4. Practical Applications of the Belief in Destiny
4.1 Thankfulness in times of prosperity and well-being
The Muslim should always be thankful to Allah, for he owes all his favors to Him. We should be thankful in the good times such that we do not become arrogant and conceited. We should realize that any success we attain is from Allah, Who could withdraw it whenever He wills. We should not, therefore, be like Qarun, the evil kinsman of Prophet Moses `alayhis-salam, who had been given immense wealth, but claimed the credit for himself. “He said, ‘I have only been given it only because of knowledge which I possess.’ Did he not know that Allah has destroyed before him generations who were mightier than him in power, and greater in number?” [(28) Al-Qasas, 78]
Qarun attributed his wealth to knowledge : either religious knowledge – for it is said that he had memorized the Torah – or worldly knowledge, such as that of trade and commerce. He thus failed the test, for even if the wealth were a partial reward for piety, then in order to remain in the favor of Allah, he should have been thankful to Him and spent the money in good causes such as feeding the poor, helping the needy and working for justice. And, even if he had obtained the money through some worldly business expertise, he overlooked the fact that that was only a means, and that in fact the means themselves could not have been obtained, maintained and exercised without the will and grace of Allah.
“Then, when affliction smites man, he cries out to Us, then when We have removed it, as a favor from Us, he says, ‘I have only been given it based on knowledge.’ Nay! It is a test, but most of them do not know. Those before them said [the same], but all they earned did not avail them [aught].” [(39) Al-Zumar, 49-50]
4.2 Patience in times of calamity
Similarly, we should bear patiently any calamities or misfortunes which come our way. We should realize that this misfortune could not possibly have been avoided, for it was part of Destiny.
“No misfortune strikes, upon the earth or in your own selves, except that it is in a record before We create it. Indeed, that is easy for Allah. [It is] in order that you do not despair over that which passed you by, nor exult in that which He has given you.” [(57) Al-Hadeed, 22-23]
At the same time, if the misfortune was brought about by some misdeed on our part, we should try to correct ourselves so as not to repeat the same mistake; we should not try to attribute our faults to Destiny. If the misfortune was a consequence of some sins, then although it is a punishment, it can be a means for obtaining forgiveness for those sins. Allah will not punish a believer twice for the same sin, and the punishment of this world is far lighter than that of the Hereafter.
“We shall surely test you with something [in the way] of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, life and produce. And give glad tidings to the patient ones. Those who, when a calamity afflcits them, say, ‘To Allah We belong, and to Him we return. They are those upon whom there are blessings from their Lord, and mercy, and they are the rightly-guided ones.” [(2) Al-Baqarah, 155]
The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) has said, “How wonderful is the case of the believer! All of his matters are good for him, and this is not [the case] for any other than the believer. If prosperity comes his way, he gives thanks [to Allah], and so it is good for him. And, if adversity afflicts him, he is patient, and so it is good for him.” [Narrated by Muslim]
If we are not patient, however, and instead complain and are dissatisfied, then rather than obtaining forgiveness and/or raising of ranks in the Hereafter, we may only be adding to our troubles.
4.3 Submission to the orders of Allah
Since we believe that everything is pre-known to Allah, and that He is the Wise, we realize that it is always to our benefit to obey Allah. We do not, therefore, compromize on the fundamentals of our religion merely to earn a living, for we know that our sustenance is in the control of Allah. It is up to us whether we obtain what is written for us through lawful means or unlawful.
Similarly, we realize that the time of our death is already written, and if we break the orders of Allah in trying to escape death, then we are bound to fail.
The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) has said, “Indeed, the Holy Spirit [i.e. Angel Gabriel] has inspired me [with the fact] that a soul shall not die until it has depleted its lifespan and sustenance.” [Narrated by Ibn Hibban]
Allah describes the folly of the hypocrites, in a time of war, as,
“Another group, whom their own souls had rendered anxious, thinking vain thoughts about Allah, thoughts of ignorance. [They were] saying, ‘Is any of the matter upto us? ‘ Say, ‘Indeed, the matter is all Allah’s.’ They hide within themselves what they do not expose to you. They say, ‘If any of the matter had been up to us, we should not have been killed here.’ Say : Even if you were in your homes, those for whom killing had been written would have come forth to their lying places [to lie down and die]. [It is] in order that Allah might test that [sincerity] which is in your hearts, and that He might purify what is in your breasts. Indeed, Allah knows what the hearts contain.” [(3) Aal-`Imran, 154]
So, if there is a just war being fought in a legitmate way, then one has a choice – whether to die valiantly fighting on the side of good, truth and justice for the sake of Allah, or to hold back out of cowardice, in which case death comes at the same time anyway.
By the same token, destiny cannot be used to justify senseless and indiscriminate acts of terrorism and destruction, whether arising from frustration or misunderstanding of the concept of jihad. Even if the victims (of such acts) might indeed have died by other means at the same time, the perpetrator would nevertheless be guilty and liable before Allah for killing innocents. If the perpetrator himself dies in the act, he is further accountable for the manner in which he ended his own life. If an unjust situation cannot be changed by legitimate means, then the belief in qadar calls for patience, endurance and forbearance rather than rashness.
4.4 Using means and precautions, such as medicines and supplications
The use of these does not violate the belief in Destiny. Belief is in the domain of the heart, and pursuit of means in that of the limbs, so for the Muslim the two should actually complement one another. The Companions asked the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), “O Messenger of Allah! Have you considered medicines with which we heal ourselves, curing invocations (ruqyah) which we recite over ourselves, and [various] precautions that we take from things we fear; do they turn away any of the Destiny of Allah?” He said, “They are [part] of the Destiny of Allah.” [Narrated by Tirmidhi(hs), Ibn Majah, and by Bayhaqi in al-I`tiqad]
So, for example, if we are cured through using medicine, it is Allah that cured us by means of it, and Allah knew that we were going to take that medicine, although He could have cured us even without the medicine. Similarly, if we supplicate for and consequently receive something, both the supplication and its result are part of destiny. As in the first example, the pre-eternal knowledge of Allah does not change, although some of the written aspect of destiny (based on which angels may carry out their tasks) can conceivably change. It is important to realize that we are, in various aspects of life – both material and spiritual – responsible for taking certain precautions and adopting certain means, and then leaving the results to Allah.