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If God is the first cause and God really created everything, how can our actions not be caused by him?

But on the other hand, if our actions must have been determined by Him, then how is this compatible with the common interpretations of the Quran which for instance state that we are somehow responsible enough for our decisions and might suffer eternally for them if they are judged as enough bad?

Summary picture of the view that God must have determined the acts.

Summary picture of the view that God both determined the acts and will punish some for them.

Update with clarifications mentioned in discussions:

This might mean that:

  1. From God's perspective, our experience of being able to make decisions is an illusion. God has actually determined our acts because he choose to create everything according to his preferences which are determined by his attributes. This is the best and only possible creation which he could allow himself to create.
  2. From our perspective we make our decisions ourselves with incomplete knowledge, while being aware that ultimately our will's behavior must be caused by God given that he is the first cause.
  3. We can be relatively responsible, just as a stone is the cause breaking a window when thrown at it by someone. But ultimately it needs to be the thrower who is responsible (the ultimate cause for praise or blame).
  4. Some find it absurd that God will eternally punish some people for deeds that God decided for them. It seems sadistic, at least from a limited human perspective. On the other hand it can also be seen as a grace to exist at all, whatever condition. The sufferings in Hell might then only seem unfortunate relative the conditions in Heaven from a human perspective, but might be a necessity for the best possible creation compatible with God's preferences and attributes.
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You might be interested in reading this: islamicperspectives.com/islamanddeterminism1.htm –  Noah Feb 2 '13 at 8:07
I voted to delete my answer. I think one of the best answers this question can get is your own answer after having discussed with different people and having read different views –  Ezati Feb 4 '13 at 18:52

7 Answers 7

Allah (the only, unique God in Islamic beliefs), created/creates two types of creations:

  • Creations who don't have their own will: they're مسخّرة or مسيّرة (unfree). Those creations act according to the criteria or routine Allah specified that they will follow. In other simpler words they're "automated", and those creations are not judged to go to Hell or Paradise. Examples of these creations are Animals, Wind and Clouds.

  • Creations who have their own will: They're مخيّرة facultative (have free will). Those creations make decisions and take actions, all according to their own will, they're not "automated". Examples of these creations are Humans and Jinn.

But how could Humans have their own will while they're the creations of Allah?

Just like Artificially-Intelligence robots/computer programs make their own (partially non-automated) decisions even though they're the "created" by us, by Humans! e.g, if you give an AI program some input, it will make decision and give output, if you give it the same input after a period of time, it might make a different decision and give a different output. They're not really "automated", and we, their creators, may not be able to predict that output. That's somehow similar to the case we are discussing; Allah created us, but He didn't "automate" us, He granted us brains (minds), we have our own will, and we make our own decisions. Thus Allah judges us. The difference between the two cases ("Humans created AI programs" and "Allah created Humans") is that Humans don't know AI programs' decisions, while Allah knows what we will do.

But since Allah knows what we will do, doesn't that mean that he pre-determined our actions?

Yes definitely Allah is the All Knowing, He knows every thing in the past, present, and future. But knowing something doesn't necessarily mean doing (or determining) it. Allah knows what will happen in the future because He is God, He is the Perfect, not becuase he determined it. You you can imagine that He predicts our actions, and his prediction is always 100% true and successful (but please don't believe it, since Allah doesn't predict, but Knows, has the ultimate knowledge).

Let's liken (just to make it closer to mind) this to the case when you give your son the freedom to make some decision, while you already can predict what his decision will be. The difference between god and creation is that a creation can predict something in the future but not know it for real, while Allah knows, has the ultimate knowledge of, the future for real.

Hope that's clear enough, and hope I haven't missed up anything or said anything not true (may Allah forgive me).

Note: any improvements/discussions to this answer are most welcome.

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In my opinion, this answer does not provide a satisfactory explanation of the main problem. Using the common meaning of the word determine, to cause (something) to occur in a particular way, how can God not determine our decisions, while being the first cause and all-wise? Are our decisions caused by God or not? Is God the ultimate cause of everything? You are welcome to join the chat. –  user2063 Feb 7 '13 at 6:15
If God has not determined our actions, what has? It seems you are saying that our actions depend on something that God hasn't caused. Please clarify this in your answer. –  user2063 Feb 15 '13 at 8:16
This answer seems to be personal speculation. I am willing to help you improve the answer, but this requires willingness from your side to discuss the issues in it. Please at least add a link to some sources that support this answer. –  user2063 Mar 10 '13 at 14:10
@user2063 I think this answer is a summary of what you'd find in authentic sources. AND it's deifnitely answering your question/problem. –  mavili Sep 3 '13 at 12:37

In a God centered world view where all existent things are depended upon His Existence the raised question in this thread is a valid one: who is the cause of the actions of the existent things (in this case man)?

To say that God isn't the cause is a flaw since God is the realizer of the existence of man. That is, if God hadn't given the existence in the first place man would never be able to act. So God is the ultimate cause and originator of everything. Perhaps this is what is meant with the verse:

[Quran, 8:17] “And you threw not when you threw, but it was God who threw”.

But man himself cannot have a will of himself independent of God since that will imply there is something that God doesn't have control over, which also the Quran rejects:

[Quran, 55:29] Everyone in the heavens and the earth depends on Him. His task in preserving His creation is continuous.

[Quran, 55:33] Jinn and mankind, if you can penetrate the diameters of the heavens and the earth, do so, but you cannot do so without power and authority.

But then the logical problem occurs that if man's will is dependent upon God and somehow emanates from Him and He can foresee it, still man is to be blamed for his actions and not God.

If you solve this logical paradox with absolute free will you have weakened the power and domain of God; if you solve it with pre-determinism you have rendered absurd many notions of divine justice and Judgement Day. If you, like the hadith from Imam Sadiq and the rest of the sayings of the Ahl al-Bait (The family of the Prophet), go with the middle way which is "wider then the heavens and the earth" then it seems like a mystery, because it doesn't really answer the question, it just offers an alternative route to make the entire belief system consistent. But is this third middle way described in detail? Is it even possible to answer this with purely logical means? Or is it a question of faith, belief and mysticism that is beyond the intellect to grasp?

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Read the added comments please for further clarifications. To me there is no mystery therein, if you still have problems say it and in shaa'Allah I will answer you. –  owari Jan 31 '13 at 13:47
I have read your comments but I cannot see how you have solved the problem. You have put forth human examples that cannot be applied to God. The personal account you mention could also be an illusion. That is: All that you experience is an predicted outcome from how God has programmed your behavior and the result of your interaction with your environment (whose behavior is also specified by God). –  Ehsan Jan 31 '13 at 14:50
please check if the updates to that answer clarifies the situation for you. –  owari Jan 31 '13 at 22:48
@owari Regarding this: Therefore, in this perspective, even the Hell is a level of mercy that Allah gives to some of His creatures (it denotes رحمانیت of Allah), first letting them to exist, then letting them to perceive and feel being alive, then feeding them with food although the food seems disgusting, and etc –  Ehsan Feb 6 '13 at 10:54
@owari Your notion of existence and mercy seems to have an Aristotelian origin. Aristoteles believed on a metaphysical plane that the more complete a form is the more good or less evil it is. For example it is natural for a human to have two eyes; if it has one it is less good/more evil in relation to man. You seem to suggest the same thing: That existing with eternal pain and suffering is more good then not existing at all. What do you ground this notion on? Is it indications in the Quran, hadiths or scholars' sayings that you could refer to? Or is it a product of your own mind and reasoning? –  Ehsan Feb 6 '13 at 10:56

I probably might have misunderstood, but see my analysis

Humans are the creation that has a gift of thinking, he has got the brain to decide what's right or wrong for him. There is a arabic term 'Ashraful-makhlukhat', which mean the best of all creatures, wise than all. He has the power to control his will or let the will control him, that's what decides his actions.

So, it's the man's deed that will take him on a good path or on a bad path, which eventually will be taken into account in the end.

Hope this clarifies your question.

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This explanation works if you want to describe our perceived freedom of choice. But that is not what I want to know. It fails to address the issue that God actually is the first cause and thus have created everything thereafter, including the mechanism that allows us to make decisions. I lack an explaination of how God can be the first cause of everything but somehow didn't cause the behavior of men and their will. See the linked image in the question for a clarification of the relationships which also includes God being all knowing of everything before it happens. –  user2063 Jan 28 '13 at 8:31

To add to @TamerShlash's answer, God has created us and given us the right to choose what we will. At the same time He knows what we will choose. In this sense, God is the Creator and the Knower, but doesn't determine what we do, otherwise we wouldn't be liable for our actions and couldn't possibly be punished for our misbehaviour, nor could we be rewarded for good actions.

Bear in mind that doesn't determine is different from can't determine: God can certainly do anything, but He won't alter your intention as that will contradict with His aim in creating this universe.

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God is the first cause of everything, I agree. But is He the cause of our deeds? I don't think so. Humans have been given free will. They can choose between the two path, good and bad. Now your question is that how are we accountable for something God has preprogrammed us to be like. For example if I am naturally a more wicked man than you are, it's because God has made me like this right? Yes He did. But here's a difference. We are given the freedom to choose (to a certain limit). If I kill a man, God didn't make me kill the man. God gave me a certain kind of personality (in this case, a rageful man) to test me, to see where this characteristic of being rageful takes me. And while still having the ability of reasoning (which every man has, except the ones who are mentally disabled which is great cause they won't be accountable for anything, unlike us), I went on committing the murder. Did God make me commit it? No He gave me all the ingredients to commit it but ultimately it was only my will that caused the murder. God had no cause in it. This free will is a creation of God and He has given it to humans. God is controlling us by giving us free will and letting us choose the path.

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Just like other answers here, you seem to say that some mechanism called "free will" is created by God but not fully determined. Are you saying that God does not know what the results will be from what he creates? If he knows, then ultimately he has chosen the result and is the root cause of every choice. Or are you saying that the God is not in control or creator of everything and that our free will and results are not originated from God? –  user2063 Apr 27 at 7:14
You can edit your post to add further elaboration. But please don't provide responses to comments in another answer until and unless they are different from the previous one(s). –  Bleeding Fingers Apr 27 at 20:54

I totally agree with user 2063. What else would explain true dreams.


Man would be judged for his intentions not actions. Fate is decreed in the mother's womb, his life, death, provision and everything else. Free will is an illusion. Question is if man has been fashioned in a particular way to respond to stimuli then how can he be judged?

Answer is: Group Watain is a group of Devil Worshippers..Allah made him a man with poor understanding so he goes for what appeals to him more...true! However to act out a proclivity by siding with devil is his choice to defy God. Allah did not make him defy his divinity though he made him a man impoverished of understanding. He earns provision through singing that is determined, he will die still so no change here, but the belief system he acquired with luxury was to side with the Devil instead, although he could have chosen to be grateful to Allah. So if a murderer commits murder because he was in rage and the death of that other person is determined to be violent, the killer cannot be condoned for that. He needed self control, that was his test. Doctor diagnosis a man with cancer, and predicts life to end in 1 month, the man chooses mercy killing on that same day, didn't prevent the result or the cause which is cancer rather the dynamics of cause and effect.Allah is the cause and the means to an end, but the dynamics of how we attempt to solve the puzzle before us is what we would be judged for.

7:179 says;

"And We have certainly created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind. They have hearts with which they do not understand, they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear. Those are like livestock; rather, they are more astray. It is they who are the heedless."

Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:

"Allah created some people for hell and some people for paradise."

I quote an article with following handy explanation

"For a lot of people, this is something very heavy. And the companions, they asked the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam then what is the point in doing good deeds? If Allah created some for heaven and some for hell then what is the point in doing anything? It has already been decided.

The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:

"Each one of you will find it easy to do what he was created for."

So if you choose the evil way, you find it easy and you carry on in that way, then that was what you were created for. But ultimately it is your choice. You choose hell. The fact that Allah has recorded, before anything was created, who would be in hell and who would be in heaven does not change the fact that it is we who choose. The judgment is only to manifest to those who go to hell, that they deserve to be in hell. It is only for them basically. Because if Allah created you, and put you in paradise, with all that is in paradise, and you see those people in hell suffering, are you going to ask Allah, why did you put me in paradise? No, you're going to say "all praise be to Allah!", you don't want to question or to wonder, all you will be is ecstatic that you are of those in paradise. So the judgment is not for you, it is for those who are going to hell. If you happen to be amongst those who were created for and put in hell, you would say, why me? Why did you put me in hell? And Allah would say because you would have done so and so in your life. But you would say no, no I wouldn't. If you give me a chance I would do good deeds. You would not give up arguing.

So Allah has allowed us to live out our lives. So when we stand before him, our book of deeds is spread before us, we know without a shadow of a doubt, that we chose hell. That Allah's judgment is just. There is no injustice in it, in any way shape or form. Allah says he oppresses no one. We will know that we chose hell."

O.K Go to Watain's site or their concerts or read up the ideology ...they are obsessed with Hell, going so far as to call their concerts Hell-Fest. Its their choice that way. God made them a certain way sure but ultimately they know the result of their actions. Iblis knew Allah before mankind, blamed God for making him a certain way but still chooses to defy him, when he knows he cannot empower God..its not because Allah wants him to defy him because Allah says

" And whenever they commit an indecency they say, 'We found our fathers practicing it, and God has commanded us to do it.' Say: 'God does not command indecency; what, do you say concerning God such things as you know not?' S. 7:28

When you say he pre-programmed humans its correct... like being bad at Maths and good in Biology but you choose Maths because its more in demand no matter how unpleasant... similarly no matter how "good" seems unpleasant to your pre-programmed mind you opt for it...without controlling the result. A man who is a lover of porn would go to hell (Fate)...Now, Allah chooses to punish him in the world and he repents, he still has the proclivity for it but he controls it asking Allah for guidance, Allah saves him. Allah controlled the result but did not command that he watches porn, that was Satan interfering. So he knows certain results due to man being made weak..but he does not interfere with the intention to watch porn. He may not let him watch it by imposing punishment or let him watch it by straying him further...depending on whether that person repents or is steeped in arrogance. Ultimately Man chooses to repent or stray. For if you say Allah is the cause then it means are you implying that Allah commanded him to watch porn?

" and follow not the steps of Satan; he is a manifest foe to you. He only commands you to evil and indecency, and that you should speak against God such things as you know not."

S. 2:168-169

"O my servants! I have forbidden injustice to Myself and have forbidden that for you as well, then do not commit injustice to each other".

(Sahih Muslim)

"They will cry out to them: Were we not with you? They shall say: Yea! but you caused yourselves to fall into temptation, and you waited and doubted, and vain desires deceived you till the threatened punishment of Allah came, while the archdeceiver deceived you about Allah. " — Qur'an, Sura 57 (Al-Hadid), ayat 14

He predestined your time in the world, however what you do with it is your choice under the Holy Quran as instruction manual. Follow it or reject it...no one will say Allah you programmed us to reject it because Allah will say " I gave you eyes, ears and a heart but you chose not to listen..." Allah is Lateef and Khabeer, Hakeem and Muqtadir , while predestination is a reality one should not delve too deep where his faith in divine justice shatters...that's how Satan plays upon ignorance of man with mind games.Just say Free Will does exist only to the extent of reigning on his desires or reigned "by" his desires. Like you choose to eat 1 piece of bread where you could eat 10 but intend to give rest in charity however they get stolen..you will get reward for your intention, you may had the means to enforce your will but you chose to share the good with others...or a 2nd scenario where you ate that 1 piece of bread and you wanted to eat the rest of the 10 but they got stolen ... you wouldn't get reward for charity because your intent wasn't such, though you were fated for 1 piece of bread, only.

Allah determined the creation of man ...outcome was known to him he didn't choose it. He says

"If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people: but they will not cease to dispute." (S 11:119 )

Allah knows the rest.

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As many other answerers, you seem to imply that God hasn't created and determined (aka caused) the actual behaviour (dynamics aka will) of his creation. In other words, our decisions cannot be fully traced to God's creative powers and are not an effect of God. So where do they come from? Is this so called free will without a first cause just as God is supposed to be? Then how can God have foreknowledge of the effects of these free wills (which seems necessary in order to know the future). Please clarify this. Thanks. –  user2063 11 hours ago

This question takes the man to the verge of Kufr..... If one has a firm belief in Allah and his plan for him which can never ever be harmful then this waswasah of shaytaan can never confuse us lets make our duty of following the right path and then leave all of it(wether it be destiny fate kismat luck..etc) to Allah in a true sense this is known as absolute trust and faith in Allah's will which in past Prophet Yusuf a.s., Prophet Isa a.s., Prophet Musa a.s. and our beloved Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) have shown and our holy prophet said if you follow the quran and my sunnat than nothing shall depreive you of jannat . To have trust in allah is like liveing up to the sunnat of our beloved prophet Mohammad s.a.w. Allah has designed a different test for everyone we don't know what is decreed for us ..so its mandatory for us to strive for the best and let the result be in front of us.

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