How many times have we looked at our lives, and wished that things were different? Or hoped for one thing or another, but then soon resigned ourselves to the fact, that what will be, will be? Qadar or Allah’s predetermined decree, is the sixth pillar of Faith, and is something that should concern every Muslim. It has been reported by Imam Ahmad that the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ’alaihi wa sallam, one day came to his companions and found them arguing about Qadar. He rebuked them for that and informed them that what destroyed the nations before them was nothing but that kind of argument. Nonetheless, Allah has blessed some of his believing servants, namely the righteous predecessors, with the true understanding of the issue of Qadar.
As with all things in religion, it is easy to go to extremes, the same is true with Qadar; therefore it is imperative to one’s faith to achieve the correct understanding. This is because the issue of predetermined decree is a condition for belief in the Ruboobiyah, or the Lordship of Allah. Based on this reality, Imam Ahmad said: “Qadar is the might of Allah.” Undoubtedly, Qadar is part of Allah’s might. It is also the hidden secrets that no one knows except Allah, Most High. We do not know what Allah has prescribed for or against us, and because of this, Qadar, has been heatedly debated by man throughout history.
The subject of Qadar is as old as man himself. From the time man became aware of his sins and mistakes, he thought of ways to clean himself from them and make excuses for them. Qadar has been a subject of discussion by philosophers, scientists and scholars, believers and non-believers throughout history.
Man’s understanding of Qadar took many directions, but only main opinions prevailed – the Jabr (Blind Compulsion) and the Qadar (Predestination) – until Islam brought the correct understanding through the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Unfortunately, these two understandings were adopted by some Muslims and exist among them, until today.
The first group, called the Jabriyah (ie, people of blind compulsion), over-considers Qadar, stripping away from man all capability or will. They say that man is Musayyer (driven, fully governed) and not Mukhayyir (with free will). There is no difference, they further argue, between man’s actions committed out of his will and his actions happening without his will. Undoubtedly, the upholders of this creed have strayed from the right path. For it is known, through the Islamic teachings, sound reasoning, and people’s practices, that man does differentiate between acts about which he has choice and acts which are imposed on him.
The second group, called the Qadariyah or Qadari (predestinationism), exaggerates man’s power and will, restricting the will of Allah altogether. They believe that man cannot be the slave of Allah’s unalterable predestination, but rather creates his own actions, and thus is totally independent, with an autonomous will. Consequently, some advocates of this sect want so far as to claim that Allah, Most High does not know about people’s actions until they occur. Undoubtedly, the sect has fallen into exaggeration and extremism in determining man’s power and will.
These same ideas have, in the modern times, taken new forms. Those who adopt the Jabr philosophy to justify man’s behaviour, say that genetics, environment and natural instincts control him and that he has no power against them. To them, man has no control of his sexual orientation and that desire is the motive behind what he does.
On the other hand, those who are Qadari believe that man has full control over everything that happens to him, and that he can direct and shape his future in any way he chooses. These people spend a lot of time and money on learning the so-called ancient methods of using “energy” and “power,” using the stars to forecast the future, and even magic.
Ahlus Sunnah, those who follow the understanding of the companions of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, reject both of these extreme, deviant views and uphold the belief substantiated by the Qur’an and Sunnah. They do not see man as deprived of free-will, that Allah coerces him into making specific decisions; nor do they see man as absolutely independent, free to do as he chooses, and that Allah has no power over his actions and choices.
Conversely, they believe man has free will, which is dependent upon Allah’s Will. This is the correct definition of Qadar. We will discuss in more detail the belief of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah in this article. But first, let’s analyse the views of the Jabriyah and Qadariyah.
Refuting the views of the Jabriyah
If we, for the sake of argument, take the position of the first sect, the Jabriyah, it will amount to considering all of Islamic laws useless. Indeed, if man has no free will whatsoever, then he is not to be praised for any virtuous deed nor is he to be blamed for any wrongdoing. More dangerously, this means that Allah is unjust if He punishes the one who disobeys Him. After all, they claim that man is deprived of any will or power and thus, not responsible for his deeds? This is in complete defiance of the Qur’an, as we will see in the following citations.
Allah says, “And his companion (ie, one of the two recording Angels) will say (to the person to whom he was assigned): ‘Here is (his record) ready with me!’ (The sentence will be:) ‘Throw into Hell every contumacious rejecter (of Allah)! Who forbade what was good, transgressed all bounds, cast doubts and suspicions; who set up another god besides Allah: throw him into a severe chastisement.’ His companion (the devil assigned to him) will say: ‘Our Lord! I did not make him transgress, but he was (himself) far astray.’ He (ie, Allah) will say, ‘Dispute not with each other in My Presence, I had already in advance sent you warnings. The Word changes not with Me, and I do not the least injustice to My servants.” [50:23-29].
Hence, Allah clearly shows that this punishment from Him is not injustice; rather it is justice at its best. In advance, He sent His slaves warnings, made clear to them the path, and showed them what is truth and what is falsehood. Subsequently, the wrongdoers rejected the truth and chose falsehood. Thus, it was a choice made freely by them.
Moreover, Allah says that He sent “Messengers who gave good news, as well as warnings, that mankind, after (the coming) of messengers, should have no plea against, Allah.” [4:165]. Were Qadar a valid justification for the Jabriyah, it would remain so even after the advent of the messengers. Yet, the verse just cited unequivocally states that, after the coming of the messengers, no one can raise a case before Allah, more specifically, no one can say he or she had no free-will in his/her decision.
Refuting the views of Qadariyah
Like the Jabriyah, the Qadariyah, who stress self-determination and complete independence of man, are also in total defiance of the Qur’anic verses and the ahadith dealing with the Qadar. Indeed, all verses and ahadith clearly stipulate that man’s will, is governed by Allah’s Will.
Allah says: “To whomsoever among you who wills to go straight: But you will not except as Allah Wills - the Cherisher of the Worlds.” [81:28-29]. “Your Lord does create and chooses as He pleases. No choices have they (in the matter): Glory to Allah! And far is He above the partners they ascribe to (Him)!” [28:68]. “But Allah does call to the Home of Peace, and He does guide whom He pleases to a way that is straight.” [10:25]. Furthermore, by advocating this self-deterministic view, the Qadariyah are, explicitly or implicitly, advancing three gross blasphemies:
* They are rejecting some aspects of Allah’s Lordship, namely His power to create whatever He wills, and the uniqueness of His creations.
* They are claiming that there exist in Allah’s Dominion things that He neither created nor willed.
* They are also claiming that Allah owns only part of His Dominion. That is, He owns His creatures but does not own their characteristics or their actions.
Needless to say, these blasphemies are clearly refuted in Allah’s Book. The verses already mentioned and others to follow clearly indicate that Allah creates whatever He wills; He is the only one who creates; He willed and created all existing creatures, including their related characteristics and actions. Last but not least, everything in the universe belongs to Him: creatures and actions, bodies and spirits.
Of course, one might ask; what can a man do, if Allah has already decreed for him to go astray with no possibility of guidance? The answer to this question is that Allah guides whoever deserves guidance and leads astray whoever deserves miss-guidance. Allah says, “Then when they went wrong, Allah let their hearts go wrong. For Allah guides not those who are rebellious transgressors.” [61:5].
Allah Most High, misleads only those among mankind who persists in evil deeds. Man, as we mentioned earlier, does not know what is prescribed for him until it happens. That is, he does not know at any time, especially at time of death, whether he was destined to guidance or misguidance. One cannot thus justify his rebellion or wickedness by the fact that Allah has already prescribed for him misguidance.
Indeed, why wouldn’t he seek guidance and then say “Allah has guided me to the right path?” Interestingly, you may find that whenever the same person acts righteously, he counts his righteous act as favour on Allah, but does not mention Allah as the One who guided him to do right. Allah does not accept such dual, paradoxical behaviour. One must be careful not to be a Qadirite when obeying Allah, and Jabrite when sinning.
The question of guidance versus misguidance is parallel to that of sustenance versus poverty as well as knowledge versus ignorance. In other words, if one uses Qadar to blame his wickedness and disobedience on Allah, he should also abandon any effort to seek food, any steps to seek knowledge and all means of livelihood altogether. However, we have yet to find people staying in their homes, with no jobs or food, blaming their hunger and poverty on Allah’s decree or saying, “if Allah wills, he will provide us a job and send us food.” After all, Allah has also determined everyone’s due sustenance before one’s coming to this world.
The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “Verily, the creation of each one of you is brought together in his mother’s belly for 40 days in the form of a seed, then he is a clot of blood for a like period, then a morsel of flesh for a like period, then there is sent to him the angel who blows the breath of life into him and who is commanded about four words (ie matters): to write down his means of livelihood (rizq), his life span, his actions, and whether happy or unhappy.” (Bukhari and Muslim). Man should not therefore exhibit double standards towards Allah, abandoning worship and devotion because of Allah’s decree, while striving hard to secure his livelihood, with no reference whatsoever to that Allah has decreed for him as sustenance.
How do Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah understand Qadar?
Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah, in perfect agreement with the Qur’an and Sunnah, believe that Allah in His infinite Mercy gave man a certain measure of free will. Man therefore freely makes his decisions and acts the way he wills. However, his choice and will submit to Allah’s will. In other words, he cannot will anything, let alone accomplish it, until Allah Himself Wills it. They also believe that Allah’s Will is not arbitrary, that is, with no wisdom; rather, it goes hand and hand with His Infinite Wisdom (Hikmah). In fact, one of His names is Al-Hakeem, meaning the All Wise. More precisely, Al-Hakeem means that Allah wills all things according to His universal order and legislative laws, with a unique and perfect making.
Therefore, Allah, in His infinite Wisdom, wills guidance to the one He knows is seeking the truth and striving to be upright. On the other hand, Allah prescribes misguidance to the one He knows is not seeking the truth or is willing to be upright. Allah, Most High, will not guide such a person until the latter changes his status and readjusts his intention. Though, as we said earlier, Allah created both causes and their corresponding effects, He the Most Wise, also made the effects the resulting consequences of their causes. Thus, in a nutshell, is the belief of Ahlus Sunnah in Qadar.
Fruits of belief in Qadar
In this article, we have presented the belief in Qadar in its pristine form, untarnished from the deviancy that has had a shattering effect on the Muslim Ummah. Anyone who objectively and deeply contemplates the belief in Qadar, as it is found in Islam, with no distortion, will recognise in it the numerous and delightful fruits which have always contributed to the blossoming and well-being of the Muslim Ummah.
Belief in Qadar is a way to escaping Shirk
Many philosophers have claimed that good is from Allah while evil is the product of other gods. They advanced this claim for fear of attributing evil to Allah. The Magians, for instance, claim that light creates good while dark creates evil. Those among this Ummah who say that Allah does not create man’s acts also recognise, explicitly or implicitly, two gods besides Allah. The Qadarites were, for this reason, described as the Magians of this Ummah, by many of the scholars of Islam. No one is considered a Mu’min (believer) unless he believes in the Qadar. By testifying to this pillar of belief, as explained here, one saves himself from the most hideous, unforgivable crime in the sight of Allah; Shirk.
Belief in Qadar makes one follow the same course of life, both in prosperity and adversity
Because man is naturally weak and imperfect, he does not remain, as his life goes on, on the same path of conduct. Allah says, “Truly man was created, very impatient; fretful when evil touches him; and niggardly when good reaches him, except those devoted to salah.” [70:19-22]. If one believes in Qadar, he follows in his life a fixed, stable conduct. He does not become arrogant in prosperity; nor does he despair in adversity. He knows that whatever he receives as bounties are from Allah, not the result of his own cleverness nor his good planning. He reads, understands and accepts Allah’s statement, “And you have no good thing but is from Allah.” [16:53]. As such, he does not resemble in any way nor does he envy the arrogant, insolent Qaroon who said to his people, boasting about the treasures that Allah bestowed on him, “These have been given to me because of a certain knowledge which I have.” [28:78].
The true believer in Qadar also knows that when a disaster or misfortune strikes him it is a part of Allah’s decree. He immediately realises that it is a test from Allah. Thus, he does not complain or despair. Rather, he remains steadfast on obedience and hopes for Allah’s reward and forgiveness in return for his patience. Consequently, he gains tranquility in his heart and becomes worry-free and comfortable. Praising this type of worshippers, Allah says, “But give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere; those who, when afflicted by calamity, say, ‘To Allah we belong and to Him is our return.’ They are those on whom (descends) blessings and mercy from their Lord; and they are the ones that receive guidance.” [2:155-57].
Belief in Qadar makes one always alert, careful his faith
The true believer in Qadar is always vigilant and watchful over his duties to Allah. He does not feel secure from any punishment or any test planned by Allah. For “No one can feel secure for the Plan of Allah except those doomed to ruin.” [7:99]. Also, peoples’ hearts are in constant change, held between two of Allah’s fingers. He flips them over anyway and anytime He wishes. Thus, the true believer is constantly wary that an unexpected person or event might lead him to go astray, or that he may die in an impious, evil state. This, however, does not lead him to laziness, indifference and apathy. Rather, it incites him towards intensifying his efforts and increasing his good deeds on the one hand, and avoiding sins and mischief on the other. More importantly, the true believer in Qadar remains attached to His creator, begging for His forgiveness and mercy, seeking His protection, asking for His guidance, and help, which are necessary for remaining on the true path.
Belief in Qadar generates courage and firmness in facing dangers
Once a Muslim believes that whatever befalls him has been decreed for him, and that his life-span and means of livelihood are in Allah’s Hands, he consequently faces all sorts of dangers and hardships with a resolute, firm heart. It is this kind of belief that stimulated the early Mujahideen to rush to the battlefields, unafraid, unimpressed by their enemy, seeking Shahadah for the sake of Allah. If one of them had to die in his bed, away from the battle scene, he would cry for failing to die fighting in the battlefield as a Shaheed. It is also this sort of belief that helped the righteous scholars and Muslims firmly confront tyrants and oppressors, unafraid, undisturbed by any blame. They know that the final decision lies in Allah’s Hands; whatever has been prescribed for them would inevitably befall them. This pure, strong belief made our righteous predecessors proclaim the truth, convinced that it would never jeopardise their means of livelihood. They know that whatever Allah decrees as sustenance for a person, no one can avert it, and whatever He prohibits him, no one can provide it.
The different threads that make up Qadar
There are four levels of Belief in Qadar that should be woven into our hearts, strengthening the moral fibers of the individual and Muslim society.
The first is Knowledge
It is to strongly believe that Allah, may He be exalted, knows everything. He knows what is in the heavens and what is on earth, both in a general and a detailed manner. His knowledge encompasses His own deeds as well as the deeds of His creations. Simply put, nothing within the heavens and earth is absent from His Knowledge.
The second is Recording
It is to believe that Allah, may He be exalted, has recorded in the Preserved Tablet (Al-Lawh Al-Mahfoodh) everything that is going to happen until the Day of Judgment. Allah has combined both levels (the aforementioned level and this level) in one verse: “Did you know that Allah knows all that is in Heaven and Earth? Surely that is in a Book. Surely that for Allah is an easy matter.” [22:70].
He first mentioned His Knowledge of all things, and then, said it is in a Book. All is recorded and kept in the Preserved Tablet, “The first thing Allah created was the pen. He then said to it: ‘Write!’ The pen asked, ‘O Lord! What should I write?’ He said: ‘Write what is going to be.’ It was then written in that very hour all that what would happen up to the Last Day.” (Tirmithi and Ahmad).
In another narration, the Companions asked, “Should we abandon our deeds (since the fate of everyone has already been decided) and rely on Allah?” The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said, “No, but carry on your deeds, for everybody finds it easy to do such deeds.” The Prophet then recited, “So he who gives (in charity) and keeps his duty to Allah, and (in all sincerity) testifies to the Best (ie Islam); We will indeed make smooth for him the path to ease. But he who is a greedy miser and thinks himself self-sufficient, and gives the lie to the best (ie rejects Islam); We will indeed make smooth for him the Path to misery.” [92:5-10]. (Bukhari, and others with different wordings)
The Third is Will
It means to believe that Allah has willed everything in the heavens and earth. Whatever exists does exist by His will; and whatever does not exist, does not exist because of His will. His Will pertains to His Own deeds as well as the deeds of His creatures. Regarding His Will that governs His creations’ will, the Qur’an says, “To those among you who will to be upright. But you shall not will except as Allah wills, the Lord of the Worlds.” [81:28-29]; “Had Allah willed, they would not have done so, but leave them alone and their false inventions.” [6:137]; “And has Allah willed, they would not have fought one against the other; but Allah does whatever He desires.” [2:253]. Hence Allah showed in these and other similar verses that the will of His creations is dependent upon His Will. As for His will pertaining to His Own actions, Allah says, “If We had so willed, We would 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.’” [32:13]. In another surah, “If your Lord had willed, He could have made mankind one people.” [11:118].
The fourth is Creation
This is to believe that Allah is the creator of all things. He created both ourselves and our actions. He says, “But Allah has created you and your handiwork.” [37:96]. He created life and death as well, He says, “He Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed.” [67:2]. Not only did Allah create all existing things and creatures such as, the earth, the mountains, the rivers, the sun, the moon, the stars, the winds, insects, animals, and humans, but He also created the transformations and changes that all these creatures and things undergo.
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