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Hindu Karma and Qadar (Destiny)

Question and answer details
Mohamed Chamlali
Hindu Karma and Qadar (Destiny)
2003-11-05
Dear Sir, I would like to know the Islamic view about karma and reincarnation. What is its relation (if there is) to qadar (destiny) in Islam? Thanks and hearty greetings.
Shahul Hameed
Answer
Salam, Mohamed.

Thank you very much for your question.

The three basic beliefs of Islam are: tawheed, the mission (or prophethood) and the afterlife.
Tawheedstands for the belief in One God. The mission stands for the belief in the prophets as the carriers of the Divine Guidance. The afterlife stands for man’s accountability for his actions here, which means he needs to face a judgment that takes him to heaven or hell.

According to the Hindus, man consists of a soul (atman) and a body (sarira). The union between the soul and the body is a type of imprisonment; it is a penalty which the atman has to undergo owing to avidya and karma, two basic presuppositions of Hinduism.

Avidya here signifies the ignorance of the true nature of the atman, which causes the atman, which is eternal, to be joined to the body, which is temporal. Birth is the union of the eternal and spiritual atmanwith the material and temporal body. The condition of the body to which the atman gets united depends on karma. Karma, signifies action, good or bad, religious or worldly.

Every action inevitably produces its own fruit, and the actor has necessarily to experience all the consequences of his own actions. A person's behavior leads irrevocably to an appropriate reward or punishment commensurate with that behavior. This is the law of karma. The effects of all the actions which a person does cannot be experienced (lived) during one single existence, and hence the atman (soul) has to be reborn repeatedly. So it is believed that the soul from all eternity is undergoing birth and rebirth according to this inviolable law of karma. Thus is born the doctrine of the re-incarnation of the soul, which is a corollary of the doctrine of karma.

The entire process of reincarnation of the soul according to the law of karma is called karma-samsara. Samsara is the beginningless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, a process impelled by karma. Life, therefore, is not limited to one birth and one death, but is instead a samsara, a migration which is determined by the law of karma. In short, human life is a karma-samsara, a transmigration of the soul according to the inevitable law of retribution.

Though the idea of transmigration is a fundamental teaching of Hinduism, it has a firm hold on the mind of the people of India, not only Hindus, but also of Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs.

The belief in incarnation also suggests that a person’s sins of a previous life has prevented him from attaining mukti (salvation from the cycle of karma-samsara). Mukti implies that the atman can ultimately become one with the Ultimate Reality of God.

As is evident, Islam does not visualize such an eventuality for the human soul. Islam accepts the idea that every soul has to face the consequences of its actions: There is no escaping it. The Qur’an says what means:

*{And Allah's is what is in the heavens and what is in the earth, that He may reward those who do evil according to what they do, and (that) He may reward those who do good with goodness.}* (53: 31)

From the Islamic point of view, a dead man does not come back to earth again in another body to face the consequences of his earthly life; instead he faces a judgment which causes the soul to enjoy or endure its due.

Your reference to destiny in this context is also very proper. Qadar signifies the unavoidable destiny one has to face. The common belief about destiny is that our life is predetermined, and whatever we do here has no effect upon the future course of our life. Or it may be thus: our actions will inevitably lead to our predetermined destiny. So man has no role here. But you can see that this belief negates freedom of will and action for humans.

Islam teaches that the Almighty God has given man freedom, though within limits. Man can exercise that freedom, and it is primarily based on the exercise of his will in making a choice that he is faced with reward or punishment. Islam does not believe in an unchanging law of karma and rebirth, where man is rather helpless. Allah is the Cherisher and Ruler of the world. And Mercy as well as Justice are His attributes. In His Justice, every deed or thought of evil has its consequence for the doer or thinker. But in this life there is always room for repentance and amendment. As soon as this is forthcoming, Allah's Mercy comes into action.

Similarly, the word "salvation" is out of place in Islam, as it rejects the idea in its Hindu or Buddhist sense, as well as in its Christian sense.

In Hinduism and Buddhism, “salvation” means escape from the cycle of births and rebirths, which is irrelevant to the Islamic scheme of things. In the Christian sense, "salvation" means purification from Original Sin by the blood of Christ. As Islam rejects the concept of Original Sin, there is no need for such a purification, and there is no need for such a salvation.

Islam teaches that we need to accept God as the Almighty, All-Merciful Creator and Ruler of the World, and to live on earth according to the guidance He has given through His prophets. Those who do this will succeed in their life, and those who do not do this will fail in life. Both groups face Divine Judgment, and both will get reward or punishment as they deserve, without the least bit of injustice being done. Allah says in Qur'an what means:

*{My word shall not be changed, nor am I in the least unjust to the servants.}* (50: 29)

And Allah knows best.

Useful links:

Sikhism and Hinduism in Islamic Perspective

Islamic Etiquette in Greeting Hindus and Sikhs

There Is Not a Nation but a Warner Sent to Them

Fatwas on Comparative Religions

Reincarnation: Do Muslims Believe in It?
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