Pre - Destination
And The Responsibility Of Man
It has been reported, that the Messenger
of Allah (saws) once found the companions arguing about Qadar. He
forbade them from indulging in such a debate and told them that
communities before them had been destroyed for that reason.
However, by the grace of Allah (swt),
our pious predecessors were able to understand the issue and form
a moderate view based on equity and justice. In their understanding,
the issue of Qadar and Qada stems from the Unity of
Allah's attribute of Cherishing (Tawhid ar-Rububiyah). This
is one of the three kinds of Allah's unity:
1. Unity of Divinity (Tawhid
Al-Ulahiyah), which is to direct all forms of worship to Allah alone.
2. Unity in the matter of the
Lordship of Allah (Tawhid ar-Rububiyah), which means to believe
that all creation, sovereignty and planning belong to Allah (swt).
3. Unity in the matter of Allah's
names and attributes and that these names and attributes are exclusively
for Allah (swt). (Tawhid al-Asma was-Sifat).
Imam Ahmed has said:
"Qadar (pre-estimation) is the
power of Allah. It is one of the secrets which no one except. Allah
knows, as it has been recorded in the well-guarded tablet. We do
not know what Allah has destined, either for or against us of concerning
all his creation, except after the event has occurred or has been
told by the Prophet himself."
The actions done by all the creatures
that have the power of will.
are a consequence of their efforts and their choice, a power that
has been given to them by Allah. He thus says in the Qur'an: To
whoever among you wills to go straight....."
you are some that hanker after this world And some that desire the
Man knows very well the difference
between what he does from his own free will and what he does because
of external force. The person who reaches safely the bottom of a
flight of stairs knows that this is because he walked down carefully.
However, if he is pushed down from the top, he has no power over
how he lands at the bottom. The first instance is an example of
choice: the second is clearly one of compulsion. Similarly, a person
who suffers from incontinence of urine knows that the urine is passed
without his will and that if he did not have this illness, he would
be able to control the discharge. The difference between the two
requires no further explanation.
It is a mercy of Allah that there
are certain actions, which are in the voluntary power of the individual
but are recorded as if they are not, and so he is not held answerable
for them, eg. actions done out of forgetfulness of during sleep.
Allah says in the story of the People of the Cave:
we turned them on their right and on their left sides......"
The men themselves are turning over,
but Allah Almighty attributes their movements to Himself, since
a sleeping person has no control over his actions.
The Prophet (saws) said:
"The one who forgets while fasting
and eats or drinks, he should complete his fast because Allah is
the one who feeds him and gives him the drink."
Thus, actions done in a state of
forgetfulness are also treated as if the person is acting outside
his own will and are attributed to Allah Himself.
If we were to agree with the first
group mentioned earlier (those who give Man no free will whatsoever),
we would be distorting the facts. We would not be able to praise
someone for his good actions or castigate someone who voluntarily
does wrong, because we would have attributed all their actions to
the will of Allah. Another dangerous implication of this argument
is that the Almighty behaves unjustly if He punishes the disobedient
and rewards the good, as He alone is the source of all these actions.
Not only is such reasoning nonsensical, but contradictory to the
"And His Companions
(angels) will say: "Here is (his Record) ready with Me!"
(And it will be said): "Both of you throw (Order from Allah
to the two angels) into Hell, every stubborn Disbeliever (in the
Oneness of Allah, in His Messengers etc.) "Hinders of Good,
transgressors, doubters, who set up another ilah (god) with
Allah, cast him in the severe torment. His Companion (Satan
-devil) will say: "Our Lord! I didnt make him transgress.
But he (himself) was far astray." He will say: "Dispute
not with each other in My presence: I had already in advance sent
you warning. The Word changes not before Me, and I do not the least
injustice to My servants."
Almighty Allah, clearly states that
the punishments He inflicts are not cruel but just, since He has
already warned His creatures and sent them guidance. He has clearly
defined the two paths of piety and disobedience, just as He has
defined the consequences of following each path. Man thus has total
freedom to choose either path, remembering that if he opts for the
path of disobedience, he will not have the excuse to offer Allah
on the Day of Judgement.
The Quran says in this regard:
who gave good news, as well as warning, that mankind, after (the
coming) of the apostles, should have no plea against Allah.
The Quran and reality also
refute those who go to the other extreme of giving Man complete
freedom of action, leaving no role for Allah. We are told that the
will of Man follows the will of Allah:
whoever among you wills to go straight. But you shall not "will"
except as Allah wills, - The Cherisher of the Worlds."
Lord creates whatsoever He wills and chooses, no choice have they
(in any matter). Glorified be Allah and Exalted above all that they
associate as partners (with Him)."
to the home of peace (i.e. Paradise, by accepting Allahs religion
of Islamic Monotheism and by doing righteous good deeds and abstaining
from polytheism and evil deeds) and guides whom He wills to a Straight
Those that hold this view are thus
rejecting Allahs Omniscience, one of His essential attributes,
by effectively claiming that His Kingdom, there are many things
which He does not wish or does not create. But Allah the Magnificent
wills everything, creates everything and predestines for everything!
It is impossible to conceive of anything happening that He does
not wish to happen. This poses problems for us, such as what is
the fate of someone whom Allah wished to misguide? It surely cannot
be his fault that he did not receive the message of truth. The answer
is that Allah guides those who want to be guided, and misguides
those who do not wish to receive guidance. We read this in
when they turned away (from the Path of Allah) Allah turned their
hearts away (from the Right Path) and Allah guides not the people
who are fasiqun (rebellious, disobedient to Allah)."
of their breach of their covenant, We cursed them, and made their
hearts grow hard. They change the words from their (right) places
and have abandoned a good part of the Message that was sent to
In other words, the wish to be pious
emanates from the individual himself and Allah guides him because
of this. The issue can be further explained by comparing it to the
acquisition of knowledge or to the earning of a living. Allah has
decreed the amount of understanding or wealth a person will be able
to acquire in his life. This does not mean that the individual can
thus sit at home and wait for the wealth or learning to come walking
into his arms: only when he goes out searching for it and works
hard for it will he get it. The amount of wealth or learning he
receives will be proportional to the effort put in, and this is
just as true for guidance.
The Prophet (saws) said in this regard:
"Verily, the creation of each
one of you is brought together in his mothers belly for forty
days in the form of seed, then he is a clot of blood for a like
period, then a morsel of flesh for a like period, then there is
sent to him the angel who blows the breath of life into him and
who is commanded about four matters: to write down his means of
livelihood, his life span, his actions, and whether happy or unhappy."
Bukhari and Muslim
Just as we make all conceivable sacrifices
for the nourishment of the stomach,
so should we work hard for the sustenance
of the soul. When ill, we are prepared to travel the world in search
of a doctor who can cure us, but when our souls are diseased, we
leave them to rot, waiting for Allah to send down guidance on a
The correct opinion is thus that
there are many routes open to the discretion of Man, and it is up
to him to choose the one he wishes to follow. He is like a merchant
with many commodities in front of him, and it is his choice which
one to trade in. He will obviously pick the one which he thinks
will be most profitable. The difference is that the merchant is
uncertain and has no guarantee of success; his commodity may have
a market and he make a profit, but he could just as easily lose
all his capital. The believer, on the other hand, is completely
sure that if he follows the path of guidance, there will undoubtedly
be success and reward waiting for him at the other end because Allah
has promised so, for Allah never breaks His words. Similarly, the
disbelievers can be sure that only pain and punishment await him
at the end of his path.
Man does what he wants, but his will
follows that of Allah. We also believe that Allahs will does
not act on its own but is strongly linked to His Wisdom; one of
His attributes. As a Wise and Just ruler, He decrees guidance for
the person who wants guidance and truth, who wishes to be close
to Allah, and who aims to follow the Straight Path.
For anyone who does not want the
truth, Allah decrees error and misguidance:
Allah wills to guide, He opens his breast to Islam and whomsoever
He wills to send astray, He makes his breast closed and constricted,
as if he is climbing up to the sky. Thus Allah puts the wrath on
those who believe not!"
Allahs Wisdom declines to offer
guidance to such a person changes his attitude.
Allahs decree and predestination
has four components:
The first is Knowledge
- Man must believe with total certainty that Allah has knowledge
of everything; He knows a minute as well as the general detail of
all that happens, whether it is of His own doing or of His creatures.
The second constituent of
Qadar is Writing -Allah has written all His knowledge of
the fate of His creature in the Preserved Tablet, as He tells us
in the Quran:
not that Allah knows all that is in the heavens and on earth? Verily,
it is (all) in the Book (Al-Lauh -Al -Mahjfuz). Verily! That is
easy for Allah."
In one Hadith the Prophet (saws)
is reported to have said:
first thing that Allah created was the pen, He said, "Write!"
It said, "What should I write?" He said, "Write down
everything that is going to happen. So at the moment flowed
everything that would happen until the Day of Judgement."
At this the Prophet
(saws) was asked whether the actions we do are new actions or are
actions that have been decreed already. He replied, "They are
already decreed." The Companions said, "O Prophet of Allah,
should we then not do and just depend? The Prophet (saws)
said, "Do, and everything that was created for you will be
made easy." The Prophet (saws) added, "Do O my Brother,
do and what was created for you will be facilitated for you."
Then followed the words of the Almighty:
"As for Him
who gives (in charity) and keeps his duty to Allah and fears Him,
and believes in Al-Husna,* We will make smooth the Path of ease
(goodness). But he who is greedy miser and thinks himself self sufficient.
And gives the lie to Al-Husna We will make smooth for him the Path."
* The Best (i.e. La illaha
ill Allah: none has the right to be worshipped but Allah) or a reward
from Allah (i.e. Allah will compensate him for what he will spend
in Allahs Way or bless him with Paradise).
The third component of Qadar
is that of Will - Allah wills the presence or absence of
everything in the heavens and in the earth. Nothing can exist without
His Will. This is reiterated in the Quran:
among you who wills to walk straight, and you will not, unless (it
be) that Allah wills, - the Lord of the Alamin (mankind, jinns and
all that exists)."
28 & 29
thy Lord had so willed, they would not have done it......."
For further references to examples
of this read Quran: (2:253), (32:13), (11:118).
The fourth component of Qadar
is Creation. This means that we believe that Allah is the
Creator of everything and anything, even Death, although it is the
absence of Life. The Quran says:
"Who has created
Death and Life, that He may test; which of you is best in deed's.
And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving."
* - i.e. who amongst you do
the good deeds in the most perfect manner, that means to do them
(deeds) totally for Allahs sake and in accordance to the legal
ways of the Prophet (saws).
The skies, the mountains, the winds,
the vapors, the growth of living organisms, the droughts - all are
the creation of Allah.
A difficulty arises - How can
we claim that our actions and words are products of our own free
will, when they are in fact the creations of Allahs?
The answer is that our actions and
utterances are the result of our ability and desire to do them.
Since Allah alone is the one who created us and gave us the ability
and the will to distinguish, choose, and act, our actions are His
creations: He created the cause which generates the result, so He
is the creator of the result as well as the cause. But, this does
in no way belittle our choice and will.
For example: Fire burns - The One
who gave this power to Fire is Allah, as Fire on its own does not
have the capability to burn. We see an instance of this in the Quran:
"O Fire! Be thou cool, and (a means of) safety for Ibrahim!"
Thus the fire did not burn Ibrahim
(as) in this case. It is Allah who gives Fire the power to burn,
just as He gives Man to choose and act according to his decision.
Predestination and Free Will
Q. A question which has bothered
me for some time is whether man acts and behaves according to his
own free will or to what has been destined for him by Allah. In
other words, is the choice in any given situation completely ours,
or is it pre-determined for us? Is there for every one of us a destiny
towards his life, and from which he cannot escape? Or is it true
that by our own choices we mould our future?
A. This is a question which
really speaks of mans position in relation to Allah. In order
to answer it properly, we need to establish a basis for our discussion
which takes into account certain essential facts which must be accepted
at the outset. Otherwise, there can be no common ground between
the one who poses the question and the one who tries to answer it.
These facts are:
1. Allah is the creator of
all things, great and small, magnificent and petty, physical and
2. Allah is just. He administers
His justice on the basis of His Knowledge.
3. Allahs knowledge
is perfect and absolute. He knows the most secret of thoughts in
the same way as He knows the most public of events. Nothing escapes
His knowledge as He sees all and hears all, without restrictions
4. Allah always tells the
truth, the plain and complete truth. He never says something and
means another. What He says must always be taken at face value,
because He does not need to wrap His meaning or to make use of ambiguity.
Within the framework, which these
facts establish, we find that the answer to your question is an
easy one. Allah tells us in the Quran that every Human Being
accepts the faith or denies it according to his own will. He instructs
His Messenger (saws) to say to people:
The truth is from your Lord' Then whoever wills, let him believe,
and whoever wills, let him disbelieve.............."
This verse tells us that man chooses
for himself whether to believe in Allah or not. This is the most
important choice a man makes. If he has free choice over this particular
question, then he must have the same over matters which are less
serious. We cannot imagine a situation in human life where man can
reach a higher stage without passing through a primary one. The
sophisticated always include the elementary. For man to be able
to make a choice in a subject which affects all his life, he must
have adequate training in exercising his ability to choose simpler
and less serious matters.
Allah also tells us that He rewards
man according to his actions. Numerous verses in the Quran
tell us that no action will be allowed to pass unnoticed:
does good equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant), shall
see it. And whoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom (or
a small ant), shall see it."
Quran 99: 7& 8
If our actions carry a reward, good
or bad, then they must be of our own choosing. If they were imposed
on us through predestination, then we cannot be held responsible
for them otherwise the divine attribute of Justice cannot be fulfilled.
Let us imagine, that you are a shopkeeper
and employ an assistant to attend to customers needs when
you are absent, and let us suppose also that you do not allow your
assistant to sell any goods for anything lower than the prices you
have marked. Lets suppose that you come to the shop one evening,
after being absent all day, and your assistant tells you that he
tried to reach you everywhere, to ask your permission to give a
discount of 10 percent to a customer who wanted to buy a very large
quantity of goods.. When the customer could not get that desired
discount, he brought the goods from one of your competitors. Now,
if you were to scold, reproach or punish your assistant for not
acting in what you may describe as "a responsible manner",
you are unfair. He has acted within the restrictions you have imposed
on him. You have left him no choice, and he should never be punished
for not exercising a choice which is not his.
The fact that our actions are either
rewarded or punished by Allah means, by logic and necessity, that
we have complete control over them. Otherwise, the reward and punishment
cannot be fair.
Moreover, Allah has created us and
equipped us with an ability to choose. That ability is set into
operation and we can see its effects every minute of our lives.
You have only to look at what you do and what you omit.
When you are awakened by your alarm
in the morning, whether you rise and get ready to go to work or
you switch it off and go back to sleep is your own choice. If you
do the latter and you are reproached by your employer for being
late, you do not complain.
When you open your wardrobe you choose
the clothes you will wear that day. It is you who decide whether
to go to work: walking or riding a train, or in your own car. No
one imposes on you that you should invite your friend to dinner,
and when you accept someone elses invitation, that again is
your own choice.
These are simple matters, something
you can relate to in everyday life. When you realise that it is
always your choice that determines what you do in such matters,
it is easy to understand that we also exercise a choice in more
A person who does not fast in Ramadan
can never claim that he has made that choice under duress. Nor,
does the one who fasts accept any suggestions that he is compelled
to fast. The same applies to prayers and zakah, no matter
how much is said about anyones need to maintain appearances.
Even that is ones own choice. Without this free choice, the
whole idea of action and reward becomes impossible, and it would
not fit with Allahs justice.
There is no doubt that we have free
choice, and we exercise it freely, and we bear the consequences.
What makes this question seem at
times, an intricate one is that people confuse Allahs prior
knowledge of everything that may take place in the universe with
predestination. We would like to state very clearly that Allah knows
what we are going to choose in any situation and what we will do
or say before we actually do it or say it. His prior knowledge,
however, does not signify any imposition on us to comply. Perhaps
we will find it easier to understand this point if we remember that
time, as we know it, does not apply to Allah or to His knowledge.
Time on Earth is a coincidental thing, by which man is able to calculate
time on the basis of the succession of day and night. That a day
consists of 24 hours is something determined by man. That a week
consists of a succession of seven days and seven nights is also
something that people have agreed on. The same applies to months
and years. If we were to live on some other planet, we would find
that all these calculations of time were irrelevant. Even in our
solar system, one night and day on one planet is equal to several
years on another. Thus we have to exclude this notion of time when
we speak of Allahs prior knowledge. When we are able to do
so, we can easily understand that His knowledge does not constitute
an imposition on us.
Having said that, we would like to
add that there are also certain things in our lives over which we
can exercise no choice. We do not choose when we are born or when
we die. Nor can we choose whether or not to react to natural elements
such as rain, wind and temperature. We cannot determine how our
bodies will react in different situations. We are affected by illness
in a way over which we exercise no control. In such matters, we
earn no reward and incur no punishment. This fits with Allahs
justice, which attaches those to our free choice.
Allah has places us here on earth
and given it its potential and created its environment. We can tap
into those potentials and make use of them, and we can deal in a
limited way with the environment. What we can do through our own
choosing is part of what we are responsible for. What we cannot
alter has no effect on our final outcome.
But we should understand, however,
that our lives are affected by conditions and environmental changes,
which are part of Allahs system of creation. There are causes
and effects. When we can influence a cause, we are responsible for
the effect, which results from our action. When we are influenced
by a cause over which we have no control, we bear no liability.
Perhaps an element of ambiguity arises
from the fact that Muslims often use the phrase "By Allahs
Will", and "What has been written cannot be changed",
and many others. These can easily be understood in the light of
the foregoing, when we relate them to Allahs prior knowledge
on the other hand, and to His overall Will on the other. It is Allah
who has willed that there be cause and effect, and it is His Will
that such causes as affect our lives are there to affect it.
Furthermore, it is His Will that
we should have free will of our own. Our own will, then is exercised
within the framework of His absolute and overall will which has
determined that man can have free choices of his own. Indeed, mans
free will is a manifestation of Allahs absolute Will.
References: Sheikh Muhammad
ibn Salih Al-Uthaimin.
Brother Adil Salahi