Khutbas by Hajj Abdalhaqq
Qadar Khutba (8th September 2006)
First Khutba Friday 8th September 2006
We sent it down on a blessed night; We are constantly giving warning.
During it every wise decree is specified by a command from Our presence.
We are constantly sending out as a mercy from your Lord.
He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing:
the Lord of the heavens and the earth and everything in between them,
if you are people with certainty.
There is no god but Him – He gives life and causes to die –
your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers, the previous peoples. (44:2-7)
The blessed night mentioned in these ayats is taken by many mufassirun to refer to the night which has just passed, the night of 15th Sha’aban, a night which as we know is celebrated by many Muslims as the Laylatu’l-Bara. The reason for this night being marked out in this way is because in the ayat Allah ta’ala tells us that it is the time when His decree is made specific, particularly with respect to people’s lifespans. This is confirmed by a hadith in which A’isha, radiya’llahu ‘anha, asked the Prophet, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, why he fasted so much in the month of Sha’ban and he replied, “In this month Allah writes down the death of everyone who will die during the coming year and I would like my destiny to reach me while I am fasting.” So it gives us a good opportunity to look at a matter which as a general rule receives little attention from the Muslims in spite of its great importance as one of the six pillars of iman: Belief in al-Qadar – the Divine Decree.
The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said about iman in the famous hadith from Sayyidina ‘Umar, radiya’llahu ‘anhu, defining our din that it is: “That you believe in Allah, his angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Last Day and that you believe in the Decree, both its good and its evil.” He added in some transmissions, “And both its sweet and its bitter.” “Good” in this context is said to refer to obeying Allah and doing good, “evil” to wrong action and unbelief; “sweet” to things which human beings like, such as wealth and good health and all manifestations of Divine beauty, and “bitter” to things which human beings dislike, such as illness and poverty, abasement and all manifestations of Divine majesty.
Iman in the Decree is unnecessarily considered problematic. The basic belief is really very simple: that everything which happens in existence is in the foreknowledge of Allah, the Creator of the universe and can not occur in any other way than the way it does, but, at the same time, this does not affect the fact that every human being is absolutely accountable for everything they do. Although various groups of rationalists and determinists have wasted much time over the centuries arguing about this matter, the fact is that the vast majority of Muslims have had no trouble in resolving the apparent paradox involved and comprehending that Allah, ta’ala, has absolute control of existence at every moment but that they are at the same time completely responsible for all their actions.
Allah, ‘azza wa jall, makes the whole thing crystal clear for us in many ayats of His Book.
He knows everything in the land and sea. No leaf falls without His knowing it. There is no seed in the darkness of the earth, and nothing moist or dry which is not in a Clear Book. (6:60)
There is nothing in existence other than what Allah has decided beforehand should be there.
Nothing occurs, either in the earth or in yourselves, without its being in a Book before We make it happen. That is something easy for Allah. (57:21)
Nothing whatsoever happens without the foreknowledge of Allah that it will take place.
Say: ‘Nothing can happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us. He is Our Master. It is in Allah that the muminun should put their trust.’ (9:51)
This includes what happens, in detail, to every human being and the mumin knows this and accepts it.
However, it happened so that Allah could settle a matter whose result was preordained: (8:42)
Here Allah is referring to the predestination of a specific event: the victory at Badr.
Allah ta’ala is particularly specific in many ayats about the preordination of the time of death of every human being, saying for example in Sura Ali ‘Imran:
"No self can die except with Allah's permission, at a predetermined time." (3:145) And in Sura Fatir:
"And no living thing lives long or has its life cut short without that being in a Book." (35:11)
The Prophet, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was equally explicit on the subject of the Divine Decree and there are several hadiths which deal with it in a very overt way. In the well-known hadith reported by Abdallah ibn Mas’ud which we find in both Bukhari and Muslim, he said, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “The creation of each of you takes place by being brought together in your mother’s womb for forty days as a drop, then for a similar period as a clot, then for a similar period as a lump of flesh. Then the angel is sent to it to breathe the ruh into it and is ordered to dictate four things: its provision, its lifespan, its actions and whether it will be in the Fire or the Garden.” We can see from this hadith that the precise destiny of each individual is mapped out in detail before their emergence into this world. In some advice he gave to his young cousin Abdallah ibn Abbas the Prophet, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “Know that whatever misses you could never have hit you and what hits you could never have missed you." And he added in one transmission, "The pens have been lifted and the pages are dry." And in a similar vein he once said to Abu Hurayra, radiya’llahu ‘anhu, “The pen is dry with respect to what you will meet, Abu Hurayra.” He said on another occasion, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “Everything is by a decree, even lack of strength and lack of intelligence.”
The whole matter receives a classical formulation in the Risala of Ibn abi Zayd al-Qayrawani:
Everything that happens has been decreed by Allah, our Lord. The way things are decided is entirely in His hand and the way they happen is according to His Decree. He knows all things before they come into existence and they take place in the way He has already decided. There is nothing that His servants say or do which He has not decreed and does not have knowledge of. "Does not He who creates know, when He is the Subtle and the All-Aware." (67:14) He leads astray whoever He wills and in His justice debases them, and He guides whoever He wills and in His generosity grants them success. In that way everyone is eased by Him to what He already has knowledge of and has previously decreed, as to whether they are to be among the fortunate or the miserable. He is exalted above there being anything He does not desire in His kingdom, or that there should be anything not dependent on Him, or that there should be any creator of anything other than Him, the Lord of all people, the Lord of their actions, the One who decrees their movements and the time of their death.
This is the way existence works, the way things are, and anyone who denies it or doubts it is a kafir by consensus. Anyone who believes it through knowledge but then does not accept it when it actually happens, is a fasiq by consensus.
Second Khutba Friday 8th September 2006
that man will have nothing but what he strives for; that his striving will most certainly be seen;
that he will then receive repayment of the fullest kind; (53:38-40)
As for anyone who desires this fleeting existence, We hasten in it whatever We will to whoever We want.
Then We will consign him to Hell where he will roast, reviled and driven out.
But as for anyone who desires the akhira, strives for it with the striving it deserves,being a mumin,
the striving of such people will be gratefully acknowledged. (17:18-19)
Up to now we have only looked at the immutable nature of the Divine Decree and have yet to mention its corollary: human accountability and responsibility. From the beginning there have been people who have been puzzled by the apparent paradox between the predetermination of all actions and subsequent human responsibility for them and some Companions even went to the Prophet, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and asked him, “Messenger of Allah, then what is action for?” The Prophet, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, responded to them by saying, “Act. Each person is eased to that for which he was created. If he is one of the people of happiness, the actions of the people of happiness are made easy for him. If he is one of people of wretchedness, the actions of the people of wretchedness are made easy for them.” Then he recited, “As for him who gives out and has taqwa and confirms the Good, We will pave his way to Ease. But as for him who is stingy and self-satisfied, and denies the Good, We will pave his way to Difficulty.” (92:5-10) This in fact makes the whole matter absolutely clear but some people have still tended to go wrong about it. There are two principle deviant positions which people take. On the one hand some claim that human beings have absolute freedom of will where action is concerned whereas on the other some claim the opposite and say that people are absolutely constrained and have no freedom whatsoever. These two deviations had their very early proponents and stories are told of how Sayyidina Ali and Sayyidina Umar, radiya’llahu ‘anhuma, dealt with each of them.
Sayyidina Ali, karama’llahu wajh, was confronted by one of the advocates of absolute free will who declared to him that he could by his own will decide to do whatever he liked. Sayyidina Ali said to him ,”All right then, lift up your right arm.” The man did so. “Now lift up your right leg.” He did that. “Now your left arm.” So the man was standing with both arms and one leg raised. “Now,” said Sayyidina Ali, ”raise the other leg!” And, of course, he couldn’t and it remained firmly on the ground. By this simple expedient Sayyidina Ali demonstrated that the human will is necessarily constrained by many laws outside human control.
In the time of Sayyidina ‘Umar, radiya’llahu ‘anhu, a small group of men who espoused the other deviant position, that all action was pointless, decided to go and spend all their time in a mosque and have their families bring them their meals and look after their needs. They called themselves “the Mutawakkilun” – those who put their trust in Allah. Sayyidina ‘Umar, radiya’llahu ‘anhu, heard about them and went to visit them. After speaking to them he told them, “You are not mutawakkilun you are muta’akilun – people who expect others to feed them! Get out of the mosque and do something useful with your lives.”
No, the truth is, as the Prophet made clear to those Companions who came to him, where people are concerned, the Divine Decree is inextricably bound up with their actions, their destiny is inseparable from what they do. The hadith about the creation of the human being in the womb, the first half of which was quoted in the first khutba, ends by the Prophet, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, saying, “By Allah, apart from Whom there is no other god, one of you will do the actions of the people of the Garden until there is nothing but an armspan between him and it and then what is written will supersede and he will do the actions of the people of the Fire and so enter it. And another of you will do the actions of the people of the Fire until there is nothing but an armspan between him and it and then what is written will supersede and he will do the actions of the people of the Garden and so enter it.”
An illuminating example of how action and the Divine Decree are intertwined can be seen in something which happened on the day of Badr. Having set the battle in motion, the Prophet, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, retired with Abu Bakr, radiya’llahu ‘anhu, to a straw hut which had been constructed for him at the edge of the battlefield. Once there, he raised his arms and began to call on Allah with great earnestness. Among the things he said, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, were the words, ”O Allah give us the victory you have promised me. If You let this group of men perish today, You will no longer be worshipped on the earth.” In his state of intense entreaty his cloak fell from him and Abu Bakr, radiya’llahu ‘anhu, picked it up and put it back round his shoulders, saying to him, ”Messenger of Allah, there is no need for this. Allah will certainly fulfill His promise to you.” It was almost as if, out of his concern for him, Abu Bakr was suggesting that the Prophet, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was somehow doubting the Divine Decree. But the Prophet, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, continued his calling on Allah until the tears were flowing freely down his cheeks. We know from the ayat quoted in the first khutba, that the result of the battle was a foregone conclusion and certainly no human being before or since had greater knowledge of his Lord than the Prophet, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. No, the truth is, that by his action of earnest entreaty to Allah, the Prophet, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, far from doubting the Divine Decree, was in fact actively participating in it.
So from one point of view we are in fact, day by day, forging our own destiny through the actions we make. We are continually faced by different situations and different possibilities of action and we make our decisions according to what we think best at the time. The result of those decisions is written down by the two angels responsible for recording our actions and that record, containing our ultimate destiny, will be handed to us on the Day of Rising. On that Day we will know for certain that we have no one to blame for what we find there but ourselves and that Allah is absolutely just with His slaves. That is our reality.
We have fastened the destiny of every man about his neck and on the Day of Rising
We will bring out a Book for him which he will find spread open in front of him.
'Read your Book! Today your own self is reckoner enough against you!' (17:13-14)
We are responsible and accountable for what we do. We must leave the reality of overall Lordship to Allah to Whom it alone belongs. He says of Himself:
Certainly it is to Us they will return. Then their Reckoning is Our concern. (88:25-26)
He will not be questioned about what He does but they will be questioned. (21:23)
This is why we find that the Prophet, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, in spite of his incomparable status as the beloved of Allah and his knowledge that he had Allah’s complete forgiveness for any possible failing, was ceaselessly active in seeking the pleasure of His Lord until the time he died. And the same applies to all those who have followed him inwardly and outwardly, the Khulafa ar-Rashidin, the great Companions, and the awliya and salihin of the community through all the generations down to our own time. Of all people they have had the greatest knowledge of, and the deepest iman in, the Divine Decree and at the same time have had the most reason to be confident of the mercy of Allah. Yet without exception they have rejected any hint of complacency, have been scrupulous in avoiding what is displeasing to Allah, and throughout their lives have tirelessly sought out those actions which will make them pleasing to their Lord. This is the form that profound understanding of the nature of the Divine Decree inevitably takes.
So we ask Allah, our Lord, to strengthen our iman in His Decree so that we too may wear ourselves out in right action to the very end of our lives and spend our last breath longing for the vision of His Noble Face.