God to Man:
O SON OF ADAM
You have your desire and
I have my desire.
My desire shall reign.
But if you surrender yourself to my desire,
I shall bestow upon you your desire.
But if you oppose my desire,
Then I shall tire you of your desire,
My desire shall reign.
This post by Mehran Qureshi set me thinking. The quotation appears in an Islamic text Hadith e Qudsi , a compilation of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (words of God ‘expressed in Muhammad’s words’*). No literature, I think, expresses the contrast of free will and determinism so well.
When making sense of the world in and around us, we are bound to confront the dilemma of essence and existence, of free will and determinism, of active struggle and passive submission and we are left questioning “In His will is our peace, Is it?”.
“Teach us to sit still / Even among these rocks, / Our peace in His will” Thomas Stearns Eliot resonates the age old wisdom in the poem Ash Wednesday quoting Dante from the Inferno, “In His will is our peace”. The Hamletian ambiguity whether “to be or not to be” seems to reach a resolution here. For Dante it is indeed “nobler in the mind to suffer”. The Hindu scriptures and hymns echo a similar understanding of our day-to-day indecisiveness and reach an unambiguous solution: “jahi vidhi raakhe raam, taahi vidhi rahiye”.
The emphasis on merging one’s will to the higher entity, to succumb to one’s circumstances rather than rage against them seems a coward thought at first. What comes of it might not be happiness, sure, but neither can it be called peace. Are happiness and peace, then, only the product of battles fought against destiny and won over or they are the results of a life that is left unquestioned? Whatever answers we get to our own questions, the question remains.
When I first read (15 years back) a popular Tao saying**, appeared in a daily editorial- “Those who flow as life flows, need no other force, they feel no wear, they feel no tear, They need no mending, no repair”- I assumed it mocked passive submission to one’s fate or what else is life without struggle, I thought. Life was yet to be. For with time, I realized passive submission was much more difficult an act than practicing free will, I learned that “to do nothing is not a passive state. It is the highest activity of which soul is capable, the deliberate and sustained effort of the soul to suffer, in the sense of allow, all that God may will to effect upon it.” (Thomas Stearns Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral)
* According to as-Sayyid ash-Sharif al-Jurjani, the Hadith Qudsi differ from the Qur’an in that the former were revealed in a dream or through revelation and are “expressed in Muhammad’s words”, whereas the latter are the “direct words of God”.
**Though the quotation in reference to Taoist philosophy has an entirely different context and interpretation.