Free Will and Predestination
This life is therefore more like a test field and a trial of the real mettle of souls:
67:2 “He who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed…”
To preclude any excuses for misdeeds on the Day of Reckoning, that is, to avert citing the influence of conventions, traditions, the environment or society as excuses for misdeeds, God says in the Qur’an:
33:5 “But there is no blame on you if you make a mistake therein; (what counts is) the intention of your hearts…”
2:225 “Allah will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts…”
Note: The three ayat mentioned above, they ended all of them with one word in common “All-Forgiver”
The heart is obviously the real touchstone of good works. Speaking of those who, having believed, turn away from religion, God specifies the painful chastisement that awaits them but again excludes some:
16:106 “Anyone who, after accepting Faith in Allah, utters Unbelief- except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in faith…”
It is what happens in a man’s heart that count, not outward action.
86:9 “The Day that (all) things secret will be tested.”
By the “things secret” are the intentions of the inner self, that region in man’s soul that is free from the influence of circumstances, society, conventions, etc. It is absolute point of departure and free from all restraints. It is because you have the Divine Essence breathed into you “ when I have fashioned him and breathed into him of My spirit”. 15:29
And consequently, man’s spirit is often associated with God’s powering highly significant verses.
8:17 “It is not you who slew them; it was Allah, when you threwest (a handful of dust) it was not your act, but Allah’s…”
You achieve victory with your own as well as God’s hand; at the moment of victory your hand is identified God’s, your will with His.
Could the inner self or the intention be predestined? The answer is no, as the Qur’an itself explains:
2:10 “In their hearts is a disease; and Allah has increased their disease..”
40:34 “Allah leaves to stray such as transgress and live in doubt..”
47:17 “But to those who receive Guidance, He increases the Guidance, and bestows on them their Piety and Restraint (from evil).”
61:5 “Then when they went wrong, Allah let their hearts go wrong…”
You are free to feel, think or desire, the initiative in your inner self is entirely yours. God’s intervention takes place at a later stage and accords with your intentions. He increases the disease of those who already have sickness in their hearts, but if you would be guided, God will certainly support your effort.
God would never predestine you to harbor evil intentions or a desire to do harm to people.
7:28 “Say: No, Allah never commands what is shameful, do you say of Allah you know not?”
The Qur’an says:
2:109 “Quite a number of the people of the Book wish they could turn you (people) back to infidelity after you have believed.”
God did not inspire them with jealousy; they are jealous of their own free will. There is a confirmation here of that region left entirely free by God within man’s being. In another verse God says to Satan:
15:42 “For over My servants no authority shall you have, except such as put themselves in the wrong and follow you.”
This means that the devil cannot have access to your heart unless you allow him. He cannot force his way through. The man’s heart is protected by nature, that is, by God’s will; but if a person decides that his heart will be open to the devil’s temptations. It will be his choice to be led to evil.
You can force people to shout your name, but can you force them to love you? You can force some one work for you to do things for you, but can you tell how he feels about you? The Qur’an holds you to be free and to bear full responsibility for your actions. Whatever the compelling physical circumstances around you.
Abraham knows all about the temptation, the intention and the heart. Therefore he made it very simple and straight forward in his Dowa:
26:87 - 89 “And do not disgrace me on the Day of Resurrection. That is the day when no money, nor children, can help. Only those who come to God with pure heart.”
Remind my self and you, we have job to do in this life, working hard to make our hearts sound and pure. If the heart is sound and pure, every thing in life will follow. If Satan phoned you, hang up on him.
The Qur’an explain in another place how we can start to work on our hearts:
50:33 “Who feared the Most Gracious unseen, and brought a heart turned in devotion.”
On the Day of Reckoning we are not allowed therefore to blame someone else for our sins. We cannot say that we were forced to disbelieve. And as our will is free, no circumstances, however adverse, may be invoked in justification of disbelief. Referring to such adverse circumstances, the
4:97 “When angels take the souls of those who die in sin against their souls, they say: “In what were you? They reply “Weak and oppressed were we in the earth.” They say: “was not the Earth of Allah spacious enough for you to move yourselves away (from evil)?” Such men will find their abode in Hell, what an evil refuge!”
Having to make a choice, a man chooses what is in his inner self.
76:3 “We show him the way: whether he be grateful or ungrateful (rests on his will).”
The word “whether” clearly implies choice.
91:7-8 “By the Soul and the proportion and order given to it; and its enlightenment as to its wrong and its rights…”
This means that God has established both paths, the good and the bad, leaving the choice to man’s soul. Hence the use of the conjunction “and” rather than “or”, as both paths are there together and at the same time to ensure that man has a choice. The following verses confirm this fact:
91:9-10 “Truly he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it.”
In other words, success and failure are the responsibility of choosing self. Another verse further clarifies the point:
90:10 “And shown him the two highways?”
That is, God has established us on the crossroads of two highways to allow us to choose one of them. Intention is free. The inner self is free to keep whatever secrets it wants. But the action is at once free and predestined. Freedom of action is a fact; so is destiny.
The problem is to understand the nature of this duality, to see that the one does not negate the other, that fate does not negate man’s freedom.
26:4 “If were Our will, We would send down to them from the sky a sign, to which they would bend their necks in humility.”
He could if He would, but God does not want to force us into belief so that the freedom of choice, which lies at the center of our existence, may be affected. He wants us to be free, whether we believe or disbelieve.
It was not God who made Satan a fallen angel. It was Satan who choose to be proud and vain by refusing, unlike the rest of the angels, to serve Adam.
God allows you always to make deductions and draw your own conclusions, because He would like you to exercise your freedom. And because you are not subjected to restrictive influences, your real intentions will emerge and your work will be judged fairly.
The following verse explains how divine will and individual freedom converge, that they could never be in opposition. The “hypocrites” had said that they would-though they actually did not want- fight alongside the believers:
9: 46, 47 “If they had intended to come out, they would certainly have made some preparation therefore; But Allah was averse to their being sent forth. So He made them lag behind, and they were told , “Sit you among those who sit (inactive).” If they had come out with you, they would not have added to your (strength) but only disorder. Hurrying to and from in your midst and sowing sedition among you. And their would have been some among you who would have listened to them. But Allah know well those who do wrong.”
As their real intention was not to fight, God made them stay behind, divine will coincided with man’s will. This correspondence between divine and human wills is stated more explicitly in another verse. God is addressing His Prophet:
8:70 “O prophet! Say to those who are captives in your hands: “If Allah find any good in your hearts, He will give you something better than what has been taken from you, and He will forgive you: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
Divine will is always connected to the intention-which is the essence of choice. In the light of this we can understand why the following verses, apparently contradictory, mean the same thing in effect:
18:29 “Say: “The truth is from your Lord.” Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject (it).”
76:30 “But you will not, except as Allah wills; for Allah is full Knowledge and Wisdom.”
The first verse speaks of man’s free will, the second of Divine will, and the apparent contradiction is resolved when we remember that God wants for man only what man wants for himself.
God will not force a man who has opted for evil and persisted in his desire for wrongdoing to be righteous. On the contrary, God will choose for him what the individual has chosen for himself. He will make it easier for him to proceed along his chosen path so that his intentions are fully realized. Having actually done evil, the individual will be subjected to chastisement.
4:115 “If anyone contends with the Messenger even after Guidance has been plainly conveyed to him, and follows a path other than what becoming of men Faith, We shall leave him in the path he has chosen, and land him in Hell, what an evil refuge!”
Fate here connects with the choice. There is no contradiction, as the will of God is the will of his servant. No duality!
13:11 “Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls).”
The concurrence of both wills is only too obvious. There is the working of both at once, individual freedom and fate. Man takes action of his own free will, while God in fact wills it to happen; for both must concur, Your capacity for choice is God’s gift, it is a divine will. Your freedom is divine will; hence the verse :
76:30 “But you will not, except as Allah wills; for Allah is full Knowledge and Wisdom.”
Far from being a paradox, therefore, this is a simple statement of fact:
2:72 “But Allah was to bring forth what you did hide.”
God brings forth whatever is hidden in one’s heart so that each one would have his own intentions materialized. Each would bear responsibility for his actions insofar as it is based on free choice. A decisive verse settles the question once and for all:
8:24 “And know that Allah come in between a man and his heart, and that it is He to whom you shall be gathered.”
This means that God leaves the heart quite free, so that each individual will have a free inner self; God only exercises His power between a man and his heart. In other words, God sometimes prevents man from wrongdoing even though a man wants it. God never intervenes at the level of thought, feeling, or intention, but He may intervene at a later stage and then only at the level of action. As has been mentioned, the action encouraged and facilitated by God is normally of the same nature as the intention.
Sometimes the heart is wayward; and God may desire to protect a good man from the vagaries of the heart and He therefore intervenes to help His good servant.
8:43 “Remember in your dream Allah showed them to you as few; if He had shown them to you as many, you would surely have been discouraged, and you would surely would have disputed in (your) decision. But Allah saved (you) for He know well the (secrets) of (all) hearts.”
This is an instance of divine intervention. God wants to urge Muslims to fight the battle at Badr even though they are outnumbered. He wants the Muslims to fight of their own free will, and so He reveals to the prophet in a vision, that his enemies are few and hardly invisible. On the battlefield God reinforces this feeling while encouraging the infidels to believe that the Muslims can easily be defeated. He makes both sides fight a battle the result of which He had previously determined.
It is previously determined. No doubt, but then it accords with the free will of each party. And it is the will, deep down in the recesses of our inner selves, for which we are responsible.
These Qur’anic verses, gleaming like secret fountains of light provide the key to the apparently insuperable problem of choice and preordination.
This gift, free will, is however, soon thwarted by the material world as man comes into contact with it in practice. A desire remains free for as long as it is confined to the inner self. Once it seeks concrete expression, the body obstructs it. A person’s body, in fact, confines him as though it were a plastic mold. He is besieged by physical needs: he is required to provide the body with food and drink in his struggle for survival, and so he joins the rat race, and loses part of his freedom. He is the price he must pay.
Man is therefore subject to the forces of two worlds; the world of will within, and the material world without. The latter, we know, obeys immutable, restrictive laws. His only means of freedom of action is to gain knowledge of these laws and to learn how to use them by living in harmony with them.
Freedom is a fact. It is not negated but rather affirmed by external and adverse material conditions.
Indeed, freedom becomes significant only through conflict; without conflict it is insignificant and meaningless.
When you establish controls over your desires, you actually gain your freedom, because only then do you become the master of your fate and not the slave of your instincts.