Divine Decree and Destiny in Divine Knowledge
God is beyond all comparison and whatever we conceive of Him, He is different from it. We can only acquire some knowledge of Him, not of His Divine Essence, but His Attributes and Names, by meditating on His acts and creatures and studying them. However, in order to understand His acts, sometimes we have to resort to comparisons, as it is allowed in The Holy Book’s verse, “God’s is the highest comparison.” Thus, in order to get some glimpse of the relation between Divine Knowledge and Destiny and Decree, we may ponder the following comparison:
Suppose there is an extremely skilful man, who is an engineer as well as an architect and a builder. He wants to build a magnificent house. First, he must have conceived of what kind of a house he wants to build. This is the existence of the house in the builder’s mind. Then, the skillful man draws a detailed plan of the house. This is the existence of the house as an actual design or plan. Afterwards, he puts this design into practice and builds the house according to it. This is the material existence of the house. The house is recorded in numerous memories, and even if it is destroyed completely, it continues to live in these memories and in the mind and plan of its builder. This is the final form of the house’s existence and has acquired some sort of perpetuity.
Before starting to write a book, an author must have the full content or knowledge of the full meaning of the book in his mind. This is the existence of the book as knowledge or as meaning. The existence of something (as in the examples for the book or house) as knowledge or meaning is its essential existence. Even if this knowledge or meaning is not put into words or into practice, it exists in the mind. Therefore, although it needs -matter- to be visible in the material world and known by others, knowledge or meaning is the essence in existence, upon which material existence depends.
In order to make his knowledge on a subject or the meaning in his mind visible and known by others in the material world, the author must express it in words. So, before putting it in words, he arranges it in chapters, sections and paragraphs, that is, he makes a detailed plan. Then, he writes it out and gives it material existence. Even if the book is completely destroyed and removed from the earth, it continues to live in numerous memories and in the mind of its author.
Likewise, God has full and exact knowledge of the universe as a whole and with all its parts down to the minutest particles. In order to have a glimpse of the infinite extent of His Knowledge, we can ponder the verses whose literal translations are as follows:
“It may be that you dislike a thing although it is good for you, and love a thing although it is bad for you. God knows, but you know not (2:216).”
“Say: ‘Whether you hide what is in your breasts or reveal it, God knows it. He knows all that the heavens and the earth contain; and He has power over all things’ (3:29).”
“With Him are the keys of the Unseen. None but He knows them. And He knows what is in the land and the sea. Not a leaf falls but He knows it; not a grain amid the darkness of the earth, nothing of wet or dry, but (it is) in a Manifest Book .”
“Say: ‘If the ocean were ink for the words of my Lord, assuredly the ocean would be used up before the words of my Lord were finished, even if We brought another (ocean) like it, for its aid’ (18:109).”
Even if He had not created the universe, the universe would still exist in His Knowledge. Since God Himself is beyond all time and space and all time and space is united in His Knowledge in a single point, and since His Knowledge does not depend on time and space, in relation to Him and His eternal, all-encompassing Knowledge, there cannot be things like precedence or posteriority or sequence or division of time. Time and space are only two dimensions of creation.
Everything eternally exists in God’s Knowledge. God knows all things with the exact peculiarities of each, and Divine Power clothes a thing in material existence according to Divine Will. This transference from Knowledge to the realm of material existence takes place within the limits of time and space. Knowledge and Will are two essential Attributes of Divine Being: God knows things; things exist in Knowledge, Will determines them with all their peculiarities according to a certain measure, and Power gives them material existence. The relation which we are trying to explain between Divine Knowledge and Destiny, is best expressed in the verse, the literal translation of which is as follows:
“There is not a thing but with us are the stores thereof. We send it not down save in appointed measure (15:21).”
By M. Fethullah Gulen