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

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By conceiving humankind, "of all the creations of God," as "capable of consciously participating in the creative life of his Maker," Iqbal has in fact accorded man the status of an agent of God. In another place of his monumental work, Iqbal speaks of man's independent power and capability, "Hard his lot and frail his being, like a rose-leaf, yet no form of reality is so powerful, so inspiring, and so beautiful as the spirit of man!" Interpreting the Quran's verse "Verily God will not change the condition of men, till they change what is in themselves' (13:11), he refers to God as a co-worker with man, provided man takes the initiative:

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It is the lot of man to share in the deeper aspirations of the universe around him and to shape his own destiny as well as that of the universe, now by adjusting himself to its forces, now by putting the whole of his energy to mould its forces to his own ends and purposes. And in this process of progressive change God becomes a co-worker with him, provided man takes the initiative. [6]

Consider another group of Quranic verses that points to the idea that God does not really independently will for us -- verses that also effectively rebut the fatalistic doctrine of predestination. First, note the following verse:

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36:47 When it is said unto them: Spend of that with which God hath provided you, those who disbelieve say to those who believe: Shall we feed those whom God, if He willed, could have fed? Ye are naught else than in clear error.

In this verse God rebukes those who skirt their duty to help the poor, and the helpless on the plea that if God willed He could have fed them (See also related verses 107:1-7; 90:12-16). This clearly suggests that God does not make one rich or poor of his own volition, and that it is the duty of the rich to feed the poor.

Also note that the Quran emphatically states that God does not act arbitrarily; He acts through His laws or ways, which never change (35:43), and through the work of free agents such as human beings and other creatures, and through the working of Nature (2:251). What God does is what He creates, or vice versa. That God does not create or act arbitrarily, chaotically, or incoherently is also reflected in the following verse:

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67:3-4 He Who (God) hath created seven heavens in full harmony one with another. No fault canst thou (Muhammad) see in the creation of the Most Gracious. And turn thy vision (upon it) once more; canst thou see any flaw? Then turn thy vision (upon it) again and yet again; thy vision will return unto thee dazzled and fatigued.

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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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