Concepts of Fate in The Karma Belief System
and in The Qur'an
There is no belief in fate in karmic philosophy. Yet every human being is subject to the destiny created for him by Allah, and no-one can ever change that fate.
Every human being is born, grows up, lives and dies. Everything that anyone has ever or will ever experience, from the first man right up to today, is part of his destiny. Fate is the science of Allah. Our Lord is the Creator Who shapes all our destinies, Who possesses infinite might and knowledge. For that reason, it is quite unnecessary for sincere believers to feel any concerns about what has happened in the past or will in the future. Allah creates everything to be auspicious for his devout servants.
The karmic philosophy's concept of destiny is a highly erroneous one. According to the concept of karma, a person's destiny is in his own hands. This concept is described in the following words in the book Dinler Tarihi (A History of Religions):
Karma comprises the results of everything we have done of our own free will. Whatever is done brings unavoidable results for the doer. Everyone inherits karma of this kind. Other kinds of karma come after this. This is not determinism: everyone is free to do good or evil within the bounds of their own karma. One's personal karma does not actually force one to do anything. According to the Buddhist viewpoint, it is our will, not our actions, that creates new karma. We will see the results of our karma in this life, or in our next incarnation, or in the incarnation after that.7
As we see from the above description, in the karmic philosophy there is no place for trust in one's destiny. Instead, there is a belief in the false idea that people create their own fates. For instance, in karmic philosophy, the caste into which a person in India is born and the kind of life they have depend completely on what attitude they had in their previous life. In other words, it was we ourselves who, in our previous lives, determined the fate we would have in our present lives.
However, it is Allah Who, before we are born, decides a person's destiny, Who prepares everything that happens to us, and Who determines what these events will be and what kind of life we will have. The Qur'an tells us that everything that happens to us is the will of Allah, and has been decided by Him before we experience it:
Nothing occurs, either in the earth or in yourselves,without its being in a Book before We make it happen. That is something easy for Allah. (Surat al-Hadid: 22)
The Qur'anic concept of fate
The idea of fate implies that Allah creates all events, both past and future, in a single moment. This, in turn, means that from Allah's point of view, everything that has happened since the universe was created and everything that will happen until the Last Judgement, has already been experienced and has now finished. Things that have not yet happened, and that are due to take place in what we call "the future", have in fact already taken place in a single moment that included the whole of our past. Allah is separate from time and is in no way dependent on it; it is we who are dependent on time. Thus, in order for us to witness events created instantaneously by Allah, we need to experience the passage of time.
For example, time will be needed for us to read this book. We need time to turn each individual page. Allah, however, already knew every page of this book before it was written, even before the ancestors of the people who produced it were born; Allah has known this book since before time. By way of illustration, let us imagine someone walking along a road. This person needs time to walk to the far end of the road. However, if we were to look at an aerial photograph of the road and the person beginning to walk along it, we would be able to see both the person setting out on his journey and the far end of the road all at once. We would not need the passage of time in the same way as the walker.
It is essential to understand this. For although we think that it is we ourselves who do everything we do throughout our lives by means of our own free will, in fact we are only following the course set out for us by Allah. Our lives are like a film recorded on video. However, we cannot wind the tape on to see what happens at the end, whereas the whole of the film was known to Allah in a single instant. In any case, it is Allah Who has decided on and created every detail of this film. Just as we can see the whole of a ruler from end to end at one time, so can Allah see the period of time during which we are alive in its entirety, as if it were a single moment. We, on the other hand, cannot experience events until the time comes for us to do so; it is only then that we perceive the fate Allah has created for us.
Two people walking in the street cannot know what lies around the next corner. They can only find out by turning that corner. Yet a bird's eye view of that same street can see the cars, people and shops that those two people will encounter before they themselves do.
Every moment in the life of every person who has ever lived and who will ever live in this world, from the time when they are a foetus in the womb until the day they die, has been predetermined by Allah and is already known to Him. No detail is too insignificant, be it a child's first day at school or the hour in middle age in which his first white hair appears. This is the meaning of fate for everyone on earth.
Everything that has happened in the past and whatever will happen in the future is already a reality with Allah. The fact that all future events are lying in wait for us to experience them, illustrates an important point: everyone, whether they like it or not, has already submitted unconditionally to the destiny Allah has planned for them. Just as we cannot change our past, so we cannot change our future. This is because the future, just like the past, is already complete. Everything that is going to happen to us—when and where we will eat and what that food will be, who we will talk to, how much we will earn, what illnesses we will get, and when, where and how we will eventually die—all these things have already been decided on and cannot be altered as they already exist in Allah's knowledge as completed events. All that remains is for us to acquire knowledge of them through our own experience.
In these circumstances, it is absolutely unnecessary for us to feel sorrow over the things that happen to us, to worry and to feel concerned or fearful because of them; neither is it wise for us to do so. Doing this would be like trying to influence the course of events in a film we are watching because we fear for the characters in it.
For instance, when a person has an accident on the way to a meeting or an interview that he thinks could change the course of his life and misses the meeting as a result, he may suddenly despair and see what has befallen him as a misfortune. He may even say to himself, "I wish I had left home a minute later, then none of this would have happened". But all these complaints are in vain: everything—the exact second at which he will leave the house that day, the route he will take, the means of transport he will use to get there, which other vehicle will be involved in the accident and who will be in it—has already been decided on by Allah before he is born.
Allah has shaped the course of every event in our lives in such a way that it will have the best possible outcome for us if we have trust in Allah and show gratitude to Him. We may not always understand the reason for these events or the beneficial purpose for which Allah created them, or we may only come to understand these things subsequently. However, if we can come to know Allah, acknowledge His infinite power and submit to His will, we will be absolutely sure that every event that has been arranged by Him is what is best and most appropriate for us. There should be no doubt that everything that happens has been set up by Allah. Although we may experience occurrences in our lives as new, Allah has already created every event together with all of their minutest ramifications. Hence, He knows them with an infinitely greater clarity than our subsequent experience of them can ever bring us.
It is totally inappropriate for someone who is late for something he regards as very important to become distressed over it. Everything he experiences is part of his destiny, and no power can ever change it.
In conclusion, people who see the things that happen to them as misfortunes and who become angry, fearful and sorrowful as a result are only oppressing themselves, allowing themselves to be worn down by things they have no power to change and as a result they experience tension. Whereas if we realise that we are only following the course set out for us as our destiny, we feel relaxed and calm in this knowledge—because Allah creates our destinies, and Allah creates everything in such a way that it will have the best and most positive outcome for us if we are true to Him. Those who know and love Allah, and trust in His justice and mercy, experience endless joy in the knowledge that nothing can happen that has not been created by Him and willed by Him in His endless wisdom. The faithful believe that only good can come to them from Allah, as we are told in the following verse:
When those who guard against evil are asked, "What has your Lord sent down?" their reply is, "Good!" There is good in this world for those who do good, and the abode of the hereafter is even better. How wonderful is the abode of those who guard against evil. (Surat an-Nahl: 30)
And in the next verses, we are told of the reward that will be received after their lives on earth by those who believe that everything that comes to them from Allah has a good purpose:
Gardens of Eden which they enter, with rivers flowing under them, where they have whatever they desire. That is how Allah repays those who guard against evil: those the angels take in a virtuous state. They say, "Peace be upon you! Enter the Garden for what you did". (Surat an-Nahl: 31-32)
Taking precautions does not alter our destiny
Many people pretend not to understand the realities of the decree, saying to themselves: "If everything is decreed, we need not do anything about it", and in this way they try to prove to themselves that it is impossible to believe in one's destiny. This is a very shallow way of thinking. The reason people say this is that it is part of their destiny to do so, although they do not realise this. Allah has predetermined everyone's fate; with Allah, everyone's life has already been lived through right to the end.
Allah, however, as part of the test He has created for us in this life on Earth, has made it possible for us to experience everything we do as being done by our own will. For example, if someone is writing a book, the truth is that with Allah that book was already written and completed before the writer was born and it had already been read by those destined to read it. Even while the author is deciding what he is going to write, everything about the book—every line, the beginning of each paragraph, the headings, the colours and pictures used on the cover, the number of pages, the position of each punctuation mark and every other detail—is already present with Allah.
Let us suppose, however, that the author were to give up writing it, saying to himself, "Since this book has already been written, if it is fated that it should be so, I need not do anything at all". This would not make sense since the "if" in his argument betrays the fact that he does not actually know at that point whether the book is destined to be completed or not. This would be as ignorant as hearing someone knock at the door and failing to get up and open it, thinking, "If the person outside is fated to come in, they will come in anyway". Allah alone knows what is fated, we do not.
The truth of the matter is that everything we experience have been decreed by Allah as part of our destiny. In the following verses of the Qur'an, Allah tells us that it is He Who is the Doer:
You did not kill them; it was Allah Who killed them; and you did not throw, when you threw; it was Allah Who threw: so He might test the believers with this excellent trial from Him. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Anfal: 17)
Allah created both you and what you do. (Surat as-Saffat: 96)
If one pretends not to understand these things as they are explained in the Qur'an, or if one pretends ignorance in order to "test"fate and refuses to open the door, or refuse to write the book, he is still experiencing something he was fated to live through. By the same token, if we fail to take the medicine we need to take when we are ill, saying to ourselves, "If I am fated to recover, I will recover", and thus neglect our health, it is our destiny to act in this unintelligent way. Similarly, if we deny the existence of fate, it is because it is part of our fate to do so.
We have created all things in due measure.
(Surat Al-Qamar: 49)
On the other hand, anyone who is intelligent and conscientious will know that what they are experiencing is part of Allah's test for them, and that they are responsible for their actions even though the efforts they are making and the results they will obtain have already taken place and are already complete with Allah. In this connection the Qur'an gives the example of Ya'qub's advice to his sons:
He said, "My sons! You must not enter through a single gate. Go in through different gates. But I cannot save you from Allah at all, for judgement comes from no one but Allah. In Him I put my trust, and let all those who put their trust, put it in Him alone". (Surah Yusuf: 67)
As we see in this verse, Ya'qub advises his sons to take precautions for their safety, but immediately after this he says that taking these precautions will not prevent the destiny that Allah has willed from being fulfilled. Actually, Ya'qub's words to his sons, his sons' acting in accordance with his advice and everything that will happen to them as a result are nothing more than the unfolding in time of what is present with Allah beyond time.
In the next verse, it is explained to us that these precautions cannot change Allah's will:
But when they entered as their father said, it did not save them from Allah at all, yet a need in Ya'qub's soul was satisfied. He had knowledge which We had taught him, but most of mankind simply do not know. (Surah Yusuf: 68)
This verse tells us that we have no power to prevent anything from happening that Allah sends us. All we can do is pray to Him and seek His blessing, so that He will use our precautions as a means of carrying out His will and bring us the best possible outcome.
To sum up, the difference between someone who has submitted to Allah and the destiny decreed by Him, and someone who is unable to perceive the reality of the situation is that the former is aware that whatever we do is the result of Allah's will however much we may experience it as our own independent initiative; while on the other hand, the person who is not aware of this mistakenly believes that our actions originate in our own wisdom and our own abilities. In fact, "Allah's command is a pre-ordained decree". (Surat al-Ahzab: 38).