Determinism and fatalism (Predestination and Fate)
From: Usul al-Kafi
271 Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): One who thinks that God orders people to commit evil, attributes falsehood to God, and one who thinks that good and evil both emanate from God also attributes falsehood to God.
272 An enquirer asked Imam Ali ar-Reza (p): Has God entrusted to (His) servants all their affairs?
Imam Ali ar-Reza (p): God is far above this.
The enquirer: Has God compelled men to commit sins?
The Imam (p): God is too Just and too Wise to do so.
Then the Imam (p) further said quoting a Divine Tradition:
God says: O son of Adam! I deserve (the credit of) your good deeds more than you yourself and you deserve (the evil of) your vice rather than Myself. You have committed sins through the power and ability I have granted to you!
273 Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): Verily God created the creatures and already knew how they will lead their lives. God also issued orders and imposed prohibitions on them. And with every commandment issued by Him, He has kept the door open for men to obey or not to obey…
Translator’s note: This saying of the Imam (p) requires explanation. The purpose of the saying is that a sinner commits a sin because the law of cause and effect is universal and invariable and the sinner takes wrong advantage of this invariability. Certainly, this law of causality has been created by God, but the decision of committing a sin or a good deed solely depends on the individual who is bestowed with the faculty of reasoning.
Therefore every person is fully responsible for his own deeds, good or bad.
274 A person asked Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): Has God compelled mankind to commit sins?
The Imam (p) replied in the negative.
Then the person asked: Has God given sole powers to mankind?
The Imam (p) replied in the negative.
The person then asked: What then is the truth?
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): Your Lord has kept a delicate balance between the two (compulsion and endowment of power).
275 Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (p) and Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): Verily, God is too merciful to compel His creatures to commit sins and then punish them for these sins, and He is also too Mighty to will something which cannot come in existence.
Both the Imams (p) were asked: Is there any third way between absolute determinism and absolute free will?
The Imams (p) replied: Yes, there is a middle way between these two extremes and it is more than the distance between the heaven and the earth.
276 Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) was asked about absolute pre-determination and absolute free will.
The Imam (p): There is neither absolute pre-determination nor absolute free will, but a midway between the two known to scholars or the one whom the scholar has thought.
277 A person asked Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): Has God compelled His creatures to commit sins?
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): God is too Just and Merciful to compel his creatures to commit sins and then punish them for it.
The Person: Has God entrusted and empowered His creatures all affairs and powers?
The Imam (p): If he had entrusted all affairs and powers to them then He would not have subjected them to all His commandments, the do’s and don’ts. . . . .
278 A believer asked Imam Ali ar-Reza (p): Some of our comrades believe in fatalism while some others believe in free will.
Imam Ali ar- Reza (p) asked the believer to take down the following reply: In the Name of God, the Beneficent the Merciful, Imam Zainul Abideen (p) has said: God the Almighty, the Majestic (in a Divine Tradition) has said: “O son of Adam, through My will, you are there, and through My power you are there to discharge the divine obligations. Through My bounties you have been empowered to disobey Me. I have made you the hearer and the seer”.
All the good you receive is from me and the evil that befalls you is from your own self. The reason is that I have more acclaim in your good deeds than you do and your bad deeds are your personal choice. There fore I will not be answerable for your deeds but you will be questioned about your deeds while I have arranged all things that you will want.
Translator’s Note: The following verses of the Glorious Quran supports the above Tradition “whatever good befalls you, O man! it is from God and whatever evil befalls you, it is from your own self” (Q, 4:79) and, therefore, “I deserve a greater share in your good deeds than you yourself do. And you deserve your misdeeds more than I. Therefore, I would not be questioned on what I do, but they (the people) shall be questioned” (Q, 21:23)
279 Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) told a believer that neither the doctrine of fatalism nor the doctrine of free will is correct but a midway between the two extremes (the golden mean) is the right answer.
The believer requested the Imam (p) to explain the midway between the two extremes.
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): This is illustrated by the example of a person who is committing a sin and whom you are dissuading. Since the person has not accepted your advice and since you have left him to himself, it cannot be said that you wanted him to commit the sin.
280 Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): God is too Kind and Generous to order the people to undertake obligations that are unbearable for them and He is too Mighty to let anything happen in His Kingdom not intended by Him.
The limit of a person’s capability
281 A believer asked Imam Ali ar-Reza (p) regarding the ability (individual capacity) of a person.
Translator’s note: Most probably, the believer wanted to comprehend the meaning of the Divine words occurring in verse 286 of the second chapter of the Noble Quran which are as follows: God does not impose on any soul but within its individual ability.
Imam Ali ar-Reza (p): A person can be called ‘fully able or capable’ if he satisfies four conditions. He must be free to perform the action (there must not be irremovable hurdles between him and the performance of the action), he must be fit (bodily or physically) to perform the intended action; his limbs must be functioning normally and he must possess the means bestowed on him by God for performing the intended action …
282 A person asked Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) about the limits of the capacity of actions of men.
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): Do you have the power to do something, which cannot be done?
The Person replied in the negative.
The Imam (p): Do you have the power to escape from what has already been done?
Again the Person replied in the negative.
The Imam (p): At what time do you have the capacity (of doing and not doing)?
The Person confessed: I do not know.
The Imam (p): Verily God has created mankind and bestowed upon them some ability but has not entrusted all powers to them. So they have been given the power to do anything at the time of doing it ‘if they want’…
283 A believer asked Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): Do the subjects of God have absolute freedom to do anything?
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): When men want to perform any act, they can accomplish it through the power and ability bestowed on them by God.
The Believer, who was in need of further clarifications, asked: What exactly is this ability or capacity?
The Imam (p): The adulterer who has committed adultery was in possession of the means (endowed by God) to do so. But if he had abstained from adultery and not indulged in it, he would have had the ability and the power to do so. This power or ability of that person was neither less nor more before his performance of the act of adultery. But it was well within his choice to do that act or to abstain from it while he was indulging in it or abstaining from it.
The Believer: then on what basis will God punish that person?
The Imam (p): On the basis of sound reasoning (irrefutable logic) and on the basis of the means or capability with which the person was provided. Verily, God never compelled any of His bondmen to commit a sin; neither did He destine paganism for anyone by His irrevocable intention. But when a person chooses (on the basis of his free will) to be a pagan then God determines the same fate for him and it is in the knowledge and intention of God that such people would measure.
Now the inquisitive believer asked the Imam (p): Has God intended them to be unbelievers?
The Imam (p): I do not say that. What I say is that God knew that they would never become believers so God also intended for them the same fate based on His knowledge about them and so this Divine Intention is by no means irrevocable but optional. His intention is on the basis of their choice.
The indispensability of divine proof
284 Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): God has provided the proof of His existence by what He has bestowed (on mankind) and by what he has made manifest to them.
285 Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) was asked: Whose creation is the knowledge, faith, belief and conviction of the existence of God?
The Imam (p): It is one of the creations of God. His subjects have not taken any part of it.
Translator’s note: It means that the means and materials (which provide proof of His existence, omnipotence, eternity and other attributes, both negative and positive, and making the signs of His existence manifest and raising of the Prophet's and apostles and providing them with the power of performing miracles by His permission) are created by God and then it becomes the duty of His bondmen to believe in His existence.
286 Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) was requested to explain the meaning of the verse: “And God will not mislead a people after He has guided them, in order that He may make clear to them what to fear, for God has knowledge of all things” (Q, 9:115).
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): Till God makes them recognize what pleases Him and what annoys Him.
Then the Imam (p) quoted the verse: “And inspired unto it (the soul of person), its vices and its piety” (Q, 91:8)
The Imam (p): God inspires them as to what they should not do.
Then the Imam (p) quoted the verse: “Verily We guided him to the way, be he grateful or ungrateful” (Q, 76:3).
The Imam (p), continuing his explanation: It means we have made them know the truth and now it is up to them to take it or leave it.
287 Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) was asked about the meaning of the verse: “And we guided him on the two ways” (Q, 90:10)
The Imam (p): They are the highways to good and to evil.
Translator’s note: The word ‘guided’ used in the translation of the verse does not mean that God guides His servants towards the highways of evil. The original Arabic word used in the verse is Wahadainahu which is a derivative of the root word Huda which has the connotations of ‘to guide, to point out, to show and to tell.’ The verse means that God has shown both the ways, one of which leads to Paradise and the other to Hell. In the previous two verses God has said: “Have we not made for him a pair of eyes? And a tongue and a pair of lips? (Q, 90:8,9). Read with these verses, the meaning of verse 90:10 of Noble Quran becomes quite clear. God has bestowed on His servants the faculties of sight and speech and has pointed out the way towards salvation and warned against the way that leads to Hell. Now it is up to a person to choose his way and his destination.
288 Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) . . . was requested to explain the meaning of the verse: “God will not mislead a people after He has guided them in order to make clear to them what to fear” (Q, 9:115).
The Imam (p): Until He makes them understand what pleases Him and what annoys Him.
289 Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): Verily, God has never bestowed any of his bounties upon anyone without bracketing it with a proof (of his being responsible before God for that bounty). He, whom God has favoured by making him powerful is responsible for bearing the burden of divine obligations put on him as well as the burden of those who are weaker than him. The one who has been made affluent by God is responsible for bearing the burden of divine obligations put on him because of his immense wealth to support the needy on account of his being wealthy. The one whom God has favoured with the nobility of birth and a handsome face, is made responsible for praising God, the Sublime for it, and not to be arrogant (to others). Such a person should not prevent the weak from exercising their rights by using his status and charm.
God’s proof for His creatures
290 Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): It is not the right of God over His creatures that they should know His commandments. Rather, it is the right of His creatures that God make Himself and His commandments known. But once He manifests His commands to His creatures, it becomes His right over His creatures that they should accept His commands.
291 A person asked Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): Is there any responsibility on a person who knows nothing?
The Imam (p): No.
292 Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): Whatever God has kept hidden (out of His commandments) from His creations, they are under no obligation towards it.