What is the meaning of destiny (Qadar) and decree (Qadar)?
The Arabic word translated as “destiny” is qadar. In its derivations,
this word also means “determination,” “giving a certain measure and shape,”
“dividing,” and “judging.” Muslim scholars of Islam define it as “Divine measure,”
“determination,” and “judgment in the creation of things.”
Before discussing Divine Decree and Destiny further, we will provide the
translation of some relevant verses:
With Him are the keys of the Unseen. None but He knows them.
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, naught of wet or dry but it is in
a “Kitabun Mubin” (Manifest Book). (6:59)
There is nothing hidden in the heaven or the Earth but it is
in a Manifest Book. (27:75)
It is We Who bring the dead to life. We record what they send
(of their lives and conduct to the Hereafter) and what is left of them. All
things we have kept in a “Imamun Mubin” (Manifest Record). (36:12)
They ask: “When (will) this promise (be fulfilled), if you are
truthful?” Say: “The knowledge is with God only, and I am but a plain warner.”
Nay, but it is a glorious Qur’an. On a “Lawhun Mahfuz” (Preserved
In one sense, Decree and Destiny mean the same thing. In another sense, however,
Destiny means to predetermine or preordain, while Decree means to execute or
put into effect. To be more precise, Destiny means that everything that exists,
from subatomic particles to the universe as a whole, is known by God Almighty.
His Knowledge includes all space and time, while He Himself is absolutely free
both of them. Everything exists in His Knowledge, and He assigns to each a certain
shape, life span, function or mission, and certain characteristics.
Consider the following analogy: Authors have full and exact knowledge of
the book they will write, and arrange its chapters, sections, paragraphs, sentences,
and words before writing it. In this sense, Destiny is almost identical with
Divine Knowledge, or is a title of Divine Knowledge. It is therefore also called
the “Supreme Preserved Tablet” (or the “Manifest Record”). Destiny also means
that God makes everything according to a certain, particular measure and in
God knows what every female bears and what the wombs absorb
and what they grow. And everything with Him is measured. (13:8)
The sun and the moon are made punctual according to a
calculation. The stars and the trees adore, in subservience to Him. And the
sky He has uplifted; and He has set the balance, that you exceed not the balance, but observe the
balance strictly, nor fall short thereof. (55:5-9)
The universe’s exact measure and balance, order and harmony, as well as
that of all it contains, clearly show that everything is determined and measured,
created and governed by God Almighty. Therefore, Divine Destiny exists. Such
assertions as determinism, which is upheld by many people and even some Marxists,
to explain such an obvious universal order and operation are tacit admissions
of Destiny. But we have to clarify one point here: According to Islam, absolute
determinism cannot be used in the context of human action.
All seeds, measured and proportioned forms, and the universe’s extraordinary
order and harmony, which has continued for billions of years without any interruption
or deviation, demonstrates that everything occurs according to God Almighty’s
absolute determination. Each seed or ovum is like a case formed by Divine Power
into which Divine Destiny inserts the future life-history of a plant or a living
being. Divine Power employs atoms or particles, according to the measure established
by Divine Destiny, to transform each seed into a specific plant, and each fertilized
ovum into a specific living being. This means that the future life-history of
these entities, as well as the principles governing their lives, are pre-recorded
in the seed or the fertilized ovum as determining factors and processes.
Plants and living beings are formed from the same basic materials. However,
there is an almost infinite variety between species and individuals. Plants
and living beings grow from the same constituent basic elements, and display
great harmony and proportion. And yet there is such abundant diversity that
we are forced to conclude that each entity receives a specific form and measure.
This specific form and measure is established by Divine Destiny.