Q: I have a cousin who is trying to convince me to see things in a different way according to Islam. According to how we were taught is that everything is put out for you whether good or bad, but his statement is “effort determines outcome”. Meaning that whatever you want out of life be it money or a big house. Whatever effort you put in will determine what you will have. Everything in life is about the choices that you make. I’m not sure how to take this. Is he judging my Creator or is there hadeeth that states differently. I’m so confused because to some extent what he says makes sense. He says Allah gives you free will to think and make choices. In a way you are the holder of your own destiny. Please assist.
A: This is a question of taqdeer. Taqdeer means to believe that all that happens in this world, good or bad, has been ordained by Allah Ta’ala. This is the correct and proper Islamic belief. Belief in taqdeer is part of ieman.
However, Allah has given us will power to choose good or bad, and to pursue aims and objectives in life. From a worldly point of view it is correct to say ‘effort determines outcome”. That is, the amount of effort you put into work, will determine the result and the outcome of that effort. But that is not always the case. How many people make effort but fail to achieve, or they achieve less than what they targeted. We human beings THINK that the outcome of our actions is the result of the effort we made. In reality, it is taqdeer that decides our results. It is actually Allah Ta’ala who decides who must get what in life. We think the outcome is because of our efforts because that is what it seems outwardly. For example, an ill person takes medication for the illness. Soon he or she recovers. The immediate reaction of such a person is that the medicine brought about cure. This is the worldly perspective. People without iemaan will firmly believe that the cause of health was the medicine; the cause of recovery from an illness was the surgery or operation. But for a Believer, the belief is that the ultimate Cause of good health or recovery was Allah. We believe that any worldly success achieved was ordained by Allah.
As for the effort we made, that was the MEANS through which success was achieved. The medication was the means of cure. In this world Allah Ta’ala allows most things to happen via worldly means and agencies. But that is not contrary to taqdeer, because even the effort one makes to achieve a result is also part of taqdeer. We do believe in the means and mediums through which events occur in this world, but we don’t believe those means and mediums are the primary cause or the main cause. To believe this is contrary to iemaan.
To summarize, we believe that whatever we achieve in this world, good or bad, has been determined by Allah. But Allah has allowed us the use of worldly means and agencies through which things can be achieved, but at the same time we believe that, in reality, it is Allah who allowed the results to occur.
Here some more examples:
a) Death occurs through many different causes; but ultimately the time and place of death has been decreed through taqdeer. The cause is one thing, and taqdeer is another. Both must be taken into consideration.
b) Two people have the same degrees and make the same effort in their field of expertise. One is more successful than the other. Why is this? There was no lack of effort from either of them. The reason is that Allah decreed more for the one than the other.
c) Two businessman conduct the same type of business; one works harder than the other, yet he is less successful than his counterpart. The only reason we can pinpoint for this is the Taqdeer or Decree of Allah.
So while we should adopt the means and agencies of this world to achieve something, our believe is that ultimate success is decreed by Allah. For this reason we need to make dua in abundance in spite of the effort we put in.
And Allah knows best
Mufti Siraj Desai