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

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8:53 God never changeth the blessings with which He hath graced a people until they change their own selves.

2:286 God tasketh not a soul beyond its capacity. For it (is only) that which it hath earned, and against it (only) that which it hath deserved.

28:84 If one doeth any good work, the reward for him is better than his deed; but as for one who doeth any evil deed, the doers of evil deeds will be requited to the extent of what they do.

42:30 And any misfortune that befalleth you is because of your own deeds.

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3:117 It is not God Who doeth them any wrong, but it is they who are wronging themselves.

4:115 We (cause) him (to) turn to that to which he himself hath turned.

19:76 God increaseth the guidance of those who go aright.

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25:70 Excepted (from grievous retribution) are those who believe, repent, and do righteous deeds; for such God would change their bad deeds into good ones.

2:26 God leadeth astray only the evildoers.


All these verses amply prove the point that it is only human work that determines one's fate. All these ideas effectively demolish the fatalistic doctrine of predestination. As Panaullah Ahmad, a modern Eastern writer of a beautiful book on spirituality, aptly remarks, "He [God] has not certainly predestined a man to be a thief or a good man. ["] man only comes to naught by worshipping predestination in the act of foolish acceptance of the so-called inevitable."[4] According to the Egyptian reformist thinker Muhammad Abduh also, Islam does not teach predestination devoid of the freedom of human choice (See Box below).


It was Iqbal, however, who has given us a coherent notion of God's knowledge and power and human free will, innovation and progress. He forcefully and beautifully describes God's knowledge and power (omniscience and omnipotence) in a way that includes His fore-knowledge of possibilities of future events, not of events as such as a fixed order of things -- a notion that admits of freely exercised creativity on the part of humankind as participants in the divine course of events. "The future certainly pre-exists in the organic whole of God's creative life, but it pre-exists as an open possibility, not as a fixed order of events with definite outlines," Iqbal notes. He continues,

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If history is regarded merely as a gradually revealed photo of a predetermined order of events, then there is no room in it for novelty and initiation. Consequently, we can attach no meaning to the word "creation', which has a meaning for us only in view of our own capacity for original action. The truth is that the whole theological controversy relating to predestination is due to pure speculation with no eye on the spontaneity of life, which is a fact of actual experience. No doubt, the emergence of egos endowed with the power of spontaneous and hence unforeseeable action is, in a sense, a limitation on the freedom of the all-inclusive Ego. But this limitation is not externally imposed. It is born out of His own creative freedom whereby He has chosen finite egos to be participators of His life, power, and freedom. [5]

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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: www.explorequran.org) 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?