Human freedom and divine sovereignty: Muslim perspectives



Publication Details

Hamza, F. 2017, 'Human freedom and divine sovereignty: Muslim perspectives', in D. Marshall & L. Mosher (eds), God's creativity and Human action: Christian and Muslim perspectives, Georgetown University Press, United States. pp. 131-138.


IN MUSLIM THEOLOGICAL discourse, the terms used to discuss the question of free will versus divine predetermination did not directly emerge from the Qur'anic lexicon, though concepts such as God's decree and preordainment (al­qa(ia' wa'l-qadar), specifically in conjugated expressions such as qaddara Allah or qafia Allah, are well-known Qur'anic refrains. To a large extent, from as early as the mid-second/eighth century, the theological discourse coalesced around a number of technical terms that were simply the obvious Arabic vernacular for the concepts and questions implied by the main topic: terms such asjabr (compul­sion), tafw1fi (delegation), iktisab (acquisition), ikhtiyar (choice), or istita 'a (capacity) do not appear in the Qur'an, either in substantive or verbal form, in any obviously related way to the theme of free will and predestination.1 Indeed, the term that would come to denote the adherents of "free will," ah! al-qadar, is a term that in the Qur'an (and, indeed, in the Arabic language generally) implies quite the opposite-namely "fate" or "destiny"-hence, more on the side of pre­determination. Of course, the point here is not that one would expect to find a theology of free will or predetermination in the Qur'an but then does not. All that one could find in the Qur'an was support for both positions. It is that, from very early on, the scriptural narrative itself, taken in its entirety, must have stimulated and fed the devotional imagination of the pious to ponder this question using everyday language. But before elaborating on this important link between scrip­ture, theology, and devotion, a brief historical prelude is needed.

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