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I think I first heard in talk by Dr. Zakir Naik that us humans were given a choice of free will (perhaps between free will and being an angel). Obviously, we chose free will. To me, this made absolute sense: Allah would never leave a loophole where an individual who is about to go to Hell may say "Oh Allah! I did not ask for any of this!"

To my knowledge there are two verses in the Quran that are related to this matter. The first one is indirectly related:

And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], "Am I not your Lord?" They said, "Yes, we have testified." [This] - lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, "Indeed, we were of this unaware." [7:172]

However, I think, the following verse is related to my question:

We offered Our Trust (Our deputation) to the heavens, to the earth, and to the mountains, but they could not bear this burden and were afraid to accept it. Mankind was able to accept this offer but he was unjust to himself and ignorant of the significance of this Trust. [33:72]

Could this verse be talking about the the choice of free will? (And, of course, all the responsibilities that comes with it, and that is why mountains did not accept it, and that is why mankind is considered unjust to himself and ignorant about the Truth.)

My Questions:

  1. What is the scholarly view about this verse (33:72)?
  2. With respect to my original question and Dr. Zakir Naik's comment: Is there another Quranic verse or hadith (if not, any view from the great scholars of the past) that would unambiguously shed light on this topic (that mankind offered a choice between free will and something else)?
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    How can you be responsible for choosing free will if you don't already have it while making the choice? – G. Bach Jul 19 '18 at 17:46
  • @G. Bach Sensible question. Seems that there are levels of free will. If that was not the case, the angels would have the sense of "like" and "dislike" (but they do); on the other hand they cannot disobey Allah, not can they sin. – blackened Jul 19 '18 at 18:15
  • Are you somehow referring to the video addressed in Why did Dr. Zakir Naik say memory is washed off? – Medi1Saif Jul 20 '18 at 6:20
  • @Medi1Saif♦ It is possible, but the link is removed from YouTube. – blackened Jul 20 '18 at 8:10
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Yes. A classical scholarly view is that this verse (33:72) refers to humanity choosing Al-Amanah (the Trust), where they chose being entrusted with their own obedience ("free will")... in contrast to the rest of creation (e.g., heavens/earth/mountains per the examples in the Qur'an verse) which all are obedient by default because they did not take on this trust/responsibility.

There's nothing that expands on this better than the very next verse, which shows us the outcome of choosing this responsibility i.e., evildoers are punished and good-doers are forgiven/rewarded. (And since the rest of creation didn't take on the trust, they don't get rewarded/punished).

ليعذب الله المنافقين والمنافقات والمشركين والمشركات ويتوب الله على المؤمنين والمؤمنات وكان الله غفورا رحيما (With the result) that Allah has to punish the Hypocrites, men and women, and the Unbelievers, men and women, and Allah turns in Mercy to the Believers, men and women: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (33:73).

Read below for a scholarly tafsir [left out some portions, so please refer to the Tafsir for the full text]

How Man bore the Amanah

Al-'Awfi reported that Ibn 'Abbas said, "Al-Amanah means obedience. This was offered to them before it was offered to Adam, and they could not bear it. Then Allah said to Adam: 'I have offered the Amanah to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, and they could not bear it. Will you take it on' He said, 'O Lord, what does it involve' He said, `If you do good, you will be rewarded, and if you do evil, you will be punished.' So Adam took the Amanah and bore it, and this is what is referred to in the Ayah:

وَحَمَلَهَا الإِنْسَـنُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُوماً جَهُولاً

(But man bore it. Verily, he was unjust and ignorant.)'' 'Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said, "Al-Amanah means Al-Fara'id (the obligatory duties). Allah offered them to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, (on the grounds that) if they fulfilled them, He would reward them; and if they failed, He would punish them. But they did not want to do that, and they were afraid of it, not because their intention was sinful, but because of their respect for the religion of Allah, in case they could not fulfill the obligations involved. Then Allah offered it to Adam, and he accepted it with all that it entailed. This is what is referred to in the Ayah:

وَحَمَلَهَا الإِنْسَـنُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُوماً جَهُولاً

(But man bore it. Verily, he was unjust and ignorant. ) meaning, he underestimated the command of Allah.'' This was also the view of Mujahid, Sa'id bin Jubayr, Ad-Dahhak, Al-Hasan Al-Basri and others that Al-Amanah means Al-Fara'id. Others said that it meant obedience. Al-A'mash narrated from Abu Ad-Duha from Masruq that Ubayy bin Ka`b said: "Part of Al-Amanah means that woman was entrusted with her own chastity.'' Qatadah said: "Al-Amanah means religion, obligatory duties and prescribed punishments.'' Malik narrated that Zayd bin Aslam said: "Al-Amanah means three things: prayer, fasting and performing Ghusl to cleanse oneself from sexual impurity.'' There is no contradiction between all of these views; they are all in agreement and all refer to responsibility and the acceptance of commands and prohibitions with their attendant conditions, which is that the one who fulfills this responsibility, will be rewarded; while the one who neglects it, will be punished.

(...)

The Result of taking on the Amanah

لِّيُعَذِّبَ اللَّهُ الْمُنَـفِقِينَ وَالْمُنَـفِقَـتِ وَالْمُشْرِكِينَ وَالْمُشْرِكَـتِ

(So that Allah will punish the hypocrites, men and women, and the men and women who are idolators.) means, because the sons of Adam have undertaken to fulfill the Amanah, which means duties, Allah will punish the men and women among them who are hypocrites, who are those who make an outward display of faith because they fear the believers, but in their hearts they conceal disbelief and in fact are followers of the disbelievers.

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A concise and clear-cut reply is found here by Zafer Iqbal, has a Masters in Islamic Studies:

"Everything is not predetermined. Otherwise there is no purpose to "free will" and arguably, it cannot exist.

Humans have the free will to choose to do good or evil in this life. Muslims believe that even though God knows people's ultimate destination, they themselves do not have that knowledge. Therefore, whatever actions people commit are based on their free will for which they are held accountable."

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As @Bach has already mentioned in comments, accepting the offer given by Allah PBUH is a manifestation of the humankind already having at least a level of free will. Not only humankind, but also those who refuse to accept the offer have at least a level of free will.

إِنَّا عَرَضْنَا الْأَمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأَبَيْنَ أَن يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا الْإِنسَانُ ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُومًا جَهُولًا

Indeed, we offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, and they declined to bear it and feared it; but man [undertook to] bear it. Indeed, he was unjust and ignorant.

So, this is not the place for Allah to give the humankind the free will. Indeed, in the same verse, Allah has announced what was the driving force to accept what the other creatures declined to accept. The man accepted it out of ignorance and unjust, while the others refused to accept it out of fear. The state of the man which led it to accept the offer is also explained in other verses, that:

إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لِرَبِّهِ لَكَنُودٌ ﴿٦﴾ وَإِنَّهُ عَلَىٰ ذَٰلِكَ لَشَهِيدٌ ﴿٧﴾ وَإِنَّهُ لِحُبِّ الْخَيْرِ لَشَدِيدٌ ﴿٨﴾

Indeed mankind, to his Lord, is ungrateful. (6) And indeed, he is to that a witness. (7) And indeed he is, in love of wealth, intense. (8)

This intense love of wealth led him to accept such a great offer that the heavens and the earth had fear from its acceptance. According to Shia Ahadeeth, the great offer is something that Praying Allah (صلوٰة) is a major manifestation of it:

"وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَ الصَّلَاةِ ۚ وَ إِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ ﴿٤٥﴾ ".

And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, the latter being difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah] (45)

There are a lot in Ahadeeth and the saying of the scholars of Shia about this verse, but this much should suffice in response to your question.

About free will also there are tons of arguments, but only mention that the free will, as much as it is free will, does not belong to human kind only. Angels, animals, plants, and even stones and those which we consider as not alive, they all have free will to some extent. Even we have Ahadeeth that they will resurrect at the Day. For example have you seen these verses:

وَمَا مِن دَابَّةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا طَائِرٍ يَطِيرُ بِجَنَاحَيْهِ إِلَّا أُمَمٌ أَمْثَالُكُم ۚ مَّا فَرَّطْنَا فِي الْكِتَابِ مِن شَيْءٍ ۚ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يُحْشَرُونَ

And there is no creature on [or within] the earth or bird that flies with its wings except [that they are] communities like you. We have not neglected in the Register a thing. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered.

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّـهَ يَسْجُدُ لَهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ وَالنُّجُومُ وَالْجِبَالُ وَالشَّجَرُ وَالدَّوَابُّ وَكَثِيرٌ مِّنَ النَّاسِ ۖ وَكَثِيرٌ حَقَّ عَلَيْهِ الْعَذَابُ ۗ وَمَن يُهِنِ اللَّـهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِن مُّكْرِمٍ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَفْعَلُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۩ ﴿١٨﴾

Do you not see that to Allah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth and the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the moving creatures and many of the people? But upon many the punishment has been justified. And he whom Allah humiliates - for him there is no bestower of honor. Indeed, Allah does what He wills. (18)

تُسَبِّحُ لَهُ السَّمَاوَاتُ السَّبْعُ وَالْأَرْضُ وَمَن فِيهِنَّ ۚ وَإِن مِّن شَيْءٍ إِلَّا يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِهِ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا تَفْقَهُونَ تَسْبِيحَهُمْ ۗ إِنَّهُ كَانَ حَلِيمًا غَفُورًا

The seven heavens and the earth and whatever is in them exalt Him. And there is not a thing except that it exalts [Allah] by His praise, but you do not understand their [way of] exalting. Indeed, He is ever Forbearing and Forgiving. (44)

These are all through free will ...

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