Friday, 17 April 2009

The Problem of Divine Sovereignty, Predestination, Salvation and Human Free Will; Part I

Allah ordained that mankind should be divided into two camps, e.g. believers and unbelievers, the saved versus the unsaved, and has chosen beforehand to guide and forgive whom he wills

In this article we will examine the contradictory teachings of the Qur’an concerning human "free will" and Divine sovereignty. We will show how the Muslim scripture’s teaching that man is capable of believing or rejecting Allah’s revelation is contradicted by passages which expressly and emphatically teach that man cannot believe unless Allah predetermines it. We will present a plethora of verses, as well as Islamic narrations, which state that Allah has predestined who will believe and who will not, and that he has already foreordained all of the very actions that his creatures will commit.

This article will also serve the purpose of refuting the blatant distortions of what Islam actually teaches concerning predestination by Muslim apologists (such as Bassam Zawadi (*)).

The Qur’an on human choice

The Muslim scripture is filled with passages that speak of human responsibility, verses where man is commanded and expected to make the choice to believe and do good works, otherwise s/he will suffer the consequences, for example:

Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. S. 2:62

And when My servants question thee concerning Me -- I am near to answer the call of the caller, when he calls to Me; so let them respond to Me, and let them believe in Me; haply so they will go aright. S. 2:186

Say: (It is) the truth from the Lord of you (all). Then whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve. Lo! We have prepared for disbelievers Fire. Its tent encloseth them. If they ask for showers, they will be showered with water like to molten lead which burneth the faces. Calamitous the drink and ill the resting-place! S. 18:29

That no soul laden bears the load of another, and that a man shall have to his account only as he has laboured, and that his labouring shall surely be seen, then he shall be recompensed for it with the fullest recompense, and that the final end is unto thy Lord, S. 53:38-42

An apostle who recites to you the clear communications of Allah so that he may bring forth those who believe and do good deeds from darkness into light; and whoever believes in Allah and does good deeds, He will cause him to enter gardens beneath which rivers now, to abide therein forever, Allah has indeed given him a goodly sustenance. S. 65:11

The Qur’an further teaches that Allah responds to the actions of his creatures, and that it is up to man to change his condition before Allah will even take the initiative of enabling him/her to make such a change:

That is so because Allah will never change a grace which He has bestowed on a people until they change what is in their ownselves. And verily, Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower. S. 8:53

For each (person), there are angels in succession, before and behind him. They guard him by the Command of Allah. Verily! Allah will not change the good condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves. But when Allah wills a people's punishment, there can be no turning back of it, and they will find besides Him no protector. S. 13:11

The Qur’an also suggests that Allah will only mislead those who are wicked and ungodly:

Allah is not ashamed to strike a similitude even of a gnat, or aught above it. As for the believers, they know it is the truth from their Lord; but as for unbelievers, they say, 'What did Allah desire by this for a similitude?' Thereby He leads many astray, and thereby He guides many; and thereby He leads none astray save the ungodly. S. 2:26

Allah will then judge mankind for what they have earned:

That Day mankind will proceed in scattered groups that they may be shown their deeds. So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant), shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant), shall see it. Whoever has done an atom's weight of good shall meet with its reward and whoever has done an atom's weight of evil shall meet with its consequences. S. 99:6-8

The Qur’an on salvation by grace apart from works

The first problem we run into is with the Qur’an’s repeated claim that a person will receive the just reward or recompense of his/her beliefs and deeds, which presupposes that one’s eternal destiny is determined by one’s actions, since this conflicts with the following verse:

O believers, follow not the steps of Satan; for whosoever follows the steps of Satan, assuredly he bids to indecency and dishonour. But for Allah's bounty to you and His mercy not one of you would have been pure ever; but Allah purifies whom He will; and Allah is All-hearing, All-knowing. S. 24:21

It is not by works that a person is saved but by the grace and mercy of Allah, a point reiterated in the hadith literature:

Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "The good deeds of any person will not make him enter Paradise." (i.e., None can enter Paradise through his good deeds.) They (the Prophet's companions) said, "Not even you, O Allah's Apostle?" He said, "Not even myself, unless Allah bestows His favor and mercy on me. So be moderate in your religious deeds and do the deeds that are within your ability: and none of you should wish for death, for if he is a good doer, he may increase his good deeds, and if he is an evil doer, he may repent to Allah." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 70, Number 577)

Narrated Aisha: The Prophet said, "Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and receive good news because one's good deeds will NOT make him enter Paradise." They asked, "Even you, O Allah’s Apostle?" He said, "Even I, unless and until Allah bestows His pardon and Mercy on me." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 474)



Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: None amongst you would attain salvation purely because of his deeds. A person said: Allah's Messenger, even you also. Thereupon he said: Yes. Not even I, but that Allah wraps me in Mercy, but you should act with moderation. This hadith has been transmitted on the authority of Bukair b. al-Ashajj with a slight variation of wording. (Sahih Muslim, Book 039, Number 6760)

The Qur’an on Allah’s complete sovereignty and preordainment of all actions

This leads us to the second problem which a Muslim faces. According to both the Qur’an and the so-called sound narratives, to be saved by Allah’s mercy and grace basically means that a person has to be chosen by Allah beforehand for salvation, i.e. predestination; otherwise that individual will never believe and turn to Allah.

In fact, belief in predestination is one of the essential aspects of the Islamic faith and denying its reality is to place oneself outside of the fold of true Islam:

It is narrated on the authority of Yahya b. Ya'mur that the first man who discussed about Qadr (Divine Decree) in Basra was Ma'bad al-Juhani. I along with Humaid b. 'Abdur-Rahman Himyari set out for pilgrimage or for 'Umrah and said: Should it so happen that we come into contact with one of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) we shall ask him about what is talked about Taqdir (Division Decree). Accidentally we came across Abdullah ibn Umar ibn al-Khattab, while he was entering the mosque. My companion and I surrounded him. One of us (stood) on his right and the other stood on his left. I expected that my companion would authorize me to speak. I therefore said: Abu Abdur Rahman! There have appeared some people in our land who recite the Holy Qur'an and pursue knowledge. And then after talking about their affairs, added: They (such people) claim that there is no such thing as Divine Decree and events are not predestined. He (Abdullah ibn Umar) said: When you happen to meet such people tell them that I have nothing to do with them and they have nothing to do with me. And verily they are in no way responsible for my (belief). Abdullah ibn Umar swore by Him (the Lord) (and said): If any one of them (who does not believe in the Divine Decree) had with him gold equal to the bulk of (the mountain) Uhud and then, it (in the way of Allah), Allah would not accept it unless he affirmed his faith in Divine Decree. He further said: My father, Umar ibn al-Khattab, told me: One day we were sitting in the company of Allah's Apostle when there appeared before us a man dressed in pure white clothes, his hair extraordinarily black. There were no signs of travel on him. None amongst us recognized him. At last he sat with the Apostle. He knelt before him placed his palms on his thighs and said: Muhammad, inform me about al-Islam. The Messenger of Allah said: Al-Islam implies that you testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and you establish prayer, pay Zakat, observe the fast of Ramadan, and perform pilgrimage to the (House) if you are solvent enough (to bear the expense of) the journey. He (the inquirer) said: You have told the truth. He (Umar ibn al-Khattab) said: It amazed us that he would put the question and then he would himself verify the truth. He (the inquirer) said: Inform me about Iman (faith). He (the Holy Prophet) replied: That you affirm your faith in Allah, in His angels, in His Books, in His Apostles, in the Day of Judgment, and you affirm your faith in the Divine Decree about good and evil. He (the inquirer) said: You have told the truth… He (the narrator, Umar ibn al-Khattab) said: Then he (the inquirer) went on his way but I stayed with him (the Holy Prophet) for a long while. He then, said to me: Umar, do you know who this inquirer was? I replied: Allah and His Apostle knows best. He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: He was Gabriel (the angel). He came to you in order to instruct you in matters of religion
. (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0001)

The Qur’an itself repeatedly mentions that Allah has prescribed all that will happen and has measured out everything that will occur to every single creature:

Say: ‘Naught shall visit us but what Allah has prescribed for us; He is our Protector; in Allah let the believers put all their trust.’
S. 9:51

Here is how Sahih al-Bukhari interpreted this specific verse:

XIV. "Say: 'Nothing can happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us."

Mujahid said, "Bi-fatinina (37:162) means misguided, those for whom Allah has written that they will burn in Hellfire

"Qaddarra fa-hada" (87:3): He decreed misery and happiness and guided livestock to their grazing pasture."
(Aisha Bewley, The Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 85. Book of the Decree (Qadar); source)

Moving on to other texts:

Surely We have created everything in measure.
S. 54:49

Race to forgiveness from your Lord, and a Garden the breadth whereof is as the breadth of heaven and earth, made ready for those who believe in Allah and His Messengers. That is the bounty of Allah; He gives it unto whomsoever He will; and Allah is of bounty abounding. No affliction befalls in the earth or in yourselves, but it is in a Book, before We create it; that is easy for Allah; that you may not grieve for what escapes you, nor rejoice in what has come to you; Allah loves not any man proud and boastful,
S. 57:21-23

Allah ordained that mankind should be divided into two camps, e.g. believers and unbelievers, the saved versus the unsaved, and has chosen beforehand to guide and forgive whom he wills

The Islamic scripture testifies that if Allah wanted to he could have caused everyone to believe in Muhammad’s religion; but this is not what he desires since he has determined that many shall never believe in order that they may end up in hell. Hence, Allah chooses whomever he wills to save and forgive while misleading anyone he so desires:

Verily, those who disbelieve, it is the same to them whether you warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe. Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearings, and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be a great torment.
S. 2:6-7

... Say: ‘The true guidance is God's guidance -- that anyone should be given the like of what you have been given, or dispute with you before your Lord.’ Say: ‘Surely bounty is in the hand of Allah; He gives it unto whomsoever He will; and Allah is All-embracing, All-knowing. He singles out for His mercy whom He will; Allah is of bounty abounding.
’ S. 3:73-74

Why should ye be divided into two parties about the Hypocrites? God hath upset them for their (evil) deeds. Would ye guide those whom God hath thrown out of the Way? For those whom God hath thrown out of the Way, never shalt thou find the Way.
S. 4:88 Y. Ali

Say the Jews and Christians, 'We are the sons of Allah, and His beloved ones.' Say: 'Why then does He chastise you for your sins? No; you are mortals, of His creating; He forgives whom He will, and He chastises whom He will.' For to Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and of the earth, and all that is between them; to Him is the homecoming.
S. 5:18

Knowest thou not that to Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth? He chastises whom He will, and forgives whom He will; and Allah is powerful over everything… Whomsoever Allah desires to tempt, thou cannot avail him anything with Allah. Those are they whose hearts Allah desires not to purify; for them is degradation in this world; and in the world to come awaits them a mighty chastisement;
S. 5:40-41

And if their turning away is distressful for thee, why, if thou canst seek out a hole in the earth, or a ladder in heaven, to bring them some sign but had God willed, He would have gathered them to the guidance; so be not thou one of the ignorant.
S. 6:35

With Allah is the argument that reaches home: if it had been His will, He could indeed have guided you all.
S. 6:149

Had Allah willed, they had not been idolatrous. We have not set thee as a keeper over them, nor art thou responsible for them.
S. 6:107 Pickthall

And We never sent a messenger save with the language of his folk, that he might make (the message) clear for them. Then Allah sendeth whom He will astray, and guideth whom He will. He is the Mighty, the Wise
. S. 14:4

Whomsoever Allah guides, he is the guided one, and whomsoever He sends astray, those! They are the losers. And surely, We have created many of the jinns and mankind for Hell. They have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith they hear not (the truth). They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless ones.
S. 7:178-179 Hilali-Khan

And upon Allah is the responsibility to explain the Straight Path, but there are ways that turn aside. And had He willed, He would have guided you all.
S. 16:9

And had Allah willed, He could have made you (all) one nation, but He sends astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. But you shall certainly be called to account for what you used to do
. S. 16:93 Hilali-Khan

Verily! You (O Muhammad) guide not whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He knows best those who are the guided.
S. 28:56

If We had so willed, We could have given every soul its guidance; but now My Word is realized – ‘Assuredly I shall fill Gehenna with jinn and men all together.’ So now taste, for that you forgot the encounter of this your day! We indeed have forgotten you. Taste the chastisement of eternity for that you were doing!
' S. 32:13-14

If Allah had willed, He would have made them one nation; but He admits whomsoever He will into His mercy, and the evildoers shall have neither protector nor helper… Whatever affliction may visit you is for what your own hands have earned; and He pardons much. You are not able to frustrate Him in the earth; and, apart from Allah, you have neither protector nor helper
. S. 42:8, 30-31

And thus have We inspired in thee (Muhammad) a Spirit of Our command. Thou knewest not what the Scripture was, nor what the Faith. But We have made it a light whereby We guide whom We will of Our bondmen. And lo! thou verily dost guide unto a right path,
S. 42:51 Pickthall

Thus, not only does Allah mislead the ungodly, he is the one who actually makes them ungodly in the first place and sends them straying from the very beginning! In other words, Allah has already determined beforehand who will be misled and has chosen not to grant certain individuals the ability to follow the guidance, thereby turning them into rebel sinners. Allah then decides to continue to lead these individuals astray for not believing in his message!(1)

In fact, the Qur’an makes the additional claim that the reason why any one wills or chooses to follow Islam is because Allah willed this for that individual; otherwise s/he would never have made the choice to believe!

And if thy Lord willed, all who are in the earth would have believed together. Wouldst thou (Muhammad) compel men until they are believers? It is not for any soul to believe save by the permission of Allah. He hath set uncleanness upon those who have no sense.
S. 10:99-100

Verily! This is an admonition, so whosoever wills, let him take a Path to his Lord (Allah). But you cannot will, unless Allah wills. Verily, Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All-Wise. He will admit to His Mercy whom He will; But the wrong-doers,- for them has He prepared a grievous Penalty."
S. 76:29-31

To whomsoever among you who wills to walk straight, And you will not, unless (it be) that Allah wills, the Lord of the worlds
. S. 81:28-29

Allah also predetermines the actions of every person, whether good or bad

Allah is also said to have breathed into every person both his evil and good:

By a Soul and Him who balanced it, And BREATHED INTO IT ITS WICKEDNESS and its piety,
S. 91:8 Rodwell

Here is Muhammad’s purported explanation of this verse:

Abu al-Aswad reported that 'Imran b Husain asked him: What is your view, what the people do today in the world, and strive for, is it something decreed for them or preordained for them or will their fate in the Hereafter be determined by the fact that their Prophets brought them teaching which they did not act upon? I said: Of course, it is something which is predetermined for them and preordained for them. He (further) said: Then, would it not be an injustice (to punish them)? I felt greatly disturbed because of that, and said: Everything is created by Allah and lies in His Power. He would not be questioned as to what He does, but they would be questioned; thereupon he said to me: May Allah have mercy upon you, I did not mean to ask you but for testing your intelligence. Two men of the tribe of Muzaina came to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Allah's Messenger, what is your opinion that the people do in the world and strive for, is it something decreed for them, something preordained for them, and will their fate in the Hereafter be determined by the fact that their Prophets brought them teachings which they did not act upon, and thus they became deserving of punishment? Thereupon, he said: Of course, it happens as it is decreed by Destiny and preordained for them, and this view is confirmed by this verse of the Book of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious: "Consider the soul and Him Who made it perfect, then breathed into it its sin and its piety"
(xci. 8). (Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6406)

In other words, Allah created the very evil that a person will eventually commit by breathing wickedness into the soul of every individual! This is confirmed by the following Islamic texts:

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: I did not see anything so resembling minor sins as what Abu Huraira said from the Prophet, who said, "Allah has written for the son of Adam his inevitable share of adultery whether he is aware of it or not: The adultery of the eye is the looking (at something which is sinful to look at), and the adultery of the tongue is to utter (what it is unlawful to utter), and the innerself wishes and longs for (adultery) and the private parts turn that into reality or refrain from submitting to the temptation."
(Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 77, Number 609)

Verily Allah has fixed the very portion of adultery which a man will indulge in, and which he OF NECESSITY MUST COMMIT (or there would be no escape from it).
(Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6421; see also Number 6422)

'Abdullah b. Mas'ud reported: Evil one is he who is evil in the womb of his mother and the good one is he who takes lesson from the (fate of) others. The narrator came to a person from amongst the Companion of Allah's Messenger who was called Hudhaifa b. Usaid Ghifari and said: How can a person be an evil one without (committing an evil) deed? Thereupon the person said to him: You are surprised at this, whereas I have heard Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: When forty nights pass after the semen gets into the womb, Allah sends the angel and gives him the shape. Then he creates his sense of hearing, sense of sight, his skin, his flesh, his bones, and then says: My Lord, would he be male or female? And your Lord decides as He desires and the angel then puts down that also and then says: My Lord, what about his age? And your Lord decides as He likes it and the angel puts it down. Then he says: My Lord, what about his livelihood? And then the Lord decides as He likes and the angel writes it down, and then the angel gets out with his scroll of destiny in his hand and nothing is added to it and nothing is subtracted from it.
(Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6393)

This next report comments on the story found in the Qur’an (Q. 18:73, 80) concerning a young innocent child that a prophet killed on the grounds that he would grow up to be an infidel:

Ubayy b. Ka'b reported that Allah's Messenger said: The young man whom Khadir killed was a non-believer by his very nature and had he survived he would have involved his parents in defiance and unbelief.
(Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6434)

The child was an unbeliever by his very nature, which means that Allah purposefully created him for disbelief!

And according to this next verse Allah also creates the idols which the people worship:

And he cast a glance at the stars, and he said, 'Surely I am sick.' But they went away from him, turning their backs. Then he turned to their gods, and said, 'What do you eat? What ails you, that you speak not?' And he turned upon them smiting them with his right hand. Then came the others to him hastening. He said, 'Do you serve what you hew, and Allah created you and what you make?
' S. 37:88-96

Abraham supposedly claimed that Allah made them and their idols, meaning that it was Allah who moved them to make statues of false gods!

Even a passage such as the following which suggests that Allah helps those who strive to follow the guidance or lead astray those who reject it,

surely your striving is to diverse ends. As for him who gives and is godfearing and confirms the reward most fair, We shall surely ease him to the Easing. But as for him who is a miser, and self-sufficient, and cries lies to the reward most fair, We shall surely ease him to the Hardship; his wealth shall not avail him when he perishes. Surely upon Us rests the guidance, and to Us belong the Last and the First.
S. 92:5-13

Is explained in terms of predestination:
 ‘Ali reported: We were in a funeral in the graveyard of Gharqad that Allah's Messenger came to us and we sat around him. He had a stick with him. He lowered his head and began to scratch the earth with his stick, and then raid: There is not one amongst you whom a seat in Paradise or Hell has not been allotted and about whom it has not been written down whether he would be an evil person or a blessed person. A person said: Allah's Messenger, should we not then depend upon our destiny and abandon our deeds? Thereupon he said: Acts of everyone will be facilitated in that which has been created for him so that whoever belongs to the company of the blessed will have good works made easier for him and whoever belongs to the unfortunate ones will have evil acts made easier for him. He then recited this verse (from the Qur'an): "Then, who gives to the needy and guards against evil and accepts the excellent (the truth of Islam and the path of righteousness it prescribes), We shall make easy for him the easy end and who is miserly and considers himself above need, We shall make easy for him the difficult end." (xcii. 5-10)
(Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6398)

'Ali reported that one day Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) was sitting with a wood in his hand and he was scratching the ground. He raised his head and said: There is not one amongst you who has not been allotted his seat in Paradise or Hell. They said: Allah’s Messenger, then why should we perform good deeds, why not depend upon our destiny? Thereupon he said. No, do perform good deeds, for everyone is facilitated in that for which he has been created; then he recited this verse: "Then, who gives to the needy and guards against evil and accepts the excellent (the truth of Islam and the path of righteousness it prescribes), We shall make easy for him the easy end…" (xcii. 5-10).
(Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6400)

The Qur’an also teaches that when Allah chooses to destroy a community he commands it to commit evil so as to have a basis to wipe it out!

And when We desire to destroy a city, We command its men who live at ease, and they commit ungodliness therein, then the Word is realized against it, and We destroy it utterly
. S. 17:16

These texts clearly conflict with the assertion of Q. 16:33-34 that Allah doesn’t wrong a person but that they wrong themselves. Clearly, if everything happens according to Allah’s predetermined purpose and if Allah commands people to commit lewdness and ungodliness then Allah does in fact wrong people, despite statements to the contrary, since these communities are only carrying out the evil that has been foreordained for them.

In fact, even the disbelievers knew that the reason why they worshiped the idols is because this was the express will of Allah for them; otherwise if Allah hadn’t preordained this then they would not be serving these gods:

The worshippers of false gods say: "If Allah had so willed, we should not have worshipped aught but Him – neither we nor our fathers,– nor should we have prescribed prohibitions other than His." So did those who went before them. But what is the mission of messengers but to preach the Clear Message?
S. 16:35

And they said: "If it had been the Will of the Most Beneficent (Allah), we should not have worshipped them (false deities)." They have no knowledge whatsoever of that. They do nothing but lie!
S. 43:20

Contrary to the assertion of the last passage that the unbelievers were lying, the Qur’an itself actually confirms that they were right:

If it had been Allah's plan, they would not have taken false gods: but We made thee not one to watch over their doings, nor art thou set over them to dispose of their affairs.
S. 6:107

Hence, Allah condemns the idolators for doing what he created them to do, namely, stray from the path by worshiping false gods!


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