وَكُلُّ شَيْءٍ يَجْرِي بـِقُدْرَتِهِ وَمَشِيئَتِهِ. وَمَشِيئَتُهُ تَنْفُذُ، وَلا مَشِيئَةَ لِلْعِبَادِ إِلاَّ مَا شَاءَ لَهُمْ، فَمَا شَاءَ لَهُمْ كَانَ وَمَا لَمْ يَشَأْ لَمْ يَكُنْ
“Things occur as He ordains and wills them. His will is always carried out. There is no will for His servants except for what He wills for them. Whatever He wills for them happens and what He does not will for them does not happen.”
This statement of al-Ṭaḥāwi is a continuation on the discussion on Divine Decree (qadar). This discussion is meant to complement what the author mentioned originally about the knowledge of Allāh in point 18 where the definition of Divine Decree (qadar) was given as: Allāh’s preordainment of everything that will occur in His dominion according to set limits. To reiterate, the definition comprises of two dimensions-
1) Allāh’s preordaining everything from an eternity
2) The actual unfolding of this ordainment occurring within set limits
Therefore, believing in Divine Decree (qadar) entails a conviction that Allāh had already decreed whatever will occur and all that occurs comes into existence in a manner already determined. Nothing occurs autonomously from Allāh’s Will, not rainfall, the passing of seasons, not even the actions of human beings. This however does not necessarily entail that human beings are deprived of a free will and responsible for their actions. This was clarified earlier in point 7 and point 22.
An aspect which is frequently mentioned in the Qur’ān is the Will of Allāh (al-Irāda). As mentioned in point 7, the word ‘irāda’, as per its Quranic usage, has two senses. The first sense refers to the Ontological Will of Allāh, in that He has set universal laws which define the nature of the universe, being and matter. Sometimes the Arabic word ‘mashī’ah’ is used synonymously in such contexts. The second sense refers to His Legislative Will, in that He has laid down the commandments by which human beings should submit and adhere to.
As for the Ontological Will of Allāh (al-Irāda al-Kawniyyah), Exalted is He, it is confirmed in many places in the Qur’ān, teaching man that nothing happens except as He has ordained it. Allāh says: ‘But you cannot will, unless Allāh wills. Verily, Allāh is Ever All-Knowing, All-Wise’ , and He says: ‘But you will not will unless Allāh wills, the Lord of all the Worlds.’ 
Allāh’s saying: ‘But you cannot will, unless Allāh wills’, clarifies that the ability human beings have to choose and decide their actions is a god-given ability and part and parcel of the absolute Divine Decree of Allāh. It is not an independent free-will that operates outside of Allāh’s decree; rather human beings cannot will to do anything unless Allāh wills that they can do so beforehand. If He wills that they can do such, that will is recorded in the Preserved Tablet fifty-thousand years before the creation of the heavens and the earth, and at the very moment that they carry out their action, Allāh is the One bringing that act into existence; and all of this is part of His all-encompassing knowledge. Truly Allāh is the Lord of the Universe, and nothing small or great happens except that He has decreed it. Therefore a true belief in the ‘irādah’ of Allāh encompasses both senses of the word as used in the Qur’ān.
USING QADAR AS AN EXCUSE
Both the Qur’ān, the Sunnah, and sensible reasoning indicate that it is grossly incorrect to use Divine Decree (qadar) as an excuse for committing sins or for failing to adhere to the religion.
The Quraysh of Makkah would cite Divine Decree (qadar) to argue the case that their beliefs of polytheism were sound. They would say: ‘If Allāh had willed we would not have associated anything with Him, nor would our fathers; nor would we have made anything prohibited.‘ Allāh then stated that such arguments were not novel: ‘In the same way the people before them also lied until they felt Our violent force’, but was in fact a specious argument. He ordered the Prophet: ‘Say: ‘Do you have some knowledge you can produce for us?’; for such a claim requires an evidence from Allāh to validate it, as no-one save Allāh knows what Allāh has decreed. So how then can one claim that Allāh wanted that he commit a sin before he even commits it or that He forced him into doing it? Allāh then concluded the verse: ‘Verily, you follow nothing but guess and you do nothing but lie.’ 
Had Divine Decree been an acceptable excuse for committing sin, definitive proof would not have been established by the sending of the Messengers, and moreover there would have been no reason to send Messengers to mankind. The Qur’ān asserts that the role of Messengers is to guide mankind to choose Truth (al-Haqq) over falsehood (al-Bāṭil), to warn them of the consequences of turning away from Allāh’s religion, and to inspire them to strive for a place in paradise. Allāh says: ‘Messengers bringing good news and giving warning, so that people will have no argument against Allāh after the coming of the Messengers. Allāh is Almighty, All-Wise.’ 
Those who cite Divine Decree (qadar) as a justification for their misdeeds are in fact suggesting the following grievous things:
(i) that Allāh forced them into doing the misdeed
(ii) that Allāh- and refuge is sought from such- was the One who did the misdeed for He was in fact the wilful cause and not the person
(iii) that Allāh loved that misdeed to be done
If Allāh was forcing people into doing their misdeeds why would He then say: ‘Keep your duty to Allāh and fear Him as much as you can’  and then hold them to account for failing to do so? It is from Allāh’s mercy that He does not hold to account His creatures when they fall into error by mistake or forgetfulness, how then could He hold them to account for something He forced them to do? Rather what is correct is that: ‘Allāh burdens not a person beyond his scope’.
The reality of Divine Decree is that it is something secret and concealed which no one in creation knows until it has come to pass. When a person does something, his will precedes his action, so his will to do it is not based on his knowledge of the decree of Allāh. So his claim that Allāh has decreed that he should do such and such is a false claim, because it is a claim to have knowledge of the unseen, but no one knows the unseen except Allāh. So this argument is flawed as no human being can base his evidence on something of which he knows nothing.
Having stated that, nothing occurs in this universe except with the decree of Allāh, it must also be realised that Allāh gave human beings a certain level of free will. Needless to say that the human beings can choose for themselves most of their affairs. They can decide to do or not to do. Yet, it is their Creator who created them, their intellect, gave them the ability to think and gave them the ability to act upon what they chose and so Allāh’s Will and Power encompasses all. As Allāh said: ‘But you will not will unless Allāh wills. Allāh is All-Knowing, All-Wise’ and His saying: ‘But you will not will unless Allāh wills, the Lord of all the Worlds.’ In other words, Allāh created their actions, yet they are the ones who decide how to act and thus earn reward or punishment (kasb) based on that decision.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE QADARIYYA & THE MU’TAZILITES
The history of Islam bears testimony to the detrimental effects of misunderstanding Divine Decree (qadar) has on the Muslim Nation (ummah). If misunderstood, Divine Decree (qadar) becomes a source of great controversy amongst people. The Quraysh of Makkah tried to sow this seed of controversy into the Muslim community when they once visited the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) and began arguing with him with regard to destiny. In response, Allāh, Exalted is He, revealed the following verse: ‘and then this verse was revealed: ‘on the Day that they are dragged face-first into the Fire: ‘Taste the scorching touch of Hell!’’ Surely, We have created everything according to a measure.’ 
The Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) was harsh in his criticism about Muslims who debated the matter Divine Decree (qadar). It was also reported that the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) once found his Companions disputing about the Divine Decree, and it was as if pomegranate seeds had burst on his face (i.e. turned red) because of anger. He said: ‘Have you been commanded to do this, or were you created for this purpose? You are using one part of the Qur’ān against another part, and this is what led to the doom of the nations who came before you. The Prophet also foretold the emergence of a heretical group who preached a morbid form of Divine Decree (qadar) when he said: ‘The Qadariyyah are the Majūs of this nation (ummah)’ . Despite his equivocal condemnation of delving into the subtleties of Divine Decree (qadar) it was only a half a century later, whilst some Companions were still alive, that a sect began to form upon an innovated belief in this branch of theology. The following story, recorded in Ṣaḥiḥ Muslim, illustrates some key facts about the development of this sect and the response of the Muslim scholars to it.
It is narrated on the authority of Yahya b. Ya’mur that the first man who discussed qadr (Divine Decree) in Basra was Ma’bad al-Juhani. I along with Humaid b. ‘Abdur-Rahman Himyari set out for pilgrimage or for ‘Umrah and said: Should it so happen that we come into contact with one of the Companions of the Messenger of Allāh (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) we shall ask him about what is talked about – taqdir (Divine Decree). Incidentally we came across ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, while he was entering the mosque. My companion and I surrounded him. One of us (stood) on his right and the other stood on his left. I expected that my companion would authorise me to speak. I therefore said: Abu Abdur Rahman! There have appeared some people in our land who recite the Qur’an and pursue knowledge. And then after talking about their affairs, added: They (such people) claim that there is no such thing as Divine Decree and events are not predestined. He (‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar) said: When you happen to meet such people tell them that I have nothing to do with them and they have nothing to do with me. And verily they are in no way responsible for my (belief). ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar swore by Him (the Lord) (and said): If any one of them (who does not believe in the Divine Decree) had with him gold equal to the bulk of (the mountain) Uhud and spent it (in the way of Allāh), Allāh would not accept it unless he affirmed his faith in Divine Decree. He further said: My father, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, told me: One day we were sitting in the company of Allāh’s Apostle (peace be upon him) when there appeared before us a man dressed in pure white clothes, his hair extraordinarily black. There were no signs of travel on him. None amongst us recognised him. At last he sat with the Apostle (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam). He knelt before him placed his palms on his thighs and said: Muhammad, inform me about al-Islām. The Messenger of Allāh (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) said: Al-Islām implies that you testify that there is no god but Allāh and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allāh, and you establish prayer, pay Zakāt, observe the fast of Ramadan, and perform pilgrimage to the (House) if you are solvent enough (to bear the expense of) the journey. He (the inquirer) said: You have told the truth. He (‘Umar ibn al-Khattab) said: It amazed us that he would put the question and then he would himself verify the truth. He (the inquirer) said: Inform me about Imān (faith). He (the Holy Prophet) replied: That you affirm your faith in Allāh, in His angels, in His Books, in His Apostles, in the Day of Judgment, and you affirm your faith in the Divine Decree about good and evil. He (the inquirer) said: You have told the truth. He (the inquirer) again said: Inform me about al-Ihsān (performance of good deeds). He (the Holy Prophet) said: That you worship Allāh as if you are seeing Him, for though you don’t see Him, He, verily, sees you. He (the enquirer) again said: Inform me about the hour (of the Doom). He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: One who is asked knows no more than the one who is inquiring (about it). He (the inquirer) said: Tell me some of its indications. He (the Holy Prophet) said: That the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress and master, that you will find barefooted, destitute goat-herds vying with one another in the construction of magnificent buildings. He (the narrator, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab) said: Then he (the inquirer) went on his way but I stayed with him (the Holy Prophet) for a long while. He then, said to me: ‘Umar, do you know who this inquirer was? I replied: Allāh and His Apostle knows best. He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: He was Gabriel (the angel). He came to you in order to instruct you in matters of religion. 
The leading figure of this sect was a man named Ma’bad b. Khālid al-Juhanī, who died in the 80th Hijri year. He was the first to speak in denial of Divine Decree (qadar). Those who followed him in this were known as the Qadariyya, which can be translated as “Libertarians”, as part of their belief was that man had free will in the absolute sense and that he himself brings his voluntary actions into existence autonomously from the Will of Allāh.
Shortly thereafter, at the end of the first Islamic century, a group of people in Baṣra departed from the mainstream understanding of excommunication (takfīr) and produced their own doctrine as well as adopting the innovated doctrine relating to Divine Decree (qadar), as earlier espoused by the Qadariyya. Due to their breaking away from the Muslim communion (jamā’ah) they were called the Mu’tazilites, an Arabic term that can be translated as “Dissenters”. Instead of affirming that Allāh, Exalted is He, brought their actions into existence and created them, as He said: ‘While Allāh has created you and what you do!’; they instead affirmed an extreme sense of free-will of man, denying that Allāh created man’s actions. Instead, they supported the doctrine that man created his own actions with the power that God had given him.
Their denial of Divine Decree (qadar), as per the understanding of mainstream Islam, was based on the pretext of Allāh’s supreme justice. For them, Allāh does not create evil or ordain it, for if He created it and then punished people for carrying out evil deeds, He would be committing injustice- and Allāh is not unjust in the least. Hence there has to be in His Kingdom, they concluded, what He does not will, for it is not possible that He wills something and it does not come into being; that would mean that He is not omnipotent.
The more extreme factions from the Mu’tazilites  posited that Allāh in fact does not know the deeds of the man before he carries them out. They claimed that He does not have prior knowledge of events before they unfold and denied that Allāh fore-ordains matters. They rejected the Prophetic Narration: ‘Allāh ordained everything pertaining to the creation fifty-thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth’ . According to them, Allāh only knows about events after they are brought into existence by creatures. Imam al-Shafi’ī and Aḥmed issued statements declaring that they were infidels.
The Mu’tazilites saw the Will (irāda) of Allāh as being linked only to His commands and prohibitions. He lays down the religious prescriptions and then is unaware of what His creatures will do thereafter. Only when they obey does He come to know of their obedience, and only when they disobey does He come to know of their disobedience. This denial of knowledge was so clearly expressive of blasphemy that Imām al-Shāfi‘ī would often say that the best way to debate and expose them, was to focus on their denial of Allāh’s knowledge.
From the grave consequences of this theological innovation, that humans are themselves bringing their deeds into existence, is the belief that Allāh’s Will is in fact not irresistible but rather can be opposed by human beings, for Allāh wills that His creatures obey Him but they can oppose this Will of His with their own will. Perhaps this is the reason why al-Ṭahāwi preceded this statement with the statement: ‘He knew everything they would do before He created them’, and his statement: ‘Things occur as He ordains and wills them. His will is always carried out.’
The Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) himself foretold the rise of this sect and referred to them as the “Majoos” of this Ummah  , who held the doctrine of a supposed primeval conflict between light and darkness two creators, one of light and the other of darkness. That is that the god of good is opposed by the god of evil, something which the Mu’taziltes affirm by negating Divine Decree and claiming that man creates his own actions independently of Allāh and can oppose Allāh’s Will. According to their doctrine, one would conclude not only the existence of another Creator but multiple Creators, as every human being creates his actions. Allāh is the Creator of everything, including human acts, and what He wills happens, and what He does not will does not happen.
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Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad’s explanation of al-‘Aqeedah al-Ṭaḥāwiyyah, edited by Asim Khan, will soon be published as a hardback book. Islam21c have exclusive rights to share extracts from the book for its readers, and will be posting certain sections of the book on a weekly basis. The book: al-‘Aqeedah al-Ṭaḥāwiyyah, is a short text outlining the ‘aqeedah of Ahl al-Sunnah in short statements. Each extract posted is a complete explanation of any one of those statements.
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