Does Taqdir Imply Predestination?

M. A. Malek and Mrs. Sajeda Malek

The word taqdir in the Qur’an has come to mean, for many Muslims and Orientalists, the "absolute decree of good and evil by God", meaning that God has preordained all our acts and choices, and therefore we are not responsible for our actions. To dispel this misunderstanding, it is necessary to understand the correct meaning of the Arabic words qadar and taqdir.

For example, the Qur’an speaks of a taqdir for each and everything that has been created: "Glorify the name of thy lord, the most high, who creates, then makes complete, and Who measures ('qaddara' from taqdir), then guides"(87:1-3). "Who created and then ordained for it a measure (taqdir)"(25:2). "Surely We have created everything according to a measure (qadar)"(54:49). "And the sun moves to its destination. That is the ordinance (taqdir) of the Mighty, the Knowing. And the moon, We have ordained ('qaddarna' from taqdir) for its stages" (36:38, 39).1

All these verses go to show that taqdir, in the language of the Qur'an, is the universal law of God, operating as much in the case of man as in the rest of nature: the law extending to the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth and the heavens, and all that exists in them. This universal law is fully explained in two short verses already quoted: "Who creates, then makes complete, and Who measures, then guides"(87:1-3). Four things are mentioned regarding every object of creation, including man: its creation (khalaq), its completion (taswiya), its measure (taqdir), and its guidance to its goal (hidaya). The law of life, as witnessed in nature, is exactly the law described here. Everything is created so as to finally attain its completion, the completion being brought about according to a law or measure within which everything works by Divine guidance.

Thus the taqdir of a thing is the law or the measure of its growth and development and the taqdir of a man is not different in nature from the taqdir of other things.2

The misinterpretation of taqdir as 'predestination' is due to the misunderstanding of the nature of good and evil. However, the following verses and the associated commentary can shed clearer light on this.3

(4:78) [....] Yet, when a good thing happens to them, some people say, "This is from God," whereas when evil befalls them, they say, "This is from thee (O fellow-man)!"92 Say: All is from God." What, then, is amiss with these people that they are in no wise near to grasping the truth of what they are told?93

(4:79) Whatever good happens to thee is from God; and whatever evil befalls thee is from thyself.94

(2:6-7) Behold, as for those who are bent on denying the truth – it is all one to them whether thou warnest them or does not warn them: they will not believe. God has sealed their hearts and their hearing, and over their eyes is a veil:7 and awesome suffering awaits them.

92. i.e., they do not realize that the evil happening may possibly be a consequence of their own actions or their own choice between several courses open to them, but are prone to attribute it to others.

93. Lit., "something [which they are] told" -- i.e., a truth which their own reason as well as the teachings of all the prophets should have made obvious to them.

94. There is no contradiction between this statement and the preceding one that "All is from God". In the world-view of the Qur"an, God is the ultimate source of all happening: consequently, all good that comes to man and evil that befalls him flows, in the last resort, from God's will.

However, not everything that man regards as "evil fortune" is really, in its final effect, evil -- for, "it may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you: God knows, whereas you do not know"(2:216). Thus, many an apparent "evil" may sometimes be more than a trial and a God-willed means of spiritual growth through suffering, and need not necessarily be the result of wrong choice or wrong deed on the part of the person thus afflicted. It is, therefore, obvious that the "evil" or "evil fortune" of which this verse speaks of has a restricted connotation, in as much it refers to evil in the moral sense of the word: that is to say, to suffering resulting from the actions or the behavior of the person concerned, and this is in accordance with the natural law of cause and effect which God has decreed for all His creation, which the Qur"an describes as "the way of God" (sunnat Allah). For all such suffering man has only himself to blame, since "God does not wrong anyone by as much as at atom's weight"(4:40).

A reference to the natural law instituted by God, whereby a person who persistently adheres to false beliefs and refuses to listen to the voice of truth gradually loses the ability to perceive the truth, "so that finally, as it were, a seal is set upon his heart"(Raghib). Since it is God who has instituted all laws of nature -- which, in their aggregate, are called sunnat Allah (the way of God) -- this sealing is attributed to Him: but it is a consequence of man's free choice and not an act of "predestination". Similarly, the suffering which, in the life to come, is in store for those who during their life in this world have willfully remained deaf and blind to the truth, is a natural consequence of their free choice -- just as happiness in the life to come is the natural consequence of man's endeavor to attain to righteousness and inner illumination. It is in this sense that the Qur’anic references to God's "reward" and "punishment" must be understood.

The Qur'an, therefore, has not dealt with the question of the creation of good and evil at all. It speaks of the creation of heavens and earth and all that is in them; it speaks of the creation of man; it speaks of endowing him with certain faculties and granting him certain powers; it tells us that he can use these powers and faculties within certain limitations -- and the limitations of each kind are its taqdir. But in the Qur'an, there is no mention of a taqdir to mean either the creation of good and evil deeds, or an absolute decree of good and evil by God.4

It may, however, be added that God is recognized by the Qur'an as the first and the ultimate cause of all things; but this does not mean that He is the Creator of the deeds of man. He has, of course, created man; He has also created the circumstances under which he lives and acts; but He has endowed man with a discretion to choose how to act, which he can exercise under certain limitations, just as all his other powers and faculties are exercised under certain limitations and only in accordance with certain laws.5

This is not to claim that God has subjected the universe to a certain scientific laws and abandoned it to let it run its course. No reader of the Qur'an gets this impression. In the Qur'an, God is al Rabb: the Sustainer, Cherisher, Regulator, and Governor of all. He is the omnipresent source of harmony and balance of nature. His influence and sway over creation is continuous and pervading. However, none of this conflicts with the fact that we are empowered to make moral decisions and to carry them out.6

The Qur'an talks about reward and punishment based on human choices and human free will. If the individual is not free to choose between good and evil (of which the Qur'an gives ample evidence and guidance) then the question of reward and punishment becomes absurd.


1. The Religion of Islam, by Maulana Muhammad All M.A., LL.B. Published by National Publication and Printing House U.A.R. Based chapter 7, p 236

2. Ibid., p 236-237.

3. The Message of the Qur'an, by Muhammad Asad. Published by Dar AI-Andalus, Gibralter. p. 119.

4. The Religion of Islam, by Maulana Muhammad Ail M.A., LLB. Published by National Publication and Printing House U.A.R Based chapter 7, p 238

5. Ibid., p 238-739

6. Even Angels Ask, by Dr. Jeffrey Lang, Amana Publications, 10710 Tucker Street, Beltsville. Maryland 20705-2223 USA p. 73.

Posted January 15, 2007. This article was published in the October-December 2006 issue of "The Message," a United Islamic Association (UIA) publication, London, England.