QADR OR TAQDIR - God's writing of adversities
Statements are frequently met with in the Koran, in which God is spoken of as having written down the doom of a nation, or a man's term of life, or an affliction. Such verses have also been misconstrued as upholding the doctrine of predestination. The misconception is due to a wrong interpretation of the word kitab, ordinarily carries the significance of writing, but has been freely used in Arabic literature and in the Koran itself in a variety of senses. Raghib says: "The word kitaba carries the significance of ithbat, i.e., establishing or confirming and taqdir, i.e., measuring out, and ijab, i.e., making obligatory, and farz, i.e., making incumbent, and azm bi-l-kitaba, i.e., determination to write down." And further on, it is stated that kitaba also signifies qadsa, i.e., what has been brought to pass, and hukm, i.e. order, and ilm, i.e. knowledge. Examples of these uses are given: "God has written (kataba), I will most certainly prevail, I and My apostles" (58:21), "Nothing will afflict us save what God has written down (kataba) for us" (9:51), and "Say, Had you remained in your houses, those for whom slaughter was written down (kutiba) would certainly have gone forth to the places where they would be slain" (3:153). Now in all these instances there is no mention of predestination or the fixing before hand of an evil course for the evil-doer. In the first example the meaning is clearly this, that the order or command has gone forth from God that the Prophet shall triumph, and God's orders must come to pass. "God has written down" only means that it is God's order that such a thing should happen. It is not necessary to seek a reference to any previous writing or previous order, because the order or writing is there in these words themselves, but, if necessary, the reference may be to the numerous prophecies that are met with in the Koran regarding the ultimate triumph of the Prophet, and which were in fact written down in a literal sense.
In the other two examples, there is mention of the writing down of distress or death. In the first place, it must be borne in mind that even if by the writing down of death or distress it is meant that such as pre-ordained for them, it does not lend any support to the doctrine of predestination, which means that the evil course of any evil-doer has been fixed for him before hand, and that no choice is left to him to adopt either a good or an evil course. Death or distress is due to circumstances over which man has no control, while the doing of good or evil is a matter entirely of man's own choice, according to the plain teaching of the Koran. But, as a matter of fact, there is no mention of pre-ordaining here, for kitaba means ordering and not pre-ordaining. In fact, the word sometimes means simply intending a thing: Raghib says, "The reason is that a thing is first intended, then spoken and then written. So intention is the beginning and writing the end, and therefore the word kitaba is used to signify mere intention, which is the beginning, when it is meant to emphasize it by writing." Going back to the Koran, itself, while it speaks of distress being "written down" in one place, it speaks of it as coming with God's permission or knowledge or order, in another. Compare the following two verses: "No affliction befalls on the earth nor in your souls, but it is in a book before We bring it into existence" (57:22); "No affliction comes about but by God's permission (idhn)" (64:11). The word idhn used here, means according to Raghib, knowledge of a thing, where there is with it also mashi'a, i.e. permission or order. It is clear, from a comparison of these two verses, that what is called kitaba in one place is called idhn in another. Thus the writing of God is only His knowledge or permission or order.
The Koran throws further light on this subject where it makes mention of the Divine intention to bring the faithful to perfection through adversities. Thus, speaking of the believers in particular, it says: "And We will certainly try you with somewhat of fear and hunger and loss of property and lives and fruits; and give good news to the patient, who, when a misfortune befalls them, say We are God's and to Him we shall return. These are they on whom are blessings and mercy from their Lord and these are the followers of the right course" (2:155-157). The principle is laid down here that the faithful are brought to perfection through adversities and trials, because we are told that God intends to try the believers by means of various kinds of afflictions, and through patience in suffering, they make themselves deserving of Divine blessings and mercy. Therefore when the faithful are made to say, "Nothing will afflict us save what God has written down for us" (9:51), it is in reference to the Divine will, as expressed above, and they are made to suffer affliction for their own perfection. God's writing down afflictions for them means, therefore, only that the Divine law is that they will be brought to perfection through afflictions. Of like significance is 3:153.
Both the verses quoted above and other similar verses, which speak of the writing down of afflictions for the believers, only teach that greatest lesson of life, resignation in adversities. Muslims are taught to remain absolutely contented when they have to meet adversity or death in fulfillment of their duties. If Muslims meets adversity or even death, he must believe that it is by God's order, that being the real meaning of kitaba in such cases. That faith upholds, a Muslim in adversity because he knows that out of an adversity which is by the order of the good God, will undoubtedly come good. There is a message in these verses that Muslims must face all adversities manfully and never despair of the mercy of God.