A Muslim who calls himself “an activist, a change agent and a social commentator who reflects upon reality,” finds it difficult to reconcile the sovereignty of God in Islam and Christianity – who decrees all events and actions – with human freedom and responsibility. In “Our fatalism pacifies us as Muslims” (Weekend Post, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, December 5, 2015), Imraahn Ismail Mukkaddam writes:
[My words appear in square brackets].
“Whenever I speak to people of faith – Muslim and others – about the condition of humanity and the planet, I am confronted by the Qur’anic and Biblical revelations that all of this is prescribed and described and that all of this mess we find ourselves in is God’s will. [I’m not sure what the writer means by “described”]. As believers in a Supreme Being we affirm and attest to Taqdeer [fate/destiny], Qadr, Karma, God’s will, predestination and divine decree, but to what extent are we allowing ourselves to be pacified into sheepish acceptance of what we perceive as inevitable without questioning if this is really predestined…“Is the chaos and the havoc and the injustice we witness on a daily basis really the manifestation of a divine divine decree? Is the Allah who we worship really such a cruel creator that He contradicts His foremost attributes – that of being Most Merciful and Most Beneficent?”
Definition of Taqdeer (fate/destiny)
“The concept of destiny may further be explained by understanding destiny to be Allah’s knowledge of how the individual is going to use his free-will rather than a pre-decided factor being enforced upon him without giving him a fair chance. Consider the following example:
An appointment is arranged between two individuals. The first arrives before time and waits for the second; he then comments that the second will arrive late as always. He bases his prediction on previous experience and the lax nature of the second individual. This statement does not restrict or bound the latter’s ability to attend on time in any way, it is merely an assertion. Similarly, when Allah the Almighty informs us, through his infinite knowledge, of his knowledge of our precise actions and our consequent abode it should not be perceived to be a compelling decision against our free will, but rather only his knowledge of our decisions. To summarise, every individual has been given free-will and should use it to work towards attaining the pleasure of Allah and that Allah has full knowledge of the individual’s actions; past, present and future.” (Taqdeer, Inter-Islam.org)
The above passage does not make a distinction between “fate” (random forces) and “destiny” (God’s plan).
Definition of Qadr: Predestination, God’s eternal decree.
Mukkaddam, asks: “Is the chaos and the havoc and the injustice we witness on a daily basis really the manifestation of a divine divine decree? Is the Allah who we worship really such a cruel creator that He contradicts His foremost attributes – that of being Most Merciful and Most Beneficent?”
Bertrand Russell, in his article “A Free man’s worship” (1903), concludes: “Brief and powerless is man’s life; on him and all his race the slow sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way.”
A theist does not believe that human freedom is caught up in the chance intrigues (fate) of “omnipotent matter.” So, how can we reconcile a most merciful, most beneficent God with evil – natural calamities and the worship of self manifested in acts such as lying, calumny, stealing, and murder?
Philosophers and others have written billions of words on the problem without any solution. So should we give up on God, as so many have done? No.
Human reason – as is true of so many questions of human origins and destiny/fate, cannot produce truth; it has to be discovered; uncovered, by a divine hand. This does not mean that all our questions on such matters as evil can be answered to our satisfaction. And if I can’t, that is a perverse and silly reason to reject the answers.
Jews, Christians and Muslims trust their texts come from God, they believe in divine revelation. The psalmist writes, “Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation (Psalm 25:4-5).
The Muslim should also believe in the divine origin of this psalm, for the Qur’an says “We have sent down the Torah,* containing guidance and light. Ruling in accordance with it were the Jewish prophets, as well as the rabbis and the priests, as dictated to them in GOD’s scripture, and as witnessed by them. Therefore, do not reverence human beings; you shall reverence Me instead. And do not trade away My revelations for a cheap price. Those who do not rule in accordance with GOD’s revelations, are the disbelievers” (Surah 5:44).
I believe that the Bible, not human philosophy or human indignation, provides a satisfactory, if partial answer. Partial because “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law/Torah/teaching (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Here is one thing revealed: “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please’” (Isaiah 46:10).
Compare the above verse with the definition of taqdeer (fate/destiny) in the Islamic definition given above: “every individual has been given free-will and should use it to work towards attaining the pleasure of Allah and that Allah has full knowledge of the individual’s actions; past, present and future.”
With regard to free will, most Christians – for example, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Methodists, and Word of Faith movements agree with Islamic theology, namely that the human will is a neutral entity – it can choose either to love God or not – and that God knows all things, past present and future; and God will be pleased if people use their free will to love Him, but can do nothing about it if they choose not to. How does the Muslim reconcile this view with his understanding of qadr?
“Predestination/predetermination” (see above), which states that “the outcome of all affairs is determined by God’s decree…from it you cannot flee.” If God makes known the end from the beginning (prophecy), he obviously (fore)knows what he makes known. What, however, do we make of the line in Isaiah 46:10, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please?”
According to most Christians and all Muslims and orthodox Jews, this sentence means that God’s purpose is to know everything in eternity and in time-space. And knowing all this pleases him. But, I ask, isn’t the reason why God knows the end from the beginning because he decreed it, purposed it, ordained it, as in Isaiah 46:10?
How to reconcile the divine decree with human free will? The Muslim is caught between the rock of taqdeer (God’s foreknowledge of human free acts) and the hard place of qadr (God’s decree/predestination/predetermination), a quandary driving our writer, Mukkaddam, nuts; with good reason.
Can human free will be compatible with the biblical truth that God decrees everything, and that includes, must include, evil, where human beings are free agents AND God decrees their acts. Plato, the Greek philosopher, and Augustine of Hippo say that God is the author of good only. What then to make of Isaiah 45:7? “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil (Hebrew ra); I am the LORD, that doeth all these things.” How can God be infinitely good and create evil?
The Bible juxtaposes human causality and divine causality in this remarkable verse in scripture on the crucifixion of Christ, which could help Mukkaddam in his difficulty. Ironically, he, being a Muslim, rejects one of the most reliable of all historical facts, that Christ died on the cross. The Qur’an says “They killed him not” (Surah 4:57). The Bible says they did kill him: “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23).
We see in the above verse that God’s deliberate plan (which is the reason why he foreknows it), which is his decree to have Jesus, the Son of God crucified (planned from eternity by both the Father and the Son) is, therefore, compatible with the free agency of man to do this evil deed. Do we reject the scripture because we cannot reconcile a wholly good God – there is no evil in him – with his decree, or do we bow to the divine counsel?
Our confusion is caused by our limited understanding of the relationship between the finite and the infinite, the temporal [Latin tempus “time”] and the eternal. We can only have a finite, temporal concept of divine causality, of divine authorship, of divine creativity. “The concatenation of all his counsels is not intelligible to us; for he is as essentially and necessarily wise, as he is essentially and necessarily good and righteous.” (Stephen Charnock, 1632 -1680. “A discourse on the wisdom of God”).
Finally, Mukkaddam has difficulty reconciling the “chaos and havoc” of the world with a loving God. What example does he give of this chaos and havoc? He exclaims “global warming,” which is the central focus of his problem with the relationship between the evil acts of man (pollution) and predestination? I am reminded of Barack Hussein Obama, Bernie Sanders ( a US democratic presidential candidate) and Prince Charles. Obama and Sanders say ISIS is not the problem; global warming is. For Prince Charles, the reason why there are so many refugees flooding Europe is because they are fleeing global warming. Floods?
Global warming, man-made or not, is not the most pressing problem. There are greater problems: poverty, national debt, and Islamic terrorism particularly ISIS and its supporters in the US, Europe and the Middle East. The most (de)pressing problem is ISIS, because although poverty can kill, and one can die from a swollen tummy, there is little fear that it will blow up in your face. And where does ISIS find its inspiration? In the Qur’an; in its explicit blanket directives to kill idolators and apostates, and to subjugate or kill the people of the Book (Jews and Christians).
Question: did God decree ISIS to kill and destroy, does God decree the vile acts of man, did God decree sin? Yes. Yet man is guilty; he loves his sin; ISIS wallows in it.
Now we know why most people in the world including religious ones hate a God who decrees evil. The thrice holy God will not allow any rogue force to control the world without His decree, without fulfilling His purpose.
In short, the difference between the Islamic and New Testament notions of Allah’s and God’s decree is this:
In Islam, even if you believe in Allah and his prophet, and are an obedient Muslim, this is irrelevant to where you end, because Allah has already decreed your destiny – in your father’s loins or in your mother’s tummy or many years before your birth; all three are cited in contradictory hadiths.
Here is a key verse: John 6 – 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day…44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day...64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
How do the above verses fit with New Testament “predestination?” Answer: God decrees that if you are predestined to be saved (eternal ife), you will believe. In Islam, qadr and belief in and obedience to Allah are unrelated.
P.S. Mukkaddam is obviously living in the West, for if he wrote this article in a Muslim land (under Sharia), he’d be toast.
See here – from beginning to 43rd minute – for “Christian Prince’s” attempt to refute the the concept of qadr, where he seems to conflate qadr with the Christian concept of “predestination/election.” He does this, as all Arminians do, because they believe, like Christian Prince, that election means selection, which is based on you opening the door to your heart and letting Christ in; and on the idea that if you get sick of Christ, you can show him door.