Changing our destinies is possible through good intention
Belief, like fear or love, is a force to be understood as we understand
the theory of relativity and principals of uncertainty.
These forces that often remake time and space, that can shape and
alter who we imagine ourselves to be, begin long before we are born
and continue after we perish
-- David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
The Qur’an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) on the night of decree (one night during the last 10 nights in the month of Ramadan). The first revelation was titled The Clot.
Read: In the name of thy Lord Who createth,
Createth man from a clot.
Read: And thy Lord is the Most Bounteous,
Who teacheth by the pen,
Teacheth man that which he knew not.
-- Al-Alaq, 96:1, Qur’an, translation by William Pickthall
In this surah, we hear Allah’s frustration with man, who can be so self-righteous as to prevent the spiritual life of another being. Allah then wants us to reconsider the insignificance of who we are, and what gives us the authority to behave so badly.
This surah was sent down during a time in Arabia when baby girls were buried alive, the poor were considered trash, faith was a thing to be purchased (depending on which God can deliver more bounty, rather than belief deriving from love), and tribes were constantly at war for the spoils.
Nay, but verily man is rebellious
That he thinketh himself independent!
Lo! Unto thy Lord is the return.
Hast thou seen him who dissuadeth
A slave when he prayeth?
Hast thou seen if he relieth on the guidance (of Allah)
Or enjoineth piety?
Hast thou seen if he denieth (Allah’s guidance) and is froward?
Is he then unaware that Allah seeth?
Nay, but if he cease not We will seize him by the forelock --
The lying, sinful forelock --
Then let him call upon his henchmen!
We will call the guards of hell.
Nay, obey not thou him. But prostrate thyself, and draw near (unto Allah)
-- The Clot , Qur’an, translation by William Pickthall
To get a feeling for this sort of atmosphere, you might want to watch the film Cloud Atlas, a series of stories intertwined around two characters who repeatedly meet to fight greed and restore truth (love) in the world.
Prpohet Muhammad’s (pbuh) Arabia prior to Islam was similar to the part in Cloud Atlas, where a tribe of cannibals hunt Valleysmen.
Truth and love are weak forces, and the devil constantly reminds: “The weak are meat and the strong do eat!”
While in The Clot we hear Allah’s wrath, Allah also reminds us of the vastness in his heart: And thy Lord is the Most Bounteous.
Take one step towards me, I will take 10 steps towards you.
Walk towards me, I will run towards you
-- Allah, Hadith Qudsi
On the night of power, self-awareness is rewarded. If you pray and ask for forgiveness, you will receive it.
While some Shias believe that God is in constant flow of creation (our lives are indefinite destinies in the hands of Allah), so there is no solid predestination. Sunnis believe that on the night of decree, human beings receive God’s verdict for the year.
All schools believe that human beings can change their destiny through good intentions and good actions. What cannot be changed is Allah’s knowledge of the full spectrum of possibilities.
I reached You
In a great hurry.
Without any hesitation
I ask You with reverence
Please accept me
As one of Your own.
People say You are
Close to the One and all
You may consider me
As one among them.
I’ve concluded finally
You’re the basis of all my thoughts
I also say emphatically
You’re the boundless energy moving me.
-- Boundless Energy, Tirupathi Chandrupatla
Shireen Pasha is a contributor.