Punishment and Divine DecreeNo Comments | August 2012
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We never punish until We have sent a Messenger. (Ch.17:V.16)
Those who repent shall find security and those who fear before the calamity overtakes them will be shown mercy. Do you think that you will be safe from these earthquakes, or that you can save yourselves by your own designs? No, you cannot. All human designs will come to naught that day. Do not imagine that only America has been shaken by the earthquake and that you are safe, for you may experience even greater calamities. O Europe! you are not secure, O Asia! You are not secure, O you who dwell in the Islands, no artificial god will come to your aid. I see the cities falling and I see the habitations in ruin. The One and the Unique has long remained silent. Abominations were committed before His eyes and yet He remained silent. But now He shall reveal His countenance in a dreadful manner. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! The hour is not far. I tried to bring everyone under the security of God, but the decrees of destiny had to be fulfilled. Assuredly, I say that this country’s turn is also drawing near. The days of Noah(as) shall appear before your eyes, and you will see with your own eyes what happened to the land of Lot(as). But God is slow to wrath, repent so that you are shown mercy. He who abandons God is a worm, not a man, and he who does not fear Him is dead, not alive. (Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 22, pp. 268-269)
Two Types of Divine Decrees
Divine decrees are of two types; one may be described as suspended, and the other as absolute. The operation of a suspended decree may be averted by the grace of God Almighty through prayer and almsgiving. The operation of an absolute decree cannot be averted through prayer and almsgiving, though God Almighty bestows some other benefit in return for them. In some cases God Almighty causes a delay in the operation of a decree. The knowledge of these two types of divine decrees can be gathered from the Holy Qur’an. (Malfuzat, Vol. I, pp. 157-158)
The Holy Qur’an has set out certain matters for the establishment of the principle that God Almighty is One and is the source and goal of everything from which foolish critics have deduced the doctrine of compulsion. He is the causa causans and is the Provider of all means. This is the reason why God Almighty has in some cases described Himself as the Cause of all causes in the Holy Qur’an, without mention of intervening means. A perusal of the Holy Qur’an discloses that at certain places these means have also been clearly specified so that man should pay heed to them. Besides, the Holy Qur’an specifies the punishment of evil and lays down penalties. If there was to be an unalterable system of Divine decrees and determination and man was to be under absolute compulsion what justification was there for these punishments and penalties?
Prayer and Divine Determination are Juxtaposed
It should be remembered that, unlike the atheists, the Holy Qur’an does not confine everything within the system of physical causes, but seeks to lead mankind to belief in the pure Unity of God. Most people do not realise the true nature of prayer, nor do they comprehend the relationship between prayer and Divine determination. God Almighty opens the way for those who have recourse to prayer and does not reject their supplications. Prayer and Divine determination are juxtaposed to each other. God has appointed times for both. His Providence has directed:
Call Me, I shall respond to you (Ch.40:V.61).
That is why I have always said that the God of the Muslims responds to their supplications; but the god who has not created a single particle or who died under the scourging of the Jews, how can he respond?
You did not fare well in performing the tasks of this world; By what right, then, do you seek to handle the heavens
It is not wise to attempt reconciliation between choice and compulsion on the basis of one’s self-conceived and supposed logic and reasoning. This is a vain attempt. One must Honour Godhead and Providence duly and an attempt to comprehend the mysteries of Godhead is disrespectful.
The way of the seeker is all respect.
Two Aspects of Prayer
Divine decrees and determination have a close relationship with prayer. Prayer averts the operation of a suspended decree. Prayer is certainly effective against difficulties. Those who deny the effectiveness of Prayer are under a misconception. The Holy Qur’an sets out two aspects of Prayer. In one aspect God Almighty enforces His own will and in the other aspect He responds to the prayer of a servant. In the verse:
‘And We will try you with something of fear and hunger.’ (Ch.2:V.156)
The other time is of the upsurge of the waves of the grace and mercy of God Almighty; it is indicated in:
‘Pray unto Me, I will answer your prayer.’ (Ch.40:V.61)
A believer should have knowledge of both these aspects. The Sufis say that a person’s absolute dependence upon God does not become perfect without his being able to distinguish the proper place and occasion for supplication. It has been said that a Sufi does not pray till he recognises that it is time for prayer. Sayyed ‘Abd-ul-Qadir Jilani(ra) has said that through prayer an unfortunate one is rendered fortunate. He has even gone so far as to affirm that deeply hidden matters, which resemble an absolute decree, can also be averted by prayer. In short it should always be remembered in connection with prayer that sometimes God Almighty requires obedience to His own will and at other times He grants the supplication of a servant of His. In other words He deals with His servant like a friend. The prayers of the Holy Prophet(saw) were accepted on a grand scale and corresponding to this he stood very high in bowing to the will of God and in accepting it cheerfully. He lost eleven children, but he never asked “Why?” (Malfuzat, Vol. III, pp. 224-226)
It is the way of Allah that when an action proceeds from man its effect is duly manifested by God Almighty. For instance, when we close all the doors of a room, this is our action and the result it entails, namely, that our room becomes dark is the effect of our action manifested by God Almighty. This is God’s eternal law. In the same way if we were to swallow poison in a fatal dose, this would doubtless be our action; our death following upon this action of ours would be God’s action in accord with His eternal law. Thus every action of ours is followed by a Divine action that is manifested after our action and is its necessary result. This system operates both in that which is manifest and also in that which is hidden. Every good or bad action of ours creates an effect which is manifested after our action. The meaning of the verse of the Holy Qur’an, ‘Allah has set a seal on their hearts’ (Ch.2:V.8) is that when a person does evil its effect is manifested by God Almighty on his heart and his countenance. The same is the meaning of the verse:
So when they deviated from the right course, Allah caused their hearts to deviate. (Ch.61:V.6)
That is to say, when they turned away from the truth God Almighty turned their hearts away from being in accord with the truth and in the end, in consequence of their hostility, a change was brought about in them and they were so corrupted that the poison of their hostility overwhelmed their natural light. (Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 13, pp. 47-48)
The above extracts have been taken from Essence of Islam Volumes 2 and 5, translated from the Urdu by Sir Muhammad Zafraulla Khan(ra).