What is the relation of destiny and decree with divine knowledge?
God is completely beyond our abilities of comparison and conception, and
so we can acquire only some knowledge of Him, not of His Divine Essence but
rather of His Attributes and Names, by meditating on and studying His acts and
creatures. To understand His acts, sometimes we have to resort to comparisons,
as allowed in the Qur’anic verse: God’s is the highest
comparison. (30:27) We may get a glimpse of the relationship between
Divine Decree and Destiny and Divine Knowledge by pondering the following comparisons:
Suppose an extremely skilful man, who is an engineer as well as an architect
and a builder, wants to build a magnificent house. First, he must determine
what type of house he wants (the house exists in his mind). Then, he draws the
blueprints (the house exists as an actual design or plan). After this, he builds
the house according to the blueprints (the house acquires a material existence).
As people can see the house, its image is recorded in numerous memories. Even
if it is completely destroyed, it lives on in these memories and in the builder’s
mind and plan (the final form of the house’s existence, which has acquired a
kind of perpetuity).
Before writing a book, an author must have its full content or knowledge
of its full meaning in his or her mind (the book exists as knowledge or meaning).
To make this knowledge or mean-ing visible and known, he or she must express
it in words. Before doing this, he/she arranges it in chapters, sections, and
paragraphs (a “blueprint”), and then writes it down (material existence). Even
if the book is destroyed completely and vanishes, it continues to live in the
memories of those who read or heard of it, and in the author’s own mind.
Such existence – existence in mind – is the thing’s essential existence.
Even if the thing in question is not put into words or practice, its knowledge
or meaning exists in the mind. Therefore, although knowledge or meaning need
matter to be seen and known in this world, it is the essence of existence, upon
which material existence depends.
Likewise, God has full and exact knowledge of the universe and all its contents.
This is stated many times in the Qur’an, as seen in the following verses:
It may be that you dislike a thing although it is good for you,
and love a thing although it is bad for you. God knows, but you know not. (2:216)
Say: “Whether you hide what is in your breasts or reveal it,
God knows it. He knows all that the heavens and the Earth contain; and He has
power over all things.” (3:29)
With Him are the keys of the Unseen. None but He knows them.
And He knows what is in the land and the sea. Not a leaf falls but He knows
it; not a grain amid the darkness of the soil, nothing of wet or dry, but (it
is) in a Manifest Book. (6:59)
Say: “If the ocean were ink for the words of my Lord, assuredly
the ocean would be used up before the words of my Lord were finished, even if
We brought another (ocean) like it, for its aid.” (18:109)
Even if He had not created the universe, it still would exist in His Knowledge.
Since God is beyond all time and space, both of which are united in His Knowledge
as a single point, and since His eternal, all-encompassing Knowledge does not
depend on them, time is a unified whole: there cannot be things like precedence
or posteriority or sequence or division of time. We should always remember
that our categories of past, present, and future time are only artificial categories
designed to make our lives more manageable. Time and space are also only two
dimensions of creation.
Everything eternally exists in God’s Knowledge, and He literally knows everything
about everything. Divine Power clothes a thing in material existence according
to Divine Will, and this transference from Knowledge into our own world takes
place within the limits of time and space. Knowledge and Will are two essential
Attributes of Divine Being: God knows things, things exist in His Knowledge,
His Will determines all of their specific and general characteristics, and His
Power gives them material existence. The overall relationship between Divine
Knowledge and Destiny, is best expressed as: There
is not a thing but with us are the stores thereof. We send it not down save
in appointed measure (15:21).