Published in  
August 26, 2021

It Is Written: Understanding Qadr | Part 2

Can Qadr be changed? Do we have Free Will or are we forced to do everything? How can we practically understand this?

This is a continuation of a series titled -'It Is Written: Understanding Qadr'. Read Part 1 here

Changes in Qadr

We learn from multiple instances from the Sunnah that due to certain actions, an element of qadr can be changed. Remember, this is the taqdeer muallaq or Iradah Shari’yyah that is being referred to. Allah says,

‏يَمْحُوا۟ ٱللَّهُ مَا يَشَآءُ وَيُثْبِتُ ۖ وَعِندَهُۥٓ أُمُّ ٱلْكِتَبِ ‎

Allah eliminates what He wills or confirms, and with Him is the Mother of the Book. [Surah ar-Ra’d, 39]

That which is Written in the Preserved Tablet will never change. 

As for some other things, Allah has made means (or causes) for other other things to happen. If the means are satisfied, the ends (or results) follow. Allah’s Qadr includes both the means and the end. It specifies that one result will occur because its corresponding means was fulfilled and vice versa. 

When a means is fulfilled, it only changes that which Allah would otherwise have decreed that that means not been fulfilled. End of the day, both were recorded by Allah. 

Ex: A person is born. If he fulfils the means (like giving charity), he will love for 70 years. If he does not fulfil the means, he will live for 50 years. Only one of the two possible scenarios is decreed to happen and is recorded in the Preserved Tablet. 

Allah did not inform the angels of all of these details. That is why we see from the Quran and Sunnah that the records that are with the angels might initially have a certain decree, but once a certain means is fulfilled, they are ordered to change it by Allah. The fulfilment of the means, the change in decree and the final decree are all recorded in the Preserved Tablet already. 

The Prophet ﷺ said: “Medication is part of Qadr, it benefits with Allah’s Permission.” [Tabarani]

Commenting on this Imam Ibn al-Qayyim beautifully said, “Some people think that seeking treatment does not benefit a person because it has already been destined whether or not he will be cured. Since sickness happens by Allah’s decree, they think that it cannot be thwarted or stopped. The Prophet ﷺ refuted this most convincingly by indicating that medication, ruqyah, and preventive measures are all part of Allah’s Qadr, and none of them violates it. Rather, His Qadr can be thwarted by His Qadr. 

Once, Umar ibn al-Khattab departed for Syria and when he arrived, they found that a plague had broken out, so Umar announced that they would return to Madinah. On hearing this, Abu Ubaidah bin al-Jarrah said to Umar, "Are you running away from Allah's Qadr?" Thereupon 'Umar said: "O Abu 'Ubaidah! Had it been someone else to say this, "Yes, we are fleeing from the Qadr of Allah to the Qadr of Allah.” [Bukhari]

Some of the things that can have an impact on this Qadr include:

1. Dua

Allah says:

‏وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِى عَنِّى فَإِنِّى قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ ٱلدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا۟ لِى وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا۟ بِى لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ ‎

And when My servants ask you, (O Muhammad), concerning Me - indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be (rightly) guided. [Surah al-Baqarah, 186]

The Prophet ﷺ said: “Nothing can change the Divine decree except dua. [Ahmad, Ibn Maajah, and Tirmidhi]

The Prophet ﷺ said: “Whoever has the gate of dua opened to him, has the gates of mercy opened to him. Allah is never asked for anything that He gives which is more beloved to Him than being asked for good health and well-being. Dua is beneficial with regard to what has been decreed and what has not been decreed. So, O slaves of Allah, you must make dua.” [Tirmidhi]

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Nothing increases one’s life-span except good deeds, and nothing repels Divine Decree except dua. And very, a person may be deprived of sustenance due to a sin that he does!” [Ibn Majah]

He ﷺ also said, “No precaution can protect against the decree of Allah. Dua is beneficial with regard to what has been decreed and what has not been decreed. The dua meets the calamity that has been decreed and wrestles with it, until the Day of Resurrection.” [Tabarani]

Abu Uthman Al-Hindi witnessed Umar ibn Al-Khattab performing Ṭawaf around the House and he was weeping, saying: “O Allah, if You have written me among the blessed, then affirm it therein. And if You have written me among the sinful and the damned, then wipe it away and affirm me among the blessed. Verily, You wipe away and affirm whatever You will, and with You is the Mother of the Book.” [Jami’ al-Bayan]

Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud used to supplicate: “O Allah, if You have written me among the damned, then wipe it away from me and affirm me among the blessed.” [al-Mu’jam al-Kabīr]

Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajr said, "Repelling an affliction with du'a (supplication) is like repelling an arrow with a shield. It is not a condition for belief in al-Qadr (divine decree) that you do not carry arrows nor seek protection with a shield." [Badhl al-Ma'un]

There is no doubt that dua affects what had been written and ordained, but the change in what is already written, is, itself, written and ordained. So, the dua does not bring a new decree other than that which has already preceded. Allah, the one who ordained tests and trials, is the one who ordained warding them off by dua or by other means. So al-Qada' and Qadr encompass them all. 

Think of what has been Written as a milestone that has a few checkboxes or conditions to be completed before that milestone can be achieved. We have the complete free will to do all that is required or not to achieve it. If we do complete check all the boxes, the milestone occurs. If we don't, then the onus is on us. Likewise making dua to Allah is also one of the checkboxes that we need to continue doing for the milestone to occur etc. 

Ex: Diseases and injuries etc are preordained. An ill person calls upon Allah to cure his illness. The illness is written; his invocation (supplication) is also written, and because of his invocation, Allah had ordained and written that he will be cured. So everything is linked to its causes, which are themselves created and written.

Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah was asked, “Can provision increase or decrease? 

He replied: Provision is of two types:

  1. That which Allah knows He will provide, which cannot be changed.
  2. That which He has prescribed and told to the angels. This may increase or decrease depending on causes. If Allah commands the angels to write provision for a person if he upholds the ties of kinship, Allah will increase his provision because of that. It was proven in the authentic hadith that the Prophet said: “Whoever would like his provision to be increased and his life span to be extended, let him uphold the ties of kinship.”

Similarly the life span of Dawood was extended by sixty years and Allah made it one hundred years, after it was originally forty. This is as ‘Umar said: “O Allah, if you have decreed that I am to be doomed, then erase that and make me one of those who are to be blessed, because You blot out whatever You will and confirm whatever You will.”

Ex: Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: Allah then placed between the two eyes of every human a flash of light showing their Iman and showed them all to Adam. Adam was awed by the sight of all these countless numbers of beings with flashes of light between their eyes so he asked Allah, “O Lord, who are they?” Allah told him that they were all of his descendants. Adam then began looking closely at one whose flash of light amazed him, then he asked who he was and Allah said, “That is a man called Dawud from the last of the nations among your descendants.” Adam then asked how old he was and when Allah informed him that he was sixty, he said, “O Lord, increase his age by taking forty years from my age.” 

But when Adam’s life span reached its end and the angel of death came, he said, “Is there not forty more years of my life still remaining?” The Angel replied, “Did you not give them to your descendant Dawud?” Adam denied that he had done so and his descendants denied their promise to Allah. Adam later forgot his covenant to Allah and so did his descendants and they all feel into error.” [Tirmidhi]

So we see here once again, that everything was recorded by Allah and this was done 50,000 years before creation itself. The fact that Prophet Adam would give some of his years to Prophet Dawud was recorded already in the Preserved Tablet. It was the action of Prophet Adam out of his own free will that caused it to be set into motion. The first instance is that of Qadr Qawniyyah and the second is that of Qadr Shari’yyah.

2. Good Relations

The Prophet ﷺ said: Whoever is pleased to have his provision expanded and his lifespan extended, then let him keep good relations with his family. [Bukhari]

Ibn Umar said: Whoever fears his Lord and maintains family ties, his life will be prolonged, his wealth will be enriched, and his family will love him. [Adab al-Mufrad]

Imam Ibn Taymiyyah explained that there are two types of provisions and life terms: The unchanged record written in Umm Al-Kitaab and another, subject to increase and decrease, made known to the angels by Allah.  

In the angels’ books, the life terms increase or decrease, and similarly in the case of provisions as a result of particular deeds. Thus, Allah instructs the angel to write the provisions and life term of one of His creatures such that if the person joins family ties, Allah commands the angel to increase his sustenance and life term by specified increments. The angel does not know the actual outcome of the extension in the life term, or the total amount of increase in provisions. Only Allah knows the outcome.” [Al-Fatawa]

Imam Ibn Hajrr explained the changes in the record as: “For example, the angel is instructed that the age of a person is one hundred years if he joins family ties and sixty years if he severs them. In the foreknowledge of Allah, it is already known whether he will join or sever the family ties. Whatever is in Allah’s knowledge is not subject to extension or delay. It is what is in the angels’ knowledge which may increase or decrease. This is what is referred to in Allah’s statement: “Allah erases what He wills and confirms what He wills. For the Mother of the Book is with Him.” (Surah ar-Ra‘d, 39) The erasure and confirmation is relative to the knowledge of the angels. What is recorded in Umm Al-Kitaab is relative to Allaah’s eternal knowledge which is unchangeable.” [Fath al-Bari]

3. Shooting Stars

This is an example of something that does not have any effect on the Qadr. 

Imam Ibn Muflih said: “And as for the actions of disbelievers and from resembling them is when one closes his eyes upon the shooting star and makes a wish in his heart. This is baseless, rather it is Kufr (disbelief) for that (action) originates from the belief that the existence of stars affects the Qadr (decree) of a person and that the star holds the knowledge of what is in the heart of the one wishing upon it so reflect for this (belief upon stars) is heresy..” (abridged) [al-Adab al-Shariyyah]

Misunderstanding Qadr 

The Question of Free Will

- Do we have free will?
- Can we choose whatever we want to do? Or does Allah control us?
- Does Allah decide everything for us?

Remember the difference between the Wills that we highlighted earlier. 

  1. Iradah Qawniyyah Qadariyyah: This is the ultimate Qadr and Will of Allah.Nothing can go against this. This is a qadr that has to happen without a doubt.
    Ex: Allah prohibits that which He does not want to occur and this will never happen.

  2. Iradah Shar'iyyah Deeniyyah: This is the subjective Will. This is what Allah likes, and orders the creation to do and that which He has ordered them to stay away from. This may or may not occur upon whom it has been ordained.
    Ex: Allah prohibits sinning but some from the creation might disobey and continue to sin. 

Everything Is Written

On the authority of Abdullah ibn Masood, who said: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), and he is the truthful, the believed, narrated to us, “Verily the creation of each one of you is brought together in his mother’s womb for forty days in the form of a nutfah (a drop), then he becomes an alaqah (clot of blood) for a like period, then a mudghah (morsel of flesh) for a like period, then there is sent to him the angel who blows his soul into him and who is commanded with four matters: to write down his rizq (sustenance), his life span, his actions, and whether he will be happy or unhappy (i.e., whether or not he will enter Paradise). By the One, other than Whom there is no deity, verily one of you performs the actions of the people of Paradise until there is but an arms length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him, and so he acts with the actions of the people of the Hellfire and thus enters it; and verily one of you performs the actions of the people of the Hellfire, until there is but an arms length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him and so he acts with the actions of the people of Paradise and thus he enters it.” [Bukhari & Muslim]

In another narration, Ali reported: “We were in a funeral in the graveyard of Gharqad when Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) came to us and we sat around him. He had a stick with him. He lowered his head and began to scratch the earth with his stick, and then said: ‘There is not one amongst you whom a seat in Paradise or Hell has not been allotted and about whom it has not been written down whether he would be an evil person or a blessed person.’ 

A person said: ‘Allah's Messenger, should we not then depend upon our destiny and abandon our deeds?’ Thereupon he ﷺ said: ‘Acts of everyone will be facilitated in that which has been created for him so that whoever belongs to the company of the blessed will have good works made easier for him and whoever belongs to the unfortunate ones will have evil acts made easier for him’. He then recited this verse (from the Qur'an): "Then, who gives to the needy and guards against evil and accepts the excellent (the truth of Islam and the path of righteousness it prescribes), We shall make easy for him the easy end and who is miserly and considers himself above need, We shall make easy for him the difficult end" (Surah al-Layl, 5-6). [Bukhari]

Based on this and similar other narrations, some people misunderstand and believe that whatever that they are going to do is caused by what has already been written in Al-Lawh al-Mahfudz - they confuse 'causation' with 'association'. What we are going to do will match what has already been written but it's not a matter of causation - what we do is out of our own willingness and ability and we do have full responsibility on whatever choice we make. What Allah has recorded is His Knowledge of what we will choose. 

Allah says,

‏إِنَّ هَذِهِۦ تَذْكِرَةٌۭ ۖ فَمَن شَآءَ ٱتَّخَذَ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِۦ سَبِيلًۭا ‎
‏وَمَا تَشَآءُونَ إِلَّآ أَن يَشَآءَ ٱللَّهُ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًۭا ‎

Indeed, this is a reminder, so he who wills may take to his Lord a way. And you do not will except that Allah wills. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise. [Surah al-Insan, 29]

Allah says,

‏لِمَن شَآءَ مِنكُمْ أَن يَسْتَقِيمَ
‏وَمَا تَشَآءُونَ إِلَّآ أَن يَشَآءَ ٱللَّهُ رَبُّ ٱلْعَلَمِينَ ‎

‎For whoever wills among you to take a right course. And you do not will except that Allah wills - Lord of the worlds. [Surah al-Takweer, 28-29]

If Allah Willed, He could have removed our wills and just forced everyone to be believers. However, His Wisdom has decreed to maintain choice of belief and action for us. It needs to be understood here that Allah’s Will is like an umbrella. Even though it encompasses our will and prevails over it, it does not block our freedom of choice. 

It is clear even from our own observations that no one is forcing us to do anything. We do what we want, when we want, and how we want. This is the reason a person is held accountable and rewarded or punished for his choices. If there was no free will, then what is even the point of everything in the first place?

An example to make this clear: Imagine a final examination. Everyone gets an equal chance to participate and write whatever he wishes based on their preparation and choice - but the questions are set. The teacher, because he/she has taught the students throughout the year knows which one would pass and which one would fail even before the exam is over. 

Can we say that the student had no choice? Never. He failed because of his own doing and lack of study.
Can we say that the teacher failed the student? Never. The teacher had taught all the students the same, and gave them all the notes. It was the students choice to not study and hence face the consequences of his actions and fail the exam.

If this is the case with us then what about Allah, the All Knowing and All Wise?

Allah knows that “A” has the ability to do something and that he will do it. He, furthermore, rewards him when he does that act. He knows too that “B” can do it but will not do it, so He will punish him for not doing it. Allah punishes him because he does not do the things that he actually has the ability to do. Allah knows that in advance. Obviously, He does not punish anyone for not doing the things that they were not capable of performing, nor does He enjoin such things upon such people. 

Allah says,

‏أَيْنَمَا تَكُونُوا۟ يُدْرِككُّمُ ٱلْمَوْتُ وَلَوْ كُنتُمْ فِى بُرُوجٍۢ مُّشَيَّدَةٍۢ ۗ وَإِن تُصِبْهُمْ حَسَنَةٌۭ يَقُولُوا۟ هَذِهِۦ مِنْ عِندِ ٱللَّهِ ۖ وَإِن تُصِبْهُمْ سَيِّئَةٌۭ يَقُولُوا۟ هَذِهِۦ مِنْ عِندِكَ ۚ قُلْ كُلٌّۭ مِّنْ عِندِ ٱللَّهِ ۖ فَمَالِ هَٓؤُلَآءِ ٱلْقَوْمِ لَا يَكَادُونَ يَفْقَهُونَ حَدِيثًۭا ‎
‏مَّآ أَصَابَكَ مِنْ حَسَنَةٍۢ فَمِنَ ٱللَّهِ ۖ وَمَآ أَصَابَكَ مِن سَيِّئَةٍۢ فَمِن نَّفْسِكَ ۚ وَأَرْسَلْنَكَ لِلنَّاسِ رَسُولًۭا ۚ وَكَفَىٰ بِٱللَّهِ شَهِيدًۭا ‎

Wherever you may be, death will overtake you, even if you should be within towers of lofty construction. But if good comes to them, they say, "This is from Allah "; and if evil befalls them, they say, "This is from you." Say, "All (things) are from Allah ." So what is (the matter) with those people that they can hardly understand any statement?
What comes to you of good is from Allah , but what comes to you of evil, (O man), is from yourself. And We have sent you, (O Muhammad), to the people as a messenger, and sufficient is Allah as Witness. [Surah an-Nisa, 78-79]

In the first ayah, Allah expresses that both good and evil come from Him. This refers to things like victory, defeat, fertility, drought, rain etc. All of these arise from Allah’s Will and Creation. In the second ayah, “good” refers to Allah’s favours on us, whereas “evil” refers to the evil outcome of our sins that we chose to commit. 

Allah says with regards to those who do good:

‏وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِنَ ٱلصَّلِحَتِ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌۭ فَلَا يَخَافُ ظُلْمًۭا وَلَا هَضْمًۭا ‎

But he who does of righteous deeds while he is a believer - he will neither fear injustice nor deprivation. [Surah TaHa, 112]

Allah says with regards to those who do evil:

‏وَمَآ أَصَبَكُم مِّن مُّصِيبَةٍۢ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُوا۟ عَن كَثِيرٍۢ ‎

And whatever strikes you of disaster - it is for what your hands have earned; but He pardons much. [Surah ash-Shura, 30]
Even here we see that Allah either punishes, as is His Right, and even now He is ready to forgive. SubhanAllah!

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “If Allah were to punish the people of His heavens and earth He would not then be unfair to them. And if he were to show mercy to them, His mercy would surely exceed their deeds.” [Ahmad]

Why Does Allah Permit What He Hates?

When Allah commands us to do something, He has also given us the choice or will to obey or disobey. We cannot say that Allah should Will for us to do only good and not create something that He does not love. Why?

1. Allah does not benefit when we perform a good deed nor is he harmed when we sin. It is completely for our own selves that we do something that is good or stay away from that which is bad. 

2. Allah may prevent us from doing some acts that are legislated as good. When He does, this prevention might appear to harm us, but in the long term there is always a greater benefit and good based on Allah’s Ultimate Wisdom. 

3. There are some things like worshipping Allah alone, good manners etc that Allah loves, wills and creates because they are inherently good. 

4. There are some things that Allah does not like but allows them to happen. He will and creates them because of an indirect benefit and greater good based on His Ultimate Wisdom.

Ex: Allah loves for the Believers to be victorious. But during the Battle of Uhud, when they archers disobeyed Allah, they were punished with a humiliation. Allah loves for the disbelievers to lose, but he Willed for them to emerge ahead here. In the end we see that till date, 1400 years later as well we are learning,  taking lessons ,and deriving a greater benefit from that punishment. 

The vast deviation in the Ummah happened because of misunderstandings regarding Qadr. This dates all the way back to the time of the Sahaba. 

With this regards people are of 3 types:

1. Those who believe Qadr not to be in existence where Allah forces them to do everything - Jabariyyah

2. Those who believe that a person creates his own deeds/qadr. Allah doesn't know till it actually happens - Qadariyyah 

3. Those who believe in the Qadr as Allah prescribed - Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama'ah. 

Ahlus Sunnah believe that every person has free choice. We know naturally that no one is forcing us to do anything. Ex: Coming for a class.  

In some other things, we have no control over and this is part of Qadr. Ex: The place you were born. If we are denying qadr then it's as though we are saying that we have a Lord who does not know.

As highlighted above, there developed 2 extreme groups who misunderstood the concept of human will and Qadr of Allah. The first group, called the Jabriyah believed in blind compulsion that stripped away from man all capability or will. As per them, man is completely like a puppet.  This is a huge accusation and injustice against the Justice of Allah. What is the point of working hard and striving in worship if one is already condemned? This is completely incorrect. We need Allah to Help and Guide us or else our efforts would be in vain. A person needs to not only strive hard, but needs Allah's Help as well to succeed. 

The second group, called the Qadariyah went to the other extreme and exaggerated man's power and will, restricting the Will of Allah altogether. They believed that man creates his own actions and wills and that Allah, Most High does not know about people's actions until they occur. The Prophet called them the “Zoroastrians of this Ummah,” because they claim that Shaitan “creates” evil and harmful things, making shaitan a “creator” besides Allah.

The first group negated the Justice of Allah whereas the second group negated the Power and Knowledge of Allah. The misunderstanding of will can be easily cleared by these 2 ayat.

Allah says: 

لِمَن شَاءَ مِنكُمْ أَن يَسْتَقِيمَ
وَمَا تَشَاءُونَ إِلَّا أَن يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ

“For whoever wills among you to take the right course.” [Surah at-Takweer, 28] This clearly affirms will to humans.

“And you do not will unless Allah wills - Lord of the worlds.”  [Surah at-Takweer,:29] This clearly affirms will to Allah.

Just to make the understanding of this clear, think of the Will of Allah as His Permission. So, when Allah Wills for something to happen it means He Permits it to take place. Hence, when a person does something irrespective of it being  good or bad, it cannot happen without Allah’s Permission. End of the day, the person did that action with his own free will and without any coercion. Why would Allah allow evil to happen? This we tackle in the next section of Evil.

Another example that we can look at here is that of the disbelievers. Allah did not create disbelievers. Sheikh Ibrahim Nuhu explains, “Allah Created people and gave them the choice to do what they want. If anyone goes to Hell, then this is because of their absolute choice based on their deeds. Allah doesn't want anyone to go to Hell. 

This is why Allah did not leave us solely to our Aql. He sent to us no less than 124,000 Messengers and even more Prophets calling us to Allah and reminding us to do what needs to be done. Not everyone can decide what needs to be done. They need guidance. That's why Allah sends these Messengers to guide us. What is written in the Preserved Tablet is the Knowledge of what we are going to choose. 

This is why this hadith is very important to show that Allah wants to show mercy and grant Jannah for everyone. Abu Hurairah reported: Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, "Everyone of my Ummah will enter Jannah except those who refuse". He was asked: "Who will refuse?" He (ﷺ) said, "Whoever obeys me, shall enter Jannah, and whosoever disobeys me, refuses to (enter Jannah)". [Bukhari]

Allah says,

‏سَيَقُولُ ٱلَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا۟ لَوْ شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ مَآ أَشْرَكْنَا وَلَآ ءَابَآؤُنَا وَلَا حَرَّمْنَا مِن شَىْءٍۢ ۚ كَذَلِكَ كَذَّبَ ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ ذَاقُوا۟ بَأْسَنَا ۗ قُلْ هَلْ عِندَكُم مِّنْ عِلْمٍۢ فَتُخْرِجُوهُ لَنَآ ۖ إِن تَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا ٱلظَّنَّ وَإِنْ أَنتُمْ إِلَّا تَخْرُصُونَ ‎

Those who associated with Allah will say, "If Allah had willed, we would not have associated [anything] and neither would our fathers, nor would we have prohibited anything." Likewise did those before deny until they tasted Our punishment. Say, "Do you have any knowledge that you can produce for us? You do not follow except assumption, and you are not but falsifying." [Surah al-An'am, 148]

Allah says,

‏فَمَن يُرِدِ ٱللَّهُ أَن يَهْدِيَهُۥ يَشْرَحْ صَدْرَهُۥ لِلْإِسْلَمِ ۖ وَمَن يُرِدْ أَن يُضِلَّهُۥ يَجْعَلْ صَدْرَهُۥ ضَيِّقًا حَرَجًۭا كَأَنَّمَا يَصَّعَّدُ فِى ٱلسَّمَآءِ ۚ كَذَلِكَ يَجْعَلُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلرِّجْسَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ ‎

So whoever Allah wants to guide - He expands his breast to (contain) Islam; and whoever He wants to misguide - He makes his breast tight and constricted as though he were climbing into the sky. Thus does Allah place defilement upon those who do not believe. [Surah al-An’am, 125]

Ibn Abbas said, “It means that Allah opens up one’s heart for the acceptance of Tawheed and belief in it.” [Tafsir Ibn Kathir] On the other hand, whomever He wills to lead astray, He would make his heart closed from knowing Allah and loving Him. “This is a just punishment for those who do not give Allah His just due, and those who deny Allah’s favors. Allah shuts the door of His Guidance to them and that is why their chests become constricted.

Imam Ibn al-Qayyim said, “The guidance is a favor from Allah; He makes it settle in the person who is suitable to recognize it and give thanks to His creator by obeying Him and worshipping Him alone. If it is asked, ‘What is the fault of the one who is not suitable for it?’ The answer is that his greatest fault is that he chose not to be suitable. He favored the ways that displease Allah and followed his desires instead of working to receive Allah’s pleasure. Is there any sin greater than this?” [Shifā’ al-‘Alīl fī Masā’il] 

Everyone has a will and a choice. We are not like puppets that have no will. How do we understand the difference between our will and the Will of Allah? Ex: Zayd is a free agent with a will of his own. Divine Books and Messengers from Allah have reached him. He knows that he is legislated to do certain actions. This leads him to make a decision of submitting or rebelling from what is legislated. Here the decision is attributed to Zayd.

What then is attributed to Allah? Allah has the Knowledge of Zayd's decision, it is Written by Allah that Zayd will make this decision, Allah Willed that Zayd will make this decision, and Allah Created Zayd's action. 

The actions done by a mature person are based on his free will. He has a will and he has an ability to implement his will. If human beings had no free will, punishment for disobedience would be unjust. Similarly, obedience would be meaningless. Thus, humans have a choice, but their actions are pre-ordained by Allah. However, He does not compel them to act. If humans were compelled, they would have no will or ability to act. All of this is unfair and against the Sunnah of Allah.

Our actions are very important and are a defining factor. How do we understand Allah’s Control over everything and our deeds? Here is a bad example (as nothing can compare to Allah). A car manufacturer built a car with all of its features. The car can speed up, slow down, turn right, turn left, make a U-turn, and go reverse and many other features. So when someone drives that car, we say the ability to move it forward or backward is completely “made” by the manufacturer but who takes the decision when to move, stop or make a turn is the one driving it and not the manufacturer. Likewise, all our “features” were made by Allah but the actions are done by us. This is what is meant by “Allah created our deeds”, which rationally confirms that there is no coercion involved.

The Prophet ﷺ said: Be mindful of Allah and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him before you. If you ask, ask from Allah. If you seek help, seek help from Allah. Know that if the nations gather together to benefit you, they will not benefit you unless Allah has decreed it for you. And if the nations gather together to harm you, they will not harm you unless Allah has decreed it for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried. [Tirmidhi]

Notice that in this hadith, the Prophet ﷺ informed us that the decree has already been made. The pages have been dried. Even so, the Prophet ﷺ prescribed action: to be mindful of Allah and to seek help from Allah.

The Prophet ﷺ said: “If you were to rely upon Allah with reliance due to Him, then He would provide for you just as he provides for the birds. They go out in the morning with empty stomachs and return full.” [Tirmidhi]

Umar said: “Let not one of you refrain from working for his provision, supplicating to Allah to provide while he knows that the sky does not rain gold and silver.” [Ihya Ulum al-Din]

Ibn Taymiyyah writes: “The servant has two states of being in relation to what is decreed: a state before the decree and a state after the decree. It is a duty upon him before the decree to seek refuge in Allah, to depend upon Him, and to call upon Him. If the result of the decree is not from his actions, then he must be patient over it and satisfied with it. If it was the result of his actions and it is a blessing, he praises Allah for that. If it was the result of sin, then he seeks forgiveness from Him for that.” [Majmu’ al-Fatawa]

Before the decree takes place, we should seek refuge in Allah, pray and supplicate to Him, rely upon Him, and put in the work necessary to achieve a good outcome. After the decree is fulfilled, we have to accept it and move on. If it was a calamity unrelated to our actions, such as a natural disaster, then we accept it as part of the trials of life and continue to persevere in our faith. If it was a blessing, we praise Allah and continue to be grateful. If it was the result of our good deeds, we praise Allah for facilitating our good deeds. If it was the result of our sins, we seek forgiveness from Allah and do what needs to be done to make amends. At every point in time, the believers respond to the decree with action.

Ultimately, we have a choice to make in this life. We can choose to worship the Creator and do good deeds, or we can choose to ignore the signs of His power in creation. The Prophet ﷺ said: “None will enter Paradise but that he will be shown the place he would have occupied in Hellfire if he had done evil, so that he may be more thankful. None will enter Hellfire but that he will be shown the place he would have occupied in Paradise if he had done good, so that it may cause him sorrow.” [Bukhari]

Each one of us has a place in Paradise and a place in Hellfire. Wherever we end up, we will be shown what could have been if we had taken a different path, to either reward us with gratitude or to punish us with regret. Imagine, for a moment, that you jumped out of a plane with a parachute. You have two inescapable destinies ahead of you. You will pull the parachute and live, or you will fail to do so and die. Both of these possibilities have been decreed for you. There is no third option. There is no getting back to the safety of the plane. It is up to you to make the choice and fulfill the destiny you desire.

We do not use the Qada and the Qadar of Allah as an excuse for us to abandon following His commandments and avoiding His prohibitions. Rather, we are obligated to believe in and know that with Allah lies the proof (eliminating all excuses) by His revealing of the Books and His sending of the Messengers. We need to learn and act.

Allah says: 

‏رُّسُلًۭا مُّبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنذِرِينَ لِئَلَّا يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ حُجَّةٌۢ بَعْدَ ٱلرُّسُلِ ۚ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًۭا ‎

“In order that mankind shall have no excuse (i.e. proof) against Allah after the (coming of) Messengers.” [Surah al-Nisa, 165]

And Allah says:

‏ٱلْيَوْمَ تُجْزَىٰ كُلُّ نَفْسٍۭ بِمَا كَسَبَتْۚ لَا ظُلْمَ ٱلْيَوْمَۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ سَرِيعُ ٱلْحِسَابِ ‎

“This Day every person will be recompensed for what he earned. There will be no injustice (upon anybody in their judgement) on that Day.” [Surah Ghafir, 17]

This ayat indicates that every servant possesses actions and things he earns – he will be recompensed for his good deeds with reward and for his bad deeds with punishment. This will occur by the Divine Execution (Al-Qada) and Decree (Al-Qadar) of Allah.

Allah’s Justice and Human Capacity

It is impossible and against the Sunnah of Allah that He would task us to do something and not guide us how to do it or make it out of our capacity. It would also be unjust to punish us for something that we were not informed about or that was not in our control and capacity. Indeed Allah is Most Just. 

Allah Says: 

‏رُّسُلًۭا مُّبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنذِرِينَ لِئَلَّا يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ حُجَّةٌۢ بَعْدَ ٱلرُّسُلِ ۚ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًۭا ‎

“Messengers are bearers of good news as well as warning in order that mankind should have no plea against Allah after the Messengers” [Surah an-Nisa, 165]

Messengers were also sent down because of the same Qadr. Allah clearly states that His punishments are not cruel but just, since He has already warned His creatures and sent them guidance, and defined the paths of that which is good and that which is bad. It removed the excuse of disobeying Allah. 

‏لَا يُكَلِّفُ ٱللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا

“Allah has not given any soul a responsibility, except that He has given it the ability (to carry out that responsibility).” [Surah al-Baqarah, 286]

وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِى ٱلدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍۢ

(Allah) has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty.[Surah al-Hajj, 78]

And Allah says:

‏فَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ مَا ٱسْتَطَعْتُمْ 

“So fear Allah as much as you are able to.” [Surah at-Taghaabun, 16]

The Prophet ﷺ said: "Allah, the Most High, has overlooked my follower's mistakes and forgetfulness, and what they are forced to do against their will." [Ibn Majah].

Allah conveyed His Commandments to His slaves and did not require them to do that which is beyond their capacity. We know that Allah did not command or forbid except that which can be acted upon or abandoned. He did not force anyone to commit acts of disobedience nor did He compel anyone to abandon obeying Him.

A person is always seeking what is convenient or best for him. No one of sane mind would abandon what brings material benefit to him by saying that Qadr forced him to take this course of action. Therefore, why would one use Al-Qadr as an excuse for abandoning what brings benefit to him in matters of religion and not do the same for matters of life?

If someone is being attacked, does he just sit there and get attacked because it is already written - or does he defend and exert every opportunity to protect himself? It doesn’t make sense that one refuses Qadr as an excuse for whoever attacked him, and at the same time use Al-Qadr as his excuse for abandoning Allah’s rights to him?

Belief in Al-Qadr, as explained above, does not provide an excuse for mankind to sin or abandon what they are obligated to do. 

To summarize, 

  • A driver on the highway may be constrained by the markers and the railings on the side of the road, speed limits, construction areas that need to be navigated etc. He can overspeed or do whatever he wants as per his own will. Yet, he is responsible for following the rules, navigating the road blocks etc and will be held liable to punishment if he breaks these rulest. 
  • If we do good, we are rewarded for it and if we do bad we are punished for it. We chose to do this based on our own free will. 
  • For events beyond our control, if we rebel against the decree, we are punished. If we submit to the decree, we are rewarded. If we remain passive, we are not held accountable. 
  • That which we are forced to do, we are not held accountable for it. 

Practical Understanding Of Will & Qadr

A thief was brought before Umar Ibn al-Khattab who ordered that the thief’s hands be cut. So the thief said, “Wait, O Leader of the Believers. By Allah, I did not steal except by Allah’s Will and Decree. The thief was truthful in his statement but before him was Umar ibn al-Khattab, who said, “We are not cutting your hands except with the Will and Decree of Allah.” Then he ordered the cutting by the Decree of Allah. So Umar used the same argument against him which the thief used as a proof. Both of these things were recorded and known by Allah. [Minhaj al-Sunnah]

In another instance, Umar departed for Syria and when he arrived, they found that a plague had broken out, so Umar announced that they would return to Madinah. On hearing this, Abu 'Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah said to 'Umar, "Are you running away from Allah's Qadr?" Thereupon 'Umar said: "O Abu 'Ubaidah! Had it been someone else to say this, "Yes, we are fleeing from the decree of Allah to the decree of Allah. Do you not see that if you had camels descending in a valley with two fields, one of them fertile and the other barren, you would graze in the fertile field by the decree of Allah or you would graze in the barren field by the decree of Allah?” [Bukhari]

It is reported in the Sahihain upon the Prophet ﷺ who said: “Prophets Adam and Musa had a dispute. Musa said: ‘You are Adam whom Allah created with His Hand, into whom He breathed by His Spirit, to whom He made the Angels prostrate, and whom He taught the names of everything, so why have you expelled us and yourself from Al-Jannah(the Paradise)?’ Adam replied, ‘And you are Musa whom Allah favored with His Message and His Words, have you not found that it had been written on me before I was created?’ He (Musa) said: ‘Yes, indeed”‘ Then he (Rasool Allah ﷺ) said: “So Adam got the better of Musa in the argument.”

Here, Prophet Adam had sincerely repented to Allah and Allah had Accepted his repentance. Prophet Adam knew that Allah had Accepted his repentance and hence he was not justifying his sin. Therefore, Prophet Musa was blaming Prophet Adam for that which resulted from the actions of the sin. Prophet Adam reminded Prophet Musa rightfully that disasters should be accepted without objection as they are from the Decree of Allah. 

Al-Qadr is a matter of Allah’s Knowledge. No one can uncover his own Qadr except after it occurs. One’s intention to perform a deed precedes the action itself. He does not know what Al-Qadr holds for him. Therefore, Al-Qadr is not a valid excuse for sinning and abandoning the commandments of Allah. 

Sheikh Ibrahim Nuhu said, “A person cannot know what the Qadr of Allah is till that thing has happened. Wasting time to figure that out is sheer stupidity as we will never find the answer to that before it occurs. Also, using Qadr to justify one's actions is wrong. If this was the case, then every sinner will use it as an excuse. Qadr can be used to explain a sin only once the person is talking about something done in the past for which he has sincerely repented. What happens when one repents to Allah? That sin is removed completely. We cannot blame someone for something that they have repented from and become righteous.”

So, the only time you can use the “It was Qadr” card is when you have completely repented to Allah for that deed and someone is rubbing it in your face or trying to make an issue by digging up something that was buried years ago. Let's say a person committed a sin years back but has now repented for it and has made amends for it. Now if a person comes and tells you that you were a sinner etc then you can say that it was part of your qadr.

This is a continuation of a series titled -'It Is Written: Understanding Qadr'. Read Part 1 here

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