Monday, October 15, 2007

Islam & Free Will?

Everytime I go to the mosque for jumuah, there's one phrase at the very beginning of every khutbah that gets me thinking. "Whomever Allah guides no one can lead astray and whomever He misguides will find none to guide him aright." What worries me are its implications on free will. It sounds like we're predestined to either paradise or damnation; it sounds very Calvinist.

In the Quran, most things seem to mesh fairly well with discussions of free will in Christianity. God is omnipotent and has created the entire universe. Everything in the universe acts according to God's will but God has given mankind the gift of free will. If man chooses to do good then he is rewarded whereas if he chooses evil, he is punished.

However, in both the Bible and the Quran there are places that imply that man is under God's control. The quote with which I opened is an example of this, although I'm not sure if that's from the Quran or from where it comes. In any case, it implies that if your actions are good, it is due to God's guidance, and if they are evil, it is due to God's lack of guidance. Another disturbing ayah is "Whether you warn them or warn them not, they will not believe you. God has placed a seal on their hearts; there is a veil over their ears and their eyes, and a painful torment awaits them." (2:6-7)* According to these, man does not choose to disobey God but rather God chose for them. Thus, at the beginning of time God chose our fates, paradise or damnation, and we have no choice in the matter. If this is the case, God is unfair to reward or punish people even though they have no say in their actions.

However, other ayat such as "We have shown man the path of truth and the path of falsehood; he may choose either the path of guidance and offer the thanks, or choose the path of ingratitude" (76:3))* lay out very clearly that we are given free will and our decisions in life affect our final state in the afterlife.

Like I said, the same free-will versus predestination argument rages in Christianity with Bible verses supporting both sides. However, none of the verses that are used to support predestination seem to be quite as clear-cut as these. It's sometimes an interesting topic to discuss but it can be equally disturbing if you really think about it.


Azooz said...

Happy Eid, and MashaAllah - going to Jumuah prayers already?

Free will is a big topic in the Quran and has many great insights into human behavior to - "free will" is called a burden in the Quran, and all humans carry their own burden and judged only by how the free choices they make. Things like birth and natural events, weather, accedients are not in your control - but they are in God's - your role is in your choices. The cycle of night and day is mentioned in the Quran, it's not in our control but we live within the changes and our choices we make within those changes. Prohecy is also in this, for some men paths seem to be set but they are set only by those men themselves.

An Egyptian farming Imam (Sharawy) explained it as smart farmer with 6 sons, the father can "predict" how each one will perform in a situation and thus chose among them - each son would have charecteristcs and behaiviors and from those the father could "guess" fairly well how each would behave, God created it all, the father and his sons, and would know beter than all. Like the sory of Joseph (pbuh) in the Quran, his life choices were all his, as were his brothers, but in the end it ended as his dream said it would.

Fate a very lively topic in Islamic discusions called (Qadar) and feel free to ask a lot about it. Good and bad events are both from God - the tsonami for example is called a test, of faith and how we behave and react. We are not to hate it either for it may have many good results. Good events are easy to thank God for but we are to thank God for everything and know that the good make actually have some harm in it to. Muslims know they will die and be judged by God, but it is an easy thing to forget - so we it is good to get "reminders" of our mortality, thus they are a mercy. I know this sounds a bit harsh but blame it on my English - natural disasters are all from God, we deal with them as we can and hope to pass the test. Like a ship in strong storm, sailors pray hard - but they should pray like that even in clam seas - the storm reminds them of this - and they can die in the calm just as well as in the storm.

The "seal on the heart" is very easy to see in our friends and family but not in ourselves, it is how our hearts are set on something so much that our attititude is imposible to change however much proof is present. It is not actuly evil, more stupid and a weakness. The veils are lighter, Pride is the worst and anger is the most destructive - but there are many more. Race pride for example is a veil that makes one unable to judge people fairly and properly, and more prone to anger towards others - a raceists can do bad acts and ends up in hell much "easier" than those who treat all humans fair and equal.

>>"Whomever Allah guides no one can lead astray and whomever He misguides will find none to guide him aright."

This is why we thank God for everything, we seek and thank God that we seek Him, we find and thank God that we find Him - and those that do neither have only themselves to blame. You will find nothing at all new to you in this, just a few veils lifted. The word kafar means "cover", we all know the truth but some cover it deeper than others. Free will, includes the will to change, to be beter - and to thank God for not haveing too much pride to not apreciate and thank Him for it - and to pity those who refuse. It is like a light within the heart darkened and hidden by veils, the more veils lifted the more that light shines.

I do not know Calvin "Calvinist" - but it sounds like a long gone Islamic sect that belived that we live our lives like movie charecters from start to finish - it goes against the Quran so ended fast. When people enter heaven or hell they will know that they were judged fairly - God is Just.

The ayah (2:6-7) talks of those that will always chose not to accept anything from God's messengers, all of messengers had some who could (would) not accept despite many proofs and miracles. The word usage of the Arabic Quran itself was enough to convert whole Arab tribes into Islam without even seeing Mohamed (pbuh) or any other Muslim, yet most of his relatives in Mecca rejected him despite that and many other miracles. Abraham (pbuh) could not convince his father, Noah (pbuh) could not convince his son - God tells them not to mind or waste too much time on those that refuse - it is their free choice after all.

Once pointer I often forget to mention, the first page of the Quran (alfateha) is the corner stone to the whole thing, always read it first before you continue from where you last stopped. Fate is menioned a lot in the Quran and alfatiha page acts as an anchor to it all,

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Anonymous said...

Brother Assalamualikum... "Whomever Allah guides no one can lead astray and whomever He misguides will find none to guide him aright." Here the problem in understanding this ayath is you need to look at a few verses before these verses where Allah talks about people who have not taken heed of the truth inspite of many proofs,explanations and evidences..after that Allah's action comes into picture where he will seal their hearts such that nobody would be guided if he has decided against it , inspite of any amounts of efforts by the prophets/islamic preachers.He has done that not by his own will just simply.. But It was the people themeselves first who didnt follow the truth and then Allah sealed their hearts.
Only things which are predestined is Your birth, death, food and couple other things which I don't have on top of my head now. It seems like you were a non muslim before..but what u did was u searched for the truth sincerely..and Allah alone guided you..and Now if you stick to your principals and faith.Allah will keep guiding you to the truth..but there are also others who out of their arrogance don't seek the truth inspite of they realizing the truth..If Allah wills he will not be guided at all..
For born muslims it was Allah's grace that they were born muslim otherwise they would also have been like others,hence they should be thankfull.Now by doing so Allah is not unfair to others but he has given every human an intellect and free will and also he keeps showing his signs in the entire life of a its upto that person either to follow or reject the truth(showing the freewill)..It is said even if no message/scripture had been sent to mankind would have been able to recognize GOd with his intellect and rational and differentiate between what is good or evil..but most of us don't take heed and are arrogant..Hence then Allah decides to seal hearts of these people. hope that helps

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