Affirming Free Will and the Divine Decree

Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan

Question: I’ve been having strong doubts about Islam due to difficulty accepting the belief in Qadr.

This verse from Imam al-Tahawi’s creed strongly bothers me, for example.

83. The Garden and the Fire are created things that never come to an end and we believe that Allah created them before the rest of creation and then created people to inhabit each of them. Whoever He wills goes to the Garden out of His bounty and whoever He wills goes to the Fire through His justice. Everybody acts in accordance with what is destined for him and goes towards what he has been created for.

Also this: 44. The same applies to all actions done by people, which are done exactly as Allah knew they would be done. Everyone is eased towards what he was created for and it is the action with which a man’s life is sealed which dictates his fate. Those who are fortunate are fortunate by the decree of Allah, and those who are wretched are wretched by the decree of Allah.

I used to believe that Allah loves and wants the best for all his creation. But now I have to believe that he tests the non-Muslims to justify damning them to perdition. How is this fitting for a kind and loving God? This belief is causing me distress in religion and life. Also doesn’t this mean that Firoun and Shaytan etc. were only fulfilling their purpose of creation?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

I believe you have a misunderstanding of this issue. Allah’s preeternal will coincides with His preeternal knowledge, and this by no means negates the free will of man and jinn.

That is to say, Allah in preeternity knew and, based on His knowledge, willed that Firown would be the way he would. Allah decreed the actions of Firown as per His preeternal knowledge of Firown’s choices. Of course, there is no implication of time sequence in this (see below on Allah’s timelessness).

But in his own lifetime, Firown chose to act the way he acted, and was not forced by any means. The two realities are not mutually exclusive. We affirm human free will, and we also affirm divine knowledge, will and power.

This issue is a complex one that is difficult for the mind to grasp at even an elementary level. Indeed, at the root of our difficulty is that we cannot fathom the divine attribute of ‘timelessness.’ He Most High is the First and the Last, without beginning and without end. He is not bound by time, since time itself is His creation. As our Master Ibn Ata’illah states, “Allah existed, and there was nothing besides Him. And He is now just as He was.”

So all of creation, and all moments of creation, are “laid out” in front of the Divine, as it were. There is no ‘before/now/after’ with respect to Allah. So from the divine vantage point, Firown’s place in the Fire is not ‘after’ Firown’s birth… Divine knowledge of Firown did not increase one iota after Firown. This is essential to understand. It was already done, in a sense.

“They did not estimate Allah His rightful estimation; indeed, Allah is strong, mighty.” (22:74)

I would advise you to study creed under qualified scholarship. You may want to take the following course for example: Islamic Beliefs for Seekers: Dardir’s Kharidah Explained

And Allah knows best.



Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

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