(F) The Belief in Divine Decree

The next and final article of faith mentioned by the Prophet (peace be upon him) is belief in “divine decree” or al-Qadar. Idris discusses the meaning of this word and states,

The original meaning of the word Qadar is specified measure or amount, whether of quantities or qualities. It has many other usages which branch out from this core. Thus yuqad-dir means, among other things, to measure or decide the quantity, quality, position, etc., of something before you actually make it. And it is this latter sense which interests us here.178

It is obligatory upon every Muslim to believe in the concept of Qadar or Divine Decree, as it is clearly referred to in numerous authentic hadith.

Ibn al-Qayyim shows that there are four “levels” or aspects of belief in Qadar. If one does not believe in these four aspects, he does not have the correct or proper belief in Allah.179

The first level is belief in Allah’s knowledge of everything, both of universals and particulars, before its existence. This is related to both, what is sometimes referred to as, the actions of Allah, such as producing rain, giving life and so forth, as well as the actions of human beings. Allah has foreknowledge of all of the deeds of the creation according to His ever-existing knowledge that He is described as having eternally. This includes His knowledge of all their affairs with respect to obedience, disobedience, sustenance and life-spans.

This aspect can be concluded from many Quranic verses, including: “And with Him are the keys of the Unseen. None knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is on the earth and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but he knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record” (6:59).

The second level of belief in Qadar is belief in Allah’s recording of all things before He created the heavens and the earth. Hence, Allah not only knew and knows what will happen, but Allah has also recorded this information in the Preserved Table (al-Lauh al-Mahfoodh). Such an act is not difficult for Allah whatsoever. Allah says, “Don’t you know that Allah knows all that is in heaven and on earth? Verily, it is all in the Book. Verily, that is easy for Allah” (22:70). Allah also says, “No calamity occurs on the earth or among yourselves but it is inscribed in the Book [of Decrees] before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah” (57:22).

The third level is to believe in Allah’s decreeing of everything that is in existence, and if He does not will something, it can never come into existence.

Once again, this also refers to all things. It refers to Allah’s actions of giving life, sustenance and so forth; and it also includes all of the acts performed by human beings. Nothing can be done unless Allah decrees it and allows it to occur. A person may intend or try, for example, to shoot and kill another person but such can only occur if Allah decrees it. The person may take all the necessary steps but if Allah does not will it to occur, it will not occur. In the case just mentioned, Allah may will the gun to jam or the shooter’s hand to flinch and miss his target and so forth.

This aspect of Qadar may also be concluded from numerous pieces of evidence. For example, Allah says, “If Allah had willed, succeeding generations would not have fought against each other, after clear verses of Allah had come to them. But they differed, some of them believing and others disbelieving. If Allah had willed, they would not have fought against one another, but Allah does what He likes” (2:253). Allah also says, “Verily, this [the Quran] is no less than a Reminder to (all) the ‘Alamin (mankind and jinn).To whomsoever among you who wills to walk straight. And you cannot will unless (it be) that Allah wills the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists)” (81:27- 29).

Ibn Uthaimeen also offers a rational argument for this aspect of belief in Qadar. He says that it must be accepted that Allah is the Owner, Master and Controller of this creation. Hence, it cannot be the case, as long as everything is under His Control and part of His Dominion, that something occurs in His Dominion that He does not want to happen. Therefore, everything that occurs in His creation is by His Will. Nothing could ever occur unless He willed it. Otherwise, His control and mastery over His dominion would be deficient and lacking, as things would be occurring in His dominion that either He did not will to occur or they occurred without His knowledge. These hypotheses are unacceptable.180

The fourth level of belief in Qadar is the belief in Allah’s creating of everything, bringing of everything into existence and making everything be. This aspect is also demonstrated by numerous verses in the Quran, including: “Blessed be He who sent down the Criterion to His slave [Muhammad] that he may be a warner to the Worlds. He to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and who has begotten no offspring and for whom there is no partner in the dominion. He has created everything, and has measured it exactly according to its due measurements” (25:1-2). Also, “Allah has created everything” (39:62). Another verse states, “Verily, We created all things with Divine Pre-ordainment” (54:49).

Ibn Uthaimeen has explained this point by saying,

Everything is a creation of Allah. Even the deeds of mankind are creations of Allah. Although they are by [man’s] free choice and will, they are creations of Allah. This is because every act of a human is the result of two aspects: a definitive will [to do the act] and the complete ability [to do the act]. For example, suppose that in front of you is a stone weighing twenty pounds. I say to you, “Lift this stone,” and you say, “I don’t want to lift it.” In this case, your lack of will has prevented you from lifting the stone. If I said a second time to you, “Lift that stone,” and you said, “Yes, I will listen and do what you have said.” In this case, if you wanted to lift it but you were not capable of lifting it, you would not have lifted it because you did not have the capability to do so. If I said to you a third time, “Lift that stone,” and you complied and lifted it above your head, that was because you had the ability and the will to do it.

All of our deeds that we perform181, therefore, are the result of a definitive will and complete ability. The one who created that ability and will is Allah. If Allah had made you paralyzed, you would not have the ability. If you turned your attention to some other deed, you would not have done it...

Therefore, we say: All of the actions of humans are created by Allah. This is because they are the result of definitive will and complete ability. The one who created that will and ability is Allah. The way in which Allah is the creator of that will and capability is that the will and ability are two characteristics of the one who wants something and the one who has ability but the one who created that person with that ability was Allah. The One who created the person who has specific characteristics is also the one who created those characteristics. This makes the matter clear and shows that the actions of human beings are the creation of Allah.182

Actually, there are a number of questions and misconceptions that have arisen surrounding the concept of Qadar. Due to space limitations, they cannot be dealt with in detail here. However, in a not-too-lengthy passage, Jaafar Sheikh Idris has adequately dealt with a number of such issues. He wrote,

God decided to create man as a free agent, but He knows (and how can He not know?) before creating every man how he is going to use his free will; what, for example, his reaction would be when a Prophet clarifies God’s message to him... “But if we are free to use our will,” a Qadari183 might say, “we may use it in ways that contradict God’s will, and in that case we would not be right in claiming that everything is willed or decreed by God.” The Quran answers this question by reminding us that it was God who willed that we shall be willful, and it is He who allows us to use our will. [He then quotes surah al- Insaan 29-30.] “If so,” says a Qadari, “He could have prevented us from doing evil.” Yes, indeed he could, “Had God willed, He would have brought them all together to the guidance” (6:35) And Allah says “if thy Lord had willed whoever is in the earth would have believed, all of them, all together” [10:99]... But He had willed that men shall be free especially in regard to matters of belief and disbelief. “Say: ‘The truth is from your Lord; so let whosoever will believe, and let whosoever will disbelieve” [18:29]...

“If our actions are willed by God,” someone might say, “then they are in fact His actions.” This objection is based on a confusion. God wills what we will in the sense of granting us the will to choose and enabling us to execute that will, i.e., He creates all that makes it possible for us to do it. He does not will it in the sense of doing it, otherwise it would be quite in order to say, when we drink or eat or sleep for instance, that God performed these actions. God creates them, He does not do or perform them. Another objection, based on another confusion, is that if God allows us to do evil, then He approves of it and likes it. But to will something in the sense of allowing a person to do it is one thing; and to approve of his action and commend it is quite another...184

In the Hadith of the Angel Gabriel, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explicitly stated that one must believe in divine decree, “[both] the good and the evil thereof.” Ibn al-Qayyim points out that what is meant by “evil” is with respect to the human beings and not with respect to Allah. The “evil” is the result of the human’s act of ignorance, wrong, oppression and sin. However, it was allowed and brought into being by Allah. But no evil is to be attributed to Allah because, with respect to Allah, the act is good and full of wisdom, as it must be a result of Allah’s knowledge and wisdom. Any act of that nature must, in its essence, be good and cannot be pure evil. This is supported by the Prophet’s hadith, “Evil is not to be attributed to You.”185 That is because every act that occurs is the result of some wisdom and goodness and can never be pure evil. The individual himself may think it otherwise, but in reality there is wisdom and good in everything that occurs in Allah’s creation.186

Ibn Uthaimeen gives an example illustrating this point. Allah says in the Quran, “Evil has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned, that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return [by repenting]” (30:41). In this verse, Allah states the evil (fasaad) that has appeared, the cause for it and its result. The evil (fasaad) and the cause of it are both evil (sharr). However, the goal of it is good: that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return [by repenting]. Hence, there is a wisdom and a goal behind that fasaad. This goal and wisdom makes the entire action something good and not a pure evil.187

Pure evil, on the other hand, would be one in which there was no benefit or positive result related to it. Allah’s wisdom and knowledge preclude the existence of acts of that nature.188

The Fruits of Proper Belief in Divine Decree189

(1) When a person realizes that all things are under the control and decree of Allah, he is freeing his belief from any form of shirk or associating partners with Allah in His Lordship. There is truly only One Creator and Master of this creation. Nothing occurs except by His will and permission. When this is firmly in the heart of the person, he then also realizes that there is none worthy of praying to, seeking assistance from, relying upon, and so forth, except that one Lord. Hence, he directs all of his acts of worship toward that One who has decreed and determined all matters. Thus, both tauheed al-ruboobiyah and tauheed al-uloohiyah are correctly and completely fulfilled with the proper belief in al-Qadar.

(2) A person will put one’s reliance upon Allah. A person should follow the outward “causes and effects” that one sees in this world. However, he must realize that those “causes and effects” will not bring about any ends unless Allah so wills them to do so. Hence, a believer never puts his complete trust and reliance upon his own actions or the worldly aspects that he might have some control over. Instead, he follows whatever causes he may know of which lead to a desired end and then he puts his trust in Allah to bring about that desired end.190

(3) Ibn Uthaimeen argues that with proper belief in al-Qadar, one does not become arrogant and boastful. If he achieves any goal that he desired, he knows that such goal only came about because Allah, in His mercy, had decreed it for him. If Allah had so wished, He could have put many obstacles in his way and prevented him from reaching his goal. Therefore, instead of becoming full of himself and arrogant upon reaching his goal, the person who truly believes in al-Qadar becomes very thankful to Allah for bringing about that blessing.191

(4) The proper belief in al-Qadar brings about tranquility and peace of mind. The person realizes that everything that occurs is according to Allah’s Divine Decree. Furthermore, there is a wisdom behind everything Allah does. Hence, if the person loses a beloved or something of this world, he does not go insane, despair or give up hope. Instead, he realizes that such was the will of Allah that he must accept. He must also realize that such has occurred for a purpose. It did not occur haphazardly or accidentally, without any reason behind it. Allah has said, “No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but it is inscribed in the Book [of Decrees] before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah. In order that you may not be sad over matters that you fail to achieve, nor rejoice because of that which has been given to you. And Allah likes not prideful boasters” (57:22-23).192

(5) Belief in al-Qadar gives a person strength and courage. He knows that Allah has recorded his life and his sustenance for him. Such comes only from Allah and is already decreed. Hence, he need not fear struggling and fighting for the sake of Allah as the time of his death is already recorded. He need not fear anyone when it comes to his sustenance and provision as such come only from Allah and have been already recorded for him. No human can cut off his sustenance and livelihood if Allah has decreed that he shall continue to receive provisions and sustenance from some source.193

178 Idris, p. 24.
179 See Muhammad ibn al-Qayyim, Shifa al-Aleel fi Masa`il al-Qada wa al-Qadar wa al-Hikma wa al-Ta’leel (Beirut: Dar al-Ma’rifah, n.d.), pp. 29-65.

180 Ibn Uthaimeen, Majmuat, vol. 3, p. 195.
181 This should probably say, “All of our voluntary deeds…” because there are some deeds that humans perform involuntarily and without a definitive will.
182 Ibn Uthaimeen, Majmuat, vol. 3, pp. 196-197.
183 A Qadari is one who denies the concept of al-Qadar altogether.
184 Idris, pp. 25-27.
185 Recorded by Muslim.
186 See Abdul Aziz al-Rasheed, al-Tanbeehaat al-Sanniyah ala al-Aqeeda al-Waasitiyah (Dar al- Rasheed li-l-Nashr wa al-Tauzee’), p. 263.
187 Muhammad ibn Uthaimeen, Sharh al-Aqeedah al-Waasitiyah (al-Damaam, Saudi Arabia: Dar ibn al-Jauzi, 1415 A.H.), vol. 1, pp. 191-192. Also see, in the same work, vol. 1, pp. 70-72.
188 Even the creation of Satan is not a pure evil. See Umar al-Ashqar, “The Wisdom behind the Creation of Satan,” al-Basheer (Vol. 2, No. 3, Sept.-Oct. 1988), pp. 13-22.
189 In his work on al-Qadar, al-Hammad (pp. 31-44) men ons twenty-five benefits or fruits of the belief in al-Qadar. Here, just a few examples shall be given from a number of different sources.
190 Cf., ibn Uthaimeen, Sharh Usool al-Imaan, p. 58.
191 Cf., ibn Uthaimeen, Sharh Usool al-Imaan, p. 58.
192 Cf., ibn Uthaimeen, Sharh Usool al-Imaan, p. 58.
193 Cf., Salaam, p. 173.