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Predestination in Islam – Gerhard Nehls


History of this doctrine


Historically, Islam teaches that Allah has decreed all things, good and evil from eternity, all that happens, whether obedience or disobedience, faith or infidelity, sickness or health, riches or poverty, life or death:


“When Muhammad died, this article was not yet included with the other five. About a century later, Muslim theologians argued much over it. One group, the Jabrites, plainly said that Allah decreed everything, good or bad, and that man had no choice to do anything except what Allah had willed for him. The Qadarite theologians did not agree. They said that evil and injustice cannot be blamed onto Allah, but were the result of man's own choice. But this raised another problem. If man chould choose to do right or wrong, then man also became a creator of actions, like Allah creates actions. No Muslim could agree to this.


A third group of Muslim theologians, the Ash’arites, agreed with the Jabrites that Allah had one will and could do as he please, either good or evil. But they wanted to allow for the fact that each man feels that he has the power to make his own choices. The Ash’arites concluded that, although Allah decrees for a man to do a thing, he also gives man the choice and desire to do it. In this way, each man becomes responsible for his own actions because he chose to do what Allah had decreed for him to do, even though he could do nothing else. This teaching is known by the Arabic word ‘kasb,’ which means ‘acquiring’.


The conclusion of the Ash’arites that Allah had predetermined all things is what most Muslim theologians believe today. This explains why the Muslim so easily says, ‘Insha Allah,’ meaning ‘if Allah wills.’ It is the reason why the illness, accident, death, or good fortune are said to be from Allah. Belief in predestination gives Muslims great courage in times of terrible hardship or when everything seems to go wrong. The Muslim believes that his sufferings have come from Allah.


On the other hand, to soften the harshness of this belief in complete dependence on Allah and that man can do nothing to change his fate, many Muslims believe strongly in the protection of Qur’anic charms in this life and in the intercession of Muhammad and other ‘saints’ in the Last Day.


Educated Muslims, who are trained in modern sciences, place more emphasis on human responsibility. They often believe that sickness or poverty, for example, are frequently the simple result of a man's ignorance or laziness. They prefer to believe that it is Allah's will for man to fight disease instead of simply accepting it as one’s fate.” (Emory VanGerpen, Notes on Islam, 1975, pp.35-36; source-


Quran on Predestination  

1. Everything Happens by the Will of Allah 


Nor can a soul die except by Allah’s leave, the term being fixed as by writing. If any do desire a reward in this life, We shall give it to him; and if any do desire a reward in the Hereafter, We shall give it to him. And swiftly shall We reward those that (serve us with) gratitude. S. 3:145 


And with Him are the keys of the unseen treasures-- none knows them but He; and He knows what is in the land and the sea, and there falls not a leaf but He knows it, nor a grain in the darkness of the earth, nor anything green nor dry but (it is all) in a clear book. S. 6:59 


Say: For myself I have no power to benefit, nor power to hurt, save that which Allah willeth. Had I knowledge of the Unseen, I should have abundance of wealth, and adversity would not touch me. I am but a warner, and a bearer of good tidings unto folk who believe. S. 7:188 


Say: ‘Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector’: and on Allah let the Believers put their trust.” S. 9:51 


2. Allah Predestines the Fate of Every Soul. 


The guiding of them is not thy duty (O Muhammad), but Allah guideth whom He will. And whatsoever good thing ye spend, it is for yourselves, when ye spend not save in search of Allah's Countenance; and whatsoever good thing ye spend, it will be repaid to you in full, and ye will not be wronged. S. 2:272  


“Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is Allah's; and whether you manifest what is in your minds or hide it, Allah will call you to account according to it; then He will forgive whom He pleases and chastise whom He pleases, and Allah has power over all things.” S. 2:284


“Do you wish to guide him whom Allah has caused to err? And whomsoever Allah causes to err, you shall by no means find a way for him.” S. 4:88  


“And the Jews and the Christians say: We are the sons of Allah and His beloved ones. Say: Why does He then chastise you for your faults? Nay, you are mortals from among those whom He has created, He forgives whom He pleases and chastises whom He pleases; and Allah’s is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and what is between them, and to Him is the eventual coming.” S. 5:18 


“Do you not know that Allah-- His is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth; He chastises whom He pleases; and forgives whom He pleases and Allah has power over all things. O Messenger! let not those grieve you who strive together in hastening to unbelief from among those who say with their mouths: We believe, and their hearts do not believe, and from among those who are Jews; they are listeners for the sake of a lie, listeners for another people who have not come to you; they alter the words from their places, saying: If you are given this, take it, and if you are not given this, be cautious; and as for him whose temptation Allah desires, you cannot control anything for him with Allah. Those are they for whom Allah does not desire that He should purify their hearts; they shall have disgrace in this world, and they shall have a grievous chastisement in the hereafter. ” S. 5:40-41 


“Those whom Allah wills to guide, He opens their breast to Islam; Those whom He wills to leave straying, - he makes their breast close and constricted, as if they had to climb up to the skies: thus does Allah lay abomination on those who refuse to believe.” S. 6:125  


“Whomsoever Allah guides, he is the one who follows the right way; and whomsoever He causes to err, these are the losers. Many are the Jinns and men we have made for Hell.” S. 7:178-179  


“My counsel will not profit you if I were minded to advise you, if Allah’s will is to keep you astray. He is your Lord and unto Him ye will be brought back.” S. 11:34 


“In truth thy Lord destroyed not the townships tyrannously while their folk were doing right. And if thy Lord had willed, He verily would have made mankind one nation, yet they cease not differing, Save him on whom thy Lord hath mercy; and for that He did create them. And the Word of thy Lord hath been fulfilled: Verily I shall fill hell with the jinn and mankind together.” S. 11:117-119  


“Allah leads astray whomsoever He will and guides whomsoever he will.” S. 14:4 


“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  


“Allah hath (now) revealed the fairest of statements, a Scripture consistent, (wherein promises of reward are) paired (with threats of punishment), whereat doth creep the flesh of those who fear their Lord, so that their flesh and their hearts soften to Allah’s reminder. Such is Allah’s guidance, wherewith He guideth whom He will. And him whom Allah sendeth astray, for him there is no guide.” S. 39:23 


“And whom Allah guides, there is none that can lead him astray; is not Allah Mighty, the Lord of retribution? And should you ask them, Who created the heavens and the earth? They would most certainly say: Allah. Say: Have you then considered that what you call upon besides Allah, would they, if Allah desire to afflict me with harm, be the removers of His harm, or (would they), if Allah desire to show me mercy, be the withholders of His mercy? Say: Allah is sufficient for me; on Him do the reliant rely.” S. 39:37-38 


“He whom Allah sendeth astray, for him there is no protecting friend after Him. And thou (Muhammad) wilt see the evil-doers when they see the doom, (how) they say: Is there any way of return?… And they will have no protecting friends to help them instead of Allah. He whom Allah sendeth astray, for him there is no road.” S. 42:44, 46 


“He will admit to His Mercy whom He will; But the wrong-doers,- for them has He prepared a grievous Penalty.” S. 76:31 


2. Allah Predestines whether a Person Will Believe 


“And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers? And it is not for a soul to believe except by Allah’s permission; and He casts uncleanness on those who will not understand.” S. 10:99-100 


“Thou wilt not find folk who believe in Allah and the Last Day loving those who oppose Allah and His messenger, even though they be their fathers or their sons or their brethren or their clan. As for such, He hath written faith upon their hearts and hath strengthened them with a Spirit from Him, and He will bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide. Allah is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him. They are Allah's party. Lo! is it not Allah's party who are the successful? S. 58:22 


3. Allah Predestines Our Wills 


“Let any who will, keep it in remembrance! But none will keep it in remembrance except as Allah wills: He is the Lord of Righteousness, and the Lord of Forgiveness.” S. 74:55-56 


“This is an admonition: Whosoever will, let him take a (straight) Path to his Lord. But ye will not, except as Allah wills; for Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom.” S. 76:29-30 


“Unto whomsoever of you willeth to walk straight. And ye will not, unless (it be) that Allah willeth, the Lord of Creation.” S. 81:28-29 


4. Man is held accountable for what Allah has willed for him since Man must will to believe 


“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? Whatever good, (O man!) happens to thee, is from Allah. But whatever evil happens to thee, is from thy (own) soul. And We have sent thee as a messenger to (instruct) mankind. And enough is Allah for a witness. S. 4:78-79  


“Had Allah willed He could have made you (all) one nation, but He sendeth whom He will astray and guideth whom He will, and ye will indeed be asked of what ye used to do.” 16:93 


“Restrain thyself along with those who cry unto their Lord at morn and evening, seeking His Countenance; and let not thine eyes overlook them, desiring the pomp of the life of the world; and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance, who followeth his own lust and whose case hath been abandoned. 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 


“And nothing prevents men from believing when the guidance comes to them, and from asking forgiveness of their Lord, except that what happened to the ancients should overtake them, or that the chastisement should come face to face with them.” S. 18:55 


“Then he (Abraham) turned aside to their gods secretly and said: What! do you not eat? What is the matter with you that you do not speak? Then he turned against them secretly, smiting them with the right hand. So they (people) advanced towards him, hastening. Said he: What! do you worship what you hew out? And Allah has created you and what you make.” S. 37:91-96  


Islamic Traditions on Predestination  


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 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) 

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 prilgrimage 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 a bout 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 (peace be upon him) 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 (peace be upon him) He knelt before him placed his palms on his thighs and said: Muhammad, inform me about al-Islam. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) 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 inquirer) again said: Inform me about al-Ihsan (performance of good deeds). He (the Holy Prophet) said: That you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, for though you don't see Him, He, verily, sees you. He (the enquirer) again said: Inform me about the hour (of the Doom). He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: One who is asked knows no more than the one who is inquiring (about it). He (the inquirer) said: Tell me some of its indications. He (the Holy Prophet) said: That the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress and master, that you will find barefooted, destitute goat-herds vying with one another in the construction of magnificent buildings. 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) 


It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Ask me (about matters pertaining to religion), but they (the Companions of the Holy Prophet) were too much overawed out of profound respect for him to ask him (anything). In the meanwhile a man came there, and sat near his knees and said: Messenger of Allah, what al-lslam is? -to which he (the Holy Prophet) replied: You must not associate anything with Allah, and establish prayer, pay the poor-rate (Zakat) and observe (the fasts) of Ramadan. He said: You (have) told the truth. He (again) said: Messenger of Allah, what al-Iman (the faith) is? He (the Holy Prophet) said: That you affirm your faith in Allah, His angels, His Books, His meeting, His Apostles, and that you believe in Resurrection and that you believe in Qadr (Divine Decree) in all its entirety, He (the inquirer) said: You (have) told the truth. He (again) said: Messenger of Allah, what al-Ihsan is? Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) said: (Al-Ihsan implies) that you fear Allah as if you are seeing Him, and though you see Him not, verily He is seeing you. He (the inquirer) said: You (have) told the truth. He (the inquirer) said: When there would be the hour (of Doom)? (Upon this) he (the Holy Prophet said: The one who is being asked about it is no better informed than the inquirer himself. I, however, narrate some of its signs (and these are): when you see a slave (woman) giving birth to her master - that is one of the signs of (Doom); when you see barefooted, naked, deaf and dumb (ignorant and foolish persons) as the rulers of the earth - that is one of the signs of the Doom. And when you see the shepherds of black camels exult in buildings - that is one of the signs of Doom. The (Doom) is one of the five things (wrapped) in the unseen. No one knows them except Allah. Then (the Holy Prophet) recited (the following verse): “Verily Allah! with Him alone is the knowledge of the hour and He it is Who sends down the rain and knows that which is in the wombs and no person knows whatsoever he shall earn on morrow and a person knows not in whatsoever land he shall die. Verily Allah is Knowing, Aware.” He (the narrator, Abu Huraira) said: Then the person stood up an (made his way). The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Bring him back to me. He was searched for, but they (the Companions of the Holy Prophet) could not find him. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) thereupon said: He was Gabriel and he wanted to teach you (things pertaining to religion) when you did not ask (them yourselves). (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0006)  


Narrated ‘Imran:

I said, “O Allah's Apostle! Why should a doer (people) try to do good deeds?” The Prophet said, “Everybody will find easy to do such deeds as will lead him TO HIS DESTINED PLACE FOR WHICH HE HAS BEEN CREATED.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 641)


Narrated ‘Abdullah:

Allah's Apostle, the truthful and truly-inspired, said, “Each one of you collected in the womb of his mother for forty days, and then turns into a clot for an equal period (of forty days) and turns into a piece of flesh for a similar period (of forty days) and then Allah sends an angel and orders him to write four things, i.e., his provision, his age, and whether he will be of the wretched or the blessed (in the Hereafter). Then the soul is breathed into him. And by Allah, a person among you (or a man) may do deeds of the people of the Fire till there is only a cubit or an arm-breadth distance between him and the Fire, but then that writing (which Allah has ordered the angel to write) precedes, and he does the deeds of the people of Paradise and enters it; and a man may do the deeds of the people of Paradise till there is only a cubit or two between him and Paradise, and then that writing precedes and he does the deeds of the people of the Fire and enters it.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 77, Number 593) 


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) 


Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, “Adam and Moses argued with each other. Moses said to Adam. ‘O Adam! You are our father who disappointed us and turned us out of Paradise.’ Then Adam said to him, ‘O Moses! Allah favored you with His talk (talked to you directly) and He wrote (the Torah) for you with His Own Hand. Do you blame me for action which Allah had written in my fate forty years before my creation?’ So Adam confuted Moses, Adam confuted Moses," the Prophet added, repeating the Statement three times. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 77, Number 611)  


‘A’isha, the mother of the believers, said that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) was called to lead the funeral prayer of a child of the Ansar. I said: Allah's Messenger, there is happiness for this child who is a bird from the birds of Paradise for it committed no sin nor has he reached the age when one can commit sin. He said: ‘A’isha, per adventure, it may be otherwise, because God created for Paradise those who are fit for it while they were yet in their father's loins and created for Hell those who are to go to Hell. He created them for Hell while they were yet in their father’s loins. (Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6436)  


Abu Huraira reported Allah's Apostle as saying:


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, 6422) 


Islamic Scholars and Predestination   


Risaleh-i-Barkhavi says: 

“Not only can He do anything, He actually is the only One Who does anything. When a man writes, it is Allah who has created in his mind the will to write. Allah at the same time gives the power to write, then brings about the motion of the hand and the pen and the appearance upon paper. All other things are passive, Allah alone is active.” 

Islamicist Alfred Guillaume states:   


“There are texts which clearly assert that man is responsible for his own actions, though the majority of texts seem to assert that they are definitely decreed. The Mutazila dealt with these passages as best as they could by softening the language of predestination, but still it could not be denied that the orthodox party had the Quran on their side when they asserted that God's predestination was absolute. This view is borne out by the chapter on predestination in the books of canonical tradition which do not contain a single saying of Muhammad’s which leaves freedom of action to man. Everything is predestined from the first and a man’s fate is fixed before he is born… Orthodox reaction to the doctrine of free will took rather a strange form. The Mutazilites were dubbed dualists because it was said that by their assertion that man has power’ over his actions they made him the ‘creator’ of his works and thus encroached on the almighty power of God, for there would be two creators of actions.” (Islam by A. Guillaume p.131)  


Mishkatul-Masabih, volume III, pp. 93-121, notes:


“The strong Muslim solidarity which the Prophet had once so laboriously cemented has been greatly weakened on account of bitter controversies over this question. This is because there are apparent conflicting views on the subject in the Quran and Hadis. On the one hand, the scriptures uphold the doctrine of freedom of will and the consequent responsibility for actions, and on the other they emphasize that it is only God who guides and misguides as He pleases and that the fate of man and everything was pre-determined before their creation. Among the former Muslims, there were two extreme schools of thought - the Zabariyas and the Qadriyas. The former school holds that God is the creator of Man's deeds without responsibility in the matter. They contend that man has got no power to go beyond his destiny or decree of God before his creation: ‘No evil befalls on the earth, nor on your own souls but it is in a book before We bring into existence’ (Sura 57:22). The Holy Prophet said: ‘Nothing repels a pre-decree except supplication' (Mishkat 38:11)


“The Qadriyas and later on the Mutazilas hold that man has got absolute freedom of will and the consequence (sic) responsibility of actions, and that if the former view is accepted, the rewards for virtuous acts and punishments for sins cannot at all be explained: ‘And whatever affliction befalls on you, it is on account of what your hands have wrought.’ (Sura 42:30).  “The two views as above noted are diametrically opposite to each other, and none could find out a satisfactory solution of the problem… Let us, however, try to harmonize the apparent conflict to some extent leaving the rest to God.” 

The great Islamic theologian, al-Ghazali writes:  “Allah’s justice is not to be compared with the justice of man. A man may be supposed to act unjustly by invading the position of another, but no injustice can be conceived on the part of Allah. It is in his power to pour down torrents upon mankind and if he were to do it, his justice would not be arraigned. There is nothing he can be tied to, to perform, nor can any injustice be supposed of him, nor can he be under obligation to any person whatever.”   (The following citations are taken and adapted from Gerhard Nehls, Christians Ask Muslims;




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