Is everything preordained if Allah knows our future, or do humans have free will?


Someone from Qadian, India, wrote to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, concerning destiny and fate, posing the question, “If Allah the Exalted already knows what we are to do in the future and what we are to attain, whether we will enter Paradise or Hell, and since Allah is Omniscient, knowing everything beforehand, does this imply that everything is preordained, leaving no free will for humans? If we were asked about this, how could we respond?”

Huzoor-e-Anwaraa, in his letter dated 28 June 2022, provided the following reply to this question:

“Throughout history, such questions have continually arisen due to a lack of understanding concerning the issue of divine decree [qadar]. There is a distinction between knowing something and coercing someone into doing something. Due to their limited understanding, people have conflated these two concepts, believing that because everything is within the knowledge of Allah the Exalted – from our future actions to our ultimate fates, be they paradise or hellfire – it all transpires by His will. They think humans have no say in this. However, this notion is flawed.

“Consider this analogy: A teacher instructs all his students, wishing for them all to achieve good grades. Yet, based on experience, he knows which diligent students are likely to succeed if they continue with their efforts and which neglectful ones are bound to fail if they do not exert sufficient effort. This foresight stems from the teacher’s experience and knowledge, not from compelling the successful to work hard or dissuading the failing ones from exerting effort. The outcome, good or bad, is purely based on the students’ individual choices, which the teacher subsequently evaluates.

“In the same vein, since Allah’s knowledge encompasses the entire universe and He knows the past and foresees the future, He has established certain laws governing this universe. He has endowed humans with free will: to perform good deeds if they wish, or evil if they choose. Depending on one’s actions, Allah manifests the results. While He knows the choices a person will make, His knowledge does not force anyone towards good or evil.

The Promised Messiahas has elaborated on this topic in various writings and discourses. On one occasion, he wrote:

“‘Today, there exists a faction amongst Muslims who assert that prayer [du‘a] has no significance and that fate [qada and qadar] inevitably unfolds. Alas! These individuals are unaware that, despite the truth underlying the concept of destiny, God Almighty, in His natural laws, has designated certain things as a means to avert some adversities. Just as water is a natural remedy to quench thirst and bread serves to alleviate hunger, why should we marvel at the idea that prayer, as a means for fulfilling needs, is also enshrined within God’s laws of nature and that, through the Divine Power, it has been endowed with a force to attract divine blessings? The experiences of thousands of spiritual seers and the righteous testify to the inherent magnetic power of prayer. We, too, have documented our personal experiences on this matter in our writings, and there is no evidence more potent than experience. While it is true that everything has been preordained in destiny, just as it is decreed that a particular individual will fall ill and then, upon using a certain medicine, will recover, similarly, it is predetermined that if a distressed person prays, means of salvation will be created for him due to the acceptance of that prayer. Experience testifies that wherever prayer manifests, with all the conditions being met, it is inevitably fulfilled by the grace of God Almighty. The Holy Quran alludes to this in the verse:

اُدۡعُوۡنِيۡۤ اَسۡتَجِبۡ لَکُمۡ

“‘It means, ‘Continue praying unto Me; I will answer your prayer.’ (Surah al-Mu’min, Ch.40: V61) It is astonishing that while everyone, despite believing in the concept of destiny, seeks doctors in times of illness, why do they not draw a parallel with prayer, considering it a spiritual remedy?’ (Ayyam as-Sulh, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 14, p. 232, footnote)

“While shedding light on the matter of divine decree and determination, the Promised Messiahas states in his recorded sayings, the Malfuzat:

“‘The Arya raise an objection that the Holy Quran states:

خَتَمَ اللّٰہُ عَلٰي قُلُوۡبِہِمۡ

“‘In other words, ‘Allah has set a seal on their hearts.’ [Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.8] They question, ‘If God has sealed their hearts, then how can Man be at fault?’ Such thinking arises from their narrow perspective, as they do not consider the context before and after the said statement. The Holy Quran clearly elucidates that this seal, which is set by God, is essentially a consequence of human actions. When an act originates from a human, it is a divine practice that a corresponding act ensues from God. For instance, when a person shuts the door to his house, it is his act. However, in response to this act, God’s action will be that darkness will be brought into that house. This is because he himself has blocked the means through which light could enter. Similarly, the causes of this seal have been mentioned elsewhere in the Holy Quran, where it is written:

فَلَمَّا زَاغُوۡۤا اَزَاغَ اللّٰہُ قُلُوۡبَہُمۡ

“‘It means that when they adopted crookedness, God made them crooked. [Surah as-Saff, Ch.61: V.6) This is referred to as the ‘seal’. However, our God is not such that He cannot remove this seal. Although He has elucidated the causes for placing this seal, He has also revealed the means through which it can be lifted. For instance, He states:

فَاِنَّہٗ کَانَ لِلۡاَوَّابِيۡنَ غَفُوۡرًا

“‘‘… then surely, He is Most Forgiving to those who turn to Him again and again.’’ [Surah Bani Isra’il, Ch.17: V.26]’ (Malfuzat, Vol. 5, 2016,  pp. 269-270)

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, while elucidating the matter of destiny and fate, states:

“‘It may occur to someone’s mind that when I mentioned the ‘eternal record book’ [as mentioned in Surah al-Kahf, 18:50], it would imply that the concept of destiny and fate is accurate in the manner commonly understood by people. However, this is incorrect. The Holy Quran does not explain the concept of destiny and fate in the manner that the general Muslim populace, due to their unawareness, perceives it. Instead, according to the Holy Quran, destiny and fate merely signify that a law has been established for every human, stipulating that if he or she acts in a certain way, a particular result will ensue. For instance, if they consume chillies, their tongue will burn; if they eat sour food, it will aggravate a sore throat and other cold symptoms; and if they consume something very hard or undercooked, they will suffer from stomach pain. This is what destiny and fate are. It is not destiny or fate that a particular individual will certainly eat something hard or stale one day and then suffer from stomach pain. This is false. God does not act in this way. The Quran abundantly clarifies that such notions are erroneous. Therefore, the eternally recorded or pre-written has no relation to destiny or fate, for destiny and fate are only created when one acts in line with what God has preordained. If it becomes compulsory for one to act exactly as God has written, then it becomes coercion, and consequently,  the concepts of destiny and fate [common among people] are validated.

“‘However, the destiny that is established by the Holy Quran is that God follows a person’s [free will]; whatever a human is to do, God records it. Destiny and fate [as commonly understood] would only be valid if God compelled humans and they acted due to God’s compulsion. However, the reality is that humans act, and God, having bound Himself to do so, records the act that a human intends to do. Thus, one may assert that the recording [of destiny] by God mirrors the [actual] destiny of humans, but one cannot say that God has preordained actions for human beings through compulsion.” (Sair-e-Ruhani, Anwar-ul-‘Ulum, Vol. 25, pp. 51-52)

“Thus, from these sayings, it becomes evident that the meaning of destiny and fate is not, God forbid, that Allah the Exalted compels a human to act in a certain way and then places them in either Heaven or Hell. Instead, it signifies that Allah the Exalted has established a law for humans: As a person acts, Allah the Almighty will manifest a result corresponding to that action.”

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