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Predestination in Islam: A Contradiction of Free Will and God’s All-Knowing Nature?

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Muftionline.co.za

Q: I have a hard time being convinced that the notion of predestination in Islam makes logical sense. This is my current understanding of the situation: According to the islamic faith, Allah knows everything- what will occur and all that which has not yet occurred. He knew everything about His creation before He created it. He knows in His eternal knowledge about His creation, their provisions, life spans, sayings, moves, deeds, secrets all of their obedient and disobedient acts, who among them will be people of Jannah or who will be from the people of An Naar. Allah has written everything in `law7 el ma7fouz`and there is no escape from Qadr. Examples from the Quran and the Hadith (ex: Book of destiny in sahih muslim and Divine Will in sahih bukhari) supports such understanding of pre-destination. So if human beings are essentially following a `script,` how does it make sense to punish or reward them for their actions? In other words, the notion of pre-destination seems to undermine the notion of free will. If God knows everything in advance and decided for us in advance, it doesn’t seem fair to punish or reward us for our actions, since we aren`t the ultimate cause of these actions (Add to that the fact that, according to the islamic faith, nothing happens in the universe except if Allah allows it to happen, which further reinforces the fact that we are not the ultimate cause of our behaviour). But if we have free will, then God cannot be All-Knowing (which is how Islam describes God, thus there is a contradiction). Some sheiks say that no, we have free will, regardless. The say for example, `if I want to stand up I can`, and then they stand up as a proof of free will. They add to that the fact that `nobody forced them to do it`. From their own will, they chose to stand up. However, it can be argued that just because you have the subjective impression that no one is forcing you to do something doesn`t mean that, objectively, that`s what`s actually happening. For example, someone with a brain tumor can exhibit pedophilic behaviours but he/she would never know that it was the brain tumor causing such behaviours (for more, see http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2003-07-28-pedophile-tumor_x.htm). Also, God already knew that you were going to stand up as an example, since he already knows everything in advance, thus this is an illusion of free will, it’s not actual free will. So to summarise, either we have free will and God is not All-Knowing (therefore contradicting how Islam describes God) or God is All-knowing and we don’t have free will (therefore the system of reward-and-punishment is unfair). What is your opinion on that? I would love to know.


A: For a detailed explanation regarding the issue in question, you may refer to the attached audio.

And Allah Ta’ala (الله تعالى) knows best.

Answered by:

Mufti Ebrahim Salejee (Isipingo Beach)

This answer was collected from MuftiOnline.co.za, where the questions have been answered by Mufti Zakaria Makada (Hafizahullah), who is currently a senior lecturer in the science of Hadith and Fiqh at Madrasah Ta’leemuddeen, Isipingo Beach, South Africa.

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