A famous scholar who has traveled the world and explored many religions came to have a Q&A session with us today. It was beautiful to hear the questions the students had for him and to see their enthusiasm and genuine thirst for knowledge regarding our faith, beliefs, and practices. I spent most of the time observing and listening, but I then decided to participate and ask a question of my own, too. 

Our Imam has made many Farmans (speeches) about how struggle is the meaning of life, that it is man’s duty and should be his joy, that life is full of problems that occur to everyone everywhere and that this is inevitable. I asked the scholar what the Quran has to say about this and why problems happen to even the best of people. His reply was that we are the highest creations and we have free will; at the same time, we have been given intellect to guide us in our life choices. With this comes inevitable conflict and issues. 

Although this was an interesting answer that did ring true for me, I was not completely satisfied because another thought plagued my mind: sometimes, bad things happen to people who have no control over the situation, in which case their intellect and free will seem unrelated to their problems. After a bit of reflection, I decided to change around my question. Our religion preaches the concept of destiny and that everything is predetermined for each of us according to God’s plan; therefore, everything happens for a reason- not just any reason, but for Gods reason, the best reason. This is a concept I’ve continually struggled with because there are many times when things are going wrong and we are unable to see God’s reasoning behind it, so it’s easier to assume that sometimes, things just happen. Not because God has planned it for us because it’s for the best, not because our own actions have landed us there, and certainly not because we are being rewarded or punished for our past behaviors. My new question to him during the following day’s session was this: if everything happens for the best according to a predestined plan by God, where does our intellect and free will come into play?

His response to this was simple: Our religion does not say that everything is predetermined by God. We do have free will, and intellect to guide our free will, but the only things that are already written and guaranteed are that there are 24 hours in a day, and every life must come to an end. God is part of each one of us and resides within ourselves. When we tap into this power and trust in our faith, anything is possible. It is a complex process how free will and destiny can work together with the many laws of life in play, but in the end, nothing can happen without the will of God, and nothing can stop the will of God from happening.

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