By : Shabbir Ali Khan
Among the people, the expressions such as “I had good luck”, “My luck was with me”, “My luck helped me”, “I was born as lucky” are used with a positive meaning by the persons whose things are going well and who do not meet any misfortunes; and the expressions such as “I have no luck”, “I am an unlucky person”, “If I had luck, I would not be in such a bad condition” are often used with a negative meaning by the persons who experience misfortunes and who think their lives rely on chance. In the community, the word “chance” is mainly repeated by the people regarding gambling, lottery and pools. “Take your chance”, “good luck” are repeated for that.
Although “luck” is used for positive, it is used for “negative” mostly. The thought and psychology of a person who relies on and sets his hopes on “luck” is sufficient to tell the essence of the luck concept. A person who acts according to “luck” feels himself in a hole; he believes in chances, and all the time he gets his heart, spirit and even his life in stress, agitation and turmoil. If what he has wanted does not happen and the result he has desired does not take place, he becomes anxious and distressed; he becomes disappointed and cannot keep himself from the frustration of that situation. Why does a person in such a situation give himself over to “luck”? The reason is quite clear. Just as a baby deprived of suck takes up artificial dummy immediately so too does that person rely on a hypothetical, ambiguous, vain thing such as “luck” since he does not know the real points of support such as “divine determining, reliance on Allah, and consent to his/her fortune.”
However, Islam has never let people be in a hole. It has not allowed them be drifted by worthless things and thoughts whose essences are not known. There is no place for the words such as “luck and chance” in Islam. In our religion, there are “destiny and reliance on Allah and consenting to what comes from Allah.” And the source of them is faith. The believing person has faith in Allah; he surrenders to fate and he is saved from getting confused before the events and he overcomes anything he meets by the force and light of the faith. As it will be comprehended from the expression “Belief necessitates affirmation of Divine unity, affirmation of Divine unity necessitates submission to Allah, submission to Allah necessitates reliance on Allah, and reliance on Allah necessarily leads to happiness in this world and the next”, a person who has faith in Allah recognizes Allah as “the only one” as the possessor of power and strength. He submits to Him. He puts his trust in Him, reclines upon His power; and as a result he attains happiness both in this world and the hereafter.
A person who has faith is strong; he has a courage that can “challenge the whole universe”. He believes that he has a Lord who has created him out of nothing; who has prepared the world and has bestowed him bounties such as life, health and peace which cannot be evaluated materially; and who keeps the control of not only the earth but also the sun and the billions of stars and the universe. Besides knowing that his Creator has not created him in vain, he also knows that He has not left him in a hole as a plaything of “chance.” He has the belief that his life, minutes and seconds passing from the time he comes to the world to the time of his death have been known, programmed and determined by Allah. Therefore, he does not believe in chance and rely on it and give place to it in his world.
He perceives that good things or bad things happening to him are under the knowledge of Allah. He always endeavors, he has recourse to all means and causes and then he puts his trust in his Creator who knows and thinks him better than himself in the end and expects the result from Him. He consents to the happening of whatever exists in the Divine program (fate).
However, how about the person who does not put his trust in Allah and fluctuates in “chance” and “luck”? He does not go broke and endeavor or even if he does them, he does not rely on a Power; and what happens in the end? He cannot be delivered from “begging before all of the universe”, namely, begging before everything he sees and feeling weak before the things he regards as difficult; from “trembling before every event”; from “pride”, namely, supposing that he is the owner of beings; from “making a fool of himself”; from “misery in the hereafter”, namely, losing the eternal life, and from “the prison of the pressures of this world”.
And so, the persons, whose senses of reliance on Allah and consenting to what comes from Him are weak, rely on inessential, pointless and vain things such as luck, stars, horoscopes and chance and are obsessed by superstitions such as “his star is low”, “his star is high”.
The Concept of Luck in Islam
First of all, it should be clear that all things in the universe are destined by Allah Who knows the Unseen and what happened and what will happen prior to its occurrence. Some things only appear to be by luck or coincidence because of our limited knowledge. But the Muslim believes that his time of death, sustenance and means of livelihood were pre-determined by Allah while he was still a fetus in his mother’s womb. In this regard, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “Verily the creation of each one of you is brought together in his mother’s belly for forty days in the form of a seed, then he is a clot of blood for a like period, then a morsel of flesh for a like period, then there is sent to him the angel who blows the breath of life into him and who is commanded about four matters: to write down his means of livelihood, his life span, his actions, and whether he is happy or unhappy.”
Also, Almighty Allah tells us in the Qur’an that one’s sustenance is pre-determined in heaven when He says: “And in the heaven is your providence and that which ye are promised.” (Adh-Dhariyat: 22)
Thus, in the life of the Muslim there is no room for luck or coincidence. Rather, he is to act according to the commands of Allah and His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and to firmly believe that this is a form of taking the necessary worldly measures and that the results are up to Allah.
Answering your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
“You have raised a very important question. It is important that we form a sound notion about this issue, in order to avoid any confusion or misgivings.
The issue you have raised is commonly known as the doctrine of qada’ (Divine Decree) and qadar (pre-determination). This issue in so far as it is related to man’s freedom to choose has been a perennial issue that has been contentious in all world religions. The Qur’an provides us the foundations for a balanced approach to this issue. It balances our belief in the divine pre-determination with the man’s will and freedom to choose and create his own destiny.
Essentially, the Qur’anic position states that while Allah has decreed all things, and that His Decree is at once all-wise and impeccable, human beings have been granted freedom to choose. The freedom granted to humans, however, does not contradict Allah’s Will or Decree, as it itself is a part of Allah’s Will, since man would not have been able to choose if not for Allah’s Will.
Islam teaches us that Allah is the Creator and Sustainer of this enormous universe and everything it contains in its infinite diversity and multiplicity. He is the Lord of them all, Who is All-Wise, All-Powerful, All-Knowing, and All-Aware. Allah, Who is All-Wise and All-Knowing, has decreed all things in due proportion, balance and harmony. Allah’s creation is immaculately perfect, and there is no discrepancy or disharmony existing in the universe. Almighty Allah says: “(Blessed is He) Who has created seven heavens in tiers. You cannot see any disharmony in the All-Merciful’s creation; look again. Can you see any rift? Then look again, and yet again, your sight will return to you, vanquished and weak.” (Al-Mulk: 3-4).
Stated differently, the Divine Decree or pre-determination is part of the all- embracing knowledge, wisdom, and power of Allah as the Creator. It means that Allah’s Will is supreme, and that Allah is fully in charge of His creation. It teaches us that there is essentially one supreme Will operative in the universe, namely the supreme Will of Allah.
This is on the one hand. On the other hand, we are also taught that Allah, in accordance with His supreme Will, has appointed man as His vicegerent on earth. In His wisdom Allah has bestowed on man intelligence, moral conscience and revelation. Allah has bestowed on him these resources in order for him to exercise freely between what is good and bad. Man is rewarded or punished based on such choices he has made.
Thus, the fact that Allah’s Decree is supreme does not contradict the fact that man has been given choice and freedom. But human freedom is not unlimited; it works within the all pervasive Will of Allah. Man’s choice is granted to him by Allah; man cannot choose without Allah’s Will; in so far he exercises his will, he does so by Allah’s Will. “But you cannot will unless Allah wills; Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” (Al-Insan: 30).
Let us list a few Qur’anic verses to further illuminate this concept:
“Say: ‘Truth is from your Lord’. Now whosoever will, may believe, and whosoever will, may disbelieve.” (Al-Kahf: 29). “If it had been your Lord’s will, all who are in the earth would have believed. Will you, then, force the people to become believers?” (Yunus: 99).
The above verses clearly establish the fact that human beings have the freedom to choose. So the belief in pre-determination is not opposed to man’s freedom to choose or act in the universe.
It was because of the balanced understanding concerning Divine Will and human choice that the early Muslims were the most active and dynamic in their approach to taking action to improve themselves and the society around them. Their belief in qada’ and qadar, instead of making them passive and complacent, acted as a powerful impetus for change. They believed that nothing in the universe can stop them if they believe in Allah and their own power to realize what is beneficial. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Always entertain positive and beneficial thoughts, and seek the help of Allah in accomplishing your tasks, and never feel helpless or impotent. If, in spite of your best efforts, something does not work out the way you had planned, then simply say, that was Allah’s Will; He does what He wills, but never say to yourself, I wish I had done this or that, if it had been so, it would have been different, for such thoughts (are not constructive at all and) only open the door for Satan to act!”