Sauban (may Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Holy Messenger (may Allah bless and greet him) said, “Nothing can alter destiny except prayer and nothing can prolong life except a sense of obligation to fellow beings, following the path of truth and virtue. And surely sometimes man is deprived of his sustenance because of sin.”
The hadith points to the truth that belief in destiny does not mean that one should give up efforts and devising means. Belief in destiny is not denial of effort, which determines our destiny. Destiny is altered or shaped by prayers. But in fact this is meant for our satisfaction otherwise in God’s knowledge everything is determined beforehand. God knows whether man will pray or not when faced with trouble. Ways and means are not different from destiny. Take for instance prayer, which is not a lifeless call but a great force for man. Damnation was about to descend on the community of Prophet Jonah but after prayer and repentance of people it was put off. If this community had not turned to God and taken the support of prayer and repentance, nothing could have saved them from destruction. It is on account of this quality of prayer that it is said that prayer can alter destiny. Of all human efforts the most potent is prayer and therefore when all other efforts fail, man turns to prayer. Mere observance of hygienic laws is not the only means of prolonging life. Besides these material means, virtue and regard for rights of others are also spiritual and moral factors which help prolong life. Similarly, loss in the means of livelihood or their total absence is not merely because of his failure to adopt economic ways but sins also cause it.
In another hadith reported by Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) the Holy Messenger (may Allah bless and greet him) says, “Whosoever wants expansion of his means of livelihood or prolongation of his life, should meet his obligation to his kith and kin.”