Do Muslims Believe in Predestination?

The Arabic word Qada’ is sometimes wrongly translated as “predestination”. Such a translation is likely to cause misunderstanding.

What is Qada’ (or Qadr)?

Qada’ (or Qadr) means Allah’s decree, implying His complete final control over the outcome of events.

Qada’, Free Will and Moral Choice

Belief in Qada’ does not mean a denial of the measure of free will and moral choice which Allah has given to man since the time He created Adam, and the moral responsibility of man for his choices, which is referred to repeatedly in the Qur’an. For example,

“By the soul and Him who inspired it with consciousness of what is wrong for it and what is right for it! Indeed he shall succeed who causes this (soul) to grow in purity and truly he is lost who buries it in darkness.” (Qur’an 91:7-9)

Man indeed must strive for what is right and good. The example of the Prophet (r) and the early Muslims is a clear indication that belief in Qada’ does not imply fatalism or that man should sit down and wait for things to happen. The life of a true Muslim is full of exertion and purpose, not acceptance of the status quo.

“Do men think that on their (mere) saying, ‘we have believed’, they will be left to themselves, and will not be put to a test?” (Qur’an 29:2)

“… man can have nothing but what he strives for…” (Qur’an 53:39)

“…Verily, Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is with themselves…” (Qur’an 13:11).

A Muslim, however, is to understand that although he is free to choose good or evil and will be rewarded for his good intention he cannot control the outcome of events, which is known to only Allah. For example, a man may decide to do a kind deed but be prevented from carrying it out. Or he might intend to do something good but forget. Or he may be absent-minded and does not form the wish to do the good deed in time, so that it is too late to carry it out.

The best-laid plans of men often go astray due to totally unforeseen circumstances that change the whole situation.  Allah may choose to intervene in a person’s plans, or He may choose to allow them to be carried out as envisioned by that person.  Sometimes one person’s plans may intentionally involve hindering another’s.  And yet, Allah also plans (Q.3:54).

In all cases, the belief in Qada’ means that no circumstance is unforeseen by Allah, and that nothing happens without His knowledge and permission. His knowledge is complete while ours is limited and partial.

“…it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you love a thing that is bad for you. Allah knows while you do not know” (Qur’an 2:216).

Significance of belief in Qada’

Belief in Qada’ is a source of peace of mind to the Muslim. It helps him to accept both good and bad fortune and respond to each in the right Islamic manner, which brings blessings on him.  There are some events in our lives, things that happen to us that despite our human effort are beyond our control, and these we are told to accept as tests, with gratitude to Allah (if they are pleasant), and with patience and endurance (sabr) if they are unpleasant. We should not give way to either over-confidence or despair, since nothing happens to us without the knowledge and permission of God. It is therefore not what happens to us that matters, but how we respond to it, and how we respond to Allah’s guidance

Suhaib ibn Sinan related that the Prophet (r) said: “Wondrous is the case of a believer; there is good for him in everything, and it is so for him alone. If he experiences something agreeable, he is grateful to Allah, and that is good for him; and if he experiences adversity, he is steadfast and that is good for him.” (Muslim)

Even an outcome such as death, which must cause sorrow and sadness, is accepted by the believer with the consoling words: “Inna Lillahi, wa inna ilayhi raji’un” meaning “Indeed we are from God, and indeed to Him we shall return.”

It is this belief in Qada’ then that strengthens a Muslim’s endurance, faith, peace of mind and reliance on Allah alone.