My friend spoke gloatingly thinking that his arguments would hold me captive by the scruff of my neck.
- You say, he argued, that God manages everything in this creation with fate and predestination and that he has preordained our deeds. If this applies to me, for instance, in the sense that all my actions have been preordained by him, why then should I be accountable before him? Don't give me the usual reply that choices are open before me. Nothing is more preposterous than this lie. Let me ask you: have I had any choice in my birth, sex, height and build of body, color, and country? Do I choose that the sun rise and the moon set? Is it by my choice that a blow of fate descends on me, that death surprises me, or that I can only escape from pitfall of calamity by committing crime? Why should God force me to do a certain deed and then hold me responsible for it?
If you argue that I am free and that I have a will besides that of God wouldn't that be considered a kind of polytheism since you are led to admit the multiplicity of wills? Moreover, what can you say to counter the ideas of historical materialism concerning the determinism of environment and circumstances as well as the various forms of 'inevitabilities' that adherents of that philosophy advocate?
- having blurted out these words like bullets, my friend breathed in relief thinking that I have been completely vanquished and that he had only to shroud my creed before the burial. I, however, began to speak in a quiet voice:
You are victims to certain fallacies. Your deeds are foreknown to God in his record but they are not preordained for you against your will. They are only preordained in his prescience just as you may foresee, in the light of your knowledge, that your son will commit fornication and he actually goes on to do it. Have you compelled him to it? Or was it, in fact, a foreknowledge which came true because founded on your comprehension of the situation?
Another confusion you fall in is your description of the freedom of the will as a lie arguing that you had no say in determining your birth, sex, height, color, or country and that you cannot will the sun to move from its orb. The cause of the confusion is that you conceive freedom differently than we, the believers, see it. You have absolute freedom in mind; therefore, you ask whether you can have a choice in making yourself white or black, tall or short or whether you can will to move the sun from its place or stop it in its orbit. Hence, you enquire plaintively, "where is my freedom?"
You are, in fact, talking about absolute freedom, the freedom to do as you will in the universe-such a kind of freedom is God's alone. We don not hold this view of freedom as we are guided by the Quranic verse:
"Your Lord Creates what he will and chooses freely,
But you have no power to choose."
The story, 68
No one has any choice in matters relating to creation because it is God who creates what he wills and pleases. He will not hold you responsible for your short or admonish you for your long stature, nor will he punish you for failing to stop the sun in its orbit.
The sphere of accountability is the area of Taklif or Divine injunction.
Within this area you are free and your argument should be confined inside its compass. You are free to repress your appetites, to bridle your rage, to resist the prompting of your ego, to deter your evil intentions, to enhance your benevolent tendencies.
You can be generous with your money and self.
You can tell the truth or lie.
You can restrain your hand from forbidden gains.
You can divert your eye from prying into sensitive spots of others.
You can hold your tongue and refrain from cursing, back-biting, and slander.
In this area we are free; and it is in this area that we are liable to account and questioning.
The freedom we should be discussing is relative and not absolute; it is man's freedom within the sphere of TAKLIF or injunction. This latter kind of freedom is real and the evidence for its reality is your innate, intuitive sense of it. We feel responsibility and contrition for our wrong-doing and we feel relief over our good deeds. We sense in every moment of our lives that we are involved in weighing and choosing from among several possibilities. The primary function of our mind, indeed, is to choose and favor from among alternatives.
We clearly and decisively distinguish between the trembling of our hand as result of fever and its movement as it writes a letter describing that trembling. We are conscious of the shivering as determined and compulsory and of the letter-writing as free and voluntary. If we were compelled or conditioned in both cases we wouldn't be able to make distinction. This freedom is further affirmed by our experience that it is impossible under any pressure to compel the heart to accept anything it does not want to. You can force a woman with threats and beating to undress but no pressure whatsoever can make her love you with all her heart. This indicates that God has safeguarded our hearts from all forms of compulsion and duress and that he created them free. This is why God judge according to what the heart harbors and the intentions bear. The believer who is forced to utter expression of shirk (polytheism) or blasphemy under threatening or torture will not be held accountable for them as long as his heart is steadfast in faith. In the following verse God absolves such person of responsibility:
"Those who are forced to recant while
Their hearts remain loyal to the faith
Shall be absolved"
The bee, 106
A further element of confusion in connection with question of freedom of will is that some people understand human freedom as meaning of transcendence of divine will and a management of affairs independent of God.
Consequently, they accuse the advocates of freedom with Shirk (polytheism) and with setting up equals to God who bid and dispense like him. This view, my friend, is what you echoed in your talk about multiplicity of wills. It is a mistaken conception; for human will does not transcend divine will. Man, in his freedom, may act contrary to what satisfies God, but he cannot do anything in contradiction to his will. God granted us freedom to transgress against His wishes (we disobey Him) but he gave none the freedom to transcend his will. In fact, we encounter here another facet of relative nature of human freedom.
All our actions are within the sphere of divine will and are subservient to it even if they go against God's wishes and violate the shari'a (religious law). Our freedom itself is a divine gift that god willingly bestowed and it was not forcefully extorted from him. Indeed, our freedom is exactly what he willed; and this is how we can understand this Quranic verse:
"You cannot will but by the will of God"
Our will is subservient to his; it is a grant from him, a gift of his kindness and Generosity. It lies within his own will; there is no duality, opposition, or competition between our wills and God's will and judgment.
Understanding freedom in this way does not go against Tawhid (faith in the oneness of God) or sets up equals to God who bid and dispense like him. Our freedom is precisely what he wills and decides.
A third point of confusion about issue of freedom is that some people who tackled the question of fate and predestination or the controversy of determinism versus freedom have understood fate as a compelling of man to that which is contrary to his nature and bent. This is an error into which you have also falled, my friend; God hasa unequivocally denied that he resorts to compulsion:
"If we will, we can reveal to them a sign from heaven before which
They will bow their heads in utter humility"
The Poets, 4
The meaning here is clear enough: God could have compelled men to believe by revealing incontestable signs (ayat) or miracles but he did not choose this path because compulsion is not one of his laws:
"There shall be no compulsion in religion. True guidance is now distinct from error"
The Cow, 256
"Had your Lord pleased, all the people of the earth would have believed in him. Would you then force faith upon men?"
Compulsion, it is plain, is not part of Divine Law.
Fate and predestination should not be conceived as a forcing of people to what is against their natures; on the contrary, God destines each human being to a fate which corresponds to his intentions – He wills him to what he himself really wills and He desires for him what he himself desires. There is no duality here. God's preordination is identical to creature's freedom of choice because God predestines every man according to his own desires and intentions:
"Whoever seeks the harvest of the world to come, to him we will give in great abundance; and whoever desires the harvest of this world, a share of it shall be his."
The Counsel, 10
"There is a sickness in their hearts which God has increased"
The Cow, 10
"As for those who follow the right path, God will increase their guidance."
In the Quran, God addresses the captives of war thus:
"If God finds goodness in your hearts, He will give you that which is better
Than what has been taken from you"
The Spoils, 70
God preordains according to the intentions and heart of man:
If these are evil, man will come to evil; if good, good will be his fate. There is no duality or opposition; predestination is freedom of choice as God predestines us to what we choose with our hearts and intentions. There is no injustice, compulsion, or duress in this regard and there is no subjection to what is against our natures:
"For him that gives in charity and guards himself against evil and believes in
Goodness, we shall smooth the path of salvation; but for him that neither gives
Nor takes and disbelieves in goodness, we shall smooth the path of affliction."
The Night Journey, 5-10
"It was not you who smote them; God smote them."
The Spoils, 17
The last verse indicates that the strike effected by man and that preordained by God merge into one and the same strike. This is the solution to the puzzle of fate and predestination:
Man is to intend while God is to enable and dispose, good for good and evil for evil.
Human freedom is not a fixed sum but a relative potential which is capable of increase.
Man can enhance his freedom with knowledge. By inventing tools, instruments, and means of transportation, he has managed to traverse our planet, to defeat distance, and to overcome the limitations of time and space. Through study of the laws of environment, he could control and exploit it for his benefit; he knew how to resist heat, cold, and darkness thus compounding his freedom in the sphere of action.
Knowledge, thus, has been one means of breaking bounds and restraints and unshackling freedom. Another means to those ends has been religion: invoking god's aid by taking the path leading to him and receiving revelation, support, and guidance from him. This was the way of the prophets and their followers. Solomon utilized the jinn. Mastered the wind, and spoke with birds by God's aid and gifts. Moses parted the sea while Christ raised the dead, walked on the water, and healed the blind-born, the leper, and the sightless.
We read about the Walis (men of God) and the blessed for whom the 'terrain is folded' and the unseen made known. They attain to these levels of freedom by perseverance in God's worship and by endearing themselves to him. He responds by endowing them with emanations of his hidden knowledge. Once gain we encounter knowledge but this time it is Ladduni knowledge (one peculiar to God).
Abu Hamed El-Ghazali sums up and solves the problem of freedom and predestination in two sentence: Man has freedom of choice in relation to what he knows, he is preordained with regard to what he knows not. EL-Ghazali means that the more knowledgeable man becomes the freer he is – and this holds true whether the knowledge meant is objective (Worldly) or Ladduni, coming from God alone.
Materialistic thinkers commit a grievous error when they conceive man as prisoner to historical and class determinism thus turning him into a link in a chain of economic and social laws and movements from which he cannot escape or extricate himself. Man becomes, in their view, a straw blown about helplessly in a violent air-current with no aid to steer himself with.
The phrase they tirelessly invoke as if it were a natural law is "the inevitability of class conflict." A according to scientific analysis, this is a fallacy since there are no inevitabilities in the human sphere but, at best, there are only probabilities and expectations. Indeed the distinction between man and all the prophecies of Karl Marx, for instance, have proven wrong: communism did not rise in an advanced country, as he predicted, but in a backward one. The conflict between capitalism and communism did not intensify but both camps were led by rapprochement to a state of "peaceful co-existence".
Communist countries have even gone so far as to open their doors before American capital.
The sharpening of contradictions that Marx expected to occur in the capitalist society leading to its bankruptcy did not materialize; on the contrary, the capitalist economy flourished while discord and dissention spread among the members of the socialist camp.
Marx's calculations were mistaken in their entirety proving the error of his deterministic system. The 'history-moving' conflict of our age is that non-class confrontation between the Soviet Union and china and not the class struggle proclaimed by Marx as the leitmotiv of his system. All this indicates the failure of materialistic thinking to understand man and history and the error of its predictions about the future. The failure resulted from a basic fallacy: namely, the materialistic conception of man as a fly caught in a net of inevitabilities and the total disregard of the reality of man's freedom.
There are, still, the materialists' arguments about the conditioning of man by the environment, society, and circumstances. Man it is claimed does not live alone and his freedom is not practiced in a vacuum. In reply to these arguments we say that the influence of the environment, society, and circumstances as factors antagonistic to human freedom confirms the dialectic nature of that freedom and does not negate it. The freedom of the individual can only assert its existence in the face of an opposing force seeking to displace it. If man moves in a vacuum where no resistance of any kind exists, he will not be free in the logical meaning of the word since there will be no obstacles for him to overcome and thereby manifest and emphasize his freedom.