Do we have a choice in Islam or is everything predetermined for us even before we are born?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
Brother in Islam,
Every sane person naturally accepts that he acts upon the dictates of his choice/free-will in this world. Furthermore, we all hold each other accountable based on free will. For example, if Bakr throws a punch at Zaid, Zaid will not stop to rationalize whether Bakr’s action was under his control or not. Zaid’s innate nature spurs him to retaliate. On the other hand, if a strong wind blows a branch on to Zaid’s head, Zaid will not run after the wind. Once again, he naturally understands that wind has no choice of its own. The mere fact that Allah Ta‘ālā has knowledge of our actions and deeds even before we are born, does not negate the fact that we act based on our choice.
However, it is imperative to understand that man does not create his own actions. Just as Allah has created man and everything in the universe, Allah creates man’s actions -and the actions of everything in the universe-
وَاللَّهُ خَلَقَكُمْ وَمَا تَعْمَلُونَ (الصفات: ٩٦)
Allah has created you and your actions (Al Sāffāt: 96)
When a person has a firm intention to carry out an action based on his free-will, Allah creates the intended action. As such, actions are associated to man not because of him creating his actions, but because man exercises his right of choice. It is because of this very same reason, exercising one’s choice, that man is rewarded or punished.
Just as a person sets his alarm clock to wake up every morning for work and feels the need to work in order to survive and feed his family without considering whether his routine stems from free-will or not, one should undertake fulfilling the commands of Allah with the same psychology. We have been commanded to obey the Shariah without delving into such intricacies. When Ali radiAllahu ‘anhu was asked regarding destiny, he replied, “It is a dark path, do not traverse it. It is a deep ocean, do not delve in it…”
In brief, it is sufficient for you to know and believe that taqdīr refers to the absolute knowledge of Allah. Allah knows everything ahead of time. This does not mean that Allah imposes acts unto people against their will. Every human being acts out of his own will and is responsible for his actions.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best
Student Darul Iftaa
Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.
…وقالوا الأفعال واقعة بقدرة الله وكسب العبد على معنى أن الله تعالى أجرى عادته بأن العبد إذا ضمم العزم ولى فعل الطاعة يخلق الله تعالى فعل الطاعة فيه وإذا عزم على فعل المعصية يخلق فعل المعصية فيه، وعلى هذا يكون العبد كالموجد لفعله وإن لم يكن موجدا حقيقة…(شرح وصية الإمام أبي حنيفة للبابرتي ص-١١٨، دار الفتح)
تاريخ ابن عساكر/ علي بن أبي طالب