Q. I feel that I'm badly lacking Tawaqqul.” If I lose anything or make a bad decision, I'm unsure if it's my own fault or my fate (Qadr). I have all the necessities of life and am about to finish my Master's degree in horticulture, but I feel like this was a poor career decision. From an Islamic viewpoint, please help me to understand if this is written in my fate according to Allah's will.

A. The concepts of Qadr and Tawaqqul are much misunderstood in our glorious religion. Qadr has been interpreted to mean predestination when it is anything but predestination -- it simply means that things are measured out accordingly. A human has all that is requisite for him/her to function as such (mentally and physically), therefore, for a human to fly would be something ghair maqdur”, i.e. outside of his/her Qadr. Surat al-Shams tells us: And the being which Allah shapes, and gives it the potential of evil and good conscience; indeed he who purifies this being succeeds, and he who desecrates this being fails. The translation is functional but it basically tells us that to rely on Qadr as "fate" is un-Islamic to the very core: how dare Allah take us to task if things are “predestined”?

This is related to tawaqqul, because once we have done the best that we can do, relying on our religious and other knowledge to select a course in life that we feel is advantageous to us and to others, then we trust in God. It is possible that we may sometimes feel that we have made the wrong decision, and it is equally possible that we may indeed have made the wrong choice, but this is one of the facets that separate us from the lower animals -- we can change things. It is possible, for example, that the profession of your choosing is not the correct one at the moment, but this may be temporary, and you have to rely on your inner strength to weather this crisis. A horticulturalist is one of the persons who witnesses first hand Allah's power of creation -- in the same manner that a tree or a shrub powers through periods of drought to survive -- it is an example for us who have the faculty of the mind, the recourse of prayer, and the ability to move to better places.

Your background may have influenced your present state of mind, and it is dangerous for a non-specialist in psychology to give advice on this. Look to your own power, after all Allah has created you in the best of molds, and did not create you for mere play. The great Protestant reformer Martin Luther felt that each person had a beruf -- a calling, perchance horticulture is indeed your calling. Rather than question yourself negatively, look to the future positively. I note that you are at the Master’s stage of your studies, and from experience this is a time of extreme self-questioning. I am almost sure that if you question your peers or counterparts in other fields of study, you will find that they are asking the same questions. Your questions are therefore to be considered natural and not a lack in trusting yourself and Allah.

See a similar question and answer on Predestination for additional information.

Posted April 6, 2002