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The course of destiny

The belief that whatever happens to one is determined by fate is called “destiny”. Belief in destiny, whether good or bad, is one of the six basic articles of faith in Islam. The faith of a Muslim is deficient if he does not believe in destiny. The birth of every soul marks the beginning of its journey on the path to destiny. 

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Imam Bukhari and Muslim both relate in the fourth hadith of Annawawi’s collection that the Prophet (SAW) said: “… (At birth) four words of command are given (to the angel about man) to write down the man’s fortune, his life span, his works, and whether he will be miserable or prosperous. By Allah besides whom there is no other God, one of you may work the works of the people of paradise till there is only an arm’s length between him and it when that which has been written will out strip him so that he works the works of the people of fire and enters therein. Or one of you may work the works of the people of fire till there is only arm’s length between him and it when that which has been written will overtake him so that he works the works of the people of paradise and enters it”. 

The Prophet (SAW) in the above quoted hadith gives a lucid illustration of destiny. Whatever has been destined to be must be, and what has not been destined to be will never be. When, for example, a grain of rice is destined to remain in its chaff, so shall it be from planting until it is expelled from man’s bowel as excreta. After harvest, the rice is brought home, parboiled, dried and then taken for milling. The particular “grain of destiny” would remain in its chaff even after passing through the milling machine. Being a “grain of destiny”, it will pass through all cooking processes without being noticed for possible extraction from other grains. That’s how this “grain” would be cooked, served and swallowed (in its chaff) without also being noticed. This is how it will go in to the belly wearing its chaff until it reaches its final destination in the sewages or latrines. This parable demonstrates the working of destiny. 

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Whatever has been destined to come to man, as fortunes or misfortunes, must surely come. And anything that has not been ordained to come your way as favours or afflictions will never come. The Hausas say: “Rabon Kwado baya hawan sama” meaning “The shares due to the frog never hangs (up) in the sky”. The interpretation of this Hausa maxim is that Allah will make that which belongs to the frog to hang at a level low enough for the frog to grasp it. The Prophet (SAW) said in the nineteenth hadith of Annawawi’s collection, “Know that if the (whole) community should make a united effort to benefit you in any matter they would not benefit you in anything except what Allah has prescribed for you, nor were they to make a united effort to harm you in any matter, they would not harm you in anything except what Allah has prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages are dry”. 

It is destiny that some of us were born with silver spoon and others with a “wooden” one. While some undedicated workers do not miss promotions in their career, other diligent and dedicated workers sometimes get stagnated for many years. That is destiny. While some children lose their parents at tender age, others live with their own till feeble old age. That is destiny. While some of fall victims to attacks by kidnappers, banditry and armed robbery, others never have the traumatic experience. That is destiny. It should be seen as destiny when a law abiding citizen falls victim of police brutality while a criminal at the other end of the road escapes arrest. It is destiny to find some very poor people blessed with a good number of children while others who are affluent have none. People are not poor because they are lazy. They are also not wealthy because they are strong. People do not become leaders because they are clever. And they are also not followers because they are daft or imbecile. All these things are tied to destiny. 

Traveling on the path of destiny is different from traveling by road, air or rail. The choice of speed and mode of transportation on the path of destiny is not within man’s will and power. In order to have a smooth ride on the path of destiny, Allah (SWT) admonishes man in Qur’an 17: 29 “ make not thy hand tied to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach, so that thou become blameworthy and destitute”. Some of the traffic codes on the path of destiny include “Failure teaches success”; “Courtesy costs nothing”; “Hard work does not kill; “Better be late than never”; “God never shuts one door but opens another”; “Half a loaf is better than no bread”; “It is always time to do good”; “Honesty is the best policy”; “No gains without pains”. 

Hope, faith, self-confidence, hard work, personal discipline, humility, prayer, patience, endurance and perseverance make a man’s trip on the path of destiny lively. These attributes and virtues also make life worth living. Success and not failure, progress and not retrogression, happiness and not sadness, bliss and not adversity, optimism and not pessimism, confidence and not hopelessness should guide us as we walk on the path of destiny. One beautiful element of destiny is that it is hidden from man. If all things (good or bad) destined for man were to be made known to him, the life of many people would be better imagined. 

Man is required to think good, hope for good and work towards it. He is neither expected to think badly or negatively nor work towards evil on the path of destiny. It is also for this reason that Allah (SWT) in spite of the laws of destiny gives man the freedom to obey or disobey Allah (SWT). Allah (SWT) states in Qur’an 41:46 “whoever works righteousness benefits his own soul; whoever works evil, it is against his servants”. This is the spirit with which a believer is expected to keep hope alive on the pathway to destiny. May Allah (SWT) protect our faith as we navigate the course of destiny, amin.


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