قُل لَّن يُصِيبَنَا إِلَّا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّـهُ لَنَا هُوَ مَوْلَانَا ۚ وَعَلَى اللَّـهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
Qul lan yusībanā illā mā kataballāhu lanā huwa mawlānā wa-‘alallāhi falyatawakkalil-mu’minūn
Say, ‘Nothing will befall us except what Allah has ordained for us. He is our master, and in Allah let the believers put their trust.’
(Sūrat al-Tawbah, No 9, Āyat 51)
They hypocrites in Madīna taunted the Muslims whenever any form of difficulty or defeat would come to them. They were unhappy if good befell the Muslims and would rejoice in any misfortune that befell them. In this verse Allah ‘azza wajall tells the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam to tell the hypocrites that all that befalls Muslims is what Almighty Allah has decreed. He is in total control and determines the extent to which anyone is affected by someone else.
This verse is reassuring in that it reminds us that whatever we go through is part of what Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā wants for us. We are under the wilāyah (guardianship, protection, control) of Allah (swt). The verse says He is our Mawlā (Master) and so He will only plan what is best for us. He foresees the eventual result for us, which is hidden from our eyes. So, we trust in Him and submit to Him. The last part of the verse is a direct conclusion of the fact that He is in charge, so it makes sense to trust in Him.
This verse also brings up a host of other questions. If everything that befalls us is from God, what role do human beings play? What does that mean for individual responsibility and accountability? Is this promoting the School of Jabr which says mankind is completely controlled by God?
To shed some light on this very complex issue, think of the following points:
1. Every action of human being that is done with his own free will is connected to God who gave him that free will in the first place. If God wishes it can be taken away at any moment. However, God allows the human to do certain actions at will.
2. Many verses talk about the freedom of human beings to act. The Quran says: And man shall have nothing but what he strives for (Q 53:39), and Every soul is hostage to what it has earned (Q 74:38). Many similar verses talk about human free will and responsibility. But there are also verses which talk about God’s complete power over what is decreed. The Quran says: And you do not will except that Allah wills. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise (Q 76:30). A true understanding of the picture can only result when these verses are juxtaposed together. Neither is the human being completely free nor is he completely controlled.
3. In this world we see a lot that tells us of human responsibility. People whose inner nature is not veiled experience remorse and feel guilty at doing something wrong. That is an indicator of a natural acceptance of personal responsibility. There is praise for good deeds, efforts put in to do good and achieve more. Societies impose judgement and penalties for criminals, accepting that humans are responsible for their own crimes. All these shows human responsibility. The reality that God is in ultimate control does not annul the fact that He has granted a certain degree of freedom to humans to act as they wish.
4. Outside the circle of our own efforts there lies a much wider circle of God’s control in which humans have no say. Whatever is destined to be the result of the cause and effect system that has been put in place by God, will happen.
5. Believers who understand the greatness of God and know His magnificent qualities have faith that this system is the best system for creation. Bearing responsibility is the only way humans can achieve perfection. Thus, the system paves the way for those who wish to go that way. There will be consequences of that system as there will be many who will not wish to go that way, but there cannot be a better system for life on earth than this, which Allah (swt) has ordained in His wisdom.
The matter of predestination and free will is a complex issue that has been debated by scholars for centuries. It is beyond the scope of this Reflection to go into its details. The verse is brought up as an important reminder for the present times, to allow people to put their trust in Almighty Allah and know that whatever happens to them is part of God’s decree for them. There is comfort in knowing that. A lot of people are being affected in many ways: physically, emotionally, financially, socially, etc. This verse can allay the fear or panic that may result. Recite it to counter the fear and negativity you may experience.
In closing we quote from the Du‘ā which is recommended for recitation on Fridays: O Allah, whatever I may say this Friday in the way of utterance, or an oath that I may take, or a vow that I may make, all that is subject to Your will: whatever You wish will come about, and whatever You do not wish will not happen (Mafātīh, p.114)
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh. Shaykh ‘Abbās Qummī, Mafātīh al-Jinān, Translated and Annotate by Ali Quli Qarai, 2019.