BELIEF IN DESTINY: ONE OF THE ESSENTIALS OF FAITH

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Our conceit and weak devotion leads us to attribute our accomplishments and good deeds to ourselves and to feel proud of ourselves. But the Qur’an explicitly states: God creates you and what you do (37:96), meaning that Divine Compassion demands good deeds and the Power of the Lord creates them. If we analyze our lives, eventually we realize and admit that God directs us to good acts and usually prevents us from doing what is wrong.

In addition, by endowing us with sufficient capacity, power, and means to accomplish many things, He makes it possible for us to realize many accomplishments and good deeds. As God guides us to good deeds and causes us to will and then do them, the real cause of our good deeds is Divine Will. We can “own” our good deeds only through faith, sincere devotion, praying to be deserving of them, consciously believing in the need to do them, and being pleased with what God has ordained. Given this, there is no reason for us to boast or be proud of our good deeds and accomplishments; rather, we should remain always humble and thankful to God.

On the other hand, we like to deny responsibility for our sins and misdeeds by ascribing them to Destiny. But since God neither likes nor approves of any sin or wrong act, all such deeds clearly belong to us and are committed by acting upon our free will. God allows sins and gives them external forms, for if He did not, our free will would be pointless. Sins are the result of a decision on our part, through our free will, to sin. God calls and guides us to good deeds, even inspires them within us, but free will enables us to disobey our Creator. Therefore, we “own” our sins and misdeeds. In short, because we have free will and are enjoined to follow religious obligations and refrain from sin and wrong deeds, we cannot ascribe our sins to God. Divine Destiny exists so that believers do not take pride in their “own” good deeds, instead of thanking God for them. We have free will so that the rebellious carnal soul does not escape the consequences of its sins:

Whatever good happens to you, it is from God; and whatever evil befalls you, it is from yourself. We have sent you (O Messenger) to humankind as a Messenger, and God suffices for a witness. (4:79)

If you disbelieve in Him (in ingratitude), yet surely God is absolutely independent of you. He is not pleased with ingratitude and unbelief from His servants; whereas if you give thanks (and believe), He is pleased with it from you. (39:7)

A second, important point is that we usually complain about past events and misfortunes. Even worse, we sometimes despair and abandon ourselves to a dissolute lifestyle, and might even begin to complain against God. However, Destiny allows us to relate past events and misfortunes to it so that we can receive relief, security, and consolation, and, without ever complaining about God,2 we should derive lessons from what has happened to us and be careful about our acts. So, whatever happened in the past should be considered in the light of Destiny; what is to come, as well as sins and questions of responsibility, should be referred to human free will. In short, in one respect, Divine Destiny exists so that we may not grieve for what has escaped us, nor exult because of what God has granted us: God does not love anyone proud and boastful (57:23).

Gulen, Muhammed Fethullah. “The Essentials of the Islamic Faith” The Light, Inc. 2005.