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72. Destiny and Decree

Allah, the Wise, has said:

وَ خَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْ‏ءٍ فَقَدَّرَهُ تَقْدِيراً

“Who created everything, then ordained for it a measure”1

Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) said:

فِي قَضَاءِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ كُلُّ خَيْرٍ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ‏

“In every decree of God, there is goodness and benefit for the Mu'min”2

Short Explanation

‘Destiny and decree’ is an issue that is related to dogmatic theology; one which is so extremely intricate, that comprehending it fully is not everybody’s piece of cake.

A Mu'min ought to realize that whatever God decrees for him, irrespective of poverty and affluence, life and death, sickness and soundness of health, are for his good.

Since God is Wise and Aware of the wellbeing of His servants, whatever He decrees is in their best interests.

If one comes to acquire a firm conviction in the divine Wisdom and Prudence, sorrow would dissipate from the hearts, happiness would enter into the lives and none would have any anxiety with respect to one’s livelihood.

1) Fetters upon the Feet

Muhammad Mahlabi, a minister relates:

Once before I became a minister, I had embarked on a journey by ship from Basrah to Baghdad. Amongst the others in the ship was person who was very frivolous and jocose. In jest, his friends bound his feet by means of chains. However, a little later when they wanted to remove the chains, to their horror they realized they were unable to do so.

When we reached Baghdad, we called for a blacksmith in order to cut the chains, but he refused saying: I cannot do this without the order of the judge.

The inmates of the ship proceeded to approach the judge and narrating the entire episode, requested him to instruct the blacksmith to cut the chains. At that juncture a youth happened to enter the gathering; looking angrily at the person in chains, he said: Are you not such and such person, who, in Basrah had killed my brother and escaped? It has been some time now that I have been in search of you.

He then brought some people of Basrah, who testified before the judge. The judge, on the basis of the testimony of the witnesses, put the person to death as a retaliation punishment for the murder committed by him. All were filled with amazement as to how, in fun, they had managed to chain a killer and hand him over to the authorities.3

2) Fish from the Sky

Men are governed by destiny and decree; God grants to His servants what He knows is good and beneficial for them. The late Sheikh Muhammad Husain Moulavi narrates:

In the midst of World War II, I was compelled to enter Bahrain. On a wide scale, the people of Bahrain stated: Due to the war and non-provision of supplies, for a whole week we had to remain hungry; our grains and crops had all become exhausted. All of us thronged into the mosque and Husainiyyah and began to pray. Later we observed that, by the order of God, a vapour ascended from the sea. This vapour soon transformed itself into a cloud and a strange rain, which was accompanied by fish, poured down upon us. The fish was of excellent quality, and managed to sustain us for a week till food supplies eventually reached us!4

3) I’zraaeel, the Companion of Prophet Sulaiman

One day I'zraaeel entered the assembly of Prophet Sulaiman (peace be upon him). In that gathering, he persistently stared at one of the associates of Sulaiman (peace be upon him) and after a short while, departed from the gathering.

After he had left, the person asked Prophet Sulaiman (peace be upon him): Who was that person?

I'zraaeel, he (peace be upon him) replied.

The man remarked: He kept looking at me as if he intended to seize my soul.

Prophet Sulaiman (peace be upon him) inquired: What do you desire now?

The man said: Order the wind to take me to India so that I may be far away from him.

Prophet Sulaiman (be upon him) commanded the wind, which took the person to India.

The next time Prophet Sulaiman (peace be upon him) met I'zraaeel, he asked: Why were you staring at one of my associates?

He replied: I had been ordered by God to seize the soul of that person, in a short while from that time, in India! But seeing him there left me greatly astonished. However, when I went to India at the appointed5 hour, I found him there and seized his soul there.6

4) The Hoopoe

One day, the army of Prophet Sulaiman (peace be upon him) which also included the birds, convened a regal gathering in front of him (peace be upon him).

All of them, exhibiting utmost decorum and civility, stood before him (peace be upon him); each of the birds informed him (peace be upon him) of the skill and knowledge that it possessed till it was the turn of the hoopoe.

The hoopeo said: The skill that I possess is that when I am flying at great heights I am able to perceive, by my sharp and penetrative eyes, whether the water which lies in the depths of the ground gushes out of mud or from stone. It would be appropriate to grant me a rank in your army so that I can provide you information about the presence of water when you embark upon your journeys.

Prophet Sulaiman (peace be upon him) agreed and granted him the task of pointing out the water. When the crow came to know of this, he approached Prophet Sulaiman (peace be upon him) and said: The hoopoe has not spoken the truth; if he is truly able to perceive the water within the earth, then how is it that he is not able to perceive the snare, which is only covered by a handful of earth, which traps him and lands him in a cage?

The hoopoe answered: O’ Prophet Sulaiman! Do not pay heed to the words of my enemy! If I speak lies, you can sever my head from my body. While I am in flight I am able to perceive the snare; however, when the (divine) destiny and decree comes into play, a curtain clouds my intellect and ration. 7

5) Faghfoor, the Chinese Emperor

Having commenced his military expeditions and having brought numerous countries under his sway, Alexander then focused his sights upon China. Marching there, he laid siege to it.

The Emperor of China, in the guise of a doorkeeper, arrived in the presence of Alexander and said to him: Faghfoor, the Chinese Emperor, has sent a message that I must convey to you in privacy.

Alexander ordered everyone to leave; the gathering dispersed, leaving the two of them in solitude.

The Chinese Emperor, revealing his identity, said: I am Faghfoor, the Emperor of China. Intensely astonished, Alexander said: What gave you the confidence to dare to undertake such a step?

Faghfoor said: I consider you to be a virtuous and rational Sultan. There never has been any enmity between us, and never have I harboured any evil thoughts about you. If you were to kill me, not a single person shall die from my army. But I have come to you personally so that I can give you whatever you desire from me.

Alexander said: I want you to give me the taxes of three years of China.

When Faghfoor agreed, Alexander inquired: How would your state be after you have given me the taxes.

Faghfoor confessed: I shall be so weak that I would succumb to any enemy that happens to attack me.

Alexander said: If I were to be contented with the taxes of two years, how then would your position be?

Faghfoor replied: My condition would be slightly better than before.

What if I were to take the taxes of only one year? Alexander queried.

Faghfoor said: In that case, my empire shall suffer no difficulty and I shall not be distressed in the least.

Hearing this, Alexander said: I shall be contented with only six months of taxes!

Faghfoor invited him to a banquet the following day so that he could hand over to him the six months of taxes.

The following day, entering China, Alexander was left speechless when he observed a huge army that was armed to the teeth. The entire army of Alexander found itself ensconced within the Chinese army.

Alexander felt a little apprehensive and rued the fact that he did not come armed;

Addressing Faghfoor, he said: Did you intend to play a trick on me by readying such a large army?

Faghfoor replied: I knew that by you have been granted a great empire by means of divine decree, and that you are backed by divine succour; whoever opposes the prosperous ones is bound to taste defeat. This army is only for the purpose of exhibition obedience and reverence to you.

Hearing this, Alexander said: Due to this understanding and reverence on your part, I gift to you the taxes of the six months that I had sought from you.8

  • 1. Holy Qur'an, ch. Al-Furqaan (25), vs. 2.
  • 2. Bihaar al-Anwaar, vol. 71, pg. 152.
  • 3. Namunah-e-Ma’arif, vol. 3, pg. 146.
  • 4. Daastaan-ha-e-Shigift, pg. 313.
  • 5. چون به امر حق به هندوسنان شدم دیدمش آنجا و جانش بستدم
    تو همه کار جهان را همچنين کن قياس و چشم بگشا و ببين
  • 6. A’alam-e-Barzakh, pg. 29; Mahajjah al-Baidhaa, vol. 8, pg. 268.
  • 7. Daastaan-ha-e-Mathnawi, vol. 1, pg. 41.
  • 8. Khazinah al-Jawaahir, pg. 676; Zeenah al-Majaalis.

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