I have done a lot of research on this site regarding the topic of free will and determinism in Islam and I am yet to receive any form of answer that satisfy my query.

Essentially, the very coexistence of determinism and free will has been in talks of both philosophy and religion. And I'd like to know a little about what the Islamic position of it is.

To help ease the answer to the question, take this example. Say a man starts having immense sexual urges and makes a choice between going to the mosque to deal with the urge or go the brothels. Now, unfortunately, the man takes the path to the brothels. From this, we know that the man is going to and is about to commit a sin and by fate and by what Allah has written in the book of destiny thousands of years before the big bang, he will DEFINITELY commit ZINA. Say the man never repents for his action.

Now, this situation right here, the man will be accountable for his action in the day of judgment and Allah will punish him. Given he had the ability to make a conscious choice between mosque vs brothel, instead choose Zina and even after committing the sin, he didn't repent. But there's this other thing, Allah has fated this to happen to him. Allah has pre-destined, the man's path and whether he'd repent or not. In that case, do free will really exist or is it like we are bound to Allah regardless and that we are just following a code that Allah has set millions of millions of years ago as what we call destiny. And to us, the code itself appears free will?

I always thought, in Islam, the idea of free will and determinism both exist at the same time. And the understanding of how they relate is beyond human understanding, but the question still bugs me to this day. If anyone can shed some perspective, I'll be immensely grateful

1 Answer 1


In Islamic history Mu'tazilites are associated with the doctrine of tafweez or delegation. They believed we decide our fate all on our own without any Divine intervention.

Ash'arites are associated with jabr or determinism, believing that Allah determines our deeds and we have no role in them but that we only "earn" them.

Imamis tread a middle ground, believing in neither jabr or tafweez, saying the truth lies in between. We determine our actions by our God-given power but ultimately we can't decide against God's will, therefore we are responsible for our actions even though we never violated the Divine will, because God has determined that those who violate his religion out of free will, go to hell, so they will go to hell as He has willed.

But the question of Divine advance knowledge is a different issue. All Muslims believe Allah has knowledge of future. So whatever we do out of free-will or not, He already knows. But those who believe in free will argue that God's advance knowledge doesn't violate our free will, because God knew that we take the action based on our free will. So this is the easier question.

The most difficult question though was how we can apparently violate God's will without violating God's will in the Imami school. Imami scholars have moved to differentiate between God's two wills: His general will to create both good and evil, and His specific will to encourage people to good. Hence, whatever you do of good or evil is determined by God, but again Imamis say God is less deserving of being attributed to evil than man. I believe this latter qualification is for practical purposes. A believer must always think good of Allah to achieve His good, so he must not associate evil with God.

But me personally, ultimately believe both good and evil are works of Allah but through man. Man himself, deep in His spirit is nothing but God. So God acts through us, but we (as different windows of God or different loci of God) can partially choose what our share of God, if you will, desires. So it is at the same time both God and us.

But God, inside each of us is limited by our particular conditions. The more we improve our conditions, God inside us can do better and better. But God as outside us is the source of all conditions. So somehow He is doing it all. Heaven and Hell would be the consequences of how we (windows of God) allowed God to work within us. But again since our success or failure is also determined by others (God in other windows) making decisions, then our actions are ultimately shaped by ourselves (as windows of God) and others (other windows of God) and hence by God.

So as you see on the surface it seems that I'm not only going in circles here but I am also contradicting my statements. But again that's how Quran and traditions, too, talk about God and man. I believe we have to believe this contradiction and circularity is really the state of reality and inevitably acknowledge that God has an apparently contradictory nature, and that's actually a perfection. God is beyond dichotomy maybe because He is simultaneously both sides of the dichotomy, and that's probably why He is so impressive!

Sufis are known among Muslims to believe in opposite qualities in God and therefore having contradictory accounts of God, but that's exactly because we can show they are the most intelligent and truthful about God!

  • Sorry to say this but, I am very very very CONFUSED! Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 5:16
  • Could you please use the example I have provided to answer my question. Thank YOU! Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 5:17
  • @EPICTubeHD I know it is confusing and I am not sure I can explain it better. Maybe I can add testimonies from Shia Imams to make my point but if you ask a separate question asking for Imami view of free-will vs determination. But note that you have mixed up the question of God's prior knowledge with the question of God's will. These are two different problems in relation to free-will. In your case, the person will face punishment even though God determined His state through the person's own will and conditions. In my understanding there's no dichotomy between the two wills.
    – infatuated
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 5:49
  • But the fact of the matter is that God's willing and God prior knowledge are basically 2 different aspects of the same thing. My question is how is the individual committing the sin determining his own actions if Allah has set the action for him. Is it a matter of perspective, that for that sinner there was an active choice and God will punish him becuz he couldn't make the proper choice. I hope u can explain it a bit more simply and dumb it down for someone who isn't that knowledgeable in Islam. Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 6:00
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    @EPICTubeHD This verse and you may want to read my extensive answer on the concept of spirit in Islam here: islam.stackexchange.com/questions/35590/…
    – infatuated
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 11:03

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