If there is one thing about Islam that I cannot understand and hence cannot accept is  predestination, it simply is not very rational. Please help me understand. Yes I am a Muslim.


The following is a quote from a book entitled "Introduction to Islam" by Dr. M. Hamidullah. In it is a chapter discussing your particular inquiry, and it is very good. We hope this will help resolve some of your problems with this question.

Paragraph number 121: "This leads us to the philosophic question of the free-will. This eternal dilemma can never be resolved by logic alone. For, if man enjoys free-will with respect to all his acts, the omnipotence of God suffers thereby. Similarly, if God predestines, why should man be held responsible for his acts? The Prophet Muhammad had emphatically recommended his adherents not to engage in discussions on this topic, "which has led astray those people who preceded you," (As Ibn Hanbal, Tirmidhi and others report); and he has separated the two questions, viz., the omnipotence of God and the responsibility of man. In fact there is no logic in love, and the Muslim loves his Creator; he cannot admit that God should have defective attributes; God is not only Wise and Powerful, but also Just and Merciful in the highest degree. Islam separates celestial affairs, which are the attributes of God, from human temporal matters and insists on the faithful to act; and since the Divine Will rests concealed form man, it is man's duty never to despair after a preliminary failure, but to try again and again until the object is either realized or becomes impossible to attain. The Islamic concept of predestination comes in this latter case to console man that [this] was the Will of God, and the success or failure in this world has no importance in connection with eternal salvation, in which matter God judges according to intention and effort and not according to the measure of realization and success.

Paragraph number 122: "According to the Qur'an (53/36-42, among other passages) such is the truth always revealed by God to His successive Messengers:

"Or hath he not news of what is in the leaves (Books) of Moses and of Abraham who paid his debt: That no laden on shall bear another's load and that man hath only that for which he maketh effort, and that his effort will be seen, and afterwards he will be repaid for it with the fullest payment; and that thy Lord. He is the goal . . . .?"
"We are rewarded only because we have accepted also to be punished for acts which are predestined. This seems to be the Divine Deposit with which we have been entrusted, when the Qur'an (33/72) reports: " We did indeed offer the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but Man undertook it; -- he was indeed unjust and ignorant." God said: I shall predestine your acts, and want to reward or punish you according to whether they are good or evil. Other created beings said: How? Thou wilt create, and we have to be responsible for the same? They got afraid. Man believed in the limitless mercy of the Lord, and said: Yes Lord, I accept to take this responsibility and this Depost of Thine. This pleased the Lord so much that He ordered even the angels to prostrate before man. To sum up, since Islam separates completely the two questions, it is not difficult to admit simultaneously the requirements of man (effort, sense of responsibility) and the rights of God with all His attributes, including the power to predetermine.

Paragraph 123: "Predetermination in Islam has another significance, not less important, names, it is God Who alone attributes to a human act the quality of good or evil; it is God Who is the source of all law. It is the Divine prescriptions which are to be observed in all our behaviour; and which He communicates to us through His chosen messengers. Muhammad being the last of these, also the one whose teaching has been the better preserved. We do not possess originals of the ancient messages which have suffered damage in the unhappy fratricidal wars of  human society. The Qur'an is not only an exception to the rule, but also constitutes the latest Divine message. It is commonplace that, a law later in date abrogates the former dispositions of the same legislator.

Paragraph 155: PREDESTINATION AND FREE-WILL "In his expose, the Prophet Muhammad has lastly demanded the belief that the determination (qadr) of all good and evil is from God. Does this phrase signify that everything is predestined for man, or does the statement merely imply that the qualification of good and evil in a given act depends on God? In other words, nothing is good or evil in itself, but it is so only because God has declared it to be such; and man has to do nothing but observe it.

Paragraph 156: "Here is in fact a dilemma for the theologian. If we declare that man is responsible for his acts, it would be incompatible with the predestination of his acts. Similarly, if we declare that man is free in his acts, this would imply that God has neither power over nor the knowledge of what man is going to do in his worldly life. The two alternatives create an embarrassment. One would like to attribute to God not only justice, but also omnipotence and omniscience. The Prophet Muhammad ridicules this discussion which will even remain inconclusive: and he has formally ordered his adherents not to engage in it, adding: "people before you have been led astray by this discussion." He recognizes for God, in all respect and reverence, the attribute of omnipotence-omniscience, and affirms also that man shall be held responsible for his acts. He does not want to tie up one of these things with the other. In a way, he relegates this discussion to the level of the futility of knowing whether the egg came first into existence or the hen?

Paragraph 157: "Moreover good and evil are but relative terms. A tiger hunts a rabbit for food. What is good (sustenance) for one is evil (death) for the other. That is why the evil that seems to reach us is on account of our own nature, which merits or requires that "evil". That is also why it is for God to determine, for whom a given act is good and for whom evil. Furthermore it should be remembered that the conception of "responsibility" is a this-worldly thing, whereas the "Divine reward and punishment" belong to the other-worldly matters. We are shocked only when we relegate them both to the same level. To do so would be a fallacy.

Paragraph 158: "Let us remember that it is this double belief in omnipotence of God and the absolute individual responsibility of man, which rouses a Muslim to action, even as it enables him to support easily an unavoidable misfortune. Far from creating in him an immobility, it gives him a dynamism. We have to refer to the exploits of the early Muslims, who were the best practitioners of the teaching of the Prophet, in order to convince ourselves of the truth of this statement.

Paragraph 222. CONCLUSION "Man being composed simultaneously of body and soul, or an outer and an inner existence, the harmonious progress and balanced evolution towards perfection require that attention should be paid to both these aspects of man. Mysticism or spiritual culture in Islam envisages the diminution of the Ego and the ever-increasing realization of the presence of God. To be absorbed in the will of God does not at all mean an immobility; far from it. In innumerable verses, the Qur'an urges man to action and even to compete in search for the Divine pleasure by means of good actions. Not to follow one's own evil desires, but to abide by the will of God alone, does not lead to inaction. Only that happens which God wills; yet not knowing the will of God, which remains concealed from man, men must always continue his efforts, even though failure follows failure, when trying to attain the goal which he conscientiously believes to be good and in conformity with the revealed commandments of God. This notion of a dynamic predestination, which urges one to action and resignation to the will of God, is well explained in the following verses of the Qur'an (57:22-23): "Naught of disaster befalleth on the earth or in your souls but it is in a Book (Prescription) before We bring it into being -- lo! that is easy for God -- that ye grieve not for the sake of that which hath escaped you, nor ye exult because of that which ye had been given; God loveth not prideful boasters." Man should always think of the grandeur of God and vis-a-vis this, or his own humility, as well as of the day of the Resurrection when the Lord will demand individual accounts. The Qur'an says (29:69) "As for those who strive in Us, We surely guide them to Our paths, and lo! God is with the good."