DESTINY PART 1: ABRAHAMIC RELIGIONS
“The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” – Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare ...
“The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” – Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
In the novel The Fault In Our Stars, the author John Green wants to argue that humans cannot always be the controller of their destiny. Sometimes, causality fails to explain some occurrences in our life. The cancers that Hazel and Augustus are suffering from are typical examples of that opinion. Neither of them wants these illnesses nor has done something to deserve those consequences since a very young age. Therefore, Brutus’ lines in the play Julius Caesar are not inclusive. In this situation, the blame must be on their destiny, the faults must be in their stars.
The argument of fatalism can be traced back to ancient times and there is no way to assert that any explanation is the absolute truth over one another. If the philosophy’s first question is WHO AM I?, there is a good chance that the second one is WHO WROTE MY LIFE?
Since this is a big question in history, I have no ambition to jump into a conclusion. I only intend to discuss the role of fatalism in some belief systems, and in this essay, focusing on Abrahamic religions. Hopefully, despite some inevitable unintentional misinformation, nobody is going to feel offended.
1. The story of Joseph
In the Book of Genesis, Joseph was mentioned as the favourite son of Jacob (Israel). Father’s favouritism towards Joseph nurtured the sibling rivalry among the other 10 half-brothers of his. The jealousy reached its peak when Joseph revealed his two dreams implying that he would become the head of the house. The other brothers planned to get rid of Joseph but ended up selling him for 20 pieces of silver to an Egyptian merchant while coming back to tell their father that Joseph was dead. In Egypt, surviving many ups and downs, Joseph eventually rose to become the second most powerful man after Pharaoh. Joseph came up with some wise strategies to help Egypt manage the food crisis during the widespread famine which also profoundly affected his homeland Canaan. In the end, Joseph invited his whole family to Egypt to flee the famine and since officially became the ruler of Israelites as previously prophesied in his dreams.
It is obvious that God already chose Joseph to be the leader of the Jewish in the first place, so the question is whether the other 10 half-brothers sinned harming Joseph or they were just pawns in the bigger plan of God to bring Joseph to Egypt.
The answer is yes, they did commit a sin. The brothers were not under influence of external forces when they drew plans killing Joseph, they chose to do it all by themselves.
However, one thing must be emphasised here is that no matter what the brothers did, they could never change the fate of Joseph to become their leader. In fact, it is true that their sins paved the way for Joseph towards success in some way, but he would become successful with or without “assistance” from the brothers. That is certain that Joseph would always fulfill the prophecy. The brothers used their free will to commit sinful actions, they would be punished for that regardless 4. Conclusion
of the afterward outcome.
of the afterward outcome.
2. The story of Judas
Judas Iscariot was one of the original Twelve Disciples of Jesus Christ, and he was also the one who betrayed Jesus to his enemies. Jesus, as a social and religious reformist, taught a lot of things that were not in accordance with the Jewish orthodox preachings, therefore angered the chief priests. Judas came to meet with these people to divulge the information about Jesus in exchange for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16). During the feast of the Passover that year, Jesus warned that there would be a disciple who would betray him and did raise the name of Judas. After that, Jesus and his disciples went to a garden for a prayer, Judas led the soldiers there and kissed Jesus on the cheek to reveal his identity as the Rabbi (Matthew 26:46-50). Under the pressure of the Jewish priests, Pontius Pilatus as the governor of Judea had to order the crucifixion of Jesus. After the crucifixion, Judas regretted his actions, gave back 30 pieces of silver and committed suicide (Matthew 27:5).
The point is all of the important events in Jesus’ life were in accordance with the previous prophecies mentioned in the Old Testament (Psalm 22:16). Jesus was meant to be crucified and resurrected from the death “for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3:18). The crucifixion of Jesus was believed to be part of a divine plan to save humanity, which arouses the question of whether Judas’ betrayal was part of the that wonderful thing.
The answer is again no, because Judas committed to the traitorous actions all by himself, all of his free will. He chose to sin in spite of Jesus’ warning in The Last Supper.
The real reason behind the betrayal of Judas was not mentioned in the Bible. The best thing we can do is to outline some theories. He might have done what he did merely for 30 pieces of silver since he was sometimes described full of greed. Some people defend that he was possessed by Satan, which is backed by some verses in the canonical Bible: “The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus” (Jn 13: 2), “Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve” (Lk 22: 3). However, previously, Judas had come to meet with the Jewish priests on his own, and he had opened his door to Satan since that moment.
Humans are all chased after by Satan, even so was Jesus. Satan was trying everything to get to Jesus but failed during the whole 40 days in the deserts after he was baptised by John The Baptist in Jordan river. (Jesus has two natures - He is fully God and fully man. Theoretically, the man nature of Jesus could be attacked by Satan). It was not Judas’ fault when Satan approached him, but it was his fault when he let the devil have him.
It is likely that all Christian denominations believe in free will and free of choice, especially Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. However, there is a discrepancy in Calvinist, Arminian, and Lutherist traditions when it comes to the power of human free will in comparison with God’s will, despite their consensus on the matter that humans are free to choose right from wrong, to side with God or Satan, and no external forces are involved in that decision.
3. The story of Muhammad
Muhammad (pbuh) was the final prophet and messenger of Allah (God) according to Islamic faith. He was born into a prestigious tribe of Quraysh in Mecca in the 6th century. He then became an orphan at a very young age. At the age of 25, Muhammad got married to Khadija, a successful merchant. (In Sunni Islam, Khadija married Muhammad when she was 40 and already had children with 3 previous ex-husbands of hers. However, Shia Muslims hold that Khadija and Muhammad got married when they were both 25, and Muhammad was her first and only husband). Muhammad often spent a great deal of time meditating in a nearby cave of Hira until one day Angel Jibril (Gabriel) appeared before him and started to reveal God’s words to him.
“Read! in the name of your Lord who createdMan from a clinging substance.Read: Your Lord is most Generous,–He who taught by the pen–Taught man that which he knew not. (96:1-5)
According to Sunni Islam, after the first revelation, Muhammad felt extremely horrified. When he came back home, Khadija took him to meet her cousin, Waraka ibn Nawfal, who was a Christian priest. Waraka asserted that Muhammad was going to be next prophet of God. Certain though Waraka and Khadija were towards him, it took him three more years to finally accept his prophethood completely, received the second revelation and started preaching.
Despite disagreements from Christian and Jewish scholars, most Muslims still hold that there were prophecies regarding Muhammad in the Hebrew and Christian Bible (Deuteronomy 18:18, Deuteronomy 33:2, Isaiah 42, John 14:16-17). Then if Muhammad was destined to be a prophet, did he really have a choice of saying no to that?
Similar to the other two faiths, Muslims believe in human free will and God’s will simultaneously. Then the answer to that question is yes, Muhammad could say no to becoming a Nabi (prophet), but he said yes of his own free will.
Qadr is one of the 6 articles of faith in Islam, which is to believe in predestination of God while humans still have their free will. God is beyond time and space so He always knows everything and wrote down every event of the universe in a Preserved Tablet (al-lawh al-mahfooz). However, even though every little detail from the Genesis to the Judgement Day was already written down, it does not mean that you commit an error because it was predestined there but because God with his power knew you would do so and wrote it down in advance.
However, there are differences between Shia and Sunni Islam when it comes to the Preserved Tablet Al-Lawh Al-Mahfooz. On the one hand, Sunni Muslims believe that the tablet was completed before Allah created the universe, and everything will happen as written. On the other hand, Shia Muslims hold that Allah has not finished his process of creation and probably will change something if He wills.
Besides, Shia Islam holds a different view over the reactions of Muhammad when he first met Angel Jibril. In Shia traditions, Muhammad was never feeling uncertain about his prophethood nor horrified by the appearance of Jibril. He embraced his mission as a nabi completely at ease.
Most, if not all, Abrahamic religions believe that humans have been given free will, freedom of choice in this life by God since the very beginning. Even though God has given humans that gift and definitely will not take it back but we must understand that He can do it in his power.
The reason why we are certain that He will not take away our free will is because if we do not have freedom to choose right from wrong, the rewards in Heaven or the punishments in Hell mean nothing other than a divine game.
Because there are a great number of denominations within Judaism, Christianity and Islam, there might be one which may include different ideas about free will and destiny from what has been discussed so far. Also, these religions did not really focus on philosophy at first, their points of view on these matters changed over history.
Regarding the novel The Fault In Our Stars, there might be a chance that the cancers could be blamed on the stars, but we will never know for sure what will change from that and where our “true” destiny leads us in the end. Since we will never completely understand the plan of God for each of us, it might be better to believe in ourselves before every decision.
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