Professor Omar Hasan Kasule

Belief in Qadar:

Belief in qadar is a cardinal principle of faith. Its denial abrogates iman. It is part of belief in the unseen (al iman bi al ghaib) because human intellect can not on its own logically work out all aspects of qadar and undertstand them. Many who have tried employing reasoning (ra’ay) without a foundation of strong belief ended up being confused and going astray. The process of qadar and its reversal (radd al qadar) are beyond human comprehension and should not be subjects for research. Humans should stick with the empirical realities that they understand in the full knowledge that there is power and authority beyond them  that affects human action and human destiny.


Qur’anic definition (mafhuum al qadar fi al Qur’an):

Allah pre-destined all events (qadar ilahi 20:40, 65:3, 86:16). Allah (SWT) is the disposer of everything (tadbir al amr li laahi). His power and knowledge cover everything (ihatat). Nothing can occur without His knowledge or deliberate order or action. Qadar is Pre-destination. Everything is fixed (kullu shay bi qadar): Much of what will happen to the human is already programmed. Allah’s will changes this pre-destination (qadar) (iradat llah fawqa qadrihi) at any moment and without any warning or explanation.


Scope of qadar:

The divine pre-destination operates in the universe (al qadar al ilahi fi al kaun p 917 6:96 … 56:60), individuals, societies and communities (al qadar al ilahi fi al umam, p. 916 15:60, 27:57, 54:12), in creation (al qadar al ilahi fi al khalq p 916 25:2 … 80:18-19), disease (al qadar al ilahi fi al maradh), death (al qadar al ilahi fi al mawt p. 1154-5 2:28 … 76:28), cure of disease (al qadar al ilahi fi al ‘ilaaj p. 637 3:49 , 5:110, 26:80), sustenance (al qadar al ilahi fi al rizq p 916 13:17…89:15-16). There is no escape from qadar. Human attempts to escape one phenomenon (firar min al qadar) is just going to another pre-destined situation (firar ila al qadar).


The Record of qadar:

All what happens in the universe from its start to the end is already recorded in Allah’s great record (kitaab al qadar, p 978-979 3:145 … 57:22). Everything that happens or will happen is written (kitabat al qadar  p. 980-981 2:187 … 59:3). The record is so comprehensive. Nothing is left put whether big or small. There is no discrimination between important and unimportant matters. All phenomena and events in the universe follow the program in the record. Ordinary humans have no way of knowing what is in the record. Only Allah has access to it. Angels and some prophets could be given some of the information as Allah wishes them to know.


Allah’s unlimited will:

Every event and every phenomenon is according to Allah’s will (iradat Allah, p 676-677 2:26 .. 74:31). What Allah wishes is what happens (mashi’at Allah  p 917 13:26…42:12). There is no limitation on the scope or magnitude of this will. Humans can not understand or even conceptualise the scope and magnitude of this will because it is beyond their faculties.


Limited human free will (mahdudiyat al iradat al bashariyyat):

Although humans have limited free will; they can do somethings on their own free will and initiative whereas there are many other things over which they have no control. Human will is under Allah’s authority (p 86 5:37 … 61:8). It may be positive as in ihsan (4:62, 9:107), islah (4:35, 11:88) and hidayat (p 88 4:88 … 35:10). It may ne negative as in khidau (8:62), khiyanat (8:71), su’u (p 87 11:79 … 20:86), dhalal (p 87 4:27 … 48:15), dhulm (22:25)., fujuur (75:5), fasad (28:83),  and kayd (21:70, 37:98, 52:42). 


Allah’s Advance Knowledge of human exercise of limited free will:

Allah knows in advance what choices of actions humans will make. This is because Allah created humans and knows their nature and inclinations. This is quite logical and should not be a difficult concept to grasp for any perceptive parent. A parent who knows the habits, desires and capabilities of an infant can to a remarkable degree of accuracy predict what choices of actions that infant will make when presented with 2-3 alternatives. In the case of Allah the Almighty, it is not a question of predicting but a case of certain knowledge of what choices the human will make.


Shaitan and Misguidance of human free will (4:60):

Shaitan’s field of operation is the human limited free will. He tries his best to misguide them to wrong choices and alternatives. Prophets and the righteous are protected from him (‘ismat al anbiya wa al salihin). For ordinary humans it is a daily struggle to guard against shaitan in the exercise of free will. The stronger the iman and ibadat the better the protection. Humans sometimes succeed in escaping shaitan sometimes they fail. They however at all times must never let their guard down because shaitan is indefatigably active.


Knowledge (‘ilm):

Allah knows everything that happened in the past and what will happen in the future. Allah knows the inclinations and intentions of humans. He already knows the fate of humans whether they will go to hell or paradise (MB #2137). Human knowledge is limited in many ways. Human knowledge and understanding of self is limited even in a biological sense. The senses that bring information from the external environment have their limitations. The perception and interpretation of the sensory stimuli is not perfect. There are intellectual limitations because the human brain has finite power and function. Humans can only perceive and understand a few phenomena at a time and lack the integrative capacity to see and understand the whole picture. Humans have no access to the unseen world (‘alam al ghaib) in the past and the future.


Power (qudrat):

Allah’s power has no limits (p 681-682 2:20 … 85:13). He can do whatever He wants. Nothing can happen without His power being behind it. Humans have limited power (mahdudiyat qudrat al insan, p. 917-918 2:184 … 68:42). Even their limited free will can not always translate into action because of this limited power (iradat al insan mahdudat bi qudratihi). The limitations are intellectual, emotional, and physical.




Responsibility of humans for actions (al masuliyyat al bashariyyat):

There is a lot of confusion about qadr because people fail to find answers to the following questions: If everything is pre-destined why then make any effort? Why should people be rewarded or punished for actions whose results were pre-destined? These questions can be answered easily if one thinks logically. Humans are a special and unique creation of Allah. They were given a limited free will (81:28-19). They are capable of making some choices on their own. They are accountable for their choices and actions because of that free will (81:28-29, 39:41, 90:8-10). The laws of causality are fixed such that an action is inevitably followed by the predictable result unless there is special divine intervention. When a human makes a certain choice, the expected result is seen. A bad choice is followed by a bad result. A good choice is followed by a good result.


Human guidance (hidayat):

A human can be guided or misguided. Guidance in the long run is from Allah (iradat Allah fi al hidayat, p 1280 2:120 … 92:12). The human within his limited will can exert effort to be guided (iradat al insan fi al hidayat, p 1281 3:101 … 64:11).


Human sin:

Humans unlike angels commit sins. This is a result of their using their free will wrongly. The immediate reason behind a sin may be ignorance (MB #28) or human weakness (dhu’uf al insan, 4:28). In either case the human can not deny responsibility for the actions because Allah did send prophets and revelations to equip humans with the necessary knowledge and also to strengthen them spiritually to resist sin.


Human life a trial on the good use of limited will:

All of the human’s life on earth is a great test of how well the free will is used. Some succeed in this test whereas others fail. The test involves choices in matters of belief or non-belief, and good work or bad work.


Human endeavour on earth (‘amal al insan):

The human within his limited free-will chooses what work to do and how to do it. In that sense the human is free to make a choice (hurriyat al insan fi al ‘amal, p 831 4:66 … 46:16). Allah knows in advance what the human will do and none of what they do is hidden from Him (p 847-848 2:74 … 99:6). The human is fully responsible for what he does and Allah’s advance knowledge of what work will be done does not decrease this responsibility and accountability (p 849-50 2:134 … 74:38). Allah will reward or punish humans based on what they did (jazau al ‘amal, p 830 2:85 … 99:7-8).


Reward and Punishment:

Correct use of the free will and correct choices are associated with rewards on the earth and the hereafter. Wrong or misguided choices incur Allah’s wrath and punishment on earth and in the hereafter except when Allah in His infinite mercy forgives.


Allah’s forgiveness (af’wu Allah):

Allah’s mercy is more and comes before His anger (MB #135). He is oft-forgiving of human trespasses when they misuse their free will (afwu Allah, p 816 2:52 … 42:34). In the final analysis all humans who did not associate Allah with anything else will be forgiven even if some will have to undergo some punishment for a limited time. The door of forgiveness and hope for Allah’s mercy (rajaa) is very wide (RS #413, RS #419, RS #420, RS #421, RS #422, RS #423, RS #433, RS #437, RS #440, RS #442).


Causality and causal associations (al sababiyyat - sabab & musabab ): 

In most human situations phenomena follow the fixed causal laws ie action is followed by an effect. Each event has a reason (sabab 18:84-85). All reasons are from Allah (Allah musabbib al asbaab). The causal laws are called ‘sunan Allah fi al kawn’ in Qur’anic terminology. There are laws that govern change (sunan Allah fi al taghyir, p. 6:89, 8:53, 13:11, 47:38) and in human responsibility and accountability (sunan Allah fi al mas’uliyyat al fardiyyat, p 601-602 2:134 .. 53:38-41). These laws are fixed and are stable (thabat sunan Allah, p. 17:77, 33:62, 35:43, 48:23). Allah is not bound to obey these laws because they are His laws. His will is above them and can alter them (Iradat Allah fawqa sunnatihi).


Causal Relations and qadar (al sababiyyat wa al qadar):

The reason is followed by the expected result (18:89, 18:92). There are situations in which divine intervention (radd al qadr bi al qadr) breaks those physical laws known to humans. The miracles of prophets are an example. Ibrahim (PBUH) was for example not burned by fire because divine intervention did not allow the usual causal relations to operate. When a phenomenon appears to contradict the normal laws of causality there are two alternative explanations. It may have followed another law of causality that humans are not aware of or there was divine intervention. Humans do not have the ability to know whether divine human intervention is operating to produce a miracle or not unless told so by revelation.


The good and the bad (sharr al qadar & khair al qadar):

A human in the course of normal life gets good and bad experiences. A believing Muslim knows that all is part of qadar and says ‘praise be to Allah’ (alhamdu li llaah) for both good and bad experiences. The terms good and bad in human experience and knowledge are relative. What may appear to be good may turn out to be bad. What may appear to be bad may turn out to be good. Humans can not see the whole picture. They may see some aspects of the whole picture and judge them to be good or bad. If they had knowledge of the whole picture and the correct context they would have interpreted the observed events or phenomena differently.


Human misunderstanding of qadar and reliance on Allah (mahdudiyat al idradaak al bashari li al qadr wa al tawakkul):

Correct understanding of qadar requires distinguishing tawakkul from tawaakul. The two terms have the same root word but are very different. Tawakkul in relying on Allah after taking all the necessary measures to achieve an objective following the laws of causality. Tawaakul is giving up all effort and just wait for things to happen. The former is Islamic the latter is not. Tawakkul, a manifestation of strong iman,  is encouraged (p 259-60 3:122 … 73:9) and is a basis for success on earth and in the hereafter. Tawaakul is condemned since it is abandoning responsibility and accountability (mas’uliyyat insaniyyat). Humans manifest a logical contradiction when dealing with tawakkul and tawaakul. A taxi driver may speed and drive carelessly claiming that an accident is part of Allah’s qadar and will occur however way he drove his car. He however will not agree to sit at home and refuse to go to work on the argument that rizq is part of Allah’s qadar and if Allah pre-destined he will get it it will come to him even if sitting at home.  It seems that people resort to tawaakul when they are called upon to exercise self-control. They employ tawakkul when they have to search for something they need or that is in their immediate interest.


Misunderstanding of qadar in disease causation, treatment, and prevention:

Human illness is part of qadar. Medical treatment is not denial of or attempting to reverse qadar. Both the disease and its treatment are part of Allah’s all-embracing qadar.


Misunderstanding of qadar in death:

Life and death of cells, tissues, organs, and the whole human organism is fixed by Allah alone. No human can give life or take it away. The human can be involved as an agent but not a cause. This is a matter that King Nimrod could not grasp in his arguments with Ibrahim (PBUH).


Confusion of qadar and qudrat:

Two Qur’anic terms should not be confused: qadar and qudrat. Qadar is pre-destination, the fixing of the fates of various events in advance and in the knowledge of Allah. Qudrat is power to change. Qadar is the prerogative of Allah only; Allah haas unlimited qudrat. His will is translated automatically and instantaneously into action because of His unlimited qudrat. Humans have limited qudrat given to them by Allah.  Human qudrat is limited thus human will does not translate always into action. There is no limit to Allah’s power (la mahdudiyat li qudrat al llah). Humans power is limited (mahdudiyat qudrat al insan).

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule February 1998