Predestination and Free Will in Islam
Does God choose to guide people or do we have free will?
“I did not create Jinn and Men except that they may worship me” [Qur’an 51:56].
Also in a Hadith, generally cited by the Sufis, Allah says, “I was a hidden treasure and wished to be known, so I created the people to know me and to worship me”.
On Allah’s recognition depends our chance to enter the Paradise. Failing to recognize him will bring eternal damnation and hellfire. This matter is very important to Allah. He does not like to be ignored and has no mercy on those who do so. This belief is not exclusive to Islam. The Bible also presents a unforgiving and jealous God.
The problem is that in Islam being able to pass the test of faith and to gain admittance to Paradise is not in our hand. It is Allah who chooses whom to guide and whom to lead astray.
The Qur’an affirms that if Allah so willed, he could certainly have brought every soul its true guidance. But that is not happening as Muhammad makes it clear that Allah does not want to guide everyone and vows to “fill the Hell with Jinns and men all together.”
If We had so willed, We could certainly have brought every soul its true guidance: but the Word from Me will come true, “I will fill Hell with Jinns and men all together. (Q.32.13)
The first question that comes to mind is “why”? Why should a self proclaimed loving god not guide his own children (or as Muslims put it “slaves”)? Why should he leave them to themselves and then come on them with such a wrath and fill the Hell with those whom he purposefully did not guide? This defies logic.
Muslims say that we have free will to accept God or reject him. But this is not what the above verse says. This verse clearly shows that if Allah wanted to guide people he certainly could have done it. Yet, he decided not to guide some to fill the Hell with them. This verse says that humans have no control over being guided. It all depends on Allah’s whim. Even if one wants to be guided, he cannot, because Allah has sealed his heart.
“….Such are men whose hearts Allah has sealed.” (Q.47.16)
I suppose I am among this group because I would love to believe. Believing is blissful. There is nothing more pleasant than thinking someone is taking care of you, answering your prayers and making sure you are safe. But I simply can’t. It’s not heart, because I really yearn to believe. The problem is that my mind is opened. In order to believe, I have to close my mind. That is no longer possible. It’s like wanting to unlearn what you have learned, or to go back to the womb after being born. I know for a fact that I can never be a believer again.
This god sealing the hearts of people reminds me of Moses and Pharaoh. Each time Pharaoh allowed Moses to take the Jews out of Egypt, God intervened, “made his heart stubborn” and sent a new calamity on the poor Egyptians who had nothing to do with Pharaoh’s decision, until Pharaoh accepted the departure of the Jews. But again God made his heart stubborn and sent on the wretched innocent people, another calamity.
In the Quran Allah curses his creatures and instead of giving them sight makes them blind and deaf.
”Such are the men whom Allah has cursed for He has made them deaf and blinded their sight.” (Q47.23)
This conduct is not befitting of God. Why instead of blessing them with guidance Allah would curse them? Why he would make them deaf and blind, instead of giving them sight and hearing and then punish them? Is this justice? What would you say of a king blinds his subjects and then punish them for going astray? Wouldn’t you say he is a psychopath? Would God act like a psychopath?
The riddle becomes more confusing when in the next verse the responsibility of locking their hearts is shifted on the people themselves.
“Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur’an, or are their hearts locked up by them?” (Q.47.24)
Is it Allah that seals the hearts of the people or is it them? These two statements are mutually exclusive. Sometimes the Qur’an contradicts itself in the same verse.
“This is an admonition: whosoever will, let him take a path to his Lord. But ye will not, except as Allah wills … He will admit to his mercy whom He wills. But the wrongdoers – for them has he prepared a grievous penalty.” (Q.76:29-31)
The first part of this verse says people have free will to choose between taking the path or not. Then immediately that is contradicted and it says that Allah “will admit to his mercy whom HE wills.” Either we choose to be guided or Allah chooses. Only one of these statements can be true. And how can God punish people with a “grievous penalty” if He has chosen not to guide them?
If the choice of being guided is made by us, then the verse 32:13, 47:16 and 47:23 are wrong. If they are right and indeed it is God who chooses to guide anyone that he pleases he is unjust. If being guided or not depends on Allah’s will, what is our fault in not being guided? He assigned to us our destiny and he must not punish us for what he has willed for us. This injustice belies another claim of the Qur’an that says Allah is a just god.
”… And Allah means no injustice to any of His creatures.”(Q.3.108)
Why a god who is able to guide people chooses to lead them astray, and then fills the Hell with those whom he himself has misled? Can any Muslim answer this question?
Allah’s Split Personality
The confusion does not end there. The following verses assert that Allah misleads people by making their deeds pleasing to them.
As to those who believe not in the Hereafter, We have made their deeds pleasing in their eyes; and so they wander about in distraction. [27:4]
“Nay! to those who believe not, their pretence seems pleasing, but they are kept back (thereby) from the path. And those whom Allah leaves to stray, no one can guide.” [13:33]”
This is mischievous. Why would God do such thing? But wait a minute. In other parts of the Quran Muhammad says that it is Satan that makes their sinful act seem alluring to them.
“..On the contrary their hearts became hardened, and SATAN made their (sinful) acts seem alluring to them. [6:43]
Remember SATAN made their (sinful) acts seem alluring to them, and said [8:48]
By Allah, We (also) sent (Our messengers) to Peoples before thee; but Satan made, (to the wicked), their own acts seem alluring: He is also their patron today. [16:63]
Well, that makes sense. Since Satan’s goal is to deceive and mislead, he is capable of doing such thing. So is it Satan or is it Allah that makes sin alluring to people? Could it be that the two are one? Is it possible that Allah is Satan? How can we be sure that they are not the same? Much of what Allah did and said in the Quran are satanic. Would it be far fetch to think that the ghost appearing to Muhammad was Satan impersonating himself as Gabriel? How can we be sure that it was not Satan? Or perhaps Allah has a split personality, like Dr. Jackal and Mr. Hide.
Explaining the Unexplainable
The above is confusing. In some verses we read that it is Allah who seals the hearts of people. In other verses we are told that it is people who seal their own hearts and again we learn that it is Satan who does it. This confusion has fueled heated debates among Muslim scholars throughout the centuries. It caused schisms and bloodshed.
On one hand the bulk of Muslims adhered to the concept of predetermination (jabr = compulsion). The more radical of these “jabrians” were the Asharian who denied all free agency in man. They argued:
Nothing can happen in the world, whether it respects the conditions and operation of things, or good or evil, or obedience and disobedience, or faith and infidelity … that is not contained in the written tablet of the decree of Allah.” (“Dictionary of Islam” by T.P. Hughes, pages 472-473).
On the other hand the Qadrias and the Mutazilites believed in free will. They were rejected as heretics. They argued that man has absolute freedom of will and is responsible for his own actions. If not so reward and punishment for virtuous acts and sins have no meaning. To support their position they quoted the following verses.
“And whatever affliction befalls on you, it is on account of what your hands have wrought.” (42:30)
“Because Allah will never change the grace which He hath bestowed on a people until they change what is in their (own) souls” (8.53)
“ Allah does not change a people’s lot unless they change what is in their hearts. But when (once) Allah willeth a people’s punishment, there can be no turning it back, nor will they find, besides Him, any to protect.” (13.11)
Those who strive in His path, are guided in the right path, while those who persist in denial and sinful living have their hearts sealed against faith (ii. 7, 26; iv. 155; v;.i. 102).
Allah does not compel belief and leaves the people free to believe or disbelieve (6: 35, 150; xvi-. 9).
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 (99: 7-8).
Thus, each person could find something in the Qur’an that confirmed his preference in this baffling dilemma of Islamic concept of predetermination (jabr) and free will (Ikhtyar)
Most educated modern Muslims tend to side with the free will, but their opinion is contradicted by several verses that maintain Allah’s decision is arbitrary.
“Allah blots out and establishes what He pleases.” (3:39).
“Allah has power over all things.” (3:159).
Several verses confirm the idea of a despotic god who does not abide to any norm, is whimsical and unpredictable.
“If Allah had willed he would have made you one nation. But he leads astray whom he will and guides whom he will. But you shall certainly be called to account for all your actions.” (16:93).
Here again, Allah is in charge. He is the one who guides whom he wills. What is unclear is how people can be accountable for their actions if it is Allah chooses not to guide them. The same concept is conveyed in the following verse.
“It is equal to them, whether you warn them or not, they will not believe. Allah has put the seal upon their hearts.” (2:6-7)
The above verse renders futile the whole idea of divine guidance and prophethood. If Allah has sealed the hearts of people and warning them or not makes no difference, what is the point of sending messengers and warners?
“Whomsoever Allah guides, he is rightly guided, and whom he leads astray, they are the losers! We have created for Gehenna many jinns and men …” (7:178-179)
Here again it is Allah who guides or leads astray people. But this verse goes even further. It says that Allah has deliberately created some jinns and some men and purposefully leads them astray in order to use them as fuel in his Gehenna (Hell). Just to make sure that we have not misunderstood what he said, let’s read more.
“Do ye desire to guide him whom Allah led astray? Whom Allah leads away, you will find no way for him.” (4:88).
“If Allah willed he would have made mankind one nation, but they continue in their differences, excepting those on whom your Lord has mercy. To that end, he created them and perfectly is fulfilled the word of your Lord: ‘I shall assuredly fill Gehenna with jinns and men altogether.'” (11:118-119).
“Allah leads astray whomsoever he will and guides whomsoever he will.” (14:4).
“For Allah leaves to stray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills. So let not thy soul go out in (vainly) sighing after them: for Allah knows well all that they do!” (35:8)
“… Thus doth Allah leave to stray whom He pleaseth, and guide whom He pleaseth:. (74:31)
“With Allah is the argument that reaches home: if it had been His will, He could indeed have guided you all.” (Sura 6:149).
Predestination in Hadith
This confusion is in the Quran, the book that is allegedly the unadulterated, verbatim, word by word message of God. The hadith is also full of contradictions and absurdities.
Sahih Muslim Book 32, Number 6392:
Narrated Hudhayfah ibn Usayd:
Allah’s Apostle (peace_be_upon_him) said: When the drop of (semen) remains in the womb for forty or fifty (days) or forty nights, the angel comes and says: My Lord, will he be good or evil? And both these things would be written. Then the angel says: My Lord, would he be male or female? And both these things are written. And his deeds and actions, his death, his livelihood; these are also recorded. Then his document of destiny is rolled and there is no addition to and subtraction from it.”
If every detail of the life of an individual in predestined, it is logical to conclude that people have no free will. In that case punishing them for doing things over which they have no control, is unjust.
One argument presented to solve this problem is that God’s knowledge of what man will do does not preclude man’s freedom.
Here is what one Muslim wrote: “The idea that Allah has a foreknowledge of everything and the fact that the events unfold exactly according to what he predicted, does not imply that humans are don’t have free will. The foreknowledge of God is an acknowledged fact, but it should not be interpreted in the sense of predestination, for if we do so we shall have to conceive of eternity as a storehouse of ready-made events, from which they drop one by one like particles of sand in a glass hour. If we take the foreknowledge to be a reflecting mirror we shall have to deprive the Creator and the Controller of the Universe of His Creative activity.” This view contradicts the Qur’an and many hadiths that unequivocally affirm that destiny is predetermined and it cannot be changed. http://www.hadithsahihmuslim.com/epilogue-introduction/introduction-of-the-book-of-destinykitab-ul-qadr.html
This author is contradicting himself in the same paragraph. Do humans have free will or is everything predetermined? Which one is he saying is true? How can both be true?
Can one do something contrary to what God knows? Wouldn’t that render God ignorant? Let us say when I was in the womb angles asked Allah what will be the destiny of this foetus and he responded, this foetus will be a boy, his name will be Ali he will grow up to the archenemy of Islam. Can I choose to be something different? If I do, I prove Allah wrong. Therefore, I have no choice. If I have no choice why should I be punished?
Muslims love to criticize the concept of Trinity as absurd. How one can be three at the same time, they argue. But there is nothing irrational in that. Don’t Muslims believe that a man is body, mind and soul at the same time? Isn’t that trinity? Trinity is not illogical. But the Quran is full of illogical things.
The idea of predetermination is defined in a story told in the Qur’an. (18: 60-82) It is a story of Moses meeting Khidhr, a man wiser than himself. Moses accompanies Khidhr for enlightenment. This character does a lot of strange things. However, when he slays an innocent boy Moses can no longer hold his silence and demands an explanation. Khidhr responds that the lad would have grown up to rebel against Allah and disappoint his pious parents. Hence, he killed the boy to spare his parents from future anguish.
Sahih Muslim Book 32, Number 6434:
Narrated Ubayy ibn Ka’b: Allah’s Apostle (peace_be_upon_him) 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.
The boy was punished for a crime that he had not yet committed. This story precludes any chance that the boy could have chosen acted differently from what was determined even before he was born. The story of Khidhr killing the boy narrated in eliminates free will. The boy could not have become a believer, which raises anther question. If his destiny was predetermined and the only way to save his parents from the torments of his future disbelief was to kill him before he grew up, why Allah created him in the first place?
In another hadith we learn that Allah has created the Hell and the Paradise and their denizens already.
Sahih Muslim Book 32, Number 6435:
Narrated Aisha: A child died and I said: There is happiness for this child who is a bird from amongst the birds of Paradise. Thereupon Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) said: Don’t you know that Allah created the Paradise and He created the Hell and He created the dwellers for this (Paradise) and the denizens for this (Hell)?
Here Muhammad is saying that the child will not go to Paradise automatically just because he was a child and sinless. Whether he would go to Paradise or not depends on the purpose of his creation. He could go to hell for the sins that he was created to commit, but did not have the chance to commit them because he died prematurely.
With this absurd thinking Muslims have the cheek to criticize Christianity for its concept of the original sin. At least in Christianity one has a chance to believe and be saved. In Islam nothing is certain. One’s fate is already decided. Some of us will go to hell and some will go to heaven irrespective of how we live our lives or whether we believe or not. It all depends on Allah’s whim and he has made his mind already. So what is the point of believing or being pious? There is nothing we can do that would change our fate.
The injustice in Muhammad’s concept of predestination did not escape the early Muslims.
Sahih Muslim Book 32, Number 6406:
Narrated Imran ibn Husayn: Abul Aswad reported that Imran asked me: 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 about that, and said: Everything is created by Allah and lies in His Power. He will not be questioned as to what He does, but they will be questioned. Thereupon he said to me: May Allah have mercy upon you, I only meant to ask you in order to test your intelligence.”
There are fundamental flaws in Islam and many Muslims are aware of them. But if they ask a question they will be threatened.
O ye who believe! Ask not questions about things which if made plain to you, may cause you trouble… Some people before you did ask such questions, and on that account lost their faith. (Quran. 5:101-102)
The idea of God making people do good or sin and then rewarding or punishing them for things they had no control over, is clearly unjust. If we are all actors following a script why should we be punished or rewarded? The criminals who followed Allah’s will and did what he had scripted for them should be rewarded in the same way that pious people should be rewarded. The Quran makes it clear that we have no control over our own actions. But when the questioner asked for clarification he was scolded and threatened. He is told it is not up to you to question God. Realizing that he is in danger of being branded a heretic he immediately changed his position and said he was just testing the intelligence of his addressee. Was that answer intelligent? Believe or else is not an intelligent response. It is a logical fallacy. It is called argumentum as baculum (appeal to the stick).
There are hundreds of unanswered questions in Islam, each of which proves this faith is a lie. But Muslims don’t dare to talk about them. They are afraid of being punished, both in this world and in the next. Difficult questions in Islam are elephants in the room that no one sees or talks about.
Nonetheless, these questions are important. God is not afraid of questions. It was Muhammad the liar who was afraid of them. When you ask questions you are not questioning God, you want to know whether Muhammad was truthfulness or whether he was an impostor.
When Muhammad could not answer a question he issued threats.
Book 32, Number 6420:
Narrated Abu Hurayrah: The polytheists of the Quraysh came to have an argument with Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) in regard to Destiny and then this verse was revealed: “On the day when they are dragged into the Fire upon their faces; taste the touch of Fire. Surely, We have created everything according to a measure”
The hadith narrated by Imran ibn Husayn continues:
Two men of the tribe of Muzaynah came to Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) and said: Allah’s Apostle, what is your opinion? That which the people do in the world and strive for, is 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 deserve 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.” (91:8).
The verse 91:8 states that it is Allah who inspires in people to sin (fojur) and to piety (taqva). This is in conformity with another verse that says all good things and bad things are from Allah.
Wherever ye are, death will find you out, even if ye are in towers built up strong and high!” If some good befalls them, they say, “This is from Allah”; but if evil, they say, “This is from thee” (O Prophet). Say: “All things are from Allah.” But what hath come to these people, that they fail to understand a single fact? (4.78)
Pay attention to the following hadith. Does it make any sense?
Sahih Muslim Book 32, Number 6407:
Narrated Abu Hurayrah: Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) said: Verily, a person performs deeds for a long time like the deeds of the people of Paradise. Then his deeds are terminated like the deeds of the people of Hell and, verily, a person performs deeds like the denizens of Fire for a long time, then this deed of his is ultimately followed by the deeds of the people of Paradise.
Here Muhammad is saying that it makes no difference whether you commit sin or live in piety, it is Allah who will decide whether you will go to Hell or to Paradise, irrespective of your actions. Can this capricious wanton deity be God?
Muslims argue that since Allah is the owner of this universe, he can do whatever he wants with it without having to respond to anyone, just as a farmer is entitled to do whatever he wishes with his gardens. A gardener is free to prune any tree, to transplant it and even to cut it and burn it. Since he is the owner his decisions are the law.
Agreed! But unless the gardener is nuts, his actions must be predictable. No gardener would chop and burn the trees that produce good fruits, nurture trees that bring forth bitter fruits, or destroy his garden without any reason. He is free to do whatever he wishes, but unless he is out of his mind he will not do crazy things and will follow the rules of good gardening. Muhammad is attributing insanity to God.
Even if God can do anything he pleases he will not act crazy. He cannot be unjust or stupid. I own my cat and no one can stop me killing him. But if I do it you’d be right in thinking I am insane. Just because God can do anything it does not mean he will do stupid things. Sending sinners to Paradise and pious people to Hell just because he can is insane.
Why Muhammad envisioned and insane god? It’s because he was insane. Allah is the figment of Muhammad’s imagination. Muhammad was a psychopath. His god is just like him.
The fact that God can do anything and he is not accountable to anyone is no excuse for him to do be unjust and do stupid things. Muhammad describes Satan any time he talks about his god.
God must be reasonable and his actions must make sense. Why would a just God throw into hell a person who has committed no sin and reward an evildoer?
Allah was Muhammad’s own alter ego. He was everything that the narcissist Muhammad wanted to be. Narcissists want to be loved, feared, respected, and to do as they please and respond to no one. Muhammad lived his wet dream though his sock puppet Allah. This argument is enough to see Muhammad was a charlatan liar. What he said about God is blasphemy. Ponder upon the stupidity of the following hadith.
Book 32, Number 6416:
Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As: I heard Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) as saying: Allah ordained the measures (of quality) of the creation fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth, as His Throne was upon water.
Fifty thousand years before the Big Bang (Before the Big Bang time did not exist. So how this fifthly thousand years were measured?) Allah had already decided our fates. That is 13.7 billion years ago. Isn’t it embarrassing that over a billion people follow a crazy man?
According to Muhammad even accidents are predetermined by Allah.
Book 32, Number 6441:
Narrated Abu Hurayrah: … and if anything (in the form of trouble) comes to you, don’t say: If I had not done that, it would not have happened so and so, but say: Allah did that what He had ordained to do and your “if” opens the gate for the Satan.
Men are, therefore, completely subordinate to the overruling power of Allah. They cannot do anything not even prevent an accident. If an airplane falls there is no point in investigating the cause of it. There is no point in finding that out and eliminating it in other airplanes. It was the will of Allah. Be resigned.
The implication is grave. This mentality counts for the backwardness of the Muslims and their inability to improve their lives. When things go wrong Muslims don’t try to find the cause of it. They say it was Allah’s will.
The conclusion is that either Allah is a psychopath or Muhammad was a liar.