Prayer Time

The Human Free Will (Corrected copy).

3/19/2018 12:00:00 AM   |      |   

An aspect given much importance in Islam is that human being has been granted the free will to choose between right and wrong in all his or her endeavors. This is a great gift from the Creator to mankind. All other creatures apart from mankind and the Jin(the demons), have not been given this gift of free will. However, this gift has been granted with very heavy responsibility, and on the Day of Judgment, there will be accountability for the use of this gift. Allah says in the Qur’an:

{أَلَمْ نَجْعَل لَّهُ عَيْنَيْنِ وَلِسَانًا وَشَفَتَيْنِ * وَهَدَيْنَاهُ النَّجْدَيْنِ}.

{Have We not given him two eyes * And a tongue and two lips?* And shown him the two conspicuous ways (good and evil)}. (Qur'an90: 8-10).

It is explicit that man is the most highly developed being in the creation, but yet the most dependent of them. All beings in the world enjoy a form of guidance especially to their various stages of development; their specific forms of guidance correspond to their different degrees of existence. It is possible for us to distinguish our own position, as human beings, among the different creatures in this world. We know that plants are captives in the hands of the determining forces of nature. They exhibit, at the same time, certain slight developmental reactions vis-a-vis changes in their environment.

When you analyze the properties of animals, you feel that they possess attributes quite different from those of the plants. In order to obtain their nourishment, animals have to engage in a wide range of activities, since nature does not invite them to a feast at which their nutritional needs are placed before them, contrary to the plants. Animals need certain tools and instruments in their efforts to get food, which nature has provided them with. Nonetheless, animals are subject to the strong pull of the instincts and are, in this sense, subjugated beings, they enjoy a certain degree of freedom by means of which they can free themselves, to some extent, from the harsh captivity of nature.

Scientists are of the opinion that the weaker animals are with their respect to their natural structure and organs, the stronger they are with respect to their instincts the more they enjoy the direct aid and protection of nature. Conversely, the better equipped they are as regards to sensory and conceptual powers, the greater their degree of independence, the lesser the extent to which they are guided by instinct.

In the first period of his life, the child is covered directly by the comprehensive protection of his father and mother; as he grows, he gradually emerges from their all-encompassing supervision into a full fledge being fetching for himself, at times, to an extent of no fatherly or motherly contributions.

Man, who has attained the highest level of development as the only being possessing the faculty of independent will and discernment, has a relatively low level of instinctual power. As he gradually attains his freedom, he is progressively beset with relative weakness in his sensory capacities. Nature has guaranteed all the needs of the plants and to a relative extent those of the animals, with the mother doing a very little of that. But in the case of man, he is left almost completely to his free powerfully built intelligence. Nature has little to cover for him compared to plants and other animals.

For free will and choice to express themselves, a factor opposing natural instinct must exist. Man will, then, be caught between two opposing attractions, each seeking to gain his obedience, so that he is compelled to choose the path he desires, freely, consciously, and relying on his own efforts and resources. Free of all determining factors and mental compulsion, he begins the work of making and developing himself on the basis of specific principles and criteria.

Once faced with this element of contradiction, man cannot attain equilibrium or choose a correct path for himself by acting as an automaton or refraining from all effort. Bearing as he does the burden of the divine trust, the great divine gift that the heavens and the earth were unfit to receive, man alone proving worthy of accepting it, man is confronted with only two choices in his conflict and struggle. Either he becomes a prisoner to the tyranny of instinct and unbridled desire, thus debasing and degrading himself; or, drawing on his abundant capacities of will, thought and decision, he embarks on the path of growth and development and begins to ascend guided side by side with the divine teachings as a control of his capacities. Allah says in the Qur’an:

{إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِرًا وَإِمَّا كَفُورًا}.

{Verily, We have showed him the way, whether he be grateful or ungrateful}. (Qur'an76: 3).

This human free will does not in any way contradict the fact that Allah knows everything that will ever occur in His creation. Someone might ask, "If Allah knows that I am going to commit a sin tomorrow, then it is unavoidable that I do so because Allah's knowledge is infallible, and what Allah knows will come to pass." Allah's knowledge of this person's decision does not mean that he or she is being forced to make that decision.

Human free will does not also in any way contradict God's absolute sovereignty over everything in His creation. Neither does it contradict the fact that nothing happens in creation except what Allah wills. Some might say, "Therefore, I have no free will. My free will is but illusion." On the contrary, Allah created within each of us the ability to formulate an intention. God wants us to be able to make our own choices. When a person makes a choice, Allah, by His divine will, creates the actions and circumstances that allow the person's intention to be carried out. It is Allah's will that human beings have free will. Allah is not always pleased with the decisions people make, but He wants them to be able to make these decisions by their own free choice.

An example of this is a person's will to do a good deed. The good deed may never be carried out, but Allah may reward the person for his or her intention to do a good deed. If the good deed comes to pass, Allah's will allowed it to take place, and Allah will reward both the intention and the action. In other words, Allah may reward you for good deeds willed but not carried out; however, He does not punish people for bad intentions not acted upon.

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