As you should have expected, there were people who usually engaged in religious pursuits and discussions as early as the time of the Prophet Muhammad – Peace be upon him -. In this article, three early theological movements associated with discussion on predestination shall be presented to you:
The Qadariyyah (Qadarites)
The opponents of the predestination argued that certainly, God does not do evil and does not condone evil practices. That is why He punishes evildoers and rewards righteous people. God does not create anybody to be rich or to be poor; success or failure, wealth or poverty is as a result of each man’s advantages and initiatives. God does not create anyone to do evils. If He were to do this, it would be injustice on His part to turn round and punish evildoers. Furthermore, God does not guide certain people aright and lead others astray. If He were to do this, it would amount to arbitrariness and partiality on His part.
Thus the opponents asserted that man has his own volition, independence and free will to do what he likes and be rewarded accordingly, good or bad, depending solely on his choice and freewill. Because of the emphasis they laid on freewill of the people thus negating the control of God on man, the opponents of predestination were called Qadarites. Surprisingly, the opponents of predestination used the word Qadarites for the upholders of predestination. The Qadarites refused being called this epithet because the Prophet once said that the Qadarites are enemies of God.
According to the promoters of free will, God has given man the faculty to reason and differentiate between what is good and what is bad. Besides that, 104 holy books have explained elaborately what is good and what is bad. Furthermore, that was the purpose of sending 124000 prophets like Ibrahim, Musa, Dawud and Isa to different peoples and nations at different times; and also that was why Prophet Muhammad was sent as the last of the prophets. They go further to say that that is why the Qur’ān asserts that everybody will be responsible for his own deeds. Qur’ān 17 verse 15 says: ‘he who receives guidance receives it for his own benefit and he who goes astray does it at his own risk. No bearer of burden will bear the burden of another nor would we give out punishment to any group of people until we have sent a messenger to give warning’.
To argue further that God does not predestine anybody to do evil, promoters of free will, the Qadariyyah quotes Qur’ān chapter 41 verse 46 which says ‘ whoever is righteous benefits his own soul and whoever does evil does it against his own soul. Your Lord is never unjust to His servants’.
They also point to Qur’ān chapter 76 verse 3, which says: ‘God has certainly shown man the way, it’s for him to accept or reject’. They therefore reject the arguments put forward by their opponents and assert that anything contrary to their view is misinterpretation. The pre-determinists who were surprisingly supported by the majority of the Muslims rejected the argument of free-will group saying that the latter were dualists who had set up the human being as a co-creator with God by believing that human beings can initiate their own actions and thereby determine their own fate. Some of the protagonists were; Ma'bad al Juhani, a citizen of Basra who was killed in 699 AD. Another was Ghaylan ibn Abd al Malik al-Dimashqi who was killed in about 743 AD. So also was Shabib al Najrani, who was killed almost during the same period.
The Jabariyyah (Jabarites)
In the pre-Mutazilite era, before 105 A.H /732 A.D, certain Muslims held the belief that what man will be or do on earth has been predetermined by God. So, no matter how pious or impious he was on earth, the decree of God on him would prevail. In fact, his uprightness or otherwise was regarded as manifestation of God’s will. That somebody was a saint or a sinner was therefore not his own making but what God wanted him to be. To such people, man is so weak that he cannot take any action independently. He is nothing more than a puppet in the hands of God Who manipulates him the way He likes. People of such belief often supported their stand with quotations from both Qur’ān and Hadith. An instance of such quotation is Qur’ān chapter 35 verse 8, which says ‘verily God leads astray whom He pleases and guides to the right path whom He pleases’; and Chapter 10 verse 26, which says ‘God calls to the abode of peace and guides whom He wills into the right path’; and Chapter 42 verse 14 which also asserts that ‘God elects for Himself whom He pleases and guides unto Himself who turns to repentance.
An example of quotations from the prophetic traditions (Hadith) is the one which says ‘what hits you could not possibly have missed you and what misses you could not probably have hit you, the pens have been raised and the papers are dry’. Another Hadith stipulates that ‘a man during the process of his growth in the womb gets his life span and where he would be after death by the decree of God ever before he was born’. Since God creates man, and directs his actions, he has no choice but to behave according to what has been predestined for him. The people who believed in predestination are known as the Jabarites
The Muslim Majority’s Opinion
From the Sunni point of view, it is incumbent upon every Mukallaf (one on whose religious duty is imposed) to believe that it is possible for God to create good and evil; to create Islam in Zayd and unbelief in ‘Amr, knowledge in one of them and ignorance in the other. It is also incumbent upon every Mukallaf, to believe that the good and the bad of things are by act of Destiny (qađā’) and act of Decree (qadar). And there is a difference of opinion as to their meaning. It is said that Destiny (qađā’) is the will of God and the eternal connection of that will (azali), and Decree (qadar) is God’s bringing into existence the thing in agreement with the will. So the Will of God that is connected eternally with your becoming a learned man or a Sultan is destiny, and the bringing of knowledge into existence in you, after your existence, or the Sultanship in agreement with the Will, is decree. And it is said that Destiny is God’s eternal knowledge and its connection with the thing known, and Decree is bringing things into a man after he enters existence.
Furthermore to the Sunnis, this belief belongs to the category of things the doing of which is only possible for God. By this, they assert that there is nothing incumbent upon God. He creates faith in Zayd, for example, and gives him knowledge out of His grace without there being any necessity upon Him. Hence the saying:
(God’s rewarding the obedient is a grace from Him, and His punishing the rebellious is justice by Him). Obedience does not profit Him nor does rebellion harm Him. These acts of obedience or rebellion are only signs of God’s rewarding or punishing those described by them. The ones whom He wills to draw near to Himself, He helps him to be obedient, and one whom He wills to abandon and reject , He creates rebellion in hm out of His divne knowledge and justice. Moreover, all acts of good and bad are by the creation of God, for He creates the creature and that which the creature does as He has said (Q37: 9): meaning “and God has created you and that which ye do”.