Short Answer: From the Islamic view, the events of the world take place within Allah’s Knowledge and Will. Because, the when, where and how of those events are fixed by Allah’s Plan. It is Allah Who changes the condition of a people; and it is the people who should first effect a change in their own souls if they wish to have their condition changed for the better. That is to say, man is NOT entirely powerless and helpless in this world; rather he has a clear role in shaping his life, by leave of God. So, the salvation of a person is not dependent on causes beyond his control, but on his own willful choice and effort. That is God’s Will too.
Answer by Shahul Hameed:
Thank you for your questions and for contacting Ask About Islam.
If God Has Determined Everything, Don’t Humans Have Freedom of Action?
Your question is about the concept of predestination and free will as understood in Islam.
You may note that this is a topic much debated in Christianity too. You may study the Christian ideas on this topic and compare them with what we in Islam have to say on it:
From the Islamic view, the events of the world take place within Allah’s Knowledge and Will. Because, the when, where and how of those events are fixed by Allah’s Plan.
Read the following verses:
- “And not an atom’s weight in the earth or in the sky escapes your Lord, nor what is less than that or greater than that, but it is (written) in a clear Book.” (Quran 10:61)
- “No misfortune can happen on earth or in your souls but is recorded in a decree before We bring it into existence. That is truly easy for Allah. In order that you may not despair over matters that pass you by, not exult over favors bestowed upon you. For Allah loves not any vainglorious boaster…” (Quran 57:22-23).
- “To Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth. He enlarges the provisions for whomsoever He pleases and straitens it for whomsoever He pleases. Surely He knows all things full well…” (Quran 26:12)
The above verses speak of Allah Almighty’s power and control over His creation, as well as of His will and plan which is an aspect of His Qadr. There is also another aspect of it that is concerned with human freewill.
On Human Freedom and Responsibility
(B) On human freedom and responsibility read the following verses:
“Corruption has spread on land and sea because of what people’s hands have wrought.” (Quran 30:41)
“Whatever misfortune befalls you is the consequence of what your own hands have wrought. And Allah forgives many of your sins.” (Quran 26:30)
“If any do deeds of righteousness, be they male or female, and have faith, they will enter heaven and not the least injustice will be done to them.” (Quran 4:124)
“It is the truth from your Lord; wherefore let him who will, believe, and let him who will, disbelieve.” (Quran 18:29)
The above verses speak of the special status of humans as beings with a role and mission. Allah’s power over His creation and His foreknowledge of all our actions and their results do not preclude that status. Because, Allah has given us freedom – not complete freedom, but freedom within the boundaries He has set. This is part of God’s scheme. We may say that Allah Almighty has willed that we must have the freedom to choose between good and bad, and take the course of action we decide, i.e to the extent we are permitted.
Allah’s knowledge of what we are going to choose or what consequences our choice would entail does not negate this freedom. And remember that Allah gave us, not merely our intellectual faculties but also the power of moral judgment. And what is more, He sent us His Guidance through His chosen prophets and books, to help us make the right choices; and He does not use force in this matter.
Freedom as a Trust from Allah
So, from the Islamic point of view, freedom is part of the amanah (Trust) that Allah has placed upon us; and it is by the proper use of that freedom do we become qualified to be His ambassadors – vicegerents – khulafa’ – on earth. It is an honor that Allah has given us, by which He makes us the best of His creatures.
This means that there is a balance between Allah’s Qadr and man’s freedom. The freedom we enjoy is certainly limited; because we cannot choose the place of our birth, our parents or family, our physical and mental characteristics, the time and manner of our death, and so on. Our choice is a reality only in a very limited sphere indeed.
Isn’t it quite possible that God has a plan for each individual and as people make their ‘free’ choices, they are willy-nilly falling in line with God’s choices?
That is to say, man’s conscious exercise of will falls within the purview of Allah’s Qadar; and Allah’s Qadar does not, for all practical purposes, invalidate human freedom of choice.
So in Islam, Allah’s Will and Plan are universal in scope, within which there is provision for a free and active role to man, enabling him to consciously fashion his own destiny:
We have shown the path to man, and he is free to choose the right path and be thankful or to choose the path of ingratitude. (Quran 76:3)
Anyone who studies Islam can clearly see that there is nothing in Islam that encourages passivity and inaction. The history of Islam itself is an object lesson for any society as to how it can rise through concerted action from the depths of decadence to the height of glory.
Allah Almighty in the Holy Quran says:
“…. Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls)….” (Quran 13:11)
This verse clearly tells us that (1) it is Allah Who changes the condition of a people; and (2) it is the people who should first effect a change in their own souls if they wish to have their condition changed for the better. That is to say, man is NOT entirely powerless and helpless in this world; rather he has a clear role in shaping his life, by leave of God. So, the salvation of a person is not dependent on causes beyond his control, but on his own willful choice and effort. That is God’s Will too.
And Allah knows best.
I hope this helps.
Salam and please keep in touch.
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