15 Nov Destiny and Human Free Will.Part3
For example: A train travels between Istanbul and Ankara. Considering its speed and characteristics, the railway’s condition, the distance between the two cities, as well the number of stations along the way and how much time must be spent in each, a timetable can be prepared. Does this timetable cause the train to travel?
The time and duration of solar and lunar eclipses are known and written beforehand based on astronomical calculations. Does such foreknowledge and recording cause the eclipses? Of course not. Since astronomers knew beforehand when the eclipse would occur, they recorded it. The same relationship exists between Destiny and human free will.
• Our free will is included in Destiny. For example, someone asks you whether the clock in the next room is working. You hear it and answer in the affirmative. The questioner does not need to ask whether its hands are moving, for if the clock is working, its gears are working and its hands are moving. In an analogous way, Destiny and human free will are not mutually exclusive. We are neither dried leaves blown by the wind of Destiny nor completely independent of It. As Islam always follows the middle way, it explains the true relationship between Destiny and our free will: we will and do something, and God creates it.
• In the view of Destiny, cause and effect cannot be separated. That is, it is destined that this cause will produce that effect. But we cannot argue that killing someone is alright because the victim was destined to die at that time or place, and would have died anyway even if he or she had not been shot. Such an argument is baseless, since the victim is actually destined to die as a result of being shot. The argument that the victim would have died even without being shot would mean that this death was senseless. How would we explain such a death? Remember that there are not two kinds of Destiny, one for the cause and the other for the effect. Destiny is one.
* Most Western Orientalists accuse Islam of being fatalistic, although only one small Islamic sect—the Jabriya—has ever defended fatalism. On the contrary, almost all Western philosophies of history and, to some extent, Christianity, arefatalistic and based on the supposed irresistibility of historical laws. The outlines of those philosophies of history may be summed up as follows:
• Humanity is steadily progressing toward the final happy end.
• This progress depends on the fatalistic, irresistible laws of history, which are completely independent of humanity. Therefore, we must obey these laws if we do not want to be eliminated.
• We cannot criticize the stages (e.g., primitive, feudal, or capitalis-tic) through which must inevitably pass, because we have nothing to do other than passing through them.
Such views imply the following: Present socioeconomic and even political conditions are inevitable, because they were dictated by na-ture, which decrees that only the able and the powerful can survive. If these laws favor the West, the communities that choose to survive must concede to the West’s dominion.
What distinguishes the Qur’anic concept of history from other phi-losophies is the following:
• While philosophers of history or sociologists build their concep-tions on the interpretation of past events and present situations, the Qur’an deals with the matter from the perspective of unchanging principles.
• The Qur’an stresses individual and communal free choice and moral conduct. Although Divine Will could be regarded as, in some respects, the counterpart of Geist in Hegelian philosophy and of absolute, irresistible laws of history in other philosophies, the Qur’an never denies human free will. God tests humanity here so that it should sow the “field” of the world to harvest in the next life, which is eternal. For this reason, all that happens here are oc-casions that God causes to follow one another so that good and evil people may be distinguished. Testing requires that the one being tested have free will to choose. Thus, according to the Qur’an, we are the ones who make history, not not a compelling Divine Will. God simply uses our choice to bring His universal will into effect. If this point is understood, the Western philosophies of history and their conception of some “inevitable end” are seen to be ground-less.
• People tend to imagine, excluding themselves from the passage of time, a limit for past time extending through a certain chain of things. They call this azal (past eternity). But to reason according to such an idea is unacceptable. To better understand this subtle point, consider the following:
Imagine you are holding a mirror in your hand. Everything reflected on the right represents the past, while everything reflected on the left represents the future. The mirror can reflect only one direction, since it cannot show both sides at once while you are holding it. If you want to see both directions simultaneously, you would have to rise high above your original position so that left and right unite into one direction and nothing could be called first or last, beginning or end.
Divine Destiny, in some respects identical with Divine Knowledge, is described in a Prophetic saying as containing all time and events as a single point, where first and last, beginning and end, what has happened and what will happen are all united into one. As we are not excluded from it, our understanding of time and events could be like a mirror to the past.
• We do not create our actions. If we actually did so, we also would have to be their ultimate cause. If that were the case, we could not have free will, for, according to logic, a thing exists if its existence is absolutely necessary and all necessary conditions are prepared for its existence. Thus whatever comes into existence has to have a real, complete cause. But a complete cause would make the existence of something compulsory, meaning that there would be no room for choice.
• Although our free will cannot cause something to happen, Almighty God has made its operation a simple condition for bringing His universal Will into effect. He uses our free will to guide us in our chosen direction, and so we are responsible for our actions. If you place your child on your shoulders and, at her request, take her outside, she might catch a cold. Could she blame you for her cold? Indeed, you might even punish her for her request. In a similar manner, Almighty God, the Most Just of Judges, never forces His servants to do anything, and so has made His Will somewhat dependent on human free will.