Fate and Destiny Part 2
Yet, despite my sincerest desire to explain this difficult subject in a clear manner, I still get a lot of questions on the topic. Hence, I decided to revisit Qadar and Qadaa (predestination and decree) and delve deeper.
I realize now that I can’t do justice to this topic in one article. So I decided to turn it into an entire series. Inshallah, by the time all is said and done, you’ll have a good understanding of fate and destiny in Islam.
A Hadith About Destiny
I’m going to get things started by presenting a hadith about destiny. At first glance, this hadith might confuse you. But don’t worry; Inshallah, I plan to explain everything by the end of this post.
Verily the creation of each one of you is brought together in his mother’s belly for forty days in the form of a seed, then he is a clot of blood for a like period, then a morsel of flesh for a like period, then an angel is sent to him who blows the breath of life into him and who is commanded about four matters: to write down his means of livelihood, his life span, his actions, and whether he will be happy or wretched. By Allah, other than Whom there is no god, verily one of you behaves like the people of Paradise until there is but an arm’s length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him and so he behaves like the people of Hell-fire and thus he enters it; and one of you behaves like the people of Hell-fire until there is but an arm’s length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him and so he behaves like the people of Paradise and thus he enters it.
Now reading this hadith, it may seem as if you have no choice in how things turn out. You might think you have no free will and that Allah has already planned out everything you’re going to do and that’s the end of the story.
Not so fast.
Let’s remember that Allah is perfectly just. He would not punish us for something that we have no control over. He would not arbitrarily make Joe Muslim do the actions of the people of paradise and then at the last moment make him do something that sends him to hell. That would not be just.
Nor would Allah make Joe Pagan do the actions of the people of hell and at the last moment he becomes like the people of paradise and is rewarded with heaven.
Things don’t happen like that.
Four Parts of Belief in Qadr (Destiny)
Before going any further, I must emphasize the fact that as a Muslim, you MUST believe in Qadr (destiny). Even if you don’t yet fully understand it, accept it for now. It is one of the articles of faith in Islam and cannot be discarded.
There are four parts to believing in Destiny in Islam. If you’re Muslim, I doubt you have any problem accepting any of them. But understanding them in the light of qadr and qadaa will help a lot with this difficult subject.
- Allah’s Knowledge: Basically, this is accepting that Allah knows EVERYTHING. He knows what has happened and what has not happened. He knows what would have happened if something did not happen. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, escapes His knowledge. Get it? Got it? Good.
- The Writing: This means that everything in existence, all actions, speech, events, EVERYTHING, was recorded in the Preserved Tablet (Lawhil Mahfuz). This is confirmed in the Quran where Allah states: “Do you not know that Allah knows what is in the heaven and earth? Indeed, that is in a Record. Indeed that, for Allah, is easy.” Chapter 22, verse 70.
- Allah’s Creation: Accepting that Allah has created all things. This includes physical things like humans and animals, as well as non-tangible things like our actions and world events.
- Allah’s Will: Accepting that nothing happens outside of Allah’s will. If Allah does not will for something to happen, then it will never take place. And if Allah wills for something to happen, then with absolute certainty, it will happen.
Qadar and Qadaa
Next, we have to try to truly understand the difference between Qadar and Qadaa. Often, Muslims use these two words interchangeably when in fact they are very different.
“Qadar” comes from the word Qadr which means “Power” or “Ability.” Qadar refers to the preordained chain of events that make up our destiny.
In other words, Qadar are the things that happen in all of our lives, both big and small. When you get up in the morning, pray, brush your teeth, eat breakfast and then head out for work, these are all part of your Qadar.
“Qadaa” means “decree” or “order.” A similar word is Qadiyy, which is a Judge.
When we use the the word Qadaa in this sense, we are talking about Allah’s decree. Your birth, your death, natural disasters, accidents, and things like this are all part of Allah’s decree. They are things that no one has any control over.
You have some control over your Qadar. You can choose to believe in Islam or not. You can choose to go to work or not. You can choose to run through the streets naked as a jaybird.
But you have no control over Allah’s decree. You may choose to work, but you cannot choose to be wealthy. Your wealth is part of Allah’s decree.
You may choose to live a healthy lifestyle, but you cannot choose to always be healthy. If so, then no one would ever get sick! Sickness and health are part of Allah’s decree.
If you decide to work hard and live healthy, then you are living out what was written for you in the Preserved Tablet. And if such habits lead to more money and health, then that is Allah’s decree.
Likewise, if the stock market crashes and you lose all of your wealth, or if you are suddenly diagnosed with a serious illness, that is all part of Allah’s decree which you have no control over.
The benefit of understanding these facts is that it helps us to maintain an even keel in times of difficulty and ease. Knowing that calamities and blessings both come from Allah helps us to be patient and put our trust in Allah.
Let’s look at a story of two skydivers to understand how all of this works together. This is not a true story.
There were two friends, Abdur Rahman and Abdullah. They were both Muslim but not practicing Muslims. They only prayed on when they went to Friday Jumuah, and only went to Friday Jumuah when they had nothing better to do.
They both lived what people these days call an “extreme life.”
They liked rock climbing, and mountain biking, and scuba diving and all sorts of yuppie, upper-middle-class, spoiled American-type sports.
But the one sport they had yet to try was skydiving.
So they decided to sign up for skydiving lessons together. They went through a two week course, and were soon ready to go up in a plane just to leap out.
One beautiful sunny day, they climbed aboard a privately owned Cessna 182, giddy and happy to try their hand at skydiving.
The plane took off from the runway and was soon cruising 10000 feet above the earth. Before long, it was time for the jump.
Abdur Rahman wanted to go first. He was always the less patient of the two. He checked his equipment, made sure everything was in order, gave his friend the thumbs up sign, and jumped out.
Abdur Rahman had never felt such exhilaration and freedom. His initial fear was overcome by the feeling of pure freedom. He didn’t even feel like he was falling. He felt like he was flying.
He moved his arms and legs in different directions to make his body spin and twirl through the air. The ground looked so far away, he thought he’d never reach it.
Finally, after about two minutes of free fall, it was time to pull his ripcord. He reached for it, pulled, and waited for the jerk of his parachute.
But there was no jerk.
Okay, Abdur Rahman nervously thought to himself, no need to panic. There’s a second cord.
He reached and pulled that one.
Once again, no chute.
Now he panicked. What was fun and exciting a few seconds ago was suddenly scary and foolish. Why did he ever do this? Why did he let that idiot Abdullah talk him into this?
The ground no longer looked far away. In fact, it was horribly close and getting closer by the second.
This couldn’t be happening! This wasn’t right. He was only 25! He had so much life to live. He wanted to get a good career. He wanted to get a higher degree. He wanted to visit Hawaii.
This was not fair! How could God do this to him? Why was Allah going to let him die like this? What had he ever done to deserve this?
In his last moment, with his last breath, Abdur Rahman cursed God for being unfair and was thus cursed for eternity.
Abdullah did not see what happened to his friend. He watched Abdur Rahman jump of out the plane and then lost sight of him. It didn’t matter. They would certainly meet up on the ground, safe and unharmed.
Like Abdur Rahman, Abdullah was thrilled by the exhilaration of the dive. He also felt like he was flying through space and his body was a rocket ship. And when it was time to pull the cord, his also failed.
The second one didn’t work either.
Abdullah realized his end was near. He thought about all the things he had done throughout his life. All the missed prayers. The forgotten fasts. The delayed Hajj. The denied charity.
He thought about the parties, the girls, the drinks and all the other stuff he was going to meet Allah with. And he was scared. Not so much about death, but about meeting Allah with so much sin on him.
Abdullah knew he only had a few minutes until his death, so he decided it was best to beg Allah for forgiveness. It was time to repent for everything he had done wrong in his life. He knew he should have done it earlier, but hey, better late than never.
So he began to repent and make dua to Allah to forgive him for his sins. He repented for everything he could remember and even those things he didn’t. He only wished he could have spent more time worshiping Allah and less time having fun.
Suddenly, as the earth rushed towards him with merciless fury, Abdullah felt a jerk. His chute had suddenly opened up!
He was so close to the ground now that it only slowed down his descent. But it was enough to keep him alive. He fell through a tree, hit every branch on the way down, and landed with a thud that broke virtually every bone in his body.
But he was alive!
Days later, while recuperating in his hospital room after extensive reconstructive surgery, Abdullah decided to make a change. He vowed to live his life in accordance with Islamic principles.
He never missed a single prayer after that. He never touched another drink nor frequented another party. After completing his Masters, he shocked his family by announcing he was getting married at the young age of 26 and going overseas to study Islam. He wanted to be a scholar and teach Islam to others.
From that point on, Abdullah lived his life as an exemplary Muslim and served Allah to the best of his abilities.
Destiny and Decree
This story should illustrate how Qadar and Qadaa (destiny and decree) work together. It will also show that we have free will and are not being treated unjustly by Allah.
Both of these young men were living lives that would lead them to hell. They were only nominal Muslims and were fully engaged in living a sinful life.
They made choices that eventually led them to jump out of a plane. All of these things they did were recorded in the Preserved Tablet eons before the world was created. This was their Qadar; their destiny.
But it was Allah’s decree that their parachutes would malfunction. This was something they had no control over.
Perhaps if Abdur Rahman had asked Allah for forgiveness, perhaps he would have been pardoned. Only Allah knows.
But the point is that Abdur Rahman did what came easy to him. He cursed Allah and was thus doomed to hell.
Abdullah on the other hand did what came easy to him. Despite his previous shortcomings, he still believed in Allah, even though that belief was weak. Abdullah also made the conscious decision to use what little time he had to repent for his sins. Rather than waste time panicking and screaming, he prayed and made dua.
As it turns out, Allah did not decree for Abdullah to die that day. Allah decreed for the chute to open, and for Abdullah to live longer.
Abdullah then makes the decision, with his own free will, to change his life around and become a more dutiful slave of Allah.
So where Abdullah was at one point headed to hell, what was written caught up to him, and he began to do the actions of the people of paradise.
Hopefully, this was a good introduction to the subject of destiny, fate, qadar, and qadaa. Inshallah, we’ll continue this discussion in the coming weeks.
You may have questions about this topic and I encourage you to write them in the comments below. I will answer each one as best as I can.
Please continue to the next post in this series: Destiny in Islam: Allah’s Knowledge.
And Allah knows best.