THE TREATISE ON DIVINE DETERMINING
Divine Determining and the power of choice are aspects of a belief pertaining to state and conscience which show the final limits of Islam and belief; they are not theoretical and do not pertain to knowledge. That is to say, a believer attributes everything to Almighty God, even his actions and self, till finally the power of choice confronts him and he is not saved from obligation and responsibility. It tells him: "You are responsible and under obligation." Then, so that he does not become proud due to the good things and perfections which issue from him, Divine Determining confronts him, saying: "Know your limits; the one who does them is not you." Yes, Divine Determining and the power of choice are at the final degrees of belief and Islam; the former has entered among the matters of belief to save the soul from pride, and latter, to save it from lack of responsibility. To cling to Divine Determining so that obdurate evil-commanding souls may save themselves from the responsibility of the evils they have committed, and to take pride and become conceited on account of the virtues bestowed on them and to rely on the power of choice, are actions totally opposed to the mystery of Divine Determining and wisdom of the power of choice; they are not matters pertaining to knowledge which give rise to such actions.
Indeed, among ordinary people who have not progressed spiritually there are occasions when Divine Determining may be used, but those are calamities and disasters when it is the remedy for despair and grief. It should not be used for rebellion and in matters of the future so that it becomes a cause of dissipation and idleness. That is to say, the question of Divine Determining has not entered belief to save people from obligation and responsibility, but to save them from pride and conceit. While the power of choice has entered among the tenets of faith to be the source of evils, not to be the source of virtues, so that people become Pharaohs.
Yes, as the Qur'an states, man is completely responsible for his evils, for the one who wishes the evils is he. Since evils are destruction, man may perpetrate much destruction with one evil act, and he becomes deserving of an awesome punishment - like burning a house with one match. However, he does not have the right to take pride in good deeds; his right in them is extremely small. For what wants and requires the good deeds is Divine Mercy, and what creates them is Dominical Power. Both request and reply, reason and cause, are from God. Man only comes to have them through supplication, belief, consciousness, and consent. But what wants evil acts is man's soul, either through capacity or through choice. Like in the white and beautiful light of the sun some substances become black and putrefy, and the blackness is related to their capacity. But the one who creates the evils through a Divine law which comprises numerous benefits is again Almighty God. That is to say, the cause and the request are from the soul, so that it is the soul which is responsible. And as for the creation and bringing into existence, which belong to Almighty God, since they have other results and fruits which are good, they are good.
It is for the above reason that to commit or desire evil is evil, but the creation of evil is not evil. A lazy man who receives damage from rain, which comprises many instances of good, may not say that the rain is not Mercy. Yes, together with a minor evil in the creation and giving of existence are numerous instances of good. To abandon that good for a minor evil becomes a greater evil. Therefore, a minor evil becomes like good. There is no evil or ugliness in Divine creation. They rather pertain to His servant's wish and to his capacity.
Furthermore, just as Divine Determining is exempt from evil and ugliness with regard to results and fruits, so too it is free from tyranny and ugliness with respect to reason and cause. Because Divine Determining looks to the true reasons and acts justly. Men construct their judgements on reasons which they see superficially and fall into wrong within the pure justice of Divine Determining. For example, a judge finds you guilty of theft and sends you to prison. You are not a thief, but you have committed a murder which no one knows about. Thus, Divine Determining also sentenced you to imprisonment, but it sentenced you for the secret murder and acted justly. Since the judge sentenced you for a theft of which you were innocent, he acted unjustly. Thus, in a single thing the justice of Divine Determining and Divine creation and the wrong of man's acquisition were apparent in two respects; you can make analogies with it for other things. That is to say, with regard to origin and end, source and branch, cause and results, Divine Determining and creation are exempt from evil, ugliness, and tyranny.
If it is said: "Since the power of choice does not have the ability to create and man has nothing apart from inclination or desiring, which are as though theoretical, how is it that in the Qur'an of Miraculous Exposition, man is showed to be rebellious and hostile before the Creator of the heavens and the earth, Who complains greatly about him; He mobilizes Himself and all His angels to assist His believing servants against the rebellious, and attaches the greatest importance to them?"
The Answer: Because unbelief, rebellion, and evil are destruction and non-existence. However, great destruction and innumerable instances of non-existence may result in a single theoretical matter and instance of non-existence. Just as, through the helmsman of a large ship abandoning his duty, the ship may sink and the labour of all those employed on it go for nothing, and all those instances of destruction result in a single instance of non-existence, so too, since unbelief and rebellion are non-existence and destruction, the power of choice may provoke them through a theoretical matter and cause awesome consequences. For although unbelief is only one evil, since it insults the whole universe as being worthless and futile, and denies all beings, which display proofs of Divine Unity, and is contemptuous towards all the manifestations of the Divine Names, Almighty God's uttering severe complaints and awesome threats about the unbelievers in the name of the universe and all beings and the Divine Names is pure wisdom, and to give eternal punishment is pure justice. Since through unbelief and rebellion, man goes toward destruction, with a small act of service, he may perform a great many works. For this reason the believers are in need of Almighty God's boundless grace in the face of them. For if ten strong men undertake the protection and repair of a house, in the face of one troublesome child who is trying to burn it down, they may be obliged to beseech and have recourse to the child's parents, or even the king. In the same way the believers are in need of many Divine favours in order to withstand the unmannerly people of rebellion.
In Short: If the one speaking of Divine Determining and the power of choice has perfect belief, he attributes the universe and himself to Almighty God and knows them to be under His disposal. Then he has the right to speak of them. For since he knows himself and everything to be from Almighty God, relying on his power of choice, he undertakes the responsibility. He accepts that it is the source of evils and proclaims his Sustainer free of fault. He remains within the sphere of worship and undertakes the obligations with which he is charged by Almighty God. Moreover, in order not to become proud at the perfections and good deeds which issue from him, he looks to Divine Determining, and offers thanks rather than taking pride in them. He sees Divine Determining in the calamities that befall him, and endures them in patience.
However, if the one speaking of Divine Determining and the power of choice is one of the heedless and neglectful, then he has no right to speak of them. For, impelled by heedlessness or misguidance, his evil-commanding soul attributes the universe to causes and divides up God's property among them. And he attributes the ownership of himself to himself. He ascribes his acts to himself and to causes. His responsibility and faults, he refers to Divine Determining. So then the discussion of the power of choice, which will finally be ascribed to Almighty God, and of Divine Determining, which will be considered last of all, becomes meaningless. It is only a trick of the soul which is entirely contrary to the wisdom in them, in order to be saved from responsibility.
This is a minute and scholarly investigation particular to scholars.5
If you say: "How is Divine Determining compatible with the power of choice?"
The Answer: In seven ways...
The First: The All-Just and Wise One, to Whose wisdom and justice the universe testifies with the tongue of order and balance, gave to man a power of choice of unknown nature which would be the means of reward and punishment for him. Just as we do not know many of the numerous aspects of the All-Just and Wise One's wisdom, our not knowing how the power of choice is compatible with Divine Determining does not prove that it is not so.
The Second: Of necessity everyone perceives in himself a will and choice; he knows it through his conscience. To know the nature of beings is one thing, to know they exist is something different. There are many things which although their existence is self-evident for us, their true nature is not known by us... Thus, the power of choice may be included among these. Everything is not restricted to what we know. Our not knowing does not prove they do not exist.
The Third: The power of choice is not opposed to Divine Determining, indeed, Divine Determining corroborates the power of choice. Because Divine Determining is a sort of Divine Knowledge. Divine Knowledge is connected with our will and choice, in which case it corroborates it, it does not nullify it.
The Fourth: Divine Determining is a sort of knowledge. Knowledge is dependent on the thing known. That is, it is connected with however it will be. The thing known is not dependent on knowledge. That is, the principles of knowledge are not fundamental in order to direct the thing known from the point of view of external existence. Because the essence of the thing known and its external existence looks to will and relies on power. Also, pre-eternity is not the tip of a chain reaching into the past which may be taken as fundamental in the existence of things and a compulsion imagined in accordance with it. Rather, pre-eternity holds the past, the present, and the future all at once, looking at them from above like a mirror. In which case, to imagine an end to past time which stretches back within the sphere of contingency, to call it pre-eternity, and to suppose that things enter that knowledge of pre-eternity in sequence, and that oneself is outside it, and to reason in accordance with that is not right. Consider the following example in order to explain this mystery:
If there is a mirror in your hand and the space to your right is supposed to be the past and the space to your left, the future, the mirror only holds what is opposite it. Then with a movement it holds both sides, but it cannot hold the greater part of them. However low the mirror is held, to that extent less will appear in it. But the higher it rises, the extent of what is opposite it expands, until it can hold both sides in their entirety at the same time. Thus, whatever occurs in the spaces depicted in the mirror in this position cannot be said to precede and follow one another, or to conform to or oppose one another. And so, Divine Determining is from pre-eternal knowledge, and in the words of the Hadith, pre-eternal knowledge is At an elevated station which from an elevated view-point encompasses everything that has been and will be from pre-eternity to post-eternity. We and our reasoning cannot be outside of it so we can be like a mirror to the space of the past.
The Fifth: Divine Determining has a connection with cause and effect. That is, this effect will occur through this cause. In which case, it may not be said that "Since so-and-so's death is determined at such-and-such a time, what fault has the man who fired the rifle through his power of choice, for if he had not fired it, he still would have died?"
Question: Why may it not be said?
The Answer: Because Divine Determining specified that so-and-so's death would occur through the man's rifle. If you suppose that he did not fire the rifle, then you are supposing that Divine Determining had no connection with it, so with what would you decree his death? If you imagine cause and effect to be separate like the Jabriyya, or you deny Divine Determining like the Mu'tazilites, you leave the Sunni School and enter among the heretics. In which case, we people of truth say: "If he had not fired the rifle, we do not whether he would have died." The Jabriyya say: "If he had not fired it, he still would have died." While the Mu'tazilites say: "If he had not fired it, he would not have died."
The Sixth: [This is a truth particular to precise and exacting scholars] According to Maturidî, inclination, the essence and foundation of the power of choice, is a theoretical matter and may be attributed to God's servants. But since Ash'arî considered it to have existence, he did not attribute it to them. However, according to Ash'arî, the power of disposal in the inclination is a theoretical matter, in which case, the inclination and the disposal are a relative matter. They do not have a definite external existence. As for theoretical matters, they do not require total causes through which, for their existence, necessity would intervene and remove the will and power of choice. Rather, if the cause of the theoretical matters acquires the weight of preference, the theoretical matter may become actual and existent. In which case, at that juncture, it may be abandoned. The Qur'an may say to a person at that point: "This is evil; do not do it." Indeed, if God's servants had been the creators of their actions and had had the power to create, then their wills would have been removed. For an established rule in the sciences of religion and philosophy is: "If a thing is not necessary, it may not come into existence [of itself]." That is, there has to be a cause, then it may come into existence. The cause necessarily requires the effect. Then the power of choice would not remain.
If you say: Preference without a cause or attribute to cause the preference is impossible. Whereas the theoretical matter we call human acquisition sometimes does a thing and sometimes does not; if there is nothing to cause the preference, preference without something to cause it would be necessary. As for this, it demolishes one of the most important bases of theology?
The Answer: Preference without a cause or attribute to cause the preference is impossible. That is, a being preferable or superior without a cause or attribute to make it so is impossible. But preference without something to cause it is permissible and occurs. Will is an attribute, and its mark is to perform a work such as that.
If you say: "Since the one who creates the murder is Almighty God, why do you call me a murderer?"
The Answer: Because according to the rules of grammar, the active participle is derived from the infinitive, which is a relative matter. But it cannot be split from the verbal noun, which is an actual or existent matter. The infinitive is our acquisition; and we take the title of murderer. The verbal noun is Almighty God's creature. Something which gives an inkling of responsibility cannot be derived from the verbal noun.
The Seventh: For sure, man's faculty of will and power of choice are weak and a theoretical matter, but Almighty God, the Absolutely Wise One, made that weak and partial will a condition for the connection of His universal will. That is to say, He in effect says: "My servant! Whichever way you wish to take with your will, I will take you on that way. In which case the responsibility is your's!" If the comparison is not mistaken: you take a powerless child onto your shoulders and leaving the choice to him, tell him you will take him wherever he wishes. The child wants to go to a high mountain so you take him there, but he either catches cold or falls. So of course you reprimand him, saying, "You wanted to go there", and give him a slap. Thus, Almighty God, the Firmest of Judges, makes His servant's will, which is utterly weak, a condition, and His universal will has it in view.
In Short: O man! You have a will known as the power of choice which is extremely weak, but whose hand in evil acts and destruction is extremely long, and in good deeds extremely short. Give one of the hands of that will of yours to supplication, so that it may reach Paradise, a fruit of the chain of good deeds, and stretch to eternal happiness. And give its other hand to the seeking of forgiveness so that it may be short for evil deeds and will not reach the Zakkum-tree of Hell, which is one fruit of that accursed tree. That is, just as supplication and reliance on God greatly strengthen the inclination to good, so too repentance and the seeking of forgiveness cut the inclination to evil and break its transgressions.
Belief in Divine Determining is one of the pillars of belief. That is: "Everything is determined by Almighty God." The certain proofs for Divine Determining are so numerous that they cannot be calculated. We shall show in an Introduction, in a simple and obvious way, how strong and broad this pillar of belief is.
Numerous verses of the Qur'an, like,
Nor anything fresh or dry [green or withered] but is [inscribed] in a Clear Book,
state clearly that before it comes into existence and after it passes from existence, everything is written. And through its creational signs like the order, balance, regularity, adornment, and the giving of form and distinction, the verses, the signs, of the mighty Qur'an inscribed by Divine Power and called the universe confirm these statements of the Qur'an. Indeed, the well-ordered missives and finely balanced verses of the Book of the Universe testify that everything is written. And the indication that everything is determined and written before it comes into existence are all beginnings, seeds, measured proportions, and forms; each of these testifies to this. For seeds and grains are subtle containers appearing from the workbench of Be! and it is in each of which is deposited a tiny index traced by Divine Determining. Divine Power employs minute particles according to that plan of Divine Determining, and constructs the mighty miracles of Power on the seeds. That is to say, everything that will happen to the tree is as though written in its seed. For in regard to their substance seeds are simple and the same as one another; materially they are nothing.
Furthermore, the well-measured proportions of everything clearly show Divine Determining. Yes, whatever living creature is considered, it is apparent that each has a form and measure as though it has emerged from a most wisely and skilfully wrought mould. To receive such a measure, form, and shape, there either has to be a truly wondrous and infinitely intricate physical mould, or else Pre-Eternal Power cuts out the form and shape according to a well-proportioned immaterial mould that exists in knowledge and comes from Divine Determining, and clothes it in it. For example, look carefully at this tree or that animal, you will see that the particles, which are lifeless, deaf, blind, unconscious, and similar to one another, are in motion in its growth and development. In some of their intricate extremities, the particles halt, as though seeing, knowing and recognizing the place of fruits and benefits. Then in another place they change their direction as though following some important aim. That means they are in motion in accordance with the immaterial measured proportions of the tree or animal, which come from Divine Determining, and the immaterial commands of those proportions.
Since there are the manifestations of Divine Determining to this extent in physical and visible things, for sure, the forms with which things are clothed with the passing of time and the states acquired through the motions they perform will also be dependent on the ordering of Divine Determining. Indeed, in a seed there are two manifestations of Divine Determining; one is self-evident and points to and tells of The Clear Book, which is a title of will and the creational commands; the other is theoretical, and alludes to and tells of The Clear Record, which is a title of Divine knowledge and the Divine command. Self-evident Divine Determining is the physical nature, states, and parts of the tree which the seed comprises. While theoretical Divine Determining is the stages, states, forms, motions, and glorifications which the tree will undergo and perform in the period of its life, and which are in the seed and will be created from it; these stages, states, forms, and acts, which constantly change and are called its life-history, each have a regulated measure in accordance with Divine Determining, like the tree's branches and leaves.
Since there is such a manifestation of Divine Determining in the most common and simple of things, it surely states that all things are written before they come into existence; this may be understood with small attention. Now, the evidence that the story of everything's life is written after its existence is all fruits, which tell of The Clear Book and The Clear Record in the world, and all faculties of memory in man, which point to and tell of The Preserved Tablet; each of these hints and testifies to them. Indeed, all the appointed events of a tree's life are written in its seeds, which are like the hearts of its fruits. And man's life-history together with some of the past events of the world are written in his memory in such a way that, as though copying out with the hand of power and pen of Divine Determining in a faculty as tiny as a mustard seed a small note from the page of his actions, the memory gives the note to man's hand and puts it in the pocket of his mind, so that at the time of reckoning he will call his actions to mind with it. And so too he may be confident that within this transience and death and these upheavals, there are numerous mirrors pertaining to eternity in which the All-Powerful and Wise One depicts and makes permanent the identities of transient beings. And there are truly numerous tablets pertaining to eternity in which the All-Knowing Preserver writes the meanings of transitory beings.
In Short: Since plant life, the simplest and lowest level of life, is dependent on Divine Determining to this degree, for sure, human life, the highest level of life, has been drawn in all in its details according to the measuring of Divine Determining. Yes, just as raindrops tell of clouds, and drops of water point to the existence of a water-source, and notes and portfolios to the existence of a large ledger, so too, the evident Divine Determining which we observe and which is the physical order in living beings, shows the notebook of will and creational commands known as The Clear Book, and the fruits, seeds, grains, forms, and shapes, which are like the droplets, notes, and portfolios of theoretical Divine Determining, which is the immaterial order and pertains to life, shows The Preserved Tablet, one office of Divine Knowledge, which is called The Clear Record.
To Conclude: We see clearly that at the time of their growth and development the particles of all living beings go to the intricate extremities and halt, then they change their path. At each of the extremities they produce the fruits of benefits, uses, and instances of wisdom. Self-evidently, the apparent measures of those things are drawn with a pen of Determining. Thus, observable, evident Divine Determining shows that in the immaterial states of living beings also are well-ordered, fruitful extremities and limits drawn with the pen of Divine Determining. Divine Power is the source, Divine Determining is the pattern. Power writes the meaningful book on that pattern. Since we understand clearly that the fruitful limits and purposeful extremities have been drawn with the pen of Divine Determining, material and immaterial, for sure, the states and stages which all living beings undergo in the course of their lives are also drawn with that pen. For their life-stories follow a course with order and balance; they change forms and receive shapes. Since the pen of Divine Determining thus rules in all living beings, surely the life-history of man, the world's most perfect fruit and Divine vicegerent on earth and bearer of the Supreme Trust, is more than anything dependent on the law of Divine Determining.
If you say: "Divine Determining has bound us like this. It has negated our freedom. Isn't belief in it a burden and irksome for the heart and spirit, which yearn for expansion and to roam freely?"
The Answer: Absolutely not! Just as it is not burdensome, so too it affords a light and joy which produce a lightness, ease, spirit, and sustenance, and ensure confidence and security. Because if man does not believe in Divine Determining, he is compelled to bear a burden as great as the world on the shoulders of his spirit within a narrow sphere, insignificant independence, and temporary freedom. For man is connected with the whole universe. He has infinite aims and desires. And since his power, will, and freedom are insufficient for a millionth of these, it may be understood how awesome and dreadful is the burden of the distress he suffers. Thus, belief in Divine Determining throws that burden in its entirety onto the ship of Divine Determining, and allows him to roam free within its perfections with perfect ease and perfect freedom of spirit and heart. It only negates the petty freedom of the evil-commanding soul and smashes its Pharaoh-like tyranny, its dominicality, and its acting as it wishes. Belief in Divine Determining is so full of pleasure and happiness it is beyond description. We shall just point to that pleasure and happiness with the following comparison.
Two men travelled to the seat of government of a king, and there entered his private palace, a place of strange wonders. One of them did not recognize the king and laying hands on everything and stealing them, wanted to settle there. However, he experienced difficulties and hardships like having to administer and manage the park and palace, and oversee its revenues, work its machines, and feed the strange animals; he suffered constant distress. The paradise-like park became like Hell for him. He pitied everything. He could not govern them. He passed his time regretfully. And then this thieving, unmannerly man was cast into prison as a punishment. The second man recognized the king and knew himself to be his guest. He believed that all the matters in the park and palace occurred through the regulation of the law, and that everything functioned with perfect ease in accordance with a programme. Leaving the difficulties and hardships to the king's law, he benefited with complete enjoyment from all the pleasures of that Paradise-like garden, and relying on the king's mercy and the fineness of the administrative laws, he saw everything as agreeable and passed his life with perfect pleasure and happiness. He understood the meaning of the saying: He who believes in Divine Determining is saved from grief.
If you say: "In the First Topic you proved that everything about Divine Determining is good and beautiful. Even the evil that comes from it is good, and the ugliness, beautiful. But the disasters and tribulations in this world refute that statement."
The Answer: O my soul and my friend who feel severe pain out of intense compassion! The fact that all virtues and perfections return to existence and that the basis of all rebellion, calamities, and defects is non-existence is a proof that existence is pure good and non-existence, pure evil. Since non-existence is pure evil, circumstances that either result in non-existence or give an inkling of it, also comprise evil. Therefore, life, the most brilliant light of existence, revolving in different circumstances, finds strength. It enters varying situations and is purified, and it takes on numerous qualities and produces the desired results, and enters many stages and displays comprehensively the impresses of the Bestower of Life's Names. Thus, it is due to this fact that certain situations occur concerning living creatures in the form of griefs, calamities, difficulties, and tribulations whereby the lights of existence are renewed for their lives, and the darkness of non-existence draws distant and their are lives purified. Because arrest, repose, silence, idleness, rest, and monotony, are in quality and as conditions all non-existence. Even the greatest pleasure is reduced to nothing by monotony.
In Short: Since life shows the impress of the Most Beautiful Names, everything that happens to life is good. For example, an extremely rich and infinitely skilful person who is proficient in many crafts, for an hour and in return for a wage, clothes a miserable wretch in a bejeweled, artistically fashioned garment he has made. This garment he made in order to make the miserable man act as a model and to display the works of his art and his valuable wealth. He works the garment on the man, gives it various forms, and alters it. And in order to display every variety of his art, he cuts it, changes it, and lengthens and shortens it. If the poor man receiving the wage says to the person: "You are giving me trouble. You are making me bow and stand up. By cutting and shortening this garment which makes me more beautiful, you are spoiling my beauty", can he be justified? Does he have the right to tell him: "You are acting unkindly and unfairly"? Thus, like him, the All-Glorious Maker, the Peerless Creator, alters within numerous circumstances the garment of existence He clothes on living creatures, bejeweled with senses and subtle faculties like eyes, ears, the reason, and the heart, in order to display the impresses of His Most Beautiful Names. He changes it within very many situations. In order to show the meanings of some of His Names, there are circumstances in the form of suffering and calamity, and rays of Mercy within flashes of wisdom, and subtle instances of beauty within those rays of Mercy.