ON MAKASIB (EFFORTS)

In Islam, the efforts to get Rizk (Providence and livelihood) is called “makasib”(  مَكَاسِبٌ ). It is something that is at times obligatory (Fard), sometimes permissible and encouraged, but may also be discouraged (makruh), and in certain cases, must be avoided (Haram). All of these could be understood clearly depending on conditions and situations of a person. To provide livelihood for self and family is obligatory, to seek wealth (beyond the basic needs) is permissible, to seek wealth and donate for the right causes is encouraged, and to seek provisions by non-permissible methods or means are Haram. There are not much to explain about of all of these. What I would like to add is on a subject that is least understood and hidden within all of these – the true meaning of Makasib. This is what i would like to do it here.

Let us start with some analogies. Let us take the bees – every morning as the sun rises, the bees flew out of its nest, in search of flowers and nectar, for them to collect them and bring it back to the nest, to be converted into honey. First of all, they have to make these “efforts” (makasib) to fly and search, from locations to locations, from flowers to flowers, and they have work to collect the nectar till they have enough.Some days, they got plenty of it, some days little of it, and some days, none. But, they have to give their efforts daily, nevertheless. Nothing comes down to them automatically.

The same goes for us human – we have to undertake the efforts, in our ways, to earn a living and in search of wealth. Some are lucky and got plenty, some are a bit unlucky, they just got a little of it, and some are totally unfortunate – they don’t get enough of it or nothing at all.

The question is how does the results of the efforts (makasib) are being determined? This is the hidden part that I meant above. How much of it is due to our “efforts” and how much of it is not “due to us”? To most people – they would feel that almost quite entirely it is due to his/her efforts that produces the results. In fact, even among the more religious person, would feel that their prayers are answered (for the success of his/her efforts).

How about if I claim that our “efforts” are nothing more than just a “formality”, and has almost nothing to do with the results!!! We are just mere “actors” acting our part in something that we really had almost nothing to dictate and determine. But, since we only see and observes what are visible to us, we are “fooled” and “deceived” into believing that we have a lot to do with the results, or we are a major factor in determining the outcome. This is off course, totally wrong and misconceived.

Off course for someone who has religious belief, they would ascribe it to God’s providence, based on their efforts. This is not wrong, but still far from correct – why? Let us look into this, not based religious texts, but purely from probabilistic point of views.

If we understand how probability works, then we would understand that, “probabilistically” speaking, whatever efforts that we do, contribute statistically, a totally insignificant contribution to determine the results. In fact,we could say that it is something like 0.0000001% of the total contribution – almost zero. And if we further dissects that, we could also say that even whatever went through our mind in making the choices (in our efforts), are also not ours – which means, even the 0.0000001% couldn’t be ascribed to us. How could this be?

First of all, for anything to happen, there are myriads of one thousand and one things to make something to occur (in our favor or against us) -and we have no control over that. it was determined by someone else, and we have no control or dominion over it. Almost all, by definition of probability, are random (or in another way, unknown to us). Therefore, there are many ways of each outcomes could happen; and furthermore, many events are related to the outcome of other events and so on and so forth. Since they are unknown, we have to make our judgement of what to do based on our own thoughts on what would be the best actions or choices. And we are making so many small (micro) actions and choices along the way, that at times, we are not even fully conscious of them. And yet, that’s what we are doing almost at every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year -throughout our life. Further question is – who guides our mind, thoughts, and these actions? (and for that matter, who guides the actions of others as well?)

So far, all the above, we talk about human domains (of decision making and actions); but in probability, we say that there is another “actor” called Nature – which is also part of the decisions and actions – which affects and determine what choices human have to take. And “Nature”, as it is, contributes and play major roles in our choices and decisions. It is “nature” which decides whether it rains or shine, day or night, etc..etc.

Now, if replace all of the “thoughts”, “minds”, “guide”, “actors”, “nature” by a single factor, that is God’s actions, directions, etc. Then we could say that what happened out there are determined 99.99999% by God. And only 0.000001% that belongs to us. Furthermore, if that 0.000001% is also due to the guide from God, then 100% of the determination is solely by God. Therefore, truly nothing belongs to us.

This is what I meant by the hidden meaning of Rizk and  Makasib.

Then the argument is – why are making any efforts then? we should just succumbed to fate, and just wait,and do nothing.Well, if we understood the whole argument above, then we must be a fool and deceived as well.Because that means that 99.99999% plus 0.000001% combined to bring the results of nothing. We must understand that the weight on our part is not ZERO (0%).And if God guide you not to do anything, then that is your fate as well – and that is your contribution into the”efforts” (i.e. do nothing) – and hence the results will commensurate with that.

What the logic of argument that I am trying to emphasize is – our own contributions, if to be counted, however much that we do (which we should), is insignificant in comparison to what God’s Power (Qadir) of determination, which is the 99.99999% above. And furthermore, He guides us even for that 0.000001% that we do on our part (which means even our actions are in God’s dominion). This realization should humbled us and make us to understand that He has full and complete dominion over ALL things (انّه على كل شيءٍ قدير ).

This is the meaning of Al Qadha and Al Qadar, as our article of faith in Islam.

Wallahu ‘Alam.

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