By Wael Abdelgawad
God had a plan for you before you were born, and He still has a plan for you.
God’s plan for you is necessary and glorious. His plan is vital to your success and important to the world.
God’s plan is not set in stone, as if we were robots pre-programmed in the factory. That would strip us of free will and deny our natures.
Rather, I believe that God has a flexible plan for each human being: a plan that allows that person to benefit the world with his/her unique talents.
This is in fact the Islamic view of predestination. There is no doubt that God has decreed everything that happens in the universe from the beginning of time to the end, and that God has written it all in the Book of Decree:
“Know you not that Allah knows all that is in the heaven and on the earth? Verily, it is (all) in the Book (Al‑Lawh Al‑Mahfuz). Verily, that is easy for Allah.” (Al-Hajj 22: 70)
It is narrated that Abdullah ibn Amr said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying: “Allah wrote down the decrees of creation fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth.” (Muslim)
Everything happens by the will of God. Whatever He wills happens, and whatever He does not will does not happen. However, as Sheikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid explains:
Belief in al-qadar (predestination) does not contradict the idea that a person has free will with regard to actions in which he has free choice. Shari`ah and real life both indicate that people have this will. God says concerning man’s will:
“That is (without doubt) the True Day. So, whosoever wills, let him seek a place with (or a way to) His Lord (by obeying Him in this worldly life)!” (Al-Naba’ 78: 39)
These verses confirm that man has a will and the ability to do what he wants and not to do what he does not want.
With regard to real life, everyone knows that he has a will and the ability to do what he wants and not to do what he does not want. And he can distinguish between the things that happen when he wants them to, such as walking, and those that happen without him wanting them to, such as shivering. But the will and ability of man are subject to the will and decree of God.
Sheikh Al-Munajjid’s last paragraph is the key to understanding al-Qadar: walking (voluntary) versus shivering (involuntary). Other scholars have explained it as two types of Qadar, fixed and flexible. The fixed Qadar is that which happens to us from beyond our control. For example the time and place of our birth, any illnesses and natural disasters that befall us, etc. The flexible Qadar is that which is within the realm of our free will. Whether we do good or evil, and what we choose to believe and how we choose to live.
The Muslim scholar Ibn Taymiyyah wrote:
There are two types of provision and lifespan: the first type has already been decreed and is written in Umm al-Kitab, and cannot be changed or altered. The next type of Qadar, God has informed His angels of His decrees. This is the type where provisions and lifespan may increase or decrease. Hence God the Almighty says:
“Allah blots out what he wills and confirms [what He wills]. And with Him is the Mother of the book.” (Ar-Ra’d 13: 39)
The mother of the Book (Umm al-Kitab) is the Book of Decree, in which God has decreed all things as they will always be without change. However, the decrees contained in the books of the angels, such as lifespan and provisions, may increase or decrease according to various circumstances; thereafter, the angels will rewrite a person’s provision and lifespan. If a person upholds the ties of kinship, his provisions and lifespan will be extended, otherwise they will decrease.
So God has a plan for you, but fulfillment of that plan is up to you: the choices you make, as well as your degree of faith, persistence and determination.
God’s plan for you is important to the world because God created nothing in vain. Look at His creation. Everything has a purpose, from the sun that heats our world, to the bacteria that consume waste.
You are the same. You have a purpose. You are necessary to the world. If your presence were not vital in some way, then you would not have been made.
Discovering God’s Plan
How do we discover God’s plan for us? Where do we find it? How do we realize it in our lives?
It’s not as difficult as we might think. It wouldn’t make sense for God to have a plan for us and then leave us stumbling in the dark. God’s plan doesn’t have to be a mystery. If we trust God, do what He asks, and follow our hearts, His plan will unfold in our lives like a brightly lit path.
If you are trying to follow God’s guidance, but you find yourself confronted by obstacles and hardship, don’t despair. The hardship is probably a sign that you are on the right path. Consider our Prophets (peace be upon them all) who faced tremendous obstacles:
The Prophet Ibrahim was disowned by his family and thrown by his people into a blazing fire; God rescued him from that, and made him the father of two nations.
God inspired the mother of the baby Moses and told her to place her infant into a chest and send it floating down the Nile. If the soldiers of Pharaoh ever learned about his birth:
“We revealed to Moses’ mother, ‘Suckle him and then when you fear for him cast him into the sea. Do not fear or grieve; We will return him to you and make him one of the Messengers.’” (Al-Qasas 28: 7)
That was a hard plan to follow, but she trusted her Lord, and carried out her mission.
The young Joseph was thrown by his brothers into a well; later he was sold into slavery, then imprisoned for years; but in the end he became an important minister, and was reunited with his father.
Mary, the mother of Jesus (peace be upon him) delivered her child alone under a palm tree, far from her people as she feared their reaction; but God helped her through miracles, until she became the honored mother of a great Prophet.
The Prophet Jonah gave up on his mission to the people of Nineveh, ventured onto a ship and was then cast into the sea, where he was swallowed by a fish. At the point of despair, he called upon God with all his heart and was rescued. He returned to his mission and achieved success.
Aisha, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was slandered by an ugly lie, but God brought the truth to light, and Aisha became a leader and scholar in her own right.
Umm Salamah lost her beloved husband Abu Salamah in the battle of Uhud; she thought that no husband could ever be better than him, and yet she ended up marrying the Prophet Muhammad himself.
Things are not always what they seem. Be patient. God has a plan for you.
Following God’s Plan
This is the hard part. God’s plan for us is true to who we are at our core, in our very essence. It will not correlate to an artificial persona we have adopted, or our desire to be seen and recognized. God’s plan may not bring us fame, fortune, or physical pleasure. It might mean giving up material comfort. So God’s plan for us may not be what we would wish it to be.
Abu Hurayrah, the companion of Prophet Muhammad was asked about Taqwa (God consciousness). He said: “It is a road full of thorns. One who walks it needs to have extreme patience.”
In fact, God’s plan may be so challenging that we may perceive it but decline to follow it. I have known all my life that I was a writer. I’ve been talking for years about writing certain books. And yet it took me until the age of 44 to begin writing about the things that really mattered to me, and I still have not published a book (look for it this year, Inshallah!). Why did it take me so long to do what I was meant to do?
I have a friend who says that Africa has been calling her all her life. She believes that her destiny is to go there and help the African people in some way. But she has not done it. Why?
I have another friend who believes that da’wah is his mission in life. He spent ten years studying Japanese at the university level, and he dreams of living in Japan and doing da’wah there. But he has no concrete plan to do so. Why?
I asked several brothers and sisters if they know what their mission in life might be. Some said yes. I asked them if they were carrying out their mission. Most said no, and gave these reasons:
I feel that others are more qualified than me.
It seems like a fantasy.
It feels like a dream.
I tried once and it didn’t go my way.
Right now I need to focus on financial security.
I’m not ready yet.
Brothers and sisters, no one is more qualified than you to fulfill the plan that God has for you! God’s plan is not a fantasy, nor a dream. It may not go your way the first time, or the second, or the third. It may not make you rich, but there is no true financial security in this life – that’s an illusion. No one expects you to let your family go hungry. Work hard and provide for them, but don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that the accumulation of wealth will save you, because the only true security is with God. And last of all, no one is ever ready to walk in the path of God. It is a road full of thorns. But it is also the road to fulfillment, happiness and success.
Fulfilling God’s plan for us requires that we silence the voice of our own desire, open ourselves to God, and look within with total sincerity…
It takes courage, patience and determination…
It is the path to Paradise.
Taken with slight editorial modifications from Muslim Matters – http://www.muslimmatters.org.