What is Islam?

What is Islam?


Belief in Fate and Destiny
Mohamed Helal 1641

Belief in Fate and Destiny

Belief in Fate and Destiny[1]

That is, to say that Allah knows all that happens in the universe before it happens, and whatever happens is not out of His will, Sanctified be He.

Allah the Most High says,

“We have indeed created all things in due measure.” (Qur’ān, 54:49)

     Man cannot know what he is destined to do before it occurs. Allah has commanded him to do certain things that he must carry out on the basis of his own freedom and choice. Freedom is bound to obligation, and action is bound to compensation, as Allah the Most High says,

“Whoever does good, he does it for himself and whoever does evil, he does it against himself: your Lord is never unjust to His servants.” (Qur’ān, 41:46)

     Belief in fate and destiny prevents impatience and grief when man is afflicted with what Allah has decreed, in which case he has no choice, such as calamities. This does not mean surrender and despair, but it rather means that man should be keen on doing deeds based on the guidance of religion, and those deeds should be done in courage, confidence, and hope.

Allah the Most High says,

“Those who take partners [with Allah] will say, ‘If Allah had so willed, we would not have ascribed partners to Him -nor would our fathers- or have declared anything forbidden.’” (Qur’ān, 6:148)

He also says,

“They say, ‘If the Most Gracious had so willed, we would not have worshipped them (false deities);’ but they have no knowledge; they do nothing but conjecture.” (Qur’ān, 43:20)

This should be an incentive for people to work along the lines of religion in courage, confidence, and hope. Allah the Most High says,

“Say, ‘Only what Allah has decreed will happen to us. He is our Master. So, let the believers put their trust in Allah.” (Qur’ān, 9:51)

He also says,

“Those to whom men said, ‘A great army is gathering against you, so fear them.’ But it only strengthened their faith. They said, ‘For us Allah suffices. He is the Best Guardian.’”


Destiny: [2] This is the actual creation of all things in a specific way and special order with regard to their nature and states.[3]

Belief in Destiny: The Sunni Muslims view destiny as follows:

A. To believe that God, Glory be to Him, had known all His creatures, their deeds and their states in terms of acts of obedience and disobedience, sustenance, appointed times for death, happiness and misfortune in ancient unoriginated times.

B. To believe that God, Glory be to Him, had recorded this in the Preserved Tablet in ancient unoriginated times, or as the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) says, "God had first created the Pen and said to it: ‘Write down’. The pen said, ‘What should I write, My Lord?’ God said, ‘Write down the destiny of everything up till the Day of Judgment’.”[4] This means that one cannot miss predestined fortune or misfortune.

C. To believe that the Will of God includes everything, and whatever God predestinated will definitely occur and whatever is against His Will never occurs.

D. To believe that all things, people's deeds and others, are created by God and according to His Will. The Qur’an says,

“God created you and whatever you do.”[5] (Qur’an, 37:96)

Belief in Destiny does not Entail Compulsion or Predetermination.

     Some deviants claim that belief in destiny entails belief in compulsion and control on human beings, with regard to what they do and what they do not. This is a false and untrue allegation because all people feel strongly that they have a will to choose from different things and acts. This definite feeling of the ability to choose between doing something and keeping away from it is a clear and unequivocal evidence of the human being's freedom and will to do or not to do something.

     Now that a human being is free to do whatever s/he wants to do, this entails that s/he cannot use destiny and predestination as a pretext for doing or not doing something. For example, one shall not say, ‘God has predestined that I will drink alcohols’, and then uses this unfounded claim as a pretext to commit this sin and to evade legal responsibility. In such cases, a human being should not use destiny and predestination as a pretext because s/he does not know their destiny. Destiny is a secret that a human being cannot know. Thus, how could s/he use the unknown as a pretext for their sins and evil acts? These sins and evil acts are rather a result of yielding to caprice and Satan. A human being is actually free to choose between good and evil. Thus, to use destiny as a pretext for evil acts is to forge a lie against God. In the Ever-Glorious Qur’an, God condemns polytheists for using destiny as a pretext for their polytheism and describes their pretext as a kind of lie, ignorance and falsehood[6]. The Qur’an says,

“The ones who have associated (others with God) will soon say, ‘If God had (so) decided, in no way would we have associated (other gods with Him), nor our fathers’”. (Qur’an, 6:148)

     Thus, a human being in Islam is fully accountable for her/his actions and behaviors. If a human being had not been free to choose between good and evil acts, the accountability detailed in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an and the purified prophetic Sunnah would have been quite unwarranted. Freedom and accountability are integral and it would be unjust to hold somebody accountable for compulsory acts and behaviors. God has forbidden oppression for Himself and His servants. In a Holy Hadith, God the Exalted says, “O, my servants, I have prohibited myself from injustice and have made oppression unlawful for you; so do not oppress one another.”[7] In the Ever-glorious Qur’an, He says:

“In no way is your Lord in the least unjust to (His) servants.” (Qur’an, 41:46)

“In no way did We do them any injustice, but they did injustice to themselves.” (Qur’an, 11:101)

     There are also many other verses that definitively prove that God never does injustice. Now that God is the Ever-Just and does not do injustice even as much as an atom's weight and that He holds human beings accountable for their acts, a human being thus must be quite free to choose her/his optional acts. This freedom, according to Muslim pioneer scholars, may be:

1. The human being’s created will and independence to perform good and evil acts.

2. The mere comparison between the created will and the unoriginated Will.

3. The effect of the created will on the nature (rather than the origin) of the will.

4. The human being's partial will and how it affects the overall will originated by God.

5. The relationship between the human's free will and the external reasons which take place in a constant and unchangeable way.

6. Reconciliation between two kinds of God's Will: a universal general inclusive will, and a legal responsible will that is closely connected with His commands, love and satisfaction.

     These are all rational explanations proposed by Muslim leading scholars to overcome mental difficulties caused by purely rational discussions of accountability and recompense in the light of belief in the principle of destiny[8].


The Divine Decree and Predestination: Is man free or forced?[9]

Mentioning His wisdom behind creation, Allah (may He be Exalted) says,

“He (is the One) Who created the heavens and the earth in six days-and His Throne was upon the water-that He might try you, whichever of you is fairer in deeds. And indeed in case you say, ‘Surely you will be made to rise again even after death,’ the ones who have disbelieved will indeed say, ‘Decidedly, this is nothing except evident sorcery.’” (Qur’ān, 11: 7)

This verse denotes that there is a great test people will have to take, and according to which their destination will be defined.

What is this destination? In another verse, Allah (may He be Exalted) says,

 “To Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth that He may recompense the ones who have done odious (deeds) for what they have done and recompense the ones who have done fair (deeds) with the fairest reward.” (Qur’ān, 53: 31)

Therefore, there will be a disobedient who deserves punishment and an obedient who l deserves reward.

     This denotes absolute justice. However, some people claim that both the test and the results are false. They assert that Allah predestined some people to paradise concealing His will of coercive predestination of matters behind this imaginative play (i.e. worldly life)!

     Allah has given people minds by which they can think and choose and sent to them messengers to guide them to the straight path so that they may have no excuse:

“(So) that you should not say on the Day of the Resurrection, ‘Surely we were heedless of this.’” (Qur’ān, 7: 172)

“Or that you should not say, ‘Surely, it is only our fathers (who) associated (others with Allah) earlier, and we were (their) offspring even after them.’” (Qur’ān, 7: 173)

     Unfortunately, there are those who unreasonably hold that man has no ability or free-will, and that Allah manages everything. Many of such people deceive others by claiming to be Sufis and righteous. Such people may be badly exploited by colonists to achieve colonial aims. The underlying reasons for such thought may be the desire to deviate and then provide the Divine Decree as a justification for bad actions! Another reason is misinterpretation of Qur’ānic verses and silly arguments which are advanced by some scholars and then followed by common people.

     This may also be as a result of the confusion between the cases of free choice and those which are not. Man lives between a choice and a force in his inner being and his external movements! Our hearts knock without permission and perform their function without interference of our will; is that the case with our tongues when we speak?! Some may be white-skinned and others black! Will one be responsible for his color in the same way as the case of a person who envies one blessed with something or disdains disabled persons?

     Here we cite examples of the combination between human will and Divine Will. This point is misunderstood and confused by the advocates of determinism. We use electricity in our homes for lighting, operating radios, cooling and heating. Imagine a resident asked by the collector to pay the fee of electricity, but he replies, "The current passed through the wires from your company and the lamp cannot be lit by itself even if it remained for long time!” The collector will then ask him, "What do you mean?” He will say, "I do not pay for something you are the first to cause!” The collector will argue saying that, "But it is you who operates electricity”. The resident may reply that if it were not for the current that you sent, nothing would have been done. Similarly, some people falsely argue with Allah: “If it had not been for your will, nothing would have happened. So why would you punish me?”

     Another example mentioned in another book of mine: “Will it be acceptable that a peasant plants hashish, opium or any other anesthetic plant, then argues defending himself in the court, ‘How can you punish me for something planted by the One saying, “Is it you who plant it or are We, the Planters!?.” (Qur’ān, 56:64) ’”

Many people address their religious issues with such a silly logic!

     What if a person wants to go to the mosque or to the pub? Making a decision, he has full ability; his heart beats well and his nervous system is also operating well by Allah’s Decree. Yet, no one can claim that it was Allah who made him go to the mosque or to the pub?!

     Therefore, man has a free will by which he is legally competent; can make a choice, and can therefore be held responsible for his acts. Allah’s help for man to do what he has already wanted, for instance, to plant something or to have electricity in his home, does not contradict his full responsibility for what he has done.

     Man’s will is a distinguished element in the human entity, by which he is legally-qualified; he may the rise above animals and become responsible for his acts whether belief or disbelief.

The verses of Qur’ān confirm such facts. It is well-known that verses of the Qur’ān interpret each other. Allah (may He be Exalted) says:

“Thus does Allah lead into error whomever He decides, and He guides whomever He decides.” (Qur’ān, 74:31)

The answer for the question: “Whom Allah willed to be misled?” is given by the Qur’ān in the following verses,

“Allah leads into error the unjust (ones) and Allah performs whatever He decides.” (Qur’ān, 14:27)

“Surely Allah does not guide him who is a liar, a most disbelieving (person).” (Qur’ān, 39:3)

“Thus Allah leads into error him who is extravagant and (always) suspicious.” (Qur’ān, 40:34)

     It is impossible on the part of Allah to punish a righteous person though He wanted him to be misled. Allah is the Merciful, the Just and the Benevolent.

     Everyone is responsible for his acts. Predestination is not to be blamed for merely enabling a person to commit such acts. Logically speaking, one planting thorn does not harvest grapes! The more a person indulges in evil, the more misleading they get. This is because of their strict insistence on evil:

“Not at all! No indeed, (but) whatever they were earning has overlaid on their hearts.” (Qur’ān, 83:14)

The same is done with those who argue falsely and unjustly about Allah’s verses and have arrogance to accept the truth:

“Thus Allah stamps upon every heart of (every) proud potentate.” (Qur’ān, 40:35)

Thus if Allah willed to mislead a person, this is because he has already misled himself in the first place:

“So, as soon as they swerved, Allah caused their hearts to swerve; and Allah does not guide the immoral people.” (Qur’ān, 61:5)

He also says,

“And whoever constantly opposes the Messenger, even after guidance has become evident to him, and closely follows (a way) other than the believers' way, We turn him away to whatever (patron) he turns away to.” (Qur’ān, 4:115)

     Therefore, it would be naive to think that Allah leads astray a person who truly seeks guidance or follows the way of believers! Similarly, Allah guides those truly seeking guidance:

“And as for those who follow the right direction, He increases them in guidance and bestows on them their piety and restraint (against evil).” (Qur’ān, 47:17)

He Almighty also says,

“Surely the ones who have believed and done deeds of righteousness, their Lord will guide them for their belief.” (Qur’ān, 10:9)

“And whoever believes in Allah, He will guide his heart.” (Qur’ān, 64:11)


“He guides to Him whomever has turned penitent. The ones who have believed and whose hearts (feel) composed with the Remembrance of Allah” (the Qur’ān, 13:28)

Divine will is not a symbol of chaos. Allah says,

“And whomever Allah leads into error, then in no way will he have any guide. And whomever Allah guides, then in no way will he have a misleader.” (Qur’ān, 39:36-37)

This verse should be understood in the light of Allah’s saying,

“Say, ‘Whoever has been in error, then indeed the All-Merciful will grant him an extension of days.” (Qur’ān, 19:75),

which means that Allah increases his misguidance as explained above in other verses:

“And Allah increases the ones who have been guided in guidance.” (Qur’ān, 19:76)

     Thus, where there is a divine command, there exists a free will for man and moral and criminal responsibility in the world and the Hereafter! If there is, however, a lack of will for some reason, there is no responsibility at all. Allah does not give commands beyond people’s ability. He says,

“Allah does not charge a self (anything) except its capacity.” (Qur’ān, 2:286)

     Someone argued with me asking, “How can man have choice while the Will of Allah is powerful in all His creation?” I replied, “There is variance among Allah’s creation. There is a difference between the wall, the donkey and man! The wall does not feel and the donkey does not have reason (as humans) but humans have both sense and reason. Man's creation, moreover, has the advantage that makes him deserve to be treated in a manner other than that of the wall or the donkey! Humans also have a special feature which requires specific treatment different from that of the wall or donkey! The treatment of a driver of a car is different from that of the car itself. Similarly, there is wide difference between a leader and a follower and between a passenger and a vehicle! Therefore, it is foolish to make them equal in obligation”.

As a proof of the premeditated Divine misleading or guidance of humans, another person takes Allah’s saying,

“So, whomever Allah wills to guide, He expands his breast to Islam; and whomever He wills to lead into error, He makes his breast straitened, restricted, as if he were laboriously climbing up in the heaven.” (Qur’ān, 6:125).

     This, however, is a tenuous argument because the end of this noble verse clearly invalidates such an argument: “Thus Allah sets abomination upon (the ones) who do not believe.”

     The misery in which they too are wrapped in is because of their refusal of belief, so they are left for it. However, those who truly seek guidance and are pleased with it are awarded with peace of mind.

     Thus, the choice between the two approaches is associated with us every day, even at every moment. That is why Muslims ask Allah for guidance in prayers about twenty times a day, i.e. in Surat Al-Fatiḥah. (Ch. 1)

     There are great circumstances surrounding us and we do not know what our will and ability are going to do regarding them. This is similar to the situation of a person in a boat pitching up and down on mountainous waves. Therefore, a person should always ask for Allah’s Help, guidance and deliverance.

     It is wise to distinguish between the destinies that surround and control us and the actions that we are required to do and for which will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment.

     I believe that denial of free will is an escape from the functions of worship. Additionally, it entails a false accusation of Allah’s Attributes of being incomplete. This is a great crime! What do people aim at by doing so? Allah (may He be Exalted) says,

“To the ones who are fair-doers is the fairest reward and an increase; (i.e., a surplus).” (Qur’ān, 10:26)


“And for the ones who have earned odious deeds, the recompense of a bad deed will be the like of it.” (Qur’ān, 10:27)

He also says about the final retribution,

“Therefore, every self will try (i.e., see the consequences of) whatever it (did) in bygone days and they will be turned back to Allah, the Supreme Patronizer, the True, and there will err (Or: stray; i.e., their fabricated Allah’s will leave them) away from them whatever they were fabricating.” (Qur’ān, 10:30)

Where can injustice or compulsion be claimed here?


[1] Shaikh ‛Aṭiya Ṣaqr, Former Chairman of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, “Understanding Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, p. 37.

[2] Prof. Aḥmad Muḥammad Aṭ-Ṭayyeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, “Essential Features of Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, p. 41.

[3] This is how the Ash‘arites define predestination and destiny, but philosophers define predestination as God's knowledge of what the universe should look like in order for it to be in the optimal order. They call this ‘Care’. Destiny is how creatures are originated as predestined. The Mu‘tazlites do not believe in predestination and destiny with regard to optional deeds, but they affirm God's knowledge of these deeds. They, however, do not attribute these deeds to the knowledge of God, but rather to the will and abilities of people. See, al-Mawaqef, 2: 392-393.

[4] Abu Dawud, Sunan, 5:67, Book of Al-Qadar. Istanbul: Dar Al-Da'wah.

[5] Concerning hadiths related on Al-Qadar, see Al-Ash'ariy’s Al-‘Ebanah 'an Usul id-Diyanah, p. 131-ff. Beirut: 1985.

[6] Husayn Al-jesr: Al-Husoun ul-Hameeddiyah li l-Mohafazati 'Ala l-'Aqaed il-Islamiyah, p. 143. Cairo: Al-Halabi. 1935.

[7] Muslim, Saheeh, (Al-Jami‘ us-Sagheer. 8:17, Chapter on Prohibition of Injustice. The Book of Virtue, Enjoining Good Manners, and Joining of the Ties of Kinship. Beirut Dar Al-Marifah.

[8] For more comparative studies between Islam and other religions and philosophies, see al-Aqqad, Al-Falsafatu l-Qur’aniyah, pp. 131-165. The Complete Series, Volume 7. Beirut: Dar Al-Kitab Al-Lubnani. 1974.

[9] Muḩammad El-Ghazāli, “A Hundred Questions on Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, p. 48.



Back To Top