Divine Will and Decree

By Imam Yahya

Perhaps one of the most challenging subjects that believers deal with, and theologians have attempted to talk about is the issue of divine will and decree. I’ve had, I’m going to say dozens of people come to me, “Imam, I’m just having a hard time with something, and I need your help to understand something.” After we sit down, “What about predestination, and faith, and it seems like our belief says that, you know, He knows and this and that,” and they’re getting into philosophizing of it. There’s no room in Islamic theology from a creed standpoint to philosophize, we don’t have that. One of the great notions that a final messengership carries is that there is absolute clarity. There are Muhkamath and there are Muth As-shabihath in the Qur’an. There are clear, decisive teachings which will Shaf-i it will give you comfort, you will understand. There are things that it seems like it’s hard to grasp, a little bit, ambiguous, or allegorical perhaps, and so in this subject, both of those are there. The scholar said, “We take thee ayah or the hadith that seems to be problematic, or unclear, or allegorical, and we understand it under the understanding of the clear, decisive teachings of Islam.

Imam At-Tahawi, he’s one of our famous theologians who wrote a book on theology, and made a very sound system that pretty much all of the groups of today would go back to him, and say, “Okay, what is his text say?” He said, “The divine decree is God’s secret in His creation.” Meaning what? It’s something He can only understand and grasp the nature of it. The modern world that we live in is trying to convince us that what is real is what my mind wraps itself around. Whenever my mind has decided it makes sense, and I like it, and I can take it is real and good. Whatever my mind decides it just doesn’t make sense, and I can’t get it then it’s not, and that is a level of arrogance that should not be of one who is embracing the fact that I am imperfect, and flawed, and He is the All-Knowing, All-Aware, All-Capable Truth of Existence. One of the fundamental realities of the believers when the Qur’an started out, who’s going to gain value from this Qur’an? Who will truly be guided by it? (Quran – 02:02, 03) What does that mean? That means there are things beyond my perception that I’m going to, from the get-go, accept I don’t know everything.

For me to assume that I should know everything, or I should understand one who knows everything is putting myself in a place I don’t belong by fact of logic, not even by fact of belief system, that’s a logic. It’s very troubling when you get into a discussion with a scientist on science, a proud scientist, and many of them, unfortunately, for some strange reason are going down the path of disbelief because of their pride. But if you talk to them in the field of science, they will say, “Oh, you don’t understand the beauty of science, and what we’ve come to know, and what we’re learning everyday, and what we expect to learn.” This is what they will say to you, all scientists who are very dedicated to their field. “Oh, we’re uncovering new ideas, and new species, and new understandings, and digging deeper, and figuring things out.” Have you figured everything out? They will all say with 100% consensus, “No, we have a long way to go.” Then you take those same scientists, and you go into theology, and you say, “Have we figured anything out?” “It’s all not real, we figured that out.” What? Why did you just change your methodology? At first you were humble, and in awe of the greatness of the way things are, and how they function. Now you’re standing firm that this stuff is false because it just doesn’t fit in your mind, and you don’t see anything to prove it.

Imam At-Tahawi, he says, “We have to realize it’s God’s business, it’s divine matter.” We are flawed, little ants, specks of dust on this place called Earth in this gigantic vast, amazing universe. We need to keep ourselves there if we are going to have a right to truly glorify His perfection. The Prophet (saws) said, “If somebody starts talking or delving into the issue of divine will and divine knowledge then don’t go so philosophical with it,” that’s the proper understanding of this hadith. Don’t go deep, and then if that, and this and how, A plus 1 equals, you know, all of these, no. Just listen to the text, and be very reasonable from a pure Qur’anic and Sunnah standpoint. Allah (swt) says, (Quran – 25:02) “He created everything, and He has set for it a specific function, and plan, and its reality is known to Him.” He says, (Quran – 76:30) What does that mean? If you read this ayah, it could give you the idea that you are a puppet. If you read this ayah by itself, this Muth As-shabihath because it seems  It is negating so many other ayahs that talk about your will, and your ability, and your knowledge, and your intention, and what you do, and what you say, and how that’s all yours, and you’ll be accountable, and you could be punished for it.

We have to go to the tafsir Asbabu Al-Nuzool what’s the ayah before it? Anybody awake, Surah At-Takwir?. It is both, yeah, Surah At-Takwir (Quran – 81:28) this was the first time it was revealed. Allah (swt) said, “Whichever among you would choose the path of right guidance,” the straight path, the clear path that’s not going crooked, so then Abu Jahl and them in Makkah, they said,  this arrogance. “If we would like, we’ll be mustaqeen, and however, and whatever You think that is and what You’re saying with Your Qur’an. If not, we won’t.” So then Allah says, (Quran – 81:29) “You will not take that decision except if Allah (swt) was … What is that Meaning what? “Oh Abu Jahl, your heart is an arrogant, boastful rejector. You’ve chosen that. You will never grasp the guidance, and you will never make istiqama until that changes.”

It goes back to, masha’allah, Sheikh Khalid, this was the first one that opened my eyes to the clarity of this subject, when he started studying tafsir in Kuwait, and he was starting in Baqarah from the very beginning, and he said, “Whenever He says (Quran – 02:06) Indeed those who have disbelieved,” in the past tense, pure Arabic grammar, “indeed those who have disbelieved, they chose it, that’s their path, they did it, it goes, that is what they are doing.” It doesn’t matter whether you try to warn them or not, they’re not going to believe until what? They stop the Kufru For the reason that they were doing kufr and they chose that path, He put a seal on their hearts. Meaning what? You see? It’s simple Qur’an. If you turn towards Him then He will guide you. (Quran – 61:05)When they deviated, when they deviate who? Azabuhum. They chose that, the intention and the action came from them, What is this? Why is this? Why is Allah doing this? Allah is not … It’s logic, it’s rational. How can Allah open to your eyes all the beauty of truth of existence, and you are choosing not to see it? It makes no sense. It has to be that you will facilitate what you have chosen, that’s why we read Surah Al-Layl, (Quran – 92:05-10) “Whoever would be selfless and giving, and conscious of their soul’s responsibility, and piety, and spiritual devotion, and they are believing in all of the good that comes with the divine, and the eternity of bliss and Paradise, that person will have the path of bliss facilitated for them. It will be made easy for them, their way will go.”

The Prophet (saws) said, as what the brother was saying, “Everyone was created for what is easy for them.” Whenever Allah says, (Quran – 37:96), you have to understand this one in proper perspective. “We do not own or control anything except for an intention,” that’s all we really have. That’s why the Prophet (saws) said, because at the end of the day, we may intend something but it’s not part of His divine plan of understanding the affairs of things, and what’s in the best interest for who, and where, and why to allow you to do something. That’s why the scholar said, “If someone intended to kill someone, and they went out to kill them, and they were going to kill them, and there was a car crash, and that person died trying to kill someone else, but in their heart, if that car crash did not happen, they were going to kill that person, on the Day of Judgement that person will be accounted for murder.” If you get a gun, and you say (makes gunshot sound), but there is no bullet in there, but I was going to kill you. I just didn’t realize I hadn’t put the chamber in there. I didn’t put the bullets in. I am accountable for killing someone. Now the opposite is true, say I started to incline to wanting to kill someone, and then at some point I started to think about it, and then I don’t because I changed my intention, you see. And so that is in repentance, it ties in to all of that, but you’re responsible what you intended, and you were going, you were about to do that.

What we do at the end of the day is part of His creation, but if we intended to do good, He’s going to allow that, and that’s in our favor. Say, for example, we intended to do good, and He did not allow that, will we get rewarded for it? Of course, we will. So many brothers, masha’allah, will make their life easy, masha’allah, whenever sometimes, every mosque has it, I’ll never forget, when I first came to Tulsa and everything, we had this prayer, and one of the brothers, masha’allah, he came in for Fajr salat, “What is this? You finished the salah, and you changed the time.” I said, “Brother, you left your house, what, thinking that the prayer time is 6:10, okay? You got here, and the prayer turned out to be 6:00, and the prayer time is over, right? Well, guess what? You get recorded as praying Salatul Jama’ah in the masjid with the people.” He’s like, “What?” I’m like, “Yeah, bro. Alhamdulillah, just pray by yourself, you’re good.” Some people were like, “Oh, we need to pray. I’m going to pray Dhuhr up to As’r.” He’d be saying stuff like, “Okay, I’m going to pray with you, and give you a jama’ah.” He’s getting his jama’ah, he came for that reason unless he was absolutely lazy, and intentionally did not get up in time, and now he’s just hoping he’ll find a jama’ah then maybe that’s a different story because intention is not the action, the follow-up is not there, so that’s how it is that if you intended.

That’s why the scholars tell us, obviously Allah knows in our hearts. If you make the intention every night, “I’m going to get up and pray some tahajjud, two raka’ats tahajjud before Fajr comes in. Pray a little witr, two raka’ats and then one witr. I’ll pray like that.” That’s just the way to get going, that’s how you get the engine moving. If you made that intention six nights of the week, and one night you got up and you were able to do it, if you were sincere those six nights, and you really wanted to, and something just happened, Shaitan got you at that last moment, and you clicked that alarm, you’re going to get the reward. Now if you do that for a whole year, and never prayed one time, you’re not serious about it, bro. I see you’re playing around at that point.

Whenever He says, and this is going back to our point that we talked about  “If Allah sent down angels, and all of the clear proof comes down from the Heavens in front of their face, they will not believer until Allah wills.” What that means is there will are people who witnessed the sea is part, and the stick becomes a snake, Abraham goes into the fire and comes out, and he’s all good. They witnessed these stuff with their eyes, the dead man got up and walked, the blinds are seeing. People are watching all these, and they’re like, “Yeah, it’s magic.” This happened before, it’s not anything new. They said, “No,” because why? They’re not choosing to see what’s really in front of them because their heart is stuck in kufr. If their heart moves then they’re like, “Wow, subhanallah, masha’allah, Allahu Akbar.” They start crying and they will see it.

When the Prophet (saws) told A’isha (ra), This hadith is a hadith Mal-loom. “Allah created heaven and hell. He created a people for heaven and a people for hell.” Many people here say, “See, look, Allah has decided. He created this person with the intention of putting him in hell.” Who agrees with this logic? This is not Allah as I know Him. The muhkamat about Allah, this is absolutely false. What it means is everybody was born with a choice, and some people will choose that, and some people will choose that. The word ‘ahlan’ in Arabic, we say “Do you have the qualifications?” All He’s saying is He created people, and some people will choose that one, and some people will choose that one. How do we know because of so many of the clear cut verses, some of them that we mentioned. That’s why when the people say, (Quran – 06:148). The Qur’an says, “The polytheists use this qadr, this idea of divine decree against the Prophet (saws).” He said, “If Allah had willed, we would not be polytheists, and if Allah had willed, we would not be making things haram that we shouldn’t be or whatever.

Allah says, “People have lied, and tried to avoid responsibility previously.” (Quran – 18:29), we read this every Friday. How are you going to get the idea that Allah made somebody a disbeliever on purpose? It says, Who is who? Al-insan, human being. “We guided him into understand and see the basic difference.” (Quran – 91:08-10) “Everybody was born with the knowledge of right and wrong, the basic reality of a Creator,” and I am part and parcel of His creation, and He is creative, good, and positive, and affectionate, that’s why I’m here and I’m enjoying all of these. To go against that would be destructive, corruptive, harmful, and so forth, so I should not be that way. The basic understanding of every human being is born with an understanding. When somebody steals, we know without anybody telling us anything of religion, or any society trying to brainwash us, if that’s how the anti-religious people want to see it, that that’s wrong. He is taking his, I shouldn’t take that. When this one gives, now if we’re going to be very fair, if the people are going to be atheists and say, “We’re atheists,” then you should not see a problem with him giving. You should say, if I’m giving my money, I’m wasting it. It’s my money, why would I give it to someone else? It’s mine. I earned it. It’s my money. Why should I give it to that person?

It’s only a moral conscience that says it’s good for me to get rid of something that’s valuable for me so I can help someone else. It’s not from the logic, what they call, survival of the fittest, and all of that they’re trying to push on us. The Ayn Rand, and this whole capitalist system that we’re all slaves to is doing. This whole system is based upon, “I got mine, Jack. Get out of my way.” Dog eat dog. This while all this bad stuff is happening, these people are worshiping money, and I’m being told, “This is just for the economy, its best interest.” The Prophet (saws) said something beautiful, “The divine decree that was part of a plan will not be changed or pushed back except with the human supplication, our prayers.” Meaning what? He has given us an active role in the affairs of things that somebody might say, “Here’s where you start to get yourself, you go philosophizing. What you’re saying is Allah had willed, but then I willed, and so He had willed because if I don’t will then He wouldn’t.” Stop doing all that. Stop it. Stop. What we know is He told you, you have your own mind process, you know that. I think, therefore, I am. “You as My servant, when you want something, when you need someone, when someone else needs something, be sincere, regularly ask Me, and I will be actively interacting with you.” Is Allah (swt) in time? No, time is above and beyond Him. Can you understand that? No, you’re not supposed to. We’re ants. We’re little specks of dust. We’re not controllers of the absolute truth of the universe and the celestial reality of truth, no. We’re just people who have been given some knowledge about our role in this beautiful rahmah that brought us here. That’s why the Qur’an says, (Quran – 02:26).

Some people, when they heard the parables of the Qur’an, the teachings of the Qur’an, and the depth, they say, “Wow, that’s amazing. It’s beautiful, powerful language. This is not the work of Muhammad, we know him. He is not a poet. This stuff is deeper than all of these poets we know. This is amazing.” But the rebellious people who don’t want to have accountability for their souls, they say, “Yeah, whatever. Some crazy parable that we never heard before.” The Qur’an became a source of misguidance for people who their hearts have rebelled.” (Quran – 02:26) Who does He guide? Who does Allah guide? (Quran – 13:27). He guides to Himself whoever turns to Him. It’s that simple. Wallahi, I can tell you with amazing gratitude that there was a time when I was the last person anybody that knew me would say would become serious about faith, and religion, and a lifestyle of morality, and all of that. I’m telling you because it was up to me, when it was up to me, and I thought, “I’m going to be a baller. I’m going to do this. I’m going to have this. I’m going to say this, and all that stuff.” My mentality, my person, I was a very selfish, desire for myself, and my own gratification of my own interests. I would encroach upon the rights of anyone else to get there if I had to. When I looked outside of myself, and I saw myself as part of a whole khalkullah, and I recognized the revelation.

If you take a step towards Allah, He will come running towards you. We are not talking literal he’s a guy or something, you know what I mean, it’s a metaphor. He just wants you take a step towards Him. If you do, He will come to you and make things easy for you for sure. He will set a path for you that is beautiful because you want it. All you have to do is want it then He will make it. Why does He keep saying that so many times in the Qur’an? He knows what’s in the hearts because that’s the secret to “Whoever heart is inclined to Him, they will be guided. Whoever heart is not, they will not be guided,” it doesn’t matter what you do. Somebody might say, “What about Abu Huraira’s mom?” There was something in there or going to be there a ta’jeel came because of the du’a of the Prophet (saws) but 100% sure if there was nothing in her heart, no matter how much the Prophet (saws) would have prayed to Allah, she would have never been guided. Somebody said, “This is some hokey khutbah.” The Prophet is who he was. It’s clear Qur’an we’re talking here, man. He was like so depressed and just broke down, that they don’t want to become believers. Do you think the Prophet (saws) wasn’t praying for his people to be guided? I’m talking about the polytheists of Quraish, his family. He was, their hearts weren’t there, they weren’t guided, that’s why he prayed. He threw out there, masha’allah, like this,  “Amr ibn Hisham or Amr ibn Al-Khattab, whichever one of them has something, please make it now,” and Amr becomes, shortly after, a believer. What did the guy say? He said, “Umar’s donkey will become Muslim before him,” that’s what they said.

There was no way, but there was something in there that Allah knew about at some point He can make it happen better and earlier, that’s where your du’a comes in. He can make it. The point is that heart will in it, it has its own inclination towards its Creator, thus deserving of the guidance, so that goes back to the famous hadith where the Prophet (saws) says,”Nobody is going to be saved by their deeds.” They said, “Not even my deeds except for Allah’s Mercy envelopes me.” So many people took this hadith the wrong way. This hadith is not saying that you’re not supposed to do deeds to get into Heaven, and that your deeds don’t get you into Heaven, and get you into whichever level, for sure it is. It’s mentioned in 100 verses of the Qur’an. What is being said here is, “Oh human being, don’t think your religiosity makes you so special. Don’t think because I’m religious, and I do these deeds, Allah better make me a jannah, and put me in there. This is Yahudi mentality if you study it. They have in their aqeedah, in their orthodox tradition that they can tell God what to do because they’re the chosen ones, this is not right.

Allah’s Mercy, Him being Ar-Rahmanur Raheem caused Him to create us and bless us, and then He gave us a system, and made it very easy for us if we’re inclined to it that if we do these deeds, we would go to Heaven, so do the deeds, that’s why in the famous hadith whenever the Prophet (saws) said,  so the hadith is authentic the great scholar Hibril Ummah, the great scholar of this ummah, he said, this is authentic hadith. “Let me go tell everybody if you just worship Allah and believe Him by Himself, and that’s it, and you don’t associate with Him, you go to Heaven,” that’s what Allah has promised you, that His right upon you, and your right upon Him. He said, “Let me go tell everybody.” The Prophet (saws) said, “No, leave them do their deeds. Don’t give them the idea, that alhamdulillah, I’m Muslim, I don’t have to pray and all that stuff.” “I’ll just be, alhamdulillah, Allah loves me. I’m Muslim. I have the title. I go to the Gates of Heaven. I’m Muslim, alhamdulillah, Muhammad something. He goes to Jannah.” Many Muhammads on the wrong side of the thing here, man, unfortunately because they did not work. I guess we’ll .. (Quran – 37:39).

The Qur’an says, “This is the Heaven that you have inherited because of by the actions” the prepositional phrase is a tool by the means of  I’m writing with a pen. If I don’t have a pen, can I write? I cannot write.”The only way you’re getting into Heaven and inheriting it is because of the actions that you did.” It’s the Qur’an, there’s no question about this. This is, I think, in a nutshell, is it clear? Alhamdulillah. If you stick with the simple Qur’an and Sunnah, and you understand the difference between Muhkamath and Muth-Ashabihath. I’m not sure if you translate it into English. Muhammad Al-Ghazali has a book called “Aqeedatun Mu’mineen.” He goes into this and makes it very crystal clear. If you go to the tafaseer of these ayahs, it will always clarify to you, that’s why if you just read the translation of the Qur’an or the pure Arabic Qur’an, you might get lost with the literal meaning of an ayah without knowing what did everybody understand by that. That’s why we’re a special ummah, we have a detailed clarity of what great people before us understood about all these ayat, so if we cannot read Arabic, “What the heck is that thing?” A normal human being would think that. If you don’t think because you write an ayah and it didn’t sound right that you’re a terrible person, you’re a human being with logic and reason, but let’s make sure we clarify with the people of knowledge that came before us that we understand it right then we can move on, and understand it.

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