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Predestination vs Free Will

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Predestination vs Free Will

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Is our Destiny PREORDAINED? Answer with references for your comments with whatever sources you like. And what role does our freedom of choice play if our life is PREORDAINED?


As Salaamu Alaikum!
This has been a spirited discussion about a very difficult topic: Predestiny or preordainment (Qadar) vs. free will. This is a topic that has plagued philosophers through the ages. I hope to contribute something of value to the discussion, although it may prove controversial to some.
While there is a distinction that some make between Qadar and Qadr, for ease of discussion I will use the word Qadar to represent them both for simplicity. I'll share the distinction at some point in these comments.
To approach this topic, it is very important to clarify the crux of the matter. Akbar is not asking only for the definitions of predestination and free will, but he wants to know how others resolve the seeming contradiction in the two concepts.
The foundational concept of predestination as most understand it is that the future actions and events in a person's life are already decreed (predetermined) prior to and/or at the moment of an individual's conception or birth.
In other words, Allah had ordered prior to each of our births that we each would be engaged in this discussion and write the words we have written.
So, this begs the question, if Allah already dictated that we would have this discussion and write what we wrote while we were in the wombs of our mothers, are we engaging in this discussion by the choice of our own free will or are we puppets on a string acting out a script who are under an illusion that we are doing this of our own volition?
We must define the foundational concept of free will in order to intelligently examine this question. What we understand by free will is that we, the individual, is the ultimate decision maker in the choices we make. If I make the choice to eat an apple rather than an orange, then I made the choice of my own will. If Akbar, John, Susan, Fatimah, or Allah decreed and made me choose the apple rather than the orange, then I did not make the choice of my own will, it was their will that I eat the apple rather than the orange. Even if I was not aware that Akbar or Allah had already ordered that I choose the apple and I felt or believed that I was doing the choosing, the truth of the matter would be that I was not making the decision of my own free will, I was just under the illusion that I was making the choice.
Now, this alarming contradiction did not escape the companions of the prophet and they asked him about it. It was reported:
The Messenger of Allah was once sitting with a wooden stick in his hand with which he was scraping the ground. He raised his head and said:
"There is none of you except that his place has been assigned either in the Hell-Fire or in Paradise."
The Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, said: "O Allah's Messenger why should we carry on doing good deeds then? Shall we not be dependent (on al-Qadr) and give up actions?" The Prophet, peace be upon him, said:
"No, but rather carry on doing good deeds, for every person will find easy (to do) the deeds which will lead him to the place he has been created for." [Sahih Muslim]
So, we read in this Sahih hadith that the prophet says that each person has been assigned to the hell fire or paradise. Now the use of the word "assigned," if it is an accurate translation, means that someone has already sealed your fate and your will has nothing to do with that fate. It is outside of your control.
The companions realized this also and wondered, well if it has already been decreed whether I go to hell or paradise, why pray and do good deeds? The determination is already made. There is no free will, it has already been decided for me, they questioned.
The message of the hadith is to carry on doing what you are doing, for every person will find it easy to do the kinds of deeds they were created to do. So, if you are predestined for paradise, you will find it easy to do good deeds. If you are predestined for hell, you will find it easy to do bad deeds.
We must ask ourselves does the answer in this hadith really address the question or the concern? This hadith implies that if it is easier for you to be involved in bad or weak behavior than rigtheous behavior, it is because you were assigned to the hell-fire by Allah. This means that Allah has condemned certain people to the hell-fire and they are not responsible for their behavior, because they were decreed an evil destination and therefore it was easy for them to commit evil in order to fulfill the decree of Allah. So, if you end up in the hell-fire it was Allah's will, not yours, for you have no free will or power to go against Allah's decree.
The following hadith confirms this:
"Verily, each one of you is formed in his mother's womb forty days as a drop, then he is something suspended for a similar period, then he is a piece of flesh like a chewed piece of meat for another period of forty days, then the angel is sent to insert the soul. This angel is ordered to record four things: the sustenance which he will receive during his lifetime, the length of his life, all actions that he will do, and whether he will end up miserable (in hell) or joyous (in paradise). I swear by the One other than whom there is no deity, one of you may do the works of the people of paradise right up until there is only an arm's length between him and paradise, but his destiny overtakes him, so he does the actions of the poeple of the fire and enters it. And, verily, one of you may do the works of the people of hell until there is nothing between them and hell except for one arm's length, but his destiny overtakes him, and so he does the works of the people of paradise, and enters it." [Muslim]
If you accept these Sahih hadeeth, you must conclude that you end up in paradise or hell-fire by Allah's order, not the choices you make with your free will, because according to these reports, you have no free will. These preordainments were made prior while you were in the womb, before you had the ability to choose.
These hadeeth seem to contradict entire themes of the Quran. For example, a major theme of the Qur'an is that Allah sends messengers to mankind to call them to paradise and warn them of the fire. If the people are already assigned their destination and their actions are already preordained, this would be senseless and a waste of time?
How fair would judgment day be if your verdict was determined or assigned at your birth or before? Why teach a man to pray, "show us the upright way," if he is born to be a sinner? If you are born with a destiny of the fire, you are a born sinner, because to earn the fire you must sin.
If these hadeeth are true, then the following Quranic verses are false:
Sura 18:29,"Then whosoever wills, let him believe, and whosoever wills let him disbelieve."  
Sura 13:11 "Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change it themselves."
Sura 53:39 "Man can have nothing but what he strives for." Meaning if he wills to strive for something he can get it.
Sura 52:21 "We will not diminish the results of their actions in any way; every person is guaranteed what he has earned."
These verses tell us that our will, our decisions, and our deeds do factor in determining our fate or destiny.
So, we must give the Quran greater weight than the hadeeth that contradict it. We must evaluate hadeeth in light of the Quran, not merely by their isnad (chain of reports).
But, what about the Quranic verses that speak of the Qadar of Allah? Where and how did some of the scholars derive their understanding of predestination and preordainment, if the Quran speaks so clearly about the human being's freedom to make choices and reap the consequences of those choices?
Umm Mustafa did excellent research on the subject and related the "five pillars" of Qada' and Qadar. Let's examine them:
1) Al-Ilm - Allah has knowledge of everything, Past, Present, and Future. (8:75, 65:12)

Surely, this is the truth. But, it is here that we must think very carefully. To know everything that is going to happen does not mean that you have intentionally ordered everything to happen. Allah knows all of the people who will die from drunk driving this year, but that does not mean He made the decree; that He ordained or dictated at these peoples' births that they would take intoxicants and become drunks who will die or kill others as a result of their decreed drunkenness. Whoa to the things we might ascribe to Allah!
I think this is the correct moment for me to elaborate on the meaning and concept of Qadar. In Sura 54:49, Allah says that He created everything with Qadar. What does this mean? It means that everything is created with its own measure, its own characteristics, its own capacities, its own traits, its own capabilities, its own limitations, its own strengths and weaknesses, its own beginning and endings, its own qualities, and so on. All of these things can be understood as measures. We can measure characteristics, capacities, traits, etc.
Now, the Qadar is the generic measurement, power, or destiny of a thing. For instance, all human beings have the Qadar of speech. We have this measure. When a human baby is born, its destiny has the ability for speech; it is predestined to speak. However, each human being has its own Qadr or Qadri; meaning within this generic human mould, each of us has our own measurement within the human mould. So, while most of us will have speech, some will have better speech than others. Qadr is the realization or manifestation of your potential measure of the Qadar that is defined for all humans. This is true for all aspects of creation. But, again for simplicity, we are just going to speak of Qadar to reference it all; generic capacity (Qadar) and manifestation of an individual potential (Qadr) within that generic capacity.
Okay, continuing...
Allah created everthing with its Qadar and He knows the Qadar of everything He created, because He knows all things. Now, not only does everything have a Qadar, but the interaction(s) of all things with each other also have a Qadar, for an interaction is a thing itself. Allah knows the Qadar or measure of the interaction of any two or more things. So He can knows it all. But, His knowledge of it all does not mean that He is dictating and ordering every interaction to happen, when it happens.
Let me give a simple example to illustrate a point. Let's say I created a maze for a mouse to run through and I created only three pathways for that mouse to choose from. At the end of one pathway the mouse will find cheese. At the end of the second pathway the mouse will find bread. At the end of the third pathway the mouse will find seeds.
One could say that the Qadar of the maze is three pathways and the Qadar of the mouse only permits him to travel through one of the three paths (he can't fly, it's not in the Qadar of a mouse). My knowledge of the Qadar of the maze and the mouse will give me foreknowledge of the destiny of the mouse. I know that he will either choose path one, two, or three, or he will sit still and choose none. I know that he will find cheese, bread, seeds, or nothing. Regardless of the choice that the mouse makes, I have knowledge of its destiny. But, the mouse will use the free will in its Qadar to make the choice of the pathway it goes down. I am not dictating to him which path to choose.
The point here is that Allah's all encompassing knowledge does not mean He has dictated the paths of actions we choose at the inception of our creation, although we each receive our Qadar at the time of our creation.
2) Al-Kitabu - Allah knows all in the heavens & earth, verily it is all in a record or book. (22:70)
This verse is used in conjunction with the following report.
"Allah wrote what was ordained for creation, fifty thousand years before the creation of the heavens and the earth and His 'Arsh (Throne) was on the water." [Sahih Muslim]
In and of itself, 22:70 simply states that Allah knows everything in the skies and in the earth and it is all in a record or book. This verse does not tell us what the record or book is and it does not say that Allah "wrote" anything in it. Besides, we could have a huge discussion on what writing is in the Quran and believe me, it is more than an ink pen and paper.
However, the above cited report of a saying of the prophet is where "proof" is derived that Allah wrote down in a book all of the things (events and actions and thoughts) of everything in the skies and the earth.
The logic goes, if everything was written down 50,000 years before Allah created anything, once He decided to start the creation, everything from that moment is simply playing out the script.
If this hadith is accurate, or if this explanation of the meaning of this hadith is accurate, then there is no free will. There is no true choosing to do right or wrong. No matter how much you might feel like you are making choices, even the choice to read my composition, it is an illusion. You are not choosing to read this, you are merely acting out a script that was written for you 50,000 years before the universe was created.
This report appears to be yet another hadith that contradicts the Quran's clear verses that affirm free will (cited above) within the Qadar of a human being. As you know, the Quran is referred to as a hadith and Allah asks us, what hadith other than this Quran would you prefer? I lean towards that hadith called Quran and I evaluate all other hadeeth through that lens.
Now, before you accuse me of challenging the prophet, recall that I said if the explanation of the hadith or its explanation is accurate. What do I mean by the explanation of the hadith? For example, why do we think the prophet was speaking literally and not metaphorically? Would it be surprising to you to know that the prophet spoke in metaphors? If the Quran is filled with metaphors and Allah tells us that He teaches us through metaphors and the Prophet recited these metaphors to us for 23 years as he was imparting the Quran, wouldn't it be natural for him to use metaphors too? A clue for us is the ending sentence, that Allah's throne is on the water. Do you believe this is referring to literal water? Is not Allah's throne on the land too? Is it not in outer space also?
Maybe he was making a point about the Qadar of creation; that Allah designed or planned the Qadar of each thing before He created it. Maybe that's the point. If that was the point of the metaphor, then it would not contradict the verses of the Quran, because the Qadar assigned to the human being is free will and free choice. Maybe, we would read and understand this hadith a little differently.
Now, returning back to my point about 22:70, this verse is speaking of the knowledge of things, including our choices, not pre-ordering or the pre-dictating of our choices.
Sometimes 85:22 is used as a proof that everything has been written down in a book. This is another lengthy discussion, so I won't engage it here. Regarding this verse, one need only read the previous verse, which says that the Glorious Quran is preserved or protected in a tablet. While this leads to a debate about the Quran's existence prior to creation, suffice it to say that this does not directly bear on whether or not Allah has already dictated and predetermined what you were going to drink and eat today.
Allah's knowledge of what a thing will do does not mean that Allah has dictated what it will do.
Verse 57:22 is important enough to require an explanation also.
This verse reads:
"Nothing occurs, in the earth or in yourselves, without its being recorded before we make it happen. That is something easy for Allah."
What this verse means is that the Qadar of things predicts the results or effects of things before they actually happen. Back to the Mouse Maze example. When the maze was created and the mouse was put in the maze, the Qadar of these things already writes or records  the possibilities or possible consequences that could occur. Before the mouse takes a single step, all of the possible outcomes are already recorded or written, before the actual outcome occurs when the mouse starts to make its choice of pathways.
When you first turn onto a highway, the Qadar of everything on that highway already exists and the Qadar of every possibility of the things that could happen on that highway are already calculated (recorded or written) when you first get on. So, if you happen to choose to text on your cellphone and you crash into a car, that possibility was already recorded as a possibility (Qadar). When you chose to text at the moment you did, the mathematics was such that an accident occurred.
Human beings in our own limited way display the meaning of this verse. It is easily seen in our weather reports (not so easy any more). Because we have instruments and knowledge that helps us understand a lot about the Qadar of the weather, we can read the record that is already written about whether a geographical location is going to get a quantity of rain that is going to cause flooding before the event actually happens.
Another example, we already can read the record or writing of what is going to happen if the climate of the earth continues to heat up. Scientists are already making the predictions. They are making these predictions before they happen. Similarly, we are reading the writing of America's financial future if our economy continues a certain way. We are reading the future based on our limited knowledge of the Qadr of the these things.
Allah, who is all-knowing, already has all Qadar calculated, read, and recorded. All possible future events are predicted. But, did He decide that He write down in a book, "it's time to cause hurricane Katrina" and then make Katrina come about?
So, the Qadar of factors that foretell of a calamitous event before it happens does not mean that the event happened because Allah took out His pen and wrote it down in order to make it come to life.
3) Allahul Mashee'ee - The Will of Allah is over all things (3:26, 76:30).
In 3:26 we read:
Say: "O Allah. Lord of Power (And Rule), Thou givest power to whom Thou will, and Thou strippest off power from whom Thou will: Thou enduest with honour whom Thou will, and Thou bringest low whom Thou will: In Thy hand is all good. Verily, over all things Thou hast power.
In 76:29-31 we read:
29 This is an admonition: Whosoever will, let him take a (straight) Path to his Lord.  
30 But ye will not, except as Allah wills; for Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom.  
31 He will admit to His Mercy whom He will; But the wrong-doers,- for them has He prepared a grievous Penalty.
Now, these verses are used to assert that Allah has power over all things and that nothing happens without His will and permission. Since He has power over all things and everything happens by His permission and His act of willpower, then when you turn on your TV to watch the Food Network, it is because Allah is willing that you watch that program today and He is willing that you watch that program today because He already had willed it when He wrote it down in the book 50,000 years before He created the universe and when He wrote it again, according to the other hadith of the prophet, at the time you were conceived in the womb of your mother.
Hmmm, I hadn't thought about this until now. If every decision and event that was to happen in your life was written 50,000 years before the universe was created, why did it need to be written again when you were conceived in the womb of your mother? Which Sahih hadith is correct?
Returning: If nothing happens without the will of Allah, then surely He planned and executed the 9/11 attacks and the humans who did perpetrate the act were merely puppets on a string, following the script, acting out the drama that was written in their records long ago.
The refutation to these kinds of reasonings is found in the verse 5:48 and others like it, such as 11:18, 13:31, 16:9,  23:24, 43:60, 56:65, etc.
These verses show that Allah could have forced things to be a certain way. He could have used His will to make everyone believe and do right, but He didn't do it that way. Surely, Allah has the power to turn us all into puppets and robots by dictating every thought, action, and event of our lives, but He did not choose to create the universe that way. Yes, He had the power to make human lile to live on the fiery sun, but He chose to make life on the earth. He had the power to make the Qadar of the human being so we could drink fire, but He didn't do it that way. He made us to drink water.
Verses 17:77, 30:30, 33:62, and others confirm the principle that Allah had the power to do things any way He wants, but He made the creation the way He made it and He does not change the way He made it. He doesn't change His way, because there is no need to change it.
So, the Qadar; the measurement and power and capacity of the human being is to be able to use his mind and heart to freely make choices within the limits of his Qadr.
4) Al-Amr - The Command of Allah, He only need say 'Be' and it is.

Again, Allah's power to command whatever He chooses, does not mean that He will choose or has chosen to do something. It is clear that Allah, when creating the human being, said 'Be' you have free will to choose your thoughts and actions within the limits of the Qadar I have created for you.
Allah has the power, but it does not mean He used that power to command the adulterers in this world to commit adultery.
5) Al-Khalaq - Allah created everything.
This brings us full circle. Allah created the Qadar of everything and through its Qadar Allah controls and exercises His will. But, it  is His will that the bee (within its Qadar) has the free will to choose where it will build its hive, and the bird (within its Qadar) has the free will to choose which grass seeds it will eat, and the human being (within its Qadar) has the free will to make its choices to do good or evil. All of these will reap the consequences of its choices.
Let me conclude my comments on the Qadar of Allah by offering to you an opinion of the essence of the Night of Qadr; the Night of Power, the Night of Measurement.
The reason that particular night is better than 1000 months is because it is better than an entire lifetime. And what night can be better than an entire lifetime? It is the night when the revelation comes down and you are enlightened as to your Qadr; your true capacity and capabilities, to your true potential, to your true dimensions, to your destiny, to the meaning and purpose of the mould in which Allah has made the human being and has made you!
Just as it was a momentous occasion for the prophet to receive enlightenment through revelation and he discovered his Qadr as the prophet to mankind, your night power also comes after prayer, fasting, purification, study, on an odd night, not the 25th, 27th, or 29th, but odd in the sense of unusual; unique, different...when your Qadr is revealed to you and you are enlightened as to your purpose and potential and mission in life.
This moment is better than 1000 years in the dark.


#1 MrBadr 2016-04-08 23:40
Valuable response.
Thank you.
M.Nisar Sheikh
#2 Free will and qadrM.Nisar Sheikh 2017-06-18 19:19
Thank you very much for elaborating such difficult topic.
I often think of snake and ladder game. If you played you dont know what will happen next. You are given powers to do something at certain time and place then wether power is tsken back or time or place changes that changes the end result each time. I think it is not a matter of choice. God had chosen and preferred bani israel knowing that they do not worth it and HE had to change his own decision.certainly who has his mother father a hindu family and who was born in a muslim family may not go to the same place or vice versa.
#3 GreatMohammed 2017-10-26 08:08
Thank you, you helped me solve my dilemma!

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