Philosophy:Predestination in Islam

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Short description: Concept of divine destiny in Islam

Qadar (Arabic: قدر, transliterated qadar, meaning "fate", "divine fore-ordainment", "predestination," but literally "power")[1] is the concept of divine destiny in Islam.[2] It is one of Islam's six articles of faith, along with belief in the Oneness of Allah, the Revealed Books, the Prophets of Islam, the Day of Resurrection and angels, and part of the Aqida. This concept has also been mentioned in the Quran as the "Decree" of Allah.[3]


In Islam, "predestination" is the usual English language rendering of a belief that Muslims call al-qaḍāʾ wa l-qadar ([ælqɑˈdˤɑːʔ wælˈqɑdɑr] القضاء والقدر). As per the Sunni understanding, the phrase means "the divine decree and the predestination"; al-qadr more closely means "(divine) power", deriving from the root ق د ر (q-d-r), which denotes concepts related to measuring out, aiming, calculating, preparing, being able, and having power.[4]


Qadar is one of the aspects of aqidah. Muslims believe that the divine destiny is when God wrote down in the Preserved Tablet (al-lawh al-mahfooz [ar]) (several other spellings are used for this in English) all that has happened and will happen, which will come to pass as written.[citation needed] When referring to the future, Muslims frequently qualify any predictions of what will come to pass with the phrase Insha'Allah, Arabic for "if God willed [it]." The phrase recognizes that human knowledge of the future is limited, and that all that may or may not come to pass is under the control and knowledge of God.[citation needed]

However, people are not predestined by Allah to enter Hell.[citation needed] Rather, people will only bear their own sins that they themselves committed with free will and no one will be responsible for another person's deeds. The Quran holds that no man will be treated unjustly and everything will be judged by Allah. The Quran says this in the following verse:

" Say: You will not be questioned as to what we are guilty of, nor shall we be questioned as to what you do. Say: Our Lord will gather us together, then will He judge between us with the truth; and He is the greatest Judge, the All-knowing."
— Quran 34:25-26[5]
They will cry out to them: Were we not with you? They shall say: "Yes! but "you caused yourselves to fall into temptation, and you waited and doubted, and vain desires deceived you till the threatened punishment of Allah came, while the archdeceiver deceived you about Allah."
— Quran 57:14[6]
And if Allah had known any good in them He would have made them hear, and if He makes them hear they would turn back while they withdraw.
— Quran 8:23[7]
Nor would thy Lord be the One to destroy communities for a single wrong-doing, if its members were likely to mend. If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people: but they will not cease to dispute. Except those on whom thy Lord hath bestowed His Mercy: and for this did He create them: and the Word of thy Lord shall be fulfilled: "I will fill Hell with jinns and men all together."
—Quran 11:119[8]
No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (al-lawh al-mahfooz), before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah.
—Quran 57:22[9]

A hadith reports that Muhammad said about Qadr:

Ali narrated that one day the Messenger of Allah was sitting with a wooden stick in his hand with which he was scratching the ground. He raised his head and said, “There is none of you, but has his place assigned either in the Fire or in Paradise.” They (the Companions) inquired, “O Allah’s Messenger! Why should we carry on doing good deeds, shall we depend (upon Qadar) and give up work?” Muhammad said: “No, carry on doing good deeds, for everyone will find it easy (to do) such deeds that will lead him towards that for which he has been created.” Then he recited the verse: “As for him who gives (in charity) and keeps his duty to Allah and fears Him, and believes in al-Husna, We will make smooth for him the path of Ease (goodness) (Surah al-Lail 92:5-7). Sahih Muslim

However, it is made clear that no person has the power to benefit or harm himself or others, and that guidance is only given by Allah, no one else has the power to give guidance. The Quran says:

For those who do good is good (reward) and more (than this); and blackness or ignominy shall not cover their faces; these are the dwellers of the garden; in it they shall abide.
—Quran 10:26[10]


There are only two groups who represent the extremes regarding Qadar. Jabariyah are of the opinion that humans have no control over their actions and everything is dictated by God. The other group is Qadariyah (not to be confused with the Sufi order, Qadiriyya) and they are of the opinion that humans have complete control over their destiny, to the extent that God does not even know what humans will choose to do. The Sunni view is a synthesis of these two views, where they believe that God has knowledge of everything that will be, but that humans have freedom of choice.[citation needed]

Among the historical proponents of the Sunni view of the doctrine were:

  • Ibn Umar was a strong proponent of this concept.[11]

Among those who criticized the Sunni view of the doctrine were:

  • Ma'bad al-Juhani, the first man who discussed Qadar in Basra.

Sunni view

Sunnis enumerate Qadar as one aspect of their creed (Arabic: aqidah). They believe that the divine destiny is when God wrote down in the Preserved Tablet ("al-Lawhu 'l-Mahfuz") all that has happened and will happen, which will come to pass as written. However, this should not be considered within the limitations of time as human beings understand. In the Quran, God explicitly states that He will "write" the good for those who do righteous deeds.[citation needed]

According to this belief, a person's action is not caused by what is written in the Preserved Tablet but, rather, the action is written in the Preserved Tablet because God already knows all occurrences without the restrictions of time.[citation needed]

An individual has power to choose, but since God created time and space he knows what will happen. God is without any bond of time and space. Therefore, what will happen has meaning only to humans, who are limited in time and space. An analogy is someone who watches a movie for the second time, who knows what will happen next, while for the first time watcher the next move is unknown.[citation needed]

According to Maturidi belief, all active possibilities are created by God and humans act in accordance with their free intention to choose which action they follow. In this way, the intention precedes the created action and capacity by which actions are acquired (kasb in Arabic).[12]

Belief in al-Qadar is based on four things

  1. العلم Al-'Ilm – Knowledge: i.e., that Allah knows what had been, what will be, what has never been, and how it could be if it was. He also knows what His creation will do, by virtue of His eternal knowledge, including their choices that will take place.
  2. كتابة Kitabat – Writing: i.e., that Allah has written every thing that exists including the destiny of all creatures in al-Lawhu 'l-Mahfuz prior to creation.
  3. مشيئة Mashii'at – Will: i.e., that what Allah wills happens and what He does not will does not happen. There is no movement in the heavens or on earth but happens by His will. This does not mean that He forces things to happen the way they happen in the area of human beings' voluntary actions. It means that He knew what they will choose, wrote it and now lets it happen.
  4. الخلق Al-Khalq – Creation and formation: i.e., that Allah is the Creator of all things, including the actions of His servants. They do their actions in a real sense, and Allah is the Creator of them and of their actions.

Stages of Taqdeer (fate)

There are five stages where Qadar is determined and prescribed/sent to creation:

  1. The Decree of Allah that is written in Al-Lawh Al-Mahfuud before the creation of the universe. This destiny, written in the preserved tablet, is never changed and encompasses everything that will be.
  2. Allah made a divine decree after the creation of Adam. Allah took out all of the progeny of Adam (i.e. all of the humans from the beginning of time until the end of time), and asked them "Am I not your Lord?" and all of the humans responded "We testify that You are our Lord!" Then Allah decreed to them who shall go to paradise and who shall go to hell.
  3. The Life-time decree. This occurs when people are in the womb of their mothers, specifically 120 days after conception. Allah sends an angel to put a souls into bodies, and the angel writes down the decree that Allah has made; their life-spans, their actions, their sustenances (how much they will earn throughout their lifetime) and whether they will be dwellers of paradise or a dwellers of hell.[13]
  4. The yearly decree. This is during the Night of Qadr (Night of Decree) where Allah sends down his decrees from heaven to earth, in it he destines the actions (deeds, sustenance, births, deaths, etc.) of creation for the next year. The word Qadar should not be confused with Qadr; Qadar is destiny, Qadr is that which has been destined, i.e. decree, thus the translation – Night of Decree.
  5. The Daily Decree. Allah decrees the daily actions of his creation.

An example of how these categorizations help clear the idea of destiny is as follows: It is possible that Allah sends a daily/yearly decree dictating that a person will make a profit. However, due to that person's good deeds (for instance, fulfilling the ties of kinship [being good to your relatives and maintaining the relationship]), Allah sends another decree increasing that person's profit. The reversal of the two decrees is all within Allah's knowledge and is recorded in the Preserved Tablet. The person himself knows nothing of his own destiny or of Allah's decrees, but what he does know is that if he performs certain good deeds, then He will increase his profit (as in the example above) more than if he does not do that deed.

In the light of the above the following may be derived:

  • Our supplications do change destiny and are of much avail.
  • Good deeds are a source of an increase in one's sustenance, and can avert calamities.
  • Sins result in a decrease in one's sustenance, and invite calamities.[14]

Shi'a view

Twelvers, along with other Shia sects such as the Zaydis, reject predestination.[15][16][17][18] This belief is further emphasized by the Shia concept of Bada', which states that God has not set a definite course for human history. Instead, God may alter the course of human history as God sees fit.

To show that there is no contradiction between being predestined, and free will, Shiites state that matters relating to human destiny are of two kinds: definite and indefinite. To explain the definitive one, Shiites argue that God has definite power over the whole of existence, however, so whenever He wills, He can replace a given destiny with another one; and that is what is called indefinite destiny. Some of these changes of destiny, thus, are brought about by man himself, who can through his free will, his decisions, and his way of life lay the groundwork for a change in his destiny as has been pointed out in the verse: Truly, God will not change the condition of a people as long as they do not change Their state themselves.[19] Both types of destinies, however, are contained within God's foreknowledge, Shiites argue, so that there could be no sort of change (Bada) concerning His knowledge. So the first type of destiny does not mean a limitation of God's power; since God, in contrast to the belief of Jews who said the hand of God is tied’ asserts: Nay, His hands are spread out wide ....[20] So God has the power to change everything he wills and God's creativity is continuous. Accordingly, as Sobhani puts it, "all groups in Islam regard "bada" as a tenet of the faith, even if not all actually use the term."[21]

Iranian scholar Naser Makarem Shirazi tackles the paradox of God knowing man will commit a certain sin, and man's free will to commit it. He postulates the existence of a machine so advanced that it can predict the occurrence of an event some hours in advance.[22] Yet one would not say the machine compelled that event to occur; likewise, God's perfect knowledge doesn't compel man to commit sins.[22]

See also


  1. J. M. Cowan (ed.) (1976). The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. Wiesbaden, Germany: Spoken Language Services. ISBN:0-87950-001-8
  2. "Qadar". 
  3. Muhsin Khan, Muhammad. The Noble Qur'an. "Verily! We have sent it (this Quran) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Decree)" 
  4. "Archived copy". 
  5. Quran 34:25–26
  6. Quran 57:14
  7. Quran 8:23
  8. Quran 11:119
  9. Quran 57:22
  10. Quran 10:100
  11. 431 hadith found in 'The Book of Faith (Kitab Al-Iman)' of Sahih Muslim. [1]
  12. al-Maturidi al-Samarqandi, Abu Mansur Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Mahmoud (1970). Kitab at-Tawhid (English Introduction by Fathallah Kholeif) Beirut: Dar El-Machreq. p. xxxiv-xxxvi.
  14. "Taqdeer (Fate)". 
  15. Need of Religion, by Sayyid Sa'id Akhtar Rizvi, p. 14.
  16. Islamic Beliefs, Practices, and Cultures, by Marshall Cavendish Corporation, p. 137.
  17. Religions of Man, by Charles Douglas Greer, p. 239.
  18. Muslims, by S. H. M. Rizvi, Shibani Roy, B. B. Dutta, p. 20.
  19. Q13:11
  20. Q5:64
  21. Sobhani, Ja'far. Doctrines of Shi'i Islam. Translated and Edited by Reza Shah-Kazemi. London - New York: I.B.Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies. pp. 159–163. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 Naser Makarem Shirazi (12 May 2015). "The Issue of Predestination and Free Will". Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project. 


  • Frolov, Dmitry V. (2001). "Encyclopaedia of the Quran". in Jane Dammen McAuliffe. Encyclopaedia of the Quran. 1. p. 267-271. 
  • Sobhani, Ja'far; Shah-Kazemi, Reza (2001). The Doctrines of Shi'ism: A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 9781860647802. 
  • Shah, Mustafa (2013). Meri, Josef W.. ed. Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia. Psychology Press. pp. 638–640. 

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