The Human Choice
Man was created free to choose. But was he given a boundless choice? Some of the people with superficial knowledge who claim that they are free to follow their mind and their own thoughts say with enthusiasm that they have the ultimate freedom. Some people even go further and say that a smart person is capable of creating his own destiny and that he can place himself in life wherever he likes.
We tell those people not to be hasty, for what they are saying is dismissed by the facts of life. Al-Haqq (SWT) did not give man ultimate choice, He gave him the choice that best suits his role in life for He (SWT) is the perfectly wise - Al-Hakim
- and everything He does is with great Wisdom. Allah (SWT) is the knower of all - Al-â€˜Alim
- and everything going on in His universe happens within His knowledge and not just haphazardly. Actually, things going on are inter-related and linked in a way or another, and man has not been given the ultimate choice in life.
And if everyone of us looks back throughout his life or if one even looks to himself and his soul, he will find a lot of things that is not submitted to his own will or choice. He will find that the majority of manâ€™s life is not submitted to his choice.
Letâ€™s start the story from the very beginning, when man comes to this universe, when he starts the first moment of his life breathing air into his lungs, the moment of his birth. Did he choose his place of birth? His date of birth? The hour he was born in? None of us ever chose his hour of birth, we all come to life by the decree of Allah (SWT). The introduction of anyone to life is not by his own choice nor is the place of his birth nor is his mankind, male or female. He does not choose his nationality whether Arabic, British or American. And he does not even have any choice over his own body whether he is short or tall, the color of his eyes, his hair, how his features look like. He does not choose his parents and he does not know if he can hear and see, if he has perfect hands and legs, if he has any illness in his body. All this and many other things man does not choose and by this Al-Haqq (SWT) draws our attention to the boundaries of manâ€™s choice from the moment he is born. And in that Allah (Jalla Jallaloh) says
<<He it is who shapes you in the wombs as He wills. There is no god but He, the Exalted in Might, the Wise>>
Ayah 6 from surat Al-i-â€˜Imran
By this Al-Haqq (SWT) relates everything linked to the moment of birth and human configuration to His own ultimate power and He does not give man any choice in being born white or black, healthy or ill, and no choice in how his face or body looks.
Choice and its Boundaries
To those who say that man has been given ultimate choice in this universe, we tell them that the moment of giving birth dismisses what they are saying and that man even at the moment when he is born does not have any choice. And to complete the picture, let us move from the time of birth when man comes to this world up till the time of death when he leaves it. Does man have any choice when it comes to death? Is he capable of saying no to death? Saying that he does not want to die now or that he will delay his death to the next day or the next year? Definitely not, Allah (SWT) warns us about that truth in many of his Ayat in Al-Qurâ€™an Al-Karim. He (Jalla Jallaloh ) says
<<And every nation has its appointed term; when their term comes, neither can they delay it nor can they advance it an hour (or a moment)>>
Ayah 34 from surat Al-Aâ€™raf
About those who think that death is related to the events of life like war and conquests and who think that man by staying at home will escape death, Al-Haqq (SWT) says
<<O you who believe! Be not like those who disbelieve (hypocrites) and who say to their brethren when they travel through the earth or go out to fight: â€œIf they had stayed with us, they would not have died or been killed.â€>>
Ayah 156 from surat Al-i-â€˜Imran
And his saying (Jalla Jallaloh)
<<(They are) the ones who said about their killed brethren while they themselves stayed (at home): â€œIf only they had listened to us, they would not have been killed.â€ Say: â€œAvert death from your own selves, if you speak the truthâ€>>
Ayah 168 from surat Al-Imran
And the two Ayaat Al- Karima talk about the infidels and the hypocrites and how they linked death to the human will and the universal events. In the first Ayah the infidels told their brothers that if they traveled and risked their lives or if they went to fight they might die or get killed. But if they stayed at home and did not join Al-Jihad
they will save their lives. So those infidels related the time and place of death with the path they would decide to take or with their decision to join Jihad, and they claimed that it would be a reason for their death. They thought that those who died or got killed would have been alive, if they had stayed in their homes. Death is a decree by Allah (SWT), there is no reason for it. Man dies because his life term has reached an end. A fighter who fights in lots of wars may stay alive, when another man staying in his room may die. For example Khaled Ben Al-Walid who fought in many wars died in his bed and he said before dying â€œ I have joined a lot of conquests and in every inch of my body there is a hit by a sword, a wound by an arrow or a stab by a spear and here I am dying in my bed same way the animals die. May the eyes of the cowards not sleep.â€
So actually death is not related to being in war joining a conquest or not. A man staying at home may die while another joining a battle may come back safe. And then the second Ayah shows the hypocrites who refused to go to Jihad, and how they were saying to their fellow hypocrites that if the believers had listened to them and had not gone to fight, they would have not died and that they would have been living among them. Al-Haqq (TWT) tells them that they have stayed and refused to fight but yet if their concept is true they should be able to keep death away when it approaches them. Truly, no one can stop death whether one is in a battle, hiding at home or anywhere else. Al-Haqq (SWT) explains this thoroughly in the Ayat that were descended at the time of Ghazwat â€˜Uhud
when Muslims were defeated and the hypocrites and the unconfident said that if the decision was in their hands, they would have not gone to fight and those who died would not have been killed.
Al-Haqq (SWT) answers them by saying
<<They said, â€œHave we any part in the affair?â€ Day (O Muhammad PBUH): â€œIndeed the affair belongs wholly to Allah.â€ They hide within themselves what they dare not reveal to you, saying: â€œif we had anything to do with the affair, none of us would have been killed here.â€ Say: â€œEven if you had remained in your homes, those for whom death was decreed would certainly have gone forth to the place of their death.â€ >>
Ayah 154 from surat Al-i-â€˜Imran
They kept what they said to themselves and did not show it to the messenger of Allah (PBUH), so Al-Haqq (SWT) wanted to reveal the truth and inform his messenger (PBUH) about it. So then the reply came from Heaven, from Al-Haqq (Jalla Jallaloh) and He asked his prophet to tell them that being in the battle does not bring them death and does not drive it away either. For those who were at home and were pre-destined to die would have left their homes to the place of their death where they would rest. That is, being conscious about danger and trying to get away from it will not give you more life because death is pre-destined by Allah and it is going to happen no doubt. Moreover you may find that a person pre-destined to die, is struggling to reach the place of his death. For example a man insisting to find a seat in a flight and may be paying more money for it not knowing that it is the reason for his death, that this flight is going to crash and all on board will die. And you may find someone else trying to reach a certain place and has suffered a lot of trouble to reach that place and then find death facing him there. Merely death is a decree by Allah and no one can run away from it.
LIFE and DESTINY
Al-Haqq (SWT) explains that case more thoroughly by saying
<<Did you (O Muhammad PBUH) not turn your vision to those who abandoned their homes, though they were thousands (in number), for fear of death? Allah said to them, â€œDieâ€: Then He restored them to life. Truly, Allah is full of bounty to mankind, but most men are ungrateful>>
Ayah 243 from surat Al-Baqarah
This Ayah was descended for the people of a village who were so scared from death due to a plague that they had to leave the village. Allah (SWT) wanted to teach them that they can never escape His destiny and that if Allah (SWT) wants them to die they will not be safe by leaving that village to anywhere else. So Allah made them all die and then He, answering the prayers of their prophets, gave them life again.
Decree of death comes at a pre-destined time that cannot be delayed or anticipated for a single minute and it is impossible to run away from it. Allah has hidden the reason of death and the time it is appointed so that no one thinks that it is a mechanical procedure where we are born and then after aging we die, as if the length of our life is fixed and after reaching sixty or seventy we should die. For that the ultimate power of Allah made death with no fixed reason, the infant dies in his motherâ€™s abdomen, the sick man dies as of his illness and the healthy dies without any known reason. The kid dies, the young man dies and the old man dies as well. This proves that death happens by the decree of Allah and that reason has nothing to do with it, for two men may have the same illness and both are treated by the same physician and you find that one dies in few days and the other lives for years.
Yet there are people who debate the issue of death saying that one can order the execution of a man or that one can decide to kill a man by a knife or a gun and by that he is capable of controlling death. Those people try to doubt the issue of death being a decree by Allah and they claim that it can be in the hands of man. We say that those people are confused between death and murder. Allah (SWT) only can give and take life and man can never do that but yet he can murder.
Al-Haqq (SWT) says
<<Muhammad (PBUH) is no more than a messenger, and indeed many messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you then turn back on your heels as disbelievers)? And he who turns back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; and Allah will give reward to those who are grateful>>
Ayah 144 from surat Al-i-â€˜Imran
So death is different than murder, because Al-Haqq (SWT) says â€œDied or got killedâ€ and Al-Haqq (Jalla Jallaloh) differentiated between death and murder in many of the Ayat in the qurâ€™an
<< If they had stayed with us, they would not have died or been killed>>
Ayah 156 from surat Al-i-â€˜Imran
<<Those who emigrated for the cause of Allah and after that were killed or died, surely, Allah will provide a good provision for them>>
Ayah 58 from surat Al-Hajj
<<And Whether you die or are killed, verily, unto Allah you shall be brought together>> Ayah 158 from surat Al-i-â€˜Imran
Death and Murder
So Death is different than murder because in the case of the former, death comes first and then after that the body is destroyed. But in the case of the Murder the body should be destroyed first to cause death, for example by hitting oneâ€™s head and breaking it or by shooting him several times in the head or chest.
So in the case of Murder, you have to destroy the body first to get the soul out and cause death. On the other side, death is a way of getting rid of life first and then the destruction of the body follows, and that can happen only from Al-Haqq (SWT) and man has no hands in it. Yet, murder is the ruining of the body first and consequently death follows. And that man who disputed with Ibrahim (PBUH) about his God because Allah has granted him the kingdom argued with Ibrahim (PBUH) also about the issue of Death and Life as in the Ayah
<<When Ibrahim said (to him): â€œMy Lord is He who gives life and caused death.â€ He said: â€œI give life and cause deathâ€>>
Ayah 258 from surat Al-Baqarah
And that king had been lying about what he said because only Al-Haqq (SWT) can give and take life and man can only murder, he can not cause death.
And as we reach the point where man has no control over life and death, we also need to consider sleep that is also not in the hands of man. Sleep is a miracle that is confusing the whole world because it is still an unknown phenomenon. How man by just closing his eyes moves from one set of laws to another in a moment. For in the life of vigilance man hears with his ears, sees with his eyes, talks with his tongue and walks with his legs and he is bounded in time and space, limited by specific rules; for he can not travel from Egypt to the United States in less than few hours and he has to follow certain procedures. In that case he should go to the airport, check in, take the flight and spend some hours before he reaches the States, and then he checks out and so on...
And man in the life of vigilance (day life) sees with his eyes according to the strength of his sight; there is someone with good sight who can see from a far distance and another with weak sight who needs medical glasses and then material objects will obstruct his sight so he cannot see beyond a wall. Also man in the day life walks with his legs and his pace is limited even if he walks faster and he is bounded by his materialism so that if he falls from a high place he is killed or his bones are broken. Moreover, there is a lot of things hindered from man in his day life, for he can not see the dead, who relocated to the mercy of Allah, even if he stands in front of their tombs nor can he talk to them. And there is an endless set of rules in the life of vigilance that we all know about.
Dream and Consciousness
The moment man sleeps all those rules are cancelled, for he can travel to the States and come back several times in few moments. He can also see strange things and new places that he has never visited before. All that he can see with closed eyes although if someone approaches his eyes and almost touches it, he will not see or feel it because the eyes are closed, but yet with those eyes closed he can see very clear and he may say strange things that no one can argue about just like the king of Egypt saw in his dreams at the time of prophet Youssef (Joseph) (PBUH). Allah says about what the king saw in his dreams:
<<I saw (in a dream) seven fat cows, whom seven lean ones were devouring>>
Ayah 43 from surat Youssef
Is it possible that a cow can eat another in our day life? Of course not, we have never seen that happen before. And can the weak cow eat the strong one? No, that is really unbelievable. And man walks in his dreams with his legs on bed not even moving, and he moves from one place to another with his body staying in the same place, not even few centimeters away. Man also sees the people who died many years ago and chats with them. He sees himself young when he is already old and he sees himself fighting a lion and killing it.
All those and other things happen to us in our sleep, we dream about it and we see it and it never happens outside the area of mind and memory and thatâ€™s why when we wake up we can tell people what we saw in details because it is stored in our memories. And some kind of seeing device other than the eyes saw what happened clearly with all the details or else how could we describe our dreams. And the discussion with the people that moved to the hereafter life is one that we are aware of because we can remember it and repeat may be the same phrases and words.
So man moves within a moment from some set of laws to another that we know nothing about, but to which we submit in our sleep. The question here is whether we have will or control over those laws that we submit to while sleeping, or not? That is can any of us while sleeping chose the events that he would like to see in his dreams? Can he say that he is going to see this and not that? Or say that this night he can go to Europe and the following night to the Soviet Union? Of course not, because when man is asleep he is out of the area of human choice. He is not free to choose what he can or cannot see and he is no more able to choose the words that he talks with and those that he hides within himself and does not utter.
He is not controlling anything he sees although his dream coincides with the notion of the human brain. For example if someone tells you that he saw something in his dream, you do not deny him that and you do not argue with him because you know that there is dreams and that sometimes you are exposed to it. So you do not accuse him of bringing out a subject that is above the human mind, but instead you give the day life laws a break so you do not use it as a measure to what happens during sleep. Your mind also does not question anyoneâ€™s dream and you do not try to argue with him about it because you know from your own experience that man can see in his dreams things that does not submit to the normal day life laws.
But still no one is able to give us a scientific explanation for the laws that controls man in his sleep and how the soul moves from one set of laws to another within the same moment and then returns to the day life laws the moment he wakes up from his sleep and again back to the sleep time laws. And no one regardless of the scientific degree that he reaches can explain how this transfer from one law to another happens, but we know that sleep is a reality and that everyone experiences it. We also know that in the sleep time laws we go beyond the measures of time and thatâ€™s why when Allah (SWT) made the people in the cave (Ahl Al-Kahf
) asleep for three hundred and nine hijri
years, by the time they were awake they did not know how long they slept. And although they have slept all those years, what did they say by the time they woke up? Al-Haq (SWT) says
<<Said one of them: â€œHow long have you stayed (here)?â€ They said: â€œWe have stayed (perhaps) a day or part of a dayâ€>> Ayah 19 from surat Al-Kahf
So man when sleeping does not feel the time and thatâ€™s why the seven sleepers - Ahl Al-Kahf - measured the time that they have slept by the normal sleep time measures which is usually part of the day or by most a whole day if he is very exhausted, but not more than that.
And to apply that on our selves, when we go to sleep and then wake up we do not know for how long have we been sleeping until we look to some kind of time measurement device as the watch or any other sign for time measurement like day and night. So we might have slept in the day light and then wake up late at night or vice versa, but no one can know the actual number of sleeping hours unless he turns his eyes to the watch.
Al-Haqq (SWT) wanted to save us from searching for the laws that governs sleep and to let us know that we will not be able to discover it. So Allah (Jalla Jallaloh) said
<<It is Allah that takes the souls (of men) at death; and those that die not (He takes) during their sleep; those on whom He has passed the decree of death, He keeps back (from returning to life), but the rest He sends (to their bodies) for a term appointed. Verily in this are Signs for those who reflect
Ayah 42 from surat Az-Zumar
So we know that sleep submits to the laws of Al-Barzakh and we donâ€™t know anything about the rules of life in Al-Barzakh, except what Allah has informed us about. All what we know about that laws of sleep is that there are things that we can see with and that it is different than the eyes that we use in the daily life, and that we can move with something other than our legs that keeps us moving in the daily life, and that there are words uttered with what is different than the tongue that we speak with in the daily life, and that the world of Al-Barzakh does not rely on the physical senses that is totally idle during sleep. Actually we have other senses that we use in the world of Al-Barzakh and that world just like sleep does not have any human choice or any feel of the time and in that world we meet with people who have left this life and moved to the mercy of Allah before us, just as we meet them in our sleep world.
Allah (SWT) gave us all that in mercy of our minds and to know that there are things existing in the unseen that we know nothing about so that the image of the world of Al-Barzakh gets closer to our minds and also to know that moving from the day life to the life of Al-Barzakh can happen in a moment and then we can understand the meaning of what Rasool Allah
(PBUH) said â€œBy the witness of Allah you are going to die in the same way you sleep and you are going to be resurrected in the way you wake upâ€
By now we have agreed that the human choice in life is not absolute choice, but a limited one and we have explained how man cannot choose the time and place of his birth, his parents, nationality, sex, homeland, how he looks, the color of his eyes and hair and many others. He also can not choose the time of his death and he does not choose anything in his sleep which actually narrows down the area of choice that will get much more narrower as we proceed in specifying the choice that Allah gave to his servants.
Al-Hakim: Arabic pronounced name of Allah meaning The Perfectly Wise.
Al-â€˜Alim: Arabic pronounced name of Allah meaning The Knower of All
Al-Jihad: Arabic pronounced name for fighting for the cause of Allah and protecting Islam.
Ghazwat â€˜Uhud: Arabic pronounced words for a famous conquest between Muslims and Infidels.
Ahl Al-Kahf: Arabic pronounced words for the seven sleepers who slept for 309 years in the cave and woke up again by the power of Allah.
Hijri: is the Islamic calendar starting from the day Moslems emigrated from Mecca to Al-Madina
Rasoul Allah: Arabic pronounced word meaning the Messenger of God, Mohamed (PBUH)