The Belief in Divine Decree

The next and final article of faith mentioned by the Prophet (peace be upon him) is belief in “divine decree” or al-Qadar. Idris discusses the meaning of this word and states,

The original meaning of the word Qadar is specified measure or amount, whether of quantities or qualities. It has many other usages which branch out from this core. Thus yuqad-dir means, among other things, to measure or decide the quantity, quality, position, etc., of something before you actually make it. And it is this latter sense which interests us here. 

It is obligatory upon every Muslim to believe in the concept of Qadar or Divine Decree, as it is clearly referred to in numerous authentic hadith.

Ibn al-Qayyim shows that there are four “levels” or aspects of belief in Qadar. If one does not believe in these four aspects, he does not have the correct or proper belief in Allah. 

The first level is belief in Allah’s knowledge of everything, both of universals and particulars, before its existence. This is related to both, what is sometimes referred to as, the actions of Allah, such as producing rain, giving life and so forth, as well as the actions of human beings. Allah has foreknowledge of all of the deeds of the creation according to His ever-existing knowledge that He is described as having eternally. This includes His knowledge of all their affairs with respect to obedience, disobedience, sus-tenance and life-spans.

This aspect can be concluded from many Quranic verses, including:

“And with Him are the keys of the Unseen. None knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is on the earth and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but he knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record”


The second level of belief in Qadar is belief in Allah’s recording of all things before He created the heavens and the earth. Hence, Allah not only knew and knows what will happen, but Allah has also recorded this informa-tion in the Preserved Table (al-Lauh al-Mahfoodh). Such an act is not difficult for Allah whatsoever.

Allah says

Don’t you know that Allah knows all that is in heaven and on earth? Verily, it is all in the Book. Verily, that is easy for Allah


Allah also says

No calamity occurs on the earth or among yourselves but it is inscribed in the Book [of Decrees] before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah


The third level is to believe in Allah’s decreeing of everything that is in existence, and if He does not will something, it can never come into existence. Once again, this also refers to all things. It refers to Allah’s actions of giving life, sustenance and so forth; and it also includes all of the acts performed by human beings. Nothing can be done unless Allah decrees it and allows it to occur. A person may intend or try, for example, to shoot and kill another person but such can only occur if Allah decrees it. The person may take all the necessary steps but if Allah does not will it to occur, it will not occur. In the case just mentioned, Allah may will the gun to jam or the shooter’s hand to flinch and miss his target and so forth.

This aspect of Qadar may also be concluded from numerous pieces of evidence. For example,

Allah says

“If Allah had willed, succeeding gen-erations would not have fought against each other, after clear verses of Allah had come to them. But they differed, some of them believing and others disbelieving. If Allah had willed, they would not have fought against one another, but Allah does what He likes” (2:253). Allah also says, “Verily, this [the Quran] is no less than a Reminder to (all) the ‘Alamin (mankind and jinn).To whomsoever among you who wills to walk straight. And you cannot will unless (it be) that Allah wills ــــ the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists)


Ibn Uthaimeen also offers a rational argument for this aspect of belief in Qadar. He says that it must be accepted that Allah is the Owner, Master and Controller of this creation. Hence, it cannot be the case, as long as everything is under His Control and part of His Dominion, that something occurs in His Dominion that He does not want to happen. Therefore, everything that occurs in His creation is by His Will. Nothing could ever occur unless He willed it. Otherwise, His control and mastery over His dominion would be deficient and lacking, as things would be occurring in His dominion that either He did not will to occur or they occurred without His knowledge. These hypotheses are unacceptable. 

The fourth level of belief in Qadar is the belief in Allah’s creating of everything, bringing of everything into existence and making everything be. This aspect is also demonstrated by numerous verses in the Quran, including:

Blessed be He who sent down the Criterion to His slave [Mu-hammad] that he may be a warner to the Worlds. He to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and who has begotten no offspring and for whom there is no partner in the dominion. He has created everything, and has measured it exactly according to its due measurements



Allah has created everything


Another verse states,

“Verily, We created all things with Divine Pre-ordainment”


Ibn Uthaimeen has explained this point by saying,

Everything is a creation of Allah. Even the deeds of mankind are crea-tions of Allah. Although they are by [man’s] free choice and will, they are creations of Allah. This is because every act of a human is the result of two aspects: a definitive will [to do the act] and the complete ability [to do the act]. For example, suppose that in front of you is a stone weighing twenty pounds. I say to you, “Lift this stone,” and you say, “I don’t want to lift it.” In this case, your lack of will has prevented you from lifting the stone. If I said a second time to you, “Lift that stone,” and you said, “Yes, I will listen and do what you have said.” In this case, if you wanted to lift it but you were not capable of lifting it, you would not have lifted it because you did not have the capability to do so. If I said to you a third time, “Lift that stone,” and you complied and lifted it above your head, that was because you had the ability and the will to do it.

All of our deeds that we perform , therefore, are the result of a definitive will and complete ability. The one who created that ability and will is Allah. If Allah had made you paralyzed, you would not have the abili-ty. If you turned your attention to some other deed, you would not have done it...

Therefore, we say: All of the actions of humans are created by Allah. This is because they are the result of definitive will and complete ability. The one who created that will and ability is Allah. The way in which Allah is the creator of that will and capability is that the will and ability are two characteristics of the one who wants something and the one who has ability but the one who created that person with that ability was Allah. The One who created the person who has specific characteristics is also the one who created those characteristics. This makes the matter clear and shows that the actions of human beings are the creation of Allah. 

Actually, there are a number of questions and misconceptions that have arisen surrounding the concept of Qadar. Due to space limitations, they cannot be dealt with in detail here. However, in a not-too-lengthy pas-sage, Jaafar Sheikh Idris has adequately dealt with a number of such issues. He wrote,

God decided to create man as a free agent, but He knows (and how can He not know?) before creating every man how he is going to use his free will; what, for example, his reaction would be when a Prophet clarifies God’s message to him...

But if we are free to use our will,” a Qadari  might say, “we may use it in ways that contradict God’s will, and in that case we would not be right in claiming that everything is willed or decreed by God.” The Quran answers this question by reminding us that it was God who willed that we shall be willful, and it is He who allows us to use our will. [He then quotes surah al-Insaan 29-30.] “If so,” says a Qadari, “He could have prevented us from doing evil.” Yes, indeed he could, “Had God willed, He would have brought them all together to the guidance” (6:35) And Allah says “if thy Lord had willed whoever is in the earth would have believed, all of them, all together” [10:99]... But He had willed that men shall be free especially in regard to matters of belief and disbelief. “Say: ‘The truth is from your Lord; so let whosoever will believe, and let whosoever will disbelieve


“If our actions are willed by God,” someone might say, “then they are in fact His actions.” This objection is based on a confusion. God wills what we will in the sense of granting us the will to choose and enabling us to execute that will, i.e., He creates all that makes it possible for us to do it. He does not will it in the sense of doing it, otherwise it would be quite in order to say, when we drink or eat or sleep for instance, that God performed these actions. God creates them, He does not do or perform them. Another objection, based on another confusion, is that if God allows us to do evil, then He approves of it and likes it. But to will something in the sense of allowing a person to do it is one thing; and to approve of his action and commend it is quite another... 

In the Hadith of the Angel Gabriel, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explicitly stated that one must believe in divine decree, “[both] the good and the evil thereof.” Ibn al-Qayyim points out that what is meant by “evil” is with respect to the human beings and not with respect to Allah. The “evil” is the result of the human’s act of ignorance, wrong, oppression and sin. However, it was allowed and brought into being by Allah. But no evil is to be attributed to Allah because, with respect to Allah, the act is good and full of wisdom, as it must be a result of Allah’s knowledge and wisdom. Any act of that nature must, in its essence, be good and cannot be pure evil. This is supported by the Prophet’s hadith, “Evil is not to be attributed to You.”  That is because every act that occurs is the result of some wisdom and goodness and can never be pure evil. The individual himself may think it otherwise, but in reality there is wisdom and good in everything that occurs in Allah’s creation. 

Ibn Uthaimeen gives an example illustrating this point.

Allah says in the Quran

Evil has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned, that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return [by repenting]


In this verse, Allah states the evil (fasaad) that has appeared, the cause for it and its result. The evil (fasaad) and the cause of it are both evil (sharr). However, the goal of it is good: that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return [by repenting]. Hence, there is a wisdom and a goal behind that fasaad. This goal and wisdom makes the entire action something good and not a pure evil. 

Pure evil, on the other hand, would be one in which there was no benefit or positive result related to it. Allah’s wisdom and knowledge preclude the existence of acts of that nature. 

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