Question: The Ahl as-Sunna scholars have said that every good and evil thing happens as predestined, willed by Allâhu ta’âlâ. Then disbelievers disbelieve because Allah has willed it so, don’t they? Is their pretext not justifiable? Why would not their words be admitted?

Answer: Disbelievers do not say that they were forced into an evil state or that they are excusable. They do not regard disbelief and sins as guilts. They do not consider them evil. They say, ‘Allah likes and approves eveything He wills; if He did not like, He would not will. He wills our polytheism and disbelief and has us do what we do. Therefore, He likes and approves all. He will not torture those who do these.’ Allâhu ta’âlâ says at the end of the above-quoted âyat, ‘So those who preceded them disbelieved [the prophets of their time]. Therefore they tasted Our torture. Tell them: “Do you have any knowledge that you can show us as a proof? But you only guess and lie.” ’Allâhu ta’âlâ declares in the Qur’ân and in other holy books that disbelief is loathsome and that He never likes it. He announces that disbelievers are accursed, that they will never attain His Mercy and that they will be tortured eternally. He declares that they speak out of ignorance. Will to do something may not indicate approval for it. It is for certain that Allâhu ta’âlâ wills their disbelief and sins. No one can do anything which He does not will. Though He wills them, He does not approve or like them. The Qur’ân expresses this clearly. These words of disbelievers agree with the Jabriyya belief. They said that they did not have option in their actions, and Allâhu ta’âlâ refused their words and cast them to their teeth, since such a belief was wrong as pointed out above.

Maybe these words of disbelievers are intended for derision, rather than a statement of their belief, for they do not regard their situation bad. They believe that they are good and say that Allâhu ta’âlâ approves and likes their conduct.

Question: ‘Everything men do happens with Allâhu ta’âlâ’s will. Good and evil things have been predestined and recorded in eternity. Then is there place for man’s option and choice? Doesn’t everybody have to do the good and evil things predestined in eternity?”

Answer: The predestination in eternal past is in this manner: ‘So and so will do such and such a deed with his own desire.’ Then the eternal predestination points out not that men do not have option, but that they do have option. If it showed that they did not have option, Allâhu ta’âlâ would act without option in His daily creations and deeds, and He would be compelled to do so, for Allâhu ta’âlâ creates everything in accord with the eternal predestination. Allâhu ta’âlâ is autonomous. He wills, opts and creates what He wills and opts.”

The Ahl as-Sunna’s belief is between those of the Mu’tazila and Jabriyya. According to the Ahl as-Sunna, man neither creates nor is compelled to do his deeds. The Ahl as-Sunna’s teachings can be explained as follows:

In Islam, like in all other heavenly religions, everything happens according to the predestination and will of Allâhu ta’âlâ. And, since man does not know how an action has been predestined in eternity, he has to work in accordance with Allâhu ta’âlâ’s command. Qadâ’ and qadar are not obstacles against man’s working. Men should think about qadâ’ and qadar not before doing something but after doing it. The twenty-second âyat of the sûrat al-Hadîd says, “Everything that would happen in the world was written in Lawh al-mahfûz and predestined in eternity before the world was created. We tell this to you so that you would not be sorry for the opportunities you have missed, nor should you feel arrogant for your good deeds and for the blessings Allâhu ta’âlâ has given you. Allâhu ta’âlâ dislikes the arrogant.” This âyat shows that a person who believes in qadâ and qadar will never fall into despair, hopelessness or self-esteem. Belief in qadâ’ and qadar does not prevent man from working. It encourages him to work. The hadîth, “Work! Everybody will find himself attracted to what has been predestined from him,” tells that man’s work will show how qadâ’ and qadar will happen, that there is a strong relation between work and qadâ’ and qadar. A man’s working for goodness shows that goodness has been predestined in eternity for him, since everybody is attracted towards doing the actions which have been predestined for him in eternity.

As it is an obligation for Muslims to believe in qadâ’ and qadar and to know that all the good and evils are from Allâhu ta’âlâ, so it is their duty to do good and strive to abstain from bad behaviour. That Allâhu ta’âlâ knows how something will happen before it happens or that He destines and decrees according to this knowledge of His is not a compulsion over man. Because He knew in eternity also how man would use his will and option. This knowledge or predestination is not contrary to the wish and will of men. Allah’s knowing in eternity does not influence the happening or not happening of actions.“Knowledge is dependent upon the known,” has been said in order to show that knowledge would not affect actions.

A person does some good or bad thing, and Allâhu ta’âlâ knew in eternity that that thing would be done, and predestined it according to His knowledge. Allâhu ta’âlâ’s predestining will come true and His knowledge, which caused this predestination, will not prove wrong. It is seen that man is not compelled to do this work. Allâhu ta’âlâ knew in eternity that this person would do that work with his own will and wish. Man’s option or will is the cause of qadâ’ and qadar in eternity. That is, man will wish to do that work not because Allâhu ta’âlâ knew and predestined in eternity that work to be done so. Allâhu ta’âlâ has predestined it so, because He knew in eternity that man would use his will to do so.

The first cause in man’s doing something is his own will and option. Though Allâhu ta’âlâ predestined in eternity an action which man would do with his own consent, man’s will and option were within the divine knowledge in eternity, and probably before the predestination. For this reason, the eternal predestination helps man’s will and option. Because man can do nothing by himself and everything must be created by Him, Allâhu ta’âlâ with His predestination makes man wish to do a certain action. The Ahl as-Sunna differ on this from the Mu’tazila and their followers, the Shî’ites, who say, “Allâhu ta’âlâ creates men and gives them power and will, and further than that He is not concerned.” As for the Ahl as-sunna, who follow the âyat, “Allah is the Creator of you and of the things you do;” they say that every movement, every work of man happens from Allâhu ta’âlâ’s creating, inventing, giving him power and having him do. His creating takes place after man uses his will and option. This part of the action, which is called “irâdat juz’iyya” (partial free will) or “kasb” (acquirement), belongs to man and Allâhu ta’âlâ does not create or invent it. For, it is not a material being. Creation and invention happen in the beings which are not thought or imagined but which exist outside (khârij) and affect our sense organs.

Divine Knowledge is unlike human knowledge and it must always prove to be right. That Divine Knowledge has always proved to be right has been misunderstood by the Jabriyya and reformers, and they have supposed that Divine Knowledge was dominant, effective over men’s actions. However, this quality of Divine Knowledge does not change itself from knowledge to compulsion. A teacher may know beforehand that his pupil will not succed in the examination. This knowledge of his will not be a compulsion over or a cruelty to the student if he cannot pass the examination. Allâhu ta’âlâ knew in eternity everything that will happen later. That everything happens in accord with this knowledge does not show that there is no will or option in man. Allâhu ta’âlâ knew in eternity also what He would create. Since His creating certainly in accord with this knowledge of His does not show lack of will or option in Him, so it is not correct to deny the existence of will and option in man.

When man wants to do something, first he opts, chooses, decrees or wishes to do it. Then he does it. For this reason, man does not have to do an action. He does if he wishes, and he does not if he does not wish.

Man’s wish to do an action necessitates his initial remembrance of that action by seeing, hearing or thinking about it; it has to occur to his heart. Man either wishes or not to do it when it occurs to his heart. For example, one may find something useful and do it, but someone else may find it unnecessary and may not do it. Who brings an action, its usefulness or unnecessity to the hearts of those who are said to be free in their actions? Why does not one’s thought occur to another? If it occurs, why does it seem unnecessary to another? Those various reasons are not within man’s power. For this reason, some Ahl as-Sunna scholars have said, “Men are free in their voluntary actions, yet they are not free but compelled in their will and option.” Somebody said, “I do what I wish,” to Hadrat Imâm al-Ghazâlî. Hadrat Imâm said, “Can you wish what you wish?” Hadrat Abû ’l-Hasan al-Ash’arî interpreted the âyat in the sûrat ad-Dahr of the Qur’ân as, “You wish only what Allâhu ta’âlâ wills!”

Allâhu ta’âlâ declares: “Your Rabb creates what He wishes. He alone opts, chooses. They do not have will and option” (sûrat al-Qasas, 68); “Know for sure that Allâhu ta’âlâ gets between man and his own heart” (sûrat al-Anfâl, 24); “You cannot bring whomever you love to the right course. Allâhu ta’âlâ brings to the right course whomever He wishes” (sûrat al-Qasas, 56); “Even if We sent down angels to them and made the dead talk in front of them and gave them everything they wanted, they would not believe unless Allâhu ta’âlâ willed so” (sûrat al-An’âm, 111);“Whomever Allâhu ta’âlâ wills to guide to the right path, He widens his chest for Islam, and He keeps the chest of whomever He wills to send astray so narrow and tight that it is impossible for the truth to enter and for him to ascend to heaven”(sûrat al-An’âm, 125); and “Even if I want to advise you, it will not avail if Allâhu ta’âlâ has willed that you remain in deviation” (sûrat al-Hûd, 34). The Mu’tazila who disbelieve qadâ’ and qadar and those who follow them are astonished at these âyats.

The conversation between Mûsâ (Moses) and Âdam (’alaihima ’s-salâm) about qâdâ’ and qadar is narrated at length in a hadîth.

Alongside these documents showing that the human will is also under some compulsion, there is the obvious fact that man has freedom that will hold him responsible for what he does. The lawcourts all over the world and even everyone’s conscience do not want a cruel man who hurts others to be forgiven. Even a fervent fanatic of the Jabriyya does find himself rightful to get angry with and even to retaliate upon a man who attacks him unjustly. A poet says, “Slap on the neck a member of the Jabriyya who says he is content even with the torments of qadâ’ and qadar! If he says, ‘What are you doing!’ tell him that qadâ’ and qadar made you do so! Let’s see if he will acknowledge you to be right!”

All the laws of justice and moral principles over the world approve and emphasize the Divine Justice decreed in the seventh and eighth âyats of the sûrat az-Zilzâl in the Qur’ân, “He who does favour in the slightest degree will attain its rewards, and he who makes harm in the slightest degree will attain its retribution.”

Allâhu ta’âlâ declares in the hundred and forty-eighth and following âyats of the sûrat al-An’âm, “The polytheists will say, ‘If Allah willed, we would not be polytheists’… Tell them: ‘Final decision belongs to Allâhu ta’âlâ; He would have guided all of you to the right path if He had willed.’ ” This âyat does not oppose the words, “If Allah willed we would not be polytheists,” of polytheists, and their wrongness is not in that they think that they are guilty because Allâhu ta’âlâ has willed it so, but in that they utter these words in order to rebut prophets and rescue themselves from being guilty. Their words, “If Allah willed, we would not be polytheists,” are right. As a matter of fact, it is declared in this âyat, “He would have guided all of you to the right path if He had willed.” It is declared in the hundred and seventh âyat of the sûrat al-An’âm, “If Allâhu ta’âlâ had willed, they would not have been polytheists.” Though these words of polytheists are correct, they are loathsome because they utter these words in order to rebut prophets, and they are insulted in the âyat for this reason. As Allâhu ta’âlâ did not have to will all the things which He has commanded, so He did not have to will any of the things which He has prohibited. That is, Allâhu ta’âlâ willed in eternity all that would happen in the world, and among them were also the things which He has prohibited and disliked. Willing is different from approving, from liking. These two should not be mistaken for each other. It can be easily understood that Allâhu ta’âlâ may have forbidden men to do a certain action though He might will that action to be done.

Furthermore, the eighth âyat of the sûrat al-Balad and the eighth âyat of the sûrat ash-Shams openly declare that Allâhu ta’âlâ has given men material and spiritual power and showed the good and evil paths and that man is responsible.

It is seen that in one respect man is a free agent. In this world and the next he is responsible for everything he does. But there is also al-Irâdat al-Kulliyya (Total Free Will) that does not leave man’s will and option alone. Man cannot decide on whether he is capable or incapable. It is very difficult to solve this problem. It would be quite right to say that it is a puzzle having no equal in the world.

Hadrat Abû Mansûr al-Mâturîdî interprets the âyat, “You wish only what Allâhu ta’âlâ wills,” as “Allahu ta’âlâ’s Will united with your will. When you will you find His Will present.” According to al-Ash’arî, this âyat does not unite but relates Allâhu ta’âlâ’s will with man’s will and it wants men to will good things. It means that such will of theirs will get power from the Divine Will and that man’s will like his every action needs Allâhu ta’âlâ’s permission. The âyat, “They do not have will and option,” was said about the disbelievers of Quaraish who said, “That Qu’rân should have been sent down to one of the notables of Mecca or Medina,” and it meant that men did not have the will of appointing the Prophet. The âyat, “Allâhu ta’âlâ gets between man and his own heart,” was revealed in order to declare, as it is explained in the Qur’ân commentary by al-Baidawî, that Allahu ta’âlâ sees and knows the secrets in the hearts.

As for the hadîth reporting the conversation between Âdam and Mûsâ (’alaihima ’s-salâm) and the former’s victory, according to the Ahl as-Sunna scholars, in the disliked action of Hadrat Âdam, kasb (acquirement), qadâ’ and qadar and tawba (repentance) came together. Repentance and acquirement cancelled each other like two opposite electric charges. There only remained qadar, and it is said that no one could be blamed for qadâ’ and qadar. After the part concerning Hadrat Âdam of what he did was corrected by his repentance, that part concerning his descendants, that is, that it caused men to live on the earth, is of Divine qadar for men.

The above-mentioned âyats about that deeds happen only from Allâhu ta’âlâ’s will are meant for cases when qadar turns into qadâ’. Man begins to do the action predestined in qadar with his own will, and after Allâhu ta’âlâ wills it also, the action turns into qadâ’, that is, it happens. Then, when the actions in qadar turn into qadâ’, man’s will cannot change it; felicity and misfortune cannot go back. The âyat, “We have barricaded them on their front and back. We have put a blind before their eyes; they will not see any more,” in the sûrat Yâ Sîn, and the âyat, “Allâhu ta’âlâ has sealed their hearts and put a covering over their ears and eyes,” at the beginning of the sûrat al-Baqara refer to this fact. These âyats indicate in addition that those who somehow attain love of Allâhu ta’âlâ will be protected and led to the right path, and those who cause the Divine Wrath will be abandoned to their evil deeds. Very delicate and subtle actions may cause this love or this wrath. For this reason, man should be very careful towards Allâhu ta’âlâ. Before the actions in qadar turn into qadâ’, man’s will and option is in his own power, though he may be influenced by exterior effects.

Men have will and are free in their thoughts and actions. Yet their thoughts and actions are related to some reasons, which do not deprive men of being free because they exercise will also without these reasons and they will and do without any reason. When man does not will while there are reasons, the action does not happen most of the time. If the existence of reasons necessitated the action to be done, Allâhu ta’âlâ’s will and option also would be ineffective. Before man wills to do an action, he thinks about it in his mind. Then he wills the alternative which influences him more. A salesman sells to the customer who will pay more. This customer is not forced to buy. The salesman is sort of compelled to sell to the one who pays more. If someone happens to anger him by saying, “You cannot sell it to the one who pays less”, different issues and additional considerations will influence his selling.

Allâhu ta’âlâ, through the religions He has revealed, has declared to men good and evil deed and His blessings and punishments, which are retributions for them, thus He has prepared reasons for man’s will. On the other hand, He has also created in man’s mind reasons and thoughts which may lead him to good or evil ways and which struggle and dispute with one another. If, after the struggle between the reason which Allâhu ta’âlâ has declared and those which He has created in the human mind, the good alternative has more influence on man, he wills the good. For example, if an official who knows about the rules and regulations requiring that he should work well does not follow the rules, for instance, if he takes bribes, some reason in his mind, having more influence than the prohibition of the rules, has compelled him to commit this corrupt deed. He could not help an action which should not have been done, and he has done it. Though the money offer and the love of money which Allâhu ta’âlâ has created in the human mind have compelled his will and option to take bribes, the law will not approve it.

Like the state laws, Allâhu ta’âlâ has put religious and moral rules and commanded strictly to follow them. On the other hand, He has created an-nafs al-ammâra, which is always malignant, in men. This can be likened to the State and official who should perceive that he is experiencing a vehement test and should be very alert when the State sends him a bribe in an underhanded way in order to test him.

The religious scholars have not left to Muslims the trouble of dealing with such subtle teachings, which otherwise would have exhausted their minds. They have studied them minutely and written thousands of books. It is surprising that the religion reformers, while they approve children’s observations and questions, criticize what the religious scholars have studied and written.

Though communists and some naturalists say that everything is made by nature, (Allah forbid!) they cannot comprehend its secret power. Why should it be a guilt for Muslims to believe that everything is made under the secret power?

About qadâ’ and qadar, Hadrat Shaikh-i Akbar Muhyiddîn ibn al-’Arabî had a different comment, and Shihâb ad-dîn Mahmûd ibn ’Abdullah al-’Âlûsî, Muftî of Baghdad, followed him. According to them, willing the good or evils is a peculiarity in man and Allâhu ta’âlâ does not create such peculiarities. For example, they say, “Allâhu ta’âlâ did not make the apple to be apple. He only created it.” Al-Âlûsî (1217-1270 A.H., Baghdad), in Rûh al-Ma’ânî (his nine-volume tafsîr printed in Egypt), interprets the âyat, “Final decision belongs to Allâhu ta’âlâ,” (al-An’âm, 149) in the same viewpoint. In this respect, his thoughts are incompatible with the explanation of the Ahl as-Sunna scholars, and they have not been approved by those who know the matter. According to him, since the reasons of evils in evil men are not created by Allâhu ta’âlâ, it will not be cruelty for Him to punish them, yet because men cannot change these reasons, they must be excusable, that is, though men’s deeds escape Allâhu ta’âlâ’s compulsion, they will go under nature’s compulsion. Even if it is not cruelty to punish men who are under another compulsion, without Allâhu ta’âlâ’s compelling them, it is not right for him to say, “Those who are in Hell enjoy torment,” in order to rescue men from this state. Furthermore, to say that Allâhu ta’âlâ does not create peculiarities is symptomatic of a belief that verges on naturalism and materialism.

Islamic scholars’ writing many books about qadâ’ and qadar does not mean busying with delusions, illusions and superstitions as the religion reformers say. Each of them is a study based on knowledge. It is a grave slander and irreverence for them to say about Islamic scholars that they mixed genies and fairies with the fancies of vampires. The source of fancies and fables which are often told by women, ignorant people and children must be the novels and motion pictures filled with fancies and murders produced in and brought from America and Europe and the corrupt beliefs of Jews and Christians, rather than the books of Islamic scholars.

Genies certainly exist, and it is necessary to believe in their existence. Yet it is wrong to take illusions and fancies as genies.

Nobody has the right to distort Muslims’ belief in qadâ’ and qadar in order to represent this belief as an obstacle against working and progress. These slanders leak out from comnunists and freemasons. Belief in qadâ’ and qadar prevent slackness and egoism. Instead of leaving the events beyond his comprehension, knowledge and power to the unconscious will of the coincidence, it is obvious that man’s work will make him more succesful if he connects the wheel of his will to the regular motions of a machine that includes everything from the atom to the sun, that is, if he tries to set his measures by the predestination. A member of the Jabriyya can be silenced by saying, “If you were at a dangerous place and told that the enemy would attack and you believed it, would you say, ‘They will do what is predestined. They cannot do anything else. There is no way out of what Allah has predestined,’ and remain there or would you get ready to resist or go somewhere else?” Thus it will be affirmed also by the Jabriyya that the sense of need for escaping the danger and working for one’s needs exists in man’s creation. It is not reasonable to believe in qadar in insignificant affairs and deny it when you are in great danger or need.

It is because of ignorance, inattention and laziness that Muslims lag behind. And I wrote about the origin of the ignorance in the preface. Muslims’ belief should not be corrupted by confusing such noble knowledge of qadâ’ and qadar with the guilt.