There is a truth to share that might be worthy of discussion, even if not acceptance. It was arrived at through observation, experience, and a certain, though minimal amount of classroom learning. It says that mankind is not fated, either as individuals or societies to a life journey, or experience that is nothing more than a series of episodes of either war, or no war. It says that fate should not be given the power to capture us, and dictate to us that life should be cycles that are distinguished only by the degrees of human suffering that mark each epoch in time. This truth argues that fate seeks to rob mankind of the glory associated with accomplishment based upon our own powers, such as faith, intellect, reason, physical strength, etc. Fate suggests that we should not have choice, our greatest power, but rather that we should believe that our futures are being dictated and that destiny is beyond our control. Fate is arguing that things must and will be ! as they are, moving on the same path, forever, or that the prophecies represent the future, when they might only suggest “what if?” If prophecy were fate, this would confound the truth that we, humankind, are the masters of our destiny through choice, and that choice is dependent upon judgment. In Chapter 33, verse 72 of the Qur’an, it teaches us that mankind was given “choice” and this is why there will be a Day of Judgment. The Qur’an says: ” We did indeed offer the trust (choice) to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof. Man undertook it; he was indeed unjust and foolish, with the result that God has to punish the hypocrites, men and women, and the unbelievers, men and women, and God turns in Mercy to the believers men and women, for God is oft forgiving, most merciful.”
Fate cannot compete with judgment, and choice, which is why proponents of fate ask, “who are you to judge?” Fate says, “do not judge and you shall not be judged,” then wrongly frightened by our own imperfection, we eliminated moral judgment, afraid that we might be likewise judged. Tell me, who has a greater right to security from God’s wrath, and hope for His mercy than those who are making moral judgments, and choices? Perhaps we don’t believe in God as “forgiver” or understand that God created sin so He could forgive. We could not have forgiven, if God had not taught us forgiveness when he forgave our forefather Adam, and had Adam not sinned.
The Qur’an teaches the Muslim to exercise moral judgment, saying, ” And remember we gave Moses the scripture and the criterion (between right and wrong), there was a chance for you to be guided aright.” It says: ” Oh you who believe, if you fear God, He will grant you a criterion to judge between right and wrong, remove from you all evil that may afflict you, and forgive you, for God is the Lord of Grace unbounded.” It might simply be poor judgment that is weighing upon us so heavily, and that is constricting our progress and development in the Muslim world, and in the resolution of ongoing, and smoldering conflicts. It is certainly judgment, or the lack thereof that is shaping the future, and that is stalling progress, and holding peace in abeyance in some places, and threatening the peace in others. Believe me, mediocrity stole authority from excellence when it argued that humans should not judge, and that we should not say, or know “right” from “wrong.! “
If evil rules, it’s only because we gave up the practice of moral judgment. Don’t we see that Satan seduced Adam from paradise when he impeded his ability to judge by deceiving him? The Qur;’an says: ” So by deceit he (Satan) brought about their fallï¿½” (Holy Qur’an, 7:22). Whereas Adam was given knowledge, his power to judge and ability to choose was not tested until he was tempted. Adam succumbed to temptation, perhaps so we might understand that it is poor judgment, and the lack of a criterion for judgment that causes us to make wrong choices.
It is poor, or wrong judgment that prevents us from acting in our own interests as God has commanded us, and that prevents us from arriving at solutions that serve us. Not in any of the Holy Books does it say to us that Adam was given a law, or criterion for judgment. The Holy books teach only that Adam was given knowledge of God, and was commanded by God to obey, since perhaps in paradise there was no need for law, since in the perfection of the Garden, God is the only and absolute authority. In this world, God has conferred limited authority and sovereignty to mankind, who in turn invests this authority to rule, or govern, to those among us who demonstrate the virtues of vice regency. God has described the vice regent for us saying in the Qur’an: ” Behold, my Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vice regent on earth. They (the angels) said, ” Will thou place therein one who will make mischief and shed blood, while we do celebrate Thy Praises, and glorify Thy Holy name? He (God) said: ” I know what you know not.” And he taught Adam the nature of all things; then he placed them before the angels and said; “Tell me the nature of these if you are right.” They said: “Glory to Thee; of knowledge we have none, save what Thou taught us; in truth it is Thou Who art perfect in knowledge and wisdom.” He (God) said, “Oh Adam, tell them their natures.” When he (Adam) had told them God said: Did I not tell you that I (God) know the secrets of heaven and earth, and I know what you reveal and what you conceal?” And behold, We said to the angels, “Bow Down to Adam, and they bowed down.” (Holy Qur’an, 2:30-34).
Cast out from the Garden, mankind must live according to a law. We must organize societies or communities around a body of enforceable law, or constitution, and there must be order, peace and a governing authority. The Qur’an, 7:10, says: “It is We Who have placed you with authority on earth, and provided you therein with means for fulfillment of your life; small thanks you give.” The Qur’an teaches us that every created thing, ants, birds, cats, dog, etc. organize communities where this is an order, laws or rules, covenants, and authority. The Qur’an teaches the Muslim that rebellion is a violation of law, since it leads to disorder, and shameful deeds, that steal our peace, and cause dis-ease. Instead of rebellion, it calls us to revolution, since it is through revolutions, changes of minds, hearts, and souls that societies have been changed, and new periods of human development and progress ushered in.
In order to have peace, mankind must live according to law, a law that is understood by, and enforced through human agency. God sent prophets, and inspired them with teachings, which are criterions for judgement revealed by God for imperfect man who is struggling to reclaim perfection, and who is cursing hell as an injustice, and who rightly claims paradise as an inheritance because Adam was forgiven. If God is manifest through the law, then we can assume that heaven and hell exists in various grades of perfection, since it is God’s law that is governing these places. This life is perhaps the lesser of all manifestations of both heaven and hell. We might assume that we are deciding through our own choices and judgments whether or not we shall have heaven, or hell, in this life and the next. On this issue the Qur’an says: ” Some hath He (God) guided, others have, (by their choice) deserved the loss of their way, in that they took evil, in preference to God f! or their friend, and protector, and think that they receive guidance (7: 30).
When we give up on God’s criterion for judgment, we have nothing left to rely upon for guidance except vanity and desire. In this respect, vanity and desire are like fate, since vanity and desire are permanent fixtures in our psyche, dictating, or commanding our souls. Yet, they have no objective other than to be satisfied, and that is where they lead, while God’s criterion for judgment, which is legal and moral, is aimed towards salvation, spiritual and material, in the seen and unseen, this life and the next. This includes the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and if it is opposed to selfish interest, it will without doubt also require sacrifices. Perhaps this is what the Qur’an means when it says: “God comes between a man and his heart.” This might imply that only law has the capacity to tame passion, and impulse, vanity, and desire, as well as hate, and to alleviate fear through the attainment and preservation of security, which is achieved through justice.
Progress unfortunately is not a category of learning. If it were, we might observe in our examination of progress that it can be measured only once it has been accomplished to some degree, and had some amount of visible or ascertainable affect. Since we see no measurable progress or peace in certain conflicts, or regions of the world, we might feel there is no change for the better, when in fact there is. Through our own experiences we know that progress, at some stage is indiscernible, even though it exists. This means that belief in fate is also opposed to the concept of potential, since it causes us to disregard potential, and lean too heavily upon the past as a predictor of possible outcomes. We do this, even though we know for certain that the past cannot sustain anything, so why should it do any more than inform? Maybe the past, when it is given an assignment outside its purpose, which might be to remind us of lessons, and beyond its capacity, which could simply be to educate, it confuses us. Truth, unless it has been preserved in hearts through action, is lost in time. It becomes legend, and then myth, according to some scholars. If this is true, it might explain why God repeatedly sent prophets. The devil, (poverty, oppression, corruption, lying, stealing, cheating, disease, rebellion, disorder, chaos, killing, immorality, ego, etc.) might be in league with fate, because fate keeps saying it doesn’t matter, or that we cannot change these things, while God keeps calling upon us to change. The Qur’an says: ” God wishes to turn to you, but the wish of those who follow their own lusts is that you should turn away from Him, far, far away (Holy Qur’an, 4:27). The prophets demonstrated to us the greatest feats of change, or transformation, even bringing the dead back to life, and the Qur’an says: “God will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in their own hearts.” Yet, we still, some of us, are! slaves to fate, and ignore the prophets. Fate is a cynical good-for-nothing, since it says, we are this way, and cannot change, so organize society according to this idea, that we are as we are, and so we will forever be, gross and animalistic, and imperfect. The Qur’an shows us how fate, or the idea that something other than our own choice is dictating our futures is hidden in claims that the past should somehow dictate the future. It says: ” When they do that which is shameful, they say: “we found our fathers doing so”; and “God commanded us thus.” Say “No, God never commands what is shameful, do you say of God what you know not?”(7:28)
Is it not the belief in fate that is dictating to us that “so it is and so it must be,” allowing the future to be dictated by what “is” rather than what can or should be? Many of us understand quite well that it is not choice that we are exercising, when we allow tyranny and oppression, and when we tolerate misery, and corruption, and poverty. We are silent on this issue, because again we are asked not to judge. Who has a greater right to security from God’s wrath, and to His mercy than those who judge according to His criterion? If the people who desire righteousness were to judge we might set new standards, and make choices that might push mankind beyond predetermined limits and into potential. We might have a revolution. This is an uncharted and frightening landscape to those who don’t believe in anything besides the satisfaction of their own desires. Imagine a place where faith, morality, decency, conscience, judgment, conviction, and confidence are active. Some people cannot understand the prophet’s demonstrations of God’s power, and mankind’s capabilities. It is perhaps frightening to some, this idea of “revolution,” because they think that change can only come about through violence. Al-Islam teaches us that “real” change comes about through human transformations, and social and economic restoration, which in the Muslim world represents a return to al-Islam. The Qur’an says on this issue: “If any do that in rancor and injustice soon shall we cast them into the fire; and easy it is for God” (Holy Qur’an, 4:29). Revolution in al-Islam represents a return to the establishment of representative, yet limited governments, organization, freedom, commerce, and social and spiritual development. These are the ingredients for human progress and development. These are the foundations for future cooperation between peoples of East and West that will cause the world to escape its present path, and usher in a period of peace, and prosperity, progress and development that was heretofore unimagined, but still very possible, and in fact promised. The Qur’an says: ” In the end We fulfilled our promise, and we saved them, and those whom we pleased, but we destroyed those who transgressed beyond bounds” (21:11).
Progress is a process that is dependant upon resources, and among these needed resources is a certain amount of humility along with a good amount of certainty, as well as a dose of faith, and lots of good judgment, and organization. Fate is opposed to certainty, faith, and judgment, and organization, and it is an enemy to change, which is actually what progress is. Progress might not be simply an expansion of the same thing, or “growth,” but might in fact be the perfection of something, as in change. Progress might not be evolution. It might in fact be revolution. Imagine if we would get rid of fate, and ignore its attempts to predict, or dictate outcomes, and to limit us to certain already used, and recycled attitudes and perceptions, approaches and behaviors. Fate keeps grinding us into the dust, while God keeps calling us to ascend, the Qur’an saying: “What is wrong with you that when God calls you upward, you cling so heavily to the dust?” Life rewards! our loyalty to mediocrity with an occasional breakthrough, a car, a light bulb, an assembly line, a space shuttle, a cell phone, that causes us to expand our chests and declare ourselves masters, while we have yet to achieve mastery. Maybe we only participate in such celebrations because we have not actually understood why we still claim the ability to only sense potential, rather than to yoke it, and fulfill it. Since to do so, to seek to truly achieve our potential, we would have to return to God, and His teachings, and His criterion, wherein lies the true story of humanity, or purpose, and our potential, as well as the laws and ways that guide us to their realization. Back in the early 70s, a rock and roll band named the Beatles sang, “Its gonna be a revolution.” Not a single shot was fired, yet life did somehow change.
The writer is the Founder and President of the National Association of Muslim American Women.