The Philosophic Value of Islamic Determinism
Had the Orientalists understood Islamic determinism in the manner we have described, they would have appreciated its philosophic worth and profound value. For Islamic determinism regards life in a manner coherent with the most advanced, precise, philosophical, and scientific theories which human thought has achieved in its long and progressive history. The Islamic philosophic idea is synthetic. It does not exclude scientific determinism, nor does it deny the world as will and idea or the doctrine of emergent evolution.["Scientific Determinism," "The World as Will and Idea," and "Emergent Evolution" are philosophic systems advanced by the positivist philosophers, Schopenhauer and Henri Bergson.] Rather, Islamic determinism includes all these views within its system as aspects of the pattern of the cosmos and life. This is not the place to elaborate this point in detail. Nonetheless, we shall try to state it as succinctly and as clearly as possible, hoping that the reader will agree that the greatness, comprehensiveness, and depth of this idea is comparable with any other theory known or discovered until now, and that it leaves the door wide open for any great advance human thought may achieve in the future.
Before we begin our brief statement, two observations are in order and should not be forgotten. First, it is not the intention of this author to contradict any Christian theory. The revelation of Jesus has been confirmed by Islam, as we have had many occasions to see in the course of this work. Islam sought to synthesize the prophecies and divine messages which had gone before and to provide for them a climax and a crowning. As the Gospel substantiates Jesus Christ's claim to his disciples, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law . . . I am not come to destroy but to fulfill," [Matthew, 5:17] just so the Qur'an confirmed the Muslim's iman in Ibrahim, Moses, Jesus, and all the preceding prophets. Islam came as a synthesis of all the previous divine revelations, as a correction and reproof of all the tampering with scripture done by the followers of those prophets. The second point is that the philosophical theory deducible from the Qur'an has been discovered by others before but in a different way than that which I am following in these pages. I have reached it in the way I have because I have opened myself to the guidance of the Qur'an and followed a modern scientific method. If God has guided me to the truth, to Him belongs the praise and the gratitude. And if I have missed the truth in some of my reasoning, then it is all the more cause to pray for my mistakes to be corrected by men of knowledge. But that too is to praise God and to be grateful for His blessing.
The first principle the Qur'an firmly establishes is that God has implanted in the universe immutable patterns and eternal laws. The universe does not only consist of our earth and all that is on it, nor is it limited to all that our senses can reach by way of stars and other heavenly bodies. The universe consists of all that God has created, whether sensory or non-sensory, past, present or future. If we only attempt to imagine God's creation, we will realize that our knowledge is indeed small. The space which stands between us and the stars of heaven, electricity which fills this space as well as our earth, the great vastness of space which separates us from the sun and the stars and other systems of heavenly bodies yet farther than the sun and separated from us by thousands of light years, and the infinity of space lying still beyond these which is beyond our imagination but known to God-all this runs according to changeless and immutable laws. All that we have scientifically known about creation is still very scant; in it the actual has been mixed up with the imaginary. Indeed, the real component of our so-called knowledge is little by comparison with the fictitious. However, it constitutes all that we genuinely know of the universe and serves as foundation for what we call the laws of the universe and of life, and puts a critical brake on our overhasty will to generalize. If, for a moment, we were to lift this brake, our imagination would seek to encompass the whole and the result would be the greatest flowering of science fiction. Supposing, for instance, that the inhabitants of Mars were to build a broadcasting station of a force of one hundred million kilowatts in order to bring to us, the inhabitants of the earth, details of what was taking place on their planet and show it to us by means of television. Would it then be possible for man on earth to restrain his imagination, considering that Mars is not the most distant of the planets nor the most difficult with which to have communication ?
Everything in this vast universe, of which we know so little, exerts some influence on our world and everything it contains. If any one of these heavenly bodies were to change its course or structure in some measure, however little, the pattern of our universe would be equally affected by such a change, and our own short and insignificant life that is already determined by our environment would equally be affected. Naturally, our life is more deeply affected by the greater cosmic forces and changes; even so, in suffering their effects, we may achieve the good as well as its opposite. The final result is not only a function of the influences we suffer, but of our preparation for receiving such influences and our mastery of ourselves in disposing of their effects. Many an identical pattern has determined many people in different ways, propelling some to good, others to evil, with all the variant degrees between them. In this life, good and evil are the effects of a dialectical relation between the elements and factors of the cosmos and the human soul. Thus, both good and evil may be said to result from the immutable pattern of the cosmos and follow necessarily from its existence, just as the positive and the negative are necessary implications of the existence of electricity, and microbes and germs are necessary implications of human bodily life.