|Kitab-ul-Taqdeer (Book of Destiny)|
‘FATE OF NATIONS’
Nature’s ‘Law of Returns’ applies to nations as well as to individuals. It decides their rise and fall, life and death. Because, as seen in Chapter 5, an individual’s ‘fate’ is connected with that of a nation, the Law of Returns pertaining to nations extends to individuals, too. Please recall Allah’s law regarding change in a nation’s circumstances ---
“Allah doesn’t bring about a change in a nations circumstances unless it changes what is in their hearts (psychology)” (13/11, 8/253). This amr (1) is referred to in (8/42): “So that Allah’s amr is enforced. So that destruction and life come (to nations) according to clear (laws and reasons).” No nation survives or dies away whimsically (without cause or reason): “So that your Protector / Preserver never destroys the abode (of a nation) wrongfully while they are unaware (of its causes)” (6/32). Also: “It is not befitting Allah to destroy a settlement (of a nation) wrongfully while the inhabitants still have a chance of redemption.” (11/117). Sura Rome speaks about the primary audience of the Quran.
Historical Evidence (the Arabs) -- despite numerous warnings of the destructive consequences of their wrong conduct, they haven’t heeded. Ask them to look at the historical evidence in this regard to see what happened to nations in the past:
“If they seek it, they shall find the evidence in history. Those nations of the past were richer and stronger than these (Arabs) are. They had created wealth by hard work, established civilizations and countries more populated than these (Arabs’). Their prophets brought to them clear laws.
Allah never destroys a nation unless it brings it upon itself through its own wrongdoing. The messengers of Allah came to them and were ridiculed and refuted. Refusal to change their ways resulted for those nations in creating social ills and imbalance and they were ultimately destroyed.” (30/9-10).
(1) amr has been discussed in chapter-2
Refuting a Messenger
Let us ponder for while on the expression ‘refuting a messenger (تكذيب رسل). A patient who doesn’t listen to the advice of his doctor is practically denying the medical knowledge by refusing to act upon the advice. This is refuting --- (denying) the truth and acting contrary to it. The Quran cites examples of past nations who refuted and ridiculed Allah’s messengers and, consequently, faced the inevitable destruction. The Quran, employing its philosophy of history, advises and warns its readers to learn a lesson from the historical accounts of past nations and avoid repeating the fatal mistake of ignoring (refuting) Allah’s Law of Returns by acting contrary to it. It says: “There were several nations before you. Explore the Earth and see what happened to the one who refuted” (3/136, 6/11, 16/36)--- “and the one who had been warned!” (10/73) Sura An’aam says that nations are destroyed as a consequence of their (own) crimes: “Have they pondered upon the destroyed nations of the past? They enjoyed more wealth and power than these (present day people), they had an abundance of food and prosperity. But, they were destroyed through their own sins and were replaced by other people” (6/6).
Unfairness breads Destruction
The sins (crimes / defiance of Natural Law of Returns) which bring about the downfall of a people are numerous, the topmost being zulm (injustice, or better still, unfairness), saying clearly: The people who are unfair, have their roots cut”. (6/45) Having mentioned the destruction and fall of those nations, the Quran says: “These are the ruins of cities whose inhabitants were unfair” (18/59). Elsewhere, it says:
“ (If they wish, history can speak to them about) Several civilizations who were caught up by Our Law of Returns because those people were unfair. Their tall buildings fell, their wells became useless and their strong fortifications fell in ruins.
Haven’t these (present day) people visited these areas yet so that (having seen those nations’ sorry end) they start being rational and begin to heed? (when someone chooses to turn a blind eye to the truth, his eyes still see but) their inner eyes (hearts) go blind and thus their thinking faculties are blunted. (22/45-46)
Narrating the eye-opening accounts of several past nations, the Quran repeats the truth: “No settlement is destroyed unless its inhabitants are unfair”. (28/59) (1)
Thus, the rise and fall of nations is dependent upon their own deeds. Their fate is NOT pre-determined. They themselves decide their own destiny.
Period of Respite
It has been stated that, according to the Law of Returns, the time gap between an action and the manifestation of its result is a period of respite termed as ajal by the Quran. As the life of a nation spreads over centuries (as compared to days or years in case of an individual), their period of respite is longer, too. A tyrannical people, who exploit and suppress humanity, appear to go on prospering, is really passing through its ajal (the period of respite). Sura Namal Says:
“ If (Allah had not provided the period of respite and) people were apprehended quickly after their unfairness, the Earth would have lost its inhabitants. Allah delays (the apprehension) till a certain period of respite (ajal). When that period expires, their destruction occurs at the specific time -- not a minute before or after” (16/61; also 35/45).
This Law is strictly enforced: “No nation can hurry or delay it.” ( 23/43) The period of respite can save a nation if it redeems and improves itself. Otherwise, it is destroyed.
(1) I do not propose to dwell upon these historical accounts. They have been treated in my works like ‘Islam Kya Hai (What is Islam?), Jooey Noor, Barq-e-Toor and Shola-e-Mastoor.
Every ajal has a Law
Even this period of respite is not pre-determined. It is not pre-destined, for instance, for a nation to attain and retain power and glory, come what may, for two centuries. The period of glory is determined by a nation’s own deeds and varies accordingly. The Quran says, in principal, the following:
i) “Every nation has an ajal (period of life) - (10/40), and
ii) Every ajal has a book (law) - (13/38)
A nation may determine its own period of respite (life) according to law. This law of respite is no mystery. (An unknown, mysterious law is useless. Law is intended to be known to those who are supposed to follow it, so that they know its consequences. That’s why the Quran cites the historical evidence to illustrate its law of rise and fall of nations, and aptly terms it” a known law”. (15/4) This is “Allah’s way” which never changes (35/43), and it is the Law of Rise and Fall of Nations. For as long as a nation keeps on the right path (Allah’s way) it retains its glory. When it defies Allah’s Law, decline sets in. It enjoys a period of respite (within which there is a chance of correcting itself to retain the glory) before the decline and fall is complete. That nation is then replace by another who has been following Allah’s way. Early Muslims, who had, as a result of following Allah’s way achieved power and glory (24/55) were told:
“If you refrain from struggle (for life and survival), you will face tragic misfortune -- another nation will replace you -- and you will be helpless. These are Allah’s measures.” (9/39), (11/57).
Sura Mohammad says:
“There are those among you who, when told to share their wealth with the needy, act miserly. They should know that miserliness turns against the miser. Allah doesn’t need you. You need Him for your survival. If you digress from the right path, Allah will substitute you with another nation who will (be better than and) not be like you.” (47/38).
It is because the law of rise and fall (life and death) of nations is: “whichever nation follows the Right path of life, survives. Others go in decline and are replaced by better nations (who follow Allah’s way). The rise and fall of nations is determined by their own deeds. That, then, is the fate of nations (Allah’s law).
We have seen that: every event (tragic or pleasant) in life (social or individual) occurs according to Nature’s established law. Man is capable of discovering that law and exercising his free will to follow or defy it.
Nonetheless, some verses in the Quran may appear confusing to the superficial reader. Let us look at those carefully to ascertain their true meaning. For example, Sura Hadeed says (according to conventional interpretation): “No calamity comes to your society or self which had not been written in a book before We created this Universe” (57/22).(1) Again, Sura Tauba says: “Say we won’t get but whatever Allah has written for us”(9/51) (1) Verses such as these are said to refer to pre-determination (destiny or fate) and have contributed a great deal to establish the common belief in an eternal, unchangeable and unavoidable destiny for individuals as well as groups. This is the source of reference to Allah as ‘the Writer of Destiny’.
Let us look at these verses in a Quranic perspective:
A ‘book’ to Arabs was (and still is) binding loose leaves. (2) But the derivative root of kitab is K-T-B which is pregnant with the sense of a legal obligation e.g.,
- (1) Translation by Maulana Mahmood-al-Hassan.
- (2) The Quran opens with “This is the book which …. (Sura Baqara)”. This indicates that the Quran was already in the form of a book (bound leaves) before the Prophet died. The commonly held belief that the Quran was gathered and bound into book-form after the Prophet’s death appears contradictory to the Quranic evidence. Thus the Quran was gathered, arranged and bound into a book during Mohammad’s life.
i) Sura Nisa uses the word Kitab for prohibition of marriage to certain relatives. (4/24) Maulana Mahmood-al-Hasan has translated the verse as “ you have been ordered by Allah”, meaning thereby that he translates kitab as ‘order’. We have said earlier in the book that the Quran has used the word ‘hukm’ in general for ‘qanoon’ (law). ‘Hukum’ means a decision. A decision or an order which attains permanence is LAW, e. g., a governmental decision for all traffic to drive on the left. Similarly, Nature’s decision that fire radiates heat is law because it is permanent and hence is Allah’s Law.
ii) Sura Baqara uses the word kitab in (2/235). Maulana Mahmoud-al-Hasan translates the verse thus: “And don’t intend to (enter) wedlock until the determined waiting (period) is reached”. Hence ‘kitab’ has been translated as ‘determined’ i.e., determined by Allah. This is His order, decision or LAW.
iii) “Sala is a periodic duty / obligation (kitaban) for the convinced” (4/104)
vi) “In it (the Quran) there are established laws (kutub)”. (98/3)
v) “You have been obliged (kuteba) to Qisas”. (2/178)
vi) “You have been obliged (kuteba) to fasting (days)”. (2/183)
vii) “You have been obliged (kuteba) to fight (battles).” (2/216)
viii) “About lonely women: “You don’t give them what has been determined (by law - kuteba) for them”. (4/12)
ix) “And We decreed (katabna) in Zaboor, after treating morals that the worthy shall inherit the earth”. (21/105)
x) Record of nations’ deed is also referred to as ‘their book’ in 45/28 saying: “Every nation shall be called to their book, (and told), you shall face the consequences of what you have been doing.” Obviously, this shall be done according to Nations’ Law of Returns. Allah has referred to it as ‘His book’: “Our book speaks only the truth about you” (45/29); also: (20/52).
xi) Nation’s Book
Sura An’aam talks about Allah’s knowledge encompassing the Universe - every leaf which falls off a tree, grains in the darkness of the earth, good and bad, dry and wet - everything is in ‘the clear book’ (6/59). Obviously, the book here means the laws of the physical universe.
xii) Sura Aal-Imran talks about the ‘established’ regulations given in clear-cut terms (as compared to the ‘similes and, examples’ to give universal truths). These ‘established’ (محكمات ) are referred to as ‘mother of the book’ (3/6), i.e., the foundation and basis of law. Earlier, we have seen that universal laws are determined in the realm of Allah’s Amr, and are realized in the realm of Khalq. That’s why the Quran says, the origin and basis of laws is with Allah’ (13/39). About the Sura itself, it says that you have it in the form of (Arabic) letters and words but: “We have it in the mother of the book” (43/4).
‘Mother of the book’ or the ‘realm of Amr’ means Allah’s knowledge which is absolutely comprehensive -- “Don’t you know that Allah knows what ever is there in the skies and the earth? That (knowledge) is in a book” (22/70), says Sura Hajj. Elsewhere, it is referred to as “the clear book” (27/75).
Every event in the Universe passes through various phases on the path to its occurrence. These phases are referred to by the Quran as ‘mustauda’ (temporary store / transitory stages). Its culmination is called ‘mastaqar’ (destination). Sura Qamar says: “And each Amr (case) is a mastaqar (destination)” (54/3). And that: “Every (piece of) news has a destination.” (6/67). Also, in Sura Hood: “Allah knows the transitory stage (s) and the destination (of all things). All this (information) is in a clear book.” (11/6)
The destination of an event is its realized form. The transitory stages are subject to the law of Cause and Effect (except for the initial Amr Stages). Man may obtain information about this according to his capacity to learn. It is possible, though, that some of the transitory stages are still waiting to be discovered by Man. The waiting period (respite) between a human action and its result really comprises of transitory phases unobservable by Man. He can only notice the destination of an event and not the transitory phases. Sura Anbiaa says: “There were many settlements destroyed by Us because of their unfairness and We brought forward another nation (to take their place).” During their unfairness, and after that during its transitory phases which they couldn’t observe, they felt immune to accountability and consequences of their actions. But, in reality, their actions were unnoticeably moving towards their destination --- “When they saw Our punishment, they began scrambling to escape it”. (21/11-12) “But Our Law of Returns beckoned them to stop (and said) - ‘You can’t escape now. Come back to your pleasure houses where you enjoyed (as parasites) wealth earned by others, so that you can be asked what right you had to consume wealth not earned by you!’ They will raise a hue and cry but it will be to no avail. They will be reduced to a crop-less field or an extinguished flame!” (21/13-15)
Coming back to every event’s transitory phases and destination in ‘the clear book’ it can be seen that:
i) Kitab (book) means laws (code of law),
ii) all laws are determined and established in the ‘realm of Amr’ -- referred to as ‘Book of Allah’ (Allah’s knowledge), and
iii) in the realm of Khalq, these laws are noticeable as Laws of Nature and are depicted in the Quran. They are again referred to ‘Book of Allah’ but here (as opposed to ii above), Man can obtain this knowledge, because they are in ‘clear book’ or ‘the known book’.
Important verse regarding the question of FATE
Let us now refer back to the verses, referred to earlier, one many find confusing or contradictory in content. Take a look first at the verses from Sura Hadeed:
“No calamity comes to a country nor to yourselves which was not pre-written in a book before We created this world. Verily, this is easy for Allah so that you don’t grief over what you can’t get or boast over what He gave you. And Allah doesn’t like the boastful show-offs.” (57/22-23)
- Translation in Urdu by Maulana Moahmoud-al-Hasan
This is commonly taken to mean that every calamity is pre-destined and is unavoidable. In such a helpless situation, men must patiently take what comes naturally. This attitude is considered to be a quality of pious men and is referred to as being ‘pleased with the will of Allah’. Also, men must not feel proud of the good in life as it is made possible by Allah and not by Man!
1. In the first instance, this interpretation of the verses in question nullifies the entire concept of the very basis of Din (the Quranic system, ...... the Law of Returns. Allah appears to be contradicting His own verses like “Man gets only what he strives for”, “Every calamity which befalls Man is of his own doing”, “Allah neither blesses nor punishes whiteout due cause and reason -- it is all a consequence of Man’s own actions”. etc.
The Quran doesn’t contradict itself
Thus, this interpretation does not appear reasonable. We must also remember that the consistency of the Quran has been cited by it as evidence of its being divine (4/82). Let us, then, try to see what the verses in question really mean:
Each and every occurrence in the physical universe, as well as Man’s social world, takes place under pre-determined laws enacted by Allah.
Allah has pre-determined laws not only for calamities but also for alleviating them. For example, fire burns, but balm soothes. Therefore, in the face of a calamity (Allah’s taqdeer) do the needful to counter it by following (in Omer Farooq’s words) another of Allah’s Taqdeer. Disappointment and passive acceptance of tragedies may be the norm in a worldly oppressive despot but not that of the law-abiding Allah. So study your environment, world and universe and act according to the knowledge of Nature’s Laws you learn.
2. Secondly, Sura Anfal talks about a battle where a number of the enemy’s soldiers were taken prisoner with the intent of later charging money for their release. This was against the spirit of din (philosophy of religion). But, since it was a tactical mistake, it was thought worthy of just a reproach in 8/67 which is conventionally translated by Maulana Mohmoud-al-Hasan. Thus: “If Allah had not pre-written this, you would have faced severe punishment ( and tragedy).”
But, the true interpretation is: ‘What you did deserves severe punishment but, since Allah’s law in this regard has already been given in the Quran (that errors merit just a reproach), you are hereby not punished.
3. Thirdly, Sura Tauba talks about dissemblers (hypocrites) who get very upset when the Muslims are doing well. They are pleased when the convinced are facing problems, distancing themselves from the Muslims by saying that they have before hard taken precautions against such circumstances. The Quran goes on to say in 9/51 (as conventionally translated in Urdu by Maulan Masul-al-Hasan): “Say (to them), we shall not get but whatever Allah has already written down for us. Only He is our benefactor, and Muslims should rely on Allah alone.”
The true meaning of it, however, is: “Tell them that whatever happens to us is (not according to your misconceptions or ill-will) under the Law of Returns, Therefore, whatever occurs is inevitable according to that law and is unavoidable. We, the Muslims, are convinced fully of its validity and permanence. We are, therefore, not upset over whatever you might say.”
The words ‘whatever Allah has written for us’ do not mean our pre-determined fate but whatever law has already been established. Fore example, see (2/187) where it says: ‘Strive to get whatever Allah has written for you. “obviously, ‘written’ in this verse does not mean pre-determined fate’ because that is inevitable and, as such, does not require any effort to get. Similarly, in (58/21) it says: “Allah has written that He and His prophets will out come out victorious.” The Quran is full of the monumental struggle which prophets had to do to succeed in their missions. Sura ‘Araaf cites Moses’ people requesting Allah to “write for us good things in this life as well as in the hereafter.” Allah’s response was: “These (good things) are WRITTEN for those who (are ‘muttaqeen) follow Allah’s laws.
By Allah’s Permission / Order
The Quran nowhere mentions the commonly held belief that ‘not even a leaf on a tree stirs without Allah’s permission’.
We have already talked about the apparent contradiction in the Quran regarding calamities befalling Man (66/11 and 42/30). Verse (42/30) is very clear in its meaning which is the only one it can have. Therefore, verse (64/11) must use ‘b-izn-Allah’ (by Allah’s permission) in a different sense. Let us examine it.
Meaning of Izn: The Arabic word izn basically means an announcement. The Muslim call for obligatory prayer is azaan. It is also used to mean permission as well as knowledge. ‘Izn Allah’ also means Allah’s knowledge’. (1) We have already seen that when Allah’s knowledge and intention (amr) enters the realm of khalq, it becomes law. We have also established that a permanent order (decision) is law. The same principle applies to permission, i.e., a permanent permission is called ‘law, as we understand it. This is the very sense of the term ‘Izn Allah’ used by Quran, e. g.,
i) Sura Hajj : “People who have been oppressed (Muslims who had migrated away from the Meccan oppression and were still hounded by enemies of Islam, and were under the threat of hostile armed attack) are given permission to do battle”. (22/39. Obviously, this permission to take up arms is not confined to the time and people. Given the necessary conditions, battle will always be permissible. Such a situation will not need a special permission every time it occurs. That is why when Muslim fought the Jew (in the battle of Khyber) and uprooted some date-trees for tactical reason, the Quran said they did it with Allah’s permission (59/5).
ii) Agriculture has known, clear physical laws. The Quran says : “Fertile land yields (good) crop by the permission of its Persevere (Allah).” (7/58)
(1) Imam Raghib Isfahani writes in his ‘Mufredaat’ that Ian differs from Ilm (knowledge) in that it also caries the sense of intention and planning on the part of the one have knowledge
iii) The Rain-Cycle: Obviously, certain physical laws govern the cycle of rain (artificial rain is now a reality). The Quran says: “Don’t they ponder upon (the fact) that all things on earth are controllable by Man? And that vessels sail on sea according to set laws? And He holds clouds in the sky so that they rain down on earth only by His permission?” (22/65)
iv) The Muslim fighters of holy wars had dedicated their lives to the cause of Allah. Their steadfastness to uphold their high principles and ideals provided them an edge over their enemies which was said in the Quran to make them ten times stronger than non-Muslims. And even if they are short of equipment and supplies they will still ‘overpower ten times their own number by Allah’s permission” (8/66). Clearly, Izn Allah here means the qualities necessary for success in war. This will always hold good. Hence, it is law. That’s why it said’ “A smaller group overpowers a larger group by Allah’s permission - and Allah favors the steadfast (saabereen).” (2/249)
A little further on, the Quran talks about the time when his army rode out to meet Goliath’s, Taloot prayed to Allah: “O Preserver! Give us plenty of steadfastness so that we don’t falter and make us victorious over the Rejecters (of your Din).” (2/250). Then it says: “Then they (Goliath’s men) were defeated by Allah’s permission.” (2/251)
v) About acceptance or rejection of Allah’s message, the Quran says: “There is no compulsion in Din.” (2/256) And also; “The Truth from your Persevere (is here). So, accept it if you want or reject it if you so wish.” (18/29)
Acceptance / Rejection of Allah’s Message
An affectionate friend of humanity, the Prophet (Mohammad) desired people to see the truth. At times, he felt it so strongly that Allah advised him not to damage his health. Sura Younis talks about this situation when Allah said to the Prophet that it was easy for Allah to make Man follow the right path (as the rest of creation does). But, Man has been given the gift of free choice. Nonetheless, “You (the Prophet) want to force people onto the right path.” (10/99). Remember, “No one accepts (the right path) without Allah’s Izn!.”
Clearly, Izn in this verse cannot refer to order or permission because this will contravene not only 10/94 (it deprives Man of free will), but also the very basis of the Quranic philosophy. Therefore, in the verse in question, Izn means Allah’s law -- no compulsion in acceptance or rejection of the Message. Exactly how Man employs the faculty of choice is made clear further in the verse: “Confused are those who do not employ reason (and rationality).” (10/100)
vi) Sura Mojaadela talks about Islam’s enemies who are instigated by the Devil (Shaitaan) to plot conspiracies against the Muslims to demoralize them. But they should know that: “He (Shaitaan) cannot harm them even a little bit without Allah’s Izn.” (58/10). Very obviously, Izn here just cannot mean Allah’s permission or order. That will be ridiculous - Shaitan is the embodiment of defiance. Therefore, in this verse, Izn means Allah’s law. -- the Muslims must abide by Allah’s law which will not allow any devilish force to work on them!. “The convinced (Muslims) depend (entirely and strongly) upon Allah (‘s law).” 58/10.
Let us now examine the verses which talk about no calamity befalling without Allah’s Izn.
No Calamity befalls Man without Allah’s Izn
In the battle of Uhud, the Muslims were on the verge of victory when a contingent of archers, going against their commander’s instructions, shifted from their position. This tactical mistake cost them dearly and they suffered heavy losses. Sura Aal-Imran narrates this episode:
“You were killing the enemy according to Allah’s law, were about to be victorious, and He was about to fulfill His promise to you. But, you faltered. You began to argue among yourselves over the situation and you disobeyed (your commander) and failed to wrest victory which was only moments away. Do you realize why it happened so? Some of you were taken over by short-term benefits while others preferred long-term advantages. Your attention was diverted away from the enemy (you were defeated) and it was made clear to you. (you realized your blunder, returned to your position, fought and achieved victory and thus) the ill effects of your mistake were erased. Allah’s law is that a mistake doesn’t banish one permanently from success. Whenever one realizes one’s mistake and returns to the right path, one benefits from Allah’s bounty anew.” (3/151)
Afterwards, when you pondered upon the setback with ‘ How did it happen?’, Allah’s reply to that was: “Tell, (them O Prophet!), that was from your own selves.” (3/165). In the light of all this, then, let us look again at verse (64/11) from Sura Taghaban -- “No calamity befalls you but by Allah’s Izn.” This is followed by a few glittering words of wisdom:
Guidance through Law
“Whosoever is convinced of Allah (‘s law) has his heart guided (to the right path)” (64/11). That very clearly means that if one discovers and abides by, Allah’s law, one is guided rightly and thus can also foresee certain possibilities turning into probabilities.
Therefore, Izn Allah is meant to be Allah’s law in the Quranic perspective.