What Does Belief in the Divine decree Mean?
This means firm belief that everything, good and bad, takes place by the will of Allah, who does whatever He desires. Nothing can happen without His will, and not even the like of a weight of an atom in the heavens or the earth escapes His knowledge. However, He commands His servants to do certain acts and forbids them to do certain others, giving them free will to do whatever they please without being forced to do anything against their will. He created them as well as their ability to do things. He guides whomever He wills in His mercy and misguides whomever He wills in His absolute wisdom. He will not be questioned about what He does, but people will be questioned for what they do.
Belief in the divine decree is one of the pillars of faith. When the prophet ﷺ was once asked about faith, he said, “It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, the Last Day and to believe in the divine decree, the good and the bad of it.” (Saheeh Muslim: 8)
What Does Belief in the Divine Decree Include?
Belief in Allah’s decree includes the following:
- The belief that Allah ﷻ knows everything and that He knew everything about His creation even before He brought them into being. His foreknowledge includes their provisions, their appointed time in life, their words and deeds, all their doings, whatever they conceal and reveal, those who will be admitted into Paradise as well as those who will be sent to Hellfire. The Qur’an says, “He is Allah, other than Whom there is no other god, the Knower of the Invisible and the Visible.” (Soorat Al-Hashr, 59:22)
- The belief that He recorded everything that will exist according to His prior knowledge in the Preserved Tablet (Book of Decrees), as the Qur’an states, “No misfortune can happen on earth or in yourselves but is recorded in a Book before We bring it into being.” (Soorat Al-Hadeed, 57:22) The prophet ﷺ also said in this connection, “Allah recorded the measurement of all matters pertaining to creation fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth.” (Saheeh Muslim: 2653)
- The belief that Allah’s will is absolute and cannot be frustrated or challenged by any power whatsoever. Indeed, everything takes place according to His will. Whatever He wills certainly takes place and whatever he does not will cannot possibly take place. The Qur’an says, “But you will not will unless Allah wills, the Lord of all the Worlds.” (Soorat At-Takweer, 81:29)
- The belief that Allah ﷻ is the originator of everything, that He is the only Creator besides whom there is no creator, that everything in existence was created by Him and that He has power over all things, as the Qur’an states, “He created everything and determined it most exactly.” (Soorat Al-Furqaan, 25:2)
Man Has Free Will, Free Choice and the Ability to Do as he Pleases
Belief in the divine decree in no way implies that man does not have free will or that he cannot choose his own actions. This can be proven by Islamic textual evidence as well as by concrete evidence in the real world.
The Qur’an says, “That is the Day of Truth. So whoever wills should take the path that leads to his Lord.” (Soorat An-Naba’, 78:39)
Regarding man’s power and will to do as he chooses, the Qur’an states, “Allah will not force any soul beyond its capacity: It shall have the good which it has gained, and it shall suffer the evil which it has gained.” (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:286)
Based on concrete evidence in the real world, every person knows that he has the free will and ability to do whatever he wants. With these, he can choose between things. He can do some things willingly, such as walking, but he cannot possibly do some other things willingly, such as shivering or a sudden fall. It remains to be said that man’s will and ability can only take place following those of Almighty Allah, as the Qur’an states, “It is nothing but a Reminder to all the worlds to whoever among you wishes to go straight. But you will not will unless Allah wills, the Lord of all the Worlds.” (Soorat At-Takweer, 81:27-9)
Using Divine Decree as an Excuse to Commit Sins
The obligations of observing religious duties, abiding by divine commands and avoiding divine prohibitions is conditional upon man’s free will and ability to do as he chooses. Accordingly, the virtuous will be rewarded for choosing the path of righteousness, and the evil will be punished for choosing the path of wickedness.
Almighty Allah ﷻ does not impose a duty upon us that is beyond our capacity, and He does not want any one of us to neglect his religious duties by using divine decree as an excuse.
Besides, Allah ﷻ has endowed us with free will and the ability to choose our own actions and has clearly pointed to us the path of righteousness and that of wickedness. Therefore, if we disobey Allah, such disobedience comes only of our own choosing and thus we will have to bear the consequences of this choice.
Benefits of Belief in the Divine Decree
Belief in the divine decree has numerous benefits in people’s lives, including the following:
It is one of the best incentives to act in a manner that is pleasing to Almighty Allah in this life. The believers are commanded to do what they can possibly do, to the best of their ability, relying upon Allah I. They believe that whatever they do cannot possibly yield any results without Allah’s will, because Allah is the Creator of the causes and effects. The prophet ﷺ once said, “Cherish that which gives you benefit [in the Hereafter], seek help from Allah and do not lose heart. If anything unpleasant happens to you, do not say, ‘If I had done such-and-such, such-and-such would have happened instead.’ Rather say, ‘Qaddarallaahu wa maa shaa’a fa‛ala (This is Allah’s decree, and He does whatever He wills)’, for the words ‘if only’ begin the work of Satan.” (Saheeh Muslim: 2664)
Belief in divine decree prompts man to realise his own self worth, and so he tries to avoid self-conceit and arrogance, for he knows that he does not know what has been decreed for him. This makes him admit his weakness and need for Allah ﷻ and thus urges him to turn to Him constantly. Generally, man becomes conceited when something good happens to him and becomes rather sad and dejected when something bad befalls him. Only belief in the divine decree will protect man from such arrogance in times of ease and dejection in times of hardship, for he knows that things happen according to Allah’s decree and His foreknowledge.
Belief in divine decree helps overcome the vice of envy. A true believer does not envy people for the bounties Allah has bestowed upon them, for He knows that it is Allah ﷻ who has granted them such bounties in the first place and that envying others is tantamount to objecting to Allah’s decree.
It fills the believer’s heart with courage and strengthens his determination in the face of hardships, for he knows that his worldly provision and appointed time to depart the world has already been decreed by Allah ﷻ and that nothing will happen to him except what Allah has decreed for him.
It instils in him the numerous realities of faith. Consequently, he constantly seeks Allah’s assistance, places his trust in Allah after doing what is required of him and always shows his need for Allah from whom he derives support to stay on the straight path.
It provides him with reassurance and fills his heart with peace and contentment, for he knows that what has passed him by was not going to befall him and that what has befallen him was not going to pass him by.