The sixth pillar of Iman (faith) is to believe in qadar (destiny), that the good of it and the bad of it is all from Allah. Allah, the Exalted, is the Creator, Lord and Sustainer of everything in existence. Neither good nor evil comes into being without His will and knowledge. In a discussion on qadar we need to put away any notions of destiny prevalent in the West and open our mind to learning the proper meaning of qadar as defined in Islam. We also tread the matter carefully remembering the caution that the Prophet made to his companions. Abu Hurairah said,
“Allah’s Messenger came out while we were disputing about qadar. He got so angry that his face became red, as if the pomegranate was squished on his cheeks; and he said, ‘Is this what you have been ordered with? Is this what I have been sent to you with? Indeed, those before you perished when they disputed in this matter, I asked that you resolve not to dispute in it.’” (al-Tirmidhi)
The Essence of Believing in Qadar
The linguistic meaning of qadar is judgement or arbitration and the estimate or measure of things. It also means the thought spent in comparing the equality of things and matters.
In the legalistic definition, however, the meaning of qadar is that Allah has known and written all things that will occur, from the beginning of creation until the end of it; that He predestined the fate of creation before their creation and that Allah knew that they will be brought about at specific times and according to predetermined ways.
Belief in qadar is a necessary consequence of the belief in Allah, for it follows directly from the belief that Allah’s knowledge is perfect and unchanging. The well-known hadith of Jibril, which describes Islam, Iman, and Ihsan, clearly states that belief in qadar (destiny) is a part of faith. Similarly, the Qur’anic texts are quite unambiguous over this concept. Therefore, whoever denies qadar falls outside the fold of the Islam religion.
The definition shows qadar to consist of:
- The primordial knowledge of Allah by which He arbitrated and decided the existence and creation of whatever He willed, all written in the Lawh al-Mahfuz. Thus, everything that had, has, and will happen in this life and in the universe has been explicitly written to the fullest detail.
- The creation (the concept of bringing about or creating) of all things written in exactly the same way and fashion as in the Lawh al-Mahfuz.
However, the disbelievers will often use qadar as a reason not to believe. Some pagans claimed that since Allah had allowed them to commit disbelief and practice polytheism, He must have approved of it, and thus they attempted to shield their misdeeds behind qadar. Others may claim that there is no sense in their believing and doing good if Allah already knows their outcomes. These and similar arguments are, as we shall see, baseless and false.
Allah mentions such people in the Qur’an,
“The pagans will say, ‘If Allah had willed, we would not have worshiped anything besides Him, nor would our fathers, nor would we have forbidden [to ourselves] anything.’ Thus, did those before them give lie to the truth until they tasted Our might. Say, ‘Do you have any knowledge [that Allah actually approves of your conduct], so that you might bring it forth for us? You follow only conjecture, and you are only lying.’ Say, ‘For Allah is the decisive argument, for had He willed, He would have guided you all.’” [Surah al-An’am, 6:148-149]
Imam Ahmad has narrated that the pagans came to the Prophet disputing with him over qadar. Thereupon, Allah revealed some verses of Surah al-Qamar as a decisive rebuttal to them,
“Indeed, the guilty ones are in error and frenzy. The day when they shall be dragged into the Fire on their faces, [it will said to them], ‘Taste the touch of Saqar [i.e. Hell].’ Indeed, we have created everything according to a decree (qadar).’” [Surah al-Qamar, 54:47-49]
The incident referred to the verse establishes clearly why it is essential to have belief in qadar. It also contains a valuable lesson for us in propagating Islam that we cannot compromise on the fundamentals of Islam merely to please people or to try to increase the number of Muslims.
We are required to believe that Allah knows everything that happens. Allah says,
“Indeed, Allah knows all things.” [Surah al-Anfal, 8:75]
He also says,
“He knows what is ahead of them and what is behind them, and they do not encompass any of His knowledge, except what He wills.” [Surah al-Baqarah, 2:255]
Before bringing creation into existence, Allah wrote on the Prescribed Tablet all the things which were to come. The Prophet said,
“Allah wrote the measures of creation fifty thousand years before the creation of the heavens and earth.” (Muslim)
According to another hadith recorded by Imam Ahmad,
“The first thing that Allah created was the Pen, and He ordered it to write everything that would occur until the Day of Judgment.” (Ahmad)
This information is thus inscribed in what is called the Lawh al-Mahfuz, (the Preserved Tablet). Allah says,
“And all things have We recorded in a clear record.” [Surah Ya Seen, 36:12]
“Nay, it is a glorious Qur’an. in a preserved tablet.” [Surah al-Buruj, 85:21-22]
The Lawh al-Mahfuz is also referred to in the hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim,
“When Allah created creation, He wrote a book, which is with Him above the Throne, [and it says], “My mercy overcomes My wrath.” (Agreed upon)
Ibn Hajar mentions, in his commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari, that this book is the Preserved Tablet.
It has been related that al-Walid ibn Ubadah entered upon his father, Ubadah, while the latter was on his deathbed, and asked him for advice. Ubadah said, “Help me sit up.” They did so, and then he said, “My son! You will never taste faith, nor reach the true reality of knowing Allah until you believe in qadar, the good of it and the bad.” His son said, “Father, how am I to know what is the good of qadar and [what is] the evil of it?” He said, “You should know that whatever missed you could never have befallen you, and whatever befell you could never have missed you …. My son, if you die without being [certain] of this, then you will enter the Fire.” It has been recorded by Ahmad.
A synopsis of the belief in qadar (destiny) is given in the following paragraph by Imam Abu Ja’far al-Tahawi, a renowned scholar of the fourth Islamic century whose book on aqidah, from which the extract is taken, has been unanimously accepted. He says, “Allah created the creation according to His knowledge. He appointed measures for them and laid out life spans. Nothing was hidden from Him before He created them, and He knew all of what they would do before He created them. He commanded them obey Him and forbade them from disobeying Him. Everything runs according to His qadar and will, and His will becomes effective. The servants have no will except that which Allah wills them to have. For whatever Allah wills is, and whatever He does not will is not. [Allah] guides Whom He wills and grants aim, protection, and well-being out of His grace. And He leaves astray whom He wills, and forsakes him and puts him to trial out of justice. Mankind acts in whatever way He wills, between His grace and justice. [Allah] is exalted above partners and rivals. No one can repel His qadar, nor postpone His command, nor predominates against His order. We believe in all of this and are certain that all of it is from Him.”
The Proper Stand Concerning Qadar
We have already established that Allah is All-Knowing of things in the past, present, and future. It has been related,
“The Prophet said, ‘There is not any one of you Whose places in Hell and Heaven have not been written.’ The Companions asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, shall We then not rely on this?’ He said, ‘Act, and each shall he eased [to that which he was created].’ He then recited the verses meaning, ’As for him who gives [in charity] and is pious, and affirms the good, We shall ease him toward ease. But he who is miserly and considers himself free of need and denies the good, We shall ease him toward adversity.’” [Surah al-Layl, 92: 5-10]
Although Allah already knows who is going to Heaven and who is going to Hell, He does not compel us to act the way we do. What we do is based on our own choice and free-will granted to us by Allah. The choices made, however, are not beyond His Knowledge, nor is Allah’s guidance and leading astray arbitrary. He guides those who are sincere, honest, and seek guidance.
“Those who strive in Our way, We shall guide them to Our paths.” [Surah al-Ankabut, 29:69]
And He leaves to stray those who consciously and stubbornly reject the Truth.
“And they say, ‘Our hearts are in a covering from that to which you invite us, and in our ears is a deafness, and between us and you is a barrier, so work [in your way] we [also] are working [in our way].” [Surah Fussilat, 41:5]
It is about such people that Allah tells us,
“If Allah had known of [any] good in them. He would have made them hear, but even if He had made them hear, they would have turned away, averse.” [Surah al-Anfal, 8:23]
Difference Between Allah’s Will and What He loves for His Creation
Let us point out the important difference between Allah’s will and His pleasure. Anything that occurs does so by the will of Allah. The Prophet used to teach his household and Companions that whatever Allah wills will occur and whatever He has not willed will not occur. Therefore, if something does occur, then we know that Allah had willed it, and if anything does not occur then it was not willed by Allah to occur. However, this does not by imply that Allah is pleased by all that occurs. Although He wills and allows many different things to occur, He is pleased by some of them and displeased by others. For example, Allah is pleased by Islam and good deeds done by the Muslims, but He is displeased by disbelief and sin. This is the point which the pagans neglected when they claimed,
“If the Most Gracious had willed, we would not have worshiped them.” [Surah al-Zukhruf, 43:20]
Finally, it should be pointed out that although Allah is the Creator of the good and the bad, we should not single out the bad and attribute it to Allah, as a form of respect and etiquette. Islam does not say, as some religions do which is that Allah is the Lord of good while Satan is in charge of evil. Exalted is Allah above all partners.
“Say, ‘All praise be to Allah, Who has not begotten a son, Who has no partner in His sovereignty.’” [Surah al-lsra, 17:111]
“Blessed is He in Whose Hand is the sovereignty, and He has power over all things.” [Surah al-Mulk, 67:1]