Free Will, Determinism and Islamic Self-Determination
This statement certified by Quran has made believers into disbelievers and vice-versa.
“But ye will not, except as Allah wills; for Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom.” (Quran 76:30) This means our will is not materialized or realized unless Allah wills it. It also means Allah can change our hearts' inclinations.
But what is the will of God? The will of God are three types: Existential will, Interventional will and Religious will. In another way the will of God can be described in two ways according to Quran: Qada (Divine decree) and Qadr (Divine measurement). The two perspectives are not contradictory.
Existential will is two types: Executive Command and Permission.
“We said: O fire! be a comfort and peace to Ibrahim;” (Qur'an 21:69)
“And let not those who disbelieve imagine that the rein We give them bodeth good unto their souls. We only give them rein that they may grow in sinfulness. And theirs will be a shameful doom”. (Quran 3:178)
Be = Imperative/Executive Command Give= Permission/Allowance
Existential will also is the ordainment upon Allah’s creation such as law of birth and death, heat and cold, hunger and pain or body healing itself etc. This also forms the scientific laws of the creation. This is included in the Qadr that is to say the measurement of creational events and entities are decreed by God. Some examples of Qadr are: human physical strength, human eye power, the cause and effect of accidents or events, the measure of force needed to do something etc. God has ordained a measurement to His creation. This is Qadr. It is fair to say Qada defines Qadr.
Interventional will is when Allah wishes to intervene in His creation either through miracles or through an act. Examples include bringing back the dead or bestowing upon someone great knowledge in an instance. This can be included as sub-category of Existential will as well if you see it in that manner. This can be said as Qada (divine decree) and some examples are: non-man-made natural disasters, the plagues of Pharaonic Egypt, the appointed 12 imams of Islam etc.
Religious will is the Divine legislation such as Quran and Sunnah.
“Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an that you might understand”. (Quran 12:2)
“And whatever the Messenger has given you - take; and what he has forbidden you - refrain from. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.” (Quran 59:7)
Existential will needs clarification. Command of God is affirmative and negative. When God wants something done He commands it and it is done (Qada). God commands something to be and not to be. This is the Command will. Permission will is allowing the intentional/erred will of an intelligent creature to be realized. This is simply activity of our will and God’s allowing and creating it into reality (Qadr).
“…So Moosa (Moses) struck him with his fist and killed him.” (Quran 28:15)
Was this intentional will or erred will? (side note: It was mistake because Moses was only defending and had no intention to kill. Hence it is not a sin on part of the Prophet. Prophets are sinless.)
Another example is that you wish to marry a girl then marries her after some physical activities in the world. God has allowed you to be married with the girl. But your wish to marry, was it willed by God? Yes, it was but was it immediate will (Qada) or a result of your creational predisposition (Qadr)? It could be either depending on whether God decided to intervene or not. Creational predisposition is the nature on which you have been created and allowed to evolve (Qadr). You get the “human will” out of it. This makes you will to act in mind and action. The choice is yours.
“O Prophet say to them: "Everyone acts according to his own disposition; but only your Lord knows best who is on the Right Way” (Quran 17:84)
Humans do not know in totality what is their creational predisposition. They only come to know through passage of time, and even then, their knowledge of their own disposition is short sighted. They do not know how they would act in all possible existence. May be sometimes God intervenes and rearranges this. Maybe it is reshaped by human interactions among themselves or with the existence and God allows it. For example, a person becoming Muslim because of preaching of Islam or by knowing of Islam. This changes his or her current disposition in totality or in part.
It is in no way that God forces us to do something even by His commands. God wills through justice or mercy but not injustice. There is no predestination in the context of human will. God’s ability to intervene (Qada) and change human will is not predestination. There is only measurement of creation (Qadr) and God’s decree (Qada).
And Allah means no injustice to any of His creatures. (Quran 3:108)
A heretic met with Imam Jafar Sadiq pbuh, the sixth Imam of Islam, and said “O son of the daughter of Prophet: does our Lord love to be disobeyed?”, then the Imam said “Is our Lord disobeyed by force?” i.e. Does God force someone to disobey Him? The heretic was silenced.
Yes, we have free will to decide even with our predisposition. Predisposition presents us with possibilities which we can choose. For example, a person may see an opportunity and get ideas or desires which may be different from another person in same opportunity.
What we have of hadith stating events of future about Islamic Ummah’s actions are not predestination but God’s knowledge of our free will. We chose to act in some way and God can see it. It is like when you anticipate someone will do something and does it, does not mean you predestined his will. Blaming God for the mess we created for our selves is unfair. God did not destine for us to be humiliated by our enemies but our hypocrite rulers have decided for us and God only gave the recompense (Qada and Qadr). Yes in this perspective it is God’s will but not the way you think, not the way of predestination.
That was a short discussion on the Will of God, Most Merciful.