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Foreordained Destiny and the Inefficacy of Material Causes-and-Effects

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Transcribed and adapted from a live lecture by GF Haddad

Eighth Lesson:

Foreordained Destiny and the Inefficacy of Material Causes-and-Effects (Al-Qadar wa Lafa`iliyya al-Asbab) (Ibn `Ata' Allah, Hikam No. 3)

 "The most truthful word any poet ever said is Labid's: Lo! Everything other than Allah is vain." Hadith of the Prophet - Allah bless and greet him.1

We had begun to speak about Ibn `Ata' Allah's Third hikma. In it he said - may Allah Almighty have mercy on him:

#3. The foremost energies cannot pierce the walls of foreordained destinies.

            This hikma is in reality a completion for the hikma that comes before it. Ibn `Ata' Allah - rahimahullah - had asked us to conform with the reality in which Allah has placed us. The measuring-scale for this reality is the most noble Law. If you see that Allah Almighty has placed you within the screens of ambient causes which are all forbidden: then Allah is testing you with dispossession (al-tajrid). What is required of you is to move away from these causes which Allah Almighty has not authorized, and rely on Allah for the obtainment of your wants. But if you see yourself placed within the screens of ambient causes to which the Law has unlocked wide and licit paths - and the way in which you use them is licit - then know, at that time, that Allah has placed you in the world of causes (`alam al-asbab). What is required of you is to interact with these causes, and not to substitute them with complete trust (tawakkul) in Allah Almighty. Complete trust is required anyway; however, you are obligated, in such a condition, to interact with those causes that are licit and, at the same time, trust in Allah. That is the gist of the previous hikma:

#2. Your asking for dispossession when Allah has placed you in the midst of causes is a surreptitious lust, and your asking [to handle] causes when Allah has placed you in dispossession is a decline from a higher level.

            When Ibn `Ata' Allah says this - we discussed it at length previously - one might infer that causes possess great efficacy (fa`iliyya) and that, when someone finds himself face-to-face with unproblematic, licit causes, he must interact with these causes in all his goals and all the essentials of life. One might therefore think that causes possess efficacy and influence, and that, therefore, one must interact with these causes and not say: "I shall substitute them with complete trust in Allah Almighty." Because of this possibility - which might arise in the mind of whoever listens to the second hikma - Ibn `Ata' Allah followed up with this third hikma and said: "The foremost energies cannot pierce the walls of foreordained destinies."

            This question is related to doctrine (al-`aqida). It is the basis from which we should set forth, whether we have been tested through dispossession, or we have been tested and asked to interact with causes. In both cases, there is a doctrinal reality which we must all acquire in our very beings. What is that doctrinal reality? It is that causes, whatever they are, are subservient to Allah's foreordained destiny (qadar), and it is not Allah's foreordained destiny that is subservient to causes. This we must know.

            Causes that are represented by human endeavors to work, seek sustenance and so forth - such causes are troops among Allah's other troops which all serve Allah's qadar. These causes with which you interact, lead you to whatever Allah Almighty has foreordained for you. Whenever we have recourse to physicians and their medications, which are among the causes used to remedy illness, endeavoring to achieve a cure therefrom, we must know that the use of medication, the recourse to physicians - all this is subservient to Allah's foreordainment (qada'). This means that physicians, their remedies, their prescriptions, and all their means lead you, in the end, to whatever Allah has foreordained for you or against you. All the means with which you interact, those you use and seek after in order to obtain education or degrees, marry, start a family in the way you envisage, and whatever goals other than those - the Creator has filled the earth with causes! - you must know that these causes, whether you are now tasked with deprivation of them or with interacting with them - you must know that causes are troops which revolve around a single axis: execution of Allah Almighty's foreordainment.

            That is the meaning of Ibn `Ata' Allah's words: "The foremost energies cannot pierce the walls of foreordained destinies." Have the highest energy you like. Exert the greatest skills in marshalling causes to your advantage. As skillful as you may get in gathering together causes according to your wishes, that energy of yours, which has marshalled all causes for your sake, can never overcome Allah's foreordained destinies. Yes, it is as if these foreordained destinies were a kind of fortified wall - like the fortified wall around the city which everyone knows - while the causes with which we interact are like arrows we shoot at that high wall. Can the arrows of causes, whatever they may be, ever pierce the bastions of foreordained destinies and go beyond them? Never in any way whatsoever.

            Each and everyone of us must know this doctrine. But first, what is the evidence for it? We do not want to open the file of doctrinal issues in the familiar style of the books of the science of Oneness (al-tawhid), theological discourse (al-kalam), and the like. Allah's Book suffices for us, and the clear words which we use and repeat every day suffice for us. The Elect One - Allah bless and greet him - has taught us a sacred phrase which he ordered us to repeat always. What is that phrase? It is la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah - "There is no change nor power except by Allah." What does this phrase mean? Reflect upon it. It means exactly what Ibn `Ata' Allah is saying: There is no change for a human being, for causes, for means, for the universe and all that is in it - there is no change for all of that, nor power, except if that power comes from Allah Almighty. Is it not so?

            Among the names of Allah Almighty is al-Qayyum - "The Sustainer of All." What is the meaning of this name? "Allah! There is no God other than He, the Living, the Sustainer of All" (2:255, 3:2). That is: the Sustainer of the universes, Who controls them as He wishes and organizes them as He likes. Nothing at all moves except by His Sustainment (qayyumiyya). That is the meaning of the word qayyum. Is there any efficacy left for causes after this?

            Our Almighty Lord says: "And of His signs is this: The heavens and the earth stand fast by His command" (30:35). It means that what you can behold of the movement of the celestial spheres - those we see and those we do not, - the ordering of the earth, all that is between the heaven and the earth, and all that lies within this universe, seen and unseen - it is one of His signs that "The heavens and the earth stand fast by His command." It means that if you see in them causes and effects (asbab wa musabbabat), who is the one who threaded together these causes and effects, joining the former with the latter? It is Allah Exalted and Glorified!

            To elaborate: the nature of combustion in fire - so to speak, for there is no such thing as "nature"2 but we have to make what we say intelligible through approximations - that nature does not exist inside fire. It is but a divine Force (quwwa rabbaniyya) that has marshalled fire for its purpose. So it is Allah Who is the author of combustion (al-muhriq), not the fire. Our Exalted Lord says: "Lo! Allah grasps the heavens and the earth, lest they cease, and if they were to cease there is not one that could grasp them after Him" (35:41). It means that the existence of these spheres suspended in their orbits, these arrangements by which He has made these orbits stand together with the earth, these cosmic laws and patterns which we see all around us, from the farthest celestial bodies to the earth and thereunder - all that is by Allah Almighty's arrangement. "Lo! Allah grasps the heavens and the earth, lest they cease, and if they were to cease there is not one that could grasp them after Him." If you believe - and believe firmly - that this is Allah's speech, is there any efficay left for causes?

            Our Exalted Lord says in His explicit disclosure: "And a token unto them is that We bear their offspring in the laden ship" (36:41). Have you reflected upon these words? The ship, externally, is a cause. Therefore it is the ship, apparently, which carries the people who board it, is it not? In our understanding, the phrasing should have been: "And a token unto them is that the laden ship bears them." However, the divine disclosure came in a different form. "And a token unto them is that We bear their offspring in the laden ship." Who, then, is the carrier for those who sought refuge in the ship? Is it the ship or is it Allah? So then, the ship possesses no efficacy.

            What does Allah say? "A token unto them is the dead earth. We revive it, and We bring forth from it grain so that they eat thereof; And We have placed therein gardens of the date palm and grapes, and We have caused springs of water to gush forth therein. That they may eat of the fruit thereof, and their hands made it not. Will they not, then, give thanks? Glory be to Him Who created all the sexual pairs, of that which the earth grows, and of themselves, and of that which they know not!" (36:33-36) In all this discourse you will notice that Allah attributes all these things to Himself while we find the causes present: we find the earth, we find agriculture, but Allah attributes all this to Himself.

            Allah says in Sura Nuh, as He speaks of the means by which He has saved our master Nuh ( and those who were with him: "And We carried him upon a thing of planks and nails, That ran (upon the waters) in Our sight, as a reward for him who was rejected." (54:13) Consider well these words. Notice that what we aim to do by citing this evidence is to make firm our awareness and our certitude that the causes which we see have no efficacy in themselves. That is what we are aiming for. Allah is here recounting in a succinct and quick manner our master Nuh's situation. When he was besieged and harmed by his people, what did he do? "So he cried unto his Lord, saying: I am vanquished, so give help." (54:10). Two words: "I am vanquished," and "so give help." "Then opened We the gates of heaven with pouring water And caused the earth to gush forth springs, so that the waters met for a predestined purpose. And We carried him upon a thing of planks and nails, That ran (upon the waters) in Our sight, as a reward for him who was rejected." (54:11-13) "We carried him" - He did not say: "It is the ship that carried him." Further, He did not even use the word "ship" in His wording. What did He say? "And We carried him upon a thing of planks and nails." [That is] "We carried him upon some planks and nails which were assembled" - so as to minimize the status of that ship and make it clear for you that the ship itself is less than [deserving of] being the one that rescued and the one that saved. Thus He first said: "And We carried him." He did not attribute the carrying to our master Nuh nor to the ship. Then He said "upon a thing of planks and nails" to let you see that some planks which were put together are not strong enough to save those people from a perpetual deluge unknown to humanity heretofore nor hereafter.

            So then we have before us positive evidence that the creator of causes is Allah and that causes, all of them, melt under the authority of Allah's Lordship. That is a truth which you are free to express in whatever theological fashion you wish. But that is what Allah Almighty's Disclosure states. Nay, the vast majority of the Muslims hold that Allah has not deposited into these causes the least efficacy, unlike what some have said - such as the Mu`tazila - at one point. No, not at all! Allah did not deposit into fire the secret of combustion, thereafter leaving fire in charge of its mission, which consists in combustion. A simile would be a human being's disposal of artificial intelligence, which is then left by him to do its job. No! The reality is certainly not so. Yet to some people, even among Muslims, this is imagined to be true. The latter say: "Fire burns by virtue of the force which Allah has deposited in it. Water quenches thirst by virtue of the force which Allah has deposited in it. Medicine heals by virtue of the force which Allah has deposited in it. Poison kills by virtue of the force which Allah has deposited in it." Are these statements correct? Never.

            We do not charge [them] with disbelief. However, even scientifically, these statements are incorrect. The reason is that, if one believes that Allah has deposited healing within medicine and then left it so that medicine heals in permanence, it would mean that Allah now has a partner, which is this secret that He deposited within the medicine. As much as the Creator disassociates Himself from that medicine, the latter [allegedly] still performs its work, without the continuance (istimrariyya) of Allah Almighty's efficacy. That is the meaning of that "deposited force." We seek refuge in Allah from such belief! What have we done with "The Sustainer of All"? Similarly, if you say: "Fire burns by virtue of the efficacy which Allah Almighty has deposited in it." The outcome of this statement is that Allah Almighty has deposited that secret - combustion - inside fire, then left fire so that the latter burns in perpetuity. So then that secret has become a partner with Allah! If Allah has left fire alone after depositing in it that secret, then [they claim] there is no problem with that: it shall always burn. That position is false, incorrect, and scientifically incorrect in any way one looks at it. Combustion only takes effect by the act of Allah at the time of contact between fire and the matter it burns.

Allah creates satiation at the time you ingest food. Who is it that created satiation? Allah. If He wished, He could make you eat, and eat, and eat, and not be sated. Allah created quenchedness for you at the time you drink beverage. There are not, in these things, forces-in-residence which Allah has left alone so that they do their work. No - it is a mistake to think so. The Pious Predecessors (al-Salaf al-Salih), the People of the Way of the Prophet and the Congregation of the Companions (ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a) hold otherwise.3 Just look at Allah's words: "And a token unto them is that We bear their offspring in the laden ship" (36:41). If some self-sufficient physiological force had been deposited into the ship so that ships perform their tasks always, regardless to what extent Allah disconnects Himself from them - then His saying would no longer be correct that "And a token unto them is that We bear their offspring in the laden ship." But He continues: "And if We will, We drown them, and there is no help for them, neither can they be saved" (36:43).

Dear brethren: we must deal with this reality. Many are those that stray in this matter. One of us may say: "If this is the case, then why do we have to interact with these causes? Why does the sick person seek recourse in the physician? Why does he take medicine? Why do we take precautions against fire and its burning pain? Let us plunge into fire just as we plunge into water and swim in it. Why do we go out to the market and struggle, why work in trade and farming and so forth, if, as you said, there are no causes, and the one and only Causator is Allah, around Whose might all causes revolve?" What is the answer to this?

Allah Almighty has made this lower-wordly existence stand on certain customs (sunan). He has tied together these things and those. Whatever comes first, appears to us to be a cause; whatever comes last, appears to us to be an effect. Allah has made the universe stand on that system. That is: Allah's way is that He satiates you when you take food. His way is that He quenches your thirst when you take drink. His way is that He provides you with sustenance when you knock at the door of sustenance. His way is that He cures you when you rush to the doctor and ask him for the remedy that will benefit you. That is the way of Allah. He ties things together, but without there being actual efficacy for what we call a cause. It is proper conduct (adab) on our part with Allah to respect His system in the universe.

It is proper conduct on our part with Allah to respect His universal customs. Thus has Allah Almighty willed it. If you have recognized what must be believed in the chapter of doctrine and then say: "For myself I shall not drink when I feel thirst, because Allah is the One that shall create quenchedness," know that at that time you are committing misconduct with Allah Almighty. My Exalted Lord has willed to create quenchedness in your being at the time you take drink. If you say: "I shall not take drink," then this is rebellion against Allah Almighty's system.

 I will give you an example that will resolve the above to satisfaction. Lady Maryam - upon our Prophet and upon her peace - when birthpains came to her - you have all read the Sura of Maryam - felt pain and foresaw what was going to happen with her, what people were going to say about her: "And the pangs of childbirth drove her unto the trunk of the palm tree. She said: Oh, would that I had died before this and had become a thing of naught, forgotten! Then (one) cried unto her from below her, saying: Grieve not! Thy Lord has placed a rivulet beneath you, and shake the trunk of the palm tree toward you, you will cause ripe dates to fall upon you." (19:23-25) The scholars all said here: She had rested her back against the trunk of a date-palm tree of huge size at a time there was not, at the head of that date-palm tree, any date nor fruit, for it was not yet the season for them. The tree was bare of fruit. Allah then created in front of her the rivulet, and He created for her in the height of the date-palm tree a bunch of ripe dates. Now, the God Who created the date-bunch instantly - is He not able to make it fall, or to make some of the dates fall in front of her? But He said: "And shake the trunk of the palm tree toward you, you wilt cause ripe dates to fall upon you." Imagine, what can that weak hand of hers do to that trunk which is very much like that column [in the mosque]? You all know the strength of the trunk of the date-palm. What can one do? So then: Is there any efficacy to the hand? Yet Allah ordered her to do something; to exert some effort; to knock at Allah Almighty's door. If Lady Maryam had said: "The God Who created the rivulet for me, and created those fresh, ripe dates for me, is able to let some of them fall in front of me just as He wishes; therefore I shall not move my hand, nor move the tree-trunk." If she had said that, it would have been misconduct with Allah Almighty. She actually moved her hand, after which Allah Almighty made them fall. Was the fall of the ripe dates effected by the moving of the hand or by Allah's subtle kindness? It was effected by Allah's subtle kindness (lutf).

So then, dear brethren: Our works in the marketplaces, our studies in the universities, our tilling of the fields and our farming, our medication at the hands of physicians - all the means that exist - are but the same thing as what Lady Maryam did when she was tasked with shaking the date-palm tree-trunk. If there were any efficacy to her hand, then it is the same with our works by which we strive and all our activities. But who is he that says there is any efficacy there? And that is the answer to the question mentioned before.

I am tasked with rising in the morning and going out to knock at the door of Allah's sustenance with the means which He has made licit. I am tasked with observing and respecting the causes which He has thus named for me: "causes" - and so I interact with them. That work in response to Allah's command is part of worship, part of the condition of being Allah Almighty's servant. This means that when you know that these causes have no actual efficacy, but [you say]: "Allah has commanded me, therefore, I hear and I obey" - at that time you are performing one of the greatest of all acts of worship to Allah Almighty. When the farmer goes out to his field, tills, plants, strives to his utmost, knowing that Allah has tasked him with a duty, and that it is Allah, thereafter, Who creates the results: that farmer is performing an act of worship which is among the greatest acts of worship. The young man who marries in order to practice continence, knowing, however, that it is Allah Who creates continence and it is He Who shall give him happiness through that marriage - it is Allah Himself Who gives him happiness - he is performing an act of worship which is among the greatest acts of worship. The sick man who knocks at the door of the physician to ask him for the remedy to his ailment, is performing an act of worship which is among the greatest acts of worship. This is all on condition that you know that efficacy belongs only to Allah Almighty. Whether you are in the world of dispossession (`alam al-tajrid) or in the world of causes (`alam al-asbab), you must know this. "The foremost energies cannot pierce the walls of foreordained destinies."

When a human being becomes immersed in this doctrine - his heart, not his tongue - he shall be far away from suffering, far from emotional and nervous upheavals; he shall no longer be affected. Why? If some merchant toils and gathers all the causes to use them to his benefit, after which it appears that his efforts all went to loss, and he goes back to his house with peace of mind, in his knowledge that efficacy does not belong to those causes but to Allah alone, Who wished that no [positive] outcome should be realized - he cannot say: had I done such-and-such, this result would not have happened; had I preceded so-and-so and submitted my project two days earlier, I would have been the one to succeed instead of him. The one who believes that efficacy belongs to Allah, his core does not ever burn with the flames of such words. Rather, he finds himself face-to-face with the words of Allah's Messenger - Allah bless and greet him - in the authentic narration of Muslim in his Sahih: "If something bad happens to you, do not say: if only I had done such and such, then such and such would have happened. Say: Allah foreordained it to take place, and whatever Allah wishes, He does (qaddara Allah wa ma sha'a Allahu fa`al). For `if only' begins Satan's work."4 But Satan cannot use `if' and begin his work through it except in a heart that is devoid of such doctrine. Similarly, someone whose relative was afflicted by some illness, then he took that relative to the physicians and used all kinds of medicine and remedies, but Allah foreordained to take the patient away. Then someone might come to him and say: "You made a mistake. The physician you went to was not a specialist. You should have taken the patient to So-and-so. If you had done so, he would have known the cure. Someone ailed more than that and was healed at his hands." If one's doctrine is absent, one will [at those words] feel an anguish that will not let him sleep at night. He will say: "It is true, by Allah! Oh no, no, no! -" But look at him who possesses true doctrine and true belief in Allah, who has fastened his heart to Allah, and before whose eyes and insight all causes have melted away so that he no longer see anything other than the Causator. He shall sleep in all tranquility. He shall say: "Leave me alone, you and your talk! The physicians, their medicine, ailments and their remedies are all servants bound to obey Allah's foreordained destiny, and it is not Allah's foreordained destiny that is subservient to the knowledge of physicians and their remedies and all the rest." His mind is at peace.

Let us plant this certitude firmly in the core of our beings. It brings immense benefits to us. Among its other benefits is that this doctrinal certitude leads you to what the spiritual masters (al-rabbaniyyun) have called "oneness of perception" (wahda al-shuhud). I am not saying "oneness of being" (wahda al-wujud) - beware! What is the meaning of the expression "oneness of perception"? When I interact with causes with full respect to Allah's ways, His orders, and His Law, and know that the sustenance that comes to me is from Allah; the felicity that enters my home is from Allah Almighty; my food is readied for me by Allah - I mean even the smallest details; the wealth with which I have been graced, comes from Allah; the illness that has been put in my being or that of a relative of mine comes from Allah Almighty; the cure that followed it is from Allah Almighty; my success in my studies is by Allah Almighty's grant; the results which I have attained after obtaining my degrees and so forth, are from Allah Almighty's grant - when the efficacy of causes melt away in my sight and I no longer see, behind them, other than the Causator Who is Allah Almighty, at that time, when you look right, you do not see except Allah's Attributes, and when you look left, you do not see other than Allah's Atttributes. As much as you evolve in the world of causes, you do not see, through them, except the Causator, Who is Allah. At that time you have become raised to what the spiritual masters have called oneness of perception. And this oneness of perception is what Allah's Messenger - Allah bless and greet him - expressed by the word ihsan [which he defined to mean]: "That you worship Allah as if you see him."5 You do not see the causes as a barrier between you and Allah. Rather, you see causes, in the context of this doctrine, very much like pure, transparent glass: the glass pane is present, no one denies it, but as much as you stare at it, you do not see anything except what is behind it. Is it not so? You only see what is behind it. The world is entirely made of glass panes in this fashion. You see in them Allah's efficacy in permanence, so you are always with Allah Almighty.

None has tasted the sweetness of belief (iman) unless he has reached that level of perception. At that time you will find yourself, when you enter your house, enjoying the pleasures of this house and whatever sustenance and good things are in it, you will know that it is Allah Who has bestowed all this upon you, so you will love Him. When you find that Allah has tied together your heart and the heart of your wife with mutual love, you will know that the secret of this love is not effected by your wife, but comes from Allah, the Lord of the worlds. When you look at yourself in the mirror, finding yourself in good health, you immediately know that it is Allah Almighty that has bestowed good health upon you. When food is placed before you and you look at it, you imagine that Allah - so to speak - has carried this food and placed it before you after he subordinated to this purpose His heaven, His earth, the pastures of His livestock, and then said to you: "Eat!" You will live with Allah Almighty! If you become thirsty and drink some cold water you will forget the water and remember only the One Who quenched your thirst. And when you lie down in bed at night and find yourself falling sleep, you will know that the One Who made you sleep is Allah - not sleeping pills at all, nor the efficacy which Allah subordinated to the physician. And so forth. You interact with causes, but this certitude shall make you as I described: you will see causes as very, very transparent glass panes which, as much as you stare at them, you will no longer see other than what is behind them.

The disbeliever, on the other hand, or the denier, or the doubter, or the sceptic, will look at these causes as one of us would look at glass panes that have been completely painted over. These panes have become thick obstacles that prevent you from seeing what is behind them. As much as you look, you cannot see what is behind them. At that time one will divinize causes, and all those things. It is not permitted for the Muslim to fall into this spot in any way whatsoever.

We have now determined the working relationship between the words of the Imam Ibn `Ata' Allah al-Sakandari in his second hikma and his words in the third. There remains one question which might arise in the minds of some people: "If everything is according to qada' and qadar, then the believer is foreordained by Allah to be a believer, and the disbeliever is foreordained by Allah to be a disbeliever. Therefore, the disbeliever's disbelief is not by his free choice, nor is the believer's belief by his free choice." Our preceding discourse might lead some of you to this difficulty. What is the answer? It is actually a different question, unrelated to what we have said today. I shall answer this question, Allah willing, but what I say now will not suffice and I therefore direct you to what I said in detail, in depth, and at length in my book Al-Insanu Musayyarun aw Mukhayyar? ("Is Man Controlled or Endowed With Free Choice?"). I believe that I answered this problem there in great detail. However, I shall answer now succinctly.

Everything is by qada' and qadar, just as Allah's Messenger - Allah bless and greet him - says, including helplessness and intelligence.6 Allah's foreordained destinies are two kinds. The first kind is directly created by Allah Almighty. This is all part of "the world of creation" (`alam al-khalq): stars and their orbits, the order of the universe which is unrelated to man's free choice, human birth and death, human illness and cure, vegetation, earthquakes, eclipses - all these matters are part of Allah's foreordainment and created by Him directly, without any part for free choice. This comes under the heading of "creation" in the verse "His verily is all creation and commandment" (7:54). The Creator does not make you in any way responsible for what He created without any choice on your part. "Allah tasks not a soul beyond its scope" (2:286).

The second kind of foreordained destinies is what Allah has foreordained - and what is foreordainment? It is Allah's knowledge of what shall take place. Allah only creates something in correspondence with (tilqa') His knowledge. This second kind of foreordained destinies is one that takes effect or circulates through the free choices of human beings. For example: your prayer, your fasting, your pilgrimage, your purification-tax (zakat), your acts of obedience, your acts of piety, your acts of disobedience - we seek refuge in Allah! - and all your deeds freely undertaken: are they foreordained by Allah or not? They are foreordained by Allah, in the sense that Allah knows that you will pray by choice. When, according to Allah's knowledge, you rose to pray, He put you in a position to pray (aqdaraka `ala salatik) and created in your entity the motions of your prayer. He is the Creator [of all this]. Allah knows that you will perform pilgrimage to the Sacred House. At the time you determined to go on pilgrimage, He put you in a position to do so and created for you the causes that facilitate it for you. Allah knows that So-and-so will disobey Him by drinking wine. At the time he finally determined to drink wine, Allah put him in a position to do so and created in his hand, his feet, and his mouth the power to do it.

So then Who is the Creator of the acts of obedience? Allah. And Who is the Creator of the acts of disobedience? Allah. But to what does reward and punishment apply? Reward and punishment do not apply to the actual deed which is created by Allah, but to the resolution (al-qasd), the "earning" (al-kasb) as Allah Almighty said: laha ma kasabat wa `alayha ma iktasabat - "For it is what it has earned, and against it is what it has deserved" (2:286). If I determine to come to this place so that we should remind each other of one of the matters of this Religion, and say: "Ya Allah! O my Lord, I have determined to do this"- at that time the Creator creates power in my person, enables me to walk and come here, and when I sit in this place He enables me to think. He does all this, but on the Day of Resurrection what will He reward me for? Will He reward me for something which He Himself created? Rather, He will only reward me for my having determined (qasadtu). And so Allah has made my act subservient to my determination.

This is a brief summary of the topic. Perhaps we shall elaborate on it in the next lesson, Allah willing. And praise belongs to Allah the Lord of the worlds.

NOTES by GF Haddad

1 Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Bukhari and Muslim.

2 I.e. in the sense of a personified force independent of the Creator, as in "Mother Nature."

3 "Things do not act of their own nature. Neither does water quench thirst, nor does bread sate hunger, nor does fire burn, but Allah creates satedness simultaneously with eating, and hunger at other times. Likewise, drinking is the drinker's doing while quenchedness is from Allah, and killing is the killer's doing while death is from Allah." Ibn Khafif (d. 371), al-`Aqida al-Sahiha (§41), in Ibrahim al-Dusuqi Shatta, Sira Ibn Khafif (Cairo: al-Hay'a al-`Amma li Shu'un al-Matabi` al-Amiriyya, 1977) p. . A man asked al-Tustari (d. 283): "What is sustenance?" He said: "Perpetual dhikr." The man said: "I was not asking about that, but about what sustains one." He replied: "O man, things are sustained by nothing but Allah." The man said: "I did not mean that, I asked you about what is indispensible!" He replied: "Young man, Allah is indispensible." Abu Nu`aym, Hilya al-Awliya' (10:218 #15022). "Satiation, quenching, and combustion are phenomena which Allah alone creates, since bread does not create satiation, nor does water create quenching, nor does fire create combustion, although they are causes for such results. But the Creator is Himself the Causator (al-Musabbib), not the causes. This is just as Allah said: "You threw not when you did throw, but Allah threw." (8:17) He denied that His Prophet was the creator of the throw, although he was its cause. Allah also said: "And that it is He Who makes laugh, and makes weep, and that it is He Who gives death and gives life." (54:43-44) Thus He dissociated making-laugh, making-weep, the giving of death and of life from their respective causes, attributing all to Himself. Similarly, al-Ash`ari (d. 330?) dissociated satiation, quenching, and combustion from their causes, attributing them all to the Creator Who said: "Such is Allah, your Lord. There is no God save Him, the Creator of all things." (6:102) "Is there any creator other than Allah?" (35:3) "Nay, but they denied what they could not comprehend and whereof the interpretation had not yet come unto them." (10:39) "Did you deny My signs when you could not compass them in knowledge, or what was it you did?" (27:84)." Ibn `Abd al-Salam (d. 660), al-Mulha fi I`tiqad Ahl al-Haqq in Rasa'il al-Tawhid (p. 11-27) and al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (8:219-229).

4 Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Muslim, Ahmad, Ibn Majah, Malik in his Muwatta', and al-Tabarani, all as part of a longer hadith which begins: "The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer" (al-mu'min al-qawiyy khayrun wa ahabbu ilallâh min al-mu'min al-da`îf).

5 Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, al-Nasa'i, and Ibn Majah; from `Umar by Muslim, al-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, and al-Nasa'i; and from Abu Dharr by al-Nasa'i, all as part of a longer hadith.

6 "Everything is by qadar, including helplessness and intelligence." Narrated from Anas and Ibn `Umar by Muslim; from Ibn `Umar by Ahmad and Malik; and from Ibn `Abbas by Bukhari in his Tarikh. The latter narrates it both with qada' and qadar.

::  Dr. Gabriel F. Haddad  ::

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