Qada wal-Qadr and dealing with Life’s Challenges and Difficulties

Dr. Bilal A. Bhat & Intizar Ahmad

Qadar, coming from the root qadara (evaluate), may be defined as Allah’s predestination of everything for His creation in accordance with His prior knowledge; it is Allah’s decree or decision as in the verse: “Indeed, I have created all things according to predestined proportions [Qadar].”(Soorah al-Qamar, 54: 49) Qadar is one of the aspects of aqidah. Muslims believe that the divine destiny is when God wrote down in the Preserved Tablet (al-lawh al-mahfooz) (several other spellings are used for this in English) all that has happened and will happen, which will come to pass as written. According to this belief, a person’s action is not caused by what is written in the preserved tablet, but rather the action is written in the tablet because God already knows all occurrences without the restrictions of time. On the other hand, the causal relationships are also part of Qadar, since human acts affect what is stated in the Preserved Tablet. The phrase reflects a Muslim doctrine that Allah has measured out the span of every person’s life, their lot of good or ill fortune, and the fruits of their efforts. Again Allah does not need to force anyone to do good or evil by interfering with his will, and nobody will bear witness that Allah did so. When referring to the future, Muslims frequently qualify any predictions of what will come to pass with the phrase Insha’Allah, Arabic for “if God willed [it].” The phrase recognizes that human knowledge of the future is limited, and that all that may or may not come to pass is under the control and knowledge of God. However, people are not predestined by Allah to enter Hell. Rather, people will only bear their own sins that they themselves committed with free will and no one will be responsible for another person’s deeds. The Quran holds that no man will be treated unjustly and everything will be judged by Allah. The Quran says this in the following verse: ” Say: You will not be questioned as to what we are guilty of, nor shall we be questioned as to what you do. Say: Our Lord will gather us together, then will He judge between us with the truth; and He is the greatest Judge, the All-knowing.” ( Quran, Sura 34 (Saba’), ayat 25-26) They will cry out to them: Were we not with you? They shall say: “Yes! but “you caused yourselves to fall into temptation, and you waited and doubted, and vain desires deceived you till the threatened punishment of Allah came, while the arch deceiver deceived you about Allah.”  (Quran, Sura 57 (Al-Hadid), ayat 14) And if Allah had known any good in them He would have made them hear, and if He makes them hear they would turn back while they withdraw.(Quran, Sura 8 (Al-Anfaal), ayat 23) Nor would thy Lord be the One to destroy communities for a single wrong-doing, if its members were likely to mend. If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people: but they will not cease to dispute. Except those on whom thy Lord hath bestowed His Mercy: and for this did He create them: and the Word of thy Lord shall be fulfilled: “I will fill Hell with jinns and men all together.” ( Quran, Sura 11 (Hud), ayat 119) No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (al-lawh al-mahfooz), before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah. (Quran, Sura 57, ayat 22) A hadith reports that Muhammad said about Qadr: Ali narrated that one day the Messenger of Allah was sitting with a wooden stick in his hand with which he was scratching the ground. He raised his head and said, “There is none of you, but has his place assigned either in the Fire or in Paradise.” They (the Companions) inquired, “O Allah’s Messenger! Why should we carry on doing good deeds, shall we depend (upon Qadar) and give up work?” Muhammad said: “No, carry on doing good deeds, for everyone will find it easy (to do) such deeds that will lead him towards that for which he has been created.” Then he recited the verse: “As for him who gives (in charity) and keeps his duty to Allah and fears Him, and believes in al-Husna, We will make smooth for him the path of Ease (goodness) (Surah al-Lail 92:5-7). (Sahih Muslim). However, it is made clear that no person has the power to benefit or harm himself or others, and that guidance is only given by Allah, no one else has the power to give guidance. The Quran says: For those who do good is good (reward) and more (than this); and blackness or ignominy shall not cover their faces; these are the dwellers of the garden; in it they shall abide. ( Quran, Sura 10 (Yunus), ayat 26). In our lives, we all come across various difficulties. However, not all of us handle them as effectively as we should. As strategies for getting through life’s problems are rarely formally learned, we are constrained to use trial and error, sometimes leading to sub-optimal results.
For those who do good is good (reward) and more (than this); and blackness or ignominy shall not cover their faces; these are the dwellers of the garden; in it they shall abide. ( Quran, 10:26)
To deal effectively with our difficulties and problems requires appropriate emotional control, acceptance of realities, charting out a course of action, and finally taking preventive measures to keep future problems at bay. Thus, arming ourselves with the right intellectual, mental, and spiritual strategies to get through these phases can help us achieve successful breakthroughs. Let’s go over those steps in more detail. (a) The Emotional Response: An emotional response to a difficulty or calamity is normal and only human. However, emotions have to be managed and channeled appropriately; else they can manifest negatively within our personalities and affect our lives in general. The scientists, too, confirms that emotionally-reactive individuals confronting even relatively minor challenges in their lives are prone to increased physical problems and diseases. In the first sermon, the prophet (peace be upon him) instructed people to exercise patience and to maintain a composed demeanor in tough times. When his son Ibrahim was dying, the prophet’s eyes filled with tears. Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Awf said, ‘Are you weeping when you have forbidden us to weep?’ The Prophet said, ‘I do not forbid weeping. What I have forbidden is two foolish and evil kinds of voices: voices at times of entertainment and play and the flutes of Shaytaan, and voices at times of calamity and scratching the face and rending the garments and screaming.’” [Al-Tirmidhi, al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra (4/69), classed as hasan by al-Albaani] In other cases, emotions are channeled to fester, which then leads to the development of a victimized mindset. If anyone show any signs of having a victimized mindset then he need to snap out of it and adopt a more positive and reality based mindset instead. That can put him on the right path to get out of his difficulties faster. (b) Trying to make sense of the difficulties (through Qada wal-Qadr): When facing difficulties, our weak faith can sometimes drive us to question the fairness of it all. In this context, we should remind ourselves that believing in al-Qadr (Allah’s divine will and decree) is one of the pillars of Islamic faith. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, it means belief in (1) Allah, (2) Angels, (3) revealed Holy Books (Quran, Bible, Torah, etc.), (4) His Messengers, (4) Day of Judgment, and (5) to believe in al-qadar (the divine decree) both good and bad. Allah also says in the Quran, “No calamity befalls on the earth or in your selves but it is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (al-Lauh al-Mahfuz) before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah.” [al-Hadeed 57:22]. As part of that belief, we should therefore recognize that Allah does what He wills for reasons that are only known to Him. Any attempt to comprehend with our limited minds His wisdom, or to understand how our current situation fits in His overall plan can only lead us to erroneous conclusions. (c) The “If-Only” Trap: Another trap that many of us fall into has to do with using the “if-only” logic. Very often, our minds tell us that “if I could have done such and such, then this wouldn’t have happened.” The prophet warned us against falling into such satanic traps. In a hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah, the prophet remarked, “…….If anything befalls you, do not say ‘If only I had done (such and such), the such and such would have happened,’ rather say: ‘Allah has decreed and what He wills He does,’ for ‘if only’ opens the door to the work of the shaytaan.” Narrated by Muslim (2664). We see another example of this during the battle of Uhud when many Muslims died. This gave the hypocrites an excuse to criticize the divine decree. But Allah refuted their claims by stating (interpretation of the meaning): “Say: ‘Even if you had remained in your homes, those for whom death was decreed would certainly have gone forth to the place of their death’”. [Aal ‘Imraan 3:154]. This further goes to show that what Allah decrees is inevitable. Any attempt to imagine a different outcome based on different actions that we could have taken in the past will only increase our frustrations. This belief is also a blessing because it prevents us from returning to the past that can result in nothing but an added emotional baggage. In this context, many among us also resort to blaming people, including those close to us. To summarize, accepting the divine decree can help us in not only forgoing the past but to also win Allah’s pleasure.
Suppressing our urge to blame others by maintaining a positive mindset can help us maintain healthy relationships and in also keeping good recommendations and advice flowing. (d) Getting yourself out of trouble: Having accepted Allah’s decree, and after getting over any emotional challenges, the next step involves taking the right actions to get us out of our problems and difficulties. Actively engaging our God gifted faculties to pull us out of such situations is not as common as one may think. Thus, many a time we fail to achieve successful breakthroughs because we either follow a haphazard approach to resolve our problems or give up on our efforts too early in the process. This leads us to get stalled and makes us regard situations as irresolvable, hoping and praying for miracles to pull us out. On the spiritual front, we should recognize that if Allah puts us through trials or punishes us because of our sins, the decision is His. However, seeking forgiveness through repentance (Istighfar) can help undo the damage of our sins. As the prophet (peace be upon him) said: “whoever does a lot of Istighfar, Allah will provide him a way out of each concern he has, and will solve all his troubles, and will provide him with livelihood from sources that were not known to him” (Narrated by Imam Ahmad, Sanad Sahih) (e ) Preventive measures: Finally, although Allah’s decree is ordained, there are things we can do beforehand to influence the outcome of our efforts, and thus prevent problems from piling up. First, we should never forget that Allah has provided us with a free will and associated faculties to think and act. As the prophet had stated, while we should fully trust Allah, we should tie our horse first – meaning we should use all our God-gifted faculties and exercise the required due diligence.Second, for cases in which we fumble to choose between options, we should exercise the use of the Istikhara prayers. The text of the dua recited in those prayers clearly reflects your plea to Allah to make the desired decision work for you if it’s good for you, or to ward it off if it’s not. By doing so, you consciously put your faith in Him to guide you. This will reduce the likelihood of you ending up with a failed outcome and thus an added burden for you to carry in the future. To conclude, belief in al-qadar is the real test of the extent of a person’s belief in Allah. We should consider, happiness, sorrow, victory, defeat, day-night as the two sides of the coin to face challenges in life. Quran says, “It may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.”(Soorah al-Baqarah, 2: 216) It is the true test of how much a person really knows about his Lord and what results from this knowledge of certain and sincere faith in Allah, and His attributes of majesty and perfection. That is because al-qadar raises many questions for the one who gives free rein to his reasoning to try to fully comprehend it. There have been many disputes concerning the issue of al-qadar and many people have engaged in debates and misinterpreted the verses of the Qur’aan that mention it. Indeed, the enemies of Islam in all eras have provoked confusion in the Muslims’ beliefs by discussing the issue of al-qadar and stirring up doubts about it. So no one can have true and certain faith except the one who knows Allah by His beautiful names and sublime attributes, submitting to His commands with peace of mind and trusting in his Lord. In that case no doubts or specious arguments can find a way into his heart. Undoubtedly this is the greatest proof that belief in al-qadar is more important than belief in the other pillars of faith, and that the human mind cannot independently come to understand al-qadar, because al-qadar is one of the mysteries of Allah in His creation; whatever Allah has disclosed to us in His Book or on the lips of His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) we know, accept and believe in, and whatever our Lord has not told us, we believe in and we believe in His perfect justice and wisdom, and that He is not to be questioned about what He does, but they will be questioned. A strong faith can help us to attain the wisdom that life demands from us to get through even the most difficult challenges.
(The authors write regularly on Islamic topics for Kashmir Horizon exclusively. Views are their own) [email protected]

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