the human PERSONALITY, which flourishes by adhering to Permanent Values and withers away by violating them. By the way, a person with a developed personality is strong of will. A ‘developed’ personality lives even after the body’s death. That is ‘Life in the Hereafter’. Thus, permanent values work on Man’s personality just as physical laws do on his body. The law of cause & effect in both domains are natural and divine.
Three Categories of Laws
Human life is governed by these categories of laws:
Physical (laws of physics, chemistry, biology etc.) governing the human body.
Social laws enacted by government / society.
Permanent Values (moral & ethical laws) affecting the human personality.
All the three areas deem a person responsible for his / her action and the results thereof. In i) & ii), it may happen that one has to face consequences of someone else’s actions: for example, someone drowns in a river because somebody pushes one off a bridge (or the bridge gives way because of faulty workmanship); famine strikes because of bad administration; floods ravage an area; or war creates havoc, etc. In iii), however, every person bears consequences of one’s own action (even those affecting one’s personality). This is known as that person’s Record of Deeds.
The Quran holds Man responsible for all actions, individual or collective. It doesn’t recognize any action in any of the three categories as being the responsibility of Fate (predetermined destiny of Man) and not of Man himself. Man gets what he works for. Pre-determined is the Law of Returns and NOT Man’s actions. This is ‘Destiny of Allah’ not ‘Destiny of Man’! Man’s fate is nothing but the results of his (individual and/or collective) action! Let me elaborate some of these points.
1. ‘Your destiny is what you do’ (2/20)
The Quran presents the basic principle in this regard saying: “Whoever commits wrong (bad) deeds, surrounding himself with his mistakes - they are the people of hellfire”. Their hopes will be dashed. On the other hand, “those who are convinced and do good (beneficial) deeds are the people of Paradise” (2/81-82). Elsewhere it says: “Whatever one does, begets full results” (2/281) -- also in (3/24, 3/160, 40/17). But, an action has to be willful, as is stated in: “You will be held responsible (only) for actions committed by your heart (will)” (2/225). That is, one is not responsible for a forced action. In my view, this verse alone sufficiently makes evident the Quranic notion that Man is created ‘free of will’. In Surah Al-Anaam, it says: “Everyone has the responsibility of one’s own actions. No one carries another’s burden” (6/165). This is supported by (17/15; 35/18; 39/7; 53/38) etc.
In Surah An-Najm, it says: “Man can get only what he strives for” (53/39). Also, “Man is entitled to what he works for” (20/15). A just society is the one in which “no one’s efforts go wasted” (21/94) and that in which “your efforts bear results” (17/18-21).
Like individuals, this law applies to nations as well - “Your predecessor (nations of past) bore the consequences of what they did and you will have what you work for. You will not be queried about their actions” (2/134). Also, see (2/141). This is because the Law of Returns states: “Deeds bring results and responsibility to the doer (s)” (2/286). “People are destroyed by their own actions” (2/79).
Suffice to say that “Everyone is mortgaged by his own actions” (74/38).
2. “You get what you do” (9/82)
The Laws of Returns means each and every action (right or wrong) produces a reaction. This is of routine occurrence in the physical world, and easy to observe and accept. Everyday occurrences like fire burns if you touch it and water quenches your thirst are evident examples of this. But, permanent values are a different matter because their consequences are not readily & directly observable. Food satisfies hunger is easier to observe than it is to see how food wrongfully earned damages one’s personality. The ‘Materialistic Concept of Life’ does not believe in permanent values as it does not recognize the existence of the human personality. The materialists recognize only the social laws enacted by society / government. These laws bear consequences only when the relevant society comes to know actions - and that varies from one society to another.
The Soaring Global Crime Rate
The present alarming social deterioration all over the world & the ever-climbing crime-rate in all societies are due to one basic reason: People do not believe in the existence of human personality. Life to them is the physical life only.
But, the Quran has the human personality as the pivot of its philosophy. All actions of Man, individual or collective, produce reactions. In fact, this is stated as the reason for the existence of this Universe: “Allah created the skies and the earth (the universe) rightfully to get everyone the result of his actions and to stop all wrongdoing” (45/22). Again, “Everything in the skies and the earth is (working) for Allah so that people who do bad deeds get bad results and people doing good deeds get good results” (53/31).
In Surah Younis, it is stated that Allah’s program of creation - creating all things from nothingness (mabda’) and then reshaping them to ever new forms - exists only to get to people convinced of permanent values the results of their rightful deeds (10/4). This is repeated in (11/7, 18/6 & 67/2).
Surah Nisaa states: “whoever does wrong shall bear the consequence” (4/123) and “Whatever on does produces results” (9/82; 9/95; 14/51; 16/96-97; 40/17).
Elsewhere, the Quran states: “everyone shall get the result of one’s actions” (34/33). It is repeated in (7/147; 52/16; 56/24; 83/36) etc. Again, it states: “Allah doesn’t let go wasted any deed of a doer”.(3/197). Also: “Allah never wastes the return of good doers” (12/90; 3/144).
The Weighing Balance
It is to drive this very basic principle home that the Quran has used the simile of a weighing balance: “We shall, on the Day of Judgment, set up weighing balances and then no one shall be done wrong” (28/47). People with their good deeds weighing more than their bad ones shall prosper and flourish, the others shall be destroyed. (23/102-103). “Every small bit of human action shall be weighed” (3/16; 34/3; 99/7-8; 101/5-6). Actions shall be weighed and the reading will be given to the concerned to “See what they have been doing” (9/94; 9/7105; 10/23). This reading shall decide if the weighed deserves success because of a ‘developed personality’ or failure because of not having developed one’s personality (9/9-10).
It is hopefully clear through these Quranic verses that Man is responsible for all his actions and is not bound by pre-determined destiny.
Reward or punishment for forced, pre-determined actions is simply out of the question.
3. Read your book (of deeds) 17/33
The principle illustrated by the simile of the ‘Weighing Balance’ is elsewhere in the Quran elicited by the term ‘Book of Deeds’. It says: “We have appointed guardians and overseers around Man to record all his action” (13/11; 50/18). They are called ‘the exalted writers’ (82/11). This record is like “an open and clear book” (10/16).
This book is housed in each & every man. Sura Beni Israel states: “Every man’s book of deeds hangs in his neck”. It is rolled shut now but will be opened on the Day of Judgment and the man will be told, ‘Read your book. It is self-evident for you to take your own account this day” (17/13-14). The list of deeds and actions will not require any witnesses other than the man himself who will frankly admit his mistakes (75/14).
This is the record about which the Quran says: “We have a book which says nothing but the truth” (23/62). It is this very record which will make the culprit shout in despair: “O if only I was a heap of dust!” (78/40).
It should be clear, then, that each and every human action (even a passing thought or a wrongful glance - 40/19) produces a result which is recorded according to the ‘Law of Returns’. Man’s book of deeds is blank at birth and he writes in it with his own hand to affect his personality accordingly. He writes his own destiny. As Iqbal says:
4. If you are good, you are good for your own self (17/7)
(Result of one man’s action cannot be transferred to another)
When action is dependent on one’s own free will, the resulting consequence cannot be shared or transferred. For instance, you may take or give money / wealth but cannot transfer to others the healthy results of regular exercise which you do. If you touch fire, only you have to bear the burning. Similarly, the consequences of one’s action on one’s personality cannot be transferred to another.
Individuality of the Human Personality
This exclusiveness is termed as the individuality of the Human Personality. In Sura Beni Israel, it is stated: “If you do good, it is to your own benefit and the bad deeds are (also) for your own self” (17/7). Again, in 41/16 it says: “Whoever does good, benefits his own self and whoever does bad only hurts himself”. It also says: “Your Protector is never unfair to people” (41/46), and also in 45/15. Elsewhere, it says: “One who strives, strives for one’s own self” (29/6). Sura Younis states: “O mankind! surely your defiance (of the Divine Law) will be upon your own self (you’ll bear the consequences)” (10/23) - also in 4/111. Sura Al-Anaam says: “you have been shown clear paths by your Preserver. So, Whoever keeps his eyes closed will bear the consequences on his own self” (6/105). It is repeated elsewhere: “O mankind! you have received the Truth from your Preserver. So, whoever chooses the right path shall beneficial from it while whoever goes astray will bear the loss” (10/108) - also in 17/15; 40/44; 31/12.
Another important point in this regard is that the consequences affecting the personality of a free-willed man stay for ever and cannot be erased by another man. For example, it says: “No one can help anyone through recommendation or bribe or otherwise” (2/48; 2/133).
It is not Commercial
Also it says: “Results of deeds may not be bought or helped through friendship or recommendation” (2/254). This rule applies uniformly to all. Even the Prophet himself says: “.... I fear. If I defy my Protector, I fear the punishment on that Great Day” (10/15; 9/13).
This uniqueness (individuality) of the human personality -- being responsible for one’s one action - was the basis of the Prophet’s announcement to non-Muslims: “We have our deeds, you have yours” (2/139). “You will not be queried about our ‘crimes’ not will we be asked about your actions” (34/25). “For you, your ‘din’, for us ours” (109/6). “My actions are for me yours for you. You are not responsible for my actions nor I for yours” (10/41).
Responsibility of action is only for the free-willed and never for the forced. Even Allah doesn’t interfere. He just keeps a watch: “Allah sees your actions” (2/237). “He knows them” (2/234). “No action can go unnoticed by Him”. (2/144), even “Allah knows what is in your hearts” 2/235).
“Allah watches your actions” means that no action can escape the Law of Returns - “Allah surrounds whatever you do” (3/119). That is why every responsibly action by Man produces a reaction and every man has to bear the consequences of his actions.