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|Part of a series on Islam|
1Salafis (Ahl-i Hadith & Wahhabis)
2Al-Ahbash & Barelvis 3Deobandis & Millî Görüş
4Alawites, Qizilbash & Bektashism; 6Jahmīyya
5Sevener-Qarmatians, Assassins & Druzes
7Ajardi, Azariqa, Bayhasiyya, Najdat & Sūfrī 8Wahbiyyah, Nukkari & Azzabas
9Mevlevis, Süleymancıs & various Ṭarīqah
10Bahshamiyya, Bishriyya & Ikhshîdiyya
11Bektashis & Qalandaris
Qadar (Arabic: قدر, transliterated qadar, meaning literally "power", but translated variously as: "Fate", "Divine Fore-ordainment", "Predestination," "Divine Decree", "Decree" of Allah", "Preordainment") is the concept of Divine Destiny in Islam. As God is all-knowing and all-powerful, everything that has happened and will happen in the universe—including sinful human behavior—is not only known but commanded by him. At the same time, human beings are responsible for their actions, and will be rewarded or punished accordingly on Judgement Day.
Predestination/Divine Destiny is one of Sunni Islam's six articles of faith, (along with belief in the Oneness of Allah, the Revealed Books, the Prophets of Islam, the Day of Resurrection and Angels).
Since many things that happen on earth as a part of Allah's decree are bad/evil, "the will of Allah" can be divided into two sorts—the "universal will" (everything that happens, the subject of this article); and the "legislative will", what Allah commands human beings to do that they sometimes do not (obey sharia).
Some early Islamic schools (Qadariyah and Muʿtazila) did not accept the doctrine of predestination; Muʿtazila argued that it was "unthinkable" that God "would punish man for what He himself had commanded". Predestination is not included in the Five Articles of Faith of Shi'i Islam. At least a few sources describe Shi'i Muslims as denying predestination, and at least one Shi'i scholar (Naser Makarem Shirazi) argues "belief in predestination is a denial of justice".
In Islam, "predestination" is the usual English language rendering of a belief that Muslims call al-qaḍāʾ wa l-qadar ([ælqɑˈdˤɑːʔ wælˈqɑdɑr] القضاء والقدر). As per the Sunni understanding, the phrase means "the divine decree and the predestination"; al-qadr more closely means "(divine) power", deriving from the root ق د ر (q-d-r), which denotes concepts related to measuring out, aiming, calculating, preparing, being able, and having power. Another source states, that according to scholars:
Maria De Cillis also states the two words have "Semitic roots originating from Babylonian and Israelite religious traditions that considered the world" to be "a replica of what had already been recorded in celestial books or charts." (The name of the 97th surah of the Qur'an is known as Surat al-Qadr).
While the Quran is "not consistent" on whether human beings have control over their life or whether their destiny is preordained, verses supporting the latter predominate.
... and in particular God's control over each humans destiny in the afterlife:
"The Book of Decrees" (al-lawh al-mahfooz), is mentioned at least twice in the Quran.
A reflection of belief in the power of divine will is found in the phrase Insha'Allah, Arabic for "if God willed [it]", which is frequently used by Muslims when referring to the future, to qualify any predictions of what will come to pass. The phrase obeys the verse:
Some verses seem to suggest that humans have free will:
According to one source (Alfred Guillaume), the "books of canonical traditions" do "not contain a single saying of Muhammad's which leaves freedom of action to man" (although he thinks "there are good reasons for believing that these traditions are forged at a time when the controversy was at its height ..."). One of the hadith where Muhammad tells Jibreel about the articles of faith, including "divine decree" is
A hadith quotes Abd Allah ibn Umar ibn al-Khattab as narrating the hadith above along with the saying that:
Another hadith encourages Muslims to "carry on doing good deeds", though it will not affect their place in the Afterlife, as they have already been assigned to either the Fire or in Paradise and that can't be changed:
In orthodox Islam, almighty and all knowing God's control over what happens in his creation is absolute. "Allah has decreed all things from eternity". He knows that they will happen, when they will happen, how they will happen, and "He has written that and willed it". This includes "the pettiest of human or other, affairs", not withstanding "the grandeur of God's cosmic role", (in the words of scholar Michael Cook).
But at the same time, human beings in their life on earth have the choice to do good or evil, are responsible for their actions, and will be rewarded or punished according in an eternal afterlife.
This poses the question, (raised by the early Islamic rationalist Muʿtazila school of thought), if everything that has happened and will happen, including all acts of good and evil, has already been determined by God, doesn't that mean that everything a human being does during their life is only following God's decree? How can human beings be responsible for this, and even punished with eternal torment in hell for it?
The question was/is not unique to Islam, and the debate over whether free will exists is not even limited to religion. According to Justin Parrott of the Islamic Yaqeen Institute, "it has been an important issue throughout history", addressed by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle over 2000 years ago. Orientalist Alfred Guillaume points out the dilemma "has exercised the minds" of theologians of all religions "which claim to present" a god that is both almighty and moral.
Moses Maimonides formulated an argument regarding a person's free will, in traditional terms of good and evil actions, as follows:
… "Does God know or does He not know that a certain individual will be good or bad? If thou sayest 'He knows', then it necessarily follows that the man is compelled to act as God knew beforehand how he would act, otherwise, God's knowledge would be imperfect.…"
Naser Makarem Shirazi gives a similar example:
They say, “Does God know that so and so at such and such an hour on such and such a day will kill someone or will drink an alcoholic beverage?” If we say, “He does not know,” we have denied God’s knowledge. And if we say, “Yes, that person must do this, otherwise God’s knowledge will be imperfect,” then, in order to preserve God’s knowledge, a person is obliged to sin and obey God!
According to Maria De Cillis, "the apparently unsolvable conflict between the concepts of free will and determinism (or divine predetermination)" has not only been "a matter of great interest" but also of "heated controversy", extending beyond academia and the ulama and into politics "by virtue of the repercussions that this debate has in a social context"; (for example, when tyrannical and corrupt authorities encourage fatalism towards tyranny and corruption by pointing out that these maladies are "divinely willed and preordained"). According to Justin Parrott, "the idea ... that everything has already been decreed by the Creator from eternity— has troubled theologians and philosophers for centuries." And not only have members of those two professions taxed their brains about the conflict, but the "myriad of philosophical conundrums that arise" from the issue has caused some Muslims to experience doubts of faith. "Are we forced to do what we do, or are our choices meaningful?"
De Cillis writes that the issue was so sensitive, that the
Prophet allegedly taught believers to abstain from considerations about destiny (qadar), calling it a deep sea, a dark path and God’s secret. One of the most authoritative Sunni intellectuals, the theologian and Sufi master, Abū Hāmid al-Ghazālī (d. 1111), reports in his masterpiece The Revival of the Religious Sciences, the tradition according to which Muhammad ... proclaimed: “Refrain from speaking about qadar.”[nb 1]
As a result, the scholars emphasized that providence is a secret of Allah and that "going too deeply into it philosophically" will lead to "misguidance". The creed of Al-Tahawi warns "that providence" (the seeming conflict of divine decree with human free will) is such a secret that even God's most obedient and holy creatures were not let in on the mystery.
The principle of providence is the secret of Allah Almighty in His creation that has not been given to an angel near Him, nor to a prophet or messenger. Exaggeration (al-ta’ammuq) and debate regarding it leads to failure, progressive denial, and a degree of transgression. Take every precaution against that kind of debate, thinking, and insinuation.
At the same time, incompatibility between predestination and free will is not an issue in many popular Islamic sources.
The 10th century Ash'ari school of theology, (which is still one of the main Sunni schools of Islamic theology), reconciles punishment in hell with the doctrine of total divine power over everything, with their own doctrine of kasb (acquisition). According to it, while any and all acts, including human acts of evil, are created by God, the human being who performs the act is responsible for it, because they have "acquired" the act. Humans only have the power to decide between the given possibilities God has created. Maria De Cillis explains it thusly:
In his attempt to illustrate the meaning of the verb “to acquire” (a word that is typical of Ash‘arite theology), [Ash‘arite theologian] al-Bāqillānī, in specifying the difference between a forced act and an acquired act, stated: “To acquire means that [man] freely performs his own acts by virtue of a [generated] power joined to such acts that makes them 'acquire' a qualification other than any compelled action … Such qualification of the action is, precisely, what we name acquisition.” It was in relation to this specific state that the action led to reward or punishment. More specifically, although he did not credit human beings with the power to make the action good or wicked, al-Bāqillānī recognised that they had the capacity to act in such a way as to make their actions coincide with what God wanted or rejected, thereby conferring moral connotations upon actions.[nb 2]
The scholars of inter-islam.org explain that while Allah has "full knowledge of the individual’s actions; past, present and future", this world is a test for humans to determine whether they go to paradise or hellfire. "The notion that this world is a test warrants that the subjects being tested possess free-will or else there would be no meaning to such a test." Since that test does have meaning, this proves the individual does have free-will.
Naser Makarem Shirazi response to those asking why God allows acts of evil that He, being all-knowing, knows will happen (see above), accusing them of asking the question in order to fabricate an excuse for committing sins. Shirazi maintains "our will or choice [are] also part of God’s knowledge", and compares God to a teacher who "knows that a lazy student will fail at the end of the year and the teacher is one hundred percent sure of this fact because of years of experience as a teacher", and who cannot be held responsible for student's failure.[nb 3]
Justin Parrott explains that "from a purely rational standpoint", it may seem impossible for God to have absolute knowledge and power over all action in the universe, and for humans to be responsible for their actions. Parrott quotes sahih hadith that our "life span, deeds, and ultimate fate" (whether we go to heaven or hell) are determined ("written by the angels") before we are born; yet after we are born we have the opportunity "to secure a good fate" by appealing "to Allah through worship, prayer, and good deeds". Parrott explains that while statements like these may seem "contradictory on their face" to us, that is only because "of the human mind’s limited frame of reference". "We have to remember that Allah" and predestination "exists outside of time and space, beyond the cosmic veil in the Unseen," so that "we are simply incapable of conceiving it with our limited rational faculties".
Skeptics have dismissed Qadar as unjust and non-sensical -- inherently contradictory. Critic of Islam Ibn Warraq complains that the "system of predestination" turns men into "automata", undermining "the notion of moral responsibility" and the justification for the harsh punishment of hellfire. Other critics of the compatibility of divine destiny and free-will (Abdullah Sameer and Hanney Selim) argue that the feelings of confusion by Muslims over the issue and the discouragement by religious leaders of attempts to understand the paradox (that they experienced as Muslims), are simply because divine destiny and free-will are not compatible. Attempts by theologians to make them so are logically incoherent, not unlike the doctrine of the Trinity in Christianity.[nb 4]
Based on what has been preserved of the poetry of pre-Islamic Arabs, it is thought that they believed that the date of the person's death (ajal), was predetermined "no matter what he or she did". A person's "provision" or "sustenance" (rizq), essentially food, was also pre-determined.
The concept of ajal is also found in the Quran in several verses, especially one revealed in reply to criticism of Muḥammad's military strategy (go out to Mount Uhud to fight when Muslims were attacked in Medina by the Meccans) that some Muslims complained led to unnecessary loss of life:
(The verse expresses a different point of view—that acts are not predetermined, but their outcome is—than the later theological position that God knows/determines everything that happens.) The Qurʾān also speaks specifically of the supply of rizq, or provision being in God control:
The question of how to reconcile God's absolute power with human responsibility for their actions, led to "one of the earliest sectarian schisms" in Islam, between the Qadarites (aka Qadariyah), who believed in total free will of humans (and who appeared in Damascus around the end of the seventh century CE); and the Jabarites, who believed in "absolute" divine "determinism and fatalism". One statement of the Qadarite school doctrine (Kitābu-l Milal wal Niḥal by Al Mahdi lidin Allah Ahmad b. Yaḥyā b. Al Murtaḍā (a.h. 764-840)) arguing against determinism stated:
Ma'bad al-Juhani (d.699 CE), was crucified by the orders of the Caliph Abd al-Malik in Damascus. He was said to be the first man to discuss the Qadr (Divine Decree).
The Umayyad, during their reign, took the theological position that God had bestowed the caliphate on them, just as the Qurʾān described the bestowing of a caliphate on Adam (Q.2:30). Among their opponents were Qādarī who asserted "human free will in some form", such as that the good acts of any person come from God, but their bad acts (including those of God's caliph) come from themselves.
After the unfortunate dispute between the Qadarites and Jabarites, Islam followed the middle path dictated by the Quran and Sunnah, "between the two extremes".
Following the overthrow of the Umayyad dynasty by the Abbasid in 750 CE, the Qādarī movement "either faded out or was absorbed into the rationalist Muʿtazila movement". The next two schools that felt the need to reconcile the idea of an omnipotent God (creating everything including human actions) with a just God (who does not hold human beings responsible for acts God, not they, willed), were the Muʿtazila and the Ashʿaris.
The Mu‘tazili school argued that since justice (‘adl) is "the true essence" of divinity, "God can only do and only wishes what is salutary for human beings". (Based on verses Q.3:104, Q.22:10, Q.4:81.) He not only orders people to do that which is good and forbids them to do that which is reprehensible, he abstains from doing evil Himself. The evil in the world comes instead from Man's/human beings' free will. Man (the human race), therefore, is "the genuine “creator” (khāliq) of his actions".
The Ash‘ari school, named after for Abū al-Hasan al-Ash‘arī (d. 935), argued that since God is all-powerful, "he is the sole, true author of every action, good or bad", including, of course, human actions. Humans are "limited to taking possession (by way of acquisition – kasb) of the actions created for him by God". Having acquired these actions they are responsible for them on Judgement Day. Sunni Islam supported the Ash‘ari school (though not exclusively) and opposed the Mu‘tazili.
Exponents of Islamic modernism, such as Muḥammad ʿAbduh (d. 1905), and Fazlur Rahman (d. 1988), follow the standard doctrine that God "has foreknowledge of human actions", but the fact that the future has been determined and includes evil acts, "does not compel humans to commit sin".
Sunnis enumerate Qadar as one aspect of their creed (Arabic: aqidah). They believe that the divine destiny is when God wrote down in the Preserved Tablet (al-Lawhu 'l-Mahfuz) all that has happened and will happen, which will come to pass as written.
According to Maturidi belief, all active possibilities are created by God and humans act in accordance with their free intention to choose which action they follow. In this way, the intention precedes the created action and capacity by which actions are acquired (kasb in Arabic).
According to two conservative sources (islamqa.info and Allah Knowing) belief in al-Qadar is based on four things, components aspects:
There are five stages where Qadar is determined and prescribed/sent to creation:
An example of how these categorizations help clear the idea of destiny is as follows: It is possible that Allah sends a daily/yearly decree dictating that a person will make a profit. However, due to that person's good deeds (for instance, fulfilling the ties of kinship [being good to your relatives and maintaining the relationship]), Allah sends another decree increasing that person's profit. The reversal of the two decrees is all within Allah's knowledge and is recorded in the Preserved Tablet. The person himself knows nothing of his own destiny or of Allah's decrees, but what he does know is that if he performs certain good deeds, then He will increase his profit (as in the example above) more than if he does not do that deed.
Shi'i Twelvers, along with other Shia sects, such as the Zaydis, reject predestination. This belief is further emphasized by the Shia concept of Bada', which states that God has not set a definite course for human history. Instead, God may alter the course of human history as God sees fit.
However, according to Encyclopedia.com (drawing from W. Montgomery Watt and Asma Afsaruddin), contemporary Imāmīs, aka Twelver Shi'a, "in general, subscribe to the doctrine of divine determination with a nod in the direction of free will; Ismāʿīlī views are not dissimilar. The Zaydī Shīʿī are closer to the Muʿtazilah in their views".
Some positions taken by leading Shi'i scholars (quotes from Maria De Cillis) include:
The idea of "a tablet" with the future written on it is not unique to Sunni Islam as one Twelver Shi'i scholar (Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid d.1022), claiming that "the Tablet is the Book of Almighty Allah in which He has written all that will be till the Day of Resurrection".
To show that there is no contradiction between being predestined, and free will, Shiites state that matters relating to human destiny are of two kinds: definite and indefinite. To explain the definitive one, Shiites argue that God has definite power over the whole of existence, however, so whenever He wills, He can replace a given destiny with another one; and that is what is called indefinite destiny. Some of these changes of destiny, thus, are brought about by man himself, who can through his free will, his decisions, and his way of life lay the groundwork for a change in his destiny as has been pointed out in the verse:
Both types of destinies, however, are contained within God's foreknowledge, Shiites argue, so that there could be no sort of change (badaʾ lit. "mutability") concerning His knowledge. So the first type of destiny does not mean a limitation of God's power; since God, in contrast to the belief of Jews who said the hand of God is tied’ asserts: Nay, His hands are spread out wide .... So God has the power to change everything he wills and God's creativity is continuous. Accordingly, as Sobhani puts it, "all groups in Islam regard "bada" as a tenet of the faith, even if not all actually use the term."
Iranian scholar Naser Makarem Shirazi asserts that "belief in predestination is a denial of justice", and that there is free will in Islam, but at the same time (according to him) God has foreknowledge of everything in the future. He tackles the paradox of God knowing man will commit a certain sin, and man's free will to commit it by postulating the existence of a machine so advanced that it can predict the occurrence of an event some hours in advance. Yet one would not say the machine compelled that event to occur; likewise, God's perfect knowledge doesn't compel man to commit sins.
Ismaili thinkers such as Abū Hātim al-Rāzī (d. 934), Muhammad Ibn Ahmad al-Nasafī (d. 942), Abū Ya‘qūb Ishāq Ibn Ahmad al-Sijistānī (d. around 971), the Fatimid jurist al-Qādī al-Nu‘mān (d. 974) and the missionary” (dā‘ī) Hamīd al-Dīn al-Kirmānī (d. around 1021-22), "all contributed" to defining the terms qadā’ and qadar used in the Quran. Ismaili thinkers wrote that humans were not able to fully grasp the Qur’anic truths in their exoteric and esoteric essence. Human knowledge, therefore required "guidance of a hierarchy of divinely designated masters", including "the whole chain of Ismaili religious dignitaries and officials."
Verily! We have sent it (this Quran) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Decree)