Human Calculations and Allah’s Predestination
Undoubtedly, true believers are the most patient among all human beings, the most steadfast in hard times, and the most contented in calamities. This can be understood in light of the following:
– Life is short
They realized the shortness of this present life compared with the eternity of the hereafter and, therefore, they did not wish to exchange the paradise of Eden with this perishable, present, short life,
Say (unto them, O Muhammad): The comfort of this world is scant; the Hereafter will be better for him who wardeth off (evil); and ye will not be wronged the down upon a date stone. (An-Nisaa’ 4: 77) and,
…The life of this world is but comfort of illusion. (Aal `Imran 3: 185)
– The Prophets’ example
They learned from the biographies and life stories of their Prophets and Messengers that the latter were the most suffering humans in life and at the same time they were the least to enjoy any of this present life’s luxuries or ornaments.
Therefore, the believers did not wish to be better than the Prophets in terms of enjoying any of the luxuries or ornaments of this life. They took the Prophets as their prime model examples in application of Allah’s saying,
Or think ye that ye will enter Paradise while yet there hath not come unto you the like of (that which came to) those who passed away before you? Affliction and adversity befell them, they were shaken as with earthquake, till the Messenger (of Allah) and those who believed along with him said: When cometh Allah’s help? Now surely Allah’s help is nigh. (Al-Baqarah 2: 214)
– Full trust in Allah’s Wisdom
They knew that all the trials and ordeals that may befall them are not purposeless strikes of fate; rather, these are exercised in accordance with a perfect plan, predestined scheme, eternal wisdom and divine ordainment.
Therefore, they believed in that whatever befell them was never to miss them and whatever missed them was never to befall them,
Naught of disaster befalleth in the earth or in yourselves but it is in a Book before We bring it into being – indeed that, for Allah, is easy. (Al-Hadid 57: 22)
– Allah’s Mercy is always there
They learned from the divine attributes of Allah that when He decrees something not seemingly good, He simultaneously coats it with absolute kindness, and when He, Glory is His due, puts someone to the test, He simultaneously relieves him and alleviates his pain,
…Lo! My Lord is tender unto whom He will. He is the Knower, the Wise. (Yusuf 12: 100)
And, they learned from the kindness and mercy of Allah that all these misfortunes and distresses are nothing but experiences from which they can derive lessons and examples that can be of great value to their religion and life.
– Difficulties make greatness
They knew that only through these lessons and examples their souls would be purified, faith would be polished, and hearts’ rust would be removed. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “…No Muslim is afflicted with any harm, even if it were the prick of a thorn, but that Allah expiates his sins because of that, as a tree sheds its leaves.” (Al-Bukhari)
Now, one can say that faith achieves balance in this present life. Where humans may have their own calculations and considerations in all they do and all that is done to them, it is true that Allah may have other schemes that are called ‘fate’ or ‘predestination’ with which He runs and controls all affairs of His creation,
That which Allah openeth unto mankind of mercy none can withhold it; and that which He withholdeth none can release thereafter. He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Fatir 35: 2)
Prophet Musa (peace be upon him): A prime example
Let us take an example from the story of Prophet Musa (Moses) (peace be upon him) with Pharaoh and the emancipation of the Children of Israel from slavery. Let us read the following ayahs (i.e. verses) first:
And when the two hosts saw each other, those with Moses said: Lo! We are indeed caught. He said: Nay, verily! For lo! My Lord is with me. He will guide me. Then We inspired Moses, saying: Smite the sea with thy staff. And it parted, and each part was as a mountain vast. Then brought We near the others to that place. And We saved Moses and those with him, every one; We drowned the others. Lo! Herein is indeed a portent, yet most of them are not believers. And lo, thy Lord! He is indeed the Mighty, the Merciful. (Ash-Shu`araa’ 26: 61-68)
As Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) got out of Egypt accompanied with those who believed in him, he found himself right in front of the Red Sea… a horrible and terrifying situation… the sea was before them while the enemy – Pharaoh and his troops – were behind them and were about to overtake them.
It was indeed a dreadful situation to the extent that some of the believers accompanying Musa were overcome with a feeling of utter despair and said, “We are indeed caught!”
No doubt, the calculations of that group of believers were accurate and precise. The enemy was just behind them while the sea was right before them and there was no way to run or get out of that predicament.
They were too terrified to think of a third possibility. They thought of two possibilities only: either drowning in the sea, or being slain by Pharaoh and his troops. Yes, they couldn’t think of a third possibility that could be standing firm and facing their fierce enemy… that was because they were frightened to death!
I, here, may recall a saying by someone to his friend, “I am frightened of so and so”. His friend replied, “You shouldn’t be as his heart is owned by the One you hope for (i.e., Allah).” Truly, all hearts of creation are in the Hand of Allah Who can change them for the better or overtake them if they insist on sinning, tyranny and injustice and Allah knows that they will never get back to Him in repentance.
Then, the voice of faith was heard; the voice of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) as he spoke with full reliance on Allah and perfect trust in Him and His promise as saying, “‘Kalla’ (i.e., Nay), verily! For lo! My Lord is with me. He will guide me.”
Linguistically speaking, ‘Kalla’ is a strong negative word in Arabic that means, ‘Nay’ in English. It is much stronger than ‘La’ which is usually translated into English as ‘No’, as the former denotes a sense of confirmation and full trust in what will happen.
Yet, a question may be put forth here: What were the potentials Prophet Musa had at that time to get out of that critical situation?
Indeed, Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) had neither a plan, nor even a proof to support his words,
Nay, verily! For lo! My Lord is with me. He will guide me. (Ash-Shu`araa’ 26: 62)
It was his trust in Allah and his faith that He will fulfill His Divine promise,
…to help believers is incumbent upon Us [Allah]. (Ar-Rum 30: 47)
Certainly, Allah does not forsake His guided believers and never let them down in times of hardship or calamities. He says in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an,
If Allah is your helper none can overcome you, and if He withdraw His help from you, who is there who can help you? In Allah let believers put their trust. (Aal `Imran: 160)
And, the Qur’an says in another verse,
Lo! We verily do help Our messengers, and those who believe, in the life of the world and on the day when the witnesses arise. (Ghafir 40: 51)
Only then, Allah Almighty stops and changes the laws of nature and the whole universe when unquestioning faith penetrates the hearts of the believers. Thereupon, the Divine Command comes to Musa as,
…Strike for them a dry path in the sea, fearing not to be overtaken, neither being afraid (of the sea). (Taha 20: 77)
Strike the sea with the staff?!
Did not he have the staff from the very beginning?!
Did not he see what the staff was capable of doing with the staffs of the sorcerers and their snakes on the day of the feast?!
Yes, indeed, he had the staff. However, his trust was not in the staff; rather, it was in the Lord of the staff Who gives it the Command and it unquestionably obeys and thus makes wonders. Thus, both Musa and the staff can effect no movement or action without the Divine Command of Almighty Allah.
After Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) and those who were with him had crossed the sea, perhaps he intended to use the same staff to get the sea back to its original state to prevent Pharaoh and his troops from crossing it and thus overtaking him and the believers. However, the Divine Command descends on him as,
And leave the sea behind at rest, for lo! They are a drowned host. (Ad-Dukhan 44:24)
Prophet Musa got this victory from his faith in Allah. To me, that was intended to be a great sign for all people as it was Allah’s Will to save the believers and destroy the unbelievers using one and the same action, namely, a single strike with the staff. Allah says,
Then Pharaoh followed with his hosts and there covered them that which did cover them of the sea. (Taha: 78)
To conclude, where did Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) get this tranquility and trust in Allah’s Victory? It is faith that cannot be shaken or tainted… the absolute faith in the absolute Power of Allah which cannot be limited or defeated by any of the natural laws.
He put to control and run the whole universe in accordance with the criteria He, Glory be His, put forth, and which He can bypass or change whenever and however He wishes:
He will not be questioned as to that which He doeth, but they will be questioned. (Al-Anbiya’ 21: 23)
Finally, the most dangerous things that we face in this present life are nothing but weak faith, lack of trust in what is in Allah’s Hand, and complete reliance on the means while being heedless of the Creator of all means and the Sustainer of the whole universe with His perfect Wisdom and absolute Power.
Between faith and worldly means
This does not, in any way, contradict the religious ordinance of adopting all possible means whenever one needs to carry something out. A true Muslim’s belief regarding the adoption of all possible means can be stated as follows: adopting all possible means is obligatory; overlooking them is a sinful deed; and, perfect reliance on them alone is polytheism.
Last but not least, one can summarize all this and say that our state of affairs will not be improved unless the following is attended to:
– To put our complete trust in Allah’s promise,
…Verily Allah helpeth one who helpeth Him. Lo! Allah is Strong, Almighty. (Al-Hajj 22: 40),
-To find contentedness in all that Allah chooses for us,
Thy Lord bringeth to pass what He willeth and chooseth. They have never any choice. Glorified be Allah and exalted above all that they associate (with Him)! (Al-Qasas 28: 68), and,
– To insist on invoking Allah and making du`aa’ to Him. Ibn Al-Qayyim once said, “It is about to be opened for him he who incessantly knocks at the door [of Allah].”
Taken with slight editorial modifications from www.onislam.net.
Dr. Ali Al-Halawani is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Translation, Misr University for Science Technology (MUST); Former Editor-in-Chief of the Electronic Da`wah Committee (EDC), Kuwait; Former Deputy Chief Editor and Managing Editor of the Living Shari`ah Department, www.islamOnline.net; Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS); and member of the World Association of Arab Translators Linguists (WATA). You can reach him at [email protected]