VII PREDESTINATION VS. FATALISM
"'Tis all a chequer-board of nights and days
Where destiny with men for pieces plays;
Hither and thither moves and mates and slays,
And one by one back in the closet lays." - Omar Khayyam.
"It is this dark fatalism which, whatever the Koran may teach on the subject, is the ruling principle in all Moslem countries. It is this which makes all Mohammedan nations decay." - Sell's "Faith of Islam."
THE sixth great point of faith in Islam1 is Predestination, and it has important bearing on the Moslem idea of God. It expresses God's relation to the creature and to man as a moral agent. Although the terms used in describing predestination by Moslems and Christians (especially Calvinists) have much similarity the result of their reasoning is as far apart as the East from the West. It has often been asserted that the Mohammedan belief in God's eternal decrees and foreknowledge of good and evil is a sort of Oriental Calvinism. This, as we hope to
1 See the analysis of Islam in table, between pages 16 and 17.
show, is not the case. The word used by the Koran and in the Hadith for predestination is kadar; in theological Works by Moslems the more technical word is takdir. Both come from the same root, which means "to measure out," "to order beforehand." The Koran passages on this subject are many; the following are representative:
Surah 54:59: "All things have been created after fixed decree."
Surah 3:139: "No one can die except by God's permission according to the book that fixes the term of life."
Surah 8:17: "God slew them, and those shafts were God's, not thine."
Surah 9:51: "By no means can aught befall us save what God has destined for us."
Surah 44:4: "God misleadeth whom He will and whom He will He guideth." This occurs frequently.
Surah 37:94: "When God created you and what ye make."
And finally, the great proof-text, the Gibraltar in many a hot controversy, Surah 76:29, 30: "This truly is a warning; and whoso willeth taketh the way of his Lord; but will it ye shall not unless God will it, for God is knowing, wise."
Not to weary the reader with the commentaries, we give the orthodox interpretation of the above text in the words of Al Berkevi: "It is necessary to confess that good and evil take place by the predestination
and predetermination of God; that all that has been and all that will be was decreed in eternity and written on the preserved tablet; that the faith of the believer, the piety of the pious and their good actions are foreseen, willed and predestined, decreed by the writing on the preserved tablet produced and approved by God; that the unbelief of the unbeliever, the impiety of the impious, and bad actions come to pass with the foreknowledge, will, predestination and decree of God, but not with His satisfaction or approval. Should any ask why God willeth and produceth evil, we can only reply that He may have wise ends in view which we cannot comprehend." Practically, all Sunnite orthodox Moslems believe this doctrine in such a way that "by the force of God's eternal decree man is constrained to act thus or thus." This view is undoubtedly in accordance with the traditional sayings of Mohammed. Some of these traditions have been given in Chapter V; those that follow are literally translated from the section on Kadar in Mishkat-ul-Misabih:
"God created Adam and touched his back with His right hand and brought forth from it a family. And God said to Adam, I have created this family for Paradise and their actions will be like unto those of the people of Paradise. Then God touched the back of Adam and brought forth another family and said, I have created this for hell and their actions will be like unto those of the people of hell. Then
said a man to the prophet, Of what use will deeds of any kind be? He said, When God creates His slave for Paradise his actions will be deserving of it until he die, when he will enter therein; and when God creates one for the fire his actions will be like those of the people of hell till he die, when he will enter therein."
"Adam and Moses were once disputing before their Lord, and Moses said, 'Thou art Adam whom God created with his hand and breathed into thee of His spirit and angels worshipped thee and He made thee dwell in Paradise and then thou didst make men to fall down by thy sin to the earth.' Adam replied, 'Thou art Moses whom God distinguished by sending with thee his message and His Book and He gave thee the tables on which all things are recorded. Now tell me how many years before I was created did God write the Torat (the Pentateuch)?' Moses replied, 'Forty years.' Said Adam, 'And did you find written there, Adam transgressed against his Lord?' 'Yes,' said Moses. Said Adam, 'Then, why do you blame me for doing something which God decreed before He created me by forty years?
Another tradition relates that Mohammed one day took up two handfuls of earth and scattered them. So he said God "empties His hand of His slaves, a portion for Paradise and a portion for the blaze" (Mishkat, p. 21, bottom. Delhi edition). Another
form of the same tradition puts it still more coarsely: "These are for Paradise and I care not; and these for hell-fire and I care not."1
It is related that 'Aisha said "The prophet was invited to the funeral of a little Child. And I said, 'O Apostle of God, Blessed be this little bird of the birds of Paradise, it has not yet done evil nor been overtaken by evil.' 'Not so, 'Aisha,' said the apostle, 'verily, God created a people for Paradise and they were still in their father's loins, and a people for the fire and they were yet in their father's loins.'
According to these traditions, and the interpretation of them for more than ten centuries in the life of Moslems, this kind of predestination should be called fatalism and nothing else. For fatalism is the doctrine of an inevitable necessity and implies an omnipotent and arbitrary sovereign power. It is derived from the Latin fatum, what is spoken or decreed, and comes close to the Moslem phrase so often on their lips, "Allah katib," God wrote it. Among the Greeks, as in Homer, Fate had a twofold force; it is sometimes considered as superior and again as inferior in power to Zeus. Nor does the Greek idea of fate exclude guilt on the part of man.2 In both respects this idea of destiny is less fatalistic in its results than the teaching of Mohammed. "The God
1 Kisas-ul.Anbiya, Persian edition, p. 21.
2 See article on Homer's Idea of Fate in McClintock and Strong's Encyclopedia, Vol. III., p. 494.98
of Islam is more terrible even than the �schylean Zeus, inasmuch as of Him it cannot be asserted that He fears Fate or dreads the coming of one who shall drive Him from power. Nay, further, instead of being subject to Fate or Necessity, Allah's will is Fate."1 With such attributes as Mohammed ascribed to Allah, these ideas of predestination, or, better, fatalism, are in perfect accord. Islam exalts the Divine in its doctrine of the eternal decrees, not to combine it with, but to oppose it to, the human. This not only leads to neglect of the ethical idea in God, but puts fatalism in place of responsibility, makes God the author of evil, and sears the conscience as with a hot iron. God not only decreed the fall of Adam, but created Adam weak and with sensuous appetites so that it was natural he should fall. (Compare the commentaries on the passage, Surah 4:32, "God wants to make it easy for you and man was created weak.") "Allah katib," God decreed it, is the easy covering for many crimes. Moslem criminals often use it before their judge in a trial; and the judge, remembering Surah 4:32 sometimes gives his verdict on the same basis.
We can see also what Moslems understand by predestination from their use of certain other religious expressions which are so very common in all Moslem communities. Inshallah, "if God wills," that day cloak of comfort to Moslems, from Calcutta to Cairo,
1 W. St. Clair Tisdall's The Religion of the Crescent, p.65.
is an example.1 This phrase is equivalent grammatically, not logically, to the Biblical "if God wills." (James 4:15; Acts 18:21.) To the Moslem, God's will is certain, arbitrary, irresistible and inevitable before any event transpires. To the Christian God's will is secret until He reveals it; when He does reveal it we feel the imperative of duty. The Christian prays, "Thy will be done." This prayer is little less than blasphemy to a strict Mohammedan. Allah only reveals His will in accomplishing it; man submits. Therefore, were a Moslem to pray to Allah "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," he would at the least be guilty of folly. An archangel and a murderer, a devil and a gnat equally execute the will and purpose of Allah every moment of their existence. As He wills, and because He wills, they are what they are and continue what they are.
The same difference appears when we study the phrase, El-Hamdu-lillah, "the Praise is to God." The Biblical phrase, "Praise ye the Lord," implies personal responsibility, gratitude, activity; the Moslem phrase expresses submission, inevitableness, passivity, fatalism. Therefore, it is so often used in circumstances that to the Christian seem incongruous.2 The one phrase is the exponent of Islam, submission;
1 Surah 18:23 and Tradition.
2 It is true that the common people sometimes use the words to express joyful satisfaction and gratitude to the Almighty. But they use them continually in a fatalistic sense.
the other of Christianity, joy and gratitude. The first never occurs in Scripture; the latter is absent from the Koran.
The Moslem theory of prayer, also, is in accordance with this doctrine of the decrees. Prayer is reduced to a gymnastic exercise and a mechanical act; any one who has lived with Moslems needs no proof for this statement. According to the Koran and Tradition, prayer is always regarded as a duty and never as a privilege. It is a task imposed on Moslems by Allah. Allah first imposed fifty prayers a day, but Mohammed begged off from this number, on Moses's advice, ten after ten, until he returned triumphant with only five daily prayers on his list.1 Moslem daily prayer consists in worship rather than in petition; very few Moslems admit that prayer has objective power as well as subjective.
Mohammedan Fatalism is distinguished, still more radically, from even ultra-Calvinistic views of predestination, when we consider in each case the source of the decrees and their ultimate object. IN ISLAM THERE IS NO FATHERHOOD OF GOD AND NO PURPOSE OF REDEMPTION TO SOFTEN THE DOCTRINE OF THE DECREES.
1. The attribute of love is absent from Allah. We have already indicated this in our discussion of the attributes. The Love of God in a Christian sense
1 Mishkat-ul-Misabih and other books of Tradition in the section on prayer give this story in detail.
means either God's love to us or our love to Him. Both ideas are strange to Islam. An inter-communion of such tender regard between God and the creature is seldom or never spoken of in the Koran. In Suruh 2:160 we read "Yet there are some among men who take to themselves idols other than God they love them as God's love." But orthodox exegesis explains the last words by saying, i.e., "as His greatness and the impulse to obedience which He causes. (Beidhawi, Vol 1 p. 95.) In Surah 5:59 there is another reference to the love of God on the part of men similarly explained. How strong is the contrast between these two or three exceptional passages and the abundant and plain teaching of the Old and New Testament regarding the love which requires of man and which flows out from God to man!
In like manner God's love to man when it is referred to in the Koran is rather a love for his good qualities than for the man himself. Dr. Otto Pautz, who has collected all the passages that in any way bear on this subject, comes to the conclusion that in no case is there any reference to an inner personal relation" when the Koran even hints at this subject of which the Bible is so full.1 Umbreit says : "The God of Mohammed is in the wind, and in the earthquake, and in the fire, but not in the still small voice of
1 Otto Pautz's Mohammed's Lehre von der Offenbarunq quellenm�ssig untersucht, Leipzig, 1898, pp. 142, 143.
love."1 The mystic love of the Sufis (widespread and weighty though it be in its influence) is not a characteristic of orthodox Islam, but arose in rebellion to it.
The Fatherhood of God and the repeated declarations of Scripture that God loves the world, loves the sinner, loves mankind - that God is love - all this has had its influence on Christian speculation regarding the problem of God's decrees. In like manner the character of Allah has been the key to the same problem among Moslems. Islam, as we have seen, reduces God to the category of the will. He is at heart a despot, an Oriental despot. He stands at abysmal heights above humanity. He cares nothing for character, but only for submission. The only affair of men is to obey His decrees.
2. The Moslem doctrine of hell is in accordance with their coarse beliefs regarding Predestination and Mohammed's utter want of conception of the spiritual. According to the Koran and Tradition, Hell must be filled, and so God creates infidels.2 Of all religions in the world, Islam is the most severe in its conception of the capacity and the torments of hell. "On that day We will say to hell, Art thou full? and it will say, Are there any more?" (Surah 50:29.) The conception of hell is brutal, cruel and to the last degree barbarous. The whole picture, as
1 Theol. Studien, 14 Jahrgang, p. 240.
2 Surahs 32:13; 97:5; 4:11; 9:69. Cf. Commentaries.
given in the Koran and commented on by Tradition, is horribly revolting. "Hell shall be a place of snares, the home of transgressors, to abide therein for ages. No coolness shall they taste nor any drink, save boiling water and liquid pus. Meet recompense!" (Surahs 88:1-7; 2:38; 3:197; 14:20, 43:71-78, etc., etc.) The word Jehannum occurs thirty times; fire (nar) is still more frequently used; there are six other words used for the place of torment. One cannot read the traditions which give what Mohammed said on this subject without feeling how heartless and loveless is the creed of Islam.1 Yet it is in connection with such ideas of God that the Moslems believe in Predestination.
It is not difficult to surmise whence Mohammed got his ideas of a Predestination after the pattern of fatalism. Like so much of his other teaching it seems that the doctrine of kadar comes from the Talmud. Rabbi Geiger has shown how Mohammed borrowed from Judaism not only words, conceptions, legal rules and stories, but also doctrinal views2. The Scribes and Pharisees differed even at the time of Christ in their view of Predestination. The latter more and more followed a fatalistic idea of God's
1 Read Chapter X. on the Hell of Islam in Stanley Lane-Poole's Studies in a Mosque, pp. 311-326.
2 See Judaism and Islam, a Prize Essay by Rabbi Geiger, translated from the German. Madras, 1898. Also the original work. Wiesbaden, 1833.
decrees. Josephus writes as if, according to the Pharisees, the chief part in every good action depended on fate. (Jewish Wars 2:8.) And Edersheim grants that the Pharisees carried their accentuation of the Divine to the verge of fatalism. Their ideas, he shows, were in every respect similar to the present Moslem ideas. "Adam had been shown all the generations that were to spring from him. Every incident in the history of Israel had been foreordained and the actors in it, for good or for evil, were only instruments for carrying out the Divine Will... It was because man was predestined to die that the serpent came to seduce our first parents."1 The stories told in the Talmud about predestination of a man's bride, and his position and the place and time of his death, find their duplicates almost verbatim in the Moslem traditions.2 Wheresoever a man was destined to die thither would his feet carry him, says the Talmud. "On one occasion, King Solomon when attended by his two scribes suddenly perceived the Angel of Death. As he looked so sad, Solomon ascertained as its reason that the two scribes had been demanded at his hands. On this Solomon transported them by magic into the land of Luz, where, according to legend, no man ever died. Next morning Solomon again perceived the Angel of Death, but this time laughing, because, as he said
1 Eldersheim's Life of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. I., p.317.
2 See the references in Edersheim to the Talmudic tractates.
Solomon had sent these men to the very place whence he had been ordered to fetch them." (Talmudic Tractate. Sukkah, 53 a.) This same story is told by Moslems, according to traditions of the Prophet.1
There have been heterodox views on the subject of predestination. But no one who has read the history of Moslem sects can doubt that the account given in this chapter is the orthodox side of the question. The three views to which the multitude of sects can be reduced on this knotty problem are: The Jabariyun, or extreme fatalists; the Kadariyun, who affirm that man has free-agency (Moslem free-thinkers belong to this school); and the 'Asharians, who are a little more moderate than the first school.2 "The orthodox or Sunni belief is theoretically 'Asharian, but practically the Sunnis are confirmed Jabariyun." Other doctrines are considered quite heretical.
When we consider the deadening influence of this doctrine of fatalism we must remember that generally speaking there have been two schools of Moslem philosophy - the orthodox and the heretical. It is only the latter school that added to the knowledge of philosophy one iota. The attainments of the Arabs in philosophy have been greatly overrated. They were translators and transmitters of the Greek philosophy, and whatever was added to Plato and Aristotle
1 See Commentaries on Surah 32:11 and margin of Daka'ik ul-Akhbar and Shammoos-ul-Anwar.
2 Sell's Faith of Islam, p. 173.
came not from the side of orthodoxy, but was entirely the work of heretics, such as Averre�s, Alfarabi and Avicenna.1
The orthodox philosopher of Islam was Al-Ghazzali, and the result of his work was the complete triumph of unphilosophical orthodoxy.2
So utterly barren of ideas and opposed to all reason did this orthodoxy become that Sprenger sarcastically remarks concerning it: "The Moslem student marvelled neither at the acuteness nor yet at the audacity of his master; he marvelled rather at the wisdom of God which could draw forth such mysterious interpretations. Theology, in fact, had now made such happy progress that men looked on common sense as a mere human attribute - the reverse being that which they expected from Deity." And this was one of the results of Moslem speculation on the Koran doctrine of predestination.3
1 See Ueberweg's Hist. of Philosophy and Renan's Hist. Lang. Semit.
3 A special study on the Moslem Idea of Predestination has just appeared from the press by Rev. A. de Vlieger of the Calioub Mission. It is entitled, Kitab al Quadr, Materinux pour servir a l �tude de la doct. de la predestination dans la theologie musulmane. Leiden, 1902.
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