What follows are the beliefs and creed of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah concerning the sixth pillar of Imaan – Belief in the Divine Decree (al-Qadr), taken from The Tenets of Faith by Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaimeen.
- We believe in Divine Decree (al-qadr), its good and evil consequences, which Allaah has pre-determined for His creation according to His prior knowledge and according to what His wisdom necessitates.
Divine Decree has four levels:-
The First Level; Knowledge (al-‘ilm): We believe that Allaah the Exalted possesses knowledge of all things; knowledge of what was, what will be, and how it will be. His knowledge is eternal; He neither acquires new knowledge after being ignorant of something, nor forgets what He knows.
The Second Level; Recording (al-kitaabah): We believe that Allaah the Exalted wrote, in the Preserved Tablet (al-lawhul-mahfoodh), all that is to be until the Day of Judgement:
“Do you not know that indeed Allaah knows whatever is in the heavens and the earth. Indeed this is in a Book; indeed this is an easy matter for Allaah.” [Soorah al-Hajj 22:70]
The Third Level; Will (al-mashee’ah): We believe that Allaah the Exalted wills whatever is in the heavens and the earth, nothing occurs except by His will. So whatever Allaah wills, occurs; and whatever He does not will, does not occur.
The Fourth Level; Creation (al-khalq): We believe that:
“Allaah is the creator of all things and is the Guardian over all things; to Him belong the keys to the heavens and the earth.” [Soorah az-Zumar 39:62-63]
These four levels encompass what Allaah Himself does, as well as what His servants do. So whatever the servants undertake of speech, action or omission, is all known to Allaah the Exalted and is written with Him; He wills it [to be] and creates it:
“To those amongst you who wish to be upright; but you shall not will except as Allaah wills; the Lord of the worlds.” [Soorah at-Takweer 81:28-29]
“And had Allaah willed, they would not have fought one another; but Allaah does whatever He wills.” [al-Baqarah 2:253]
“And if Allaah willed, they would not have done so. So leave them alone, and the falsehood which they fabricate.” [Soorah al-An’aam 6:137]
“Allaah created you and whatever you do.” [as-Saaffaat 37:96]
However, along with this, we believe that Allaah the Exalted gave His servants freewill and ability to choose what to do. [The fact] that people have freewill and ability is proven from a number of matters:-
Firstly: Allaah’s statement:
“So approach your places of cultivation [i.e. your wives] however you will.” [Soorah al-Baqarah 2:223]
And His statement:
“Had they desired to march forth, they would have made some preparation for it.” [Soorah at-Tawbah 9:46]
So [Allaah] affirms for His servants ‘an approaching by their own will and ‘a preparation’ by their own volition.
Secondly: The fact that people have been given directives of commands and prohibitions. If they did not have any freewill or ability, then such directives would amount to burdening people with what they are unable to do, and this would contravene Allaah’s wisdom and mercy, as well as the truthfulness of His statement:
“Allaah does not burden a soul with more that it can bear.” [Soorah Al-Baqarah 2:286]
Thirdly: The fact that the doer of good is praised and the sinner is censured and that they are each recompensed according to what they each deserve. Thus, if the action is not done by the individual’s volition and freewill, then praising the doer of good will be absurd and punishing the sinner will be oppressive; and most certainly Allaah the Exalted is free from acting absurdly or oppressively!
Fourthly: That Allaah the Exalted sent the Messengers:
“Bearing good tidings and warning, so that mankind may have no plea against Allaah, after the sending of the Messengers.” [Soorah an-Nisaa 4:165]
If the individual’s actions were not done by his own freewill, then his plea will not be rendered invalid by the sending of the Messengers.
Fifthly: That every person who does an action feels that he does something, or leaves it, without any compulsion or coercion. So he stands and sits, enters or leaves, travels or resides by his own free will and volition, without anyone forcing or coercing him to do so. In fact, he clearly distinguishes between doing something from his own free will and volition and between being coerced into doing so. Likewise, the Sacred Law also makes this wise distinction. Therefore, a person who is coerced into doing something that results in a violation of one of Allaah rights, is not taken to task for doing so.
- We hold that the sinner cannot use qadr as an excuse for his sin, since the sinner undertook sinning due to his own freewill and without knowing what Allaah the Exalted had decreed for him. For no one knows what has been decreed for them, except after the decree has taken place:
“And no soul knows what it will earn tomorrow.” [Soorah Luqmaan 31:34]
So how can it be correct to rely upon an excuse, when it is not known to the one advancing until he begins committing the sin? Indeed Allaah the Exalted shows the futility of this type of argument in His saying:
“Those who commit idolatry will say: If Allaah willed, neither we, nor our forefathers, would have been idolaters, and neither would we have prohibited anything. Thus did the people before them deny, until they tasted our punishment. Say: Do you have any knowledge that you can produce for us? But you follow nothing but conjecture, and do nothing but lie!” [al-An’aam 6:148]
We say to the sinner who uses qadr as an excuse: Why don’t you perform acts of obedience using the [same] argument that Allaah has decreed it for you, for there is no difference between obedience and sin with respect to them both being unknown before the action emanates from you? This is why, when the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam informed his Companions that each person’s place in Paradise or Hellfire has already been decreed, they said: Shall we not rely upon this and leave-off doing actions? So he replied:
“No! Act, for each person will have that which he was destined for made easy for him.”1
We say to the sinner who uses qadr as an excuse: Suppose you intended to travel to Makkah and there were two ways to take. You are informed by a truthful person that the first path is difficult and dangerous, whilst the second is safe and easy. You would [in this case] take the second path; it is inconceivable that you would take the first path and claim that this is something that has been decreed for you. If you were to do so, people would think you are mad!
We further say to that person: If you were presented with two [similar] jobs, one of which paid more, you would take the one with the higher salary. So how is it that you choose for yourself what is lower in the Hereafter, using qadr as an excuse?
We also say to that person: We see that when you are afflicted with a physical illness, you knock on the door of every doctor, looking for a cure and patiently bearing whatever pain that may result from an operation, or the bitterness of the medicine. So why don’t you do the same when your heart is diseased with sin?
- We believe that evil is not ascribed to Allaah the Exalted, because of His perfect mercy and wisdom. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:
“And evil is not ascribed to You.”2
So Allaah the Exalted’s decree is not – in and of itself – evil, since it emanates from His mercy and wisdom. Evil may, however, be a consequence of it, as the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said in the qunoot supplication that he taught al-Hasan:
“And save us from the evil of what You have decreed.”3
So evil was ascribed to Allaah’s decree [and not to Allaah Himself]. Yet despite this, evil in His decree is not pure evil. Rather it is evil from one angle and good from another, or evil from one perspective and good from another. Thus, devastation upon the earth – due to either famine, disease, poverty or fear – is evil from one perspective and good from another. Allaah the Exalted states:
“Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea because of what men’s hands have earned. That Allaah may make them taste part of the consequence of what they have done, perchance they may refrain.” [Soorah ar-Room 30:41]
Cutting-off the thief’s hand or stoning the adulterer is evil from the perspective of the thief or the adulterer, but it is good from the angle that it acts as an expiation for them; since they will not be punished in this world and then in the Hereafter as well. It is also good in that it acts as a protection for people’s property, honour and relationships.
1. Reported by Muslim (no.6398).
2. Reported by Muslim (no.771)
3. Reported by Aboo Daawood (no. 1425) and others. The muhaddith, Ahmad Shaakir declared it to be saheeh in his annotations to at-Tirmidhee’s Sunan (no.464).