Determinism or Free Will (Full Delegation)


“In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful”

Determinism or Free Will (Full Delegation)

The topic of determinism and free will is a discussion regarding the relationship between the creator and the creature. There are three opinions as follow:

1- Some people believe that we have no will of our own. We do not have a will, we think we have done some actions but in reality, God does it. They do not accept the cause and effect and deny human free will. If we ask them If God wanted us to obey and we had no choice, why does he take us to heaven, or if God wanted us to sin, why does He take us to hell? They reply God does whatever He wants, and He does not need to be just.

2- On the other hand, some people believe in the delegation or full independent free will, who say that God created this world and went aside and left it to them to do things based on full free will until they reach the Day of Judgment. God has no interference and leaves it to the people. Interestingly enough they are trying to purify God from sins with this belief.

3- The truth is what Shia 12 Imams say: It is not compulsion, and it is not full delegation and free will, but it is something between these two. Power belongs to God, but actions are attributed to us.

Following narrations are some of the key traditions that discuss this topic. First, we translate them later we explain them in more detail.

Narration 1 @ Chapter Determinism and Free Will – Usul Kafi Book

Amir Al-Mu’minin Ali (A) was sitting in Kufa (Iraq) after returning from the battle of Safin. An old man came and asked a question: O Amir Al-Mu’minin tell me whether our fight with enemies was by God’s will?

Imam replied: Yes, you did not climb any hill and did not fall into any valley, except by God’s will. Old man questioned, O Amir al-Mu’minin, should I attribute the suffering I suffered in this way to God? (Meaning because my departure was due to God’s will, I will not have a reward). Imam replied: No, I swear by God that God has given you a great reward for going, staying, and returning from there, you were not forced into any of your actions. The old man questioned, how is it possible that we were not forced in any of the situations, even though our fight with our enemy was by God’s will?

Imam replied, do not think that your destiny was certain and so necessary (so that you did not have the desire and your fighting was not done by your desire) if this was the case, the reward, the punishment, the command, the prohibition was useless (because in that case man is like a machine, and reward and punishment of the machine is useless). In this situation, there is no point in promising and warning a man. The sinner deserves to be rebuked, and the virtuous is the one who deserves praise. The virtuous deserves more reward than the sinner.

This is the word of the idolatrous and the enemies of God and the supporter of Satan and Ghadryon (determinism). God Almighty has commanded (not with compulsion) and forbade to warn (so that people understand and do not sin) and has given a very big reward for a small action. Disobedience to God is not to overcome Him and obedience to God is not forcefully. He did not give the people full authority (as the people of delegates or tafviz say) and He did not create the heavens, the earth, and the space in vain, and He did not send the prophets as warner without a reason, this is the belief of the disbelievers.

The old man whose heart was untied, and his face was full of happiness composed a poem with this theme and said: You are the Imam who with his love and obedience, we seek God’s blessing. You clarified the part of the religion that was unclear for us. God bless you for this.

It is He who created you, and among you is the disbeliever, and among you is the believer” (At-Taqhabun:2). So, disbelief and faith belong to us because Quran says: God created you and you are a disbeliever and a believer.

Narration 2 @ Chapter Determinism and Free Will – Usul Kafi Book

Imam Sadiq (A) said: “Whoever believes that God commands people to immorality and ugliness has lied to God and whoever believes that good and bad deeds fully belong to people has lied to God (full independent free will)”.

God’s actions are based on wisdom.

Narration 3 @ Chapter Determinism and Free Will – Usul Kafi Book

Washa said I asked Imam Reza (A): “Has God left the work to the servants themselves? He said: God is dominant. I asked again: So, he has forced them to sin? He said: God is more just and wise than this”.

Narration 4 @ Chapter Determinism and Free Will – Usul Kafi Book

Yunis ibn Abd al-Rahman said: Imam Reza (A) said to me: “Do not believe in the beliefs of Qadriyah (the people of delegation – full independent free will) because Qadriyah people do not believe in the words of the people of Paradise, nor the words of the people of Hell, nor in the words of Satan because the people of Paradise say: “And We will have removed whatever is within their breasts of resentment, [while] flowing beneath them are rivers. And they will say, “Praise to Allah, who has guided us to this; and we would never have been guided if Allah had not guided us. Certainly, the messengers of our Lord had come with the truth.” And they will be called, “This is Paradise, which you have been made to inherit for what you used to do” (Al-A’raf:43). People of Hell say: “They will say, “Our Lord, our wretchedness overcame us, and we were a people astray (Al-Mu’minin:106). And Satan said, “[Satan] said, “My Lord, because You have put me in error, I will surely make [disobedience] attractive to them on earth, and I will mislead them all” (Al-Hijr:39). (These three groups refer good and evil to God, but Qadriyah attributed actions to themselves). (Narration continued) …

Narration 5 @ Chapter Determinism and Free Will – Usul Kafi Book

Imam al-Sadiq (A) said: “Indeed, God created the people and knew which way they were going; and commanded them and forbade them. Whatever He ordered, He left a way for them to not do it (so that they did it of their own free will and they are not forced). It is with God’s permission that people are doing and not doing actions”.

Narration 6 @ Chapter Determinism and Free Will – Usul Kafi Book

Imam Sadiq (A) narrated from Prophet Muhammad (S): “Whoever believes that God commands ugliness has lied to God and whoever believes that good and evil is against the will of God, has expelled God from his kingdom. Whoever believes that sins performed without God’s power, he lied to God, and whoever lies to God, will be punished”.

Narration 7 @ Chapter Determinism and Free Will – Usul Kafi Book

Ismail ibn Jabir narrated: “A man was sitting in the mosque of Medina and was talking about “Qadr” (determinism) and the people were listening to him carefully. I said: “I have a question for you”. He replied: “ask your question”. I said: “Is there anything that can happen without God’s will?”. He thought for a very long time and then raised his head towards me and said, “If I say, it is possible that something might happen that God did not want, God is defeated (Meaning someone overcame God’s will and did something against God’s will).” But if I say no, everything happens according to God’s will then I attributed sins to God and made creatures innocent.

Ismail says: I described my conversation with that person to Imam Sadiq (A). Imam replied: “He thought in his benefit, if he said otherwise (and he gave a definite answer based on his opinion) he would perish“.

If he attributed sins to God, he would attribute oppression to God and If he said that something would happen without God’s will, he limited God’s kingdom and power.

Narration 8 @ Chapter Determinism and Free Will – Usul Kafi Book

A man says: “I said to Imam Sadiq (A): Has God forced humans to sin?” Imam replied: “No”. I said: “So, God left the work to them?”.  Imam replied: “No”. I said: “Then what is the truth?”. Imam replied: “It is a blessing from your Lord between these two topics”.

Narration 9 @ Chapter Determinism and Free Will – Usul Kafi Book

Imam Baqir and Imam Sadiq (A) said: “God is more merciful to His creatures than to force them to sin and then punish them for it and God is dominant (“Aziz”) so nothing happens if he does not want it to happen. The narrator says: “The two Imams were asked: Is there a third case between determinism and free will?  Imams replied: “Yes, it is a case bigger than the sky to the earth (Meaning Monotheism).

Narration 10 @ Chapter Determinism and Free Will – Usul Kafi Book

Imam Sadiq (A) was asked about determinism and free will. Imam replied: “It is not determinism, and it is not free will, the truth is that it is something between these two which only a knower (Imam) knows it or someone who was taught by the knower (Imam).

Narration 11 @ Chapter Determinism and Free Will – Usul Kafi Book

The Narrator said that a man asked Imam Sadiq (A): “Does God force his servants to sin? Imam replied: God is more just than forcing them to sin and then punishing them for it. The man asked, Does God leave the full authority to them? Imam replied, if that was the case then God would not give orders and prohibitions. The man asked again: So, is there another case between the two? Imam replied: Yes, wider than heaven and earth”.

Narration 12 @ Chapter Determinism and Free Will – Usul Kafi Book

Ahmad ibn Muhammad narrated: I asked Imam Reza (A) that some of our companions believe in determinism, and some believe in free will. Imam replied, write this sentence:

“In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate, Ali Ibn al-Hussian (Imam Sajjad (A)) said: God Almighty said: “O son of Adam, you want with my want (Meaning you have free will because I want you to have free will). By my strength, you can worship, and with my blessing you disobey Me. I made you hearer and seer. Every good that comes to you is from Me and every evil that comes to you is from you because I deserve that your good be attributed to Me more than you and you deserve more than Me to your evil. This is because I will not be held accountable for what I do but people will be held accountable”.  Then Imam said: I replied to whatever you asked me”.

Narration 13 @ Chapter Determinism and Free Will – Usul Kafi Book

Imam Sadiq (A) said, “Neither determinism nor free will is right but it is a topic between these two things. The narrator asked, what is the topic between these two cases? Imam Replied, “It is like seeing a man engaged in sin and you forbid him. He doesn’t accept it and you will leave him, and he will commit that sin. Since he did not accept your order and you left him, it should not be said that you ordered him to sin”.

Narration 14 @ Chapter Determinism and Free Will – Usul Kafi Book

Imam Sadiq (A) said: “God is nobler than obliging people to what they are not capable of, and God is more powerful than something that happens in his realm of domination that He did not want”.

Explanation of Above Hadiths

In the Islamic world, this topic is one of the primary points of discussion. The question was: Are our actions our will or God’s will? Some people have said that it is God’s will and some people have said, God created us and sat aside and delegated full independent decisions to us.

There would be key questions here, for example: If God forces us to do things and no one has the authority to sin, then why do we go to hell and will be punished if we sinned. They replied that God does not have to be just!! He can do whatever He wants. But in the verse of the Holy Quran, we have: “Whoever does righteousness – it is for his [own] soul; and whoever does evil [does so] against it. And your Lord is not ever unjust to [His] servants” (Fussilat:46).

Principles of Shia religion are, 1- monotheism, 2- justice, 3- prophecies, 4- Imamat, 5- Resurrection. One of the principles of Shia is that God is just. This is to separate Shia from the people who believe that humans do not have free will.

In Shia narrations, the completely independent free will of humans is also rejected. Imam Baqir said to the people who believed in the full independent free will of a human that recite Surah Al-Hamd until they reached “Iyak Na’bud and Iyak Nasta’in” (“It is You we worship, and You we ask for help” (Al-Hamd:5)). Imam asked them if God’s will and help are not going to be effective then why do we ask for help in this verse?

The discussion of determinism and free will is one of the secrets. God does not force humans to sin but also humans cannot do whatever they want against God’s will. Imam said, it is not determinism, and it is not free will completely. It is something between these two. The following are three keys that need to be understood deeply for this topic.

  1. Power is absolutely from God, but actions are attributed to us. (بحول الله و قوته اقوم و اقعد) It is with God’s power that “I” stand up and “I” sit down. God’s power for a human becomes sin and for another one becomes a good deed. Without God’s power and will nothing happens. Power is from God, but actions are attributed to us. Power appears in people and their actions make heaven and hell, God does not take anyone to heaven and hell. And God does not force anyone to do anything, everyone does everything on their own. People sin by the power of God. All things are by the power of God. Satan also deceives with the power of God, and he is not independent of God and he is not in front of God but he deceives with the permission of God.
  2. The known is the basis and foundation of knowledge. This is related to God’s knowledge, does God know who is a good person or not? Yes, He knows.  Does God know the destiny of people? Yes, He does. If He knows this person will be bad, can the person be good? No, When God knows this person is bad, he can no longer be good, if he becomes good, God’s knowledge will change which is not possible. Because this person goes to hell, God knows, not since God knows that person goes to hell. The known thing is the basis for knowledge, not the other way around. This person does not want to, not that he cannot. It is the cause of his actions that he goes to hell, and God knows this.
  3. When People say whether to do this or not, it is the reason that they have free will.

God said: It is with my will what you want. Do not think you are independent in your destiny, you are not independent in your power, the sinners sin by the power of God.

With God’s power, we worship. Our senses and perceptions are not independent. If they were independent and fully belonged to us, we should be able to keep and maintain them. How ugly it is that God has given these gifts to us, and we disobey God with them. Our good deed belongs to God and the ugly deed belongs to our souls. Every action that mans does goes back to the man himself.

We must not hold God accountable for our sins like what Satan said in the following verse.

“[Satan] said, “My Lord, because You have put me in error, I will surely make [disobedience] attractive to them on earth, and I will mislead them all” (Al-Hijr:39).

We must be polite and ask forgiveness for our sins and say I was wrong; O God please forgive me, like what Adam and Eve said in the following verse.

They said, Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers” (Al-A’raf:23).

God’s action is not questioned because God himself is the legislator, God is the law itself. The law itself cannot be questioned but people are questioned for their actions.

All praise is to God to the extent that He deserves it.

Muhammad Mahdi Me’marian

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