Predestination and Free Will (Al-Jabr wa t-tafwid)
This text is a translation of Tashihu-Itiqad of Abu ‘Abdillah, Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Nu‘man, Known as ash-Shaykh al-Mufid (336/948 or 338/950 – 413/1022)
Ash-Shaykh Abu Ja‘far, may Allah have mercy upon him, says: "There is neither (complete) compulsion (or constraint) (on human beings), nor (complete) delegation (or freedom), but the matter is midway between the two [extremes] (amrun bayna amrayn)." Then he adduces, to support this definition, a mursal tradition. He was asked to define what was meant by 'an affair midway between the two'.
He said: "For instance, you see a man intent upon a crime and you forbid him to do it, but he does not desist, and you leave him; then he commits the crime. Now, because he did not accept (your advice) and you left him, this does not mean that you are the person who commanded him to commit the crime."
Ash-Shaykh al-Mufid, may Allah have mercy upon him ,comments that jabr is compulsion in respect of an act, and constraint by reason of coercion or overpowering; this involves the creation of an act in a living being without his having the power to reject or avoid it. It may convey, also, an action which, although within human capacity, a man might perform under compulsion or out of fear or constraint by reason of coercion.
Nevertheless, it originally conveys the meaning of the performance of an act without having the power to avoid it, as has been demonstrated above. Thus, if the above-mentioned definition of jabr (compulsion) is approved, then it represents precisely the doctrine of the advocates of the belief that actions are created by Allah.
This is because they hold that Allah has created the capacity in human beings, and that it is valid for one single action, and not for both the action and its opposite. And they maintain that Allah has created evil in human beings. So, they are, in fact Predestinarians (Mujabbirah) and uphold predestination unquestioningly.
As for delegation (tafwid)1 , this means the lifting of the restrictions religion imposes on human beings – together with absolute freedom and licence in their actions – and this is the doctrine of the dualists and nihilist (az-Zanadiqah wa ashabu 'l-ibahat)2 .
(We believe) that the correct doctrine is a middle course between these two extremes. Hence, although Allah has enabled man to act by virtue of the capacity with which He has endowed him, nevertheless, He has imposed with these restrictions, has delineated man's course of action, and has admonished him against abominable acts, through intimidation, and by His promises and threats; by thus enabling them, He does not constrain them to particular actions.
On the other hand, as He forbids many actions to men, and places limitations on them and commands them to do good and admonishes them against evil, (this shows that) He does not delegate the performance of their actions to them completely. This is the distinction between Compulsion and Delegation, as we have made it clear above.
1. See p.89.
2. 11 Prof. Nicholson gives the following explanation for the word zaddiq: "Zaddiq is an Aramaic word meaning 'righteous'. Its etymological equivalent in Arabic is siddiq, which has a different meaning, namely 'veracious'. Zaddiq passed into Persian in the form zandik, which was used by the Persians before Islam, and zindiq is the Arabicised form of the latter word". See A Literary History of the Arabs, p.375. Also, cf., Prof. Browne's A Literary History of Persia, (vol.1, pp.159-60).
This interpretation, however, is not accepted by some scholars like Prof. Massignon, L., see E.I, vo1.4, put out a new and non-orthodox explanation (zand) of the Avesta, and which p.1228. "Under the Sasanids, originally, this name branded anyone who dared was then applied to Manicheans and Mazdakites in particular". See Brockelman, C., History of the Islamic Peoples, Eng. Transl., p.113. "In Islam, it denotes", says Prof, Tritton, "a Manichee, any Dualist, a Buddist Monk and, later on, any free-thinker". See Islam, Belief and Practices, The Glossary, p.190.
The movement during the second part of the second century of the hijrah represented both a religious and political danger to Islam, which compelled Islam to combatit, politically by practical measures carried out by the government itself, and theologically, in the form of an intellectual revolt against dualist ideas in religion; this was left for the Mu‘tazilah who represented – as the late Michelangelo Guidi observed, "The militant wing of the orthodoxy against the dualist heresies". See Gibb, H.A.R., Studies on the Civilization of Islam, article no.4, 'The Social Significance of the Shuubiya', p.67. For a similar opinion, see al-Khayyat, Kitabu 'l-Intisar, the Introduction by the Editor, Nyberg, H.S.
The Belief concerning Allah's Intention and Will (Al-Mashiah Wa 'l-Iradah)
Ash-Shaykh Abu Ja‘far, may Allah have mercy upon him, says: "Allah wills (sha’a) and intends (arada), and He does not like (to be disobeyed) and He does not approve (of it); it is His will that nothing should take place except that of which He has knowledge, and His intention is the same."
Ash-Shaykh al-Mufid, may Allah have mercy upon him, comments that what has been mentioned by Abu Ja‘far, may Allah have mercy upon him, in this respect is not clear and leads to error and confusion, because he relied on the apparent meaning of divergent traditions (ahadith mukhtalifah)1 and following the transmitters without critical insight.
The fact of the matter is that Allah wills only good acts and intends only those that are seemly (becoming), and He does not will base actions, and does not intend sins. Allah is exalted far above what the liars assert. Allah says: And Allah wishes no injustice for His servants [40:31],
and He, the Sublime, says: Allah desires ease for you and desires not hardship for you [2:185];
and He, the Sublime, says: Allah desires to make (things) clear to you, and to guide you in the ways of those who were before you [4:26].
He, the Sublime, says: And Allah desires to turn to you (mercifully), and those who follow their lusts, desire that you should deviate (with great deviation) [ibid.27].
Also, He, the Sublime, says: Allah desires to make your task light for you, for man is created weak [ibid 28].
Thus, He, the Praised, declares that He desires not hardship for His servants, instead He desires ease for them, and He intends to guide them, and He does not intend to delude them, and wills that their burdens should be light and He does not wish to overburden them.
So, if He wills that they should sin, then He would never have wished that they should be shown the way and that their burden should be made light and their path easy, whereas the Book of Allah bears witness to the opposite of what those in error assert falsely, that Allah is exalted above the assertion of the evil-doers.
As for the saying of Allah: Whomsoever Allah desires to guide, He enlarges his breast to Islam; “and whomsoever He desires to lead astray, He makes his breast narrow and constricted [6:125]” 2
on which the Predestinarians are dependent in this matter, then there is no support for the advocates of predestination in this; since the meaning of the verse is that if Allah intends to bestow His grace and favor on man as the reward of his obedience, then He will enlarge his breast to Islam and endow him with His favors, by which he is enabled to continue in obedience.
Thus, hidayah (guidance) signifies here ni‘mah (grace). Allah says in the Qur’an, relating the speech of the people of Paradise: All praise is due to Allah, Who guided us to this [7:43],
which means, 'Praise be to Allah Who favoured us with His guidance and rewarded us for it'.
In the same manner, dalal (error) is equivalent to punishment in the saying of Allah: Surely the sinners are in error and insanity! [54:47].
Thus Allah called His punishment error and His grace guidance, and this because basically 'error' is equivalent to 'destruction' and 'guidance' to 'salvation'. Allah, the Almighty, relating the speech of the Arab polytheists, says: What, when we have gone astray in the earth, shall we indeed be (again) in a new creation? [32:10],
which means, 'when we have been destroyed'.
Thus the meaning of the verse, 'If Allah wills to guide' and 'If Allah wills to lead him astray', is as demonstrated above; as, also, the interpretation of the saying of Allah, 'makes his breast narrow and constricted', is that He will withhold His succor from him as punishment for his rebelliousness and deprive him of the favours He bestowed upon him in retribution for his evil doing.
Hence, the enlarging of the breast is the reward for obedience shown by men which itself came only by the succour of Allah, (sharhu 's-sadr: thawabu 't- ta‘ah bi 't-tawfiq), whereas the narrowing. of the breast is the punishment of rebelliousness, which in itself results from the withholding of (Divine) succour, (tadyiqu 's-sadr: ‘iqabu 'l- ma‘siyah biman‘i 't-tawfiq). Thus, there is no support in the verse given above for the opponents (i.e., opponents of free will), who allege that Allah, Almighty, turns men away from faith, and prevents them from accepting Islam, and that it is His intention they should not believe and His will that they should err.
As for Allah's saying: And if thy Lord had willed, whoever is in the earth would have believed, all of them, all together [10:99],
it was only to stress His Omnipotence and that He is able if He wills – to constrain them to believe by coercion and compulsion, but it is His will that they should believe freely and by choice.
The rest of the verse makes this (i.e., what we have said) plain: Will you then constrain men to become believers? [ibid]. He is able to constrain them to believe if He wills, but He does not, even though it would be an easy task for Him if He willed. All the other verses which they adduce in support of their opinion are to be interpreted in the same way.
As for the Predestinarians (Mujabbirah) they avoid asserting that Allah wills that He should be disobeyed or denied and that His saints should be killed and His friends abused, by saying that everything should be in accordance with His fore-knowledge, and He intends that disobedience to Him should be a sin and absolutely forbidden.
In fact, they commit the very error which they eschewed and implicate themselves in what they abhor, because it was in the eternal knowledge of Allah that bad is bad, and what is in the eternal, universal knowledge of Allah should be, then what is the validity of their fleeing from a thing to its double, and taking refuge from one meaning in another that exactly reproduces it.
How can they deal like this with intelligent people? Is their assumption not like the assertion of one who says: "I do not abuse Zayd but I abuse Abu ‘Amr, and they are one and the same." And, like the self-contradictory speech of the Jews who said: "We do not deny Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) but we deny Ahmad." This is but foolishness and ignorance on their part, and futile and weak effort on the part of those who rely on it.
1. See p.98.
2. * Not found in N.
The belief concerning destiny and decree (Al-Qada’ wa 'l-Qadar)
ash-Shaykh Abu Ja‘far says1 , concerning the belief in Destiny and Decree, "Discussion of qadar is forbidden", and he narrates in support of this proposition an unauthentic tradition.
Ash-Shaykh Abu ‘Abdillah al-Mufid, may Allah have mercy upon him, comments that Abu Ja‘far relied in this on a shadhdh hadith – which can be interpreted in many reasonable ways.well-known to learned men, even if they established it as sound and authenticated.
Thus his proposition does not consti- tute a definitive description. It would have been better had he not indulged himself by discussing the matter without fully comprehending its meaning. Qada’ is a well-defined term in Arabic usage, as may be proved by the evidence of the Qur’an. Qada’ has four meanings:-
1. Khalq – 'creation', as is proved by the saying of Allah, the Exalted: Then He ascended Himself to heaven . . . So He created them (qadahunna) seven heavens in two days" [41:11-12],
that is, He created them – seven heavens – in two days.
2. Amr – 'command', as is proved by the saying of Allah, the Exalted: And thy Lord has decreed (qada’) that you worship none but Him [17:23],
that is, thy Lord has commanded.
3. I‘lam – 'informing', as is proved by the saying of Allah, the Exalted: And we made known (qadayna) to the Children of Israel [ibid.:4],
that is We have informed them and told them about what is going to happen before it comes into existence.
4. al-Fasl fi 'l-hukm – 'arbitration', as is proved by the saying of Allah, the Exalted: Allah judges (yaqdi) with justice [40:20]
,that is, He will arbitrate between the two litigants. Also His saying: And judgment (qudiya) shall be given between them with justice [39:75],
that is a judgment and arbitration will be given between them according to the right.
It has been said that qada’ has a fifth meaning which signifies the completion of an affair (al-faragh mina 'l-amr), and called in evidence of this is the saying of Allah, reporting the speech of Joseph: The matter on which you ask My opinion is decreed (qudiya) [12:41],
that is, has been accomplished. However, this fifth meaning is synonymous with that of creation.
Now, if the above-mentioned meanings of qada’ are approved as the only correct ones, then the assumption of the Predestinarians that Allah ordained sin for mankind is invalid, because there are only four alternatives,
(i) either they mean that Allah has created sin in His creation; in that case they would have to say He created sin in His creation, and not that He had imposed sin upon them, since creation (by the rules of grammar) takes place in them (al-khalq fihim) and not upon them (la ‘alayhim). Even if this were not so, yet the Almighty
Allah declared him a liar who alleges that Allah has created evil as He says: Everything that He created He made well [32:7],
so He disclaims baseness in His creation and postulates its goodness, and disobedience is unanimously held to be base.
(ii) Nor can they allege that 'He decreed sin' has the meaning of 'He commanded it', since Allah declared him a liar who upholds this, and the Almighty says: Verily Allah does not command indecency, do you say against Allah that which you do not know? [7:28].
(iii) It is equally absurd to conceive of qada’ in the sense that Allah had informed men about it, since men do not know whether they will obey or rebel in the future, and they have no detailed knowledge of what their conduct will be in the future.
(iv) Similarly, it is absurd to denote by qada bi 'dh-dhunub that Allah has decreed sin for His creatures, since His decisions are all fair and right, and sin is from men alone; also this statement is unanimously admitted absurd.
Thus, it is self-evident that the assumption of those who attribute the creation of sin to Allah is vain.
The argument given above, concerning qada’ and qadar makes it easy to perceive the correct doctrine on this question.
We must admit that Allah holds – in some measure – destiny and decree over His creation and over their actions. It is evident that we must understand by this, that qada’, in the context of their good actions, is that He commands them, and, in the context of their base actions, that He forbids them, and, in the context of men themselves, that He created them, and, in the context of what (they acquire by His deed), that He brought it into existence for them.
Similarly, by qudrah, in respect of the actions of the Almighty, its meaning should be understood as that He ordained it rightly and fittingly; and in respect of the actions of men that He commands good and forbids evil; and that He will reward or punish them. This is so because it is self-evident that whatever Allah has decreed is for the good of mankind and well-done; and far from frivolous. Thus, if Destiny and Decree, in speaking of the action of Allah, are interpreted as has been illustrated, then their obscurity will vanish and (what they mean) can be demonstrated, and the truth will become apparent to the intelligent and discussing them will not lead to corrupt doctrine and to deviation.
1. N reads: fima dhakara Abu Ja‘far fi 'l-qada’ wa 'l-qadr, qala rahimahu allah
The interpretation of the reports concerning Al-Qada’ and Al-Qadar
As for the reports which Abu Ja‘far, may Allah have mercy upon him, relates concerning the prohibition of discussion of qada’ and qadar, they can bear two meanings: first, that the prohibition is restricted to those people whose discussions result in corrupt doctrine and divert them from the faith; for they will not keep their religion intact unless they refrain from discussion and abstain from indulging in it.
Thus, the prohibition does not necessarily apply to all those who have reached years of discretion (mukallafin), since what is good for some might prove to be bad for others1 , *and, on the contrary, what is evil for some might be good for others2 , and this demonstrates why the Imams, peace be upon them, endeavored to direct their followers in religion in accordance with what they knew to be in their best interest.
Secondly, discussion *of qada’ and qadar*3 is probably prohibited, regarding the reasons and causes of what Allah has created; and what He commands; and the religious duties He imposes; since the inquiry into, and asking for the causes and reasons of, creation and religious obligations are prohibited, because Allah, the Exalted, has veiled these questions from the great majority of mankind.
Do you not realize that no one is permitted to seek for the cause of the creation of all that has been created, in detail? And to ask, 'Why has He created this thing and that? Until he has enumerated all created things and accounted for them. Nor is anyone permitted to ask, 'Why did He command this? And impose that? And forbid the other?'
For His imposing this, and commanding that, is because He knows the best interests of His creation. Allah, the Almighty, has not disclosed to any of His creatures the particular causes for what He has created or commanded or imposed, notwithstanding that He has stated a priori that He did not create His creation lightly (‘abath), but He did – indeed– create them with a wise purpose (li hikmah).
Yet, both reason and scripture (sam‘) support this. Allah says: We created not the heaven and the earth, and whatsoever between them is, as though (we were) playing [21:16].
And He says: Do you think that We created you only for sport [23:115].
And He says: Surely We have created everything in measure [54:49],
that is, justly and fittingly. And He says: And I have created jinn and men, only that they might serve Me [51:56].
And He says, concerning what He enjoins on us: The flesh of them shall not reach Allah, neither blood, but piety shall reach Him from you [22:37].
Thus, it is likely that Allah, the Almighty, might create one particular animal to the end that it will cause some unbelievers (to believe); or it might lead some fornicators to repent; or that it might benefit some of the faithful; or that some evil-doers might take heed from it; or for the sheer benefit or the animal itself; or that it might serve as a warning to someone, whether in the earth or in the heavens, the aspects of which are all beyond our grasp and far from our comprehension, though we have to believe a priori that all that Allah has created is for a wise purpose and not for mere sport.
It is also possible that its purpose is to draw us near to obedience to Him and to keep us from rebelliousness, and that service through prayer stands as a Divine favour either to all the worshipers, or to a few. Since all these hidden aspects of the Divine ordinances have been veiled from us, and since no authority exists for inquiring into it or asking for detailed explanation; though it is obligatory to believe that as a whole they have been created for a Divine purpose, hence it is forbidden to discuss qada’ and qadar in the context mentioned above.
At any rate, the foregoing argument is necessary only if the reports related by Abu Ja‘far, may Allah have mercy upon him, are approved sound; otherwise, if they are untrustworthy, then we are relieved of the duty of refuting it. As for the tradition which he related on the authority of Zurarah4 , it is the only sound one of them all, and its meaning is obvious, and it is not difficult for the intelligent to comprehend.
It confirms the soundness of the doctrine of the People of Justice (ahlu 'l-‘adl), and demonstrates the falsity of the doctrine of the Predestinarians. Have you not understood and comprehended the tradition we related from Abu ‘Abdillah, peace be upon him, "When Allah will collect or (assemble) men (creation) on the Day of Resurrection, He will ask them concerning what He had enjoined on them and will not question them concerning what He had des- tined for them?"
Moreover, the Qur’an declares emphatically that men are responsible for their actions, so if their actions were decreed from Allah, then He never would ask them about it, which demonstrates that the eternal decree means the 'creation of their things', and what this entails is that Allah the Almighty will ask them only concerning what He enjoined on them in commanding them to do good deeds and to abstain from evil. Thus, according to this reasoning the tradition mentioned above is an illustration supporting the foregoing explanation of qada’ and qadar which is comprehensible.
1. N reads: la yasluhu bihi akharun.
2. * Not found in N.
3. * Not found in N.
4. Zurarah ibn A‘yan ash-Shaybani (d. 150 AH): It is said that his real name was ‘Abdu Rabbih, whereas Zurarah was his laqab. His kunyah wasAbu '1-Hasan. He was one of the earliest distinguished Shi‘ah divines and a remarkable theologian, jurist and traditionist. His father, Sunsun, is said to have been a Roman slave who was freed for his knowledge of the Qur’an, and his grandfather is said to have become a Christian Monk. He was highly honoured by Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq (a.s.), who said of him: "Had it not been for Zurarah, the traditions of my father would have been forgotten". The biographers ascribe to him, among other works, a theologi- cal tract called al Jabr wa 'l-istita‘ah. See Ibnu 'n-Nadim, al-Fihrist, p.220; at-Tusi, Rijali 'sh-Shi‘ah, p.123; al-Kishshi, ar-Rijal, p.88; an-Najashi, al- Fihrist, p.125, adh-Dhahabi, Mizanu 'l-i‘tidal, vol.2, p.69, no.2853; al- Mamaqani, Tanqihu 'l-maqal, vol.l, p.438, no.4213.