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.
  • 1
    You might be interested in reading this: islamicperspectives.com/islamanddeterminism1.htm
    – Noah
    Commented Feb 2, 2013 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
    – Zahra E
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 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.

  • 2
    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
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 6:15
  • 2
    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
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 8:16
  • 2
    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
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 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
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 12:37
  • This answer is wrong. The example about the AI program is nonsensical. The AI program may behave in various ways depending on the amount of possibilities for the output. We (the program creators) cannot predict the outcome for certainty. Whereas God is certain of what the outcome of humanity will be as he has pre-determined everything. God already knows what is going to happen because it is he who planned it. Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 15:58

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?

  • 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
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 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
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 14:50
  • please check if the updates to that answer clarifies the situation for you.
    – owari
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 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
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 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
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 10:56

I'm a bit late but:-

You are right. Allah does know exactly what is going to happen:

Allah—there is no god except Him— is the Living One, the All-sustainer. Neither drowsiness befalls Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that may intercede with Him except with His permission? He knows that which is before them and that which is behind them, and they do not comprehend anything of His knowledge except what He wishes. His seat embraces the heavens and the earth, and He is not wearied by their preservation, and He is the All-exalted, the All-supreme. (2:255)

In simple translation, Allah knows the past and he knows the future. So, he does know everything that is going to happen, but he did not make any human or jinn do anything. Allah does not force anyone to believe or not to. He gave us a choice (free will).

Indeed, We guided him [humans] to the way, be he grateful or be he ungrateful. (76:3)

Allah specifically gave humans the free will to be grateful or to not be grateful. Just because Allah knows what they are going to do doesn't mean they didn't make the choice.

An important point to consider is that Allah shows everyone what they did on the Day of Judgement:

Man will be informed that Day of what he sent ahead and kept back. (75:13)

That [the reward and punishment] is because of what your hands have sent ahead, and because Allah is not tyrannical to the servants. (3:182)

One might ask, "Why doesn't Allah just punish those who should be punished and reward those who should be rewarded without the life of the world?"

Well as the ayaat say above, Allah is not an unjust tyrant. If he punishes someone without actually letting the person choose his choice. So, no one can say, "I would have done if Allah had actually given me a chance."

In conclusion, it has to be kept in mind that Allah is not merely a first cause. He is the All-Powerful (who can do anything he wants to), and he can and has given free will to humans so as to see which of them does the most good.

As for your example, let me modify it to make it fairer. A rock is thrown. The rock in mid-air is then given free will and a choice to either smash a window or fall onto a wall that is being built where the rock fits in perfectly. Then, the rock is given a manual (the Quran) on how to direct its trajectory so that it lands in its perfect place on the wall. So either the rock lands on the wall and adds to it or it ignores the manual and smashes the window.

  • Thanks for your answer. Is "the ability to decide and its behavior" created by God or not? If so, won't all human choices unfold just as God made it behave from the beginning, determining if and to what degree humans will be affected by the Quran and its followers? Finally humans get judged for "their choices" and for many these judgments look fair because they don't blame God for their behavior even though it was determined from the time when God made the behavior that we describe as "free will". If not so, are you not thus stealing glory from God for the outcome of the creation?
    – user2063
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 10:07
  • Let me add again what was already mentioned earlier. Assuming that God knows everything of the future, when creating the "free will", which is a behavior of the creation, God becomes the root cause of the "bad things" that humans later are judged for. This is because he knows all consequences from his decision and allows it to manifest in the moment he creates "humans and free will" in the world in this particular way. Even if the rock is changed magically by God mid-air, the further behavior of it is still caused by God, don't you agree? Is is just a longer description.
    – user2063
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 11:34
  • @user2063 God created everything including the ability to make the choice and the choice itself. But, He created what choice humans choose based on what He knew they chose. He gave them free will and implemented that free will. He did not force anyone to anything. Every human action He created, He created because they chose it. "are you not thus stealing glory from God for the outcome of the creation" No. If God says something like "I gave humans free will," I am not stealing anyone's glory by repeating that statement.
    – The Z
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 12:25
  • @user2063 There is no doubt God is the root Creator of all things whether good or bad. But, God did not force any human to choose something bad what he did not choose voluntarily.
    – The Z
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 12:28
  • All sayings are up to interpretation. We desire resolving the conflicts. You wrote: "He gave them free will and implemented that free will. He did not force anyone to anything." That statement touches my main question. Can God create without forcing the outcome given God being all wise and the source of everything created? I interpret your answer as meaning that humans have been created with some kind of independence from God enabling the "free decisions" to escape God's force, while still being totally predictable and created by God. Please clarify the answer if it is wrong. Thanks!
    – user2063
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 17:15

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.

  • 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
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 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.


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.

  • 1
    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
    Commented Apr 27, 2014 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). Commented Apr 27, 2014 at 20:54

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.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .