It is no question that the hardest thing for anyone to do is to critically examine one’s own religious belief. Everyone assumes his/her belief to be true. However, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates taught that the pursuit of truth can only begin when we start to question and analyze every belief that we hold dear.
If a certain belief passes the tests of evidence, deduction, and logic, it should be kept. This is exactly what the Qur’an also teaches again and again: Produce your proof if you are truthful!
وَقَالُوا لَن يَدْخُلَ الْجَنَّةَ إِلَّا مَن كَانَ هُودًا أَوْ نَصَارَىٰ ۗ تِلْكَ أَمَانِيُّهُمْ ۗ قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ
(2:111) – AND THEY claim, “None shall ever enter paradise unless he be a Jew” - or, “a Christian”. Such are their wishful beliefs! Say: “Produce an evidence for what you are claiming, if what you say is true!” [Asad]
أَمِ اتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِهِ آلِهَةً ۖ قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ ۖ هَـٰذَا ذِكْرُ مَن مَّعِيَ وَذِكْرُ مَن قَبْلِي ۗ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ الْحَقَّ ۖ فَهُم مُّعْرِضُونَ
(21:24) – And yet, they choose to worship [imaginary] deities instead of Him! Say [O Prophet]: “Produce an evidence for what you are claiming: this is a reminder [unceasingly voiced] by those who are with me, just as it was a reminder [voiced] by those who came before me.” But nay, most of them do not know the truth, and so they stubbornly turn away [from it]. [Asad]
أَمَّن يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ وَمَن يَرْزُقُكُم مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۗ أَإِلَـٰهٌ مَّعَ اللَّـهِ ۚ قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ
(27:64) – Nay - who is it that creates [all life] in the first instance, and then brings it forth anew? And who is it that provides you with sustenance out of heaven and earth? Could there be any divine power besides God? Say: “[If you think so,] produce your evidence - if you truly believe in your claim!” [Asad]
وَنَزَعْنَا مِن كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ شَهِيدًا فَقُلْنَا هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ فَعَلِمُوا أَنَّ الْحَقَّ لِلَّـهِ وَضَلَّ عَنْهُم مَّا كَانُوا يَفْتَرُونَ
(28:75) – And [they will remain silent: for by then] We will have called forth witnesses from within every community, and will have said [unto the sinners]: “Produce an evidence for what you have been claiming!” And so they will come to understand that all truth is God’s [alone]; and all their false imagery will have forsaken them. [Asad]
The philosopher Whitehead said: “It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.” That means what seems obvious is, however, extremely difficult to analyze. Let us examine one such obvious belief that has penetrated the Muslim heart and has achieved the status of ‘self-evident truth’ among Muslims, and that is the Muslims’ belief in predestination.
The nation which was supposed to be the bearer of the Qur’anic message of the freedom of Will has for practical purposes become the bearer and propagator of the anti-Quranic belief in pre-destined Will.
Majority of Muslims now believe that the question of freedom of will does not arise; that human fate is already predetermined by Allah. According to Allama Iqbal:
In this same Qur’an now, the message is found to renounce the world
That once made believers the masters of the moons, stars and the world
Their life today has been made passive by the belief in predestined human Will
When once they used to be deeply moved to act and shape their life by God’s Will
What was once good and virtuous has now become non- virtuous
This is because slavery degrades a nation’s heart and conscience
[(Zarb-e-Kaleem-006) Tan Ba Taqdeer]
We know that between every action and the appearance of its result, there is an elapsed period of time. The length of this period is called Ajal in Arabic or the period of respite. However, before the appearance of the result i.e., before the period of respite ends, if the right change in course is made then it would be possible to avert the destructive consequences of the prior wrong course. But, if that period of respite has reached a stage where the results of bad actions have started to appear then no one can change them.
This period of respite, however, is different for different actions. For example, the period between planting the seeds and appearance of the fruits is different for different seeds. Or, for example, a small amount of a poison takes long time to cause death whereas a large amount will bring about death in a short time. Although the result actually starts taking shape much earlier but its appearance occurs at a particular time which is called Ajal or period of respite.
Surah Al-Ra’ad, Surah 13, Ayah 17 illustrates this principle with a concrete example:
أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَسَالَتْ أَوْدِيَةٌ بِقَدَرِهَا فَاحْتَمَلَ السَّيْلُ زَبَدًا رَّابِيًا ۚ وَمِمَّا يُوقِدُونَ عَلَيْهِ فِي النَّارِ ابْتِغَاءَ حِلْيَةٍ أَوْ مَتَاعٍ زَبَدٌ مِّثْلُهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْحَقَّ وَالْبَاطِلَ ۚ فَأَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَاءً ۖ وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْأَمْثَالَ
[Whenever] He sends down water from the sky, and [once-dry] river-beds are running high according to their measure, the stream carries scum on its surface; and, likewise, from that [metal] which they smelt in the fire in order to make ornaments or utensils, [there rises] scum. In this way does God set forth the parable of truth and falsehood: for, as far as the scum is concerned, it passes away as [does all] dross; but that which is of benefit to man abides on earth. In this way does God set forth the parables. [Asad]
Please notice the unmistakable nature of this principle of respite. A culture or system has the ability to stay only if its existence benefits humanity, and not any particular group.
This universal principle should be written in golden letters and displayed prominently in every public place.