Thursday, 26 July 2012

Muslim Girl Problems: Destiny vs. Choice

Here's the thing: say one day you got a sign that led you to believe something about yourself. Like for example - imagine if someone had a dream that they were on a beach in Mexico. Then, sometime after that dream, they made the resolution and actually went to a beach in Mexico... is that Destiny i.e. meant to be or is it a Choice i.e. the seed of the thought planted by the dream that led that person to take the steps necessary to get to the beach in Mexico?

If that person hadn't had the dream, would they have ever gone to Mexico? Or was the dream just a fore-warning, a premonition of sorts that they would find themselves on a beach in Mexico?

As a Muslim, I believe in Destiny. I have learned from a young age that it is He who determines everything, even before it is borne in the human mind. However, I was also taught that being human has afforded us the privilege of Choice. We choose our actions. But where do we draw the line? This is an argument I've had with myself and just about everyone else I know for the better part of two decades.

There is a beautiful Arab Proverb on Destiny that goes something like this:
If it is meant for you, you will receive it, even if it's beneath two mountains;
And if it's not meant for you, you will not receive it, even if it's between your lips.

The first time I was offered the job at The Bank, I turned it down because I didn't want to work for an institution founded on Usury (Interest). Usury or Riba is a great sin in Islam and the issue goes into great depth, linking it to oppression. Authentic Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammed SAW) have stated that when one deals with Interest, The Almighty Himself will wage war against that person on the Day of Judgement. And really, I am in NO position to go to war with The Lord Almighty.

In any case, I was dismissive and turned it down, even after they said that they were really keen to hire me and I was perfect for the job. Then some time later, when I was about to sign another contract, it fell through unexpectedly and through a twist of events, I found myself accepting the initial offer to work at The Bank, but not before speaking to my Dad about it.

I asked him what he thought and he said, "Well, when you get to the core of it, you can't even make glass"
"Glass? Why Glass?" I said, somewhat confused. 
"Because that's what they use to drink and store wine in", he replied (alcohol is forbidden in Islam). 
He then said "Look, it's not like you're the one who started this business from Usury, you're not enforcing it and you don't have a say in it when it comes to this business. And this job is just a means to an end".

And here's the thing (again): When I was 5 years old, I really wanted to become a police officer. There was something about law enforcement that appealed to me even at that young age - until I found out that you could get shot in the bum. Then I promptly changed my mind and wanted to become a CEO.

When I graduated from school, my first and one of my longest stints in employment, was with a Private Investigative Firm... working with ex-cops, detectives, SWAT, ex-FBI, Intepol... you name it. And completely unintentional or unplanned on my part, every other job I've ever had since then (the teaching stint a short-lived exception) was in Corporate Governance, Compliance or Quality Management - positions that required me to enforce the law and hold other's accountable for their actions. And here I am today, not a police officer or a CEO, but working as a corporate-police-woman of sorts, in Compliance and Anti-Money Laundering.

So was that a Choice or Destiny? Considering that I didn't even want some of the jobs I ended up working in, I'm inclined to believe the latter. But I've come to view the Destiny vs. Choice conundrum as a journey to a specific destination. The road you choose is your choice. But the destination, that's your destiny.


  1. Choice is always part of the equation, but I believe it simply delays what is meant to be (destiny). :)

    Unfortunately, many people use "destiny" as a cop out for their lack of willingness to improve their own lives. You, my Dear, have not!

  2. Funny because I ended up in investment banking not by choice... I'm wondering what my destiny is going to be. I'm working it different angles, believe me, but I still wonder

  3. Your last 2 lines say it all. It's more destiny-AND-choice than destiny-OR-choice....

  4. i've had a bit of a struggle with destiny and choice lately. i'm in the midst of making a major decision and i have a feeling it's destiny.

  5. Interesting point you bring up.
    I think having too many choices causes us confusion on what is the best choice for us and makes it harder for us to listen to our heart and our intuition.

    I think choices and destiny are friends sometimes.

    I may not make any sense...
    but I do believe that what we choose is how things are meant to be.

    Did I make any sense? It's late over here!

  6. 'I have learned from a young age that... and THAT'S called brainwashing or - let's use a more politically-correct term - heritage or culture, if you will, making it impossible to think beyong our frame of reference.

  7. ...or type for that matter. It must be my new mask.

  8. Angie
    I agree 100%. Too many people use "Destiny" as an excuse because they're too afraid to take risks or make their own decisions and face the consequences of that :)

    I guess no one really knows their destiny. And that is why we all live on faith - even the naysayers - because none of us know what will happen next, yet we continue to move forward and we continue living hoping that we'll be fine :)

    Roving Retorter
    Both are definitely interlinked :)

    I hope it works out for you, whatever choice you make :)

    I do understand and I agree with you :) Often I find going with your instinct on a decision often leads you on the path to your destiny. In that case, what you chose in that moment is how it's meant to be :)

    The thing is Randy... as a full grown adult - even if I wasn't "brainwashed" and if I abandoned everything I ever thought to be true - I'd still come to believe the things I believe today. I've seen too much in this world not to believe. And this coming from someone who doesn't care much for "culture" and its teachings. I'm more concerned with the spirit of religion and the spirit of Islam in particular.

    I should add that when my Father said that "when you get to the core of it, we can't / shouldn't even make glass" he was being facetious and sarcastic - implying that when you dig too deep and make rules where there are none, you teeter on the edge of absurdity. We live in a new world and while we cannot change the rules of religion, we have to adhere to them as best we can while adapting to these contemporary times.

  10. I really don't know and can't say much about destiny. Of course I had some thing thrown my way and accepted it without being given a choice, but most other things are by choice (or the choice I made is what it was destined to be?) I don't know...

    Hmmm... I think I just went and made myself confused.

  11. This is an interesting question. Especially as we consider standards of living (SOL) today.

    By simple virtue of the fact that I was born in the United States, my SOL is going to be higher than that of a war-orphan. How much of what I achieve is through choices vs. destiny?

    Guess all we can do is make the most out of what we're given. You summed it up nicely.

  12. I've thought about this a lot over the years, especially in the context of my late father. Is the reason he was so brilliant and mature at only 20 and 21 (he was 22 when he married my mama -- two years his senior -- in 1979) and the reason he gave his wife and children so much love because it was his destiny to pass away in late '93 at only 36 years of age...? So, subconsciously, he was overcompensating and living life to the fullest because he "knew" (except not) that he wouldn't have a full life span...?

    And the fact that, anatomically, the insides of his nostrils, the conchae (?) were not raised (which is why he had frequent nose bleeds), and it was because of this conchae problem that the shrapnel that wounded him continued on through the brain...had the conchae naturally been elevated the shrapnel (it was a tiny piece of shrapnel) might have gotten lodged within the conchae of the nose, and his brain wouldn't have been operated on, he wouldn't have fallen into a coma after developing meningitis, and he wouldn't have died.

    And so, it almost ends up being that even anatomically he was created to one day die from something that his anatomy wouldn't be able to prevent...if that makes sense.

    In his case, choice played no part...although, yes, it was dad's choice to go to work that day even though we begged him not to, because he had to hold down the fort that day, and he had the laissez-faire attitude of "C'mon, nothing's going to happen, everything will be fine."

    So we can also look at it in terms of him making a choice in line with who he was as a person: not stressed; not worried about something happening; not wanting to bail on work because he was a diligent employee and he knew he couldn't, that there was nobody else that could work that day...etc.

    Having said all this, I do think people often do the whole "I've got a problem but I'm not gonna do anything about it, and I'll just 'let God work it out'" = and this is bullshit on so many levels. First of all, God isn't some magician who's going to fix everything, espesh when the person doesn't even want to fix something themselves. Secondly, God has equipped us with tools, tools that are innate to us, and we're supposed to use those tools to advance in this life, not just sit idly by and hope things somehow magically work out. We're responsible for making choices that will bring goodness and light to our lives.

    It reminds me of one of my favourite Homer Simpson quotes from old school's from the eppie when Homer goes to college to do Nuclear Physics 101, and realises during a lecture that he's completely forgotten there's a big final exam the next day.

    Nerd: "What are you going to do, Mr Simpson?"
    Homer: "Actually, I've been working on a plan. During the exam, I'll hide under some coats, and hope that somehow everything will work out."
    Nerd: [determined] "Or, with our help, you can cram like you've never crammed before!"
    Homer: "Whatever. Either way is good."


  13. You'd make a very good police officer/detective in my opinion. It requires ethics and guts and you have both.

  14. ipenka
    Making the most out of what you have is the best way to go. I guess it never occurs to us that it could be some people's destiny to never have anything substantial in the way of material goods etc. We always take for granted that these are decisions everyone has the power to make.

    Pretzel Thief
    Your fathers story is epic and a perfect example of destiny. We're all destined to die even if we live in denial - I guess your father just embraced his destiny and lived his life to the fullest - something most people never get to do. Yes we have our choices and even if he didn't go to work that day, who's to say it wouldn't have been something else that would have taken him away too soon. *Hugs*

    Thanks LL, I'm glad someone has confidence in my abilities :)

  15. May as well choose an interesting road, then. ;)

  16. Michi
    It's the roads we choose that teach us our lessons ;)