Belief in Qadar (predestination)
(Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC, delivered this Friday speech on may24, 2002)
Belief in predestination (qadar) is one of the basic principles of faith; without it a person’s belief is incomplete. ‘Umar (R.A.), described how angel Jibreel (Gabriel), questioned the Messenger (S.A.W.) about imaan (belief), the messenger replied: “It (imaan) is to believe in Allaah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and to believe in divine destiny (qadar), both good and evil thereof.” He (i.e., Jibreel) replied: “You have spoken rightly.” [Reported by Imaam Muslim]
There are many texts, which speak of the qadar of Allaah or command belief in qadar. These texts include the aayaat (verses):
Allaah (S.W.T) says what may be translated as, “Verily, We have created all things with qadar (Divine Preordainments of all things before their creation as written in the Book of Decrees-Al-Lawh al-Mahfoodh).” [surat Al-Qamar, (Verse 49)]
Allaah (S.W.T) says what may be translated as, “…And the command of Allaah is a decree determined.” [surat Al-Ahzaab, (Verse 38)]
Taawoos said: “I met some people from among the Companions of the Messenger of Allaah who said that everything happens by qadar. He said, I heard ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar say: everything happens by qadar, even helplessness and resourcefulness.” [Reported by Imaam Muslim]
Imaam An-Nawawi said: “Clear cut evidence from the Qur’aan and Sunnah, the consensus (ijmaa’) of the Sahaabah (the Companions) and the prominent figures of the earlier and later generations, overwhelmingly support one another to prove the qadar of Allaah.”
Belief in qadar (predestination) is one of the basic principles of faith. The Qur’aan and Sunnah explain the concept of qadar (predestination), and the Messenger (S.A.W.) stated that taking action and using any means to reach an objective is part of qadar and does not contradict this idea. He warned his Ummah against those who do not believe in qadar, or who use qadar as an excuse to oppose the commandments of Islaam.
The Messenger (S.A.W.) became very angry when he came out one day and found his companions debating about qadar; he was so angry that his face turned red as if pomegranate had been squeezed over his face. He said: “Is this what you have been commanded to do? Is this why I was sent to you? The people who came before you were destroyed when they disputed about this matter. I urge you not to dispute about this.” [An authentic narration reported by Imaam At-Tirmidhi]
The companions (R.A.) responded to the urgency and directions of their prophet. It is not known whether any of them debated about qadar (predestination), either during his lifetime or after he died.
It has not been narrated whether any of the Muslims debated about qadar during the time of the Rightly Guided Khulafa (caliphs) (R.A.). All that has been narrated is that Abu ‘Ubaydah objected to the fact that ‘Umar went back with the people and did not enter Syria when the plague spread there. He said to ‘Umar: “O Ameer al’ Mu’mineen, are you running away from the decree (qadar) of Allaah? ‘Umar said, “If only someone other than you had said this, O Abu ‘Ubaydah! Yes, we are running away from the decree of Allaah towards the decree of Allaah. Do you not see that if you had a camel and you came to a valley where there were two patches of land, one green and fertile, and the other dry and barren, if you let it graze in the green land, you do so by the decree of Allaah, and if you let it graze in the dry land, you do so by the decree of Allaah." [Reported by Imaam Bukhaari] This is how Umar directed Abu 'Ubaida to the correct meaning of qadar (predestination).
The pillars of belief in qadar (predestination)
Belief in qadar is based on four pillars. Whoever affirms all of them has attained perfect belief in qadar. Whoever is lacking one or more of them does not have the correct belief in qadar. These four pillars are:
The first pillar: Belief in the all-encompassing knowledge of Allaah.
This great principle is frequently reiterated in the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (S.A.W.). The knowledge of Allaah encompasses all things: He knows what was and what is yet to come. In regards to that which does not happen, if it were to happen, He knows how it would be. He knows what exists and what does not exist, what is possible and what is impossible.
Allaah, the Almighty, knows about His slaves, how long their lives will be, what their provisions will be, their circumstances, their movements, whether they are doomed or blessed. He knows who among them is from the people of paradise and who is from the people of Hell, even before He created them or the heavens and earth.
All of this is connected to His all-encompassing knowledge and to the fact that He is All-Knowing, All-Aware, All-Hearing, and All-Seeing.
The second pillar: Belief that Allaah has written everything in Al-lawh al-Mahfoodh (The Preserved Tablet):
The text of the Qur’aan and Sunnah indicate that Allaah had written all things in Al-Lawh al-mahfoodh (the preserved tablet). According to a hadeeth ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-Aas said: “I heard the Messenger of Allaah (S.A.W.) say: “Allaah wrote the decrees of His creation fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth, and He said: His throne is above the water.” [Reported by Imaam Muslim]
And in anther narration, the prophet (S.A.W.) said: “Allaah decreed the decrees fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth.” [Reported by Imaam At-Tirmidhi]
The messenger of Allaah (S.A.W.) said: “The first thing which Allaah created was the Pen. Allaah said, ‘Write! The pen asked, 'What shall I write? He (Allaah) said: “Write the decree (al-qadar) of what has happened and what is to happen, for all eternity.” [Reported by Imaam At-Tirmidhi]
Allaah (S.W.T) says what may be translated as, “Know you not that Allaah knows all that is in the heaven and on the earth? Verily, it is [all] in the Book [Al-Kitaab] [Al-Lauh al-Mahfoodh]. Verily, that is easy for Allaah.” [surat Al-Hajj, (Verse 70)]
Allaah (S.W.T) says what may be translated as, “Verily, We give life to the dead, and We record that which they send before [them], and their traces and all things We have recorded with number (as a record) in a Clear Book (kitaab mubeen).” [surat Yaaseen, (Verse 12)]
The third pillar: Belief that the will of Allaah is All-Encompassing and that His power is overwhelming:
This principle implies the belief that the will of Allaah is unstoppable and that His power is All-Encompassing. Whatever Allaah, the All-High, wills happens and whatever he does not will does not happen. Nothing can move or come to a halt in the heavens or on earth except by His Will, and nothing happens in His Dominion except what He wills.
Allaah (S.W.T) says what may be translated as, “Verily, His Command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says to it, “Be! And it is!”" [surat Yaaseen, (Verse 82)]
The fourth pillar of Qadar: Belief that Allaah is the Creator of all things:
The texts (of the Qur’aan and Sunnah) state that Allaah, the All-Powerful, is the Creator of all things. He is the One who created, formed and brought His creation into being. He is the Creator and everything besides Him is subject to His dominion and control and is created by Him. Allaah (S.W.T) says what may be translated as, “Allah is the Creator of all things.” [surat Az-Zumar, (Verse 62)]
People's deeds are created by Allaah and decreed by Him (S.W.T.):
Allaah (S.W.T) says what may be translated as, “While Allaah has created you and what you make!” [surat As-Saaffaat, (Verse 96)] This belief does not contradict with the actions that humans take, because humans do not know what Allaah has decreed for them. The believer should always use all lawful and available means to reach a lawful objective; whatever results occur have been decreed by Allaah.
A man once asked, ‘O messenger of Allaah, explain our religion to us as if we had only just been created. What should we strive for today? Is it for something concerning which the pens have dried and the decree has been issued, or is it concerning something that is yet to be decided? He (S.A.W.) said, “No, it is for something concerning which the pens have dried and the decree has been issued.’ He said, “Then why should we strive? He said: ‘Strive, for each person will be facilitated to his fate.” [Reported by Imaam Muslim] According to another narration, “Strive, for each person will be facilitated to do his deeds.” Then he said: “Strive, for everyone will be guided, those who are blessed will be guided to do the actions of those who are blessed, and those who are doomed will be facilitated to do the actions of those who are doomed.” Then he (S.A.W.) recited from what may be translated as, “By the night as it envelops. By the day as it appears in brightness. By Him who created male and female. Certainly, your efforts and deeds are divers [different in aims and purposes]; as for him who gives [in charity] and keeps his duty to Allaah and fears him, and believes in Al-Husnaa [the best] We will make smooth for him the path of ease [goodness]. But he who is greedy, miserly and thinks himself self-sufficient, and belies Al-Husnaa, We will make smooth for him the path of evil.” [surat Al-Layl, (Verses 1 to 10)] [Reported by Imaams Bukhaari and Muslim]
The messenger of Allaah (S.A.W.) said: “By the one besides whom there is no other god, one of you may do the deeds of the people of paradise until there is no more than a cubit between him and it, then the decree overtakes him and he does an action of the people of Hell, and thus he enters it (hell). And one of you may do the deeds of the people of Hell until there is no more than a cubit between him and it, then the decree overtakes him and he does an action of the people of paradise, and thus he enters (paradise).” [Reported by Imaams Bukhaari and Muslim]
Some claim that believing in qadar implies that one does not need to act or seek the means to an end.
Those who made this claim are wrong because believing in does not mean that a person should not strive. They did not recognize the reality of qadar, for Allaah decreed the outcomes and the means; He did not decree the effects without causes. Whoever claims this is fabricating a serious lie about Allaah.
When Allaah decrees that so and so should be given a provision, He also creates the means by which he will earn that provision. Whoever claims that there is no need to strive because whatever provisions have been decreed will come whether one strives or not does not understand the decrees of Allaah concerning His slaves. Allaah (S.W.T) says what may be translated as, “And in the heaven is your provision, and that which you are promised." [surat Az-Zaaryaat, (verse 22)] Also He (S.W.T) commanded us what may be translated as, “He it is who has made the earth subservient to you [i.e. easy for you to walk, to live and to do agriculture on it]; so walk in the path thereof and eat of His provision...” [surat Al-Mulk, (Verse 15)]
Allaah (S.W.T) says what may be translated as, “…And there is no victory except by the help of Allaah." [surat Al-Anfaal, (Verse 10)] Also He (S.W.T) commanded us what may be translated as, “And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war [tanks, planes, missiles, artillery] to threaten the enemy of Allaah and your enemy.” [surat Al-Anfaal, (Verse 60)]
Allaah (S.W.T) is the one who decrees the illness and also the cure; He orders us to use medications so that we may be cured. The prophet was once asked, "Should we use medication, 'O messenger of Allaah? He replied, "Yes, use medication, O' servant of Allaah, surely Allaah did not send down a disease without sending down a cure for it; some people knew the cure and others did not."
If one studies the life of the messenger (S.A.W.) one will realize that the prophet with his complete faith in fate never avoided the means or necessary steps to reach an objective.
The Different Types of Qadar
When we look at various verses from the Qur'aan and authentic ahaadeeth of the prophet, we will find that there are two types of qadar. The first type of qadar is called, 'definite qadar,' which Allaah has written in the Mother of the Book, (al Lawh al-Mahfoodh) and this decree will never change. The second type of qadar, 'indefinite qadar,' Allaah has made His decree, and made His angels aware of it. This type of qadar may change if Allaah wills. Allaah (S.W.T.) says what may be translated as, "Allaah blots out what He wills and confirms (what He wills). And with Him is the Mother of the Book (Al-Lawh Al-Mahfoodh) [Surat Al Ra'id, (Verse 39)].
Some may ask if a person's provisions and lifespan has already been decided and will not increase or decrease, then how can we interpret the following hadeeth of the prophet, where he states: "Whoever would like his provision to be increased and his life to be prolonged let him uphold the ties of kinship." [Reported by Imaams Bukhaari and Muslim]
Also, how can we interpret the hadeeth which states that Allaah made the lifespan of Dawood one hundred years, when it had originally decreed for him to live for sixty years? In part of a longer hadeeth, the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said, "…Adam asked Allaah about the age of David and Allaah answered that his age was 60 years. Adam replied, "O' my Lord, increase his age from my age by 40 years." Later, when Adam lifespan came to an end, the angel of death came [to take Adam's soul] and Adam said, "Isn't there 40 years left of my life?" The angel answered, "Did you not give it to your son David?" So the prophet commented that Adam had denied and therefore his offspring will deny in the same way." [An authentic hadeeth reported by Imaams At-Tirmidhi and Al-Haakem]
In response to these inquiries, Imaam Ibn Taymiyyah said: There are two types of provision and lifespan: the first type has already been decreed and is written in Umm al-kitaab, and cannot be changed or altered. The next type of qadar, Allaah has informed His angels of His decrees. This is the type where provisions and lifespan may increase or decrease. Hence Allaah, the Almighty says what may be translated as, "Allaah blots out what he wills and confirms [what He wills]. And with Him is the Mother of the book." [Surat Ar-Ra'ad, (Verse39)] The mother of the Book (Umm al-Kitaab) is Al-Lawh al-Mahfoodh, in which Allaah has decreed all things as they will always be without change. However, the decrees contained in the books of the angels, such as lifespan and provisions, may increase or decrease according to various circumstances, thereafter, the angels will re-write a person's provision and lifespan. If a person, upholds the ties of kinship, his provisions and lifespan will be extended, otherwise they will decrease."[See Majmoo'al-Fataawa 8/540]
In the same source, Imaam Ibn Taymiyyah said: "Life spans are also of two types: the definite lifespan which is known to Allaah, and the variable indefinite lifespan. Allaah commands the angels to write down the lifespan of His slave. If the person upholds the ties of kinship, He commands the angels to increase his lifespan and provision. The angels only know the original lifespan of humans; however, if Allaah extends a person's life, the angels are unaware of any changes until Allaah informs them. When the appointed time for death comes, nothing can accelerate or delay it; only Allaah knows how matters will proceed during this time. [See Majmoo'al-Fataawa 8/517]
Imaam Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalaani said: "What is known to Allaah from qadar cannot be changed or altered. However, the deeds or actions of a person do change and can be observed. What also changes is the knowledge of the angels who have been entrusted to care for human beings. This is what may be blotted out or confirmed, such as extending people's lifespan and provision. But whatever was previously known by Allaah cannot be blotted out or confirmed, and that knowledge rests with Allaah."[See Fath al-Baari, 11/488]
How should we deal with these two types of Qadar?
Once we believe in both types of qadar, then we should deal with both types as if they were indefinite, because our fates are unknown to us. For those who believe in qadar, they must work to the best of their capabilities to do good and avoid evil when it comes to religious or worldly matters. We should utilize all lawful and available resources to achieve the greatest good. Surely, Allaah (S.W.T) will guide us towards the fate that He has decreed for us.
Two groups that were misguided about Qadar
The first group was called Al-Qadariyyah because they believed that the individual has the power to initiate his own actions independently of Allaah, and they denied that things happen by the decree and will of Allaah.
Imaam Muslim reported that "The first person who spoke about qadar in Basrah was Ma'bad and those who were with him claimed that there was no qadar, and that everything happened without being decreed."
A few companions of the prophet were still alive at this time and launched a series of debates against this group. This opinion of the Qadarriyah's was adopted by the leaders of the Mu'tazilah such as Ma'bad, Waasil ibn Ataa, Amr ibn Ubayd and Gheelaan al-Dimashqi.
The other misguided group, Al-Jabriyyah, claimed that the individual has been forced to do whatever he does without the freedom of choice, and what little power an individual does have is very ineffective. At the end of the Umayyad period, the first person to make such a claim was Al-Jahm ibn Safwaan; from his false claims stemmed widespread misguidance.
This belief spread throughout the Ummah and was adopted by many worshippers, ascetics and Sufis. And some of them have gone to the extreme of permitting things which are forbidden or making obligatory actions no longer compulsory.
The Benefits of believing in Qadar (Predestination):
1- Helps believers adhere to the true path during times of ease or difficulty.
Belief in qadar makes a person continue to follow the straight path, so that he is not careless at times of ease or in despair when calamity strikes, for he knows that everything good that happens to him comes from Allaah, and is not because of his intelligence or good planning: Allaah (S.W.T) says what may be translated as, “And whatever of blessings and good things you have, it is from Allaah.” [surat An-Nahl, (Verse 53)]
If a person truly believes in qadar, then no matter what trials and tribulations befall him, he always knows that this is happening by the decree of Allaah, as a test from Him, so he does not panic nor despair, rather he seeks the reward of Allaah and bears it with patience, and this faith brings contentment and tranquility to the heart of the believer.
Allaah (S.W.T) says what may be translated as, “No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but it is inscribed in the Book of Decrees [Al-lawh al-Mahfoodh] before we bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allaah. In order that you may not grieve at the things over that you fail to get, nor rejoice over that which has been given to you.” [surat Al-Hadeed, (Verses 21 & 22)]
The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said," How wonderful is the case of a believer; there is good for him in everything and this is not the case with any one except a believer. If prosperity attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allaah and that is good for him; and if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is better for him." [Reported by Imaam Muslim]
2- Another benefit of believing in qadar is that it makes a person very careful.
Peoples' hearts are always changing; this is because our hearts are between two of the fingers of Ar-Rahmaan (Allaah, the All Merciful). He is the One who turns them over as He wills; He is the one who sends down the trials that cause the heart to constantly change. Those who believe in qadar are always careful about bad things that may lure their hearts astray; also, this believer will be careful that his final actions or conditions may lead him to the hellfire. When a believer is careful, he will never be lazy or apathetic; instead, he will be motivated to follow the straight path, to do righteous deeds and to avoid sins.
At the same time, this believer’s heart is always attached to its Creator, calling upon Him, putting its hope in Him, seeking His help and asking Him to make it adhere firmly to the straight path, and to be guided righteously.
3- Another benefit for those who believe in qadar is that they will face difficulties and dangers with a strong heart.
When a person believes that everything that all his provisions, his life, and everything that happens to him are in the hand of Allaah, then he can confront difficulties and ordeals with a strong heart.
The messenger of Allaah (S.A.W.) said: “…And remember that if all the people desire to benefit you united, they will be unable to benefit you except that which Allaah had preordained (for you); and if all of them intend to do harm to you, they will not be able to afflict you except that which Allaah had preordained against you. The pens have been lifted up aside and the ink of the book (of predestination) has dried up.” [Reported by Imaam At-Tirmidhi]
I ask Allaah (S.W.T.) to make us among those people who complete their faith by believing in His qadar and from the people who will benefit from this belief in this life as well as in the hereafter. "Aameen"