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Fate & Predestination

His Supreme Seat embraces the heavens and the earth, and it tires Him not to uphold them both. Surely God is All-Powerful over all things. He had no beginning and He will have no end. Because He is outside the realm of time and space, He knows everything that has happened and will happen. God knew that human beings would be valuable creatures when He made them, even though the angels didn’t think much of us. He also knew the first pair of people would sin, and He made a plan for the salvation of their descendants—if any would choose to take it. This is the test we are all taking in this life.

When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden, they were sent into a world full of choices. All of us today have just as many challenges to face as they did. We can lead a successful life and achieve the eternal bliss, or we can choose this fleeting life and endure the chastisement of the Inferno. But if God is all-powerful and knows the past, present, and future, and has already written for us the span of our life, our economic condition, and so many other things, are we in fact, locked into an inescapable destiny?

Christianity has had to wrestle with this topic for centuries. After all, asking why God made the universe when He already knows the future is a pretty powerful question. Free will and the ability to shape our own future must mean something if our test is be fair.

The Timeless Knowledge of God

God knows the time we are subject to as if it were a single moment rite from its beginning to its end. Occurrences that are going to take place after our death are related in the Koran as past events already experienced. For example, God has already described in great detail all of mankind standing in line on Judgment Day as though it has already taken place. God is not bound by the relative time frame in which we are confined. People have already performed their activities and all these events have been lived through and ended.

All events that seem to have taken place in the past, or which will take place in the future, or are taking place in the present, have actually already taken place and ended in the site of God, Who is not bound by time or place. In the same manner, eternity has also been experienced and ended in the site of God. Just like the concurrent existence of the shots in a reel of film.

Even though God knows the future, we can still act and make a difference in our ultimate fate. The synthesis comes in a grand concept that can almost be described as managed time. The answer begins with God’s foreknowledge. God knows the past, present, and future all at the same time. He created time and so is not bound by it. Muhammad said of God: “People struggle against the passing of time, but I am Time. In My hand is the nite and the day.”

God sees us in any life stage at any time He wants. He won’t end our share of time until we reach the amount allotted for us. So knowing God is outside the timeline means that God’s foreknowledge is not a worrisome issue for us. God’s foreknowledge is not making us do what we do. He is merely outside the timeline, looking at us every stage of our lives, letting time flow, so we can live out our natural lives and experience life for ourselves.

Trials & Tribulations in Life

All things, including people, are dependent on God, and He has measured our life circumstances to provide a varied and challenging test for us to pass. Beyond measuring the length of our lives, God will throw a specific set of challenges our way, so we can make choices and learn to live by faith and virtue. All along our timelines are stumbling blocks and situations that we must react to. God does not test people with more than they can bear. It’s up to us to rise to the challenge. God has intertwined everyone’s timelines and this creates a never-ending web of actions and reactions.

How does this concept of measurement help us to live free from anxiety? Basically, if we say that God has measured the circumstances in our life, we can free ourselves from being overly stressed about what happens to us every day. When we are stricken with calamities, our anxiety is reduced and our despair is mitigated because we trust in God’s measurement or preordainment of our tests. Life, therefore is a test and not a series of punishments and thus a Muslim’s belief in the goodness of God and the essential rightness of His overall plan remains intact.

The question remains: Can we change what will happen to us? Does prayer or our active participation in a situation have any effect on the outcome of events? Yes. Islam does not believe in fatalism or in an ultimate destiny that is inescapable. Muhammad said, “Nothing changes the Divine Measurement except fervent supplications to God.” As God looks at our timelines, there may be a span of time where we decide to call on Him for His help. In that case, God may change the course of our future. In doing so, His foreknowledge is not affected. In His mercy, He may decide at any moment to alter our timeline and respond to our prayers.

Muslims put their trust in God’s foreknowledge and accept what happens to them will be a test. However, because we have the power to act and react and even ask God to change things, Muslims always hold out hope that their active participation can influence the course of their lives. In the end, they trust in God and in His knowledge of their ultimate fate.

A Man Does What He Can Until His Destiny is Revealed to Him

Islam divides daily life into two spheres: what we have control over and what we do not. We have no control over the circumstances developing around us. The car breaks down; we get laid off at our job; an earthquake topples the city; we bump into a long-lost friend; we find a bag of money; the dog runs away, and so on. These things just happen. We couldn’t prevent them because we didn’t know they were coming. All of these things are a test for us. They were predetermined challenges. They were our Divine Measurement.

Even though we have no control over what happens to us, we do have control over how we feel and respond. When a tragedy strikes, do we blame God? When we see a diamond, does covetousness well up within us? When someone does evil to us, do we reciprocate or forgive? When we are alone, do we feel lonely or jubilant? God says we have control over our feelings, emotions, and personal actions. Our freedom is very limited, nevertheless it does exist and it is the deciding factor for our responsibility and consequently for the eternal reward or punishment. Our test lies in how we respond to what happens around us. Now if we think of the complex web of actions and reactions that goes on every day in all of our lives, we can begin to appreciate how little our capacity is compared to God’s. The Hindu concept mite help here, but Muslims believe in God’s Qadr, or measurement, not in a passive, impersonal web of actions coming back to us.

God sees the timeline and knows what we do. He knows what challenges will erupt as lives cross, and He knows how natural processes such as tornadoes, earthquakes, rainfall, or sunny days will affect the mix. No matter what tragedy befalls us, if we trust in God and persevere, then we display a proof of our faith. Sabr is the word used for patience and perseverance.

Muhammad said, “Work as you are able because if you don’t help yourself, God won’t help you either.”

“Every soul shall taste death. I am putting all of you to a test by passing you through bad and good conditions, and finally you shall return to Me.”

Peace from the Pulpit

The story of Abu Hanifa is a practical example of the peacefulness that belief can bring:


“The first time the man came to me, he told me all my merchandise was lost at sea in a shipwreck. When I realized that this loss had no effect on my faith in God, I said, ‘Praise God.’ The second time he came to me, he told me it was a mistake and that the ship with all my goods on it was now coming into port. When I realized that this also did not cause my heart to become altered I again said, ‘Praise God.’”

In another famous story about Hanifa, he was leaving a mosque one day when he was accosted by a beggar. The man was not disabled or old so Hanifa asked him why he didn’t get a job. The man replied that he was following the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, who said, “If you would put your trust completely in God, He will provide for you in the same way He provides for the birds: they go out in the morning with their stomachs empty and return in the evening with their stomachs full. Hanifa shook his head and told the man that he had misinterpreted the saying of the Prophet. The man failed to take note of the fact that the birds had to go out in the morning and work for their food. The man dropped his bowl and went looking for employment.


                           Only God Knows the Future

Trusting in God and His plan while taking action is the Muslim way. “Tie your camel and then put your trust in God,” the Prophet once told a man who asked which he should do first. God knows the future, we can rest assured He is the best Planner. People who do not have this kind of faith, however, often resort to fortune-tellers, tarot-card readers, crystal balls, or psychic hotlines because they are afraid of what is to come. Islam says this is a sign of lack of trust in the Creator. The fortune-telling business is considered a sham by Islamic standards. Why is it that psychics sometimes give true predictions? Islam has an answer for that, too.

The jinns—an alien species, like Satan—like to follow the angels around. The angels, who are given instructions about whose soul to take or what natural disaster will occur, often talk amongst themselves. When the jinns overhear something that is going to happen on earth, they rush to people who claim to be fortune-tellers and pour that knowledge into their minds, mixing one truth with ninety-nine lies along the way. Thus when these so-called psychics speak they use this knowledge to give bad advice because they do not guide people to lead God-centered lives. Rather the point of reference is to tell people what they want to hear. God says people who delve into this type of activity are polytheists and “will have no share in the next life.”

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