Everyone is Accountable for his/her own Choices


Everyone is Accountable for his/her own Choices

Question:

If Allah is the All-knowing, does it not follow that our lives are pre-determined? That our choices are predetermined? How can we be regarded as having free choice if Allah already knows what we will choose?

Answer:

Everyone is accountable for his/her own choice.  Even though He knows what we will choose, He created us to have free choice.

Muslims known as the Mujabirah, believe that because Allah is the Creator,  He also creates our actions.  If this were so, it would follow that humankind has free will.  They also say that if it is possible for humankind to create their own deeds, then there is more than one Creator.  But, as they believe that nothing may be associated with the Creator, they believe by this logic that humankind can have no free will.

The error-free Imams derive evidence of ‘free will’ from three different sources: from history, from the Qur’an and from rational argument.

Throughout history, the error-free Imams have pointed to the Holy Prophet’s  elevated status as a perfect human being – Insan al-Kamil.  The Umayyads, on the other hand, strove to lessen the Prophet’s status by claims that he did not have free will and that he was not free from error.  According to them, he had the nature of a human being which meant that he sometimes forgot things. 

Throughout history, the error-free Imams have drawn attention to Allah’s words, “Truly, I wish to make you a leader of humankind.”  He [Ibrahim] said: ‘And make leaders also of my race and off-spring?’  He replied: ‘My covenant is not within the grasp of any of your progeny who are not just. Qur’an 2:124

From this we conclude that humankind does indeed have the free will to choose, to be just or not to be just.

The error-free Imams have also pointed out that:

‘Allah does not wrong anyone’ Qur’an 10:44

‘Each of us is responsible for his/her own deeds’ Qur’an 74:38

‘No one will be accountable for the sins of others’ Qur’an 35:18

 

This supports the conclusion that human beings do have the free will to wrong others, and to be responsible and accountable for their own deeds.

 

Allah tells us in the Qur’an:
‘And did We not show him [Adam] the two highways [of good and evil]?’ Qur’an 90:10

‘And inspired [the soul with the faculty of knowing] what is evil and what is good.’ Qur’an 91:8

 

From these it is clear that the capacity and limits of human beings’ come from Allah, leaving humans with free will to account for their deeds.

 

As already discussed, the question of human beings’ accountability, the sending of the Prophets, the proclamation of Divine messages, and the principle of resurrection and judgment are all based on human beings’ ’free will’ and the ability to choose.

 

If Allah Almighty were to compel human beings to do certain things (commit sins) and at the same time reward or punish them, it would be completely meaningless.  Indeed, how could one justify condemning or blaming an oppressive tyrant or praise a just ruler if human beings did not have free will.  Because, in the absence of choice, neither the just not the oppressor could be accountable. 

 

This is clearly explained by Imam `Ali (a.s.).

‘There would be no condemnation for the sinner nor recommendation for the virtuous.’

 

While recognizing the validity of natural causes and factors, Muslims regard Allah as the true cause of all phenomena and recognize that if He wished, He could render them powerless, even in the limited sphere in which they operate. 

Some Mujabirah clearly say that a knife doesn’t cut by itself nor does fire burn by itself.  All natural phenomena are meaningless in their opinion.  This they relate to their denial of free will.

 

As all creatures lack independence in their essence because they are all dependent on Allah, they also lack independence in their causality and its effects.  The unity of Divine Acts is that all attributes of Allah are based on His Perfect and Complete Existence, His Power is precisely His Wisdom and His Knowledge is precisely His Power.  All these together reflect the same attribute, His being Creator and Provider.  Therefore, the Unity of Divine Acts does not require us to deny the principle of cause and effect and its role in the world.  Nor does it require us to regard everything as the direct product of Allah’s will in such a way that all natural causes are ignored.

 

For example;. a painting is dependent on an artist, but after the painter has completed the work, the attraction of the painting remains, independent of its originator.  Even when the artist has departed this world, the brilliant painting remains.

 

To clarify, Allah Almighty tells us in the Qur’an:

 

‘Call upon Allah, or call upon the Beneficent-al-Rahman, whichever name you call is the same because, to Him belongs the Most Beautiful Names.’ Qur’an 17:110

 

As regards the world’s being entirely dependent upon Him, we are told in the Qur’an:

 

‘Say, All praise be to Allah who has not taken any offspring, who has no partners in His Dominion and Kingdom, and who needs no aid nor helper on account of weakness or need, and proclaim His Greatness by extolling His Glory.’ Qur’an 17:111

 

We can conclude from these two quotes, that humankind does not participate with Allah in managing the world’s affairs. For, as electric bulbs provide light when the power is switched on, their staying alight depends entirely on a constant supply of energy from the same source.

 

Allah’s Creation is similarly dependent, existing having been ‘switched on’ by one of His Divine Acts.  This is beautifully summarized by the name ‘The Self Subsisting by whom all subsist-al-Qayyum’.  The first mention of this name in the Qur’an is 2:255, Ayat al-Kursi.  The word is derived from the verb to stand – Qama, which is associated with protecting things, accomplishing tasks, managing them, looking after them and having power over them.  In this ayah Allah clearly tells us that He STANDS with the affairs of His Creation in the sense that He looks after it, raises it and has all power over it.  In another ayah Allah Almighty tells us,

‘Is it He then who stands over [guards] every soul as to what it earns.’ Qur’an 13:33  

Ref: Friday Supplement

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