Planning and Destiny

Why plan when everything has already been written down?

Some people, from a philosophical perspective, have argued that we do not need a plan. They argued that if we believe in God, and if we believe in the destiny, meaning all things have already been written, then there is no need for us to plan, we just go with the flow. And Allah (سبحانهُ وتعالى) has described Himself in the Qur'an as the One who plans the affairs from the heavens to the earth. He is the planner, He is Al Muqaddim, it is one of His names.

In Islam we may want to work out this kind of issue of what do we do. We go to the life of the Prophet, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), he was the example of how we should live our lives, as were all of the Prophets before him. So was Jesus, so was Moses, David, Abraham, all the way back to Adam (عليهم السلام). They were all examples of how one should live a godly life, a life which is pleasing to God. They received revelation and guidance to guide humankind. So, therefore, if we look into the life of the last Prophet, the last Prophet of God, the last Prophet of Allah, Muhammad (ﷺ), we should find the solution to this guide among them. We are looking to his life. Did he plan or did he go with the flow?

We see that when he was going to make Hijrah, when he (ﷺ) was going to emigrate from Makkah to Madinah, he did not just pick up and get out one morning.  No. When he was about to do so, when he had decided to do so, he made a plan, he made a series of plans.  He (ﷺ) made arrangement for somebody to bring food and supplies; somebody to get transportation; a guide to show them along the way; the night he left, he organised Ali ibn Abi Talib (رضى الله عنه), his cousin and who would also become his son-in-law, to stay in his bed, so those who sought to harm him would think he was still in Makkah, this was his planning. On the way when those who were seeking him out came close, he hid in a cave. So we see through all of these planning. This was his way, when he went into battle, when enemies came to attack Muslims, we see that he gave clear instructions to those who were fighting against the enemies of God, where to position themselves and what to do. In the battle of Uhud, people were set to stay upon a Mount to defend the attack from the rear. We have all kinds of plans in Islam.

And there is a very famous incident which sums it all up, the whole issue of planning and destiny, putting them all together. Where it is reported authentically that while the Prophet (ﷺ) was sitting in the Mosque with a group of his followers, his disciples, companions, teaching them, another of his disciples came into the Mosque and planned to join that circle. But before he could sit down, he remembered that he has left his camel outside, he was not sure, did he tie up his camel or did he just leave the camel there, in another words, if he did not tie his camel, it might run away, so he was worried, “Shall I go back and tie up my camel?  Or should I just trusting Allah and sit with the Prophet (ﷺ)?”  So before making the decision he asked the Prophet (ﷺ), “Should I do this or should I do that?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said to him,

“Tie the camel and then trust in Allah.” [1]

Tie the camel, that is your plan. Tie the camel, then trust in Allah, meaning that no matter what plan we make, can we guarantee the result?  No, that is the destiny. If you have made the plans but Allah has destined something else, that is going to happen anyway. So you make your effort, and then you leave the rest to Allah. So you combine both, plan and trust in Allah that Allah knows best. What is best for us, we really do not know. We might think this is the best thing, and so we make our plan for it, but then Allah knows that that is not the best thing, so he gives you something else. We do not say why, why? No, we do not say why. We accept and we work with what Allah has destined. This is the proper approach.

Reference:

[1] [Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2517]

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