By: Shazia Yousuf
Mankind, a marvelous creation of God gifted with wisdom and knowledge, is a free soul, capable of doubt and disobedience. God’s gift, the free will or the freedom to choose, is the basic differentiating factor that raises man above all other creations. Whatever good that comes to us has already been given to us by God. Whatever misfortune comes our way is our own doing. With the ability to use the power of wisdom, the inner divine guidance, and disobedience, it is up to us to smoothly tread the path predestined by the Divine being or to go astray.
According to Neale Donald Walsch:
“You are what you experience. You experience what you express. You express what you have to express. You have what you grant yourself”.
Predestination, in some ways could actually be the fate or in other words, what has been destined for us by the Divine being. Does this mean that whatever happens to us has already been decided? Then what’s the point of free will? When everything is predestined, then why is it said that the Divine being has given us the freedom to choose? Is this really freedom or has mankind been restricted by predestination?
A verse from the Quran:
“Whatever misfortune strikes you is what your right hand has earned”
quite clearly reveals that it is up to us to choose whatever comes our way by making use of the divine gift of free will in an appropriate way.
Yet another verse:
“God misleads and directs as He chooses”
makes us feel that it is totally against the concept of free will. This “Free will” versus “Predestination” gets really mind boggling!
In fact, it may make one wonder that humans are powerless! Everything that happens whether it is good or evil, positive or negative, is all God’s prerogative. Poor human has no role to play in the course that life takes. He is just a puppet obeying all that has been destined for him! Then why should there be a concept of reward or punishment?
If we look closely, this verse in essence emphasizes the fact that those who are able to invoke their inner divine guidance are eventually directed on the correct path predestined by the Divine being.
As explained in “The Confessions of Al Ghazali”, the light of the Divine guidance is present throughout. God sheds it in the hearts of those who open up their hearts by detaching themselves from this world of illusion and drawing themselves closer to the eternal world which is the true destination. Man has to ceaselessly make effort to receive that light, which God sheds when He finds earnestness of the seeker’s desire for the Divine guidance. This does not in any way mean that God is waiting to see that earnestness. Through predefined system, that light begins to glow within the hearts of those who are able to achieve that state.
In order to understand this concept of Predestination and free will, we need to focus on the bigger picture. The beginning and the end, and the major milestones have been predestined. The remaining parameters are left to be handled or mishandled, by the permission of God. Man has been given the freedom to choose, by His will. So, making life heaven or hell is up to mankind!
Rumi has narrated this concept in the form of a story in his Mathnavi.
A man, who sees Israel (the angel of death) comes running to Solomon’s hall of justice. Upon inquiring, he tells Solomon about the angry gaze that Israel gave him and requested Solomon to use his special powers to send him to Hindustan. Solomon grants his wish.
The next morning, Solomon inquired Israel why he looked at that person with anger. Israel replied, that God had commanded him to take that person’s spirit yesterday in Hindustan. Israel was only wondering how that would be possible!
That which was predestined happened, but how it happened and the distress it created, was actually the choice of that man.
Pride of self negates the true effect of free will. However, aligning ourselves with Divinity smoothly leads us to the course that has been destined for us.
Both predestination and free will exist simultaneously!
“Belief lies between predestination and free will.” (Rumi)