Why Do Both Destiny and Man’s Free Will Exist?
Destiny and man’s free will, which marks the farthest point of perfection of one’s belief and submission, is something related to the inner experience and spiritual state of a believer, so it is not something indicated by science or theory. Man has free will, and is enjoined to follow the religious obligations. He cannot by any means ascribe his sins to God. Divine Destiny exists so that the believer does not grow proud of his good acts by ascribing them to himself. Man has free will so that the rebellious carnal self does not rid itself of the consequences of its sins by ascribing them to Destiny, and the pious person conceitedly ascribe his good acts to himself alone.
While it may be admissible for people to relate some misfortunes to Divine Destiny, so as not to be driven to despair in the face of calamities, no one can be absolved from his sins and exempt from his obligations by attributing everything to Destiny. So, belief in Destiny has been included among the principles of faith to preserve man from self-conceit, and man’s free will is recognized as the ground of his sins.
Man is completely responsible for his sins, because it is he himself who wills to commit them, and then does so. Sins are the cause of much disorder and destruction, so they may merit a terrible punishment–to cite an example, a house can easily be burnt to the ground just by the striking of a match. On the other hand, man has no right to boast about his good acts since, in reality, he has little share in them. It is the Divine Compassion, which demands good acts, and the Power of the Lord, which creates them. God guides man to good acts and makes him succeed in willing and doing them, so the cause of a man’s good acts is the Divine Will. A man can possess and own them by means of faith and by praying to God to be able to deserve them, consciously believing in the necessity of performing them and being pleased with what God has ordained for him. It is man himself, on the other hand, who causes sins either through capacity and disposition or through choice and preference, just as the pure bright sunlight can cause some substances, which are subject to decomposition to go bad and putrefy.
Man wills and commits sins, but it is God Who creates all his acts whether they are good or bad. God creates a sinful act as a requirement of a law He established for the life of man and the universe for many good purposes. Although man derives much benefit from rain, a person who has suffered some harm because of it cannot say that rain does not contain God’s grace for man. It is on account of this subtle reality that willing and committing evil deeds is evil but creating them is not. Although there may be an evil in creating evil deeds on the part of man, creation is absolutely good by its very nature and contains many instances of good for the general operation and life of the universe as well as for the one who wills and commits that evil. Ugliness in a man’s acts lies in his will and potential, not in God’s creating it.
As Divine Destiny is absolutely free from evil and ugliness in relation to results, it is also exempt from injustice on account of the causes. Divine Destiny always takes into consideration the primary cause, not the apparent secondary cause, and always does justice. Men, on the other hand, judge according to the apparent causes and draw the wrong conclusions. To cite an example, a court may condemn a person to imprisonment on a charge of theft, and do injustice because he has not committed any such crime–however, Divine Destiny actually passes this judgment on account of the murder, which that person committed but which remained secret. Thus, while the court has done injustice by condemning him on a charge of which he is innocent, Divine Destiny has done justice by punishing him for a crime, which remained unknown. It can be concluded from this example that God is absolutely just in all His acts, whilst man is liable to do injustice. Divine Destiny and Creation is absolutely free from evil and ugliness at the beginning and at the end of events, and on account of cause and results.
In short: It is permissible for the believer to speak of Divine Destiny and man’s free will, when his faith is perfect and when he is mature enough to perceive that all creation including himself is at God’s disposal. He assumes his responsibilities because he has free will and glorifies God by proclaiming Him to be free of any involvement with his own sins. He never forgets that he is a servant of God, and accordingly tries to follow all the Divine Commandments. On the other hand, he remains thankful to God by ascribing to Divine Destiny any good acts he has been able to achieve, and never boasts of them. Also he finds the strength to bear all his misfortunes by discerning in them the role of Destiny.
However, it is not proper for anyone who neglects the Divine Commandments to argue about Divine Destiny and man’s free will, since his defective thinking will lead him to ascribe the whole of creation to causes and ignore God completely. He appropriates all his skills and good deeds, regarding them to have originated directly with himself, and attributes his defects and failures to Destiny. This view means the reduction of Divine Destiny and free will to a senseless trick played upon man by his own commanding self to mislead him to the point where he disregards and denies his religious duties.
How can you explain why so insignificant a thing as free will?
Compared with God’s acts and creation and man’s function in existence, the role of the free will is really insignificant. It is because of this that some have gone so far as to deny it, and those who follow the ‘middle path’ in this matter have concluded that the free will is an inclination or something like inclination or, less than being an inclination, it is man’s preference between the inclinations he feels in himself and putting one of them into effect. It is actually like pressing the switch to light a house or a city.
Before asking about the reason why God Almighty may condemn a man to eternal Hellfire because of his misuse of his free will in so short a time as a life-span, we should think about whether we can really deserve eternal Paradise by using our free will in the right way. Should we not consider how we could ever adequately perform the duty of giving thanks to God for the bounties pouring down upon us? If we worshipped Him incessantly during our whole lifetime, still we would not be able to pay our debt of thanksgiving for only our eyes. Again, as pointed out earlier, a single pomegranate or a cherry, costs the whole of the universe, for its growth or production requires the cooperation of air, water, earth, and the sun, none of which, coming together to cooperate, even the whole of mankind could produce. Furthermore, God Almighty asks us to assign only a small portion of our time for worship. The time we spend on daily-prescribed prayers hardly exceeds one hour, one twenty-fourth part of a day. The amount of the wealth, which we are enjoined to give as prescribed alms, is, in most cases, one fortieth. We are obliged, if indeed we can afford it, to go on pilgrimage only once in our whole lifetime. All the rest of our life and wealth goes on worldly things. Despite this, God, the All Merciful, promises us eternal Paradise, the blessings and beauties of which are beyond imagination. So, we should, first of all, think about God’s infinite mercy, which enfolds us and invites us to Paradise.
By M. Fethullah Gulen