Friday, March 8, 2013

Qadar - destined to do what Allah decrees?

When my convert friend learnt recently of the death of the son of someone I work with, he responded by suggesting I tell them that Allah decides how long we live: "There is nothing the parents could have done," he opined. "It might be a consolation for them to know that." Hmm.
I didn't tell them. I can't believe the thought that God had decided to take their two year-old from them would have provided much comfort.
And yet this concept of divine destiny (or qadar) is one of the six articles of faith in Islam (along with Belief in the Oneness of Allah, the Revealed Books, the Prophets of Islam, the Day of Resurrection and Angels). Accordingly, God has written down in the Preserved Tablet ("al-Lauḥ al-Maḥfūẓ") all that has happened and will happen. Thus Allah, Muslims believe, has measured out the span of every person's life, their lot of good or ill fortune, and the fruits of their efforts. 
Are we to understand from all this that we don't therefore have free will? Not at all: Muslims are keen to explain that it means simply that because God is timeless (literally outside of time) he already knows what will happen to all of us. It is in this sense only that our fate, or destiny, has been decided for us.
We can thus decide our own future, make decisions and pay the consequences - it's just that Allah already knows what we will do.
But what of the verses in the Qur'an that suggest otherwise? What of the verses that clearly tell us of Allah deciding our fate for us?
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. 10:100
Does not the above verse tell us we can only believe if Allah "decrees" it? And conversely it is He who decides who'll suffer "uncleanliness" (by which we are to understand unbelief)?
Lo! this is an Admonishment, that whosoever will may choose a way unto his Lord. Yet ye will not, unless Allah willeth. Lo! Allah is Knower, Wise 76:30
Aren't we being told two conflicting things here in the space of one verse? You can "choose" to follow the Lord ....but only if Allah "willeth". What happened to my free will all of a sudden?

Free will? Really?
God delights in telling us he guides those whom he wishes to, and equally sends astray those whom he (presumably) decides are worthless:
Whom Allah doth guide,- he is on the right path: whom He rejects from His guidance,- such are the persons who perish. Many are the Jinns and men we have made for Hell ...7:179
 The final line is chilling. Many are the men [...] we have made for hell. 

So here's a question that my convert friend has never answered:
What sort of beneficent deity creates beings to torture for an eternity? Presumably one with a wicked sense of humour, since he constantly refers to Himself as "the Most Merciful"...


  1. On the topic of free vs. predestination, the most prominent verses in my opinion are 76:30 (as you shown) and also Sura 81:27-29 which states the following;

    "Verily this is no less than a Message to (all) the Worlds. (With profit) to whoever among you wills to go straight. BUT YE SHALL NOT WILL EXCEPT AS ALLAH WILLS,- the Cherisher of the Worlds."

    Ibn Kathir's commentary on this verse is even more telling,

    "This means that the will is not left to you all, so that whoever wishes to be guided, then he is guided, and whoever wishes to be astray, then he goes astray, rather, all of this is according to the will of Allah the Exalted, and He is the Lord of all that exists."

    As I stated in the description of one of my videos, I think this is a contradiction in the Quran, because if one looks and interprets hard enough, one can also find verses indicating Free-will. However, those indicating predestination are crystal clear. Free will cannot exist along side predestination.

    (If you disagree, answer the following question - Can I freely will to be a Muslim if Allah has willed me to be a Non-Muslim? If yes, then you contradict 76:30 and 81:27-29; If no, then how exactly is my will free?)

    1. Nicely put, Captain.
      As clear a case of contradiction it would be difficult to find...

  2. Spinoza,
    Maybe Allah rejects from His guidance those who already reject His guidance? Like YHWH in the Torah would 'harden' hearts, or 'circumcise' them after people knowingly disobey or obey Him?

    1. I'm afraid I don't accept your analogy (previously expounded) that Yaweh/Allah/God simply locks the door that we have shut in His face, to explain the notion of His "hardening our hearts". Either we have free will or we don't. One cannot allow the idea of a Creator being able to intercede in such a manner in a universe where we have free will.
      What if a "sinner" decided to open the door at a later time? The door being locked - his fate is sealed. There is nothing he can do - however much he may want it. If you counter by saying Allah knows if he would have changed his mind, then to speak of hardening a heart is meaningless. The heart is already "hardened".
      Either you accept that God is interceding to limit our free will or you accept He is powerless, and the verses that refer to such things are the obvious product of an illogical fallible mind.
      This is one of those areas where, to my mind, the Qur'an plainly contradicts itself and therefore loses all claim to be anything other than the poetic musings of a gifted story-teller.

    2. Spinoza,
      If YHWH hardens hearts, He also circumcises them. If a sinner decided to repent and obey, then YHWH/Allah would circumcise their hearts. Hardening is not necessarily permanent. See it this way: If you write something humorous (like "musical genitalia"!), do I laugh (I'm still laughing!), or do you make me laugh? Do I lighten my heart and make my day brighter by reading your posts, or is it you who makes my day brighter?

      Similarly, when YHWH/Allah sends a sign, does He seal your heart, or do you seal it yourself?

    3. If God were to show His signs to someone inimical, he would resist them even further. Remember "Wormhole"? We reasoned with him and tried our best to make him see sense, but what happened? He became even more irrational, defended his inane interpretations, and grew more belligerent, finally ending up verbally abusing you. In other words, we hardened his heart against us. Similarly, God by communicating to a sinner hardens his heart.


    1. Here's the conclusion to Zawadi's article you linked to above:
      So we see that Allah misguides those wrongdoers who are truly misguided by their own actions that they willingly chose to commit. Allah is omniscient and therefore knows in advance what their FREE WILLED actions will be. Therefore, Allah misguides them. HOWEVER, Allah only misguides those who WILLINGLY commit wrong and have earned to be labeled as disbelievers and go to Hell.

      If you can make heads or tails of that you're a better man than me...

      Can I just ask..why does Allah need to "misguide" them if they're already on the road to Hell. Isn't that a bit of overkill?

    2. I think "B" may even possibly be Bassam Zawadi (author of above and innumerable apologist articles on the net) in which case let's hope he can clarify...

  4. "why does Allah need to "misguide" them if they're already on the road to Hell. "

    Zawadi never said that Allah "needs" to misguide them, so that's a strawman.

  5. Cognitive dissonance is the fate of religious folks