5. Is The ‘Prosperity’ Or ‘Wretchedness’ Of Mankind, Inherent?

In verse 105 of Surah Hud, we read:

يَوْمَ يَأْتِ لاَ تَکَلَّمَ نَفْسٌ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِهِ فَمِنْهُمْ شَقِيٌّ وَ سَعِيدٌ

“On the day when it shall come, no soul shall speak except with His permission, then (some) of them shall be unhappy and (others) happy.” (11:105).

The question which arises is: Does this verse indicate that man's prosperity and wretchedness is inherent?

There are several points that need to be taken into consideration:

1. It as we had mentioned earlier, there are some who, on the basis of such verses, have sought to prove that man's prosperity and wretchedness is inherent. However, not only do they fail to prove this point, but they clearly prove that wretchedness and prosperity are states which are acquired. This is because the verse says:

أَمَّا الَّذِينَ شَقَوْا…

“As for those who will be wretched…” (11:106).


أَمَّا الَّذِينَ سُعِدُوا…

“As for those who are fortunate…” (11:108).

indeed, if prosperity and wretchedness were inherent, the verse should have said: …أَمَّا الأَشْقِيَاءُ ءِ وَ أَمَّا السُّعَدَاءُءِ… 'As for the wretched ones' and 'as for the fortunate ones', or something similar to this.

Accordingly, it becomes evident that what Fakhr Razi has said in his commentary, when he says - In these verses, Allah (s.w.t.) has already ruled that on the Day of Judgment a group shall be fortunate and blessed whilst another group shall be wretched; and it is impossible for those, regarding whom Allah (s.w.t.) has passed this ruling and about whom, He knows whether they shall be fortunate or wretched, to bring a change within themselves. This is because, should such a thing ever take place, it would mean that the words of Allah (s.w.t.) were lies and His knowledge was (in fact) ignorance - and this is impossible!! - is totally baseless.

This is the popular 'knowledge of Allah' objection, which is propounded in connection with the issue of jabr (compulsion) and ikhtiyar (choice). The answer to this claim is as follows:

If we desist from imposing our pre-conceived opinions upon the verse, then its meaning is clear, for it says: On that Day, a group shall be fortunate as a result of their deeds, while a group shall become wretched due to their deeds, and Allah (s.w.t.) is aware of those, who shall traverse the path to prosperity out of their own free will, and those, who shall advance towards wretchedness, out of their own will and choice.

Thus, contrary to what Fakhr Razi has said, if the people were compelled to select a path, His knowledge would in reality be His ignorance since He had known that all the people would opt for the blessed and wretched path of out of their own will and choice.

A proof to what has been stated above is the fact that the above verses are mentioned pursuant to the narratives of the previous nations, a large number of whom, as a result of deviation from the path of truth and opposition to the divine leaders, were seized by a painful chastisement in this world. And the Qur’an, with the objective of guiding us by distinguishing the paths leading towards prosperity and wretchedness, has recounted these narratives for us.

Essentially, as Fakhr Razi and other like-minded individuals imagine, if we were to possess inherent fortunateness and wretchedness, and if it were to be drawn towards good and evil deeds without any choice, all the teaching and training would be vain and futile. The coming of the prophets, the revelation of the Divine books, the advices, admonitions, encouragements, censures, rebukes, criticisms, remonstrations, Reckoning and finally, rewards and punishments - all of them - would be looked upon as either useless, or tyrannical!

Even those, who regard man as being compelled with respect to performing good or evil acts - irrespective of whether they consider this compulsion to be Divine compulsion, natural compulsion, economic compulsion or circumstantial compulsion, only advocate this theory when speaking or studying; however, when it comes to real life actions, even they do not profess this opinion.

And it is for this reason that when their rights are trampled they regard the transgressor as deserving rebuke and punishment, never willing to condone him on the basis that he had been 'compelled' into performing this act (on the part of Allah (s.w.t.)) or regard punishing him as being unjust, or say: he could not refrain himself from committing the act, for Allah (s.w.t.) or nature or the environment forced him into it. This is another proof of the inherent nature of ikhtiyar (choice).

Furthermore, we do not observe any of those who follow the belief of jabr (compulsion), adhering to this belief in the course of their daily activities; rather, in their interaction with the people, they always look upon them as individuals, who possess freedom and choice.

All the world's inhabitants, by setting up judicial systems for meting out punishments to the offenders, have practically acknowledged man's freedom of will.

All the educative institutions of the world too have implicitly accepted the opinion that man performs actions by means of his own will and inclination, and it is possible, by means of education, to distance him from errors, lapses and deviated thinking.

2. Interestingly, in the above verses, the word (شقوا) is in the active voice whereas the word (سُعِدُوا) is in the passive. This difference in expression could be a subtle allusion to the point that man advances upon the path of wretchedness by his own self, yet in order to advance upon the path of prosperity, he requires Divine assistance, in the absence of which he shall never be successful.

Undoubtedly, only those who have stepped out in this direction out of their own choice and will, and have developed within themselves the worthiness to benefit from such support, shall come to receive it.1

  • 1. Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 9, pg. 236.