Future Prediction and Preordination

Silhouette dry tree in the field and nebula on night sky (photo: iStock by Getty Images).

The Quran says that humans bring their own troubles:

‏ أَوَلَمَّا أَصَابَتْكُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَدْ أَصَبْتُم مِّثْلَيْهَا قُلْتُمْ أَنَّىٰ هَٰذَا ۖ قُلْ هُوَ مِنْ عِندِ أَنفُسِكُمْ

AND DO YOU, now that a calamity has befallen you after you had inflicted twice as much [on your foes], ask yourselves, 'How has this come about?' Say: 'It has come from your own selves.' Verily, God has the power to will anything: (3:165) [Asad]

The focal point of the entire teaching of the Qur’an is that human being’s every action and even his thought produce consequent results (3:29; 9:78; 67:13). Good actions produce good results and bad actions produce bad results (2:81-82; 2:202). This is called the law of requital:

لَّيْسَ بِأَمَانِيِّكُمْ وَلَا أَمَانِيِّ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ ۗ مَن يَعْمَلْ سُوءًا يُجْزَ بِهِ وَلَا يَجِدْ لَهُ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ وَلِيًّا وَلَا نَصِيرًا

It may not accord with your wishful thinking - nor with the wishful thinking of the followers of earlier revelation - [that] he who does evil shall be requited for it, and shall find none to protect him from God, and none to bring him succour, (4:123) [Asad]

وَمَا تُجْزَوْنَ إِلَّا مَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

And you will be requited nothing except for what you used to do (evil deeds, sins, and Allah's disobedience which you used to do in this world). (37:39) [Hilali & Khan]

اصْلَوْهَا فَاصْبِرُوا أَوْ لَا تَصْبِرُوا سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْكُمْ ۖ إِنَّمَا تُجْزَوْنَ مَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

Taste you therein its heat, and whether you are patient of it or impatient of it, it is all the same. You are only being requited for what you used to do. (52:16) [Hilali & Khan]

But this is possible only if a human being is free and uses his freewill and freedom of choice to act (18:29) and face the consequences thereof:

قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَكُمُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكُمْ ۖ فَمَنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۖ وَمَا أَنَا عَلَيْكُم بِوَكِيلٍ

SAY [O Prophet]: "O mankind! The truth from your Sustainer has now come unto you. Whoever, therefore, chooses to follow the right path follows it but for his own good, and whoever chooses to go astray goes but astray to his own hurt. And I am not responsible for your conduct. (10:108) [Asad]

If one cannot act with one’s own freewill and cannot use one’s freedom of choice, then how can one be held responsible for that action? The entire chain – comprising of transmission of Allah’s revelation through Prophets; the law of requital; the life in the hereafter; and its heaven and hell – circles around this central point that a human being is accountable for his actions. And obviously, only that person can be held accountable for his actions if and only if he is free to use his freewill and freedom of choice. If we believe that a human being is not free to exercise his freedom of choice or that his future is preordained, then this entire process of sending guidance and rectitude becomes useless and meaningless. This is the reason the Qur’an has very strongly opposed such a concept. What we say prophecy is only for those objects which do not have freewill; and they are the only things about which one can make prophecy or prediction.

Difference between having freewill and not having freewill 

One can tell today precisely when the lunar eclipse will occur after 100 years and when precisely it will disappear. This is because the movements of the Earth and the moon around the Sun occur according to fixed laws of nature. These laws do not change and the objects subject to these laws do not have the freewill to disobey them. After one acquires the knowledge of these laws – and since these laws do not change – one can predict such events beyond not just 100 years but also beyond 1000 years.  These celestial bodies are subject to the laws of nature and that is why one can predict such events. J. W. N. Sullivan, in his book entitled, Limitations of Science, has written that one scientist alone can tell when the lunar eclipse will occur after 100 years. But ten scientists sitting around a table cannot tell where this fly would go next that just came and sat on the table. Why couldn’t the ten scientists tell the future movement of a fly while one single scientist could tell exactly about the future movements of these large celestial bodies; and the occurrence of a lunar eclipse 1000 years from now? This is because one scientist is talking about things without freewill whereas these ten scientists are dealing with something that has free will. If no one can say about a fly where it will move next, then to say about a human being what he will do in the future is equivalent to making him an object without freewill. This is the reason a thing which does not work according to laws and regulations cannot come under the purview of knowledge. 

Prediction based on natural laws comes under the category of knowledge. But predictions about those with freewill will not qualify as knowledge. For example, saying that someone will get pneumonia after a year, or will become a king, or will be arrested – all this is being told about a human being with freewill! This is commonly referred to as the knowledge of the unseen علم غیب (‘Ilm-ul-Ghaib). But Allah has said that no one knows the knowledge of the unseen except Him (27:65). Even about the Prophet ﷺ, Allah said that whatever he tells about future events it is given to him through revelation. If Allah did not give this knowledge of the unseen to the Prophet ﷺ through revelation, then even he could not say this about the future. Even he (PBUH) could not have the knowledge of the unseen (11:31). Now, if the situation is this that even the Prophet (PBUH) could not have this kind of knowledge of the future; that even he could not make prophecies about human beings; then how come we have people among us making predictions on a daily basis. 

When Allah says that no human being, not even the Prophet, can make a prediction about the future (except what Allah gave him through revelation) then is it not a con-game on the part of the people who make future predictions using astrology; or those who predict future using palmistry; or those who predict future using mysticism? All this is because we have left the Qur’an, and the Prophet (PBUH) will complain to Allah about us:

وَقَالَ الرَّسُولُ يَا رَبِّ إِنَّ قَوْمِي اتَّخَذُوا هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ مَهْجُورًا

And the Messenger ﷺ will say: "O my Lord! Verily, my people deserted this Quran. (25:30) [Hilali & Khan]

If we take guidance from it then it will tell us that we are live human beings with freewill, not subject to stars or to lines in our palms or objects of prediction by con-artists, no matter what sacred names are given for this con-game. 

There is no greater crime than abandoning or denying one’s freedom of choice. This is the ONLY exclusive gift from Allah bestowed to human beings. Allah has called this gift His divine energy (32:9). This makes humankind uniquely special in comparison to all the other creations. By denying this Allah-given unique gift one degrades one’s own humanity. It is to accept humiliation. That is why the punishment is so severe.

Now, after this, the Qur’an says that when the soothsayers and astrologers and their followers will be thrown in hell wave after wave, then the gatekeeper, the Master of hell, will ask them: Didn’t someone come to warn you of the consequences of such beliefs and ideologies? Didn’t someone tell you that this is شرک (shirk) and کفر (kufr)? (43:77-78)

Fulfillment of two conditions before destruction

The Qur’an has said repeatedly that no people are destroyed by Allah’s law unless two preconditions are met: 1) that a message must be conveyed to them that their behavior is leading to their destruction. This is called warning (35:24; 37:72). And 2) that they should have the ability to understand that message because the warner messenger came from amongst themselves (38:4). What a fair judge is Allah!? How unique are these conditions! – The message must have reached people, and they should have the ability to understand the message. An insane cannot commit a crime. One cannot hold him accountable. 

From live dust to dead dust

They will be asked: Didn’t someone come to tell you what your place is as a human being in the Universe that you turned yourself from full of life (live dust determining your own destiny) to dead dust (subject to predetermined fate)? Didn’t someone come to warn you? The Qur’an says they will say: Yes! Certainly, he came to warn us, but we didn’t listen. All the prophets that came before Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were messengers that warned their people. After them, their true followers performed this duty of warning. But Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is the last Prophet. He was told to warn people through the Qur’an (7:2). Since no more prophets will come after him (PBUH), the warning will continue through the Qur’an by the Prophet’s Ummah (امّہ). 

The obligation of the Prophet’s Ummah (امّہ)  

When the Qur’an has been preserved forever (15:9), and the Prophet’s امّہ (Ummah) has been made the inheritor of this Book (7:3), then there is no need for any Prophet to come to fulfill this duty of warning people. Now, it is to be done through the Qur’an. The Qur’an is protected forever and will exist in its original unaltered form forever (15:9). And since the Prophet’s امّہ (Ummah) has been made the inheritor of this Book, it is therefore obligatory on this امّہ (Ummah) to fulfill this duty (6:122). But when this امّہ (Ummah) itself is guilty of a crime (of not fulfilling its duty) (25:30), then how can it warn others? In any case, this was the question the guard (مالک ‘Maalik’ of Hell) asked those people being driven to Hell: whether or not a Warner came to you (35:37)? This does not mean that the guard was asking if a Prophet came or not? It means that since Allah’s Book was there, then was there no one who fulfilled this duty and conveyed its message to you? Please notice how important is this duty that has been entrusted to this امّہ (Ummah)! 

May Allah give us the fortitude, perseverance, and unwavering commitment to follow the shining footsteps of the Prophet ﷺ. Then Allah guarantees that His cosmic forces will join us in our effort to achieve this goal:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا

Verily, God and His angels bless the Prophet: [hence,] O you who have attained to faith, bless him and give yourselves up [to his guidance] in utter self-surrender! (33:56) [Asad]

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