The Muslim’s Belief (Chapter 7) – Sheikh Muhammad as-Saleh Al-‘Uthaimin
By Shaikh Muhammad as-Saleh Al-‘Uthaimin & Translated by Dr. Maneh Al-Johani
CHAPTER 7: FATE AND THE DIVINE DECREE
We believe in Fate, whether good or bad, which Allah has measured and ordained for all creatures according to His previous knowledge and as deemed suitable by His wisdom.
Levels of Belief:
Belief in Fate has four levels:
- Knowledge: We believe that Allah, may He be exalted, knows everything. He knows what has happened and what will happen and how it will happen. His knowledge is eternal. He does not acquire a new knowledge nor does he forget what He knows.
- Recording: We believe that Allah has recorded in the secured tablet (al Lowh al Mahfuz) whatever is going to happen until the Day of Judgment: “Did you not 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).
- Will: We believe that Allah has willed everything in heaven and Earth. Nothing happens except by His will. Whatever He wills will take place, and whatever He does not will not take place.
- Creation: We believe that “Allah is the Creator of all things; He is the Guardian over all things, and to Him belong the keys of the heavens and the Earth” (39:62-3). This level includes whatever Allah Himself does and whatever His creatures do. Thus each saying, deed, or omission of the people is known to Allah, Who has recorded, willed, and created them: “To those among you who will to be upright. But you shall not will except as Allah wills, the Lord of the Worlds” (81:2829); “And had Allah willed they would not have fought one against the other; but Allah does whatever He desires” (2:253); “Had Allah willed, they would not have done so, but leave them alone and their false inventions” (6:137); and “And Allah created you and what you do” (37:96).
Man’s Free Will:
We believe, however, that Allah has granted man a power and a free will by which he performs his actions. That man’s deeds are done by his power and free will can be proven by the following points:
- Allah says: “So approach your fields (wives) when and how you will” (2:223); and “Had they desired to go forth, they would have made some preparation for it” (9:46). In these verses, Allah affirmed for man “a going forth” by his will and “a preparation” by his desire.
- Directing man to do or not to do. If man has no free will and power, these directions mean that Allah is asking man to do that which he cannot do. This proposition is rejected by Allah’s wisdom, mercy and truthful statement: “Allah does not charge a soul beyond its capacity” (2:286).
- Praising the virtuous for his deeds and blaming the evildoer for his actions and rewarding each of them with what he deserves. If the action is not done by the individual’s free will, then praising the virtuous is a joke and punishing the evildoer is an injustice, and Allah is, of course, far from joking and being unjust.
- Allah has sent messengers who are “bearing good tidings, and warning, so that mankind might have no argument against Allah after the messengers” (4:165). If the individual’s action is not performed by his free will, his argument is not invalidated by the sending of messengers.
- Every doer of actions feels that he does or does not do a thing without any coercion. He stands up and sits, comes in and goes out, travels and stays by his own free will without feeling anybody forcing him to be any of these actions. In fact, he clearly distinguishes between doing something of his own free will and someone else forcing him to do that action. The Islamic law also wisely distinguishes between these states of affairs. It does not punish a wrongdoer for an action done under compulsion.
No Excuse for Sinners:
We believe that the sinner has no excuse in Allah’s divine decree, because he commits his sin by his free will, without knowing that Allah has decreed for him, for no one knows Allah’s decree before it takes place: “No soul knows what it will earn tomorrow” (31:34). How can it be possible, then, to present an excuse that is not known to the person who is advancing it when he commits his offense? Allah invalidated this type of argument by saying: “The idolaters will say ‘Had Allah willed, we would not have been idolaters, neither our fathers, nor would we have forbidden anything.’ So did the people before them cry lies until they tasted our might. Say: ‘Have you any proofs that you can show us? You follow nothing but assumption, and you are Lying”‘ (6:148). We say to the sinner who is using divine decree as an excuse: ‘Why did you not perform deeds of obedience, assuming that Allah has decreed them upon you, since you did not know the difference between good deeds and sins? That is why, when Prophet Muhammad told his Companions that everyone’s position in paradise or hell has been assigned, they said: ‘Should not we rely on this and stop working?’ He said: ‘No, work and everyone will be directed to what he is created for”‘ (Bukhari and Muslim).
We say to the sinner who is trying to find an excuse in the divine decree: “Suppose you want to travel to Makkah. There are two roads that may take you there. You are told by a truthful person that one of these roads is dangerous and difficult, the other is easy and safe. You will take the second one. You will not take the first road and say it is decreed upon me. If you did, people would consider you crazy.”
We may also say to him: “If you are offered two jobs, one of which has a higher salary, you will certainly take the one with the higher salary. Why do you choose what is lower in the hereafter and use the divine decree as an excuse?”
We may further say to him: “We see you when you are afflicted with a disease, you knock at every physician’s door looking for treatment and bearing whatever pain that may result from surgical operations and the bitterness of medicine. Why do not you do the same when your heart is spiritually sick with sins?”
Evil Not Attributed to Allah:
We believe that evil should not be attributed to Allah, due to His perfect mercy and wisdom. The Prophet said: “And evil is not attributable to You” (Muslim). Thus Allah’s decree by itself has no evil whatsoever, because it is coming from mercy and wisdom. Evil may, however, result from some of His decrees, because the Prophet said in the supplication for gunut which he taught to al-Hasan: “And protect us from the evil of what You decreed” (Tirmidhi and others). Here, the Prophet attributed evil to what He decreed. Despite this, evil in His decree is not pure evil. It is rather evil in one respect and good in another, or it is evil in one case and good in another. Thus corruption in the land resulting from drought, disease, poverty, and fear is evil, but it is good in another respect. Allah, the Exalted said: “Corruption has appeared on the land and sea for what men’s hands have earned. Allah has ordained this for men, so that they may taste some of what they have done, in order that they may turn back (from evil)” (30:41). Cutting off the thief’s hand or stoning the adulterer is an evil thing for the thief and the adulterer, but it is good for them in one respect, because it is a purification for them so that the punishment of this life and the hereafter are not combined for them. These punishments are good in another respect: their application protects property, honor, and relationships.
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