Fiduciary Theology, The Straight Path, And Pre-Destination

October 30, 2020 Category: Religion


So we all end up following our own path. The question becomes: Is where that path up to us; or is it a foregone conclusion? There is undeniable appeal in both prospects, as we all want to be masters of our own destiny…yet also like to believe that our fate is somehow written in the stars.

Most of us end up adopting a combination of the two teleological outlooks, invoking them as the occasion warrants. This hybrid position is both pragmatic and a reflection of what we discover about the course life seems to take on this mortal coil.

Beliefs about destiny go back to some of the earliest cultures.  The earliest Canaanites worshipped the goddess of fate, “Ashima”–who was herself based on the Assyrian concept of fate, “shimti”.  (Ashima’s Nabatean counterpart was “Manat”, a goddess that would appear in Arabian theology.)  Certain Hindu sects posited “kismet”, most notably, the practitioners of Ajivika (which started in the 5th century B.C.) {11}  There was also the notion of “niyati-vada”.  Even in Persia, there emerged sects that posited fatalism–as with “Zurvanism”, a divergent sect of Zoroastrianism.

The ancient Anglo-Saxons and Celts posited “wyrd”.  The ancient Turks adopted the Vedic notion of “kismet” (though with a more romantic connotation).  Pre-destination was emphasized by the Roman Catholic “Jansenists” (named after the Dutch theoligan, Cornelius Jansen) in the early 17th century.  And on and on.

Fatalism has an undeniable allure, as it permits us to be more resigned to our (purportedly) assigned lot in life.  In a sense that is ironic, it emancipates people from anxiety, assuring each of us that “it’s all in god’s hands”, so no need to fuss.  Superstitions about a cosmic power that dictates what shall happen in the future are especially tempting to embrace for anyone who is eager to know what the world “holds in store” for ME.  

Indeed, it is the urge to think that certain things–or EVERYTHING–may be fore-ordained that keeps fortune-tellers and sooth-sayers in business.  It’s hard to pretend to be oracular once we concede that indeterminacy must be factored in.

More to the point: There is an odd appeal to the notion that each of us has a “destiny” waiting to be fulfilled; and that we need only discover what the divinely ordained plan REALLY IS so that we might better make sense of our own existence.  Consequently, many would rather have their life’s purpose ASSIGNED TO them rather than forge it for themselves.

There is a “catch” to all this.  Said appeal is limited to plans that hold DESIRABLE things in store for us.  Rarely is it acknowledged that pre-determined “fate” is a double-edged sword.  This is why no fortune-teller ever made much money telling people that they were doomed to failure.  A fortune-teller stays in business by giving people a modicum of hope–even if it is false hope.  (“None of your wishes will come true” is a way to guarantee no repeat customers.)

The most extreme of version of divine ordinance in Islam could be found in the Ashari sect, wherein it is assumed god wills the position of every particle in the universe at every instant, thus precluding any need to posit causality.  One might say that this is inverse determinism: Absolutist in this sense that god alone ordains what happens everywhere at every moment, yet completely indeterminate from a human point of view (as causation is rendered moot).  No need for scientific explanation; all is explained by god’s will. {12}

This worldview also leads to a kind of existential resignation–engendering subservience to the designated agenda.  As Max Weber put it in his “The Sociology of Religion”: “The belief in pre-destination, although it might logically be expected to result in fatalism, produced in its most consistent followers the strongest possible motives for acting in accordance with god’s designs.  Of course this action assumed different forms, depending on the primary content of the religious prophecy.  In the case of the Muslim warriors of the first generation of Islam, the belief in predestination [would have] produced a complete obliviousness to self, in the interest of fidelity to–and fulfillment of–the religious commandment of a holy war for the conquest of the world” (p. 203).

Moreover, a belief in pre-destination leads to a suspension of intellectual curiosity.  The message is clear: Don’t even try to make sense of the natural world.  Why bother trying to comprehend it when god’s will explains all?  And–anyway–everything one REALLY needs to know is in the Koran.  The motivation to engage in scientific enterprise was thereby severely attenuated.  (To the question: “Why did that happen?” the answer is always “Because that’s what god wanted.”  End of discussion.)

This theological gimmick has tremendous utility for those in power–as the rabble will be reticent to challenge the established order.  Indeed, one is behooved to be resigned to one’s lot in life–no matter how grievous.  For the message is: “All is as it should be.  So don’t question it.”  Privilege and destitution are thus self-justifying.  If god’s will dictates all things, then one’s lot in life is justified simply by being as it is.

This is a dirty trick; but it works like a charm.  Indeed, the logic on which it rests works in various contexts even today–as with, say, free-market fundamentalism.  Here, we are enjoined to posit a marvelously pristine meritocracy where none exists.  That is: We are asked to suppose that outcomes are indubitably meritocratic…even when it is blatantly obvious that such is not the case.  The upshot is to exalt those who command the most socio-economic power as the vanguard of society–as if financial wherewithal were somehow a mark of virtue.  It should come as no surprise that it is typically those who enjoy privilege (i.e. good fortune) who are eager to aver that everyone’s station is based on sheer merit.  It is imperative that they convince EVERYONE ELSE that this is so–if, that is, they wish to maintain the conditions on which their continued status depends.  So it must be from EVERYONE’S point of view that–whatever the socio-economic exigencies happen to be–all is just as it should be.  So long as the rabble believe this, no petition of grievances from those who have been short-changed will be forthcoming.

In the Abrahamic tradition, the notion of pre-destination has roots in the Judaic theology of the Pharisees, for whom it seemed prudent to simply leave everything IN GOD’S HANDS.  (This rhetorical maneuver–little other than an evasion–is rightly considered a theological cop-out.)  By the early 9th century, the Saxon theologian, Gottschalk of Orbais was peddling a cosmology of pre-ordained salvation / damnation for each individual.  And in the 14th century, the (Jewish) Andalusian theologian, Hasdai ben Abraham Crescas, proposed a similar theological scheme.

The notion of predestination has been a point of contention within Christendom since Martin Luther’s polemic, “De Servo Arbitrio” [On Constrained Will] in 1525.  Those familiar with John Calvin or Jonathan Edwards may recognize the Christian version of this (cringe-inducing) theological view.  Calvin rationalized his position on the matter via such passages as Second Timothy 1:9.  To this day, pre-destination counts as one of the more opprobrious features of Calvinist doctrine (class–and even social status–as a gauge for god’s grace).  Reactionaries (read: those invested in the established order not be disrupted) have been trafficking in this sham ever since; as it enables them to pass their cupidity off as some laudable deference to Providence.  Thankfully, the odious superstition has been eschewed by sensible religionists since the Enlightenment.

Alas, there is an eerie strain of pre-destination throughout Islam’s holy book.  As we shall see forthwith, well over a hundred Koranic passages put forth this deranged schema–a prospect that anyone with any moral sense should find tremendously disturbing.

In the Islamic vernacular, pre-destination is dubbed “qad[a]r” (alt. “ta-qdir”).  The idea is that whatever will happen has already been written (in a celestial log known as the “Barzakh”); that is to say: determined by god since the beginning of time.  The concept is important enough that the one of the Koran’s Surat (the 97th) was entitled “Al-Qadr”.

Is there a spark of divinity in each one of us?  The Koran’s answer to this query is a resounding NO.  God does NOT love everyone; he has picked favorites; and despises certain people.  To make matters worse, the game is rigged; as god has pre-selected certain people for salvation, and everyone else for damnation.  All any one of us can do is pray that we are one of the former.  (Groveling helps.)  The rest of us are fucked.

This “al-qada wa’l-qadar” (pre-destination based on divine ordinance) is captured in the Islamic concept of “rukn”: a so-called “pillar” of Islam (which roughly translates to “that which is inevitable”).  According to this, everyone’s station in life is fore-ordained.  The dogma was epitomized by the Umayyad contingent known as the “mujbira”: advocates for hard-line Islamic determinism.  The view here is that god has chosen your fate, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  You have an appointed destiny (i.e. a lot in life; and a lot in the hereafter); and that’s that.  So long as the rabble were convinced that EVERYTHING happened according to god’s will, and that that was a GOOD thing, this worldview gained traction.

We should not be surprised that such a cockamamy idea did, in fact, gain traction in the pre-modern era.  After all, there is a certain diffidence–even gratification–in being able to say in retrospect, “Well, that was god’s plan ALL ALONG.”  Hence the knee-jerk response to new developments, “mash’Allah”, which is an expression of approbation meaning “so god has ordained”.  Such an assertion seems to validate god’s omniscience (and attest to his eternality).  So what could the problem possibly be?

For many Muslim thinkers, “qadar” entails the countenancing a tempered version of determinism.  The matter of whether or not divine fore-knowledge entails determinacy is an open question.  The relationship between omniscience and fatalism is a logistical labyrinth that needn’t be navigated in order to address the matter of “qadar”.  Anyone familiar with the reprobate implications of Calvinist theology is already well-aware of this existential mobius strip.  During the Middle Ages, the only major sect in Dar al-Islam to depart from the deterministic worldview were the Mu’tazilis, who interpreted “qadar” in an entirely different way.

The Mu’tazila movement was wiped out over a thousand years ago.

In any case, the Koran says what it says on the matter; and it leaves little room for maneuvering.  THIRTY passages tell us that there are certain people god does not want to guide / help: 3:86, 4:118-119/143, 5:67, 6:25/122-123, 9:37/80/109, 13:27/33, 14:4, 15:12, 16:107, 17:46, 18:57, 23:44, 27:4, 32:13, 36:7-10, 37:22-23, 38:82-83, 39:23, 40:33, 42:46, 45:23, 46:10, 61:7, 68:44, and 91:7-10.  Who?  Those who are pre-ordained to be non-Muslims; and who are consequently destined for hellfire.  In other words, everyone who will end up in “jahannam” has been pre-selected for damnation.

It gets worse.  In 21 passages, we are notified that non-believers are doomed to be non-believers from the beginning, regardless of what one might tell them…even as others are “chosen” for Faith: 2:6, 3:74, 6:39/125, 7:37/155, 11:33-34, 16:9/36-37, 24:40/46, 28:56, 30:56, 37:40/55-57/74/98/128, 48:11/15, and 68:50.  In other words: The game is rigged.  (For any to whom god does not give light, there is no light–as 24:40 states.)

And so god pre-selects whom he will guide–as a dozen passages inform us–4:49, 6:144, 10:11/25/99-100, 14:21, 16:93, 17:13, 18:17, 35:8, 74:31, and 81:28-29.  Such people are even given immunity from going astray–as specified in 39:37.  15:39-42 and 34:21 even indicate that Muslims are immune to Satan’s diabolical machinations…and so are protected from being misled.  Thus FIFTEEN MORE passages tell us that the game is rigged.

Simply put: There are some god chooses to guide and some he chooses to lead astray (as 6:125 states explicitly).  The Abrahamic deity, we are also told, selected certain people ahead of time for his “right hand” and others for his “left hand”.  59:23 even calls him the “Bestower of Faith” and the “Compeller”: those who have Faith only have it insofar as god decided to GIVE them Faith…and COMPELLED them.  Everyone’s fate is ordained (“kutiba”) from day one.  68:37-38 even mocks those who think that they are free to choose their fate.

One can’t help but wonder: Wouldn’t the beneficent super-being who created all mankind want to help EVERYONE…especially those who are currently misled?  Not according to verses like 2:142, 30:37, and 34:23.  According to the Koran, the Abrahamic deity is perfectly fine with large portions of mankind going to hell.  In fact, according to 30:45, god DOES NOT LIKE non-Muslims, so why help them?  This is an interesting rationalization considering god allegedly made ALL of us.  (Are we not ALL god’s children?) 

There are even some verses that tell us that god intentionally misleads (i.e. sends astray); and thus dooms to perdition.  To name a dozen: 2:26, 4:88, 6:137, 7:100-101/178, 11:33-34, 14:27, 17:97, 30:29, 35:8, 40:74, and 47:1.  Who does he send astray?  Non-Muslims, of course.  Why are they non-Muslims?  Because he sent them astray.  What shall happen to them as a result?  They shall be punished.

43:36-37 goes so far as to say god tricks the misled into thinking that they are right.  God even allows Satan to mislead certain people that he has not designated for immunity (38:82-83).  Again, 39:37 explains that some people are designated to be IMMUNE to going astray.

That a deity would intentionally mislead a significant portion of mankind SO THAT he could punish them is a bizarre notion for those who insist on describing him as “merciful”; for it entails an unapologetically sadistic overlord.  Suffice to say: “I yearn to fill hell with people” is not the proclamation of a beneficent being. {13}

Hence the devious and conniving protagonist of the Koran does not guide non-Muslims.  But wait.  Aren’t they non-Muslims BECAUSE they’re not guided?  This begs the question: Insofar as they are wrong-doers, is it not BECAUSE they are not guided?  This poses a conundrum.  Wouldn’t a beneficent deity want to (try to) HELP such (misguided) people, GUIDING them so that they might become better?  Nope.  He only guides those who have been pre-selected to be Muslims (27:81, 49:7, and 49:17).  What a swell guy.

As if that weren’t odd enough, the Koran tells us its protagonist ensures that the deeds of non-Muslims will be fruitless (47:9).  It goes on to say that the Abrahamic deity renders non-Muslims powerless (47:28 and 47:32).  (Gadzooks!)  3:54, 7:99, and 8:30-31 tell us that god is, after all, the best of schemers (“makara” / “khayru”; which also means “deceiver”).  Abu Bakr is said to have declared that even if he already had one foot in heaven, he would still fear god’s deception.

In fact, god is STILL scheming, according to 10:21 and 86:16.  

But if all is pre-ordained, why does the godhead still find the need to scheme?  Are there unresolved issues?  Is he trying to out-wit mankind?  What would he be plotting?  Does he fear being found out?  Thwarted?  And why would a timeless being need to respond to new development?

These passages ALL explain that god actually CHOSE for certain people to be misled.  Essentially, the Koran’s protagonist says: “I’ve left them to go astray; and I’ll punish them for it later.”  This is the very definition of sadism.  Moreover, he effectively tells Muslims: “Don’t try to help them; they’re pre-ordained for damnation.  Their situation is hopeless.  Even so, they deserve perdition for their poor standing in the cosmic lottery.”  (Hence the declaration that there need be no compulsion in religion.)  Meanwhile, if you are mislead, you have nobody to blame but yourself (10:44)…even though god may have SELECTED you to be mislead. (!)

24:35 and 24:40 refer to god as LIGHT (a standard Abrahamic metaphor); yet reiterate that he chooses not to guide everyone.  In other words, it is a narrow light with a highly-selective beam.

And so it goes: The impresario of the cosmic order pre-selects certain people to intentionally keep in the dark…so that he may then delight in condemning them to hellfire.  Splendid.

6:122-123 not only notifies us that there are some god intentionally misleads, it also notifies us that god calculatedly places criminals in the world.  (Meanwhile, verses like 30:53 amount to nothing more than a catch-22.)  How does such a sadistic set-up make sense?  It’s simple: The Koran’s protagonist PREPARED hellfire; and he very much wants to feed it.  He MADE hell, so now he has an urge to fill it.  3:54 and 27:4 notify us that god goes so far as to DECEIVE non-Muslims in order to ensure their damnation.  In 17:64, he actually instructs Satan to mislead as many people as possible.  3:154 even notifies us that certain people are “appointed to be slain”.  What’s going on here?

Condemning people to burn in hell for all eternity, then, is gratifying for the deity portrayed in the Koran.  He is earnest to damn.  There is no remorse (ref. 9:125).

To reiterate, god CAUSES certain people to be misled (i.e. to remain in the dark).  Intentionally misleading people so that you can torture them: this is the m.o. of the Koran’s protagonist.  Why such sadism?  Who knows?  Surely, god has his reasons.  After all, he is “the best of schemers” (8:30).  (Note that “schemers” is sometimes translated as “planners”…though the context indicates more a kind of machination.)

So the game-plan is as follows: Pre-select certain people to be misled (read: damned), then blame it on them.  As if to add insult to injury, 24:11 explains that he who is damned “took it upon himself” to be punished. (!)  This cosmology is deranged even by the standards of Iron Age superstition.  Yet the scheme makes perfect sense if we assume a sadistic overlord–such as the Koran’s protagonist.

One’s lot is life is pre-ordained, but as to WHY, we shall be kept in the dark (4:32 and 8:42-44).  (The implication is that we should thus be RESIGNED TO our lot in life, as it is what god has assigned to us.)  As 2:269 makes clear, if a person has wisdom, it is only because god wanted to GIVE it to that particular person.  Therefore if a person does NOT have wisdom, it is because god decided NOT to give that person wisdom.  So the nature of one’s Earthly existence basically depends on how one fared in the grand lottery that is god’s whim.  According to 14:10 and 35:11, god has even already designated our time of death.  (Yet–peculiarly–in 3:144, he seemed to be unaware of how his own Last Prophet would die.)

In the Koran, predestination is not limited to salvation / damnation.  According to 43:32, each person’s social rank is pre-ordained.  Thus, we should all be resigned to our lot in life.  Whatever it is, it’s what god ordained.  For those who are impoverished, it’s all part of god’s grand plan; so who are you to question it?  Accept your dire lot in life; and don’t complain.  It’s god’s will.  Any spoils we do or do not get in life is entirely according to divine ordinance (34:36).  All you are obligated to do is distribute a portion of your own disposable wealth (as “zakat”) to the less fortunate; and let god sort out the rest.

3:37 explains that god chooses to whom there shall and shall not be given bounty.  That is: the allotment of affluence and poverty is all divinely ordained (10:107).  (Wealth and destitution is a result of god’s will, doncha know.)  That our lot in life is pre-ordained seems to fly in the face of “jihad” (i.e. striving to determine our own fate; or an enterprise to improve one’s lot; or a struggle to better oneself)…unless, that is, we suppose that such endeavor is limited to pleasing the deity.

But shall ALL aspiration ultimately be a matter of currying favor with a cosmic overlord…in the hopes that one will secure his good graces?  It seems we paint ourselves into a corner with even the most charitable interpretation.

It is important to note that this is not merely a matter of destiny in the modern sense of personal mission (“find your own destiny”) or serendipity (“we were destined to meet”).  This is pre-destination: something that entails that all outcomes are established ahead of time; that said outcomes are a FOREGONE CONCLUSION.  Thus: Certain people are pre-selected for an allotted fate in the hereafter; and there’s nothing they can do about it.  This is a much stronger claim than suppositions about mere Providence (a romantic notion of, say, fulfilling one’s destiny).

It might also be noted that “destiny” is almost always used in a positive light.  After all, it is a romantic notion.  The purpose of invoking it is to inspire to spur aspiration, not to resign people to dire outcomes.  In other words, the point of positing “destiny” is to foster dreams.  This treatment of “what’s in store for us” accommodates the exercise of free will.

Pre-destination, on the other hand, effectively renders free will moot–even as the ILLUSION THEREOF may be sustained.  This goes beyond romantic notions of “destiny”.  PIA who defend the Koranic theme of predestination by equating it with the innocuous-seeming “destiny” of heart-warming fairy-tales are being disingenuous.  “Don’t you believe in DESTINY?” they ask rhetorically, knowing full well that the issue has nothing to do with what we commonly encounter in cheesy romantic comedies.  Rather pertains to a PRE-DETERMINED OUTCOME–primarily having to do with salvation vs. damnation.

The more idiomatic uses of Providentialism do not entail pre-destination; as they pertain to having god’s blessing.  Providence GUIDES things.  It is about god urging certain outcomes–yet still leaving the course of events to the prerogative of mere mortals.  Thus, to speak of “fate” is merely to speak of “how things will eventually turn out”…with the ACTUALIZATION of the outcomes still up in the air.  In this sense, destiny is–in part–in a perpetual “to be determined” status: pending, subject to modification given sufficient will-power.

By contrast, pre-destination puts god ENTIRELY in the driver’s seat.  Destiny, by contrast, is often understood to mean something less final.  To hold that certain things were divinely ordained (to come to pass in a foreordained way) does not go quite so far as inevitability.  Usually, destiny is something we are charged with FULFILLING.  In other words, it is the thing that we strive to realize.  Insofar as we are religious, we do so with the help and inspiration that god opts to give us.  But we are still PARTLY in the driver’s seat.

The supposition that the course of events is decreed FROM THE OUTSET appeals to those who would rather leave everything in the hands of a parental figure–especially if it is a figure of COSMIC PROPORTIONS.  If his will is unimpeachable, then WHY NOT defer to his grand scheme?  Such existential resignation is also referred to as “fatalism”; which ends up being indistinguishable from nihilism.  (Paradoxically, it might be considered nihilism-with-a-purpose.)  This often has rather bleak repercussions.  After all, being resigned to one’s lot in life is advantageous only to those benefiting from the incumbent power structure.

The Koranic scheme of “qadar” engenders a weird combination of neurosis and false hope…which is precisely what the Koran’s demented protagonist seems to want.  For further discussion of such convoluted emotional states, see the appropriate Endnotes.  This bizarre cocktail of fear and devotion is not uncommon in cult activity.  For more on the use of fear to control people, see my essay, “Nemesis”.  For more on the use of false hope to control people, see “The Island”.

Insofar as fear instills respect, one will find such a deity eminently worthy of being worshipped.  It’s why people have so often revered tyrannical despots…and cheered the (terrifying) ersatz righteousness of the gallows.  More to the point, this is why people have viewed the ruler who opts NOT to condemn them as an act of mercy for which they should be eternally grateful.  Such an obtuse conception of “mercy” is, of course, a cruel trick.  (Refraining from cruelty is only called “mercy” by the diabolical.)  The religion called “surrender” outlined in the Koran is no different from such scenarios.

“Qadar”, then, is a highly problematic thing.  This single feature of the Koran may be the most fatal indictment against its theology.  For this feature ALONE brings the rest of the proposed cosmic scheme into question.

Note that this problem does not stem from just one or two errant passages.  OVER A HUNDRED passages (listed here) corroborate this deranged theology…not just a handful of dubiously-worded statements that can be “taken out of context”.  This deranged theme PERMEATES the Koran from beginning to end…yet it is rarely talked about openly.  That is a serious problem that PIA cannot explain away.

The manner in which Islamic theologians leave room for agency / volition (“irada”) varies; yet they invariably employ some crude from of compatibilism.  This affords a place for intentionality (“nia”), thereby justifying one’s need to strive (“jihad” in the spiritual sense).

Thus NOTHING happens unless GOD explicitly wills it so–per his “amruh” (command); or as a “hukm” (edict).  Ergo all the utterly pointless suffering and death of innocent people since homo sapiens first walked the Earth is simply “part of god’s plan”.  In other words: Everything that happens, no matter how awful, is justified.  Children dying of cancer?  The way things ought to be.

In Surah 6, verses 107-112 and 125 explain that god WANTS pagans to be pagans.  Recall the determinism found in the Koran, as when it says that god not only created US, but created WHAT WE DO.  (So much for free will.)  For those who don’t believe, it is because god has “sealed up their hearts” (10:74) and “covered their minds” (2:7).

Such uber-determinism is like Calvinism on steroids.  The deck is stacked.  The dice are loaded.  The race is fixed.  Your “destiny” pre-determined.  The outcome is a foregone conclusion.  The salvation / damnation status for each of us has already be ordained–established from the outset.  Whatever happens will inevitably happen.  God has already decided on our ultimate destination.  Our fate is sealed. {12}

And so it goes: Per the Koran, the game is rigged.  But this is nothing new.  Even in the Hebrew Bible, it is made clear that the Abrahamic deity deliberately CREATES EVIL (e.g. Isaiah 45:7).  As mentioned, Paul’s second letter to Timothy (1:9) is explicit about pre-destination.

In the New Testament, we are reminded that Isaiah declared god deliberately blinds some, while hardening their hearts (John 12:37-40).  In Romans 9:15-18, it is made clear that god picks and chooses according to his own whim.  This should sound familiar to those who have read the Koran. {15}

Most ghastly of all is probably 3:178, in which the book’s protagonist brags that he will deliberately prolong the amount of time non-Muslims will BE non-Muslim, thereby affording them additional opportunity to augment their sinfulness.  He WANTS them to rack up as much sin as possible so that he may revel in punishing them all-the-more.  [One needs to read this perfidious passage oneself to believe it’s really there.]  This is not mere hunger for retribution; this is unabashed sadisim.  The mendacity continues, with such malicious passages as 5:14–in which the book’s protagonist explains that he planted amongst non-Muslim “People of the Book” enmity and hatred.

In 6:66, 10:99, and 42:48, the Koran is adamant that one should not try to contravene what god has ordained.  In other words: Don’t try to tamper with each man’s assigned fate (i.e. those who are destined to be saved vs. those who are destined to be damned).  Thus: What’s meant to be is meant to be, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  So don’t bother trying to help anyone.  Their fate was sealed before they were even born.  Divine ordinance is what dictates how things will go; not human intervention.

This explains the enjoinder of 109:6, “Unto you your religion; unto me my religion” as well as the admonishment of 2:256, “There is no compulsion in religion.”  All you can do is follow sharia law, and work to ensure it is enforced.  Each man’s conscience is his own.  So leave non-believers alone until they encounter the Day of Judgement, on which they will swoon (52:45-47).  Everything will be worked out on the final Day of Reckoning; so don’t worry about the fate of others.  It’s out of your hands, and non-Muslims will get what’s coming to them, as the verse following 2:256 stipulates in lurid detail.  Funny how PIA rarely quote 2:257 after quoting 2:256. {16}

Passages like 28:14 (about Moses coming of age) indicate that god gives certain people “good judgement and knowledge”, and then rewards them for doing good.  In other words, for each of us, the game is rigged from the outset.  Salvation is a birthright.  It might be noted that birthright based on bloodline / race (as with Judeo-Supremacism and Aryan-Supremacism) and birthright based on divine ordinance are equally deranged.  Both involve a “chosen people” mentality…predicated on accident of birth.

One’s fate (“dahr”) is a foregone conclusion, because god already has a set plan. {17}  All he has left to do is just carry it out (2:253, 3:47/54, 5:1, 6:107, 7:89/99, 9:55/85, 11:107, 12:100, 13:42, 22:14, 45:24, etc.)  The problem here is that it is variously said that god HAS planned, and that he is STILL planning.  Which is it?

On this point, the verb tense is inconsistent throughout the Koran.  Is the plan already in place (6:111-112), or is it still in the making (e.g. 86:16)?  Is it already set (68:45 indicates god already has a plan), or is it still in development (10:21 indicates that god can make plans faster than humans can)?  The authors of the Koran seemed not to be able to decide one way or the other.  (Of course, this discrepancy makes perfect sense once we recognize different parts of the book came from disparate sources.)

The problem with this SEMANTIC inconsistency is that, either way, there’s a theological snafu.  If god already knows the outcome, then why does he still need to react to new developments (and thus modify his plan, as indicated in 10:21 and 86:16)?  If the plan has been set in stone from the beginning (as stated in 6:111-112 and 68:45), then we must contend with the troubling implications of “qadar”. {18}

Throughout the Koran, we hear denouncements of “those who do not know”; yet it seems that “those who don’t know” don’t know because god didn’t designate them as those who would know (or even CAUSED to not know).  Meanwhile, the “deniers” (those who were notified, yet declined) seem to have been pre-selected for their wrong-headed-ness.  28:68 explains that god “creates what he wills and chooses; not for them [those who believed] was the choice”.  Really?  So he will elect those who shall “see the light” (and reward them for having been elected) and will misguide others (and punish them for being misguided).  So much for striving.

It is a queer thing that a book purports to offer guidance to everyone even as some are being deliberately lead astray by the author.   72:10 explains that evil was INTENDED for certain people, and others were intended to be shown the right course.  We’re all pawns in this rigged game, and are expected to thank the Dungeon Master for the privilege of getting to play in it. (10:88 adds that EVEN BELIEVERS want disbelievers to remain misled, so that they’ll be damned.) {19}

This charade becomes especially inane when we’re given a catch-22 in 40:28, in which it is explained that god doesn’t guide transgressors.  Does this invert cause and effect, or is it a mere tautology?  (37:162-163 is also a tautology: The only ones who can be tempted away from the Straight Path (“as-Sirat al-mustaqim”) are those designated for damnation…and vice versa.)  As though to make this more confounding (if not utterly dismaying), passages like 2:284 and 5:40 notify us that the Koran’s protagonist is capricious.

Bear in mind, all that has been decreed by the Abrahamic deity is written in “al-Lawh al-Mahfuz”, the eternal “Preserved Tablet”.  (By the way, this tablet is carried by “the hands” of special messenger angels, per 80:15.)  So Koranic verse is UN-CREATED just as the fate of each human is pre-determined.

Put another way: The recitation that is the Koran “always was”.  It has existed since the beginning of time…and was effectively “on hold” until the cosmic overlord saw fit to finally deliver it to mankind in the early 7th century.  (The dated nature of many verses belies this contention.)

The problem gets worse and worse the more we think about it.  For god not only pre-ordains the lifetime of people, but of all nations as well.  In verses like 7:34, 10:49, 15:5, and 23:43, we’re told that the Abrahamic deity selects the beginning and the end of each nation.  (A nation, we’re told, doesn’t come into existence a day earlier, nor to does it endure a day later, than the appointed time.)

How downright bizarre, then, for the protagonist of the Koran to have decided, in 1948, to cause the Nakba and create the Judeo-Supremacist state of Israel. (!)  That was a strange way to show appreciation to Muslims in the region.  (Allowing generation after generation of Muslims in the Levant to be consigned to such a miserable fate seems at odds with the promise to votaries made in Islam’s holy book.)  

Yet, according to the Koran, the Nakba was god’s plan all along.  What did the Palestinians do to be subjected to such a horrific chain of events?  What kind of plan is this?  God only knows; but votaries are forced to honor it.

If the Creator of the Universe is, indeed, picking the winners and the losers (as the Koran says he does), then the Nakba was a peculiar choice.  Once we take into account verses like 2:89, 2:250, 2:286, 3:13, 3:126, 5:56, 8:10, 9:14, 13:41, 22:39, 28:35, 30:3, 37:171-173, 40:51, 58:21, and 59:12 (16 verses that promise victory for Muslims over non-Muslims) it becomes impossible to get history to comport with Koranic pronouncements.

Further back in history, we encounter other quizzical applications of this cosmic statute.  When god sided with the (pagan) Mongols in the 12th and 13th centuries, what was he thinking?  Even though most of the Mongols later adopted elements of Islam (for what seem to be social / political reasons), the initial Mongol invasions led to the deaths of innumerable devout Muslims…AND the demise of the caliphate.  This is an odd choice for the Creator of the Universe to make if he was, indeed, the Koran’s protagonist.

In fact, the more we think about the bold, sweeping claim (regarding what amounts to manifest destiny) of 7:34, 10:49, 15:5, and 23:43, the more utterly confounding it becomes.  Is it not odd that, in 1776, the Koran’s protagonist (if we are to believe he is guiding all events) opted to initiate the most powerful and prosperous nation in the history of the world…YET…make its government categorically secular (even as its population was predominantly Christian)?  Is it not also odd that he opted to terminate the Ottoman Empire pursuant to the First World War?  What’s going on here?  He seems to be picking sides at odds with his declared mission.

What about the caliphate?  Where is THAT now?  And what a strange decision to establish the House of Saud (a draconian monarchy drenched in obscene decadence) to rule over Arabia.  Hundreds of millions of people have made an honest effort to appease their fickle deity, and this is the thanks they get?

Per the events of 1948 and thereafter, the modern nation-state of “Israel” would seem to be god’s will.  It MUST be, if the Koran is correct.  What are we to make of this paradox?  Was the “Nakba” really a blessing?  Such schizophrenic Providence amounts to a reductio ad absurdum.  It takes a concerted effort to not notice this.

So IS there any room for free will?  Yes and no.  The reconciliation of pre-destination and free will is a conundrum that theologians have grappled with since Classical Antiquity; and–as with the problem of “evil”–is usually only resolved via a litany of semantic acrobatics.  It is no coincidence that one of the more intellectually vibrant sects in Islamic history, the short-lived Mu’tazilites (see my essay on “Islam’s Pyrite Age”) rejected the Koranic doctrine of pre-destination, insisting that each human had control over his own mind–and life–independently of god’s will. {20}

Note that while three Koranic passages (2:256, 18:29, and 109:6) obliquely indicate that there IS freedom to choose one’s Faith, passages like 3:28-32, 3:85, 4:144, 5:51, 18:29, 30:45, and 60:1 indicate that each person’s Faith is pre-ordained; and that Muslims should kill those who have not been endowed with the appropriate fealty: 4:89 and 9:5.  

In 10:100, we are told that god chooses who believes.  (Notably, in 28:10, god CAUSED Moses’ mother to be a believer.)  In light of this, the two oft-quoted verses that intimate “freedom of religion” (2:256 and 109:6) make perfect sense: Be resigned to your–and everyone else’s–fate.  God has already ordained how things will go.  It’s not up to us to try to alter destiny.

As for any given person’s Faith, whatever will be will be; so it’s out of anyone’s hands.  Let it be. {21}  In the end, the impression that we can thwart divine ordinance is illusory; yet we live our daily life as if we were in control of ourselves.  As has been sardonically quipped: We have no choice but to believe in free will.

Pages: 1 2 3 4

CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 - 2010-2019 -
Developed by Malagueta/Br
Note to readers: Those reading these long-form essays will be much better-off using a larger screen (not a hand-held device) for displaying the text. Due to the length of most pieces on our site, a lap-top, desk-top, or large tablet is strongly recommended.


Download as PDF