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Divine Will and Human Freedom -- Part I. Divine Predestination: How Far Real?

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4:82 Will they not then ponder the Quran? Had it been from other than God, they would have found in it much inconsistency.

Some of the verses from which the doctrine of predestination is deduced center around the Quranic word taqdir, which literally means "measure" or "proportion" or "destiny". The following Quranic verse, among others, has been misunderstood by many:

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25:2 He (God) hath created everything in due measure (proportion or destiny).

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This verse is related to other verses that describe God's will and knowledge, which have also given rise to a confusion that is of the same nature as that with predestination. Simply put, this doctrine means that God knows in advance all events, He predetermines all events, and He wills all events and, therefore, all events take place in accordance with what God knew, planned and willed. This view is clearly flawed, since if this is true, the Quranic verse "Man has only that for which he makes effort" (20:15; 53:39) cannot have any meaning. For, if God decides beforehand what man will do, He cannot legitimately make him responsible for anything he does and the whole system of rewarding for good work and punishing for bad work completely breaks down, and there remains no role for religion to play for man. The Quran clearly states that a human being is responsible for his or her own life or actions, and that he/she has been endowed with free choice and freedom of action (5:105; 3:11; 18:29; 76:3, 29):

5:105 O ye who believe! Ye are responsible for your own selves. Those who are misguided can cause you no harm if ye are on the right path. Unto God ye all will return. And then He will inform you of what ye used to do.

2:195 And spend in God's cause, and let not your own hands lead you to ruin; and do good, for God loveth those who do good.

18:29 And say, "The Truth (hath now come) from your Lord; let, then, him who willeth believe (in it), and let him who willeth reject (it). Verily We have prepared for the wrongdoers a Fire whose walls will surround them.

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Many other Quranic ideas reinforce the point that God does not predestine in the popular sense. These ideas are that God does not change the condition of human beings unless they themselves change their own condition, or their own selves, that God guides only those who are just and righteous, and that He does not guide those who are unjust and wicked, that He rewards human beings for good deeds and punishes them for bad deeds, that God is just and impartial, that He does not do even the least injustice to man, that He does not discriminate between people except on the criterion of righteousness, and that He does not act arbitrarily, and so on and so forth. Some of these verses are worth citing:

13:11 Verily God changeth not the condition of men until they change their own selves.

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Abdur Rab is the author of "Exploring Islam in a New Light: An Understanding from the Quranic Perspective" (To know about the book, visit the website: Abdur Rab, Ph.D. from Harvard, has had a long career in economic research (more...)
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Divine Will and Human Freedom -- Part I. Divine Predestination: How Far Real?